THE HOLIDAY ROUND
A. A. MILNE
AUTHOR OF "THE DAYS' PLAY"
AN ODD LOT
LITTLE PLAYS FOR AMATEURS
A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
STORIES OF SUCCESSFUL LIVES
A FEW FRIENDS
I.—THE ORDEAL BY WATER
"We will now bathe," said a voice at the back of my neck.
I gave a grunt and went on with my dream. It was a jolly dream, and nobody got up early in it.
"We will now bathe," repeated Archie.
"Go away," I said distinctly.
Archie sat down on my knees and put his damp towel on my face.
"When my wife and I took this commodious residence for six weeks," he said, "and engaged the sea at great expense to come up to its doors twice a day, it was on the distinct understanding that our guests should plunge into it punctually at seven o'clock every morning."
"Don't be silly, it's about three now. And I wish you'd get off my knees."
"It's a quarter-past seven."
"Then there you are, we've missed it. Well, we must see what we can do for you to-morrow. Good-night."
Archie pulled all the clothes off me and walked with them to the window.
"Jove, what a day!" he said. "And can't you smell the sea?"
"I can. Let that suffice. I say, what's happened to my blanket? I must have swallowed it in my sleep."
"Where's his sponge?" I heard him murmuring to himself as he came away from the window.
"No, no, I'm up," I shouted, and I sprang out of bed and put on a shirt and a pair of trousers with great speed. "Where do I take these off again?" I asked. "I seem to be giving myself a lot of trouble."
"There is a tent."
"Won't the ladies want it? Because, if so, I can easily have my bathe later on."
"The ladies think it's rather too rough to-day."
"Perhaps they're right," I said hopefully. "A woman's instinct—No, I'm NOT a coward."
It wasn't so bad outside—sun and wind and a blue-and-white sky and plenty of movement on the sea.
"Just the day for a swim," said Archie cheerily, as he led the way down to the beach.
"I've nothing against the day; it's the hour I object to. The Lancet says you mustn't bathe within an hour of a heavy meal. Well, I'm going to have a very heavy meal within about twenty minutes. That isn't right, you know."
By the time I was ready the wind had got much colder. I looked out of the tent and shivered.
"Isn't it jolly and fresh?" said Archie, determined to be helpful. "There are points about the early morning, after all."
"There are plenty of points about this morning. Where do they get all the sharp stones from? Look at that one there—he's simply waiting for me."
"You ought to have bought some bathing shoes. I got this pair in the village."
"Why didn't you tell me so last night?"
"It was too late last night."
"Well, it's much too early this morning. If you were a gentleman you'd lend me one of yours, and we'd hop down together."
Archie being no gentleman, he walked and I hobbled to the edge, and there we sat down while he took off his shoes.
"I should like to take this last opportunity," I said, "of telling you that up till now I haven't enjoyed this early morning bathe one little bit. I suppose there will be a notable moment when the ecstasy actually begins, but at present I can't see it coming at all. The only thing I look forward to with any pleasure is the telling Dahlia and Myra at breakfast what I think of their cowardice. That and the breakfast itself. Good-bye."
I got up and waded into the surf.
"One last word," I said as I looked back at him. "In my whole career I shall never know a more absolutely beastly and miserable moment than this." Then a wave knocked me down, and I saw that I had spoken too hastily.
The world may be divided into two classes—those who drink when they swim and those who don't. I am one of the drinkers. For this reason I prefer river bathing to sea bathing.
"It's about time we came out," I shouted to Archie after the third pint. "I'm exceeding my allowance."
"Aren't you glad now you came?" he cried from the top of a wave.
"Very," I said a moment later from inside it.
But I really did feel glad ten minutes afterwards as I sat on the beach in the sun and smoked a cigarette, and threw pebbles lazily into the sea.
"Holbein, how brave of you!" cried a voice behind me.
"Good-morning. I'm not at all sure that I ought to speak to you."
"Have you really been taking the sea so early," said Myra as she sat down between us, "or did you rumple each other's hair so as to deceive me?"
"I have been taking the sea," I confessed. "What you observe out there now is what I left."
"Oh, but that's what I do. That's why I didn't come to-day—because I had so much yesterday."
"I'm a three-bottle man. I can go on and on and on. And after all these years I have the most sensitive palate of any man living. For instance, I can distinguish between Scarborough and Llandudno quite easily with my eyes shut. Speaking as an expert, I may say that there is nothing to beat a small Cromer and seltzer; though some prefer a Ventnor and dash. Ilfracombe with a slice of lemon is popular, but hardly appeals to the fastidious."
"Do you know," said Archie, "that you are talking drivel? Nobody ought to drivel before breakfast. It isn't decent. What does Dahlia want to do to-day, Myra?"
"Mr Simpson is coming by the one-thirty."
"Good; then we'll have a slack day. The strain of meeting Simpson will be sufficient for us. I do hope he comes in a yachting cap—we'll send him back if he doesn't."
"I told him to bring one," said Myra. "I put a P.S. in Dahlia's letter—please bring your telescope and yachting cap. She thought we could have a good day's sailing to-morrow, if you'd kindly arrange about the wind."
"I'll talk to the crew about it and see what he can do. If we get becalmed we can always throw somebody overboard, of course. Well, I must go in and finish my toilet."
We got up and climbed slowly back to the house.
"And then," I said, "then for the heavy meal."
"Well," said Dahlia, giving up the tiller with a sigh, "if this is all that you and Joe can do in the way of a breeze, you needn't have worried."
"Don't blame the crew," said Archie nobly, "he did his best. He sat up all night whistling."
"ARE we moving?" asked Myra, from a horizontal position on the shady side of the mainsail.
"We are not," I said, from a similar position on the sunny side. "Let's get out."
Simpson took off his yachting cap and fanned himself with a nautical almanac. "How far are we from anywhere?" he asked cheerfully.
"Miles," said Archie. "To be more accurate, we are five miles from a public-house, six from a church, four from a post-office, and three from the spacious walled-in kitchen-garden and tennis-court. On the other hand, we are quite close to the sea."
"You will never see your friends again, Simpson. They will miss you ... at first ... perhaps; but they will soon forget. The circulation of the papers that you wrote for will go up, the brindled bull-pup will be fed by another and a smaller hand, but otherwise all will be as it was before."
My voice choked, and at the same moment something whizzed past me into the sea.
"Yachting cap overboard! Help!" cried Myra.
"You aren't in The Spectator office now, Simpson," said Archie severely, as he fished with the boat-hook. "There is a time for ballyragging. By the way, I suppose you do want it back again?"
"It's my fault," I confessed remorsefully; "I told him yesterday I didn't like it."
"Myra and I do like it, Mr Simpson. Please save it, Archie."
Archie let it drip from the end of the boat-hook for a minute, and then brought it in.
"Morning, Sir Thomas," I said, saluting it as it came on board. "Lovely day for a sail. We've got the new topmast up, but Her Grace had the last of the potted-meat for lunch yesterday."
Simpson took his cap and stroked it tenderly. "Thirteen and ninepence in the Buckingham Palace Road," he murmured. "Thanks, old chap."
Quiet settled down upon the good ship Armadillo again. There was no cloud in the sky, no ripple on the water, no sound along the deck. The land was hazy in the distance; hazy in the distance was public-house, church, post-office, walled-in kitchen-garden and tennis-court. But in the little cabin Joe was making a pleasant noise with plates....
"Splendid," said Archie, putting down his glass and taking out his pipe. "Now what shall we do? I feel full of energy."
"Then you and Simpson can get the dinghy out and tow," I suggested. "I'll coach from the Armadillo."
"We might go for a long bicycle ride," said Myra; "or call on the Vicarage girls."
"There isn't really very much to do, is there?" said Dahlia, gently. "I'm sorry."
Simpson leapt excitedly into the breach.
"I'll tell you what I'll do—I'll teach you all the different knots and things. I learnt them coming down in the train. Everybody ought to know them. Archie, old man, can you let me have a piece of rope?"
"Certainly. Take any piece you like. Only spare the main-sheet."
Simpson went forward to consult Joe, and came back with enough to hang himself with. He sat down opposite to us, wrapped the rope once round his waist, and then beamed at us over his spectacles.
"Now supposing you had fallen down a well," he began, "and I let this rope down to you, what would you do with YOUR end?"
We thought deeply for a moment.
"I should wait until you were looking over the edge, and then give it a sharp jerk," said Archie.
"One MUST have company in a well," I agreed.
"They're being silly again," apologized Myra. "Tell ME, Mr Simpson! I should love to know—I'm always falling down wells."
"Well, you tie it round you like this. Through there—and over there—and then back under there. You see, it simply CAN'T slip. Then I should pull you up."
"But how nice of you. Let me try. ... Oh, yes, that's easy."
"Well, then there's the hangman's knot."
Archie and I looked at each other.
"The predicaments in which Simpson finds himself are extraordinarily varied," I said.
"One of these days he'll be in a well, and we shall let down a rope to him, and he'll hang himself by mistake."
"That would look very determined. On the other hand there must be annoying occasions when he starts out to strangle somebody and finds that he's pulling him out of the cistern."
"Why, how delightful, Mr Simpson," said Myra. "Do show us some more."
"Those are the most important ones. Then there are one or two fancy ones. Do you know the Monkey's Claw?"
"Don't touch it," said Archie solemnly. "It's poison."
"Oh, I must show you that."
Joe showed me the Monkey's Claw afterwards, and it is a beautiful thing, but it was not a bit like Simpson's. Simpson must have started badly, and I think he used too much rope. After about twenty minutes there was hardly any of him visible at all.
"Take your time, Houdini," said Archie, "take your time. Just let us know when you're ready to be put into the safe, that's all."
