I know, I know, I’m running late…. I was meant to be in the ballroom before midnight, when Lady B closes the doors to anyone not wearing knee breeches. Or does that only pertain to guys? I mean, gentlemen?
As you can see, I’m a bit muddled right now. I’ve been running hither and yon to celebrate the release of my new book, The Garden Intrigue (and there may also have been a little bit of wedding planning going on in the margins). At any event, I’d told Emma and Augustus, the hero and heroine of Garden Intrigue, that I’d meet them here in the ballroom, for my very first official ball, but I wound up on a very slow train back from the Virginia Book Festival—or ought that to be a very slow post chaise?—so here I am, late and frazzled and rather hoping that my characters haven’t got here before me, because they’re a bit… eccentric.
Oh no. I’m too late. As I approach the entrance, I can see there’s a bit of a fracas going on just inside. There’s a parrot squawking, a bright yellow turban (why does it look so much like a hard hat?) bobbing indignantly, and a high, clear, American voice saying, “You haven’t seen a poet have you?”
Lady B (in tones of outrage): A poet?
Emma: Yes, you know, puffy shirt, flowy sleeves, look of other-worldy absorption, all that sort of thing. He’s not nearly so silly as he seems—but don’t let him recite anything. It can go on for quite some time.
Lady B (forbiddingly): You appear to have the wrong salon, Miss—
Emma: Mrs. Mrs. Delagardie.
Lady B: Hmph. Whoever—and whatever—you may be, you appear to be vastly mistaken as to the nature of the entertainment. This is a ballroom, not a breeding ground for perpetrators of poetical excess. We have no truck with… poets.
Albert (pecking Lady B’s shoulder slyly): Poets! <<squawk>> Poets!
Lady B: Shhh! We don’t talk about that time in my life. Now if you’ll be on your way, Miss—er, Mrs—
Lauren: Lady B! I’m so sorry I’m late. I was on a—well, let’s just call it a mechanized carriage. We got stuck in the southerly former colonies, which was why I was a bit late getting over here. Hi, Emma!
Lady B: You know this person?
Lauren: Know her? I wrote her! Lady B, may I present Emma Morris Delagardie? She originally hails from New York, but she’s spent the last few years in Paris.
Emma: Since I was fifteen, in fact. I came over with my uncle, James Monroe, in ’94, when he was American envoy to France—
Lady B: Enough! I had no idea I was harboring a nest of colonials in my salon.
Lauren: Not just colonials, New Yorkers. There are a whole bunch of us here. (Waves to Sarah MacLean.)
Lady B: Good gad, it’s an invasion!
Albert: The New Yorkers are coming! <<squawk>> The New Yorkers are coming!
Lauren: Consider it more a benign occupation? (Rustling in paper bag.) Bagel? Oh, dear, don’t dunk it in the ratafia. I don’t think they’ll go.
Emma: (brightly) I think I’ll go! Don’t mind me, I’ll just go look for Augustus. He’s probably off reciting somewhere.
Lady B: Reciting? Does she refer to a… poet?
Emma whisks away, leaving me alone with a rather irate Lady B holding a ratafia-sodden bagel. I look around for help, but both Sabrina and Kate appear to be hiding behind potted palms. (Note to self: we really need more foliage in the ballroom. Either that, or some particularly sturdy columns.)
My first ball really isn’t off to an auspicious start.
Lauren (tries distraction): I hear there are a number of people named Minerva in the ballroom this week! And did you hear that there might be a pickpocket on the loose?
For a moment, Lady B looks diverted. Not excessively diverted, but diverted enough. Until someone (and by someone, I mean a man in a puffy shirt with flowy sleeves and long dark locks of the sort that might be called “Byronic” if Byron were around yet) climbs up on a settee and begins to declaim.
Augustus: For, lo! In Cytherea’s perfumed sleep/ Did she dream of the denizens of the dithery deep….
Oh no. Not the Perils of the Pulchritudinous Princess of the Azure Toes. There are thirty cantos. Or maybe forty. I’ve lost track. Lady B is never ever going to let me back in the ballroom again. Why hadn’t I invited the characters from one of my earlier books? Henrietta—she gets along with everyone. Or maybe Lord Vaughn; his sinister and sardonic manner might have appealed to Lady B. But no, I had to go and invite Augustus and Emma. If there were a desk handy, I’d bang my head against it. As it is, I have to content myself with hiding behind my fan, which, being lacy, doesn’t provide much of a barrier.
Lady B: Who is that?
Lauren: Er… that’s Augustus Whittlebsy. He’s a…
Albert: Poet! <<squawk>> Poet!
Lauren (rather desperately): Spy! He’s a dashing spy! And, hey, at least he’s not a New Yorker. Did I mention that he’s English? And a spy? And dashing?
I’d rather like to dash at this point, but Lady B is standing on the flounce of my gown.
Lady B (examining Augustus through her lorgnette): His verse is vile but his calves are comely. Tell him he may recite for me later—privately.
Lauren: What’s that about your past with poets again?
But Lady B has already walked away. Which is probably a good thing. I’m not sure Lord B would approve. Unless Lord B secretly is a poet? And he did not know it?
Who’s your favorite poet? (Regency or otherwise!)
p.s. I’m having a birthday bash on my website this Wednesday. I can’t give away cupcakes (they’d probably squash in the mail), but I will be giving away books. I’d like to extend an invitation to everyone to stop by and celebrate with me!
Who knows, maybe Lady B will put in an appearance….