Beasts and Super-Beasts
IT was the season of sales. The august establishment of Walpurgis and Nettlepink had
lowered its prices for an entire week as a concession to trade observances, much as an
Arch-duchess might protestingly contract an attack of influenza for the unsatisfactory
reason that influenza was locally prevalent. Adela Chemping, who considered herself in
some measure superior to the allurements of an ordinary bargain sale, made a point of
attending the reduction week at Walpurgis and Nettlepink's.
"I'm not a bargain hunter," she said, "but I like to go where bargains are."
Which showed that beneath her surface strength of character there flowed a gracious
undercurrent of human weakness.
With a view to providing herself with a male escort Mrs. Chemping had invited her
youngest nephew to accompany her on the first day of the shopping expedition, throwing
in the additional allurement of a cinematograph theatre and the prospect of light
refreshment. As Cyprian was not yet eighteen she hoped he might not have reached that
stage in masculine development when parcel-carrying is looked on as a thing abhorrent.
"Meet me just outside the floral department," she wrote to him, "and don't be a moment
later than eleven."
Cyprian was a boy who carried with him through early life the wondering look of a
dreamer, the eyes of one who sees things that are not visible to ordinary mortals, and
invests the commonplace things of this world with qualities unsuspected by plainer folk -
the eyes of a poet or a house agent. He was quietly dressed - that sartorial quietude which
frequently accompanies early adolescence, and is usually attributed by novel-writers to
the influence of a widowed mother. His hair was brushed back in a smoothness as of
ribbon seaweed and seamed with a narrow furrow that scarcely aimed at being a parting.
His aunt particularly noted this item of his toilet when they met at the appointed
rendezvous, because he was standing waiting for her bare-headed.
"Where is your hat?" she asked.
"I didn't bring one with me," he replied.
Adela Chemping was slightly scandalised.
"You are not going to be what they call a Nut, are you?" she inquired with some anxiety,
partly with the idea that a Nut would be an extravagance which her sister's small
household would scarcely be justified in incurring, partly, perhaps, with the instinctive
apprehension that a Nut, even in its embryo stage, would refuse to carry parcels.
Cyprian looked at her with his wondering, dreamy eyes.