GROUP OPEN Wellington Beauty Hour

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Frederick Wellington
Male | 23 | mr.


Perhaps there is a scandal in the knowledge that Frederick dabbled himself in business. It was, after all an occupation, and the only thing a man from the peerage should occupy himself with was how he was esteemed in society. An esteem that, for the Wellingtons, would be impossible to keep if they insisted on the old ways of procuring their fortune. Not with two sons and four daughters all at marriageable age, and the scars of the past generation still fresh. Scandal was part of their fame anyway, what with the baron and baroness having done their part already, so there wasn't much Frederick could ruin more, other than potentially failing and falling into debt, which wasn’t even uncommon amongst the peers.

"As popularised by Marie Antoinette herself," the second son had started, pointing at a giant generator in the room attached to a bath. The crackle of electricity coursing through it, foreign and alien, promised the start of a new era and another trend to jump on as Frederick led his family around in the exhibition that centred around this particular device amongst many others. Months of organisation, years of travel and of funds, filled with nights of sleeplessness as Frederick worried himself and his partners, before finally throwing open the doors, had resulted in the exhibition today, in London, where he was now at the privilege to lead his parents and siblings around for free. For anyone else who wanted to see the exotic collection of the newest beauty fads about to be introduced to fashionable society, entry cost a pretty penny, if only to earn back the costs of organisation.

If the Wellingtons were known to lack courage they were in luck that there was already a lady standing on the platform, hairs pointing into all directions as the charged energy coursed through her, eliciting giggles and squeals from her while she zapped and sparkled and crackled. For the crowd she was just another visitor, like them, but Frederick knew that the missus standing there was specifically paid to draw in attention and more investors, and to put down a convincing act that there was absolutely no danger, other than turning dangerously beautiful.

“A natural rouge, as you can see,” Frederick exclaimed, pointing at the flush in the cheeks of the woman standing, accentuating her cheekbones, while her hair remained a bird’s nest of a mess. There seemed to be even something static and mechanical about the way she moved when she stepped off the platform, as the operator of the machinery rushed along to quickly fix the bun in her hair. The ‘rouge’ remained, blushing cheeks on fair skin and a little crackle in her hair and clothes remaining, one could say that she was sparking.

“Who wants to try? There is also a bath version, but I fancy that mother won’t approve getting drenched in public,” the male offered, not adding in the mental line that the electrically charged bathwater version hadn’t received either his funding or his approval after seeing it in action once.

Seeing his youngest sister jump up and down Frederick was quick to add in another remark, smiling at the siblings that generally were harder to control, “it would be a shame to miss out on the dinner special I brought with me,” the mystery rang, another one of the Wellington son’s little surprises brought back from his long voyages.

@Diana, @firejay1, @PavellumPendulum @whoeverwantstocrashthispartywithanacceptedcharacter
 

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Emilie handed over the entry fee with serious misgivings. For one thing, it was not cheap. While Professor Dalrymple was more than comfortable in matters of finance, he was no modern Solomon.

For another, in all likelihood this 'Exhibition' consisted of some mountebank with a rickety friction machine and some Leyden jars. In her travels with the Professor, she had encountered more than one such scoundrel offering electrical jolts to people with more money than sense, promising cures for everything from infertility to baldness.

If that was not enough, this particular showman was offering it as a method of beauty enhancement.

Nonetheless, Emilie let go of the bills and allowed herself to be shown inside. Her primary purpose in coming here was to determine if this Mr. Wellington's exhibition might represent competition for Professor Dalrymple's Cabinet of Curiosities, or worse, the sort of spectacle that might cast all natural philosophy demonstrations in a bad light.

But...if he is a true inventor, perhaps he could become a colleague? she thought, not exactly clinging to that faint hope, but keeping it close at hand. Aside from the Professor and his wife Maergarethe (and the Professor less and less as his mental acuity faded), Emilie had no one she could truly talk to...

Even if that were possible, it would be far from easy. Mr. Wellington would want to be a colleague to the Professor, not his assistant, and a mere girl besides. So any actual conversations would have to be mediated through the Professor, and that would be considerably more difficult to manage than lectures and scripted demonstrations.

