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A short story by A. A. Milne

Bachelor Relics

Title:     Bachelor Relics
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

"Do you happen to want," I said to Henry, "an opera hat that doesn't op? At least it only works on one side."

"No," said Henry.

"To any one who buys my opera hat for a large sum I am giving away four square yards of linoleum, a revolving book-case, two curtain rods, a pair of spring-grip dumb-bells, and an extremely patent mouse-trap."

"No," said Henry again.

"The mouse-trap," I pleaded, "is unused. That is to say, no mouse has used it yet. My mouse-trap has never been blooded."

"I don't want it myself," said Henry, "but I know a man who does."

"Henry, you know everybody. For Heaven's sake introduce me to your friend. Why does he particularly want a mouse-trap?"

"He doesn't. He wants anything that's old. Old clothes, old carpets, anything that's old he'll buy."

He seemed to be exactly the man I wanted.

"Introduce me to your fellow clubman," I said firmly.

That evening I wrote to Henry's friend, Mr. Bennett. "Dear Sir," I wrote, "if you would call upon me to-morrow I should like to show you some really old things, all genuine antiques. In particular I would call your attention to an old opera hat of exquisite workmanship and a mouse-trap of chaste and handsome design. I have also a few yards of Queen Anne linoleum of a circular pattern which I think will please you. My James the First spring-grip dumb-bells and Louis Quatorze curtain-rods are well known to connoisseurs. A genuine old cork bedroom suite, comprising one bath-mat, will also be included in the sale. Yours faithfully."

On second thoughts I tore the letter up and sent Mr. Bennett a postcard asking him to favour the undersigned with a call at 10.30 prompt. And at 10.30 prompt he came.

I had expected to see a bearded patriarch with a hooked nose and three hats on his head, but Mr. Bennett turned out to be a very spruce gentleman, wearing (I was sorry to see) much better clothes than the opera hat I proposed to sell him. He became businesslike at once.

"Just tell me what you want to sell," he said, whipping out a pocket-book, "and I'll make a note of it. I take anything."

I looked round my spacious apartment and wondered what to begin with.

"The revolving book-case," I announced.

"I'm afraid there's very little sale for revolving book-cases now," he said, as he made a note of it.

"As a matter of fact," I pointed out, "this one doesn't revolve. It got stuck some years ago."

He didn't seem to think that this would increase the rush, but he made a note of it.

"Then the writing-desk."

"The what?"

"The Georgian bureau. A copy of an old twentieth-century escritoire."

"Walnut?" he said, tapping it.

"Possibly. The value of this Georgian writing-desk, however, lies not in the wood but in the literary associations."

"Ah! My customers don't bother much about that, but still--whose was it?"

"Mine," I said with dignity, placing my hand in the breast pocket of my coat. "I have written many charming things at that desk. My 'Ode to a Bell-push,' my 'Thoughts on Asia,' my----"

"Anything else in this room?" said Mr. Bennett. "Carpet, curtains----"

"Nothing else," I said coldly.

We went into the bedroom and, gazing on the linoleum, my enthusiasm returned to me.

"The linoleum," I said, with a wave of the hand.

"Very much worn," said Mr. Bennett.

I called his attention to the piece under the bed.

"Not under there," I said. "I never walk on that piece. It's as good as new."

He made a note. "What else?" he said.

I showed him round the collection. He saw the Louis Quatorze curtain-rods, the cork bedroom suite, the Caesarian nail-brush (quite bald), the antique shaving-mirror with genuine crack--he saw it all. And then we went back into the other rooms and found some more things for him.

"Yes," he said, consulting his note-book. "And now how would you like me to buy these?"

"At a large price," I said. "If you have brought your cheque-book I'll lend you a pen."

"You want me to make you an offer? Otherwise I should sell them by auction for you, deducting ten per cent commission."

"Not by auction," I said impulsively. "I couldn't bear to know how much, or rather how little, my Georgian bureau fetched. It was there, as I think I told you, that I wrote my _Guide to the Round Pond_. Give me an inclusive price for the lot, and never, never let me know the details."

He named an inclusive price. It was something under a hundred and fifty pounds. I shouldn't have minded that if it had only been a little over ten pounds. But it wasn't.

"Right," I agreed. "And, oh, I was nearly forgetting. There's an old opera hat of exquisite workmanship, which----"

"Ah, now, clothes had much better be sold by auction. Make a pile of all you don't want and I'll send round a sack for them. I have an auction sale every Wednesday."

"Very well. Send round to-morrow. And you might--er--also send round a--er--cheque for--quite so. Well, then, good morning."

When he had gone I went into my bedroom and made a pile of my opera hat. It didn't look very impressive--hardly worth having a sack specially sent round for it. To keep it company I collected an assortment of clothes. It pained me to break up my wardrobe in this way, but I wanted the bidding for my opera hat to be brisk, and a few preliminary suits would warm the public up. Altogether it was a goodly pile when it was done. The opera hat perched on the top, half of it only at work.

. . . . .

To-day I received from Mr. Bennett a cheque, a catalogue, and an account. The catalogue was marked "Lots 172-179." Somehow I felt that my opera hat would be Lot 176. I turned to it in the account.

"Lot 176--Six shillings."

"It did well," I said. "Perhaps in my heart of hearts I hoped for seven and sixpence, but six shillings--yes, it was a good hat."

And then I turned to the catalogue.

"_Lot 176_--Frock-coat and vest, dress-coat and vest, ditto, pair of trousers and opera hat."

"_And opera hat._" Well, well. At least it had the position of honour at the end. My opera hat was starred.

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: Bachelor Relics