Do you all remember my relation, Mary, the one from the North with the handsome, scarred, reclusive son? Well, she’s in town this week and I’ve invited her to the ballroom. She should be arriving any minute.
Lady B: This is the woman who has decided to place an advertisement for a wife for her son?
“Well, not quite,” I hedge.
Lady B: Not quite is not a proper sort of answer. She either is or she isn’t.
Lady B is staring at me with that look of hers, the one that won’t stand for any nonsense. “I think I’ll let her explain when she arrives. After all I wouldn’t want you to think that I support her scheme.”
Lady B: That sounds positively incriminating and now I’m terrified to know just what sort of friends you consort with and that I’ve invited to my ballroom.
“Oh, she’s not a bad mother, she’s just desperate,” I explain quickly. “We all know the lengths to which a mother with an unwed child will go. Remember when Mrs. Bennett sent her daughter to walk in the rain in hopes of her being stranded at Mr. Bingley’s?”
Lady B: Yes, but that was a work of fiction.
That stops me for a moment as I flounder in a sea of metaphysical confusion.
However, Lady B apparently has not lost her focus.
Lady B: In fact, now that I recall, the last women you invited to my home were exceedingly badly behaved.
My cheeks feel hot and I know I’m flushing with embarrassment, just like one of my heroines.
“Oh, the mistresses. Funny that you should mention them.”
Lady B: Oh, no.
I look at the large, ornate clock, whose mechanisms I can just hear at this distance, as if the second hand could conjure up my friend. However, in the meantime, I must distract Lady B, or at least assure her that there is no need to worry.
“I assure you, Mary is not a bad mother. After all she is nothing like Mrs. Harlowe in Richardson’s Clarissa. She’d never allow her child to be locked up or pressure her to marry someone she didn’t want.”
Lady B: Well from what I hear, this Mary’s son has locked himself up.
<< Squawk! Mary, Mary, quite contrary! >>
“Well, her son is contrary at least and that is the problem.”
But he won’t be for long.
We all look to the door where the Butler has just announced Mrs. Martin.
Lady B: Welcome to my home, Mrs. Martin, I’ve heard so much about you.
Mary: And I you, Lady Beaufetheringstone. It is so kind of you to invite me. Please forgive me but I’m all a flutter. I’ve only just come from the newspaper office and the thrill and forwardness of my actions has me quite overcome.
Lady B: And what exactly have you done, Mrs. Martin? Miss Darby says that you have not quite placed a matrimonial advertisement for your son.
Mary: I most certainly would never do such a thing! That would embarrass Georgie terribly, not to mention he would never forgive me. And in any event, as you know the particulars of my situation, may I speak bluntly though we have just met? I am not entirely certain my son is comfortable with ladies. I thought perhaps to test the waters, so to speak, by finding him a mistress.
<< Squawk! Mistress! >>
But other than the parrot, there is deathly silence in this corner of the Ballroom.
Mary is a rather daring and interfering mother, and I cannot imagine any hero-worthy son would find her advertising for a mistress much more palatable than a matrimonial advertisement. However, my relative, like most mothers, is assured her actions will help her son. Regardless, she is certainly setting up a situation fraught with the possibility for scandal and there is nothing Lady B likes better in the ballroom! What about everyone else? Who are your favorite mothers of regency fiction, be they good or evil?