The Ballroom is quiet. I’d say suspiciously so, but I’m quite happy for this momentary respite. After all, Saturday’s anniversary was filled with so much excitement and ratafia that I wasn’t even fully recovered when Miss Burke and her hero showed up to create more exhilarating havoc. Which all adds up to mean that I am perhaps a bit out of sorts, to put it delicately. And silence is…beautiful!
<< squawk >> Barbarian! << squawk >>
Oh no! Albert’s terrified voice is distinctive and from the rapid fluttering of wings, I know that in 3…2…1…
A rush of air and colors speed through the ballroom, as has been happening intermittently for the last four days. Albert followed by Monty’s toucan, Harold. Then they are out of the room and it’s peaceful again.
Right…so where was I? Oh, yes, plotting.
Lady B: What’s that, Miss Darby? Another book? Please tell me this time there will be no mistresses, courtesans, or merry widows.
I knew the quiet wouldn’t last, but of course, Lady B’s company is always a pleasure.
Sabrina: No rakes, lusty fiends or jackanapes?
Lady B: Don’t be too hasty, naturally.
Sabrina (smirking): That’s what I thought. But as a matter of fact, I was *not* plotting a story.
Lady B is starting to look worried. As well she should be…usually. But this time, my actions are quite innocent.
Sabrina: I am packing for the conference next week. Which always requires a very detailed to do list and visualization of each day’s activities.
Lady B: Ah yes, that “conference” which requires you and too many of the authoresses to be absent from my ballroom. If I had known my nephew would arrive, I never would have condoned it. I have a feeling I’ll need all the help possible around here to keep him (and his bird) in line.
Sabrina: And I suspect keeping him in line is a lost cause. Nonetheless, I am starting my list. Water, tea–
Lady B: Yes, naturally. You must always bring victuals for a journey. One never knows if the food you find will be fit for consumption.
Sabrina: Especially when one is on a very restricted diet.
<< squawk >> Lobster patties! << squawk >>
And there go Albert and Harold again with their half-hourly fly by.
Sabrina: I don’t think Lobster will be on the menu. In any event, what else should I put on my list?
Lady B: Let me get mine.
She rings a bell four distinct times. As we wait for the footman, I recall the passage from Pride and Prejudice where “her ladyship again inquired minutely into the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself obliged, on her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack her trunk afresh.” Not that I would ever compare Lady B to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. But what I am really thinking about is Regency era packing, which must have been vastly different than mine.
The footman, Gilbert, enters with a thick sheaf of papers. I presume somewhere in that stack is Lady B’s usual packing list.
Lady B: Ah, there we go. Place that right here on the table.
She picks up the first sheet of paper.
Lady B: Let me see. Trunk #1–
I am starting to realize that whole stack might be the list. My own list never exceeds two sides of one sheet and I’ve already learned the lesson of rolling dresses rather than folding them.
Sabrina: How many trunks do you normally take?
Lady B: That certainly depends on the journey. For a removal to the country, which is rare as Lord B does prefer London, I have a considerably more in-depth list.
My eyes widen.
Lady B: (continuing) Where was I? Yes. Sheets, pillows, blankets… (She stops, which is good because this is starting to sound like collegiate hosteling.) Now, Miss Darby, how long is this trip, and will you be stopping at any public inns?
Sabrina: I will be away for 5 nights and am staying a private home only an hour from my own.
Lady B: Very good. While I always carry my own sheets in case of an emergency, as you are not traveling out of the neighborhood, you could choose otherwise. How many servants will you be traveling with?
Is this the moment I admit to Lady B that I have neither maid nor cook nor butler nor parrot? Or perhaps obfuscation is a better choice.
Sabrina: Lady B, I do have the packing list well in hand.
Lady B: As well you should. I remember when my dear childhood friend, Cordelia Highwater, forgot to pack her spectacles and was forced to spend the entirety of her visit to Orkney Island peering out of that dandy’s quizzing glass.
Sabrina: I’ve heard this story. Wasn’t that dandy Lord MacGowan? And didn’t that end up being a fortuitous match?
Lady B: Considering that he padded his lower limbs, I am not certain that is the case.
Sabrina: Good point.
Lady B: There was also that terrible solicitor who was so unprofessional as to demand attendance of the entire family, including all cadet and American branches, at Pinchpenny Park and forgot to pack the will. In that circumstance, all the imposter heirs claimed they were in possession of Sir Percival Pinchpenny’s most recent documents. By the time the whole matter was settled, that wealthy estate was near depleted from hosting so many rapacious individuals for so long.
Sabrina: That’s terrible! You would think a solicitor would have a list! Well, the only I story I have is that Belinda White’s latest delicate condition is entirely due to Lord Lackheart forgetting his French letters.
Lady B: (firmly) We are discussing household matters and not courtesans. Must I remind you?
Sabrina: Right. Household matters. What about you, Lady B? I would love to know if, despite your formidable planning, you have ever forgotten something important.
Lady B’s face falls.
Lady B: That is the very reason I have such a list. I did once forget my dear Albert’s first blanket, which was nearly ripped to shreds but still his favorite. I had to send for it immediately because he was inconsolable for days.
<< squawk >> Days! << squawk >>
Albert alights on Lady B’s shoulder making the most pitiful noises.
Lady B: He has never fully forgiven me.
But from the way that he’s looking at her, I’m pretty sure he has.
There’s a terrible squawking that I now recognize as Harold and once more Albert is off again in a flutter of terrified wings.
I’ve frequently forgotten to pack contact solution or a toothbrush or toothpaste, but all those items are easily replaceable these days. Is there one thing you’ve ever forgotten while travelling that was extremely important? Or is there something you must take with you wherever you travel?