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A short story by A. A. Milne

The House-Warming

Title:     The House-Warming
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]


"Well," said Dahlia, "what do you think of it?"

I knocked the ashes out of my after-breakfast pipe, arranged the cushions of my deck-chair, and let my eyes wander lazily over the house and its surroundings. After a year of hotels and other people's houses, Dahlia and Archie had come into their own.

"I've no complaints," I said happily.

A vision of white and gold appeared in the doorway and glided over the lawn toward us--Myra with a jug.

"None at all," said Simpson, sitting up eagerly.

"But Thomas isn't quite satisfied with one of the bathrooms, I'm afraid. I heard him saying something in the passage about it this morning when I was inside."

"I asked if you'd gone to sleep in the bath," explained Thomas.

"I hadn't. It is practically impossible, Thomas, to go to sleep in a cold bath."

"Except, perhaps, for a Civil Servant," said Blair.

"Exactly. Of the practice in the Admiralty Thomas can tell us later on. For myself I was at the window looking at the beautiful view."

"Why can't you look at it from your own window instead of keeping people out of the bathroom?" grunted Thomas.

"Because the view from my room is an entirely different one."

"There is no stint in this house," Dahlia pointed out.

"No," said Simpson, jumping up excitedly.

Myra put the jug of cider down in front of us.

"There!" she said. "Please count it, and see that I haven't drunk any on the way."

"This is awfully nice of you, Myra. And a complete surprise to all of us except Simpson. We shall probably be here again to-morrow about the same time."

There was a long silence, broken only by the extremely jolly sound of liquid falling from a height.

Just as it was coming to an end Archie appeared suddenly among us and dropped on the grass by the side of Dahlia. Simpson looked guiltily at the empty jug, and then leant down to his host.

"TO-MORROW!" he said in a stage whisper. "ABOUT THE SAME TIME."

"I doubt it," said Archie.

"I know it for a fact," protested Simpson.

"I'm afraid Myra and Samuel made an assignation for this morning," said Dahlia.

"There's nothing in it, really," said Myra. "He's only trifling with me. He doesn't mean anything."

Simpson buried his confused head in his glass, and proceeded to change the subject.

"We all like your house, Archie," he said.

"We do," I agreed, "and we think it's very nice of you to ask us down to open it."

"It is rather," said Archie.

"We are determined, therefore, to do all we can to give the house a homey appearance. I did what I could for the bathroom this morning. I flatter myself that the taint of newness has now been dispelled."

"I was sure it was you," said Myra. "How do you get the water right up the walls?"

"Easily. Further, Archie, if you want any suggestions as to how to improve the place, our ideas are at your disposal."

"For instance," said Thomas, "where do we play cricket?"

"By the way, you fellows," announced Simpson, "I've given up playing cricket."

We all looked at him in consternation.

"Do you mean you've given up BOWLING?" said Dahlia, with wide-open eyes.

"Aren't you ever going to walk to the wickets again?" asked Blair.

"Aren't you ever going to walk back to the pavilion again?" asked Archie.

"What will Montgomeryshire say?" wondered Myra in tones of awe.

"May I have your belt and your sand-shoes?" I begged.

"It's the cider," said Thomas. "I knew he was overdoing it."

Simpson fixed his glasses firmly on his nose and looked round at us benignly.

"I've given it up for golf," he observed.

"Traitor," said everyone.

"And the Triangular Tournament arranged for, and everything," added Myra.

"You could make a jolly little course round here," went on the infatuated victim. "If you like, Archie, I'll--"

Archie stood up and made a speech.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "at 11.30 to-morrow precisely I invite you to the paddock beyond the kitchen-garden."

"Myra and I have an appointment," put in Simpson hastily.

"A net will be erected," Archie went on, ignoring him, "and Mr Simpson will take his stand therein, while we all bowl at him--or, if any prefer it, at the wicket--for five minutes. He will then bowl at us for an hour, after which he will have another hour's smart fielding practice. If he is still alive and still talks about golf, why then, I won't say but what he mightn't be allowed to plan out a little course--or, at any rate, to do a little preliminary weeding."