"You would hardly think, to look at him now," I said a minute later, "that one day he'll be a dear little butterfly."
"Where's the sealing-wax, Maria? You know, I'm certain he'll never go for threepence."
"What I say is, it's simply hypnotic suggestion. There's no rope there at all, really."
An anxious silence followed.
"No," said Simpson suddenly, "I'm doing it wrong."
"From to-night," said Archie, after tea, "you will be put on rations. One cobnut and a thimbleful of sherry wine per diem. I hope somebody's brought a thimble."
"There really isn't so very much left," said Dahlia.
"Then we shall have to draw lots who is to be eaten."
"Don't we eat our boots and things first?" asked Myra.
"The doctor says I mustn't have anything more solid than a lightly-boiled shoe-lace the last thing at night."
"After all, there's always the dinghy," said Archie. "If we put in a tin of corned beef and a compass and a keg of gunpowder, somebody might easily row in and post the letters. Personally, as captain, I must stick to my ship."
"There's another way I've just thought of," I said. "Let's sail in."
I pointed out to sea, and there, unmistakably, was the least little breeze coming over the waters. A minute later and our pennant napped once Simpson moistened a finger and held it up.
The sprint for home had begun.
III.—A DAY ASHORE
"Well, which is it to be?" asked Archie.
"Just whichever you like," said Dahlia, "only make up your minds."
"Well, I can do you a very good line in either. I've got a lot of sea in the front of the house, and there's the Armadillo straining at the leash; and I've had some land put down at the back of the house, and there's the Silent-Knight eating her carburettor off in the kennels."
"Oh, what can ail thee, Silent-Knight, alone and palely loitering?" asked Simpson. "Keats," he added kindly.
"Ass (Shakespeare)," I said.
"Of course, if we sailed," Simpson went on eagerly, "and we got becalmed again, I could teach you chaps signalling."
Archie looked from one to the other of us.
"I think that settles it," he said, and went off to see about the motor.
"Little Chagford," said Archie, as he slowed down. "Where are we going to, by the way?"
"I thought we'd just go on until we found a nice place for lunch."
"And then on again till we found a nice place for tea," added Myra.
"And so home to dinner," I concluded.
"Speaking for myself—" began Simpson.
"Oh, why not?"
"I should like to see a church where Katharine of Aragon or somebody was buried."
"Samuel's morbid craving for sensation—"
"Wait till we get back to London, and I'll take you to Madame Tussaud's, Mr Simpson."
"Well, I think he's quite right," said Dahlia. "There is an old Norman church, I believe, and we ought to go and see it. The Philistines needn't come in if they don't want to."
"Philistines!" I said indignantly. "Well, I'm—"
"Agagged," suggested Archie. "Oh no, he was an Amalekite."
"You've lived in the same country as this famous old Norman church for years and years and years, and you care so little about it that you've never been to see it and aren't sure whether it was Katharine of Aragon or Alice-for-short who was buried here, and now that you HAVE come across it by accident you want to drive up to it in a brand-new 1910 motor-car, with Simpson in his 1910 gent.'s fancy vest knocking out the ashes of his pipe against the lych-gate as he goes in. ... And that's what it is to be one of the elect!"
"Little Chagford's noted back-chat comedians," commented Archie. "Your turn, Dahlia."
"There was once a prince who was walking in a forest near his castle one day—that's how all the nice stories begin—and he suddenly came across a beautiful maiden, and he said to himself, 'I've lived here for years and years and years, and I've never seen her before, and I'm not sure whether her name is Katharine or Alice, or where her uncle was buried, and I've got a new surcoat on which doesn't match her wimple at all, so let's leave her and go home to lunch....' And THAT'S what it is to be one of the elect!"
"Don't go on too long," said Archie. "There are the performing seals to come after you."
I jumped out of the car and joined her in the road.
"Dahlia, I apologize," I said. "You are quite right. We will visit this little church together, and see who was buried there."
Myra looked up from the book she had been studying, Jovial Jaunts Round Jibmouth.
"There isn't a church at Little Chagford," she said. "At least there wasn't two years ago, when this book was published. So that looks as though it can't be VERY early Norman."
"Then let's go on," said Archie, after a deep silence.
We found a most delightful little spot (which wasn't famous for anything) for lunch, and had the baskets out of the car in no time.
"Now, are you going to help get things ready," asked Myra, "or are you going to take advantage of your sex and watch Dahlia and me do all the work?"
"I thought women always liked to keep the food jobs for themselves," I said. "I know I'm never allowed in the kitchen at home. Besides, I've got more important work to do—I'm going to make the fire."
"You can't really lead the simple life and feel at home with Nature until you have laid a fire of twigs and branches, rubbed two sticks together to procure a flame, and placed in the ashes the pemmican or whatever it is that falls to your rifle."
"Well, I did go out to look for pemmican this morning, but there were none rising."
"Then I shall have my ham sandwich hot."
"Bread, butter, cheese, eggs, sandwiches, fruit," catalogued Dahlia, as she took them out; "what else do you want?"
"I'm waiting here for cake," I said.
"Bother, I forgot the cake."
"Look here, this picnic isn't going with the swing that one had looked for. No pemmican, no cake, no early Norman church. We might almost as well be back in the Cromwell Road."
"Does your whole happiness depend on cake?" asked Myra scornfully.
"To a large extent it does. Archie," I called out, "there's no cake."
Archie stopped patting the car and came over to us. "Good. Let's begin," he said; "I'm hungry."
"You didn't hear. I said there WASN'T any cake—on the contrary, there is an entire absence of it, a shortage, a vacuum, not to say a lacuna. In the place where it should be there is an aching void or mere hard-boiled eggs or something of that sort. I say, doesn't ANYBODY mind, except me?"
Apparently nobody did, so that it was useless to think of sending Archie back for it. Instead, I did a little wrist-work with the corkscrew....
"Now," said Archie, after lunch, "before you all go off with your butterfly nets, I'd better say that we shall be moving on at about half-past three. That is, unless one of you has discovered the slot of a Large Cabbage White just then, and is following up the trail very keenly."
"I know what I'm going to do," I said, "if the flies will let me alone."
"Tell me quickly before I guess," begged Myra.
"I'm going to lie on my back and think about—who do you think do the hardest work in the world?"
"Then I shall think about stevedores."
"Are you sure," asked Simpson, "that you wouldn't like me to show you that signalling now?"
I closed my eyes. You know, I wonder sometimes what it is that makes a picnic so pleasant. Because all the important things, the eating and the sleeping, one can do anywhere.
IV.—IN THE WET
Myra gazed out of the window upon the driving rain and shook her head at the weather.
"Ugh!" she said. "Ugly!"
"Beast," I added, in order that there should be no doubt about what we thought. "Utter and deliberate beast."
We had arranged for a particularly pleasant day. We were to have sailed across to the mouth of the—I always forget its name, and then up the river to the famous old castle of-of-no, it's gone again; but anyhow, there was to have been a bathe in the river, and lunch, and a little exploration in the dinghy, and a lesson in the Morse code from Simpson, and tea in the woods with a real fire, and in the cool of the evening a ripping run home before the wind. But now the only thing that seemed certain was the cool of the evening.
"We'll light a fire and do something indoors," said Dahlia.
"This is an extraordinary house," said Archie. "There isn't a single book in it, except a lot of Strand Magazines for 1907. That must have been a very wet year."
"We can play games, dear."
"True, darling. Let's do a charade."
"The last time I played charades," I said, "I was Horatius, the front part of Elizabeth's favourite palfrey, the arrow which shot Rufus, Jonah, the two little Princes in the Tower, and Mrs Pankhurst."
"Which was your favourite part?" asked Myra.
"The front part of the palfrey. But I was very good as the two little Princes."
"It's no good doing charades, if there's nobody to do them to."
"Thomas is coming to-morrow," said Myra. "We could tell him all about it."
"Clumps is a jolly good game," suggested Simpson.
"The last time I was a clump," I said, "I was the first coin paid on account of the last pair of boots, sandals, or whatnot of the man who laid the first stone of the house where lived the prettiest aunt of the man who reared the goose which laid the egg from which came the goose which provided the last quill pen used by the third man Shakespeare met on the second Wednesday in June, 1595."
"He mightn't have had an aunt," said Myra, after a minute's profound thought.
"Well, anyhow, one way and another you've had a very adventurous career, my lad," said Archie. "What happened the last time you played ludo?"
"When I played clumps," put in Simpson, "I was the favourite spoke of Hall Caine's first bicycle. They guessed Hall Caine and the bicycle and the spoke very quickly, but nobody thought of suggesting the favourite spoke."
Myra went to the window again, and came back with the news that it would probably be a fine evening.
"Thank you," we all said.
"But I wasn't just making conversation. I have an idea."
"Silence for Myra's idea."
"Well, it's this. If we can't do anything without an audience, and if the audience won't come to us, let's go to them."
"Be a little more lucid, there's a dear. It isn't that we aren't trying."
"Well then, let's serenade the other houses about here to-night."
There was a powerful silence while everybody considered this.
"Good," said Archie at last. "We will."
The rest of the morning and all the afternoon were spent in preparations. Archie and Myra were all right; one plays the banjo and the other the guitar. (It is a musical family, the Mannerings.) Simpson keeps a cornet which he generally puts in his bag, but I cannot remember anyone asking him to play it. If the question has ever arisen, he has probably been asked not to play it. However, he would bring it out to-night. In any case he has a tolerable voice; while Dahlia has always sung like an angel. In short, I was the chief difficulty.
"I suppose there wouldn't be time to learn the violin?" I asked.
"Why didn't they teach you something when you were a boy?" wondered Myra.
