The abiding incompetence of Mr Neaves
“I have urged Mr Neaves to contact me with due haste.”
Thus spoke Mr Warton over breakfast. He furrowed his brow into a succession of three orderly creases which he hoped would convey the seriousness of the situation to the only other person in the room.
Mr Warton's daughter, Rebecca, was seated at the opposing end of the long dining room table. She returned the marmalade spoon to its crystal vessel beside the butter dish and drew a deep breath as if to compose herself before speaking:
“I find Mr Neaves to be a most vexing gentleman. His every action, no mater how mundane its purpose, seems to bring our family closer to penury. That we cannot easily rid ourselves of his unwelcome presence is a cruel fate indeed.”
The opinions of father and daughter were bolstered by the facts themselves which bore ironclad witness to the abiding incompetence of Mr Neaves. He was, to the insoluble regret of all who dwelled within the ivy-clad walls of Lavendon Manor, a distant cousin of Mr Warton. Formerly he had been a resident of Stribling, prior to the town being wholly occupied by wasps.
His most recent blunder, which teetered atop a pile of previous indiscretions, had occurred after his long-suffering host had placed him in sole charge of a cargo of live snakes. His duty in regard to these reptiles lay in arranging their conveyance from the Cornish port of Bellton-on-Milne, to Haroldwick in Buckinghamshire.
In pursuit of his objective Mr Neaves found it expedient to secure passage for himself and the consignment of serpents upon a commercial airliner. When attending to the matter of storage in the hold of the plane, he delegated to the smaller snakes the task of tethering the larger ones. With one half of his cargo secured and the remainder gainfully employed as jailers he satisfied himself that the job was well done and took his seat in the cabin.
“Mr Neaves evidently did not foresee the many casualties that would result from such a haphazard arrangement,” continued the brooding Mr Warton.
“I fear I will once more be compelled to procure the services of Mr Jackson. Though there are some in the village who refer to him as a bad-ass mother-fucker I have always found hum to be most agreeable.
“Rebecca, my dear. With your compliance I will avail of Mr Jackson and ask him to arrange for the bothersome Mr Neaves to be felled by a volley of musketry, fired from a passing carriage that will speed away from the scene before the assassins can be caught and blame apportioned.”
For the second time that morning Rebecca Warton composed herself, carefully selecting her words before speaking:
“I would approve of this course of action were it so, yet if asked in public I would censure it in the strongest terms.”
Mr Warton nodded.
“I fear that such a severe resolution will not be without cost. The expense involved in the engagement of Mr Jackson will dwindle the sum that I can offer for you as dowry. You must be prepared to forego both your first and second choice of suitor and thereafter must accustom yourself to the lowly role of wife to Andrew Catchpole who resides in one of the cardboard houses in Lower Mockford...”