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Old Friends
by [?]

“It was very nice of you to invite me to give you lunch,” I said, “and if only the waiter would bring the toast I should be perfectly happy. I can’t say more.”

“Why not?” said Miss Middleton, looking up. “Oh, I see.”

“And now,” I said, when I had finished my business with a sardine, “tell me all about it. I know something serious must have brought you up to London. What is it? Have you run away from home?”

Miss Middleton nodded. “Sir Henery,” she added dramatically, “waits for me in his yacht at Dover. My parents would not hear of the marriage, and immured me in the spare room. They tried to turn me against my love, and told wicked stories about him, vowing that he smoked five non-throat cigarettes in a day. Er–would you pass the pepper, please?”

“Go on,” I begged. “Never mind the pepper.”

“But, of course, I really came to see you,” said Miss Middleton briskly. “I want you to do something for me.”

“I knew it.”

“Oh, do say you’d love to.”

I drained my glass and felt very brave.

“I’d love to,” I said doubtfully. “At least, if I were sure that—-” I lowered my voice: “Look here–have I got to write to anybody?”

“No,” said Miss Middleton.

“Let me know the worst. Have I–er–have I got to give advice to anybody?”


There was one other point that had to be settled. I leant across the table anxiously.

“Have I got to ring anybody up on the telephone?” I asked in a hoarse whisper.

“Oh, nothing like that at all,” said Miss Middleton.

“Dash it,” I cried, “then of course I’ll do anything for you. What is it? Somebody you want killed? I could kill a mayor to-day.”

Miss Middleton was silent for a moment while allowing herself to be helped to fish. When the waiters had moved away, “We are having a jumble sale,” she announced.

I shook my head at her.

“Your life,” I said, “is one constant round of gaiety.”

“And I thought as I was coming to London I’d mention it to you. Because you’re always saying you don’t know what to do with your old things.”

“I’m not always saying it. I may have mentioned it once or twice when the conversation was flagging.”

“Well, mention it now, and then I’ll mention my jumble sale.”

I thought it over for a moment.

“It will mean brown paper and string,” I said hopelessly, “and I don’t know where to get them.”

“I’ll buy some after lunch for you. You shall hold my hand while I buy it.”

“And then I should have to post it, and I’m rotten at posting things.”

“But you needn’t post it, because you can meet me at the station with it, and I’ll take it home.”

“I don’t think it’s quite etiquette for a young girl to travel alone with a big brown-paper parcel. What would Mrs. Middleton say if she knew?”

“Mother?” cried Miss Middleton. “But, of course, it’s her idea. You didn’t think it was mine?” she said reproachfully.

“The shock of it unnerved me for a moment. Of course, I see now that it is Mrs. Middleton’s jumble sale entirely.” I sighed and helped myself to salt. “How do I begin?”

“You drive me to my dressmaker and leave me there and go on to your rooms. And then you collect a few really old things that you don’t want and tie them up and meet me at the 4.40. I’m afraid,” she said frankly, “it is a rotten way of spending an afternoon; but I promised mother.”

“I’ll do it,” I said.

My parcel and I arrived promptly to time. Miss Middleton didn’t.

“Don’t say I’ve caught the wrong train,” she said breathlessly, when at last she appeared. “It does go at 4.40, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” I said, “and it did.”

“Then my watch must be slow.”

“Send it to the jumble sale,” I advised. “Look here–we’ve a long time to wait for the next train; let’s undress my parcel in the waiting-room, and I’ll point out the things that really want watching. Some are absolutely unique.”