Hey, guys. I just realized I haven't been keeping up with my Thomas Hardy batshit-insane short stories lately, so here's number 6 out of 10! Dames the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth can be found here, although you don't need to read them to appreciate this bit of wackadoo.
"Dame the Sixth: Squire Petrick's Lady"
Once upon a time there was this old asshole named Petrick. He was a moneylender of the worst sort who preyed upon the aristocracy, gave them money, waited for them not to be able to pay it back, and then kicked them out of their ancestral homes so he could play King in the Castle.
Old Asshole has a grandson named Timothy, who stands to inherit everything. Timothy has a young, pregnant wife, and everyone is very happy
except all of the homeless aristocrats. Mrs. Petrick eventually gives birth to a son, but it messed her up reaaaal good and she knows she's going to die. So as she lies on her death bed, she tells Timothy, "I can't go to the grave with a lie in my heart. You are not the father of my baby. Let's name the baby Rupert, okay? *death rattle*"
Timothy goes "Shit shit shit shit, Grandpa Old Asshole is on his deathbed, too! I've got to get him to change the entail in his will before it's too late!" So he goes and sees Old Asshole and tells him what his wife said. Grandpa Old Asshole immediately grabs some paper and re-writes his will, saying that Timothy will inherit everything, and afterwards Timothy's SECOND son will inherit, excluding baby Rupert. Timothy goes, "Awesome," Old Asshole goes, "*death rattle*", and everything goes back to normal-ish.
Years go by and Timothy actually really starts to like this little kid and begins to feel bad that he disinherited him, but there's nothing he can do about it now. One day he's digging through some of his wife's old things and discovers that the father of little Rupert is the heir to a dukedom. Surprisingly, Timothy LOVES this, because his own blood is shitty but his "son's" blood is of amazing stock. He says, "'The man Annetta loved was noble, and my boy is noble in spite of me'" (319). He thinks that everything his grandfather worked for, trying to transform their lowly family into the aristocracy by . . . bankrupting the aristocracy . . . has finally come true. They're legit! Only no one can know it.
So then he starts worshiping his non-son and becomes creepily obsessed with the duke's lineage and starts studying their family tree and studying portraits of them. He then keeps a careful study of Rupert and gets really satisfied when he thinks Rupert is starting to look like the duke. "He's got his nose, he's got his eyes!" Timothy is the very latest in that new science, creeper-anthropology.
He realizes that, by all rights, the boy should never have been disinherited because he has the "purest" blood of them all, even if it's not blood of their house, and he deserves to inherit everything they have and more! He deserves it way more than any other five-year-old-boy who has no idea what's going on! (THIS IS SOCIAL COMMENTARY, LET HARDY AND I HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH IT) Timothy goes through Grandpa Old Asshole's papers (Timothy has a real problem with snooping through dead people's stuff) and discovers that his grandfather had forgotten to date the latest will disinheriting Rupert. He struggles with his conscious for a second, but then says, "Aw, screw it, I love the nobility too much!" and dates the new will earlier than the old will, making it look as though the old will were the most recent, and therefore the only valid one. Rupert is re-inherited. HURRAY! GRANDPA OLD ASSHOLE WON'T MIND!
Years go by and everyone is happy. For whatever reason, Timothy goes to see the family doctor and, again, for whatever reason, ends up confiding in him the whole thing about Annette and the young dukeling. The doctor goes, "Uh, son? We've got to talk. I probably should have told you this, I don't know, YEARS AGO, but Annette's mother suffered some delusions, and it sounds like childbirth brought out that same LATENT INSANITY (omg, Victorian female insanity, nooooooooo, it is the scariest thing of all the things!) in your wife. It sounds like she was hallucinating right before the end. Also, I knew your wife really well, and she never in a million years would have cheated on you."
Timothy is like, "But but but my little baby duke!" So, thoroughly unnerved, he goes back home to his duke-stalking shrine and asks around and finds out that when Rupert was born, the young duke had been out of the country for an entire year beforehand. There is no way his wife could have even known him, let alone gotten impregnated by him.
Timothy then becomes the saddest guy (outside of a Jerry Springer show) to find out that it was, in fact, his baby. "Rupert was his son physically; but that glory and halo he believed him to have inherited from the ages . . . had departed from Rupert's brow forever; he could no longer read history in the boy's face, and centuries of domination in his eyes" (322). Timothy goes, "NO NO NO, my wife didn't cheat on me? I reinstated that little nobody to inherit the estate, making primogeniture work like it's supposed to? I HATE MY LIFE!"
Then Rupert comes in and goes, "DADDY!" And Timothy goes, "Fuck you, Rupert."
The moral is, if you're going to marry someone, make sure she is a snob AND a skank. Your kids will be awesome and have domination in their eyes, which is really all parents care about when they have a baby.