A - adjective
Where Ragwort was considered 'divine', Cantrip was merely 'dear' - the distinction might have rankled more had it come with any true difference in treatment, but other than an earnest desire to view Ragwort's profile and wax upon it lyrically, Julia displayed not the least inclination to favor one of them over the other.
B - book
"It's either get rich or cut the scene between Carruthers and Ravel, I'm afraid," said Cantrip, putting down the letter that had been delivered on his desk.
Julia stared down at it in distaste. "People nowadays no longer appreciate art for art's sake. Honestly, Cantrip, do you know how I agonized over that scene? What blood, sweat and tears I poured into producing such a perfect portrait of the virtuous, beautiful Ravel at last breaking under the strain of his continuous denial of the deep, ardent passion for the untouchable Miss Mainwaring?"
"It's a tough call," Cantrip agreed.
"Well," Julia said. "I suppose Miss Mainwaring might suffer from a moment of weakness instead."
C - city
"My dear Ragwort, of course I am sure I haven't left London. I may not know which precise street I'm on, but that is hardly cause for considering me lost. I know where I am quite well, and I'll thank you for not acting as if I wouldn't. However, it's very kind of you to be so concerned for my safety."
D - drunk
"A kiss," Cantrip said firmly.
"Unfair," Julia complained. "Honestly, Cantrip, you are being very unkind." She bent over to Ragwort, whose face was flushed in a way that made it more than plain he was quite incapable of refusing Julia (or anyone else, for that matter) anything whatsoever, provided they would not ask him to do some such thing as walk in a straight line.
That a good half minute went by without Ragwort so much as lifting a finger in protest served as perfect proof that he was, indeed, quite out of it, Cantrip decided. "Leave off already, Larwood. Don't want the poor chap to suffocate, do you?"
"Oh, really." Julia's expression was considerably miffed.
"I'm taking him home now," Cantrip said firmly.
Just to be safe, it might be best to sleep over. Julia knew where Ragwort lived, after all, and she could be rather impulsive. Cantrip would be a poor friend to leave Ragwort's virtue so wholly undefended.
Also, he rather looked forward to greeting Ragwort when he woke up tomorrow. Sweet revenge, and all that - to say nothing of the kiss he planned on claiming for himself, in payment for defenses rendered.
E - evening
Praxiteles might have wept to witness the sight of Ragwort's profile, gentle lit from behind by the setting sun, Julia thought.
All things considered, of course, it might be just as well he hadn't - a genuine Praxiteles was frightfully expensive and made of unmovable stone besides, whereas Ragwort, it appeared, might yet be moved.
F - friendship
"Now listen," said Cantrip, "I think you need to look at this whole thing a bit differently. I mean, if you were really so keen on keeping virtuous and pure and all that rot, don't you reckon that maybe a bit of sympathy wouldn't go amiss either? Instead of only thinking about what it is that you want yourself, maybe you should consider the feelings of other people, too. That's what a true friend ought to do, isn't it? I know it doesn't show, but I happen to know Julia's awfully torn up about that last time you turned her down."
"As evidenced by what she set out to do straight after," Ragwort said dryly. "Honestly, Cantrip - "
"What - so your counter argument is that it's better when it's some chap who's a perfect stranger to us all and who might plan to murder her in her sleep for all that we know, just so long as it isn't you? Selfish, is what I'd call that, and not like you at all."
G - gentleman
Two chaps on one bird didn't work as well as it might have, Cantrip realized; it generally meant that Ragwort would watch first and go second, and while he didn't seem to mind, it was starting to make Cantrip feel like a bit of a cad, to always be the first one out of the gate, so to speak.
One chap and one bird on another chap would work much better, he reckoned. Ragwort might need a bit of talking into something like that, but with Julia in support, Cantrip had every hope his plan might carry the day.
H - hands
- and truly lovely hands, Julia wrote. I was quite overcome.
"Between the two of us, whose hands do you reckon she likes better?" Cantrip asked.
"The one whose hands she has looked at least," Ragwort said, his expression disapproving.
I - icon
Cantrip reckoned he was the kind of chap birds would fancy spending a fun evening with - followed by a fun night and a pleasant enough morning after, whereupon they would part ways with fond memories on both sides.
Ragwort, on the other hand, was the kind of chap birds would quite lose their heads about. Drama, that was what you got with chaps like Ragwort - even when he was generally smart enough to be as discouraging as possible.
Good thing he now had Cantrip to draw some of that unwanted attention away from him.
J - jar
"It really is quite simple," Julia said. "The tin marked 'salt' contains sugar, the tin marked 'sugar' contains salt, the tin marked 'cookies' contains tea, and the tin marked 'tea' contains - "
"Cookies?" Cantrip hazarded.
Julia shook her head. "No, it contains tea."
"That is really not very logical at all, Julia," said Ragwort.
"Oh, really," said Julia. "To blame me for your poor memory - I call that quite unfair indeed."
K - knees
Cantrip decided the desks at the office were really frightfully uncomfortable when you were hiding under them, especially when someone else was sitting behind the desk you were hiding under, pretending to be working and entirely unaware of your presence.
Revenge, he decided, would be sweet, even if it would hopefully not be too swift.
L - love
To love is divine, Julia wrote. To lust, however, is human, and I hope, dear Ragwort, that you would not expect me to act as if I were not human.
"Quite right," said Cantrip. "Did I tell you about this bird I met the other night?"
"Exhaustively," Ragwort said. "Please don't do it again."
