45. To Dance with him

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“There you are!”

I swooped down on my prey like a hawk on an unsuspecting field mouse. Well, maybe not quite. For one thing, I didn't grab Sir Philip Wilkins by the neck, but by the hand. For another, I didn't carry him off to my nest on a distant, rocky crag to devour him, but simply dragged him over to a chair next to the closest refreshment table, away from an exhausted-looking Ella.

“I have been looking for you,” I said with a reproachful little smile and more or less forced the lanky, long-nosed Lord into a chair beside me. Ella, an expression of sublime relief on her face, dropped into a chair on my other side, out of range of his romantic attentions.

“All this dancing can be so exhausting, can't it?” I asked, cheerfully, as the first notes for the next dance sounded. “I'm sure you've been longing for a break.”

“Well, actually I was rather enjoying...” Wilkins began, his gaze wandering with dreamy longing between Ella and the dance floor.

“So terribly exhausting!” I cut him off. This was the perfect time to test a very handy technique for talking with men I had recently discovered: if they were gentleman, and a lady intimated there was something they might like to do, they were usually too polite to refuse. Of course, nobody ever used this technique because it was ruthlessly impolite. But then, nobody had ever accused me of politeness. “I'm sure you would love a little conversation for a change, wouldn’t you?”

He hesitated. “Um… well, yes, if you think so, but…”

It works! It works, it works!

“I must admit I found our discussion of your house in town extraordinarily,” I cut him off again with a bright smile. “So exciting in fact that I was wondering: do you have any estates in the country, too?”

“Well, yes...”

That was all I needed. I let him have it – a full broadside of verbal cannonballs!

“Wonderful! That is so interesting. How many manors are in your possession? Are they large? Is there good hunting there? Not that I myself hunt, of course, but I find the noise of guns so soothing. Reminds me of good old English traditions, and that an excellent supper will soon be on the table, don't you know? Do you yourself hunt? Oh, forgive me for even asking! You are a true gentleman, of course you hunt! I'm sure you're an excellent sportsman, and that is so important in a man, especially an Englishman, since it's really so central to our national character. I mean, if a German or a Frenchman don't know how to shoot, that's all right, they can drink beer or think up poems and philosophy and everybody will say 'Here we have a true example of our Nation', but with us English, and the British in general, hunting and sportsmanship are so important. Rather demanding, don't you think?  But then, our nation is the greatest in the world, I suppose that it is allowed to make demands of its subjects. What were we talking of again? Now I forgot. Oh yes, your family estates! I must ask you, do you have a library? For I am very interested in...”

And so I went on, and on, and on, until Wilkins' eyes became glassy, and Ella had settled into a comfortable nap. Let me tell you, it wasn't easy to come up with boring subject after boring subject. Dull things to talk of aren't as common as you might think.

Why don’t you talk about flowers and greenhouses, or romantic love? He’ll probably be happy to talk to you for hours then!

I snorted. But that was just it: I didn't want him to be happy. I wanted him to finally see what a horrible family he intended to marry into, and run away screaming. So far though, from the looks he gave me, the only result I seemed to be getting for my efforts was that he intended to marry Ella as quickly as possible and remove her to one of these country estates of his, as far away as possible from her deranged sister.

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