"They did. But my man forgot to put it in my bag when he packed. He put in two tooth-brushes and left out the triangle. Do you think there's a triangle shop in the village? I generally play on an isosceles one, any two sides of which are together greater than the third. Likewise the angles which are opposite to the adjacent sides, each to each."
"Well, you must take the cap round for the money."
"I will. I forgot to say that my own triangle at home, the Strad, is in the chromatic scale of A, and has a splice. It generally gets the chromatics very badly in the winter."
While the others practised their songs, I practised taking the cap round, and by tea-time we all knew our parts perfectly. I had received permission to join in the choruses, and I was also to be allowed to do a little dance with Myra. When you think that I had charge of the financial arrangements as well, you can understand that I felt justified in considering myself the leader of the troupe.
"In fact," I said, "you ought to black your faces so as to distinguish yourselves from me."
"We won't black our faces," said Dahlia, "but we'll wear masks; and we might each carry a little board explaining why we're doing this."
"Right," said Archie; and he sat down and wrote a notice for himself—
"I AM AN ORPHAN. SO ARE THE OTHERS, BUT THEY ARE NOT SO ORPHAN AS I AM. I AM EXTREMELY FREQUENT."
"WE ARE DOING THIS FOR AN ADVERTISEMENT. IF YOU LIKE US, SEND A SHILLING FOR A FREE SAMPLE CONCERT, MENTIONING THIS PAPER. YOUR MONEY BACK IF WE ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH IT."
"WORLD'S LONG DISTANCE CORNETIST. HOLDER OF THE OBOE RECORD ON GRASS. RUNNER-UP IN THE OCARINA WELTER WEIGHTS (STRANGLE HOLD BARRED). MIXED ZITHER CHAMPION (1907, COVERED COURTS)."
"KIND FRIENDS, HELP US. WE WERE WRECKED THIS AFTERNOON. THE CORNET WAS SINKING FOR THE THIRD TIME WHEN IT WAS RESCUED, AND HAD TO BE BROUGHT ROUND BY ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATION. CAN YOU SPARE US A DRINK OF WATER?"
As for myself I had to hand the Simpson yachting cap round, and my notice said—
"WE WANT YOUR MONEY. IF YOU CANNOT GIVE US ANY, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE KEEP THE CAP."
We had an early dinner, so as to be in time to serenade our victims when they were finishing their own meal and feeling friendly to the world. Then we went upstairs and dressed. Dahlia and Myra had kimonos, Simpson put on his dressing-gown, in which he fancies himself a good deal, and Archie and I wore brilliantly-coloured pyjamas over our other clothes.
"Let's see," said Simpson, "I start off with 'The Minstrel Boy,' don't I? And then what do we do?"
"Then we help you to escape," said Archie. "After that, Dahlia sings 'Santa Lucia,' and Myra and I give them a duet, and if you're back by then with your false nose properly fixed it might be safe for you to join in the chorus of a coon song. Now then, are we all ready?"
"What's that?" said Myra.
We all listened ... and then we opened the door.
It was pouring.
"Stroke, you're late," said Thomas, butting me violently in the back with his oar.
"My dear Thomas, when you have been in the Admiralty a little longer you will know that 'bow' is not the gentleman who sets the time. What do you suppose would happen at Queen's Hall if the second bird-call said to the conductor, 'Henry, you're late'?"
"The whole gallery would go out and get its hair cut," said Archie.
"I'm not used to the Morse system of rowing, that's the trouble," explained Thomas. "Long-short, short-short-long, short-long. You're spelling out the most awful things, if you only knew."
"Be careful how you insult me, Thomas. A little more and I shall tell them what happened to you on the ornamental waters in Regent's Park that rough day."
"Really?" asked Simpson with interest.
"Yes; I fancy he had been rather overdoing it at Swedish drill that morning."
We gave her ten in silence, and then by mutual consent rested on our oars.
"There's a long way yet," said Myra. "Dahlia and I will row if you're tired."
"This is an insult, Thomas. Shall we sit down under it?"
"Yes," said Thomas, getting up; "only in another part of the boat."
We gave up our seats to the ladies (even in a boat one should be polite) and from a position in the stern waited with turned-up coat-collars for the water to come on board.
"We might have sailed up a little higher," remarked Simpson. "It's all right, I'm not a bit wet, thanks."
"It's too shallow, except at high tide," said Myra. "The Armadillo would have gone aground and lost all her—her shell. Do armadilloes have shells, or what?"
"Well, we're a pretty good bank-holiday crowd for the dinghy," said Archie. "Simpson, if we upset, save the milk and the sandwiches; my wife can swim."
The woods were now beginning to come down to the river on both sides, but on the right a grassy slope broke them at the water's edge for some fifty yards. Thither we rowed, and after a little complicated manoeuvring landed suddenly, Simpson, who was standing in the bows with the boat-hook, being easily the first to reach the shore. He got up quickly, however, apologized, and helped the ladies and the hampers out. Thereafter he was busy for some time, making the dinghy fast with a knot peculiarly his own.
"The first thing to do is to build a palisade to keep the savages off," said Archie, and he stuck the boat-hook into the ground. "After which you are requested to light fires to frighten the wild beasts. The woodbines are very wild at this time of the year."
"We shall have to light a fire anyhow for the tea, so that will be very useful," said the thoughtful Dahlia.
"I myself," I said, "will swim out to the wreck for the musket and the bag of nails."
"As you're going," said Myra, unpacking, "you might get the sugar as well. We've forgotten it."
"Now you've spoilt my whole holiday. It was bad enough with the cake last week, but this is far, far worse. I shall go into the wood and eat berries."
"It's all right, here it is. Now you're happy again. I wish, if you aren't too busy, you'd go into the wood and collect sticks for the fire."
"I am unusually busy," I said, "and there is a long queue of clients waiting for me in the ante-room. An extremely long queue—almost a half-butt in fact."
I wandered into the wood alone. Archie and Dahlia had gone arm-in-arm up the hill to look at a view, Simpson was helping Myra with the hampers, and Thomas, the latest arrival from town, was lying on his back, telling them what he alleged to be a good story now going round London. Myra told it to me afterwards, and we agreed that as a boy it had gone round the world several times first. Yet I heard her laugh unaffectedly—what angels women are!
Ten minutes later I returned with my spoil, and laid it before them.
"A piece of brown bread from the bread-fruit tree, a piece of indiarubber from the mango tree, a chutney from the banana grove, and an omelet from the turtle run, I missed the chutney with my first barrel, and brought it down rather luckily with the ricochet."
"But how funny; they all look just like sticks of wood."
"That is Nature's plan of protective colouring. In the same way apricots have often escaped with their lives by sitting in the cream and pretending to be poached eggs."
"The same instinct of self-preservation," added Archie, "has led many a pill called Beauchamp to pronounce its name Cholmondeley."
Simpson begged to be allowed to show us how to light a fire, and we hadn't the heart to refuse him. It was, he said, the way they lit fires on the veldt (and other places where they wanted fires), and it went out the first time because the wind must have changed round after he had begun to lay the wood. He got the draught in the right place the next time, and for a moment we thought we should have to take to the boats; but the captain averted a panic, and the fire was got under. Then the kettle was put on, and of all the boiled water I have ever tasted this was the best.
"You know," said Archie, "in Simpson the nation has lost a wonderful scoutmaster."
"Oh, Samuel," cried Myra, "tell us how you tracked the mules that afternoon, and knew they were wounded because of the blood."
"Tell us about that time when you bribed the regimental anchovy of Troop B to betray the secret password to you."
"I ignore you because you're jealous. May I have some more tea, Miss Mannering?"
"Call me Myra, Scoutmaster Simpson of The Spectator troop, and you shall."
"I blush for my unblushing sex," said Dahlia.
"I blush for my family," said Archie. "That a young girl of gentle birth, nurtured in a peaceful English home, brought up in an atmosphere of old-world courtesy, should so far forget herself as to attempt to wheedle a promising young scoutmaster, who can light a fire, practically speaking, backwards—this, I repeat, is too much."
It was Thomas who changed the subject so abruptly.
"I suppose the tide comes as far as this?" he said.
"It does, captain."
"Then that would account for the boat having gone."
"That and Simpson's special knot," I said, keeping calm for the sake of the women and children.
Archie jumped up with a shout. The boat was about twenty yards from the shore, going very slowly upstream.
"It's very bad to bathe just after a heavy meal," I reminded him.
"I'm not sure that I'm going to, but I'm quite sure that one of us will have to."
"Walk up the river with it," said Myra, "while Dahlia and I pack, and the one who's first digested goes in."
We walked up. I felt that in my own case the process of assimilation would be a lengthy one.
VI.—A LITTLE CRICKET FOR AN ENDING
We came back from a "Men Only" sail to find Myra bubbling over with excitement.
"I've got some news for you," she said, "but I'm not going to tell you till dinner. Be quick and change."
"Bother, she's going to get married," I murmured.
Myra gurgled and drove us off.
"Put on all your medals and orders, Thomas," she called up the stairs; "and, Archie, it's a champagne night."
"I believe, old fellow," said Simpson, "she's married already."
Half an hour later we were all ready for the news.
"Just a moment, Myra," said Archie. "I'd better warn you that we're expecting a good deal, and that if you don't live up to the excitement you've created, you'll be stood in the corner for the rest of dinner."
"She's quite safe," said Dahlia.
"Of course I am. Well, now I'm going to begin. This morning, about eleven, I went and had a bathe, and I met another girl in the sea."
"Horribly crowded the sea is getting nowadays," commented Archie.
"And she began to talk about what a jolly day it was and so on, and I gave her my card—I mean I said, 'I'm Myra Mannering.' And she said, 'I'm sure you're keen on cricket.'"
