(1312-05-22) You're Like A Mule
Summary: Symon has been wondering whether Chimène is cross with him. He endeavours to find out, only for the conversation to take a still more serious turn…
RL Date: 20/05/2020 - 21/05/2020
Related: Takes place later the day of Embarrassing Enough; also, refers to We Haven’t Had Duck In A Dog’s Age.
chimene symon 

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.

It’s harder than it used to be to pop in on Chimène Rousse de la Courcel, since her second child justified the inconvenience of his bearing by making her a Vicomtesse Regent.

When one looks for her in Marsilikos, she’s in Grasse; when one hopes to call upon her in Grasse, she’s in Nice; either that or her traveling chaise is barreling down the road to the City of Elua again, impelled by some unmissable occasion at the court of her cousins. But Symon de Perigeux, with the good fortune which has generally been his in recent years, presents himself at the Rousse residence at an hour in the late afternoon when the lady is not receiving— only to be himself received. He is allowed a few idle moments in her favourite salon, in which to admire the seasonal alterations in the décor — he has already see the greater innovations below, in chambers she was not previously suffered to meddle in — observed in turn only by Rousse-liveried lackeys impersonating statuary, before a servant’s hand opens an inner door and his old friend comes gliding over the parquet like the swan she is.

Sy-mon,” Chimène drawls, “I was just dressing.” In pure white silk which flows about her with a palpable aura of expense, and provides too an ideally clean and neutral background for the wealth of bracelets which set her otherwise bare white arms ablaze in the afternoon light from her salon’s high windows. Sapphires and emeralds, the Rousse colours and so the Rousse stones, boldly set in dark yellow gold. Her hair falls sleek and brown down her back, covering the Eglantine marque Symon has seen upon her perhaps just that once. She stands regarding him with her large and slender feet turned out in white silk slippers. “Do enlighten me,” she adds in the same airy Eluan soprano; “what could you possibly have to say—?”

Symon has brought a bottle of wine that he thinks he remembers would be to Chimene's taste. He turns from idle admiration of the decor to active admiration of Chimene herself. "Then I am lucky to b-be the first to see you today in such fine style," he replies, grinning. But the grin fades a little at the question. "Sorry?" he replies. "W…what do you mean?" He lifts the basket in which he toted the bottle. "I b-brought w…wine."

Chimène’s hands glitter like her arms, with her usual assortment of rings. She places one of them upon her hip, assuming a posture as reproving as it is elegant, and regards for a long moment that basket, that bottle, that traditional token of the Symonian apology.

Then her hazel eyes flick up and she presses her lips together. “… Really, Symon,” she chides, sounding a little bored: “one expects people who fall in love to betray their oldest friends without a word of regret, but the decent thing is at least to admit it.”

"Oh, no," Symon replies, tone light and somehow also wounded. "Not b-betray, surely. It's only that I haven't w…worked out yet how to b-be in two p…places at once. The m…moment I do, I'll b-be over the m-moon, I assure you." His brow furrows. "Did I not send a note? I w…was sure I sent a note."

Your servant sent a note,” Chimène corrects him, “declining my invitation in terms straight out of a young lady’s etiquette book. Now, I know you don’t like to put quill to paper but you might at least have dictated it yourself,” she suggests, turning away and gliding toward one of her favourite chaises, “or perhaps troubled to leave some word for me when you came to my house weeks ago,” her skirts billow exquisitely as she turns upon the ball of one capable foot, to face him again, “to call upon my little cousin from Corsica…” Her eyebrows arch. “But no,” she goes on, “I came in that evening to hear that my old friend Symon de Perigeux — a man whom I thought had some affection for me — had been and gone on business of his own, drinking with the baronne de Filitosa, without a thought for me. One only turns thirty once, Symon,” she points out, settling upon her chaise and making a moue at him, “and upon such an occasion of course one hopes for the commiseration of one’s friends.”

"B-but if I wrote it," Symon reasons, "It w-would be spelled wrong." He shakes his head. "Now, really, I w…was sorry to m…miss it, I w-would have b-been delighted to go, b-but for the timing. Can't w…we celebrate ourselves, now? You are still thirty, and it's terribly exciting."

“In six weeks the gloss has rather worn off my advancing years,” drawls Chimène, who has not yet asked Symon to sit down, “and we are not, as we might have been, sitting together in a field of fresh lavender, whilst bronzed Arcadian shepherd boys clad only in garlands of flowers played sweet music to us upon silver flutes until we repaired beneath a canopy of gold to partake of another feast prepared for us by the eight chefs I brought south from Elua for the month of April… Instead,” she sighs airily, clasping her hands in her lap, “you stayed in the city and went to a tournament, to watch grown men hitting one another with sticks, or pretending they and not their horses are capable of outdistancing one another, as you might do half a dozen times a year all over the realm if you had a mind to it. The reason? Why, you’re in love,” she sighs again, “and nothing else, nothing at all, matters to you anymore. Don’t think the world hasn’t noticed,” she assures her friend, narrowing her eyes at him.

