We left off after Rose had fainted and while she was recovering, Evelyn had sat under a tree and had a strange conversation with George Cavendish, who was aloof and quite indifferent to Evelyn.
“Well, I felt dizzy at first, then stars began to play before my eyes, then everything went black and the next thing I know, I am outside being fanned by a dozen hysterical ladies.” Rose drawled, as she and Evelyn sat in the Drawing Room sipping iced water. Extra lemon had been added to Rose’s glass in an attempt to revive her spirit.
“At least we were excused from the speech.” Evelyn said, her mind occupied and Rose made a noise in agreement.
The house was quiet, with everyone back in the tent, and all of the servants either in the gardens preparing the sandwiches and cakes, or in the kitchen.
“Urgh, I am bored now. I feel better again. Eve, darling, why don’t we take a walk to the fountains. If we feel really wicked we can shed our stockings and paddle in them.” Rose suggested, giggling behind her hand.
“All right then. Let me fetch my book and I’ll be right back.”
For all Rose’s plans, it was Evelyn who had to coax her friend to dip her foot into the fountain, as she sat on the rim of the basin and let her hand run through the water.
“Honestly, it’s wonderfully refreshing once you’re in.” Evelyn said persuasively, and then flicked water at Rose, who squealed and called her a beast. Undeterred, Evelyn once more sprayed her giggling companion with water, and got splashed in return.
“You had it coming, you horrible thing. This is my best frock.” Rose laughed, but hopped into the fountain and hitched her skirt higher, so it was halfway up her thighs. Evelyn tried to suppress her laugh as she cupped a handful of water and threw it at Rose, who shrieked loudly.
“Shush! Be quiet Rose, or someone will come and look what all this noise is about. You’re supposed to be a resting invalid.” Evelyn said.
Rose pressed her hand to her forehead and dramatically sighed.
“But I am an invalid, Eve. Look, see how weak I am from the heat.” She moaned cheekily, and kicked a good amount of water onto Evelyn, who gasped as her dress was soaked.
“Oops!” Rose said without a hint of remorse, and soon both girls were splashing in the water, which was calf-deep, with their dresses pulled up to their thighs and revealing more skin than was proper.
A man clearing his voice stopped both girls dead in their tracks. They exchanged a horrified glance, and slowly turned, with Rose forgetting to drop her skirt fully.
George Cavendish stood, leaning nonchalantly again the hedge with his arms crossed and his face full of amusement.
“I decided to see what was at the centre of the garden, and two voices led me to a remarkable scene.” He said.
Evelyn jumped out of the basin and rushed to gather up her shawl to wrap it around her in an attempt to regain some of her modesty. George was quicker and snatched the length of silk from the bench next to him and held it high out of Evelyn’s reach. Rose, who had been fixated in the fountain like a human statue, was prompted to spring to life and ran to her friend’s help.
“How dare you? Give it back immediately!” Rose said haughtily, and stamped one of her feet, provoking a good deal of laughter from George, who was walking backwards around the fountain, brandishing the shawl like a trophy above his head.
Evelyn felt Rose’s hand grip her arm tightly, to prevent her from following him.
“Don’t. Let’s at least preserve some of our dignity around a stranger.” She muttered fiercely.
“Preserve some of your dignity?” George guffawed. “My dear, I saw you half soak each other, dancing in a fountain, with a goodly amount of prohibited flesh on display for me to gaze upon. I would say your dignity is very much in tatters.”
Both girls turned a shade of crimson red, but George continued.
“Besides, I am not a stranger. Miss Mayfair and I are already happily acquainted.”
Rose turned to Evelyn: “You know him?”
“Not willingly, that’s for sure.” Evelyn retorted, glaring at George, who had lowered her shawl now and looked smugly upon the pair of them.
“I don’t know who you think you are, Mr Cavendish, but you behave like no gentleman I have ever had the fortune to meet. Indeed, it was my greatest misfortune to ever lay eyes on you!” Evelyn snapped, and he smiled infuriatingly.
“I am safe in the knowledge that you are like no other ladies I have ever met. For one, they do not lay on a private show for me.”
Rose gasped. “What an insolent, rude creature you are! Come Evelyn, we’ll have no more to do with this sorry excuse for a man.”
Grabbing Evelyn’s arm once more, with a grip of iron, Rose marched off with Evelyn protesting behind her.
“But Rose, our shoes and stockings are still there. And my book. And he still has my shawl!”
Rose replied that they could not appear weak, and would not ask favours of that man and besides, the items would still be there later to collect.