I have located all of the readily available Ashley Sterne comic short stories (comic newspaper articles) that feature Miss Gladys Paggs, his long-suffering sweetheart and eventual wife. These are little jewels of short-form humor. While there are a few references to people that might escape today's reader (e.g., Norman Brookes, the Australian tennis champion, or Cyril Maude, the celebrated English comic actor), the stories remain lively and fresh nearly a century later.
I posted two of these stories several days ago; but, realizing that my blog readers seldom bother to follow a string of postings, I decided that redundancy is no great evil in the blog world and have included all of the stories in chronological publication order below. The publication dates refer to when the stories were reprinted in Australian newspapers and are probably delayed somewhat from the original publication dates in England.
The stories include the following:
Doing A Service: How a Giddy Game of Tennis Ended (Dec 1919)
A Rod, a Poll, and a Perch (Dec 1919)
A Piece of Resistance: Another Funny Adventure with Miss Paggs (Jan 1920)
A Very Mixed Bathe (Feb 1920)
Breaking a Duck: Miss Paggs Trots Me Round (Apr 1920)
Gift Horses and White Elephants: Gladys Paggs and I Look Over the Wedding Presents (Feb 1921)
Preparing for Action (Apr 1921)
DOING A SERVICE: How a Giddy Game of Tennis Ended
By Ashley Sterne
Gladys Paggs is really a very kind-hearted girl, and when she told me that she was organising a tournament at her lawn tennis club on behalf of the friends of the Society for Promoting Kindness to Electric Eels, I at once said I would enter.
I freely admit that I'm not a great player; Norman Brookes could possibly owe me fifteen and still keep his end up. My real game is table-croquet. But I still maintain that my form is good enough for charitable purposes.
On the day of the tournament I discovered that by an unhappy coincidence I had drawn Miss Paggs as partner. She is quite a rabbit at the game, and I had some thought of requesting the drawing committee to raffle her again.
However, I didn't care to make a fuss, and after all she had sold the most tickets, and was morally entitled (as I impressed upon her) to a superior partner.
Served Eight Faults Running
Our opponents were two quite ordinary people, the gentleman being chiefly remarkable for the fact that he had a huge red moustache, and the lady because she hadn't. The first service fell to Miss Paggs, and the fact that she served eight faults running she subsequently attributed to my putting her off her stroke by asking if she played the "heart convention," and whether she discarded from strength or weakness. But this, of course, was a poor excuse for a most incompetent performance. The lady without a red moustache served next, and succeeded twice in baffling Miss Paggs, who never attempted to return either service.
When I suggested that she should be dummy and let me take her ball for her, she really got most unreasonable. I myself found no difficulty in returning our opponent's services, and the fact that I sent them both into the net is entirely explained by the net's being too high at my side of the court.
Besides, when I was on the point of taking the first service, Miss Paggs thoughtlessly chose that moment to sneeze, and one really can't shape properly for a stroke while one's partner is indulging in a series of unseemly and ill-timed contortions.
I missed the next service I received because I expected Miss Paggs to sneeze and she didn't.
It was then my turn to serve. My service is really very attractive; it is known as the American service, though I introduce a touch of Patterson into it just to make it more deadly.
My first ball, however, unaccountably went somewhere over my head and fell into an adjoining field, where it was at once gored by a startled and choleric cow.
The Ball Rose Like a Rocket
My next ball I hit too hard, with the result that it likewise left the club premises without a stain upon its character, achieving in its flight the height record for the tournament.
The club grounds abut on to the railway line, and my third ball fell into the truck of a passing goods train, and was whisked off to Herne Bay without a ticket.
My fourth ball hit Miss Paggs, who was standing rather in the line of fire, a resounding blow between the shoulder blades.
My fifth went crash into the pavilion, and smashed up a tray of iced drinks, while my sixth I served with great violence on to my own foot - the American service being very tricky to deliver.
