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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ONE
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The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ONE Post by :hugh421 Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1136

Click below to download : The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ONE (Format : PDF)

The Little Warrior (jill The Reckless) - Chapter ONE

CHAPTER ONE


1.

Freddie Rooke gazed coldly at the breakfast-table. Through a gleaming
eye-glass he inspected the revolting object which Parker, his
faithful man, had placed on a plate before him.

"Parker!" His voice had a ring of pain.

"Sir?"

"What's this?"

"Poached egg, sir."

Freddie averted his eyes with a silent shudder.

"It looks just like an old aunt of mine," he said. "Remove it!"

He got up, and, wrapping his dressing-gown about his long legs, took
up a stand in front of the fireplace. From this position he surveyed
the room, his shoulders against the mantelpiece, his calves pressing
the club-fender. It was a cheerful oasis in a chill and foggy world,
a typical London bachelor's breakfast-room. The walls were a restful
gray, and the table, set for two, a comfortable arrangement in white
and silver.

"Eggs, Parker," said Freddie solemnly, "are the acid test!"

"Yes, sir?"

"If, on the morning after, you can tackle a poached egg, you are all
right. If not, not. And don't let anybody tell you otherwise."

"No, sir."

Freddie pressed the palm of his hand to his brow, and sighed.

"It would seem, then, that I must have revelled a trifle
whole-heartedly last night. I was possibly a little blotto. Not
whiffled, perhaps, but indisputably blotto. Did I make much noise
coming in?"

"No, sir. You were very quiet."

"Ah! A dashed bad sign!"

Freddie moved to the table, and poured himself a cup of coffee.

"The cream-jug is to your right, sir," said the helpful Parker.

"Let it remain there. Cafe noir for me this morning. As noir as it
can jolly well stick!" Freddie retired to the fireplace and sipped
delicately. "As far as I can remember, it was Ronny Devereux'
birthday or something . . ."

"Mr Martyn's, I think you said, sir."

"That's right. Algy Martyn's birthday, and Ronny and I were the
guests. It all comes back to me. I wanted Derek to roll along and
join the festivities--he's never met Ronny--but he gave it a miss.
Quite right! A chap in his position has responsibilities. Member of
Parliament and all that. Besides," said Freddie earnestly, driving
home the point with a wave of his spoon, "he's engaged to be married.
You must remember that, Parker!"

"I will endeavor to, sir."

"Sometimes," said Freddie dreamily, "I wish I were engaged to be
married. Sometimes I wish I had some sweet girl to watch over me and
. . . No, I don't, by Jove! It would give me the utter pip! Is Sir
Derek up yet, Parker?"

"Getting up, sir."

"See that everything is all right, will you? I mean as regards the
foodstuffs and what not. I want him to make a good breakfast. He's
got to meet his mother this morning at Charing Cross. She's legging
it back from the Riviera."

"Indeed, sir?"

Freddie shook his head.

"You wouldn't speak in that light, careless tone if you knew her!
Well, you'll see her tonight. She's coming here to dinner."

"Yes, sir."

"Miss Mariner will he here, too. A foursome. Tell Mrs Parker to pull
up her socks and give us something pretty ripe. Soup, fish, all that
sort of thing. _She knows. And let's have a stoup of malvoisie from
the oldest bin. This is a special occasion!"

"Her ladyship will be meeting Miss Mariner for the first time, sir?"

"You've put your finger on it! Absolutely the first time on this or
any stage! We must all rally round and make the thing a success."

"I am sure Mrs Parker will strain every nerve, sir." Parker moved to
the door, carrying the rejected egg, and stepped aside to allow a
tall, well-built man of about thirty to enter. "Good morning, Sir
Derek."

"Morning, Parker."

Parker slid softly from the room. Derek Underhill sat down at the
table. He was a strikingly handsome man, with a strong, forceful
face, dark, lean and cleanly shaven. He was one of those men whom a
stranger would instinctively pick out of a crowd as worthy of note.
His only defect was that his heavy eyebrows gave him at times an
expression which was a little forbidding. Women, however, had never
been repelled by it. He was very popular with women, not quite so
popular with men--always excepting Freddie Rooke, who worshipped him.
They had been at school together, though Freddie was the younger by
several years.

"Finished, Freddie?" asked Derek.

Freddie smiled wanly,

"We are not breakfasting this morning," he replied. "The spirit was
willing, but the jolly old flesh would have none of it. To be
perfectly frank, the Last of the Rookes has a bit of a head."

"Ass!" said Derek.

"A bit of sympathy," said Freddie, pained, "would not be out of
place. We are far from well. Some person unknown has put a
threshing-machine inside the old bean and substituted a piece of
brown paper for our tongue. Things look dark and yellow and wobbly!"

"You shouldn't have overdone it last night."

"It was Algy Martyn's birthday," pleaded Freddie.

"If I were an ass like Algy Martyn," said Derek, "I wouldn't go about
advertising the fact that I'd been born. I'd hush it up!"

He helped himself to a plentiful portion of kedgeree, Freddie
watching him with repulsion mingled with envy. When he began to eat,
the spectacle became too poignant for the sufferer, and he wandered
to the window.

"What a beast of a day!"

It was an appalling day. January, that grim month, was treating
London with its usual severity. Early in the morning a bank of fog
had rolled up off the river, and was deepening from pearly white to a
lurid brown. It pressed on the window-pane like a blanket, leaving
dark, damp rivulets on the glass.

"Awful!" said Derek.

"Your mater's train will be late."

"Yes. Damned nuisance. It's bad enough meeting trains in any case,
without having to hang about a draughty station for an hour."

"And it's sure, I should imagine," went on Freddie, pursuing his
train of thought, "to make the dear old thing pretty tolerably ratty,
if she has one of those slow journeys." He pottered back to the
fireplace, and rubbed his shoulders reflectively against the
mantelpiece. "I take it that you wrote to her about Jill?"

"Of course. That's why she's coming over, I suppose. By the way, you
got those seats for that theatre tonight?"

"Yes. Three together and one somewhere on the outskirts. If it's all
the same to you, old thing, I'll have the one on the outskirts."

Derek, who had finished his kedgeree and was now making himself a
blot on Freddie's horizon with toast and marmalade, laughed.

"What a rabbit you are, Freddie! Why on earth are you so afraid of
mother?"