"As popularized by Marie Antoinette herself," the young presenter said, gesturing to a woman crackling with electricity so that her hair stood out like a dandelion at seed. Emilie gave a subtle smirk. This display was at least impressive in scale, if not in philosophical rigor.

I'm not so sure that is the best pitch, she thought.

The electrical device was not the only thing on offer. There was an array of covered displays awaiting unveiling; creams, unguents, and tonics, perhaps. Or other sorts of dubious contraptions--

"There is also a bath version, but I fancy that mother won't approve getting drenched in public," he said. That caught Emilie's full attention. There was more than one way that electrical charges combined with water could be dangerous.

Emilie wore a simple dark work dress, so she remained beneath the notice of the society ladies as she strode past them to inspect the bath apparatus. Clasping her hands behind her back, she bent at the waist, carefully examining the device, eyes lit with sharp focus.

Natural philosophy is not an amusement for the learned, but a mighty power that can liberate humankind from the chains of toil!
EMILIE RIEBAU
House of the Inventor

Emilie handed over the entry fee with serious misgivings. For one thing, it was not cheap. While Professor Dalrymple was more than comfortable in matters of finance, he was no modern Solomon.

For another, in all likelihood this 'Exhibition' consisted of some mountebank with a rickety friction machine and some Leyden jars. In her travels with the Professor, she had encountered more than one such scoundrel offering electrical jolts to people with more money than sense, promising cures for everything from infertility to baldness.

If that was not enough, this particular showman was offering it as a method of beauty enhancement.

Nonetheless, Emilie let go of the bills and allowed herself to be shown inside. Her primary purpose in coming here was to determine if this Mr. Wellington's exhibition might represent competition for Professor Dalrymple's Cabinet of Curiosities, or worse, the sort of spectacle that might cast all natural philosophy demonstrations in a bad light.

But...if he is a true inventor, perhaps he could become a colleague? she thought, not exactly clinging to that faint hope, but keeping it close at hand. Aside from the Professor and his wife Maergarethe (and the Professor less and less as his mental acuity faded), Emilie had no one she could truly talk to...

Even if that were possible, it would be far from easy. Mr. Wellington would want to be a colleague to the Professor, not his assistant, and a mere girl besides. So any actual conversations would have to be mediated through the Professor, and that would be considerably more difficult to manage than lectures and scripted demonstrations.

"As popularized by Marie Antoinette herself," the young presenter said, gesturing to a woman crackling with electricity so that her hair stood out like a dandelion at seed. Emilie gave a subtle smirk. This display was at least impressive in scale, if not in philosophical rigor.

I'm not so sure that is the best pitch, she thought.

The electrical device was not the only thing on offer. There was an array of covered displays awaiting unveiling; creams, unguents, and tonics, perhaps. Or other sorts of dubious contraptions--

"There is also a bath version, but I fancy that mother won't approve getting drenched in public," he said. That caught Emilie's full attention. There was more than one way that electrical charges combined with water could be dangerous.

Emilie wore a simple dark work dress, so she remained beneath the notice of the society ladies as she strode past them to inspect the bath apparatus. Clasping her hands behind her back, she bent at the waist, carefully examining the device, eyes lit with sharp focus.

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Maergarethe gave a subtle smile, eyes twinkling. Emilie was being flawlessly polite, but she could tell the girl was straining to hold herself back from heading for Mr. Wellington's presentation with swift, purposeful strides.

"Why don't you go on ahead, dear?" she said. Emilie's eyes went wide with apology. "It's perfectly alright," she said, giving the girl a gentle pat on the shoulder. "The show is bound to begin at any moment, and it certainly won't wait for an old woman whose need for beauty products is long past."

Emilie bit her lip. "But..."

"Go on. I'll be along in my own time," Maergarethe said, her cane tapping on cobblestones.

"Thank you," Emilie said softly, then headed out with--sure enough--swift, purposeful strides. Whenever it came to her work, the girl was all focus. The mission, always the mission, to be executed with maximum efficiency.

She has a clock running on her life, Maergarethe thought. Well, so do I, but mine is an hourglass, and I'm in no hurry to make the sand flow... She looked up into the branches of a big, old twisting oak planted next to the path, and smiled. Hello there, she thought, placing her hand on its rough bark, and taking a moment to close her eyes, take a deep breath, and commune with its spirit. You were here before me, Grandfather, and you will be here long after I am gone...

