Did you know?

The Language of the Flowers was a popular method to express feelings where words might be improper, but did you know other means of doing so? Some ladies used their parasols, as well as their fans, gloves, and hankies to flirt with a gentleman (or alternatively, tell them to shove it!). — Bree

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Ester Montgomery for Thomas Montgomery. The one that got away (with the pornographer...)
This boy, then. He wasn't new. Wasn't one of the worst people in the common room, those rotten rich boys - like Mr. Jailkeeper - who could not fathom a world beyond their own farts. Was a good working class lad, so he'd heard. Had a bit of a weird looking face, and a bit of a weird thing for preaching. Still.

Aubrey Davis in The Under-Sofa

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Post at least once with the same character every day for a month.


Down by the Bay
May 19th, 1888 — The Sanditon Boardwalk

This was precisely what Inès had wanted.

Irvingly had swiftly proved to be a quaint little village, but “quaint” was often a nice way of saying “boring” and the resort she had come to with her hosts easily blew it out of the water, largely because the Moroccan witch had been in the water and loving it. Reluctantly she had returned to the relative dry of the bathing machine to redress, magically tidy her appearance, and return once more to the boardwalk, reassuring her hosts that they should retire until dinner if they were so worn (though in truth, she suspected them more amorous than anything) and that she could quite entertain herself.

The booths along the boardwalk were at once more and less exciting and exotic than she had been expecting—good by English standards, but nothing akin to the port city in which she had been raised. With a snow cone in hand, she made her way along, enjoying a level of anonymity she was not normally accustomed to.

Enjoying for now, at least. Inès had always been better suited to life at the centre of things.

She had brought Viola along with her for the weekend trip to the Sanditon, though had saddled the nanny with her as soon as her daughter showed the first signs of being in a mood, and the two had taken off down the boardwalk, leaving Calliope to her own devices for the moment.

She was not thrilled by the boardwalk activities and booths, nor by the throngs of people bustling along it - and none of them any noteworthy friends of hers, nor any acquaintances she much wished to tether herself to in conversation, if she had the choice. Being in her own company was always much less objectionable than having to deal with lacklustre companions, though Calliope was currently debating abandoning the boardwalk for investigating the new spa.

Once she finished her ice cream, she resolved. Continuing to eat as she went, she swerved to one side of a booth to better block the breeze from whipping a strand of hair into her face yet again. As she brushed it briskly back behind her ear, her gaze caught on a woman she was sure she had seen before. Where, she couldn't quite put her finger on - strangely, she did not think they had ever met - but at the same time, Calliope could have sworn she was someone important.

Calliope was not one to let important people slip by. Surveying the dark-skinned, dark-haired woman thoughtfully, she began to approach her, not waiting about to place her when she might gain another clue closer up. She had not been far away and her stroll was as calm as it had been, but once she had reached the woman, she hadn't the patience to be entirely indirect. "Excuse me," Calliope began, in order to gain her attention, pasting a pleasant smile to her face.

Excuse me, rang the voice of an approaching woman who looked, in Inès' skillful estimation, to be fairly well-off. The Moroccan's expression shifted to mirror that of the stranger as she halted in her tracks. Mentally, she took inventory of herself: hair, attire, behaviour. All, as far as she could determine, were as they should be, meaning that there shouldn't be any reason for this interlude to sour.

"Yes?" she asked, her English clear but accented, eyebrows punctuating the short word by raising in curiosity.

It was the accent that convinced her.

Not that she had ever heard the woman speak in the flesh before, but the hunch she had had did depend upon the woman being foreign. She certainly sounded foreign.

“Forgive me if I am mistaken,” Calliope said, palm to her chest as if to signify she did not mean to be a nuisance (though she did want the satisfaction of being the first to recognise who was in their midst), “but are you - possibly - Miss Valentine? The matchmaking Seer?” She had seen her face, read the articles from France, had thought the idea of this woman as genius as it was preposterous. Calliope did not much believe in fanciful things like divination or in true love, but she did think many people were far more gullible than her. And Miss Valentine, if this was she, had done exceedingly well out of her career, and that was undeniably impressive.

If she was wrong about this, she would be so humiliated she’d have to throw someone off this pier. Naturally.
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   Inès Valentine

Her expression brightened immediately at the recognition. Inés had not expected to be particularly noteworthy whilst still on British soil, and was decidedly pleased to have been proven wrong. Oh, the vacation aspect would have been nice, of course, but there was always the risk of boredom lurking in the background—and boredom was something the witch absolutely abhorred!

“I am!” she confirmed brightly. “Though I confess, rather embarrassed to have been so quickly outed—what gave me away?” Inés asked playfully, not at all embarrassed but happy to play the part.