Freddie looked at him as a timid young squire might have gazed upon
St. George when the latter set out to do battle with the dragon. He
was of the amiable type which makes heroes of its friends. In the old
days when he had fagged for him at Winchester he had thought Derek
the most wonderful person in the world, and this view he still
retained. Indeed, subsequent events had strengthened it. Derek had
done the most amazing things since leaving school. He had had a
brilliant career at Oxford, and now, in the House of Commons, was
already looked upon by the leaders of his party as one to be watched
and encouraged. He played polo superlatively well, and was a fine
shot. But of all his gifts and qualities the one that extorted
Freddie's admiration in its intensest form was his lion-like courage
as exemplified by his behavior in the present crisis. There he sat,
placidly eating toast and marmalade, while the boat-train containing
Lady Underhill already sped on its way from Dover to London. It was
like Drake playing bowls with the Spanish Armada in sight.

"I wish I had your nerve!" he said, awed. "What I should be feeling,
if I were in your place and had to meet your mater after telling her
that I was engaged to marry a girl she had never seen, I don't know.
I'd rather face a wounded tiger!"

"Idiot!" said Derek placidly.

"Not," pursued Freddie, "that I mean to say anything in the least
derogatory and so forth to your jolly old mater, if you understand
me, but the fact remains she scares me pallid! Always has, ever since
the first time I went to stay at your place when I was a kid. I can
still remember catching her eye the morning I happened by pure chance
to bung an apple through her bedroom window, meaning to let a cat on
the sill below have it in the short ribs. She was at least thirty
feet away, but, by Jove, it stopped me like a bullet!"

"Push the bell, old man, will you? I want some more toast."

Freddie did as he was requested with growing admiration.

"The condemned man made an excellent breakfast," he murmured. "More
toast, Parker," he added, as that admirable servitor opened the door.
"Gallant! That's what I call it. Gallant!"

Derek tilted his chair back.

"Mother is sure to like Jill when she sees her," he said.

"_When she sees her! Ah! But the trouble is, young feller-me-lad,
that she _hasn't seen her! That's the weak spot in your case, old
companion! A month ago she didn't know of Jill's existence. Now, you
know and I know that Jill is one of the best and brightest. As far as
we are concerned, everything in the good old garden is lovely. Why,
dash it, Jill and I were children together. Sported side by side on
the green, and what not. I remember Jill, when she was twelve,
turning the garden-hose on me and knocking about seventy-five per
cent off the market value of my best Sunday suit. That sort of thing
forms a bond, you know, and I've always felt that she was a corker.
But your mater's got to discover it for herself. It's a dashed pity,
by Jove, that Jill hasn't a father or a mother or something of that
species to rally round just now. They would form a gang. There's
nothing like a gang! But she's only got that old uncle of hers. A
rummy bird! Met him?"

"Several times. I like him."

"Oh, he's a genial old buck all right. A very bonhomous lad. But you
hear some pretty queer stories about him if you get among people who
knew him in the old days. Even now I'm not so dashed sure I should
care to play cards with him. Young Threepwood was telling me only the
other day that the old boy took thirty quid off him at picquet as
clean as a whistle. And Jimmy Monroe, who's on the Stock Exchange,
says he's frightfully busy these times buying margins or whatever it
is chappies do down in the City. Margins. That's the word. Jimmy made
me buy some myself on a thing called Amalgamated Dyes. I don't
understand the procedure exactly, but Jimmy says it's a sound egg and
will do me a bit of good. What was I talking about? Oh, yes, old
Selby. There's no doubt he's quite a sportsman. But till you've got
Jill well established, you know, I shouldn't enlarge on him too much
with the mater."

"On the contrary," said Derek. "I shall mention him at the first
opportunity. He knew my father out in India."

"Did he, by Jove! Oh, well, that makes a difference."

Parker entered with the toast, and Derek resumed his breakfast.

"It may be a little bit awkward," he said, "at first, meeting mother.
But everything will be all right after five minutes."

"Absolutely! But, oh, boy! that first five minutes!" Freddie gazed
portentously through his eye-glass. Then he seemed to be undergoing
some internal struggle, for he gulped once or twice. "That first five
minutes!" he said, and paused again. A moment's silent
self-communion, and he went on with a rush. "I say, listen. Shall I
come along, too?"

"Come along?"

"To the station. With you."

"What on earth for?"

"To see you through the opening stages. Break the ice and all that
sort of thing. Nothing like collecting a gang, you know. Moments when
a feller needs a friend and so forth. Say the word, and I'll buzz
along and lend my moral support."

Derek's heavy eyebrows closed together in an offended frown, and
seemed to darken his whole face. This unsolicited offer of assistance
hurt his dignity. He showed a touch of the petulance which came now
and then when he was annoyed, to suggest that he might not possess so
strong a character as his exterior indicated.

"It's very kind of you," he began stiffly.

Freddie nodded. He was acutely conscious of this himself.

"Some fellows," he observed, "would say 'Not at all!' I suppose. But
not the Last of the Rookes! For, honestly, old man, between
ourselves, I don't mind admitting that this _is the bravest deed of
the year, and I'm dashed if I would do it for anyone else."

"It's very good of you, Freddie . . ."

"That's all right. I'm a Boy Scout, and this is my act of kindness
for today."

Derek got up from the table.

"Of course you mustn't come," he said. "We can't form a sort of
debating society to discuss Jill on the platform at Charing Cross."

"Oh, I would just hang around in the offing, shoving in an occasional
tactful word."

"Nonsense!"

"The wheeze would simply be to . . ."

"It's impossible."

"Oh, very well," said Freddie, damped. "Just as you say, of course.
But there's nothing like a gang, old man, nothing like a gang!"


2.

Derek Underhill threw down the stump of his cigar, and grunted
irritably. Inside Charing Cross Station business was proceeding as
usual. Porters wheeling baggage-trucks moved to and fro like
Juggernauts. Belated trains clanked in, glad to get home, while
others, less fortunate, crept reluctantly out through the blackness
and disappeared into an inferno of detonating fog-signals. For
outside the fog still held. The air was cold and raw and tasted
coppery. In the street traffic moved at a funeral pace, to the
accompaniment of hoarse cries and occasional crashes. Once the sun
had worked its way through the murk and had hung in the sky like a
great red orange, but now all was darkness and discomfort again,
blended with that odd suggestion of mystery and romance which is a
London fog's only redeeming quality.

It seemed to Derek that he had been patrolling the platform for a
life-time, but he resumed his sentinel duty. The fact that the
boat-train, being already forty-five minutes overdue, might arrive at
any moment made it imperative that he remain where he was instead of
sitting, as he would much have preferred to sit, in one of the
waiting-rooms. It would be a disaster if his mother should get out of
the train and not find him there to meet her. That was just the sort
of thing which would infuriate her; and her mood, after a Channel
crossing and a dreary journey by rail, would be sufficiently
dangerous as it was.