As promised, Maergarethe did make her way to the presentation. She ignored the odd look from the doorman as she handed over her entry fee, and drifted into the crowded hall. It took her a few minutes to spot Emilie, bent over critically examining a bathtub that seemed to be connected to the larger assemblage of gadgetry Mr. Wellington was operating.

Setting out in her direction, Maergarethe turned to the stage, gave the young man a look-over, and arched an eyebrow. "Ah, there you are," she said to Emilie as she reached her side. "I'm sure you can suss out all this jiggery-pokery without any help from me," she said, then leaned closer for discretion. "But what do you think of Mr. Wellington? He does cut a fine figure..."

Emilie snapped out of her inventress trance and gave Maergarethe a look of confusion, followed by shock. "He's a charlatan!" she hissed under her breath.

"Is that so? You've falsified...whatever claims he's making about electrical charges as a beauty enhancer then?"

"Well...no, but there's no evidence--"

"That you know of. Perhaps you ought to engage him in a debate..." Maergarethe's eyes sparkled with mischief.

Emilie paled. "You don't think-- You can't be--" she stammered.

"He might be a charlatan, I suppose. Or he could honestly believe this contraption works. It's not even impossible that it does, is it? He is, at least, interested in matters of natural philosophy and invention. Perhaps all he needs is a guiding hand, a muse. With any luck, he might even become much more than merely a replacement for dear William: a true partner for you, someone who shares your passion for discovery and invention. Someone who can love you for who you are."

Emilie stared at her wide-eyed for a moment, then lowered her gaze to the floor. "I can't...just expect something like that," she said, barely above a whisper.

"Of course not. Discovery is the opposite of expectation, is it not? You know as well as I do that discovery only happens when you face the unknown and set out for the horizon with no expectations, no assurances that you know what awaits you. Don't look so frightened dear. I'm not going to drive the pair of you to the altar at sword-point tomorrow. I do not know if he is right for you any more than you do.

"But if you would allow me to present you to him, we could at least begin the journey toward finding out. There is no hurry. You will get where you're going in your own time. It's not even necessary to think of him as a potential husband. Perhaps he could become a patron, or simply a friend you can talk about electrical..." Maergarethe gave a gesture toward the device, "...things with."

Maergarethe
Maergarethe gave a subtle smile, eyes twinkling. Emilie was being flawlessly polite, but she could tell the girl was straining to hold herself back from heading for Mr. Wellington's presentation with swift, purposeful strides.

"Why don't you go on ahead, dear?" she said. Emilie's eyes went wide with apology. "It's perfectly alright," she said, giving the girl a gentle pat on the shoulder. "The show is bound to begin at any moment, and it certainly won't wait for an old woman whose need for beauty products is long past."

Emilie bit her lip. "But..."

"Go on. I'll be along in my own time," Maergarethe said, her cane tapping on cobblestones.

"Thank you," Emilie said softly, then headed out with--sure enough--swift, purposeful strides. Whenever it came to her work, the girl was all focus. The mission, always the mission, to be executed with maximum efficiency.

She has a clock running on her life, Maergarethe thought. Well, so do I, but mine is an hourglass, and I'm in no hurry to make the sand flow... She looked up into the branches of a big, old twisting oak planted next to the path, and smiled. Hello there, she thought, placing her hand on its rough bark, and taking a moment to close her eyes, take a deep breath, and commune with its spirit. You were here before me, Grandfather, and you will be here long after I am gone...

As promised, Maergarethe did make her way to the presentation. She ignored the odd look from the doorman as she handed over her entry fee, and drifted into the crowded hall. It took her a few minutes to spot Emilie, bent over critically examining a bathtub that seemed to be connected to the larger assemblage of gadgetry Mr. Wellington was operating.

Setting out in her direction, Maergarethe turned to the stage, gave the young man a look-over, and arched an eyebrow. "Ah, there you are," she said to Emilie as she reached her side. "I'm sure you can suss out all this jiggery-pokery without any help from me," she said, then leaned closer for discretion. "But what do you think of Mr. Wellington? He does cut a fine figure..."

Emilie snapped out of her inventress trance and gave Maergarethe a look of confusion, followed by shock. "He's a charlatan!" she hissed under her breath.

