페이지 이미지

or the crocodile; the founda- The word had come to detion stone of the palace of the note a philosophical school of King Penguin was still unlaid. thought in the family. It seemed to me rather an “But he means to," Irene in hospitable sheet of water, amended.

, homely but exclusive, not pre- Generally speaking, she was pared for exotic guests. The the less sanguine of the two, cindery grey of the willows, rather inclined to be a little the aspens trembling, the sedges unbeliever, but her newly. leaning forward in a row, the acquired ascendancy over the startled grebes and waterhens providence of the Clapperhouse were familiar to Renton Parva ; had reversed the rôles. I wonsomehow I could not fit them dered how long it would last. into the picture of Uncle Bliss' But here was the providence zoological gardens, with flam- himself. Val was the first to ingoes and adjutants. An alli- spy him lounging towards us gator's nose under a hawthorn, from the direction of the stables. especially in May time, would Uncle Bliss was wearing the be horrid. But for a long same grey suit in which he had time I had shared Angela's be- lunched with us little more lief that there wasn't going to than three months ago, the be no zoo.

trousers very baggy at the Val produced the terminal knees and very tight underpost, the broken end of a neath, looking as if the calves water-level marker with black would burst them, and the lines on white paint, which pockets mysteriously bulging they had picked up after a —but bulges now had merely flood. They drove it into the an objective interest. I had soft squashy turf, where the never seen him in any other beck oozed out of its bed of suit, except the portentous brooklime and water-cress, more swallow-tails he wore at the a spring on the edge of the lake Potters'. than an overflow, the sort of The Queen of Sheba was place where you are disap- immediately enthroned on his pointed if you do not flush a shoulders, which, it seemed, snipe. Val was afraid that had become her privileged mode somebody would pull it up, of progression. A brawny band but Irene said that she would was extended to Val. tell Uncle Bliss about it. She looking out for you," he said seemed quite satisfied that a to me. “Expected you hours word from her would be enough ago. And how's my little to preserve their boundaries. rosebud ? Val remarked on the barren- Very well, thank you,

of preparation. He Uncle Bliss ; and how hasn't begun, Daddy."

“Fish ponds !” I reminded As fit as a trivet,” Ursa him.

Major replied courteously.

“I was




[ocr errors]

“What is a trivet, Uncle never had any esthetic preBliss 1

tensions. “Ah, there you have the To the children, of course, advantage of me.”

the interior was a terrestrial Have you got one in your paradise, the pleasure dome of museum !"

Kubla Khan ; but I am afraid “We shall see. If not, we it is necessary in the interests will send for one. Is it the of the prosy and literal Muse Queen of Sheba's command ! I serve to correct Irene's ap

Uncle Bliss seemed to have preciation with an adult view set permanently into a good of Uncle Bliss' museum. My shape, like a blancmange. One first impression was of lumber does not buy a dinosaur's egg run riot, the kind of nightmare every day.

Mrs Staff might have if after a “Now, where is Don Quix- repast of pineapple and spatchote?” I asked myself as I cock the stuffed vermin-holdsurveyed our muscular and ing capacity of her cottage confident friend, four square, were to swell and increase to fortified at all points, and so the proportions of the Albert little of a visionary. A barrel Hall. Many of Uncle Bliss' of cement could not be more exhibits were stowed away in impervious to rubs. Where did packing-cases, but enough had the pathos come in 1

been exhumed to prepare me He escorted us across the for the chaos of unrelated obwasted park, past the saw-pits jects that has since become with their rotting cross poles, notorious. I think we were the the hollows where the Scots first visitors to see the Clapperfirs had been felled, the tumble- house Collection in embryo. down lichened barns of the Out Irene constituted herself farm, and the straggling un- assistant showman. “The hipkempt hedges which marked popotamus is at the door," she land that had been enclosed whispered to Val as we entered. in Slingsby's father's time. It And there it was standing, or was once all park. The wilted rather squatting, to receive us. regiments of ragwort and One could see that Staff had thistles depressed me. I had had do hand in the hippopotaDo ambition to be Bliss' estate mus. Uncle Bliss had gone to agent.

