to the light and stared fixedly at them, as though she half expected to find some revolutionary cypher written on them in scarcely visible ink; then she suddenly broke away in the direction of the glassware department.

‘Millicent asked me to get her a couple of decanters if there were any going really cheap,’ she explained on the way, ‘and I really do want a salad bowl. I can come back to the napkins later on.’

She handled and scrutinised a large number of decanters and a long series of salad bowls, and finally bought seven chrysanthemum vases.

‘No one uses that kind of vase nowadays,’ she informed Cyprian, ‘but they will do for presents next Christmas.’

Two sunshades that were marked down to a price that Mrs Chemping considered absurdly cheap were added to her purchases.

‘One of them will do for Ruth Colson; she is going out to the Malay States, and a sunshade will always be useful there. And I must get her some thin writing paper. It takes up no room in one’s baggage.’

Mrs Chemping bought stacks of writing paper; it was so cheap, and it went so flat in a trunk or portmanteau. She also bought a few envelopes—envelopes somehow seemed rather an extravagance compared with notepaper.

‘Do you think Ruth will like blue or grey paper?’ she asked Cyprian.

‘Grey,’ said Cyprian, who had never met the lady in question.

‘Have you any mauve notepaper of this quality?’ Adela asked the assistant.

‘We haven’t any mauve,’ said the assistant, ‘but we’ve two shades of green and a darker shade of grey.’

Mrs Chemping inspected the greens and the darker grey, and chose the blue.

‘Now we can have some lunch,’ she said.

Cyprian behaved in an exemplary fashion in the refreshment department, and cheerfully accepted a fish cake and a mince pie and a small cup of coffee as adequate restoratives after two hours of concentrated shopping. He was adamant, however, in resisting his aunt’s suggestion that a hat should be bought for him at the counter where men’s head-wear was being disposed of at temptingly reduced prices.

‘I’ve got as many hats as I want at home,’ he said, ‘and besides, it rumples one’s hair so, trying them on.’

Perhaps he was going to develop into a Nut after all. It was a disquieting symptom that he left all the parcels in charge of the cloakroom attendant.

‘We shall be getting more parcels presently,’ he said, ‘so we need not collect these till we have finished our shopping.’

His aunt was doubtfully appeased; some of the pleasure and excitement of a shopping expedition seemed to evaporate when one was deprived of immediate personal contact with one’s purchases.

‘I’m going to look at those napkins again,’ she said, as they descended the stairs to the ground floor. ‘You need not come,’ she added, as the dreaming look in the boy’s eyes changed for a moment into one of mute protest, ‘you can meet me afterwards in the cutlery department; I’ve just remembered that I haven’t a corkscrew in the house that can be depended on.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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