(1311-10-19) Turning Sentimental
Summary: An old acquaintance calls upon Chimène to elucidate a familial problem, and perhaps elicit a friendly favour…
RL Date: 10/21/2019 - 11/01/2019
Related: None

Ducal Suite — Rousse Residence

This expansive salon is paneled in soft grey boiseries with dainty and understated details picked out in fresh white, and many mirrors embedded in simple gilded surrounds. Crosshatched parquet underfoot is executed in rare amber and golden hardwoods, and polished to a glorious beeswaxed sheen; overhead, there hangs a large crystal and gilt chandelier surrounded by four smaller satellites, capable of providing a ferocious blaze of light on evenings when the mirrored and gilded candle-stands placed here and there are considered insufficient.

Opposite one another, set in the walls to the left and the right as one enters from the landing, are two sizable fireplaces in blue-veined marble, and above each a painting by a master of two centuries ago: views of Namarre as it was then, of old Courcel castles long since abandoned and gone to seed. Gilded chairs and chaises, covered in white silk embroidered with garlands of spring flowers in pale pinks and blues and greens, and honeybees in sparkling thread-of-gold, form strictly symmetrical arrangements in association with occasional tables. In cool weather these center upon the fireplaces. When it's warmer they migrate toward four pairs of tall casement windows which open upon a broad white marble terrace leading down into the gardens. Drawing closed the white silk drapes reveals an indoor garden as well: flowering vines pick up motifs from the upholstery, in their ascent of a crosshatched trellis picked out in thread-of-gold.

Doors likewise to the left and the right of the salon open into two sets of palatial private chambers, for the use of each half of a married couple.

Visitors to the bel étage of House Rousse’s residence in Marsilikos are welcomed this afternoon by the strains of a string quartet playing determinedly pianissimo— at least until an airy soprano suggestive not of Eisande but the highest echelons of Mont Nuit, raises itself into an unexpected mezzo-forte to drawl, “Oh, that really is enough.”

The music ends mid-phrase. Footsteps squeak across fresh-polished parquet.

The vicomte de Beauvais thus passes four liveried persons toting instruments and going the other way with bewigged heads bowed, as he himself is shown into the cool grey salon which is the least of the private chambers inhabited by Chimène Rousse de la Courcel.

He finds her half-recumbent, with royal blue skirts spilling over the edge of her chaise-longue and one of her large, white, beringed hands clasped to her bosom. She doesn’t find him at all, yet: in the comparative quiet just commanded the attention of her hazel eyes is fully upon a velvet-draped tray of jewels held out for her inspection by a middle-aged woman in the garb of a well-to-do merchant. Her other hand is reaching out, to pluck something from the tray: beneath a blaze of candles it glitters between her covetous and caressing fingertips.

“Yes, I’ll have this one,” she decides. Her focused expression blossoms into a small, triangular smile. Then she declares, “Show Madame Grès out,” and sets off a train of bowing from the nearest lackey, curtseying from the goldsmith, and backing away by everyone generally— except of course the vicomte de Beauvais, who is by another lackey ushered forward.

Chimène’s hands clasp together about her new toy. The tide goes out and the tide comes in; the merchant ceases to exist for her the moment she turns to the vicomte. “Oh, my lord Fabrice,” she purrs. “You in Marsilikos, too—? Perhaps I shan’t be so very dull this season after all,” she suggests, looking up at him through long sooty eyelashes as she unfurls a preposterously long alabaster arm and offers him her right hand, empty now, to be kissed.

The Vicomte de Beauvais is a tall good-looking man, still in possession of a full head of wavy dark hair that‘s greying at the temples. He has the tanned weather-beaten face of a man who spent most of his life at sea with fine lines around intense blue eyes and full lips. He is dressed not in naval uniform but in the splendid blue and gold of his House, tall boots polished to the shine of a mirror. “Lady Chimene, as ever a sight for sore eyes.”, he smiles and takes the offered hand to bring it to his lips for the faintest of touches. “I had indeed come for the merriment of the Great Exhibition and to see some old friends.”, he explains and takes a seat nearby hers without waiting to be bidden, “However, I got a little more than I had bargained for and when I heard that you were in town, I thought you may be the perfect person to beg a little favour from. Would you help a good friend in need, my dear?”, he asks hopefully and seemingly ready, from his position on the edge of a chair, to sink down on one knee if necessary.

