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Once a Week

Once a Week

Author:A. A. Milne


"In less refined circles than ours," I said to Myra, "your behaviour would be described as swank. Really, to judge from the airs you put on, you might be...
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  "In less refined circles than ours," I said to Myra, "your behaviourwould be described as swank. Really, to judge from the airs you put on,you might be the child's mother."

  "He's jealous because he's not an aunt himself. Isn't he, duckseydarling?"

  "I do wish you wouldn't keep dragging the baby into the conversation; wecan make it go quite well as a duologue. As to being jealous--why, it'sabsurd. True, I'm not an aunt, but in a very short time I shall be anuncle by marriage, which sounds to me much superior. That is," I added,"if you're still equal to it."

  Myra blew me a kiss over the cradle.

  "Another thing you've forgotten," I went on, "is that I'm down for aplace as a godfather. Archie tells me that it isn't settled yet, butthat there's a good deal of talk about it in the clubs. Who's the othergoing to be? Not Thomas, I suppose? That would be making the thingrather a farce."

  "Hasn't Dahlia broken it to you?" said Myra anxiously.

  "Simpson?" I asked, in an awed whisper.

  Myra nodded. "And, of course, Thomas," she said.

  "Heavens! Not three of us? What a jolly crowd we shall be. Thomas canplay our best ball. We might----"

  "But of course there are only going to be two godfathers," she said, andleant over the cradle again.

  I held up my three end fingers. "Thomas," I said, pointing to thesmallest, "me," I explained, pointing to the next, "and Simpson, thetall gentleman in glasses. One, two, three."

  "Oh, baby," sighed Myra, "what a very slow uncle by marriage you'regoing to have!"

  I stood and gazed at my three fingers for some time.

  "I've got it," I said at last, and I pulled down the middle one. "Therumour in the clubs was unauthorized. I don't get a place after all."

  "_Don't_ say you mind," pleaded Myra. "You see, Dahlia thought that asyou were practically one of the family already, an uncle-elect bymarriage, and as she didn't want to choose between Thomas andSamuel----"

  "Say no more. I was only afraid that she might have something against mymoral character. Child," I went on, rising and addressing theunresponsive infant, "England has lost a godfather this day, but theworld has gained a----what? I don't know. I want my tea."

  Myra gave the baby a last kiss and got up.

  "Can I trust him with you while I go and see about Dahlia?"

  "I'm not sure. It depends how I feel. I may change him with some poorbaby in the village. Run away, aunt, and leave us men to ourselves. Wehave several matters to discuss."

  When the child and I were alone together, I knelt by his cradle andsurveyed his features earnestly. I wanted to see what it was he had tooffer Myra which I could not give her. "This," I said to myself, "is theface which has come between her and me," for it was unfortunately truethat I could no longer claim Myra's undivided attention. But the more Ilooked at him the more mysterious the whole thing became to me.

  "Not a bad kid?" said a voice behind me.

  I turned and saw Archie.

  "Yours, I believe," I said, and I waved him to the cradle.

  Archie bent down and tickled the baby's chin, making appropriate noisesthe while--one of the things a father has to learn to do.

  "Who do you think he's like?" he asked proudly.

  "The late Mr. Gladstone," I said, after deep thought.

  "Wrong. Hallo, here's Dahlia coming out. I hope, for your sake, that thebaby's all right. If she finds he's caught measles or anything, you'llget into trouble."

  By a stroke of bad luck the child began to cry as soon as he saw theladies. Myra rushed up to him.

  "Poor little darling," she said soothingly. "Did his uncle by marriagefrighten him, then?"

  "Don't listen to her, Dahlia," I said. "I haven't done anything to him.We were chatting together quite amicably until he suddenly caught sightof Myra and burst into tears."

  "He's got a little pain," said Dahlia gently taking him up and pattinghim.

  "I think the trouble is mental," suggested Archie. "He looks to me as ifhe had something on his conscience. Did he say anything to you about itwhen you were alone?"

  "He didn't say much," I confessed, "but he seemed to be keepingsomething back. I think he wants a bit of a run, really."

  "Poor little lamb," said Dahlia. "There, he's better now, thank you."She looked up at Archie and me. "I don't believe you two love him abit."

  Archie smiled at his wife and went over to the tea-table to pour out. Isat on the grass and tried to analyse my feelings to my nephew bymarriage.

