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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNot George Washington: An Autobiographical Novel - Julian Eversleigh's Narrative - Chapter 23. In A Hansom
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Not George Washington: An Autobiographical Novel - Julian Eversleigh's Narrative - Chapter 23. In A Hansom Post by :glider Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :May 2012 Read :2954

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Not George Washington: An Autobiographical Novel - Julian Eversleigh's Narrative - Chapter 23. In A Hansom

_(Julian Eversleigh's narrative continued)


I spent a pleasant week in my hammock awaiting developments.

At the end of the week came a letter from Eva. She wrote:--


_My Dear Julian_,--You haven't been to see us for
ages. Is Kensington Lane beyond the pale?
_Your affectionate cousin_,
_Eva._


"You vixen," I thought. "Yes; I'll come and see you fast enough. It will give me the greatest pleasure to see you crushed and humiliated."

I collected my evening clothes from a man of the name of Attenborough, whom I employ to take care of them when they are not likely to be wanted; found a white shirt, which looked presentable after a little pruning of the cuffs with a razor; and drove to the Gunton-Cresswells's in time for dinner.

There was a certain atmosphere of unrest about the house. I attributed this at first to the effects of the James Orlebar Cloyster bomb-shell, but discovered that it was in reality due to the fact that Eva was going out to a fancy-dress ball that night.

She was having dinner sent up to her room, they told me, and would be down presently. There was a good deal of flitting about going on. Maids on mysterious errands shot up and down stairs. Old Mr. Gunton-Cresswell, looking rather wry, was taking cover in his study when I arrived. Mrs. Gunton-Cresswell was in the drawing-room.

Before Eva came down I got a word alone with her. "I've had a nice, straight-forward letter from James," she said, "and he has done all he can to put things straight with us."

"Ah!" said I.

"That telegram, he tells me, was the outcome of a sudden panic."

"Dear me!" I said.

"It seems that he made some most ghastly mistake about his finances. What exactly happened I can't quite understand, but the gist of it is, he thought he was quite well off, whereas, really, his income is infinitesimal."

"How odd!" I remarked.

"It sounds odd; in fact, I could scarcely believe it until I got his letter of explanation. I'll show it to you. Here it is."

I read James Orlebar Cloyster's letter with care. It was not particularly long, but I wish I had a copy of it; for it is the finest work in an imaginative vein that has ever been penned.

"Masterly!" I exclaimed involuntarily.

"Yes, isn't it?" she echoed. "Enables one to grasp thoroughly how the mistake managed to occur."

"Has Eva seen it?"

"Yes."

"I notice he mentions five years as being about the period----"

"Yes; it's rather a long engagement, but, of course, she'll wait, she loves him so."

Eva now entered the room. When I caught sight of her I remembered I had pictured her crushed and humiliated. I had expected to gloat over a certain dewiness of her eyes, a patient drooping of her lips. I will say plainly there was nothing of that kind about Eva tonight.

She had decided to go to the ball as Peter Pan.

The costume had rather scandalised old Mr. Gunton-Cresswell, a venerable Tory who rarely spoke except to grumble. Even Mrs. Gunton-Cresswell, who had lately been elected to the newly-formed _Les Serfs d'Avenir_, was inclined to deprecate it.

But I was sure Eva had chosen the better part. The dress suited her to perfection. Her legs are the legs of a boy.

As I looked at her with concentrated hatred, I realised I had never seen a human soul so radiant, so brimming with _espieglerie_, so altogether to be desired.

"Why, Julian, is it you. This _is good of you!"

It was evident that the past was to be waived. I took my cue.

"Thanks, Eva," I said; "it suits you admirably."

Events at this point move quickly.

Another card of invitation is produced. Would I care to use it, and take Eva to the ball?

"But I'm not in fancy dress."

Overruled. Fancy dress not an essential. Crowds of men there in ordinary evening clothes.

So we drove off.

We hardly exchanged a syllable. No one has much to say just before a dance.

I looked at Eva out of the corner of my eye, trying to discover just what it was in her that attracted men. I knew her charm, though I flattered myself that I was proof against it. I wanted to analyse it.

