The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
9 February, 1996
A most disturbing occurence this week has prompted one to issue the stern warning that is to follow. One had returned from one's inspection of the far west wing, where one maintains a fine collection of Ancient Indian brass spittoons (as one is aware that several Ladies of Quality avidly peruse this literary venue, one cannot provide details as to their nature. Let us merely say the Kama Sutra has ne'er been rendered in brass with such delicacy.). Unfortunately, the door to the room was locked. As well it should be so that innocent eyes might not fall prey to the temptations within! And the Lady Felicia, who has the only key, was out for the afternoon to transport Blandsdown's contribution for the Fishampton Church Jumble Sale & Women's Archery Meet to Edna Thistle, Mrs.
The Lady Felicia's gift of opera glasses embellished in a most accomplished and artistic manner was to have been the centerpiece of the Jumble Sale, raising several thousand pounds for charity. In the confusion of the afternoon, however, someone (one has one's suspicions whom, but will not use the name, so that E.T., Mrs's identity might be protected) maliciously tossed these priceless optical artifacts into the tuppenny bin, where they lay unnoticed among several penwipers until they were purchased by the greengrocer for the purpose of observing rugby matches.
One assuredly states that the reports of the kafuffle that followed have been greatly exaggerated. The Lady Felicia did not attempt to 'strangle' Edna Thistle, Mrs. Indeed not. One's wife had been most charitably attempting to adjust that woman`s ridiculous Peter Pan collar when her cuffs became stubbornly enfangled in Edna's chunky cloisonne necklace. What could she do but tug?
At any rate, to return to one's own story, one was returning from one's thwarted visit to the West Wing when one happened upon young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, primly sitting upon the settee in the yellow parlour with the dignity of one who is eighty-fourth in line for the throne. Beside her on the floor, his legs and arms rather impressively pinioned by a bell pull behind his back, struggled 'Percy' Prudhomme, the lad one had hand-picked to take the lass's thoughts away from low-born blacksmiths.
Naturally, one inquired into the nature and origins of the trussing. In a most queer accent, the young minx saucily declared, 'Why Pa, the varmint tried to ride me like a rodeo clown rides a bull, so I rassled him to the dirt and hog-tied him up.' One icily requested a definition of the term 'rassled,' only to be met with the confession that she had picked up such vulgar patois while reading the complete works of a Miss Hyacinth Jane Conestoga, the 'noted' Western novelist. From Desert Hearts, Desert Winds to Tumbleweed Prairie, Tumbleweed Passion, she had read them all. 'Lady Weeble-Able-Smythe made me, while I was in Bath,' she added hastily. One made her release her captive. 'Percy' appeared as if he began too much to enjoy the trussing.
Which brings one, swiftly and efficiently, like the sword of Justice upon the heads of the lawless, or the slavering hounds upon the heels of the escaped felon, to one's point. That is: No good can come of novels.
Quite coincidentally, a reader this week writes:
Dear Sir Charles,
One replies: With the dread words 'chapter the first'. Oh yes! If 'A Reader' hoped for kind encouragement in his pursuit of sensationalism, he will not find it here! Were not the greatest novelists of Literature wastrels, profligates, and libertines, all? Let us take a few choice examples. Mr. James Joyce--Irish! Mrs. Virginia Woolf--mad as a hatter! Miss Jane Austen--a sin-seeking spinster sensualist! Need one say more?
As for this so-called modern literature, one will only say that one has personally investigated each and every page of that most popular of modern authors, Miss Nectarina St. Clair, only to confirm one's belief that every seductive word she writes, every sinful page, is utterly condemnable. True, there were scenes in Regent Wanton, Regent Wild of a quite tender nature, and the reconciliation between Cherubina and Count D'Arseigneille in Sweet Scarlet Secret would have brought a tear to the eye of a sentimental chap. But rubbish it is, and in the rubbish bin it should go!
One has confiscated several of Miss Hyacinth Jane Conestoga's novels from young Penelope's chambers. The servants might be tempted to keep them for themselves should one throw them out with the kitchen rubbish, however. Therefore one shall keep them out of danger, in one's study. Even if it requires severalclose readings, one shall study these penny dreadfuls so that in the future, no young royal expectants will be tempted to 'rassle' their suitors. Oh yes! Beginning with My Outlaw, My Own, one shall be closely investigating these works, page by page. 'Tis a duty one reluctantly undertakes in the name of Dame Propriety.