"Is that so? You've falsified...whatever claims he's making about electrical charges as a beauty enhancer then?"

"Well...no, but there's no evidence--"

"That you know of. Perhaps you ought to engage him in a debate..." Maergarethe's eyes sparkled with mischief.

Emilie paled. "You don't think-- You can't be--" she stammered.

"He might be a charlatan, I suppose. Or he could honestly believe this contraption works. It's not even impossible that it does, is it? He is, at least, interested in matters of natural philosophy and invention. Perhaps all he needs is a guiding hand, a muse. With any luck, he might even become much more than merely a replacement for dear William: a true partner for you, someone who shares your passion for discovery and invention. Someone who can love you for who you are."

Emilie stared at her wide-eyed for a moment, then lowered her gaze to the floor. "I can't...just expect something like that," she said, barely above a whisper.

"Of course not. Discovery is the opposite of expectation, is it not? You know as well as I do that discovery only happens when you face the unknown and set out for the horizon with no expectations, no assurances that you know what awaits you. Don't look so frightened dear. I'm not going to drive the pair of you to the altar at sword-point tomorrow. I do not know if he is right for you any more than you do.

"But if you would allow me to present you to him, we could at least begin the journey toward finding out. There is no hurry. You will get where you're going in your own time. It's not even necessary to think of him as a potential husband. Perhaps he could become a patron, or simply a friend you can talk about electrical..." Maergarethe gave a gesture toward the device, "...things with."


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The Wellingtons
Frederick | 2nd son | Male | 23 | mr.
Melinda | 2nd daughter | Female | 21 | miss
Eloise | 4th daughter | Female | 16 | miss


Between the long absences of her second brother Frederick always returned with the wildest stories and most outrageous contraptions, the machine now facing them being, to date, the most ridiculous one.

“Please don’t,” Melinda hissed at Eloise who had so eagerly raised her hand to try out some of the more suspicious contraptions, to which the youngest had rolled her eyes and mimicked Melinda’s words right back at her.

“Freddy only brings these back because of you and Euphy, you know that, right?” came the quip from the youngest, reminding Melinda forever of what had started this all. A lamentation, truly, for if Melinda had known that jokingly putting snails on the face of her sister would have resulted in this she would have never agreed.

“As if he believes in any of it himself,” came her sputtered response, which wasn’t a lie either. None truly did, but they tried anyway, for the thought of ageing was perhaps more daunting of a prospect than anything.

To this her brother had caught air of the whispers between the sisters, his smile never-fading, as expected from the investor who had to work hard to charm his way around. “All scientific approaches start with observation, dear sister. My eternal pursuit is borne out of love for you,” he teases, unable to help himself as he places his arm on top of Melinda’s head. An action that earns him a good kick in the back of his knee that nearly buckles the tall man over if he wasn’t so used to the abuses of his sister.

“Now, we already observed that and all it gives is an awful lot of pain,” Frederick teases before Melinda is about to follow up with a punch before jutting her chin towards the bath that her brother had discouraged them from earlier.

“Maybe you should get to work,” the short female exclaims in disdain, as Frederick straightens himself, watching the pair of grandmother and granddaughter discuss matters with each other.

“If you so wish I can ask an assistant to demonstrate the bath? I wouldn’t want to spoil that lovely dress,” Frederick was quick to offer, at ease as ever and adamant to hide his own suspicion over the bath that had not been his choice of technological wonder to be introduced. Alas, liability was unlikely, so the barrister consulted had convinced him, though it still didn’t sit well to think of it.
 

Zarko Straadi

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Maergarethe Dalrymple | 68 | Lady and Emilie Riebau | 20 | Miss

Maergarethe smiled subtly as she observed the interaction of Mr. Wellington with the young ladies who joined him. The ease and familiarity they shared indicated that they were sisters or close relations. "He's coming," she whispered as they began to approach.

That gave Emilie time to gather herself.

Maergarethe gave a little laugh in response to Frederick's offer. "I am no doubt well beyond the reach of whatever efficacy your device may have," she said. "I am Baronetess Maergarethe Dalrymple. May I present Miss Emilie Riebau? She has been assistant to my husband, Professor William Dalrymple, Fellow of the Royal Society for some years now, and has become quite capable as a natural philosopher and inventress in her own right."

