Barbara (htbthomas) wrote,

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Christmas fic: Victoria's Secret (Pirates of Penzance Future Fic)

Title: Victoria’s Secret
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: The Pirates of Penzance
Rating: PG
Word Count: 4,200 words
Summary: 25 years after the Pirates of Penzance story ends, at the dawning of a new century, the children of the original cast of characters struggle with questions of love and purpose. Written with tongue firmly in cheek. Please excuse any historical details that are not precisely accurate, after all, W.S. Gilbert rarely worried about that himself. :)
Author’s Note: A Christmas fic for my beloved foxtwin. He requested this for his birthday way back in September, and I defaulted on him. So here’s the original prompt: “A post-Pirates of Penzance story, complete with music.”  Well, I’ve got the lyrics, anyway. ♥ Lyrics are set apart from the main text and placed in italics. And for the purposes of this story, I am assuming that “wards in chancery” means that General Stanley’s daughters were not actually related.

Thank you to van_el, mark_clark and ancarett for the beta.

Setting: England, 1904, 25 years after the end of The Pirates of Penzance

Dramatis Personae (in order of appearance)
Victoria (daughter of Mabel and Frederic)
Jonathan (son of Robert, the ex-Pirate King and Edith)
Robert, the ex-Pirate King
Mabel (heroine of Pirates of Penzance)
Frederic (hero of Pirates of Penzance)
Jane (daughter of Kate and Samuel)
Company (various still-living members of the original cast and their progeny)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Part One

The curtain opens on a garden patio, a young man and young woman seated on opposite ends of a stone bench. The young woman faces away from her suitor, clutching a heavy blue cloak around herself, as it is wintertime in England.  The young man is turned toward his beloved, leaning forward with hands outstretched.  Wildly out of character for the usually bombastic openings of Arthur Sullivan, the music begins with a trilling of woodwinds and strings, swelling gently to the opening words of the besotted young man:

Victoria, Victoria, o fairest of maidens
My heart, it yearns for you
So long have I waited to call you my own
Please give me your answer true...

It is immediately clear to the audience that this is possibly not W. S. Gilbert’s best libretto, but they have paid for their seats and are essentially a captive audience.  Victoria does not respond, staring into the distance with an unsure expression.  The young man continues his aria:

Victoria, Victoria, o flower of beauty
I dream of wedded bliss
Of souls tied together with eternal bonds
And sealed with a true love’s kiss

The young man drops to one knee before Victoria, flourishing an open ring box in one hand.  His light tenor soars as he pleads with her to speak, to give him the answer he truly desires. Victoria finally faces the audience, her face a picture of conflicting emotions, as he continues:

Each year since your seventeenth birthday
This question I have gently pressed
Please make this a gladful mirth day
And say that your answer is yes!

Victoria, Victoria, o darling mine
So happy I know we’ll be
Do not wait any longer to answer
My plea, “Will you marry me?”

The music ends with a bold tremolo and the young man pauses, waiting for Victoria to grant him his dearest wish. She takes breath to speak...

“But my birthday isn’t until tomorrow, dearest Jonathan.” Her voice is high and sweet, like that of a true light operetta heroine. 

“‘Tis true, my love, but since your birthday, like your father’s, falls on the 29th day of February, I have become accustomed to asking you on the 28th,” he explains a bit sheepishly.

Victoria blushes prettily, as she must, and places her hand on top of Jonathan’s.  “Jonathan, I know I promised you that I would answer your proposal once and for all on my twenty-first birthday.  But we have known each other our entire lives, haven’t we?”

“Yes, fairest Victoria, our fathers were once compatriots on the high seas, and our mothers were wards together under the Major General...”

“May God rest his soul,” they intone together, heads bowed.

Jonathan continues, “And so you have been my oldest and dearest friend since I was but a tiny lad.”

“And you mine,” she adds fervently. “Considering this, what is one more day?  Please, dear Jonathan, I need a little longer to decide.”

Without hesitation, Jonathan withdraws his outstretched hand and snaps the ring box closed.  “Of course, my love.  I cannot deny you anything.  We shall speak of this tomorrow.”

She smiles, holding out her hand for Jonathan to rise. He does so, and the two embrace -- not passionately, but like a brother and sister or a pair of friends.  Victoria leaves stage left, waving with one white-gloved hand, her full skirts trailing behind her.  Jonathan watches her go, sighing mightily into the ensuing silence.