The fog and the waiting had had their effect upon Derek. The resolute
front he had exhibited to Freddie at the breakfast-table had melted
since his arrival at the station, and he was feeling nervous at the
prospect of the meeting that lay before him. Calm as he had appeared
to the eye of Freddie and bravely as he had spoken, Derek, in the
recesses of his heart, was afraid of his mother. There are men--and
Derek Underhill was one of them--who never wholly emerge from the
nursery. They may put away childish things and rise in the world to
affluence and success, but the hand that rocked their cradle still
rules their lives. As a boy, Derek had always been firmly controlled
by his mother, and the sway of her aggressive personality had endured
through manhood. Lady Underhill was a born ruler, dominating most of
the people with whom life brought her in contact. Distant cousins
quaked at her name, while among the male portion of her nearer
relatives she was generally alluded to as The Family Curse.

Now that his meeting with her might occur at any moment, Derek shrank
from it. It was not likely to be a pleasant one. The mere fact that
Lady Underhill was coming to London at all made that improbable. When
a man writes to inform his mother, who is wintering on the Riviera,
that he has become engaged to be married, the natural course for her
to pursue, if she approves of the step, is to wire her
congratulations and good wishes. When for these she substitutes a
curt announcement that she is returning immediately, a certain lack
of complaisance seems to be indicated.

Would his mother approve of Jill? That was the question which he had
been asking himself over and over again as he paced the platform in
the disheartening fog. Nothing had been said, nothing had even been
hinted, but he was perfectly aware that his marriage was a matter
regarding which Lady Underhill had always assumed that she was to be
consulted, even if she did not, as he suspected, claim the right to
dictate. And he had become engaged quite suddenly, without a word to
her until it was all over and settled.

That, as Freddie had pointed out, was the confoundedly awkward part
of it. His engagement had been so sudden. Jill had swept into his
life like a comet. His mother knew nothing of her. A month ago he had
known nothing of her himself. It would, he perceived, as far as the
benevolent approval of Lady Underhill was concerned, have been an
altogether different matter had his choice fallen upon one of those
damsels whose characters, personality, and ancestry she knew.
Daughters of solid and useful men; sisters of rising young
politicians like himself; nieces of Burke's peerage; he could have
introduced without embarrassment one of these in the role of
bride-elect. But Jill . . . Oh, well, when once his mother had met
Jill, everything was sure to be all right. Nobody could resist Jill.
It would be like resisting the sunshine.

Somewhat comforted by this reflection, Derek turned to begin one more
walk along the platform, and stopped in mid-stride, raging. Beaming
over the collar of a plaid greatcoat, all helpfulness and devotion,
Freddie Rooke was advancing towards him, the friend that sticketh
closer than a brother. Like some loving dog, who, ordered home,
sneaks softly on through alleys and by-ways, peeping round corners
and crouching behind lamp-posts, the faithful Freddie had followed
him after all. And with him, to add the last touch to Derek's
discomfiture, were those two inseparable allies of his, Ronny
Devereux and Algy Martyn.

"Well, old thing," said Freddie, patting Derek encouragingly on the
shoulder, "here we are after all! I know you told me not to roil
round and so forth, but I knew you didn't mean it. I thought it over
after you had left, and decided it would be a rotten trick not to
cluster about you in your hour of need. I hope you don't mind Ronny
and Algy breezing along, too. The fact is, I was in the deuce of a
funk--your jolly old mater always rather paralyzes my nerve-centers,
you know--so I roped them in. Met 'em in Piccadilly, groping about
for the club, and conscripted 'em both, they very decently
consenting. We all toddled off and had a pick-me-up at that chemist
chappie's at the top of the Hay-market, and now we're feeling full of
beans and buck, ready for anything. I've explained the whole thing to
them, and they're with you to the death! Collect a gang, dear boy,
collect a gang! That's the motto. There's nothing like it!"

"Nothing!" said Ronny.

"Absolutely nothing!" said Algy.

"We'll just see you through the opening stages," said Freddie, "and
then leg it. We'll keep the conversation general, you know."

"Stop it getting into painful channels," said Ronny.

"Steer it clear," said Algy, "of the touchy topic."

"That's the wheeze," said Freddie. "We'll . . . Oh, golly! There's
the train coming in now!" His voice quavered, for not even the
comforting presence of his two allies could altogether sustain him in
this ordeal. But he pulled himself together with a manful effort.
"Stick it, old beans!" he said doughtily. "Now is the time for all
good men to come to the aid of the party!"

"We're here!" said Ronny Devereux.

"On the spot!" said Algy Martyn.


3.

The boat-train slid into the station. Bells rang, engines blew off
steam, porters shouted, baggage-trucks rattled over the platform. The
train began to give up its contents, now in ones and twos, now in a
steady stream. Most of the travellers seemed limp and exhausted, and
were pale with the pallor that comes of a choppy Channel crossing.
Almost the only exception to the general condition of collapse was
the eagle-faced lady in the brown ulster, who had taken up her stand
in the middle of the platform and was haranguing a subdued little
maid in a voice that cut the gloomy air like a steel knife. Like the
other travellers, she was pale, but she bore up resolutely. No one
could have told from Lady Underhill's demeanor that the solid
platform seemed to heave beneath her feet like a deck.

"Have you got a porter, Ferris? Where is he, then? Ah! Have you got
all the bags? My jewel-case? The suit-case? The small brown bag? The
rugs? Where are the rugs?

"Yes, I can see them, my good girl. There is no need to brandish them
in my face. Keep the jewel-case and give the rest of the things to
the porter, and take him to look after the trunks. You remember which
they are? The steamer trunk, the other trunk, the black box . . .
Very well. Then make haste. And, when you've got them all together,
tell the porter to find you a four-wheeler. The small things will go
inside. Drive to the Savoy and ask for my suite. If they make any
difficulty, tell them that I engaged the rooms yesterday by telegraph
from Mentone. Do you understand?"

"Yes, m'lady."

"Then go along. Oh, and give the porter sixpence. Sixpence is ample."

"Yes, m'lady."

The little maid, grasping the jewel-case, trotted off beside the now
pessimistic porter, who had started on this job under the impression
that there was at least a bob's-worth in it. The remark about the
sixpence had jarred the porter's faith in his species.

