I should have known that would happen, since there are only two ways of arranging dinner-tables: with dinner-partners of the same relative rank, or individuals placed in descending rank from the ends; by the first arrangement, the first- and third-ranked lady and gentleman would be seated together on the host's right and left, and the second- and fourth-ranked gentleman and lady on the hostess's left and right; by the second arrangement, the first- and second-ranking lady are on the host's right and left while the first- and second-ranking gentleman are on the hostess's right and left, and the rest go left and right in descending order to the middle of the table.
Hostesses alternate between these patterns mostly to keep married couples separated, an ancient practice I've never quite understood. And I of course omit those impossible gatherings in which the hostess does not have an equal number of each sex in multiples of four, in which case mathematics of a very high order must come into play.
This information is not especially relevant, and of little use to anyone other than a hostess trying to learn how to arrange a table with lots of aristocrats present; but to give the reader a better picture of where everyone was in relation to everyone else at dinner that night, and most nights in that first week at Verevale, I append Lady Levondale's seating chart:
|Dowager Duchess||Lady Faringdon|
|Mr Levondale||Lord Rupert|
|Mrs Pargeter||Mrs Vandekamp|
|Mr Vandekamp||Sir Wilfred|
|Miss Smallridge||Miss Vandekamp|
|Sir Peregrine||Mr Pargeter|
|Miss Beckett Haven||Miss Levondale|
|Lord Faringdon||Lord Foxbridge|
Dinner was a bit of a trial with Jingo right in front of me, smirking away in that maddeningly sexy way he has and reaching his long legs under the table to caress my ankles with his foot. To distract myself, I concentrated all my charm onto furthering my faux romance of Lavinia Levondale--and in the process furthering a real friendship. Like many plain women, she was a delightful companion once you got past her defences, passionate and well-informed on a wide variety of subjects; she could be graceless in her facial expressions and gestures, and sometimes her words would rush out faster than her mouth could form them, but a few drops of spittle on one's shoulder was a small price to pay for her really quite fascinating insights into modern art, a subject by which I had long been mystified.
When it came time to turn my attention to Lady Levondale on my left, I made a point of asking her a lot of questions about her daughter, though of course her attention was spread a good deal thinner as she took part in several conversations at once while keeping an eagle eye on the footmen. After dinner over the port, I considered wedging myself in beside Lord Levondale to continue the campaign, but decided it would be laying it on a little too thick; instead, I parked myself next to Sir Peregrine and listened to him to natter on about Egypt while groping my thigh.
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