Today is a very big day, marking the first anniversary of our time here at Beaufetheringstone House, and I’m getting a little emotional, thinking back on this big, fancy year.
And so it is that I am standing at the center of the Ballroom with the authoresses, reminiscing.
Sarah: I mean, think of it! One full year with Lady B…and Albert!
<squawk!> lobster patties! <squawk!>
Kate (feeding him): It’s amazing how many of these things he can put away.
Sarah: One full rotation around the sun…here in Beaufetheringstone House!
Miranda: Uh-oh…she’s going to start pontificating.
Sarah: I am not.
Miranda: Really? A full rotation around the sun? You talk like this normally?
Sarah, realizing she does not, in fact, talk like this normally: I’m just saying that it’s an impressive achievement.
Tessa: It has been a good year. she pauses, considering her glass. This Ratafia is a good year as well.
Gaelen: Or spiked with a good year.
Tessa, considering: Could be that.
Sarah: There! A whole year of spiked Ratafia! You see? A year with spiked ratafia and…she casts about, looking for more to reminisce about. Spies Sabrina’s potted fern. Conversations with potted ferns! And heroines in cupboards!
Tessa warms to the game: And Regency Project Runway!
Miranda: And ships through the wall!
Sabrina: And Court, Consummate, Cut Direct!
Sarah, remembering the great Fassbender/Firth conundrum: Oh, my. Yes.
Kate: We’re losing MacLean.
Miranda: It happens when Michael Fassbender comes up.
Gaelen: And let’s not forget the addition of two new authoresses!
Kate and Lauren beam.
Sabrina: Oh! And nameless heroes!
Lauren: And don’t forget Sabrina’s George, trapped in a castle somewhere with a matchmaking mother!
Katharine: And Ballroom Brawls!
Lady B stops as she hurries past: “Dear me, Miss Ashe. Did you say ballroom brawls?”
Katharine: I did, my lady. You see, it’s our first anniversary here…and we were reminiscing–thinking about all the lovely times we’ve had thanks to yours and Lord B’s generosity…do you recall, for example, the time when Albert topped your first Christmas Tree?
<squawk!> Angel! <squawk!>
Lady B pauses, eyes dreamy: “That was quite lovely.”
Sarah: We owe you a great debt of gratitude, my lady, for your kindness over the year. I hope you don’t mind if we presume to stay for another?
Lady B’s dreamy gaze goes away: “You’re welcome to stay as long as there are balls, dear gel, on a single condition.”
The authoresses exchange glances, realizing that the rest of the room has gone uncharacteristically silent.
Gaelen leans in to Lady B: Condition, my lady?
“You may not…” Lady B gives each of the authoresses a long, stern look, “Write about what is about to happen.”
The sentence is punctuated by the echo of the massive ballroom doors opening on one end of the room. Eight sets of eyes go wide as saucers and we turn, en masse, to see what is coming.
Or rather, who.
“Having a ball are you, Aunt Tropey?”
Miranda turns her head to meet the rest of the authors and mouths, “Aunt Tropey?”
Sarah, aside, “I bet she loves that name.”
Sabrina: Oh My. Look at him.
Tessa: He looks like he’s a member of Fight Club.
<squawk!> Don’t talk about Monty! <squawk!>
It appears parrots can look guilty.
Tessa: Spill it, bird.
<squawk!>Private information is private! <squawk!>
Gaelen: I’m going to see what I can get from some of the…she waves a hand. Locals.
Lauren: Uh-oh. That didn’t sound like Albert.
Tessa: What is that?!
Sarah: I think it’s a…
Lady B: MONTAGUE. WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT THING?!
Monty: I thought you’d like it, Aunt T.
Lauren mouths: Aunt T?
But we have no time to process the strangeness of the moment, as it is interrupted by a cacophony of squawking and a flurry of feathers–black and green, and Lady B is shrieking, and Katharine is attempting to capture Albert and a great black bird has taken up residence on Lady B’s head, making it very difficult for her to look stern, even though the Baroness is more furious than we’ve ever seen her. Even more furious than Sarah has ever made her.
Sarah: That’s a toucan.