  "As an acquaintance," I said, "he is charming; I know no one who isbetter company. If I cannot speak of his more solid qualities, it isonly because I do not know him well enough. But to say whether I lovehim or not is difficult; I could tell you better after our firstquarrel. However, there is one thing I must confess. I am rather jealousof him."

  "You envy his life of idleness?"

  "No, I envy him the amount of attention he gets from Myra. The love shewastes on him which might be better employed on me is a heartrendingthing to witness. As her betrothed I should expect to occupy the premierplace in her affections, but, really, I sometimes think that if the babyand I both fell into the sea she would jump in and save the baby first."

  "Don't talk about his falling into the sea," said Dahlia, with ashudder; "I can't a-bear it."

  "I think it will be all right," said Archie, "I was touching wood allthe time."

  "What a silly godfather he nearly had!" whispered Myra at the cradle."It quite makes you smile, doesn't it, baby? Oh, Dahlia, he's just likeArchie when he smiles!"

  "Oh, yes, he's the living image of Archie," said Dahlia confidently.

  I looked closely at Archie and then at the baby.

  "I should always know them apart," I said at last. "That," and I pointedto the one at the tea-table, "is Archie, and this," and I pointed to theone in the cradle, "is the baby. But then I've such a wonderful memoryfor faces."

  "Baby," said Myra, "I'm afraid you're going to know some very foolishpeople."


  Thomas and Simpson arrived by the twelve-thirty train, and Myra and Idrove down in the wagonette to meet them. Myra handled the ribbons

"handled the ribbons"--we must have that again

while I sat on thebox-seat and pointed out any traction-engines and things in the road. Iam very good at this.

  "I suppose," I said, "there will be some sort of ceremony at thestation? The station-master will read an address while his littledaughter presents a bouquet of flowers. You don't often get twogodfathers travelling by the same train. Look out," I said, as we swunground a corner, "there's an ant coming."

  "What did you say? I'm so sorry, but I listen awfully badly when I'mdriving."

  "As soon as I hit upon anything really good I'll write it down. So far Ihave been throwing off the merest trifles. When we are married,Myra----"

  "Go on; I love that."

  "When we are married we shan't be able to afford horses, so we'll keep acouple of bicycles, and you'll be able to hear everything I say. Howjolly for you."

  "All right," said Myra quietly.

  There was no formal ceremony on the platform, but I did not seem to feelthe want of it when I saw Simpson stepping from the train with anenormous Teddy-bear under his arm.

  "Hallo, dear old chap," he said, "here we are! You're looking at mybear. I quite forgot it until I'd strapped up my bags, so I had to bringit like this. It squeaks," he added, as if that explained it. "Listen,"and the piercing roar of the bear resounded through the station.

  "Very fine. Hallo, Thomas!"

  "Hallo!" said Thomas, and went to look after his luggage.

  "I hope he'll like it," Simpson went on. "Its legs move up and down." Heput them into several positions, and then squeaked it again. "Jolly,isn't it?"

  "Ripping," I agreed. "Who's it for?"

  He looked at me in astonishment for a moment.

  "My dear old chap, for the baby."

  "Oh, I see. That's awfully nice of you. He'll love it." I wondered ifSimpson had ever seen a month-old baby. "What's its name?"

  "I've been calling it Duncan in the train, but, of course, he will wantto choose his own name for it."

  "Well, you must talk it over with him to-night after the ladies havegone to bed. How about your luggage? We mustn't keep Myra waiting."

  "Hallo, Thomas!" said Myra, as we came out. "Hallo, Samuel! Hooray!"

  "Hallo, Myra!" said Thomas. "All right?"

  "Myra, this is Duncan," said Simpson, and the shrill roar of the bearrang out once more.

  Myra, her mouth firm, but smiles in her eyes, looked down lovingly athim. Sometimes I think that she would like to be Simpson's mother.Perhaps, when we are married, we might adopt him.

  "For baby?" she said, stroking it with her whip. "But he won't beallowed to take it into church with him, you know. No, Thomas, I won'thave the luggage next to me; I want some one to talk to. You come."

  Inside the wagonette Simpson squeaked his bear at intervals, while Itried to prepare him for his coming introduction to his godson. Havingknown the baby for nearly a week, and being to some extent in Myra'sconfidence, I felt quite the family man beside Simpson.

  "You must try not to be disappointed with his looks," I said. "Anyway,don't let Dahlia think you are. And if you want to do the right thingsay that he's just like Archie. Archie doesn't mind this for somereason."

