The Library | Write to Sir Charles | Cast of Characters | Credits | This Week
18 August, 1995
It is in this week's installment that young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, one's ward, makes her literary debut. One hears one's readers (which are legion) exclaim, in surprise, "But Sir Charles! Surely such exposure at her tender age would cause this glorious flower of youthful femininity to become proud and to act above her station (eighty-sixth in line for the throne though she is)! Surely she shall become haughty and vain of her accomplishments!"
One reminds one's readers (the impressive horde that they are), however, that Penelope Windsor-Smythe is not one of their own young sarsaparilla-swilling, cinema-attending, novel-reading whelp. Oh no! She is a daughter of Albion with bloodlines so pure that were she to cut herself with pinking shears, she could dye her gown a deep blue. (One employs a metaphor. One does not wish vulgar entrepreneurial spirits to contact one with schemes for capitalizing upon the young lass in such a way. One is not even certain she owns pinking shears.)
As an object lesson, one will present an example of young Penelope's sweet delicacy and inborn modesty. The young miss was recently courted by one of her would-be local suitors (the Youth will not do. One is suspicious of the purity of his great-grandmother's blood on his dame's side). Fear not; she was not left unchaperoned with the Youth. One sat in the parlour with the pair oneself, a stern eye upon them all the while. The Lady Felicia also sat with one, her pleasant visage ready to turn to a stare of icy disapproval at a single inappropriate gesture. Also present were young Penelope's nursemaid, Hannah, the young gentleman's tutor, a chambermaid, and two of the footmen (carrying fowling pieces--one never knows what mischief Youth will attempt). One is proud to report that in these informal circumstances young Penelope ventured only one careful sentence, and that only in response to the Youth's hesitant inquiry of her health. Such unstudied meekness can only come with Breeding.
One asks one's readers (the swelling throng of them) thus kindly to judge her humble submission for today, for she is subject to the vapors, as only one of the truly noble can be.
Until next week, one remains,
Dear Sir Charles:
Tell me, in the game of "strip poker", can the participants "take off" jewelry as part of their loss or is it restricted to articles of clothing?
Sir Charles replies:
One was somewhat aware that 'poker' was one of a number of vulgar card wagering games popular in the colonies, but one confesses a total apathy in learning more.
Out of a sober sense of duty, however, one traversed the halls of Blandsdown, questioning the scullerymaids and the footmen, the parlourmaids and the servingmaids, the stable boys and the boot boys alike. These dull minds could produce no answer for one's correspondent.
However, one received the answer from the Lady Felicia, she whose mind outshines all others of her sex. How lax of one not to have first asked the question of this paragon of feminine education and propriety! She blushingly assured one that in the 'strip' poker, one might wager one's jewelry if the gemstones have been certified by a qualified jeweler, and if the gold is eighteen carats or more. Like any true, modest wife, she did not attempt to bore one with the dull details of the sport. Such consideration! Such natural reticence! Such is the Lady Felicia. One thinks one will keep her.
Sincerely hoping that the correspondent will not again indulge in four exclamation points when one will do, if that, one remains,
Dear Sir Charles!
Although I submit my humble letter to you under a pseudonym, I hope you will understand that my poor family--what there is left of it!--has had its every footstep doggedly haunted by the foul press of our green and pleasant land. Everywhere I turn is my face on the covers of the newspapers, only half-obscured by my (impeccably manicured) hand as I try to avoid further publicity!
But I digress. My father, a wealthy yet frugal titled gentleman, passed away recently. It was a most grievous loss for us all, for he did not tell us where he had hidden the key to the house's one working loo. Worse, it appears he kept a mistress! Worse than that, he left her the Hargreaves Opals!
I cannot express my utter disgust at this predicament. Why, I had planned to wear the Hargreaves Opals to my Royal Presentation! And now they grace the indecorously heaving bosom of a frowsy ginger-haired trollop with the nickname of 'Vic'! I have, of course, taken legal action against 'Vic' (honestly, Sir Charles, she looks like she works as an extra in EastEnders) and hired a locksmith to work on the loo door. Am I doing the right thing?
Torn by the Tabloids (Please don't use my real name!)
