The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
29 September, 1995
There comes a time when a young lass considers exchanging her girlish, bouncing ringlets for a more womanly coiffure, when she no longer toys with her hems, but pays close attention to the finer accoutrements of a lady's attire, when she sets aside her album of 'Great British Rulers Lick and Stick Trading Stamps' to gaze upon the framed photoengravure of the beau her guardians have chosen for her . . . or so one is told.
One's readers (the horde of stalwart supporters they are) perhaps have by now discerned that one refers, however obliquely, to Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, one's ward, who--lest anyone has forgotten--happens to be eighty-fifth in line for the British throne. One trusts that this sweet apple blossom of youth will not soon be courted by the curious bumblebee, with his flashy striped suit, his unerring sense of the most fragrant bloom on the branch, his probing and his ravishing as he collects the sticky . . . but one senses one has perhaps chosen an unfortunate metaphor.
'Twas over the dinner table this week that one detected a certain look in the Lady Felicia's eye. 'Tis true that a couple, long wedded, can communicate without words those feelings and thoughts that lie unspoken upon the lips. One was quite able to read, from the quirk in the Lady Felicia's eyebrow as she watched one's ward leave the table after her pudding, the unbidden command: The time had come, one's wife felt, for one to do one's duty as a guardian and ascertain that this young lady, trembling on the cusp of womanhood, knew the Facts Of Life.
Oh no! One is not of the stodgy sort his own parents were! Why, one fully believed until one's marriage that children arrived on wings, so to speak, via wildlife of the family Ciconiidae! No, it would not do for a possible heir of the British throne to think that some long-billed fowl consigned the blue-blooded fruit of her future union down the chimneypot after its flight.
One thus followed young Penelope to her chambers. After knocking upon her door, one entered manfully, wearing an expression of sympathy mingled with masculine momentousness. The lass, perched prettily upon her chaise, perhaps divined one's mission, for she blushed furiously upon one's arrival and attempted to obscure the books she had been busily perusing. One smilingly put her at ease, however, by sitting beside her as even a real father would. "There is no need for concealment," one assured her. "One knows, dear girl, how fond you are of your studies, as one who is eighty-fifth in line for succession should be." One placed the tomes, The Story of O and Emmanuelle in Bangkok upon the floor--the little philologist! The feminine geographer! One was relieved, at least, to note that her literary tastes do not run to novels.
After clearing one's throat, one announced one's intent. "One is here," said one, "to inquire of your knowledge of The Facts of Life." The lass once again flushed furiously, hiding her shock by turning her face away and shielding it with one hand. For a moment, one thought one heard a convulsive snort, but one suspects it was but a draught. One thus sat in silence for several moments, waiting for encouragement, until at last one ventured, "Young Penelope, perhaps you have seen the swallows in the springtime. . . ."
"Oh yes, Papa!" she exclaimed, and once again one heard the curious cachinnation, and made a mental note to have the gardeners examine the shutters.
We sat in silence for several more minutes, as one waited for a servant to interrupt us so one could take a premature leave. Finally, one could stand the silence no longer. "Young Penelope, perhaps you have also seen the hounds. . . ."
"Oh yes, Papa!" exclaimed the modest miss once more, blushing a deep scarlet.
Finally, one decided to be blunt. "Then you know--about young kiddies--how they, make their debut into the world?"
She rejoined with sweet gravity, "Are we speaking of how they arrive in the beet patch, Papa?" Well, one confides in one's readers (a tasteful and thoughtful crowd, as evidenced by their present choice of reading material) the relief one felt upon learning that one did not have to flesh out further immodest details. One immediately left her with her lexicography and travelogue. Ah, modern youth! What advantages have they! As one said, one did not learn this salient fact until the Lady Felicia informed one of it upon one's wedding night. One has never, one admits, been able to eat the borscht in quite the same way since.
Until next week, one remains,
Dearest Sir Charles:
I, like yourself, am a New England boy with quite similar tastes, in my opinion, to those you hold. I have a quandary, though, as I have taken the plunge for a young maiden from up north. This Canadian female is quite the religious sort, and I am afraid at how to proceed with our relationship, which I want to become more physical. I know I will not frighten her, for she has seen things as big as the CN Tower before. How should I introduce her to Mr. John Thomas?
Bugged in Boston
Sir Charles replies:
One is not at all acquainted with the correspondent's friend John Thomas, and it may be that he is not at all a suitable companion for a young lady. Alternately, it may be that she is so taken with your John Thomas that she will lavish her attentions upon him and ignore the correspondent completely.