I miscued the seventh ball, which again hit Miss Paggs, this time behind the ear. As I pointed out to her, she had no business to be wandering aimlessly about the court while the game was in progress. If she wanted to ramble, she ought to have become a beagle or a harrier or something, not joined a tennis club.
Said I Did It On Purpose
When she had recovered, I suggested that she should got well up to the net where I could see her, and thus minimize the chance of accidents. I then rallied all my efforts and launched my eighth ball into space. At the same moment Miss Paggs foolishly turned round, and a fraction of a second later she collapsed with a dull, sickening thud.
Her accusation that I did it on purpose was, of course, totally unjust. As I explained to her that evening, when I was carrying the booby-prize home for her, the American service is very difficult to perform, and the reason why I had failed with it was merely that I hadn't got my eye in.
"And is that," remarked Miss Paggs coldly, "any reason why you should try to knock mine out?"
A Rod, a Poll, and a Perch
By Ashley Sterne.
I am a keen disciple of that eminent fisherman, Sir Izaak Walton (who, you may remember, was not only Senior Angler of his College, but also invented apples falling off a tree), and it was with much pride that I showed Miss Paggs a stuffed sprat which I caught a few years ago in Trafalgar Square, and which turned the scale at nearly half an ounce. It is, therefore, not surprising that when I suggested to Miss Paggs that she might spend a day with me watching me fish and opening the beer she jumped at the idea.
Unfortunately, the day started with a little contretemps. I had taken charge of the railway tickets, and lost Gladys's.
The result was that when a traveling inspector boarded the train and demanded to see our tickets I could only produce my own. This necessitated Miss Paggs paying her fare over again, which was rather awkward as the fare was seven and six, and she could only produce seven shillings. However, I did what every true gentleman would do under similar circumstances and I unhesitatingly lent Miss Paggs sixpence on her note of hand alone.
She Couldn't Bait a Hook.
Otherwise we travelled to our destination without mishap, and I was happily able, to while away the tedium of the journey by narrating a few humorous anecdotes, one of which made Miss Paggs smile somewhat.
We eventually reached the mill-pond where I proposed to fish, and at once began the preliminaries.
I was rather annoyed to find that Miss Paggs couldn't bait a hook––I had been relying on her to assist me in this––and even when I patiently explained to her how to kill a small frog and thread it on a baiting needle, she proved so dull and obtuse that finally I had to use other bait. You may possibly wonder why I didn't do the job myself, and I state quite frankly that I dislike handling defunct frogs. It gives me a feeling of blancmange all down my spine.
However, I did induce her to hold the bait-can while I selected a suitable grub, but it was certainly unfortunate that I managed to drop it down the-neck of her blouse just as I thought I had successfully impaled it on the hook.
It was equally unfortunate that in the ensuing panic the hook got mixed up with Miss Paggs's lingerie, necessitating her retiring behind a tree to repair the damage.
All this time the fish were rising all around us with their mouths open waiting for the fishing to begin, so to encourage them I threw in a handful of ground-bait..
The Fish Swallowed Her Hankie.
It was really no fault of mine that Miss Paggs's lace handkerchief (which was slightly bigger than a postage stamp) went in too, and was immediately swallowed by a large fish. As I told her, I liked shiny noses best, and I promised her that if I caught the fish that had swallowed it I would give it a good hard slap.
At last I made a cast, and almost before the bait touched the water a nice perch was fielding at short slip, as it were, secured it and commenced to eat it. I jerked the line and hooked him, and by-means of a little ju-jitsu man aged to draw him above the surface. He was a fine fellow, with a spinal fin on which you could have played a harp solo. Anxious not to lose him I swung him suddenly round, and deposited him with a flop on Miss Paggs' hatless head.
Then the trouble began. What with the protruding hook––I had hooked him through the lip––and the spiky fin and Miss Paggs' hair-net, that lady's head soon resembled a haystack after a cyclone.
I Gave Her a Free Hair-Cut.
