(123-02-26) Charity Continues
Charity Continues
Summary: Lady Rowan and Septa Miranda discuss their charity work and their marriages: past, present, and… future??
Date: 25-26/02/2016
Related: This and this about the charity thing; the second half of this with Miranda and Antony.

The success of their charitable endeavours being by now a recognised fact, Lady Rowan rises from the chair drawn up to her standing harp to greet Septa Miranda with a reserved but kind small smile — and then hands outstretched to clasp hers as that smile deepens, deliberately, for an instant.

She is clad again in severe black silken mourning attire, her head covered even in her own chambers. Her hair is pinned up for a change beneath her mantilla; her throat appears particularly pale and slender and striking without those shining ink-black strands to obscure its line. "How good it is to see you again, septa," she murmurs, letting go; "sit with me, please."

And her skirts trail about her feet as she leads the way to the table where they have sat before, where a similar light repast of lemon water, small cakes, sliced fruit, and several varieties of dainty crustless sandwiches, has been set out in expectancy. Of course the table is adorned also by two vases of perfect fresh-picked lilies: this has never failed to be the case.

Miranda's eating habits are very picky. She barely touches any of the offerings save out of polite courtesy. She has a slightly anxious edge to her that even her courtly manners and religious calm can't contain. "You are looking better than in days past, my lady. Has the festival been lifting your spirits at all?" She manages a faint but honest smile.

To Lady Rowan there is of course no insult in partaking lightly of their late luncheon: propriety requires that refreshments be offered, particularly at this time of day, but if propriety has also required that, say, three other people make the same woman the same offer, naturally she can't do justice to all… "In a sense," she allows, giving a slow nod. "I imagine it is no secret to anyone who has met me of late, that I have not been… sleeping well," she adds delicately, her eyes slightly averted from Miranda's face as she arranges upon her own plate a slice of this, a bite of that. "I have seen however a new maester who has given me a different draught to take; and I have had some success with it…" A confidence rather more personal than she usually offers, and perhaps that is why she lets it trail away. "More than that, it is a pleasure to me to know that with your help I have done some small thing that is worthwhile." Her blue gaze lifts. "What news have you, septa? Do the numbers continue to grow?"

The question draws a more natural smile from the young woman. "Each day bigger than the last. We have had to impose order on occasion when the larger children try to impose themselves on smaller ones, and a few toys were broken, but all in all - they are happy." She beams at this. "We may need to obtain more candles soon enough, the children have been good about offering their prayers for your son. Some of them do it in the hopes it will give them another toy or a dessert," she says with a shake of her head.

The bereaved mother bows her head at the mention of her son; then she lets out an 'ah' of understanding, meeting Miranda's eyes as she nods. "I'm sorry they have been disappointed," she admits, "but I wouldn't wish to cross the line into offering direct rewards for prayers… Better they be freely given and the reward understood, I hope, to be in a kindness offered to another—?" A rueful slight smile. "It is hard to persuade any child of the value of a selfless act when he or she is hungry, or tired, or otherwise out of sorts — but when they've been well-fed and shown kindness by others…?" She gives a slight shrug of her lace-draped shoulders, sharing her cautious, uncertain optimism. "Certainly I'll see that a fresh supply of candles is sent to you tomorrow, in case the idea should take root."

"There is a saying the groomsmen have, m'lady." The septa smiles softly. "One can lead a horse to water but they cannot make them drink. We can encourage the children to a more spiritual life, where the reward is the virtue that comes from prayer and mercy for another — but only they can decide to welcome that into their hearts."

"Of course you understand," murmurs Lady Rowan. Inasmuch as her expression ever registers changes of feeling, she appears quietly pleased. "To show the way to the door, and to open it a little, is the most one can do… But it does comfort me, septa, to think my prayers for my son are not the only ones She is hearing. He would have been eleven years old," she adds, tranquilly, as though it were a fact of perfect indifference to her, "this month."