Yes, because Chimène is known throughout Eisande and beyond for her open-hearted, unstinting philanthropy, not to mention the becoming modesty with which she pursues it.

Her large pale paw sighs down again into her lap; she tilts her head into an attentive attitude to listen, and then makes a moue at what she hears. “Yes, the exhibition… I must say I didn’t see much of it myself,” she admits; “we Rousses tend to get a surfeit of foreign customs round our own dining tables, lately. Well?” she demands lightly. “I suppose you had better tell me what this favour is, my dear, before I expire from curiosity.” Though she seems in no danger.

"Well…" The Vicomte knows the art of a well-placed pause that lingers on just long enough to avoid having something thrown at his head. "Speaking of foreign customs around our own dining table… An old indiscretion has caught up with me. You know I spent quite some time on the exotic shores of Africa in my younger seafaring days, do you not? I… left a woman there with child." He doesn't wait for that to sink in, he knows as well as she does that it's hardly a surprise. "Some years ago, this… girl… came to seek me out in Beauvais, but foolishly I rejected her. What use did I have for an African half-breed then? I had two strapping sons after all."

He lets THAT one sink in though, mostly to see if Chimene is aware that he lost both his sons, the heir AND the spare in recent years.

<FS3> Chimene rolls Politics: Good Success. (4 1 1 8 6 7 8 5 2 4 6 4)

“One does feel for the poor woman,” is Chimène’s first murmured thought, given voice as if across the distance of years since that night early in her marriage when Fabrice made so splendid an effort to leave her in the same predicament. And then, oh, yes. The wheels do turn behind her Courcel visage of cool ivory — and so too the pages of the stud book committed to her memory. One son in a jousting accident, and the other—? Never mind that, now.

“I suppose you haven’t considered beginning again?” she inquires of him candidly. “No, then you’d be making up to your lady wife instead of to me,” she deduces.

"That would require the acquisition of a new young lady wife and nothing could be further from my mind.", the Vicomte points out ever so politely but firmly. "No, I shall not begin again. But by some surprising happenstance I ran into my African mishap again here in Marsilikos of all places. She's a fine young woman actually and it made me think… if only she could be whipped into shape, I might well want to install her as my new heiress. At least she is my own flesh and blood and I'd rather see Beauvais in her dusky hands than in the fat grabby paws of my odious cousin Cyril, who is presently first in line." He looks hopefully at Chimene as if perhaps awaiting the answer to an as yet unspoken question.

He must have known it would never be that easy, though.

Whilst servants pour wine into a pair of spotless silver goblets Chimène rediscovers the brooch in her left hand: a golden butterfly two and a half inches across with glittering gemstones of half a dozen colours set into the finely-wrought gold wire cages of its wings. She glances down at it and then offers it across to Fabrice. “Will you put this on for me, darling?” she asks him, indicating a place upon the blue silk bosom of her gown. She leans nearer. “I can’t see to get it straight… Yes, Lord Cyril is an ordeal,” she agrees thoughtfully as her lackeys recede.

Fabrice only blinks once when the butterfly is offered, so used is he to the lady's sudden strange whims. And as it allows him a good close look into her cleavage, he is only too happy to obey. He moves closer, on his knee in front of her now, where she most probably wanted him to be and affixes the brooch to its indicated place.

The task accomplished, he remains in position a bit longer to lift his eyes up from her cleavage to her eyes. "So will you help me, dear old friend?", he asks softly, "I can't think of anyone better suited to turning a rough diamond into a sparkling jewel than you."

The cleavage in question being none too bountiful, it is necessary to get close to see it properly— for her part, Chimène takes the opportunity afforded her by their proximity to straighten Fabrice’s collar for him, the sort of proprietary little feminine gesture she often grants to former beaux. “Fabrice…” she cajoles gently. “You know how busy I am,” she reminds him, because those musicians don’t critique themselves, you know. She sighs and makes another moue. “How rough is your diamond, darling? Does she speak good d’Angeline?”