Monty, sauntering toward Lady B: Indeed it is. Clever girl. What’s your name?
Sarah blinks. Has trouble finding her words: Uh…Sarah.
He smiles, revealing a chipped tooth: And Uh…Sarah, How do you know about toucans?
Sarah: Breakfast cereal.
His brows raise: What now?
Sarah: Never mind.
Monty: Another time, maybe you can explain? Privately?
Sarah: Oh, my. Yes.
Miranda: You’re married.
Sarah: I don’t have to be.
Lady B: MONTAGUE. DO NOT INCITE THE AUTHORS. AND REMOVE THIS THING FROM MY HEAD.
<SQUAWK!> COMFY COIFFE! <SQUAWK>
Monty (turns to Lady B): He likes you, Aunt.
Lady B: Well, I do not like him. Where is my Albert?
Albert flies to Kate’s shoulder. She feeds him again.
Monty: “Ah. Is that a lobster patty?” He flashes a grin in Kate’s direction, his swollen eye and split lip somehow making him more attractive than un. “Harold loves them. Do you mind tossing him one or two?”
Kate begins to do as she’s told. But, thankfully, freezes mid-toss.”You want me to toss lobster patties at Lady B’s head?”
Tessa opens a new bottle of Ratafia.
Lady B: No one is feeding anyone or anything, Miss Noble.
Kate shakes her head. “Of course not, Lady B.”
<squawk!> Starvation! <squawk!>
Lady B corrects herself: Except Albert. You may feed Albert.
Kate: Of course, Lady B.
Gaelen returns. Leans in to Lauren and Sabrina. “Rumor has it Monty is–”
Lady B, we are reminded, has excellent hearing: “You needn’t be so secretive about it, Miss Foley. Very soon, it shall be all over London that my nephew has returned…the younger son of my brother, the Duke, Lord Montague Moylan-Hazwell (pronounced Marzipan Hatbox). I’m simply not sure why he felt it necessary to come here. With a monstrous bird.” She reaches up and plucks the toucan from her head, handing him indecorously to his owner.
Monty takes the bird and tucks him under his arm: I thought you’d like him, Aunt. I mean, birds of a feather and all that, no?
Lady B, down her nose: No. And what happened to your face?
Monty: You should see the other fellow.
Lady B: I would rather not.
Monty: You left out the most important part of your introduction, Aunt.
He passes a rakish, bruised smile over the collection of authoresses and we–we, who deal with rakes and roués for a living–are all somewhat drawn to this strange, bruised, toucaned (toucanoed?) man. Sabrina leans in, and I’m fairly certain–yes…she’s smelling him.
Sabrina: Sandalwood and…
Miranda pops up from behind his shoulder: Man.
We sigh. En masse.
He looks to Sabrina and Miranda: Thank you for noticing, lovelies.
They stutter and stammer and blush.
Lady B, sternly: Monty!
Monty, to Lady B: Well, aunt…tell them the rest. The fantastic, coincidental rest!
Lady B looks like she might cast up her accounts. “I’m still hoping it isn’t true.”
Monty: I’m sure Lord B is, too, but, for fun, why not tell these lovely ladies, (He smiles a bruised battered smile at Lauren, who sighs.) Who else I am?
Lady B: Only because of that horrible accident.
Monty: I’ve always said one should be very careful around marmosets. Come on, Aunt…I came back from India for you! For this! Because you asked!
Lady B: I did no such thing. And I’d be willing to wager you came back from India because you ran out of money. Or you angered a maharaja.
Monty, grinning at Gaelen: But his daughter wasn’t at all angry.
Monty turns back to Lady B: Go on, Aunt. Tell them.
Lady B stiffens, putting on her very best British Keep Calm and Carry On face. She looks to each of us, and we know, without question, that everything about the Ballroom is about to be thrown into chaos.
Lady B: Authoresses…this is Lord Beaufetheringstone’s heir.
Happy Anniversary, indeed.
We’re all speechless! Lord B has an heir! And he’s related to Lady B? What on earth?! And he’s covered in bruises! And he owns a TOUCAN. What on earth?!?!
Ask your questions about Monty in comments, and we’ll see if we can get Lady B to open up and tell us more!