Miranda's head bows soberly. "I am sorry for your loss. I… cannot begin to know the pain you feel, my lady. But I know our gentle Mother grieves alongside you." She offers a sympathetic smile. "That is the best solace I can provide."

All very correct sentiments. Lady Rowan acknowledges them with a slow, cool nod, saying no more upon the subject than, "Thank you, septa." She then claims as a diversion her gleaming silver goblet of lemon water, and makes drinking from it a pretext for silence and then for a change of direction. "And are you well?" she inquires. "I hope you'll forgive me for my curiosity, but I wonder whether you might not have something on your mind, beyond children and candles…" She lowers her goblet to the table and tilts her head, the line of her lips softening as she presents herself simply to listen.

Miranda's not prepared for the turnabout of questioning. "I… have had my own difficulties though they are petty in comparison, my lady Rowan." She flashes a polite smile before taking her own sip of water, lingering on it overlong in the hopes the question will fade.

It doesn't quite. "You may believe so, septa, but I should not take the comparison for granted… What is a heavy weight for one to bear, may sit more lightly upon another; and so one ought never to take for granted the extent of another's struggles, or the depth of her feelings," Lady Rowan murmurs.

The young woman gives a patient sigh and a slow nod. She at least owes the lady a bit of a distraction. "My lord father has come from Longtable to enjoy the Dolphin Festival. It has brought up the wounds of an old argument and thoughts of different paths for my future."

Lady Rowan lets out a very soft 'ah' of understanding, echoed by a deeper nod. "Of course you don't wish to be an undutiful daughter," she murmurs. "But you cannot make a sacrifice of all that you love and believe, for what your lord father would prefer. A woman grown is a maiden no longer."

Miranda takes a drink of the water with grace but it looks as if she's staring into the goblet as if looking for answers. "They often say young women do not know their own hearts well enough to be trusted to make their own decisions. I may very well be one of those, acting selfishly but claiming it is to be self-less." She sighs and smiles at Margot with a distant look to her. "We will be having discussions regarding what is best for me, no doubt. Over dinner tonight. And Mother help me if he tries to meddle…"

That may be rhetorical; but Lady Rowan takes it seriously. "I believe she will… Septa, may I ask, what is your age?" Her gaze apologises for the question.

Miranda admits, "Just over a score of years, my lady Rowan. Most have stated it is far too young to enter the Sept for the entirety of my life." That draws a heavy sigh from her.

"… And yet girls as young as ten-and-four are married at their fathers' wishes, and soon become mothers," points out Lady Rowan gently. "You have been wed, and widowed, and seen something of the world beyond your father's house; you hardly lead a secluded life now in this great city, in the service of the Sept. I should not say you were too young to know your mind, septa. I should say rather that you might well know enough to be certain of it."

Miranda nods slowly to the wisdom. "May I pose you a question, my lady? Were you in my position - widowed and joyful in service yet… offered the chance to chose your next husband. Would you?"

"Were I a widow, and were I joyful in service," echoes Lady Rowan, without the least hesitation, "I should not under any circumstances marry again… But I am perhaps not the one to give you the fairest answer," she suggests gently.

Miranda smiles a little as she bows her head. The bow turns into a thoughtful nod. "My late husband was not a good example of what a husband could or should be. Part of me thinks it is unfair to judge all men by his actions. Another part of me would swear my final vows and settle the issue for good." She takes a tiny bite of a small pastry. "But as you put it, I am not quite certain of either."

"Of course I should not advise you to take any step if you were less than fully certain of the rightness of it — it is not unreasonable for you to wait as long as you see fit," insists Lady Rowan, "before setting the pattern of the rest of your life, by a choice which cannot be unmade. Yet it seems to me that the choice is between two very different lives, and that even were there waiting for you along one path a husband who was the finest of men, an exemplar of every virtue, you might nonetheless be unhappy at his side if in your heart you yearned to be leading that other life, of service to the gods. I don't believe…" She hesitates. "It is not the case that all every woman requires for her happiness, is a suitable match."