"I like the way girls talk in the sea," said Archie. "So direct."
"What is there about our Myra," I asked, "that stamps her as a cricketer, even when she's only got her head above water?"
"She'd seen me on land, silly. Well, we went on talking, and at last she said, 'Will you play us at mixed cricket on Saturday?' And a big wave came along and went inside me just as I was saying yes."
"Hooray! Myra, your health."
"We're only six, though," added Archie. "Didn't you swim up against anybody else who looked like a cricketer and might play for us?"
"But we can easily pick up five people by Saturday," said Myra confidently. "And oh, I do hope we're in form; we haven't played for years."
. . . . . . .
We lost the toss, and Myra led her team out on to the field. The last five places in the eleven had been filled with care: a preparatory school-boy and his little sister (found by Dahlia on the beach), Miss Debenham (found by Simpson on the road with a punctured bicycle), Mrs Oakley (found by Archie at the station and re-discovered by Myra in the Channel), and Sarah, a jolly girl of sixteen (found by me and Thomas in the tobacconist's, where she was buying The Sportsman).
"Where would you all like to field?" asked the captain.
"Let's stand round in groups, just at the start, and then see where we're wanted. Who's going to bowl?"
"Me and Samuel. I wonder if I dare bowl over-hand."
"I'm going to," said Simpson.
"You can't, not with your left hand."
"Why not? Hirst does."
"Then I shan't field point," said Thomas with decision.
However, as it happened, it was short leg who received the first two balls, beautiful swerving wides, while the next two were well caught and returned by third man. Simpson's range being thus established, he made a determined attack on the over proper with lobs, and managed to wipe off half of it. Encouraged by this, he returned with such success to overhand that the very next ball got into the analysis, the batsman reaching out and hitting it over the hedge for six. Two more range-finders followed before Simpson scored another dot with a sneak; and then, at what should have been the last ball, a tragedy occurred.
"Wide," said the umpire.
"But—but I was b-bowling UNDERHAND," stammered Simpson.
"Now you've nothing to fall back on," I pointed out.
Simpson considered the new situation. "Then you fellows can't mind if I go on with overhand," he said joyfully, and he played his twelfth.
It was the batsman's own fault. Like a true gentleman he went after the ball, caught it up near point, and hit it hard in the direction of cover. Sarah shot up a hand unconcernedly.
"One for six," said Simpson, and went over to Miss Debenham to explain how he did it.
"He must come off," said Archie. "We have a reputation to keep up. It's his left hand, of course, but we can't go round to all the spectators and explain that he can really bowl quite decent long hops with his right."
In the next over nothing much happened, except that Miss Debenham missed a sitter. Subsequently Simpson caught her eye from another part of the field, and explained telegraphically to her how she should have drawn her hands in to receive the ball. The third over was entrusted to Sarah.
"So far," said Dahlia, half an hour later, "the Rabbits have not shone. Sarah is doing it all."
"Hang it, Dahlia, Thomas and I discovered the child. Give the credit where it is due."
"Well, why don't you put my Bobby on, then? Boys are allowed to play right-handed, you know."
So Bobby went on, and with Sarah's help finished off the innings.
"Jolly good rot," he said to Simpson, "you're having to bowl left-handed."
"My dear Robert," I said, "Mr Simpson is a natural base-ball pitcher, he has an acquired swerve at bandy, and he is a lepidopterist of considerable charm. But he can't bowl with either hand."
"Coo!" said Bobby.
The allies came out even more strongly when we went in to bat. I was the only Rabbit who made ten, and my whole innings was played in an atmosphere of suspicion very trying to a sensitive man. Mrs Oakley was in when I took guard, and I played out the over with great care, being morally bowled by every ball. At the end of it a horrible thought occurred to me: I had been batting right-handed! Naturally I changed round for my next ball. (Movements of surprise.)
"Hallo," said the wicket-keeper, "I thought you were left-handed; why aren't you playing right?"
"No, I'm really right-handed," I said. "I played that way by mistake just now. Sorry."
He grunted sceptically, and the bowler came up to have things explained to her. The next ball I hit left-handed for six. (LOUD MUTTERS.)
"Is he really right-handed?" the bowler asked Mrs Oakley.
"I don't know," she said, "I've never seen him before." (SENSATION.)
"I think, if you don't mind, we'd rather you played right-handed."
"Certainly." The next ball was a full pitch, and I took a right-handed six. There was an awful hush. I looked round at the field and prepared to run for it. I felt that they suspected me of all the undiscovered crimes of the year.
"Look here," I said, nearly crying, "I'll play any way you like—sideways, or upside down, or hanging on to the branch of a tree, or—"
The atmosphere was too much for me. I trod on my wickets, burst into tears, and bolted to the tent.
. . . . . . .
"Well," said Dahlia, "we won."
"Yes," we all agreed, "we won."
"Even if we didn't do much of it ourselves," Simpson pointed out, "we had jolly good fun."
"We always have THAT," said Myra.
I.—WORK FOR ALL
"Well," said Dahlia, "what do you think of it?"
I knocked the ashes out of my after-breakfast pipe, arranged the cushions of my deck-chair, and let my eyes wander lazily over the house and its surroundings. After a year of hotels and other people's houses, Dahlia and Archie had come into their own.
"I've no complaints," I said happily.
A vision of white and gold appeared in the doorway and glided over the lawn toward us—Myra with a jug.
"None at all," said Simpson, sitting up eagerly.
"But Thomas isn't quite satisfied with one of the bathrooms, I'm afraid. I heard him saying something in the passage about it this morning when I was inside."
"I asked if you'd gone to sleep in the bath," explained Thomas.
"I hadn't. It is practically impossible, Thomas, to go to sleep in a cold bath."
"Except, perhaps, for a Civil Servant," said Blair.
"Exactly. Of the practice in the Admiralty Thomas can tell us later on. For myself I was at the window looking at the beautiful view."
"Why can't you look at it from your own window instead of keeping people out of the bathroom?" grunted Thomas.
"Because the view from my room is an entirely different one."
"There is no stint in this house," Dahlia pointed out.
"No," said Simpson, jumping up excitedly.
Myra put the jug of cider down in front of us.
"There!" she said. "Please count it, and see that I haven't drunk any on the way."
"This is awfully nice of you, Myra. And a complete surprise to all of us except Simpson. We shall probably be here again to-morrow about the same time."
There was a long silence, broken only by the extremely jolly sound of liquid falling from a height.
Just as it was coming to an end Archie appeared suddenly among us and dropped on the grass by the side of Dahlia. Simpson looked guiltily at the empty jug, and then leant down to his host.
"TO-MORROW!" he said in a stage whisper. "ABOUT THE SAME TIME."
"I doubt it," said Archie.
"I know it for a fact," protested Simpson.
"I'm afraid Myra and Samuel made an assignation for this morning," said Dahlia.
"There's nothing in it, really," said Myra. "He's only trifling with me. He doesn't mean anything."
Simpson buried his confused head in his glass, and proceeded to change the subject.
"We all like your house, Archie," he said.
"We do," I agreed, "and we think it's very nice of you to ask us down to open it."
"It is rather," said Archie.
"We are determined, therefore, to do all we can to give the house a homey appearance. I did what I could for the bathroom this morning. I flatter myself that the taint of newness has now been dispelled."
"I was sure it was you," said Myra. "How do you get the water right up the walls?"
"Easily. Further, Archie, if you want any suggestions as to how to improve the place, our ideas are at your disposal."
"For instance," said Thomas, "where do we play cricket?"
"By the way, you fellows," announced Simpson, "I've given up playing cricket."
We all looked at him in consternation.
"Do you mean you've given up BOWLING?" said Dahlia, with wide-open eyes.
"Aren't you ever going to walk to the wickets again?" asked Blair.
"Aren't you ever going to walk back to the pavilion again?" asked Archie.
"What will Montgomeryshire say?" wondered Myra in tones of awe.
"May I have your belt and your sand-shoes?" I begged.
"It's the cider," said Thomas. "I knew he was overdoing it."
Simpson fixed his glasses firmly on his nose and looked round at us benignly.
"I've given it up for golf," he observed.
"Traitor," said everyone.
"And the Triangular Tournament arranged for, and everything," added Myra.
"You could make a jolly little course round here," went on the infatuated victim. "If you like, Archie, I'll—"
Archie stood up and made a speech.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "at 11.30 to-morrow precisely I invite you to the paddock beyond the kitchen-garden."
"Myra and I have an appointment," put in Simpson hastily.
"A net will be erected," Archie went on, ignoring him, "and Mr Simpson will take his stand therein, while we all bowl at him—or, if any prefer it, at the wicket—for five minutes. He will then bowl at us for an hour, after which he will have another hour's smart fielding practice. If he is still alive and still talks about golf, why then, I won't say but what he mightn't be allowed to plan out a little course—or, at any rate, to do a little preliminary weeding."
"Good man," said Simpson.
"And if anybody else thinks he has given up cricket for ludo or croquet or oranges and lemons, then he can devote himself to planning out a little course for that too—or anyhow to removing a few plantains in preparation for it. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, all I want is for you to make yourselves as happy and as useful as you can."
"It's what you're here for," said Dahlia.
II.—A GALA PERFORMANCE
THE sun came into my room early next morning and woke me up. It was followed immediately by a large blue-bottle which settled down to play with me. We adopted the usual formation, the blue-bottle keeping mostly to the back of the court whilst I waited at the net for a kill. After two sets I decided to change my tactics. I looked up at the ceiling and pretended I wasn't playing. The blue-bottle settled on my nose and walked up my forehead. "Heavens!" I cried, clasping my hand suddenly to my brow, "I've forgotten my toothbrush!" This took it completely by surprise, and I removed its corpse into the candlestick.