one of the best taxidermists in Even from a distance the South Africa, who had mounted Clapperhouse was in a visible the beast in the attitude in state of disrepair. Its square which it had fallen back bellowspacious ugliness reminded me ing, with its head up, into the of a Turkish cavalry barracks. water. The vis-à-vis of the However, there was plenty of pachyderm was a magnificent room to put things in, and that polar bear (purchased) with a was what Uncle Bliss bought it cub. Uncle Bliss introduced for-a sort of dump. The place them. “Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. What are you giggling fish and sharks and other sea at, young man ? Next came monsters and stuffed aretacea a lion which looked as if it were hanging from hooks and had died of mange, shot by chains in the ceiling like objects Uncle Bliss, cured by Staff. in a Dutch interior. A South American jaguar On the stairs Staff's exhibits rubbed shoulders with a Tibetan were given a prominent place. kiang. Strange stable com- They all looked very sorry for panions. A Snow leopard themselves about the muzzle ; (Ward) consorted with a Devon- hairs had dropped out ; hardly shire badger (Staff) and one had good ears. There was giraffe (Staff), as if the animals a giant eland standing on its in the ark had changed partners four legs as stiff as a towel in some country dance. It was horse, and a cracked rhino the kind of museum Alice hide thrown over an erection might have seen through the that looked like parallel bars. looking-glass, beasts from all Staff could make a flat skin, lands,

some innocent and but be had never planed one familiar, others strange and in his life ; Uncle Bliss' coolies fierce, looking as if they had must have carried double come out of the Apocalypse, weight. Clarkson was right. wyverns and basilisks perhaps. Inflated gollywogs and bags of “ The owl and the panther sawdust. And he had no idea were sharing a pie.” I was of mounting. None of his quite prepared to meet the bones were properly artiougriffon and the mock turtle lated. on the stairs.

Uncle Bliss took us to a wing But the best view of this of the house which had once still life menagerie was from been the servants' quarters, a the centre of the hall. When warren of bedrooms fitted with I took my stand here and cupboards with glass doors, looked round at the four walls and chests of drawers which I was reminded of a great khan emitted a smell of camphor and in the Yemen, camels stalled decay. In the passages there beside little donkeys, only the were broad open shelves litanimals all had their rumps tered with fossils, skeletons, to the wall, and were staring flint implements, sea-shells, and out at me. One had to move a variety of dull colourless circumspectly. The caravan- objects in bottles, out of which serai was crowded with tables the spirits had evaporated. The on which loose objects were whiskers of a civet cat brushed strewn promiscuously, and cabi- & plaster cast of the Neandernets with glass tops, among thal man. It was not what which it was difficult to pick you might call a systematic your way, an equally hetero- or educative collection. The geneous collection, while under student of comparative anathe stairs alligators and cuttle- tomy would have found it

[ocr errors]

lacking in plan. There was no of Marjorie's dead-leaf insect. grouping of objects which to- In the case of Congo specimens gether told a tale. Darwin a blue-roller bird was snapping and Mendel might never have up a green mantis, in spite existed. And if you occasion of its wonderful make-up in ally ran up against a skeleton imitation of its surroundings. of one of the higher anthro- The butterflies were magnifipoids, a gorilla or a lemur, at a cent. Some of the species from corner of the stairs or in some Brazil outshone Marjorie's paalcove where a knight in armour pilio.

