Trouble for Lucia by E.F.Benson
published 1939 Chapter 1
[Georgie Pillson is getting ready for dinner at home with his wife, Lucia.]
A parcel had arrived for him… "It must be my new dinner suit," he said to himself…He cut the string and there it was: jacket and waistcoat and trousers of ruby-coloured velvet, with synthetic-onyx buttons, quite superb…He was thrilled with its audacious beauty.
"Now let me think," he meditated. "One of my pleated shirts, and a black butterfly tie, and my garnet solitaire. And my pink vest. Nobody will see it, but I shall know it's there. And red socks. Or daren't I?"
He swiftly invested himself in this striking creation [then] rang the bell for Foljambe [the parlour-maid valet]…
"Lor!" she said. "Something fancy-dress, sir?"
"Not at all," said Georgie. "My new evening suit. Isn't it smart, Foljambe? Don't you like it?"
"Well, a bit of a shock, sir. I hope you won't spill things on it, for it would be a rare job to get anything sticky out of the velvet, and you do throw your food about sometimes. But it is pretty now I begin to take it in."
Georgie went into his sitting-room next door, where there was a big mirror over the fireplace, and turned on all the electric lights. He got up on a chair, so that he could get a more comprehensive view of himself, and revolved slowly in the brilliant light. He was so absorbed in his Narcissism that he did not hear Lucia come out of her bedroom. The door was ajar, and she peeped in. She gave a strangled scream at the sight of a large man in a glaring red suit standing on a chair with his back to her. It was unusual. Georgie whisked round at her cry.
"Look!" he said. "Your delicious present. There it was when I came from my bath. Isn't it lovely?"
Lucia recovered from her shock.
"Positively Venetian, Georgie," she said. "Real Titian."
Lucia is the queen of the social scene in a couple of southern English towns in the years between the two world wars. The six books in the series relate in close and hilarious detail her fights with her rivals – Miss Mapp being the most important – the jealousies, the gossip, the music parties and seances, the strict social hierarchy of the town. A favourite character is Quaint Irene – a Bohemian artist who dresses like a man and adores Lucia in a rather hearty way. Georgie is Lucia’s comrade in many adventures, and eventually marries her after she is widowed, even though he seems not to be the marrying kind (like his creator, EF Benson). Later in the book, Georgie fears the presence of the Duchess of Sheffield who may make advances to him – but it is essential for Lucia’s standing in their community that the Duchess is an overnight guest. So Lucia says ‘if you’re nervous you may sleep in my room. Just while she’s here of course.’ Georgie replies ‘Oh I don’t think either of us would like that, and Foljambe would think it so odd.'
Lucia’s house in the town of Tilling is based on EF Benson’s own home in the town of Rye in East Sussex – the house had earlier been the home of Henry James, author of yesterday’s entry.
The picture is of Oscar Wilde (don’t think Georgie would mind) and is from George Eastman House and featured on Flickr.