Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
My concession to the scorching temperatures outside my typist's window is to spend more time in sundresses and other attire that, ahem, bare a little more of me than is strictly Historically Accurate. To which I stick out my tongue and give a big raspberry to Historical Accuracy. Everyone feels better this way.
Another concession is to partake in the delightful Southern (U.S.) adult thirst-quencher, the Mint Julep. Mint, simple syrup, bourbon or Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and plenty of ice. True, I become even less productive than usual, but it hits the spot!
As it turns out, I am not the only one who feels the need for the perception of cooler weather. As Janus reports (http://butlerview.blogspot.com/2008/07/let-it-snow.html), having a little snow on the ground in July can be quite refreshing.
Having a lot of snow on the ground in January, on the other hand, is merely annoying.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Not that I let it ruin my day.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Inside, one will find comfortable chairs for reading the volumes of information provided, as well as a fireplace to take the chill off the air in the cold, ah, July night. My sister, Kathy, can be seen lounging in front of the fireplace – naturally, not reading, as her talents are perhaps less cerebral and more, ah, physical.
Along the walls are a variety of interactive posters: just click on the poster and receive information, a menu of choices, or a link to information on the aetherweb. Posters provide links to pundits and commentators (sadly, not that of Your Humble Scribe, at least not directly (the final menu entry provides a link to a more comprehensive set of aetheric journals) – I will clearly have to do a better job of marketing my journal), news sources, books, information about Caledon itself (“gossip,” Sir JJ? Surely not!), the use of titles, and the Caledon covenant. Upstairs, still more posters provide information on Caledonian groups.
The Centre provides a most welcome (ha-ha) service in collecting information about Caledon in a lovely building convenient to where a newcomer might arrive. For the veteran Caledonian, the Centre is an inviting location to rest one’s weary bones. Just tell Kathy to move aside and make some room in front of the fire. She won’t mind.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I'm no fashionista, but what gives? What's with the fascination with bling, not to mention the overall hooker look? Is it cheaper and easier method of getting noticed than developing a decent look? I imagine some find it empowering to dress in a way one's typist would not choose to dress - I certainly own some outfits that are perhaps, ummm, a bit immodest. But really!
Ladies, dress to impress the kind of man (or woman) you want to attract. That's a rule that transcends worlds, virtual and otherwise.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
My contributions were exceedingly modest – various donations at RFL activities and, of course, RFL-related shopping expeditions. I thought the level of effort and commitment put in by many people was nothing short of amazing, starting with Caledon Team Captain Erasmus Margulis. (Ras, there have to be easier ways to earn a knighthood. For instance, you could have washed the Guv’s carriage a few times, or something. I guess this means it was a labor of love.)
The builds for the relay course were nicely done, particularly for something that would last only a few days. Below are some photos of Caledon’s build, including some of the celebration afterward. (Motto: where there is Caledon, there also a party can be found.)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Steam Forge is paired with a more punk-themed area called Creeve Town, though the two seem physically and thematically connected.
It's a beautiful build, though the stores are more on the "punk" side than the "steam" side. (A branch of Kheph's Creations is a notable exception.) It includes some dark alleyways where a respectable woman probably should not travel. Of course, I did anyway.
I even found a little something for my wardrobe.
One of the downsides is that the sim contains a camping area, which slows down an already laggy build. I don't really get the camping thing. For the campers, it says the opportunity cost of their time is pretty darned low. For the sim owner, even though the cost of artificially building traffic is low, the benefit has to be low as well. Am I really going to visit your sim because you're number 247,632 in traffic? I would think "low lag" would be a better marketing slogan than "filled up with people doing nothing," but what do I know?
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I leaned against an antique desk missing several drawer knobs. “Hear me out, Captain. Consider your own analysis: the theft was aided, if not orchestrated, by someone inside the household. This lets out all of the guests, except perhaps Baron Slater, who has been a frequent visitor to this house. The caterers, too, are from a local firm, but it is unlikely that any of those here tonight have spent much time exploring the house or are familiar with her ladyships’s ways.
“Another indication that the crime was planned from inside was the matching gown: only a person intimate with the household would have known the details of the gown to such a degree as to be able to have it copied so precisely. Of course, the dressmaker would have such knowledge, but the dressmaker would not know about the hidden stairs, and so on.”
