The Forbidden Buzzards
Is matchmaking at all in your line?
Hugo Peterby asked the question with a certain amount of personal interest.
I dont specialise in it, said Clovis; its all right while youre doing it, but the after-effects are sometimes so disconcertingthe mute reproachful looks of the people youve aided and abetted in matrimonial experiments. Its as bad as selling a man a horse with half a dozen latent vices and watching him discover them piecemeal in the course of the hunting season. I suppose youre thinking of the Coulterneb girl. Shes certainly jolly, and quite all right as far as looks go, and I believe a certain amount of money adheres to her. What I dont see is how you will ever manage to propose to her. In all the time Ive known her I dont remember her to have stopped talking for three consecutive minutes. Youll have to race her six times round the grass paddock for a bet, and then blurt your proposal out before shes got her wind back. The paddock is laid up for hay, but if youre really in love with her you wont let a consideration of that sort stop you, especially as its not your hay.
I think I could manage the proposing part right enough, said Hugo, if I could count on being left alone with her for four or five hours. The trouble is that Im not likely to get anything like that amount of grace. That fellow Lanner is showing signs of interesting himself in the same quarter. Hes quite heartbreakingly rich and is rather a swell in his way; in fact, our hostess is obviously a bit flattered at having him here. If she gets wind of the fact that hes inclined to be attracted by Betty Coulterneb shell think it a splendid match and throw them into each others arms all day long, and then where will my opportunities come in? My one anxiety is to keep him out of the girls way as much as possible, and if you could help me
If you want me to trot Lanner round the countryside, inspecting alleged Roman remains and studying local methods of bee culture and crop raising, Im afraid I cant oblige you, said Clovis. You see, hes taken something like an aversion to me since the other night in the smoking-room.
What happened in the smoking-room?
He trotted out some well-worn chestnut as the latest thing in good stories, and I remarked, quite innocently, that I never could remember whether it was George II. or James II. who was so fond of that particular story, and now he regards me with politely draped dislike. Ill do my best for you, if the opportunity arises, but it will have to be in a roundabout, impersonal manner.
Its so nice having Mr Lanner here, confided Mrs Olston to Clovis the next afternoon; hes always been engaged when Ive asked him before. Such a nice man; he really ought to be married to some nice girl. Between you and me, I have an idea that he came down here for a certain reason.
Ive had much the same idea, said Clovis, lowering his voice; in fact, Im almost certain of it.
You mean hes attracted by began Mrs Olston eagerly.
I mean hes here for what he can get, said Clovis.
For what he can get? said the hostess with a touch of indignation in her voice; what do you mean? Hes a very rich man. What should he want to get here?
He has one ruling passion, said Clovis, and theres something he can get here that is not to be had for love nor for money anywhere else in the country, as far as I know.
But what? Whatever do you mean? What is his ruling passion?
Egg-collecting, said Clovis. He has agents all over the world getting rare eggs for him, and his collection is one of the finest in Europe; but his great ambition is to collect his treasures personally. He stops at no expense nor trouble to achieve that end.
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