Beasts and Super-Beasts
"YOU look worried, dear," said Eleanor.
"I am worried," admitted Suzanne; "not worried exactly, but anxious. You see, my
birthday happens next week - "
"You lucky person," interrupted Eleanor; "my birthday doesn't come till the end of
"Well, old Bertram Kneyght is over in England just now from the Argentine. He's a kind
of distant cousin of my mother's, and so enormously rich that we've never let the
relationship drop out of sight. Even if we don't see him or hear from him for years he is
always Cousin Bertram when he does turn up. I can't say he's ever been of much solid use
to us, but yesterday the subject of my birthday cropped up, and he asked me to let him
know what I wanted for a present."
"Now I understand the anxiety," observed Eleanor.
"As a rule when one is confronted with a problem like that," said Suzanne, "all one's
ideas vanish; one doesn't seem to have a desire in the world. Now it so happens that I
have been very keen on a little Dresden figure that I saw somewhere in Kensington;
about thirty- six shillings, quite beyond my means. I was very nearly describing the
figure, and giving Bertram the address of the shop. And then it suddenly struck me that
thirty-six shillings was such a ridiculously inadequate sum for a man of his immense
wealth to spend on a birthday present. He could give thirty-six pounds as easily as you or
I could buy a bunch of violets. I don't want to be greedy, of course, but I don't like being
"The question is," said Eleanor, "what are his ideas as to present-giving? Some of the
wealthiest people have curiously cramped views on that subject. When people grow
gradually rich their requirements and standard of living expand in proportion, while their
present-giving instincts often remain in the undeveloped condition of their earlier days.
Something showy and not-too- expensive in a shop is their only conception of the ideal
gift. That is why even quite good shops have their counters and windows crowded with
things worth about four shillings that look as if they might be worth seven-and- six, and
are priced at ten shillings and labelled seasonable gifts.' "
"I know," said Suzanne; "that is why it is so risky to be vague when one is giving
indications of one's wants. Now if I say to him: 'I am going out to Davos this winter, so
anything in the travelling line would be acceptable,' he might give me a dressing-bag with
gold- mounted fittings, but, on the other hand, he might give me Baedeker's Switzerland,
or `Skiing without Tears,' or something of that sort."