He looked unhappy. “You’re just telling me what I already know, lady.”
“Bear with me, Captain. Someone needed to have access to the jewels to copy. Presumably we were meant to think that, had Lady Deanna not discovered the theft as quickly as she did, that the thief would have been able to use the imitation jewelry to conceal the evidence of the crime until the thief was safely away. For this to be credible, the imitations had to be fairly accurate representations of the real jewels. Only someone with access to the real jewels would have had that access. I venture to guess that only Lady Deanna herself had such access. She created this elaborate ruse to divert suspicion from the household and on to this mysterious creature who arrived tonight.” I paused, recalling that I had thought I had seen the Duchess leave the powder room at one point. “I think the plan was for the imposter to make her entrance, then position herself on the balcony near the powder room. Lady Deanna would use the scene the imposter created with the identical dress as an excuse to use the room. When the room was otherwise empty, the imposter would enter, place the imitation jewels down, and take Lady Deanna’s place in front of the mirror. The real Duchess would leave with the real jewels, and she secreted the jewels in the library. When the room was again clear, the two exchanged places again. While the imposter was in the powder room, guests would see the lilac ball gown and the back of a woman with the Duchess’s hairstyle, and would likely not speak unless spoken to because the Duchess was so overtly upset. Almost the entire time there was one woman in the powder room and one in the library or on the balcony.”
Armstrong looked uncomfortable as he processed this information, but I could tell he was intrigued. “Go ahead, then, tell me: why would Lady Deanna steal her own jewels? She is from one of the wealthiest families in the nation, and is marrying into more money.”
“Ah, but is she wealthy? I looked at the missing knobs on this desk, the chipped statuary outside in need of repair, the lack of servants for this large house that has led to a dusty library and the need to hire caterers for tonight’s occasion. If you look for them, I suspect there are other signs the estate is in trouble. She spent lavishly for the ball tonight in a desperate effort to conceal that trouble: she paid for a couture gown, the band, the food and drink for a large guest list, but this might be all she could muster. No doubt Baron Slater expects to combine fortunes, not to marry someone destitute, and Lady Deanna, knowing she needed to conceal her difficulties for a little longer, was willing to take extreme measures to preserve the illusion. She would make everyone believe the jewels were stolen, collect the insurance money, and then sell the real jewels on the black market, keeping her solvent until the marriage.”
“If you are right, the scandal will be devastating to her. The Baron will surely call off the marriage.” Armstrong tugged on his ill-fitting jacket. “At the same time, I can’t ignore the possibility. There’s sense in what you say, Miss Jameson. If you’re right, we shall never see the mystery guest in Caledon again.” He ticked off each finger in turn as he said, “We can check Lady Deanna’s travel schedule to see where she might have gone. I believe she owns property in Winterfell, where there are discreet jewelers who might be willing to make an imitation and keep their mouths shut. We can inquire where she might have had a replica gown made – perhaps in Steeltown. If she really is in dire need of funds, I may be able to pressure her by letting her know that the insurance company will be doing a thorough investigation before they pay a cent, and that we will be watching carefully for the pearl and larger diamonds to be sold.”
I nodded happily. “One other suggestion, sir: you might have your men search the house thoroughly for the jewelry. She likely paid off her accomplice already, in anticipation that the two would never again meet. That means the jewels likely never left the house – would you give a priceless set of jewelry to a woman you had told to disappear forever?”
He agreed to the search. Although we were concerned that she had used some centuries-old, out-of-the-way cubbyhole that a search would not reveal, the jewels turned out to be located in a small in a hidden desk drawer in the library. The Captain later speculated that she had not the time to move the jewels to a more secretive location, given the tight time-frame of the plot, and that such a move would have been forthcoming once the house was empty of guests and the police. The attitude of the lady herself turned from outrage to concern to outright trepidation as the search party closed in on their quarry. Once the jewels were revealed, the game was clearly up, and she confessed the entire plot. The Baron, upon hearing this, stormed out of the mansion past the bewildered guests. Bartholomew, loyal to the end, declared the ball was over and bade the guests a good evening, emptying the house before the police arrested his mistress. (Of course, any scandal was delayed by no more than a few hours.)