"Good man," said Simpson.

"And if anybody else thinks he has given up cricket for ludo or croquet or oranges and lemons, then he can devote himself to planning out a little course for that too--or anyhow to removing a few plantains in preparation for it. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, all I want is for you to make yourselves as happy and as useful as you can."

"It's what you're here for," said Dahlia.



THE sun came into my room early next morning and woke me up. It was followed immediately by a large blue-bottle which settled down to play with me. We adopted the usual formation, the blue-bottle keeping mostly to the back of the court whilst I waited at the net for a kill. After two sets I decided to change my tactics. I looked up at the ceiling and pretended I wasn't playing. The blue-bottle settled on my nose and walked up my forehead. "Heavens!" I cried, clasping my hand suddenly to my brow, "I've forgotten my toothbrush!" This took it completely by surprise, and I removed its corpse into the candlestick.

Then Simpson came in with a golf club in his hand.

"Great Scott," he shouted, "you're not still in bed?"

"I am not. This is telepathic suggestion. You think I'm in bed; I appear to be in bed; in reality there is no bed here. Do go away--I haven't had a wink of sleep yet."

"But, man, look at the lovely morning!"

"Simpson," I said sternly, rolling up the sleeves of my pyjamas with great deliberation, "I have had one visitor already to-day. His corpse is now in the candlestick. It is an omen, Simpson."

"I thought you'd like to come outside with me, and I'd show you my swing."

"Yes, yes, I shall like to see that, but AFTER breakfast, Simpson. I suppose one of the gardeners put it up for you? You must show me your box of soldiers and your tricycle horse, too. But run away now, there's a good boy."

"My golf-swing, idiot."

I sat up in bed and stared at him in sheer amazement. For a long time words wouldn't come to me. Simpson backed nervously to the door.

"I saw the Coronation," I said at last, and I dropped back on my pillow and went to sleep.

. . . . . .

"I feel very important," said Archie, coming on to the lawn where Myra and I were playing a quiet game of bowls with the croquet balls. "I've been paying the wages."

"Archie and I do hate it so," said Dahlia. "I'm luckier, because I only pay mine once a month."

"It would be much nicer if they did it for love," said Archie, "and just accepted a tie-pin occasionally. I never know what to say when I hand a man eighteen-and-six."

"Here's eighteen-and-six," I suggested, "and don't bite the half-sovereign, because it may be bad."

"You should shake his hand," said Myra, "and say, 'Thank you very much for the azaleas.'"

"Or you might wrap the money up in paper and leave it for him in one of the beds."

"And then you'd know whether he had made it properly."

"Well, you're all very helpful," said Archie. "Thank you extremely. Where are the others? It's a pity that they should be left out of this."

"Simpson disappeared after breakfast with his golf-clubs. He is in high dudgeon--which is the surname of a small fish--because no one wanted to see his swing."

"Oh, but I do," said Dahlia eagerly. "Where is he?"

"We will track him down," announced Archie. "I will go to the stables, unchain the truffle-hounds, and show them one of his reversible cuffs."

We found Simpson in the pig-sty. The third hole, as he was planning it out for Archie, necessitated the carrying of the farm buildings, which he described as a natural hazard. Unfortunately, his ball had fallen into a casual pig-sty. It had not yet been decided whether the ball could be picked out without penalty--the more immediate need being to find the blessed thing. So Simpson was in the pig-sty, searching.

"If you're looking for the old sow," I said, "there she is, just behind you."

"What's the local rule about loose pigs blown on to the course?" asked Archie.

"Oh, you fellows, there you are," said Simpson rapidly. "I'm getting on first-rate. This is the third hole, Archie. It will be rather good, I think; the green is just the other side of the pond. I can make a very sporting little course."

