Again Janetta laid down her pen.
Do you realise what that means? she asked; a Wordsworth booklet next Christmas, and another calendar the Christmas after, with the same problem of having to write suitable letters of thankfulness. No, the best thing to do is to drop all further allusion to the calendar and switch off on to some other topic.
But what other topic?
Oh, something like this: What do you think of the New Year Honours List? A friend of ours made such a clever remark when he read it. Then you can stick in any remark that comes into your head; it neednt be clever. The Froplinsons wont know whether it is or isnt.
We dont even know on which side they are in politics, objected Egbert; and anyhow you cant suddenly dismiss the subject of the calendar. Surely there must be some intelligent remark that can be made about it.
Well, we cant think of one, said Janetta wearily; the fact is, weve both written ourselves out. Heavens! Ive just remembered Mrs Stephen Ludberry. I havent thanked her for what she sent.
What did she send?
I forget; I think it was a calendar.
There was a long silence, the forlorn silence of those who are bereft of hope and have almost ceased to care.
Presently Egbert started from his seat with an air of resolution. The light of battle was in his eyes.
Let me come to the writing-table, he exclaimed.
Gladly, said Janetta. Are you going to write to Mrs Ludberry or the Froplinsons?
To neither, said Egbert, drawing a stack of notepaper towards him; Im going to write to the editor of every enlightened and influential newspaper in the Kingdom. Im going to suggest that there should be a sort of epistolary Truce of God during the festivities of Christmas and New Year. From the twenty-fourth of December to the third or fourth of January it shall be considered an offence against good sense and good feeling to write or expect any letter or communication that does not deal with the necessary events of the moment. Answers to invitations, arrangements about trains, renewal of club subscriptions, and, of course, all the ordinary everyday affairs of business, sickness, engaging new cooks, and so forth, these will be dealt with in the usual manner as something inevitable, a legitimate part of our daily life. But all the devastating accretions of correspondence, incident to the festive season, these should be swept away to give the season a chance of being really festive, a time of untroubled, unpunctuated peace and good will.
But you would have to make some acknowledgment of presents received, objected Janetta; otherwise people would never know whether they had arrived safely.
Of course, I have thought of that, said Egbert; every present that was sent off would be accompanied by a ticket bearing the date of dispatch and the signature of the sender, and some conventional hieroglyphic to show that it was intended to be a Christmas or New Year gift; there would be a counterfoil with space for the recipients name and the date of arrival, and all you would have to do would be to sign and date the counterfoil, add a conventional hieroglyphic indicating heartfelt thanks and gratified surprise, put the thing into an envelope and post it.
It sounds delightfully simple, said Janetta wistfully, but people would consider it too cut-and-dried, too perfunctory.
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