Palma waits in her sunroom for Eulalia Pollovic to arrive for tea.
Palma isn't sure what to say to her -- she certainly wouldn't be calling if she didn't want to have her son court Pametta despite that disastrous scene at the party.
Palma would demand it all be called off if it hadn't been revealed publicly that Pametta had been engaging in... Sime-kissing, to use the common, indelicate phrase. She can't help but feel that her daughter's range of prospective husbands has been permanently narrowed, disastrously so.
Eulalia arrives at the Doyle residence, presenting her most fashionable and formidable Dragon Lady persona. She believes in keeping an opponent off balance, and her old friend's daughter is not likely to be an ally, just yet.
Eulalia tries to hide her frailty as she follows the Doyle butler through the house, and is glad that she had Katsura work on her joints in preparation for the party.
Palma stands respectfully as Mrs. Pollovic enters.
Palma: Good afternoon, Mrs. Pollovic. Please have a seat.
Palma gestures to the comfortable chair near the fire.
Eulalia: Thank you.
Palma: I think winter has lost its grip now, with the days so notably longer.
Eulalia settles carefully into the chair, trying to make it look dignified, instead of like she can't move any faster.
Eulalia: I hope so. Summer is a kinder season.
Palma: Indeed. Winter has been so long this year.
Eulalia: Yes, and full of surprises.
Palma: Indeed. ~~ wry ~~
Palma intends to let Eulalia make her pitch first, then decide how to react to it.
Eulalia: I used to think my life would be more settled when my son was grown. ~~ wry ~~
Palma suppresses a snort. Her own life has become anything but settled now that her own son has grown up, and changed over.
Eulalia: Unfortunately, children never grow up quite how you expect, do they?
Palma: We certainly hadn't expected what happened to Saag. He took after my husband's side of the family -- stocky, for a teenager.
Eulalia: It can never be predicted. Nor have I found it a respecter of class or virtue.
Palma feels like Eulalia is rubbing salt in a wound. Her son's recent changeover and presumed death is common knowledge.
Palma: Well, you were more fortunate with your son than we were with ours.
Eulalia: Your son didn't have a choice. My son did, and chose to get involved with Simes anyway. And unlike your daughter, he did it publicly.
Palma: Well, what Pametta did is public now, isn't it? Your son has compromised her seriously. Many families wouldn't consider letting her marry into them now.
Eulalia: I assure you, my son now understands the magnitude of his indiscretion, and that it is his duty to ameliorate the consequences to your daughter.
Palma: I can't imagine what he thinks he can do about that. A reputation can't be patched up, especially by the one who damaged it.
Eulalia: Nonsense. If our families stand firm together, the situation can be salvaged.
Eulalia speaks with the ~~ confidence ~~ of a veteran of many social battles.
Palma: Salvaged! My daughter is damaged goods, you mean! Because of you son's clumsy indiscretion, and those Simes he had at the ball.
Palma doesn't know the Simelan term zlin-prying, but if she did it would be perfect to use here.
Eulalia: Nonsense. She's only damaged if her actions prevent her from making a good marriage alliance.
Palma: Yes? And besides your son, just how many decent families are going to want to have anything to do with a young girl who deceitfully engaged in such activities without her family's knowledge?
Eulalia: Are you implying that my son is not a eligible match from a good family?
Palma: Of course not. But he's certainly made sure that poor Pametta's options are much narrower.
Eulalia: Does she have another proposal, just now?
Palma: She's still under age. She wouldn't be coming out until next season, after she turns sixteen, of course. We thought she might enjoy the ball, and it would give her some experience in society. That's why we accepted the invitation.
Palma: We certainly didn't plan to ruin her prospects!
Eulalia: She has one more proposal than she had yesterday. I hardly think that counts as "ruined".
Palma: Do you expect her to get any others now?
Eulalia: Does that matter, if she accepts the one she's got?
Palma: And close off her options before her sixteenth birthday?
Eulalia: From what my son told me, she was not at all averse to the idea.
Palma brushes that off.
Palma: Her first ball, her first experience at being courted... of course she was charmed.
Eulalia: If you wish, we can maintain the engagement for, say, six months. That will give her the chance to make her coming-out.
Palma: She can hardly come out if she's engaged!
Eulalia: Nonsense. She can make the rounds, with the added status of having a fiance. She will have plenty of opportunity to meet and greet.
Palma: No, Mrs. Pollovic. We've decided that as parents of a minor, we can annul this so-called engagement. Your son made a proposal, our daughter did not accept it, and as her parents neither do we. He can try again later, when things have quieted down.
Palma is gambling for pretty high stakes here -- if Pollovic loses interest, Pametta may find herself in the bargain basement of the marriage market.
Eulalia: Are you sure you wish to risk introducing your daughter to society without the shelter of an engagement, under the circumstances?
Eulalia's tone implies that this would not be a wise choice.
Palma: I expect your son to do the decent thing, if things don't work out well for her. The Pollovics have always been a good family, despite your son's recent... activities.
Eulalia: I'm afraid that's not acceptable. My son has made a proposal. Your daughter can accept, in which case she has the protection that implies, or she can refuse, and free both of them to pursue other options..
Palma: After he's so drastically compromised her! What is this, one of those bandit courtships, where a man abducts a girl and ravishes her so her family is forced to marry her to him?
Palma is outraged.
Eulalia: Don't be ridiculous. When all's said and done, it was your daughter's own actions that have potentially damaged her reputation. My son's proposal was indiscreet, it's true, but your daughter is the one who went to the Simes. More than once.
Palma sighs deeply, and looks into the fire.
Palma: Yes. She loves her brother very much.
Eulalia: An admirable thing, even if she was perhaps a bit... excessive.