So, she was right. (Well, of course she was.)

Miss Valentine did not look quite as embarrassed as she proclaimed, but perhaps she had been meaning to keep a low profile while she was here, or was only visiting the Sanditon for a short stay; as far as Calliope could wrack her brains, she hadn’t seen any news or gossip of her being here, yet. And it felt like the sort of news one wouldn’t be able to move without hearing of, in the circles she ran in - unless, of course, some family had enlisted Miss Valentine’s services privately, in a desperate attempt to end their embarrassments. The Lovegoods, no doubt.  

Either way; perhaps she would find out straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Oh, forgive me, I hardly meant to blow your cover!” Calliope simpered, lowering her tone a fraction in case the icecream-gobbling Sanditon crowds proved to be better-cultured and worse-mannered than expected, and Miss Valentine was suddenly swamped with boisterous fans of hers. Calliope did not particularly want to come across as the like, herself, so she did her best to sound blasé, as though they might be old acquaintances, and smiled brightly again. “I confess I was never in Paris at the same time as you were, but - speaking of covers, I suppose - I heard much of your triumphs dans les magazines françaises.”
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   Inès Valentine

Of course! she exclaimed, French more natural than her English had been. I should have known I could only hide for so long from those who are properly cultured.

So her reputation preceded her. Excellent.

“Will you join me?” Inès offered in English, gesturing to a nearby bench.

Properly cultured. Precisely!

"Oh, I would be delighted," Calliope said brightly, and for once the statement was not a lie through her teeth. "Mrs. Calliope Riley, by the way," she added promptly, as they approached the bench - she may already know Miss Valentine's identity, but she was keen to redress that balance, even if her name alone would mean next to nothing to the foreigner.

"Have you been here long, Miss Valentine?" She asked, idly pleasant. "At the Sanditon - or indeed in Britain? I hadn't heard that you were," she assured, in case the woman was laying low deliberately for some reason or another. Calliope did not much mind which way the amendment served to clarify the question; surely any answer the woman granted her would elucidate matters somehow, as to whether she was here purely on holiday, or professionally. Or escaping some European scandal, perhaps. Calliope wouldn't mind that either.
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   Inès Valentine

“I arrived early in the month,” she said, tone reluctant though she was truthfully anything but. “A dear friend of mine asked me on an errand—do not ask me what!—and I could not bear the thought of refusing her. As to here, well,” Inès shrugged, “I arrived only yesterday, something of a reprieve from the rural village I have stayed in since my arrival.”

The seer had few qualms about divulging the nature of her presence, but had long since learned that an air of mystery was a useful tool—for any woman, not only one in her profession.

“I confess, I had not been recognized until now!”

The exclamation do not ask me what all but invited speculation, though Calliope had enough self-control to refrain from prying in spite of the instruction. An errand - a favour, presumably - and what could it be save a hasty hand in making a match? That it was the Lovegoods  was becoming likelier and likelier.

"Not Hogsmeade, then?" Calliope intoned, with a crease between her brows. Surely not, if no one had recognised her! Though sometimes she thought it, she suspected she could not be the only woman in the village who knew a little of the world beyond it. "I daresay you would have been spotted sooner there," she said, with a wry smile. "Gossip does tend to spread like wildfire." (The best thing about the place, to be perfectly honest.)
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   Inès Valentine

“No—Irving? Irvingly she corrected more definitively. Regardless of what it was called, she did wonder at Dolly’s continued ability to remain there without dying of boredom. How strange love could make one behave!

“The only places gossip does not spread quickly are those where people are too much of a wet blanket for anyone to care about their lives,” she answered slyly.

"Irvingly," Calliope echoed knowingly, relieved that she hadn't overlooked the Seer's arrival in Hogsmeade. "Ah." She visited the place sometimes, and some notable families lived there, but one could hardly imagine that Miss Valentine's name, let alone her face, would mean an ounce of anything to the muggles there.

Whether the woman was a Seer or not (and Calliope was in the latter camp of disbelief until proven otherwise, as with... most things), it would not do for Calliope to let herself be lumped in with those wet blankets. "Well, I hope you might consider risking making yourself manifest," she intoned with a smile - though notoriety did a career like Miss Valentine's no harm, and she didn't know, but she didn't expect Miss Valentine had been much before her career, so Calliope would be astounded should the woman choose to lay as low as she pretended - "after your errand has been taken care of, of course. I shall keep my mouth closed in the meantime," (unlikely), "but it should be a real shame for British society to miss you. There are no end of lonely hearts here whom I am sure could use a little of your guidance," Calliope said, simpering. She didn't speak for herself, of course, but judging by the pages of Witch Weekly, desperate debutantes were a dime a dozen.

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