The youthful septa punctuates the air with her finger. “Yes. Two paths, each with their own regrets. If I were to take a second husband, would I resent him for taking me from the Gods? Or will I instead regret not serving as a wife and mother the way a woman is intended to?” She touches her hand to her ornate star, toying at the golden chain.

Lady Rowan’s own seven-pointed star, set with seventy-seven exquisite and gleaming diamonds, is visible today upon the bosom of her black silk gown, rather than hiding where her fingertips can only graze over it through the cloth; she watches Miranda’s instinctive gesture with interest. “When you speak of your two paths, you reach for your star… My dear, this tells me something of you,” she suggests gently. “And so does the language you employ. The subjunctive, for regretting a life outside the Sept. The future indicative, for regretting a life without marriage. One might be forgiven for supposing you had chosen… To me these seem yet more signs of the strength of your calling — the simple truth that though to marry and bear children is a woman’s most natural path, the gods have given you these other, tremendously powerful yearnings… They may not intend you for a wife.”

Miranda smiles demurely as she looks down. "My husband had no intentions of keeping the vows he swore before the Gods; there was little trouble for my father to convince a counsel of seven to have it annulled. So technically I was never wed at all… Which is, perhaps, why I have the desire to see it done properly." She sighs as she looks up. "I don't know, my lady. I am sorry to have burdened you with my own petty conflicts; surely they pale in comparison to your own."

But though Septa Miranda may waver, Lady Rowan holds steadily and tenderly to her point. She chooses her words a few at a time, with obvious care, and yet they do keep on coming in the same vein… "If even when you were wed in the sight of man, you were not wed in the sight of the gods — perhaps that is another indication?" she suggests, shrugging her shoulders. One end of her mantilla begins to slip away in consequence of the slight movement; her fingers lift to guide it to its proper place. "I should be tempted to see it as such, in your place… Septa, you need not apologise to me; you have done nothing but honour me," she insists, gazing sincerely into the younger woman's eyes, "by showing me your trust. If there is any counsel I might offer you, you know I can only be glad to be of aid to you, as you have aided me."

Miranda pauses. She bites delicately at her lip as she weighs something. After a long moment of deliberation, she simply states, "Your husband came to the sept to seek guidance, the other evening…"

Lady Rowan doesn't seem surprised. Her face remains in its mask of pure ivory calm. "I understand that my lord spoke with a septa," she agrees delicately, "regarding the circumstances under which a marriage might be annulled, and that she told him much what I have said myself. I believe he found it of use, to hear these matters laid out by one he could trust."

The girl wears a faint smile. "I have found sometimes it helps to hear what one knows to be true from another source - someone removed from the situation. Regardless of what that information may be." She pauses before taking a deep breath. "He… has ensured that there will be no question of funding the children's meals. Between his contribution and your own, there will be plenty to ensure the children are not turned away wanting."

The elder lady is quiet for a moment as she takes up the pitcher of lemon-water and pours a little more into each of their goblets. Naturally her attention is upon the task at hand, in lieu of her companion. "… I see," she murmurs. "If more coin was required to see the children well-fed, septa, I would have hoped you'd come to me for it, rather than soliciting contributions from other persons without so much as giving me the opportunity to make up the sum."

"Soliciting?" Miranda actually looks offended for a moment. "Lord Rowan approached -me-, my lady. Of his own will." She frowns sharply but without the true reproach her older counterparts can muster. "And freely offered the coin. Insisted I take the coin. If more was -needed- I would have supplemented it myself without question. My father's allowances can be put to some good use even if he prefers it be spent on dresses and perfumes…" She gently pushes the goblet away. "I had though you would be pleased that your lord husband cared enough to support this venture of his own volition."

