Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a ball held at the foot of Mt. St. Helen’s in Steelhead. while this assembly was a great deal more respectable than what one might find at the Blue Mermaid, the gentlemen were most scandalously clad in traditional Scottish kilts and tartans. We ladies found ourselves charged with the task of voting for the gentleman boasting the best knees in Steelhead. Apparently, I was not alone in my admiration of the limbs and carriage of the ever dashing Mr. Robert Viking, for he won first place! He shared the title with Herr Baron, and merriment continued late into the night.
Indeed, the dancing continued so late that I cannot for certain declare these two gentlemen in possession of the finest knees in the country. A substantial proportion of the male guests did not arrive until after the voting had taken place. Among these gentlemen were my dear friend Mr. Wytchwood and his delightful friend Mr. Blackheart. Later, my own acquaintance, Mr. MacBeth, arrived. His knees, I am assured, were buffed to a high gloss shine for the occasion. One must allow for the possibility that one of these gentlemen may have sported finer lower limbs than any of those who attended prior to the judging. Perhaps the ladies of the neighborhood should demand a recount. It is not but proper that we should see all of the region’s fine gentlemen, one next to the other, at once as they submit their lower limbs for our consideration and approval.
Besides judging, there was a great deal of dancing. Naturally, Miss Dragonash claimed Mr. Wytchwood for herself. The other gentlemen, however, were both pleased to share my company on the dance floor. I enjoyed several dances with each. It was a pleasure to get to know them both a bit better.
After the dance, the above mentioned persons joined me for some relaxing conversation in the Poe Room of my shop. I think more seating is needed. Else, in the future, I should host such gatherings around the table in the Austen Conference Room. I should also find an adequate tea and snack service. I wish I had prepared in advance, but it is too late now. One only learns these things by doing, does one not? Minus that bit of glitchiness in terms of my prowess as a hostess, I must declare the event a success. We conversed on an array of interesting subjects. I dare say we all had a very fine time, inadequate tea service notwithstanding.
I do hope that I did not flirt too shamelessly with Mr. MacBeth. He seemed rather inclined to do so with regard to me. Indeed, I hardly know how I kept my composure in order to attend to my other guests! It has been a long time, you know, since I was the object of any male attention beyond the province of business or mere platonic friendship. After all, who races to court governesses and shop girls, let alone both in one?
I am fortunate, Diary, that my other guests were in attendance that night. I must regain strict control over my manners. Not only am I a governess and the provost of an institution dedicated to instilling proper morals and etiquette in girls and young women, but I am also charged with a more serious task: the more personal upbringing of a young lady. My young friend, Miss Mary Elizabeth Ruby, is to be my ward. Her godmother is ailing, so Miss Ruby naturally desires the benefit of a young and nurturing caregiver in the bloom of health and vigor. As the guardian of one so young, I must be jealous of my reputation. I must also, in my comportment, function as a role model for her both inside the classroom and outside of it. One cannot raise up a decent young lady while simultaneously luxuriating in gigantic champagne glasses and encouraging the advances of men with shiny knees (and, if I may so boldly add, muscular thighs).
The impending arrival of my new ward obligates me to busy myself with a number of neglected tasks. First and foremost, I must obtain respectable housing. My room in New Babbage is hardly seemly. My chalet is too far from home. The girl cannot sleep on the shop floor! After that, I must rally my efforts with regard to my shop and the opening event. The end of April approaches rapidly. If I am to provide an income sufficient for the education of a dependent child and the paying back of certain debts, then I cannot spend so much of my time on frivolous engagements. Duty calls, and my good mother taught me never to shrink from it.
Oh, Diary! How did I become this woman? Little more than one year ago (all right; closer to two), I myself was a dependent child. My parents were alive and I felt free to enjoy any chaste amusement without regard to money. Indeed, finances were wholly beneath my notice. Now, I juggle so many responsibilities and teeter on the edge of so many unspeakable risks that I hardly know how to act from one moment to the next! To be a woman of independent means is anything but pleasurable.
I fear that my dread of responsibility stems from character flaws untested until now. Free from the watchful eyes of (dearly departed) parents, teachers, and chaperons, I am the mistress of my own self for the first time. My virtue, although intact, remains respectable more from fear of reprisal than from any earnest desire to do good. My encounters with air kraken and zombies, for example, have unveiled a shocking propensity for violence. My eagerness to attend nearly any social gathering held in any burlesque hall or pub — and to dance upon highly unorthodox surfaces whilst imbibing the house fare — betrays a want of delicacy not easily defended. Worst, my budding desire for male companionship sometimes results in flirting that approaches the very limits of propriety.
Diary, I believe I am entirely overwhelmed. Finishing school did not quite finish me, did it?
Until I write again, I remain —
–Miss Palabra Puddlegum–