Nine Coaches Waiting, Or Linda Does France
Every Gothic novel has someone tall, dark, devastatingly good-looking and dangerous to know… on account of they hate everyone they know.
Meet Unspoken’s Angela.
Now let us speak of Nine Coaches Waiting, and its unusual Gothic hero.
LINDA: I have always dreamed of going back to my childhood home of France!
LINDA: Now that I am in Paris, I realise that home is where you make it, that wherever I go I bring myself with me, and that you cannot hope to revisit the past!
LINDA: Oh no, I got my epiphany over with in the first chapter, this book isn’t about my voyage of self-discovery through the beautiful sensual land of France at all, isn’t it?
LINDA: Now I come to think of it, the mistress of the lonely chateau to which I am going was oddly specific about her new governess not knowing the language of the country in which she was about to be stranded. And my parents knew Leon de Valmy, who manages the estate for his nephew, and my parents totally hated him and were glad he got paralyzed in a terrible accident…
LINDA: … Oh no. This is a Gothic novel, isn’t it?
LINDA: I would have much preferred to star in LINDA DOES FRANCE.
CHATEAU VALMY: Great big lonely remote isolated mansion!
LINDA: Oh well, it’ll allow me to get in touch with nature!
MADAME DE VALMY: So you totally don’t speak French fluently, right?
LINDA: I’m sure she has a perfectly innocent reason for wanting me to be helpless in a foreign country!
LINDA: Okay, so Leon de Valmy is disabled, be chill, he’s probably in a lot of pain, he’s probably a poor, helpless, suffering… SEXY BEAST. Yowza!
LINDA: Code silver. Code silver. We have a SILVER FOX ALERT.
LINDA: Leon de Valmy reminds me of like, the Demon King.
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: Kind of sinister? I hear you.
LINDA: Actually I meant… totally smoking.
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: Wait till you meet his son Raoul.
LINDA: I can’t wait to meet Raoul! Hey, maybe this book is going to be LINDA DOES FRANCE after all.
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: And now let us meet your sickly, neglected charge! The darkly dangerous Leon and Raoul would inherit all this if he died! Leon turned off his last governess because he really wanted an untrustworthy foreign stranger who wouldn’t understand anything that was happening around her.
LINDA: … Ten-four. I completely understand.
LINDA: Crap, this is definitely a Gothic novel.
PHILIPPE: I miss my Kindly Uncle Hippolyte! I don’t like my Murderous Uncle Leon!
LINDA: One brother was called Hippolyte and one was called Leon? I guess they knew who was going to be the hot brother from birth.
PHILIPPE: I know Uncle Leon is tres foxy but he is still plotting my death.
LINDA: There, there. Wanna play toy soldiers and establish a bond so that I will be emotionally attached to you and the reader will fear at every turn for your life, helpless child?
PHILIPPE: Awesome, toy soldiers!
PHILIPPE: This is my house, all the stuff in it is mine, everything you love rightfully belongs to me!
LINDA: Phlippe, as your governess: X-nay on speeches that might drive people to urder-may. Kids, eh?
LEON: Can’t live with them.
LINDA: There’s a second part to that saying.
LEON: Not in France, cherie.
LINDA: Can’t live without them?
LEON: … Oh, I think I could.
LINDA: What’s that you say? Master Raoul’s coming for a visit? Oh book, please be LINDA DOES FRANCE, please please don’t be JANE EYRE…
LEON: Hey, Jane Eyre.
LINDA: I was just thinking about Jane Eyre.
LEON: We’re so simpatico.
LINDA: You’re SO HOT. But so clearly a murderer. But SO HOT.
LEON: That’s Gothic novels for you. Basically a whole lot of underwear models twirling axes.
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: I should let you know that young Master Raoul is a degenerate gambler who won a fancy car at roulette.
LINDA: Is it hot in here? Maybe there’s a heatwave coming on. I feel like there’s something super hot on its way.
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: I’m just going to lay it out there. Raoul seduces nuns. Raoul is a nun-seducer!
LINDA: Yeah I’m on a governess’s salary, OK, I can’t keep replacing my underwear when it goes on fire like this.
LINDA: Philippe must love his cousin Raoul, he keeps running out on the Rickety Dangerous Balcony of Death whenever he hears a car!
