Scene 3 - Isabelle's Tea Party
Chapter: 9 (2nd Draft)
Characters: Isabelle, Agnes, Donald, and Benson
Editing Notes: This scene was hard to cut out- not because it was super significant to the plot (I think reading it now reveals it to be a bit filler-y), but mostly because I had a genuine soft spot for this scene. Isabelle Brigham is a minor character throughout the series, so her lone scenes are very rare and her dynamic with the family is usually seen from Stanley's POV. I had a great time giving her a little bit of space to herself and sharing her world, her friends- but sadly, this longer scene never found a natural spot with the pacing of the final book. There are functional remains of this scene that can be found in Isabelle's later scene with Willow.
As a side note, Donald and Agnes Fowler are Rudolph's younger children by way of marriage with Hattie. A lot of their presence is alluded to in the final draft, but I have written several scenes with them that were causalities of an overcrowded plotline. Perhaps one day, Isabelle Brigham will get to tell her own story too!
“Alright then!” Isabelle clapped her hands, gaining her guests' attention. She stood in her seat, ruffling out her bright yellow dress. “Let us see who decided to join me in today's most glorious garden party!”
“Izzie,” someone whispered through a lisp. “It's not a garden party if we're inside.”
“Agnes, shush.” Isabelle shot a glare over the rabbit-themed porcelain tea set that had been organized over her bedroom table. The plates were marked with gold trim and painted daisy chains, their centers filled with fresh jelly cookies and scones. The little teapot sat warm, dewy over the drawn silhouette of a rabbit’s head. The spout still steamed with its contents.
Sure she wouldn't be interrupted again, Isabelle cleared her throat authoritatively. “Now, where was I? Oh yes!” She clapped hands again. “Now, today we have Mr. Rivins...” She gestured to a large, stuffed toy frog that sat at her side. Stanley's bowler hat hung limp on its head.
“Lady Alice of Lancashire...” She turned to her favored glass doll, with dark auburn curls and fixed blue eyes.
Isabelle sighed then, a sneer on her mouth. “Miss Agnes...”
Agnes Fowler, her correcter, smiled at her introduction, revealing the funny gaps in her baby teeth. She was a small girl with mousy hair and manic curls.
Donald Fowler sat nearer to his sister, all ruffled brown hair and awkward limbs. He flushed as Isabelle looked his way.
“And last but not least, the esteemed Benson!” Isabelle clapped; the other children followed in kind.
Benson kneeled at the table’s edge. He wore his usual dark attire, matched sorely with the bright orange hat that Isabelle had picked from her mother's dresser. He smiled, lifting the tiny teacup in cheers to the hostess.
Isabelle nodded back, and folding her skirts, sat down again.
“So,” she chirped. “Who wants to start the small talk?”
Donald breathed in, opening his mouth to speak. But Agnes ignored them, craning herself over the table and reaching for a plate of jelly cookies. Isabelle acted quick, smacking her hand away.
“Not yet,” she said bluntly.
Agnes pouted. “What for?”
“Because I said so,” Isabelle answered. “Small talk first.”
“But small talk makes a waste of sweets, Izzie.” She settled back into her seat.
“Small talk, Agnes. Not back talk.” Isabelle grabbed a cookie and took a defiant bite from it.
The doorbell suddenly chimed. Everyone looked up, including Benson, who was quick to remove his hat.
“If everyone will excuse me, I am needed in the foyer.” He placed it on the floor to mark his place, bowing as he rose to his feet. He then glanced at Isabelle, furrowing his brow. “Please be gracious to your guests while I'm away, young miss.”
He left with a smile. Isabelle waited until he was properly out of the room before she stuck her tongue out in his direction.
Benson ventured down the steps and through the foyer, straightening his work coat and slicking his gray hair.
Probably the postman. Another election promoter. Or the grocer perhaps- Lord knows that fool is late again. He opened the front door slow, letting his thought give way to warm smile.
And every guess he had made turned out wrong. On the front porch stood a young woman, striking in her pinstriped navy gown. A small envelop sat in her hands. Tendrils of dark hair twisted out from under her hat, framing her face nicely as she returned his greeting smile.
“May I help you, miss?” he asked.
“Yes, actually,” she said quickly. “I fear I must ask; this is the Brigham household, yes?”
“That is correct, miss,” he said with a nod. “Though I am afraid that the master is out for morning service.”
“Oh,” she said, surprise taking her slowly. She recovered with remarkable speed, grinning again. “Well, I’m Cecilia Prenderghast, as you may know…”
Benson nodded, recalling the name well.
“I came on business, actually,” she continued, looking down at the envelop. “Would… Mr. Brigham's son happen to be in though?”
“The young master left several days ago,” he said.
“Left?” Cecilia's eyes widened ever so slightly.
“To Belgium. He will return in a day's time.”
“Hm...” Cecilia looked at the envelop again, questions running along her face. She shook herself of them, returning to her smile.
“You are welcome to wait for Mr. Brigham though, my lady,” Benson interjected. “Miss Isabelle and I are just beginning our Sunday tea party.”
“Oh...” Cecilia blinked, unsure how to respond to the strange question. “Um- no, it's quite alright. I only came to deliver this on my family's behalf.”
Caitlin Jones is an author, film editor, and lover of all things Victorian and fantastic. Please check in for information on her upcoming series.