The Absolutely Unbelievable Endearing Adventures of Lady Marye Wimpleseed-Prissypott
This novel is not based on a true story.
A Man Without a Wife is still a Man Without a Wife
Wherein we meet a member of the British lordly class
This story begins before the British brexited themselves. This story begins before Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair ran things. This story begins before the Beatles dumped Pete Best and ringoed their way into legend. This story begins before Edward renounced the throne. And, yes, it begins before the war to end all wars. It begins in the time when the sun never set on the Empire and Britannia ruled the waves. It begins when God was an Englishman and Victoria tended her garden.
It begins in the late, late, very late nineteenth century when Lady Marye Wimpleseed-Prissypott indeed was to come by her title honorably. Lady P. P., as she was referred to in the dispatches, married for it. When she was Mary-Mary Smith, a sweet young thing, all of eighteen, she wedded into the monocled class of the British aristocracy. She tied the metaphorical knot with the old fuddy-duddy Lord Dunnville Percival Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe.
Like many a red-blooded English blue-blood, the roots of Lord Wimpleseed-Prissypott’s family went deep into the once fertile soil of the English aristocracy. It stretched all the way back to the Conqueror and then some. He had a coat of arms to prove it too. In fact, his ancestral line could be traced farther back than that. His great-great-great-to-the-tenth great grandsire had been of the Viking persuasion. The man, Eric Prissyson, raped and plundered with the best of them, plowing a trail of terror through half the island of Britain. Anything in sight and great grandsire raped it, then looted it, then raped it some more.
When the Conqueror came to the Isles in One-Ought-Six-Six, EricPrissyson’s six boys, being the mercenaries they were, joined up with Duke William. They were responsible for composing the well-known “When Willie Comes Marching Home” to honor Conqueror’s conquest of the Isles. William the Norman Guy dubbed them Prissypottes, then rewarded them for their treachery with land, land, and more land. No cash, just land.
Somewhere along the way, between Conqueror and Lionheart, Lord Dunville’s progenitors dropped the “e.” It may have been his infamous ancestor, the Sheriff of Nottingham of Robin Hood fame, who started the practice, and it stuck. Under the reign of Henry 8, the Prissypotts combined their household with another illustrious family, the Wimpleseeds.
A duel or two was held over which family name would take precedence over the other and come first. Sir Alfred Prissypott, being a very near-sighted bloke and half blind too, lost to the head of the Wimpleseeds, Lord Pointe-head Wimpleseed. Thus the family name was Wimpleseed-Prissypott for all time.
Being of such an ancient and illustrious lineage, the Wimpleseed-Prissypotts intermarried throughout the aristocracy like crazy. The current Earl of Haggismarshe was in some way related to ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of the lords in the Lords. That’s the House of Lords for all you non-British readers. In spite of all the land and inbreeding and interbreeding, this final heir of Wimpleseed-Prissypott lineage lacked one thing. He had no cash.
Lord Dunnville had outlived five well-off wives. Nary a one of them had left him enough of a cash flow to sustain his large estates and provide a maintenance. His years as a Viceroy in the Raj had brought him nothing but a spot of fever. Poverty kept watch on the doorsteps of his holdings, and he had responsibilities. Oh, he had responsibilities. There were servants to provide for, illegitimate children to educate, tenants to employ. Plus a mistress or three on the side. And bankruptcy was out of the question. After all, this was England, and it wasn’t done.
Then one day in 1894, at The Club in London, his good friend Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants had proposed an ideal proposal. “Look west, old man,” Sir Myles offered, “look west.”
“Dear me, no,” Lord Dunnie said, his mustache raising its hairs in protest. “I lived in Ireland once and it was much too Irish for me. All that Guinness and a potatoes-only diet. No thank you. I’m a steak and kidney pie man myself.”
“Oh no, dear chap,” Sir retorted. “Good god, man, certainly not Ireland. I mean look to America.”
