I’ve mentioned that I develop mystery dinner parties for our friends. In the play “Catnapped!” each character had to tell a story about something that happened to her in her 20s. This is the the story told by the ditzy Lady Agatha during the dinner party.
My dear friend Ginny Blossom and I had finished our studies at Lady Dragomere’s Academy and were preparing for our debut into society. Mama had taken me up to London to begin assembling my wardrobe for the many, many social events of the season. We had just left a fitting at Mr. Worth’s salon, and were on our way to the Ritz for tea. Because it was just two blocks from the salon to the hotel, we decided to walk. OH, FATEFUL DECISION!
Mama was talking, as was her habit, constantly. Papa said she was the only person he ever met who could talk on the inhale. She was searching through her reticule for something, speaking all the while, and not watching where she was walking. We had stepped off the sidewalk and were crossing the avenue, and I will confess I was distracted by the memory of the beautiful gown I had just tried on, and FROM NOWHERE! A HORSELESS CARRIAGE! In a heartbeat, I attempted to turn back, pulling Mama with me. BUT IT WAS TOO LATE! THE MACHINE WAS UPON US!
Just as I was sure we would be crushed, I felt two strong (oh, so manly!) arms grasp me and Mama and lift us bodily from the CERTAINTY OF IMMINENT DEATH! When I regained my breath, and ascertained that Mama was safe … which I was assured she was by the steady flow of words issuing from her … I turned to thank our benefactor. MY DEAR! What a handsome man he was. Tall, strong, elegant. And with an intensity of expression that I later came to learn bespoke a certain cruelty.
He said, “My God, Girl, what were you thinking, stepping out in front of the Lagonda like that? Don’t you know that is one of the most powerful motorcars in the world? Are you and your mother both daft?”
I knew right then that this was the man I was fated to marry. No one had ever spoken to me in that way before, and I found it quite thrilling. Of course, I couldn’t let him know that.
I said, “How dare you speak to us in that impertinent manner! We were merely walking from Mr. Worth’s salon to the Ritz for tea when this horrid device bore down upon us. I’m sure we would have been quite fine without your ministrations. Certainly, the operator of the motorcar, as you call it, would have been able to rein it in.”
He said, “Idiot Child! Motorcars don’t have reins, and if I hadn’t been quick off the mark, you and your chatty mum would be lying beneath its wheels. You should be thanking me, not criticizing my manners. However, speaking of manners, allow me to introduce myself: Hubert Charmondelay-Featherstonehaugh at your service.”
With that, he bowed sharply and shallowly, more of a little dip than was quite proper, but I nevertheless appreciated the effort at propriety.
Next he said, “Please allow me to see you ladies safely to the Ritz.” I protested that we had already taken up enough of his time; no, he assured me, he was on his way to his club and would, in any event, be passing the Ritz.
He crooked first his left arm for Mama, and when she had taken it, bent his right arm toward me. I slipped my arm through his and we began strolling and conversing. Mama had finally wound down and was listening to Hubert and me with interest and a speculative glint in her eye. Hubert, she thought, might save Papa the cost of a very expensive debut season.
And so it came to be. By March, Hubert and I were engaged; and when I might have been attending the Prince’s Ball, I was instead dancing at my own wedding as Lady Agatha Charmondelay-Featherstonehaugh.