From stage right, the figure of a distinguished older gentleman comes into the light. He is dressed in a well-cut black suit, as befits a nobleman, but with a few odd details.  He wears a wide black belt with a stunning silver buckle, with a short sword tucked into the side.  Likewise, his top hat sports a jaunty black feather threaded through the band.  The audience immediately recognizes Robert, the reformed Pirate King from the earlier production, though the twenty plus years have been kind to him.

He calls out to Jonathan in the center of the stage, “My boy, what is the good word?”

“Father!” Jonathan turns, a falsely bright smile on his young face.  “The word is certainly good... though it is not stupendous... at least I ascertain that it is...” His shoulders fall suddenly, and he is unable to keep up the cheerful demeanor.  “Oh, I do not know whether ‘tis good or bad!”

“Did she say yes?” Robert asks with some interest.

“She did not.”

“Then she said no?” This is said with rather more interest.

“She did not.”


“She wants to wait one more day -- she has promised to tell me yea or nay on the morrow.”  Jonathan adds hopefully, “I should like to give her a birthday present like no other!”

Aside to the audience, Robert interjects, “I am certain he would!” To his son, however, he responds, placing a hearty hand on the boy’s shoulder, “Be of good cheer, my son.  I’m sure you will receive your answer.  Victoria is a fine young woman.  She will decide what is best for herself, you can be sure.”

“I know she will.”  He lifts his chest and straightens his shoulders.  “Thank you, father.  I am feeling much recovered.  I know I can face tomorrow with joyful hope!”  He clasps his father’s hand.  “I must prepare -- so for now I bid you goodbye!” Jonathan strides off stage right, full of confidence.

The ex-Pirate King watches him go. “Ah, yes, I remember well my own youthful enthusiasm.  When I married his mother, my darling Edith, it was such a happy day.  If she were only alive today...” He pulls a large handkerchief from his breast pocket and wipes dramatically at his eyes.  “She would be so proud of our boy...”

In a sudden reversal, Robert stuffs the handkerchief back into his pocket.  “But as for me... I feel nothing but jealousy.  I watch the two love birds, and my heart is seized by the green tendrils of envy.  Oh, Victoria... you are so lovely, so fair... and named after our former beloved Queen... how could I not fall under your spell?” His introduction begins as he speaks, and he slips deftly into an un-rhyming recitative:

Each year, my son has asked you for your hand in marriage
Each year, you have refused him with grace and poise
And so each year, I have gone to stand beneath your window, to plead with you on

March the First!

But just as you have rejected my son,
Each year, you have rejected me
I can understand why you refuse an untried boy... but why do you refuse
The Pirate King!

A vamp in a major key begins, similar in style to the great patter songs Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan are so famous for, but inflected with the rhythms of a sea chanty. Robert’s sonorous baritone rings out:

I’ve sailed the world and seen a few
Great wonders from Greenland to Timbuktu
I’ve parlayed with royalty magnificent
And even the scalawags in Parliament!

I’m fluent in Mandarin, Swahili and Maori
I quote the great poets while telling a story
My taste in fine art is unrivaled by many
But know well the value of just a ha’penny

And so, young Vicki, my pretty young girl...
(A dramatic musical pause)

Your choice should be a Man of the World!

Out of the wings on either side of the stage, a chorus of both men and women come in boisterously in four-part harmony:

A Man of the World, a Man of the World, you simply must choose a Man of the World

The ex-Pirate King reacts not at all to the extra voices, but agrees fervently:

Why bother with youths who are charming but callow,
When you can marry an amazing fellow?

The chorus again assents:

A Man of the World, a Man of the World, you simply must choose a Man of the World

And Robert continues:

I may be the slightest bit past my prime,
But I’ll treat you with silks, and jewels and fine wine!
We can travel the world, and converse for a start
About music and literature and science and art!

So I stand here, my flag of devotion unfurl’d...

Please choose me, your devoted

Man of the World!

(Chorus: Man of the World, a Man of the World, you simply must choose... a Man of the World!)

- - - - -

Part Two

The lights come up on the same garden patio, where Mabel and Frederic are preparing the tables and trellis with festive ribbon.  It is the morning of their daughter Victoria’s twenty-first birthday, February 29th.  The family has always celebrated the birthdays which fall on leap years with a special party, and this year is no different. In fact, it is rather more significant...

“It is strange, is it not? To be celebrating our daughter’s twenty-first birthday?” Mabel sighs contentedly. She is still quite beautiful, her full chestnut hair bound in a chignon, her waist kept tiny by the most modern corsetry. “I remember well your own birthday, as it was the very reason we met.  You left your apprenticeship with the Pirates of Penzance, trying to find your own way in the world, and you found me...”  She realizes that her husband is quite silent; indeed, he has turned away from the audience, his shoulders shaking slightly.  Concerned, Mabel rushes to Frederic’s side.  “My dearest Frederic!  What is wrong?”

