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- The Holiday Round - 3/53 -


"There's another way I've just thought of," I said. "Let's sail in."

I pointed out to sea, and there, unmistakably, was the least little breeze coming over the waters. A minute later and our pennant napped once Simpson moistened a finger and held it up.

The sprint for home had begun.

III.--A DAY ASHORE

"Well, which is it to be?" asked Archie.

"Just whichever you like," said Dahlia, "only make up your minds."

"Well, I can do you a very good line in either. I've got a lot of sea in the front of the house, and there's the Armadillo straining at the leash; and I've had some land put down at the back of the house, and there's the Silent-Knight eating her carburettor off in the kennels."

"Oh, what can ail thee, Silent-Knight, alone and palely loitering?" asked Simpson. "Keats," he added kindly.

"Ass (Shakespeare)," I said.

"Of course, if we sailed," Simpson went on eagerly, "and we got becalmed again, I could teach you chaps signalling."

Archie looked from one to the other of us.

"I think that settles it," he said, and went off to see about the motor.

"Little Chagford," said Archie, as he slowed down. "Where are we going to, by the way?"

"I thought we'd just go on until we found a nice place for lunch."

"And then on again till we found a nice place for tea," added Myra.

"And so home to dinner," I concluded.

"Speaking for myself--" began Simpson.

"Oh, why not?"

"I should like to see a church where Katharine of Aragon or somebody was buried."

"Samuel's morbid craving for sensation--"

"Wait till we get back to London, and I'll take you to Madame Tussaud's, Mr Simpson."

"Well, I think he's quite right," said Dahlia. "There is an old Norman church, I believe, and we ought to go and see it. The Philistines needn't come in if they don't want to."

"Philistines!" I said indignantly. "Well, I'm--"

"Agagged," suggested Archie. "Oh no, he was an Amalekite."

"You've lived in the same country as this famous old Norman church for years and years and years, and you care so little about it that you've never been to see it and aren't sure whether it was Katharine of Aragon or Alice-for-short who was buried here, and now that you HAVE come across it by accident you want to drive up to it in a brand-new 1910 motor-car, with Simpson in his 1910 gent.'s fancy vest knocking out the ashes of his pipe against the lych-gate as he goes in. ... And that's what it is to be one of the elect!"

"Little Chagford's noted back-chat comedians," commented Archie. "Your turn, Dahlia."

"There was once a prince who was walking in a forest near his castle one day--that's how all the nice stories begin--and he suddenly came across a beautiful maiden, and he said to himself, 'I've lived here for years and years and years, and I've never seen her before, and I'm not sure whether her name is Katharine or Alice, or where her uncle was buried, and I've got a new surcoat on which doesn't match her wimple at all, so let's leave her and go home to lunch....' And THAT'S what it is to be one of the elect!"

"Don't go on too long," said Archie. "There are the performing seals to come after you."

I jumped out of the car and joined her in the road.

"Dahlia, I apologize," I said. "You are quite right. We will visit this little church together, and see who was buried there."

Myra looked up from the book she had been studying, Jovial Jaunts Round Jibmouth.

"There isn't a church at Little Chagford," she said. "At least there wasn't two years ago, when this book was published. So that looks as though it can't be VERY early Norman."

"Then let's go on," said Archie, after a deep silence.

We found a most delightful little spot (which wasn't famous for anything) for lunch, and had the baskets out of the car in no time.

"Now, are you going to help get things ready," asked Myra, "or are you going to take advantage of your sex and watch Dahlia and me do all the work?"

"I thought women always liked to keep the food jobs for themselves," I said. "I know I'm never allowed in the kitchen at home. Besides, I've got more important work to do--I'm going to make the fire."

"What fire?"

"You can't really lead the simple life and feel at home with Nature until you have laid a fire of twigs and branches, rubbed two sticks together to procure a flame, and placed in the ashes the pemmican or whatever it is that falls to your rifle."

"Well, I did go out to look for pemmican this morning, but there were none rising."

"Then I shall have my ham sandwich hot."

"Bread, butter, cheese, eggs, sandwiches, fruit," catalogued Dahlia, as she took them out; "what else do you want?"

"I'm waiting here for cake," I said.

"Bother, I forgot the cake."

"Look here, this picnic isn't going with the swing that one had looked for. No pemmican, no cake, no early Norman church. We might almost as well be back in the Cromwell Road."

"Does your whole happiness depend on cake?" asked Myra scornfully.

"To a large extent it does. Archie," I called out, "there's no cake."

Archie stopped patting the car and came over to us. "Good. Let's begin," he said; "I'm hungry."

"You didn't hear. I said there WASN'T any cake--on the contrary, there is an entire absence of it, a shortage, a vacuum, not to say a lacuna. In the place where it should be there is an aching void or mere hard-boiled eggs or something of that sort. I say, doesn't ANYBODY mind, except me?"

Apparently nobody did, so that it was useless to think of sending Archie back for it. Instead, I did a little wrist-work with the corkscrew....

"Now," said Archie, after lunch, "before you all go off with your butterfly nets, I'd better say that we shall be moving on at about half-past three. That is, unless one of you has discovered the slot of a Large Cabbage White just then, and is following up the trail very keenly."

"I know what I'm going to do," I said, "if the flies will let me alone."

"Tell me quickly before I guess," begged Myra.

"I'm going to lie on my back and think about--who do you think do the hardest work in the world?"

"Stevedores."

"Then I shall think about stevedores."

"Are you sure," asked Simpson, "that you wouldn't like me to show you that signalling now?"

I closed my eyes. You know, I wonder sometimes what it is that makes a picnic so pleasant. Because all the important things, the eating and the sleeping, one can do anywhere.

IV.--IN THE WET

Myra gazed out of the window upon the driving rain and shook her head at the weather.


The Holiday Round - 3/53

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