Derek approached, acutely conscious of Freddie, Ronny, and Algy, who
were skirmishing about his flank. He had enough to worry him without
them. He had listened with growing apprehension to the catalogue of
his mother's possessions. Plainly this was no flying visit. You do
not pop over to London for a day or two with a steamer trunk, another
trunk, a black box, a suit-case, and a small brown bag. Lady
Underhill had evidently come prepared to stay; and the fact seemed to
presage trouble.

"Well, mother! So there you are at last!"

"Well, Derek!"

Derek kissed his mother. Freddie, Ronny, and Algy shuffled closer,
like leopards. Freddie, with the expression of one who leads a
forlorn hope, moved his Adam's apple briskly up and down several
times, and spoke.

"How do you do, Lady Underhill?"

"How do you do, Mr Rooke?"

Lady Underhill bowed stiffly and without pleasure. She was not fond
of the Last of the Rookes. She supposed the Almighty had had some
wise purpose in creating Freddie, but it had always been inscrutable
to her.

"Like you," mumbled Freddie, "to meet my friends. Lady Underhill. Mr
Devereux."

"Charmed," said Ronny affably.

"Mr Martyn."

"Delighted," said Algy with old-world courtesy.

Lady Underhill regarded this mob-scene with an eye of ice.

"How do you do?" she said. "Have you come to meet somebody?"

"I-er-we-er-why-er--" This woman always made Freddie feel as if he
were being disembowelled by some clumsy amateur. He wished that he
had defied the dictates of his better nature and remained in his snug
rooms at the Albany, allowing Derek to go through this business by
himself. "I-er-we-er-came to meet _you_, don't you know!"

"Indeed! That was very kind of you!"

"Oh, not at all."

"Thought we'd welcome you back to the old homestead," said Ronny,
beaming.

"What could be sweeter?" said Algy. He produced a cigar-case, and
extracted a formidable torpedo-shaped Havana. He was feeling
delightfully at his ease, and couldn't understand why Freddie had
made such a fuss about meeting this nice old lady. "Don't mind if I
smoke, do you? Air's a bit raw today. Gets into the lungs."

Derek chafed impotently. These unsought allies were making a
difficult situation a thousand times worse. A more acute observer
than young Mr Martyn, he noted the tight lines about his mother's
mouth and knew them for the danger-signal they were. Endeavoring to
distract her with light conversation, he selected a subject which was
a little unfortunate.

"What sort of crossing did you have, mother?"

Lady Underhill winced. A current of air had sent the perfume of
Algy's cigar playing about her nostrils. She closed her eyes, and her
face turned a shade paler. Freddie, observing this, felt quite sorry
for the poor old thing. She was a pest and a pot of poison, of
course, but all the same, he reflected charitably, it was a shame
that she should look so green about the gills. He came to the
conclusion that she must be hungry. The thing to do was to take her
mind off it till she could be conducted to a restaurant and dumped
down in front of a bowl of soup.

"Bit choppy, I suppose, what?" he bellowed, in a voice that ran up
and down Lady Underhill's nervous system like an electric needle. "I
was afraid you were going to have a pretty rough time of it when I
read the forecast in the paper. The good old boat wobbled a bit, eh?"

Lady Underhill uttered a faint moan. Freddie noticed that she was
looking deucedly chippy, even chippier than a moment ago.

"It's an extraordinary thing about that Channel crossing," said Algy
Martyn meditatively, as he puffed a refreshing cloud. "I've known
fellows who could travel quite happily everywhere else in the
world--round the Horn in sailing-ships and all that sort of
thing--yield up their immortal soul crossing the Channel! Absolutely
yield up their immortal soul! Don't know why. Rummy, but there it
is!"

"I'm like that myself," assented Ronny Devereux. "That dashed trip
from Calais gets me every time. Bowls me right over. I go aboard,
stoked to the eyebrows with seasick remedies, swearing that this time
I'll fool 'em, but down I go ten minutes after we've started and the
next thing I know is somebody saying, 'Well, well! So this is
Dover!'"

"It's exactly the same with me," said Freddie, delighted with the
smooth, easy way the conversation was flowing. "Whether it's the hot,
greasy smell of the engines . . ."

"It's not the engines," contended Ronny Devereux.

"Stands to reason it can't be. I rather like the smell of engines.
This station is reeking with the smell of engine-grease, and I can
drink it in and enjoy it." He sniffed luxuriantly. "It's something
else."

"Ronny's right," said Algy cordially. "It isn't the engines. It's the
way the boat heaves up and down and up and down and up and down . . ."
He shifted his cigar to his left hand in order to give with his right
a spirited illustration of a Channel steamer going up and down and up
and down and up and down. Lady Underhill, who had opened her eyes,
had an excellent view of the performance, and closed her eyes again
quickly.

"Be quiet!" she snapped.

"I was only saying . . ."

"Be quiet!"

"Oh, rather!"

Lady Underhill wrestled with herself. She was a woman of great
will-power and accustomed to triumph over the weaknesses of the
flesh. After awhile her eyes opened. She had forced herself, against
the evidence of her senses, to recognize that this was a platform on
which she stood and not a deck.

There was a pause. Algy, damped, was temporarily out of action, and
his friends had for the moment nothing to remark.

"I'm afraid you had a trying journey, mother," said Derek. "The train
was very late."

"Now, _train_-sickness," said Algy, coming to the surface again, "is
a thing lots of people suffer from. Never could understand it myself."

"I've never had a touch of train-sickness," said Ronny.

"Oh, I have," said Freddie. "I've often felt rotten on a train. I get
floating spots in front of my eyes and a sort of heaving sensation,
and everything kind of goes black . . ."

"Mr Rooke!"

"Eh?"

"I should be greatly obliged if you would keep these confidences for
the ear of your medical adviser."

"Freddie," intervened Derek hastily, "my mother's rather tired. Do
you think you could be going ahead and getting a taxi?"

"My dear old chap, of course! Get you one in a second. Come along,
Algy. Pick up the old waukeesis, Ronny."

And Freddie, accompanied by his henchmen, ambled off, well pleased
with himself. He had, he felt, helped to break the ice for Derek and
had seen him safely through those awkward opening stages. Now he
could totter off with a light heart and get a bite of lunch.

Lady Underhill's eyes glittered. They were small, keen, black eyes,
unlike Derek's, which were large and brown. In their other features
the two were obviously mother and son. Each had the same long upper
lip, the same thin, firm mouth, the prominent chin which was a family
characteristic of the Underhills, and the jutting Underhill nose.
Most of the Underhills came into the world looking as though they
meant to drive their way through life like a wedge.