I could get neither the fish nor the hook out of her hair, and I feared that Miss Paggs would have to go through life with the perch permanently enmeshed in her tresses. To make matters worse a large ball of hair known, I believe, as a 'bun," became dislodged from the tangle and was wafted away on the breeze, finally resting high up in a tree.
I ultimately managed to release both fish and hook by giving Miss Paggs a free hair-cut with my pocket knife. But she was very thankless, and obstinately refused my offer to have the perch stuffed as a memento. Which was perhaps just as well, as during the debate it flopped back into the pond. I caught nothing else that day––unless you count a villainous cold.
A Piece of Resistance: Another Funny Adventure With Miss Paggs
By Ashley Sterne.
I regret to record that owing to the grossly incompetent manner in which our recent lawn tennis tournament was run by Miss Paggs, the deserving charitable society for whose benefit we so nobly and unselfishly toiled all through a hot summer day was ultimately found to owe the tournament a matter of some ten pounds.
I thereupon suggested to Miss Paggs that the society should at once be written to and a cheque in settlement demanded per return post, or, failing that, a man would be put in. But it appeared that the indefatigable Miss Paggs was already in the throes of arranging a concert in order to wipe out the deficit on the tournament, "And that," she said to me one day, "is what I want to see you about. Have you ever done any acting?"
As a matter of fact, I had only acted once before, and that was in a dumb charade, when I gave so masterly a representation of a "Sounder" to rhyme with "tray" that the audience mistook me for a real ass. Still, acting's acting, and so I replied: "Acting? Rather! Why, a man once told me I reminded him strongly of Cyril Maude." I did not add that the resemblance sarcastically recalled by my friend began and ended with my parting my hair in the centre.
"Oh," exclaimed Miss Paggs rapturously, "then perhaps you would act in a short duologue with me?"
I answered that I would act in a long catalogue with her if she liked.
"It's a bright little piece entitled 'Teacups for Two,' practically a flirtation-scene at a tea-table," continued Miss Paggs, blushing like a beetroot, anchovy paste and a sunset all brigaded together, and gazing at me with those lustrous violet eyes of hers which seemed to suggest mesmerism, Pelmanism and astigmatism simultaneously.
That clinched the matter, and " I was finally committed to appear with Miss Paggs in the duologue which was to conclude the entertainment.
I had some little bother in memorising my lines, a slight cardiac trouble preventing my learning things by heart, but by dint of sitting up late and drinking much cold tea and midnight oil, I at length succeeded in getting the hang of my part, and after Miss Paggs and I had had our thirty sixth (and final) rehearsal I felt quite confident that on the night I should beat the prompter on points. On that occasion Archie Paggs (Gladys's brother, who was the prompter in question) paid me a great compliment which bucked me up wonderfully.
"Who was it again," he asked, "that your friend said you resembled?"
"Cyril Maude," I replied proudly.
"Well, for my part," he remarked, "your light, breezy style of acting, coupled with the easy grace wit which you comport yourself on the stage, remind me irresistibly of Sam Mayo, with just a suspicion perhaps of Harry Weldon. You're absolutely priceless."
The concert proved a great success. The audience were numerous and costly and the programme fully choral. Financial experts were agreed that we ought not to lose more than another fiver towards the deficit on the tennis tournament. All the artistes did well, especially a lady whose heartfelt rendering of "My Dear Soul" reduced our local profiteering fishmonger to tears. I was greatly struck, too, by the turn of a gentleman who made a noise on a 'cello reminiscent of a nanny-goat deprived of its kid, at which I laughed heartily until it was pointed out to me that it was not, as I imagined, an imitation of a farmyard, but a classical composition by a famous Russian composer with a name which sounded like treading on an egg.
At last the time came for my duologue with Miss Paggs, and a wave of excited anticipation swept through the hall. Indeed, some people got so excitably anticipatory that they also swept through the hall and never came back again. But unfortunately the duologue never materialised. We were all ready to begin when, in order to freshen my vocal chords, I drank a tumblerful of very bubbly soda-water.