I made my farewell to Captain Armstrong, and located Willig and the phaeton for my journey home.
“A successful evening, Miss?” he asked.
I considered my reply. “I would say so, Willig, though others will no doubt disagree. However, if tonight is any indication, I think I shall find Caledonian society to be most entertaining indeed!”
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The picture below was taken at a residential development called Greek Gold Lesbian Rentals. With that in mind, what's wrong with this picture?
Then a piercing shriek was heard over the music, and the band ground to a halt once more. We heard the shriek a second time, then Lady Deanna appeared in the ballroom once more. “I’ve been robbed!” she cried. “My jewels have been stolen!”
The crowd gasped and murmured their disbelief. I smelled a story, and scanned the room for Captain Armstrong. I saw his stout form pushing through a group of guests as he shouted “Make way! Caledon police! Make way for the police!” Catching up to him as he reached the hallway, I started up the stairs with him. “Where do you think you’re going, Miss Jameson? This is police business.”
I kept moving. “You appear to be short-handed, Captain. I thought I could lend a hand. Although I have not the expertise of a trained detective, I have made my living interviewing people and keeping my eyes open to news. It may be the case these skills will be proved useful tonight.”
“It’s highly irregular,” he growled, “but I suppose it’s an irregular situation all around.” We stood in front of the powder room, where he stopped. “I have two conditions for you: first, I do the talking. Second, I have called for reinforcements. When they arrive, your role here ends. Am I clear, Miss Jameson?”
I nodded my assent. Captain Armstrong reached Lady Deanna, who was now accompanied by Baron Slater and the butler, Bartholomew.
“Captain Armstrong of the Caledon police force, Your Grace, and Miss Rhianon Jameson, who is assisting me by taking notes until my squad arrives. What seems to be the problem?” I bristled at the “taking notes” comment, but said nothing. No one noticed that I had neither pen nor paper.
Baron Slater spoke first. “Can we retire to the bedroom suite, Captain? I think Her Grace would be more comfortable speaking there, and we will have a little more privacy.” Armstrong nodded, and our little party made its way up the flying staircase and into the antechamber of the master bedroom.
Lady Deanna tearfully recounted her story. The Baron had stated to those around him that he needed to make an important announcement, and was just about to seek the band leader to ask for a moment where he could make the announcement to all the guests. Then the mystery woman appeared. After this encounter, Lady Deanna had felt humiliated. Before the Baron went further, she explained she needed to compose herself in the powder room. In fact, she also needed to reapply her makeup, which was starting to run from the heat of the ballroom, and wanted to reapply her favorite perfume. Naturally, once seated in the powder room, she removed her pearl-and-diamond necklace and the two diamond bracelets, placing them on a dressing table, as she did not want the antique pearl to come in contact with her perfume, and she did not want her powders to dull the shine of the diamonds.
“And were other guests in the powder room at the same time?” Captain Armstrong asked.
She nodded. “As you saw, it is a large room – my grandmother had it designed for the balls she held, so that a number of guests at a time could use the room to refresh themselves. She felt the ladies should not have to wait for the room to come free. While I was in there, perhaps a dozen people came and went. I was busy with my own tasks, however, and I did not see any of them.”
“Your jewelry was right beside you the entire time?”
“It was always nearby, but not directly beside me. As you can see when you look carefully at the powder room, the best mirror in the room is some ways from the dressing table. Naturally, I had no concerns about the safety of the jewels as I had complete confidence in the integrity of my guests.” Yet when Lady Deanna finished with her makeup case, returned the vial of perfume to its proper location, and went to put on her jewelry, she thought the necklace felt odd. Closer inspection showed to her it was an imitation. Looking at the bracelets, she discovered that they, too, were imitations.
“Might I see the pieces?” the Captain asked. Bartholomew was sent to fetch them. Armstrong scrutinized them as though he were a jeweler. “Yes, I can see. Good enough job to fool a casual glance, but easy enough to see they’re fakes if one takes a hard look.”
“Or if one has owned them for years,” murmured Bartholomew.
