It’s a Thursday in the Little Season, and so, we find the usual crush inside Lady B’s famous Ballroom. The grand hostess signals to her butler to spike the champagne punch (discreetly, of course) with something stronger–when suddenly, she notices the handsome, golden-haired stranger who has just appeared in the doorway.
Her Ladyship narrows her eyes, lifts her mother-of-pearl-handled opera glass to her eye, and says to herself: Hmm, who is this?
I do not believe he has been here before. But he must have been invited…. He has the mark of good breeding. Yes, an aristocratic nose, to be sure. And, dear me, a very fine leg.
<Squawk! He’s coming this way!>
I see that, Albert. Now, hush. Goodness, this is a pretty fellow. If I were a decade younger…
The Stranger approaches, hat in hand. Despite his polite bow, one cannot fail to note the desperation in his blue eyes.
The Stranger: Pardon, my lady. I don’t mean to come barging in like this. Have you seen Gaelen Foley here tonight?
No, she has not yet arrived.
Stranger, muttering to himself: Blast it, doesn’t that woman own a watch?
Stranger: Er, nothing, ma’am. I was told to meet my author here tonight. She was going to do some research and get back to me, but …Oh, I don’t wish to bore you with my problems.
I realize you don’t know me. Hardly anyone here does, yet. Warily glancing around. Nor will they, not until the latter part of 2012, if the world lasts that long. First there’s Drake’s book in January; I’m later in the year. At the moment, though, behind the scenes, Ms. Foley is working on my story and we…well, I regret to say we’ve hit a snag.
Oh, dear. You poor fellow.
Stranger, glumly: That’s why I’m here. She said I should meet her here, and she would tell me what she had dug up as a solution to my problem–”IF you’re lucky!”–she said. Apparently she’s out of temper with me and I’ll wager you a fiver that’s why she’s not here. She’s making me wait on purpose. But honestly, of all the nerve! I do everything she tells me to in that blasted book, but this, she says it’s very important that I figure this one out for myself. How should I know what to do? I’m a MALE. The subject at issue isn’t our strong suit.
Lady B stares at him in perplexity.
Stranger: I beg your pardon. I’m ranting, aren’t I? Dash it, I know I shouldn’t have listened to her. It’s poor ton to show up without an invitation, but she said you’d understand.
Lady B to herself: Don’t trouble yourself, dear sir. (His earnest gaze quite makes my heart go pitter-patter.) I suppose you have a name?
Stranger: Quite so. And since my author has not yet arrived to do the introductions, I must cast aside propriety and introduce myself.
Indeed, you must. Scanning him.
<Thor! Is it Thor?>
Lady B: Quiet, Albert.
Stranger: Is there something wrong with your bird?
Lady B: Never mind him. Your name, then, dear boy?
Stranger: I am Sebastian Walker, Viscount Beauchamp–
Lady B: Of course! Lord Lockwood’s heir! Oh, I should’ve recognized the family resemblance at once. You are most welcome here, dear lad. And how is your good father?
Beauchamp / Formerly Known as Stranger: Thank you for asking, ma’am, I’m pleased to say he is as hardy and hale as ever, along with his hunting hounds. More to the point, I’m sure he’ll be very pleased with me (for once) when he hears my news.
Your news? Oh, do tell, Lord Beauchamp! We must have all the gossip here.
Beauchamp: Very well, ma’am. I’m, er (–gulp–) I’m getting married.
Gasp. Are you indeed?
<Cat’s paw! Vicar’s mousetrap! Doomed man, doomed!>
Albert, that is no way to talk about the institution of matrimony. I’m very pleased for you, Lord Beauchamp. And who is the lucky young lady?
Beauchamp: Forgive me, ma’am, but I am not at liberty to announce it prematurely. If I did, in short, she’d throttle me.
Is that why you seem so distracted? You mentioned you’re having some sort of a problem.
Beauchamp: Yes, actually, that’s why I’m here. Gaelen said the ladies here are the cleverest group of females in London, with the most excellent taste. She said if we couldn’t find an answer here to our problem, then there is none.
This sounds serious. Well, you have certainly come to the right place! No matter if Ms. Foley is not here yet. You have me, after all, and all my ingenious lady friends. So, how can we help you, dear lad? Why don’t you sit down here next to me and tell us all your problem.
Lady B beckons to her female friends. They gladly crowd around the lovely specimen.
Is that that Australian hottie from Thor? Lady Katharine whispers.
Hard to say, Lady Miranda replies. I’d have to see him with shirt off.
(Well, if we must.)
Lady B: Now then, my dear sir. You must tell us all.