"We've come to see your swing, Samuel," said Myra. "Can you do it in there, or is it too crowded?"

"I'll come out. This ball's lost, I'm afraid."

"One of the little pigs will eat it," complained Archie, "and we shall have indiarubber crackling."

Simpson came out and proceeded to give his display. Fortunately the weather kept fine, the conditions indeed being all that could be desired. The sun shone brightly, and there was a slight breeze from the south which tempered the heat and in no way militated against the general enjoyment. The performance was divided into two parts. The first part consisted of Mr Simpson's swing WITHOUT the ball, the second part being devoted to Mr Simpson's swing WITH the ball.

"This is my swing," said Simpson.

He settled himself ostentatiously into his stance and placed his club-head stiffly on the ground three feet away from him.

"Middle," said Archie.

Simpson frowned and began to waggle his club. He waggled it carefully a dozen times.

"It's a very nice swing," said Myra at the end of the ninth movement, "but isn't it rather short?"

Simpson said nothing, but drew his club slowly and jerkily back, twisting his body and keeping his eye fixed on an imaginary ball until the back of his neck hid it from sight.

"You can see it better round this side now," suggested Archie.

"He'll split if he goes on," said Thomas anxiously.

"Watch this," I warned Myra. "He's going to pick a pin out of the back of his calf with his teeth."

Then Simpson let himself go, finishing up in a very creditable knot indeed.

"That's quite good," said Dahlia. "Does it do as well when there's a ball?"

"Well, I miss it sometimes, of course."

"We all do that," said Thomas.

Thus encouraged, Simpson put down a ball and began to address it. It was apparent at once that the last address had been only his telegraphic one; this was the genuine affair. After what seemed to be four or five minutes there was a general feeling that some apology was necessary. Simpson recognized this himself.

"I'm a little nervous," he said.

"Not so nervous as the pigs are," said Archie.

Simpson finished his address and got on to his swing. He swung. He hit the ball. The ball, which seemed to have too much left-hand side on it, whizzed off and disappeared into the pond. It sank....

Luckily the weather had held up till the last.

"Well, well," said Archie, "it's time for lunch. We have had a riotous morning. Let's all take it easy this afternoon."



Sometimes I do a little work in the morning. Doctors are agreed now that an occasional spell of work in the morning doesn't do me any harm. My announcement at breakfast that this was one of the mornings was greeted with a surprised enthusiasm which was most flattering. Archie offered me his own room where he does his thinking; Simpson offered me a nib; and Dahlia promised me a quiet time till lunch. I thanked them all and settled down to work.

But Dahlia didn't keep her promise. My first hour was peaceful, but after that I had inquiries by every post. Blair looked in to know where Myra was; Archie asked if I'd seen Dahlia anywhere; and when finally Thomas's head appeared in the doorway I decided that I had had enough of it.

"Oh, I say," began Thomas, "will you come and--but I suppose you're busy."

"Not too busy," I said, "to spare a word or two for an old friend," and I picked up the dictionary to throw at him. But he was gone before I could take aim.

"This is the end," I said to myself, and after five minutes more decided to give up work and seek refreshment and congenial conversation. To my surprise I found neither. Every room seemed to be empty, the tennis lawn was deserted, and Archie's cricket-bag and Simpson's golf-clubs rested peacefully in the hall. Something was going on. I went back to my work and decided to have the secret out at lunch.

"Now then," I said, when that blessed hour arrived, "tell me about it. You've deserted me all morning, but I'm not going to be left out."

"It's your fault for shutting yourself up."

"Duty," I said, slapping my chest--"duty," and I knocked my glass over with an elbow. "Oh, Dahlia, I'm horribly sorry. May I go and stand in the corner?"

"Let's talk very fast and pretend we didn't notice it," said Myra, helping me to mop. "Go on, Archie."

"Well, it's like this," said Archie. "A little while ago the Vicar called here."

