“All right,” came with threefold solemnity from the roof, and a moment later a short ladder had been laboriously pushed across to Octavian, who lost no time in propping it against the low pigsty wall. Scrambling gingerly along its rungs he was able to lean across the morass that separated him from his slowly foundering offspring and extract her like an unwilling cork from it’s slushy embrace. A few minutes later he was listening to the shrill and repeated assurances of the nursemaid that her previous experience of filthy spectacles had been on a notably smaller scale.
That same evening when twilight was deepening into darkness Octavian took up his position as penitent under the lone oak-tree, having first carefully undressed the part. Clad in a zephyr shirt, which on this occasion thoroughly merited its name, he held in one hand a lighted candle and in the other a watch, into which the soul of a dead plumber seemed to have passed. A box of matches lay at his feet and was resorted to on the fairly frequent occasions when the candle succumbed to the night breezes. The house loomed inscrutable in the middle distance, but as Octavian conscientiously repeated the formula of his penance he felt certain that three pairs of solemn eyes were watching his moth-shared vigil.
And the next morning his eyes were gladdened by a sheet of copy-book paper lying beside the blank wall, on which was written the message “Un-Beast.”
“The Smithly-Dubbs are in Town,” said Sir James. “I wish you would show them some attention. Ask them to lunch with you at the Ritz or somewhere.”
“From the little I’ve seen of the Smithly-Dubbs I don’t thing I want to cultivate their acquaintance,” said Lady Drakmanton.
“They always work for us at election times,” said her husband; “I don’t suppose they influence very many votes, but they have an uncle who is on one of my ward committees, and another uncle speaks sometimes at some of our less important meetings. Those sort of people expect some return in the shape of hospitality.”
“Expect it!” exclaimed Lady Drakmanton; “the Misses Smithly-Dubb do more than that; they almost demand it. They belong to my club, and hang about the lobby just about lunch-time, all three of them, with their tongues hanging out of their mouths and the six-course look in their eyes. If I were to breathe the word ‘lunch’ they would hustle me into a taxi and scream ‘Ritz’ or ‘Dieudonne’s’ to the driver before I knew what was happening.”
“All the same, I think you ought to ask them to a meal of some sort,” persisted Sir James.
“I consider that showing hospitality to the Smithly-Dubbs is carrying Free Food principles to a regrettable extreme,” said Lady Drakmanton; “I’ve entertained the Joneses and the Browns and the Snapheimers and the Lubrikoffs, and heaps of others whose names I forget, but I don’t see why I should inflict the society of the Misses Smithly-Dubb on myself for a solid hour. Imagine it, sixty minutes, more or less, of unrelenting gobble and gabble. Why can’t you take them on, Milly?” she asked, turning hopefully to her sister.