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The Missing Card
by [?]

“Lose Jane?” cried Celia. “I’d sooner go to prison–I mean I’d sooner you went to prison. Why can’t you be a man and do something?”

Celia doesn’t seem to realize that I married her with the sole idea of getting free of all this sort of bother. As it is, I nearly die once a year in the attempt to fill up my income-tax form. Any traffic in insurance cards would, my doctor says, be absolutely fatal.

However, something had to be done. Last week I went into a neighbouring post-office in order to send a telegram. The post-office is an annexe of the grocer’s where the sardines come from on Jane’s cinema evening. Having sent the telegram, I took a sudden desperate resolve. I–I myself–would do something.

“I want,” I said bravely, “an insurance stamp.”

“Sixpenny or sevenpenny?” said the girl, trying to put me off my balance at the very beginning.

“What’s the difference?” I asked. “You needn’t say a penny, because that is obvious.”

However, she had no wish to be funny.

“Sevenpenny for men-servants, sixpenny for women,” she explained.

I wasn’t going to give away our domestic arrangements to so near a neighbour.

“Three sixpenny and four sevenpenny,” I said casually, flicking the dust off my shoes with a handkerchief. “Tut, tut, I was forgetting Thomas,” I added. “Five sevenpenny.”

I took the stamps home and showered them on Celia.

“You see,” I said, “it’s not really difficult.”

“Oh, you angel! What do I do with them?”

“Stick them on Jane,” I said grandly. “Dot them about the house. Stamp your letters with them–I can always get you plenty more.”

“Didn’t you get a card too?”

“N-no. No, I didn’t. The fact is, it’s your turn now, Celia. You get the card.”

“Oh, all right. I–er–suppose you just ask for a–a card?”

“I suppose so. And–er–choose a doctor, and–er–decide on an approved society, and–er–explain why it is you hadn’t got a card before, and–er—- Well, anyhow, it’s your turn now, Celia.”

“It’s really still Jane’s turn,” said Celia, “only she’s so stupid about it.”

But she turned out to be not so stupid as we thought. For yesterday there came a ring at the bell. Feeling instinctively that it was the inspector, Celia and I got behind the sofa … and emerged some minutes later to find Jane alone in the room.

“Somebody come to see about an insurance card or something,” she said. “I said you were both out, and would he come to-morrow.”

Technically I suppose we were both out. That is, we were not receiving.

“Thank you, Jane,” I said stiffly. I turned to Celia. “There you are,” I said. “To-morrow something must be done.”

“I always said I’d do it to-morrow,” said Celia.