With five days to go until the New Year, let’s go back to 2006 and The Masque of the Black Tulip.
I had a really, really hard time picking a favorite passage from this book. There’s just so much about Black Tulip that amuses me, from Turnip Fitzhugh’s appearance as a giant carnation to Geoff’s poetic efforts and Penelope and Charlotte’s slapstick attempts to help Henrietta stalk Miles. And who can forget Lord Vaughn’s Chinese Chamber? When it comes down to it, my favorite, favorite scene might be the scene with “the extra-special coffee” towards the end, but that had way too many spoilers.
In the end, I gave up and just picked a passage that contained a lot of my favorite people. So, please, help me out here! Which was your favorite scene from Black Tulip?
In the drawing room of Uppington House, a party postmortem is going on among Henrietta Selwick and her two best friends.
“Oh, Pen!” Charlotte’s cry broke into Henrietta’s reverie. Charlotte’s large grey eyes grew three sizes larger. “You weren’t out on the balcony with Reggie Fitzhugh?”
“Oh, Charlotte!” mocked Penelope, adding with a wicked twinkle in her eye, “He does have ten thousand pounds a year. Surely you can’t disapprove of that.”
“And the mental capacity of a turnip,” put in Henrietta dryly, allowing herself to be diverted from her decidedly less than pleasing speculations.
Charlotte giggled. “I suppose all that gold does rather gild the turnip.”
Penelope eyed her askance. “Gild the turnip?”
“You know, like gilding the lily. Only he’s a turnip.”
Henrietta shook her head to clear it of unfortunate images, and looked pointedly at Penelope. “Back to the matter at hand….”
“Don’t fuss, Hen. What’s the worst that could have happened?”
“Disgrace?” suggested Charlotte.
“Marriage to Mr. Fitzhugh,” warned Henrietta.
“Ugh,” said Penelope.
“Exactly,” said Henrietta crisply.
Henrietta was about to drive the point home, when she was distracted by the sound of booted footsteps in the doorway. Jerking her chair around, she saw the object of her earlier speculations leaning winningly against the doorjamb. He had clearly made the kitchen his first stop; he held one of Cook’s ginger biscuits in either hand and was alternating taking bites from both.
“Good morning, ladies,” he pronounced with a winning smile, only slightly marred by bulging cheeks.
“You do know Richard doesn’t live here anymore?” snapped Penelope.
Henrietta waved a languid hand. “Oh, that doesn’t make the slightest difference to Miles. He just comes here….”
“…for the meals,” Miles obligingly finished for her, swallowing a final mouthful of ginger biscuit.
Henrietta cocked her head. “You’re in good spirits this morning.”
“How could I not be, with three such pulchritudinous ladies arrayed before me?” Miles swept an elaborate bow.
Henrietta narrowed her hazel eyes suspiciously. “Last night it was, ‘Run along, children; I’m flirting.’”
Miles clasped his hands behind his back and gazed up at the elaborate plasterwork of the ceiling. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You have a new mistress?” Henrietta fished.
“Hen!” Charlotte exclaimed.
Miles wagged a finger, and pronounced, “You aren’t supposed to know of such things.”
Henrietta noticed that he didn’t deny the allegation. “Don’t you mean ‘such women’?”
“Such states of affairs,” Miles corrected loftily.
“Affairs are precisely what I was referring to,” Henrietta said, rather more sharply than she had intended.
“Richard,” Miles said ominously, “tells you altogether too much.”
“If you knew half of what was whispered in the lady’s retiring room, your ears would fall off in shock.”
“Might be an improvement,” muttered Penelope.
“I don’t think ears fall off just like that,” put in Charlotte thoughtfully.
“Whose ears are falling off?” enquired Lady Uppington, sweeping into the morning room in a rustle of emerald silk.