"I don't see that that's any reason for keeping me in the background. I have met clergymen before and I know what to say to them."

"When I say a little while ago I mean about three weeks. We'd have asked you down for the night if we'd known you were so keen on clergymen. Well, as the result of that unfortunate visit, the school treat takes place here this afternoon, and lorblessme if I hadn't forgotten all about it till this morning."

"You'll have to help, please," said Dahlia.

"Only don't spill anything," said Thomas.

They have a poor sense of humour in the Admiralty.

. . . . . . .

I took a baby in each hand and wandered off to look for bees. Their idea, not mine.

"The best bees are round here," I said, and I led them along to the front of the house. On the lawn was Myra, surrounded by about eight babies.

"Two more for your collection," I announced. "Very fine specimens. The word with them is bees."

"Aren't they darlings? Sit down, babies, and the pretty gentleman will tell us all a story."

"Meaning me?" I asked in surprise. Myra looked beseechingly at me as she arranged the children all round her. I sat down near them and tried to think.

"Once upon a time," I said, "there was a--a--there was a--was a--a bee."

Myra nodded approvingly. She seemed to like the story so far. I didn't. The great dearth of adventures that could happen to a bee was revealed to me in a flash. I saw that I had been hasty.

"At least," I went on, "he thought he was a bee, but as he grew up his friends felt that he was not really a bee at all, but a dear little rabbit. His fur was too long for a bee."

Myra shook her head at me and frowned. My story was getting over-subtle for the infant mind. I determined to straighten it out finally.

"However," I added, "the old name stuck to him, and they all called him a bee. Now then I can get on. Where was I?"

But at this moment my story was interrupted.

"Come here," shouted Archie from the distance. "You're wanted."

"I'm sorry," I said, getting up quickly. "Will you finish the story for me? You'd better leave out the part where he stings the Shah of Persia. That's too exciting. Good-bye." And I hurried after Archie.

"Help Simpson with some of these races," said Archie. "He's getting himself into the dickens of a mess."

Simpson had started two races simultaneously; hence the trouble. In one of them the bigger boys had to race to a sack containing their boots, rescue their own pair, put them on, and race back to the starting-point. Good! In the other the smaller boys, each armed with a paper containing a problem in arithmetic, had to run to their sisters, wait for the problem to be solved, and then run back with the answer. Excellent! Simpson at his most inventive. Unfortunately, when the bootless boys arrived at the turning post, they found nothing but a small problem in arithmetic awaiting them, while on the adjoining stretch of grass young mathematicians were trying, with the help of their sisters, to get into two pairs of boots at once.

"Hallo, there you are," said Simpson. "Do help me; I shall be mobbed in a moment. It's the mothers. They think the whole thing is a scheme for stealing their children's boots. Can't you start a race for them?"

"You never ought to go about without somebody. Where's Thomas?"

"He's playing rounders. He scored a rounder by himself just now from an overthrow, but we shall hear about it at dinner. Look here, there's a game called 'Twos and Threes.' Couldn't you start the mothers at that? You stand in twos, and whenever anyone stands in front of the two then the person behind the two runs away."

"Are you sure?"

"What do you mean?" said Simpson.

"It sounds too exciting to be true. I can't believe it."

"Go on, there's a good chap. They'll know how to play all right."

"Oh, very well. Do they take their boots off first or not?"

Twos and Threes was a great success.

I found that I had quite a FLAIR for the game. I seemed to take to it naturally.

By the time our match was finished Simpson's little footwear trouble was over and he was organizing a grand three-legged race.

"I think they are all enjoying it," said Dahlia.

"They love it," I said; "Thomas is perfectly happy making rounders."

"But I meant the children. Don't you think they love it too? The babies seem so happy with Myra. I suppose she's telling them stories."

"I think so. She's got rather a good one about a bee. Oh, yes, they're happy enough with her."

"I hope they all had enough to eat at tea."

