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Thursday, September 4

Mrs. Elton Sez: Borrowed Family Jewels Mere Trumpery?

Dear Mrs. Elton,

I am writing to you about a sensitive situation. My best friend, Arabella, lent me her semi-precious earrings for a ball. They were quite lovely but rather delicate, as they had been in the family for years. During the course of the evening, I lost one of the earrings. I searched for days, making one discreet inquiry after another, but then had to give up. I took the remaining earring to a jeweller and asked him to make an exact copy. Imagine my astonishment when he said that the jewels were fake! What am I to do? Arabella firmly believes she lent me her family heirlooms. Should I tell her about this new development (she is already quite upset about the loss), or should I ask the jeweller to match the fake earring and not say a word?


Miss Felicity Turner

Mrs. Elton's reply

(Faintly) Semi-precious! fake jewels! mere paste! My dear Felicity, have you lost your senses? No young lady ought to wear jewelry before her marriage - a simple cross on a ribbon or plain chain round the neck is as far as you ought possibly to go. When you are a married woman, like me, then you may graduate to pearls. But paste! - Heaven and earth, Felicity, of what are you thinking? I feel quite ill.

There. I have made the servant fetch me some smelling salts. I feel a bit stronger now. Felicity, you are for ever being taken in, I can perceive that you are that sort of a girl. Your genuine warmth of heart, and candour of nature, will cause you more trouble even than this in the future, if you do not take hold of things and allow your own good sense, which you have in abundance, to rule your heart. Now only think for a moment. You are a young lady of good birth, as yet unmarried. How then can you conceive it proper to be parading round the neighbourhood in tinsel and fake jewellery? That they are borrowed does not make the situation better, for it only means that there are two young ladies, you and Miss Arabella, who are so distressingly in error. Arabella, I will concede, has at least been imposed upon. It may seem sad that her family jewels should turn out to be mere trumpery; but we must consider that we may not know the whole story. The real jewels may exist in a vault somewhere, and Arabella may have been given the copies, to wear as a young girl, so there need be no fear of her losing them in her flightiness and thoughtlessness. The proof that she has such qualities, is that she would lend family heirlooms that she thought valuable, to a mere friend, and not even a sister.

But you are asking me what you ought to do. She already knows that the jewels are lost. Tell her that your father is writing to her father about making restitution. Inform your father of the story, and beg him to write to her father, offering to reimburse him for the full cost of the jewels. If he is an honest man he will admit that they are worthless, and that will be the end of the matter. If he tries to dun your father for a thousand pounds, you will show him the jeweler's report. None of this need come to Arabella's knowledge, unless her own father wishes it, and to humiliate her must be very far from his desire. Nor should this sorry episode disturb your friendship. You will of course apologize for losing the jewels, and if she is as ladylike a girl as you think her, she will accept your apology graciously. But as for making copies of the fakes - Pah! Have you never heard the word of the poet, "Oh! What a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive"? No good can ever come of such a course.

Faithfully yours,

Mrs. Elton

Mrs. Elton Sez is written/channeled by Austen-esque author Diana Birchall, whose latest book, Mrs. Elton In America, is now available. Please join her once a week for her sage and sometimes sardonic voice, as she graciously condescends to advise on a variety of subjects. Laurel Ann and Vic admit to channeling their Regency doppelgängers as they take turns writing the letters. They are usually surprised by Mrs. Elton's responses, whose mind is as unpredictable and lively as her tongue.

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