A flurry of activity whirred through the parlor of Lady Benedicta Rangecroft, where a gathering of ladies was setting up to hear the news of London from Lady Selina Peckham. The tea service, complete with both China and Indian, a selection of finger sandwiches, and delicate pastries were set with the finest care. The visiting guests, five in total, made up the most influential women in Morgan Hill, South Carolina.
They busied themselves with social responsibilities prior to the taking up the responsibilities of motherhood, which would unavoidably usurp their valuable time. This meeting was an invaluable opportunity to discuss important matters of the day. And by extension, to stay abreast of the news from foreign lands. And today, as luck would have it, Lady Selina Peckham, is gathering to delight the group with news of London.
Lady Selina Peckham, while standing by the fireplace holding the mantle with one hand, was in thoughtful preparation to perform an imitation of Henry Irving’s performance of Mathias in “The Bells”.
“Ladies, it was precisely at this time,” Lady Selina began, with a flourish of her arm and placing her wrist upon her forehead, regaling the group with her performance. “I was dumbfounded, upon the realization that Mathias, the primary lead character, would be haunted for the rest of his life because of a moments madness.”
At this point, Lady Christmas Harper, set down her tea cup and saucer with such command that all could hear the clang of the china. “But didn’t you say that Mathias had virtually killed a seed merchant in order to gather money to pay off his own mortgage?”
Lady Selina’s shoulders slumped knowing that the critical moment was destroyed with the foolish question. “My dear, it’s not a simple matter of murder, he was a desperate man, the seed merchant was overly fortunate, . . .”
“Heathen, he was a heathen to take another man’s life for such a selfish reason.” Lady Christmas stood to make her views known beyond doubt.
During the kerfuffle, Lady Gertrude Stark, reached out for her third sandwich. She carefully slid the sandwich behind her tea cup, in order, that it would escape Lady Benedicta’s attention.
Clearing her throat, Lady Benedicta gently set her tea on the table and ushered her opinion to the fore. “Please, let us remember that we are here to fortify our minds with clever new ideas and thoughts to ponder. We are fortunate that Lady Selina so willingly exposed herself to the dangers of the theatre in order to regale us with the story of Mr. Henry Irving’s performance. Let us be understanding. Continue please,” Lady Benedicta said with authority, and again sat poised with her tea cup and saucer in her lap.
Lady Selina smiled patiently at her challenger until finally Lady Christmas capitulated and dutifully took her seat among group.
“Simply said, Henry Irving’s performance in “The Belles”, was tragic magnifique. I am not over praising his skill when I say his command of the stage is nothing less than astonishing. No other actor will ever be able to match his resonate vocalization, masculine gait across the stage, and his tender fall from grace,” she said tipping her head just enough to show due reverence to the performer.
During the moment of stillness that followed Lady Selina’s pronouncement, Lady Gertrude captured another three cookies from the closest tray, having already finished the earlier sandwiches. She briskly eyed the room, so as to make sure that her theft went unnoticed by all.
It was at this time Lady Philippa leaned forward, glassy eyed and swooning. “It sounds like the most romantic evening that could ever be endured. How can you stand that the performance ended?”
Lady Christmas, upon hearing turned her head from the conversation and bit her lip.
Upon hearing just this one note of appreciation, Lady Selina drew herself to the cushion closest to Lady Philippa and prepared herself for yet another confession. “That is not totality of the surprises we endured that evening.”
Lady Selina stood again, and walked about the room while she gathered the perfect words to compliment the most important revelation of the evening.
The gathering of women, beyond Lady Christmas, waited with bated breath.
“After we arrived at the Lyceum Theatre, and after we enjoyed the opulence of the crystal chandeliers, the velvet wall dressing, and the handsomely carved wooden banisters. After we were met with dignitary’s, business men, and their elegant wives. After we…”
“Get on with it, can you?” Lady Christmas nearly shouted.
Abruptly, Lady Selina turned her back toward Lady Christmas and continued her talk focusing entirely on the other three in the room. She noticed for a brief moment, that Lady Gertrude had a biscuit crumbs on her mouth. Lady Selina, not wanting to be distracted, offered a most discreet wiping of her own mouth, to entreat Lady Gertrude to wipe the crumbs away. Then she continued, maintaining her dignity to the end.