Emilie shot her a "Don't tell him!" look, but Maergarethe ignored it. "I suspect that she is more interested in the technical workings of your device than in its application as a substitute for cosmetics," she said, then turned to Emilie. "Would you like to see a demonstration, dear?"

Emilie stood stiffly, chin up, facing the Wellingtons as one might resolutely face a firing squad. "Thank you sir, but...that will not be necessary," she said after some hesitation. "Respectfully sir, I am concerned about its safety. Are...are you familiar with the work of Sir Humphrey Davy?"
 

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Euphemia Wellington
24 | Miss | A solitary flower

Euphemia rarely strayed from her goals. Perhaps persistent was not the type of word most would assign to her, since most were quicker to toss around the comment of beautiful, but... The beat was never missed, a condition to their compliment. Beautiful, but avoidant. Beautiful, but lost in her own world. Beautiful, but far too strange. The gossip had never bothered her much, since her main desire at all times was not to worry about the unimportant thoughts of a faceless crowd, but to pursue beauty, in herself, in others and in the world around her. That was, in fact, why she'd decided to attend the London exhibition with her siblings and parents, as she did every year that it was open to the public.

Frederick always returned from his travels with such wonderful things to share, from new and fragrant warming creams made of crushed bee stingers to hair oils made from pressed roses, coating her fingers until they were slick and pink. She watched with interest as the woman on the platform giggled, magic being worked upon her, Frederick quick to explain the effects of the machine and what it could provide people like her... A natural rouge? A subtle glow to already radiant skin?

"How wonderful..." Euphy sighed almost dreamily, eyes following the woman who was being chatted up by other admirers at the exhibition, her hair still waving as though it had a mind of her own. That side effect was perhaps less beautiful, but truthfully, she had always been of the mindset that beauty was not always naturally acquired. It could be cultivated, it could be earned, but rarely was it ever effortless or easy. Frederick's investments abroad and locally were testaments to this. She eventually looked back to her siblings, seeing Melinda deliver a sturdy kick to their brother's knee. "Very interesting contraptions, as usual, Frederick." she was nodding as if agreeing with herself, pleased with his findings as per usual, "Though you might not need it. A punch from Melinda might be enough to give you enough natural rouge to last through the rest of the day."

A faint smile graced her lips, though it soon dissipated when strangers approached them, an older woman and someone else, perhaps her daughter. They soon introduced themselves, a baronetess and her husband's assistant. The girl brought up some Sir Humphrey Davey, whoever that was. Euphemia found herself sending a glance in Melinda's direction, as if to silently ask if she knew who they were or even found them familiar. They had done much people watching over the years together, though Melinda tended to remember far better than she did, since most uninteresting faces were nearly instantly forgotten on her end.
 

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The Wellingtons
Frederick | 2nd son | Male | 23 | mr.
Melinda | 2nd daughter | Female | 21 | miss
Eloise | 4th daughter | Female | 16 | miss


The Wellington siblings were as colourful in personality as they were in appearance. Pretty Euphemia, enhancing her ethereal looks with the way her mind drifted off into another world, only present for a little while. Short Melinda whose personality tried to make up for what she lacked in height. Silly Eloise who so ardently wished she had been born a male instead and tall and clumsy Frederick who flashed the sisters a sympathetic smile before reeling himself in from any more teasing, a feeling of admiration settling in at the mention of the identities of the newcomers.

“An honour, dame, and to you as well miss Riebau,” Frederick slips right back into the carefully taught manners of the governess, a curious glint thrown into the direction of the little miss that turned out to be the assistant, and even further thrown at the audacity in her manners as miss Riebau spent no time waiting for their introductions as she inquired after others. A lack of manners that relieved the Wellingtons, for none seemed accustomed to behaving in public despite all lessons they had. It was just never in their nature, given the threats exchanged.

“I am familiar, just as I know the name of professor Dalrymple,” Frederick continued, his attention flitting from miss Riebau over to the Baronetess before turning his shoulders ever so subtly to make a gesture into the direction of his sisters. “Frederick Wellington, and these are my sisters, Miss Euphemia, Miss Melinda and Miss Eloise.” The gestures were pointed, making sure to go from oldest to youngest while making clear who was who. Frederick wasn’t actually wishing to be punched by Melinda, after all, not if he could help it before turning back to the pair, curiosity returning as he eyed Miss Riebau in particular.