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: No, Philippe’s just constantly on the lookout for his dead parents. He’s very traumatised. Raoul and Philippe have no emotional connection whatsoever!
LINDA: Didn’t they see each other in Paris sometimes?
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: Let me give you a clue about who Raoul sees when he’s in Paris. The clue is ‘hookers.’
LINDA: That’s not really a clue.
TRUSTY HOUSEKEEPER: The answer is LOTS of hookers.
LINDA: Just a quick trip down to the village for a refreshing beverage and to buy some sleeping pills for Madame de Valmy that may be used to incriminate me later. It’s a beautiful day!
WILLIAM BLAKE: Hello there ma’am. Let me introduce myself: I’d like to be considered for the role of dependable, non-murderous love interest.
LINDA: That’s interesting information. But not sexy information.
WILLIAM BLAKE: My address is Very Lonely Hut in the French Mountains, on the slopes of I Have No Pride, just take Use Me Baby lane… so call me maybe?
LINDA: Yeah, we’ll see, I haven’t even met Raoul yet.
LINDA: I’m about to be run over by a car! Whoa, nice callback to Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester’s first meeting when he’s on a hor–
CAR: GET OFF THE ROAD LADY!
CORNER OF NARRATIVE CONVENIENCE: THIS IS A NASTY TURN!
RAOUL: Holy God, lady, you okay?
LINDA: … Bow-chicka-wow-WOW. I sure hope someone’s notified the gendarmerie there are explosives in this area, because baby, you’re the BOMB.
RAOUL: You were not practicing road safety.
LINDA: I’m going to rename you Hurricane Raoul, because you just blew me away.
RAOUL: No but seriously, any bones broken?
LINDA: You must be a highly skilled electrician because you are turning me on!
RAOUL: … So this is a concussion situation, is what you’re saying.
LINDA: Has anyone ever told you that you look just like your daddy? Rawr.
RAOUL: Great-Aunt Jemima didn’t add the ‘Rawr.’
LINDA: See, I mean, your dad sort of has this smooth suave swerve going on. But you’ve got thirty good years on him, you’re almost definitely bendier, and you have your very own ‘je ne sais quoi, je suis a tiger in the sack’ thing.
RAOUL: Your French is super good. Especially considering your concussion.
LINDA: Oh please don’t tell anyone I speak French I’ve been deceiving your whole family for weeks! I know it sounds weird, but well, we’re in a Gothic novel, that’s par for the course.
RAOUL: There, there, poor girl. You bumped your noggin. You’re all confuzzled!
LEON: Please do not kill our governess with a speeding vehicle until I can frame her for murder!
LINDA: It was all my fault. I was just walking along in the darkness. Thinking Gothic thoughts. I was not practicing road safety.
RAOUL: The road’s totally safe. I know because you spend all the money from our actual estate on this estate. Also, you can’t drive. Also, you can’t walk. Also, I hate you, Daddy, and I am going to go to my room and listen to heavy metal! You don’t understand me!
LEON: … Raoul and I have a somewhat strained relationship on account of our tempestuous Gothic natures.
LINDA: … I would never have guessed.
LINDA: Philippe almost got shot in the woods! I presume someone mistook his singing for a very musical squirrel.
MADAME DE VALMY: That… must be what happened. Oh no, Leon’s going to be so upset Philippe didn’t get killed.
LINDA: Come again?
MADAME DE VALMY: Uh… oh no, Leon’s going to be so upset Philippe almost got killed…
RAOUL: Holy wow, the kid almost got shot, and you seem really shaken up. Let me take you out for a nice night on the town.
LINDA: Are we going to a wild moor where you can shake me and kiss me madly?
RAOUL: No, I thought we’d maybe go out for dinner…
LINDA: If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?
RAOUL: Sure, we could go dancing also.
LINDA: If Hotsville was a town, you should be mayor.
RAOUL: Thank…. you.
LINDA: And if the SS Hot-tanic was a ship, you should be captain.
RAOUL: So… you wanna go out on a date?
LINDA: …. Maybe.
RAOUL: Well, dinner and dancing was nice, but how’s about doing something naughty?
LINDA: You read my mind, you beautiful beast.
RAOUL: And by that of course I mean a casino!
