CHAPTER THE FIRST
The Early Life of Mr. Preemby

§ I

THIS is the story of a certain Mr. Preemby, a retired laundryman and widower, who abandoned his active interest in the Limpid Stream Laundry, in the parish of Saint Simon Unawares, near Woodford Wells, upon the death of his wife in the year of grace 1920. Some very remarkable experiences came to him. The story is essentially a contemporary story: it is a story of London in the age of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, broadcasting, and the first Labour peers. The historical element in it is insignificant and partly erroneous, and the future, though implicitly present, is substantially ignored.

Since washing in London, like the milk trade and baking and the linen drapery and various other branches of commerce, is something rather specialized and hereditary and a little difficult towards outsiders, it is necessary to explain that Mr. Preemby was not, a laundryman born. He had little of the spirit and go of a true London laundryman. He married into laundrying. He met a Miss Hossett at Sheringham in 1899, an heiress and a young lady of great decision of character; he wooed and won her and married her, as you will be told, almost without realizing what he was doing. The Hossetts are big people in the laundry world, and the Limpid Stream concern, which presently fell into the capable hands of Mrs. Preemby, was only one

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