“Won’t you come to dinner next Thursday? I’ve got Jeremy Lancaster coming” Blathered Mrs Winthrop to the other ladies in the lunch club.
“Sorry Dolly, but who is Jeremy Lancaster?” Replied Mrs Patterson.
“Oh My Dear, don’t you know? He is a most notable person. He’s been entertained at court.”
“I’ve heard of him, Isn’t he that chap whose frightfully clever and invents things?” Said Mrs Courtney.
“My husband was only talking about him the other day. Apparently the government had offered him a fortune to come and work for the War office but he turned them down flat.” Said Mrs Atwood whose husband was high up in government circles but she couldn’t talk about it, it was all very hush-hush.
“All right, Dinner at yours next Thursday then. Shall we bring our menfolk?” Said Mrs Patterson.
“No, let’s make it Ladies only. Tell the men we’re playing bridge and they’d only be bored. They always take over the conversation and I want to thoroughly quiz our most notable quest”
So it was all arranged that Audrey Patterson, Jane Courtney and Patricia Atwood would come to dine with Dolly Winthrop the following Thursday and meet this illustrious person of such note.
At Seven o’clock on the dot Audrey Patterson arrived in her black sequined evening gown and gold lame cape at the steps to number 12 Cavendish Square, Mayfair. She knocked on the big black doors and they were promptly answered by the Butler, Hargreaves. Hargreaves was his usual taciturn self. He was tall and thin with short grey hair regimentally parted and was wearing the standard black tail-coat over striped grey waistcoat and trousers. She was shown into the main drawing-room to be welcomed by her hostess. Dolly Winthrop was wearing her mauve satin floor length gown. She really didn’t have the figure for satin, it showed every unsightly bulge from bosom to her copious back side.
Audrey always thought Satin was the sole province of the young and svelte, not middle-aged ladies like them. Still Dolly had the guts to carry it off without a care. Dolly had been talking to a young man dressed in a grey suit, more suitable for day wear than evening. He had blond hair and black round framed glasses on a beak-like nose. Dolly broke off her conversation to greet her warmly.
“Audrey dear, so nice of you to be so prompt. The others haven’t arrived yet. My goodness but the clock is still chiming seven now.”
“Well you know me Dolly, I hate being late and I don’t want to miss anything.”
“Please let me introduce you to our illustrious guest, Mrs Audrey Patterson, this is Mr Jeremy Lancaster.”
“Doctor, actually. I have a doctorate in mechanical engineering” said Jeremy Lancaster as he gently shook her hand.
He twitched slightly and had an awkward manner. He seemed to be nervous of something. He reminded Audrey of someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown and very slightly unhinged.
Dolly had a rather tight look around the corners of her eyes, probably not liking to be so forthrightly corrected on his exact title by her guest.
Gradually one by one each of the remaining guests arrived each bedecked in their finest gowns of various hues and fabrics. Dolly had been the only one brave enough to wear satin.
Hargreaves had dutifully provided each of them with a pre-dinner cocktail and the conversation was gently effervescing. Except for Dr Lancaster, who seemed to lack the wit or inclination for small-talk. Without pre-amble he would launch into applied metaphysics without stopping to appreciate the rather overwhelmed countenance of his companion. Audrey herself had studied chemistry and had worked in a laboratory, long before her marriage of course, and so she could hold up something of a conversation with the rather clumsy young man.
The Dinner gong sounded and Hargreaves entered the drawing-room and announced in impeccably refined tones.
“Dinner is served.”
Dolly and Dr Lancaster entered the Dining room, Dolly sat at the head of the table and indicated that Dr Lancaster should sit at her right hand. The others sat randomly being rescued from the normal formality of having to go ‘boy, girl’ around that table being thankfully free for Males, with the exception of Dr Lancaster.
Audrey sat on Dolly’s left, opposite the good Doctor, with Patricia Atwood on his right and Jane Courtney on her left. They left abandoned the chair at the other end of the table in deference to Dolly’s dear husband who was probably at that moment hovering outside the back door of one of London’s theatres. Dolly didn’t complain, after all that’s where she’d met him, in her younger and slimmer days.
Hargreaves and one of the maids whose name she’d never bothered to learn began serving the beef consommé soup.
Dr Lancaster looked rather forlornly at his soup. Mrs Winthrop picked up on his expression immediately.
“Is there a problem with the soup Dr Lancaster?”
“I am sorry Mrs Winthrop, I should have told you, I’m afraid I don’t eat meat. It is a very strict rule of mine.”
“Hargreaves? Do we have any alternative soup for Dr Lancaster? He is a vegetarian.”
“Yes My Lady, I believe we still have some of yesterday’s mushroom soup, it should still be acceptable.”
“That will do nicely, thank you Hargreaves”
With an unreadable expression, Hargreaves removed the offending soup and in a surprisingly short time replaced with a dull grey soup of the mushroom variety.
Then began the rather entertaining ‘synchronised soup eating ritual’ as each person moved their spoons through their soup and to their lips in almost perfect harmony.
Dr Lancaster rather let the side down as he was several beats too fast. Then with a cough, he dropped his spoon into his soup, splashing some of its contents onto the pristine white cloth.
“Please excuse me.” Croaked Dr Lancaster, as he struggled to breathe between bouts of coughing. He was turning a nasty shade of purple.
He stumbled out of the room into the hall, then rather alarmingly he collapsed to the floor choking and kicking his feet.
“Quick Hargreaves, call an ambulance!” Cried Dolly Winthrop, but it was too late. It was abundantly clear the notable young man was dead.
The End…..Or is it?
I have now written another part of this story…
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 27/April/2018