LINDA: Dear Diary, I was not ravaged on the moors, but I think I am in love! I like it when they play hard to get.
WILLIAM BLAKE: Fancy a coffee?
LINDA: What’s your name again?
WILLIAM BLAKE: … So how have you been?
LINDA: Same old, same old. The child I care for got mysteriously shot at. All pretty quiet, really.
WILLIAM BLAKE: Jeez, Raoul de Valmy is home for one day and a mysterious stranger tries to shoot Philippe?
LINDA: … What are you implying sir! Everyone knows that super foxy people do not commit crimes!
RAOUL: Were you just on a date with someone else?
LINDA: This interrogating me is highly suspicious behavior!
RAOUL: I just thought we had a nice time last night…
LINDA: The dude who I was having coffee with thinks you tried to shoot Philippe. What do you have to say to that, Murderino de Hotass?
RAOUL: I’m going to make out with you!
LINDA: So accusations of murder turn you on? … Man alive, the French.
LINDA: I may be hot beneath the petticoat for him, but I did not give him permission to make out with me! Very angry. I hear the claws of fury scritching on my heart!
PHILIPPE: Nope, that’s me. I am outside clinging to a ladder.
LINDA: So in a wholly unexpected turn of events, the Rickety Dangerous Balcony of Death collapsed beneath Philippe! Lucky I put a ladder under it, or he would have been killed!
MADAME DE VALMY: I am overcome with disappointment!
MADAME DE VALMY: I mean… that other thing. Relief.
RAOUL: Dear Linda, I brought you a pretty party frock for the upcoming dance! Sorry for snapping at you when you accused me of murder, guess I was in a mood. Hope you are not mad about the making out. Hope we can do it again! Love Raoul.
LINDA: … Does this mean he like-likes me? Dammit, Raoul, check yes or no!
RAOUL: Hey sexy, looking good in your party dress!
LINDA: Don’t look at me, I’m hideous, your father called me Jane Eyre!
RAOUL: He called you the heroine of a Gothic novel who gets the guy she wants?
LINDA: This is no time for literary quibbling, Raoul. This is the time for kissing with tongues.
MADAME DE VALMY: Alors.
KINDLY FAMILY FRIEND: You do know that Raoul is kind of the wham, bam, thank you ma’am type? Except usually without the thank you.
LINDA: How dare you suggest that I, who am about to be fired for consorting with my womanizing employer’s son, do not know how to run my own life?
RAOUL: I have only known you three days and I have kind of a hideous family life, so I dunno about love.
LINDA: That’s OK, a family friend just told me you would use me and toss me aside like a soiled glove!
RAOUL: Is it the look in your eyes or is it this dancing juice? Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you.
RAOUL: I am practically penniless because Dad spent everything on this estate, which Philippe will inherit. Which of course he will, because nobody’s trying to murder him, am I right? Will you still marry me?
LINDA: Totally. I don’t want you for your money, baby.
LINDA: I want you for your body.
LINDA: I promised to go visit Philippe with a midnight feast!
RAOUL: I’ll come with, my betrothed!
PHILIPPE: Hey y’all. I kept myself awake through not drinking my hot chocolate!
MADAME DE VALMY: Hi Philippe! Oh God, no!
RAOUL: Stepma, it’s just a few crackers. Maybe some prawns. Okay, a trifle, but nothing to get upset about.
MADAME DE VALMY: He didn’t drink his hot chocolate! All is lost!
RAOUL: … She’s really into hot chocolate, isn’t she?
LINDA: I think she’s on drugs. I saw her messing about suspiciously with pills earlier.
PHILIPPE: My ot-hay ocolate-cay is oisoned-pay.
RAOUL: Your English is really coming on, little buddy!
PHILIPPE: You’re all tres stupid. I’m going to sleep.
HOUSEMAID: Hey Linda thanks for letting me have your party dress so I could go out dancing!
LINDA: No prob!
HOUSEMAID: You know what I let the evil butler have? My maiden flower!
LINDA: Couldn’t you have given it to the honest stablehand, or even the slightly shifty-looking butcher boy?
HOUSEMAID: What can I say? Evil’s just sexier. So I have a question about pillow-talk.
LINDA: What is it?
