Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody of Zorro and The Scarlet Pimpernel and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws her annual society ball, in the middle of a crime wave in Soho. Chief Inspector Tent grills her but the Man in Red intervenes.
Lord Andrew Taylor entered with a flourish from the ballroom dressed in satin, velvet and ruffles. With mincing steps he flitted his way to Cecelia, blowing air kisses all about her cheeks and lips. “Lady Snob-Johnson!” he exclaimed before exploding into verse.
Greetings, greetings one and all.
Andy Taylor’s at the ball.
I lived too many years in dreary old Wales
But now I’m back and into sales!
I do it all, design, cut and sew,
Dress designer, young man on the go!
Andy’s back in town and selling gowns!
He’s turning London upside down!
A shop in Soho and sales are so so.
But I’ve only begun ‘cause there’s money to be won.
My dad is proud. I lead the crowd.
Mommy’s impressed. I made her a dress!
Andy’s a dandy ever so randy!
I want a giggle so watch my tush wiggle!
Cecelia could not believe her eyes, nor her ears. How could an evening filled with such high society promise go down the toilet so quickly? She stuck the tray of liver goo in Andy’s face. “Canapés, canapés. No one will eat my canapés. Come on and be a sport. Eat one of my canapés.”
Andy turned to take a dramatic pose by the fireplace. “You know, historically we Taylors have always made dresses. That’s how we got our name and entered nobility. My ancestor was the dressmaker to the great queen herself.”
Millicent stepped forward. “You mean he was—“
“Yes,” Andy went straight to the punchline. “Elizabeth’s tailor.”
With a canapé gracefully tucked between her thumb and forefinger, Cecelia entreated Andy, “Come on and be a sport. Eat one of my canapés.”
“Thanks just bunches, but mumsey, daddums and I just had the yummiest din-din. I couldn’t eat a thing.” He raised his palm just in the nick of time to avoid getting lump crammed down his throat.”
“If you’ve just had a large dinner, you must feel a tremendous need to burp—“
“Mother!” Millicent tapped Cecelia’s shoulder. “Don’t be ridiculous!”
“You think I’m the ridiculous one?” She started nodding in Andy’s direction. “Take a look at –“
“And stop pushing those canapés on your guests!” Millicent swung her around by her elbow. “Get rid of them!”
“I don’t care!” she said in exasperation. “Put them on the floor behind the screen.”
While Cecelia hid the tray of canapés behind the oriental screen, Millicent took Tent by the arm and displayed her best Snob smile, inherited from her famed grandfather.
“Chief inspector, you might want to meet some of our guests,” she cooed. “I’m sure you’ll find them quite fascinating.”
“I don’t know,” he replied grinning at the cast of characters in the library. “I’m rather enjoying the show in here.”
“I said, move it!” Millicent lost her charm in a flash. “You too, Mother!”
Millicent tightened her grip on Tent’s arm and grabbed Cecelia by the hand and forced both of them out the door. In the meantime, Andy drifted over to the oriental screen, extracted a monocle on a silver stick and bent over to examine the flub dub more closely. With uncertain steps Bedelia approached Andy, only to find herself talking to his extended posterior.
“Andy, I can’t believe it’s you.”
“Bedelia, darling! It’s just been oodles and oodles of time since we last met.” Evidently he was so captivated by the screen that he kept his backside to her.
“Yes, when you left for Wales with your family.” Bedelia was not used to seeing this side of Andy’s personality, yet she could not draw herself away.
“We did have jolly good times back then, didn’t we?” He took a step closer to the object d’art. “Oh, what a divine oriental screen! Japanese or Chinese, which do you think?”
“You were the first boy I ever kissed.” Her tone was tinged with romantic melancholy.
“Siamese, I’ll wager.”
The moment was ripe for another round of poetry, and Bedelia went for it. I never will forget your touch one sultry summer day.
The mem’ry of you gentle hand will never fade away.
Andy finally took an erect posture, turned and fashioned an icy glare.
Why no I don’t recall that July day, the lilacs in the air I don’t recall
And how the sun shone in your hair, I don’t recall at all.
Bedelia would not be put off by his air of indifference.
I fell in love. You were my hero so serious and grave,
But now you seem so changed; in fact you seem so—