"Heavens!" exclaimed the aunt of Clovis, "here's some one I know
bearing down on us. I can't remember his name, but he lunched
with us once in Town. Tarrington--yes, that's it. He's heard of
the picnic I'm giving for the Princess, and he'll cling to me like
a lifebelt till I give him an invitation; then he'll ask if he may
bring all his wives and mothers and sisters with him. That's the
worst of these small watering-places; one can't escape from
"I'll fight a rearguard action for you if you like to do a bolt
now," volunteered Clovis; "you've a clear ten yards start if you
don't lose time."
The aunt of Clovis responded gamely to the suggestion, and churned
away like a Nile steamer, with a long brown ripple of Pekingese
spaniel trailing in her wake.
"Pretend you don't know him," was her parting advice, tinged with
the reckless courage of the non-combatant.
The next moment the overtures of an affably disposed gentleman
were being received by Clovis with a "silent-upon-a-peak-in-Darien" stare which denoted an absence of all previous
acquaintance with the object scrutinized.
"I expect you don't know me with my moustache," said the new-
comer; "I've only grown it during the last two months."
"On the contrary," said Clovis, "the moustache is the only thing
about you that seemed familiar to me. I felt certain that I had
met it somewhere before."
"My name is Tarrington," resumed the candidate for recognition.
"A very useful kind of name," said Clovis; "with a name of that
sort no one would blame you if you did nothing in particular
heroic or remarkable, would they? And yet if you were to raise a
troop of light horse in a moment of national emergency,
'Tarrington's Light Horse' would sound quite appropriate and
pulse-quickening; whereas if you were called Spoopin, for
instance, the thing would be out of the question. No one, even in
a moment of national emergency, could possibly belong to Spoopin's
The new-comer smiled weakly, as one who is not to be put off by
mere flippancy, and began again with patient persistence:
"I think you ought to remember my name--"
"I shall," said Clovis, with an air of immense sincerity. "My
aunt was asking me only this morning to suggest names for four
young owls she's just had sent her as pets. I shall call them all
Tarrington; then if one or two of them die or fly away, or leave
us in any of the ways that pet owls are prone to, there will be
always one or two left to carry on your name. And my aunt won't
let me forget it; she will always be asking 'Have the Tarringtons
had their mice?' and questions of that sort. She says if you keep
wild creatures in captivity you ought to see after their wants,
and of course she's quite right there."
"I met you at luncheon at your aunt's house once--" broke in Mr.
Tarrington, pale but still resolute.
"My aunt never lunches," said Clovis; "she belongs to the National
Anti-Luncheon League, which is doing quite a lot of good work in a
quiet, unobtrusive way. A subscription of half a crown per
quarter entitles you to go without ninety-two luncheons."
"This must be something new," exclaimed Tarrington.
"It's the same aunt that I've always had," said Clovis coldly.
"I perfectly well remember meeting you at a luncheon-party given
by your aunt," persisted Tarrington, who was beginning to flush an
unhealthy shade of mottled pink.
"What was there for lunch?" asked Clovis.
"Oh, well, I don't remember that--"
"How nice of you to remember my aunt when you can no longer recall
the names of the things you ate. Now my memory works quite
differently. I can remember a menu long after I've forgotten the
hostess that accompanied it. When I was seven years old I
recollect being given a peach at a garden-party by some Duchess or
other; I can't remember a thing about her, except that I imagine
our acquaintance must have been of the slightest, as she called me
a 'nice little boy,' but I have unfading memories of that peach.
It was one of those exuberant peaches that meet you halfway, so to
speak, and are all over you in a moment. It was a beautiful
unspoiled product of a hothouse, and yet it managed quite
successfully to give itself the airs of a compote. You had to
bite it and imbibe it at the same time. To me there has always
been something charming and mystic in the thought of that delicate
velvet globe of fruit, slowly ripening and warming to perfection
through the long summer days and perfumed nights, and then coming
suddenly athwart my life in the supreme moment of its existence.
I can never forget it, even if I wished to. And when I had
devoured all that was edible of it, there still remained the
stone, which a heedless, thoughtless child would doubtless have
thrown away; I put it down the neck of a young friend who was
wearing a very décolleté sailor suit. I told him it was a
scorpion, and from the way he wriggled and screamed he evidently
believed it, though where the silly kid imagined I could procure a
live scorpion at a garden-party I don't know. Altogether, that
peach is for me an unfading and happy memory--"
The defeated Tarrington had by this time retreated out of ear-shot, comforting himself as best he might with the reflection that
a picnic which included the presence of Clovis might prove a
doubtfully agreeable experience.
"I shall certainly go in for a Parliamentary career," said Clovis
to himself as he turned complacently to rejoin his aunt. "As a
talker-out of inconvenient bills I should be invaluable."
- by H. H. Munro (aka Saki) from the collection The Chronicles of Clovis, originally published in 1911.
This is one of my favorite Saki short stories; rarely is Clovis Sangrail given the opportunity to digress at such length, veering from the naming of light horse brigades to the memory of a peach. The latter digression, when viewed through a sexual interpretation, is probably he most overt reference of such kind in Saki's work - however, instead of seeing it as a metaphor, it is likelier that Saki meant for the sexual undertones ("meet you halfway ... and are all over you in a moment") to add to the humorous element of the scene. Seldom is Saki's quintessential young dandy in so fine a form as this story.