You look worried, dear, said Eleanor.
I am worried, admitted Suzanne; not worried exactly, but anxious. You see, my birthday happens next week
You lucky person, interrupted Eleanor; my birthday doesnt come till the end of March.
Well, old Bertram Kneyght is over in England just now from the Argentine. Hes a kind of distant cousin of my mothers, and so enormously rich that weve never let the relationship drop out of sight. Even if we dont see him or hear from him for years he is always Cousin Bertram when he does turn up. I cant say hes ever been of much solid use to us, but yesterday the subject of my birthday cropped up, and he asked me to let him know what I wanted for a present.
Now I understand the anxiety, observed Eleanor.
As a rule when one is confronted with a problem like that, said Suzanne, all ones ideas vanish; one doesnt seem to have a desire in the world. Now it so happens that I have been very keen on a little Dresden figure that I saw somewhere in Kensington; about thirty-six shillings, quite beyond my means. I was very nearly describing the figure, and giving Bertram the address of the shop. And then it suddenly struck me that thirty-six shillings was such a ridiculously inadequate sum for a man of his immense wealth to spend on a birthday present. He could give thirty-six pounds as easily as you or I could buy a bunch of violets. I dont want to be greedy, of course, but I dont like being wasteful.
The question is, said Eleanor, what are his ideas as to present giving? Some of the wealthiest people have curiously cramped views on that subject. When people grow gradually rich their requirements and standard of living expand in proportion, while their present-giving instincts often remain in the undeveloped condition of their earlier days. Something showy and not-too-expensive in a shop is their only conception of the ideal gift. That is why even quite good shops have their counters and windows crowded with things worth about four shillings that look as if they might be worth seven-and-six, and are priced at ten shillings and labelled seasonable gifts.
I know, said Suzanne; that is why it is so risky to be vague when one is giving indications of ones wants. Now if I say to him: I am going out to Davos this winter, so anything in the travelling line would be acceptable, he might give me a dressing-bag with gold-mounted fittings, but, on the other hand, he might give me Baedekers Switzerland, or Ski-ing without Tears, or something of that sort.
He would be more likely to say: Shell be going to lots of dances, a fan will be sure to be useful.
Yes, and Ive got tons of fans, so you see where the danger and anxiety lies. Now if there is one thing more than another that I really urgently want it is furs. I simply havent any. Im told that Davos is full of Russians, and they are sure to wear the most lovely sables and things. To be among people who are smothered in furs when one hasnt any oneself makes one want to break most of the Commandments.
If its furs that youre out for, said Eleanor, you will have to superintend the choice of them in person. You cant be sure that your cousin knows the difference between silver-fox and ordinary squirrel.
There are some heavenly silver-fox stoles at Goliath and Mastodons, said Suzanne, with a sigh; if I could only inveigle Bertram into their building and take him for a stroll through the fur department!
He lives somewhere near there, doesnt he? said Eleanor. Do you know what his habits are? Does he take a walk at any particular time of day?
He usually walks down to his club about three oclock, if its a fine day. That takes him right past Goliath and Mastodons.
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