“After we were seated in our most comfortable box seats, and just before the performance began, can you imagine what happened next?”
“Do, please tell us, before we are lost in your circular theatrical tale,” Lady Christmas blurted.
This outburst was followed by Lady Benedicta clearing her throat for the third time in this conversation.
“Oh, yes, please do put us out of our suspense,” Lady Philippa said, clapping her hands and bobbing her knees up and down.
“Imagine if you will, the red velvet curtain opens, the gas lights on the stage using some magical method of sorcery. . . “
“Sorcery! Holy Mother of God, what demon story is being inflicted on me now!” Lady Christmas exclaimed her protest at the top of her lungs.
The next few moments were a flurry of activity.
Instantly, Lady Philippa audibly gasped, pulled out her ornamental fan, leaned back in her chair, and waived the fan briskly in front of cheeks. Which by this time, at the mere mention of sorcery had gone flush with excitement.
Lady Gertrude took the break in the conversation to refill her tea cup and fill her saucer with the final pastry on the serving tray.
Lady Benedicta stood, placed her hands on her hips, and with an admonishing glare, stared fiercely at Lady Christmas.
“You will take care not to insult a guest in my home or you will be forced to leave and not return again. It doesn’t matter that you are my sister-in-law. Am I made perfectly clear?”
It was at this point that Lady Christmas, whose eye’s had filled with scorn, looked to the heaven’s for strength. She muttered a soft prayer to herself and finally took her seat once again, and braced for the worst. Which was inevitably to follow.
Then, without hesitation, Lady Benedicta nodded for Lady Selina to continue.
Lady Selina had determined her best opportunity to complete her story was to focus her attention toward Lady Philippa and remain this way through the duration of her story.
“As I was saying, the gas lamps on the stage were extremely bright and this was the first time I had seen anything like this. But the lights in the theatre were dimmed to the point that the entire audience was sitting in the complete dark.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Lady Christmas.
“Oh yes!” exclaimed Lady Benedicta.
“Oh my!” exclaimed Lady Philippa.
“I will,” Lady Gertrude said, and pinched an untouched sandwich from another woman’s plate.
Lady Philippa moaned in astonishment. She was dumbfounded beyond measure. Her fan flipped with such energetic gyration that it nearly split up the middle. “Well, I have never sat in the dark during the performance of any kind, let alone in a box seat with my husband. The entirety of the audience could see you. In the dark, it’s near madness.”
Lady Selina shook her head, “No my dear, all the audience was in the dark. Never in my life, and I have been witness to dozen’s of plays, have I ever sat entirely in the dark with my husband in a public venue. I don’t mind saying, it was thrilling to say the least.”
A wily smiled passed across Lady Benedicta’s sober face for the first time today.
There was a stillness that fell across the room, each woman in her own seat pondering the dark.
“I’ll tell you ladies, it was a celebratory event,” Lady Selina said taking her first sip of tea.
About the Book
Eleven lovelorn singletons. Eleven tales of Cupid, catastrophe, and maybe more…
These characters have had it with love—or, if not with that, with Valentine’s Day. But no matter how they fight it, Cupid refuses to relent. From struggling singles to secret crushes to enemies turned much, much more, these lightning strikes of love will add a spark of hope to your holiday.
Worst Valentine’s Day Ever flips the script on lonely hearts who seem destined for Valentine’s disaster. If you like laugh-out-loud rom-coms, terrible dates gone right, and gorgeous happily-ever-afters, then you’ll love this adorable collection. It ain’t all hearts and roses; but these tales of triumph will find your faith in Valentine’s Day—and your faith in love—restored.
About the Author
Daphne Masque – Writes about Romance in the theatre for any time period.
Daphne started keeping a journal during her formative years, junior high. Journaling and bad poetry started her love of working with words. She didn’t know it would last a lifetime. She went on to study Theatre Arts in college and since that time she’s been working in the theatre for over four decades. Her love of dialogue, storytelling, and bringing characters to life has been her passion ever since she first stood on the stage. Writing romance has brought a new dimension to her craft. She adores putting the two elements of romance and theatre in the same world. She hopes you enjoy her stories as much as she enjoying writing them.
Join her email list at: http://www.daphnemasque.com/contest/