The Final Stage

Alexandra fetched another cloth from the wooden container out on the patio, just before the pandemonium began to spread.

Cynthia had gone from dabbing at her frightened eyes to dab at the spreading pool of alcoholic liquid. With a small sound of disgust, Daphne had sprung up and away from the liquid that could get her precious pinned hair damp. Mrs. Winters rose to persuade her daughter (this time, purely with words) to slip back into character. So far, every move she made was in vain.

Her husband was watching the discordance going round the table with almost as much attention to detail as Alexandra.

Joshua, and Thomas Biggins, were also trying to assist the flustered fiancée with as much gallantness as they could afford. Meanwhile, Ms. Peterson was attending to her infant children; one growled that he wasn’t getting enough of the food, and the other cried for more attention.

Peter Stones was still outside when the anguish began, but, peeping his head in, he spotted the mess that was exploding. Pushing past Alexandra, again, Peter suddenly found himself next to Mr. Winters, asking what was happening.

Alexandra had observed the former’s fingers lingering over a silver candelabrum out on patio table, amongst some other things, when she went to get the new napkin and replacement cloth. On seeing her glance, he had started, but had not stepped away, and had certainly shown no sign of guilt. There was certainly something queer about the man. Luckily, the candelabrum would be too large an object to hide in his pockets.

Mrs. Winters gave up and stepped away from ordering her daughter to rejoin the festivities, and wandered over Joshua and Mr. Biggins. She spoke inaudibly to them, then glided across to the rest of the guests to pass on the same message. First Rhaïd, next Peter, and et cetera, moving in a clockwise direction around the bulky table.

Although not all had been achieved, she made to head back to her own place, but stopped again, this time on the table‘s right-hand, where she observed, from a distance, her daughter and Cynthia exchanging loud words. Alexandra was able to recognize the angry words ‘bracelet’ and ‘gone’. Daphne was convinced that her rival had stolen it, though it had been lazily placed in the midst of the table, and any one of them had had the opportunity to steal it. Daphne’s must have seen this too, for she proceeded to complain about a different matter altogether.

Seeping through Daphne’s proud and stubborn personality was a tone of cantankerousness, as the girl gestured towards a sodden sleeve of her draping dress. What she had to worry about, Alexandra could not comprehend, as the sleeve was already stained with the Kensington Gore theatrical blood that had poured from the small balloon she had been keeping at the top of her shirt, and it would be Alexandra herself or another of the maids who would be the ones to hand-wash it for Daphne instead. Cynthia’s anger at being accused dispersed when Mrs. Winters approached, startling her still. After the lady of the house had sternly spoken a message of decorum to them both, she also passed on her mystery message, completing her perambulation of the room. Alexandra frowned; not knowing made her fear for the mistress’ judgment.

The two girls having calmed down, although neither dared to say another word of dislike to each other, they rejoined the activity, and ironic liveliness, of the company. By now, things had settled down into common politeness again, and the damp patch upon the tablecloth had been dabbed by all it had come into contact with. So much so, that Alexandra was left, useless, with two unnecessary rags. She returned the cloth to the patio, shooting Mr. Stones a glare as she did so. Unfortunately, she had not the authority to shoo him from being in an easy position of thievery.

A light conversation was growing out of the fog of troubles, but, in all of the emotion, motion and panic, no-one had noticed a major change of those gathered around the table.

No-one had noticed one of the actors leave.

The End

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