HOUSEMAID: Do dudes always confess to being bribed to murder little boys? Because the evil butler said he got paid by the Valmys to murder Philippe tomorrow, and I have to tell you, it put me right off Round Two.
LINDA: OK. OK. Let’s be calm. Let’s be calm!!!!! Pull yourself together housemaid!!!!!! So Leon and Madame de Valmy are conspiring to mur-
HOUSEMAID: And Raoul. He tried to shoot Philippe in the woods.
LINDA: Maybe that’s a misunderstanding. One of those hilarious misunderstandings that involve guns.
HOUSEMAID: I don’t think…
LINDA: Look, you already got yours, okay?
LINDA: Right, a child’s life is in danger, I’m calling the police!
HOUSEMAID: But then what happens to my true love the evil butler?
LINDA: Girl, U 4 real?
HOUSEMAID: Evil’s just sexier!
LINDA: Valid point.
HOUSEMAID: Also I will deny everything, because if I accuse the master of a murder plot, I and my whole family will be dismissed. The fear of the absolute power of the feudal lord is the threatening shadow implicit in most Gothic novels and I’m going to make it explicit!
NARRATIVE WEIGHT: She’s right, you know. The gendarmerie are not welcome in Gothics!
MADAME DE VALMY: I am sleepwalking out of guilt!
LINDA: Is Raoul in on your vile murder plot?
MADAME DE VALMY: Here is a tip about interrogations. Interrogate conscious people.
LINDA: Wake up Philippe!
PHILIPPE: Oh hi. I poured my hot chocolate down the sink. I always do. Because it’s not good for me.
LINDA: Good instincts, honey! Okay, let me break this to you gently. Your Uncle Leon… I would say that you’re not his favourite relative.
PHILIPPE: Um, yeah, he wants me dead.
LINDA: Hush while I break this to you gently! I would say that your Uncle Leon maybe isn’t going to get you a birthday present this year. Or even send you a birthday card.
PHILIPPE: Yep, he’s trying to murder me. Let’s get him guillotined.
LINDA: Cold-blooded and bloodthirsty family here.
PHILIPPE: Madness runs in the family! It goes with the excellent bone structure. Let’s blow this popsicle stand, governess.
PHILIPPE: So the plan is to run through the woods at midnight to a dude called William Blake who lives at Very Lonely Hut in the French Mountains, on the slopes of I Have No Pride, and stay over at his place until my Not As Hot But Virtuous Uncle Hippolyte returns tomorrow to save us.
PHILIPPE: Let’s hope this dude didn’t give you a false name. I mean, William Blake?
LINDA: There’s a whole tiger theme going on in this book. I keep comparing your family to them. Not just in the ‘Easy, tiger! Rawr.’ way.
LINDA: … Though also in that way.
PHILIPPE: … I am nine.
VERY LONELY HUT IN THE FRENCH MOUNTAINS: *is deserted*
LINDA: Well, at least we can nap here.
EVIL BUTLER AND RANDOM FRENCHMAN: Let’s search this very lonely hut in the French mountains!
LINDA’S LUCK: is horrible!
PHILIPPE’S LUCK: is much worse!
EVIL BUTLER: I know they are here but I do not wish to alert Random Frenchman, because even the most random of Frenchmen is bound to be taken aback if I kill a nine year old in front of him.
ATMOSPHERE: is menacing!
RANDOM FRENCHMAN: Do you think Raoul banged that governess?
EVIL BUTLER: LIKE A SCREEN DOOR IN A HURRICANE!
RANDOM FRENCHMAN: Why are you talking so loud?
EVIL BUTLER: NO REASON! LET’S TALK MORE ABOUT HOW RAOUL HUMPED AND DUMPED THE GOVERNESS! THAT RAOUL, AM I RIGHT? HIS MIDDLE NAME IS ‘HOOKERS.’
RANDOM FRENCHMAN: I thought it was Edwin.
LINDA: Quickly Philippe, the evil butler will be back in a jiff! We must flee through the woods!
PHILIPPE: Man, another night-time race for my life.
LINDA: It’s almost morning!
PHILIPPE: Man, another early-morning jog for my life.
PHILIPPE: Look Cousin Raoul’s car, we’re saved!
LINDA: We’re hiding in a ditch.
