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24 May, 1996
'Tis at this time of year, this glorious, scent-heavy season, when Persephone steps forth from her underworld bower to tread lightly across the land, trailing warm breezes across the green and verdant fields in her wake, that one recalls fond memories of one's youth. Sweet, happy youth! Such innocent larks one had, angling in the rivers, gallivanting through the forests, pulling the wings off ladybugs, and using the servants for target practice.
One's readers (so numerous that one has had complaints from the World Internet Organization, whomever they may be, that several major national security systems are put into jeopardy from the mad rush of readers using the 'internet' to read one's latest words of wisdom, each Friday morn . . . as if one cares a whit about countries other than one's own!) will recall the story one once related of Millicent St. Hughes--Millicent Simpley, as she was known as a child. How cruelly she taunted one, with those evil words, Pasty, pasty, rich boy! How the taunt haunted one's youth! One was--and one has no problems admitting it, for although one is as 'moocho' as the next baronet, one has a sensitive side as well--one was quite haunted by her cruel mockings. But one is an adult. One grows out of it.
One's readers will also recall that Millicent Simpley was many years later sadly incarcerated in St. Mary's Asylum for the Wealthy and Thoroughly Barmy. Well, one reaps what one sows, does one not? Apparently, however, the lunatics are now running that particular asylum, for Millicent St. Hughes sent one a note this past week, informing one that she was in the neighbourhood, and that she wished to 'make peace' with one. Of course one sent one's manservant with an invitation to tea the next afternoon. For whom, one asks, could be more desirous for peace (and quiet) than oneself?
Well, one is obliged by Dame Truth to say that Millicent looked none the better for her time in the asylum. The Lady Felicia shot one a look of alarm at the very sight of Millicent's hair (reminiscent of a dandelion gone to seed, under electrical current) and mode of dress (one believes they are called 'hot pants', but they made one's blood run very, very cold indeed). Millicent, however, was all smiles. She had come at the behest of her 'spiritual adviser', she explained, for this week was 'It's Great To Be Me Week.' In case one's readers doubted their eyes, one will repeat that yes, that indeed was the phrase she employed
Breathlessly, she explained. "During It's Great To Be Me Week it's okay to reach out to those who have hurt you in the past--" (and here one had to be restrained by the Lady Felicia, for one never deliberately hurt Millicent Simpley! 'Twas only a glancing blow, a mere flesh wound!) "--and to let them know they're forgiven. 'Cause it's great to be me, and I'm glad you're you!" One frostily responded that indeed, it was indeed fine to be oneself, though one rather doubted the experience was as stirring for those of the less privileged classes. While the Lady Felicia's attention was turned to the tea tray, one added in a whisper, "Especially those who've been in the booby 'atch!"
Millicent gave a slight start at my jesting remark, but regained her composure to continue. "If you love yourself, you see, then you can give yourself a vacation from your problems! Oh, Charley, don't you see what I'm saying? Love! Love! Charley, love yourself and let go of past ills!" Of course one found the suggestion reprehensible, and one took the opportunity (for the Lady Felicia had just poured and was inspecting her own cup) to slip a rubber facsimile of a human eyeball into her tea. One's readers can imagine the screams. The Lady Felicia naturally inquired into the origin of the fit, yet the eyeball was nowhere to be found! (Naturally, one secreted it in one's pocket when the Spode hit the carpet.)
Nor did Millicent seem to find the old 'dung-in-a-bun' trick (which also escaped the eye of the Lady Felicia) at all amusing. Unfortunately, it was only after her servants had dragged her away raving and shouting 'Pasty! Pasty! Pasty!' at a high volume, that one recalled it was a mysterious anonymous shipment of fertilizer spread thickly in her gallery that had sent her to the asylum some months ago. What a pity.
One will, of course, be sending her a 'get well' card at St. Mary's. Knowing how fond Millicent is of practical jokes, one will be writing the greeting in a special trick ink that fades immediately after the dire and threatening message has been read for the first time. . . .
Celebrating It's Great To Be Me week in one's own inimitable way, one remains,
Hard of Hearing writes:
Dear Sir Charles:
Wanting to become a solid citizen in the new county one has just been installed as the new landlord, one finds it incumbent upon oneself to uphold the local vicar by weekly attendance of Sunday Services. But what is one to do, when one finds that, in the old and poorly constructed stone chapel, the agnostics are so terrible as to make comprehension of the homily impossible?
Does one stick one's nose (finely formed and aristocratic though it may be) into the workings of the parish, or does one merely smile and nod and utter inane platitudes when making small talk after the service?
Hard of Hearing in Herefordshire
Sir Charles replies:
Parish churches, high or low, are not renowned for their agnostics, sad to say. Why, the agnostical qualities of the church in Fishampton are so dashedly poor that one can barely make out the vicar. (It is for this reason, and no other, that one is frequently espied with one's eyes closed during Divine Service. One is merely concentrating, not napping.)