  "Is he tall for his age?"

  "Samuel, pull yourself together. He isn't tall at all. If he is anythinghe is long, but how long only those can say who have seen him in hisbath. You do realize that he is only a month old?"

  "My dear old boy, of course. One can't expect much from him. I supposehe isn't even toddling about yet?"

  "No--no. Not actually toddling."

  "Well, we can teach him later on. And I'm going to have a lot of funwith him. I shall show him my watch--babies always love that."

  There was a sudden laugh from the front, which changed just a little toolate into a cough. The fact is I had bet Myra a new golf-ball thatSimpson would show the baby his watch within two minutes of meeting him.Of course, it wasn't a certainty yet, but I thought there would be noharm in mentioning the make of ball I preferred. So I changed theconversation subtly to golf.

  Amidst loud roars from the bear we drove up to the house and weregreeted by Archie.

  "Hallo, Thomas! how are you? Hallo, Simpson! Good heavens! I know thatface. Introduce me, Samuel."

  "This is Duncan. I brought him down for your boy to play with."

  "Duncan, of course. The boy will love it. He's tired of me already. Heproposes to meet his godfathers at four p.m. precisely. So you'll havenearly three hours to think of something genial to say to him."

  We spent the last of the three hours playing tennis, and at four p.m.precisely the introduction took place. By great good luck Duncan wasabsent; Simpson would have wasted his whole two minutes in making itsqueak.

  "Baby," said Dahlia, "this is your Uncle Thomas."

  "Hallo!" said Thomas, gently kissing the baby's hand. "Good old boy,"and he felt for his pipe.

  "Baby," said Dahlia, "this is your Uncle Samuel."

  As he leant over the child I whipped out my watch and murmured, "Go!" 4hrs. 1 min. 25 sec. I wished Myra had not taken my "two minutes" soliterally, but I felt that the golf-ball was safe.

  Simpson looked at the baby as if fascinated, and the baby stared back athim. It was a new experience for both of them.

  "He's _just_ like Archie," he said at last, remembering my advice. "Onlysmaller," he added.

  4 hrs. 2 min. 7 sec.

  "I can see you, baby," he said. "Goo-goo."

  Myra came and rested her chin on my shoulder. Silently I pointed to thefinishing place on my watch, and she gave a little gurgle of excitement.There was only one minute left.

  "I wonder what you're thinking about," said Simpson to the baby. "Is itmy glasses you want to play with?"

  "Help!" I murmured. "This will never do."

  "He just looks and looks. Ah! but his Uncle Samuel knows what baby wantsto see."

I squeezed Myra's arm. 4 hrs. 3 mins. 10 secs. There was justtime.

"I wonder if it's anything in his uncle's waistcoat?"

  "No!" whispered Myra to me in agony. "_Certainly_ not."

  "He _shall_ see it if he wants to," said Simpson soothingly, and put hishand to his waistcoat pocket. I smiled triumphantly at Myra. He had fiveseconds to get the watch out--plenty of time.

  "Bother!" said Simpson. "I left it upstairs."


  The afternoon being wet we gathered round the billiard-room fire andwent into committee.

  "The question before the House," said Archie, "is what shall the baby becalled, and why. Dahlia and I have practically decided on his names, butit would amuse us to hear your inferior suggestions and point out howridiculous they are."

  Godfather Simpson looked across in amazement at Godfather Thomas.

  "Really, you are taking a good deal upon yourself, Archie," he saidcoldly. "It is entirely a matter for my colleague and myself to decidewhether the ground is fit for--to decide, I should say, what the childis to be called. Unless this is quite understood we shall hand in ourresignations."

  "We've been giving a lot of thought to it," said Thomas, opening hiseyes for a moment. "And our time is valuable." He arranged the cushionsat his back and closed his eyes again.

  "Well, as a matter of fact, the competition isn't quite closed," saidArchie. "Entries can still be received."

  "We haven't really decided at all," put in Dahlia gently. "It _is_ sodifficult."

  "In that case," said Samuel, "Thomas and I will continue to act. It ismy pleasant duty to inform you that we had a long consultationyesterday, and finally agreed to call him--er--Samuel Thomas."

  "Thomas Samuel," said Thomas sleepily.

  "How did you think of those names?" I asked. "It must have taken you atremendous time."

