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Monday, November 2, 2015

Jane Austen Buys a Horseless Carriage By Phorevva Petty

Our guest blogger today is one with whom I’m sure you’re all familiar.  Besides being the author of such splendid novels as “Jane, Jane, Go Away,” and “Pride and Recipes.” Phorevva Petty also made headlines when she forced a recall of Fuller Bras, after a long court battle involving a burst strap and the resultant death of her Chihuahua.

                            Jane Austen and the Horseless Carriage

Opportune Autos sits precipitously at the intersection of Abyss Avenue and Rocky Road.  Jane chose to obtain her first horseless carriage from said premises, not because they offered an expansive selection, but rather because the choices sat primly in decorous shades of black, white, and empire gray.   The stately and subdued array appealed to her sense of modesty and order.

“Can I help you?” said a man of mid-age, crushing his cigarette under the toe of a scuffed shoe.

“Can or may?” Jane asked sternly, in a vain attempt to light the dark halls of ignorance.

Misconstruing her meaning, the man rolled his shoulders and gave her a lecherous glance.

Jane recoiled with a look of vexation that hoisted the flag of despair.

“Watcha looking for?  Something racy that’ll light the fire and pin your panties to the seat?”

“Hope withers, I fear,” Jane replied.

Undaunted, he continued, “Maybe you’re lookin’ for something bigger, with a smooth ride, that won’t break the budget.”

Seldom had Jane known the same degree of agitation experienced in the preceding moments.  Without further remarks, not even the normal civility of a goodbye, she turned and left, with firm resolve to fulfill her stalwart desires in a different venue, and one more in keeping with good taste and etiquette.

A visit to Quickly Assembled Cars produced a similar result, as did Jolly Good Motors, and Humphrey-the-Lad's Auto Pista.

Hope withered within her heart.  The eager joy of spring took on the bleakness of a winter’s dim gray pallor.  Certain of failure, Jane allowed a cab to deposit her at the offices of Saintly Cars:  The Friendly Dealership.  Her first impression, which she reflected upon only silently, was that perhaps its advantages lay hidden under its diminutive appearance.  The sturdy brick and large window, displaying only two vehicles, sang to her sense of neatness and simplicity.

A sign over the door stated:  Super Deals, from Super Guys that are SUPER friendly, in letters so generously scrolled as to defy the natural curvature of the human eye.  With such a list of superlatives, borne on the wind of redundancy and defying logic in its every aspect, Jane pondered entry.  Perhaps this visit was also doomed to flounder on the rocky shoals of tasteless commerce.   Her hesitancy prompted a man to approach her forthwith, his attire neither elegant nor off-putting.

“Good afternoon, ma'am,” he said, in an accent so far removed from Oxford as to sound casually foreign and badly in need of repair.

Even so, Jane was less than astounded, having known from previous visits with relatives from Savannah to Philadelphia that the so-called English babblings on these shores ranged from the soft drip of butter to the cold steel swish of a well-swung scythe.   “I am considering a vehicle of some size,” she said.

“Watcha mean?”

“The answer to your inquiry eludes me, sir,” said Jane.

“I mean, what size?  You said some size.  That pretty well covers all our cars.”

“Are you being obtuse?”

“Nope.  Lost 30 pounds in the last 30 days.”

“Pray tell, what’s the meaning of ‘Super Deal’?

“Best price.  In fact, a price that will knock your socks off.”

“Your familiarity is quite beyond the pale,” said Jane, blushing slightly and wondering how he could have possibly known she wore socks beneath the gown that draped downward across the toes of her shoes.

She stood before him, tall and erect, awakening certain common feelings within his breast.  Many were the happy hours that he himself had stood tall and erect.

On Jane’s part, the merchant was not unhandsome, in a somewhat vulgar sort of manner.  He had a certain something.  Perhaps she noticed the arrogance in his eye, or his stiff upper lip, a feeling that he was of a propensity to lead her where no proper woman should go.

Her mind wandered to dens of iniquity where she would be free to cast off the cloak of propriety.  Perhaps, she pondered, she could breathe in the gust from a cigar, allow strong drink to graze her lips, or raise her hem about the ankle.  Not too high, of course, because of dangers she was all too well aware of.  A night chill, for example, or the prying eyes of neighbors in distant estates, or – perish the thought, - disdainful glances from those she loved most, her dog Muffinluster, her sisters Gwindleholtz and Christiline, or worse still, Her Ladyship, the patron saint of all things good and proper.  “Oh, Satan, unburden me from unworthy thoughts,” Jane said.

“What’d ya say?” said the tall, erect merchant.

“Sir, you do me an unkindness by eavesdropping.”

“You spoke out loud, Lady.”

“I did no such thing!”

“Did to!”

“Did not!”

And so the vexing conversation continued for three quarters of an hour until Jane purchased a Chevrolet Topless Horseless Carriage, although the merchant mentioned something she could scarcely believe. “There are eighty-five horses under the hood.”

“Under the bonnet,” Jane corrected.

“The hood.”

Finally, in desperation, Jane drove to her estate and away from this perplexing man who strove to make her believe eighty-five horses could actually fit in a space the size of two bathing tubs.  What nonsense!

Still, as she sat alone in her room, thoughts plagued her of the young man, standing tall and erect.  He filled her dreams and thoughts and often she pictured him unbuttoning his waistcoat, leaving her cheeks flushed such a rosy pink that Ma-ma summoned the family physician, who advised bed rest, warm goat's milk, and keeping a lid on the unseemly thoughts.

Many days later, Gwindleholtz, who spent a good deal of time gazing hopefully at the long, dusty, winding road leading to the house, saw a lone rider approaching in a shiny, two seat motorcar.  “Oh, Ma-ma!” she screamed, “Look who’s come to call!”

