The girandole on the table, decorated with chasing nymphs, was a positive fire hazard and I could not guess the number of candles it held. And the light from the girandole and the light from the chandeliers reflected manifold off the plate and cutlery on the table and the shining parquetry floor beneath.
girandole: an ornamental branched candlestick or lighting device often composed of several lights
Mr Worcester rose and reached for a serving dish. ‘Excuse me Aunt Hermione, is this not Gaston’s Mignonette de poulet petit Duc?’ he asked.
reached for a serving dish: Regency dinners were Service à la française, meaning all the dishes of a meal were served at the same moment
For a second a smile flickered on her lips but then melted away. ‘I did nothing of the sort. I asked my chef de cuisine to prepare his signature dish, and I might remind you that you are my only nephew.’
chef de cuisine: despite being at war with France, the British were enamored of French fashion, and few things were more fashionable than a French chef
Mr Worcester endured his aunt’s frosty stare and then returned his attention to the fowl, attacking it with a trencherman’s appetite.
trencherman: a person with a hearty appetite, from the word trencher, a square plate or tray on which food was served
‘I also wager that a fashionable man such as yourself is familiar with the waltz.’
familiar with the waltz: the continental fashion took quite some to take hold in England, and it was not until the Regency that the waltz became accepted.
‘I understand from my brother that you are fond of whist, Mrs Walthorpe.’ And from there she discovered that Mrs Walthorpe and Mrs Stilton were often partners and also discovered that Mr Worcester’s appreciation of the game was mild at best, he being more fond of vingt-et-un.
whist: a classic English trick-taking card game which was played widely in the 18th and 19th centuries. It requires four people playing as partners. I am told it has similarities to bridge.
vingt-et-un: the card game blackjack or twenty-one
‘Even with her obligatory regard for her sister’s son, my aunt has always regarded me as a blot on the family escutcheon.’
escutcheon: a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms
‘Well, if you know everything, then you know I just … I really want to marry Clarence. He’s just too afraid of Mrs Walthorpe to ask her for the living she holds and on the few occasions they have met, he has failed to impress her.’
ask her for the living: landowners could grant a vicar the proceeds from land (rents, cattle, timber, etc.) in exchange for providing pastoral care
‘You may continue with your stratagem of screwing Mr Potterthwaite’s courage to the sticking point.’
Charlotte is slightly misquoting Shakespeare, from Macbeth, Act I, Scene 7:
LADY MACBETH: We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we’ll not fail.