After discovering the ruse, she ran out of the now-empty powder room, where Baron Slater stood waiting, and let loose the cry we all heard. The butler, Bartholomew, was nearby and ran to his mistress’s side.
The Baron said, “I think that takes us to the present. You know the rest, Captain.”
He nodded. “Indeed. Tell me, who had the opportunity to reach the jewels while you rested, madam?”
Lady Deanna looked as though this question had not occurred to her. “I…I don’t know. Helga, my lady’s maid, is the only person who regularly comes into the room. She is helping in the kitchen this evening. She and Bartholomew are the only servants up here regularly, but, of course, both have been with my family for years and are quite beyond reproach.” Bartholomew managed to look both appropriately grateful at Her Grace’s blanket endorsement of his honesty and annoyed that she would even bring up the subject.
“The Baron, of course…”
Baron Slater interrupted. “Yes, my dear, but I don’t think the Captain means me.” He turned to Armstrong. “Naturally, you are aware that I have no need for Miss Varienne’s jewelry, as my family has more money than I could ever use.”
Lady Deanna tittered. “Oh, certainly, Wolfgang. I meant no implication. But honestly, Captain, almost anyone could have been in the powder room with me. As I said, I paid no attention to who was there with me, and, though it may seem odd, no one spoke to me.” No doubt uncertain as to the mood of their hostess after her embarrassment, I thought, but kept that to myself. “And yet I simply cannot imagine any of my guests would have stolen my jewelry.”
I could contain myself no longer. “What about the mysterious woman with your dress? Who was she?”
Captain Armstrong glared at me. “Yes, Your Grace, we were all curious about the lady.”
She looked chagrined. “I…I do not know what to say. I do not know the woman personally, and I cannot imagine who would have proposed her for my guest list. I know many of my guests, but not all of them. This young lady here, for example –” She motioned at me. “– I am not acquainted with her, but I assume she is here because I invited her at the request of someone I know and trust.”
“Colonel Somme, in my case, my lady. And may I say how delighted I am to be here.” This earned me another glare from Captain Armstrong. Perhaps “delighted” was not exactly what I wanted to convey at the present moment.
Lady Deanna waved her hands. “See? Someone knows someone, and there you are. So I assume someone recommended that woman – ” She could not bring herself to use the word “lady.” “– to me. If she did not have an invitation, Bartholomew would not have let her in.” The butler nodded.
“Do you have a guest list?” Armstrong asked. “Perhaps we can determine who she is by process of elimination.”
“Yes, of course. I’m sure Bartholomew has it around somewhere. Now Captain,” she said, pointing a finger at him, “I have no doubt you will use all necessary resources to apprehend this woman and recover my jewels. The cost is not the issue so much as their sentimental value, as they have been in my family for generations. And the principle of the thing, to be robbed at one’s own party, in one’s own house!”
The captain was apparently used to this attitude from prominent citizens. He said soothingly, “Of course we will do what we can to find the culprit and bring him – or her – to justice. But we should not come to premature conclusions about the identity of the thief.”
“Who else do you suppose it could be?” the lady replied indignantly, to which Baron Slater added, “You’re not suggesting one of the other guests could be responsible, are you, Armstrong? If you so much as breathe a word of that suggestion, much less let it find its way into the press, I’ll have your badge!” I had no doubt the reference to the press was directed at me.
“Come now, Baron, no one is suggesting any such thing. I merely urge you not to reach any hasty judgments. Let the law handle this.” He turned to Lady Deanna. “Your Grace, I think we have taken up enough of your time at the moment. I will return downstairs and see what else I can discover.” We made our good-byes, and the captain and I returned to the ballroom. By this time, his men had arrived and were awaiting instruction from their chief. He set them to interviewing the guests. If this had been a gathering of ordinary citizens, I have no doubt he would have also ordered everyone searched in the hopes of finding the jewels and the guilty party in one fell swoop. As it was, however, a search was out of the question. In any event, the culprit had ample opportunity to flee the mansion.
Captain Armstrong wandered to the small balcony where I had seen the mystery woman standing after her encounter with the Duchess. I followed him. “Didn’t I tell you your part in this ended when my men arrived, Miss Jameson?” he growled. “This is official police business, young lady, and I’d thank you to let me get on with it.”