  "With a name like Samuel Thomas Mannering," went on Simpson ["ThomasSamuel Mannering," murmured Thomas], "your child might achieve almostanything. In private life you would probably call him Sam."

  "Tom," said a tired voice.

  "Or, more familiarly, Sammy."

  "Tommy," came in a whisper from the sofa.

  "What do you think of it?" asked Dahlia.

  "I mustn't say," said Archie; "they're my guests. But I'll tell youprivately some time."

  There was silence for a little, and then a thought occurred to me.

  "You know, Archie," I said, "limited as their ideas are, you're ratherin their power. Because I was looking through the service in church onSunday, and there comes a point when the clergyman says to thegodfathers, 'Name this child.' Well, there you are, you know. They'vegot you. You may have fixed on Montmorency Plantagenet, but they've onlyto say 'Bert,' and the thing is done."

  "You all forget," said Myra, coming over to sit on the arm of my chair,"that there's a godmother too. I shall forbid the Berts."

  "Well, that makes it worse. You'll have Myra saying 'MontmorencyPlantagenet,' and Samuel saying 'Samuel Thomas,' and Thomas saying'Thomas Samuel.'"

  "It will sound rather well," said Archie, singing it over to himself."Thomas, you take the tenor part, of course: 'Thomas Samuel, ThomasSamuel, Thom-as Sam-u-el.' We must have a rehearsal."

  For five minutes Myra, Thomas, and Simpson chanted in harmony, beingassisted after the first minute by Archie, who took the alto part of"Solomon Joel." He explained that as this was what he and his wifereally wanted the child christened

"Montmorency Plantagenet" being onlyan invention of the godmother's

it would probably be necessary for himto join in too.

  "Stop!" cried Dahlia, when she could bear it no longer; "you'll wakebaby."

  There was an immediate hush.

  "Samuel," said Archie in a whisper, "if you wake the baby I'll killyou."

  The question of his name was still not quite settled, and once more wegave ourselves up to thought.

  "Seeing that he's the very newest little Rabbit," said Myra, "I do thinkhe might be called after some very great cricketer."

  "That was the idea in christening him 'Samuel,'" said Archie.

  "Gaukrodger Carkeek Butt Bajana Mannering," I suggested--"something likethat?"

  "Silly; I meant 'Charles,' after Fry."

  "'Schofield,' after Haigh," murmured Thomas.

  "'Warren,' after Bardsley, would be more appropriate to a Rabbit," saidSimpson, beaming round at us. There was, however, no laughter. We hadall just thought of it ourselves.

  "The important thing in christening a future first-class cricketer,"said Simpson, "is to get the initials right. What could be better than'W. G.' as a nickname for Grace? But if 'W. G.'s' initials had been 'Z.Z.,' where would you have been?"

  "Here," said Archie.

  The shock of this reply so upset Simpson that his glasses fell off. Hepicked them out of the fender and resumed his theme.

  "Now, if the baby were christened 'Samuel Thomas' his initials would be'S. T.,' which are perfect. And the same as Coleridge's."

  "Is that Coleridge the wicket-keeper, or the fast bowler?"

  Simpson opened his mouth to explain, and then, just in time, decided notto.

  "I forgot to say," said Archie, "that anyhow he's going to be calledBlair, after his mamma."

  "If his name's Blair Mannering," I said at once, "he'll have to write abook. You can't waste a name like that. _The Crimson Spot_, by BlairMannering. Mr. Blair Mannering, the well-known author of _The Gash_. Ournew serial, _The Stain on the Bath Mat_, has been specially written forus by Mr. and Mrs. Blair Mannering. It's simply asking for it."

  "Don't talk about his wife yet, please," smiled Dahlia. "Let me have hima little while."

  "Well, he can be a writer _and_ a cricketer. Why not? There are others.I need only mention my friend, S. Simpson."

  "But the darling still wants another name," said Myra. "Let's call himJohn to-day, and William to-morrow, and Henry the next day, and so onuntil we find out what suits him best."

  "Let's all go upstairs now and call him Samuel," said Samuel.

  "Thomas," said Thomas.

  We looked at Dahlia. She got up and moved to the door. In single file wefollowed her on tip-toe to the nursery. The baby was fast asleep.

  "Thomas," we all said in a whisper, "Thomas, Thomas."

  There was no reply.


  Dead silence.

  "I think," said Dahlia, "we'll call him Peter."


