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Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Wouldn’t Know Anything About That, Mum


Black-pantsed and white-shirted, starched within a hair’s breadth of “entirely presentable”, I stand just off to one side of the dining room table.

The opening theme of Downton Abbey has been playing on a loop for the last two hours.

I shall hear it until I die.

“It’ll be fun,” Michelle had e-mailed.  “A murder-mystery dinner-party situation out in Medina.  They’re expecting 20.”

The house is absolutely palatial.  Paulie, the chef, has been here for almost half an hour.  In the oven: beef tenderloin cut into thick slabs and just this side of rare; smoked gouda potatoes resting in chafing dishes alongside jewel-like green beans. Canapes are laid out; flowers, both decorative and edible, are placed alongside them on chilled pewter trays.

In the time before the guests arrive, I light candles; fill water goblets; open wine bottles; slice strawberries for the Pavlova; fill éclairs; heap fresh, hot bread into linen-lined baskets. 

The dinner party, dressed in clothing fashionable from the 1890s to the 1930s, arrives and, shortly after the cocktail hour, is seated for dinner.

"Ma-MAW," cries the 21-year-old flapper.  Her British accents swings from Cockney to posh, seemingly by the word.  "Oh, maman, how utterly dreadful it is to be so incredibly wealthy.  How I wish I were like the common people.  Footman!  Footman!  I say, guvnuh!"

The man seated across from her rolls his eyes northward where they appear to stick.

"What is this salad dressing?  Cilantro lime?  Oh, yes," she cries.  "One simply must have a dinner party with the cuisine of our newest country, Mexico."  She raises a glass.  

"Oh, by all means," the man across from her drawls rudely.  "Rule Britannica."

The table laughs the laugh of the wine-drunk.  "Ma-MAW," the flapper bleats.  "Is he making fun of me?  Footman!"

Finally, the footman -- a fellow guest of the dinner party forced to eat his dinner in the next room -- ("Even at dinner parties, I can't get away from the !@#$ing kiddie table," he had said, sitting down) -- enters.

"Yes," he says flatly.

"I don't like your attitude," the flapper exclaims petulantly.  "You're fired, you hear me?  Fired!" She raises her wine glass imperiously.  "Fill this before you go."

The evening is saturated with the stuff of the very best parties:  plenty of wine, great food, horrible accents, and devious, conniving servants.

Yes.  While the party-goers drunkenly refer to their murder-mystery character-guide booklets, spilling information hither and yon, I lurk in plain sight.

A woman has been found in the servants’ quarters, murdered.  Her hand is reaching for the butler’s door.

A stable hand finds a woman’s nightgown amongst the horses.

The butler confides to the flapper that yes, he disposed of the weapon used to kill the young woman, but he swears he never hurt her. 

The lady of the house discloses to her mother, between glasses of wine, that the lord of the house has been, this last fortnight, unaccounted for between supper and retiring.

The parson confesses to the doctor that he has been secretly reporting to Her Ladyship on His Lordship’s locations.

His Lordship mentions to the footman that his new shoes are perfect, thank you.

I wait.  Wait for someone to approach me.  After all, who better to ask about the goings-on in a big house than the help?

Alas, the person in a position to know is not consulted. 

And when 10:00 approaches, the hour that the killer is to be revealed, I slip a note under His Lordship’s dessert plate.

“I know what you did in the stables.”

32 comments:

Candy's daily Dandy said...

"Fill this before you go"...I know a few too many people like that in this day and age. Unfortunate as it is.

Pearl said...

Candy, it was interesting insight into how she thought a wealthy/powerful person was supposed to act...

Shelly said...

I would have been riveted the whole evening, just watching and listening. I probably also would have made an utter fool of myself by eating the decorative flowers instead of the edible ones.

Pearl said...

Shelly, I'll bet you would've been a great addition to the night! And it's okay to eat the flowers: We only decorate the food with the edible ones. :-)

Chantel said...

You do find yourself in the best situations, my friend, this sounds utterly amazing! The food, the games, the unraveling of people and plots..... *shivers* I love living vicariously through you!

Pearl said...

Chantel, I'm so glad!

savannah said...

*sigh* oh the antics of the nouveau riche, sugar! ;~) xoxoxox

Geo. said...

What a hoot of a dinner party (I'm good at solving enigmas)! Too bad the lady died reaching for the butler's door but accidents happen. So which horse did the woman’s nightgown belong to?

terlee said...

I was hoping it was you, the truly invisible servant... ;D

And come on, after Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton, haven't we learned that the "help" know everything!

Daisy said...

I can't believe they didn't even consult with you!! That meal sounded wonderful, and now I am SO hungry and ready for lunch. As for the crime, I think Professor Plum did it in the library with a candlestick, but I could be mistaken. :-)

Eva Gallant said...

Sounds like a unique experience! I envy you!

jenny_o said...

Oooh, the plot thickens - and I do not lisp.

Okay, maybe I do.

But, still, it would have been fun to watch, if you didn't have to stand the whole time.

And, in late-breaking news: "The Second Book of Pearl: The Cats" has arrived on my doorstep - an excellent read, smiles all around :) Thanks, Pearl!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Quite a captivating read :)

joeh said...

Sounds like a jerk-weed smorgasborg to me...I hate the flapper and I don't even know her!

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

oh, you are slick, Pearl. I was on the edge of my office chair, I was!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Ooooh.....careful Pearl or they'll be finding your body, possibly in the wine cellar with a full glass of white in your hand.

Lorna said...

I have decided ow to have pork chops in mushroom gravy and potatoes for dinner. All because of you.

Leenie said...

Just as long as the long finger of accusation isn't pointed at that server,starched within a hair’s breadth of “entirely presentable.” Anyone worth their salt would know who really did it.

The Savage said...

Oh, to have a life again....

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Am jealous--I've secretly always wanted to do a murder mystery party like that!

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
....you do? From those clues? Why are you not working for the FBI?!

Great scene Pearl. YAM xx

Joanne Noragon said...

So were they too thick, or too tanked?

Kana said...

While many nations around the world rally to bail one another of the recent financial crisis, the Colonies still founder in tragic lack of any class or sophistication whatsoever. Almost 95% of them are completely accent-deaf, classifying everything from the Subcontinent to the Emerald Isle to New Zealand as "snobby", and everything else as "furreign." Please give generously, even in these troubled times as we pinch every Euro; you could help civilise an American, today.

Jackie said...

You must be an incredible person to be around and to know...

Rosemary Nickerson said...

Smoked Gouda Potatoes! I'm drooling. AND I'd have worn my red feathered Fascinator! Doesn't His Lordship always go to the Help for solving his enigmas? Did you wear a white frilly cap to go with your black stockings and bibbed apron???? Well, I guess you would have mentioned it. I TOTALLY LOVE THIS STUFF. Wishing I'd been invited.

River said...

Cilantro Lime is a crime all on its own.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

What fun you all must have had. I hope you got to go home with the leftovers.

HermanTurnip said...

Ya know, there's something about cilantro that I can't stand. I hear my friends rave about the stuff, but to me it simply tastes metallic, like I'm gnawing on aluminum foil. What's _that_ all about?

Rose L said...

LOL I have always wanted to attend a murder mystery event but so far have not.
The note you wrote is intriguing...did he respond???

jenny_o said...

I'm thinking the note was part of the party plan, was it not? If so, what a great idea!

Elephant's Child said...

I am with River. Cilantro lime is a crime deserving of capital punishment. Cilantro anything is a crime deserving capital punishment.

Kymbo Whitford said...

“I know what you did in the stables.” is a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of so very many people.
Scary Pearl...very scary!