Beauchamp: Well, it’s quite simple. My wedding is in three days and I have no idea what to get my bride. For a wedding gift, I mean! Please, help me with whatever sage wisdom you ladies can provide. I am, as they say, out of my element.
The need for a good gift is all the more imperative because I’m afraid my bride is not entirely keen on the marriage.
Lady B: You must be joking.
Beauchamp: Not at all! She seems to think I tricked her into the match! So, I hope to show her I’m sincere by giving her a wedding gift to dazzle her. Since we are, er, marrying in haste as they say, the wedding itself won’t be much, and I don’t want her to hate me entirely.
Oh, I doubt that would be possible. (See Photo.)
Beauchamp: Well, the fact is, we’ve only three days before out little impromptu wedding. We’re only waiting for the Archbishop to let us have the special license and then…well, I have to have SOMETHING to give the woman as a token of my affection and whatnot! Otherwise, it’s going to be a very cold marriage bed, and that’s the part I’ve been most looking forward to!
Lady B: Never fear, Lord Beauchamp. (To butler) Bring a brandy for His Lordship. Now then, why don’t you sit down and tell us what sort of presents you were considering for your bride and we ladies shall give you our best counsel.
Beauchamp: Thank you, Lady B. You are much kinder than I have heard.
Beauchamp: Oh, nothing. My first thought, of course, was jewelry. What woman doesn’t like a bit o’ sparkle? I assure you, money is no object. I think she would look very fetching in a necklace or tiara like these ladies here are wearing…
Lady B: Well, either of those choices would be lovely.
Beauchamp: I thought so, too! But that impossible Foley woman told me that it’s boring. She said everyone gives their bride jewelry and she expects me to be a little more original than that. I’m supposed to be romantic or something. He lets out a snort then swigs the rest of his brandy in one gulp to let us know what he thinks of that.
Lady B: Well, I don’t wish to contradict your author. What other ideas did you have for your lady’s wedding present?
Beauchamp: Glad you asked! My second idea was that she might like a fine equipage and horses for her to travel in style….
…but then I realized she is such a mischievous little thing, it would be perhaps unwise to encourage her to go gadding about Town without me. She really needs a husband’s supervision. A strong hand, don’t you know.
Lady B raises an eyebrow. Indeed? All right, then. What else?
Beauchamp: Fine china with our family crest?
My dear boy, that is a gift a bride should receive from an aged aunt. Not from a lusty young husband.
Beauchamp: …Are you eyeing me, Lady B?
Never! Go on. (Quite the twinkle of charm in those blue eyes once he starts to settle in. Hmm.)
Beauchamp, continuing: I was really running out of ideas, but then wandering aimlessly down Bond Street, something in a shop window caught my eye. It’s really not the usual sort of wedding gift. But it’s beautiful. And it… it makes me smile the way she does and I thought… well, if your bridegroom gave you this on your wedding day, Lady B, would you think it was stupid? I really want to make her happy and for the gift to be meaningful.
A collective Awwwww from the gathered ladies.
Beauchamp: Here, take a look.
Beauchamp: It’s called a Musical Automaton Clock. They’re quite the cleverest inventions. I could have it engraved with our names entwined and some sort of wedding message, you see? This one’s even prettier, but the owner won’t sell it (the V&A) and they won’t even put it on Ye Olde Youtube. If you want to see it, you have to follow this link because the video isn’t share-able:
Beauchamp: I just thought it might be romantic to give her a clock because, well, because every moment with her is precious to me in this short life. If this won’t do, I could get her just an automata without the clock bit. Like this:
The Silver Swan:
Or this famous Peacock Automaton Clock at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg:
Beauchamp: They are as ingenious as my lady’s devious little mind. Of course, I have no idea where we’d put the thing. He looks hopefully at us with those blue eyes. What do you ladies think? Which of these items should I give her? What would you want to get for the ideal wedding present?
Gaelen, flinging in at last, closing her umbrella and rushing over cheerfully: Oh, you made it to Lady B’s ballroom, Beau! I’m so glad! Have you got everything sorted out, then?
“Beau” scowls at her. Almost. No thanks to you.
Gaelen, beaming: I knew you could figure it out for yourself. All the best characters do. So what is the consensus? Have the ladies voted on what you’re going to give Carissa?
Lady B: Carissa! You’re marrying Carissa Portland?
Beachamp, turning to his Author in exasperation: I thought we weren’t going to tell them yet!
Butler: Lobster patty, madam?
Gaelen: Oh, yes, please! And some champagne punch, tout-suite. Beauchamp, why are you looking at me like that?
He just shakes his head.