  On the morning of the christening, as I was on my way to the bathroom, Imet Simpson coming out of it. There are people who have never seenSimpson in his dressing-gown; people also who have never waited for thesun to rise in glory above the snow-capped peaks of the Alps; who havenever stood on Waterloo Bridge and watched St. Paul's come through themist of an October morning. Well, well, one cannot see everything.

  "Hallo, old chap!" he said. "I was just coming to talk to you. I wantyour advice."

  "A glass of hot water the last thing at night," I said, "no sugar ormilk, a Turkish bath once a week and plenty of exercise. You'll get itdown in no time."

  "Don't be an ass. I mean about the christening. I've been to a wedding,of course, but that isn't quite the same thing."

  "A moment, while I turn on the tap." I turned it on and came back tohim. "Now then, I'm at your service."

  "Well, what's the--er--usual costume for a christening?"

  "Leave that to the mother," I said. "She'll see that the baby's dressedproperly."

  "I mean for a godfather."

  Dahlia has conveniently placed a sofa outside the bathroom door. Idropped into it and surveyed the dressing-gown thoughtfully.

  "Go like that," I said at last.

  "What I want to know is whether it's a top-hat affair or not?"

  "Have you brought a top-hat?"

  "Of course."

  "Then you must certainly---- I say! Come out of it, Myra!"

  I jumped up from the sofa, but it was too late. She had stolen my bath.

  "Well, of all the cheek----"

  The door opened and Myra's head appeared round the corner.

  "Hush! you'll wake the baby," she said. "Oh, Samuel, what a dream! _Why_haven't I seen it before?"

  "You have, Myra. I've often dressed up in it."

  "Then I suppose it looks different with a sponge. Because----"

  "Really!" I said as I took hold of Simpson and led him firmly away; "ifthe baby knew that you carried on like this of a morning he'd beshocked."

  Thomas is always late for breakfast. Simpson on this occasion wasdelayed by his elaborate toilet. They came in last together, by oppositedoors, and stood staring at each other. Simpson wore a frock-coat,dashing double-breasted waistcoat, perfectly creased trousers, and amagnificent cravat; Thomas had on flannels and an old blazer.

  "By Jove!" said Archie, seeing Simpson first, "you _are_ a----" and thenhe caught sight of Thomas. "Hul-_lo_!" His eyes went from one to theother, and at last settled on the toast. He went on with his breakfast."The two noble godfathers," he murmured.

  Meanwhile the two godfathers continued to gaze at each other as iffascinated. At last Simpson spoke.

  "We can't _both_ be right," he said slowly to himself.

  Thomas woke up.

  "Is it the christening to-day? I quite forgot."

  "It is, Thomas. The boat-race is to-morrow."

  "Well, I can change afterwards. You don't expect me to wear anythinglike that?" he said, pointing to Simpson.

  "Don't change," said Archie. "Both go as you are. Mick and Mack, theComedy Duo. Simpson does the talking while Thomas falls over the pews."

  Simpson collected his breakfast and sat down next to Myra.

  "Am I all right?" he asked her doubtfully.

  "Your tie's up at the back of your neck," I said.

  "Because if Dahlia would prefer it," he went on, ignoring me, "I couldeasily wear a plain dark tweed."

  "You're beautiful, Samuel," said Myra. "I hope you'll look as nice at mywedding."

  "You don't think I shall be mistaken for the father?" he askedanxiously.

  "By Peter? Well, that _is_ just possible. Perhaps if----"

  "I think you're right," said Simpson, and after breakfast he changedinto the plain dark tweed.

  As the hour approached we began to collect in the hall, Simpson readingthe service to himself for the twentieth time.

  "Do we have to say anything?" asked Thomas, as he lit his third pipe.

  Simpson looked at him in horror.

  "Say anything? Of course we do! Haven't you studied it? Here, you'lljust have time to read it through."

  "Too late now. Better leave it to the inspiration of the moment," Isuggested. "Does anybody know if there's a collection, because if so Ishall have to go and get some money."

  "There will be a collection for the baby afterwards," said Archie. "Ihope you've all been saving up."

  "Here he comes!" said Simpson, and Peter Blair Mannering came down thestairs with Dahlia and Myra.

  "Good morning, everybody," said Dahlia.

  "Good morning. Say 'Good morning,' baby."

  "He's rather nervous," said Myra. "He says he's never been christenedbefore, and what's it like?"