Then Simpson came in with a golf club in his hand.
"Great Scott," he shouted, "you're not still in bed?"
"I am not. This is telepathic suggestion. You think I'm in bed; I appear to be in bed; in reality there is no bed here. Do go away—I haven't had a wink of sleep yet."
"But, man, look at the lovely morning!"
"Simpson," I said sternly, rolling up the sleeves of my pyjamas with great deliberation, "I have had one visitor already to-day. His corpse is now in the candlestick. It is an omen, Simpson."
"I thought you'd like to come outside with me, and I'd show you my swing."
"Yes, yes, I shall like to see that, but AFTER breakfast, Simpson. I suppose one of the gardeners put it up for you? You must show me your box of soldiers and your tricycle horse, too. But run away now, there's a good boy."
"My golf-swing, idiot."
I sat up in bed and stared at him in sheer amazement. For a long time words wouldn't come to me. Simpson backed nervously to the door.
"I saw the Coronation," I said at last, and I dropped back on my pillow and went to sleep.
. . . . . .
"I feel very important," said Archie, coming on to the lawn where Myra and I were playing a quiet game of bowls with the croquet balls. "I've been paying the wages."
"Archie and I do hate it so," said Dahlia. "I'm luckier, because I only pay mine once a month."
"It would be much nicer if they did it for love," said Archie, "and just accepted a tie-pin occasionally. I never know what to say when I hand a man eighteen-and-six."
"Here's eighteen-and-six," I suggested, "and don't bite the half-sovereign, because it may be bad."
"You should shake his hand," said Myra, "and say, 'Thank you very much for the azaleas.'"
"Or you might wrap the money up in paper and leave it for him in one of the beds."
"And then you'd know whether he had made it properly."
"Well, you're all very helpful," said Archie. "Thank you extremely. Where are the others? It's a pity that they should be left out of this."
"Simpson disappeared after breakfast with his golf-clubs. He is in high dudgeon—which is the surname of a small fish—because no one wanted to see his swing."
"Oh, but I do," said Dahlia eagerly. "Where is he?"
"We will track him down," announced Archie. "I will go to the stables, unchain the truffle-hounds, and show them one of his reversible cuffs."
We found Simpson in the pig-sty. The third hole, as he was planning it out for Archie, necessitated the carrying of the farm buildings, which he described as a natural hazard. Unfortunately, his ball had fallen into a casual pig-sty. It had not yet been decided whether the ball could be picked out without penalty—the more immediate need being to find the blessed thing. So Simpson was in the pig-sty, searching.
"If you're looking for the old sow," I said, "there she is, just behind you."
"What's the local rule about loose pigs blown on to the course?" asked Archie.
"Oh, you fellows, there you are," said Simpson rapidly. "I'm getting on first-rate. This is the third hole, Archie. It will be rather good, I think; the green is just the other side of the pond. I can make a very sporting little course."
"We've come to see your swing, Samuel," said Myra. "Can you do it in there, or is it too crowded?"
"I'll come out. This ball's lost, I'm afraid."
"One of the little pigs will eat it," complained Archie, "and we shall have indiarubber crackling."
Simpson came out and proceeded to give his display. Fortunately the weather kept fine, the conditions indeed being all that could be desired. The sun shone brightly, and there was a slight breeze from the south which tempered the heat and in no way militated against the general enjoyment. The performance was divided into two parts. The first part consisted of Mr Simpson's swing WITHOUT the ball, the second part being devoted to Mr Simpson's swing WITH the ball.
"This is my swing," said Simpson.
He settled himself ostentatiously into his stance and placed his club-head stiffly on the ground three feet away from him.
"Middle," said Archie.
Simpson frowned and began to waggle his club. He waggled it carefully a dozen times.
"It's a very nice swing," said Myra at the end of the ninth movement, "but isn't it rather short?"
Simpson said nothing, but drew his club slowly and jerkily back, twisting his body and keeping his eye fixed on an imaginary ball until the back of his neck hid it from sight.
"You can see it better round this side now," suggested Archie.
"He'll split if he goes on," said Thomas anxiously.
"Watch this," I warned Myra. "He's going to pick a pin out of the back of his calf with his teeth."
Then Simpson let himself go, finishing up in a very creditable knot indeed.
"That's quite good," said Dahlia. "Does it do as well when there's a ball?"
"Well, I miss it sometimes, of course."
"We all do that," said Thomas.
Thus encouraged, Simpson put down a ball and began to address it. It was apparent at once that the last address had been only his telegraphic one; this was the genuine affair. After what seemed to be four or five minutes there was a general feeling that some apology was necessary. Simpson recognized this himself.
"I'm a little nervous," he said.
"Not so nervous as the pigs are," said Archie.
Simpson finished his address and got on to his swing. He swung. He hit the ball. The ball, which seemed to have too much left-hand side on it, whizzed off and disappeared into the pond. It sank....
Luckily the weather had held up till the last.
"Well, well," said Archie, "it's time for lunch. We have had a riotous morning. Let's all take it easy this afternoon."
Sometimes I do a little work in the morning. Doctors are agreed now that an occasional spell of work in the morning doesn't do me any harm. My announcement at breakfast that this was one of the mornings was greeted with a surprised enthusiasm which was most flattering. Archie offered me his own room where he does his thinking; Simpson offered me a nib; and Dahlia promised me a quiet time till lunch. I thanked them all and settled down to work.
But Dahlia didn't keep her promise. My first hour was peaceful, but after that I had inquiries by every post. Blair looked in to know where Myra was; Archie asked if I'd seen Dahlia anywhere; and when finally Thomas's head appeared in the doorway I decided that I had had enough of it.
"Oh, I say," began Thomas, "will you come and—but I suppose you're busy."
"Not too busy," I said, "to spare a word or two for an old friend," and I picked up the dictionary to throw at him. But he was gone before I could take aim.
"This is the end," I said to myself, and after five minutes more decided to give up work and seek refreshment and congenial conversation. To my surprise I found neither. Every room seemed to be empty, the tennis lawn was deserted, and Archie's cricket-bag and Simpson's golf-clubs rested peacefully in the hall. Something was going on. I went back to my work and decided to have the secret out at lunch.
"Now then," I said, when that blessed hour arrived, "tell me about it. You've deserted me all morning, but I'm not going to be left out."
"It's your fault for shutting yourself up."
"Duty," I said, slapping my chest—"duty," and I knocked my glass over with an elbow. "Oh, Dahlia, I'm horribly sorry. May I go and stand in the corner?"
"Let's talk very fast and pretend we didn't notice it," said Myra, helping me to mop. "Go on, Archie."
"Well, it's like this," said Archie. "A little while ago the Vicar called here."
"I don't see that that's any reason for keeping me in the background. I have met clergymen before and I know what to say to them."
"When I say a little while ago I mean about three weeks. We'd have asked you down for the night if we'd known you were so keen on clergymen. Well, as the result of that unfortunate visit, the school treat takes place here this afternoon, and lorblessme if I hadn't forgotten all about it till this morning."
"You'll have to help, please," said Dahlia.
"Only don't spill anything," said Thomas.
They have a poor sense of humour in the Admiralty.
. . . . . . .
I took a baby in each hand and wandered off to look for bees. Their idea, not mine.
"The best bees are round here," I said, and I led them along to the front of the house. On the lawn was Myra, surrounded by about eight babies.
"Two more for your collection," I announced. "Very fine specimens. The word with them is bees."
"Aren't they darlings? Sit down, babies, and the pretty gentleman will tell us all a story."
"Meaning me?" I asked in surprise. Myra looked beseechingly at me as she arranged the children all round her. I sat down near them and tried to think.
"Once upon a time," I said, "there was a—a—there was a—was a—a bee."
Myra nodded approvingly. She seemed to like the story so far. I didn't. The great dearth of adventures that could happen to a bee was revealed to me in a flash. I saw that I had been hasty.
"At least," I went on, "he thought he was a bee, but as he grew up his friends felt that he was not really a bee at all, but a dear little rabbit. His fur was too long for a bee."
Myra shook her head at me and frowned. My story was getting over-subtle for the infant mind. I determined to straighten it out finally.
"However," I added, "the old name stuck to him, and they all called him a bee. Now then I can get on. Where was I?"
But at this moment my story was interrupted.
"Come here," shouted Archie from the distance. "You're wanted."
"I'm sorry," I said, getting up quickly. "Will you finish the story for me? You'd better leave out the part where he stings the Shah of Persia. That's too exciting. Good-bye." And I hurried after Archie.
"Help Simpson with some of these races," said Archie. "He's getting himself into the dickens of a mess."
Simpson had started two races simultaneously; hence the trouble. In one of them the bigger boys had to race to a sack containing their boots, rescue their own pair, put them on, and race back to the starting-point. Good! In the other the smaller boys, each armed with a paper containing a problem in arithmetic, had to run to their sisters, wait for the problem to be solved, and then run back with the answer. Excellent! Simpson at his most inventive. Unfortunately, when the bootless boys arrived at the turning post, they found nothing but a small problem in arithmetic awaiting them, while on the adjoining stretch of grass young mathematicians were trying, with the help of their sisters, to get into two pairs of boots at once.
"Hallo, there you are," said Simpson. "Do help me; I shall be mobbed in a moment. It's the mothers. They think the whole thing is a scheme for stealing their children's boots. Can't you start a race for them?"
"You never ought to go about without somebody. Where's Thomas?"
"He's playing rounders. He scored a rounder by himself just now from an overthrow, but we shall hear about it at dinner. Look here, there's a game called 'Twos and Threes.' Couldn't you start the mothers at that? You stand in twos, and whenever anyone stands in front of the two then the person behind the two runs away."