PHILIPPE: Seriously? Is every relative I have trying to murder me?!
LINDA: This will be a great saving on Christmas cards when you grow up.
PHILIPPE: Aren’t you guys dating though? Why do you suspect him of murder?
LINDA: a) Because that is how Gothic novels work, Philippe!
LINDA: Also b) because you are a helpless child with only me to rely on, and I cannot take any risk with your life.
PHILIPPE: Aw, Linda, I’m really touched. That’s so…
LINDA: I’m definitely not reporting any of this to the police while my boyfriend might be involved, though! I’m just going to keep you alive and hand over the whole situation to your Less Hot But Virtuous Uncle.
PHILIPPE: … sweet of you.
LINDA: Hey, I’m only a lady. And ladies got needs.
LINDA: Let’s sneak into town so I can leave a garbled phone message for William Blake!
LINDA: I’m going to need moral support when we break the ‘Everyone in your family is a murderer’ news to your uncle. And since Raoul is probably a murderer, I’m going to need a new boyfriend.
PHILIPPE: Again I say seriously?
LINDA: Two birds, one stone!
LINDA: And now nothing will stop us from hiding out in Less Hot But Virtuous Uncle Hippolyte’s lovely safe mansion!
PHILIPPE: Except the savage guard dog.
RAOUL: Hello? Hello, Linda, Philippe? Anyone around?
PHILIPPE: … And my probably murderous cousin.
LINDA: Let’s go nap in the freezing boat house, Philippe! And huddle together for warmth.
PHILIPPE: Well, this is all very traumatizing and draughty.
LINDA: You’re telling me. Of all the de Valmys to cuddle with for warmth in an enclosed space…
LINDA: Now I sneak into Less Hot But Virtuous Uncle Hippolyte’s house to make a telephone call!
WILLIAM BLAKE: Baby, is it true that you’re in mortal danger?
WILLIAM BLAKE: And is it true that you’re now single?
WILLIAM BLAKE: I’ll be right there!
PHILIPPE: So we’re finally safe, and all we have to do is wait for my uncle to come home! Oh, I think that’s him now.
RAOUL: Found you!
LINDA: RUN PHILIPPE!
RAOUL: …. What?
PHILIPPE: Uh-oh. Seems like Cousin Raoul maybe isn’t a murder.
PHILIPPE: So I’m just gonna go chill in the library. Catch you later, dudes.
LINDA: So how’s your day been, Raoul?
RAOUL: Well, I got home and my dad told me he was plotting to murder my cousin, who is a helpless little kid. And that my fiancée and my cousin were desperately running for their lives. So of course I told Dad that I would kill him if he touched either of you, because a) murdering kids is uncool, and b) we’re getting hitched so I knew you were counting on me!
LINDA: Mistakes were made. Also accusations of murder.
RAOUL: But it turns out that my fiancée thinks I’m planning to kill her. Which honestly, I find hurtful.
LINDA: Try not to be so sensitive.
RAOUL: So all my relatives are evil and the woman to whom I pledged my eternal devotion thinks I’m a child murderer and my cousin is clearly going to be in therapy for the rest of his life. ALL IN ALL, IT HASN’T BEEN A GOOD DAY.
UNCLE HIPPOLYTE AND MADAME DE VALMY: … Are we interrupting something?
LINDA: Hey, Uncle Hippolyte turns out to be pretty hot after all!
LINDA: … Not as sexy as Leon, though. Evil’s just sexier.
UNCLE HIPPOLYTE: So, Raoul, my boy, want to maybe sum up things for me? Your stepmother’s story didn’t really hang together.
RAOUL: That’s because she’s trying to murder Philippe.
UNCLE HIPPOLYTE: Wait, who’s trying to murder Philippe?
RAOUL: Dad, my stepmom, the evil butler… Basically everybody’s trying to murder Philippe except me. Dad tried to get me to conspire in the murder this morning, but I said no, because I have this unusual and quirky belief that KILLING CHILDREN IS WRONG.
MADAME DE VALMY: I did have a few doubts about murdering Philippe, but in my book ‘Men are from Childkilling Mars, Women are from Accessory to Murder Venus’ it said that you should try to share your man’s hobbies.
MADAME DE VALMY: And he’s really been an excellent trustee aside from the small matter of the murdering. I mean, the roads are in superb condition!
