The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
28 June, 1996
The scream pierced the veil of quiet that smothered Blandsdown in the dark of night, echoing down the long halls, through the galleries and ballrooms, shaking the chandeliers in their dark solitude. One started from one's sleep, instinctively grabbing one's dressing gown and leaping to one's feet. And yet, even as one sprang into action, one realized 'twas but the Lady Felicia, suffering from the Nightmares. Like a well-bred filly, she is sensitive and prone to fits of Passion. (Not that sort of passion, for the more vulgar readers out there.) The last time one went to her aid, after hearing a number of surprisingly chesty moans and groans and cries of 'More! More! Van damn you!' (shocking language from a lady!), one found her thrashing in her sleep and calling for the 'mussels from Brussels'. She had never shown much partiality for seafood before.
Ah, but one gets ahead of oneself. One must backtrack.
Ever since one commenced upon this exercise of exquisite good taste and restraint that has single-handedly accounted for the immense popularity of the so-called "World-Wide Wart," it has not escaped one's notice that one's readers (reportedly so many in number that were they to be locked into a room with a sufficient quantity of type-writing machines, they would eventually pound out a paragraph or so of something approaching semi-literate English in fully half the time of similarly equipped chimpanzees) are an observant bunch. When they find a 'typo,' they are quick to correct (and for some unfortunate smug souls, trumpet the discovery in grubby newsprint). When one playfully misplaces a pronoun, they protest. When one allows a canine protuberance to show, they demand it be covered.
Which makes it all the more puzzling that none of one's admirers--one is unusually confident that one has no detractors, for who can resist the myriad charms of one's winsome visage, title, and wealth?--have written of late with inquiries into the well-being of Augusta Windover-Midden, the Lady Felicia's step-mother. Oh, one understands it fully. Had one one's druthers, one would prefer not to suffer the old bat's name mentioned within earshot again. One has been immensely at peace, here at Blandsdown, since one bribed--er, that is, convinced the Minister of Agriculture to cart old 'Gusty' off to the Devonshire Camp for Diseased Dairy Animals to be quarantined with 'Mad Cow Disease.'
And that reflection, dear readers, takes us back to the story one commenced. Keeping in mind the chilly reception one received the last time one invaded the Lady Felicia's bedchambers without invitation, one patiently waited outside her doorway until she emerged. Most curiously, she held an edition of the Hampshire Herald in her hand, which she thrust at one with a trembling finger pointed at the following announcement:
Married in a private ceremony: To Willy Wynckie, Dairy Farmer, Devonshire: Augusta Windover-Midden, widow, of Swillingsford on Bog. The Windover-Wynckies will be honeymooning in Skegness.
It was all one could do to keep down one's exquisite dinner of boiled mutton. One's step-mother-in-law, married so basely? To a dairy farmer? A cowhand? A clod of the earth who has more than likely been up to his elbows in bovine unmentionables when they bring their young into the world? (And enjoying it!) It might have been canny on old 'Gusty's' part to marry into the one profession in the world that would not notice her peculiar odor, but what, one asks, was she thinking? Why could she not simply have wandered into an abattoir?
One shuddered at the very thought of imparting the news to young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, a lass so fragile and delicate (for she is, as several of one's readers know, ninetieth in line for the throne) that she developed the vapours upon learning of the impending Royal Divorce and could not be separated from her Great British Princes Lick And Stick Stamp book for several weeks afterwards. Sadly, the girl took the news with hysterical laughter.
As both the Lady Felicia and young Penelope have determined to travel to Devonshire to discover the true circumstances behind this mesalliance, one finds oneself presented with an unexpected 'bachelor's holiday.' The Ladies Grandiose will be absent for a full week, or more, and one has lately had a fancy to travel--perhaps to London, to visit one's nephew Chauncey in his gay and frolicking bachelor's flat. Indeed, one is most amused by Chauncey's chums . . . . Yes, a very good idea indeed. One shall order one's steamer trunk packed immediately.
Be not surprised then, readers, when one's next column bears a return address of Brompton Square and boasts of the carefree city exploits of
The one who weekly remains,
Nigel Hoffeltopper Esq. writes:
Dear Sir Charles,
May I firstly say your weekly page is of great personal nourishment to me. Anyway, I must continue.