"Are you sure?"
"What do you mean?" said Simpson.
"It sounds too exciting to be true. I can't believe it."
"Go on, there's a good chap. They'll know how to play all right."
"Oh, very well. Do they take their boots off first or not?"
Twos and Threes was a great success.
I found that I had quite a FLAIR for the game. I seemed to take to it naturally.
By the time our match was finished Simpson's little footwear trouble was over and he was organizing a grand three-legged race.
"I think they are all enjoying it," said Dahlia.
"They love it," I said; "Thomas is perfectly happy making rounders."
"But I meant the children. Don't you think they love it too? The babies seem so happy with Myra. I suppose she's telling them stories."
"I think so. She's got rather a good one about a bee. Oh, yes, they're happy enough with her."
"I hope they all had enough to eat at tea."
"Allowing for a little natural shyness I think they did well. And I didn't spill anything. Altogether it has been rather a success."
Dahlia stood looking down at the children, young and old, playing in the field beneath her, and gave a sigh of happiness.
"Now," she said, "I feel the house is REALLY warm."
IV.—A WORD IN SEASON
"Archie," said Blair, "what's that big empty room above the billiard-room for?"
"That," said Archie, "is where we hide the corpses of our guests. I sleep with the key under my pillow."
"This is rather sudden," I said. "I'm not at all sure that I should have come if I had known that."
"Don't frighten them, dear; tell them the truth."
"Well, the truth is," said Archie, "that there was some idea of a little play-acting there occasionally. Hence the curtain-rod, the emergency exit and other devices."
"Then why haven't we done any? We came down here to open your house for you, and then you go and lock up the most important room of all, and sleep with the key under your pillow."
"It's too hot. But we'll do a little charade to-night if you like—just to air the place."
"Hooray," said Myra, "I know a lovely word."
Myra's little word was in two syllables and required three performers. Archie and I were kindly included in her company. Simpson threatened to follow with something immense and archaic, and Thomas also had something rather good up his sleeve, but I am not going to bother you with these. One word will be enough for you.
"Oh, good-morning," said Myra. She had added a hat and a sunshade to her evening-frock, and was supported by me in a gentleman's lounge-coat and boater for Henley wear.
"Good-morning, mum," said Archie, hitching up his apron and spreading his hands on the table in front of him.
"I just want this ribbon matched, please."
"Certainly, mum. Won't your little boy—I beg pardon, the old gentleman, take a seat too? What colour did you want the ribbon, mum?"
"The same colour as this," I said. "Idiot."
"Your grandfather is in a bit of a draught, I'm afraid, mum. It always stimulates the flow of language. My grandfather was just the same. I'm afraid, mum, we haven't any ribbon as you might say the SAME colour as this."
"If it's very near it will do."
"Now what colour would you call that?" wondered Archie, with his head on one side. "Kind of puce-like, I should put it at. Puce-magenta, as we say in the trade. No; we're right out of puce- magenta."
"Show the lady what you have got," I said sternly.
"Well, mum, I'm right out of ribbon, altogether. The fact is I'm more of an ironmonger really. The draper's is just the other side of the road. You wouldn't like a garden-roller now? I can do you a nice garden-roller for two pound five, and that's simply giving it away."
"Oh, shall we have a nice roller?" said Myra eagerly.
"I'm not going to carry it home," I said.
"That's all right, sir. My little lad will take it up on his bicycle. Two pounds five, mum, and sixpence for the mouse-trap the gentleman's been sitting on. Say three pounds."
Myra took out her purse.
We were back in our ordinary clothes.
"I wonder if they guessed that," said Archie.
"It was very easy," said Myra. "I should have thought they'd have seen it at once."
"But of course they're not a very clever lot," I explained. "That fellow with the spectacles—"
"Simpson his name is," said Archie. "I know him well. He's a professional golfer."
"Well, he LOOKS learned enough. I expect he knows all right. But the others—"
"Do you think they knew that we were supposed to be in a shop?"
"Surely! Why, I should think even—What's that man's name over there? No; that one next to the pretty lady—ah, yes, Thomas. Is that Thomas, the wonderful cueist, by the way? Really! Well, I should think even Thomas guessed that much."
"Why not do it over again to make sure?"
"Oh no, it was perfectly obvious. Let's get on to the final scene."
"I'm afraid that will give it away rather," said Myra.
"I'm afraid so," agreed Archie.
We sat on camp-stools and looked up at the ceiling with our mouths open.
"'E's late," said Archie.
"I don't believe 'e's coming, and I don't mind 'oo 'ears me sye so," said Myra. "So there!"
"'Ot work," I said, wiping my brow.
"Nar, not up there. Not 'ot. Nice and breezy like."
"But 'e's nearer the sun than wot we are, ain't 'e?"
"Ah, but 'e's not 'ot. Not up there."
"'Ere, there 'e is," cried Myra, jumping up excitedly. "Over there. 'Ow naow, it's a bird. I declare I quite thought it was 'im. Silly of me."
There was silence for a little, and then Archie took a sandwich out of his pocket.
"Wunner wot they'll invent next," he said, and munched stolidly.
. . . . . . .
"Well done," said Dahlia.
"Thomas and I have been trying to guess," said Simpson, "but the strain is terrific. My first idea was 'codfish,' but I suppose that's wrong. It's either 'silkworm' or 'wardrobe.' Thomas suggests 'mangel-wurzel.' He says he never saw anybody who had so much the whole air of a wurzel as Archie. The indefinable elan of the wurzel was there."
"Can't you really guess?" said Myra eagerly.
"I don't know whether I want you to or not. Oh no, I don't want you to."
"Then I withdraw 'mangel-wurzel,'" said Simpson gallantly.
"I think I can guess," said Blair. "It's—"
"Whisper it," said Simpson. "I'm never going to know."
Blair whispered it.
"Yes," said Myra disappointedly, "that's it."
"Nine," said Archie, separating his latest victim from the marmalade spoon and dropping it into the hot water. "This is going to be a sanguinary day. With a pretty late cut into the peach jelly Mr A. Mannering reached double figures. Ten. Battles are being won while Thomas still sleeps. Any advance on ten?"
"Does that include MY wasp?" asked Myra.
"There are only ten here," said Archie, looking into the basin, "and they're all mine. I remember them perfectly. What was yours like?"
"Well, I didn't exactly kill him. I smacked him with a teaspoon and asked him to go away. And he went on to your marmalade, so I expect you thought he was yours. But it was really mine, and I don't think it's very sporting of you to kill another person's wasp."
"Have one of mine," I said, pushing my plate across. "Have Bernard—he's sitting on the green-gage."
"I don't really want to kill anything. I killed a rabbit once and I wished I hadn't."
"I nearly killed a rabbit once, and I wished I had."
"Great sportsmen at a glance," said Archie. "Tell us about it before it goes into your reminiscences."
"It was a fierce affair while it lasted. The rabbit was sitting down and I was standing up, so that I rather had the advantage of him at the start. I waited till he seemed to be asleep and then fired."
"And missed him?"
"Y-yes. He heard the report, though. I mean, you mustn't think he ignored me altogether. I moved him. He got up and went away all right."
"A very lucky escape for you," said Archie. "I once knew a man who was gored to death by an angry rabbit." He slashed in the air with his napkin. "Fifteen. Dahlia, let's have breakfast indoors to-morrow. This is very jolly but it's just as hot, and it doesn't get Thomas up any earlier, as we hoped."
All that day we grilled in the heat. Myra and I started a game of croquet in the morning, but after one shot each we agreed to abandon it as a draw—slightly in my favour, because I had given her the chipped mallet. And in the afternoon, Thomas and Simpson made a great effort to get up enthusiasm for lawn-tennis. Each of them returned the other's service into the net until the score stood at eight all, at which point they suddenly realized that nothing but the violent death of one of the competitors would ever end the match. They went on to ten all to make sure, and then retired to the lemonade and wasp jug, Simpson missing a couple of dead bodies by inches only. And after dinner it was hotter than ever.
"The heat in my room," announced Archie, "breaks all records. The thermometer says a hundred and fifty, the barometer says very dry, we've had twenty-five hours' sunshine, and there's not a drop of rain recorded in the soap-dish. Are we going to take this lying down?"
"No," said Thomas, "let's sleep out to-night."
"What do you say, Dahlia?"
"It's a good idea. You can all sleep on the croquet lawn, and Myra and I will take the tennis lawn."
"Hadn't you better have the croquet lawn? Thomas walks in his sleep, and we don't want to have him going through hoops all night."
"You'll have to bring down your own mattresses," went on Dahlia, "and you've not got to walk about the garden in the early morning, at least not until Myra and I are up, and if you're going to fall over croquet hoops you mustn't make a noise. That's all the rules, I think."
"I'm glad we've got the tennis lawn," said Myra; "it's much smoother. Do you prefer the right-hand court, dear, or the left-hand?"
"We shall be very close to Nature to-night," said Archie. "Now we shall know whether it really is the nightjar, or Simpson gargling."
We were very close to Nature that night, but in the early morning still closer. I was awakened by the noise of Simpson talking, as I hoped, in his sleep. However, it appeared that he was awake and quite conscious of the things he was saying.
"I can't help it," he explained to Archie, who had given expression to the general opinion about it; "these bally wasps are all over me."
"It's your own fault," said Archie. "Why do you egg them on? I don't have wasps all over ME."
"Conf—There! I've been stung."
"You've been what?"
"In the neck."
"In the neck?" Archie turned over to me. "Simpson," he said, "has been stung in the neck. Tell Thomas."
I woke up Thomas. "Simpson," I said, "has been stung in the neck."
