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Friday, July 25

Mrs. Elton Sez: Charity or Hard Knocks for Sanguine Sister

Dear Mrs. Elton,

Abominable! Unlike my ostentatious older sister Hester Pynne who recently wrote to you for assistance, I will tout no pretension to having met you in Plymouth, because as we both know, you were never in such a place, and neither was she. It is all lies, a gross fabrication concocted to discredit me, her most loving and devoted little sister, who only has her best interest at heart.

If you would be so good as to indulge me with your gracious attention, I will attempt to explain the two offences that have been laid to my charge. Firstly, my sister Hester is quite correct in her assessment that I have copied her in all manner of style, speech and deportment. I have, dear lady, I most certainly have. For to hear her tell the tale, I do it out of spite. But I assure you that my motives are far from the case. My dear sister you see, is so uncertain with her own choices of clothes, or books or social intercourse, that to be with her is quite exhausting. If she puts on her blue bonnet, and I put on my pink one, she doubts her choice and prefers mine. I then offer to switch and she agrees. Then when she sees her blue bonnet on me, she is again uncertain that she has made the correct choice and wants it back. This would go on in every manner of her life, until it ‘wore me down slowly, like rain on a stone’! I shared my concerns with our dear mamma, and she suggested that since my sister’s elegant tastes and manner are so much admired in the county, that I adopt it as my own in the hope that it would vanquish her uncertainty. I have endeavoured from that moment, at much loss to my own person to apply this plan, though I doubt my dear mamma knows of the sacrifice that she has asked of me. I see now, that her solution may have solved one dilemma, but created another.

As for the second offence of stealing a kiss from her affianced, well I never heard of such a thing in all my born days. What proper young gentleman would kiss a young lady before they were married? I do not know such a man. I am afraid that she has drawn you into her story, my dear Mrs. Elton, and I am quite certain that there is no truth in it.

Now, I write to you from Maple Grove, that extensive estate of your dear sister Mrs. Suckling where I have been banished at your suggestion; - far removed from my home, and my sister. My parents know naught of the truth, or my sister’s letter to you. My best friend Georgiana writes to me of the news from home and emplores me to send a copy of my sister’s letter from the publication anonymously to my mamma and the parents of her fiancé so that they will know the truth and I will be vindicated. I am inclined to agree, but seek your advice. Should the truth be known, or am I to continue the charade?

Your obedient servant,

Miss Charity Pynne

Mrs. Elton's Reply

My dear Miss Charity,

I beg to understand you. You have written a most amiable letter, and it goes far to redeem your good name with me; yes, certainly, I can see that it may well be that your sister Miss Pynne has overstated her complaint of you. It is a thing sisters do, and part of the little rubs of family life that we all must endure. But to say the truth, it matters little who is on the right side in this case. Miss Pynne complained of your copying her clothing and stile; you have given a most plausible explanation of why you so acted. Sometimes I think you must be right and sometimes she - but as I say, it is a little matter. I do, however, detect an inconsistency in your story, which puts me on my watch. You assert that Miss Pynne's choice of dress is so confused and uncertain as to wear every one down; but your mother states that Miss Pynne is universally admired for her elegance. Excuse me, but I cannot ignore the testimony of your respected mother, whom you have quoted yourself. I must believe what she says, that Miss Pynne is a byword for elegance; which puts your copying her in a different light altogether - the light in which Miss Pynne presented it in her own letter to myself.

The accusation that you wilfully acted to divide Miss Pynne from her groom-elect is a far more serious charge, but it is treated in both your letter and in hers as being no worse a crime than your aping her colour choice in bonnets. Did you lay a trap so that Mr. Mortimer would kiss you in the shrubbery? Shocking! if you did. You deny the charge completely, and I do not set myself up to be your judge. If your heart knows its innocence, then you must know yourself acquitted in the eyes of God and man. If your sister invented this accusation out of whole cloth it is a very serious one, indeed, but she at least has a creditable motive, which is her fear of losing Mr. Mortimer. Perhaps you are more attractive than she is - I cannot pretend to know - but who cannot understand and sympathize with the feelings of a young woman who trembles to lose her intended husband to another?

All in all, I consider it most desirable that you two sisters should be separated. All will be well, once your sister is married; she will have an establishment of her own, and you will have the benefit of being the oldest young lady at home, the first in that interesting division of a family. You will receive more attention, and be far happier, when your sister has been transplanted. In the meanwhile, who can be happier than any inmate of Maple Grove? Is not my sister's estate a Paradise upon earth? Are not you enjoying the inestimable privilege of playing with, dressing, washing, and teaching, the sweet children - all six of them are perfect angels, and I am sure you are proving yourself invaluable to Mrs. Suckling; indeed, she has written to me in great praise of you. It is so important to have a truly genteel young person to associate with children. Perhaps you will help her farther by reading to them about "The Hare and Its Friends," and teach little Augusta how to stitch her sampler. I rejoice in thinking of you as so usefully and profitably occupied, and so very happy at Maple Grove, for who would not be happy there. Such modern elegance! Oh, you are a fortunate young woman indeed. And when you return home, after some months perhaps, Miss Pynne will be married, and you will have all the joys of being "out," and chusing your own bonnets without reference to her whims.

Faithfully yours,

Augusta Elton

Mrs. Elton Sez is written/channeled by Austen-esque author Diana Birchall. Please join her on Tuesdays and Fridays for her sage and sometimes sardonic voice, as she graciously condescends to advise on a variety of subjects.

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