Open Pups and Pomps
It had been his first outing to London in such a very long time! The highlight of which had been the shop window he had passed with Colette - displayed in a basket were the most novel and adorable of puppies. They were the sort of herding breed that was common for Welsh sheep farmers. How quaint! There had not been a hound in the castle since his childhood - old Bedfordshire, his father's bloodhound, named for a friend he had lost during wartime; far more traditional a breed. However, he could not be pulled away from that window, and was nearly intent to buy all five of them were it not for the level-headed reasoning of his wife. 

Kelvin held now the singular dog in question on his lap, as he sat at the table the footmen had brought out into the middle of the garden just outside of the hedge maze. There was a nip in the air that not even hot tea could keep at bay for long. But the sun still shone, and he had to obey the doctor's orders; make use of its prevalence for as long as one can in the waning months of the year.

The entire family, Muzurans included, were invited to sit for luncheon. It might not do for old Ned to venture out for long, but surely the girls would attend. 

The pup, who he had named Bernini, after the Italian sculptor, was very oddly shaped - her legs were short and fat and her ears had only just begun to stand upright and more so on one side than the other. He had never seen a herding dog up close. The 'Cor-gee' as the man in the shop had called them. She was fast asleep after running about in the grass. He did hope he might see her play with Brandt's dog soon. It was more exciting to him than anything he might wish to see in Julienne or René. But no one, especially Colette, need know about that.
The chill in the air was good, it made her feel alive, and she believed it was good for her skin if not overdone. Colette knew to enjoy the day as it was so rare to have a day outside like this, Kelvin especially! The lady looked over at her husband while her fingers rhythmically smoothed the fur down on the head of the dog in her lap. He was looking happier since the seance, and while she would not remember such an event, she was happy it did him well. She felt like maybe she had a husband again, which would certainly do well for Julienne.

Her eyes moved to scan over the yard, certain her child was at play with the sister to the dog she now held. While letting her husband get one of the strange small dogs, she'd found her own and managed to logically explain why she should have two. Certainly Julienne would like one to play with and the Cavalier King Charles was a more superior dog for a lady than the strange stubbly thing her husband fell in love with.

Her fingers moved again between the ears over the head and smiled. Her dog was very calm while the other played with her daughter. She let out a soft laugh, and turned to Kel.

"This was a good idea, I'm glad we came out today. It is a chance for you to get some fresh air, though take care to not over do it. "Her fingers reached out to rest on his hand for a moment. It could have been seen as a show of affection, but more importantly it was a reminder. She was there, for him. She was there, not a ghost from his past, and he needed to remember that.
René was sitting at the table, pulling his collar tighter around his neck as the nip in the air disturbed him. How he longed for the warmer climes of France. No tropical paradise, but some slighter proximity to the equator surely was better for the health. He'd be chilled in through the bone and retire an old man at twenty five at this rate. Especially if it were he who the mantle of Madswitte fell upon. But he was plotting. That day need not come...

He slurped his tea quickly before it went cold, and would admit only to himself that the puppies were charming. But he'd let Julienne do the petting. He would seize the chance himself at a more private time. Dogs didn't tattle, after all.

"Yes, do take care, Kelvin." He said flatly, never caving to calling him 'father', nor could he lower himself to call him 'lordship'. He was an acquaintance, at most. That would do for now.
Afternoon tea – how quintessentially British, Philomena thought, as she crossed the lawn. She approached the table and chairs set out by the footmen for the benefit of the family getting a breath of the bracing Autumn air. She had grown up in the warmer climes of the Mediterranean. But unlike Rene, she was not averse to the chill of northern England. She found the impact of cold air against her skin, and drawn deeply into her nasal passages, had a stimulating effect on her mental faculties. Fresh air and exercise, that was a new age prescription for good health and a lively intellect. And Philomena was all about anything that was cutting edge in terms of scientific advancement.

She had no pup to scamper about her heels. She had owned a parrot, once upon a time, before their sojourn here to England. She had enjoyed its company, its cleverness, and had tried to read up on any theories as to why and how some bird species could mimic human speech, as well as a host of other sounds. It was intriguing, in an academic way. Plus she had been quite fond of her pet. But it had been too clever by far and had escaped its cage, and disappeared. She often wondered about its fate, and hoped that it had somehow found the existence that it apparently had been yearning for all along. She could entirely relate to that sentiment.

Coming to the table, she nodded a polite greeting to each of those seated there already. She was quite fond of Kelvin, quite skeptical of Colette, and quite indifferent to Rene. Choosing a seat nest to her host and current benefactor (at least in terms of housing) she smiled warmly at him, and asked, ”How is Bernini? Is she settling in alright?”

Her smile included the squat puppy. She reached to stroke its head. Philomena was not averse to dogs, unless they were of the annoying yappy, demented variety of lap dog that some seemed to favor. The Corgi seemed to be far too sensible for that type of behavior, though.

The look she gave her hostess was far more cool. She had far greater expectations of loyalty for the little fur ball towards its new master than she had for the lady towards her husband.
Violetta had followed her sister out to the garden. Her impulse was to wear a large hat to hide her pallour, but today she'd thought to give the sun a challenge head-on. The cold was neither here nor there. In fact, it was relieving to not have to sweat through her petticoats from the heat. It was a jolly time for thick brocade. Though she did feel strange without an exposed neckline. She was free to court again now, after all. The lie about Mac Heath was out, released to flit about free like Phil's errant parrot.

