Walter's Favorite People
Standing in the large garden behind Edward Gorman's home, Walter Bennet tried with difficulty to control his facial expressions. As he scanned the partygoers, he could feel his lip curling in contempt. And based on some of their expressions, they were quite aware of his disapproval. He wanted to spit and shout when they looked back at him with their own measure of displeasure but that wouldn't do, not for a Lord. So he continued warring with himself in spite of himself.
When he was a boy, in his teens, social affairs were something different. The parties that young Walter Bennet were invited to had a better class of people. Once, he'd even attended a country party given in honor of Prince Albert, The Prince Consort, before he passed away in 1861.
But now the world was changing, and not for the better. Only a few days before, Walter found himself in the uncomfortable position of negotiating for property with Clement Morgan, a new money American who married into a formerly wealthy London family in decline. Morgan, obviously taking advantage of his wife's fine British family, was demanding a truly disgraceful, king's ransom for a few warehouses near The Tower.
Walter looked across the garden at Clement as he stood chatting with a group of young men that were clearly in awe of the American. I have a mind to speak with Mister Morgan's father-in-law. I wonder how he would feel knowing that this American pirate is sullying his good name by asking for such an exorbitant price!
These thoughts satisfied Walter for the moment so he let Clement Morgan slip from his mind for now and continued his examination of the other guests. It was already dark and the air was chilling. Lanterns were strung over the entire table area leading up to the main house. Walter found this both a tasteless display of wealth and a welcome tool for inspecting the rest of the party.
The party's host, Edward Gorman, had begun pulling names for the scavenger hunt and was reading the names for the Dragon Team. He always used such silly, fanciful names for the teams.
What an annoying man. Lord Bennet thought to himself. Mister Gorman is no nobleman himself. He may not be new money but he has a great deal more in common with those people than he does the true aristocracy. And such a shyster!
Yesterday Walter had been forced to deny several offers from Mister Gorman on some of his own property near Hyde Park. Edward Gorman was adamant that Lord Bennet was asking nearly a third more than the property was worth.
It should be criminal to accuse an honest Lord of England of such depravity. And honestly, just because he is tall and thin doesn't make him my equal!
Edward Gorman was tall, thin, and handsome and his hair was a perfectly dignified black and grey. On top of that, he was charismatic and popular with both the aristocracy and common folk. His scavenger hunt was also one of the most talked about events of the year.
"That is all for the Dragon Team!" Edward Gorman announced to the party with his ever cheerful smile. "Now for the Unicorn Team!"
Walter's lips pursed and his eyes squinted in utter disgust.
I hate that man.
"And the first member of the Unicorn Team is..." Edward shouted as he plunged his arm into the large, crystal vase that held the names of the Gorman Hunt participants.
Walter's eyes fell upon a familiar figure in the crowd. The young woman was holding her glass up in front of her face but Walter knew who she was, even if he didn't understand how and why she was here. He also knew that she had seen him too, that's why she was hiding. Victoria Beaty's eyes darted to Lord Bennet several times then quickly darted away having noticed his disapproving gaze.
Walter tapped his wife's arm then pointed at Miss Beaty. "Look, Emily. Your maid has been elevated."
Lord Bennet also privately noted Victoria's lovely shape. Her yellow hair, short stature, and healthy physique was hard not to notice. Several times at home, Victoria had discovered his lingering stare before Walter even realized he was staring. It made Walter hate her even more knowing that he found it difficult to control his thoughts when she was near.
"Yes I know, dear. Please don't let it bother you tonight." Answered Lady Bennet.
Walter sighed in frustrated discomfort but his attentions were immediately pulled from his disdain of Miss Beaty.
"Lord Walter Bennet! Lord Bennet is the first member of the Unicorn Team!"
Polite applause followed the team assignment and Walter quickly tried to disguise his disgust with a vague smile and a wave of his hand.
"The Lady Emily Bennet will join her husband on the Unicorn Team by default." Added Edward Gorman.
Emily curtsied slightly and said, "Thank you, Mister Gorman. You are too kind." Walter added his own feigned smile and a nod to his wife's gratitude.
Mister Gorman plunged his arm back in to the vase for the next name and quickly pulled out a new scrap of paper.
"Mister Clement Morgan is the next member of the Unicorn Team!"
Lord Bennet cringed and Mister Morgan received applause that was noticeably more than polite.
I should have stayed home.
"The next member of the Unicorn Team is... Elizabeth Chase!" After the applause for young Elizabeth died away, Mister Gorman added, "And Miss Chase has asked to be partnered with her friend Miss Victoria Beaty. So, Miss Beaty, you will join the Unicorn Team by default."
Victoria was clearly disappointed and her friend was patting her on the back, comforting her. Lord Bennet sneered at this one shiny spot of the evening.
Several other names were called for the Unicorn Team but they didn't concern Walter. He was grouped with a man whose company he did not enjoy but there was also the young Miss Beaty, and he did enjoy making her miserable. So the night could be a disaster or there could be a little joy after all.
Let the hunt begin.
Scrap Author: Ty Rucker
Added by Ty Rucker for Jack the Ripper