(For the introductory notes on the ladies attending today’s improper salon at Lady B’s, please visit.)
In which Sabrina Darby introduces historical personages of dubious repute to Lady Beaufetheringstone:
Comtesse d’Agoult: Je ne veux pas m’asseoir dans une salle avec une femme si commune comme cette putain Plessis.
Lady B: Comtesse, there are impressionable animals present!
*Squawk* Putain *Squawk*
Panicking! We’ve only just made introductions and there’s trouble. I completely forgot that Franz Liszt had an affair with Marie Duplessis after Marie D’Agoult.
Marie Duplessis (coughing) Pauvre perroquet. Qui est cette femme vulgaire?
(Albert flies around Marie D’Agoult)
*squawk* vulgar woman! *squawk*
We’ve adjourned to the music room at the rear of the first floor, overlooking the garden and mews beyond as befitting such a gathering as this. Four of my guests have arrived but Mme de Montespan and Marie Walewska are simply staring at Comtesse d’Agoult as she rages and swats at Albert.
And as there’s nothing more certain to anger Lady B–indeed color is already staining her cheeks–I quickly intercede and tempt Albert away with a lobster patty.
Lady B: Well done, Miss Darby. Now, why did that wretched woman call her Plessis. Did you not say her name was Duplessis?
Comtesse D’Agoult: Diable!–
And as I am finding it difficult to follow the argument in French, cue Romance book translation.
Comtesse D’Agoult: –that aristocratic “Du” before her name is as false as her affection for Liszt. But pah, she is welcome to him.
Marie Duplessis: (coughing into her handkerchief and with every cough I admit I’m a bit worried about developing an equally consumptive hack…) Your novel Nelida, is a poor excuse for literature. I assure you, Comtesse, that penning such vicious words about an ex-lover is not the way to get him back. I am well-regarded by all of my past lovers.
Comtesse D’Agoult: (in a fine fury now, indeed I am tempted to remove all the china and porcelein from the room) As if you would know. I’m surprised you can even read!
Sabrina: Ladies! Please. Comtesse d’Agoult, sit down and have some tea.
We all stare at the comtesse, waiting on held breath to see what she’ll do.
She sniffs, takes the cup of tea that Mme. De Montespan hands her. She sits down.
It’s only after Marie D’Agoult sits down and takes a sip that I realize I should have warned her away from tea. After all, the French Marquise is well-known for her facility with poisons and the black arts.
But she’s still breathing, so…
Marie Walewska: This is most unseemly. Miss Darby, do you mean to say that you have invited me to a tête-à-tête with courtesans?
Lady B: (narrowing her eyes) I’m not entirely certain what to make of a lady who was sleeping with the enemy.
I did invite Marie Walewska for her connection to Napoleon.
Marie Walewska: I assure you, Lady Beaufetheringstone, if my country were not in such dire peril, I would never have graced the Emperor’s bed.
Lady B: Ah.
*squawk* Never! *squawk*
Lady B: Well, as you have, tell me, is Napoleon Bonaparte truly small in stature?
Marie Walewska: (shocked) You embarrass me, madam. (pause) He was as quick as his temper. (pause) And I thank God for that.
Lady B: Finally, a bit of gossip! I was expecting far more scandal from a room full of courtesans.
Comtesse D’Agoult: (glaring at Marie Duplessis, who is coughing again) There is only one courtesan in the room of whom I am aware. Only one very common lady.
Lady B: Miss Darby, I was under the impression that all of these women are mistresses. If I merely wanted to talk to noblewomen of loose morals, I could easily have done so in the ballroom amongst our own society.
Sabrina: I believe we have come up against the fine distinction between courtesan and mistress.
Mme. De Montespan: To be a mistress is a calling. I was Chief Mistress of Louis XIV. My pedigree is impeccable.
The Butler: (intones) Nell Gwyn.
At the door, in a pose more suited for the stage, demanding all eyes study her from head to toe, stands The Fifth Mistress that I’ve invited to the soiree, on the suggestion of Miss Dare.
*Squawk* Oranges! *Squawk*
Lady B: That name sounds familiar.
Madame de Montespan: So that is the renowned Nell Gwyn, comedienne, mistress to the English king, and self proclaimed, Protestant wh-
Lady B: (interrupting quickly while covering Albert’s ears) No, Madame, I assure you, she is not one of the monarch’s paramours.
Sabrina: Actually, Lady B, she was. Only she was mistress to Charles II. For Mme. de Montespan, she would have been a contemporary.
Lady B: Ah yes, that is how I know the name. Albert is cryptic but correct. She started out selling oranges.
Nell Gwyn: No need to talk about me as if I weren’t in the room. Who are you? Are we putting on a performance? I’ve never seen such a motley array of clothing.
Marie D’Agoult: (with a sniff) Another commoner. And aiming for a king. I am not so mercenary in love. To inspire a man to artistic greatness, That is what I long for. A higher calling, a ––
Marie Duplessis: I never try to inspire a man. I simply do.
Nell Gwyn: What a bunch of cows. There is an art to being a mistress, especially a royal one. And I assure you, while Love is all well and good, and my King most certainly loves me, any woman who doesn’t recognize the importance of material good is either a liar or a (redacted by Sabrina) fool.
Lady B: Do not repeat that, Albert.
Mme. de Montespan: (taking charge) A royal mistress must be a general in the battlefield of love.
Lady B: I find that true in the ballroom as well. Young ladies these days can’t hang around the sidelines and wait to be chosen. Strategy is everything and I should know.
*Squawk* Charge! *Squawk*
Lady B keeps hinting about her past. I’m very curious.
Lady B: Well, as this is to be an informative and improving afternoon, perhaps some of my guests have questions for these women?
Yes, ask questions! Please help us avert disaster and keep these ladies occupied!