There was, of course, ample chance that her reputation as a liar and the target of a madman's gun would sully her marriage chances. But perhaps marriage need not factor in. Perhaps she'd just do as she pleased from now on...

Violetta sat at the far end of the table. The place that she would normally reaerve for her father, but she didn't want him to catch cold out here and he had eventually conceded to remain inside after some struggling protest. The poor fellow. She would send for a special tea for him later.

"Colette, how lovely you look today." Her tone was ambiguous but she did mean well this time. Colette was proving to be an admirable presence. She had a spine and spines to throw, unlike her new husband. Violetta found an equal in her, and a respect. The only trouble then was that she had no idea how to address someone she respected....
Colette eyed her son as he seemed to not care for being out with the family, and he was still cold to his stepfather. It would take time, of course Kelvin was not putting in the effort either. She would just live with them being as they were for now, as long as it didn't devolve into something embarrassing. The woman did offer her son a smile as any woman would be proud of her kids for turning out as well as hers have so far, it gave her warmth even in the chilly air.

Her attention moved to the two women that sat with them. She gave only a small polite smile to Philomena, watching carefully in the way she interacted with her husband. Feeling certain that one wouldn't try anything was all well and good, but making certain was even better. The voice caught her focus as she looked to Violetta and that more genuine smile returned. A woman after her own heart she thought though they were very different people.

"Thank you, very much. I do try my best to look as respectable as possible when I'm around others. If everyone wants to take the time to look presentable, it is the least I can do to offer the same if not more so. You are looking very vibrant today." She was quick in her words though she had been picking at air for the right description. She waved her hand before gesturing to a closer chair.

"No need to be so distant. Come closer. I feel like we've barely met, this is a good time to be better acquainted."
She did not think much of this family tea party. After all, as far as Julienne was concerned, there were only two other members of her family present - her mother and Rene - possibly Kelvin Madswitte, if she was being generous enough to include her stepfather. The Muzuran sisters, however, she was not at all sure of. Especially since Violetta's betrayal with the costumes they had found.

Still, a chance to play with Maman's new dogs was enough that Julienne was happy enough. At the moment, she was chasing a ball with Louise whilst Coco rested on her mother's lap, hoping she would be allowed to continue doing so while the adults occupied themselves with conversation.
Kelvin smiled briefly at Colette before replying to Philomena, "Why yes, I do believe." His smile at Bernini was wider, as he watched her twitch her leg in her sleep, "She will no doubt enjoy having the run of the grounds!" He had fond memories of Bedfordshire gambolling joyfully across the moor as his father brought him hunting. How brief and merry was a dog's life!
Violetta nodded, trying to smile. The muscles in her cheeks stiff and weak for scowling. She obliged Colette and brought her tea from one seat to the other to sit next to her. "Your outing to London was enjoyable, I trust?"
Colette smiled watching her daughter play with one of the newest additions to the castle. Anything to keep her calm as she saw her husband look even happier at his dog than at her. A simple man liked his simple pleasures she supposed. Better than looking at another woman though. Let him have his dog, she'd let him have a dozen if it kept him out of any trouble.

"Oh yes, I do enjoy any chance to visit the city. It's so bustling and grand, so unlike this small place. " She gave a light laugh and sipped her tea. "But there is certainly charms to such a quiet and calm place that can't simply be duplicated."
Philomena smiled, her hand lifting from Bernini’s head to the handle of her tea cup. ”I’m sure you are right. She’s a lucky little dog.” She raised her cup, still looking at Kelvin. ”And how did you find London. Did Lady Madswitte find ample ways for you to pass the time pleasantly?”

If that was a slightly barbed jab at Colette, it was fairly well hidden beneath the veneer of a polite smile.
"I haven't been to London in ages. Perhaps we shall go sometime, you and I." Violetta simply could not agree to the assessment of Madsmoor as having any sort of character even adjacent to charm, however. She nodded and sipped her tea, then watched Philomena and Kelvin and narrowed her eyes.
How dull. René nearly slipped and face planted into his teacup as his cheek flopped against his hand resting on the table. He found his attention wandering to Julienne and the other dog. Perhaps this was his chance to share some gossip he'd heard about the fancy dress party. How vexed she'd be indeed. For it had been she and Lady Violetta who'd found the costumes. He still wasn't sure about the details of that venture. How torturous to make such an exciting discovery with the likes of Violetta.

Quietly he stood, "Excuse me." and went to stand nearby, the ball rolling his way which he picked up and then immediately let go of again as he detected disgusting slobber all over it. "Blast! ... Julienne, don't let it lick me..." He just knew it must carry some peasant disease on its mongrel tongue!
Quite often, Julienne wished that she was not treated as such a child. Now was not one of those times, as she was enjoying being completely apart from whatever dull adult conversations were going on over the tea party, and she was certain that her chances for avoiding such things were growing fewer.

Julienne tossed the ball for the dog once more as her brother came over to join her, and shook her head at René’s reaction. Honestly, she would think a boy would be made of sterner stuff to deal with a little dog slobber. Picking up the wriggling dog and bringing it closer to her brother, Julienne smiled at him, a bit too sweetly.

“Why not, René? She'll only lick you if she likes you. Don't you want Louise to like you?"
He recoiled as if she'd presented to him a disfigured goblin from the swamp.

"I do not much care whether I am companionable to a hound." He said, as he reached to touch its head. How dirty and vile. He continued petting it. The disgusting creature.

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