pilio. I believe the Clapperought to have stood, you might house Collection is still famous be quite sure that Uncle Bliss for its lepidoptera. Among had not stuck it there with other treasures we were shown any highbrow scientific inten- the only complete set of extinct tion. The student might look British coppers. What it was in vain for a key to the essential worth I cannot say ; perhaps features of the order Primates five figures, if one can put a in the Clapperhouse Collection. price to things unpurchasable. I remember Clarkson telling But to do Uncle Bliss justice, me how Uncle Bliss had with- he valued things more for their ered him when he suggested a rarity than for what they would card catalogue. “Card cata- fetch in the market, though logue ! Card fiddlesticks ! ” he this, of course, threw a glam

, replied. It certainly was rather our over them when he first a stupid question to ask him. bought them. Acquisitiveness

As a corrective to this con- was his strong point, a certain fusion there were collections dogged combativeness in the which he had bought in the face of competition. Clarkson gross, so to speak, arranged had been contemptuous about and complete, which could not Bliss' uninstructed appetite help being instructive. This and long purse." He was explained his loans all over the tenacious too, though the glamcountry. One cabinet showed our of acquisition seemed to the life history of various in- wear off. When he was rumsects. He had bought it from maging for Irene's spider in a collector in Amsterdam. But what had been the housethe thing which ravished the keeper's linen locker, he fished children was the case of assimi- out a cardboard box containlative insects displaying their ing two Great Auk's eggs. protective resemblance to “Hullo," he said.


What background of leaf and bark. have we got here?

have we got here? I had forUncle Bliss was not a bit gotten these.

gotten these. I must put up fussy. They were allowed to a stand for them in the hall." touch as well as see. They Now there are only sixtyfelt the praying mantis, and seven Great Auk's eggs in all then the leaf or twig it strad- the museums and private coldled. Irene discovered a replica lections in the world - any

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

dealer can locate them for you.

“It would take a rare ignorUncle Bliss must have spent ant kind of man to understand more on them than on the him," Sancho Panza observed dinosaur's egg. But the paint tolerantly, and added, “ There's had worn off the toy.

nothing so curious as folk.” What did he value most! This last remark, a favourite

Irene asked him, and he led aphorism of Sancho Panza's, us to an alcove by a bow was addressed to me.

It was window, his holy of holies, our first introduction. Uncle where hung the okapi skin. Bliss omitted the formality.

I shot that before it was And there was no need ; he known to science,” he said introduced himself. The squire proudly. He took it down and was as natural and unselfran his fingers over the mite- conscious in his relations with infested pelt.

the world as the knight. There By the way,” he said to me, was something uncanny and “do you know Clarkson ! I intriguing about Staff, a curious showed it him. One of our incongruity in the way he arm-chair zoologists, British walked and looked at you Museum. Doesn't know the and talked. Everything that difference between an okapi seemed most characteristic in and a giraffe. Why they put his self-expression was out of him there, I can't think. Speci- keeping, irreconcilable almost, men, I suppose. Stercoraceous with his appearance. In feature fellow ! Troglodyte !"

I should have put him down as Our attention was diverted a Mediterranean type. A Cataby a heavy regular footstep in lan, perhaps. Clarkson's word the corridor. I could tell by was Dago. “Furrin-looking the expression on Irene's face was the Homersfield term. But who was coming round the his amazing squint made specicorner. It was the adored fication difficult. Sancho Panza. Uncle Bliss He had a high forehead and turned to him, still stroking the very long black hair which skin.

stood straight up and curled “ You remember the man in over like pothooks where the the museum, Staff ? Lives next parting ought to be, a frame to door to the mummies. Ought to his squint. In spite of his be shut up with them.”

sallow southern look his speech The okapi skin served as a was laconically English ; yet context, if any were wanting, his operative eye, when it did to recall the arm-chair zoologist. flash on you, was like an electric

"Why, yes," Staff said. "Not torch. His walk, an absorbed likely to forget him neither. stride, as if he were counting Him that mistook the occupi his steps, was certainly not for an amateur giraffe.' Latin. Nor was it English, but

Exactly,” said Uncle Bliss. that may have come of flute“Immature giraffe."



« 이전계속 »