He tried to walk more quickly than I could to signal his desire to put distance between us. His stout figure and short legs did not allow him to outpace me, however. I replied mildly, “You did indeed say that, Captain, and I respect the work you have to do here. If you would indulge me a few more minutes, though, sir, I hope to be of some assistance in helping you clear up this business.”
He sighed. “If you must.”
We soon discovered that there was no direct route to the balcony from the ballroom. Instead, the hallway off the ballroom led to a small library, and it was the library to which the balcony was attached. “Curious that the mystery woman chose to smoke her cigarette on this balcony, so close to the powder room where the crime took place,” I commented. I looked around the library at the dark paneled walls and the volumes of books in their cracked leather bindings. The room was thick with dust, except for an area near an interior wall. A few moments of pressing on the wall revealed the presence of a door carefully constructed to blend into the paneling. I pushed on the door, and it swung open without a sound. A set of narrow stairs spiraled downward. Though the passage was dimly lit, at the bottom we could see a door that led to the lawn facing Loch Wright. Beyond the lawn was an empty boat dock at the shore of the loch.
“I think this explains how our mystery woman disappeared,” I said. Armstrong walked through the doorway and out onto the lawn. A few moments later, he returned, saying, “You must be correct, Miss Jameson. The exterior doorway was unlocked, and there were footprints on the lawn heading both toward and away from the dock. It would have been easy enough for our unknown woman to have gone to the powder room, taken the real jewels, substituted the false ones, and left the mansion in no more than a minute.” He paced the small library. “Although of interest, I fail to see how discovery leads us closer to recovering the jewels. Even as I admonished Lady Deanna to keep an open mind as to the culprit, it seemed clear to me that the unknown woman is the one we want. Find her, we’ll find the jewels, if she has not disposed of them already.”
“Yes, that is so…” I started, hesitantly.
Armstrong stroked his chin, looking thoughtful. “This passageway does confirm something I had been thinking all along: the thief had inside help. We did not know of this passageway, much less that it leads to the dressing room. Nor could someone without intimate knowledge of the household know that Lady Deanna would have placed her jewelry on her dressing room table. I plan to take a harder look at Bartholomew and the lady’s maid, what’s her name, Helga.”
“Yes, Captain, I agree with all that. But your analysis misses the most logical culprit – Lady Deanna herself.”
[Next: the conclusion!]
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sipping my cocktail, I made my way to one of the few people I knew quite well, Mr. Bob Armstrong, Captain of Police. Mr. Armstrong was a barrel-chested man of about 50 years, perhaps two inches shorter than I, but with a penetrating gaze that doubtless made the criminal classes confess rather than endure his interrogation. His wife, Corrine, was at home with their young daughters, unable to find a willing baby-sitter this evening thanks to the large number of parents attending the ball, and surely disappointed that she was unable to attend this year. Mr. Armstrong was in an ill-fitting evening jacket that had seen better days, rather than his usual uniform with its highly-polished brass buttons. After we had exchanged greetings, I said, “It appears as though you are here socially, Mr. Armstrong, rather than representing the police.”
He smiled. “I feel confident that anyone able to obtain an invitation from the Duchess is not highly inclined to engage in murder, or even larceny. I may, however, have to turn a blind eye toward public drunkenness,” he added, as even at this early hour I could see several industrialists starting to sway a bit, and could hear their voices raised in boisterous laughter.
“Let that be the extent of your problems, then, sir.”
I contemplated finding a second cocktail, debating whether one more absinthe would have me engaging in unladylike behavior, when the band struck up a cheerful fanfare. Conversations stopped, and everyone’s attention was drawn to the balcony overlooking the ballroom.
Lady Deanna made her entrance by descending the flying staircase. She was dressed in an exquisite satin gown in lilac, trimmed in white and gold lace, with very short sleeves, as was the style that season. She wore long white kid gloves, and on each wrist was a diamond bracelet, glistening in the gaslight. In her décolletage was the famous Varienne pearl necklace, comprising an enormous pear-shaped mobe pearl set among dozens of diamonds. Between the three pieces, the total weight was reputed to be close to 30 carats, and the effect was stunning. All eyes were fixed on the lady and her jewelry, including those of Baron Slater. He watched hungrily as she made her way toward him, Offering her his arm, the pair made their way across the ballroom, the sea of guests parting to let them through.
