Jolly Mrs. Benbow, arms a-jiggle as she lifts the cup to her lips, tilting the saucer to show the maker’s mark SPODE on its bottom. Her great-grandmother’s cup, she will invariably remind anyone in earshot.

To her left is Mrs. Wright, the eldest and most severe. Her only vice is the single slice of lemon she allows to profane her tea, perhaps the only nourishment of her day. I believe she dines mostly on spite.

Mrs. Teal and Mrs. Dogwood round out the party, born minutes apart, alike as two peas. Their late husbands could not have been more different.


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