So, without further delay, here is "Dame the Fifth: The Lady Icenway":
Once upon a time there was a rocking hot babe who was very noble and proud and wealthy, as the babes in this collection of stories tend to be. And she meets this guy named Anderling, who isn't noble, but is rolling in filthy lucre from imperial colonies. "her uncle making no objection to the match, she consented to share his [Anderling's] fate, for better or otherwise, in the distant colony where, as he assured her, his
slavery rice, and coffee, and maize, and timber AND SLAVERY, produced him ample means” (306).
So far, so good.
So she and Anderling get married and he sweeps her away to South America. When they're halfway across the Atlantic, he starts acting all tense and depressed, and she goes, "WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?" And he says, "Umm, there's one small hitch in our marriage. I'm a little bit . . . uh . . . already married. But baby baby, my first was was a total HO who tricked me into marrying her, and her behavior was scandalous, so I ditched her ass, and she could be dead for all I know! So we may be legit, or we may not be legit."
And she goes: O_O
And he says, "I meant to tell you before we got married, but I loved you so, so much that I couldn't bear to think that you wouldn't marry me. Since I'm already rich, you can be sure that I lied for you, not for your money.
And she goes: O_O
And he says, "So this whole trip wasn't so much of a "honeymoon" as it was "a chance for me to work up the courage to tell you". Well . . . it wasn't so much "a chance for me to work up the courage to tell you", as it was "a trap to make sure you lost your virtue and remained alone on a boat where you have no support system and can't go anywhere for another few weeks, and are now pretty much guaranteed to stay with me, because what are your other options, really?". Hope that's cool!
And she goes:
before dishing out some proof of massive self-respect, because this shit is untoward. THIS SHIT IS TOTALLY NOT TOWARD. (Wait, a woman with massive self-respect in a Victorian story? BURN THE WITCH!)
She tells him that he is 1.) going to disembark as soon as the boat lands, 2.) sign over all his property and money to her control, 3.) let her sail back to England, claiming he died of a tropical fever, and 4.) disappear under an assumed name and never, ever bother her again.
He goes, "But why would I do that?" And she says, "BECAUSE. FUCK. YOU. That's why." She is so terrifying and he feels so bad about using her that he immediately says, "Yes, dear. Whatever you want."
When she gets back to England as a poor "widow", she pops out a little sproglet (because they had them some serious fornication on that boat before he ruined everything). She then gets married to Lord Icenway, which is actually not bigamy, because she was never really married to Anderling in the first place. After a few years, she gets a letter from Anderling saying that he has proof that his first wife just died and he wants to make an honest woman out of his baby-mama. She, quite logically, says, "Okay, how would I explain that one to people? You're supposed to be dead of convenient South American Plague Virus, remember? Also, I'm already married. FOR REAL THIS TIME. So . . . just . . . piss off."
He can't seem to understand that NO MEANS NO, so he shows up at her house and pretends to be a gardener because, hey, look, Lord Icenway has a vacancy! Lady Icenway goes, "Husband, I don't like that gardener. You must not hire him." Lord Icenway goes, "Why?" And Anderling pops out of a shrubbery (this is honest-to-god something that happens) and gives her a meaningful look and she says, "Uhhh, no reason." So Anderling gets hired and lurks around, being all voyeuristic with his son and wife for a few years.
After a couple of years, Lord Icenway says, "Dammit, woman, whurrr the babies at? Don'tchu know I needs some sons for this primogeniture action?" Actually, what he says is, "'Tis a very odd thing, my lady, that you could oblige your first husband, and couldn't oblige me" (314).
She doesn't know what to do, because the implication is that his tender bits are just too old and nasty to give her any babies. So then she goes, "Hmmmmm, you know whose tender bits are still young and virile?" She goes down to the gardening shed and goes, "Hey, gardener . . . you want to tend to my hedges (*wink*)?"
Unfortunately, Anderling is too busy dying of
convenience unnamed spontaneous sickness to be of any use in that department. So she nurses him for a while, begging him to get better (not that she really gives a damn about him), but it's too late. He dies. She thinks, "Boy, it would have been a good idea for him to have gotten me pregnant earlier." But then she shrugs it off.
The moral of the story is: ALWAYS SLEEP WITH YOUR EX-HUSBAND, as soon and as frequently as possible.