Beasts and Super-Beasts HTML version

A Holiday Task
KENELM JERTON entered the dining-hall of the Golden Galleon Hotel in the full crush
of the luncheon hour. Nearly every seat was occupied, and small additional tables had
been brought in, where floor space permitted, to accommodate latecomers, with the result
that many of the tables were almost touching each other. Jerton was beckoned by a waiter
to the only vacant table that was discernible, and took his seat with the uncomfortable and
wholly groundless idea that nearly every one in the room was staring at him. He was a
youngish man of ordinary appearance, quiet of dress and unobtrusive of manner, and he
could never wholly rid himself of the idea that a fierce light of public scrutiny beat on
him as though he had been a notability or a super-nut. After he had ordered his lunch
there came the unavoidable interval of waiting, with nothing to do but to stare at the
flower- vase on his table and to be stared at (in imagination) by several flappers, some
maturer beings of the same sex, and a satirical-looking Jew. In order to carry off the
situation with some appearance of unconcern he became spuriously interested in the
contents of the flower-vase.
"What is the name of these roses, d'you know?" he asked the waiter. The waiter was
ready at all times to conceal his ignorance concerning items of the wine-list or menu; he
was frankly ignorant as to the specific name of the roses.
"AMY SYLVESTER PARTINGLON," said a voice at Jerton's elbow.
The voice came from a pleasant-faced, well-dressed young woman who was sitting at a
table that almost touched Jerton's. He thanked her hurriedly and nervously for the
information, and made some inconsequent remark about the flowers.
"It is a curious thing," said the young woman, that, "I should be able to tell you the name
of those roses without an effort of memory, because if you were to ask me my name I
should be utterly unable to give it to you."
Jerton had not harboured the least intention of extending his thirst for name-labels to his
neighbour. After her rather remarkable announcement, however, he was obliged to say
something in the way of polite inquiry.
"Yes," answered the lady, "I suppose it is a case of partial loss of memory. I was in the
train coming down here; my ticket told me that I had come from Victoria and was bound
for this place. I had a couple of five-pound notes and a sovereign on me, no visiting cards
or any other means of identification, and no idea as to who I am. I can only hazily
recollect that I have a title; I am Lady Somebody - beyond that my mind is a blank."