  "I expect he'll be all right with two such handsome godfathers," saidDahlia.

  "_Isn't_ Mr. Simpson looking well?" said Myra in a society voice. "Anddo you know, dear, that's the _third_ suit I've seen him in to-day."

  "Well, are we all ready?"

  "You're quite sure about his name?" said Archie to his wife. "This isyour last chance, you know. Say the word to Thomas before it's toolate."

  "I think Peter is rather silly," I said.

  "Why Blair?" said Myra. "I ask you."

  Dahlia smiled sweetly at us and led the way with P. B. Mannering to thecar. We followed ... and Simpson on the seat next the driver read theservice to himself for the last time.

  . . . . .

  "I feel very proud," said Archie as we came out of the church. "I'm notonly a father, but my son has a name. And now I needn't call him 'er'any more."

  "He _was_ a good boy, wasn't he?" said Myra.

  "Thomas, say at once that your godson was a good boy."

  But Thomas was quiet. He looked years older.

  "I've never read the service before," he said. "I didn't quite know whatwe were in for. It seems that Simpson and I have undertaken a heavyresponsibility; we are practically answerable for the child's education.We are supposed to examine him every few years and find out if he isbeing taught properly."

  "You can bowl to him later on if you like."

  "No, no. It means more than that." He turned to Dahlia. "I think," hesaid, "Simpson and I will walk home. We must begin at once to discussthe lines on which we shall educate our child."


  There was no one in sight. If 'twere done well, 'twere well donequickly. I gripped the perambulator, took a last look round, and thensuddenly rushed it across the drive and down a side path, not stoppinguntil we were well concealed from the house. Panting, I dropped into aseat, having knocked several seconds off the quarter-mile record forbabies under one.

  "Hallo!" said Myra.

  "Dash it, are there people everywhere to-day? I can't get a moment tomyself. 'O solitude, where----'"

  "What are you going to do with baby?"

  "Peter and I are going for a walk." My eyes rested on her for more thana moment. She was looking at me over an armful of flowers ...and--well--"You can come too if you like," I said.

  "I've got an awful lot to do," she smiled doubtfully.

  "Oh, if you'd rather count the washing."

  She sat down next to me.

  "Where's Dahlia?"

  "I don't know. We meant to have left a note for her, but we came away inrather a hurry. '_Back at twelve. Peter._'"

  "'_I am quite happy. Pursuit is useless_,'" suggested Myra. "PoorDahlia, she'll be frightened when she sees the perambulator gone."

  "My dear, what _could_ happen to it? Is this Russia?"

  "Oh, what happens to perambulators in Russia?" asked Myra eagerly.

  "They spell them differently," I said, after a little thought. "Anyhow,Dahlia's all right."

  "Well, I'll just take these flowers in and then I'll come back. If youand Peter will have me?"

  "I think so," I said.

  Myra went in and left me to my reflections, which were mainly that Peterhad the prettiest aunt in England, and that the world was very good. Butmy pleased and fatuous smile over these thoughts was disturbed by herannouncement on her return.

  "Dahlia says," she began, "that we may have Peter for an hour, but hemust come in at once if he cries."

  I got up in disgust.

  "You've spoilt my morning," I said.

  "Oh, _no_!"

  "I had a little secret from Dahlia, or rather Peter and I had a littlesecret together; at least, you and I and Peter had a secret. Anyhow, itwas a secret. And I was feeling very wicked and happy--Peter and I bothwere; and we were going to let you feel wicked too. And now Dahlia knowsall about the desperate deed we were planning, and, to make it worse,all she says is, 'Certainly! By all means! Only don't get his feet wet.'Peter," I said, as I bent over the sleeping innocent, "we are betrayed."

  "Miss Mannering will now relate her experiences," said Myra. "I wentinto the hall to put down the flowers, and just as I was coming out Isaw Dahlia in the corner with a book. And she said, 'Tell your youngman----'"

  "How vulgar!" I interrupted.

  "'Do be careful with my baby.' And I said in great surprise, 'Whatbaby?' And she said, 'He was very kindly running him up and down thedrive just now. Peter loves it, but don't let them go on too long orthere may be an accident.' And then she gave a few more instructions,and--here we are."

  "Peter," I said to the somnolent one, "you can't deceive a woman. Alsomen are pigs. Wake up, and we will apologize to your aunt for doubtingher. Sorry, Myra."

  Myra pinned a flower in my coat and forgave me, and we walked offtogether with the perambulator.