"Allowing for a little natural shyness I think they did well. And I didn't spill anything. Altogether it has been rather a success."

Dahlia stood looking down at the children, young and old, playing in the field beneath her, and gave a sigh of happiness.

"Now," she said, "I feel the house is REALLY warm."






"Archie," said Blair, "what's that big empty room above the billiard-room for?"

"That," said Archie, "is where we hide the corpses of our guests. I sleep with the key under my pillow."

"This is rather sudden," I said. "I'm not at all sure that I should have come if I had known that."

"Don't frighten them, dear; tell them the truth."

"Well, the truth is," said Archie, "that there was some idea of a little play-acting there occasionally. Hence the curtain-rod, the emergency exit and other devices."

"Then why haven't we done any? We came down here to open your house for you, and then you go and lock up the most important room of all, and sleep with the key under your pillow."

"It's too hot. But we'll do a little charade to-night if you like--just to air the place."

"Hooray," said Myra, "I know a lovely word."

Myra's little word was in two syllables and required three performers. Archie and I were kindly included in her company. Simpson threatened to follow with something immense and archaic, and Thomas also had something rather good up his sleeve, but I am not going to bother you with these. One word will be enough for you.



"Oh, good-morning," said Myra. She had added a hat and a sunshade to her evening-frock, and was supported by me in a gentleman's lounge-coat and boater for Henley wear.

"Good-morning, mum," said Archie, hitching up his apron and spreading his hands on the table in front of him.

"I just want this ribbon matched, please."

"Certainly, mum. Won't your little boy--I beg pardon, the old gentleman, take a seat too? What colour did you want the ribbon, mum?"

"The same colour as this," I said. "Idiot."

"Your grandfather is in a bit of a draught, I'm afraid, mum. It always stimulates the flow of language. My grandfather was just the same. I'm afraid, mum, we haven't any ribbon as you might say the SAME colour as this."

"If it's very near it will do."

"Now what colour would you call that?" wondered Archie, with his head on one side. "Kind of puce-like, I should put it at. Puce-magenta, as we say in the trade. No; we're right out of puce- magenta."

"Show the lady what you have got," I said sternly.

"Well, mum, I'm right out of ribbon, altogether. The fact is I'm more of an ironmonger really. The draper's is just the other side of the road. You wouldn't like a garden-roller now? I can do you a nice garden-roller for two pound five, and that's simply giving it away."

"Oh, shall we have a nice roller?" said Myra eagerly.

"I'm not going to carry it home," I said.

"That's all right, sir. My little lad will take it up on his bicycle. Two pounds five, mum, and sixpence for the mouse-trap the gentleman's been sitting on. Say three pounds."

Myra took out her purse.



We were back in our ordinary clothes.

"I wonder if they guessed that," said Archie.

"It was very easy," said Myra. "I should have thought they'd have seen it at once."

"But of course they're not a very clever lot," I explained. "That fellow with the spectacles--"

"Simpson his name is," said Archie. "I know him well. He's a professional golfer."

"Well, he LOOKS learned enough. I expect he knows all right. But the others--"

"Do you think they knew that we were supposed to be in a shop?"

"Surely! Why, I should think even--What's that man's name over there? No; that one next to the pretty lady--ah, yes, Thomas. Is that Thomas, the wonderful cueist, by the way? Really! Well, I should think even Thomas guessed that much."

"Why not do it over again to make sure?"

"Oh no, it was perfectly obvious. Let's get on to the final scene."

"I'm afraid that will give it away rather," said Myra.

"I'm afraid so," agreed Archie.


We sat on camp-stools and looked up at the ceiling with our mouths open.

"'E's late," said Archie.

"I don't believe 'e's coming, and I don't mind 'oo 'ears me sye so," said Myra. "So there!"

"'Ot work," I said, wiping my brow.

"Nar, not up there. Not 'ot. Nice and breezy like."

"But 'e's nearer the sun than wot we are, ain't 'e?"

