“Oh do calm down Lucinda, it was only a small, reasonable suggestion. Don’t over-react! One would have thought that the agreement was signed and sealed! George, do you think that she is over-reacting?”
George raised an eyebrow, yet said nothing, glancing at Edward. “I have nothing to say. Edward, what do you think of the matter? They are your children after all.”
“I think that Lucinda and I need to discuss this out of earshot. “ There came a small knock on the drawing room door.
“Ahem! Ladies and Gentlemen, dinner is about to be served, would you care to come through?” Johnson pointed to the fine dining room with his gloved hand.
Edward offered Lucinda his arm, George did the same. Annabella pushed it away subtly, gently shaking her head. She smoothed her long dress underneath her and was seated, the others followed. Lucinda eyed the long stemmed crystal glass, carefully taking a tiny mouthful of sorbet.
“I rather like this starter.”
“Delicate isn’t it? Annabella stated, pursing her lips. “It’s the pre-starter actually.”
“Oh I see.”
“Yes. It’s citrus ice and very refreshing.”
“Hmm, yes it is indeed.”
“George do you like it? Or do you prefer the strawberry one that we had at the Richardson’s last week?”
“Both are very palatable my dear.”
“ Hmph! You never do have much of an opinion! There’s nothing worse than a heavy starter.” She continued, placing the last, half-melted spoonful into her prim little mouth. “Are we all finished? I feel that I am ready for the next course.”
Everyone nodded as the first course was cleared away on a silver tray and the second put in front of them.
Edward cleared his throat. “Ah savoury soup. What kind is it may I ask?”
“Asparagus and cream.”
“Lovely.” He forced a polite smile, not being at all fond of asparagus.
“Oh Asparagus is simply my favourite! Is everyone enjoying it as much as I am? Is everything al-right Lucinda? You look quite flushed my dear.”
“I-I am quite well Annabella, only, it is quite warm in here with the great fire roaring in the hearth.”
“Oh, you think so? I like it.”
“Pray forgive me, I like it also, but I am finding the heat quite stifling at present.”
“Oh, well I must please my guests I suppose. Mr Johnson, would you open the window behind her? I fear that she is beginning to look unwell.”
“Not unwell, just overheated, but that is better now. Thank you.”
“Good. Oh I forgot to mention. George; when I was taking afternoon tea with Mrs Lewis on Saturday, I saw the most splendid evening gown. It was simply glorious, the most intricate design. I fell in love my dear and felt from that moment, I just had to have it.”
“Then you shall.” George smiled, ensuring that his wife wanted for nothing.
“Oh! You are a dear! Isn’t he a dear Lucinda?”
“Yes, what a lovely gift.”
“How often do you allow yourself to buy new dresses Lucinda?”
“Whenever I require them I suppose.”
“Require? Not when you want them?”
“I have decent dresses, but I try not to spend vast quantities of money on myself, I like to make sure that my children are provided for and of course my dear Edward. Then, if there is money left over, I consult Edward when necessary.”
“Oh. It’s just that you wore the gown that you were wearing 2 weeks ago did you not?”
“Oh, I cannot do that. What if someone were to recognise the dress?”
“Then I would think they had a good memory my dear Annabella.”
Edward squeezed Lucinda’s small, gloved hand. “Listen to all this women’s talk!” He laughed, in attempt to lift the awkward atmosphere. “What would you ladies say if George and I were to have a conversation about suits and cravats or cigars!”
“I would find it most dull!”
“Well then Annabella; I now declare this topic closed.”
Lucinda fanned herself, hiding her face in her fan. “Thank you.” She mouthed, sighing gratefully.
“I feel that the weather has been very fine these last few days has it not?”
“Oh George! Not the weather!” Annabella snapped.
“It is a very reasonable conversation starter!”
“Yes and dull, I don’t care for it in the slightest! Oh where is the next course? I am very much looking forward to the roast beef! Here it is, oh doesn’t it look wonderful everyone?”
“Yes.” They chorused, eating politely.
“Oh I do love beef, it’s lovely and pink, just how I like it!”
“I prefer it slightly darker.” George muttered.
“No, all the flavour is lost if you overcook it. No-one likes dry meat it is most unpalatable. What do you think my dear Lucinda?”
Lucinda chewed slowly, dabbing the corner of her mouth with her napkin. “I think, that the meat is perfect just as it is.”
To be continued…