However, there are many ancient churches across Great Britain imbued with superior agnostics. The famed 'Whispering Chamber' of St. Paul's Cathedral, for example, has agnostics so exquisite that if one murmurs a phrase at one end, the agnostics carry it with distinct clarity to a distance of several hundred yards!
Other than this monument of architectural triumph, one has had little experience in other structures with fine agnostics. One believes the Sydney Opera House is endowed with them, but one is not willing to travel 'down under' for the experience.
As ever, one remains,
Dearest Sir Charles,
You seem a kind and goodly fellow of noble breeding. However, I was rather distressed to read that you refer to Mr. Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species as a work of fiction. Can we not put down the foils once and for all concerning this issue of Creationism versus evolution? Can we not say that God himself did indeed create man, and the method he used might have been this notion of evolution? Reconciliation is a remarkable facet of the human psyche, though I am afraid it is a muscle commonly in atrophy.
God and evolution are similar in that they both exclude excess. Unnecessary items of form are omitted. Feel in your own mouth, if the vulgar notion strikes you; is there not a pair of canine teeth? You can feel the roots--larger than that of the others there. And what is your appendix for, or your tonsils? These must have been necessary for some end in our history as a species. I am not so prideful as to assume to know the mind of God. I merely am distressed to witness the continuance of a short-sighted, learned attitude.
Sir Charles replies:
One is indeed a kind and goodly fellow of noble breeding. And a high degree of education! However, the suggestion that one feel anything in one's 'mouth' is so disturbing a notion as to make one feel positively queasy.
Luckily, one does know the mind of God. He has always shown a distinct partiality for the British aristocracy. After all, did He not choose to write the Good Book with the assistance of King James? And if one recalls correctly (and one is certain one does), Charles Darwins also wrote such alleged masterpieces as 'Oliver Twist' and 'Nicholas Nickel-boy' and 'Great Excavations.' Potboilers, all.
Dismissively, one remains,
Mr. Barker writes:
My wife and I, being fairly "well-off" and more financially advantaged than those of the common squabble, own a nice piece of land here in Herefordshire. I have known my wife for many years to be a woman of unspeakably high virtue and I count myself blessed to know her and to love her. Alas, our marriage is her second. This does not bother me as much the person to whom she was married does. Fortunately, the cad is no longer "in the picture", as those of the squabble are overly-fond of saying, as he ran off to join a travelling band of performing gypsies some three years ago.
Anyway, my wife had a daughter by this man, and I have since adopted her as my own daughter. Her name is Allison, and the heavens themselves could not have fashioned a finer girl. She is the epitome of virtue, kindness, and wisdom. She will make a fine wife someday (but only with the proper man, of course). My problem, however, concerns Allison. About a year ago, on her birthday, I found her in the parlour. She was crying. Not knowing what to do, I immediately called the chauffeur and ordered him to take us to Sir Farraday's estate. Sir Farraday and his wife breed dogs, you see, and I told Allison to choose the pup she liked the best. She did so, named him Rufus (I did not question her choice), and she was cheered up immediately. The dog became part of our family very quickly and we all adore him.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when the groundsmen reported to me a conspicuous lack of . . . how shall one say this eloquently . . . Rufus' waste products. I couldn't imagine why, and decided to find out for myself. So one day I sat and watched the dog from our parlour window. Sir Charles, condemn me to the perilous torments of a thousand hells and call me "blackguard" if I ever lie to you, but I swear by all that is holy that I witnessed this dog partake of his own waste as a mid-day lunch! This was a month ago. I have told no one. I am in a quandary, you see, for my own daughter, who has been through so much already, loves this dog more than life itself. His coming to our household cheered her out of her inexplicable doldrums and has done much to add to the gaiety of our home. But how can I, in good conscience, have a pet who has a taste for his own fecal matter?
I trust that you appreciate the difficult position I am in and will give me the right advice.
In all humility and admiration,
Sir Charles replies:
How noble the paternal instinct! How protective the guardian who wishes to protect his ward! The correspondent has hit a soft spot in this baronet's heart, for he too, knows, how it is to guide a young woman from girlhood to adulthood with only a minimum of disillusion.
Yet, Mr. Barker, is it not true that the very thing that distinguishes man from mere beast is its choice of food? Man insists upon select viands, well prepared and well-presented (preferably with the finest silver service), while a wild, slavering animal often eats its chop 'on the hoof', as it were. And oh! How an animal will eat anything! Anything sir, down to that most vile article mentioned in the correspondent's letter.
Let us consider, however, as an example, today's luncheon table at Blandsdown--a hearty country repast. A small dish of salmon roe and a pate. A hearty slice of Devonshire headcheese. A beautifully clear oxtail soup. A spiced tongue and steak tartare. And finally, a selection of sweetbreads, sauteed lightly. Stuff fit for men, sir! Stuff fit for men!
One advises therefore not to take the poor mongrel's habits too seriously, but to take young Allison aside and warn her that it perhaps not quite the thing to exchange kisses with her Rufy-woofy.
Cheerfully, one remains,
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