By this time, the main course was coming to a close. Although the men chose to fill their bellies with as much of Cook’s handiwork as they could, the women rather declined and took to keeping their figures trim, instead of trying to empty their plates. Even those who were supposed to live no longer gave in to mortal needs and partook of dinner with the rest.
Mrs. Winters, in her mischievous state again, with no touch of sadness or anger in her voice at all, beckoned the maid over and whispered up close to her ear:
“I do not believe that the game is even half done yet, and the guests may want to leave once all the refreshments are gone. Send word to the kitchen to hold off delivering dessert until I say again.”
To which, Alexandra replied, “I do not know much myself, ma’am, but I will say that this game seems more than halfway gone.”
“Of course, of course,” Mrs. Winters waved her hand as though she was there swatting an invisible insect, not ten centimetres away from her. “I know that truly. I’m still correct in halting the production of dessert though… Let the others digest their food whilst they digest this entertainment.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Now Alexandra dared not to argue. She knew, anyway, that the next meal would take a fair few minutes to prepare, then cook, then decorate, and carry over to the guesthouse. Alexandra’s days as a scullery maid never managed to fail her, and desserts were her speciality, especially considering that the maid had a delicate sweet tooth. She sent no word.
After all, she mused, they need me here. Murder leads to trouble. Or would it be more correctly said vice versa?
It was easy to tell when the guests had finished eating, as most sat back and whipped out their invites, had a quick scan of the sheets therein, and, finally, slipped them back into the various purses or briefcases they had emerged from. To Alexandra, those little folds of paper were sly demons, coming up to kill or to save, and then going away without a care as though there had been no change in the structural balance of the world.
During those final minutes of the main course, Alexandra kept her eyes open and gazed at the whole company.
Though she was the portrait of a woman who would not normally eat much, Cynthia ate even less on this occasion, pushing her plate away in the first five minutes, and cast her sour mood upon the people around herself. She barely spoke any words in conversation, unless addressed, and even then declined from revelling in the delights of the tête-à-têtes going round.
Daphne Winters’ mood was barely more civil that Cynthia’s, although the former girl ate and conversed jovially, holding up her side with proud dignity, and proving to anyone who would take a chance to look, that she had been given a well education in literature.
Often times, when he wasn't indulging in more of the bird, Joshua found himself in conversation with her, on the subjects of relations, work, and books, and found the girl to be an intelligent woman, if not a little selfish.
This, of course, did nothing to placate Cynthia’s dreadful mood. Joshua seemed to take no outright joy in infuriating his fiancée, but yet chose to ignore her silence on more occasions than one.
Mr. Stones and Mr. Biggins were taking their fill and becoming more and more amiable with each other; indeed, in most of the time when the acting had ceased so that everyone could ‘tuck in’, they were to be found in conversation with each other more often than not, and were often found discussing the lack of brotherly affections their characters seemed to hold until death, and the various plot twists and turns, and ideas of what was to come.
They also talked of a pressing concern that attracted the attention of most of the company. Mr. Biggins was the one who held all the information, so it seemed; the others were just interested.
“There have been, recently, more rumours of criminali gangs getting out of hand. Does anyone know if this is true? I would very much like to know if I must keep an eye out, and how to protect my home and assets…and money,” Mr. Winters had remarked, and sparked the interest of everyone around the table. Neatly pinned heads turned, and even the least expected of listeners lifted up their eyes.
Mr. Biggins then replied, his authority miraculously appearing and displaying itself with the most level-headed of answers.
“I’m sure there’s nothing to by worried about by such delinquents, but yes, it is true that one gang has begun to get out of control…so I’ve heard.”
“Oh, yes?” chimed Mrs. Winters. “What was that silly name I heard they had it called? ‘Goldflame’? No… Or, ‘ColouredFire’?”
“Goldenfire, madam. They will steal everything from jewellery to one extreme incident of a pony being stolen. I daresay the things that they do with such ill-gotten goods is far from pleasant.
“There have been thieves everywhere, even at the highest of society’s balls, so I would recommend to beware. There is also some news of a worse weapon threat that Goldenfire will bring to our country. I do not know what it could be, but with the things they are able to get their hands on…”
“I hear that the police have caught some of the blighters,” added Joshua.
“That’s right. The police have a couple of the lower thieves, servants and youths who’ve been bribed with glory or threatened into assisting the syndicate’s leaders; but the police are still working to catch the boss amongst their terrible hierarchy.”
“It is the largest group of wrong-doers that the police have tried to gather up for years, is it not?”
“Indeed, if the police could catch whoever comprises the remainder of Goldenfire and bring a stop to the other warring mobsters, the streets of London would be safe for everybody to walk through again.”
Daphne rolled her eyes at the conversation, choking slightly on a piece of food, and Cynthia did not look impressed by the masculinity of the conversation. It was the only thing that they seemed to agree about.