No, I have no idea where this is going, if anywhere. It just popped up as a scene in my head.
Half-naked men do not usually fall into one's lap, especially if one is a young lady not over the age of twenty and one lives during the reign of our glorious queen Victoria.
Miss Smith was fairly convinced that, had Queen Victoria considered this rather specific eventuality, she would probably have found a way of putting a stop to it or at very least draping it in chintz. She looked down again at the unconscious figure draped half-along her cabin seat and decided to reassess the situation.
A commonly held belief in this day and age was that women did not think - it made their brains overheat and could cause nervous prostration. Miss Smith, travelling alone and by that simple token already no better than she ought to be, had already dismissed this as claptrap.
Still, she was going to have to think hard about this one: starting out with whether it was a man or not, strictly speaking. There were distinct coral smears around a mouth also surrounded with unshaven stubble, and the closed eyelids were somewhat fancifully bedecked with lines of sky blue paint. There were ends of ribbon in the rather greasy-looking black hair. A crazy creature. A painted gypsy.
Perhaps it was even - gasp! - a sodomite. Some rich man's dirty little secret.
Looking over her surprise visitor more closely, though, Miss Smith was forced to admit that although undeniably dirty, the senseless man was hardly a glowing endorsement of the love that dare not speak its name. If he was trying to look like a woman, he made possibly the ugliest woman she'd ever seen.
And then of course there was the matter of that certainly-not-feminine chest, exposed to the air (and he reeked of male sweat and cordite) and to Miss Smith's oscillating gaze. She was torn between looking at it and chastely averting her eyes. Looking at it won, swiftly enough that her mother would have been scandalised. It was a nice chest, rising and falling rapidly as he breathed. He was alive.
Miss Smith unpeeled herself from the wall, where she had flattened herself when the man had come crashing into her compartment, and dared to come a step closer. Far away, it seemed, she could hear shouting and the ugly reports of gunfire, and the train seemed to be going faster than before.
Something was not right in the garden of England, and not just the unconscious half-dressed transvestite in Miss Smith's cabin, either.
She dared once more. Pretending herself a nurse in some Crimean hellhole, she advanced upon the man with what she fondly imagined was professional detachment. She was a nurse, tending to the fallen, although the fallen what might be the question. She decided to err on the side of masculine. If there was gunfire, then perhaps this man was a brave soldier. A hero. He needed her help.
Miss Smith had an extremely active fantasy life. Having freed herself from the terror of not thinking lest her brain explode, she had nurtured her inner thoughts as a way of escaping the general tedium of her spinster's life.
Spinster. What a word. She was nineteen years old and yet the label spinster was starting to stick as effectively as if she'd sewn it into her corset. Well, a spinster would never do what she was doing now, although there had been her Aunt Iris, who was spoken about in whispers even now because of that remarkable thing she'd got up to on a passage to the New World.
It was a battle with almost nineteen years of conditioning to touch him/her. Women did not touch men. Fine, then, her innermost thoughts said, sniffily. Pretend you're a man. There's nothing that stops men from helping other men who are hurt, it's practically a rule. Her small fingers settled on a sensibly non-sexual area (the elbow - it's pretty hard to be erotic about a grubby and grazed elbow, even if you are a repressed Victorian) and gave the tiniest of jogs.
In that next second, it was hard to know who screamed loudest, the woman trying to pretend she was a man or the man trying to pretend he was a woman.