Symon has not sat down, either, so surely he's on very best behavior. In a way. He isn't quick enough to defend himself on earlier charges before the last is leveled and he blinks a few times, then tilts his head. "Is it… You're angry at m-me for that?"

Behind Symon a lackey is lighting candles, transforming the salon for the evening as its mistress has already taken on her own glowing nocturnal form.

Chimène looks straight at him. “I am not,” she says slowly and clearly, as she might in the unlikely circumstance that she were speaking to one of her children, “angry with you for falling in love. I am disappointed, that someone I counted as a friend could spare me none of his company or his good wishes, but only a word from his servant— and I am worried about you, Symon, for the pit you’re digging for yourself with other people besides me.”

Symon looks rather miserable with Chimene saying all that. "W…what am I to say to that?" he asks. "I know I'm not…doing things as I should, b-but it's all so complicated and everyone has a different opinion and…"

“Nobody objects to your taking a lover,” says Chimène, more gently than before, “only to your neglect of aught else whilst you play house with him. If you go on as you are you’ll look about one day to find yourself disinherited and forgotten by your friends… Anyone’s patience has an end, Symon,” she points out, “and it’s your nature always to be a charge upon it. But I am still enough your friend to advise you to set some definite course, or else to relinquish the tiller— you see how they corrupt me,” she adds in parentheses, “to someone who will.”

Symon is hurt, or chastened, or something of that order. He takes the bottle of wine out of a basket and puts it on a table. "Enough my friend?" he repeats. "I…" He doesn't finish that thought. "I have b-been looking for a course," he says softly instead. "It is not easy. I know it is a terribly delicate choice. I don't w…want to m-make it wrong. It's hard to trust anyone. Everyone w…wants to control me."

“Really, Symon,” and now Chimène does sound a tad cross, “is that what your northern boy tells you? It makes much less difference than you might suppose,” she maintains; “plenty of people have their marriages simply arranged by their parents in the family’s interest and they do well enough, if there’s goodwill on both sides. There are probably a hundred girls in Terre d’Ange of tolerably good breeding and looks and wealth who’d do well enough as the next marquise de Perigeux.” She clicks her fingers impatiently at the candle lackey, who bows to her and fetches from a cabinet a pair of seahorse-engraved crystal glasses.

“The more you tell yourself that your circumstances are unique and that your future happiness depends entirely upon your choice of bride— neither of which is true, by the bye,” she remarks, shooting a glance at the lackey as he opens Symon’s bottle of wine, “the more you’ll paint yourself into a corner in which you can’t act at all till it’s too late. Listen to me, Symon,” and she offers her hand, to invite him onto the chaise next to her, “right now you could propose the village milkmaid and your parents would agree for the sake of getting a grandchild or two from her. She’ll have no more power than you give her. And the position from which you negotiate now, has never been stronger. It will stay strong— till it collapses.”

"No, in fact, it's not," Symon says, voice more quiet and more serious than Chimene has perhaps ever heard it. "It's how I feel." He stays on his feet for now, though he notes the gesture. "B-but you're right. I've delayed too long. I ought to choose and have done w…with it, and accept w…whatever the consequences."

Spurned, Chimène’s hand arcs gracefully down again into her lap. The lackey has been pouring; he offers Symon with a glass of wine where he stands, then steps across the gap between them to present Chimène with her own. If a fellow could contrive to give the impression of having had his ears surgically removed— this fellow, here and now, does so.

“Provided you choose within your own milieu and give the milkmaid your regrets,” the lady pronounces quietly as she curls her long white fingers about the stem of the glass, “I don’t believe your marriage likely to have consequences so disastrous or so dire that they’d prove beyond reparation. People marry every day, Symon, and it’s never a final and terrible end decided for good and all. A marriage is a living thing— even mine,” she offers with another moue, “and so it’s always susceptible to change. No choice that’s ideal in one moment will be ideal forever. That sort of match doesn’t exist,” she explains patiently, “particularly not for people like us. You just have to place a bet with reasonable care, the way we all do.”

Symon takes the glass, but it doesn't look like he really wants it. Which is extremely unlike him. "No, yes, of course," he answers, and then goes ahead and sits down anyway. He doesn't say anything else, or drink.

Well, Chimène wants hers. She takes a deep mouthful — reckless as a future duchesse can afford to be when drinking red wine in a white gown — and eyes this new Symon. An improved model? Or…? “When were you last in Siovale?” she asks him quietly.