He sniffles.  “It is nothing, my sweetest.  Merely a cold;  there is quite a chill in the air this morning, don’t you agree?”  He does not turn toward her, instead he ties another ribbon to the trellis.

“You may have a cold, but I think I sense more than that in your melancholy demeanor.  Are you sad to see our Victoria leave us?”  He shakes his head, but then bursts into tears.  Mabel places an arm around him tenderly.  “There, there... you have always had a soft spot for our little girl.”

“Yes... and to think, she will be someone else’s wife soon, plucked from our care at such a tender age...”

“Oh, but you forget, dear Frederic, that I was only seventeen when I married you!  Victoria is the perfect age to marry.  She is wise for her years, and she will surely find a suitable match.” Mabel hugs him briefly, and then dries his tears with her sleeve.

“You are right, my beloved wife...” He blinks and looks off stage left.  “Oh! Here she comes now... I must be brave for her sake.”

Mabel smiles fondly.  “You are always brave.  There is nothing cowardly in loving too much.”  She grabs his hand to bolster him.

Victoria appears from the left, looking somewhat more careworn than when last the audience saw her.  Her posture is less than erect, the bottom hem of her blue cloak is soiled, and she appears lost in thought, practically bumping into the garden gate before she notices it.  As she jumps back, she also notices her parents in their party preparations.  “Mother!  Father!” she exclaims, very disoriented.

“Victoria!” Her mother rushes over to the gate to let her in.  “Are you well?  Should we postpone the festivities?”

The young lady allows herself to be led to the bench, where she sits.  “No, I am hale and healthy.”  To the audience, she explains, “It is only my heart which is sick.”  Her father has now come beside her mother, and Victoria looks keenly into their concerned faces.  “May I pose a question of you both?”

“Anything, my angel,” Frederic assures her.

“When you first met, how did you know it was true love?”

Frederic and Mabel look at each other a moment in surprise.  “How did we know?” Mabel asks, all the while gazing at her husband.  The string section begins a reprise of “Poor Wand’ring One,” which then modulates into a similar, but distinct new melody.  Mabel sings:

When first I saw your father
He was lost and alone
I knew right away
I must make him my own

Frederic adds the next stanza:

When first I saw your mother
She was a dove taken flight
So pure and so beautiful
That I loved her on sight

Victoria, who was listening eagerly at the start, slowly slumps in her seat.  “On sight?  Is all love this way?”

“For us it was, darling--” Frederic begins. 

Her mother cuts him off.  “But not always!  Not always...”

Love can strike like lightning,
Shocking you with its speed
Love can creep up on you slowly
And grow from a tiny seed

Frederic takes his daughter’s hand and beseeches her:

It is wise to be most careful
Do not let your heart mislead
Love can hurt you deeply,
Leaving your heart to bleed...

Mabel elbows her husband sharply, and he changes his tune:

But one thing I know for certain
‘Tis always the thing you need

Victoria’s parents’ voices join together in a duet, and they each place a hand on Victoria’s shoulders.

Love is life’s truest calling
In this we are both agreed
When you have found love, you will know it
‘Tis always the thing you need!

Victoria looks into the faces of her parents in turn, smiling bravely. “Thank you, mother, father.  I think I understand better now.  I will know love when I find it?”

“Yes,” they both reply, though Frederic answers in a more melancholy tone.

“You will know,” Mabel adds, touching her cheek gently.  “And now we must prepare your present. See you at supper, my sweet daughter!” 

After a farewell embrace, the two exit stage right, leaving their daughter to sit alone, lost in thought. She is not alone long, however, as another young girl enters from the left, carrying a basket.  The two girls are quite similar in appearance, with long, golden hair. Seeing her friend, the new girl calls out, “Victoria!  Happy Birthday!”

“Hello, Jane,” Victoria answers in a strangely dull voice, completely at odds with the way she had spoken to her parents.  “I am not certain it is a very happy one, at that.”

“Oh?” Jane asks.  She swiftly enters the gate and takes place beside her friend.  “How can it not be happy?  I heard that you would be accepting Jonathan’s proposal today!”

“You did?” Victoria exclaims, but then adds, “If only it were so easy...” She sighs, twisting her hands for a moment.  Then she stills, cocking her head toward Jane.  “May I entrust you with a secret?”