"Ah, but 'e's not 'ot. Not up there."

"'Ere, there 'e is," cried Myra, jumping up excitedly. "Over there. 'Ow naow, it's a bird. I declare I quite thought it was 'im. Silly of me."

There was silence for a little, and then Archie took a sandwich out of his pocket.

"Wunner wot they'll invent next," he said, and munched stolidly.

. . . . . . .

"Well done," said Dahlia.

"Thomas and I have been trying to guess," said Simpson, "but the strain is terrific. My first idea was 'codfish,' but I suppose that's wrong. It's either 'silkworm' or 'wardrobe.' Thomas suggests 'mangel-wurzel.' He says he never saw anybody who had so much the whole air of a wurzel as Archie. The indefinable elan of the wurzel was there."

"Can't you really guess?" said Myra eagerly.

"I don't know whether I want you to or not. Oh no, I don't want you to."

"Then I withdraw 'mangel-wurzel,'" said Simpson gallantly.

"I think I can guess," said Blair. "It's--"

"Whisper it," said Simpson. "I'm never going to know."

Blair whispered it.

"Yes," said Myra disappointedly, "that's it."



"Nine," said Archie, separating his latest victim from the marmalade spoon and dropping it into the hot water. "This is going to be a sanguinary day. With a pretty late cut into the peach jelly Mr A. Mannering reached double figures. Ten. Battles are being won while Thomas still sleeps. Any advance on ten?"

"Does that include MY wasp?" asked Myra.

"There are only ten here," said Archie, looking into the basin, "and they're all mine. I remember them perfectly. What was yours like?"

"Well, I didn't exactly kill him. I smacked him with a teaspoon and asked him to go away. And he went on to your marmalade, so I expect you thought he was yours. But it was really mine, and I don't think it's very sporting of you to kill another person's wasp."

"Have one of mine," I said, pushing my plate across. "Have Bernard--he's sitting on the green-gage."

"I don't really want to kill anything. I killed a rabbit once and I wished I hadn't."

"I nearly killed a rabbit once, and I wished I had."

"Great sportsmen at a glance," said Archie. "Tell us about it before it goes into your reminiscences."

"It was a fierce affair while it lasted. The rabbit was sitting down and I was standing up, so that I rather had the advantage of him at the start. I waited till he seemed to be asleep and then fired."

"And missed him?"

"Y-yes. He heard the report, though. I mean, you mustn't think he ignored me altogether. I moved him. He got up and went away all right."

"A very lucky escape for you," said Archie. "I once knew a man who was gored to death by an angry rabbit." He slashed in the air with his napkin. "Fifteen. Dahlia, let's have breakfast indoors to-morrow. This is very jolly but it's just as hot, and it doesn't get Thomas up any earlier, as we hoped."

All that day we grilled in the heat. Myra and I started a game of croquet in the morning, but after one shot each we agreed to abandon it as a draw--slightly in my favour, because I had given her the chipped mallet. And in the afternoon, Thomas and Simpson made a great effort to get up enthusiasm for lawn-tennis. Each of them returned the other's service into the net until the score stood at eight all, at which point they suddenly realized that nothing but the violent death of one of the competitors would ever end the match. They went on to ten all to make sure, and then retired to the lemonade and wasp jug, Simpson missing a couple of dead bodies by inches only. And after dinner it was hotter than ever.

"The heat in my room," announced Archie, "breaks all records. The thermometer says a hundred and fifty, the barometer says very dry, we've had twenty-five hours' sunshine, and there's not a drop of rain recorded in the soap-dish. Are we going to take this lying down?"

"No," said Thomas, "let's sleep out to-night."

"What do you say, Dahlia?"

"It's a good idea. You can all sleep on the croquet lawn, and Myra and I will take the tennis lawn."

"Hadn't you better have the croquet lawn? Thomas walks in his sleep, and we don't want to have him going through hoops all night."

