BEASTS AND SUPER-BEASTS - H. H. MUNRO ("SAKI")
Part 3 out of 5
"And where are the Klammersteins?" asked Lady
Blonze; "they're usually so punctual."
"Another character pose, perhaps," said Bertie van
Tahn; " 'the Lost Ten Tribes.' "
"But there are only three of them. Besides, they'll
want their lunch. Hasn't anyone seen anything of them?"
"Didn't you take them out in your car?" asked
Blanche Boveal, addressing herself to Cyril Skatterly.
"Yes, took them out to Slogberry Moor immediately
after breakfast. Miss Durmot came too."
"I saw you and Vera come back," said Lady Blonze,
"but I didn't see the Klammersteins. Did you put them
down in the village?"
"No," said Skatterly shortly.
"But where are they? Where did you leave them?"
"We left them on Slogberry Moor," said Vera calmly.
"On Slogberry Moor? Why, it's more than thirty
miles away! How are they going to get back?"
"We didn't stop to consider that," said Skatterly;
"we asked them to get out for a moment, on the pretence
that the car had stuck, and then we dashed off full speed
and left them there."
"But how dare you do such a thing? It's most
inhuman! Why, it's been snowing for the last hour."
"I expect there'll be a cottage or farmhouse
somewhere if they walk a mile or two."
"But why on earth have you done it?"
The question came in a chorus of indignant
"THAT would be telling what our characters are meant
to be," said Vera.
"Didn't I warn you?" said Sir Nicholas tragically to
"It's something to do with Spanish history; we don't
mind giving you that clue," said Skatterly, helping
himself cheerfully to salad, and then Bertie van Tahn
broke forth into peals of joyous laughter.
"I've got it! Ferdinand and Isabella deporting the
Jews! Oh, lovely! Those two have certainly won the
prize; we shan't get anything to beat that for
Lady Blonze's Christmas party was talked about and
written about to an extent that she had not anticipated
in her most ambitious moments. The letters from Waldo's
mother would alone have made it memorable.
BASSET HARROWCLUFF returned to the home of his
fathers, after an absence of four years, distinctly well
pleased with himself. He was only thirty-one, but he had
put in some useful service in an out-of-the-way, though
not unimportant, corner of the world. He had quieted a
province, kept open a trade route, enforced the tradition
of respect which is worth the ransom of many kings in
out-of-the-way regions, and done the whole business on
rather less expenditure than would be requisite for
organising a charity in the home country. In Whitehall
and places where they think, they doubtless thought well
of him. It was not inconceivable, his father allowed
himself to imagine, that Basset's name might figure in
the next list of Honours.
Basset was inclined to be rather contemptuous of his
half-brother, Lucas, whom he found feverishly engrossed
in the same medley of elaborate futilities that had
claimed his whole time and energies, such as they were,
four years ago, and almost as far back before that as he
could remember. It was the contempt of the man of action
for the man of activities, and it was probably
reciprocated. Lucas was an over-well nourished
individual, some nine years Basset's senior, with a
colouring that would have been accepted as a sign of
intensive culture in an asparagus, but probably meant in
this case mere abstention from exercise. His hair and
forehead furnished a recessional note in a personality
that was in all other respects obtrusive and assertive.
There was certainly no Semitic blood in Lucas's
parentage, but his appearance contrived to convey at
least a suggestion of Jewish extraction. Clovis
Sangrail, who knew most of his associates by sight, said
it was undoubtedly a case of protective mimicry.
Two days after Basset's return, Lucas frisked in to
lunch in a state of twittering excitement that could not
be restrained even for the immediate consideration of
soup, but had to be verbally discharged in spluttering
competition with mouthfuls of vermicelli.
"I've got hold of an idea for something immense," he
babbled, "something that is simply It."
Basset gave a short laugh that would have done
equally well as a snort, if one had wanted to make the
exchange. His half-brother was in the habit of
discovering futilities that were "simply It" at
frequently recurring intervals. The discovery generally
meant that he flew up to town, preceded by glowingly-
worded telegrams, to see some one connected with the
stage or the publishing world, got together one or two
momentous luncheon parties, flitted in and out of
"Gambrinus" for one or two evenings, and returned home
with an air of subdued importance and the asparagus tint
slightly intensified. The great idea was generally
forgotten a few weeks later in the excitement of some new
"The inspiration came to me whilst I was dressing,"
announced Lucas; "it will be THE thing in the next music-
hall REVUE. All London will go mad over it. It's just a
couplet; of course there will be other words, but they
won't matter. Listen:
Cousin Teresa takes out Caesar,
Fido, Jock, and the big borzoi.
A lifting, catchy sort of refrain, you see, and big-
drum business on the two syllables of bor-zoi. It's
immense. And I've thought out all the business of it;
the singer will sing the first verse alone, then during
the second verse Cousin Teresa will walk through,
followed by four wooden dogs on wheels; Caesar will be an
Irish terrier, Fido a black poodle, Jock a fox-terrier,
and the borzoi, of course, will be a borzoi. During the
third verse Cousin Teresa will come on alone, and the
dogs will be drawn across by themselves from the opposite
wing; then Cousin Teresa will catch on to the singer and
go off-stage in one direction, while the dogs' procession
goes off in the other, crossing en route, which is always
very effective. There'll be a lot of applause there, and
for the fourth verse Cousin Teresa will come on in sables
and the dogs will all have coats on. Then I've got a
great idea for the fifth verse; each of the dogs will be
led on by a Nut, and Cousin Teresa will come on from the
opposite side, crossing en route, always effective, and
then she turns round and leads the whole lot of them off
on a string, and all the time every one singing like mad:
Cousin Teresa takes out Caesar
Fido, Jock, and the big borzoi.
Tum-Tum! Drum business on the two last syllables.
I'm so excited, I shan't sleep a wink to-night. I'm off
to-morrow by the ten-fifteen. I've wired to Hermanova to
lunch with me."
If any of the rest of the family felt any excitement
over the creation of Cousin Teresa, they were signally
successful in concealing the fact.
"Poor Lucas does take his silly little ideas
seriously," said Colonel Harrowcluff afterwards in the
"Yes," said his younger son, in a slightly less
tolerant tone, "in a day or two he'll come back and tell
us that his sensational masterpiece is above the heads of
the public, and in about three weeks' time he'll be wild
with enthusiasm over a scheme to dramatise the poems of
Herrick or something equally promising."
And then an extraordinary thing befell. In defiance
of all precedent Lucas's glowing anticipations were
justified and endorsed by the course of events. If
Cousin Teresa was above the heads of the public, the
public heroically adapted itself to her altitude.
Introduced as an experiment at a dull moment in a new
REVUE, the success of the item was unmistakable; the
calls were so insistent and uproarious that even Lucas'
ample devisings of additional "business" scarcely
sufficed to keep pace with the demand. Packed houses on
successive evenings confirmed the verdict of the first
night audience, stalls and boxes filled significantly
just before the turn came on, and emptied significantly
after the last ENCORE had been given. The manager
tearfully acknowledged that Cousin Teresa was It. Stage
hands and supers and programme sellers acknowledged it to
one another without the least reservation. The name of
the REVUE dwindled to secondary importance, and vast
letters of electric blue blazoned the words "Cousin
Teresa" from the front of the great palace of pleasure.
And, of course, the magic of the famous refrain laid its
spell all over the Metropolis. Restaurant proprietors
were obliged to provide the members of their orchestras
with painted wooden dogs on wheels, in order that the
much-demanded and always conceded melody should be
rendered with the necessary spectacular effects, and the
crash of bottles and forks on the tables at the mention
of the big borzoi usually drowned the sincerest efforts
of drum or cymbals. Nowhere and at no time could one get
away from the double thump that brought up the rear of
the refrain; revellers reeling home at night banged it on
doors and hoardings, milkmen clashed their cans to its
cadence, messenger boys hit smaller messenger boys
resounding double smacks on the same principle. And the
more thoughtful circles of the great city were not deaf
to the claims and significance of the popular melody. An
enterprising and emancipated preacher discoursed from his
pulpit on the inner meaning of "Cousin Teresa," and Lucas
Harrowcluff was invited to lecture on the subject of his
great achievement to members of the Young Mens' Endeavour
League, the Nine Arts Club, and other learned and
willing-to-learn bodies. In Society it seemed to be the
one thing people really cared to talk about; men and
women of middle age and average education might be seen
together in corners earnestly discussing, not the
question whether Servia should have an outlet on the
Adriatic, or the possibilities of a British success in
international polo contests, but the more absorbing topic
of the problematic Aztec or Nilotic origin of the Teresa
"Politics and patriotism are so boring and so out of
date," said a revered lady who had some pretensions to
oracular utterance; "we are too cosmopolitan nowadays to
be really moved by them. That is why one welcomes an
intelligible production like 'Cousin Teresa,' that has a
genuine message for one. One can't understand the
message all at once, of course, but one felt from the
very first that it was there. I've been to see it
eighteen times and I'm going again to-morrow and on
Thursday. One can't see it often enough."
