Midsummer Madness

Midsummer Madness by Stella Whitelaw Read Free Book Online

Book: Midsummer Madness by Stella Whitelaw Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stella Whitelaw
for them, a power point and no one will trip over cables and fuse the entire theatre.’
    ‘I’ll leave it to you.’
    I was worried, in a red mist of panic. But food was arriving from the various shops and stores and it began to look good. I’d borrowed some huge platters from props and garlanded them with foliage stolen from a local church yard. I laid out the quinces and strawberries.
    The cheese and garlic was chopped up in a big bowl for scooping up with bread. They used bread before they had plates but I wasn’tproviding a stew. There were heaps of short hen’s legs and sliced mutton. More bread for scooping. Fresh mustard mixed in medieval pots. Millie, Elinor’s dresser, helped mix the mustard till her eyes streamed. They were pretty brown eyes.
    Joe was strolling around, hands behind his back, peering at the food like a health inspector.
    ‘And what’s this?’ he asked, stopping in front of three long golden crusted rolls. ‘Are they baguettes?’
    ‘Beef in pastry,’ I said. ‘They loved beef in those days and they adored pastry. So I got a butcher to cook up a batch. It’s around on menus now, but not many people know how old this recipe is. Needs slicing. Eat with your fingers.’
    ‘Quinces?’ He helped himself to a strawberry.
    ‘They ate quinces.’
    ‘So, but do we?’
    ‘Does it matter? Does party food have to be boring? Be thankful I didn’t roast a wild boar.’
    Kickshaws I had decided were sweets, or sweetmeats, exotic delicacies said the dictionary, so I had bought a huge selection of small one-bite cakes and Belgian chocolates from M&S. A chocolate fountain was on its way for dipping. The Press would be staggering home, stomachs overloaded, searching for adjectives and the Rennies.
    ‘Ah, sausages,’ Joe said with male satisfaction.
    ‘Venison sausages,’ I said. ‘I had them specially made. Very expensive and taste good. No limit to cost, you said.’
    Joe Harrison stopped and looked at me. A humorous smile showed for two seconds. Or maybe I perceived it subconsciously. ‘You really have been to a lot of trouble, Sophie. Thank you. It’s going to be splendid. Different, but splendid.’
    I shrivelled back into my shell. He hadn’t told me to go home and be back by six. Perhaps I wasn’t invited. Bill Naughton was still around, putting up banners and flags from the court of Orsino.
    ‘Are you now the current favourite?’ he asked, dragging over a set of heraldic emblems. He sounded peeved. Perhaps he was tired, or jealous.
    ‘I doubt it,’ I said. ‘He’ll have forgotten my name by the end ofthe reception. I shall be hey-you, whats-yer-name, Madam Prompt again.’
    ‘Where’s the sandwiches and sausage rolls?’
    ‘There aren’t any. It’s all genuine Shakespearean food.’ What else did I have to do? My list was lost somewhere between here and Illyria.
    ‘Didn’t know food would keep that long.’
    It was past five before I crept into the wings to make myself some tea. The strolling players had arrived clad in outrageous outfits in bright yellows and orange, but they were happy enough setting up their gear. It might be medieval but it was going to be amplified.
    I sank down on to a stool not knowing if I was going to stay. Once it started I would be way back on the fringe, checking invites on the door, then dissolving into the night traffic and forgotten. I would go home. They’d all be having a good time (the elderberry was potent, I’d tasted it) and showing the Press that this was one helluva good show. Some of the striking costumes were on display. They would love the elaborate popinjay costume designed for Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the conceited and imbecilic friend of Sir Toby.
    ‘Sophie,’ it was Joe, again. He sounded urgent. ‘Why aren’t you ready? It’s going to start very soon.’
    ‘What do you mean? It is ready.’
    He looked at me in disbelief. I was wearing black trainer bottoms and a shrunken Skittles Are Tops grey sweat shirt. My hair was

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