"Good," said Thomas, and went to sleep again.
"We've told Thomas," said Archie. "Now, are you satisfied?"
"Get away, you brute," shouted Simpson, suddenly, and dived under the sheet.
Archie and I lay back and shouted with laughter.
"It's really very silly of him," said Archie, "because—go away—because everybody knows that—get away, you ass—that wasps aren't dangerous unless—confound you—unless—I say, isn't it time we got up?"
I came up from under my sheet and looked at my watch. "Four-thirty," I said, dodged a wasp, and went back again.
"We must wait till five-thirty," said Archie. "Simpson was quite right; he WAS stung, after all. I'll tell him so."
He leant out of bed to tell him so, and then thought better of it and retired beneath the sheets.
At five-thirty a gallant little party made its way to the house, its mattresses over its shoulders.
"Gently," said Archie, as we came in sight of the tennis lawn.
We went very gently. There were only wasps on the tennis lawn, but one does not want to disturb the little fellows.
VI.—A FINAL ARRANGEMENT
"Seeing that this is our last day together," began Archie—
"Oh, DON'T," said Myra. "I can't bear it."
"Seeing that this is our first day together, we might have a little tournament of some kind, followed by a small distribution of prizes. What do you think, Dahlia?"
"Well, I daresay I can find something."
"Any old thing that we don't want will do; nothing showy or expensive. Victory is its own reward."
"Yes, but if there IS a pot of home-made marmalade going with it," I said, "so much the better."
"Dahlia, earmark the marmalade for this gentleman. Now, what's it going to be? Golf, Simpson?"
"Why, of course," said Myra. "Hasn't he been getting it ready for days?"
"That will give him an unfair advantage," I pointed out. "He knows every single brick on the greens."
"Oh, I say, there aren't any greens yet," protested Simpson. "That'll take a year or two. But I've marked out white circles and you have to get inside them."
"I saw him doing that," said Archie. "I was afraid he expected us to play prisoners' base with him."
The game fixed upon, we proceeded to draw for partners.
"You'll have to play with me, Archie," said Dahlia, "because I'm no good at all."
"I shall have to play with Myra," I said, "because I'm no good at all."
"Oh, I'm very good," said Myra.
"That looks as though I should have to play with—" "Simpson," "Thomas," said Thomas and Simpson together.
"You're all giving me a lot of trouble," said Archie, putting his pencil back in his pocket. "I've just written your names out neatly on little bits of paper, and now they're all wasted. You'll have to stick them on yourselves so that the spectators will know who you are as you whizz past." He handed his bits of paper round and went in for his clubs.
It was a stroke competition, and each couple went round by itself. Myra and I started last.
"Now we've got to win this," she said, "because we shan't play together again for a long time."
"That's a nice cheery thing to say to a person just when he's driving. Now I shall have to address the ball all over again."
I addressed and despatched the ball. It struck a wall about eighty yards away and dropped. When we got there we found to our disgust that it was nestling at the very foot. Myra looked at it doubtfully.
"Can't you make it climb the wall?" I asked.
"We shall have to go back, I'm afraid. We can pretend we left our pocket-handkerchiefs behind."
She chipped it back about twenty yards, and I sent it on again about a hundred. Unfortunately it landed in a rut. However Myra got it out with great resource, and I was lucky enough with my next to place it inside the magic circle.
"Five," I said. "You know, I don't think you're helping me much. All you did that hole was to go twenty-one yards in the wrong direction."
Myra smiled cheerfully at me and did the next hole in one. "Well played, partner," she said, as he put her club back in its bag.
"Oh, at the short holes I don't deny that you're useful. Where do we go now?"
"Over the barn. This is the long hole."
I got in an excellent drive, but unfortunately it didn't aviate quick enough. While the intrepid spectators were still holding their breath, there was an ominous crash.
"Did you say IN the barn or OVER the barn?" I asked, as we hurried on to find the damage.
"We do play an exciting game, don't we?" said Myra.
We got into the barn and found the ball and a little glass on the floor.
"What a very small hole it made," said Myra, pointing to the broken pane. "What shall I do?"
"You'll have to go back through the hole. It's an awkward little shot."
"I don't think I could."
"No, it IS rather a difficult stroke. You want to stand well behind the ball, and—however, there may be a local rule about it."
"I don't think there is or I should have heard it. Samuel's been telling me EVERYTHING lately."
"Then there's only one thing for it." I pointed to the window at the other end of the barn. "Go straight on."
Myra gave a little gurgle of delight.
"But we shall have to save up our pocket-money," she said.
Her ball hit the wood in between two panes and bounded back. My next shot was just above the glass. Myra took a niblick and got the ball back into the middle of the floor.
"It's simply sickening that we can't break a window when we're really trying to. I should have thought that anyone could have broken a window. Now then."
"Oh, good SHOT!" cried Myra above the crash. We hurried out and did the hole in nine.
At lunch, having completed eighteen holes out of the thirty-six, we were seven strokes behind the leaders, Simpson and Thomas. Simpson, according to Thomas, had been playing like a book. Golf Faults Analysed—that book, I should think.
"But I expect he'll go to pieces in the afternoon," said Thomas. He turned to a servant and added, "Mr Simpson won't have anything more."
We started our second round brilliantly; continued (after an unusual incident on the fifth tee) brilliantly; and ended up brilliantly. At the last tee we had played a hundred and thirty-seven. Myra got in a beautiful drive to within fifty yards of the circle.
"How many?" said the others, coming up excitedly.
"This is terrible," said Myra, putting her hand to her heart. "A hundred and—shall I tell them?—a—a—Oh, dear—a—hundredandthirtyeight."
"Golly," said Thomas, "you've got one for it. We did a hundred and forty."
"We did a hundred and forty-two," said Archie. "Close play at the Oval."
"Oh," said Myra to me, "DO be careful. Oh, but no," she went on quickly, "I don't mind a bit really if we lose. It's only a game. Besides, we—"
"You forget the little pot of home-made marmalade," I said reproachfully. "Dahlia, what ARE the prizes? Because it's just possible that Myra might like the second one better than the first. In that case I should miss this."
"Go on," whispered Myra.
I went on. There was a moment's silence—and then a deep sigh from Myra.
"How about it?" I said calmly.
"Well," said Dahlia, "you and Myra make a very good couple. I suppose I must find a prize for you."
"It doesn't really matter," said Myra breathlessly, "because on the fifth tee we—we arranged about the prizes."
"We arranged to give each other one," I said, smiling at Dahlia.
Dahlia looked very hard at us.
"You DON'T mean—?"
Myra laughed happily.
"Oh," she said, "but that's just what we do."
TEN AND EIGHT
The only event of importance last week was my victory over Henry by ten and eight. If you don't want to hear about that, then I shall have to pass on to you a few facts about his motor bicycle. You'd rather have the other? I thought so.
The difference between Henry and me is that he is what I should call a good golfer, and I am what everybody else calls a bad golfer. In consequence of this he insults me with offers of bisques.
"I'll have ten this time," I said, as we walked to the tee.
"Better have twelve. I beat you with eleven yesterday."
"Thank you," I said haughtily, "I will have ten." It is true that he beat me last time, but then owing to bad management on my part I had nine bisques left at the moment of defeat simply eating their heads off.
Henry teed up and drove a "Pink Spot" out of sight. Henry swears by the "Pink Spot" if there is anything of a wind. I use either a "Quo Vadis," which is splendid for going out of bounds, or an "Ostrich," which has a wonderful way of burying itself in the sand. I followed him to the green at my leisure.
"Five," said Henry.
"Seven," said I; "and if I take three bisques it's my hole."
"You must only take one at a time," protested Henry.
"Why? There's nothing in Wisden or Baedeker about it. Besides, I will only take one at a time if it makes it easier for you. I take one and that brings me down to six, and then another one and that brings me down to five, and then another one and that brings me down to four. There! And as you did the hole in five, I win."
"Well, of course, if you like to waste them all at the start—"
"I'm not wasting them, I'm creating a moral effect. Behold, I have won the first hole; let us be photographed together."
Henry went to the next tee slightly ruffled and topped his ball into the road. I had kept mine well this side of it and won in four to five.
"I shan't take any bisques here," I said. "Two up."
At the third tee my "Quo Vadis" darted off suddenly to the left and tried to climb the hill. I headed it off and gave it a nasty dent from behind when it wasn't looking, and with my next shot started it rolling down the mountains with ever-increasing velocity. Not until it was within a foot of the pin did it condescend to stop. Henry, who had reached the green with his drive and had taken one putt too many, halved the hole in four. I took a bisque and was three up.
The fourth hole was prettily played by both of us, and with two bisques I had it absolutely stiff. Unnerved by this Henry went all out at the fifth and tried to carry the stream in two. Unfortunately (I mean unfortunately for him) the stream was six inches too broad in the particular place at which he tried to carry it. My own view is that he should either have chosen another place or else have got a narrower stream from somewhere. As it was I won in an uneventful six, and took with a bisque the short hole which followed.
"Six up," I pointed out to Henry, "and three bisques left. They're jolly little things, bisques, but you want to use them quickly. Bisque dat qui cito dat. Doesn't the sea look ripping to-day?"
"Go on," growled Henry.
"I once did a two at this hole," I said as I teed my ball. "If I did a two now and took a bisque, you'd have to do it in nothing in order to win. A solemn thought."
At this hole you have to drive over a chasm in the cliffs. My ball made a bee line for the beach, bounced on a rock, and disappeared into a cave. Henry's "Pink Spot," which really seemed to have a chance of winning a hole at last, found the wind too much for it and followed me below.