Jane’s eyes grow wide, and she leans forward with barely restrained excitement.  “To my deathbed...”

“Very well.  Jonathan is not the only one who desires my hand in marriage.”

“He isn’t?”  Jane devours this information as if Victoria’s words are the finest confections.  “Who is this other man?”

Victoria blushes, answering quietly, “Robert, Jonathan’s father.”

“The Pirate King?” she asks with surprise.

“You know he is no longer a pirate, no more than your father Samuel. Although I dearly wish he were still plying the sea... it would make this decision easier...”

Jane shakes her head.  “You poor thing.  What a terrible decision!”

“Yes, my dear Jane.  What shall I do?” An oboe soars gently into the silence, joined by more woodwinds as Victoria begins to sing, staring almost sightlessly into the distance:

I stand at the edge of a precipice,
My dreams on the other side
The waters I cross
They are tempest-tossed
With Love as my only guide

Before me are many bridges
Their sturdiness not assured
I’ve no time to muse
Which one do I choose?
Will my happiness be secured?

Victoria pauses in her song, as the music continues, and addresses Jane. “Do I choose my boyhood sweetheart, with his future ahead of him?  Or do I choose a man of means, who will see that I am well cared-for long after his own passing?  Or do I...” She trails off, mumbling something inaudible.

“What did you say? I did not hear.”

“I dare not say it, even if confidence...” Jane looks at Victoria hopefully, and the conflicted girl relents.  “I can say this...”

We live in an age of marvels
Of ideas and inventions galore
And they glimmer for me
At the edge of that sea
I feel myself wanting...

Victoria stops, the rest of her phrase continued with the oboe, which plays gently under the next few lines.  “I just don’t know, Jane.  I know what my heart wants, but is it the right course?”

Jane says sagely, “The heart always knows the best way.”

Victoria looks out once again over the audience, focusing on some distant point only she can see. The music swells again with her melody, and she nods decisively.  “Then I am decided; I know which bridge to cross.  But I need your help -- will you aid me in this?”

“I am your woman!”

“Then let us hurry, there isn’t much time before the party!”  The two girls jump up, filled with excitement, and scurry across the stage into the wings as the lights go down.

- - - - -

Part Three

When we return to our story, our setting is no longer the garden patio, but the rocky shores of the beach which saw the first meeting of Victoria’s parents, Frederic and Mabel.  Jonathan enters to the left, his demeanor cheerful and his step light.  In his hand, he holds a folded piece of parchment, lovingly cradled to his breast.  “The time is almost nigh.  Tonight at the party, my beloved Victoria slipped me this love note: ‘My dearest Jonathan, please meet me at ten o’clock at the beach.  You will receive your answer then.’“ Jonathan closes his eyes, and recalls his earlier aria:

Victoria, Victoria, o true love of mine
I have waited my entire life
Can I bear to wait another minute
To hear that you will become my wife?

He opens the letter to scan it silently for the thousandth time, memorizing each delicate curve of her handwriting.  Unbeknownst to Jonathan, on the other side of the stage, Robert has entered, carrying a suspiciously similar letter.  He does not seem to notice his son several yards away.  He reads aloud, “‘My dearest Robert, please meet me at ten o’clock at the beach. You will receive your answer then.’  I knew she would make the right decision!” he crows.

A Man of the World, a Man of the World, I knew she would choose a Man of the World
My Victoria, the most fair and clever of girls
I’m sure you will choose
A Man of the World!

Completely unaware of each other, per the great operatic tradition, the two of them sing their melodies at the same time, Jonathan’s tenor creating a pleasing counterpoint with Robert’s baritone:

Victoria, Victoria, o true love of mine
I have waited my entire life
Can I bear to wait another minute
To hear that you will become my wife?

A Man of the World, a Man of the World, I knew she would choose a Man of the World
My Victoria, the most fair and clever of girls
I’m sure you will choose
A Man of the World!

While the two rivals sing their hearts out, Mabel and Frederic come up the center, bearing yet another letter.  They whisper together, more confused than happy.  After a decrescendo, their voices can be heard.  “‘My dearest parents, please meet me at ten o’clock at the beach. I have come to a decision which I think you should hear.’  What do you think this means, Frederic?”

“I don’t know, Mabel, but we will not have much longer to wait to find out.”

They sing together, yet another countermelody within the framework, as the duet becomes a quartet:

Victoria, Victoria, o true love of mine
I have waited my entire life
Can I bear to wait another minute
To hear that you will become my wife?

Love is life’s truest calling
In this we are both agreed
When she finds love, she will know it

‘Tis always the thing you need!

