Lady of Quality
by Georgette Heyer
"Uncle Oliver!" she said imperatively.
He turned his head. "Do rid yourself of this detestable habit you've fallen into of addressing me as Uncle Oliver! I find it quite repellent."
She opened her eyes at him. "But you are my uncle!" she pointed out.
"Yes, but I don't wish to be reminded of it."
"Such a dreadfully ageing title, isn't it?" said Miss Wychwood, with spurious sympathy.
"Exactly so!" he replied. "Almost worse than aunt!"
She shook her head sadly. "Indeed yes! Though it was being called aunt that drove me from my own home."
"Well, what am I to call you?" demanded Lucilla.
"Anything you like," he responded, in a voice devoid of interest.
"Now, that very generous permission opens a wide field to you, my dear," said Miss Wychwood. "It wouldn't do for you to call him Bangster, for that would be too impolite, but I see nothing amiss with you calling him Captain Hackum, which has the same meaning, but wrapped up in clean linen!"
Mr Carleton grinned, and kindly explained to his bewildered niece that these terms signified a bully. "They are cant terms," he further explained, "and far too vulgar for you to use! Anyone hearing them on your lips would write you down as a brass-faced hussy, without conduct or delicacy."
"Devil!" said Miss Wychwood, with feeling.
"Oh, you're quizzing me!" Lucilla exclaimed, slightly offended. "Both of you! I wish you will not! I am not a brass-faced hussy, though I daresay people would think me one if I called you merely Oliver! I am sure it must be most improper!"
"It would not only be improper but it would bring down instant retribution on your head!" he told her. "I have no objection to your addressing me as Oliver, but Merely Oliver I'm damned if I'll tolerate!"
She gave a choke of laughter. "I didn't mean that! You know I didn't! Of course, if you had a title it would be perfectly proper to call you by it, but only think what my aunt would say if she heard me calling you Oliver!"
"As it seems unlikely that she will hear it, that need not trouble you," he said. "If you have any qualms, allay them with the reflection that Princess Charlotte addresses all her uncles - and, for anything I know, her aunts too - by their Christian names, and even the youngest of them is older than I am!"
Lucilla had little interest in Royalty and dismissed the Princess
Charlotte summarily. "Oh, well, I daresay things are different
for princesses!" she said.
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