If Phillip had though Richards’ personal rooms were plain compared with that of his own, it was nothing in comparison with the dining hall of the Costello family. Lovingly decorated and cared for by the Matriarch, it was a high-ceilinged part of the family’s mansion, with two crystal chandeliers and silver cutlery across the entire range of danger forks. The table stretched the whole of the ten-metre room, but still left the room for the servants to manoeuvre and deliver the meal. Each mahogany-wood chair had an ancient hand-sewn silk cushion, in gorgeous coloured varieties of ruby red, and emerald green. The long table itself had been made of mahogany too, but a neat, tasselled green and red tablecloth had swelled up and covered the entirety of the wood.
Today, the table was only set three quarters of the way. Dr. Costello sat, as expected, at the head of the table, and his wife sat grandly at the foot, the massive personalities of each clashing with neither; for the length of the table would not dare to allow it. Even across the vast space, their likeness was striking, although age had handled the woman with more care than it had her husband.
Between them sat Ryan and his brother, Andrew, looking as prim and as smart as their parents, all in evening dress. It quickly occurred to Phillip, that he, shamefacedly, was not dressed for the evening or for guests, and would appear recklessly untidy.
As Phillip and Peter entered, Mrs. Costello stood, almost banging her spoon down onto the table in her mild fury.
“And where have you two been? Peter, dear, you should not be larking about, and Phillip, you should know better. Why are neither of you changed? The dressing gong was sounded with plenty of time to go.”
She sighed as her maternal instincts kicked in.
“We cannot have you running off for a couple of hours without informing us. Your brothers will be here in no time at all now.”
Time… It all came back to that, Phillip pondered. He was bored, he was angry at Richards’ uselessness, and he wasn’t in the mood to have a ‘quiet night in’ with the family. In one word, he was feeling very volatile.
“Well, you have no time to change now, boys, but do try to smarten yourselves up and sit in the places that have been set for you. Ryan has been such a great help to your father and I today.”
Phillip set a scowl onto his face as he slipped into the seat indicated, next to Ryan. The smirk that was painted on the latter’s face was that of a man who was all too satisfied. He was altogether proud of his attempts to split up Phillip and Peter, the latter who was unhappily placed across the table from Ryan, and sat next to Andrew, with whom he did not get along. The boys’ interests were as far apart as the moon and sun. Peter would find nothing to share with his brother, and resort to chit-chat, which Andrew would find boring and tedious.
“Now where have you been, Phillip, to get yourself all covered in dust like that?” Ryan half-whispered, his voice dripping with sarcasm and mockery, “Some people might even wonder if you’d been down to the servants’ quarters. I hear that it’s never clean down there.”
Phillip turned his head quickly, angry.
“That’s not true! Our servants are a well-kept bunch, and-”
“Phillip!” Dr. Costello called across the table, “Keep your voice down…especially as there will soon be servants nearby, and guests arriving this very minute. In fact, there goes the doorbell…”
Phillip became quiet, very quiet, but he was fuming, biting his lower lip and rolling his eyes. Ryan, on the other hand, was thoroughly pleased with his deeds and his brother’s telling-off.