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The Toys of Peace and Other Stories

Tea
James Cushat-Prinkly was a young man who had always had a settled conviction that one
of these days he would marry; up to the age of thirty-four he had done nothing to justify
that conviction. He liked and admired a great many women collectively and
dispassionately without singling out one for especial matrimonial consideration, just as
one might admire the Alps without feeling that one wanted any particular peak as one's
own private property. His lack of initiative in this matter aroused a certain amount of
impatience among the sentimentally-minded women-folk of his home circle; his mother,
his sisters, an aunt-in-residence, and two or three intimate matronly friends regarded his
dilatory approach to the married state with a disapproval that was far from being
inarticulate. His most innocent flirtations were watched with the straining eagerness
which a group of unexercised terriers concentrates on the slightest movements of a
human being who may be reasonably considered likely to take them for a walk. No
decent- souled mortal can long resist the pleading of several pairs of walk- beseeching
dog-eyes; James Cushat-Prinkly was not sufficiently obstinate or indifferent to home
influences to disregard the obviously expressed wish of his family that he should become
enamoured of some nice marriageable girl, and when his Uncle Jules departed this life
and bequeathed him a comfortable little legacy it really seemed the correct thing to do to
set about discovering some one to share it with him. The process of discovery was carried
on more by the force of suggestion and the weight of public opinion than by any initiative
of his own; a clear working majority of his female relatives and the aforesaid matronly
friends had pitched on Joan Sebastable as the most suitable young woman in his range of
acquaintance to whom he might propose marriage, and James became gradually
accustomed to the idea that he and Joan would go together through the prescribed stages
of congratulations, present-receiving, Norwegian or Mediterranean hotels, and eventual
domesticity. It was necessary, however to ask the lady what she thought about the matter;
the family had so far conducted and directed the flirtation with ability and discretion, but
the actual proposal would have to be an individual effort.
Cushat-Prinkly walked across the Park towards the Sebastable residence in a frame of
mind that was moderately complacent. As the thing was going to be done he was glad to
feel that he was going to get it settled and off his mind that afternoon. Proposing
marriage, even to a nice girl like Joan, was a rather irksome business, but one could not
have a honeymoon in Minorca and a subsequent life of married happiness without such
preliminary. He wondered what Minorca was really like as a place to stop in; in his
mind's eye it was an island in perpetual half-mourning, with black or white Minorca hens
running all over it. Probably it would not be a bit like that when one came to examine it.
People who had been in Russia had told him that they did not remember having seen any
Muscovy ducks there, so it was possible that there would be no Minorca fowls on the
island.
His Mediterranean musings were interrupted by the sound of a clock striking the half-
hour. Half-past four. A frown of dissatisfaction settled on his face. He would arrive at the
 
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