One hears that the Canadians are, indeed, an athletic race. The correspondent may be right in wishing to become more physical with the young lady. However, one advises that one first instruct the young lady that, while in a less brumal climate, tennis racquets are designed for the tennis courts, and not meant to be strapped to one's boots for walking upon the snow. The young lady might also have an irrational fear of polar bears. One advises against brisk walks through the Zoological Park.
Reminding the correspondent that one is not 'new' anything, one remains,
Sir Charles as you like to call yourself,
I know there has been all sorts of Goings On at that place since you took it over from your old dad and if you did him in I would not be a bit surprised, but this beats it all.
My friend who I will call Jane although that is not her name and she does not work for you, she said you had three of them unnaturral types from London up last weekend and there was all sort of partying and drinking and men dancing with men and stuff like you woud never do for peple around here all though I would not go if you payed me. I all ways wandered if it was true what they say about you Public School Toffs but now I know it is all true, and with that poor little girl in the house too.
I beleve it is my duty to tell Lady Felecia and everyone what has Really Been Going On unless you decide to do some thing better. I woud accept 500 Pounds but if you think that young man who played the pianer so pretty coud take an interest in a Mature Woman like me and if you was to set me up a meeting with him then I would let byegones be byegones. Leave a letter behind the telephone next to the BP station and I will know wether to Tell All.
Waiting for your reply and it better not be too long,
A Concerned Bystander
Sir Charles replies:
O Vile One:
As this missive is the third attempt at extortion one has encountered in a fortnight, one is more amused than disgusted by this risible ruse. One has thus posted this letter quite publicly for all to see, and one of course will not cave in to the ludicrous demands.
One is continually amazed at the blinders those without breeding erect; one prides oneself on one's clearness of perception, of one's mental acuity, of one's ability--to the very depths of its shoddy facade--to penetrate past bosh to what is true and tangible. Oh yes! The Grandiose family has always prided itself upon this point.
The correspondent, however, wades in error. One understands not how 'Concerned' drew the conclusion that one's house guests were 'unnatural types' when one has entertained no one but one's own nephew and heir and his three lovely and delicate female companions (Miss Anita Manceau-Baddeley . . . should you be reading these very words, one still anxiously awaits the arrival of your eight by ten glossy photograph). One also recoils at the base assumption that one 'did in' one's own father, as no Grandiose has done such a thing since at least the reign of Queen Anne.
In short, 'Concerned' (though 'concerned' only for her own pocket she seems!) may continue in her little jaunt through the valleys of dementia , yet one will continue treading upon the triune paths of the wealthy, the titled, and the self-righteous.
Away with you!
Postscript: One knows the petrol station. The correspondent may find a gaily-wrapped package waiting for her in the assigned spot. One hopes the correspondent will give it a good shake before opening. Do ignore beforehand the breathing holes and any hissing noises that might be audible.
One passes the quill to one's wife, the admirable Lady Felicia.
Dear Lady Felicia,
I am at a crossroads in my life, and require most delicate assistance. While I could bore you with the details of my quandary, I will merely append them, so you may choose not to read them, if your schedule is pressed. My question in a nutshell is this: When all is said and done, is it better to wed for love or money?
Wondering in Wellington
The Lady Felicia replies:
Ah, the age old dilemma. Yet in aristocratic circles, wherein this author naturally circulates, the phrase is turned thusly: 'does one marry for Love or Duty?' (for money flows free as water, and is a non-issue to all but the nouveau riche). Many a young girl, testing out the first shallow waters of the ways of the heart has been drawn into the dilemma.
On the one hand, there is no greater service than marrying a sound choice, selected by one's parents. On the other hand, more and more, the younger set is choosing to throw caution and parental blessings to the four winds and take up with cinema stars of questionable backgrounds, or black sheep with checquered pasts.
Several years ago, when this author was a young girl of marriageable age, she had a 'good friend' who faced this dilemma, and faced it well. The gentleman chosen for her by her doting parents was a rather pasty, pasty rich fellow, pusillanimous and bordering on corpulent, a minor noble--yet his lineage was the envy of the upper crust. The gentleman whom she found most alluring, though, was a suave and dashing young buck, virile as the day was long (so the author's friend confided), and twice as masculine.
The tug-of-war in this author's friend was on a grand scale, and when the decision was finally made, the question was asked 'How did you decide between the two suitors?' And sweet Reason answered, 'While bone-jarring, heart-rending passionate lust may feed a lady for a fortnight, title and station will set her in good stead to do as she wishes for the rest of her life.'
Fireworks for a fortnight, then lineage for a lifetime.
Hoping one's correspondent takes to heart life's lessons, for surely, this author rests proud in the lineage of her spouse,
The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week