I enter the Ballroom bleary eyed and find Lady B looking hideously alert. Unfortunately the state of my head is due not to anything interesting, like an all night carousal with a rake, but rather the end product of a marathon book finishing session.
Lady B Miss Neville. I wish to speak to you.
Miranda (winces) What have I done?
Lady B You have been interfering with the past.
Miranda Is that all? I am an historical novelist. It’s my job.
Lady B You had the temerity to invite a couple of unsavory characters to one of my balls in the spring of 1800. Neither Lord Lithgow nor the Duke of Denford is the kind of gentleman I prefer to introduce to delicate young gels.
It so happens that I did set a scene at one of Lady B’s assemblies. And I may have allowed my hero and heroine to attend. And it’s just possible I may have admitted two other men of somewhat shady reputation. But as far as I know not even my editor has yet read the book. Has Lady B somehow got into my laptop? Has she trained Albert–frightening thought–to be a hacker? I decide to bluff.
Miranda I would never do such a thing.
Lady B (with a jaundiced eye in my direction) I have proof. I just read my diary for the year 1800. You’ve tampered with it.
Miranda I didn’t even know you kept a diary.
Lady B Of course I do. One should always have something sensational to read in the carriage.* The account of a ball I gave in the spring of that year has unaccountably acquired some new guests
I find the time-space implications of this revelation too much for my tired brain.
Miranda Rumbled. All right, I plead guilty. But Lithgow and Denford are both extremely good looking with lower limbs of the very best quality.
Lady B So I gather from my diary entry for the occasion. The diary entry I don’t remember writing. Legs aside, are you trying to tell me their presence in my Ballroom was entirely innocent? That this pair of rakish gentlemen are, in fact, reformed?
Miranda Not exactly. But they will be – in later books. Assuming I ever write another word which at this point is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Lady B Harrumph.
I think about mentioning that I allowed my two badly behaved, not-yet-reformed, future heroes to attend Lady B’s ball because I know she has a soft spot for rogues, but I’m not sure she’s in the mood for what she will almost certainly deem impertinence. I switch to mollifying tactics.
Miranda The hero of this book is a very proper gentleman.
Lady B And the heroine?
Miranda Uh oh. I’m not going there.
Lady B What is the title of the book?
Miranda The Importance of Being Wicked.*
Lady B I rest my case.
I beg you, Ballroom denizens, help me! Divert Lady B’s wrath! Now we know she has years worth of diaries and we are able to alter them, write your own entries about a fascinating occurrence. This is your chance to be Lady B and give her something sensational to read in the carriage. Then perhaps she will come and yell at you, instead.
Or, if you prefer to remain on our hostess’s good side (probably a wise decision) tell us about your own diary experience. Have you ever kept one? Do you still? Do you share it with others?
*Stolen, with gratitude, from Oscar Wilde