  "Peter is seeing a bit of life this morning," I said. "What shall weshow him now?"

  "Thomas and Samuel are playing golf," said Myra casually.

  I looked at her doubtfully.

  "Is that quite suitable?"

  "I think if we didn't let him stay too long it would be all right.Dahlia wouldn't like him to be overexcited."

  "Well, he can't be introduced to the game too early. Come on, Peter."And we pushed into more open country.

  The 9-hole course which Simpson planned a year ago is not yet used forthe Open Championship, though it is certainly better than it was lastsummer. But it is short and narrow and dog-legged, and, particularlywhen Simpson is playing on it, dangerous.

  "We are now in the zone of fire," I said. "Samuel's repainted ninepennymay whiz past us at any moment. Perhaps I had better go first." I tiedmy handkerchief to Myra's sunshade and led the way with the white flag.

  A ball came over the barn and rolled towards us, just reaching one ofthe wheels. I gave a yell.

  "Hallo!" bellowed Simpson from behind the barn.

  "You're firing on the ambulance," I shouted.

  He hurried up, followed leisurely by Thomas.

  "I say," he said excitedly, "have I hurt him?"

  "You have not even waked him. He has the special gift of--was itWellington or Napoleon?--that of being able to sleep through theheaviest battle."

  "Hallo!" said Thomas. "Good old boy! What's he been learning to-day?" headded, with godfatherly interest.

  "We're showing him life to-day. He has come to see Simpson play golf."

  "Doesn't he ever sit up?" asked Simpson, looking at him with interest."I don't see how he's going to see anything if he's always on his back.Unless it were something in the air."

  "Don't you ever get the ball in the air?" said Myra innocently.

  "What will his Uncle Samuel show him if he does sit up?" I asked. "Let'sdecide first if it's going to be anything worth watching. Which hole areyou for? The third?"

  "The eighth. My last shot had a bit of a slice."

  "A slice! It had about the whole joint. I doubt," I said to Myra, "if weshall do much good here; let's push on."

  But Myra had put down the hood and taken some of the clothes off Peter.Peter stirred slightly. He seemed to know that something was going on.Then suddenly he woke up, just in time to see Simpson miss the ballcompletely. Instantly he gave a cry.

  "Now you've done it," said Myra. "He's got to go in. And I'm afraidhe'll go away with quite a wrong idea of the game."

  But I was not thinking of the baby. Although I am to be his uncle bymarriage I had forgotten him.

  "If that's about Simpson's form to-day," I said to Myra, "you and Icould still take them on and beat them."

  Myra looked up eagerly.

  "What about Peter?" she asked; but she didn't ask it very firmly.

  "We promised Dahlia to take him in directly he cried," I said. "She'd bevery upset if she thought she couldn't trust us. And we've got to go infor our clubs, anyway," I added.

  Peter was sleeping peacefully again, but a promise is a promise. Afterall, we had done a good deal for his education that morning. We hadshown him human nature at work, and the position of golf in theuniverse.

  "We'll meet you on the first tee," said Myra to Thomas.


  "It's sad to think that to-morrow we shall be in London," said Simpson,with a sigh.

  "Rotten," agreed Thomas, and took another peach.

  There was a moment's silence.

  "We shall miss you," I said, after careful thought. I waited in vain forDahlia to say something, and then added, "You must both come again nextyear."

  "Thank you very much."

  "Not at all." I hate these awkward pauses. If my host or hostess doesn'tdo anything to smooth them over, I always dash in. "It's been delightfulto have you," I went on. "Are you sure you can't stay till Wednesday?"

  "I'm so sorry," said Dahlia, "but you took me by surprise. I had simplyno idea. Are you really going?"

  "I'm afraid so."

  "Are _you_ really staying?" said Archie to me. "Help!"

  "What about Peter?" asked Myra. "Isn't he too young to be taken from hisgodfathers?"

  "We've been talking that over," said Simpson, "and I think it will beall right. We've mapped his future out very carefully and we shallunfold it to you when the coffee comes."

  "Thomas is doing it with peach-stones," I said. "Have another, and makehim a sailor, Thomas," and I passed the plate.

  "Sailor indeed," said Dahlia. "He's going to be a soldier."

  "It's too late. Thomas has begun another one. Well, he'll have toswallow the stone."

  "A trifle hard on the Admiralty," said Archie. "It loses both Thomas andPeter at one gulp. My country, what of thee?"