"A little more," she said tensely, "and I should have struck those
unspeakable young men with my umbrella. One of the things I have
never been able to understand, Derek, is why you should have selected
that imbecile Rooke as your closest friend."

Derek smiled tolerantly.

"It was more a case of him selecting _me_. But Freddie is quite a
good fellow really. He's a man you've got to know."

"_I have not got to know him, and I thank heaven for it!"

"He's a very good-natured fellow. It was decent of him to put me up
at the Albany while our house was let. By the way, he has some seats
for the first night of a new piece this evening. He suggested that we
might all dine at the Albany and go on to the theatre." He hesitated
a moment. "Jill will be there," he said, and felt easier now that her
name had at last come into the talk. "She's longing to meet you."

"Then why didn't she meet me?"

"Here, do you mean? At the station? Well, I--I wanted you to see her
for the first time in pleasanter surroundings."

"Oh!" said Lady Underhill shortly.

It is a disturbing thought that we suffer in this world just as much
by being prudent and taking precautions as we do by being rash and
impulsive and acting as the spirit moves us. If Jill had been
permitted by her wary fiancé to come with him to the station to meet
his mother, it is certain that much trouble would have been avoided.
True, Lady Underhill would probably have been rude to her in the
opening stages of the interview, but she would not have been alarmed
and suspicious; or, rather, the vague suspicion which she had been
feeling would not have solidified, as, it did now, into definite
certainty of the worst. All that Derek had effected by his careful
diplomacy had been to convince his mother that he considered his
bride-elect something to be broken gently to her.

She stopped and faced him.

"Who is she?" she demanded. "Who is this girl?"

Derek flushed.

"I thought I made everything clear in my letter."

"You made nothing clear at all."

"By your leave!" chanted a porter behind them, and a baggage-truck
clove them apart.

"We can't talk in a crowded station," said Derek irritably. "Let me
get you to the taxi and take you to the hotel. . . . What do you want
to know about Jill?"

"Everything. Where does she come from? Who are her people? I don't
know any Mariners."

"I haven't cross-examined her," said Derek stiffly. "But I do know
that her parents are dead. Her father was an American."

"American!"

"Americans frequently have daughters, I believe."

"There is nothing to be gained by losing your temper," said Lady
Underhill with steely calm.

"There is nothing to be gained, as far as I can see, by all this
talk," retorted Derek. He wondered vexedly why his mother always had
this power of making him lose control of himself. He hated to lose
control of himself. It upset him, and blurred that vision which he
liked to have of himself as a calm, important man superior to
ordinary weaknesses. "Jill and I are engaged, and there is an end of
it."

"Don't be a fool," said Lady Underhill, and was driven away by
another baggage-truck. "You know perfectly well," she resumed,
returning to the attack, "that your marriage is a matter of the
greatest concern to me and to the whole of the family."

"Listen, mother!" Derek's long wait on the draughty platform had
generated an irritability which overcame the deep-seated awe of his
mother which was the result of years of defeat in battles of the
will. "Let me tell you in a few words all that I know of Jill, and
then we'll drop the subject. In the first place, she is a lady.
Secondly, she has plenty of money . . ."

"The Underhills do not need to marry for money."

"I am not marrying for money!"

"Well, go on."

"I have already described to you in my letter--very inadequately, but
I did my best--what she looks like. Her sweetness, her loveableness,
all the subtle things about her which go to make her what she is, you
will have to judge for yourself."

"I intend to!"

"Well, that's all, then. She lives with her uncle, a Major Selby . . ."

"Major Selby? What regiment?"

"I didn't ask him," snapped the goaded Derek. "And, in the name of
heaven, what does it matter?"

"Not the Guards?"

"I tell you I don't know."

"Probably a line regiment," said Lady Underhill with an indescribable
sniff.

"Possibly. What then?" He paused, to play his trump card. "If you are
worrying about Major Selby's social standing, I may as well tell you
that he used to know father."

"What! When? Where?"

"Years ago. In India, when father was at Simla."

"Selby? Selby? Not Christopher Selby?"

"Oh, you remember him?"

"I certainly remember him! Not that he and I ever met, but your
father often spoke of him."

Derek was relieved. It was abominable that this sort of thing should
matter, but one had to face facts, and, as far as his mother was
concerned, it did. The fact that Jill's uncle had known his dead
father would make all the difference to Lady Underhill.

"Christopher Selby!" said Lady Underhill reflectively. "Yes! I have
often heard your father speak of him. He was the man who gave your
father an I.O.U. to pay a card debt, and redeemed it with a check
which was returned by the bank!"

"What!"

"Didn't you hear what I said? I will repeat it, if you wish."

"There must have been some mistake."

"Only the one your father made when he trusted the man."

"It must have been some other fellow."

"Of course!" said Lady Underhill satirically. "No doubt your father
knew hundreds of Christopher Selbys!"

Derek bit his lip.

"Well, after all," he said doggedly, "whether it's true or not . . ."

"I see no reason why your father should not have spoken the truth."

"All right. We'll say it is true, then. But what does it matter? I am
marrying Jill, not her uncle."

"Nevertheless, it would be pleasanter if her only living relative
were not a swindler! . . . Tell me, where and how did you meet this
girl?"

"I should he glad if you would not refer to her as 'this girl.' The
name, if you have forgotten it, is Mariner."

"Well, where did you meet Miss Mariner?"

"At Prince's."

"Restaurant?"

"Skating-rink," said Derek impatiently. "Just after you left for
Mentone. Freddie Rooke introduced me."

"Oh, your intellectual friend Mr Rooke knows her?"

"They were children together. Her people lived next to the Rookes in
Worcestershire."

"I thought you said she was an American."

"I said her father was. He settled in England. Jill hasn't been in
America since she was eight or nine."

"The fact," said Lady Underhill, "that the girl is a friend of Mr
Rooke is no great recommendation."

Derek kicked angrily at a box of matches which someone had thrown
down on the platform.

"I wonder if you could possibly get it into your head, mother, that I
want to marry Jill, not engage her as an under-housemaid. I don't
consider that she requires recommendations, as you call them.
However, don't you think the most sensible thing is for you to wait
till you meet her at dinner tonight, and then you can form your own
opinion? I'm beginning to get a little bored with this futile
discussion."

"As you seem quite unable to talk on the subject of this girl without
becoming rude," said Lady Underhill, "I agree with you. Let us hope
that my first impression will be a favorable one. Experience has
taught me that first impressions are everything."

