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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKathleen - Chapter 2
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Kathleen - Chapter 2 Post by :chrisf Category :Long Stories Author :Christopher Morley Date :May 2012 Read :1681

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Kathleen - Chapter 2

CHAPTER II

When Forbes had finished there was general laughter and applause. The whimsical idea of building a tale around the persons of the letter was one which his playful mind was competent to develop, and he had written a deft and amusing introduction. Taking "Joe" as his subject he had sketched that gentleman's character with a touch of irony. He had made him a Rhodes Scholar from Indiana (evoking good-natured protest from Minters) and had carried him on a vacation to Guilford House, a small hotel in London much frequented by Rhodes Scholars. There he had made him meet Kathleen who, with her mother, was staying in London for a few days. Forbes had a taste for brunettes, and in his description of the imagined Kathleen he had indulged himself heartily. He found her to be seventeen, slender, with that strong slimness that only an English girl achieves; with a straight brown gaze and abundant dark chestnut hair. She was captain of her school hockey team, it seemed; she was good at tennis and swimming and geometry; she had small patience with poetry and sentiment. But within the athletic and straightforward flapper Forbes thought he saw the fluttering of deeper womanhood; the maiden soul erecting a barrier of abrupt common sense about itself to conceal the shy and sensitive feelings that were beginning to blossom. Such at any rate was Kenneth Forbes's psycho-analysis, and he developed his chapter toward a climax where Kathleen and Joe were left walking in Regent's Park, and the next author would find some difficulty in knowing how to proceed with the second instalment.

"Well done indeed!" cried Blair, as Forbes laid down his manuscript and reached for his pipe. There was a general murmur of assent as the men got up to stretch and talk. Someone punched the coals into flame, and the bowl of fruit was passed round.

"Who's to write the next chapter?" asked Graham.

"Let Falstaff do it!" cried Blair. "He's the sentimentalist! But go easy on poor Joe. You know all Rhodes Scholars don't come from Indiana! Have a heart!"

"Do whatever you like to Joe!" cried Forbes; "But be careful with Kathleen! She's adorable! I'm going to write a ballade to her and mail it to her anonymously."

"I wish there was some way of getting hold of her picture," said Keith.

"Her picture?" said Graham. "Nonsense! Why not see the flapper herself? I'm going to bike over there on my Rudge, erb round till I find the street, and then skid like hell right on to her doorstep. I shall lie there in mute agony until I'm carried indoors."

"I say, now, that's no fair!" cried Forbes. "I discovered her! Just because you've got a motor bike you mustn't take an advantage!"

"Look here," said the Goblin, mildly, speaking from a blue cloud of Murray's Mixture, "we must all sign a protocol, or a mandamus or a lagniappe or whatever you law men call it, not to steal a march. I think we'd all like to meet the real Kathleen. But we must give a bond to start fair and square, and nobody do anything that isn't authorized by the whole club."

"Right-O!" cried several voices.

"All right, then," said the Goblin, "fill glasses everyone, and we'll solemnize the oath. Brother Scorpions, I do you to wit that we all, jointly and severally, promise not to take any steps toward making the acquaintance of said Kathleen until so authorized by the whole society. So help me God!"

They all drank to this, with some chuckles.

"What a lark if we could get Kathleen down for Eights Week!" said someone.

"Very likely Joe will have her here," said Whitney. "You seem to forget that he's been rowing this course for some time."

They all scowled.

"I wonder how many members of the 'varsity are called Joe?" Keith asked.

"About three hundred, I dare say," said Falstaff.

"I tell you what we might do," said Forbes. "When the yarn's finished we can send it to her, explain just how the whole thing happened, and ask permission to call. She's got a sense of humour, I'll swear!"

"Balmy!" retorted Falstaff. "She'd probably be frightfully fed because you bagged her letter! 'S a hell of a thing to do, crib a lady's letter!"

"It's a hell of a thing to do to leave it lying around!" cried Forbes, impenitent. "No quarter for Joebags! Let the punishment fit the crime."

"Well, you chaps, I've got to sheer off," said Whitney. "It's nearly eleven and I've got an essay on the stocks. Cheer-o Priapus, I've had a ripping time."

"'Arf a mo,'" cried Forbes. "Who's to do the next chapter, and where do we meet next week?"

"Falstaff!" cried several voices.

"Why not do two chapters a week," said Carter. "I'll do one, and Goblin can do another. Let's meet in my rooms."

This was agreed to, and after much scuffling with greatcoats and scarves the guests tramped off down the stairs and out into the rainy quad. Forbes could hear them, a minute later, thundering with their heels on the huge iron-studded college gate as they waited for the porter to let them out. The room was foul with smoke, and he opened a window over the gardens letting in a gush of chill sweet air and rain. Through the darkness he could hear many chimes, counting eleven. He looked wearily at the scribbled notes for his essay on Danton and Robespierre: then shrugged his shoulders and went to bed.

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CHAPTER IIIBy the time that Carter and King had written their chapters and read them aloud, the Scorpions were all frankly adorers of Kathleen; by midterm she had become an obsession. Eric Twiston and Bob Graham, "doing a Cornstalk" (as walking on Cornmarket Street is elegantly termed) were wont to dub any really delightful girl they saw as "a Kathleen sort of person." At the annual dinner of the club, which took place in a private dining room at the "Clarry" (the Clarendon Hotel) in February, Forbes was called upon to respond to the toast "The Real Kathleen." His voice, tremulous
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CHAPTER IThe Scorpions were to meet at eight o'clock and before that hour Kenneth Forbes had to finish the first chapter of a serial story. The literary society, named in accordance with the grotesque whim of Oxford undergraduates, consisted of eight members, and it was proposed that each one should contribute a chapter. Forbes was of a fertile wit, and he had been nominated the first operator. He had been allowed the whole Christmas vacation to prepare his opening chapter; which was why on this first Sunday of term while the rest of Merton College was at dinner in hall, he
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