Story: The Dreamer Story by H.H. Munro (SAKI) TrendyVoice

10 June 2016

Story: The Dreamer Story by H.H. Munro (SAKI)

It was the season of sales. The august establishment
of Walpurgis and Nettlepink had lowered its prices
for an entire week as a concession to trade
observances, much as an Arch-duchess might
protestingly contract an attack of influenza for the
unsatisfactory reason that influenza was locally

Adela Chemping, who considered herself
in some measure superior to the allurements of an
ordinary bargain sale, made a point of attending the
reduction week at Walpurgis and Nettlepink's.
"I'm not a bargain hunter," she said, "but I like to go
where bargains are."
Which showed that beneath her surface strength of
character there flowed a gracious undercurrent of
human weakness.
With a view to providing herself with a male escort
Mrs. Chemping had invited her youngest nephew to
accompany her on the first day of the shopping
expedition, throwing in the additional allurement of
a cinematograph theatre and the prospect of light
refreshment. As Cyprian was not yet eighteen she
hoped he might not have reached that stage in
masculine development when parcel-carrying is
looked on as a thing abhorrent.
"Meet me just outside the floral department," she
wrote to him, "and don't be a moment later than
Cyprian was a boy who carried with him through
early life the wondering look of a dreamer, the eyes
of one who sees things that are not visible to
ordinary mortals, and invests the commonplace
things of this world with qualities unsuspected by
plainer folk - the eyes of a poet or a house agent. He
was quietly dressed - that sartorial quietude which
frequently accompanies early adolescence, and is
usually attributed by novel-writers to the influence
of a widowed mother. His hair was brushed back in a
smoothness as of ribbon seaweed and seamed with
a narrow furrow that scarcely aimed at being a
parting. His aunt particularly noted this item of his
toilet when they met at the appointed rendezvous,
because he was standing waiting for her bare-
"Where is your hat?" she asked.
"I didn't bring one with me," he replied.
Adela Chemping was slightly scandalised.
"You are not going to be what they call a Nut, are
you?" she inquired with some anxiety, partly with
the idea that a Nut would be an extravagance which
her sister's small household would scarcely be
justified in incurring, partly, perhaps, with the
instinctive apprehension that a Nut, even in its
embryo stage, would refuse to carry parcels.
Cyprian looked at her with his wondering, dreamy
"I didn't bring a hat," he said, "because it is such a
nuisance when one is shopping; I mean it is so
awkward if one meets anyone one knows and has to
take one's hat off when one's hands are full of
parcels. If one hasn't got a hat on one can't take it
Mrs. Chemping sighed with great relief; her worst
fear had been laid at rest.
"It is more orthodox to wear a hat," she observed,
and then turned her attention briskly to the
business in hand.
"We will go first to the table-linen counter," she said,
leading the way in that direction; "I should like to
look at some napkins."
The wondering look deepened in Cyprian's eyes as
he followed his aunt; he belonged to a generation
that is supposed to be over-fond of the role of mere
spectator, but looking at napkins that one did not
mean to buy was a pleasure beyond his
comprehension. Mrs. Chemping held one or two
napkins up to the light and stared fixedly at them,
as though she half expected to find some
revolutionary cypher written on them in scarcely
visible ink; then she suddenly broke away in the
direction of the glassware department.
"Millicent asked me to get her a couple of decanters
if there were any going really cheap," she explained
on the way, "and I really do want a salad bowl. I can
come back to the napkins later on."
She handled and scrutinised a large number of
decanters and a long series of salad bowls, and
finally bought seven chrysanthemum vases.

"No one uses that kind of vase nowadays," she
informed Cyprian, "but they will do for presents next
Two sunshades that were marked down to a price
that Mrs. Chemping considered absurdly cheap were
added to her purchases.
"One of them will do for Ruth Colson; she is going
out to the Malay States, and a sunshade will always
be useful there. And I must get her some thin
writing paper. It takes up no room in one's
Mrs. Chemping bought stacks of writing paper; it
was so cheap, and it went so flat in a trunk or
portmanteau. She also bought a few envelopes -
envelopes somehow seemed rather an extragavance
compared with notepaper.
"Do you think Ruth will like blue or grey paper?" she
asked Cyprian.
"Grey," said Cyprian, who had never met the lady in
"Have you any mauve notepaper of this quality?"
Adela asked the assistant.
"We haven't any mauve," said the assistant, "but
we've two shades of green and a darker shade of
Mrs. Chemping inspected the greens and the darker
grey, and chose the blue.
"Now we can have some lunch," she said.
Cyprian behaved in an exemplary fashion in the
refreshment department, and cheerfully accepted a
fish cake and a mince pie and a small cup of coffee
as adequate restoratives after two hours of
concentrated shopping. He was adamant, however,
in resisting his aunt's suggestion that a hat should
be bought for him at the counter where men's
headwear was being disposed of at temptingly
reduced prices.

"I've got as many hats as I want at home," he said,
"and besides, it rumples one's hair so, trying them
Perhaps he was going to develop into a Nut after all.
It was a disquieting symptom that he left all the
parcels in charge of the cloak-room attendant.
"We shall be getting more parcels presently," he
said, "so we need not collect these till we have
finished our shopping."
His aunt was doubtfully appeased; some of the
pleasure and excitement of a shopping expedition
seemed to evaporate when one was deprived of
immediate personal contact with one's purchases.
"I'm going to look at those napkins again," she said,
as they descended the stairs to the ground floor.
"You need not come," she added, as the dreaming
look in the boy's eyes changed for a moment into
one of mute protest, "you can meet me afterwards in
the cutlery department; I've just remembered that I
haven't a corkscrew in the house that can be
depended on."
Cyprian was not to be found in the cutlery
department when his aunt in due course arrived
there, but in the crush and bustle of anxious
shoppers and busy attendants it was an easy matter
to miss anyone. It was in the leather goods
department some quarter of an hour later that Adela
Chemping caught sight of her nephew, separated
from her by a rampart of suit-cases and
portmanteaux and hemmed in by the jostling crush
of human beings that now invaded every corner of
the great shopping emporium. She was just in time
to witness a pardonable but rather embarrassing
mistake on the part of a lady who had wriggled her
way with unstayable determination towards the
bareheaded Cyprian, and was now breathlessly
demanding the sale price of a handbag which had
taken her fancy.

"There now," exclaimed Adela to herself, "she takes
him for one of the shop assistants because he hasn't
got a hat on. I wonder it hasn't happened before."
Perhaps it had. Cyprian, at any rate, seemed neither
startled nor embarrassed by the error into which the
good lady had fallen. Examining the ticket on the
bag, he announced in a clear, dispassionate voice:
"Black seal, thirty-four shillings, marked down to
twenty-eight. As a matter of fact, we are clearing
them out at a special reduction price of twenty-six
shillings. They are going off rather fast."
"I'll take it," said the lady, eagerly digging some
coins out of her purse.
"Will you take it as it is?" asked Cyprian; "it will be a
matter of a few minutes to get it wrapped up, there
is such a crush."
"Never mind, I'll take it as it is," said the purchaser,
clutching her treasure and counting the money into
Cyprian's palm.
Several kind strangers helped Adela into the open
"It's the crush and the heat," said one sympathiser
to another; "it's enough to turn anyone giddy."

When she next came across Cyprian he was
standing in the crowd that pushed and jostled
around the counters of the book department. The
dream look was deeper than ever in his eyes. He had
just sold two books of devotion to an elderly Canon.

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