* * * *
"It would be rather a popular move if we gave this
Harrowcluff person a knighthood or something of the
sort," said the Minister reflectively.
"Which Harrowcluff?"asked his secretary.
"Which? There is only one, isn't there?" said the
Minister; "the 'Cousin Teresa' man, of course. I think
every one would be pleased if we knighted him. Yes, you
can put him down on the list of certainties - under the
"The letter L," said the secretary, who was new to
his job; "does that stand for Liberalism or liberality?"
Most of the recipients of Ministerial favour were
expected to qualify in both of those subjects.
"Literature," explained the Minister.
And thus, after a fashion, Colonel Harrowcluff's
expectation of seeing his son's name in the list of
Honours was gratified.
THE YARKAND MANNER
SIR LULWORTH QUAYNE was making a leisurely progress
through the Zoological Society's Gardens in company with
his nephew, recently returned from Mexico. The latter
was interested in comparing and contrasting allied types
of animals occurring in the North American and Old World
"One of the most remarkable things in the wanderings
of species," he observed, "is the sudden impulse to trek
and migrate that breaks out now and again, for no
apparent reason, in communities of hitherto stay-at-home
"In human affairs the same phenomenon is
occasionally noticeable," said Sir Lulworth; "perhaps the
most striking instance of it occurred in this country
while you were away in the wilds of Mexico. I mean the
wander fever which suddenly displayed itself in the
managing and editorial staffs of certain London
newspapers. It began with the stampede of the entire
staff of one of our most brilliant and enterprising
weeklies to the banks of the Seine and the heights of
Montmartre. The migration was a brief one, but it
heralded an era of restlessness in the Press world which
lent quite a new meaning to the phrase 'newspaper
circulation.' Other editorial staffs were not slow to
imitate the example that had been set them. Paris soon
dropped out of fashion as being too near home; Nurnberg,
Seville, and Salonica became more favoured as planting-
out grounds for the personnel of not only weekly but
daily papers as well. The localities were perhaps not
always well chosen; the fact of a leading organ of
Evangelical thought being edited for two successive
fortnights from Trouville and Monte Carlo was generally
admitted to have been a mistake. And even when
enterprising and adventurous editors took themselves and
their staffs further afield there were some unavoidable
clashings. For instance, the SCRUTATOR, SPORTING BLUFF,
and THE DAMSELS' OWN PAPER all pitched on Khartoum for
the same week. It was, perhaps, a desire to out-distance
all possible competition that influenced the management
of the DAILY INTELLIGENCER, one of the most solid and
respected organs of Liberal opinion, in its decision to
transfer its offices for three or four weeks from Fleet
Street to Eastern Turkestan, allowing, of course, a
necessary margin of time for the journey there and back.
This was, in many respects, the most remarkable of all
the Press stampedes that were experienced at this time.
There was no make-believe about the undertaking;
proprietor, manager, editor, sub-editors, leader-writers,
principal reporters, and so forth, all took part in what
was popularly alluded to as the DRANG NACH OSTEN; an
intelligent and efficient office-boy was all that was
left in the deserted hive of editorial industry."
"That was doing things rather thoroughly, wasn't
it?" said the nephew.
"Well, you see," said Sir Lulworth, "the migration
idea was falling somewhat into disrepute from the half-
hearted manner in which it was occasionally carried out.
You were not impressed by the information that such and
such a paper was being edited and brought out at Lisbon
or Innsbruck if you chanced to see the principal leader-
writer or the art editor lunching as usual at their
accustomed restaurants. The DAILY INTELLIGENCER was
determined to give no loophole for cavil at the
genuineness of its pilgrimage, and it must be admitted
that to a certain extent the arrangements made for
transmitting copy and carrying on the usual features of
the paper during the long outward journey worked smoothly
and well. The series of articles which commenced at Baku
on 'What Cobdenism might do for the camel industry' ranks
among the best of the recent contributions to Free Trade
literature, while the views on foreign policy enunciated
'from a roof in Yarkand' showed at least as much grasp of
the international situation as those that had germinated
within half a mile of Downing Street. Quite in keeping,
too, with the older and better traditions of British
journalism was the manner of the home-coming; no bombast,
no personal advertisement, no flamboyant interviews.
Even a complimentary luncheon at the Voyagers' Club was
courteously declined. Indeed, it began to be felt that
the self-effacement of the returned pressmen was being
carried to a pedantic length. Foreman compositors,
advertisement clerks, and other members of the non-
editorial staff, who had, of course, taken no part in the
great trek, found it as impossible to get into direct
communication with the editor and his satellites now that
they had returned as when they had been excusably
inaccessible in Central Asia. The sulky, overworked
office-boy, who was the one connecting link between the
editorial brain and the business departments of the
paper, sardonically explained the new aloofness as the
'Yarkand manner.' Most of the reporters and sub-editors
seemed to have been dismissed in autocratic fashion since
their return and new ones engaged by letter; to these the
editor and his immediate associates remained an unseen
presence, issuing its instructions solely through the
medium of curt typewritten notes. Something mystic and
Tibetan and forbidden had replaced the human bustle and
democratic simplicity of pre-migration days, and the same
experience was encountered by those who made social
overtures to the returned wanderers. The most brilliant
hostess of Twentieth Century London flung the pearl of
her hospitality into the unresponsive trough of the
editorial letter-box; it seemed as if nothing short of a
Royal command would drag the hermit-souled REVENANTS from
their self-imposed seclusion. People began to talk
unkindly of the effect of high altitudes and Eastern
atmosphere on minds and temperaments unused to such
luxuries. The Yarkand manner was not popular."
"And the contents of the paper," said the nephew,
"did they show the influence of the new style?"
"Ah!" said Sir Lulworth, "that was the exciting
thing. In home affairs, social questions, and the
ordinary events of the day not much change was
noticeable. A certain Oriental carelessness seemed to
have crept into the editorial department, and perhaps a
note of lassitude not unnatural in the work of men who
had returned from what had been a fairly arduous journey.
The aforetime standard of excellence was scarcely
maintained, but at any rate the general lines of policy
and outlook were not departed from. It was in the realm
of foreign affairs that a startling change took place.
Blunt, forcible, outspoken articles appeared, couched in
language which nearly turned the autumn manoeuvres of six
important Powers into mobilisations. Whatever else the
DAILY INTELLIGENCER had learned in the East, it had not
acquired the art of diplomatic ambiguity. The man in the
street enjoyed the articles and bought the paper as he
had never bought it before; the men in Downing Street
took a different view. The Foreign Secretary, hitherto
accounted a rather reticent man, became positively
garrulous in the course of perpetually disavowing the
sentiments expressed in the DAILY INTELLIGENCER'S
leaders; and then one day the Government came to the
conclusion that something definite and drastic must be
done. A deputation, consisting of the Prime Minister,
the Foreign Secretary, four leading financiers, and a
well-known Nonconformist divine, made its way to the
offices of the paper. At the door leading to the
editorial department the way was barred by a nervous but
" 'You can't see the editor nor any of the staff,'
" 'We insist on seeing the editor or some
responsible person,' said the Prime Minister, and the
deputation forced its way in. The boy had spoken truly;
there was no one to be seen. In the whole suite of rooms
there was no sign of human life.
" 'Where is the editor?' 'Or the foreign editor?'
'Or the chief leader-writer? Or anybody?'
"In answer to the shower of questions the boy
unlocked a drawer and produced a strange-looking
envelope, which bore a Khokand postmark, and a date of
some seven or eight months back. It contained a scrap of
paper on which was written the following message:
" 'Entire party captured by brigand tribe on
homeward journey. Quarter of million demanded as ransom,
but would probably take less. Inform Government,
relations, and friends.'
"There followed the signatures of the principal
members of the party and instructions as to how and where
the money was to be paid.
"The letter had been directed to the office-boy-in-
charge, who had quietly suppressed it. No one is a hero
to one's own office-boy, and he evidently considered that
a quarter of a million was an unwarrantable outlay for
such a doubtfully advantageous object as the repatriation
of an errant newspaper staff. So he drew the editorial
and other salaries, forged what signatures were
necessary, engaged new reporters, did what sub-editing he
could, and made as much use as possible of the large
accumulation of special articles that was held in reserve
for emergencies. The articles on foreign affairs were
entirely his own composition.