“Why whom, my dear?”  said Mrs. Stepandcramp, wiping away the sweat with a Turkish towel and calling to the team of serving girls to bake sweets, brew tea, and get out the best china in preparation for their visitor’s arrival.

“It’s the fine young man from the automobile concession…and Ma-ma!  He has a gleam in his eye!”

“Surely not!”

Gwindleholtz squealed and ran down the stairs, then danced around the sitting room, knocking over lamps, laying waste to fine china, only pausing now and again to whinny.  “Oh, Ma-ma, surely he’s come to court silly, foolish me and make the happiest, brainless girl in all of…of….where do we live?  I never can remember.”

“On a large estate that we’re about to lose because your father, Mr. Stepandcramp has only 5000 a year and that is why all of my daughters much marry rich men and save us all from destruction.”

“Oh, dear, it’s all on my shoulders,” said Gwindleholtz.

“Or on your back.”

“But, what about Jane?  Could she not marry and save us all from having to sleep five to a bed?”  Gwindleholtz paused, considering Jane’s only ability being able to scoff and eat crumpets at the same time.  “Ok then, how about Christiline?”

“It’s true,” said her mother, “Christiline is truly beautiful and attracts more beaus than a roomful of wrapping paper, but that’s spelled differently, and besides, she is already betrothed to Mr. Fiddlewhimp, who brings with him only 300 a year and will be the ruin of us all!”

“ And plain sister Jane?”

“I fear that Jane is a grape destined to wither on the vine.  Oh, that some rich man would hasten to pluck her.”

“Ma-ma, perhaps the young, virile purveyor of horseless carriages, whose father owns the auto concession and several more and whose very name is spoken in whispers by those tarrying in bank vaults, with blisters on their counting fingers.  Perhaps he is a worthy plucker?”

“Oh, you silly girl,” shouted Ma-ma, with a volume that could awaken the dead. “Who would want to pluck Jane, with her haughty ways and abrasive tongue?”

“I could but overhear how ill you speak of me,” said Jane, swishing into the parlor, with an abundance of petticoats whispering her arrival.

“Not at all, my dear,” spoke Mrs. Stepandcramp, embracing a newly conceived conciliatory tone with enthusiasm.  “It is with a passion known only to the gods that I hug to my heart the fervent wish that all my daughters marry wealthy men and save us all from penury.”

“Hello,” said Hobble Goldsmith, second son to the co-owner of the automobile emporium and not at all whom they had expected.

“I blush,” said Christiline.

“Me, too,” echoed Gwindleholtz, batting her eyes with enough rapidity to gain flight.

“And what about you, plain, but adorable Jane?” said Hobble.

“I am but unavailable,” said Jane, causing Ma-ma to collapse upon the love sofa and use her fan as if a squadron of flies buzzed about her face, and sending both daughters racing upstairs to change their moistened knickers.

Hobble, clearly unnerved exclaimed to Jane, “May I inquire as to your betrothed?”

“Pastor Bendenpray,” said Jane, plainly.  “For it is he who purchased my auto with the 85 cramped horses and asked me to put my top down.”

“Oh, Mr. Stepandcramp, we are ruined!” shrieked Ma-ma.

The daughters returned to face the aftershocks.  Gwindleholtz reined further destruction on vases and candlesticks.  Christiline hid her tears by facing the magic mirror, combing her often admired golden locks and chanting, “Who’s the fairest of them all?...not counting supermodels, of course.”

“May I speak plainly, Jane?” asked Hobble.

“As plainly as you like,” said Jane plainly.

Ma-ma glanced sharply at the other girls, indicating it was time to depart the salon for sewing, piano, and demureness lessons.

“Now that we’re alone,” said Hobble, “I wish to declare my undying love for you.  From the moment you walked into the showroom and spoke with my half-brother.  I heard you sing in your clear voice of your desire to put your foot down.  I pictured you dancing at the Winter Ball, my father the 7th Duke of Blankenmind is throwing for all of those who have 5000 a year or some such.”

“Go, Jane!  Do go!” whispered Ma-ma with the volume of a rutting boar, while peeking through the crack in the door.

“What about me?” Gwindleholtz could be heard whining over the noise of broken glass.

Without thinking, or blinking, or a nod, Mr. Goldsmith continued, “By all means invite your sisters.  My half-brother, who has shamed us all by breeding Afgan Hounds with his own seed, will be there…and he has 10,000 a year.”

“The perfect gentleman for our Gwindleholtz!” exclaimed Ma-ma.

“What about me?” whispered sister Christiline, freshly arrived from her demureness lesson.

“You shall be the bell of the balls!” pronounced Ma-ma.

Gwindleholtz once again raced up the stairs, ever hopeful for fresh linens.

“What about the third brother at the dealership, whom I have heard is also standing tall and erect and who no one has spoken of until this moment?” asked Mr. Stepandcramp, as he emerged from his study, adjusted his spectacles and peered down his aquiline nose.

“And Pastor Bendenpray?” shouted some feminine voice.

To this, Jane answered, “He unnerved me, standing only four feet eleven and stuttering as he does.  It always appeared his true desires always led him to places he should not go,”  said Jane, pressing both hands to her breast.  “But he has quickly found another.  My good friend, Fanny Tag-ur-it.”

"My goodness, when did you arrange this," asked Ma-ma, both astounded and pleased.

"Just moments ago, I sent Jeremy, the fatigued footman to call on the Pastor and deliver the news."

"And he has already attached himself to Miss Tag-ur-it?"

"As fast as you could turn the page," replied Jane.

“My goodness!” exclaimed Mr. Stepandcramp, laughing “I do believe my daughters are the silliest girls in all of England…except for you, Jane, who has managed to discard your betrothed, yet still hang on to the Chevrolet convertible.”