Last week, someone asked about the heroine of Pink IX. We’ve met Augustus Whittlesby before, but who is his leading lady? We get our first glimpse of her in The Orchid Affair, in the company of Jane….
[Laura] pretended interest in the poet, watching the group of ladies out of the corner of her eye. The Carnation was with Bonaparte’s stepdaughter again, along with a third woman whom Laura didn’t recognize—shorter and slighter than the other two, with straw-colored hair beneath an exuberant headdress of silver filigree and white feathers.
The Carnation’s chaperone, Miss Gwen, was notably absent. Off on another mission? Or simply exploring the refreshment table?
“Really, Whittlesby,” exclaimed the third woman. Her French was colloquial, but accented. American, determined Laura. “These interminable odes! Have you never thought of trying your hand at a sonnet or a sestina?”
The poet assumed an affronted expression. “Such short forms do not allow proper scope for my art,” he declared grandly.
“Bother that,” said the American. “Since when was poetic scope measured in the breadth of a pile of paper? It’s content that matters, not size.”
Behind her, the fashionably dressed matrons on the sofa snickered behind their hands.
The American shot them a repressive look. “If you would,” she said. “We are discussing poetry.”
“You may discuss it all you will, Madame Delagardie,” said the poet, giving the American a look of what appeared to be genuine irritation, “but to discuss is not to create. It takes more than a moment’s puffery to create the lilting syllables of that sovereign of all arts, that perfect marriage of meter and rhyme, that—”
“Poem?” The American cut him off mid-spate. Her feathers bounced as she raised herself on her tiptoes. “Is that a challenge, Monsieur Whittlesby?”
“A competition!” exclaimed Hortense Bonaparte. “A verse for a verse!”
“My muse does not work on demand,” pronounced Whittlesby.
“Then sack it and get a new one,” replied the American gaily. “It clearly isn’t doing its job.”
Whittlesby rapidly re-rolled his latest ode, shuffling it into a tight coil. “Maybe my muse has some discrimination.”
“Or it’s just lazy,” suggested the American. “Lolling about on a cloud somewhere when it should be working.” She looked pointedly at the thick roll in Whittlesby’s hands. “It certainly hasn’t been doing much editing.”
The ladies on the sofa hissed their distress.
The American shrugged. “Well?” she demanded. “Have we a pact? Or has your muse gone on holiday?”
“I’ll keep the wagers,” volunteered the Pink Carnation, her voice rich with amusement. “Who wants to versify first?”
Whittlesby cast the Pink Carnation the sort of look that could melt stone. He smoldered quite nicely. “For you, loveliest of ladies,” he said pointedly, “anything. The Augean stable would be but a trifle if you were to ask it of me.”
The group on the sofa tittered and swished their fans.
“Am I meant to feel slighted?” inquired the American of the ceiling. “Heavens. How crushing.”
We’ve had a glimpse of Emma in Orchid Affair (yep, that’s her name, Emma Morris Delagardie) and there’s also a bit from Pink IX that I posted last week, but who is she? The full scoop on my American heroine coming up next Tuesday….