The invitation had arrived, typed on beautiful gilded card, in Scarlot's mailbox the week before. She'd not lived in the village long, but even a few months of village gossip had been enough to tell her that invitations to dinner at 'The Grange' were pretty much unheard of. Everyone went to the annual garden party of course (and did their level best to peer in through the downstairs windows if they could) but dinner invitations seemed reserved for the wealthy and the famous - none of whom lived in the village, naturally.
So Scarlot was too embarrassed to tell any of her new neighbours. What had she done to deserve being chosen above everyone? And she was fantastically nervous about it; really, she'd have preferred not to go at all - she had no idea what she was going to talk about to the gorgeously coiffed lady in furs she saw driving through the village in her Rolls Royce. And even less idea as to how to strike up conversation with the imposing looking gentleman she'd only ever caught sight of once (in the village shop of all places, making poor Mr Adler search nervously through the stockroom in order to be quite quite sure that he didn't have any candles in stock).
But off Scarlot went, at the appointed hour. She rang the doorbell (which echoed dreadfully, making her feel awfully rude and brash) and was shown into a vast dining room by the monosyllabic butler.
And it was only then that Scarlot realised that her invitation had not been, precisely, to eat dinner with the assembled throng. Suddenly grabbed from behind by the butler, and divested of her carefully chosen dress by her host himself, she soon realised that in a manner of speaking, she was dinner. She was tightly bound by the lady she'd glimpsed through the Rolls Royce window, who was every bit as stylish closeup, but a great deal crueller looking. And then, to the vast amusement of the other guests, she was picked up and placed on the dining table itself, to act as a conversation piece. And through her shame and confusion, Scarlot's thoughts kept returning to what on earth would happen after dinner?
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