“Have you any coppers?” asked Myra suddenly. “You forget their pocket-money last week.”
“One, two, three—I cannot possibly afford—one, two, three, four—Myra, I do wish you’d count them definitely and tell me how many we have. One likes to know. I cannot afford pocket-money for more than a dozen.”
“Ten.” She took a franc from me and gave it to the biggest girl. (Anne-Marie, our first, and getting on so nicely with her French.) Rapidly she explained what was to be done with it, Anne-Marie’s look of intense rapture slowly straightening itself to one of ordinary gratitude as the financial standing of the other nine in the business became clear. Then we waved farewell to our family and went on.
High above the village, a thousand feet above the sea, we rested, and looked down upon the silvery olives stretching into the blue ... and more particularly upon one red roof which stood up amid the grey-green trees.
“That’s the Cardews’ villa,” I said.
Myra was silent.
When Myra married me she promised to love, honour and write all my thank-you-very-much letters for me, for we agreed before the ceremony that the word “obey” should mean nothing more than that. There are two sorts of T.Y.V.M. letters—the “Thank you very much for asking us, we shall be delighted to come,” and the “Thank you very much for having us, we enjoyed it immensely.” With these off my mind I could really concentrate on my work, or my short mashie shots, or whatever was of importance. But there was now a new kind of letter to write, and one rather outside the terms of our original understanding. A friend of mine had told his friends the Cardews that we were going out to the Riviera and would let them know when we arrived ... and we had arrived a week ago.
“It isn’t at all an easy letter to write,” said Myra. “It’s practically asking a stranger for hospitality.”
“Let us say ‘indicating our readiness to accept it.’ It sounds better.”
Myra smiled slowly to herself.
“‘Dear Mrs. Cardew,’” she said, “’we are ready for lunch when you are. Yours sincerely.’”
“Well, that’s the idea.”
“And then what about the others? If the Cardews are going to be nice we don’t want to leave Dahlia and all of them out of it.”
I thought it over carefully for a little.
“What you want to do,” I said at last, “is to write a really long letter to Mrs. Cardew, acquainting her with all the facts. Keep nothing back from her. I should begin by dwelling on the personnel of our little company. ‘My husband and I,’ you should say, ’are not alone. We have also with us Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Mannering, a delightful couple. Mr. A. Mannering is something in the Territorials when he is not looking after his estate. His wife is a great favourite in the county. Next I have to introduce to you Mr. Thomas Todd, an agreeable young bachelor. Mr. Thomas Todd is in the Sucking-a-ruler-and-looking-out-of-the-window