Notwithstanding that I did my best to recover quickly by eating sugar and getting people to shout "Boo" at me suddenly, the hall was empty when I was ready once more. Miss Paggs was furious, and most unreasonable as usual. As I explained to her, how on earth could I have foreseen that 'Teacups for Two' was destined to be replaced by that painfully distressing monologue 'Hiccups for One'?
A Very Mixed Bathe
By Ashley Sterne
I had not been away, for a summer holiday, in spite of the fact that I had written to several people who used to call me comrade and friend, and extend the right hand of Bolshevism to me, suggesting that a visit from me would greatly add to their enjoyment.
Therefore, I was not a little glad when Archie Paggs wrote to me from Dazzleton-on-Sea asking me to spend a week or two with him and his sister Gladys; though had I known that he really wanted me to look after Miss Paggs while he endeavored to "click" with a damsel he had encountered on the pier with red hair, green stockings, and a face like a melon with freckles—I am describing the damsel, you understand; not the pier—wild tanks would not have dragged me there.
However, down I went, and spent the first four days playing fox-and-geese with Miss Paggs. It rained incessantly, not only cats and dogs, but giraffes and crocodiles in fact, a whole Jamrachfull of animals.
Archie and the Freckled Melon sat in the picture palace from morning to night, holding one another's thumbs and chewing spearmint.
On the fifth day it cleared up. The sun, came out and shone ferociously, so I got out my yachting cap and asked Miss Paggs to come for a stroll on the parade.
She looked somewhat askance at my yachting cap (which, I admit, was not a perfect fit, resembling as it sat on my skull an inverted tea-cup on a. Dutch cheese), but after cramming her handkerchief into her mouth—I suppose she couldn't find her pocket—she gurgled that she'd just love to.
We got very hot walking, so we stopped at a small refreshment kiosk at one end of the parade, and I asked her if she were thirsty.
"Dreadfully," she gasped, and sank down upon. seat while I went to the kiosk. I ate a couple of strawberry ices and a peach, and then asked the man to give me a glass of water, which I carried to Miss Paggs.
She murmured something which sounded like "Stamboul" as I handed it to her, but I suppose she was only trying to thank me, and I did not like to ask her to say it again, because I hate being thanked more than once for a simple act of kindness.
The sun was hotter than ever now, and when I suggested a mixed bathe—Dazzleton is quite commonsense in the matter, and even allows mixed shrimping—Miss Paggs jumped at the idea. So we went to the bathing-place, and were very soon in the water.
Unfortunately, after I have been in the sea a few minutes I usually turn a delicate art-shade of blue (if I am not seized with cramp before then), and on this occasion I had to come out almost as soon as I got in.
"Try a dive off there," I cried, indicating one of the diving-boards. "The water there's lovely—warm as toast."
Nothing loth, Miss Paggs mounted the board and took a graceful header. But no sooner had her head appeared above the surface again than she uttered a scream like a ship's siren, sending the wild echoes flying and waking up all the poor invalids dozing in the shelters on the pier.
"What's the matter?" I shouted, as I hastily put on my yachting cap, wondering if I ought to run home for my water-wings.
"You're a horrid pig!" angrily called back Miss Paggs. "The water's simply alive with—ouch!—jelly-fish, and they are—ouch! ouch!—stinging me all over."
It was true. Miss Paggs had evidently dived into a school of submerged jelly fish and brought up most of the fifth and sixth forms with her. I rushed to the diving board and, leaning over, I beat off several of the more infuriated ones with one hand—it was purely an accident that I slapped Miss Paggs' ear in the confusion—while with the other I collected Miss Paggs, and dragged her to a jellyfish-proof part of the platform.
And she wouldn't even speak to me; not even when I volunteered to go and fetch her another glass of water.
Breaking A Duck: Miss Paggs Trots Me Round
By Ashley Sterne
The ring has at last been bought, and as my solicitor informs me he can do nothing for me in the matter of taking Miss Paggs off my hands––I even offered to include the ring––my acting rank of fiance has now become a very real thing.
