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The Toys of Peace and Other Stories

The Guests
"The landscape seen from our windows is certainly charming," said Annabel; "those
cherry orchards and green meadows, and the river winding along the valley, and the
church tower peeping out among the elms, they all make a most effective picture. There's
something dreadfully sleepy and languorous about it, though; stagnation seems to be the
dominant note. Nothing ever happens here; seedtime and harvest, an occasional outbreak
of measles or a mildly destructive thunderstorm, and a little election excitement about
once in five years, that is all that we have to modify the monotony of our existence.
Rather dreadful, isn't it?"
"On the contrary," said Matilda, "I find it soothing and restful; but then, you see, I've
lived in countries where things do happen, ever so many at a time, when you're not ready
for them happening all at once."
"That, of course, makes a difference," said Annabel.
"I have never forgotten," said Matilda, "the occasion when the Bishop of Bequar paid us
an unexpected visit; he was on his way to lay the foundation-stone of a mission-house or
something of the sort."
"I thought that out there you were always prepared for emergency guests turning up," said
Annabel.
"I was quite prepared for half a dozen Bishops," said Matilda, "but it was rather
disconcerting to find out after a little conversation that this particular one was a distant
cousin of mine, belonging to a branch of the family that had quarrelled bitterly and
offensively with our branch about a Crown Derby dessert service; they got it, and we
ought to have got it, in some legacy, or else we got it and they thought they ought to have
it, I forget which; anyhow, I know they behaved disgracefully. Now here was one of them
turning up in the odour of sanctity, so to speak, and claiming the traditional hospitality of
the East."
"It was rather trying, but you could have left your husband to do most of the
entertaining."
"My husband was fifty miles up-country, talking sense, or what he imagined to be sense,
to a village community that fancied one of their leading men was a were-tiger."
"A what tiger?"
"A were-tiger; you've heard of were-wolves, haven't you, a mixture of wolf and human
being and demon? Well, in those parts they have were-tigers, or think they have, and I
must say that in this case, so far as sworn and uncontested evidence went, they had every
ground for thinking so. However, as we gave up witchcraft prosecutions about three
 
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