THE TALKING-OUT OF TARRINGTON

“Heavens!” exclaimed the aunt of Clovis, “here’s some

one I know bearing down on us. I can’t remember his name,

but he lunched with us once in Town. Tarrington—yes,

that’s it. He’s heard of the picnic I’m giving for the

Princess, and he’ll cling to me like a lifebelt till I give

him an invitation; then he’ll ask if he may bring all his

wives and mothers and sisters with him. That’s the worst of

these small watering-places; one can’t escape from

anybody.”

“I’ll fight a rearguard action for you if you like to do

a bolt now,” volunteered Clovis; “you’ve a clear ten yards

start if you don’t lose time.”

The aunt of Clovis responded gamely to the suggestion, and

churned away like a Nile steamer, with a long brown ripple

of Pekingese spaniel trailing in her wake.

“Pretend you don’t know him,” was her parting advice,

tinged with the reckless courage of the non-combatant.

The next moment the overtures of an affably disposed

gentleman were being received by Clovis with a

“silent-upon-a-peak-in-Darien” stare which denoted an

absence of all previous acquaintance with the object

scrutinized.

“I expect you don’t know me with my moustache,” said the

new-comer; “I’ve only grown it during the last two

months.”

“On the contrary,” said Clovis, “the moustache is the

only thing about you that seemed familiar to me. I felt

certain that I had met it somewhere before.”

“My name is Tarrington,” resumed the candidate for

recognition.

“A very useful kind of name,” said Clovis; “with a name

of that sort no one would blame you if you did nothing in

particular heroic or remarkable, would they? And yet if you

were to raise a troop of light horse in a moment of national

emergency, `Tarrington’s Light Horse’ would sound quite

appropriate and pulse-quickening; whereas if you were called

Spoopin, for instance, the thing would be out of the

question. No one, even in a moment of national emergency,

could possibly belong to Spoopin’s Horse.”

The new-comer smiled weakly, as one who is not to be put

off by mere flippancy, and began again with patient

persistence:

“I think you ought to remember my name—”

“I shall,” said Clovis, with an air of immense

sincerity. “My aunt was asking me only this morning to

suggest names for four young owls she’s just had sent her as

pets. I shall call them all Tarrington; then if one or two

of them die or fly away, or leave us in any of the ways that

pet owls are prone to, there will be always one or two left

to carry on your name. And my aunt won’t let me forget

it; she will always be asking `Have the Tarringtons had

their mice?’ and questions of that sort. She says if you

keep wild creatures in captivity you ought to see after

their wants, and of course she’s quite right there.”

“I met you at luncheon at your aunt’s house once—”

broke in Mr. Tarrington, pale but still resolute.

“My aunt never lunches,” said Clovis; “she belongs to

the National Anti-Luncheon League, which is doing quite a

lot of good work in a quiet, unobtrusive way. A

subscription of half a crown per quarter entitles you to go

without ninety-two luncheons.”

“This must be something new,” exclaimed Tarrington.

“It’s the same aunt that I’ve always had,” said Clovis

coldly.

“I perfectly well remember meeting you at a

luncheon-party given by your aunt,” persisted Tarrington,

who was beginning to flush an unhealthy shade of mottled

pink.

“What was there for lunch?” asked Clovis.

“Oh, well, I don’t remember that—”

“How nice of you to remember my aunt when you can no

longer recall the names of the things you ate. Now my

memory works quite differently. I can remember a menu long

after I’ve forgotten the hostess that accompanied it. When

I was seven years old I recollect being given a peach at a

garden-party by some Duchess or other; I can’t remember a

thing about her, except that I imagine our acquaintance must

have been of the slightest, as she called me a `nice little

boy,’ but I have unfading memories of that peach. It was

one of those exuberant peaches that meet you halfway, so to

speak, and are all over you in a moment. It was a beautiful

unspoiled product of a hothouse, and yet it managed quite

successfully to give itself the airs of a compote. You had

to bite it and imbibe it at the same time. To me there has

always been something charming and mystic in the thought of

that delicate velvet globe of fruit, slowly ripening and

warming to perfection through the long summer days and

perfumed nights, and then coming suddenly athwart my life in

the supreme moment of its existence. I can never forget it,

even if I wished to. And when I had devoured all that was

edible of it, there still remained the stone, which a

heedless, thoughtless child would doubtless have thrown

away; I put it down the neck of a young friend who was

wearing a very décolleté sailor suit. I told him it

was a scorpion, and from the way he wriggled and screamed he

evidently believed it, though where the silly kid imagined I

could procure a live scorpion at a garden-party I don’t

know. Altogether, that peach is for me an unfading and

happy memory—”

The defeated Tarrington had by this time retreated out of

earshot, comforting himself as best he might with the

reflection that a picnic which included the presence of

Clovis might prove a doubtfully agreeable experience.

“I shall certainly go in for a Parliamentary career,”

said Clovis to himself as he turned complacently to rejoin

his aunt. “As a talker-out of inconvenient bills I should

be invaluable.”