“Rah-ther pleeze,” Dunnie said. “I am not interested in barbarians. They’re savages over there. I saw Buffalo Bill at the Royal Albert. That Annie Oakley lass shooting up the American Exhibition, you know. Too much bang-bang. If I had wanted an Indian wife, I would have arranged for one when I was in the Raj. I knew quite a few maharajahs out there in the Frontier. They all had daughters they were trying to get off their hands.”
“No, no, my good Dunnie,” Sir said. “The Americans are not all savages. Some of the colonists even have a smattering of manners. They know when to sit and they know when to stand. And they can be taught when to curtsy and when to bow.”
“Can they now?”
“In New York, they have heiresses, just lounging around and waiting for a title. That’s how I acquired my EmmiliaLouise. I call her my Two Em’ed Emma or Two-Ems for short. She used to be Emmylou Muddythwistle, the daughter of a cattle baron. Of course, they are not real barons the way we English are. They like to call themselves thus.”
“I could never stand the smell of a steak in the raw,” Dunnie commented. “No cattle ranching for me. I like mine well-cooked.”
“No, no, Dunnie, old boy. I’ve never been required to commune with the cows. The baron sends Two-Ems a very generous allowance and we spend it. Rah-ther I spend it. Once we were engaged I couldn’t introduce her to society as Emmylou. We changed her to an EmmiliaLouise and gave the Muddythwistles a pedigree as well as a pedicure. She became a Thwistle from Muddystenstein-in-the-Alps. Now that we have tied the proverbial knot, I am fixed for life, you see. And look how mannered she has become. She curtsies very well when she is out and about in society.”
“I say,” Dunnie said. “Quite a setup you have there, dear boy.”
“Only one disconcerting item. It is quite troubling to have the wife do a y’all and a war whoop during fornication. Quite disturbing. Quite disturbing. But that’s the way they do it in some place called Texas. Wherever Texas is.”
“Terribly embarrassing, I would suspect.”
“One must suffer for one’s class. Noblesse oblige and all that rot, you know.”
“How right you are, how right you are.”
“Anyway, old sport, I have the right heiress for you. Someone my dear Two-Ems suggested would be a perfect match for you after I told her of your ‘situation.’ She’s an endearing young thing all of eighteen, blonde, buxomy and tall. What she lacks in manners, she’ll make up in bank account.”
“You don’t say. That does sound like a very attractive proposition. After all, my bankie is down to its last shilling. I could very well use an influx of cash. Have servants to pay, crops to grow, mistresses to mistress.”
“This marriage could be the hit of the social season. It’s been a bit of a time since the Prissypotts have had a hit. And this would be a coup de hit.”
“You do say? ”Dunnie said.
“Yes, I do say. After all, the Crown is beginning to wander if you are a one-hit wonder. Viceroying and all.”
“I must admit I am such a silly wicket and you are quite correct. Quite. Being in the poorhouse does build character. But I’ve enough character for three generations. By george, make the match, and I shall do it. I shall do it up good.”
“Besides,” Sir said, “it will give your wicket a chance to wacket.”
“I have mistresses for that, dear boy. Mistresses.”
“You can still have them on the side. By the by, how do you keep it up, old chap?”
“One has to do one’s duty for Queen and country. One does have to do one’s duty.”
“Yes, one does as I well know,” Sir asked, “So? Are we agreed? Do we have an engagement?”
“I would say rah-ther,” Lord said. “I do seem to be running out of rah-thers to say. But yes. Most definitely. That is, if America is willing.”
“Three cheers for you, old bugger. Three cheers and run up the colors. The Regiment’s about to have a wedding. It would have been a bore of a bear of a season without one. And you’ll come through with your very stiff upper lip as always. You’re going to do your class proud. My dear Two-Ems will see to the arrangements. She is very good at arranging arrangements, you know.”
Next Week: A Muddythwistle by any other name is still a Muddythwistle