I find myself in a position where the son of my second wife, Erold Harbinger the 5th, is causing trouble for the Hoffeltopper family. He is introducing "hair fusion" to the family line of businesses.
I, as you may recall from my letter to you last year, am losing my scalpular mat and feel insulted and intruded upon by this new business venture. He (Erold) is selling both hair replacement for the scalp as well as thickening treatments for the pubic region. He quite often quotes; "More bush, More bush!" I find his business exploits and personal attitude most displeasing.
I try to live my life according to your direction, but find myself feeling cheated and up-sold by this relatively new addition to my family. I am balding and find myself in a difficult position: Do I tell my daughter to start drinking more, or do I simply confront Erold and advise him of my displeasure?
I am forever in your shadow.
Sir Charles replies:
My dear Mr. Hoffeltopper:
One is afraid that one disagrees with you most strongly upon one point. It would seem that young Erold is doing the world a great service in his business venture! Why, the pubic at large (young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, who knows as much about Latin as the next girl who is ninetieth in line for the throne, informs one that 'pubic' is an advanced form of the common-place word 'public'. And when is one ever common-place, when something more complex is readily available?) could do with more bush!
Oft one walks through the countryside, decrying the so-called 'advances' made in the name of progress. Hedge-rows untimely removed from the fields, ancient forests denuded in days. Why, if the pubic wants more bush, let them have more bush, one says! Why, one will even enclose under cover a generous cheque for the advancement of the project. If young Erold chooses to name the endeavour after oneself, well, how can one protest? One would be proud to gaze upon the thick and thriving results of a Sir Charles Grandiose Pubic Bush Restoration Project.
Admonishingly, one remains,
Duct Tape writes:
Dear Sir Charles:
I've always heard that children should be seen and not heard. Is that still true? Are there conditions under which it is appropriate for a child to be heard and not seen? Is it OK for a child to be either seen or heard, but not for these things to happen simultaneously?
Thanks for filling me in.
Using Locked Doors and Duct Tape Until I Hear From You!
Sir Charles replies:
One was preparing a pithy and utterly unforgettable malediction for the correspondent. Oh, sparkling it would have been . . . Epigrammatic, witty, and leanly worded, and like the best cream bun tossed at an unsuspecting wine steward, it would have left a glorious splotchy mark upon impact. The masses would have repeated it for years upon end, tittering at the sublime memory of it.
Then one heard a faint, hollow, rustling sound. Was it a dried leaf, rattling at the window? Was it a forgotten, faded flower, dropped to the floor from where it lay pressed between the pages of some ancient tome? No. Simply put, it was merely the sound of the wind whistling through the empty space between the correspondent's ears.
With such an unworthy audience, one abandoned the project altogether.
Somewhat disappointed at this loss to posterity, one remains,
Dear Lady Felicia,
Being as I am a person of subcontinental extraction, I am given to the cooking of spicy food, the curry being the pinnacle of my culinary delights. These foods are well tolerated by me and my fellows, but I fear that they are not as delightful to the other palates. I shall shortly have the honour of entertaining in my humble home an exalted British person. Given that my repertoire is exhausted beyond the cuisine of Lahore, have you any advice, and might I hope, a recipe which would be fit for such a person?
The Lady Felicia replies:
My Dear Mrs. Pans,
The obvious course of action is to allow your hired help to prepare the repast for your esteemed guests. Isn't that how one usually entertains?
One realizes, of course, that being brought up in a fetid heat can dull the tastebuds so that the highly-spiced foods native to the region pass through the gullet with nary a disturbing influence. But the Englishman and Englishwoman have a highly advanced digestive system. Perhaps the most advanced of all civilised nations! The plainest fare is alive with nuance and taste to one blessed with this gifted tongue.
If one's correspondent would allow one to suggest a menu to delight the Travelling Briton, one would recommend a well-boiled joint, served with creamed boiled potatoes and peas, followed by a boiled pudding. While it is by no means exalted fare, one is certain even the most bestially stupid kitchen help should be capable of preparing such a menu tolerably.
Serenely, one remains
The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week