"Of course the whole thing had to be kept as quiet
as possible; an interim staff, pledged to secrecy, was
appointed to keep the paper going till the pining
captives could be sought out, ransomed, and brought home,
in twos and threes to escape notice, and gradually things
were put back on their old footing. The articles on
foreign affairs reverted to the wonted traditions of the
"But," interposed the nephew, "how on earth did the
boy account to the relatives all those months for the
non-appearance - "
"That," said Sir Lulworth, "was the most brilliant
stroke of all. To the wife or nearest relative of each
of the missing men he forwarded a letter, copying the
handwriting of the supposed writer as well as he could,
and making excuses about vile pens and ink; in each
letter he told the same story, varying only the locality,
to the effect that the writer, alone of the whole party,
was unable to tear himself away from the wild liberty and
allurements of Eastern life, and was going to spend
several months roaming in some selected region. Many of
the wives started off immediately in pursuit of their
errant husbands, and it took the Government a
considerable time and much trouble to reclaim them from
their fruitless quests along the banks of the Oxus, the
Gobi Desert, the Orenburg steppe, and other outlandish
places. One of them, I believe, is still lost somewhere
in the Tigris Valley."
"And the boy?"
"Is still in journalism."
THE BYZANTINE OMELETTE
SOPHIE CHATTEL-MONKHEIM was a Socialist by
conviction and a Chattel-Monkheim by marriage. The
particular member of that wealthy family whom she had
married was rich, even as his relatives counted riches.
Sophie had very advanced and decided views as to the
distribution of money: it was a pleasing and fortunate
circumstance that she also had the money. When she
inveighed eloquently against the evils of capitalism at
drawing-room meetings and Fabian conferences she was
conscious of a comfortable feeling that the system, with
all its inequalities and iniquities, would probably last
her time. It is one of the consolations of middle-aged
reformers that the good they inculcate must live after
them if it is to live at all.
On a certain spring evening, somewhere towards the
dinner-hour, Sophie sat tranquilly between her mirror and
her maid, undergoing the process of having her hair built
into an elaborate reflection of the prevailing fashion.
She was hedged round with a great peace, the peace of one
who has attained a desired end with much effort and
perseverance, and who has found it still eminently
desirable in its attainment. The Duke of Syria had
consented to come beneath her roof as a guest, was even
now installed beneath her roof, and would shortly be
sitting at her dining-table. As a good Socialist, Sophie
disapproved of social distinctions, and derided the idea
of a princely caste, but if there were to be these
artificial gradations of rank and dignity she was pleased
and anxious to have an exalted specimen of an exalted
order included in her house-party. She was broad-minded
enough to love the sinner while hating the sin - not that
she entertained any warm feeling of personal affection
for the Duke of Syria, who was a comparative stranger,
but still, as Duke of Syria, he was very, very welcome
beneath her roof. She could not have explained why, but
no one was likely to ask her for an explanation, and most
hostesses envied her.
"You must surpass yourself to-night, Richardson,"
she said complacently to her maid; "I must be looking my
very best. We must all surpass ourselves."
The maid said nothing, but from the concentrated
look in her eyes and the deft play of her fingers it was
evident that she was beset with the ambition to surpass
A knock came at the door, a quiet but peremptory
knock, as of some one who would not be denied.
"Go and see who it is," said Sophie; "it may be
something about the wine."
Richardson held a hurried conference with an
invisible messenger at the door; when she returned there
was noticeable a curious listlessness in place of her
hitherto alert manner.
"What is it?" asked Sophie.
"The household servants have 'downed tools,'
madame," said Richardson.
"Downed tools!" exclaimed Sophie; "do you mean to
say they've gone on strike?"
"Yes, madame," said Richardson, adding the
information: "It's Gaspare that the trouble is about."
"Gaspare?" said Sophie wanderingly; "the emergency
chef! The omelette specialist!"
"Yes, madame. Before he became an omelette
specialist he was a valet, and he was one of the strike-
breakers in the great strike at Lord Grimford's two years
ago. As soon as the household staff here learned that
you had engaged him they resolved to `down tools' as a
protest. They haven't got any grievance against you
personally, but they demand that Gaspare should be
"But," protested Sophie, "he is the only man in
England who understands how to make a Byzantine omelette.
I engaged him specially for the Duke of Syria's visit,
and it would be impossible to replace him at short
notice. I should have to send to Paris, and the Duke
loves Byzantine omelettes. It was the one thing we
talked about coming from the station."
"He was one of the strike-breakers at Lord
Grimford's," reiterated Richardson.
"This is too awful," said Sophie; "a strike of
servants at a moment like this, with the Duke of Syria
staying in the house. Something must be done
immediately. Quick, finish my hair and I'll go and see
what I can do to bring them round."
"I can't finish your hair, madame," said Richardson
quietly, but with immense decision. "I belong to the
union and I can't do another half-minute's work till the
strike is settled. I'm sorry to be disobliging."
"But this is inhuman!" exclaimed Sophie tragically;
"I've always been a model mistress and I've refused to
employ any but union servants, and this is the result. I
can't finish my hair myself; I don't know how to. What
am I to do? It's wicked!"
"Wicked is the word," said Richardson; "I'm a good
Conservative and I've no patience with this Socialist
foolery, asking your pardon. It's tyranny, that's what
it is, all along the line, but I've my living to make,
same as other people, and I've got to belong to the
union. I couldn't touch another hair-pin without a
strike permit, not if you was to double my wages."
The door burst open and Catherine Malsom raged into
"Here's a nice affair," she screamed, "a strike of
household servants without a moment's warning, and I'm
left like this! I can't appear in public in this
After a very hasty scrutiny Sophie assured her that
she could not.
"Have they all struck?" she asked her maid.
"Not the kitchen staff," said Richardson, "they
belong to a different union."
"Dinner at least will be assured," said Sophie,
"that is something to be thankful for."
"Dinner!" snorted Catherine, "what on earth is the
good of dinner when none of us will be able to appear at
it? Look at your hair - and look at me! or rather,
"I know it's difficult to manage without a maid;
can't your husband be any help to you?" asked Sophie
"Henry? He's in worse case than any of us. His man
is the only person who really understands that ridiculous
new-fangled Turkish bath that he insists on taking with
"Surely he could do without a Turkish bath for one
evening," said Sophie; "I can't appear without hair, but
a Turkish bath is a luxury."
"My good woman," said Catherine, speaking with a
fearful intensity, "Henry was in the bath when the strike
started. In it, do you understand? He's there now."
"Can't he get out?"
"He doesn't know how to. Every time he pulls the
lever marked 'release' he only releases hot steam. There
are two kinds of steam in the bath, 'bearable' and
'scarcely bearable'; he has released them both. By this
time I'm probably a widow."
"I simply can't send away Gaspare," wailed Sophie;
"I should never be able to secure another omelette
"Any difficulty that I may experience in securing
another husband is of course a trifle beneath anyone's
consideration," said Catherine bitterly.
Sophie capitulated. "Go," she said to Richardson,
"and tell the Strike Committee, or whoever are directing
this affair, that Gaspare is herewith dismissed. And ask
Gaspare to see me presently in the library, when I will
pay him what is due to him and make what excuses I can;
and then fly back and finish my hair."
Some half an hour later Sophie marshalled her guests
in the Grand Salon preparatory to the formal march to the
dining-room. Except that Henry Malsom was of the ripe
raspberry tint that one sometimes sees at private
theatricals representing the human complexion, there was
little outward sign among those assembled of the crisis
that had just been encountered and surmounted. But the
tension had been too stupefying while it lasted not to
leave some mental effects behind it. Sophie talked at
random to her illustrious guest, and found her eyes
straying with increasing frequency towards the great
doors through which would presently come the blessed
announcement that dinner was served. Now and again she
glanced mirror-ward at the reflection of her wonderfully
coiffed hair, as an insurance underwriter might gaze
thankfully at an overdue vessel that had ridden safely
into harbour in the wake of a devastating hurricane.
Then the doors opened and the welcome figure of the
butler entered the room. But he made no general
announcement of a banquet in readiness, and the doors
closed behind him; his message was for Sophie alone.
"There is no dinner, madame," he said gravely; "the
kitchen staff have 'downed tools.' Gaspare belongs to
the Union of Cooks and Kitchen Employees, and as soon as
they heard of his summary dismissal at a moment's notice
they struck work. They demand his instant reinstatement
and an apology to the union. I may add, madame, that
they are very firm; I've been obliged even to hand back
the dinner rolls that were already on the table."
After the lapse of eighteen months Sophie Chattel-
Monkheim is beginning to go about again among her old
haunts and associates, but she still has to be very
careful. The doctors will not let her attend anything at
all exciting, such as a drawing-room meeting or a Fabian
conference; it is doubtful, indeed, whether she wants to.
