From a Bench in Our Square
Long ago I made an important discovery. It comes under the general head of statics and is
this: by occupying an invariable bench in Our Square, looking venerable and
contemplative and indigenous, as if you had grown up in that selfsame spot, you will
draw people to come to you for information, and they will frequently give more than they
get of it. Such, I am informed, is the method whereby the flytrap orchid achieves a
satisfying meal. Not that I seek to claim for myself the colorful splendors of the
Cypripedium, being only a tired old pedagogue with a taste for the sunlight and for
observing the human bubbles that float and bob on the current in our remote eddy of life.
Nevertheless, I can follow a worthy example, even though the exemplar be only a
carnivorous bloom. And, I may confess, on the afternoon of October 1st, I was in a
receptive mood for such flies of information as might come to me concerning two large
invading vans which had rumbled into our quiet precincts and, after a pause for inquiry,
stopped before the Mordaunt Estate's newly repaired property at Number 37.
The Mordaunt Estate in person was painting the front wall. The design which he
practiced was based less upon any previsioned concept of art than upon the purchase, at a
price, of a rainbow-end job lot of colors.
The vanners descended, bent on negotiations. Progress was obviously unsatisfactory, the
artist, after brief and chill consideration, reverting to his toil. Now, tact and discretion are
essential in approaching the Mordaunt Estate, for he is a prickly institution. I was sure
that the newcomers had taken the wrong tack with him.
Discomfiture was in their mien as they withdrew in my direction. I mused upon my
bench, with a metaphysical expression which I have found useful in such cases. They
conferred. They approached. They begged my pardon. With an effort which can hardly
have failed to be effective, I dragged myself back to the world of actualities and opened
languid eyes upon them. It is possible that I opened them somewhat wider than the
normal, for they fell at once upon the nearer and smaller of the pair, a butterfly of the
most vivid and delightful appearance.
"Is the house with the 'To Let' sign on it really to let, do you know, sir?" she inquired,
adding music to color with her voice.
"So I understand," said I, rising.
"And the party with the yellow nose, who is desecrating the front," put in the butterfly's
companion. "Is he a lunatic or a designer of barber poles?"
"He is a proud and reserved ex-butcher, named Wagboom, now doing a limited but high-
class business in rentals as the Mordaunt Estate."