The Talking-Out of Tarrington

‘Heavens!’ exclaimed the aunt of Clovis, ‘here’s some one I know bearing down on us. I can’t remember his name, but he lunched with us once in Town. Tarrington—yes, that’s it. He’s heard of the picnic I’m giving for the Princess, and he’ll cling to me like a life-belt till I give him an invitation; then he’ll ask if he may bring all his wives and mothers and sisters with him. That’s the worst of these small watering- places; one can’t escape from anybody.’

‘I’ll fight a rearguard action for you if you like to do a bolt now,’ volunteered Clovis; ‘you’ve a clear ten yards start if you don’t lose time.’

The aunt of Clovis responded gamely to the suggestion, and churned away like a Nile steamer, with a long brown ripple of Pekingese spaniel trailing in her wake.

‘Pretend you don’t know him,’ was her parting advice, tinged with the reckless courage of the non-combatant.

The next moment the overtures of an affably disposed gentleman were being received by Clovis with a ‘silent-upon-a-peak-in-Darien’ stare which denoted an absence of all previous acquaintance with the object scrutinised.

‘I expect you don’t know me with my moustache,’ said the newcomer; ‘I’ve only grown it during the last two months.’

‘On the contrary,’ said Clovis, ‘the moustache is the only thing about you that seemed familiar to me. I felt certain that I had met it somewhere before.’

‘My name is Tarrington,’ resumed the candidate for recognition.

‘A very useful kind of name,’ said Clovis; ‘with a name of that sort no one would blame you if you did nothing in particular heroic or remarkable, would they? And yet if you were to raise a troop of light horse in a moment of national emergency, “Tarrington’s Light Horse” would sound quite appropriate and pulse- quickening; whereas if you were called Spoopin, for instance, the thing would be out of the question. No one, even in a moment of national emergency, could possibly belong to Spoopin’s Horse.’

The new-comer smiled weakly, as one who is not to be put off by mere flippancy, and began again with patient persistence:

‘I think you ought to remember my name—’

‘I shall,’ said Clovis, with an air of immense sincerity. ‘My aunt was asking me only this morning to suggest names for four young owls she’s just had sent her as pets. I shall call them all Tarrington; then if one or two of them die or fly away, or leave us in any of the ways that pet owls are prone to, there will be always one or two left to carry on your name. And my aunt won’t let me forget it; she will always be asking “Have the Tarringtons had their mice?” and questions of that sort. She says if you keep wild creatures in captivity you ought to see after their wants, and of course she’s quite right there.’

‘I met you at luncheon at your aunt’s house once—’ broke in Mr Tarrington, pale but still resolute.

‘My aunt never lunches,’ said Clovis; ‘she belongs to the National Anti-Luncheon League, which is doing quite a lot of good work in a quiet, unobtrusive way. A subscription of half a crown per quarter entitles you to go without ninety-two luncheons.’

‘This must be something new,’ exclaimed Tarrington.

‘It’s the same aunt that I’ve always had,’ said Clovis coldly.

‘I perfectly well remember meeting you at a luncheon-party given by your aunt,’ persisted Tarrington, who was beginning to flush an unhealthy shade of mottled pink.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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