"You'll have to bring down your own mattresses," went on Dahlia, "and you've not got to walk about the garden in the early morning, at least not until Myra and I are up, and if you're going to fall over croquet hoops you mustn't make a noise. That's all the rules, I think."

"I'm glad we've got the tennis lawn," said Myra; "it's much smoother. Do you prefer the right-hand court, dear, or the left-hand?"

"We shall be very close to Nature to-night," said Archie. "Now we shall know whether it really is the nightjar, or Simpson gargling."

We were very close to Nature that night, but in the early morning still closer. I was awakened by the noise of Simpson talking, as I hoped, in his sleep. However, it appeared that he was awake and quite conscious of the things he was saying.

"I can't help it," he explained to Archie, who had given expression to the general opinion about it; "these bally wasps are all over me."

"It's your own fault," said Archie. "Why do you egg them on? I don't have wasps all over ME."

"Conf--There! I've been stung."

"You've been what?"


"Stung. Where?"

"In the neck."

"In the neck?" Archie turned over to me. "Simpson," he said, "has been stung in the neck. Tell Thomas."

I woke up Thomas. "Simpson," I said, "has been stung in the neck."

"Good," said Thomas, and went to sleep again.

"We've told Thomas," said Archie. "Now, are you satisfied?"

"Get away, you brute," shouted Simpson, suddenly, and dived under the sheet.

Archie and I lay back and shouted with laughter.

"It's really very silly of him," said Archie, "because--go away--because everybody knows that--get away, you ass--that wasps aren't dangerous unless--confound you--unless--I say, isn't it time we got up?"

I came up from under my sheet and looked at my watch. "Four-thirty," I said, dodged a wasp, and went back again.

"We must wait till five-thirty," said Archie. "Simpson was quite right; he WAS stung, after all. I'll tell him so."

He leant out of bed to tell him so, and then thought better of it and retired beneath the sheets.

At five-thirty a gallant little party made its way to the house, its mattresses over its shoulders.

"Gently," said Archie, as we came in sight of the tennis lawn.

We went very gently. There were only wasps on the tennis lawn, but one does not want to disturb the little fellows.



"Seeing that this is our last day together," began Archie--

"Oh, DON'T," said Myra. "I can't bear it."

"Seeing that this is our first day together, we might have a little tournament of some kind, followed by a small distribution of prizes. What do you think, Dahlia?"

"Well, I daresay I can find something."

"Any old thing that we don't want will do; nothing showy or expensive. Victory is its own reward."

"Yes, but if there IS a pot of home-made marmalade going with it," I said, "so much the better."

"Dahlia, earmark the marmalade for this gentleman. Now, what's it going to be? Golf, Simpson?"

"Why, of course," said Myra. "Hasn't he been getting it ready for days?"

"That will give him an unfair advantage," I pointed out. "He knows every single brick on the greens."

"Oh, I say, there aren't any greens yet," protested Simpson. "That'll take a year or two. But I've marked out white circles and you have to get inside them."

"I saw him doing that," said Archie. "I was afraid he expected us to play prisoners' base with him."

The game fixed upon, we proceeded to draw for partners.

"You'll have to play with me, Archie," said Dahlia, "because I'm no good at all."

"I shall have to play with Myra," I said, "because I'm no good at all."

"Oh, I'm very good," said Myra.

"That looks as though I should have to play with--" "Simpson," "Thomas," said Thomas and Simpson together.

"You're all giving me a lot of trouble," said Archie, putting his pencil back in his pocket. "I've just written your names out neatly on little bits of paper, and now they're all wasted. You'll have to stick them on yourselves so that the spectators will know who you are as you whizz past." He handed his bits of paper round and went in for his clubs.

It was a stroke competition, and each couple went round by itself. Myra and I started last.

"Now we've got to win this," she said, "because we shan't play together again for a long time."

"That's a nice cheery thing to say to a person just when he's driving. Now I shall have to address the ball all over again."

"Oh, NO!"

