The lights flickered as the drama began. Opposite Mr. Mahalle, Ms. Peterson had changed herself into such a character, a rough, charwoman-esque lady named Mrs. Foster, who clung to her lies as tightly as she clung to her sons. Mr. Biggins and Mr. Stones clutched at their characters too, brothers with very divided opinions of that brassy woman, as the dialogue roamed around the three of them closely for the time-being.
“I don’t believe a word of that drivel, Mrs. Foster!”
It was the first line of a complicated design of Mrs. Winters’ extravagant nature.
For the clerk of an uptown business, Thomas Biggins was actually quite a good actor.
“Toby, please. Mrs. Foster is quite a valid member of society.” On the other hand, Peter Stones did not seem to possess much of that skill. He fitted into those beggar’s clothes like he wore them everyday, and also fitted into the company around the table like a beggar who had been invited to dine with the Royal Family or the Prime Minister. There was also a tension that Alexandra could detect, that absence of friendliness, which would have been demanded between the lady named ‘Mrs. Foster’, the character planned most carefully by Azura Peterson, and his own marionette.
“Brother,” Mr. Biggins said with untouched authority, “I hope that you do not think that this boy-” he indicated Joshua, who smiled smugly and nudged Cynthia with a wink. She didn’t seem too impressed. “-You do not think that this boy will die before the year is up. Please do not tell me that you have fallen straight into their trap.”
“He is only doing what is the best for us,” Azura bragged. Beside her, Joshua lifted a hand to his head in mock distress, whilst the rest of the room looked on, overall a face-full of ennui, but a couple of the features were piqued with a teasing curiosity, such as Mrs. Winters’ eager face.
Alexandra could see that Joshua shared Daphne’s trait of being a seeker of attention and ecstasy. His acting skills were meagre, but that mattered not; he was able to flick his hair and flash his smile, gambling a way out of any predicament with his money.
Barely minutes after Mrs. Winters had proclaimed the little game to commence, the lunch was brought in by the scullery maids and Cook, they who had only to wait for word from Christophe to bring in their treasure. Three courses were to be eaten over the course of the game, but Alexandra was sure that Mrs. Winters had planned it so the amusement and the final course would coincide to end together. Thus the cast would take bites of their starters as they argued. Autonomy of the self, mechanisms, mostly those of class and time-honoured tradition, had overcome.
Eating led to chewing, which in turn led to the breaks in the dialogue; however, due to an unsaid rule, just like Mrs. Winters’ world functioned on, the discussions continued on. They cast became efficient machines.
The ‘Lord’ and ‘Lady’ at the opposite heads of the table did not rise to their parts very often. Alexandra was able to catch various snippets of furious prompting, especially in Mrs. Winters’ case, directing the conversation down the road she wished it, as if her guests were simply puppets on her string.
Their lack of activity was mirrored in Daphne, who, at first, had tried to give her consideration to the acts around her; but, having easily grown bored, now idly tried to have snippets of a conversation with Cynthia…when her mother turned the other cheek. For someone almost five years older than Alexandra, Daphne had a far shorter- and therefore more audacious- tempo of patience than the maid.
Alexandra wondered whether it was just because the mistress had been brought up in a society where she could receive whatever she wanted, whereas the maid herself was at the other end of society’s divide.