"I'm in this cave," I said when we had found Henry's ball; and with a lighted match in one hand and a niblick in the other I went in and tried to persuade the "Ostrich" to come out. My eighth argument was too much for it, and we re-appeared in the daylight together.
"How many?" I asked Henry.
"Six," he said, as he hit the top of the cliff once more, and shot back on to the beach.
I left him and chivied my ball round to where the cliffs are lowest; then I got it gradually on to a little mound of sand (very delicate work this), took a terrific swing and fairly heaved it on to the grass. Two more strokes put me on to the green in twenty. I lit a pipe and waited for Henry to finish his game of rackets.
"I've played twenty-five," he shouted.
"Then you'll want some of my bisques," I said. "I can lend you three till Monday."
Henry had one more rally and then picked his ball up. I had won seven holes and I had three bisques with which to win the match. I was a little doubtful if I could do this, but Henry settled the question by misjudging yet again the breadth of the stream. What is experience if it teaches us nothing? Henry must really try to enlarge his mind about rivers.
"Dormy nine," I said at the tenth tee, "and no bisques left."
"Thank Heaven for that," sighed Henry.
"But I have only to halve one hole out of nine," I pointed out. "Technically I am on what is known as velvet."
"Oh, shut up and drive."
I am a bad golfer, but even bad golfers do holes in bogey now and then. In the ordinary way I was pretty certain to halve one of the nine holes with Henry, and so win the match. Both the eleventh and the seventeenth, for instance, are favourites of mine. Had I halved one of those, he would have admitted cheerfully that I had played good golf and beaten him fairly. But as things happened—
What happened, put quite briefly, was this. Bogey for the tenth is four. I hooked my drive off the tee and down a little gully to the left, put a good iron shot into a bunker on the right, and than ran down a hundred-yard putt with a niblick for a three. One of those difficult down-hill putts.
"Luck!" said Henry, as soon as he could speak.
"I've been missing those lately," I said.
"Your match," said Henry; "I can't play against luck like that."
It was true that he had given me ten bisques, but, on the other hand, I could have given him a dozen at the seventh and still have beaten him.
However, I was too magnanimous to point that out. All I said was, "Ten and eight."
And then I added thoughtfully, "I don't think I've ever won by more than that."
"You'll play tennis?" said my hostess absently. "That's right. Let me introduce you to Miss—er—urn."
"Oh, we've met before," smiled Miss—I've forgotten the name again now.
"Thank you," I said gratefully. I thought it was extremely nice of her to remember me. Probably I had spilt lemonade over her at a dance, and in some way the incident had fixed itself in her mind. We do these little things, you know, and think nothing of them at the moment, but all the time—
"Smooth," said a voice.
I looked up and found that a pair of opponents had mysteriously appeared, and that my partner was leading the way on to the court.
"I'll take the right-hand side, if you don't mind," she announced. "Oh, and what about apologizing?" she went on. "Shall we do it after every stroke, or at the end of each game, or when we say good-bye, or never? I get so tired of saying 'sorry.'"
"Oh, but we shan't want to apologize; I'm sure we're going to get on beautifully together."
"I suppose you've played a lot this summer?"
"No, not at all yet, but I'm feeling rather strong, and I've got a new racket. One way and another, I expect to play a very powerful game."
Our male opponent served. He had what I should call a nasty swift service. The first ball rose very suddenly and took my partner on the side of the head. ("Sorry," she apologized. "It's all right," I said magnanimously.) I returned the next into the net; the third clean bowled my partner; and off the last I was caught in the slips. (ONE, LOVE.)
"Will you serve?" said Miss—I wish I could remember her surname. Her Christian name was Hope or Charity or something like that; I know, when I heard it, I thought it was just as well. If I might call her Miss Hope for this once? Thank you.
"Will you serve?" said Miss Hope.
In the right-hand court I use the American service, which means that I never know till the last moment which side of the racket is going to hit the ball. On this occasion it was a dead heat—that is to say, I got it in between with the wood; and the ball sailed away over beds and beds of the most beautiful flowers.
"Oh, is THAT the American service?" said Miss Hope, much interested.
"South American," I explained. "Down in Peru they never use anything else."
In the left-hand court I employ the ordinary Hampstead Smash into the bottom of the net. After four Hampstead Smashes and four Peruvian Teasers (LOVE, TWO) I felt that another explanation was called for.
"I've got a new racket I've never used before," I said. "My old one is being pressed; it went to the shop yesterday to have the creases taken out. Don't you find that with a new racket you—er—exactly."
In the third game we not only got the ball over but kept it between the white lines on several occasions—though not so often as our opponents (THREE, LOVE); and in the fourth game Miss Hope served gentle lobs, while I, at her request, stood close up to the net and defended myself with my racket. I warded off the first two shots amidst applause (THIRTY, LOVE), and dodged the next three (THIRTY, FORTY), but the last one was too quick for me and won the coco-nut with some ease. (GAME. LOVE, FOUR.)
"It's all right, thanks," I said to my partner; "it really doesn't hurt a bit. Now then, let's buck up and play a simply dashing game."
Miss Hope excelled herself in that fifth game, but I was still unable to find a length. To be more accurate, I was unable to find a shortness—my long game was admirably strong and lofty.
"Are you musical?" said my partner at the end of it. (FIVE, LOVE.) She had been very talkative all through.
"Come, come," I said impatiently, "you don't want a song at this very moment. Surely you can wait till the end of the set?"
"Oh, I was only just wondering."
"I quite see your point. You feel that Nature always compensates us in some way, and that as—"
"Oh, no!" said Miss Hope in great confusion. "I didn't mean that at all."
She must have meant it. You don't talk to people about singing in the middle of a game of tennis; certainly not to comparative strangers who have only spilt lemonade over your frock once before. No, no. It was an insult, and it nerved me to a great effort. I discarded—for it was my serve—the Hampstead Smash; I discarded the Peruvian Teaser. Instead, I served two Piccadilly Benders from the right-hand court and two Westminster Welts from the left-hand. The Piccadilly Bender is my own invention. It can only be served from the one court, and it must have a wind against it. You deliver it with your back to the net, which makes the striker think that you have either forgotten all about the game, or else are apologizing to the spectators for your previous exhibition. Then with a violent contortion you slue your body round and serve, whereupon your opponent perceives that you ARE playing, and that it is just one more ordinary fault into the wrong court. So she calls "Fault!" in a contemptuous tone and drops her racket... and then adds hurriedly, "Oh, no, sorry, it wasn't a fault, after all." That being where the wind comes in.
The Westminster Welt is in theory the same as the Hampstead Smash, but goes over the net. One must be in very good form (or have been recently insulted) to bring this off.
Well, we won that game, a breeze having just sprung up; and, carried away by enthusiasm and mutual admiration, we collected another. (FIVE, TWO.) Then it was Miss Hope's serve again.
"Good-bye," I said; "I suppose you want me in the fore-front again?"
"I don't mind HER shots—the bottle of scent is absolutely safe; but I'm afraid he'll win another packet of woodbines."
Miss Hope started off with a double, which was rather a pity, and then gave our masculine adversary what is technically called "one to kill." I saw instinctively that I was the one, and I held my racket ready with both hands. Our opponent, who had been wanting his tea for the last two games, was in no mood of dalliance; he fairly let himself go over this shot. In a moment I was down on my knees behind the net ... and the next moment I saw through the meshes a very strange thing. The other man, with his racket on the ground, was holding his eye with both hands!
"Don't you think," said Miss Hope (TWO, FIVE—ABANDONED), "that your overhead volleying is just a little severe?"
THE OPENING SEASON
"My dear," said Jeremy, as he folded back his paper at the sporting page, "I have some news for you. Cricket is upon us once again."
"There's a nasty cold upon Baby once again," said Mrs Jeremy. "I hope it doesn't mean measles."
"No child of mine would ever have measles," said Jeremy confidently. "It's beneath us." He cleared his throat and read, "'The coming season will be rendered ever memorable by the fact that for the first time in the history of the game—' You'll never guess what's coming."
"Mr Jeremy Smith is expected to make double figures."
Jeremy sat up indignantly.
"Well of all the wifely things to say! Who was top of our averages last year?"
"Plummer. Because you presented the bat to him yourself."
"That proves nothing. I gave myself a bat too, as it happens; and a better one than Plummer's. After all, his average was only 25. Mine, if the weather had allowed me to finish my solitary innings, would probably have been 26."
"As it was, the weather only allowed you to give a chance to the wicket-keeper off the one ball you had."
"I was getting the pace of the pitch," said Jeremy. "Besides, it wasn't really a chance, because our umpire would never have given the treasurer out first ball. There are certain little courtesies which are bound to be observed."
"Then," said his wife, "it's a pity you don't play more often."
Jeremy got up and made a few strokes with the poker.
"One of us is rather stiff," he said. "Perhaps it's the poker. If I play regularly this season will you promise to bring Baby to watch me?"
"Of course we shall both come."
"And you won't let Baby jeer at me if I'm bowled by a shooter."
"She won't know what a shooter is."
"Then you can tell her that it's the only ball that ever bowls father," said Jeremy. He put down the poker and took up a ball of wool. "I shall probably field somewhere behind the wicket-keeper, where the hottest drives don't come; but if I should miss a catch you must point out to her that the sun was in father's eyes. I want my child to understand the game as soon as possible."
"I'll tell her all that she ought to know," said his wife. "And when you've finished playing with my wool I've got something to do with it."
Jeremy gave himself another catch, threw the wool to his wife and drifted out. He came back in ten minutes with his bat under his arm.
"Really, it has wintered rather well," he said, "considering that it has been in the boot cupboard all the time. We ought to have put some camphor in with it, or—I know there's SOMETHING you do to bats in the winter. Anyhow, the splice is still there."