I am now enduring the process of being "shown off"––that is to say, I am being carted round to a series of dull and tiresome relations and friends of Miss Paggs, and exhibited much in the style of a kind of freak or weird domestic pet.
I once knew a girl who had a chameleon, and this wretched reptile toured a large circuit of her friends just in the same way. Intense excitement was caused, I understand, by observing its change of color in accordance with its environment, and I can only conclude that I perform a similar phenomenon.
Certainly I am continually blushing for Miss Paggs' relations––mostly obscure uncles and aunts of a distinctly bourgeois type; she has no parents living, and I wouldn't be seen, even under the influence of drink, with some of them.
One night I was dragged off to Mitcham to be introduced to Miss Paggs' grandmother. This priceless old haricot was ninety-eight, deaf as a post, and very short-sighted. When I offered her my hand, she said it was very kind of me to bring her a bunch of bananas, but she didn't care for them.
When I asked her if she were looking forward to being a centenarian, she replied that she'd always been accustomed to meat, and had no intention of transferring her allegiance to vegetables.
A person who talks like that has got me in a cinch. I don't show at my best. I want to take gas, or hashish, or bhang, and forget all about it. I can't carry on a conversation with a myopic nonagenarian who, when she is told, for example that your name is Simpson insists on calling you Mr. Pipkin.
We stayed to supper on this occasion, and if I live to be a hundred––no, I shall never do that––sooner than be a dithering centenarian I will commit hari-kaki, suttee, chutney, anything rather than be a nuisance to unwilling relatives-in law. What I meant to say was I shall never forget it. The soup had evidently been stirred with the North Pole. A penguin would have positively revelled in it. As for the fish––well, I don't know whether my piece was a Beeston or a Dunlop. All I know is that when I surreptitiously dropped it on the floor you'd have thought I was chucking tennis balls about.
And then a wild duck made its appearance. Owing to Grandma Paggs' short sight she had some difficulty in locating it, and nearly severed my hand at the wrist before I could make her understand that I was not the wretched bird. In desperation I volunteered to carve it––a task which she was only too pleased to relegate to me.
My knowledge of carving is very elementary. A sausage is about the limit of my capabilities in that direction. However, I took the carvers in my hands with a feeling of confidence. It wasn't an intelligent bird to carve. To begin with, it slid all over the dish.
Then it was a trifle too wild, even for a wild duck. If I had been the duckmonger I should have tamed it a little before selling it. It seemed to me that it wasn't really dead all through, for it moved about the dish without any encouragement on my part.
However, after I had knocked over a vase, a cruet containing two different sorts of brilliantine, and broken a tumbler, I at length succeeded in impaling the restless bird on the prongs of the carving-fork.
But it was not to be. The dam––that is to say, the damaged duck slipped again, and fell with a wump into Grandma Paggs' lap.
Gladys gave a shriek of horror, the servant dropped the potatoes into the fireplace, while I drank heavily out of the brilliantine bottles by mistake. The climax arrived when Grandma Paggs, under the impression. that the cat had jumped into her lap, commenced to tickle the beastly duck on the parson's nose, and to murmur, ''Poor pussy!'' in a crooning undertone.
Gift Horses and White Elephants:
Gladys Paggs and I Look Over the Wedding Presents.
By Ashley Sterne
Absence says the proverb, makes the heart grow fonder; but presents, I find, make it grow fonder than that. For some weeks past wedding gifts have been flocking in and my heart is getting so fond that I hardly recognize it. People whom I have hitherto cordially disliked with both hands have rolled up with some very handsome presents, notably a salad bowl decorated with pictures of lobsters and beetroot from Mrs. Miffen, and a photograph of the Crystal Palace in a green plush frame from her beautiful daughter and I find myself writing effusive and affectionate letters of thanks that are possibly as much a surprise to the recipients as they are to me.
At the same time. it is forcibly borne in upon me that every rose has its thorn, every ointment its fly, every piece of silver its cloudy lining, for I find a lamentable lack of originality displayed in the selection of wedding presents.
