For our fourth Pinkorama of 2023, returning Pinkorama champions Carrie and Laura bring us… “In the Weeds” from The Betrayal of the Blood Lily!
(If you haven’t read Blood Lily yet and intend to, this scene is a bit of a spoiler, so you might want to move on. If you have read Blood Lily— or haven’t but don’t intend to– carry on!)
We’re in Hyderabad, India. The year is 1805. Lady Frederick Staines (the former Miss Penelope Deveraux) has been sent to India with her husband to live down the ignominy of their very hasty marriage. But India isn’t the making of their marriage; in fact, things go from bad to worse. And while Penelope wrestles with the intrigues of a foreign court and the very obvious infidelity of her husband, she finds herself increasingly drawn to career diplomat Alex Reid, who is everything Freddy is not (including not her husband).
Let’s just say there are extenuating circumstances for the state of undress in which we find them in this Pinkorama. Having– against both their better judgments– given in to their feelings, they’re already both second-guessing what happened when the situation is made even worse by the appearance of Freddy.
The pallbearers are all nattily attired in coordinating uniforms. (Freddy would expect nothing less. Although he really didn’t expect to be dead halfway through the book.)
For your amusement, here’s the relevant passage from the book:
An elephant lumbered in the center of the party, preceding a long line of donkeys and pack mules, but this time, Fiske wasn’t on it. She could see him riding in front of the party, cleverly staying ahead of the dust cloud. There was another man beside him, but it wasn’t Freddy. Beneath his fashionable hat, Penelope recognized the curly head of Mr. Jasper Pinchingdale. Barring the inevitable dust of travel, both men were as fresh and clean as though they had stepped out of their dressing rooms. That, she supposed, was what all the pack mules were for. Penelope scanned the mass of animals and men for Freddy. She spotted Aurangzeb, being led by Freddy’s groom, but of Freddy himself there was no sign.
“Ahoy, there!” she called, waving a hand playfully above her head.
Neither Fiske nor Pinchingdale recognized Penelope at first, with her dirty face and her hair in a long plait down her back.
Penelope swished her braid and grinned at them, a practiced, gamine grin. “I’d wager you didn’t expect to see me here.”
“Lady Frederick?” gasped Mr. Pinchingdale, losing his grasp on his urbane sophistication and nearly on his horse as well. Next to him, Fiske was doing his very best guppy imitation. Penelope wasn’t fooled. A guppy Fiske might be, but he was a deuced dangerous guppy.
Penelope spread a dazzling smile impartially between the two of them. “I’ve come to surprise Freddy. I bullied Captain Reid into escorting me.” Her tone reduced him to a superior sort of servant, which was, she had no doubt, how Freddy chose to view him. He would as soon suspect her of canoodling with one of the footmen. “It’s no fair that you gentlemen should get all the fun of the hunting.”
Their frozen stares were enough to make Penelope start to feel more than a little self-conscious. All right, so she might be a bit bedraggled, but how did they think one would look after riding four days? Not everyone spent five hours a day on her toilette.
Abandoning them as a bad job, Penelope craned to look over their shoulders. “Where is Freddy?”
She didn’t miss the look Pinchingdale and Fiske exchanged, or the quick slide of Pinchingdale’s eyes to a palanquin being carried by four bearers a little way behind them. So that was it, was it? Penelope felt her smile curdle on her lips. That explained why Aurangzeb was riderless in the middle of the afternoon. Trust Freddy to bring his mistress with him on a simple little hunting trip. That was Freddy for you. He liked to be supplied with all the creature comforts. Home away from home, as it were.
Well, too bad for him.
Swinging off her horse, she tossed the reins to a groom. “In the palanquin, is he, lazy old thing?”
“Um, Lady Frederick,” began Pinchingdale awkwardly. “I don’t think—”
Oh, he didn’t, did he?
“Don’t worry,” said Penelope gaily. “I’ll soon roust him out.”
Under the frozen gaze of Fiske, Pinchingdale, all four bearers, sixty-odd servants, and one elephant, she yanked open the curtains of the palanquin.
Freddy was inside. But he wasn’t resting. And he wasn’t with his mistress. His hands rested neatly on his chest. His legs were stretched straight out in front of him, boots blackened and shining. But his once-handsome features were swollen and distorted and there were two gold coins where his eyes had been, weighting the eyelids shut.
Pinchingdale cleared his throat. “I was trying to tell you. Lord Frederick is dead.”
As always, I am so impressed by all the detail, from the gold coins on Freddy’s eyes to the luxurious palanquin to Penelope’s gorgeous red locks. And the little horses harnessed to the tree! Thank you so much, Carrie and Laura, for another glorious tour de peep! It was such fun to get to visit with a couple I haven’t seen in a while…. (Au naturel, no less!)
Join us here tomorrow for our fifth Pinkorama of 2023!