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19 January, 1996
Oh, cruel, cruel, cruel is the tooth of the viper that stings the breast of its guardian! Harsh, harsh, is the sting of the adder striking at the very b-s-m of the family!
Lest one's readers (so numerous that one could never entertain them all to tea at once, were one in desperate enough so to consort with commoners) leap with alarm to their feet en masse and create a seismic tremor strong enough to toss the western seaboard of the United States into the ocean (although one maintains that such would be a favour to the truly civilized world, for think of how many 'Taco Bells' would alone be lost), let one reassure them that one has not been physically assailed, this past week. Oh no--'tis a wound of another sort that one nurses.
One kindly requests one's readers to turn their imaginations back several days, to a tranquil domestic scene. The Lady Felicia (as ever serene) and Adolpha Windover-Midden, her mother (as ever, complaining of internal blockage), are seated on settees in the yellow parlour. One is reclining, oneself, in one's third-favourite armchair, awaiting what must be a tender reconciliation. A timid knock at the door--'tis Mary, the parlour maid, with the news for which we had all been waiting: Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe had arrived home from her stay in Bath!
Oh, readers, imagine the tender tears. The warm welcomes. The fond--though not too emotional--embraces. One's bonny ward seemed veritably to glow with the pleasure of returning to Blandsdown. Only when all the initial demonstrations of familial affection had ceased did we notice the young gentleman standing in the doorway. A proud young gentleman, his fair hair captured in a 'ponytail,' sheepishly looking for an escape. The Lady Felicia, moved to a powerful display of emotion quite unlike herself, exclaimed, 'Oh, 'tis Lord Feighly!' One must admit that at the sound of that noble name--for Lord Feighly is a personal, very intimate friend of Prince Edward--one's breast swelled with pride. One's ward was to marry a well-connected titled gentleman!
"But Mama!" cried young Penelope. "This is not Lord Feighly. This is Colin."
Well, one is not too proud to say that one would have had the blackguard thrashed on the spot--such is ever the contemptible fate of one who would stoop so low as to seduce a young woman who happens to be eighty-fifth in line for the throne of the British empire! Unfortunately, however, the Lady Felicia and her mother both had an attack of the vapours at that moment. The Lady Felicia fell gracefully unconscious upon a deep-pile Oriental carpet of some expense, while her harpy of a step-mother less elegantly fell head-first into a potted fern. One was still gaping at the untoward display of the elder woman's foundation garments (one suspects sails could be fashioned for the Nina, the Pinata, and the Santa Meringue from her petticoats alone) when the blackguard blacksmith abruptly took his leave, and young Penelope burst into tears and locked herself into her chambers.
One came to one's senses, however, after several solitary hours of trudging through the park with one's fowling piece. One had just accidentally detached the tail of one of the tenant's horses with a single shot (one thought it the scurvy wastrel's 'ponytail') when one had a sudden thought. Why, young Penelope could hardly be to blame at all! Her cousin, Lady Weeble-Able-Smythe, under whose guardianship she was at Bath, is a notorious devourer of--and Reader, one shudders to utter the word--novels. Yes, 'twas probably she who encouraged this ridiculous match. And sweet Penelope, her mind unsullied by her favorite titles (The Story of O, an inquiry into the history of the English language; Tropic of Cancer, a geographic survey; and the complete sermons of that most excellent sermonist, Miss Danielle Steele . . . one has it on the authority of the Lady Felicia that this last author is a most moral and sober theologian)--why, how could she resist the perverted whims of a woman who actually believed, nay thrived, in the notion of romantic love?
Accordingly, one shall not be harsh with the young miss. 'Tis only a phase. One believes that, with the proper reading materials, her schoolgirl 'mash' on the devious blacksmith will fade. Accordingly, one has ordered the newest volume of sermons from the lending library and sent it to her chambers, which remain locked save to admit the servants with trays of food.
As for the blacksmith himself--well! One's readers know well enough what will happen to this Mister Bates, should he show his scurvy face in this part of the country soon!
For yet another week one remains,
Dear Sir Charles,
An Anonymous Admirer
Sir Charles replies:
Sirrah or Madam:
One supposes that this is the sort of weak pap that passes for knee-slapping wit in the under-20 set (one refers not to age, but apparent intelligence quotient). Let one assure the aspiring wag, however, that there are more appropriate forums for this particular brand of . . . well, one supposes one is forced to call it 'poetry'. (It rhymes, after all, as proper verse ought.) One is thinking of the walls of public lavatories, scrawled in wax crayon.
A second point. One has explained time and time again that one's surname is pronounced, in the Saxon manner, Grahnyoozhuh. As in the following instructive verse:
Impeccable house of Grandiose!
Believing one has said enough, one remains,
One passes the quill one's e'er serene-wife, the Lady Felicia.
I have a question regarding etiquette that I am hoping you can answer. Should Chunky Campbell's soup be eaten with a spoon, or a fork?
The Lady Felicia replies:
One fondly remembers Honoria Campbell from Miss Dalyrimple's Finishing College. One also remembers her secret affectation for wearing the 'toques blanches' which the French chefs of the school wore. Honoria was a year older than oneself, and perhaps 3 stone weightier, though the girls of the school were far too well bred to ever call her 'Chunky Campbell'. Aloud, at any rate.
While one is pleased to discover the girl has achieved some level of fame for her soup in the colonies, one need not remind one's readers that soup is always consumed with a soup spoon, and that the spoon is always dipped away from oneself. But surely, the multitude of passably bred readers already knew that.
One is also heartened to learn that the secret moniker that she suggested (among all the other names voted on by the class of '62) has stuck to 'old Chunky' after all these years. One makes a note to call up the Lady Anne G----- to call in her longstanding wager.
The Lady Felicia passes the quill to the young and erstwhile blameless Penelope Windsor-Smythe.
Dear Penelope Windsor-Smythe,
As I sat next to an older man on the subway, he released the most repugnant smelling gaseous odour imaginable. He must of been combining all the available Christmas fare, from every place he has visited, within his digestive system with relish and flair. Alas, this concoction made for an awkward subway riding moment.
Unfortunately, my shock was not as much from the putrid odour he emitted, but was more from the horror that crept across his face--for this poor man was indeed besides himself with shame and uncomfortableness.
Oh, benevolent wise young Penelope, what would decorum dictate in such a situation? If, oh my, I fear, it should ever occur again. Do I stand up and leave, thereby filling the gaseous individual with more shame? Do I grin and bear it? Or, do I pull out a trusty gas mask and make light of the situation, easing the embarrassment of the individual with witty little gas quips?
Just so that you know, the fumes were so vile that I defied decorum and better sense, and moved to another car. What would you do? I know--subways are not the frequent domain of one so regal as you, but imagination is the tool of the best.
Waiting with baited breath,
Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:
How quaint! The Subway! The Underground! The Tube! One envies you, truly, one does, for one is not permitted to frequent public transportation, although one did take the Orient Express last summer, when one's cousin, the Duke of B----, hired it for the journey. Is it terribly similar?
By some happy coincidence, Squiggy, one's dearest chum, has recently taken to the tube, ever since her father lost the family fortune in an unfortunate game of whist. One naturally consulted with her; one hopes the following advice is of some use to you, though one admits one is rather puzzled as to the syntax:
"Ya spins the wheel and ya takes yer chances."
Hoping to have freshened the matter,
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