Many of you have asked me just what was up with Mary and Vaughn in The Mischief of the Mistletoe. After all, there are all the other characters, brimming with holiday spirit (even if the Dowager of Dovedale does express that in her own unique way), but Mary and Vaughn appear to be at their very snarkiest.
Here’s the scoop.
But first, here’s the scene:
“Mr. Fitzhugh’s sister is a pupil at Miss Climpson’s,” said Mlle de Fayette. “A most apt pupil, too.”
She made one of those quick, shifting movements people make as they prepare to excuse themselves, but she was forestalled by Lady Vaughn.
“A Fitzhugh?” Lady Vaughn’s laugh, sickly sweet as syrup and just as devoid of any genuine nourishment, grated on Arabella’s nerves. “Apt?”
“I shouldn’t be too hasty to condemn the entire garden on the basis of one vegetable, my sweet,” returned her husband blandly, as though the vegetable in question weren’t standing right there. “One never knows where one might find the odd flower.”
Lady Vaughn tossed her glossy head, making the crimson plumes on her hat dance. “Why bother with root vegetables when there are roses to be had?”
Lord Vaughn regarded his wife from beneath half-closed lids. “Too humble for you?”
Lady Vaughn’s gaze shifted to Mr. Fitzhugh’s dangling watch -fobs, all decorated with exaggerated enamel carnations. “Too tasteless.”
Arabella remembered the hot bricks and the cold chocolate and the solicitude with which Mr. Fitzhugh had tucked blanket after blanket around them in the carriage, until she had thought they might smother from them. When had Lady Vaughn, for all her vaunted good taste, ever performed a kind deed for anyone? Turnips might be plain, but they were certainly nourishing.
“Even humble fare has its advantages,” said Arabella defiantly.
“Yes, thirty thousand of them a year,” said Lady Vaughn with a knowing arch of her brows. “And all in gold.”
Arabella looked at Lady Vaughn, at her crimson-dyed feathers and watchful eyes. “Not everyone counts a man’s worth in coins.”
Lord Vaughn lifted his quizzing glass. “Who said anything about a man? I spoke merely of cultivating one’s garden.”
Vaughn and Turnip are oil and water– or oil and raspberry jam. Vaughn regards Turnip much as he would an overgrown puppy who has been let into his house without permission: exuberant, loud, and prone to messing up one’s clothes. Turnip, for his part, like a puppy, can’t resist bounding up to Vaughn. Ever seen a puppy and a Siamese cat “playing” together? That’s pretty much it.
Mary’s side is more complex. At the opening of Mistletoe, Mary and Vaughn have only been married for about a month. Mary’s brush with potential failure on the marriage market is still recent enough that she’s determined to grind her new position as countess into everyone’s face. She’s not quite comfortable yet in her own skin or her position and very anxious to put distance between herself and those young ladies less fortunate– she was one not so very long ago and doesn’t want to remember it. It’s even more galling to recall that at one point she considered lowering herself enough to make a play for Turnip Fitzhugh, who, while he might not have the title, did, at least, have the guineas. Naturally, now that the crisis is averted, Mary has convinced herself that she would never have even thought of such a thing– but the knowledge that she did makes her sneer at Turnip even more.
In short, Turnip and Arabella bring out the very worst in both Vaughns.
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