THE FEAST OF NEMESIS
"IT'S a good thing that Saint Valentine's Day has
dropped out of vogue," said Mrs. Thackenbury; "what with
Christmas and New Year and Easter, not to speak of
birthdays, there are quite enough remembrance days as it
is. I tried to save myself trouble at Christmas by just
sending flowers to all my friends, but it wouldn't work;
Gertrude has eleven hot-houses and about thirty
gardeners, so it would have been ridiculous to send
flowers to her, and Milly has just started a florist's
shop, so it was equally out of the question there. The
stress of having to decide in a hurry what to give to
Gertrude and Milly just when I thought I'd got the whole
question nicely off my mind completely ruined my
Christmas, and then the awful monotony of the letters of
thanks: 'Thank you so much for your lovely flowers. It
was so good of you to think of me.' Of course in the
majority of cases I hadn't thought about the recipients
at all; their names were down in my list of 'people who
must not be left out.' If I trusted to remembering them
there would be some awful sins of omission."
"The trouble is," said Clovis to his aunt, "all
these days of intrusive remembrance harp so persistently
on one aspect of human nature and entirely ignore the
other; that is why they become so perfunctory and
artificial. At Christmas and New Year you are emboldened
and encouraged by convention to send gushing messages of
optimistic goodwill and servile affection to people whom
you would scarcely ask to lunch unless some one else had
failed you at the last moment; if you are supping at a
restaurant on New Year's Eve you are permitted and
expected to join hands and sing 'For Auld Lang Syne' with
strangers whom you have never seen before and never want
to see again. But no licence is allowed in the opposite
"Opposite direction; what opposite direction?"
queried Mrs. Thackenbury.
"There is no outlet for demonstrating your feelings
towards people whom you simply loathe. That is really
the crying need of our modern civilisation. Just think
how jolly it would be if a recognised day were set apart
for the paying off of old scores and grudges, a day when
one could lay oneself out to be gracefully vindictive to
a carefully treasured list of 'people who must not be let
off.' I remember when I was at a private school we had
one day, the last Monday of the term I think it was,
consecrated to the settlement of feuds and grudges; of
course we did not appreciate it as much as it deserved,
because, after all, any day of the term could be used for
that purpose. Still, if one had chastised a smaller boy
for being cheeky weeks before, one was always permitted
on that day to recall the episode to his memory by
chastising him again. That is what the French call
reconstructing the crime."
"I should call it reconstructing the punishment,"
said Mrs. Thackenbury; "and, anyhow, I don't see how you
could introduce a system of primitive schoolboy vengeance
into civilised adult life. We haven't outgrown our
passions, but we are supposed to have learned how to keep
them within strictly decorous limits."
"Of course the thing would have to be done furtively
and politely," said Clovis; "the charm of it would be
that it would never be perfunctory like the other thing.
Now, for instance, you say to yourself: 'I must show the
Webleys some attention at Christmas, they were kind to
dear Bertie at Bournemouth,' and you send them a
calendar, and daily for six days after Christmas the male
Webley asks the female Webley if she has remembered to
thank you for the calendar you sent them. Well,
transplant that idea to the other and more human side of
your nature, and say to yourself: 'Next Thursday is
Nemesis Day; what on earth can I do to those odious
people next door who made such an absurd fuss when Ping
Yang bit their youngest child?' Then you'd get up
awfully early on the allotted day and climb over into
their garden and dig for truffles on their tennis court
with a good gardening fork, choosing, of course, that
part of the court that was screened from observation by
the laurel bushes. You wouldn't find any truffles but
you would find a great peace, such as no amount of
present-giving could ever bestow."
"I shouldn't," said Mrs. Thackenbury, though her air
of protest sounded a bit forced; "I should feel rather a
worm for doing such a thing."
"You exaggerate the power of upheaval which a worm
would be able to bring into play in the limited time
available," said Clovis; "if you put in a strenuous ten
minutes with a really useful fork, the result ought to
suggest the operations of an unusually masterful mole or
a badger in a hurry."
"They might guess I had done it," said Mrs.
"Of course they would," said Clovis; "that would be
half the satisfaction of the thing, just as you like
people at Christmas to know what presents or cards you've
sent them. The thing would be much easier to manage, of
course, when you were on outwardly friendly terms with
the object of your dislike. That greedy little Agnes
Blaik, for instance, who thinks of nothing but her food,
it would be quite simple to ask her to a picnic in some
wild woodland spot and lose her just before lunch was
served; when you found her again every morsel of food
could have been eaten up."
"It would require no ordinary human strategy to lose
Agnes Blaik when luncheon was imminent: in fact, I don't
believe it could be done."
"Then have all the other guests, people whom you
dislike, and lose the luncheon. It could have been sent
by accident in the wrong direction."
"It would be a ghastly picnic," said Mrs.
"For them, but not for you," said Clovis; "you would
have had an early and comforting lunch before you
started, and you could improve the occasion by mentioning
in detail the items of the missing banquet - the lobster
Newburg and the egg mayonnaise, and the curry that was to
have been heated in a chafing-dish. Agnes Blaik would be
delirious long before you got to the list of wines, and
in the long interval of waiting, before they had quite
abandoned hope of the lunch turning up, you could induce
them to play silly games, such as that idiotic one of
'the Lord Mayor's dinner-party,' in which every one has
to choose the name of a dish and do something futile when
it is called out. In this case they would probably burst
into tears when their dish is mentioned. It would be a
Mrs. Thackenbury was silent for a moment; she was
probably making a mental list of the people she would
like to invite to the Duke Humphrey picnic. Presently
she asked: "And that odious young man, Waldo Plubley, who
is always coddling himself - have you thought of anything
that one could do to him?" Evidently she was beginning
to see the possibilities of Nemesis Day.
"If there was anything like a general observance of
the festival," said Clovis, "Waldo would be in such
demand that you would have to bespeak him weeks
beforehand, and even then, if there were an east wind
blowing or a cloud or two in the sky he might be too
careful of his precious self to come out. It would be
rather jolly if you could lure him into a hammock in the
orchard, just near the spot where there is a wasps' nest
every summer. A comfortable hammock on a warm afternoon
would appeal to his indolent tastes, and then, when he
was getting drowsy, a lighted fusee thrown into the nest
would bring the wasps out in an indignant mass, and they
would soon find a 'home away from home' on Waldo's fat
body. It takes some doing to get out of a hammock in a
"They might sting him to death," protested Mrs.
"Waldo is one of those people who would be
enormously improved by death," said Clovis; "but if you
didn't want to go as far as that, you could have some wet
straw ready to hand, and set it alight under the hammock
at the same time that the fusee was thrown into the nest;
the smoke would keep all but the most militant of the
wasps just outside the stinging line, and as long as
Waldo remained within its protection he would escape
serious damage, and could be eventually restored to his
mother, kippered all over and swollen in places, but
still perfectly recognisable."
"His mother would be my enemy for life," said Mrs.
"That would be one greeting less to exchange at
Christmas," said Clovis.
IT was the season of sales. The august
establishment of Walpurgis and Nettlepink had lowered its
prices for an entire week as a concession to trade
observances, much as an Arch-duchess might protestingly
contract an attack of influenza for the unsatisfactory
reason that influenza was locally prevalent. Adela
Chemping, who considered herself in some measure superior
to the allurements of an ordinary bargain sale, made a
point of attending the reduction week at Walpurgis and
"I'm not a bargain hunter," she said, "but I like to
go where bargains are."
Which showed that beneath her surface strength of
character there flowed a gracious undercurrent of human
With a view to providing herself with a male escort
Mrs. Chemping had invited her youngest nephew to
accompany her on the first day of the shopping
expedition, throwing in the additional allurement of a
cinematograph theatre and the prospect of light
refreshment. As Cyprian was not yet eighteen she hoped
he might not have reached that stage in masculine
development when parcel-carrying is looked on as a thing
"Meet me just outside the floral department," she
wrote to him, "and don't be a moment later than eleven."
Cyprian was a boy who carried with him through early
life the wondering look of a dreamer, the eyes of one who
sees things that are not visible to ordinary mortals, and
invests the commonplace things of this world with
qualities unsuspected by plainer folk - the eyes of a
poet or a house agent. He was quietly dressed - that
sartorial quietude which frequently accompanies early
adolescence, and is usually attributed by novel-writers
to the influence of a widowed mother. His hair was
brushed back in a smoothness as of ribbon seaweed and
seamed with a narrow furrow that scarcely aimed at being
a parting. His aunt particularly noted this item of his
toilet when they met at the appointed rendezvous, because
he was standing waiting for her bare-headed.
"Where is your hat?" she asked.
"I didn't bring one with me," he replied.
Adela Chemping was slightly scandalised.
