The last chain of flowers was finished as the sun sank out of sight behind the garden wall. Bicky and, at his brother’s insistence, Dotty joined the girls and Felix to help hang the garlands up around the bower frame. Evelyn, who had been working swiftly to finish before sunset, put down the knife he’d been using to trim the flower-stems, washed the green stains from his hands in the water from one of the tubs, and hastily left. Phillip went over to Kell and the two began to talk quietly.
Freddie lay back on the grass and stared at the sky overhead as twilight settled in. The color had waned from bright, cloudless blue to a dusky lavender and was beginning to deepen. It was a beautiful evening, still, clear, and quiet. He could hear Kell and Phillip whispering together, and the smell of Kell’s cigarette in the cooling air made him wish he had one of his own.
There was some animated discussion at the bower, then Felix, Piggy, and Perdita came to stand over him.
“The girls,” announced Felix with a grin, “have a proposal.”
“A dance!” cried Perdita. “There’ll be lots of dancing tomorrow. We need to practice.”
“We need boys. We can’t all dance with Felix,” Alma said with her customary giggle, but she managed to claim Felix for her partner just the same.
“Come on, Freddie!” said Piggy, reaching down to take him by the hand and pull him up. “What could be more appropriate in the fox-grove than a spot of fox-trotting? Will that poor leg of yours be able to bear it?”
“If I don’t jump about too much.” He placed one hand on Piggy’s waist and they tried a few tentative dance steps. The other couples who had paired off also began to practice, humming to provide their own music. “This is like a German picture Kell and I saw in London–there’s a wedding party and a fox-trot breaks out among the guests.”
“A German picture?” Piggy wrinkled her nose. “Aren’t they all moody and strange with vampires and sleepwalkers?”
“Not all of them, dear Pig. This was a romantic comedy about an American heiress who marries a fortune-hunting prince. Kell enjoyed it, and he hates gloomy films.”
“We ought to have music,” said Alma. “Could we hear Father’s wireless if we put it out on the terrace and turned the sound up all the way?”
“They wouldn’t like that at the house. It’d be far too loud,” said her sister Isolde. “Besides, Father’s in his study working on one of his carvings. He won’t like to be interrupted. You know how he is when he’s got something on his mind, and he’s been positively brooding as Ev’s wedding day gets closer.”
“He doesn’t object, does he?” Kell asked her. “He likes Mellie?”
“No, he’s fond of Mellie. When Ev brought her to the Vixen, he welcomed her just as if she were his daughter-in-law already. Only…” Isolde frowned, puzzled. “Something about it’s worrying him.”
“Kell, Phillip, come and join us!” Perdita called out to the pair at the archway. “Phil, where’s your banjo? Did you bring it home with you?”
“I never took it to the ‘varsity. It’s somewhere in my room,” her brother answered. “It’s been so long since I’ve played it, I’m sure I’ve forgotten how. I’ll sit your dance out, just the same.”
“Oh, no, you won’t,” said Kell and pulled Phillip toward the lawn.
“Kellynch Marsh, that’s not very gentlemanly of you!” Perdita protested. “We ought to be in proper pairs. If Evvy were still here…”
“Ev isn’t here?” Amelia approached the group. “I thought he was with you.”
“He left a few minutes ago,” said Felix. “We thought he was going to find you. You’ve finished the work on your dress?”
“Yes, at last!” She looked up at the garland-covered bower. “What a wonderful job you’ve done. Thank you, all of you. If Evvy was going into the Vixen as I came out, we missed each other. He’ll be out again in a minute or two. If you need a partner, Perdy, I’ll stand in.” She offered a hand, and the other girl took it. They too began to dance.
Sir Percival emerged through a pair of french windows onto the Vixen terrace and stood watching the young people. When he realized that Phillip and Kell were paired, he looked surprised but said nothing. It was only when Phillip noticed that his father was there that he stepped quickly away from Kell.
“Father,” Piggy cried out. “We want to have a dance. May we please bring out the gramophone?”
“Yes of course, my dear, if you remember to take it back inside when you’re done,” Sir Percival answered his daughter, though his eyes were still on his son, who was headed toward the cover of the shrubbery. “Phillip,” he called after him, when a sudden, shrill, horrified cry cut across the still evening. It came from the meadow beyond the garden.
The next few minutes were a riot of confusion. Everyone went in the direction of the scream. The meadow was full of people searching the tall grass in the fading light for a fallen or injured person, voices babbling, running together, as they all asked questions at once: “Who was it?” “What’s happened?” “Has someone been hurt?” “Was it Evvy?”
Felix shouted, “Over here!” and ran toward a clump of trees–the same grove where Freddie had stumbled upon Evelyn and his friend Toby the day before.
Evelyn knelt beside Toby, who lay in the crushed grass. His hand was on Toby’s chest; when he lifted it, the fingers were smeared with blood. The front of Toby’s white shirt was dark with it. Evelyn looked up, dazed to find so many people around him.
Reginald, who was already at his brother’s side, took his arm and tugged to urge him up. “Come away, Evvy!”
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