St-Patrick-Hartbrooke looks upon the drafts he has written on foolscap, reading over the phrasing, making sure that all the levels of subtext that he intends are there (and, more importantly, that there is no subtext present that he doesn’t intend). Satisfied, he dips his pen into his inkwell and begins writing, with careful, restrained calligraphy, three thank you notes: one to each of the nice young Citizen-Pretender who allowed in the honour of a dance the previous evening, and another to Ms. Applethwaite, for the invitation to dine at her table.
When the letters are complete, he signs each in a manner much less restrained and careful, blots them to assist the ink in drying, and then folds them a moment later after they are dry.
Taking the letter for Ms. Applethwaite in hand, the gentlebird reflects upon dinner. He had been surprised, despite plans being clearly available in the Public Ledger, that he had been the only member of Leviathan’s at Ms. Applethwaite’s table. True to his expectations of himself, he had acquainted himself well in matters of etiquette and protocol, and Ms. Applethwaite had acted quite taken with him… however, she obviously wasn’t quite so taken, since he had not, as so many others had, been handed an invitation to the next occasion at her salon.
It is difficult to say why he did not make the cut, but, as no other members of the Leviathan Club were present, perhaps one had to be truly extraordinary to be seen as deserving such an elevation in social standing. Alas, it seems it was simply not to be. The letter he had written to the salonnière was intended to be charming but formal, clearly acknowledging the difference in rank between them, and expressing gratitude that someone like her would have deigned to share a table with someone like him, as plainly and rigidly worded as possible to avoid any double meanings or assumptions of familiarity. Of the three, this was the letter he’d laboured most upon, because sending a poorly-written thank-you letter to someone who values etiquette above all else is even worse than the already unforgivable sin of not sending such a letter at all.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was the letter he’d basically dashed off with barely a thought, the letter for the charming Miss Rockingham. The Grand March was a fairly simple dance, and certainly not known for its romantic undertones, but Miss Rockingham had seemed content with him as a dance partner, so far as one could be in the March, and he didn’t recall seeing her with another partner in the later dances. In this letter, most of the Space Griffin’s effort had gone into avoiding any promises or talk of the future, while laying some small flatteries and making it clear that he was still interested. He had tried to leave out any subtext of “until someone better comes along,” but it was nearly impossible to do so entirely without saying things that couldn’t be taken back if, or when, someone better did come along.
In the middle between rigid perfection and careless charm was the letter he wrote to Miss Penumbra, with whom he had enjoyed a rousing Double Quadrille. She had not seemed hesitant to post with him (and certainly, some of that was his own fault, as it had been ages since he’d danced a quadrille, but some he blamed on his still-healing injuries from the duel…)…
As his mind reflects on the duel, the light seems to dim in the room, and St-Patrick-Hartbrooke’s thoughts become caught up in replaying that last, cryptic message before the final round. What had it meant? Should he have stayed? Could he have stopped…
As his fists clench, he feels the smoothness of the paper in his hands and comes back to the moment, noting with relief that he has not managed to crease the paper, which would require him to redo all of the carefully-wrought calligraphy. What had he been… enthusiasm, that’s right. Miss Penumbra had not seemed enthusiastic about their dance as they had parted, but he certainly seemed to have done a better job impressing her than Commander Capstanturnbuckle. In fact, she had seemed the happiest after dancing with Mr. Dipswitch; Aaaakzeee was considering — not seriously, of course — buying some of that fake medicine that the Space Feline had been drinking as if it were wine; it seemed to have worked wonders for Dipswitch’s ability to dance.
The letter to Miss Penumbra, of course, had to project a higher level of interest than the one to Miss Rockingham, as he actually wanted not only to keep her attention, but to draw it away from his new, drug-addled, adversary. However, it mustn’t seem in any way desperate; he wanted to leave a small bit of the inference that he was keeping his options open, while at the same time dropping tantalizing hints that he didn’t think someone better would come along. All of the nuance and subtext that he had been holding back on in the other two letters flowed through, and he was quite proud of the end result. There was nothing improper, of course, but he suggested a depth of feeling here that he had toned down in his letter to his other dance partner and omitted entirely in the one to his dinner host.
As he started to heat the wax to seal the letters, his eyes fell on the fourth, blank parchment he’d prepared. Of course, he would not be sending a letter to Miss Copse; sending anything at all would be seen as an act of desperation, given the complete lack of attention she had shown him. It stung, that he had not been able to gain her interest, but given Ms. Honeyvenom as his competition, he wasn’t surprised. Perhaps he should have selected Miss Copse for the Quadrille rather than the Waltz. Perhaps not, though; he might have lost both dance partners.
With a shudder, St-Patrick-Hartbrooke looks back the moment of profound disappointment he’d felt when he’d thought two of his preferred dance partners had rejected him. He probably wouldn’t have been in such high spirits now, if that had happened. Thankfully, it had all been a miscommunication. No, better to look upon the present than to dwell on possible pasts. God was still with him, as evidenced by the success in his endeavours and his improving health, and he would continue along the path that he had been placed on.
Speaking of the present, the wax has presently melted. The Taaa’keee carefully seals and addresses each of the three envelopes, and leaves them in his “Out” box to be sent off to their intended recipients.