“Sci-en-ti-st,” Eloise had mouthed behind Frederick’s back at Euphemia, not missing out on the questioning look on her oldest sister’s face, nor the cluelessness on Melinda’s face who immediately frowned at the word, glancing over at the brother’s back ahead of them who seemed entirely in his element for once.

“Of what?” Melinda had whispered back, craning her neck to get to the height of both her sisters, while Eloise bend down through her knees to reach to the older miss before they both snapped back into position as Frederick introduced them, his voice carrying on in confidence as the answer to her question soon followed;

“Having studied the field of electrochemistry and as an assistant of the professor, I won’t be able to hide the voids in its design to you, miss,” Frederick readily admitted, stepping closer to the bath before bending down in the same manner as miss Riebau had done earlier, “but as these conventions are oft meant to be, this bath as well is a prototype of a dear friend who asked me to present,” he continued, rising up straight once more without ever getting near the water.

“So, if Miss Riebau has any ideas, whether for improvements, or her own, I welcome it all with open arms,” he concluded, unconcerned about being challenged at his own convention. None presented were of his invention after all, he was merely a medium to all.

“Electrochemistry?” Melinda repeats in a low voice, wondering what that even means before eyeing Eloise with another look, “and how did you know?” came her rather flabbergasted question, to which the youngest shrugs at both her sisters.

“I read.”
 
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Zarko Straadi

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Maergarethe Dalrymple | 68 | Lady and Emilie Riebau | 20 | Miss

Too late, Emilie realized that she had forgotten to wait for Mr. Wellington to introduce his sisters and go through the expected exchanges of banal pleasantries before bringing up the device. Maergarethe had done her best to teach her...Emilie didn't really think of it as 'etiquette' or 'manners,' so much as an elaborate game of posturing and pretending in order to impress others who were doing the same things in order to impress oneself. Well, if 'oneself' happened to be a member of the aristocracy in good standing.

At once rigid and ambiguous, the Game would have been difficult enough for her to learn if it didn't also make her angry. The high-born were ohhhhhhh so polite to one another, to an almost absurd degree. But the briefest glance at how they treated anyone they considered to be inferior--which amounted to the vast, vast majority of the human race--turned their vaunted 'manners' into an exercise in applying cosmetics to the skeleton of a brutalized slave. Or perhaps jolting it with electricity.

And yet...Mr. Wellington did not seem to take the opportunity to be affronted. Miss Euphemia, Miss Melinda, Miss Eloise, Emilie thought, matching names to faces in her mind. Each was beautiful (and therefore rather intimidating) in her own way, but there was no firing squad of haughty gazes. Instead, the girls were whispering to each other.

Emilie did not try to pick out what they were saying; if they were critiquing her dress or her hair or exchanging nasty quips, she preferred not to know. Unable to see any cruelty in their expressions, she could push those worries aside for the moment.

"It is a pleasure to meet you all," Emilie replied, giving a nervous curtsy, with Maergarethe doing likewise at her side, minus the nervousness. "I am sure the Professor would be delighted that you know of his work."

Then Mr. Wellington went on, and Emilie blinked in surprise. On occasions when she slipped up and revealed that she knew more about matters of science than a woman 'ought' to know, the reaction she usually got was akin to 'Well, isn't that cute, a kitten trying to play the piano.'

Emilie could not detect sarcasm in Mr. Wellington's voice, but then she was not the best at such things. She looked to Maergarethe, who gave her a subtle nod and a hint of twirling index finger; go on.

"Uh...well, not knowing exactly what effects the device is meant to produce, I would not know how to go about enhancing its efficacy... I am more concerned with its safety..." She took a deep breath, then continued. "The science of electrochemistry is still in its infancy, so...I can smell that there are bath salts in the water, but not knowing their precise composition or any test results the inventor might have recorded, I cannot rule out the possibility that the application of electrical charges to the water could produce dangerous chemicals by electrolysis.

"Even with distilled water, hydrogen gas can be produced by electrolysis, and it is highly combustible. That might not be a serious hazard in a large open space like this, but if you mean to manufacture these devices and offer them for sale, people install them in bathrooms, where hydrogen or other gases might be able to accumulate. Or if the charges are powerful enough to produce hydrogen in quantity, any spark could set it off.