"You are not going to be what they call a Nut, are
you?" she inquired with some anxiety, partly with the
idea that a Nut would be an extravagance which her
sister's small household would scarcely be justified in
incurring, partly, perhaps, with the instinctive
apprehension that a Nut, even in its embryo stage, would
refuse to carry parcels.
Cyprian looked at her with his wondering, dreamy
"I didn't bring a hat," he said, "because it is such
a nuisance when one is shopping; I mean it is so awkward
if one meets anyone one knows and has to take one's hat
off when one's hands are full of parcels. If one hasn't
got a hat on one can't take it off."
Mrs. Chemping sighed with great relief; her worst
fear had been laid at rest.
"It is more orthodox to wear a hat," she observed,
and then turned her attention briskly to the business in
"We will go first to the table-linen counter," she
said, leading the way in that direction; "I should like
to look at some napkins."
The wondering look deepened in Cyprian's eyes as he
followed his aunt; he belonged to a generation that is
supposed to be over-fond of the role of mere spectator,
but looking at napkins that one did not mean to buy was a
pleasure beyond his comprehension. Mrs. Chemping held
one or two napkins up to the light and stared fixedly at
them, as though she half expected to find some
revolutionary cypher written on them in scarcely visible
ink; then she suddenly broke away in the direction of the
"Millicent asked me to get her a couple of decanters
if there were any going really cheap," she explained on
the way, "and I really do want a salad bowl. I can come
back to the napkins later on."
She handled and scrutinised a large number of
decanters and a long series of salad bowls, and finally
bought seven chrysanthemum vases.
"No one uses that kind of vase nowadays," she
informed Cyprian, "but they will do for presents next
Two sunshades that were marked down to a price that
Mrs. Chemping considered absurdly cheap were added to her
"One of them will do for Ruth Colson; she is going
out to the Malay States, and a sunshade will always be
useful there. And I must get her some thin writing
paper. It takes up no room in one's baggage."
Mrs. Chemping bought stacks of writing paper; it was
so cheap, and it went so flat in a trunk or portmanteau.
She also bought a few envelopes - envelopes somehow
seemed rather an extragavance compared with notepaper.
"Do you think Ruth will like blue or grey paper?"
she asked Cyprian.
"Grey," said Cyprian, who had never met the lady in
"Have you any mauve notepaper of this quality?"
Adela asked the assistant.
"We haven't any mauve," said the assistant, "but
we've two shades of green and a darker shade of grey."
Mrs. Chemping inspected the greens and the darker
grey, and chose the blue.
"Now we can have some lunch," she said.
Cyprian behaved in an exemplary fashion in the
refreshment department, and cheerfully accepted a fish
cake and a mince pie and a small cup of coffee as
adequate restoratives after two hours of concentrated
shopping. He was adamant, however, in resisting his
aunt's suggestion that a hat should be bought for him at
the counter where men's headwear was being disposed of at
temptingly reduced prices.
"I've got as many hats as I want at home," he said,
"and besides, it rumples one's hair so, trying them on."
Perhaps he was going to develop into a Nut after
all. It was a disquieting symptom that he left all the
parcels in charge of the cloak-room attendant.
"We shall be getting more parcels presently," he
said, "so we need not collect these till we have finished
His aunt was doubtfully appeased; some of the
pleasure and excitement of a shopping expedition seemed
to evaporate when one was deprived of immediate personal
contact with one's purchases.
"I'm going to look at those napkins again," she
said, as they descended the stairs to the ground floor.
"You need not come," she added, as the dreaming look in
the boy's eyes changed for a moment into one of mute
protest, "you can meet me afterwards in the cutlery
department; I've just remembered that I haven't a
corkscrew in the house that can be depended on."
Cyprian was not to be found in the cutlery
department when his aunt in due course arrived there, but
in the crush and bustle of anxious shoppers and busy
attendants it was an easy matter to miss anyone. It was
in the leather goods department some quarter of an hour
later that Adela Chemping caught sight of her nephew,
separated from her by a rampart of suit-cases and
portmanteaux and hemmed in by the jostling crush of human
beings that now invaded every corner of the great
shopping emporium. She was just in time to witness a
pardonable but rather embarrassing mistake on the part of
a lady who had wriggled her way with unstayable
determination towards the bareheaded Cyprian, and was now
breathlessly demanding the sale price of a handbag which
had taken her fancy.
"There now," exclaimed Adela to herself, "she takes
him for one of the shop assistants because he hasn't got
a hat on. I wonder it hasn't happened before."
Perhaps it had. Cyprian, at any rate, seemed
neither startled nor embarrassed by the error into which
the good lady had fallen. Examining the ticket on the
bag, he announced in a clear, dispassionate voice:
"Black seal, thirty-four shillings, marked down to
twenty-eight. As a matter of fact, we are clearing them
out at a special reduction price of twenty-six shillings.
They are going off rather fast."
"I'll take it," said the lady, eagerly digging some
coins out of her purse.
"Will you take it as it is?" asked Cyprian; "it will
be a matter of a few minutes to get it wrapped up, there
is such a crush."
"Never mind, I'll take it as it is," said the
purchaser, clutching her treasure and counting the money
into Cyprian's palm.
Several kind strangers helped Adela into the open
"It's the crush and the heat," said one sympathiser
to another; "it's enough to turn anyone giddy."
When she next came across Cyprian he was standing in
the crowd that pushed and jostled around the counters of
the book department. The dream look was deeper than ever
in his eyes. He had just sold two books of devotion to
an elderly Canon.
THE QUINCE TREE
"I'VE just been to see old Betsy Mullen," announced
Vera to her aunt, Mrs. Bebberly Cumble; "she seems in
rather a bad way about her rent. She owes about fifteen
weeks of it, and says she doesn't know where any of it is
to come from."
"Betsy Mullen always is in difficulties with her
rent, and the more people help her with it the less she
troubles about it," said the aunt. "I certainly am not
going to assist her any more. The fact is, she will have
to go into a smaller and cheaper cottage; there are
several to be had at the other end of the village for
half the rent that she is paying, or supposed to be
paying, now. I told her a year ago that she ought to
"But she wouldn't get such a nice garden anywhere
else," protested Vera, "and there's such a jolly quince
tree in the corner. I don't suppose there's another
quince tree in the whole parish. And she never makes any
quince jam; I think to have a quince tree and not to make
quince jam shows such strength of character. Oh, she
can't possibly move away from that garden."
"When one is sixteen," said Mrs. Bebberly Cumble
severely, "one talks of things being impossible which are
merely uncongenial. It is not only possible but it is
desirable that Betsy Mullen should move into smaller
quarters; she has scarcely enough furniture to fill that
"As far as value goes," said Vera after a short
pause, "there is more in Betsy's cottage than in any
other house for miles round."
"Nonsense," said the aunt; "she parted with whatever
old china ware she had long ago."
"I'm not talking about anything that belongs to
Betsy herself," said Vera darkly; "but, of course, you
don't know what I know, and I don't suppose I ought to
"You must tell me at once," exclaimed the aunt, her
senses leaping into alertness like those of a terrier
suddenly exchanging a bored drowsiness for the lively
anticipation of an immediate rat hunt.
"I'm perfectly certain that I oughtn't to tell you
anything about it," said Vera, "but, then, I often do
things that I oughtn't to do."
"I should be the last person to suggest that you
should do anything that you ought not to do to - " began
Mrs. Bebberly Cumble impressively.
"And I am always swayed by the last person who
speaks to me," admitted Vera, "so I'll do what I ought
not to do and tell you."
Mrs. Bebberley Cumble thrust a very pardonable sense
of exasperation into the background of her mind and
"What is there in Betsy Mullen's cottage that you
are making such a fuss about?"
"It's hardly fair to say that I'VE made a fuss about
it," said Vera; "this is the first time I've mentioned
the matter, but there's been no end of trouble and
mystery and newspaper speculation about it. It's rather
amusing to think of the columns of conjecture in the
Press and the police and detectives hunting about
everywhere at home and abroad, and all the while that
innocent-looking little cottage has held the secret."
"You don't mean to say it's the Louvre picture, La
Something or other, the woman with the smile, that
disappeared about two years ago?" exclaimed the aunt with
"Oh no, not that," said Vera, "but something quite
as important and just as mysterious - if anything, rather
"Not the Dublin - ?"
"The whole jolly lot of them."
"In Betsy's cottage? Incredible!"