“I don't know," Symon says, although he does know. "It's b-been two years, I think." Whether he's improved would be a matter of opinion. He's quieter and stiller.

“Go soon,” is Chimène’s advice, “and pay court to your parents. It will be unpleasant,” she admits frankly, “but one’s duty often is. Take with you the name and lineage of your intended wife, and a draft contract of marriage drawn up by lawyers of your own, to include your own provisions — a larger allowance, veto power over certain key appointments in your father’s lifetime, and so on — if you don’t know anyone qualified in such matters, I can give you a name,” adds the future duchesse de Roussillion, accustomed to acting as the head of her house in Marsilikos. “Present it to them as a fait accompli likely to result in the immediate conception of a grandchild— they may kick at the traces a bit, but they’ll agree. Grandchildren,” she states, “are all that such people care about. The dream of future glory.”

Symon nods faintly. "I know it's all they care about," he replies, voice still low. "Thank you for your advice." He continues to hold the glass.

FS3> Chimene rolls Perception: Good Success. (3 3 1 4 1 5 3 8 4 8 2 1)

“You are the heir to Perigeux,” says Chimène softly, continuing to try to impress upon him these home truths of such rarefied residences as their own; “you possess already a degree of power and privilege most in our land can only dream of— but to keep it, Symon, to hold it and to build upon it year by year, you must exercise it. When people like us make decisions, our decisions are correct because we are the ones who made them. I think perhaps that truth,” she drawls, “which makes the world go round, was mistakenly left out of your education.”

"Not m…mistakenly," Symon says as quietly. He sets the wine down. He's quiet a while. Then he goes ahead and says, "Do you have someone you w…want to suggest, or do you w-w-want to do that later?"

Across from him, upon her chaise, Chimène sits and watches. The mere fact that no other servants nor cousins nor petitioners intrude upon them is proof enough that she ordered the privacy of their interview. “… I could offer you suggestions, yes,” she agrees coolly.

Then she sighs and glances away and rolls her eyes to the heavens and back to her friend’s face. “Symon, I could have you creditably wed by summer’s end and with your parents’ blessing if you decided to trust me,” and she sounds cross again, but in a style which suggests her old self and her most usual way of talking to him; “but you’re like a mule, you know, you don’t know which way you want to go but you won’t be driven anywhere.” She drinks down a couple of quick mouthfuls of her wine and adds absently, “This is palatable.”

"Yes, I know that's true," Symon replies. His brow is tense, but otherwise he stays sitting still as he has been. "B-but m…maybe I w-will. I'll take the night to sleep on it and write you a m…message in the m-morning. W-would you help me then?"

Chimène doesn’t hesitate. “Yes. Yes, of course I would.” She rises, in that weightless way of hers, and pads silk-slippered toward Symon, to rest her glass upon the table at his side and her richly jeweled hand upon his shoulder. “How long have you and I know one another, Symon?” she demands of him, rhetorically. “It must be almost ten years, as well as so many changes… If I can’t choose a girl for you, who could?” She gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“I’m engaged for the evening upon an errand for my mama-in-law— but do write to me tomorrow,” she confirms, watching him still as she lets go of him to pick up her wine, “with your decision. In your own hand if you can bear it,” she advises in a more pragmatic tone; “there’s no call to make servants’ gossip of your affairs before they’re even begun.” This, despite the Rousse lackeys propping up her salon’s pale grey walls. Presumably she answers for the discretion of attendants privy to so much of the duchy’s private business.

Symon is usually loose in his body, warm and pliable to touch, but he isn't at the moment. His shoulder feels firm and his posture doesn't give. He does glance at the Rousse servants as she gives him still more instructions, down to how to compose his reply. "Shall I b-be on my w…way, then?"

Chimène makes a moue at her old friend. “Haven’t I been cruel enough to you for one day?” she asks softly. “But really, darling, I’m the one who ought to be on my way,” she sighs. “I’m not sure you’d have caught me at all today if I hadn’t been delayed by my scapegrace child— the youngest one, Loïc,” she explains, with the same airy detachment that invariably strips warmth and colour from her talk about her offspring. “It’s fortunate we already had the navy in mind for him,” she adds drily, “I begin to doubt his fitness for anything else.”

This way of talking about the child especially tightens the edges of Symon's eyes, but what can he say? "M…maybe he's just different," he ends up blurting even though he knows he should've kept his mouth shut entirely. He stands, leaving his wine where it was, entirely unsipped. "Have the v…v…very finest evening," he wishes, and makes a bow, and departs, his own gift bottle of wine still standing upon the table where he left it earlier, though he remembers to take the basket.

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