A Man of the World, a Man of the World, I knew she would choose a Man of the World
My Victoria, the most fair and clever of girls
I’m sure you will choose
A Man of the World!

The music ends on a thrilling high note, and suddenly all parties become aware of each other.  “Father?” Jonathan asks, startled.


“Frederic and Mabel?!” the suitors exclaim in unison. “What are you--?”

“Doing here?!” Victoria’s parents finish.

They all bring forth their letters from Victoria, the confusion growing stronger.  “She wanted all of us here?” Jonathan asks, much less confident than he had been when he first entered the scene.

From the shadows, a cloaked figure approaches, wearing Victoria’s distinctive blue.  The hem is still soiled, and golden curls peek from under the folds around her head.  “Victoria!” Jonathan cries, but the girl does not speak.  She walks to the middle of the assembled group, and only then throws back her hood...

“Jane!” all cry out as one.

“Where is Victoria?” Jonathan asks, his tenor voice growing reedy and thin.

“She sent me,” Jane responds solemnly, though her eyes are brighter than her voice would suggest, “to read her missive to you all.”  She begins to read: “‘Dearest friends and family, I wanted you all together to break this news.  Jonathan, Robert, Mother and Father... I each have a word for you. To Jonathan:’

Jane switches to singing, her voice a golden mezzo-soprano:

‘When I was a wee little girl
I dreamed we would marry one day
But now I have grown
And those dreams they have flown
It is no longer time for play’

Jonathan reaches for the letter, snatching it away with a shocked expression. “What?”  He continues to sing the words of the letter aloud:

‘And though it greatly pains me
Our courtship must come to an end
Though dear to my heart
We simply must part
I call you not lover, but friend’

The letter flutters from Jonathan’s hand and he sits heavily on one of the rocks, stunned.  Jane calmly steps across his legs and plucks the missive from the stage floor. “‘To Robert:’

‘Though when younger I saw you as ‘uncle’
You quickly became something more
(At this line, Jonathan and Victoria’s parents look at Robert in shock. Robert simply shrugs smugly.)
Your ways, so urbane
Turned me from the mundane
And caused me to open the door’

Robert’s smug expression quickly fades and he takes the letter with dismay, reading:

‘To studies of far-off cultures
And I knew I could no longer accept
Your offer so sweet
I would feel incomplete
To live as a bird who is kept’

Robert passes the letter back to Jane forlornly, covering his face with his palm.  Jane, instead of beginning to read again, holds out the letter to Victoria’s parents.  They take it gratefully. “‘To my parents:’

Mabel sings first, her soprano steady and clear:

‘At the dawn of the twentieth century
There’s a place that I know far away
I can see with clarity
Their great peace and prosperity
I must live in the U. S. of A.!’

Frederic goes next, his tenor rather more shaky:

‘And so I have gone this evening
Setting sail on the S.S. Fitzgerald
He has promised, the dear
To take me from here
An orphan, by the name of Harold!’

“My little girl!” Frederic then faints, sagging against his wife, who fans him with the letter.  The music heads into a great crescendo, and chorus members pour onto the stage, presumably the guests at the earlier birthday party:

And so she has gone this evening
Setting sail on the S.S. Fitzgerald
He has promised, the dear
To take her from here
An orphan, by the name of Harold!

The orchestra continues on that theme while Mabel helps her husband to rise, explaining, “She has always been a courageous young woman, my husband. Fate will surely smile on her.”

Robert adds, “Yes, though I am deeply saddened by her departure -- at least she has gone with an orphan, the noblest of men.” This does not seem to cheer Frederic very much.

The chorus cuts in boisterously once more:

Harold! Yes, Harold!
Though she sails on seas imperiled!

He has promised, the dear
To take her from here
An orphan, by the name of Harold!

Frederic crumples into his wife’s arms, absolutely devastated.  Mabel pats him gently, but speaks to the distance, smiling proudly.  “Go with God, my darling girl!”

To the side, Jane is helping Jonathan to his feet, and they smile shyly at one another. He bows to her in appreciation, and she curtsies low; but as she bends, she stumbles slightly. Suddenly Robert appears at her elbow to catch her before she spills to the floor. He smiles gallantly, then shoots a competitive glance at his son.  Jane realizes what is happening with an expression of disbelieving alarm.

The music shifts to another melody, and the entire company sings together as the curtain closes:

Love is life’s truest calling
In this we are all agreed
When you find love, you will know it
‘Tis always the thing you need!

Tags: christmas fic, fanfiction, pirates of penzance

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