Mrs. Thackenbury was silent for a moment; she was probably making a mental list of the people she would like to invite to the Duke Humphrey picnic. Presently she asked: “And that odious young man, Waldo Plubley, who is always coddling himself—have you thought of anything that one could do to him?” Evidently she was beginning to see the possibilities of Nemesis Day.
“If there was anything like a general observance of the festival,” said Clovis, “Waldo would be in such demand that you would have to bespeak him weeks beforehand, and even then, if there were an east wind blowing or a cloud or two in the sky he might be too careful of his precious self to come out. It would be rather jolly if you could lure him into a hammock in the orchard, just near the spot where there is a wasps’ nest every summer. A comfortable hammock on a warm afternoon would appeal to his indolent tastes, and then, when he was getting drowsy, a lighted fusee thrown into the nest would bring the wasps out in an indignant mass, and they would soon find a ‘home away from home’ on Waldo’s fat body. It takes some doing to get out of a hammock in a hurry.”
“They might sting him to death,” protested Mrs. Thackenbury.
“Waldo is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death,” said Clovis; “but if you didn’t want to go as far as that, you could have some wet straw ready to hand, and set it alight under the hammock at the same time that the fusee was thrown into the nest; the smoke would keep all but the most militant of the wasps just outside the stinging line, and as long as Waldo remained within its protection he would escape serious damage, and could be eventually restored to his mother, kippered all over and swollen in places, but still perfectly recognisable.”
“His mother would be my enemy for life,” said Mrs. Thackenbury.
“That would be one greeting less to exchange at Christmas,” said Clovis.
It was the season of sales. The august establishment of Walpurgis and Nettlepink had lowered its prices for an entire week as a concession to trade observances, much as an Arch-duchess might protestingly contract an attack of influenza for the unsatisfactory reason that influenza was locally prevalent. Adela Chemping, who considered herself in some measure superior to the allurements of an ordinary bargain sale, made a point of attending the reduction week at Walpurgis and Nettlepink’s.
“I’m not a bargain hunter,” she said, “but I like to go where bargains are.”
Which showed that beneath her surface strength of character there flowed a gracious undercurrent of human weakness.
With a view to providing herself with a male escort Mrs. Chemping had invited her youngest nephew to accompany her on the first day of the shopping expedition, throwing in the additional allurement of a cinematograph theatre and the prospect of light refreshment. As Cyprian was not yet eighteen she hoped he might not have reached that stage in masculine development when parcel-carrying is looked on as a thing abhorrent.