I did itI should have known better. I persuaded Reginald to go to the McKillops garden-party against his will.
We all make mistakes occasionally. They know youre here, and theyll think it so funny if you dont go. And I want particularly to be in with Mrs McKillop just now.
I know, you want one of her smoke Persian Kittens as a prospective wife for Wumplesor a husband, is it? (Reginald has a magnificent scorn for details, other than sartorial.) And I am expected to undergo social martyrdom to suit the connubial exigencies
Reginald Its nothing of the kind, only Im sure Mrs McKillop would be pleased if I brought you. Young men of your brilliant attractions are rather at a premium at her garden-parties.
Should be at a premium in heaven, remarked Reginald complacently.
There will be very few of you there, if that is what you mean. But seriously, there wont be any great strain upon your powers of endurance; I promise you that you shant have to play croquet, or talk to the Archdeacons wife, or do anything that is likely to bring on physical prostration. You can just wear your sweetest clothes and a moderately amiable expression, and eat chocolate-creams with the appetite of a blasé parrot. Nothing more is demanded of you.
Reginald shut his eyes. There will be the exhaustingly up-to-date young women who will ask me if I have seen San Toy; a less progressive grade who will yearn to hear about the Diamond Jubileethe historic event, not the horse. With a little encouragement, they will inquire if I saw the Allies march into Paris. Why are women so fond of raking up the past? Theyre as bad as tailors, who invariably remember what you owe them for a suit long after youve ceased to wear it.
Ill order lunch for one oclock; that will give you two and a half hours to dress in.
Reginald puckered his brow into a tortured frown, and I knew that my point was gained. He was debating what tie would go with which waistcoat.
Even then I had my misgivings.
During the drive to the McKillops Reginald was possessed with a great peace, which was not wholly to be accounted for by the fact that he had inveigled his feet into shoes a size too small for them. I misgave more than ever, and having once launched Reginald on to the McKillops lawn, I established him near a seductive dish of marrons glacés and as far from the Archdeacons wife as possible; as I drifted away to a diplomatic distance I heard with painful distinctness the eldest Mawkby girl asking him if he had seen San Toy.
It must have been ten minutes later, not more, and I had been having quite an enjoyable chat with my hostess, and had promised to lend her The Eternal City and my recipe for rabbit mayonnaise, and was just about to offer a kind home for her third Persian kitten, when I perceived, out of the corner of my eye, that Reginald was not where I had left him, and that the marrons glacés were untasted. At the same moment I became aware that old Colonel Mendoza was essaying to tell his classic story of how he introduced golf into India, and that Reginald was in dangerous proximity. There are occasions when Reginald is caviare to the Colonel.
When I was at Poona in 76
My dear Colonel, purred Reginald, fancy admitting such a thing! Such a give-away for ones age! I wouldnt admit being on this planet in 76. (Reginald in his wildest lapses into veracity never admits to being more than twenty-two.)
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