Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. There’s a whole lot of wooing going on.
Before Cecelia could finish her proposition, Tent, Bedelia, Millicent, Eddie and Andy enter from the ballroom, swinging and swaying to a ragtime beat. After Andy closed the door, the music faded away, and the gang settled into more sedentary forms of partying.
“Billy! Come here!”
Everyone jumped because the inspector forgot to use his inside voice.
“Just a minute, boss.” He gobbled down the last canapé. “You sure do know how to cook, Lady Chatalot.”
Cecelia smiled seductively. “Oh, that’s just one of my many talents.”
“Billy!” Tent was losing his patience, if he had any in the first place.
“You can cook some more for me later.” He licked his thick lips and then stood. “Comin’, boss.”
Tent led Billy over to the window to discuss their business matters away from prying eyes. Andy, Eddie and Millicent joined Cecelia at the chaise lounge to compare notes while Bedelia took a devil-may-care pose by the fireplace and tried to keep an eye on everyone.
“Did everything go according to plan?” Tent whispered.
“Aye, boss.” Billy nodded and handed Tent a packet.
“What’s this?” He opened the packet, expecting to find a wad of bills but came a letter along with the payoff dough.
“A note from the merchant,” Billy replied.
Tent’s eyes widened as he read the letter. “We’ve got to get out of here!”
Billy was right on his heels as they began their escape. “Aye, boss.”
When Tent opened the door, a rousing rodeo hoedown blared through, knocking them back on their heels. Eddie jumped on the lounge and clapped his hands.
“Hey that’s my kind of music! I love that sound! Let’s go to town with the rodeo hoedown!”
Cecelia grabbed Billy, Millicent took Tent by the elbow, Andy put his arm around Bedelia, and they began to prance around the room, following Eddie’s every command.
We git real low down, go round and round! Do si do the rodeo hoedown!
Yell yee haw, like your ma and pa with all your might!
Stomp your feet, clap your hands and hoedown through the night!
Gals line up to one side ‘cause that’s what you do.
Gents line up facing gals, even Billy too.
We’ve had fun, but now it’s done. Tune out the racket.
I’ll tell you just when to try to grab that packet!
Go Milly, boo Billy, why don’t you get bent!
Go Andy, you’re dandy! Stop that Inspector Tent!
Milly’s mom, you’re the bomb! Stay by Billy’s hide!
The packet, we got the packet! Hooray for our side!
At one point or another during the reel, every participant had hold of the incriminating packet. When Bedelia snatched it from Andy, Cecelia–like a bat out of hell—swooped in, grabbed it and handed it forthwith to Eddie on the lounge. Cecelia planted a huge wet kiss on Billy, distracting him from knocking Eddie from his perch and retrieving the object of everyone’s desire at that moment. Bedelia, in her misguided allegiance to the chief inspector, tried to go after the packet again as well, but Andy wrapped his arms around her and smothered her in smooches.
“Curses!” Tent thundered.
“Yes, I know!” Millicent retorted in triumph. “Foiled again!”
Eddie jumped down from the furniture and waved to Millicent and Cecelia. “Come on, Millie! You and yo’r maw help me figger this stuff out!”
Reluctantly Cecelia pulled away from Billy, whose eyes had taken on a romantic glow which probably had never been there before. “I’m sorry, my dear. I’m needed elsewhere. I shall return.”
“Yes, me Lady Chatalot.” He attempted a deep bow which did not come across as suavely as he might have hoped.
Millicent stopped in her tracks and looked quizzically at her mother. “What did he call you?”
“Never mind.” She waved at Eddie. “Look in the packet.”