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His Lordship was in the study at Downton Abbey when the butler approached and coughed discreetly.

"May I ask you a question, my Lord?"

"Go ahead, Carson ," said his Lordship.

"I am doing the crossword in The Times and I have found a word upon which I am not too clear."

"What word is that?" asked his Lordship.

™Aplomb, my Lord."

"Now, that's a difficult one to explain. I would say it is self-assurance or complete composure."

"Thank you, my Lord, but I'm still a little confused."

"Let me give you an example to make it clearer.

Do you remember a few months ago when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived to spend a weekend with us?"

"I remember the occasion very well, my Lord. It gave the staff and myself much pleasure to look after them."

"Well," continued the Earl of Grantham, "do you remember when Wills plucked a rose for Kate in the rose garden?"

"I was present on that occasion, my Lord, ministering to their needs."

"While plucking the rose, a thorn embedded itself deeply into his thumb."

"I witnessed the incident, my Lord, and saw the Duchess herself remove the thorn and bandage his thumb with her own dainty handkerchief."

"That evening the prick on his thumb was so sore. Kate had to cut up his venison from our own estate, even though it was extremely tender."

"Yes, my Lord, I did see everything that transpired that evening."

"The next morning while you were pouring coffee for Her Ladyship, Kate, inquired of Wills with a loud voice,

'Darling, does your prick still throb?'

And you, Carson, did not spill one drop of coffee! THAT is aplomb."

(with thanks to Cathal Cavanagh.)

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