The Feast of Nemesis

“…There is no outlet for demonstrating your feelings  towards people whom you simply loathe. That is really  the crying need of our modern civilisation. Just think  how jolly it would be if a recognised day were set apart  for the paying off of old scores and grudges, a day when  one could lay oneself out to be gracefully vindictive to  a carefully treasured list of ‘people who must not be let  off.’ I remember when I was at a private school we had  one day, the last Monday of the term I think it was,  consecrated to the settlement of feuds and grudges; of  course we did not appreciate it as much as it deserved,  because, after all, any day of the term could be used for  that purpose. Still, if one had chastised a smaller boy  for being cheeky weeks before, one was always permitted  on that day to recall the episode to his memory by  chastising him again. That is what the French call  reconstructing the crime.”

“I should call it reconstructing the punishment,”  said Mrs. Thackenbury; “and, anyhow, I don’t see how you  could introduce a system of primitive schoolboy vengeance  into civilised adult life. We haven’t outgrown our  passions, but we are supposed to have learned how to keep  them within strictly decorous limits.”

“Of course the thing would have to be done furtively  and politely,” said Clovis; “the charm of it would be  that it would never be perfunctory like the other thing.  Now, for instance, you say to yourself: ‘I must show the  Webleys some attention at Christmas, they were kind to  dear Bertie at Bournemouth,’ and you send them a  calendar, and daily for six days after Christmas the male  Webley asks the female Webley if she has remembered to  thank you for the calendar you sent them. Well,  transplant that idea to the other and more human side of  your nature, and say to yourself: ‘Next Thursday is  Nemesis Day; what on earth can I do to those odious  people next door who made such an absurd fuss when Ping  Yang bit their youngest child?’ Then you’d get up  awfully early on the allotted day and climb over into  their garden and dig for truffles on their tennis court  with a good gardening fork, choosing, of course, that  part of the court that was screened from observation by  the laurel bushes. You wouldn’t find any truffles but  you would find a great peace, such as no amount of  present-giving could ever bestow…”

The Feast of Nemesis 1914 H. H. Munro


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