"Of course Betsy hasn't an idea as to what they
are," said Vera; "she just knows that they are something
valuable and that she must keep quiet about them. I
found out quite by accident what they were and how they
came to be there. You see, the people who had them were
at their wits' end to know where to stow them away for
safe keeping, and some one who was motoring through the
village was struck by the snug loneliness of the cottage
and thought it would be just the thing. Mrs. Lamper
arranged the matter with Betsy and smuggled the things
"Yes; she does a lot of district visiting, you
"I am quite aware that she takes soup and flannel
and improving literature to the poorer cottagers," said
Mrs. Bebberly Cumble, "but that is hardly the same sort
of thing as disposing of stolen goods, and she must have
known something about their history; anyone who reads the
papers, even casually, must have been aware of the theft,
and I should think the things were not hard to recognise.
Mrs. Lamper has always had the reputation of being a very
"Of course she was screening some one else," said
Vera. "A remarkable feature of the affair is the
extraordinary number of quite respectable people who have
involved themselves in its meshes by trying to shield
others. You would be really astonished if you knew some
of the names of the individuals mixed up in it, and I
don't suppose a tithe of them know who the original
culprits were; and now I've got you entangled in the mess
by letting you into the secret of the cottage."
"You most certainly have not entangled me," said
Mrs. Bebberly Cumble indignantly. "I have no intention
of shielding anybody. The police must know about it at
once; a theft is a theft, whoever is involved. If
respectable people choose to turn themselves into
receivers and disposers of stolen goods, well, they've
ceased to be respectable, that's all. I shall telephone
immediately - "
"Oh, aunt," said Vera reproachfully, "it would break
the poor Canon's heart if Cuthbert were to be involved in
a scandal of this sort. You know it would."
"Cuthbert involved! How can you say such things
when you know how much we all think of him?"
"Of course I know you think a lot of him, and that
he's engaged to marry Beatrice, and that it will be a
frightfully good match, and that he's your ideal of what
a son-in-law ought to be. All the same, it was
Cuthbert's idea to stow the things away in the cottage,
and it was his motor that brought them. He was only
doing it to help his friend Pegginson, you know - the
Quaker man, who is always agitating for a smaller Navy.
I forget how he got involved in it. I warned you that
there were lots of quite respectable people mixed up in
it, didn't I? That's what I meant when I said it would
be impossible for old Betsy to leave the cottage; the
things take up a good bit of room, and she couldn't go
carrying them about with her other goods and chattels
without attracting notice. Of course if she were to fall
ill and die it would be equally unfortunate. Her mother
lived to be over ninety, she tells me, so with due care
and an absence of worry she ought to last for another
dozen years at least. By that time perhaps some other
arrangements will have been made for disposing of the
"I shall speak to Cuthbert about it - after the
wedding," said Mrs. Bebberly Cumble.
"The wedding isn't till next year," said Vera, in
recounting the story to her best girl friend, "and
meanwhile old Betsy is living rent free, with soup twice
a week and my aunt's doctor to see her whenever she has a
"But how on earth did you get to know about it all?"
asked her friend, in admiring wonder.
"It was a mystery - " said Vera.
"Of course it was a mystery, a mystery that baffled
everybody. What beats me is how you found out - "
"Oh, about the jewels? I invented that part,"
explained Vera; "I mean the mystery was where old Betsy's
arrears of rent were to come from; and she would have
hated leaving that jolly quince tree."
THE FORBIDDEN BUZZARDS
"IS matchmaking at all in your line?"
Hugo Peterby asked the question with a certain
amount of personal interest.
"I don't specialise in it," said Clovis; "it's all
right while you're doing it, but the after-effects are
sometimes so disconcerting - the mute reproachful looks
of the people you've aided and abetted in matrimonial
experiments. It's as bad as selling a man a horse with
half a dozen latent vices and watching him discover them
piecemeal in the course of the hunting season. I suppose
you're thinking of the Coulterneb girl. She's certainly
jolly, and quite all right as far as looks go, and I
believe a certain amount of money adheres to her. What I
don't see is how you will ever manage to propose to her.
In all the time I've known her I don't remember her to
have stopped talking for three consecutive minutes.
You'll have to race her six times round the grass paddock
for a bet, and then blurt your proposal out before she's
got her wind back. The paddock is laid up for hay, but
if you're really in love with her you won't let a
consideration of that sort stop you, especially as it's
not your hay."
"I think I could manage the proposing part right
enough," said Hugo, "if I could count on being left alone
with her for four or five hours. The trouble is that I'm
not likely to get anything like that amount of grace.
That fellow Lanner is showing signs of interesting
himself in the same quarter. He's quite heartbreakingly
rich and is rather a swell in his way; in fact, our
hostess is obviously a bit flattered at having him here.
If she gets wind of the fact that he's inclined to be
attracted by Betty Coulterneb she'll think it a splendid
match and throw them into each other's arms all day long,
and then where will my opportunities come in? My one
anxiety is to keep him out of the girl's way as much as
possible, and if you could help me - "
"If you want me to trot Lanner round the
countryside, inspecting alleged Roman remains and
studying local methods of bee culture and crop raising,
I'm afraid I can't oblige you," said Clovis. "You see,
he's taken something like an aversion to me since the
other night in the smoking-room."
"What happened in the smoking-room?"
"He trotted out some well-worn chestnut as the
latest thing in good stories, and I remarked, quite
innocently, that I never could remember whether it was
George II. or James II. who was so fond of that
particular story, and now he regards me with politely-
draped dislike. I'll do my best for you, if the
opportunity arises, but it will have to be in a
roundabout, impersonal manner."
* * * *
"It's so nice having Mr. Lanner here," confided Mrs.
Olston to Clovis the next afternoon; "he's always been
engaged when I've asked him before. Such a nice man; he
really ought to be married to some nice girl. Between
you and me, I have an idea that he came down here for a
"I've had much the same idea," said Clovis, lowering
his voice; "in fact, I'm almost certain of it."
"You mean he's attracted by - " began Mrs. Olston
"I mean he's here for what he can get," said Clovis.
"For what he can GET?" said the hostess with a touch
of indignation in her voice; "what do you mean? He's a
very rich man. What should he want to get here?"
"He has one ruling passion," said Clovis, "and
there's something he can get here that is not to be had
for love nor for money anywhere else in the country, as
far as I know."
"But what? Whatever do you mean? What is his
"Egg-collecting," said Clovis. "He has agents all
over the world getting rare eggs for him, and his
collection is one of the finest in Europe; but his great
ambition is to collect his treasures personally. He
stops at no expense nor trouble to achieve that end."
"Good heavens! The buzzards, the rough-legged
buzzards!" exclaimed Mrs. Olston; "you don't think he's
going to raid their nest?"
"What do you think yourself?" asked Clovis; "the
only pair of rough-legged buzzards known to breed in this
country are nesting in your woods. Very few people know
about them, but as a member of the league for protecting
rare birds that information would be at his disposal. I
came down in the train with him, and I noticed that a
bulky volume of Dresser's 'Birds of Europe' was one of
the requisites that he had packed in his travelling-kit.
It was the volume dealing with short-winged hawks and
Clovis believed that if a lie was worth telling it
was worth telling well.
"This is appalling," said Mrs. Olston; "my husband
would never forgive me if anything happened to those
birds. They've been seen about the woods for the last
year or two, but this is the first time they've nested.
As you say, they are almost the only pair known to be
breeding in the whole of Great Britain; and now their
nest is going to be harried by a guest staying under my
roof. I must do something to stop it. Do you think if I
appealed to him - "
"There is a story going about, which I fancy is true
in most of its details, of something that happened not
long ago somewhere on the coast of the Sea of Marmora, in
which our friend had a hand. A Syrian nightjar, or some
such bird, was known to be breeding in the olive gardens
of a rich Armenian, who for some reason or other wouldn't
allow Lanner to go in and take the eggs, though he
offered cash down for the permission. The Armenian was
found beaten nearly to death a day or two later, and his
fences levelled. It was assumed to be a case of
Mussulman aggression, and noted as such in all the
Consular reports, but the eggs are in the Lanner
collection. No, I don't think I should appeal to his
better feelings if I were you."
"I must do something," said Mrs. Olston tearfully;
"my husband's parting words when he went off to Norway
were an injunction to see that those birds were not
disturbed, and he's asked about them every time he's
written. Do suggest something."
"I was going to suggest picketing," said Clovis.
"Picketing! You mean setting guards round the
"No; round Lanner. He can't find his way through
those woods by night, and you could arrange that you or
Evelyn or Jack or the German governess should be by his
side in relays all day long. A fellow guest he could get
rid of, but he couldn't very well shake off members of
the household, and even the most determined collector
would hardly go climbing after forbidden buzzards' eggs
with a German governess hanging round his neck, so to
Lanner, who had been lazily watching for an
opportunity for prosecuting his courtship of the
Coulterneb girl, found presently that his chances of
getting her to himself for ten minutes even were non-
existent. If the girl was ever alone he never was. His
hostess had changed suddenly, as far as he was concerned,
from the desirable type that lets her guests do nothing
in the way that best pleases them, to the sort that drags
them over the ground like so many harrows. She showed
him the herb garden and the greenhouses, the village
church, some water-colour sketches that her sister had
done in Corsica, and the place where it was hoped that
celery would grow later in the year.
