Colonel Deshott gets married
Professor Branestawm’s inventions often caused problems. Sometimes it was because they worked, and sometimes it was because they didn’t work and sometimes it was because they worked too well. Mostly people in Great Pagwell were used to this, and so were people in Little Pagwell, Pagwell Parva, North Pagwell, and Pagwell-on-the-Hill. Generally speaking, at the end of an incident only the Professor was actually in trouble. The Professor felt rather guilty about the events with the Branestawm Cat Ejector (and suction cat retriever), since Colonel Dedshott’s friend Sergeant Fastenluce had to move to Walmington-on-sea because Mrs Pushnpull had evicted him from the flat above the perambulator emporium. Mrs Flittersnoop had mentioned several times how sorry she had felt for the Sargent.
“A very nice young man I’m sure, sir, and makes a very nice chocolate cake too.”
Because Mrs Flittersnoop felt sorry for the Sergeant, who had had a broken ankle and still walked with a limp, she started to knit him an enormous jumper. Mrs Flittersnoop believed in “relaxed knitting” which meant that her jumpers got six inches longer in the sleeve every time they were washed. Things were rather quiet in Pagwell, since nothing seemed to need inventing at the moment, and the Professor, the Colonel and Mrs Flittersnoop were getting rather tired of having to go the long way round whenever they went anywhere, in order to avoid walking past Mrs Pushnpull’s pram shop.
There was so little going on for a whole month that most afternoons the Colonel and the Professor had nothing to do but go round for tea at each other’s houses. Then, while the Colonel and the Professor were at the Colonel’s very tidy house a letter arrived. It wasn’t just a letter; there was a letter in the envelope along with three pieces of card. The Colonel handed one of them to the Professor.
“Thank you. It is indeed extremely interesting. The edges appear to have been nibbled by some rodent, and yet I observe that the envelope appears unharmed.” said the Professor.
Colonel Dedshott, who knew that with all the extraordinary ideas whirling about in the Professor’s head the more ordinary ones were apt to get a little lost, turned the card over in the Professor’s card and pointed to the writing.
Mr and Mrs Horace Printenpay
Have the much pleasure in requesting your company at the wedding of their niece
To Sargent Fraser Fastenluce of the Longbow light Infantry
On Thursday 21st June, at 11am
At the church of St Bartholomew and some Angels, Walmington-on-Sea
And afterward in the Function room of the Black Swan Hotel
“It’s an invitation.” Dedshott explained his friend. “Fastenluce has invited us both to his wedding. All three of us, in fact. There’s an invitation here for Mrs Flittersnoop, too. And Fastenluce has invited me to be his best man. I shall write back at once and tell him how honoured I would be. Must find out what the duties are, what!”
That evening a great many letters were written in Pagwell. The professor wrote back at once to Mr and Mrs Printenpay to say how delight he was to accept their kind invitation. Mrs Flittersnoop also wrote to accept the invitation and then wrote to her sister Aggie and her cousin Ada to tell them all about it. The Colonel wrote to Sargent Fastenluce, and to the Printenpays, and to his commanding officer to ask for the day off from the Catapult Cavaliers.
The next morning was even busier. Mrs Flittersnoop went to buy an even larger and more splendid hat. Professor Branestawm went to the Great Pagwell public library to find a book about how to be a best man. It was not that he was muddled up about who was being Fastenluce’s best man, but he had an idea for a machine to help the Colonel (and Fastenluce) and wanted to be sure he had got it right. Colonel Dedshott also went to the library to get a book on how to be the best man, but he had some Cavalier business to attend to first, so he arrived at the Great Pagwell public library after the Professor had left. The Professor had borrowed the only book about weddings, so Colonel Dedshott went to ask the vicar for advice instead.
The book about weddings turned out to be very useful. It had quite a long chapter on how to be a best man, but also one on how to be a bridegroom and one how to be the father of the bride. It seemed a pity to waste all that lovely information, so the professor made a machine with three levers, one for each role. He could always change the position of the levers in a jiffy if Fastenluce or Mr Printnpay needed any help. Admittedly the machine became a little warm if you left it switched on for too long, but that probably wouldn’t matter. The book suggested that the service was unlikely to be longer than an hour at the very most. After some thought he added an attachment at the side for holding bouquets. The he went to Great Pagwell High Street to buy set of posh cutlery for sergeant and the future Mrs Fastenluce. The library book, after all said it was a present that would “always be welcome on such occasions.”
Mrs Flittersnoop went and bought a toast rack for the happy couple.
Colonel Dedshott knew that a set of cutlery was the proper thing to give as a wedding present, so he went and bought some in a very tidy looking box.
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring were somewhat surprised to receive an invitation from the Printenpays to their niece’s wedding.
“It’s not as though we’ve even met the girl.” Mrs Mainwaring said.
“I think you will find, my dear, that the Printenpays are fully sensible of importance of certain pillars of the community in a town such as Walmington-on-Sea. They doubtless wish to do their best by their niece, especially as she has lived with them for such a short time. I shall be busy at the bank, but accept their kind invitation for yourself, by all means, my dear.”
“We shall give them a toast rack.” said Mrs Mainwaring.
There was, Mr Fraser the undertaker thought, no getting away from the attending the wedding or providing a wedding present for his nephew. It was early summer, which meant that business was slack. Pleasant though it was to come home each evening to a meal cooked by his nephew, and very tasty they were too, the lad had the most appallingly profligate ideas about the use of butter, meat and even cream. Why, he even put sugar on his porridge. These ideas must surely come from the Fastenluce side of the family. Any true Fraser would never be so reckless with the house-keeping money. His nephew might indeed pay his share of their weekly food bill, but the undertaker shuddered quietly to himself at the increase to his own portion of their bills. (Even if Mr Jones the butcher had been more cordial to him of late.) Still, the lad was not only his nephew, but also his godson. Failing to provide him with an adequate wedding present, whilst it would probably not bother young Fraser Fastenluce at all, might occasional the sort of talk which might incline some of the people in Walmington to employ the firm of Stiffson and Cypress in their hour of grief, and that would not do at all.
So while his nephew was out, Mr Fraser carefully disinterred a certain felt-lined box from the very back of the sideboard. It was good cutlery, each knife blade carefully wrapped in tissue paper and the silver plating quite unworn. The undertaker wondered if any of the set had been out of the box since his parents had received the set on their own wedding day in 1858. He examined the box carefully. The maker was still in business. Good. There was a small card under the lining. Great Aunt Maria. Well, she had always been reckoned to have good taste. He removed the card and gave the box a bit of a polish with the cuff of his black coat. He felt he was being stared at. Sure enough, he looked round to see a pair of yellowish –green eyes stare at him from the table with the aspidistra.
“You’ll not say a word of this and there’ll be a few more scraps after dinner for you.” He told the cat. “And it’s to be fish, as ye’ll recall.”
Charlie stayed sitting on the chenille cloth, but he stuck a hind leg in the air at a jaunty angle and began to lick himself. It seems they had a deal.