At the moment of writing it is pretty evident that an impression has got about that Gladys Pangs and I have decided to subsist for the future entirely on butter, toast and pickles, and to furnish our home exclusively with fancy flower pots and barometers. Between us we have amassed seven butter dishes, nine toast-racks, six cut glass pickle jars, eight flower pots and three barometers.
Now if our generous well-wishers had on1y consulted me beforehand I could easily have put them wise as to a few things we urgently require, and which up to the present we are lacking. For instance, we badly need a grand piano, yet nobody has yet rolled up with even so much as a soft pedal. At one time I had great hopes that Grandma Paggs would rise to the occasion, especially as I had sent her a superb paper-weight for Christmas—a glass model of the Cullinan diamond which I bought at a bazaar several years ago, and has been knocking about my writing table ever since. But the old lady merely weighed in with a couple of sauce boats which I swear I saw in use at her own house when Gladys and I went there to supper a month or two ago.
I really felt very annoyed about it, as I don't think it's playing the game to pass on as presents merely things one has no further use for. True, Grandma Paggs, in place of parents— Gladys and myself are both orphans—has given Gladys her trousseau and all the household linen, but you can't very well display lingerie, pillow slips and dish-cloths along with other wedding presents, and sauce boats don't look half so imposing as a grand piano.
"Darling," said Gladys one evening as we were unpacking a fresh consignment of toast-racks and pickle jars that had just arrived, "have you got the bridesmaids' presents yet?"
"I didn't know they were going to give me any." I replied.
Gladys explained that it was customary for the bridegroom to give each bridesmaid a souvenir of the occasion. I didn't know this. I was disappointed. My face fell. If I hadn't stopped it, it would have fallen and smashed a butter dish.
"Very good," I said at length: "I will present each bridesmaid with a toast-rack and a pickle jar. The chief bridesmaid may also have a barometer —the banjo one—and my best man shall have an ornamental flower-pot—the crimson one decorated with delirium tremens."
"Oh, you can't do that!" cried Gladys in dismay. "It must be some thing much more choice than that."
"Such as a mangle or a garden roller?" I suggested.
"Some small article of jewelry." Gladys went on. "A brooch, for example."
"I know!" I cried. "One of those things the size of a soup plate covered with statues. They shall have 'em. 'The bridesmaid carried bouquets of horseradish and brussels sprouts and wore the Elgin marbles—the gifts of the bridegroom.But what on earth can we do with all these surplus butter-racks and toast-pots? That's what's worrying me."
"I've been thinking about that," remarked Gladys. "My cousin Phyllis in Canada is to be married in April. I will send her a butter-dish, you shall send her a toast-rack, and Archie a pickle jar. How's that?"
"Splendid!" I exclaimed. "And if only some more of our friends would get married we could work off quite a lot of superfluous hardware. Hullo! What's this?"
The Paggs' servant had come in with a large parcel. It bore the Montreal postmark.
"How funny!" said Gladys. "That's Aunt Emma's writing."
We opened the parcel in eager anticipation. Perhaps it contained a whole Canadian cheddar or a wheat field! Gladys extracted a letter.
"Dearest Gladys." she read. "Your letter announcing your wedding just to hand, so in great haste I am sending you the enclosed little gifts from Uncle Josiah, Phyllis, and myself with every best wish for your future happiness. Your affectionate Aunt Emma."
Meanwhile I was unpacking the contents.
"Racks, toast, officers, for the use of, one—with love, from Uncle Josiah," I announced gravely. "Dishes, butter, G.S., Mark II., one—with love from Aunt Emma. Jars, pickle, complete with harpoon, one—with dearest love, from Phyllis. And that," I added, as I adjusted the silver mounted cover, "absolutely puts the lid on."
"We mustn't look gift-horses in the mouth," sighed Gladys resignedly.
Preparing for Action
By Ashley Sterne
"Dearest!" cried Gladys, bursting a suddenly into my flat one Sunday morning—about half-past twelve, just as I was finishing breakfast—"dearest, our banns are up!"