At a signal, the band started a minuet. The couple danced, first by themselves, then joined by a dozen or so other couples – somehow the rest knew who was and was not permitted on the dance floor with our hostess for this minuet. When the dance was over, the Baron escorted Lady Deanna to the matrons’ table. In their wake, murmurs of conversation started again, and the liveried staff made another pass with canapés and light drinks. The Baron fiddled with a small box in his jacket pocket, lending credence to the rumor that he would make a marriage proposal this evening.
The music started again, a waltz this time. “Would you care to dance, miss?” a deep voice asked in my left ear. Setting down my empty glass, I turned. The speaker was a handsome man with a cerebral air about him. “Dr. Darien Mason,” he said with a bow.
I curtsied. “Miss Rhianon Jameson. And yes, I’d love to.” I accompanied Dr. Mason to the dance floor. He was an excellent dancer, much better than I, and polite enough not to remind me of this. While the music played, he told me a little bit about his scientific endeavors, which were fascinating indeed. I made a mental note to interest my editor in a feature story about him. I answered a few questions about myself, although my primary concern was in keeping up with the music and maintaining the proper steps. A separate train of thought had a nagging concern over my gown, clearly last year’s style, which is why it was barely affordable at all. With the exception of Captain Armstrong’s old dress jacket, brought out a few times a year when he attended such a gathering, everyone else seemed to have spent more than half my annual income dressing for tonight’s occasion, not even counting the heirloom jewelry they wore. I suspected Dr. Mason was taking pity on me, which was certainly a point in his favor.
The music stopped abruptly, causing several collisions on the dance floor. The band leader attempted to pick up the piece where they left off, but not all the musicians were playing, and the music eventually died again. Dr. Mason craned his neck to see what caused the disruption. I, too, was curious, though I had no hope of seeing over the crowd.
Then the couples all pulled back toward the sides of the room, creating an aisle down which a new arrival to the ball walked. She was a woman in her early 30s, apparently unaccompanied, but what caused the commotion was her attire: she wore a dress identical to that of the Duchess. The lilac satin, the cut – identical. Even the hairdos of the two women were identical. I could see to the head table, where Lady Deanna was giving the newcomer a most withering gaze; Her Grace was not pleased. Yet the newcomer appeared completely unperturbed at the commotion she was causing, stopping to pick up a glass of champagne with a gloved hand, and greeting people as she made her way toward the matrons’ table. We all drew the obvious conclusion, which is that this was a deliberate insult toward our hostess, though I had no idea why.
The Duchess struggled mightily with her self-control, and the Baron placed a hand on her arm to calm her. Good breeding won out, and the Duchess greeted her doppelganger coldly but politely. After the newcomer made her greetings, the Duchess put a hand to her forehead as though she had a severe headache, made some remarks to her companions, and walked to the hallway off the ballroom, down which a powder room was located. Meanwhile, the newcomer took her champagne in the same direction, stepping out onto a small balcony that overlooked the loch, where she stood alone. No one dared join her to provide company.
“Do you know that woman?” I asked Dr. Mason, who appeared as stunned as the rest of us.
He shook his head. “I do not, although I confess my experiments often keep me away from society events. She may be known, albeit new, to Caledon.”
“She certainly made an entrance tonight.”
“That she did,” the Doctor said with a laugh. “Perhaps you can use your investigative prowess to find out who she is. Do you know Dame Lapin Paris? No? Let me introduce you, as she knows everyone, or so it seems.” He walked me to where a small group was conversing quietly. Dame Lapin was younger than my image of a peer, and wearing a chic teal dress with a somewhat daring cut. Dr. Mason introduced me to the group, made his apologies, and went off in search of food.
“Dr. Mason suggested you might be familiar with the woman who made such a commotion,” I said.