M - masculinity
"Takes a real man, what?" Uncle Hereward declared while slapping Cantrip on the back in a way that made Ragwort wince in sympathy ever so slightly. "Don't you worry, Mike; your secret's safe with me."
Ragwort leaned over to discretely converse with Julia. "Why do I get the feeling our 'secret' will be all over London by the end of the evening?"
"Oh, I think that already happened last week," Julia said. "Old news. Almost as if they posted a story about it in the Scuttle. Or a picture. I'm sure I don't know."
"What picture?" asked Ragwort.
N - news
"Well, really," said Ragwort. "I must say I think this joke is in rather poor taste."
"Joke?" Julia asked. "My dear Ragwort, whatever gave you the impression I was joking?"
"Now, wait just one second, Larwood, old thing," Cantrip said, slowly rising from his seat at the breakfast table. "A joke is all jolly well, but surely you're not seriously telling us you're - well."
"I am." Julia sat down. Ragwort stared at her in some astonishment. "Unless I've forgotten to correctly mark my calendar again, of course, which I admit is possible."
O - own
For all that they both felt free to permit both their eyes and their minds to wander elsewhere, on the matter of Ragwort, Cantrip and Julia were in solid agreement.
"Needs someone to keep the lions at bay, the poor chap," Cantrip said, happily ignoring the fact that Ragwort had been quite capable of handling himself before.
"To think that they imagine he could be theirs simply because they smile at him prettily," declared Julia with scorn. "Really, the cheek of these creatures."
P - papers
"A sudden gust of wind," Cantrip said. "Gave me a jolly scare, I can tell you."
Henry frowned disapprovingly at the paper-covered floor, while Ragwort flushed, torn between a desire to tell all and be justly castigated, or to keep silent and be swallowed up whole by the floor.
Q - quest
"My dear Ragwort," said Julia. "Please believe me when I assure you that every single person is ticklish somewhere. It's merely a question of finding the right spot."
R - ravishing
"It is quite vexing, really," said Julia. "Whenever I see Ragwort dressed all prim and proper, with not a hair out of place, it makes me wish to ravish him."
"Well," said Cantrip.
"But then, when I see him with his hair all tousled and his clothes in disarray, it only makes me wish to ravish him again."
S - spider
Regarding Cantrip with an expression of mild reproof mixed with puzzlement, Ragwort reported the eight-legged visitor to Julia's apartment had safely been deposited outside, where it might continue its existence peacefully and unbothered by shrieks of a somewhat piercing quality.
"Will it be waiting for me outside?" inquired Julia.
T - train
Plans, dear Cantrip, ever are subject to change. When life presents one with the opportunity for an adventure, on occasion, one must simply seize the day without worrying overly much about the possible consequences or inconveniences one might experience on this adventure.
"She got on the wrong train, then," said Ragwort.
"For some reason, you seem surprised," said Selena.
U - umbrella
"I seem to have lost mine." Julia sighed.
"Nothing for it but to share, then," Cantrip said.
"Happily I brought a spare one," Ragwort said.
"You can be a real cad sometimes."
"Oh," said Julia, "but surely I may contrive to lose the one Ragwort brought, too, and then we can share after all. Provided, of course, that the rain doesn't let up any time soon."
V - vanity
A less secure and confident woman might worry about the demands made upon her by the need to retain the affection of two very good-looking gentlemen.
A less easy-going and self-assured young man might worry about the demands made upon him by the need to retain the affection of one quite good-looking (if occasionally dishevelled) woman and a near-always impeccably looking gentleman.
A more vain and eager to please gentleman might worry about the demands made upon him by the need to retain the affection of two people he considered friends first and lovers only at their insistence.
W - wife
"My dear Ragwort, simply take a moment to consider the evidence," said Cantrip. "You cook - "
"Divinely," put in Julia, with unfeigned enthusiasm.
"Quite well," agreed Julia, with slightly less enthusiasm; while she approved of cleaning in theory, in practice, it seemed to her an altogether too time-consuming occupation, with but little visible result.
"And when anyone so much as looks at either me or Julia here funnily, you'd jolly well think they'd threatened to murder us, what with the way you glower at them."
"Exactly like that," said Julia.
X - xenophilia
- and had he not so strikingly reminded me of the divine Ragwort, I am quite sure I would not have spared him a second glance, Julia wrote. As it was, I was overcome with the most passionate emotions, leading me to act in a way which I am quite sure will not meet with Ragwort's approval at all, which is why I would ask you, my dear Cantrip, to not mention the matter to him. I will be writing to him separately, in a later letter, and explain things.
"Disgraceful," said Ragwort, his expression one of stern disapproval.
"Right you are," said Cantrip. "Why is it these chaps she meets and falls hopelessly in love with always have to look like you? You'd think she'd meet one every once in a while who looked like me, wouldn't you? It's simple statistics."
Y - youth
"Youth equals folly, therefore folly equals youth, therefore, if you never do something silly for the fun of it, all that means is that you'll grow old before your time - which I, for one, am none too keen on, and I'm jolly well not going to sit around and let you do that sort of thing to yourself either," Cantrip said with the air of one who considers his argument well-made.
"And yet," Julia ventured, "if all this is so - and I wouldn't doubt you for a moment, my dear Cantrip, but still, wouldn't it then be the silliest, most foolish thing in the world to never do anything foolish at all?"
Cantrip frowned. "Just whose side are you on here, Larwood?"
Z - zeal
Ragwort had, he admitted to himself, entertained some illusion that, given in to once, Julia might prove less zealous afterwards.
Clearly, he had been wrong.
(Possibly, this was not something to be regretted.)