I adore Victorian fashion and etiquette. Men wore more colorful garb than a person might imagine. I think the Netflix show Ripper Street does a very good job on costuming. Etiquette rules were very well defined. A lady never lifted her skirt high enough to show more than one ankle while stepping up. A gentleman did not adjust his collar, neckcloth or tie, or cuffs in company. So, when the man who has been trying very hard to court Lorena starts fiddling with all three at the dinner table in polite company, everyone perks up like meerkats because they know something is up.
And, oh, those neckcloths and ties. They could be absolutely lovely. Sometimes they wore two silk cloths tied intricately together.
Above Is E.A. Poe in a natty cravat and the gentleman next to him in a patricide collar. I’m not sure of the knot.
A patricide collar is a very stiffly starched winged collar that got its name from a fictional story where a son wearing one hugged his father and it was so sharp it cut the father’s throat.
I very much apologize for the length. You can stop reading here. The other post I had planned was too similar to a previous one and I am brain dead today.
Budge dabbed at his mouth for the seventh time since finishing his cake and readjusted his cuffs, then his very properly starched patricide collar. His plump fingers eeled through the folds in the intricately tied silk neckcloth until I wondered if her were contemplating strangling himself with it. He looked around the room, tugged at his sleeves again and took out his handkerchief. General Beauregard, who had settled back in his chair with a cup of strong coffee, was now interested in Budge also and watched him with those hooded eyes as a cat might a nervous mouse.
“Pudge, what’s wrong with you?” asked Captain Collins.
“That’s Budge. Budgeon Theodore Catton III, if you will,” corrected Mrs. Catton.
I ducked my head and patted my mouth with my napkin. When I raised it again, I noticed Miss Priscilla Catton approaching across the room with a wide smile on her slight face and her eyes locked on mine. Oh, dear Lord in heaven. Budge didn’t have the box, Priscilla did.
General Beauregard leaned forward, as did the rest of the officers, now fully engaged in the unfolding scene. I had the impression, they might surround me and whisk me away to safety at any moment. Pray God they would.
Priscilla was as thin as her mother, sisters, and cousins were. The flock of cousins and sisters had all swiveled their long, thin necks to better watch the coming show. It was like watching a group of frilled flamingoes. “Miss McKenzie,” Priscilla said. “We all, some of us especially, are very fond of you.”
Is he going to have her propose to me?
It was Beauregard’s turn to cock an eyebrow at me. Captain Collins coughed nervously. I felt sure if I aimed just right I could faint into his side. I scooted my chair back a bit more lest I faint into the remnants of the cake’s lemon sauce. He matched my action and leaned back in his chair, giving me a straight shot to his chest or possibly blocking my escape if I decided to run. You never know how a disaster will unfold.
Without warning, she opened her mouth as if to scream and out came something I believe akin to a banshee’s wail. “The years creep slowly by, Lorena. Snow is on the grass again.”
Behind me, a servant dropped a dish he’d been clearing. I stared at Priscilla who waved her arms dramatically as she sang. Mrs. Catton clapped wildly, nearly overcome by emotion. Budge was in danger of slicing his sagging bullfrog throat on the razor-sharp collar points from jerking his head to look at my reaction and back to his sister and then back to me. I can only imagine I looked horrified, because I truly was. How could this get any worse? I reminded myself too late never to ask that question of the universe because it will answer. And it did. The flock stood up to join Priscilla in serenading the last two lines of the first verse. The first verse? Dear Lord. There were five more to go.
The flock sat down, atwitter with delight at their performance, while Priscilla launched into the second verse. Captain Collins nudged me with his elbow and glanced down. I, being a coward to my marrow about some things and at this point quite sure the performance was going to be concluded with a proposal, accepted the offer to retreat. I sighed and dropped away so quickly he had to scramble to catch me.