"I'm glad you think so," said Derek, "for I fell in love with Jill
the very first moment I saw her!"


4.

Parker stepped back, and surveyed with modest pride the dinner-table
to which he had been putting the finishing touches. It was an
artistic job and a credit to him.

"That's that!" said Parker, satisfied.

He went to the window and looked out. The fog which had lasted well
into the evening, had vanished now, and the clear night was bright
with stars. A distant murmur of traffic came from the direction of
Piccadilly.

As he stood there, the front-door bell rang, and continued to ring in
little spurts of sound. If character can be deduced from
bell-ringing, as nowadays it apparently can be from every other form
of human activity, one might have hazarded the guess that whoever was
on the other side of the door was determined, impetuous, and
energetic.

"Parker!"

Freddie Rooke pushed a tousled head, which had yet to be brushed into
the smooth sleekness that made it a delight to the public eye, out of
a room down the passage.

"Sir?"

"Somebody ringing."

"I heard, sir. I was about to answer the bell."

"If it's Lady Underhill, tell her I'll be in in a minute."

"I fancy it is Miss Mariner, sir. I think I recognise her touch."

He made his way down the passage to the front-door, and opened it. A
girl was standing outside. She wore a long gray fur coat, and a filmy
gray hood covered her hair. As Parker opened the door, she scampered
in like a gray kitten.

"Brrh! It's cold!" she exclaimed. "Hullo, Parker!"

"Good evening, miss."

"Am I the last or the first or what?"

Parker moved to help her with her cloak.

"Sir Derek and her ladyship have not yet arrived, miss. Sir Derek
went to bring her ladyship from the Savoy Hotel. Mr Rooke is dressing
in his bedroom and will be ready very shortly."

The girl had slipped out of the fur coat, and Parker cast a swift
glance of approval at her. He had the valet's unerring eye for a
thoroughbred, and Jill Mariner was manifestly that. It showed in her
walk, in every move of her small, active body, in the way she looked
at you, in the way she talked to you, in the little tilt of her
resolute chin. Her hair was pale gold, and had the brightness of
coloring of a child's. Her face glowed, and her gray eyes sparkled.
She looked very much alive.

It was this aliveness of hers that was her chief charm. Her eyes were
good and her mouth, with its small, even, teeth, attractive, but she
would have laughed if anybody had called her beautiful. She sometimes
doubted if she were even pretty. Yet few men had met her and remained
entirely undisturbed. She had a magnetism. One hapless youth, who had
laid his heart at her feet and had been commanded to pick it up
again, had endeavored subsequently to explain her attraction (to a
bosom friend over a mournful bottle of the best in the club
smoking-room) in these words: "I don't know what it is about her, old
man, but she somehow makes a feller feel she's so damned _interested_
in a chap, if you know what I mean." And, though not generally
credited in his circle with any great acuteness, there is no doubt
that the speaker had achieved something approaching a true analysis
of Jill's fascination for his sex. She was interested in everything
Life presented to her notice, from a Coronation to a stray cat. She
was vivid. She had sympathy. She listened to you as though you really
mattered. It takes a man of tough fibre to resist these qualities.
Women, on the other hand, especially of the Lady Underhill type, can
resist them without an effort.

"Go and stir him up," said Jill, alluding to the absent Mr Rooke.
"Tell him to come and talk to me. Where's the nearest fire? I want to
get right over it and huddle."

"The fire's burning nicely in the sitting-room, miss."

Jill hurried into the sitting-room, and increased her hold on
Parker's esteem by exclaiming rapturously at the sight that greeted
her. Parker had expended time and trouble over the sitting-room.
There was no dust, no untidiness. The pictures all hung straight; the
cushions were smooth and unrumpled; and a fire of exactly the right
dimensions burned cheerfully in the grate, flickering cosily on the
small piano by the couch, on the deep leather arm-chairs which
Freddie had brought with him from Oxford, that home of comfortable
chairs, and on the photographs that studded the walls. In the center
of the mantelpiece, the place of honor, was the photograph of herself
which she had given Derek a week ago.

"You're simply wonderful, Parker! I don't see how you manage to make
a room so cosy!" Jill sat down on the club-fender that guarded the
fireplace, and held her hands over the blaze. "I can't understand why
men ever marry. Fancy having to give up all this!"

"I am gratified that you appreciate it, miss. I did my best to make
it comfortable for you. I fancy I hear Mr Rooke coming now."

"I hope the others won't be long. I'm starving. Has Mrs Parker got
something very good for dinner?"

"She has strained every nerve, miss."

"Then I'm sure it's worth waiting for. Hullo, Freddie."

Freddie Rooke, resplendent in evening dress, bustled in, patting his
tie with solicitous fingers. It had been right when he had looked in
the glass in his bedroom, but you never know about ties. Sometimes
they stay right, sometimes they wiggle up sideways. Life is full of
these anxieties.

"I shouldn't touch it," said Jill. "It looks beautiful, and, if I may
say so in confidence, is having a most disturbing effect on my
emotional nature. I'm not at all sure I shall be able to resist it
right through the evening. It isn't fair of you to try to alienate
the affections of an engaged young person like this."

Freddie squinted down, and became calmer.

"Hullo, Jill, old thing. Nobody here yet?"

"Well, I'm here,--the petite figure seated on the fender. But perhaps
I don't count."

"Oh, I didn't mean that, you know."

"I should hope not, when I've bought a special new dress just to
fascinate you. A creation I mean. When they cost as much as this one
did, you have to call them names. What do you think of it?"

Freddie seated himself on another section of the fender, and regarded
her with the eye of an expert. A snappy dresser, as the technical
term is, himself, he appreciated snap in the outer covering of the
other sex.

"Topping!" he said spaciously. "No other word for it! All wool and a
yard wide! Precisely as mother makes it! You look like a thingummy."

"How splendid! All my life I've wanted to look like a thingummy, but
somehow I've never been able to manage it."

"A wood-nymph!" exclaimed Freddie, in a burst of unwonted imagery.

"Wood-nymphs didn't wear creations."

"Well, you know what I mean!" He looked at her with honest
admiration. "Dash it, Jill, you know, there's something about you!
You're--what's the word?--you've got such small bones!"

"Ugh! I suppose it's a compliment, but how horrible it sounds! It
makes me feel like a skeleton."

"I mean to say, you're--you're dainty!"

"That's much better."

"You look as if you weighed about an ounce and a half! You look like
a bit of thistledown! You're a little fairy princess, dash it!"

