Wednesday, August 18th, 1869

Dear Diary,

My uncle recently had another of his fits. Fortunately, this was less severe than the last episode. Unfortunately, a perfectly good sheet was ruined. The daft man went to bed whilst still holding his drink! Even while helping him to recuperate, I could not forebear mentioning the laundry. I really think men should be required to take part in household chores, at least when they are younger, so that they will know the strain that their thoughtless actions sometimes place on their ladies. Were Mr. Robonaught ever to spend the bulk of a morning scrubbing until his hands turned raw, I doubt he would again spill his nightcap all over his sheets. Of course, in my eagerness to complain, I conveniently neglect to mention that I should have a maid. It is so dreadful to be poor!

Regardless of the mess, some good did come of the upset; my uncle and I had the opportunity to speak informally. I carefully broached the topic of the demon’s proposed solution. You see, due to our unusual method of conversation, Gordon has given me to understand that a marriage to Mr. Plutonian may not be so appalling as it might at first appear. It seems that Mr. Plutonian’s primary interest is in social climbing. With the daughter of a baronet on his arm and the ancient holdings of that family now part of his property, Mr. P. could reasonably claim a higher station than a mere tradesman. Should he cultivate the proper friendships, it seems reasonable that he may even stand a chance of becoming Sir Onyx. All that would be required of me, Gordon assures me, is to attend a few social engagements per week. As I already often meet Mr. Plutonian while we are out and about, I think this could be accomplished with extraordinarily little inconvenience. Really, are a few social engagements per week so very dreadful?

In short, I am tempted by what Gordon tells me of the offer. I cannot pretend that I would not enjoy a larger income. Likewise, the ability to dissolve my contract without losing my estate or my freedom certainly appeals. I would be mad if I did not consider a match so advantageous. I hope I am not dreaming when I imagine that it could all be very civil. I may despite Mr. Plutonian, but I do not see how a marriage with him, as framed by Gordon, would be very much different than just another a business arrangement. And this time, I would actually know how to fulfill my duties under our contract, as this is what I was bred and trained to do. I think myself far better suited as a wife than as a tradeswoman.

My uncle, as you might imagine, expressed great alarm at these thoughts. He said I should not listen to Gordon or anything that he transmits via this cursed ring. He asked me whether Gordon was male or female, which I thought rather beside the point, but it actually proved quite vital. When I told my uncle that Gordon is neither — that he is, in fact, mere clockwork and spare parts, my uncle asked if I would like to be like Gordon. No doubt Gordon was once offered a solution that seemed more palatable than the alternative. Years later, he has been robbed of his freedom, his manhood, and even his humanity. Such evil, my uncle warns me, is not to be tolerated. It must be fought, for it will not stop until the victim is consumed entirely.

Please understand, dear Diary; Mr. Robonaught does not blame me for being tempted by the demon. Instead, he blames the ring. It is true, I suppose, that these thoughts are being caused by the enchantment. After all, I had not the least intention of even considering Mr. Plutonian’s proposal until I communicated with Gordon. The thoughts may feel as though they are mine, but how can I be sure of that fact as long as one of the devil’s own agents has leave to go poking about in my mind? My uncle has been researching, and he thinks he may have found a way to rid me of this wretched instrument of evil. Within the fortnight, he says, he believes he can restore my mind to my own proper governance. For my part, I must forbear from entering into any rash contracts on the advice of Gordon or of any other person connected with Mr. Plutonian.

I resumed by bed quite exhausted after so serious (and s0 late) a conversation, but I believe I slept better than I have done in weeks. The mere prospect of the removal of the ring does wonders for my health, which I had not realized to be ailing until I felt its speedy restoration. My head no longer aches. My breath no longer feels constricted as though by the pressure of some enormous weight. I believe the color even returned to my cheeks and lines of worry melted away before they could become permanently etched.

Until I write again, then, I remain–

Your hopeful,

–Miss Palabra Puddlegum–

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