Dashiell and Fergus were seated on the ship at a small wooden round table in the observation lounge, near giant windows overlooking the sea. The sunlight was gathering itself in small pools at their feet, casting long shadows.
They were having what Fergus would call Afternoon Tea—their table was crowded with a tiered serving tray stand, its polished chrome glistening, a silver teapot, and two cups and saucers depicting climbing roses.
The bottom level of this magnificent tray displayed an array of finger sandwiches: delicate and precise squares of crust-less, with egg salad, watercress, turkey, ham or cheese nestled between them. The middle level contained fluffy scones and clotted cream, with a small pot of strawberry jam. The top tier—easily both boys favorite—contained the cakes: tiny chocolate opera cakes, and miniature fruit tarts.
Fergus washed his small meal down with generous sips of black tea (Earl Grey), as he was accustomed to doing at home. Dashiell took a sip and made a disgusted face, while Fergus explained that Afternoon Tea was meant to both hold you over until dinner, and keep you awake since dinner would not arrive until eight o’clock that evening.
“Eight o’clock!” exclaimed Dashiell. “At home, I’m usually asleep by then. And I get up at six—sometimes earlier.”
“It seems like you start your day much earlier than I do, but I’m getting used to your way.” He smiled at Dashiell and then continued. “At home, I wouldn’t wake until eight o’clock in the morning. Usually, my governess began her lessons at ten. And we ate lunch at one.”
A waiter in white gloves arrived with freshly boiled water for the teapot and checked the tea leaves. When he left Fergus remarked, “So…does this whole staff, ahem,” and here he lowered his voice as to not be overheard, “Are they all in service with your family?”
Dashiell looked confused. “In service? Oh, you mean, do they work for us? No, they work here, on the ship. I don’t even know them.”
“Hmm, that man that just poured the water, he reminds me of old Beck at our house. Our butler, you understand. He’s been with our family since, well, a long time. Ever since I can remember, anyway.”
“You have waiters, at your house? What’s a butler?”
Fergus went on to explain the duties of the household staff he and his family relied upon: the butler, who was in charge of the other service personnel and did often serve Afternoon Tea; the cook, the cook’s assistants, and his mother’s ladies maid. Then there was his father’s valet, Beck, and of course Fergus’s own valet, Gerald, who was actually the Under Butler. He elaborated on how his valet would help him dress, and then change his clothes during the day—sometimes several times—ending with dressing for dinner, then finally for bed. He had different clothes for different activities, like hunting or riding, and ceremonial costumes as well, for important ceremonies, like weddings.
“Me too,” exclaimed Dashiell. “I have several uniforms and costumes. I have a Messi soccer kit, a full kit for the national team of Germany, also one for Argentina. Oh, and Barcelona. And I have a Portland Blazers uniform. When I wear my blue woolen police office costume, people think I am actually a very short police officer for Camas! I have a brass name badge and all the proper symbols. Well, actually they are out of date because the police cannot just give out the current badges because it’s a crime to impersonate a police officer. But still, most normal people don’t know that. I wish I could show it to you!”
Fergus winced slightly as he put his teacup down, and rubbed his arm. Earlier that day he had visited the ship’s infirmary since the doctor had insisted Fergus receive catch-up inoculations for several common diseases. Dashiell had guided him through the process, and told him it would hurt, but not for long. He said now, “Your arm is sore, that’s normal. It might be like that for a day or so.”
“It is quite painful,” admitted Fergus, leaning back to rest.
“I know something that will help,” Dashiell stood and said, “We’ll get you a sling. That will relieve the pressure. My Dad taught me that,” said Dashiell, proud to be of help.
As they left the Observation Lounge, they passed by Mrs. Pierce, who was deep in conversation with a gentleman called Major Cecil Greenfield-Smythe.
Now, Major Cecil Greenfield-Smythe had, for many years, been a humble servant of Her Majesty the Queen (“HMS”), most recently at the Home Office. He was by all accounts a government veteran, having served in uniform in the Falklands crisis and subsequently risen through the ranks at Whitehall. Childless, never married, and slightly balding, he was unremarkable in his appearance, and yet, he looked very animated just now while chatting with Mrs. Peirce, who had found herself seated to his right more than once at dinners. As a result, the two had developed if not quite a rapport, something of a common bond, being two older single people aboard a ship filled with non-singles. What intrigued her about the Major was that he, unlike her, was discovered to be quite conservative in his views, fiscally responsible and thrift-conscious. He was not a likely candidate for what was, let’s face it, an expensive and somewhat indulgent voyage such as this one.
So what, Mrs. Pierce wondered, was he doing on the Friendship traveling up and down the coast of Norway?