Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ashley Sterne Feathering Our Nest

This evening I was delighted to find another of Ashley Sterne's stories featuring Gladys Paggs.


Furniture Buying with Miss Paggs.

By Ashley Sterne, in Pearsons' Weekly. 
(reprinted 25 May 1920 in Lake Wakatip Mail)

Things are moving apace. Gladys Paggs and that base hound of the Baskervilles, Archie, her brother, who has now satisfactorily disposed of the melon-faced girl, seem to be running my wedding on their own account. In a few weeks the banns are going up, and I have practically received orders to collect my kit and prepare to report for duty.

This positively indecent haste has been caused by the action of Gladys's uncle Silas. He has apparently overlooked my cutting the cloth of his billiard.table, and has actually given Gladys a small house as a wedding present. Naturally she wants to live in it, though, personally, I should like to exchange it for a case of whisky or a few cigars.

The result is that we are now in the throes of buying furniture. My banking account has been co-opted, as it were, and my share in the matter is to be lugged round Tottenham Court Road and draw cheques by numbers on the word of command.

Gladys's taste rather runs towards the antique, and the other day I nearly found myself paying £5 for a cuckoo-clock that was alleged to have cuckooed half-past three to Mary Queen of Scots.


Then, again, I was within an ace of giving £20 for a Jacbean umbrella-stand that had once been used either by Oliver Cromwell or Little Tich —I forget which —and a fabulous sum for a canopy bed which, I was assured, was the only canopied bed in England which Queen Elizabeth had never slept in.

I tell you, buying antique furniture is no mere bagatelle. The game it chiefly resembles is "Shell out."

However, we have managed by degrees to collect a lot of furniture which will give our house the appearance midway between the Throne Room in Buckingham Palace and the dock in the New Bailey. A little homely touch has been contributed by a case of stuffed parakeets and a standard lamp fashioned to resemble a flamingo—my own selections.

But our trouble with the furniture was as nothing to the trouble we had in choosing an afternoon tea service. Gladys wanted one trimmed with blue-and-gold bands at fifteen guineas. I wanted one decorated with roses of Picardy—or they may have been sea anemones or whelks —at twenty-five shillings. Gladys objected, and said it looked so mean to expect anybody to drink tea out of a teacup which only cost sixpence. I argued that if one were really thirsty one would willingly drink tea out of a watering-can that cost twopence. We had quite a long discussion about it, and the salesman who patiently sat out the first half-hour of it eventually said he'd go and have his dinner while we made up our minds.


While he was away we went into another department and bought a lot more things over which there could not possibly be any contention things for the kitchen and scullery. I even bought one or two things entirely without assistance from Gladys, among them a most ingenious patent mouse-trap, which not only slew the mouse on the spot but rebaited itself and reset itself automatically. Apparently the only thing: the trap couldn't do was to run round to the grocer's and buy some more cheese when the supply of bait was exhausted.

I also bought two very handsome rolling-pins, a heavy one for making heavy pastry and a light one for making light pastry. I was so pleased with them that I took them over to Gladys who was standing knee-deep in pudding-basins. Unfortunately, she herself had already bought two rolling-pins. And then there were four, as the old song says. I was. however, able to induce my salesman to exchange them for a mincing-machine with a three-speed gear.

I then rejoined Gladys at her counter, where I was annoyed to find that she had just bought the ingenious patent mouse-trap. Gladys is so thoughtless. She never thinks of consulting me on these shopping excursions. I had half a mind to tell her so. but I reflected that our house would probably contain enough mice to share between the two traps, and I remained silent.

We then went back to the china department where the salesman had just returned from his dinner. In a wave of magnanimity I told Gladys I would reconsider the question of the blue-and-gold tea service, and she and the man set it all out on a big tray so that she could admire it in company formation.

Now. if she hadn't asked me to examine the beauties of the slop-basin the accident would not have happened; but the fact remains that in bending forward to do as requested I leaned on the edge of the tray which protruded over the edge of the counter, with the result that the complete tea.set was jerked violently into the air. I remember noticing the magnificence of the slop basin as it went skywards.

As only one tea-cup emerged scathless from the accident I had, of course, to pay for the complete outfit, and Gladys had to content herself with a compromise between the broken set and my roses of Picardy selection. The pattern is crimson butterflies on a background of pea soup.

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