Chronicles of Clovis HTML version
The Easter Egg
It was distinctly hard lines for Lady Barbara, who came of good fighting stock, and was
one of the bravest women of her generation, that her son should be so undisguisedly a
coward. Whatever good qualities Lester Slaggby may have possessed, and he was in
some respects charming, courage could certainly never he imputed to him. As a child he
had suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish funk, and as a youth he had
exchanged unreasoning fears for others which were more formidable from the fact of
having a carefully thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with
firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical
proportion of lifebelts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands
as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse
soothingly on the neck. Lady Barbara no longer pretended not to see her son's prevailing
weakness, with her usual courage she faced the knowledge of it squarely, and, mother-
like, loved him none the less.
Continental travel, anywhere away from the great tourist tracks, was a favoured hobby
with Lady Barbara, and Lester joined her as often as possible. Eastertide usually found
her at Knobaltheim, an upland township in one of those small princedoms that make
inconspicuous freckles on the map of Central Europe.
A long-standing acquaintanceship with the reigning family made her a personage of due
importance in the eyes of her old friend the Burgomaster, and she was anxiously
consulted by that worthy on the momentous occasion when the Prince made known his
intention of coming in person to open a sanatorium outside the town. All the usual items
in a programme of welcome, some of them fatuous and commonplace, others quaint and
charming, had been arranged for, but the Burgomaster hoped that the resourceful English
lady might have something new and tasteful to suggest in the way of loyal greeting. The
Prince was known to the outside world, if at all, as an old-fashioned reactionary,
combating modern progress, as it were, with a wooden sword; to his own people he was
known as a kindly old gentleman with a certain endearing stateliness which had nothing
of standoffishness about it. Knobaltheim was anxious to do its best. Lady Barbara
discussed the matter with Lester and one or two acquaintances in her little hotel, but ideas
were difficult to come by.
"Might I suggest something to the Gnädige Frau?" asked a sallow high-cheek-boned lady
to whom the Englishwoman had spoken once or twice, and whom she had set down in
her mind as probably a Southern Slav.
"Might I suggest something for the Reception Fest?" she went on, with a certain shy
eagerness. "Our little child here, our baby, we will dress him in little white coat, with
small wings, as an Easter angel, and he will carry a large white Easter egg, and inside
shall be a basket of plover eggs, of which the Prince is so fond, and he shall give it to his
Highness as Easter offering. It is so pretty an idea we have seen it done once in Styria."