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June 17, 2024

Mister Dunwitty's Oversight (or How To Be an Edwardian Hack)

By Dan Mulhollen

Mister Dunwitty gazed blandly at the perfumed lavender envelope and knew his romance with Miss Haversham was over. He did not need to read the faithless epistle for he had seen enough "Dear Dunwitty" letters in the past. Miss Haversham's was just one more for the tear-stained collection in his bureau drawer.

He sat back in his dark burgundy easy chair, and lit his Calabash, tightly packed with an aromatic blend of Toasted Burley and Cavendish. He thought about the voluptuous mouse-brown haired office-minion's effect on him. How she was capable of making the most oppressively boring day a thrill-packed adventure. How she made the bleakest of overcast, ice-covered days seem like the purest, most verdant springtime morning. How her motions exuded tales of ancient rituals, causing his mind to spin like a Elysian dancer caught in the rapture of the Festival of Priapus.

Indeed, it was rare that anything but a Mister would find employment at Grey, Black, and Brown. Morris Grey was a stickler for propriety, often pointing out that even a clever matron might provide undue temptation, provoking salacious glances from the other employees. And salacious glances, as we all know, are bad for business.

Isaiah Black was a confirmed bachelor and a man of culture. He had no time for such frilly silliness. Rather he could often be found either at the gymnasium or teaching young immigrant men the King's English by reading aloud to them from his favorite boys' adventure novels.

Miss Haversham's employment at the company was the result of junior partner Wendell Brown's promise to a moribund college chum. The man, still fresh with the green spirit of youth was languishing; the victim of a slow, degenerative disorder. Having yet to stake out his legacy, and thus not-yet-suitable for marriage, his greatest fear was that his fianceé, Miss Haversham, would fall prey to the moral afflictions brought on by poverty.

After a respectable period of mourning, Miss Haversham came to work for Gray, Black, and Brown. As Dunwitty breathed the rarified air of working on the top floor, along with the three partners, he was soon introduced to Mister Brown's youthful charge. And, indeed, it started off with the brightest of opening acts, full of joyous prospects, witty, knowing asides, and underscored by the glowing warmth of two people who cared about each other.

But Dunwitty was Dunwitty and Haversham was Haversham. The gulf between their worlds was infinitely too wide. His was a sedate, cordial world of clearly-delineated, stopwatch-accurate days and of moody, mystical nights. Her world was a human pyramid of cats, always collapsing under its own screeching feline weight.

He might dream, though, of her sitting at her desk, quill and nib in hand, composing an obtuse ode to some latter-day descendent of Wallachian royalty. He would be a comfortable distance away toiling busily on some philosophical tome, his dreams of changing the human condition in some tiny but meaningful way.

Yet beneath this calm, domestic tableau stirred the fire of two mature beings, each lustful and mildly deviant; their passions unleashed by a knowing smile or playful wink, leading to the explosive pleasures of human interaction where intellect plays no part.

He could see it all so clearly in his mind. Why, he wondered, straining, like a beleaguered general fighting a losing cause, to call every brain cell to the front line to make sense of a senseless situation, why was she so unable to see his vision? He knew neither of them were blessed with any particular perfections. He knew they were both scarred, like the rings of a broad oak, by years of disappointment and heartbreak.

But of the two of them, only he could imagine sitting outside on a hilltop, celebrating nature, watching the sun rise. Why couldn't she?

He shook his head sadly and sat down the pipe. No, he confessed to whatever sacred entity was in the room with him, it was not to be; the unread purple prose from Miss Haversham's delicate hand would be as devastating and as final as the proverbial coffin-nail.

Mister Dunwitty went to bed.

A while, probably no more than ninety minutes, later, that dreaded black Bakelite box, filled with its buzzard's nest of wires, inducers, and other bits of arcane technical wizardry, rang its clarion call.

"Dunwitty residence," Mister Dunwitty said, grasping for some minute iota of consiousness, "Mister Dunwitty speaking."

"Dunwitty!" Miss Haversham said, her voice matching that of an exasperated schoolgirl. "Where in Heaven's name are you? Did you not get my letter telling you I would be arriving by rail this night? No? Anyway, I have a taxicab waiting, see you in fifteen minutes. Oh, and do make coffee."

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-10-05
2 Reader Comments
06:20:45 AM
Two thumbs-up for the Edwardian Hack.
M.J. Nicholls
05:01:10 PM
Methinks Anon missed the point. This was a charming and witty parody of Edwarian hackery. Funny read, Dan!
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