Clive glanced at James and said, “What is the problem, old man, you appear vexed by something?”
James wandered over to Clive and a look of anguish fell across his face; when he as close enough to talk but out of earshot of the ladies, he replied, “We have something to tell the group and I don’t know what to say or how to say it.”
Clive took him aside and commented, “I always find the best way to handle delicate matters is to come right out with, that way people can understand where you stand on the matter.”
James patted his friend on the shoulder and replied, “Forever the diplomat, it’s easy to understand why you went into politics, Clive.”
Clive laughed and replied, “Either this or the cavalry and you have seen my riding expertise.”
James glanced over Clive’s shoulder at the dance floor and replied, “Yes, that was something of a farce.”
Intrigued by the way his friend remained watching the dancers, Clive turned to view the scene, “Are you waiting for somebody to arrive? You appear to be observing the group closely, old man.”
James turned and as he did, Clive saw the tear form in the corner of his eye, “What’s wrong?” Clive asked gingerly.
“I was setting the scene in my mind and noting how pretty the ladies are tonight and how regal the men are in our uniforms; for the time ahead and the idea we may not be together again as a group,” James replied.
Clive put his drink down and sat at the table as he said, “I’m not sure what you mean, old boy, of course we shall be here next year.”
James walked across to the table and sat beside his friend, “You think we invited you here to savour the evening and here the news of our engagement, didn’t you.”
Clive took a moment to get his senses back before he replied, “To be honest, yes, what other reason could there be?”
James gripped the table and said, “Sadly, we have bad news to tell you too, but for now we can let the ladies enjoy this evening in all its beauty, for soon I fear memories are all which will remain with us of tonight.”
This news shook Clive, James had always been a cheery, optimistic type and Clive was at a loss as to what caused this change in his friend, the pair rose and walked to the window over-looking the lawns, with its beautiful expanse of greenery edged with beds of Marigolds it looked a dream.
In the far corner Carolann held court with her friends, he was sure she had not mentioned their news as the ladies were giggling and laughing, and she trusted James with breaking the bad news after she told their guests the happier news.
David appeared to be wandering aimlessly among the friends, but his keen eye picked up on the fact that James and Carolann were not together on what should be their happiest night. This was not only because Clive and James had moved to the window to view the lawn. The couple at the centre of the evening kept their distance, a fact the others had noticed but not mentioned in conversation. He had seen the way James kept glancing at Carolann and the slight shake of her head in reply to his glance, obviously they had planned to do something and she needed to prepare herself for the start of the proceedings.
James was nervous and kept glancing across to Carolann, waiting for her signal, “A gentleman allows a lady to speak first when her news is full of happiness,” he thought, “even if the wait is becoming too much.”
Finally, Carolann decided the time had come to break the silence and she took her pardon from Angela and Geraldine before making her way to the centre of the floor; as she stood there alone she took a final sip of her drink and started to tell her news, “My dear friends, I am sure you have some idea why we invited you here tonight; the news is James asked for my hand in marriage and I accepted, we were planning on going out to the country house later in the month for a big party on the lawn.”
David noted what had been said, but waited to see if anybody else had truly listened, for now he stayed silent in the background. To him, it appeared the news of the engagement had taken over the meaning of the evening or the others knew more was to come but decided to enjoy their time together and let the later news arrive when James told them.
The room burst into cheers and laughs as the group hugged Carolann and shook hands with James, but James appeared lost in his own world.