I guess it’s about time I brought Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, to The Ballroom. His book did come out two weeks ago, and there’s nothing he enjoys more than a roomful of ladies.
But I must admit, I’m a little worried about how this will all go.
You see, there’s something about a roomful of women that inspires Colin to excesses. If they were merely excesses of drink and vice, he might be easier to manage, but his particular excesses tend toward charm and flattery. He enjoys female company in the evenings. Needs it, really, for deeply personal and surprisingly heart-wrenching reasons. And therefore he’ll say just about anything to secure feminine approval.
Upon entering the Ballroom, Colin stops midstep and presses a hand to chest.
Colin: My word. What a staggering display of beauty.
Tessa (under breath): Here we go.
Colin: Truly. I can’t recall the last time I was in the presence of so many enthralling women. Ladies of such obvious intelligence and spirit.
Tessa: I would hazard a guess that it was in Spindle Cove. Not very long ago.
Colin: There, Tricia. In the far right corner. It’s an angel. Her hair is a halo of spun gold. I hear a choir singing.
Tessa: That’s Miss Noble, one of our authoresses. And yes, her hair is remarkably pretty.
Colin: You must introduce us.
Tessa (weakly): I must? Wouldn’t you rather look behind the potted palms? Maybe find an overlooked, unconventional girl with her nose in a book? One who wears spectacles?
Tessa: Yes. You have a real penchant for girls who wear spectacles.
Colin: I do? (He swivels his head, and his gaze sharpens.) I do. My dear Tamara, you’re so right. I see her over there. A stunning beauty with flaxen hair.
Tessa: Flaxen hair? But Minerva’s hair is–
Colin: She’s enchanting. And those spectacles! I’ve never seen spectacles such an intriguing shade of red.
Tessa: Oh, that’s Miss Ashe. She’s another of our authoresses, but she’s happily–
Colin (looking about the Ballroom): All these ravishing beauties are authoresses?
Tessa: Or readers.
Colin: Hm. I never realized how alluring bookish women could be.
Tessa: Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m sure I saw Minerva around here just the other…
Colin (nudging me): Tabitha, look.
Tessa: Really. You KNOW my name is Tessa.
Colin: Tell me at once, T. What is the name of that glorious creature?
Tessa (looking about, worried as to his next intended target): Glorious creature? Where?
Colin: I’ve never seen such striking plumage. Like a living rainbow. Rhapsodic, even.
Tessa: Oh. The glorious creature is Albert. And may I introduce the living rainbow’s owner, Lady B.
Colin (bowing and kissing Lady B’s hand): The honor is mine. Many a lady has found her beauty underwhelmed by a poor choice of plume. It takes a formidable woman indeed to carry off an entire bird.
Lady B: My goodness, Miss Dare. This guest of yours is excessively fond of flattery.
Colin: But my dear Lady B, a woman of your exceptional intelligence, keen discernment, and breathtaking fashion sense must admit–I’m rather good at it.
Lady B (blushing a little, I think!): Indeed.
Tessa (aside): You see, this is Colin P.M, or Pre-Minerva. He’s rather full of it. Never worry, he will have the chance to redeem himself with some heartfelt, genuine compliments on the road to love. The compliments might involve jungle beetles and nap-inducing scientific lectures, but I promise it all comes out rather swoony. And he means every last word.
Lady B (quietly): I do understand the power of an unconventional compliment. Lord B. might never have set his sights on me, had I not been so bold as to compliment the turn of his calves in mixed hearing.
Tessa: Do you know, that reminds me of one of my favorites books from girlhood–and possibly my first romance. It was about a Swedish young woman named Kati who took a tour of Italy, and her path kept crossing with this suave man named Lennart, who was as impossible to read as he was handsome. Kati went crazy trying to figure out whether he was interested in her–and as the reader, I went crazy too. When Lennart finally, finally paid her a compliment, it was to say to their companion, “Kati has quite nice ears.”
Lady B: Nice ears?
Tessa: I know. The poor thing. But then he did eventually propose to her while treading water in the Mediterranean, so it was all right in the end.
Colin: Your ears are like seashells, darling. Delicate. Exquisite. All those lovely shades of cream and pink. Smooth whorls of translucent–
Tessa: Really, Colin. Save it for Min. She actually likes seashells. Especially if they’re fossilized.
What’s the most unusual, meaningful, or memorable compliment you’ve ever received? Or read in a book, or seen in a movie, or…?
If I know Colin, the scoundrel may circulate around the ballroom and distribute some compliments of his own. ;)