Caribbean Sunset with a Yellow Parrot
Lady Amanda Golightly’s dutiful butler Beauchamp is getting married and she provides him and his bride with a wonderful present – a honeymoon in the Caribbean. There’s just one snag – Lady Amanda and her friend Hugo are going too!
One of Lady A’s old friends is hosting a school reunion, and so the Belchester party joins some of the other old girls in crossing for the reunion by sea – on a ship very accurately named the Seven Seas Floating Party Town.
On embarkation, life is typically uneventful: the tropical island paradise is rife with murder, smuggling, blackmail, and much, much, more. With Lady Amanda’s unerring nose for nefarious deeds, she, Hugo, and the besotted newlywed Beauchamps are off detecting once more – aided by plenty of coconut rum – and the local hot sauce.
The cough from the back of the church had reverberated with the impact of heavy artillery shot, halting the wedding and drawing all eyes to its source at the important point where the vicar had called for anyone present to speak now, or forever hold his peace.
The bride, Enid Tweedie, widow of this parish and friend and gofer for Lady Amanda Golightly, and the groom, Beauchamp, butler to the same, stood whey-faced and open-mouthed at the front of the church, while every mind in the building whirred with activity. Was there something in Beauchamp’s past which no one knew about? Was he a bigamist? Come to that, was Enid a bigamist, perhaps never having been widowed?
The man at the back coughed again, his hand in front of his mouth to prove he had been a well-brought-up boy, and cleared his throat, preparatory to speaking. Here was the truth. What were they about to learn, to sweeten and enliven Belchester’s already busy gossip mill?
‘I do apologise,’ he said, only heightening the tension. What did he want to apologise for? Was he a player in whatever he was about to reveal? He cleared his throat again and continued, ‘Mark Morton, church warden. I seem to have inhaled a small insect. Please carry on. I’m very sorry to have interrupted. Forgive me, and do carry on.’
A collective sigh of disappointment that as held breaths were exhaled made enough of a breeze to stir Morton’s hat, and a buzz of let-down conversation began to move through the body of the church.
The vicar also coughed, to drag everyone’s attention back to the matter at hand, then carried on with the service, his voice a little wobbly, as if this interruption had severely upset him, while a snort of indignation could be heard from the matron of honour, Lady Amanda herself, wearing what she referred to as ‘a pastel-coloured meringue’.
The rest of the service went off without a hitch, as did the photographs outside the church, the only outré moment being when the man with the camera asked the ladies present to show a bit of leg for a risqué shot. Lady Amanda slightly uncovered what looked like a sturdy leg of pork, while Enid pulled her wedding dress high enough to show off her garter, revealing several nicotine patches nestling underneath it: a novelty, to say the least. A mass clicking indicated that most of the guests also wished to capture this unusual sight for posterity.
It was not too long, though, before the wedding party returned to Belchester Towers, the ancestral home of Lady Amanda’s family, for the wedding breakfast.
The caterers had been back, as had the wedding decorators, and the place was transformed into a fairytale celebration venue, starting with white ribbons, bows, and balloons at the front steps. Inside, every surface was covered in flowers, from dirty great vasefuls to tiny little nosegays; there was white ribbon everywhere, and balloons bobbed like captive clouds, tied to just about every piece of furniture.
The theme of each table centre was a heart, and these sprouted from place cards to menu holders, too. All in all, Cinderella didn’t just go to the ball, it was thrown in her honour, and Enid went pink with delight when she set eyes on it, making little squeaking noises of approval and disbelief.
The toastmaster, who was part of the catering package, started off the ceremony by explaining the order of events, which ended with carriages at three a.m., and introduced Beauchamp, that he may welcome his guests and introduce his bride to all here gathered. There were no parents-in-law to introduce, although he did give hearty thanks to his employer, who had made a gift of this reception and the honeymoon to the happy couple. Enid blushed again at the implications of the word ‘honeymoon’, but Beauchamp carried on regardless.
‘I and my, um, wife, er, have told everyone that we were going to the West Country for this part of the getting married experience.’ Here, Enid nodded contentedly, before he continued, ‘Instead of which, due to my employer, Lady Amanda Golightly’s incredible generosity we are going, not to that delightful part of the country, but, to the West Indies.’
Enid spilt champagne all down the front of her frock in shock, and accidentally inhaled the mouthful she was about to swallow. While Hugo Cholmondley-Crichton-Crump thumped her back, murmuring, ‘There, there, old girl. Cough it up, and you’ll feel much better,’ there was a communal sharp intake of breath from the guests, which was repeated, fortissimo, when Beauchamp carried on with his speech.
‘We are going to a tiny island which is privately owned, called Caribbaya. Lady Amanda and Mr Hugo will accompany us on our sea journey across the Atlantic, whereafter they will stay with one of her ladyship’s old schoolfriends, and my bride and I shall retire to separate guest accommodation.’
The hubbub rose in volume. The old wrinklies were going on honeymoon with them? How absolutely disastrous. How could the newlyweds stomach the thought of being at their beck and call all the way over on that long sea crossing, then no doubt summoned from their guest accommodation at all hours, to pass the salt or something just as ridiculous?
Lady Amanda sat smirking like the Cheshire cat, Hugo had resumed his seat and looked thoroughly embarrassed, while Enid, the new Mrs Beauchamp, now had hiccoughs, and her eyes stared widely as if her whole world had just shattered around her.
‘Beechy?’ she croaked, holding out a hand to her new husband.
‘Later,’ he reassured her, patting the hand, and handing over to the best man.