Like most folks who spent even a tenth of a second considering their post college job prospects, Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus has never read a Victorian novel. He’s always meant to of course. He’s seen the film of Oliver Twist, and some of the better Jane Brontë period dramas on BBC 2. He quite enjoys the steam punk aesthetic, and he’s even read the League of Extra Ordinary Gentlemen. So he imagines he’s got a pretty good idea what Victorian novels must actually be like. Why bother reading them? They all doubtless go something like this…
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a governess who at first appears stern must in fact be kindly, while a suitor who initially seems suitable, shall doubtless be revealed a cad.
“Why Mrs Glim, I’m so terribly glad you’ll be joining us,” announced the rotund doctor Puzzlethwait, with the fondest degree of sincerity he could muster.
Mrs Glim, nee Chastity Jambon Glim, widow of the late proctor Hypotenuse Glim, adopted a stern frown. “You’ll find there is no need to take that tone with me Mr. Puzzlethwait. I have been looking after children for over twenty years, and even though my mien may appear at first stern and punitive, as the story progresses I shall be revealed as a kind hearted friend, while Mr Haverstock, that most suspiciously agreeable suitor of your daughter Persephone, shall be exposed as a cad about whom terrible things are whispered in London.”
Dr Puzzlethwait looked sceptical, “At any rate, it shall be good to have a woman attend to the children, since my late wife was martyred on the millstone of her nervous disposition (a fact I cleverly conceal with the implication that she fell victim to the dread influenza, a palatable fiction that belies her tragic passage in the very attic above our heads not ten years past, poor mad woman), it has been my solemn but I fear poorly rendered duty to raise my two dear daughters alone. A task at which I have conspicuously failed to excel.”
“Nonsense,” interrupted Emilia Puzzlethwait, who had entered as the doctor was speaking. “No daughter could have asked for a kindlier father. For though in all likelihood, were we a real family and not some pale shade described in novel form as succour for the idling classes, you would have taken your gaying instrument to my sisters and I before our poor mothers vital corpus had left the attic, in quite hypocritical contravention of the proscribed standards of Victorian neo-Puritanism, and indeed common decency; since we are not such a family, but rather a fictive and jolly group, beset my no problems greater than the degree of poverty that makes high tea a weekly indulgence rather than a daily event, you have been a most admirable father.”
“Why Emilia, I never heard you arrive. How wonderful. May I introduce Mrs Glim, your new governess?” inquired Dr. Puzzlethwait.
“I trust that your dirty puzzle of a daughter will refrain in future from disturbing a conversation before she has been formally presented. Such behaviour is a breach of etiquette as grave as the rude twinkle of a lasciviously unconcealed piano leg,” interrupted Mrs Glim, who had taken an instant dislike to the girl.
“Then the pleasure is all mine,” replied Emilia, sullenly.
“Now now, Emilia,” said Persephone, the older of doctor Puzzlethwaits two children- a girl of eighteen, who was a great deal more mature than her fourteen year old sister. “I must apologise on my sisters behalf Mrs Glim, I’m afraid Emilia isn’t used to company.”
“You on the other hand are, I’m sure, a little too familiar with it,” returned Mrs Glim cruelly. “By the assiduousness with which you flail that quail-pipe, I’d guess that you are no stranger to lusheries, posing for crude daguerreotypes and entertaining dark cullies at all sorts of irregular hours. No longer! Under my apparently wicked but in actuality kindly intentioned heel you shall frolic no more.”
At this Persephone burst into a flood of tears, upon the waves of which she flowed out of the room, up the servants staircase, and by means of a secret passage which she had enjoyed the use of since early girlhood, left that ill tempered cottage for the afternoon.
“I have no doubt the girl considers herself a toffer,” continued Mrs Glim, “but to my mind she’s naught but a thrupenny upright.”
Running through the picturesque grain fields close to fathers modest but respectable cottage, Persephone Puzzlethwait was possessed by that most unladylike of moods, self pity. It was this unaccustomed cloud which bade her mistake the sound of Mr Fieldings fast approaching carriage, until it was almost upon her. Before the vehicle had time to slow its progress Persephone had added to her muslin summer dress the unflattering adornment of the contents of a puddle. A combination of shock and indignation set the poor girl once again about the production of tears. She need not have worried about drowning in this fast flooding brook. Quick as the silence after a cry of cannon, an eligible young man leapt in great disorder from the carriage and dragged the unmarried but handsome girl to safety. Laying for a moment speechless in her saviours arms, Persephone was victim to the queerest hallucination that the beneficent face of the angel Gabriel himself shone down upon her. “What loveliness,” she murmured aloud.
“Indeed,” replied Mr Fielding enthusiastically, as he helped the young girl to her feet- heroically restraining his mettle from loosing on Persephone’s already greened gown. None the less, the young gent’s Nebuchadnezzar had given the game away. Just as Perephone’s money was about to betray her.
And on in a similar vein, ad infinitum.