Though anxious to begin, one remains for another week,
Dear Sir Charles:
Haven't you ever just wished you could give it all up and run away to a South Sea Island?
Sir Charles replies:
One is uncertain as to whether the correspondent makes such an inquiry to seek validation of some secret plan of his own, or whether the correspondent is merely a 'travel agent' soliciting one to purchase a 'holiday tour'.
One believes that the tropical islands are rife with contagious diseases of sorts that would make one scratch in thinking of them (were one the sort to give in to such vulgar displays of physical discomfort), possibly a direct result of the foul sanitary conditions, the ill-managed preparation of exotic undercooked foods, the tendency of holiday-goers to wander about 'barefoot', and overindulgence in water 'paddling'.
One also has it on the greatest of authority that the natives of these wild climes cavort in little else than sea shells and skirts constructed--rather flimsily, one would imagine--of dried grasses. One would imagine that the women of these islands would be particularly brazen in such attire, their 'attributes' exposed for all to see, their lips curved in smiles calculated to seduce the wary foreigner, to tempt him with their warm, spicy quiverings . . . lips that whisper sweet words of desire with a tropical accent that tickles and teases every sense . . . their taloned fingers trickling like soft rainfall over the foreign gentleman's skin as they flutter their feathery eyelashes and implore with every look, every glance . . . ah. Well. Yes. One would imagine there would be a great many of these tricksy seductresses, and would rather be well away from them, safe on the bonny shores of this green and blessed land!
Sternly, one remains,
[NB to one's secretary: Pop down to the agent's and forward several brochures on Bali, if you would. Not a word to the Lady F., mind you. And remember to excise this personal aside from the final proof, if you value your job!]
Dear Family Grandiose,
I am at a crossroads in my life and would benefit greatly from the palette of opinions your clan of experienced advice-mongers could give me. I have just become engaged to the most wonderful man in the whole entire world. My parents heartily disapprove of this union, though, which causes me great grief. What do the three of you suggest as a course of action, being such a close-knit and sensible family yourselves?
Tentative in Tewsbury
Sir Charles replies:
Bah! You think to defy your guardians, do you! Flaunt the wishes of the very ones who gave you life and nurturing, who took you in from the cold and dressed you in flounces and curls and other girlish whims, who even aided you with your Great British Rulers Lick and Stick Stamp Collection! Ignore your elders who have sought every minute of every day to provide you with an example of propriety and decency! Well, not one cent should you expect from your Papa, that is for certain!
Brusquely, one remains,
The Lady Felicia replies:
My dear confused girl,
The heart of a mother beats never so tentatively as when her daughter's future lies in the balance. Surely, it is her greatest aspiration to one day watch her spotless child walk somberly down the hallowed aisle of the Cathedral, on her way to a union with a man far her better in station and wealth.
One shudders, perhaps along with the author's own mother, at the thought of her daughter picking a wilted posie and running to the country chapel dressed in rags to marry some amour du jour . . . a blacksmith, perhaps, or worse.
Remember, you are the darling child of some woman who, like all mothers, spent hours kneeling at your bedside while you were sick (or, like oneself, had the maid do it). If for no other reason but gratitude, you should seriously reconsider this ill fated union, before it is too late. Before you drive your mother to an early grave!
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:
Feeling myself perhaps too close to the plight of the correspondent, one has asked several of one's fleet of serving staff to opine on the dilemma. One finds that some of the staff have most uncanny insights into common sense.
Mrs. R. Peters replied: 'Dear, I see you look at your blacksmith with the same look that Mr. Peters and I used to share when we were young, and still share to this day. I think you should tell your 'friend' that she should follow her heart.'
Miss T. Shadforth replied: 'If you're going to break your engagement with Colin, could you introduce me to him before he is dismissed from the grounds?'
Mr. Len Shropley, stablehand, replied: 'I'll always wait for you, luv!'
Mr. V. Briceland replied: 'Stick it to the old geezer. The fellow could use a shake-up. Elope!'
Sullenly, one remains,
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