WILLIAM BLAKE: I’m here to save you Linda!
EVERYONE: *is crying*
WILLIAM BLAKE: Aaaaawkward.
RAOUL: And who, excuse my French, the hell are you?
WILLIAM BLAKE: I don’t know French but let me introduce myself: I am the third side of your love triangle!
RAOUL: My what? I’m in a what?
RAOUL: This is the worst day of my life. I need a drink.
MADAME DE VALMY: I feel it’s my duty to entertain the guests. Let me explain how we, your family, were going to frame Linda, the woman you love, for a child’s murder!
RAOUL: … I need some heroin injected into my eyeballs.
RAOUL: I’m going to go visit Dad.
LINDA: Quickly William Blake, after that handsome Frenchman!
HIGH SPEED CAR CHASE: *ensues*
GOTHIC NOVELS: Yeah this Gothic’s so modern.
EVIL BUTLER: *blackmails*
RAOUL & WILLIAM BLAKE: *drink*
LINDA: Where am I? More importantly, where are the handsome Frenchmen?
WILLIAM BLAKE: Dunno. Anyway, so the day is saved and I wondered if I could pop by Hippolyte’s and take you out sometime…
LINDA: I see you have misunderstood. Raoul is innocent of murder and thus no power under God will stop me hitting that like Thor’s hammer hits the unsuspecting sky. Banging like a door in a hurricane, scoring like it was the Super Bowl. If Raoul were honey, I would be a bee. If he was peanut butter, I would be jelly. If I were airport security, I would frisk him every time.
WILLIAM BLAKE: I’m just going to… go, then…
LINDA: If Raoul was head cheerleader, I would be the quarterback. If-
WILLIAM BLAKE: Catch you later.
RAOUL: Je suis outtie, kindly housekeeper.
LINDA: I am going to throw myself down a hill and stand in the middle of the road at the Corner of Narrative Convenience! I’m going to do France if it kills me! I mean this entirely literally!
RAOUL: WHY DID YOU THINK MY DAY NEEDED ME TO RUN OVER A CHICK TO MAKE IT COMPLETE?
LINDA: Listen to me, baby. I did suspect you of murder. I admit that. But, in fairness… your name IS Raoul.
RAOUL: … It is.
LINDA: You know, being raised in a Gothic family was probably pretty hard on you, wasn’t it?
RAOUL: … It was.
LINDA: And we’ve both had a bad day. Don’t you think it’s Getting It On In Your Sweet Ride O’Clock?
RAOUL: … It might be.
LINDA: *finally does France*
Mary Stewart is a fantastic writer, but her heroes usually drive me up the wall. They constantly keep super-important secrets from the heroine for her own good (TOUCH NOT THE CAT – why would you want to know the identity of the man you’re psychically dating? and AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND – Should I have mentioned before we got married that my entire life is a lie? Nah, I’m sure it won’t be important) and direct contact with them often makes her heroines, smart, competent, great ladies for the most part, start thinking about the weakness of women and how strong and manly manly men are.
But I actually really like Raoul, who is a pretty sensitive portrayal of a Gothic hero. Growing up in a Gothic family would be a nightmare! Being suspected of murder by the woman you love would be unspeakably horrifying and hurtful, but very few books engage with that.
…. So Mary Stewart made me think about Gothics, and what I wanted to do with a Gothic hero, in a different way.
The Gothic novel had come a long way from JANE EYRE, where nobody ever even discusses the fact that Jane’s charge Adele has been living in the same house as a bitey pyromaniac with a drunk guard for ages.
As ladies became less helpless, someone else had to be in danger. And that someone else could be a kid. So Philippe is really the Gothic maiden in NINE COACHES WAITING. Kids in danger, and being protected and rescued by the intrepid heroine, also feature in Jennifer Crusie’s super-modern (published 2010) MAYBE THIS TIME.
So, kids in danger. All kids are extremely vulnerable before adults—they can be moved to Gothic manors, they can be hurt, they can be afraid with that particular sense of powerlessness, they can be unloved without the possibility of divorce. Gothic novels and young adult fiction, man. It seemed a perfect fit.
So Gothic heroes in distress and kids in danger are a big thing in Unspoken.