"If the woman using it is wearing perfumes, oils, or hair products of some sort, they would add unexpected chemical variables, and may themselves be flammable or subject to unanticipated electrochemical reactions. You have many such products here, and your competitors have their own panoplies.

"It seems unlikely to me that the inventor of this device would have been able to systematically test its action upon so many different substances and possible combinations thereof.

"Then there is the matter of the effects of the electricity itself upon the body. Water increases electrical conductivity through the skin, so it is possible that levels of charge that are harmless to the lady on stage could be more dangerous to someone using the bath, especially if the user has a weak heart or some other condition. Body mass could also be a factor. There are so many unknowns..."

What if he doesn't care if someone gets hurt by it?

"If someone were to be injured or worse by some unpredictable effect, I fear you might find yourself being brought up on charges or challenged to a duel."

"Oh my," Maergarethe said. "Can you think of any other ways electrical energies might be beneficial to health and good looks?" Emilie looked up at her. The twinkle in her eye said she was up to something.

But...If I'm going to rubbish the centerpiece of his presentation, I suppose the least I can do is try to offer some more beneficial avenue of research...but what do
I know about enhancing beauty? Emilie thought. Nothing, really... Alright, what do I know that might help? What does anyone know? We know so little about how life even works... Her face took on a look of fierce concentration, and she started to pace back and forth.

Electrical energy is the animating force of life, so...

"...Maybe galvanism..." she muttered under her breath.

"What was that, dear?"

"...Galvanism. Luigi Galvani performed experiments showing that electricity could stimulate contractions of the muscles of a frog's legs even if the animal was dead. If one could construct an apparatus with electrodes arranged to evenly stimulate the muscles of the face, small charges could be applied to make them twitch.

"This could result in a firming of the facial musculature, in the same way that an athlete who wishes to look like a Greek statue hefts weights to exercise his muscles. If the skin itself responds in a similar way, it might also tighten, and thus reduce the appearance of wrinkles, but that is an untested hypothesis."

Her mind started to conjure images; a set of copper wires or tubes with small electrophorous plates at the ends, spreading out from a center that led to the electrical source. The wires (or tubes) being bent to adjust to suit a face, arranged to touch the ends of each set of facial muscles (a study of facial anatomy would need to be done...), and at the other end...

"Since the charges required would be much smaller than this device uses," she said, gesturing at the platform the lady had been standing on, "it could be powered by a much smaller influence machine, using something like a Sterling Air Engine as a prime-mover. I suspect the whole apparatus could fit on a tabletop, or within a cabinet the size of a small chest of drawers, depending on what sort of controlling mechanisms would need to be included."

Would the current levels need to be precise? Probably...so it might be better to include a voltaic pile and charge that from the influence machine so that variations in its outputs wouldn't reach the user...

"A smaller device would be easier to manufacture and market at scale...perhaps charges could be applied differentially, so that musculature could be enhanced in some areas and not in others, allowing for a subtle shaping of the face..." Emilie was thinking aloud now, hands becoming fidgety as she would normally be reaching for her sketchbook and pencil.

Suddenly, she snapped back to reality, where she faced a young nobleman and his three sisters. Words caught in her throat. Emilie froze, waiting on their reactions, mental wheels spinning for some way to extricate herself if she'd dug her way into a hole.


Maergarethe looked at her with a raised eyebrow and an impish grin. She'd hoped, a little more than expected, that Emilie might be able to come up with something; enhancing physical beauty was not the sort of thing Emilie gave thought to, beyond the conventional means. The girl seemed almost afraid of her own. She could wield it well enough for a demonstration, drawing men's eyes away from dear William's foibles, deftly dodging overtures from the men and ignoring any catcalls. But Maergarethe had seen her 'come down' after a demonstration, all stiff upper lip and a little trembling of the hands.

She had no idea whether Emilie's device would work or not. Almost certainly, Emilie herself didn't know either. Yet, the idea sounded plausible, at least to her ears. She put a hand on Emilie's shoulder to reassure her. The poor dear had stopped as suddenly as a clock with a broken mainspring. Maergarethe followed Emilie's gaze to the Wellingtons, keenly interested in their responses.