“No, ‘moss.’ Now if you’d only asked me a question about gardening—You see, the proverb we wanted to have first of all was ’People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,’ only ‘throw’ was so difficult. Almost as difficult as—” I turned to Celia. “What was it you said just now? Oh yes, camels. Or stable doors, or frying-pans. However, there it is.” And I enlarged a little more on the difficulty of getting in these difficult words.
“Thank you very much,” said our host faintly when I had finished.
It was the last straw which broke the camel’s back, and it was Herbert who stepped forward blithely with the last straw. Our host, as he admitted afterwards, was still quite in the dark, and with his last question he presented Herbert with an absolute gift.
“When do you go back to Devonshire?” he asked.
“We—er—return next month,” answered Herbert. “I should say,” he added hastily, “we go back next month.”
My own private opinion was that the sooner he returned to Devonshire the better.
The card was just an ordinary card,
The letter just an ordinary letter.
The letter simply said “Dear Mr. Brown,
I’m asked by Mrs. Phipp to send you this”;
The card said, “Mrs. Philby Phipp, At Home,”
And in a corner, “Dancing, 10 p.m.,”
No more—except a date, a hint in French
That a reply would not be deemed offensive,
And, most important, Mrs. Phipp’s address.
Destiny, as the poets have observed
(Or will do shortly) is a mighty thing.
It takes us by the ear and lugs us firmly
Down different paths towards one common goal,
Paths pre-appointed, not of our own choosing;
Or sometimes throws two travellers together,
Marches them side by side for half a mile,
Then snatches them apart and hauls them onward.
Thus happened it that Mrs. Phipp and I
Had never met to any great extent,
Had never met, as far as I remembered,
At all.... And yet there must have been a time
When she and I were very near together,
When some one told her, “That is Mr. Brown,”
Or introduced us “This is Mr. Brown,”
Or asked her if she’d heard of Mr. Brown;
I know not what, I only know that now
She stood At Home in need of Mr. Brown,
And I had pledged myself to her assistance.
Behold me on the night, the latest word
In all that separates the gentleman
(And waiters) from the evening-dress-less mob,
And graced, moreover, by the latest word
In waistcoats such as mark one from the waiters.
My shirt, I must not speak about my shirt;
My tie, I cannot dwell upon my tie—
Enough that all was neat, harmonious,
And suitable to Mrs. Philby Phipp.
Behold me, then, complete. A hasty search
To find the card, and reassure myself
That this is certainly the day—(It is)—
And 10 p.m. the hour; “p.m.,” not “a.m.,”
Not after breakfast—good; and then outside,
To jump into a cab and take the winds,
The cold east winds of March, with beauty. So.