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- The Holiday Round - 10/53 -


"I'm afraid that will give it away rather," said Myra.

"I'm afraid so," agreed Archie.

THIRD SCENE

We sat on camp-stools and looked up at the ceiling with our mouths open.

"'E's late," said Archie.

"I don't believe 'e's coming, and I don't mind 'oo 'ears me sye so," said Myra. "So there!"

"'Ot work," I said, wiping my brow.

"Nar, not up there. Not 'ot. Nice and breezy like."

"But 'e's nearer the sun than wot we are, ain't 'e?"

"Ah, but 'e's not 'ot. Not up there."

"'Ere, there 'e is," cried Myra, jumping up excitedly. "Over there. 'Ow naow, it's a bird. I declare I quite thought it was 'im. Silly of me."

There was silence for a little, and then Archie took a sandwich out of his pocket.

"Wunner wot they'll invent next," he said, and munched stolidly.

. . . . . . .

"Well done," said Dahlia.

"Thomas and I have been trying to guess," said Simpson, "but the strain is terrific. My first idea was 'codfish,' but I suppose that's wrong. It's either 'silkworm' or 'wardrobe.' Thomas suggests 'mangel-wurzel.' He says he never saw anybody who had so much the whole air of a wurzel as Archie. The indefinable elan of the wurzel was there."

"Can't you really guess?" said Myra eagerly.

"I don't know whether I want you to or not. Oh no, I don't want you to."

"Then I withdraw 'mangel-wurzel,'" said Simpson gallantly.

"I think I can guess," said Blair. "It's--"

"Whisper it," said Simpson. "I'm never going to know."

Blair whispered it.

"Yes," said Myra disappointedly, "that's it."

V.--UNINVITED GUESTS

"Nine," said Archie, separating his latest victim from the marmalade spoon and dropping it into the hot water. "This is going to be a sanguinary day. With a pretty late cut into the peach jelly Mr A. Mannering reached double figures. Ten. Battles are being won while Thomas still sleeps. Any advance on ten?"

"Does that include MY wasp?" asked Myra.

"There are only ten here," said Archie, looking into the basin, "and they're all mine. I remember them perfectly. What was yours like?"

"Well, I didn't exactly kill him. I smacked him with a teaspoon and asked him to go away. And he went on to your marmalade, so I expect you thought he was yours. But it was really mine, and I don't think it's very sporting of you to kill another person's wasp."

"Have one of mine," I said, pushing my plate across. "Have Bernard--he's sitting on the green-gage."

"I don't really want to kill anything. I killed a rabbit once and I wished I hadn't."

"I nearly killed a rabbit once, and I wished I had."

"Great sportsmen at a glance," said Archie. "Tell us about it before it goes into your reminiscences."

"It was a fierce affair while it lasted. The rabbit was sitting down and I was standing up, so that I rather had the advantage of him at the start. I waited till he seemed to be asleep and then fired."

"And missed him?"

"Y-yes. He heard the report, though. I mean, you mustn't think he ignored me altogether. I moved him. He got up and went away all right."

"A very lucky escape for you," said Archie. "I once knew a man who was gored to death by an angry rabbit." He slashed in the air with his napkin. "Fifteen. Dahlia, let's have breakfast indoors to-morrow. This is very jolly but it's just as hot, and it doesn't get Thomas up any earlier, as we hoped."

All that day we grilled in the heat. Myra and I started a game of croquet in the morning, but after one shot each we agreed to abandon it as a draw--slightly in my favour, because I had given her the chipped mallet. And in the afternoon, Thomas and Simpson made a great effort to get up enthusiasm for lawn-tennis. Each of them returned the other's service into the net until the score stood at eight all, at which point they suddenly realized that nothing but the violent death of one of the competitors would ever end the match. They went on to ten all to make sure, and then retired to the lemonade and wasp jug, Simpson missing a couple of dead bodies by inches only. And after dinner it was hotter than ever.

"The heat in my room," announced Archie, "breaks all records. The thermometer says a hundred and fifty, the barometer says very dry, we've had twenty-five hours' sunshine, and there's not a drop of rain recorded in the soap-dish. Are we going to take this lying down?"

"No," said Thomas, "let's sleep out to-night."

"What do you say, Dahlia?"

"It's a good idea. You can all sleep on the croquet lawn, and Myra and I will take the tennis lawn."

"Hadn't you better have the croquet lawn? Thomas walks in his sleep, and we don't want to have him going through hoops all night."

"You'll have to bring down your own mattresses," went on Dahlia, "and you've not got to walk about the garden in the early morning, at least not until Myra and I are up, and if you're going to fall over croquet hoops you mustn't make a noise. That's all the rules, I think."

"I'm glad we've got the tennis lawn," said Myra; "it's much smoother. Do you prefer the right-hand court, dear, or the left-hand?"

"We shall be very close to Nature to-night," said Archie. "Now we shall know whether it really is the nightjar, or Simpson gargling."

We were very close to Nature that night, but in the early morning still closer. I was awakened by the noise of Simpson talking, as I hoped, in his sleep. However, it appeared that he was awake and quite conscious of the things he was saying.

"I can't help it," he explained to Archie, who had given expression to the general opinion about it; "these bally wasps are all over me."

"It's your own fault," said Archie. "Why do you egg them on? I don't have wasps all over ME."

"Conf--There! I've been stung."

"You've been what?"

"Stung."

"Stung. Where?"

"In the neck."

"In the neck?" Archie turned over to me. "Simpson," he said, "has been stung in the neck. Tell Thomas."

I woke up Thomas. "Simpson," I said, "has been stung in the neck."

"Good," said Thomas, and went to sleep again.

"We've told Thomas," said Archie. "Now, are you satisfied?"

"Get away, you brute," shouted Simpson, suddenly, and dived under the sheet.

Archie and I lay back and shouted with laughter.

"It's really very silly of him," said Archie, "because--go away--because everybody knows that--get away, you ass--that wasps aren't dangerous unless--confound you--unless--I say, isn't it time we got up?"

I came up from under my sheet and looked at my watch. "Four-thirty," I said, dodged a wasp, and went back again.

"We must wait till five-thirty," said Archie. "Simpson was quite right; he WAS stung, after all. I'll tell him so."


The Holiday Round - 10/53

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