Palma: I don't think they should have let her do it, even if she's an adult by their standards. My husband says there's no hope of suing them -- too much precedent against it.
Eulalia: The treaties are very clear, unfortunately.
Eulalia: You can confine her to the house to prevent her from, er, visiting the Sime Center, but she can hardly meet eligible suitors if she's locked in her room.
Palma: We don't have to confine our daughter. We can trust her word!
Palma stiffens at Eulalia's rudeness.
Eulalia: If you can get her to give it.
Palma: Pametta has always been a good daughter to us. Her recent misguided behavior sprang from good intentions.
Eulalia: Your daughter has shown quite a streak of independence. She may wish to preserve her options by not giving her word, since she's honorable enough to be bound by it.
Palma: I believe this is a matter between her and her parents.
Eulalia: As her potential mother-in-law, I have some stake in the matter.
Palma: Pametta is willing to accept your son's proposal, but we refuse to have a hasty wedding. She won't be sixteen for some months. Not before then.
Eulalia: Of course. An engagement will settle the wagging tongues, better than undue haste. Besides, it will take time for Pametta to learn what a Senator's wife must know.
Palma: Indeed. I doubt she fully understands what she's getting herself in for.
Palma isn't so tactless as to mention the possibility of an early widowhood, encumbered by a group of young children.
Eulalia: Which of us did understand, fully? It's just as well, or no woman would marry.
Palma: Well, it's more usual for a wife to ease into it as her husband's responsibilities grow.
Palma can't imagine the bookish, reserved Pametta as a society hostess, but it's her choice, and hours of persuasion have had no effect. Indeed, they've hardened her stance. Hence the retreat from the high ground.
Barona, who for decades has known that the heating ducts carry sound from the sunroom to the third guest bedroom, decides it's time to make an entrance.
Barona hobbles into the room, favoring her left hip.
Eulalia: Barona! How good to see you. How are you?
Barona: Eulalia, dear, it's good to see you again!
Barona kisses the air an inch away from Eulalia's cheek.
Palma rings for the servants to bring the tea and refreshments.
Eulalia settles back down in the comfortable chair.
Barona: I'm not doing too badly, for an old lady like me. You're looking well.
Eulalia: Thank you.
Barona is, in fact, creaky enough lately to be glad she's no longer needed on the front lines.
Barona: I've been upstairs having a lovely visit with my granddaughter. Just hearing how much she accomplishes in a day is enough to tire me out.
Eulalia: And how is Pametta?
Eulalia is aware that her scheme will not work if Pametta is actively opposed to her son.
Barona glances towards the door as a servant arrives with the tea, thus neatly avoiding a direct answer to the question.
Barona: She was telling me about a new kind of tea that she tried at your ball. I've asked the kitchen to prepare us some.
Barona: Trin, it's called. I understand it's an import. Going to be the latest thing this season, I understand.
Eulalia: It wouldn't surprise me. It is easy on the stomach.
Barona smiles again, as she makes eye contact with her old friend. They still understand each other well enough, it seems.
Eulalia: My son's guests were quite fond of it.
Barona: Pametta seems to be looking forward to living in a household where it's served regularly.
Palma listens to a quiet message from the servant once he's finished setting out the refreshments.
Palma: Pardon me.
Palma gets up and leaves with the servant.
Barona: So, Eulalia, how are your roses?
Eulalia: Healthier than you and me, fortunately. One of my son's guests -- the young man -- proved to have quite a talent for looking after them.
Barona: It's reassuring, isn't it, that people from so strange a place still know how to appreciate the same things we do? Good roses and a cup of tea.
Eulalia: I tried to entice the fellow to stay on and look after the grounds at my house, but he chose to go back to Simeland instead. It's a pity, but I suppose to a young man, a young lady is more interesting than an old crone.
Barona has not lost her skill at gathering information.
Barona: Especially when she's the heir to one of the top families over there? Face it, my dear, you never stood a chance.
Eulalia: Perhaps not, but at least my roses are happy, for now.
Barona: Maybe that's all any of us can ask for, in the long run. To be happy, for now.
Eulalia: At our age, happiness now is a great deal more appealing than happiness at some uncertain time in the future.
Barona sips her trin tea.
Barona: Whereas the young are still struggling towards happiness. Tell me, dear, do you think your Brenn and our Pametta will make each other happy?
Eulalia: I think they have enough in common that with care, and a little bit of luck, they'll do very well together.
Barona nods. That's her own assessment as well.
Eulalia: And that's really all any couple can expect, right?
Barona: It's more than many are granted. As for the details... they'll work themselves out.
Eulalia: I hope your daughter decides to be reasonable about it. Pametta isn't going to stop associating with Simes, you know.
Barona: Palma is old enough to want the world to stay as she knows it, young enough to still think it's possible.
Eulalia: She'll learn. I hope her daughter is still talking to her when she does.
Barona: For as long as I'm here, I'll do my best to make sure they do. After I'm gone... well, let's hope that's still years in the future.
Eulalia: Indeed. Once Pametta and Brenn are settled, Palma may resign herself to the inevitable.
Barona: She loves the girl. Right now, she's fighting to get do the best for her. Once things are out of her hands, I think she'll simply love her.
Eulalia: I hope so. Love cures many problems.
Barona: She loved her boy, too. Once she's had time to get used to it, I don't think she'll really be sorry he's still alive.
Barona sets down her empty teacup.
Eulalia: I'm glad of that. Because I wouldn't put it past Brenn to invite him to the wedding.
Barona: Two stubborn, idealistic youngsters. They're going to make quite a stir in this town once they're together, aren't they?
Eulalia: We can count on it.