She proceeded to do just that, to Finch's tolerant amusement. It was, after all, a compliment, that he should admire someone so good, so beautiful, so witty, so... His eyes wandered past the ducks, the children and their nannies, to the Row, where riders idled by, men ramrod straight, lifting their hats, women pausing and tilting their parasols in response, like ships signalling at sea.
"Who's that?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
The Baroness, not used to being interrupted--it would hardly have softened the blow to tell her he had not been listening that closely in the first place--glared briefly but then followed his frowning nod to a man ridiculously got up in red stockings and voluminous gathered trousers that billowed above the knee, a blue waistcoat with garish gold buttons and a powder-white wig. He had ventured out onto the Row, despite the mud and his no doubt precious shoes, while a fairy-tale coach with rounded corners and miniature spires, its sides cloaked suspiciously in black, its windows shuttered, stood just outside the Park's gate.
"He is an equerry," she said. "Those are the Royal colors."
"I thought as much," Finch answered. They were both watching now, transfixed, as the absurd-looking man accosted one of the ladies taking her turn on the grassy embankment that ran alongside the track. "But what is he doing?"
"I am sure I don't know."
I am sure you do, he answered silently, as he watched the messenger, with that smug unctuousness servants of the truly powerful affect, pantomime that she should follow him back to the coach. She refused at first, that was clear from her posture, but he continued to block her path, immune, it seemed, to even the possibility of rejection. The carriage, third player in this drama, radiated an ominous impatience as the messenger glanced back once while continuing to offer his arm. Finally the lady acquiesced, picking up the hem of her dress and making her own way over the muddy track while he, miffed at her refusing his aid, walked on ahead, chin held high, proud as if he were allowed all the prerogatives of his master.
"Members of the Immediate Family," the Baroness informed Finch in a low voice, "are forbidden by charter from entering the Park."
"Ah", he said, as the woman stood humbly, head down, before the carriage door. It opened a crack and she was lifted high by a muscular, black-sleeved arm. In another moment the drama was over, except for the lingering rumble of the superb team.
Both Finch and the Baroness chose not to discuss the matter further, or indeed acknowledge what they had seen, just as guests at a dinner party, glimpsing a speck of rottenness at the center of the meal, smile politely and go on eating, even at the risk of becoming ill themselves.