Sir Charles replies:
As one knows that there are many outside the British Isles who have not heard of the court cases involving Miss Cecelia Hargreaves, the late Sir Frederick Hargreaves, or his common mistress, Miss 'Vic' O'Shaughnessy, one will protect their anonymity and not refer to them by name, as Miss Hargreaves requested.
My dear Miss 'H':
Goodness gracious! (One apologizes for this too-strong outburst, but one was moved by your tale.) One knows for a fact, as should you, that the Hargreaves Opals were originally given by Sir Cecil Hargreaves to his mistress, Olive 'The Orange Girl' Harlowe, in 1640. (It is only rumor that the wench plied her oranges at the Globe Theater.) Surely one's correspondent would not want to wear gems with such a ignoble and debased history to her Royal Presentation, for which a single strand of seed pearls is infinitely more appropriate.
One has seen the photos of the mistress (let us call her 'V', instead of 'Miss O'Shaughnessy'). One suspects one's correspondent of exaggeration. Such a flaccid bosom could never heave. Wobble, perhaps, as would an undercooked treacle pudding. But never heave.
Advising a stiff upper lip, one remains,
One now relinquishes the pen to one's spouse, the lovely and eloquent Lady Felicia.
Dear Lady Felicia,
It has come to my attention, not a moment too soon, that the matron of a neighbouring manor has contrived to wear an identical gown to the Racing Banquet as this writer had commissioned for nigh unto an entire season. While I am relieved to discover this ruse (thanks to the enterprising inquiries of my most faithful valet), I am now at a loss as to recourse. The woman is obviously without couth, yet I feel it is beneath me to stoop to her level. Can you help me?
Scooped in Sandringham
Lady Felicia replies:
My dear madam,
One shudders when one imagines the devious and petty mind that must inhabit the correspondent's rival. Is nothing sacred in these troubled times? This author remembers a day when fashions were freely shared, and boldly discussed before events, in the full knowledge that trust was trust, and was not to be broken.
To be sure, those were also the days when scores of aristocratic would-bes would not THINK of camping out on the doorstep of the loftier manors, waiting for a prelude of fashions to come, in order to rush off to miller's row and have a cheap knock-off thrown together in order to 'emulate' a cherished role-model.
But times change, and modern times call for modern measures. If one's correspondent cannot arrange some pressing engagement for said rival, one suggests calling upon a tradesman favored by both my espoused and myself, Chumley, at Dung-B-Gone.
The Lady Felicia now passes a well-sharpened quill to her ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (eighty-sixth in line for the throne).
Dear Miss Windsor-Smythe,
My mother is a real fan of you limeys, and gets RoyaltyWatch! magazine for the gals at the salon where she works. In the Spring issue with the pull-out full-color pictoral of minor aristocrats, I saw a photograph of you in the background and I must admit that my heart skipped a beat and I had to adjust my trousers! You are the epitome of all that I have ever looked for in a girl. Ever since I saw your photo, I have been unable to eat or sleep. All I do is think of you and carve your initials into the telephone poles along the sidewalk in front of our apartment. (Oh, I don't know if you have a middle initial, so I just carved PWS.)
I know you probably have to marry some stiff-lipped British limp boy, but if you ever want to run off and be reckless, I'm available. Also, if you'd like to just have a fling before settling down into a life of endless boredom, I'm your man. My mom says you never know what you can get unless you try, so I'm trying for you.
If you want an All American Guy, I'm hard to beat!
Swooning in Seattle
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (eighty-sixth in line for the throne) replies:
My dearest Papa forwarded to me your letter to which I respond here, hoping thereby to furnish you with a valuable lesson on the subject of intra-class relationships.
Postage stamp aside, it is piteously evident that you are not British. I must conclude as well, from your loose writing style and colonial preoccupation with salons, that you are of quite common stock. To be blunt, in addressing to me your love-letter, you are, as they say, 'quite out of your league'. I trust that I will not hear from you again and will certainly keep this address close at hand, if only to ensure that I will recognize any further letters and promptly dispatch of them in the manner they deserve.
P.S. My initials are PW-S, and I sincerely hope that you will amend your excursions into carpentry to reflect this fact.
P.P.S. So that I may destroy any of your future letters, without troubling my dear Papa, would you please amend the address so that it is brought to the attention of Mrs. Simpton, the Cook.
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