Lady Gregory is wearing scarlet to cousin Henry’s wedding

[25 April 2019]

Lady Gregory is wearing scarlet to cousin Henry’s wedding, or so the word was.

This was most irregular, but Lady Gregory was never one to do what was expected. Her tall frame and broad shoulders carried a sort of imperious condescension that commanded the respect of all she met. She never cared much for the Campbell-Parkers, Henry in particular, or so the word was, but she always managed to find herself with him at the obligatory Christmas party and the Easter luncheon and tea at Uncle Reginald’s and often for dinner at the bishop’s on Sundays at 5.

And so here she was, years later, at cousin Henry’s wedding, or, rather, the cocktail reception, him having been just moments ago married to the new Mrs. Campbell-Parker, a rather uninspiring woman with blonde hair who worked as a clerk at the hat shop on Dalston in Hackney. Lady Gregory had always hoped for better for young Henry. The festivities have just begun and the champagne is flowing freely. Lady Gregory is footing the bill for the whole thing, ceremony and dinner and drinks and all, or so the word was, on account of the Campbell-Parkers being distant relatives and not having the distinct financial advantages a lady such as herself possessed, and now she sits in the corner on a black satin tête-à-tête, a dish of prawns and dipping sauce on the low table before her.

She did not, in fact, wear scarlet to the wedding as hoped and instead had donned a simple black chiffon. She looks down at the table and looks up again to see cousin Henry nearby, wringing his hands and sweating unceremoniously. She sighs and motions him to join her on the tête-à-tête. Without taking her eyes off him,

she grasps a prawn between her thumb and forefinger,
decisively, like a diver on the high board – hovering over
the wafting, biting scents of horseradish and Worcester sauce, her
fingers grasping onto the tail and nails penetrating the carapace.
Her eyes make contact with his once more.
She meets his blank gaze, and, ever looking forward,
she makes the plunge, neatly dunking the little creature sploosh into
the pinkish sauce. She eyes her little finger which seems to have found
itself with a bit of sauce on it. She smiles, a bit coldly, yet with
a faraway look in her eyes, as she places the tip of her finger in her mouth
and gently licks away the evidence of any mishap, musing introspectively while she does so.

She examines her finger once more and, satisfied, wipes it delicately on her napkin before placing the napkin on the table. Just then, the newly appointed Mrs. Campbell-Parker rounds the corner, starts suddenly at the sight of Lady Gregory, but, unaware of Lady Gregory’s recent misadventure and none the wiser, curtseys. Lady Gregory extends her hand and thanks Mrs. Campbell-Parker neatly for the prawns, gathers up her things, and escorts herself off the premises, her only accomplice, the napkin, stored safely in her scarlet handbag.

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