Her photograph is on the table before me as I write. I look at it critically. She is not what I should describe as exactly a type of English beauty. You know the sort of beauty I mean? Queenly, statuesque, a daughter of the gods, divinely fair. Her charm is not in her features. It is in her expression.

Tonight, for instance, as we drove to the ball, there sparkled in her eyes a light such as I had never seen in them before. Every girl is animated at a ball, but this was more than mere animation. There was a latent devilry about her; and behind the sparkle and the glitter a film, a mist, as it were, which lent almost a pathos to her appearance. The effect it had on me was to make me tend to forget that I hated her.

We arrive. I mutter something about having the pleasure.

Eva says I can have the last two waltzes.

Here comes a hiatus. I am told that I was seen dancing, was observed to eat an excellent supper, and was noticed in the smoking-room with a cigarette in my mouth.

At last the first of my two waltzes. The Eton Boating Song--one of my favourites. I threaded my way through the room in search of her. She was in neither of the doorways. I cast my eyes about the room. Her costume was so distinctive that I could hardly fail to see her.

I did see her.

She was dancing my waltz with another man.

The thing seemed to numb my faculties. I stood in the doorway, gaping. I couldn't understand it. The illogical nature of my position did not strike me. It did not occur to me that as I hated the girl so much, it was much the best thing that could happen that I should see as little of her as possible. My hatred was entirely concentrated on the bounder who had stolen my dance. He was a small, pink-faced little beast, and it maddened me to see that he danced better than I could ever have done.

As they whirled past me she smiled at him.

I rushed to the smoking-room.

Whether she gave my other waltz to the same man, or whether she chose some other partner, or sat alone waiting for me, I do not know. When I returned to the ballroom the last waltz was over, and the orchestra was beginning softly to play the first extra. It was _"Tout Passe," an air that has always had the power to thrill me.

My heart gave a bound. Standing in the doorway just in front of me was Eva.

I drew back.

Two or three men came up, and asked her for the dance. She sent them away, and my heart leaped as they went.

She was standing with her back towards me. Now she turned. Our eyes met. We stood for a moment looking at one another.

Then I heard her give a little sigh; and instantly I forgot everything--my hatred, my two lost dances, the pink-faced blighter--everything. Everything but that I loved her.

"Tired, Eva?" I said.

"Perhaps I am," she replied. "Yes, I am, Julian."

"Give me this one," I whispered. "We'll sit it out."

"Very well. It's so hot in here. We'll go and sit it out in a hansom, shall we? I'll get my cloak."

I waited, numbed by her absence. Her cloak was pale pink. We walked out together into the starry night. A few yards off stood a hansom. "Drive to the corner of Sloane Street," I said to the man, "by way of the Park."

The night was very still.

I have said that I had forgotten everything except that I loved her. Could I remember now? Now, as we drove together through the empty streets alone, her warm, palpitating body touching mine.

James, and his awful predicament, which would last till Eva gave him up; Eva's callous treatment of my former love for her; my own newly-acquired affection for Margaret; my self-respect--these things had become suddenly of no account.

"Eva," I murmured; and I took her hand.

"Eva...."

Her wonderful eyes met mine. The mist in them seemed to turn to dew. "My darling," she whispered, very low.

The road was deserted. We were alone.

I drew her face to mine and kissed her.

* * * * *

My love for her grows daily.

Old Gunton-Cresswell has introduced me to a big firm of linoleum manufacturers. I am taking over their huge system of advertising next week. My salary will be enormous. It almost frightens me. Old Mr. Cresswell tells me that he had had the job in his mind for me for some time, and had, indeed, mentioned to his wife and Eva at lunch that day that he intended to write to me about it. I am more grateful to him than I can ever make him understand. Eva, I know, cares nothing for money--she told me so--but it is a comfort to feel that I can keep her almost in luxury.

I have given up my rooms in Rupert Street.

I sleep in a bed.

I do Sandow exercises.

I am always down to breakfast at eight-thirty sharp.

I smoke less.

I am the happiest man on earth.

_(End of Julian Eversleigh's narrative.)

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