"Oh come on, do admit that you like a little project now and then, something to challenge and amuse you.", Fabrice smiles and once she's let go of his collar, returns to resume his proper seats. His bones too old and weary now for a lot of slithering about on knees. "Let's say she speaks d'Angeline… but not the d'Angeline of noble halls. More the d'Angeline of the ports and alleys." He pauses for a long moment, then apparently realizes that he cannot hide the truth from her anyway. "It is a very rough diamond, my dear."

“Like ruling a vicomté—?” the lady suggests sweetly. She sighs again and takes up her goblet to imbibe that superb Eisandine white with her usual profligate thirst. Then, when Fabrice admits the magnitude of the task he’s trying to pass on to her, she lowers her wine and nestles backward into her chaise-longue and regards him with distinctly more reproof than flirtation. “… Oh, darling,” she objects. “Are you quite sure it isn’t a lump of coal after all?”

Fabrice looks rather indignant at that. "She is a Trevalion, my dear, my d'Angeline blood and thus that of the angels flows in her veins." He considers for a moment to try and find the right approach. "Think of it this way: It is a diamond you not only get to polish but to shape in your own interest. The future Vicomtesse de Beauvais, a useful ally in the north, is she not?", he smiles.

“Oh, of course,” agrees Chimène in her silken soprano. “Provided that she is the future vicomtesse de Beauvais, and that she has useful allies in the north. I notice you haven’t whisked her away to the Pointe des Soeurs,” she confides, “or introduced her yet to the lady Reina—?” A beat. She blinks at him twice, long sooty lashes fluttering. “Or have you?”

"I have not. Of course not.", the Vicomte says with a look that's half a glare and half a sigh, "I have only just met her again here. I… I am aware that she is not yet ready to be introduced to anyone. The whole rough diamond thing.", he reminds her. "I will remain here for a little while to get to know her and see how she's getting on. Perhaps next year… come spring, I shall take her with me to Azzalle."

“Not ready to be introduced to anyone,” Chimène mimics, “except me—?” A heavenward roll of her hazel eyes, and then she drains her goblet and unfurls her arm to set it down. “You’re turning sentimental,” she observes. As men are so wont to do, at his age. “What if it all comes to nothing? Plenty of girls trained from birth never become a real credit to their families,” she points out candidly; “I could name you twenty or thirty I’ve had the misfortune to meet.”

"Yes, see it as a token of my esteem for you and infinite faith in your abilities.", Fabrice responds to the first remark, while rather ignoring the second one. Sentimentality. Hah. The latter bit is met with a shrug though. "I have little choice, have I not?", he asks bluntly, seeking her eyes, "I have no other heirs left. If I can turn this girl into a lady fit to carry the name Trevalion and leave Beauvais to her… it's so much better than cousin Cyril. What is to be gained from not even trying?", he muses thoughtfully, sinking back into his own chair.

<FS3> Chimene rolls Perception: Great Success. (1 1 7 7 6 7 3 4 5 7 8 6)

“… If you can turn this girl into a lady,” repeats Chimène in a sceptical murmur, for that isn’t quite what he’s proposing, is it? She regards him steadily from behind that serene ivory mask which ladies of House Courcel seem so often to be equipped with from birth. It’s dawning upon her moment by moment just how serious he is, for reasons far beyond that old mutual disdain for Lord Cyril and the ritualised jests it has engendered over time — and just how much, now, he hopes. “Ah, my dear. What would you owe me,” she speculates softly.

"I have no doubt that you would make me pay dearly.", comes the dry response, tinged with a hint of amusement. "Still, if it ascertains my line and the future of Beauvais, I think it will be worth it… I hope.", he adds with a look as if trying to gauge just that.

Chimène shrugs her pale shoulders. Ought she to apologise for her own worth? If she began that it would never end, would it? “Why don’t you send her to tea with me?” she suggests. “I go to Grasse tomorrow for ten days,” she explains with a sudden businesslike note in her tone, “but after that. Once I’ve met her I’ll think about it. I can hardly promise you now, darling.”

He doesn't reply at once, considering perhaps the risk of dropping his new-found daughter into these rooms like a nuclear bomb. But obviously it is a risk he needs to take. "Alright, my dear. Just send a note when you are returned and I shall bring her over."

Just like that, it’s arranged.

“Well, then,” sighs Chimène. “Have you any good gossip to tell me, darling? Where have you been all this while?” And she snuggles into her cushions and waits to be entertained.

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