I addressed and despatched the ball. It struck a wall about eighty yards away and dropped. When we got there we found to our disgust that it was nestling at the very foot. Myra looked at it doubtfully.

"Can't you make it climb the wall?" I asked.

"We shall have to go back, I'm afraid. We can pretend we left our pocket-handkerchiefs behind."

She chipped it back about twenty yards, and I sent it on again about a hundred. Unfortunately it landed in a rut. However Myra got it out with great resource, and I was lucky enough with my next to place it inside the magic circle.

"Five," I said. "You know, I don't think you're helping me much. All you did that hole was to go twenty-one yards in the wrong direction."

Myra smiled cheerfully at me and did the next hole in one. "Well played, partner," she said, as he put her club back in its bag.

"Oh, at the short holes I don't deny that you're useful. Where do we go now?"

"Over the barn. This is the long hole."

I got in an excellent drive, but unfortunately it didn't aviate quick enough. While the intrepid spectators were still holding their breath, there was an ominous crash.

"Did you say IN the barn or OVER the barn?" I asked, as we hurried on to find the damage.

"We do play an exciting game, don't we?" said Myra.

We got into the barn and found the ball and a little glass on the floor.

"What a very small hole it made," said Myra, pointing to the broken pane. "What shall I do?"

"You'll have to go back through the hole. It's an awkward little shot."

"I don't think I could."

"No, it IS rather a difficult stroke. You want to stand well behind the ball, and--however, there may be a local rule about it."

"I don't think there is or I should have heard it. Samuel's been telling me EVERYTHING lately."

"Then there's only one thing for it." I pointed to the window at the other end of the barn. "Go straight on."

Myra gave a little gurgle of delight.

"But we shall have to save up our pocket-money," she said.

Her ball hit the wood in between two panes and bounded back. My next shot was just above the glass. Myra took a niblick and got the ball back into the middle of the floor.

"It's simply sickening that we can't break a window when we're really trying to. I should have thought that anyone could have broken a window. Now then."

"Oh, good SHOT!" cried Myra above the crash. We hurried out and did the hole in nine.

At lunch, having completed eighteen holes out of the thirty-six, we were seven strokes behind the leaders, Simpson and Thomas. Simpson, according to Thomas, had been playing like a book. Golf Faults Analysed--that book, I should think.

"But I expect he'll go to pieces in the afternoon," said Thomas. He turned to a servant and added, "Mr Simpson won't have anything more."

We started our second round brilliantly; continued (after an unusual incident on the fifth tee) brilliantly; and ended up brilliantly. At the last tee we had played a hundred and thirty-seven. Myra got in a beautiful drive to within fifty yards of the circle.

"How many?" said the others, coming up excitedly.

"This is terrible," said Myra, putting her hand to her heart. "A hundred and--shall I tell them?--a--a--Oh, dear--a--hundredandthirtyeight."

"Golly," said Thomas, "you've got one for it. We did a hundred and forty."

"We did a hundred and forty-two," said Archie. "Close play at the Oval."

"Oh," said Myra to me, "DO be careful. Oh, but no," she went on quickly, "I don't mind a bit really if we lose. It's only a game. Besides, we--"

"You forget the little pot of home-made marmalade," I said reproachfully. "Dahlia, what ARE the prizes? Because it's just possible that Myra might like the second one better than the first. In that case I should miss this."

"Go on," whispered Myra.

I went on. There was a moment's silence--and then a deep sigh from Myra.

"How about it?" I said calmly.

Loud applause.

"Well," said Dahlia, "you and Myra make a very good couple. I suppose I must find a prize for you."

"It doesn't really matter," said Myra breathlessly, "because on the fifth tee we--we arranged about the prizes."

"We arranged to give each other one," I said, smiling at Dahlia.

Dahlia looked very hard at us.

"You DON'T mean--?"

Myra laughed happily.

"Oh," she said, "but that's just what we do."

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: House-Warming