I stood up, and dusted myself off, in a manner reminiscent of a parlour maid from one of those classic French novels. Ypres once gave me one for my birthday and I nearly made it halfway through. So far nobody is dead, and a body has yet to be found in the library, but I am confident that in the end the butler did it.
I finished straightening myself out, confident that I regained the pose of the insouciant boulevardier, when I rehearsed the script in my head and issue the opening remark.
“Well, Ypres, now that all this Crown v. Miss X business is settled, what next? Can we sue for pain and suffering?”
“That might be premature. Nevertheless, I would not want to take the place of your legal counsel. An uninformed opinion would be counterproductive.”
“Leave it to the lawyers and what not? I suppose your right, Ypres.” My stomach grumbled, in lady-like fashion, and I checked the time on my Swiss watch. “Before we go chasing the wig and robe set, shall we have some lunch?”
Ypres issued a declaration about not being averse to lunch, so we headed off full-steam ahead. Of course a girl does not like to have lunch alone. As we walked towards Ludgate Hill I went over the mental contact list to see who would prove a suitable luncheon companion. The list was rather short. The elbows on the table set and open mouth chewers were immediately eliminated, no matter how well-connected. I asked Ypres who she thought would prove an agreeable presence.
“Perhaps we could lunch with your Uncle Edward?” It is important to note that Ypres has always been partial to Uncle Edward. I stopped in my tracks, pausing on the sidewalk and nearly knocking some chap’s take away espresso. I brushed off the caffeinated gentleman and turned to Ypres.
“I do not think I want to eat with Uncle Edward at the moment, what with him and Lanky Ella Lanesbury constantly assessing each other’s qualities.”
“I thought Miss Lanesbury’s conundrum had been successfully resolved,” Ypres interjected like a shrimp on a mission.
A monologue was in order. I straightened the spine, stiffened the sinews, and adopted the appropriate pose.
“Uncle Edward and Lanky Ella may no longer grope their way through shopping expeditions on Regent Street, but the thought that one’s uncle is being familiar with one’s friend is not conducive to an agreeable lunch. One may be trying to enjoy a lovely roast beef with a side of courgette, when one raises one’s eyes to see looks exchanged between the two. Worse, footwork may happen beneath the table, inadvertently scuffing one’s newly purchased executive patent leather shoes. Either way, the direct result would be putting one off one’s sorbet. I need not remind you, Ypres, that sorbet is non-negotiable. Ice cream may provide some leeway, but I draw the line at sorbet.”
Ypres stood there unmoved, which is her natural state. I once saw her reading a book on a park bench completely unmoved as a building was detonated for demolition behind her. The only notable disturbance was a gust of wind through her hair as the building came crashing down.
“Shall we dine alone?”
“Yes, Ypres. I believe that would be the appropriate course of action. A roof-top restaurant with a view on Saint-Paul’s should do the trick.” Normally such an offer would elicit enthusiasm. A “bravo”, a “right-ho”, a “jolly good” perhaps. For reasons stated above, I was before the same unperturbed tuna faced efficiency I had been travelling with all day.
Ypres and I reached the restaurant and were promptly seated. A waitress with hair that attempted to reach the upper layers of the stratosphere tended to us. She was more concerned with the structural integrity of her hair than with the task at hand. I asked Ypres to tell me more about that Lord Mansfield fellow she kept going on about at the Old Bailey. I figured that he was perhaps related to Jayne Mansfield of Hollywood fame. Ypres immediately went into graduate lecture mode.
This provided me with adequate background noise as I dug into the chilled tomato and cucumber soup, with its hint of mint. “In which Lord Mansfield ruled, ‘If insurrection or rebellion are to follow our determination, we have not to answer for the consequences, thought we should be the innocent cause. We can only say fiat justicia, ruat coelum’ which is Latin for…” Proceeded to sharpen the cutlery over the fish pie, which happened to be a delightful mélange of lobster, salmon, and cod. “He stated that it was ‘so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law; whatever inconveniences, therefore, may fellow my decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England.’ Somerset was a free man. An important precedent under…” And finished off with an eagerly awaited lemon sorbet. Dabbing the Vasa mouth with a cloth napkin, keeping a satisfied burb from erupting, I motioned the hair-minded waitress for the check. Ypres was issuing the conclusion and tying it all into present day common law (my guess is it is one of those things one has to share) when I handed the waitress my bank card.
I had just asked Ypres for a mint, when the waitress came back with a confused look on her face. Her hair was no longer combatting gravity as it had. She paused and braced herself for a solemn declaration.
“Your card has been denied.”
Chapter III will be published Monday, 26 September 2016, at 12:00 EST 17:00 GMT. Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1080 WordPress followers.