  However, when Thomas had peeled the peach, I cleverly solved thedifficulty by taking it on to my plate while he was looking round forthe sugar.

  "No, no sugar, thanks," I said, and waved it away.

  With the coffee and cigars Simpson unfolded his scheme of education forPeter.

  "In the first place," he said, "it is important that even as a child heshould always be addressed in rational English and not in thatridiculous baby-talk so common with young mothers."

  "Oh dear," said Dahlia.

  "My good Samuel," I broke in, "this comes well from you. Why, onlyyesterday I heard you talking to him. I think you called him hisnunkey's ickle petsy wetsy lambkin."

  "You misunderstood me," said Simpson quickly. "I was talking to _you_."

  "Oh!" I said, rather taken aback. "Well--well, I'm not." I lit a cigar."And I shall be annoyed if you call me so again."

  "At the age of four," Simpson went on, "he shall receive his firstlesson in cricket. Thomas will bowl to him----"

  "I suppose that means that Thomas will have to be asked down hereagain," said Archie. "Bother! Still, it's not for four years."

  "Thomas will bowl to him, Archie will keep wicket, and I shall field."

  "And where do I come in?" I asked.

  "You come in after Peter. Unless you would rather have your lessonfirst."

  "That's the second time I've been sat on," I said to Myra, "Why isSimpson so unkind to me to-night?"

  "I suppose he's jealous because you're staying on another week."

  "Probably; still, I don't like it. Could you turn your back on him, doyou think, to indicate our heavy displeasure?"

  Myra moved her chair round and rested her elbow on the table.

  "Go on, Samuel," said Dahlia. "You're lovely to-night. I suppose theseare Thomas's ideas as well as your own?"

  "His signature is duly appended to them."

  "I didn't read 'em all," said Thomas.

  "That's very rash of you," said Archie. "You don't know what youmightn't let yourself in for. You may have promised to pay the childthreepence a week pocket-money."

  "No, there's nothing like that," said Simpson, to Archie's evidentdisappointment. "Well, then, at the age of ten he goes to a preparatoryschool."

  "Has he learnt to read yet?" asked Dahlia. "I didn't hear anything aboutit."

  "He can read at six. I forgot to say that I am giving him a book which Ishall expect him to read aloud to Thomas and me on his sixth birthday."

  "Thomas has got _another_ invitation," said Archie. "Dash it!"

  "At fourteen he goes to a public school. The final decision as to whichpublic school he goes to will be left to you, but, of course, we shallexpect to be consulted on the subject."

  "I'll write and tell you what we decide on," said Archie hastily;"there'll be no need for you to come down and be told aloud."

  "So far we have not arranged anything for him beyond the age offourteen. I now propose to read out a few general rules about hisupbringing which we must insist on being observed."

  "The great question whether Simpson is kicked out of the house to-night,or leaves unobtrusively by the milk train to-morrow morning, is about tobe settled," I murmured.

  "'RULE ONE.--He must be brought up to be ambidextrous.' It will be veryuseful," explained Simpson, "when he fields cover for England."

  "Or when he wants to shake hands with two people at once," said Archie.

  "'RULE TWO.--He must be taught from the first to speak French and Germanfluently.' He'll thank you for that later on when he goes abroad."

  "Or when he goes to the National Liberal Club," said Archie.

  "'RULE THREE.--He should be surrounded as far as possible with beautifulthings.' Beautiful toys, beautiful wall-paper, beautiful scenery----"

  "Beautiful godfathers?" I asked doubtfully.

  Simpson ignored me and went on hurriedly with the rest of his rules.

  "Well," said Archie, at the end of them, "they're all fairly futile, butif you like to write them out neatly and frame them in gold I don't mindhanging them up in the bathroom. Has anybody else got anything fatuousto say before the ladies leave us?"

  I filled my glass.

  "I've really got a lot to say," I began, "because I consider that I'vebeen rather left out of things. If you come to think of it, I'm the onlyperson here who isn't anything important, all the rest of you beinggodfathers, or godmothers, or mothers, or fathers, or something.However, I won't dwell on that now. But there's one thing I must say,and here it is." I raised my glass. "Peter Blair Mannering, and may hegrow up to be a better man than any of us!"

  Upstairs, in happy innocence of the tremendous task in front of him, thechild slept. Poor baby!

  We drank solemnly, but without much hope.