Today I’ve brought the hero and heroine of The Importance of Being Wicked to The Ballroom. I’m a little nervous because last week Lady B got her knickers in a twist (though she does not, of course wear knickers; that would be anachronistic) about Shana Galen’s courtesan heroines. Since this was followed by an incident involving Monty, the second footman, and a masked lady of easy virtue, she announced that The Ballroom was becoming Undesirably Raffish and we all have to Behave Ourselves. Being Lady B, she failed to provide explicit details about how we are supposed to reform. I find it hard to believe she has become an advocate of unspiked ratafia and rational conversation, but you never know with her.
Lady B: Miss Neville! I’ve heard things about your guests today and I am Not Amused.
Miranda: Really? You couldn’t possibly object to the Duke of Castleton. He never misbehaves, plus he’s a duke and very good looking. Nice legs.
Lady B: Yes, yes. Castleton is all very well. But Caro Townsend? Hardly heroine material. She consorts with artists, spends too much money, and gives wild parties.
Miranda: And your problem is?
Lady B: I don’t have to explain myself, neither do I have to receive her.
Miranda: As it happens, you already have. Or maybe you will. I get confused about the time-space thingy. Castleton and Caro attend a ball in your house in the course of the book.
Lady B: Harrumph. Since you’ve already written it, there’s not much I can do. But I can and will refuse to invite them again.
Miranda: You weren’t always so stuffy, Lady B. I’m in a position to know. The Importance of Being Wicked is set in 1800, when you were the newest and most dashing hostess on the London scene.
Lady B: I did cause quite a stir.
Miranda: There’s a scene in the book when a certain lady, who may or may not have been wearing peacock colored gloves, disports herself at a public masquerade.
Lady B: (aside) Ah, memories. (to Miranda) It wasn’t I and you had better not have said so.
Miranda: I name no names. But. It isn’t too late to insert the identity of the lady.
Lady B: The book has already been printed.
Miranda: I have one word. Digital. It’s easy to change things these days. [hums and adjusts her gloves] If Castleton and Caro are allowed into the ballroom now, I shall be too busy to attend to the matter.
Lady B: Since you ask, I suppose I can receive Mrs. Townsend. As a favor to you.
Miranda: (aside) I have a feeling I will end up paying for this. (to Lady B.) You are ever the gracious hostess. Allow me to present the Duke of Castleton and Mrs. Caroline Townsend.
Lady B: The lady appears to have forgotten her bodice.
Caro: It’s the latest fashion from Paris and hardly needs any fabric. Since I’m always trying to economize, I had an entirely new wardrobe made up. Can you imagine the savings?
Lady B, distinctly thawing. You make a very good point. I shall mention the idea to Lord B. next time he wishes to retrench. Do you have any other advice?
Caro: Charades always make a party go. My guests enjoy costumes. It’s a great excuse to dress as members of the opposite sex.
Lady B: For ladies to display their legs and gentlemen to cover them is against nature.
Caro: My cat always attends my parties, just as Albert adds a certain something to your balls
Lady B: I wouldn’t dream of entertaining without Albert, but he Does Not Like Cats.
<squawk squawk squawk>
Caro: Don’t worry. Tish always stays at home in case someone needs bail. It’s not uncommon for at least one person to be taken up by the Watch after one of my dinners.
Lady B: I’ve always heard that prisons are quite uncomfortable.
Caro: Most important of all, the first thing you do when you arrive at a ball is find an empty room or large cupboard in case you wish to be private.
Castleton: Caro, I think it’s time to let Lady B. see to her other guests.
Caro: Don’t be stuffy Thomas. But since you ask so nicely, I discovered a dark antechamber with a very comfortable sofa.
What do you think makes a party go? With holiday season coming up, Lady B (and the twenty-first-century authoresses) could use your tips. One commenter will win a signed copy of The Importance of Being Wicked.
One more thing, my cat Ernie has made a video about how he inspired Caro’s pet.