Now, Anglepoise had a rival for Armagnac's affections. This was his brother Shoeburyness who had inherited the family spoon making business when their father had died of a freak outbreak of spoon-handle pigs.*
Shoeburyness's problem was that since the people of Lake Quimby preferred to sail about in enlarged versions of his father's classic table spoon design he was forced to work all the hours God sent in order to satisfy customer demand. Consequently, he had no spare time to chase after attractive young girls and satisfy their demands. However, he did have the advantage that he was not committed to teaching fresh water wildlife how to write humorous poetry of any kind. And so it was to him that Armagnac finally went in search of an escort to the ball.
"Yes, Armagnac," he said, "I would love to take you to the ball. I can finish Mr. Silage-Abstract's twin ladle catamaran in the morning."
"But why," continued Shoeburyness, "would you prefer to go with a mere spoon maker rather than my boat building brother? He's always been better than me. Did you know that his current project was teaching eels how to write limericks? Don't you think that's amazing?"
"Ooooh," purred Armagnac seductively, "but I've always had a soft spot for manufacturers of water-going cutlery." She picked up a long handled salad tosser and stroked its length lovingly. "They're so . . . passionate!"
And so off went Shoeburyness and Armagnac to the Saint Pingy's Day Ball. There they discovered that the party was in full swing and everybody was wearing loganberry cheesecake on their heads and waving half-scale inflatable models of Norman Wisdom high in the air. Quite why this was regarded an appropriate way of commemorating Saint Pingy's Day is lost in the annals of history, as indeed is what mighty deed Saint Pingy had performed in order to merit his sainthood, but it seemed a fitting way to celebrate. Everyone was having a good time and that's the main thing, isn't it?
Shoeburyness and Armagnac were greeted by Armagnac's parents as they arrived.
"Armagnac, darling," squealed her mother, Flotsamblouse Wainscotting, "I thought you weren't going to make it. Is that nice Anglepoise not with you?"
Mr. Wainscotting made a grimace at the name of his daughter's boyfriend.
"No, mummy," replied Armagnac, "He's being very boring. Shoeburyness has very kindly offered to escort me tonight."
Shoeburyness politely tipped his loganberry cheesecake at Armagnac's mother who was visibly showing difficulty in hiding her displeasure in her daughter's choice of partner.
"Mrs. Wainscotting," Shoeburyness greeted apprehensively.
Mr. Wainscotting, however, did not share his wife's reservations about Shoeburyness.
"Excellent," he said enthusiastically, "Fine young man. Tell me, Shoeburyness, how is the spoon making business?"
"Oh, busy, busy," said Shoeburyness.
"Been doing lots of," Mr. Wainscotting began, "handle engravings, eh?" He gave Shoeburyness a wink and slight nudge of the elbow.
"Daddy!" scolded Armagnac in disgust.
"Er, no sir," replied Shoeburyness, "After what happened to my father I've been keeping my handles fairly plain."
"Yes," said Mr. Wainscotting, "Unfortunate business. Still you must hanker after a little metallic etching every now and then. Used to be a bit of an aficionado myself in my younger days, you know. Strictly amateur, of course, not in your league."
"Daddy, please," said Armagnac, "You know it's dangerous."
"I say," interrupted Mrs. Wainscotting, "Isn't that an absolutely gorgeous loganberry cheesecake that Lady Nostrilpeople is wearing? Mind you, I'm not at all sure about Mrs. Ectoplasm's. I'm sure she's used bramble."
Mr. Wainscotting harrumphed disapprovingly.
"Oh, you haven't yet got your half-scale inflatable Norman Wisdoms," his wife continued. She snatched a couple of them from a silver tray that a passing servant was carrying and handed them to Shoeburyness and Armagnac.
"Shall we dance?" Armagnac smiled at Shoeburyness.
"Yes," said Shoeburyness, and he led her to the dance floor where they waltzed, tangoed and waved their half-scale inflatable Norman Wisdoms to the music of the Quimby Quartermasters' Quintet.
* A terrible affliction which only attacks people who regularly engrave intricate designs on spoon handles. The victim becomes nauseous, sweats profusely and then becomes infested with up to two dozen Gloucestershire saddle-backs.