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Holiday Time
by [?]

“The first thing to do is to build a palisade to keep the savages off,” said Archie, and he stuck the boat-hook into the ground. “After which you are requested to light fires to frighten the wild beasts. The woodbines are very wild at this time of the year.”

“We shall have to light a fire anyhow for the tea, so that will be very useful,” said the thoughtful Dahlia.

“I myself,” I said, “will swim out to the wreck for the musket and the bag of nails.”

“As you’re going,” said Myra, unpacking, “you might get the sugar as well. We’ve forgotten it.”

“Now you’ve spoilt my whole holiday. It was bad enough with the cake last week, but this is far, far worse. I shall go into the wood and eat berries.”

“It’s all right, here it is. Now you’re happy again. I wish, if you aren’t too busy, you’d go into the wood and collect sticks for the fire.”

“I am unusually busy,” I said, “and there is a long queue of clients waiting for me in the ante-room. An extremely long queue–almost a half-butt in fact.”

I wandered into the wood alone. Archie and Dahlia had gone arm-in-arm up the hill to look at a view, Simpson was helping Myra with the hampers, and Thomas, the latest arrival from town, was lying on his back, telling them what he alleged to be a good story now going round London. Myra told it to me afterwards, and we agreed that as a boy it had gone round the world several times first. Yet I heard her laugh unaffectedly–what angels women are!

Ten minutes later I returned with my spoil, and laid it before them.

“A piece of brown bread from the bread-fruit tree, a piece of indiarubber from the mango tree, a chutney from the banana grove, and an omelet from the turtle run, I missed the chutney with my first barrel, and brought it down rather luckily with the ricochet.”

“But how funny; they all look just like sticks of wood.”

“That is Nature’s plan of protective colouring. In the same way apricots have often escaped with their lives by sitting in the cream and pretending to be poached eggs.”

“The same instinct of self-preservation,” added Archie, “has led many a pill called Beauchamp to pronounce its name Cholmondeley.”

Simpson begged to be allowed to show us how to light a fire, and we hadn’t the heart to refuse him. It was, he said, the way they lit fires on the veldt (and other places where they wanted fires), and it went out the first time because the wind must have changed round after he had begun to lay the wood. He got the draught in the right place the next time, and for a moment we thought we should have to take to the boats; but the captain averted a panic, and the fire was got under. Then the kettle was put on, and of all the boiled water I have ever tasted this was the best.

“You know,” said Archie, “in Simpson the nation has lost a wonderful scoutmaster.”

“Oh, Samuel,” cried Myra, “tell us how you tracked the mules that afternoon, and knew they were wounded because of the blood.”

“Tell us about that time when you bribed the regimental anchovy of Troop B to betray the secret password to you.”

“I ignore you because you’re jealous. May I have some more tea, Miss Mannering?”

“Call me Myra, Scoutmaster Simpson of The Spectator troop, and you shall.”

“I blush for my unblushing sex,” said Dahlia.

“I blush for my family,” said Archie. “That a young girl of gentle birth, nurtured in a peaceful English home, brought up in an atmosphere of old-world courtesy, should so far forget herself as to attempt to wheedle a promising young scoutmaster, who can light a fire, practically speaking, backwards–this, I repeat, is too much.”

It was Thomas who changed the subject so abruptly.

“I suppose the tide comes as far as this?” he said.