The Secrets of Bloxley Bottom, Episode 13: Eye of the Beholder

       The artist Tournell choose a room with northern and eastern exposure for his working studio at Bloxley Hall, positioning the pianoforte to place the girls in the best light. He needed to make some sketches of various poses for Lord Bloxley to approve, and one version might well be at the instrument. And what the baron would want them to wear was still to be decided as well.

       Upstairs in her boudoir, Daphne fussed with her hair while Valeria tried to help.
       “You know,” Valeria said, her voice tinged with irritation, “He is going to have us sit several days. If your hair is not perfect this afternoon, let’s make it better tomorrow. We don’t even know how he wants us to pose.”
       Daphne yanked out two pins and stuck them back with a vengeance. “Ouch! I know, Val, but he won’t want us just sitting side by side. My hair has to be right from every perspective.”
        “Honestly, you are being very silly. In a moment, Mama will be up here fretting about us. We have to go downstairs.”
        “Oh, I suppose you are right. I will have Clara do it tomorrow.”
        “I am surprised Mama hasn’t sent her to us today.”
        “Haven’t you noticed? Mama seems very preoccupied about something. She hardly heard a word anyone said at dinner last night.”
        “I noticed that too.”
         As if she’d bee eavesdroppng, Lady Bloxley peered around the door. “Mr. Tournell is waiting for you. Oh my, you look lovely, both of you.”
        “Mama, can you have Clara come in and help me with my hair? It refuses to behave.”
        “Of course, dear.” She hurried off.
        Tournell hoped he wasn’t going to have to wait around like this every day he came to the hall. Patience, mon ami, he muttered to himself. He was being handsomely compensated for his efforts and if sitting and waiting was part of it, he would endure.
        At last the two daughters swished into the room followed by their mother. “How do you want them to arrange themselves?” the baroness asked.
        They were very pretty and well-formed females, Tournell thought to himself.
        “Ladies, please be seated at first, s’il vous plait. One of you will be standing in the final picture but I will do some preliminary sketches to start with.”
       “What about the clothing, Monsieur? Do you think they should be in these day dresses or perhaps, ball gowns?”
        “These will do for the moment.” He was not fond of the relatively high necked bodices of their ensembles, but he decided against making any changes immediately. Later, perhaps. With his charcoal, he began to draw outlines of their coiffeurs.

        Elizabeth sat down beside the window and gazed across the lawn. She needed to find more flowers, flowers she was unsure of. The Latin names for them were unfamiliar and she needed their common names. Tomorrow Lionel was going to some meeting of the vestrymen, of whom he was the leading member. As soon as he left the hall, she would take a look ion the library.
       Daphne and Valeria conversed as though neither the artist nor their mama was within hearing distance.
        “Would you prefer to be painted in a ball gown, Val?”
        “I would like to see how we look in these sketches first.”
        “I think a lower neckline is more flattering.”
        “Perhaps. Or at least less prissy.”
        “Or would we look too grand?”
        “Remember that picture of Grandmama. She has a big hat with a wide brim and not a hint of skin below her chin. And she looks quite lovely.”
        Tournell listened to their chatter. Ball gowns with very low décolletages would be his choice. But he was not the decision maker in this case. He doubted he would be able to get more than a glimpse of their endowments if ball gowns were not chosen.

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