"Ah, I see," and setting down the pitcher again Lady Rowan meets her young friend's eyes and gives a knowing nod. "His own will. I hope you will forgive me for my assumption — it was not good of me." She lets out a quiet sigh, her hand lifting to touch her seven-pointed star. Her eyes have grown weary. "Let this be a lesson to you, Septa Miranda, in the truth that a married woman has nothing of her own. Not even the personal devotions which mean most to her. Her husband will claim those too for himself, without a word to her of his intent, and others will nod and agree not only that it is his right but that he is a fine fellow for doing so. That charity is done is right and good, but I must admit to you I had taken comfort in…" She bows her head. "In having done it myself, despite the barriers I found in my way in the beginning. I had made a sacrifice of something which was precious to me, and now the value of what I thought I had achieved has been stripped away by my husband's purse. Is that something you can understand at all, I wonder, my dear?"

Miranda just shakes her head slowly, a small bewildered smile on her lips. "He… is truly frustrated by you and I can see why, my lady Rowan. He seeks to do a good deed, to perhaps win favor in your eyes by a charitable gift - supporting your endeavors. And yet you take it as a slap in the face. He mourns his son as much as you do - perhaps more because you will not give him another and he knows this." She rises smoothly and bows her head. "If you will excuse me, Lady Rowan - it isn't my place to get in the middle of a husband and wife in crisis. A septon would be far better than myself. I will excuse myself from your company…"

Lady Rowan looks up at her; then she gives a sad sigh and rises herself, obedient to her visitor's wish to be her visitor no longer. "You are of course not acquainted with what has passed between my lord and myself upon this subject, or any other," she murmurs, "nor should you be. That is surely why your appreciation of his motives, and my own, remains imperfect… I forgive you that, of course. I have no quarrel with good intentions any more than with good deeds," she assures her gently. "My wish was only to do such a deed myself, and to feel that by my own acts and my own sacrifices I had made something worthwhile of my grief, and that I had pleased the Mother. You know I have sought no public credit; I have spoken of this to none but you and my sister and Septa Melarie, and my lord when he brought up the subject with me, and I have not paid a personal visit to the kitchen lest it be received as an appeal for protestations of gratitude, which should not in any case be addressed to me, but to the Mother herself. I ask only to be allowed to complete what I undertook as my own act of devotion; and I will think upon how best to arrange this matter without placing you in a difficult position."

Miranda stands slowly, a light frown placed on her lips. "Shall I return his lordship's portion of the coin then?" She asks with a slight tilt to her wimpled head, the linens pooling sightly against her shoulder. "As unneeded as opposed to unwanted?"

Quickly Lady Rowan raises her hand. "What is given to the gods I should not presume to take from them — any more than I should presume to deny my lord's mourning for our son," she insists quietly, "or place you in a position in which you would appear so to take, or deny. But I would have you apply to me, and not to anyone else, for what is needed within the scope of our original scheme. And then, perhaps, whatever is given but not needed might be devoted to the Sept's other good works, later on, with my lord's permission."

Miranda folds her hands into the voluminous sleeves of her robe. "I will ensure that our budgets stay as they were planned -but the additional candles for your son's vigil I will see are bought on his coin - that is fair and fitting, wouldn't you agree, my lady? The rest of his portion I will save and let his lordship know was not necessary - and he can redistribute as he sees fit." She raises her thick blonde eyebrows in question.

"Very fair, and very fitting," agrees Lady Rowan, with no sign of any pang in her heart over the matter of the candles. She might truly agree. "But if more is needed, to keep on as we have begun through the last days of the festival, I hope and trust you will come to me — you will find me from the 28th day of this month not here, but at the Rowan Door Manse." This is what is known as 'burying the lead'. "My own financial situation has improved," she confides, "and I assure you I shall provide whatever is necessary to feed the children. And I know, alas," she gives a tiny, wistful smile, "that that will hardly mark the end of all need for the children of this city. I'm sure my lord's coin will bring succour to many, just as he would wish. Please, septa… I hope you shall make use of us both, in the Mother's name."

Miranda bows formally at that. "I will do as the Mother wishes, to ensure all her children - small and grown, have what they need." She smiles gently at this. "Seven grant you a good eve, my lady."

"And may the Seven always walk with you as they do now," answers Lady Rowan, in escorting her fleeing young friend to the door, "and always fill your heart with the compassion I have seen in you time and again. Thank you, septa."

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