Dame Lapin shook her head. “I’m afraid not. None of us are – we’ve been discussing just that question. Mr. Windemere here thinks he may have seen her on his visit to Steelhead, but cannot be certain. I know she has not been to an event in Caledon before tonight.” Mr. Windemere nodded his agreement. Another young lady, introduced to me as Miss Regina Gramercy, thought the stranger had a slight foreign accent when speaking with Lady Deanna.
“Most perplexing,” I said. “The slight would appear to be deliberate, yet where would she learn of Lady Deanna’s gown, much less obtain material to make a copy? No reputable dressmaker would allow the material or design to fall into the hands of someone else prior to the ball.”
“I would think not,” Dame Lapin agreed. “The exclusivity is part of what the outrageous fee for the haute couture design is for.”
“Has the Duchess taken ill?” I asked. It would not have surprised me if the mystery woman had upset our hostess to the point where the latter took refuge in her bed chambers. I looked to where the culprit had been, but the balcony was now empty.
“No,” replied Dame Lapin, “she merely retired to the powder room to compose herself and to reapply her makeup. I believe the Baron was on the verge of making an announcement, and I overheard Her Grace say that she needed a few moments to refresh herself.” We could see the Baron walk to the powder room entrance where he waited impatiently for her to finish.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
My late arrival was not because of habitual tardiness on my part. Rather, I was new to Caledonian society – or, here, Society – and spent far too long ensuring my hair and makeup were just right before slipping into the ball gown I could scarcely afford and leaving my cottage for the waiting coach. I had no lady’s maid of my own, being a humble scrivener, so I had to apply the powders and unguents myself, then act as my own critic. Knowing I was running very late for the ball, my first important social invitation, made my hand unsteady, lengthening the process still further.
“What can you tell me about Her Grace, the Duchess of Loch Wright?” I asked Willig, the driver of the phaeton. Although I could have hired one of the new horseless carriages and reached my destination sooner, I had wanted to keep my gown as free as possible from coal dust, which the steam-powered vehicles produced in abundance. Furthermore, pulling up in a phaeton seemed so much more elegant and befitting the occasion.
Willig and I knew one another slightly, as he was one of my sources of information both for activities of the wealthy, whom he chauffeured, and the poor in Cheapside, where he and his wife lived. Willig clearly disapproved of me, firmly believing that women, regardless of class, had no business in a profession. A grown woman should marry, raise children, and, if wealthy, set an example for the nation through Good Deeds. I had explained to him this would never be my lot in life. He would grumble, take my money, and provide me with information. Despite his complaints, he was a good-hearted man who wanted a better life for his wife and children, and assumed one day I would come around to his point of view.
“Well, Miss, ’er Grace comes from an old Caledonian family. They’ve owned that slab of rock on Loch Wright ever since it rose from the sea, or so it’s been said.” He took off his cap with one hand, scratched his head, and replaced the cap, all the while keeping a steady hand on the reins with the other hand. “ ’Er ’usband, rest ’is soul, perished during the goings on with Neualtenberg, leavin’ ’er with the two young ’uns. But she’s still a young woman ’erself, and a looker at that (if you don’t mind my saying so, Miss), an’ I’ve heard she’s been spending plenty o’ time with the Baron Slater.”
“So soon after the Duke’s death?”
“Some say it’s too soon, aye. But ’er Grace, she’s strong-willed, that’s for certain.”
As the carriage made its way to the peninsula in Loch Wright where the Duchess’s mansion stood, I learned that the title was hers in her own right, as her father had no male heirs, and that her husband, though a commoner, was a Captain in the Caledonian navy and, had he survived, was likely to have been knighted by the Governor for services rendered during the war. The couple had a daughter, now a little more than a year old. Since being widowed, the Duchess had mourned for six weeks and then declared her mourning period was over, after which Baron Slater of East Saxonburg had called upon her quite often. It was possible that their engagement would be announced as early as the present evening, at the ball.
The ball was ostensibly to celebrate the summer solstice, and it had been a tradition in the Varienne family for more than a century. The Duchess, like her ancestors, spared no expense in decorations, food and wine, or entertainment, and the cream of Caledonian society made it a point to attend. I had received an invitation from Colonel Somme, whom I had been able to assist in a small way earlier in the year, and who knew of my desire to attend. He arranged with the Duchess an invitation for me.
