Tête à Tête at Tea
In a side parlor at the spacious home of Ezekiel and Catherine Fleming-Drake, Dionysus somewhat awkwardly climbed the step ladder to take a seat at the doubling sized table. The table was set with silver tea service, several bone china dishes bearing finger food and cookies, and a teapot and carafe of coffee. He started his lecture immediately.
"The most important thing to remember, when passing in 'society', is that you have three missions. Never bore, since you can be replaced as an entertainment. Never endanger, since there are safer ways to idle away the time then with a dangerous person of lesser station, and do not embarrass. Their own behavior might, and probably shall, be an outrage and appalling," he chided, shifting to get comfortable in the overstuffed chair. "We owe it to them, and most importantly, ourselves, to be a lesson in proper deportment and conduct, at all times we are observed."
Holding aloft one stubby finger, he continued to admonish the young cat girl. "The second thing to remember is that proper public behavior is in no way shameful. If there is shame, it is that after being descendant from notorious thieves and ruffians they choose not to comport themselves with the decorum necessary to justify themselves at the top of the social order, without resorting to brute force as their ancestors did."
Waving his hand, the hobbit gestured for the maid to begin pouring tea. "Would the lady like one lump, or two? Cream, or lemon? Given the age and delicate nature, please allow me to select for you." Neecy turned his head, and to the maid officiously declared, "She shall have cream, one lump. She is agile and playful as a cat, and young and pretty enough that she will require no undue sweetness added."
After tea was poured for both seated persons, he dismissed the maid. "From this point, we are very capable of pouring for ourselves. I shall ring when service is required, mademoiselle. And so, Eva, how do you find this years fashion?" He held up his hand to stop any response. "The answer will of course be frivolous and playful, and disparaging of how the changes in style, as usual is always for the worse. 'The French designers,' you shall say, 'are they at all aware of the form that will be subsisting beneath all those ruffles?' No time should be wasted by having serious conversation on important matters at something so public and fraught with potential embarrassment as tea."
"It's Evie, not Eva, Mister Dionysus." She liked the hobbit, Evie had to admit to herself, even with his wanting to order for her. He had the arrogance of the best of the cross-traders. And she felt a bit of kinship with someone who had such an unusual first name, like she did. Despite all that, she had no bleedin' clue what she was doing here.
She looked around at all the fancy silverware and the china dishes and then she looked down at her own fur. Who did he think she was going to fool? "So I'm just supposed to blabber the meaningless? What's that supposed to accomplish?" she asked, a bit of both of confusion and curiosity in her voice.
With a twist of a half smile, Dionysus quirked his head to the side. "Evie is your name with your street friends, with the staff, with me if you desire," he gently prodded. "In society, with the amulet about your neck and your pinky extended SO, you are Eva, an honest girl of good family from the North Country, taken in by your distant cousin Ezekiel Drake." Spreading his hands wide, the hobbit gestured at the various valuables strewn about. "Prattling meaninglessly makes you a delightful companion, introduced to eligible younger sons, invited into the best homes... access to staking out the richest prizes. Non. Evie doesn't belong in this room, even as Madame's latest atrocity. EVA is an ornament to the finest homes of theWest End, where Evie can later arrive to obtain things easily sold by a gentleman's gentleman when the gentleman's gentleman's gentleman is known to be prone to travel, likely to need to raise cash quickly. You wish to learn how to be a thief of some skill and very little notoriety, non?
"Myself, I began as a barefoot, ill-lettered baker's boy. Now I arrange breach loans to Monsieur and Madame at extremely reasonable rates. Your forefathers were not bloodthirsty enough to safe guard you from work, thus you will, with the amulet, be Madame's traveling nanny, and be presented to society as a lovely, but poor, potential arm ornament for some doddering get from a litter spawned by one fortunate enough to be descendant from a right bloody bastard of a highwayman." He looked up at Evie's furry features. "You have come for lessons in how to improve your thieving, non? You cannot steal from the poor; it's pointless and shows a mean spirit. Convincing the wealthy to open their homes and purses is safer and far more profitable."
Evie had always suspected that the sodding' uppers were the best thieves there were. After all, where had they gotten their jink except to nip it off other people? But now it seemed that even the cutters working for the nobles were thieves too. And good ones.
She nodded her head slowly. "I already am a thief of some skill, Mister Dionysus...but I also know when there is something to be learned. You're basically wanting me to play act, right? Put on my angelface alongside that necklace and pretend to be them long enough to rob them blind?" She was going to be the best thief there ever was, that much she knew to be true. The cunning hobbit could teach her to get better and wasn't any way under the shadow of the City that she wouldn't take advantage.
She smiled a little, the pleased smile of a cat who sensed easy prey within reach. Her voice suddenly emptied of all reason and signs of intelligence. "So dreadful, this dull and dreary rain. I do wish that we might have some sun again soon. Don't you think so?" And she batted her eyes while putting a vapid smile on her face.
"And so the trap shall be set," Dionysus said behind a twitching mustache, his mouth setting in a pleased smile.