The kitchen was a bustle of pots, pans and various dishes being brought back and refilled from said pots and pans. Mrs Clemens, the cook, watched her son who she'd made clean and wash from his previous duties take the tray of mackerel parcels back out to the wake.
"Wipe the side of that tray before it goes out - I don't want it to look like I cook in a mess!"
"Yes but it's not dirty!" John wiped the tray and walked out the door toward the lounge.
There was a group of portly men seated by the fire in smoking jackets with the obligatory cigars wafting their sweet savor into the din of the room. John held out the tray for them to eat and after a moment of fingers grabbing for the largest ones, took the tray to the buffet table. He'd been instructed to give those gentlemen the first choice on all dishes as they were the lord's hunting companions and general friends. At least they'd shown up for the service, all the other guests bar the favoured servants in the crowd had turned up just for the free food and drink that came with a wake.
A young lady in a high-necked pure black dress scurried past and picked up a few cheese sandwiches and popped them on her plate before returning to her place among other girls about her age. They had a few bottles of wine on their low table and a glass full of their choice in front of them. John was sure he recognised her from elsewhere. 'Where was it?' he wondered. She was the daughter of the man with the ginger moustache he's served the mackerel parcels to, he'd seen him hug her at the service and hold her arm as they walked to the burial. She didn't look too pleased
John picked up the tray again and took it over to them. Most turned down the offerings but the blonde haired girl and the girl in the high-necked black dress
"Not terribly, I've been here before while my father was hunting with Mr Farringley and had a small glass of watered down wine with him when I was younger and he visited our house." The girl snorted at the end and immediately turned a bright red that matched her ruby coloured brooch
"I've never been here before. I prefer to stay at home." The blonde girl said between a bite of the parcel he'd just given her. The other girls took little notice of him and continued their talk but the girl with the high-necked black dress looked at him.
"I've been here many times with my father, the lord and he were close friends and we were quite shocked to hear of his passing. He was one of the few friends that stayed close after the death of mother and I found him to be a spare father-figure." She blushed slightly after speaking. "Sorry for being so forth-with, I don't usually speak much to people I don't know. I'm Lucinda Parks. I don't recall seeing you here before."
"Oh, well I'm John Clemens, and I was usually out with the lord whenever he was hunting. I kept the dogs at my cottage with my mother and cleaned out the horses. I don't normally come in the house."
"So that would be why I haven't seen you."
"I'd guess so." He bit his inside cheek and looked up for a second. "I should really be going, the main course should be ready soon and Mam'll have my guts for garters it I'm a moment too late to serve."
"She works here?"
"She cooked everything you've eaten today."
"Well tell her it's wonderful and try not to be late." She winked at the end of her sentence and turned back to her group as John left. He was puzzling over what she meant in the wink.
* * *
"Letter for you my leige." The butler placed the letter next to his patron who was asleep in his bed.
"Does it look important?"
"It has a black seal on it. I would say so." The man in bed wiped his eyes and grabbed the letter from the nightstand. He held it up to the candles light and ripped it apart. He scanned the page.
"My great-uncle Robert died last week. It seems I've missed the service, the burial and the wake all in one day. How long has this been waiting for me to open?"
"Just arrived m'lord, the courir looked tired to I gave him a snifter of sherry and sent him away with the usual."
"That's ok then, not his fault. I'm tired; make sure I'm not disturbed tonight unless the place is burning."
"Yes m'lord. Anything else?"
"I'd like scrambled eggs on toast with my breakfast tomorrow - not those poached things the wife made me have the other day."
"Yes m'lord. Goodnight."
"Goodnight Kalvins." The letter was placed back on the nightstand and the candle extinguished. The bulter closed the door quietly and looked out at the sky from the corridor window. 'So what got him in a good mood? He'd have docked that from my salary usually if he'd missed something like a wake before.'