The girls and Marie sat in the Mallum’s front room. Patience was staring out of the window, Joy was reading a religious tract, Constance a novel and Prudence was sketching. Marie was busy with crochet.
“And … Fussy”
“It must be very exciting living in London,” said Patience to Marie. Marie smiled.
“It is an interesting city,” she said. “I like living there. I’m sure you’ll get to visit some day.”
“Oh, I’d love to go,” said Prudence. “All those art galleries.”
“All those museums!” said Constance and the youngest two sighed in unison.
“Mr Bosch is quite an interesting man,” said Patience, absently. “Are there a lot of people like him in London?”
“I think he is one of a kind,” said Marie.
“He seems very principled,” said Joy, “telling us he was a vegetarian and eating so little at dinner.”
“It’s strange how he sleeps all day,” said Prudence. “I think he must have an artistic temperament.”
“But he’s an inventor, a scientist,” said Constance. “Remember, he told us about his inventions at dinner.”
“He’s so unlike the local boys,” said Patience to Marie. “They are so, tanned, muscular and uncomplicated. Mr Bosch is so pale and thin and … fussy.”
There was an audible sigh from all the girls.
“And now he risks his life for us, walking on the moor at night,” said Patience, looking out the window.
“With Sir Jennings, of course,” she added.
“Does Mr Bosch have a lady friend,” asked Joy. “A … special lady friend.”
Marie made a strange noise and started coughing. She reached for some water and drank.
“Excuse me,” she said, “perhaps the air is a little dry. I don’t believe Mr Bosch has a … special friend.”
All four girls made a contented sound and went back to their diversions.
“Oh, no!” said Patience as the sound of a horse came from outside. There was a knock at the door and some sound of conversation. The butler opened the door.
“Lord du Bois,” he announced. The girls all stood and Marie did automatically, despite herself.
“Good evening, ladies,” said du Bois. “Please be seated, I shall tarry you but a short while.”
“Good evening, Lord du Bois,” the girls said in a half hearted manner as they sat down.
“Good evening,” said Marie.
“Mrs Jennings!” said du Bois heartily, “A pleasure to see you again and hear your delightful accent. How are we all this fine evening?”
“Very well, sir,” said Prudence, “and you, sir?”
“Splendid!” said du Bois, by way of response to both comments. There was a short silence in the room.
“Well,” said du Bois, “I must go and speak to your father. Take care, ladies.”
He left the room and the girls all sighed. Patience muttered something under her breath.
“He seems a pleasant man,” said Marie. Joy looked appalled from behind her pamphlet.
“He’s not the sort of man I like at all,” said Patience. “He’s so … loud and garrulous. And so certain of himself and his place in the world.”
“Not like Mr Bosch,” said Marie slyly and there was a murmur of consent in the room.