He was shown all the Aylesbury ducklings and the row
of wooden hives where there would have been bees if there
had not been bee disease. He was also taken to the end
of a long lane and shown a distant mound whereon local
tradition reported that the Danes had once pitched a
camp. And when his hostess had to desert him temporarily
for other duties he would find Evelyn walking solemnly by
his side. Evelyn was fourteen and talked chiefly about
good and evil, and of how much one might accomplish in
the way of regenerating the world if one was thoroughly
determined to do one's utmost. It was generally rather a
relief when she was displaced by Jack, who was nine years
old, and talked exclusively about the Balkan War without
throwing any fresh light on its political or military
history. The German governess told Lanner more about
Schiller than he had ever heard in his life about any one
person; it was perhaps his own fault for having told her
that he was not interested in Goethe. When the governess
went off picket duty the hostess was again on hand with a
not-to-be-gainsaid invitation to visit the cottage of an
old woman who remembered Charles James Fox; the woman had
been dead for two or three years, but the cottage was
still there. Lanner was called back to town earlier than
he had originally intended.
Hugo did not bring off his affair with Betty
Coulterneb. Whether she refused him or whether, as was
more generally supposed, he did not get a chance of
saying three consecutive words, has never been exactly
ascertained. Anyhow, she is still the jolly Coulterneb
The buzzards successfully reared two young ones,
which were shot by a local hairdresser.
"RONNIE is a great trial to me," said Mrs. Attray
plaintively. "Only eighteen years old last February and
already a confirmed gambler. I am sure I don't know
where he inherits it from; his father never touched
cards, and you know how little I play - a game of bridge
on Wednesday afternoons in the winter, for three-pence a
hundred, and even that I shouldn't do if it wasn't that
Edith always wants a fourth and would be certain to ask
that detestable Jenkinham woman if she couldn't get me.
I would much rather sit and talk any day than play
bridge; cards are such a waste of time, I think. But as
to Ronnie, bridge and baccarat and poker-patience are
positively all that he thinks about. Of course I've done
my best to stop it; I've asked the Norridrums not to let
him play cards when he's over there, but you might as
well ask the Atlantic Ocean to keep quiet for a crossing
as expect them to bother about a mother's natural
"Why do you let him go there?" asked Eleanor
"My dear," said Mrs. Attray, "I don't want to offend
them. After all, they are my landlords and I have to look
to them for anything I want done about the place; they
were very accommodating about the new roof for the orchid
house. And they lend me one of their cars when mine is
out of order; you know how often it gets out of order."
"I don't know how often," said Eleanor, "but it must
happen very frequently. Whenever I want you to take me
anywhere in your car I am always told that there is
something wrong with it, or else that the chauffeur has
got neuralgia and you don't like to ask him to go out."
"He suffers quite a lot from neuralgia," said Mrs.
Attray hastily. "Anyhow," she continued, "you can
understand that I don't want to offend the Norridrums.
Their household is the most rackety one in the county,
and I believe no one ever knows to an hour or two when
any particular meal will appear on the table or what it
will consist of when it does appear."
Eleanor Saxelby shuddered. She liked her meals to
be of regular occurrence and assured proportions.
"Still," pursued Mrs. Attray, "whatever their own
home life may be, as landlords and neighbours they are
considerate and obliging, so I don't want to quarrel with
them. Besides, if Ronnie didn't play cards there he'd be
playing somewhere else."
"Not if you were firm with him," said Eleanor "I
believe in being firm."
"Firm? I am firm," exclaimed Mrs. Attray; "I am
more than firm - I am farseeing. I've done everything I
can think of to prevent Ronnie from playing for money.
I've stopped his allowance for the rest of the year, so
he can't even gamble on credit, and I've subscribed a
lump sum to the church offertory in his name instead of
giving him instalments of small silver to put in the bag
on Sundays. I wouldn't even let him have the money to
tip the hunt servants with, but sent it by postal order.
He was furiously sulky about it, but I reminded him of
what happened to the ten shillings that I gave him for
the Young Men's Endeavour League 'Self-Denial Week.' "
"What did happen to it?" asked Eleanor.
"Well, Ronnie did some preliminary endeavouring with
it, on his own account, in connection with the Grand
National. If it had come off, as he expressed it, he
would have given the League twenty-five shillings and
netted a comfortable commission for himself; as it was,
that ten shillings was one of the things the League had
to deny itself. Since then I've been careful not to let
him have a penny piece in his hands."
"He'll get round that in some way," said Eleanor
with quiet conviction; "he'll sell things."
"My dear, he's done all that is to be done in that
direction already. He's got rid of his wrist-watch and
his hunting flask and both his cigarette cases, and I
shouldn't be surprised if he's wearing imitation-gold
sleeve links instead of those his Aunt Rhoda gave him on
his seventeenth birthday. He can't sell his clothes, of
course, except his winter overcoat, and I've locked that
up in the camphor cupboard on the pretext of preserving
it from moth. I really don't see what else he can raise
money on. I consider that I've been both firm and far-
"Has he been at the Norridrums lately?" asked
"He was there yesterday afternoon and stayed to
dinner," said Mrs. Attray. "I don't quite know when he
came home, but I fancy it was late."
"Then depend on it he was gambling," said Eleanor,
with the assured air of one who has few ideas and makes
the most of them. " Late hours in the country always
"He can't gamble if he has no money and no chance of
getting any," argued Mrs. Attray; "even if one plays for
small stakes one must have a decent prospect of paying
"He may have sold some of the Amherst pheasant
chicks," suggested Eleanor; "they would fetch about ten
or twelve shillings each, I daresay."
"Ronnie wouldn't do such a thing," said Mrs. Attray;
"and anyhow I went and counted them this morning and
they're all there. No," she continued, with the quiet
satisfaction that comes from a sense of painstaking and
merited achievement, "I fancy that Ronnie had to content
himself with the role of onlooker last night, as far as
the card-table was concerned."
"Is that clock right?" asked Eleanor, whose eyes had
been straying restlessly towards the mantel-piece for
some little time; "lunch is usually so punctual in your
"Three minutes past the half-hour," exclaimed Mrs.
Attray; "cook must be preparing something unusually
sumptuous in your honour. I am not in the secret; I've
been out all the morning, you know."
Eleanor smiled forgivingly. A special effort by
Mrs. Attray's cook was worth waiting a few minutes for.
As a matter of fact, the luncheon fare, when it made
its tardy appearance, was distinctly unworthy of the
reputation which the justly-treasured cook had built up
for herself. The soup alone would have sufficed to cast
a gloom over any meal that it had inaugurated, and it was
not redeemed by anything that followed. Eleanor said
little, but when she spoke there was a hint of tears in
her voice that was far more eloquent than outspoken
denunciation would have been, and even the insouciant
Ronald showed traces of depression when he tasted the
"Not quite the best luncheon I've enjoyed in your
house," said Eleanor at last, when her final hope had
flickered out with the savoury.
"My dear, it's the worst meal I've sat down to for
years," said her hostess; "that last dish tasted
principally of red pepper and wet toast. I'm awfully
sorry. Is anything the matter in the kitchen, Pellin?"
she asked of the attendant maid.
"Well, ma'am, the new cook hadn't hardly time to see
to things properly, coming in so sudden - " commenced
Pellin by way of explanation.
"The new cook!" screamed Mrs. Attray.
"Colonel Norridrum's cook, ma'am," said Pellin.
"What on earth do you mean? What is Colonel
Norridrum's cook doing in my kitchen - and where is my
"Perhaps I can explain better than Pellin can," said
Ronald hurriedly; "the fact is, I was dining at the
Norridrums' yesterday, and they were wishing they had a
swell cook like yours, just for to-day and to-morrow,
while they've got some gourmet staying with them: their
own cook is no earthly good - well, you've seen what she
turns out when she's at all flurried. So I thought it
would be rather sporting to play them at baccarat for the
loan of our cook against a money stake, and I lost,
that's all. I have had rotten luck at baccarat all this
The remainder of his explanation, of how he had
assured the cooks that the temporary transfer had his
mother's sanction, and had smuggled the one out and the
other in during the maternal absence, was drowned in the
outcry of scandalised upbraiding.
"If I had sold the woman into slavery there couldn't
have been a bigger fuss about it," he confided afterwards
to Bertie Norridrum, "and Eleanor Saxelby raged and
ramped the louder of the two. I tell you what, I'll bet
you two of the Amherst pheasants to five shillings that
she refuses to have me as a partner at the croquet
tournament. We're drawn together, you know."