"Freddie! This is eloquence!" Jill raised her left hand, and twiddled
a ringed finger ostentatiously. "Er--you _do realize that I'm
bespoke, don't you, and that my heart, alas, is another's? Because
you sound as if you were going to propose."

Freddie produced a snowy handkerchief, and polished his eye-glass.
Solemnity descended on him like a cloud. He looked at Jill with an
earnest, paternal gaze.

"That reminds me," he said. "I wanted to have, a bit of a talk with
you about that--being engaged and all that sort of thing. I'm glad I
got you alone before the Curse arrived."

"Curse? Do you mean Derek's mother? That sounds cheerful and
encouraging."

"Well, she is, you know," said Freddie earnestly. "She's a bird! It
would be idle to deny it. She always puts the fear of God into me. I
never know what to say to her."

"Why don't you try asking her riddles?"

"It's no joking matter," persisted Freddie, his amiable face
overcast. "Wait till you meet her! You should have seen her at the
station this morning. You don't know what you're up against!"

"You make my flesh creep, Freddie. What am I up against?"

Freddie poked the fire scientifically, and assisted it with coal.

"It's this way," he said. "Of course, dear old Derek's the finest
chap in the world."

"I know that," said Jill softly. She patted Freddie's hand with a
little gesture of gratitude. Freddie's devotion to Derek was a thing
that always touched her. She looked thoughtfully into the fire, and
her eyes seemed to glow in sympathy with the glowing coals. "There's
nobody like him!"

"But," continued Freddie, "he always has been frightfully under his
mother's thumb, you know."

Jill was conscious of a little flicker of irritation.

"Don't be absurd, Freddie. How could a man like Derek be under
anybody's thumb?"

"Well, you know what I mean!"

"I don't in the least know what you mean."

"I mean, it would be rather rotten if his mother set him against
you."

Jill clenched her teeth. The quick temper which always lurked so very
little beneath the surface of her cheerfulness was stirred. She felt
suddenly chilled and miserable. She tried to tell herself that
Freddie was just an amiable blunderer who spoke without sense or
reason, but it was no use. She could not rid herself of a feeling of
foreboding and discomfort. It had been the one jarring note in the
sweet melody of her love-story, this apprehension of Derek's
regarding his mother. The Derek she loved was a strong man, with a
strong man's contempt for other people's criticism; and there had
been something ignoble and fussy in his attitude regarding Lady
Underhill. She had tried to feel that the flaw in her idol did not
exist. And here was Freddie Rooke, a man who admired Derek with all
his hero-worshipping nature, pointing it out independently. She was
annoyed, and she expended her annoyance, as women will do, upon the
innocent bystander.

"Do you remember the time I turned the hose on you, Freddie," she
said, rising from the fender, "years ago, when we were children, when
you and that awful Mason boy--what was his name? Wally Mason--teased
me?" She looked at the unhappy Freddie with a hostile eye. It was his
blundering words that had spoiled everything. "I've forgotten what it
was all about, but I know that you and Wally infuriated me and I
turned the garden hose on you and soaked you both to the skin. Well,
all I want to point out is that, if you go on talking nonsense about
Derek and his mother and me, I shall ask Parker to bring me a jug of
water, and I shall empty it over you! Set him against me! You talk as
if love were a thing any third party could come along and turn off
with a tap! Do you suppose that, when two people love each other as
Derek and I do, that it can possibly matter in the least what anybody
else thinks or says, even if it is his mother? I haven't got a
mother, but suppose Uncle Chris came and warned me against Derek . . ."

Her anger suddenly left her as quickly as it had come. That was
always the way with Jill. One moment later she would be raging; the
next, something would tickle her sense of humor and restore her
instantly to cheerfulness. And the thought of dear, lazy old Uncle
Chris taking the trouble to warn anybody against anything except the
wrong brand of wine or an inferior make of cigar conjured up a
picture before which wrath melted away. She chuckled, and Freddie,
who had been wilting on the fender, perked up.

"You're an extraordinary girl, Jill! One never knows when you're
going to get the wind up."

"Isn't it enough to make me get the wind up, as you call it, when you
say absurd things like that?"

"I meant well, old girl!"

"That's the trouble with you. You always do mean well. You go about
the world meaning well till people fly to put themselves under police
protection. Besides, what on earth could Lady Underhill find to
object to in me? I've plenty of money, and I'm one of the most
charming and attractive of Society belles. You needn't take my word
for that, and I don't suppose you've noticed it, but that's what Mr
Gossip in the _Morning Mirror called me when he was writing about my
getting engaged to Derek. My maid showed me the clipping. There was
quite a long paragraph, with a picture of me that looked like a Zulu
chieftainess taken in a coal-cellar during a bad fog. Well, after
that, what could anyone say against me? I'm a perfect prize! I expect
Lady Underhill screamed with joy when she heard the news and went
singing all over her Riviera villa."

"Yes," said Freddie dubiously. "Yes, yes, oh, quite so, rather!"

Jill looked at him sternly.

"Freddie, you're concealing something from me! You _don't think I'm
a charming and attractive Society belle! Tell me why not and I'll
show you where you are wrong. Is it my face you object to, or my
manners, or my figure? There was a young bride of Antigua, who said
to her mate, 'What a pig you are!' Said he, 'Oh, my queen, is it
manners you mean, or do you allude to my fig-u-ar?' Isn't my figuar
all right, Freddie?"

"Oh, _I think you're topping."

"But for some reason you're afraid that Derek's mother won't think
so. Why won't Lady Underhill agree with Mr Gossip?"

Freddie hesitated.

"Speak up!"

"Well, it's like this. Remember I've known the old devil . . ."

"Freddie Rooke! Where do you pick up such expressions? Not from me!"

"Well, that's how I always think of her! I say I've known her ever
since I used to go and stop at their place when I was at school, and
I know exactly the sort of things that put her back up. She's a
what-d'you-call-it."

"I see no harm in that. Why shouldn't the dear old lady be a
what-d'you-call-it? She must do _something in her spare time."

"I mean to say, one of the old school, don't you know. And you're so
dashed impulsive, old girl. You know you are! You are always saying
things that come into your head."

"You can't say a thing unless it comes into your head."

"You know what I mean," Freddie went on earnestly, not to be diverted
from his theme. "You say rummy things and you do rummy things. What I
mean to say is, you're impulsive."

"What have I ever done that the sternest critic could call rummy?"

"Well, I've seen you with my own eyes stop in the middle of Bond
Street and help a lot of fellows shove along a cart that had got
stuck. Mind you, I'm not blaming you for it . . ."