I was about to say that if I could borrow a ladder I would go and take them down, but somehow after one look at Gladys's radiant face—and it was not the radiance which you buy by the bottle and dab on with a pad of cotton wool—I couldn't say it.
Not that I really meant it, in any case. Since my craven and cowardly solicitor refused to marry Miss Paggs by power of attorney I have gradually I come to view things in a different light. I have discovered, for instance, that Gladys is very pretty. She is also very I capable. I once heard her talk plainly to the milkman, and they ultimately brought him round with water out of his own can.
Then, too, lots of people have told me I am very lucky, and I have grown to believe it. Mrs. Miffens even added a rider to the effect that I was luckier than I deserved. But that, I understand, is a usual remark to pass concerning the bridegroom, only it's usually passed behind his back.
Mrs. Miffens, however, told me that to my face, and if I was quite sure where her face ended and her neck began I would tell her some plain, wholesome home-truths, too.
When, therefore, Gladys announced that our banns were up, I said quite enthusiastically that I hoped they'd put up some handsome ones and that they looked nice.
"It sounded so important," went on Gladys. "Gladys Paggs of this parish, spinster, and— "
"And the village idiot, bachelor, also of this parish," I put in. "I suppose the whole congregation rose and cheered? And that reminds me—have you and Archie (Miss Paggs' brother) decided whether our wedding service is to be fully choral, whether the decorations are to be fully choral, and whether the bells shall be pealed and cored?"
"What do you think?" said Gladys. "Personally, I don't mind so long as I get safely married to you."
"And I," I said gallantly, "would be equally willing to marry you with only an accordion, a pot of musk and a muffin bell in attendance. However, music. I think, would brighten things up a bit. Besides, it would help to muffle the shrieks and sobs of the victim. So I would suggest a fully choral choir, a fully organised organist, and a full blown blower. Now about flowers. What do you say to a barrage of sun flowers and bananas?"
"I think azaleas and lilies would go better with my dress," suggested Gladys. "They are more usual, too."
"They'll look rotten against my new trousers," I observed, "whereas they would show up well against a back ground of sunflowers. Besides, they would just match my solicitor's hair. He's my best man, you know."
"I think azaleas and lilies." urged Gladys. "Jobbins has some lovely ones in his nursery."
"Very well," I agreed. "I consent to being butchered to make a Roman hyacinth. Let us hope the Jobbins' floral infants will be grown up enough to leave the nursery by the time they are wanted, and won't fidget in church. There remains the question of bells."
"Well, we shan't be there to hear them," Gladys observed. "and it seems rather a waste of energy all those men pulling and pulling—"
"And the bells pealing and pealing," I continued. "and the baby azaleas puling and puling, and the expenses piling and piling. Look here—why not have the peal on the gramophone at home during the reception?"
"But can one get peals of bells on the gramophone?" asked Gladys.
"Sure thing." I replied. "You can get anything on the gramophone nowadays except butter and sugar. You can even get a special licence record and be married by gramophone. And there's another thing—what about a triumphal arch to walk under as we leave the church? It looks so imposing in the illustrated papers."
"That would be lovely!" cried Gladys. "What a pity you're demobilised, otherwise we might have had an arch of swords! I wonder if we could get the local fire brigade to form an arch with their axes?"
"Or the local butchers with their choppers," I suggested. "or the local crossing-sweepers with their brooms, or even the local doctors with their clinical thermometers?"
We discussed the matter at some length. Finally Gladys took my head in chancery.
"Darling." she said. "we'll have the music and the flowers. The arch is impracticable and the peal is unnecessary."
"Quite." I agreed. "After all, this is a wedding, not a Christmas pudding."
"And talking of bells," went on Gladys. "you won't forget the ring?"
"As if I could." I murmured, as I removed a tress of hair from my eye and wound it for safety round Gladys's ear.
But I was glad of the tip. I certainly had forgotten it, and I am sure that that ass of a solicitor of mine would never have remembered it.