This time he won his bet.
CLOVIS ON PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES
MARION EGGELBY sat talking to Clovis on the only
subject that she ever willingly talked about - her
offspring and their varied perfections and
accomplishments. Clovis was not in what could be called a
receptive mood; the younger generation of Eggelby,
depicted in the glowing improbable colours of parent
impressionism, aroused in him no enthusiasm. Mrs.
Eggelby, on the other hand, was furnished with enthusiasm
enough for two.
"You would like Eric," she said, argumentatively
rather than hopefully. Clovis had intimated very
unmistakably that he was unlikely to care extravagantly
for either Amy or Willie. "Yes, I feel sure you would
like Eric. Every one takes to him at once. You know, he
always reminds me of that famous picture of the youthful
David - I forget who it's by, but it's very well known."
"That would be sufficient to set me against him, if
I saw much of him," said Clovis. "Just imagine at
auction bridge, for instance, when one was trying to
concentrate one's mind on what one's partner's original
declaration had been, and to remember what suits one's
opponents had originally discarded, what it would be like
to have some one persistently reminding one of a picture
of the youthful David. It would be simply maddening. If
Eric did that I should detest him."
"Eric doesn't play bridge," said Mrs. Eggelby with
"Doesn't he?" asked Clovis; "why not?"
"None of my children have been brought up to play
card games," said Mrs. Eggelby; "draughts and halma and
those sorts of games I encourage. Eric is considered
quite a wonderful draughts-player."
"You are strewing dreadful risks in the path of your
family," said Clovis; "a friend of mine who is a prison
chaplain told me that among the worst criminal cases that
have come under his notice, men condemned to death or to
long periods of penal servitude, there was not a single
bridge-player. On the other hand, he knew at least two
expert draughts-players among them."
"I really don't see what my boys have got to do with
the criminal classes," said Mrs. Eggelby resentfully.
"They have been most carefully brought up, I can assure
"That shows that you were nervous as to how they
would turn out," said Clovis. "Now, my mother never
bothered about bringing me up. She just saw to it that I
got whacked at decent intervals and was taught the
difference between right and wrong; there is some
difference, you know, but I've forgotten what it is."
"Forgotten the difference between right and wrong!"
exclaimed Mrs. Eggelby.
"Well, you see, I took up natural history and a
whole lot of other subjects at the same time, and one
can't remember everything, can one? I used to know the
difference between the Sardinian dormouse and the
ordinary kind, and whether the wry-neck arrives at our
shores earlier than the cuckoo, or the other way round,
and how long the walrus takes in growing to maturity; I
daresay you knew all those sorts of things once, but I
bet you've forgotten them."
"Those things are not important," said Mrs. Eggelby,
"but - "
"The fact that we've both forgotten them proves that
they are important," said Clovis; "you must have noticed
that it's always the important things that one forgets,
while the trivial, unnecessary facts of life stick in
one's memory. There's my cousin, Editha Clubberley, for
instance; I can never forget that her birthday is on the
12th of October. It's a matter of utter indifference to
me on what date her birthday falls, or whether she was
born at all; either fact seems to me absolutely trivial,
or unnecessary - I've heaps of other cousins to go on
with. On the other hand, when I'm staying with
Hildegarde Shrubley I can never remember the important
circumstance whether her first husband got his unenviable
reputation on the Turf or the Stock Exchange, and that
uncertainty rules Sport and Finance out of the
conversation at once. One can never mention travel,
either, because her second husband had to live
"Mrs. Shrubley and I move in very different
circles," said Mrs. Eggelby stiffly.
"No one who knows Hildegarde could possibly accuse
her of moving in a circle," said Clovis; "her view of
life seems to be a non-stop run with an inexhaustible
supply of petrol. If she can get some one else to pay
for the petrol so much the better. I don't mind
confessing to you that she has taught me more than any
other woman I can think of."
"What kind of knowledge?" demanded Mrs. Eggelby,
with the air a jury might collectively wear when finding
a verdict without leaving the box.
"Well, among other things, she's introduced me to at
least four different ways of cooking lobster," said
Clovis gratefully. "That, of course, wouldn't appeal to
you; people who abstain from the pleasures of the card-
table never really appreciate the finer possibilities of
the dining-table. I suppose their powers of enlightened
enjoyment get atrophied from disuse."
"An aunt of mine was very ill after eating a
lobster," said Mrs. Eggelby.
"I daresay, if we knew more of her history, we
should find out that she'd often been ill before eating
the lobster. Aren't you concealing the fact that she'd
had measles and influenza and nervous headache and
hysteria, and other things that aunts do have, long
before she ate the lobster? Aunts that have never known
a day's illness are very rare; in fact, I don't
personally know of any. Of course if she ate it as a
child of two weeks old it might have been her first
illness - and her last. But if that was the case I think
you should have said so."
"I must be going," said Mrs. Eggelby, in a tone
which had been thoroughly sterilised of even perfunctory
Clovis rose with an air of graceful reluctance.
"I have so enjoyed our little talk about Eric," he
said; "I quite look forward to meeting him some day."
"Good-bye," said Mrs. Eggelby frostily; the
supplementary remark which she made at the back of her
throat was -
"I'll take care that you never shall!"
A HOLIDAY TASK
KENELM JERTON entered the dining-hall of the Golden
Galleon Hotel in the full crush of the luncheon hour.
Nearly every seat was occupied, and small additional
tables had been brought in, where floor space permitted,
to accommodate latecomers, with the result that many of
the tables were almost touching each other. Jerton was
beckoned by a waiter to the only vacant table that was
discernible, and took his seat with the uncomfortable and
wholly groundless idea that nearly every one in the room
was staring at him. He was a youngish man of ordinary
appearance, quiet of dress and unobtrusive of manner, and
he could never wholly rid himself of the idea that a
fierce light of public scrutiny beat on him as though he
had been a notability or a super-nut. After he had
ordered his lunch there came the unavoidable interval of
waiting, with nothing to do but to stare at the flower-
vase on his table and to be stared at (in imagination) by
several flappers, some maturer beings of the same sex,
and a satirical-looking Jew. In order to carry off the
situation with some appearance of unconcern he became
spuriously interested in the contents of the flower-vase.
"What is the name of these roses, d'you know?" he
asked the waiter. The waiter was ready at all times to
conceal his ignorance concerning items of the wine-list
or menu; he was frankly ignorant as to the specific name
of the roses.
"AMY SYLVESTER PARTINGLON," said a voice at Jerton's
The voice came from a pleasant-faced, well-dressed
young woman who was sitting at a table that almost
touched Jerton's. He thanked her hurriedly and nervously
for the information, and made some inconsequent remark
about the flowers.
"It is a curious thing," said the young woman, that,
"I should be able to tell you the name of those roses
without an effort of memory, because if you were to ask
me my name I should be utterly unable to give it to you."
Jerton had not harboured the least intention of
extending his thirst for name-labels to his neighbour.
After her rather remarkable announcement, however, he was
obliged to say something in the way of polite inquiry.
"Yes," answered the lady, "I suppose it is a case of
partial loss of memory. I was in the train coming down
here; my ticket told me that I had come from Victoria and
was bound for this place. I had a couple of five-pound
notes and a sovereign on me, no visiting cards or any
other means of identification, and no idea as to who I
am. I can only hazily recollect that I have a title; I
am Lady Somebody - beyond that my mind is a blank."
"Hadn't you any luggage with you?" asked Jerton.
"That is what I didn't know. I knew the name of
this hotel and made up my mind to come here, and when the
hotel porter who meets the trains asked if I had any
luggage I had to invent a dressing-bag and dress-basket;
I could always pretend that they had gone astray. I gave
him the name of Smith, and presently he emerged from a
confused pile of luggage and passengers with a dressing-
bag and dress-basket labelled Kestrel-Smith. I had to
take them; I don't see what else I could have done."
Jerton said nothing, but he rather wondered what the
lawful owner of the baggage would do.
"Of course it was dreadful arriving at a strange
hotel with the name of Kestrel-Smith, but it would have
been worse to have arrived without luggage. Anyhow, I
hate causing trouble."
Jerton had visions of harassed railway officials and
distraught Kestrel-Smiths, but he made no attempt to
clothe his mental picture in words. The lady continued
"Naturally, none of my keys would fit the things,
but I told an intelligent page boy that I had lost my
key-ring, and he had the locks forced in a twinkling.
Rather too intelligent, that boy; he will probably end in
Dartmoor. The Kestrel-Smith toilet tools aren't up to
much, but they are better than nothing."
"If you feel sure that you have a title," said
Jerton, " why not get hold of a peerage and go right
"I tried that. I skimmed through the list of the
House of Lords in 'Whitaker,' but a mere printed string
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