I thanked Willig for his information, and paid him a handsome tip along as he pulled up the carriageway of the mansion. He departed for the stables, where he and the other drivers would wait until the end of the ball. I followed Bartholomew into the great hall of the mansion.
Shockingly, there was a suggestion that daring ladies could wear the waistcoat with trousers! I will admit that the female model in the trousers had a most pleasing derrier, but I had to look away quickly, as I found myself becoming quite faint.
Bravo (and brava) to both designers! It was fun to see - and hear, in some cases - so many friends and acquaintences from Caledon and allied lands. And a wave to Mr. Janus Fotherington, whose Aethernet Journal I have enjoyed reading, who was at the show with his lovely mistress, Miss Rachel Aldrich.
Sadly, on Sunday, your humble correspondent returned to washing clothes.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The common language makes for a useful bond among people who, by convention, really cannot discuss what they did all day. For those who are not willing to engage in fully-immersive role-playing, this bond is a helpful reminder of common interests. Beyond attending formal balls, of course.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
This was not to be. I soon bumped up against prim limits, and yet there were things I just had to add to the house. And I had hardly done any landscaping! One day, I decided that a foolish promise to one's self is still foolish, and kept my eyes open for additional acreage in the Downs. The other day, thanks to good timing and the good graces of TheDove Rhode, I purchased*** a slightly larger property. I'm not quite sure yet what I'll do with it, but, believe me, it was necessary. For the moment, it's the Jameson home for incorrigible gossips and flirts.
Of course, I swore to myself that would be it. That's enough land for me!
* "Buy" defined somewhat irregularly, as in "purchase the rental rights to, subject to various caveats."
** Similarly, "own" might be defined as "possess the rental rights to, subject to etc."
*** Yes, exactly. Subject to, etc.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Indeed, Mr. Mason! And yet is it not so that when practicing one's art at the highest level, one invariably seeks specialized equipment? The scrivener may use a fine-tipped fountain pen when engaged in highly detailed work and choose a broad nib when inking bold thoughts; the laboratory scientist knows to choose the correct size of vial in which to mix his elixirs; and the adventurer surely does not use the same equipment when scaling heights as navigating the ocean's depths. Female bipeds are no different: each occasion requires its own footwear. We seek perfection daily; we demand no less of ourselves.
To shop, to purchase: these are not mere whims born of a fevered female mind but are, rather, signposts on the path to Olympus! Consider this, sir, the next time you behold a woman's new shoes, and politeness dictates you must listen to her explain how they came under her ownership!
Monday, July 7, 2008
The much-larger space is perfect to enjoy a libation or two - just the thing for calming the nerves when one considers one is more than one hundred meters in the air, depending on the engines to continue moving to keep the city aloft.
I took the liberty of seeing whether the large vat of absinthe was as potent as ever. It was. (Don't worry, it's not the same absinthe that goes in the cocktails. At least, I don't think so. And in any event, the alcohol kills germs, right?)
The bar area has plenty of room to bend an elbow with your favorite libation - here, a delightful absinthe cocktail - and a good, firm surface to prop up the patron who is trying to disguise the fact she has had a wee too much to dwink, er drrrink, er drink.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I like cake and tea, so I have thought about joining. Not having a husband, much less a deceased husband, seemed like an impediment. The ladies kindly assured me that this was not a problem, and they could likely round up a suitable vic...corp...er, guest of honor. On the other hand, I am a kindly soul, and I would feel just a teensy bit uneasy about the whole process.
My advice to the men of Caledon: be careful when an attractive young woman offers you cookies, or cake, or tea, or punch, or... Perhaps a taste-tester would be an appropriate hire.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
As it turned out, I was wrong again. The distinction between airship and airplane was lost on me. While walking through New Babbage, I chanced upon a plane that permitted a test flight of the vehicle possible, although I was warned that the vehicle would self-destruct in ten minutes. I boarded and soon took to flight. How glorious! Soon, however, steering became an issue, as I was increasingly constrained by the narrow alleyways of New Babbage. In the end, I crashed – though I was fortunate to have walked away without bodily harm. Ah well, it was not meant to be.