“Oh Gaspard”, she said smiling coyly, “how good it is to see you once again.”
“Votre majesté”, he murmured as he kissed the outstreched lace glove.
She turned to her entourage. “I trust you are all familiar with Gaspard de Gromard, French agent provocateur.”
“Quelle menteuse”, replied he, a smile curling the corners of his lips.
“I can’t say that I’ve had the pleasure to make your acquaintance”, said one of the ladies stepping forward. “I am Jessica, 13th Baroness of Arlington, but you can call me Jess.” Another kiss upon another impeccibly adorned hand.
“Oh you French men, always so gallant and infuratingly handsome. So if you are not a trouble-stirrer, what is your past-time?”
“Je suis homme politique.”
“Oh goodness, it’s even worse!”
“Gaspard is a rising star in France”, interjected Victoria, “I believe he’s recently been elected to the European Parliment, isn’t that so?”
“En effet, depuis hier.”
“How terribly exciting. That’s quite a dashing tie you have on.”
“Quand à vous, votre robe est simplement magnifique.”
“Oh, do you like it?” She hefted the heavy fabric of her skirt and waved it jovily. “A Japanese artisan made it for me as a gift during a recent state visit. Rather generous, wouldn’t you say?”
The party was moving out onto the lawn for croquet, and as Victoria swept past Gaspard turned and imperceptibly whispered “Il faut que je te parle.”
Without missing a stide she opened a Spanish fan and headed outdoors. As she walked down the steps Jessica took her side and impatiently asked “What did he say to you?”
“What ever are you talking about?”
“Monsieur de Gromard, I’m so French, I’m so rich, I can have any woman I please, what did he say to you?”
“Oh, that. Nothing. Nothing worthy of repeating.” She cast her gaze upon the brightly dressed players, with their pin stripe suits and flowing ribbons gaily striking their mallets, and a cold wind swept through her eyes.