Although the sun sat himself high in the sky, the guesthouse, itself simulating the evening, was only illuminated by the electric lamps that were placed around the room, and the bulbs that hung from the ceiling. The French windows were covered, by Mrs. Winters’ bead screen, to let no warm light from the great outside in, and so their microcosm relied on the electricity being sound.
Unfortunately, wires can be broken, and reliability is lost in an instant.
It happened then, as Alexandra was contemplating Mr. Stones’ complicated state of affairs: the lights above the table first flickered, and then those dotted around the room joined the dance too. With a final eerie pulse, all the lights flickered out into blackness.
“What in God’s name was that?” yelled Mr. Winters roughly.
Muttering and other similar remarks shot around in the darkness where the table would have been. Alexandra heard Cynthia call for Joshua, but her call was unanswered; Daphne’s light voice shot far heavier remarks against the servants, even though it was clear that she could not make out anybody more than the rest of them could. The voices, and the panic with them, began to rise, reaching a climax when a “shh” snuck among them.
Slowly the voices quietened down, until Alexandra, standing with her back against the armoire, was able to pick out the places of the owners of the voices.
“They should have made sure that the electricity was sorted in completion before this event began. Imagine that! They loaf around, and leave us in the pitch-black-”
“Daphne,” came her mother’s voice, “do be quiet!”
When Daphne obliged and was silence, Mrs. Winters continued, her voice still and calm, masterfully taking this situation.
“Now, I’m sure this disruption can be sorted in an instant. Please, do remain in your places, whilst my husband and I get the electricity back. Christophe?”
“At your service, madam.” By his voice, Alexandra could tell that Christophe was back over by the drinks table, a mere metre from herself.
“Oh, Christophe. Go and see what the matter is with the electricity. You know full well where the unusual source lies, so go and inspect the places for faults.”
“Of course, madam.”
“Be sure to take some of the others with you, won’t you? Two sets of hands are found to be better than one pair, as they state.”
“Of course, madam. Anything else?”
“Not at all. You may go.”
Far from bumbling, Alexandra heard Christophe’s large strides roll past her with confidence. At some distance light flooded into the building, and Christophe's shadow left, taking the only illumination with it. Christophe had made it outside without much trouble, so why couldn’t the rest of them follow suit?
Well, Mrs. Winters would not want an interruption from the outside ‘world’, certainly. Her puppets had no choice but to bend their heads down to that power.
In fact, after whispering occurred between the mistress and her husband, Mr. Winters did excuse himself and make his way casually to the door. Once again, the pure light splashed in, but was quickly cast back by the unreal midnight darkness.
“Alexandra?” the mistress next called.
“Yes, ma’am?” Alexandra stepped forward to make herself clearer, but found herself quickly reaching for the wall to steady herself in the dim surrounding.
“Are the refreshments still all in order?”
“If you’re sure, ma’am…” she rolled her eyes.
Alexandra began to take small steps around the table, occasionally stumbling and filling with shame as she had grip the back of the guests chairs. She reached the champagne bottle before she heard the rustling of fabric nearby. Lifting the bottle gently, she manoeuvred her way to the wide table in the middle of the room, whilst also keeping an ear tuned to where the rustling was coming from.
She spoke in a low voice to the guest she was near, asking if they wanted more to drink.
Mr. Biggins replied in his low, smooth voice in the affirmative, and she felt his hand against hers, guiding the champagne into his glass. Although Alexandra was flattered and happy for the help, she was also shocked at the man’s behaviour. What did he mean by it? He was kind and different to the other guests, but what were his true intentions? And, if the people of society had been able to see this display, it would have been she who would have immediately been accused of being out of place, inappropriate.
Quickly stepping away once she had done her job, Alexandra rested the emptying champagne bottle on a break between the dishes and wandered toward the rustling, which suddenly stopped. Sounds of footsteps tiptoed past her, bewildering Alexandra. She turned.
Then rustling turned into something much nastier.