"I should hope not. The poor old horse was trying all he knew to get
going, and he couldn't quite make it. Naturally, I helped."

"Oh, I know. Very decent and all that, but I doubt if Lady Underhill
would have thought a lot of it. And you're so dashed chummy with the
lower orders."

"Don't be a snob, Freddie."

"I'm not a snob," protested Freddie, wounded. "When I'm alone with
Parker--for instance--I'm as chatty as dammit. But I don't ask
waiters in public restaurants how their lumbago is."

"Have you ever had lumbago?"

"No."

"Well, it's a very painful thing, and waiters get it just as badly as
dukes. Worse, I should think, because they're always bending and
stooping and carrying things. Naturally one feels sorry for them."

"But how do you ever find out that a waiter has _got lumbago?"

"I ask him; of course."

"Well, for goodness sake," said Freddie, "if you feel the impulse to
do that sort of thing tonight, try and restrain it. I mean to say, if
you're curious to know anything about Parker's chilblains, for
instance, don't enquire after them while he's handing Lady Underhill
the potatoes! She wouldn't like it."

Jill uttered an exclamation.

"I knew there was something! Being so cold and wanting to rush in and
crouch over a fire put it clean out of my head. He must be thinking
me a perfect beast!" She ran to the door. "Parker! Parker!"

Parker appeared from nowhere.

"Yes, miss?"

"I'm so sorry I forgot to ask before. How are your chilblains?"

"A good deal better, miss, thank you."

"Did you try the stuff I recommended?"

"Yes, miss. It did them a world of good."

"Splendid!"

Jill went back into the sitting-room.

"It's all right," she said reassuringly. "They're better."

She wandered restlessly about the room, looking at the photographs.

"What a lot of girls you seem to know, Freddie. Are these all the
ones you've loved and lost?" She sat down at the piano and touched
the keys. The clock on the mantelpiece chimed the half hour. "I wish
to goodness they would arrive," she said.

"They'll be here pretty soon, I expect."

"It's rather awful," said Jill, "to think of Lady Underhill racing
all the way from Mentone to Paris and from Paris to Calais and from
Calais to Dover and from Dover to London simply to inspect me. You
can't wonder I'm nervous, Freddie."

The eye-glass dropped from Freddie's eye.

"Are _you nervous?" he asked, astonished.

"Of course I'm nervous. Wouldn't you be in my place?"

"Well, I should never have thought it."

"Why do you suppose I've been talking such a lot? Why do you imagine
I snapped your poor, innocent head off just now? I'm terrified
inside, terrified!"

"You don't look it, by Jove!"

"No, I'm trying to be a little warrior. That's what Uncle Chris
always used to call me. It started the day when he took me to have a
tooth out, when I was ten. 'Be a little warrior, Jill!' he kept
saying--'Be a little warrior!' And I was." She looked at the clock.
"But I shan't be if they don't get here soon. The suspense is awful."
She strummed the keys. "Suppose she _doesn't like me, Freddie! You
see how you've scared me."

"I didn't say she wouldn't. I only said you'd got to watch out a
bit."

"Something tells me she won't. My nerve is oozing out of me." Jill
shook her head impatiently. "It's all so vulgar! I thought this sort
of thing only happened in the comic papers and in music-hall songs.
Why, it's just like that song somebody used to sing." She laughed.
"Do you remember? I don't know how the verse went, but . . .


John took me round to see his mother,
his mother,
his mother!
And when he'd introduced us to each other,
She sized up everything that I had on.
She put me through a cross-examination:
I fairly boiled with aggravation:
Then she shook her head,
Looked at me and said:
'Poor John! Poor John!'

"Chorus, Freddie! Let's cheer ourselves up! We need it!"

'John took me round to see his mother . . . !

"His mo-o-o-other!" croaked Freddie. Curiously enough, this ballad
was one of Freddie's favorites. He had rendered it with a good deal
of success on three separate occasions at village entertainments down
in Worcestershire, and he rather flattered himself that he could get
about as much out of it as the next man. He proceeded to abet Jill
heartily with gruff sounds which he was under the impression
constituted what is known in musical circles as "singing seconds."

"His mo-o-o-other!" he growled with frightful scorn.

"And when she'd introduced us to each other . . ."

"O-o-o-other!"

"She sized up everything that I had on!"

"Pom-pom-pom!"

"She put me through a cross-examination . . ."

Jill had thrown her head back, and was singing jubilantly at the top
of her voice. The appositeness of the song had cheered her up. It
seemed somehow to make her forebodings rather ridiculous, to reduce
them to absurdity, to turn into farce the gathering tragedy which had
been weighing upon her nerves.

"Then she shook her head,
Looked at me and said:
'Poor John!' . . ."

"Jill," said a voice at the door. "I want you to meet my mother!"

"Poo-oo-oor John!" bleated the hapless Freddie, unable to check
himself.

"Dinner," said Parker the valet, appearing at the door and breaking a
silence that seemed to fill the room like a tangible presence, "is
served!"

Content of CHAPTER ONE (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Little Warrior)

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CHAPTER TWO1.The front-door closed softly behind the theatre-party. Dinner wasover, and Parker had just been assisting the expedition out of theplace. Sensitive to atmosphere, he had found his share in the dinnera little trying. It had been a strained meal, and what he liked was aclatter of conversation and everybody having a good time and enjoyingthemselves."Ellen!" called Parker, as he proceeded down the passage to the emptydining-room. "Ellen!"Mrs Parker appeared out of the kitchen, wiping her hands. Her workfor the evening, like her husband's, was over. Presently what istechnically called a "useful girl" would come in to wash the dishes,leaving the
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The Little Nugget - Part 2 - Peter Burns' Narrative - Chapter 18 The Little Nugget - Part 2 - Peter Burns' Narrative - Chapter 18

The Little Nugget - Part 2 - Peter Burns' Narrative - Chapter 18
Chapter 18'No manners!' said Mrs Drassilis. 'None whatever. I always saidso.'She spoke bitterly. She was following the automobile with anoffended eye as it moved down the drive.The car rounded the corner. Sam turned and waved a farewell. Mrand Mrs Ford, seated close together in the tonneau, did not evenlook round.Mrs Drassilis sniffed disgustedly.'She's a friend of Cynthia's. Cynthia asked me to come down herewith her to see you. I came, to oblige her. And now, without aword of apology, she leaves me stranded. She has no mannerswhatever.'I offered no defence of the absent one. The verdict more or lesssquared with my
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