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- The Holiday Round - 2/53 -
popular, but hardly appeals to the fastidious."
"Do you know," said Archie, "that you are talking drivel? Nobody ought to drivel before breakfast. It isn't decent. What does Dahlia want to do to-day, Myra?"
"Mr Simpson is coming by the one-thirty."
"Good; then we'll have a slack day. The strain of meeting Simpson will be sufficient for us. I do hope he comes in a yachting cap--we'll send him back if he doesn't."
"I told him to bring one," said Myra. "I put a P.S. in Dahlia's letter--please bring your telescope and yachting cap. She thought we could have a good day's sailing to-morrow, if you'd kindly arrange about the wind."
"I'll talk to the crew about it and see what he can do. If we get becalmed we can always throw somebody overboard, of course. Well, I must go in and finish my toilet."
We got up and climbed slowly back to the house.
"And then," I said, "then for the heavy meal."
"Well," said Dahlia, giving up the tiller with a sigh, "if this is all that you and Joe can do in the way of a breeze, you needn't have worried."
"Don't blame the crew," said Archie nobly, "he did his best. He sat up all night whistling."
"ARE we moving?" asked Myra, from a horizontal position on the shady side of the mainsail.
"We are not," I said, from a similar position on the sunny side. "Let's get out."
Simpson took off his yachting cap and fanned himself with a nautical almanac. "How far are we from anywhere?" he asked cheerfully.
"Miles," said Archie. "To be more accurate, we are five miles from a public-house, six from a church, four from a post-office, and three from the spacious walled-in kitchen-garden and tennis-court. On the other hand, we are quite close to the sea."
"You will never see your friends again, Simpson. They will miss you ... at first ... perhaps; but they will soon forget. The circulation of the papers that you wrote for will go up, the brindled bull-pup will be fed by another and a smaller hand, but otherwise all will be as it was before."
My voice choked, and at the same moment something whizzed past me into the sea.
"Yachting cap overboard! Help!" cried Myra.
"You aren't in The Spectator office now, Simpson," said Archie severely, as he fished with the boat-hook. "There is a time for ballyragging. By the way, I suppose you do want it back again?"
"It's my fault," I confessed remorsefully; "I told him yesterday I didn't like it."
"Myra and I do like it, Mr Simpson. Please save it, Archie."
Archie let it drip from the end of the boat-hook for a minute, and then brought it in.
"Morning, Sir Thomas," I said, saluting it as it came on board. "Lovely day for a sail. We've got the new topmast up, but Her Grace had the last of the potted-meat for lunch yesterday."
Simpson took his cap and stroked it tenderly. "Thirteen and ninepence in the Buckingham Palace Road," he murmured. "Thanks, old chap."
Quiet settled down upon the good ship Armadillo again. There was no cloud in the sky, no ripple on the water, no sound along the deck. The land was hazy in the distance; hazy in the distance was public-house, church, post-office, walled-in kitchen-garden and tennis-court. But in the little cabin Joe was making a pleasant noise with plates....
"Splendid," said Archie, putting down his glass and taking out his pipe. "Now what shall we do? I feel full of energy."
"Then you and Simpson can get the dinghy out and tow," I suggested. "I'll coach from the Armadillo."
"We might go for a long bicycle ride," said Myra; "or call on the Vicarage girls."
"There isn't really very much to do, is there?" said Dahlia, gently. "I'm sorry."
Simpson leapt excitedly into the breach.
"I'll tell you what I'll do--I'll teach you all the different knots and things. I learnt them coming down in the train. Everybody ought to know them. Archie, old man, can you let me have a piece of rope?"
"Certainly. Take any piece you like. Only spare the main-sheet."
Simpson went forward to consult Joe, and came back with enough to hang himself with. He sat down opposite to us, wrapped the rope once round his waist, and then beamed at us over his spectacles.
"Now supposing you had fallen down a well," he began, "and I let this rope down to you, what would you do with YOUR end?"
We thought deeply for a moment.
"I should wait until you were looking over the edge, and then give it a sharp jerk," said Archie.
"One MUST have company in a well," I agreed.
"They're being silly again," apologized Myra. "Tell ME, Mr Simpson! I should love to know--I'm always falling down wells."
"Well, you tie it round you like this. Through there--and over there--and then back under there. You see, it simply CAN'T slip. Then I should pull you up."
"But how nice of you. Let me try. ... Oh, yes, that's easy."
"Well, then there's the hangman's knot."
Archie and I looked at each other.
"The predicaments in which Simpson finds himself are extraordinarily varied," I said.
"One of these days he'll be in a well, and we shall let down a rope to him, and he'll hang himself by mistake."
"That would look very determined. On the other hand there must be annoying occasions when he starts out to strangle somebody and finds that he's pulling him out of the cistern."
"Why, how delightful, Mr Simpson," said Myra. "Do show us some more."
"Those are the most important ones. Then there are one or two fancy ones. Do you know the Monkey's Claw?"
"Don't touch it," said Archie solemnly. "It's poison."
"Oh, I must show you that."
Joe showed me the Monkey's Claw afterwards, and it is a beautiful thing, but it was not a bit like Simpson's. Simpson must have started badly, and I think he used too much rope. After about twenty minutes there was hardly any of him visible at all.
"Take your time, Houdini," said Archie, "take your time. Just let us know when you're ready to be put into the safe, that's all."
"You would hardly think, to look at him now," I said a minute later, "that one day he'll be a dear little butterfly."
"Where's the sealing-wax, Maria? You know, I'm certain he'll never go for threepence."
"What I say is, it's simply hypnotic suggestion. There's no rope there at all, really."
An anxious silence followed.
"No," said Simpson suddenly, "I'm doing it wrong."
"From to-night," said Archie, after tea, "you will be put on rations. One cobnut and a thimbleful of sherry wine per diem. I hope somebody's brought a thimble."
"There really isn't so very much left," said Dahlia.
"Then we shall have to draw lots who is to be eaten."
"Don't we eat our boots and things first?" asked Myra.
"The doctor says I mustn't have anything more solid than a lightly-boiled shoe-lace the last thing at night."
"After all, there's always the dinghy," said Archie. "If we put in a tin of corned beef and a compass and a keg of gunpowder, somebody might easily row in and post the letters. Personally, as captain, I must stick to my ship."
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