From Chapter CCXXXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we pass on to–Chapter IV? Hey! What gives?
“Looking back,” the author explains, “I am most unsatisfied with my earlier presentation of Chapter IV, and I beg the reader to disregard it. Cross out those 57 pages! Pretend I never wrote it, and you never read it! I am deeply ashamed of its unedifying content, and hereby replace it.”
The substitute Chapter IV takes us back to 1818, the year of Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s birth at Coldsore Hall and a rather bad year for Scurveyshire, what with a plague of locusts, a wave of inexplicable divorces, cattle behaving like tree frogs, and other afflictions. Jeremy’s father, Lord Weeping (how did she ever come up with a name like “Lord Weeping Coldsore?”), sends for the ancient crone who doubles as the shire’s one and only Wise Woman of the Woods.
“How are we to bring this endless series of troubles to an end?” Lord Weeping demands.
“I have given this a great deal of thought,” the Wise Woman replies, “and all the omens tell me there is only one way out: you, my lord, must leave your palatial ancestral home… to go a-whaling. Proceed to the nearest port and sign up for the next available whaling voyage. This will snap Scurveyshire’s run of bad luck.”
Settling his affairs unsatisfactorily, Lord Weeping bids farewell to his wife, Lady Francesca–she is the daughter of an Italian nobleman who is, in reality, a shoemaker–and sets out for the nearest port. Here he pays for the inattention he gave his tutor as a child, when he ought to have been learning his geography. Unaware that ports are commonly located on or near the sea, it takes him several years to make his way to Bristol. There he signs up as a harpooner on the jinxed whaling vessel, Jonah Jones, just before it sets sail for the whaling grounds off Greenland. Within minutes of the ship leaving harbor, Scurveyshire returns to normal. But the Jonah Jones, having taken a wrong turn off the coast of Ceylon, is never seen again.
Lady Francesca leaves Jeremy to be raised by servants and traveling mountebanks and returns to her family in Italy somewhere.
“This is altogether better than my original Chapter IV,” concludes Mr. Crepuscular. “Now the book makes sense!”