Lady Prowche thanked the office clerk, and in a louder and more fervent voice she thanked Heaven. The two invitations, already sealed and addressed, were immediately dispatched; in due course they were both accepted. The house party of the halcyon hours, as the prospective hostess called it, was auspiciously launched.
Lena Luddleford was not included among the guests, having previously committed herself to another invitation. At the opening day of a cricket festival, however, she ran across Lady Prowche, who had motored over from the other side of the county. She wore the air of one who is not interested in cricket and not particularly interested in life. She shook hands limply with Lena, and remarked that it was a beastly day.
“The party, how has it gone off?” asked Lena quickly.
“Don’t speak of it!” was the tragical answer; “why do I always have such rotten luck?”
“But what has happened?”
“It has been awful. Hyaenas could not have behaved with greater savagery. Sir Richard said so, and he has been in countries where hyaenas live, so he ought to know. They actually came to blows!”
“Blows and curses. It really might have been a scene from one of Hogarth’s pictures. I never felt so humiliated in my life. What the servants must have thought!”
“But who were the offenders?”
“Oh, naturally the very two that we took all the trouble about.”
“I thought they agreed on every subject that one could violently disagree about—religion, politics, vivisection, the Derby decision, the Falconer Report; what else was there left to quarrel about?”
“My dear, we were fools not to have thought of it. One of them was Pro-Greek and the other Pro-Bulgar.”
“The new fashion of introducing the candidate’s children into an election contest is a pretty one,” said Mrs. Panstreppon; “it takes away something from the acerbity of party warfare, and it makes an interesting experience for children to look back on in after years. Still, if you will listen to my advice, Matilda, you will not take Hyacinth with you down to Luffbridge on election day.”
“Not take Hyacinth!” exclaimed his mother; “but why not? Jutterly is bringing his three children, and they are going to drive a pair of Nubian donkeys about the town, to emphasise the fact that their father has been appointed Colonial Secretary. We are making the demand for a strong Navy a special feature in our campaign, and it will be particularly appropriate to have Hyacinth dressed in his sailor suit. He’ll look heavenly.”
“The question is, not how he’ll look, but how he’ll behave. He’s a delightful child, of course, but there is a strain of unbridled pugnacity in him that breaks out at times in a really alarming fashion. You may have forgotten the affair of the little Gaffin children; I haven’t.”