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The little warrior

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Title:TheLittleWarrior
Author:P.G.Wodehouse
PostingDate:August26,2012[EBook#6837]
ReleaseDate:November,2004
FirstPosted:January29,2003
LastUpdated:August30,2016
Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHELITTLEWARRIOR***

ProducedbyJimTinsley


THELITTLEWARRIOR




byP.G.Wodehouse

(U.K.Title:JilltheReckless)



CHAPTERONE



1.
FreddieRookegazedcoldlyatthebreakfast-table.Throughagleamingeye-glass
heinspectedtherevoltingobjectwhichParker,hisfaithfulman,hadplacedona
platebeforehim.
"Parker!"Hisvoicehadaringofpain.
"Sir?"
"What'sthis?"
"Poachedegg,sir."
Freddieavertedhiseyeswithasilentshudder.
"Itlooksjustlikeanoldauntofmine,"hesaid."Removeit!"
Hegotup,and,wrappinghisdressing-gownabouthislonglegs,tookupastand
infrontofthefireplace.Fromthispositionhesurveyedtheroom,hisshoulders
againstthemantelpiece,hiscalvespressingtheclub-fender.Itwasacheerful
oasisinachillandfoggyworld,atypicalLondonbachelor'sbreakfast-room.
Thewallswerearestfulgray,andthetable,setfortwo,acomfortable
arrangementinwhiteandsilver.
"Eggs,Parker,"saidFreddiesolemnly,"aretheacidtest!"
"Yes,sir?"
"If,onthemorningafter,youcantackleapoachedegg,youareallright.Ifnot,
not.Anddon'tletanybodytellyouotherwise."
"No,sir."
Freddiepressedthepalmofhishandtohisbrow,andsighed.
"Itwouldseem,then,thatImusthaverevelledatriflewhole-heartedlylastnight.
Iwaspossiblyalittleblotto.Notwhiffled,perhaps,butindisputablyblotto.DidI


makemuchnoisecomingin?"
"No,sir.Youwereveryquiet."


"Ah!Adashedbadsign!"
Freddiemovedtothetable,andpouredhimselfacupofcoffee.
"Thecream-jugistoyourright,sir,"saidthehelpfulParker.
"Letitremainthere.Cafenoirformethismorning.Asnoirasitcanjollywell
stick!"Freddieretiredtothefireplaceandsippeddelicately."AsfarasIcan
remember,itwasRonnyDevereux'birthdayorsomething…"
"MrMartyn's,Ithinkyousaid,sir."
"That'sright.AlgyMartyn'sbirthday,andRonnyandIweretheguests.Itall
comesbacktome.IwantedDerektorollalongandjointhefestivities—he's
nevermetRonny—buthegaveitamiss.Quiteright!Achapinhispositionhas
responsibilities.MemberofParliamentandallthat.Besides,"saidFreddie
earnestly,drivinghomethepointwithawaveofhisspoon,"he'sengagedtobe
married.Youmustrememberthat,Parker!"
"Iwillendeavorto,sir."
"Sometimes,"saidFreddiedreamily,"IwishIwereengagedtobemarried.
SometimesIwishIhadsomesweetgirltowatchovermeand…No,Idon't,by
Jove!Itwouldgivemetheutterpip!IsSirDerekupyet,Parker?"
"Gettingup,sir."
"Seethateverythingisallright,willyou?Imeanasregardsthefoodstuffsand
whatnot.Iwanthimtomakeagoodbreakfast.He'sgottomeethismotherthis
morningatCharingCross.She'sleggingitbackfromtheRiviera."
"Indeed,sir?"
Freddieshookhishead.
"Youwouldn'tspeakinthatlight,carelesstoneifyouknewher!Well,you'llsee


hertonight.She'scomingheretodinner."
"Yes,sir."
"MissMarinerwillbehere,too.Afoursome.TellMrsParkertopullupher
socksandgiveussomethingprettyripe.Soup,fish,allthatsortofthing.She
knows.Andlet'shaveastoupofmalvoisiefromtheoldestbin.Thisisaspecial
occasion!"
"HerladyshipwillbemeetingMissMarinerforthefirsttime,sir?"
"You'veputyourfingeronit!Absolutelythefirsttimeonthisoranystage!We
mustallrallyroundandmakethethingasuccess."
"IamsureMrsParkerwillstraineverynerve,sir."Parkermovedtothedoor,
carryingtherejectedegg,andsteppedasidetoallowatall,well-builtmanof
aboutthirtytoenter."Goodmorning,SirDerek."
"Morning,Parker."
Parkerslidsoftlyfromtheroom.DerekUnderhillsatdownatthetable.Hewas
astrikinglyhandsomeman,withastrong,forcefulface,dark,leanandcleanly
shaven.Hewasoneofthosemenwhomastrangerwouldinstinctivelypickout
ofacrowdasworthyofnote.Hisonlydefectwasthathisheavyeyebrowsgave
himattimesanexpressionwhichwasalittleforbidding.Women,however,had
neverbeenrepelledbyit.Hewasverypopularwithwomen,notquitesopopular
withmen—alwaysexceptingFreddieRooke,whoworshippedhim.Theyhad
beenatschooltogether,thoughFreddiewastheyoungerbyseveralyears.
"Finished,Freddie?"askedDerek.
Freddiesmiledwanly,
"Wearenotbreakfastingthismorning,"hereplied."Thespiritwaswilling,but
thejollyoldfleshwouldhavenoneofit.Tobeperfectlyfrank,theLastofthe
Rookeshasabitofahead."
"Ass!"saidDerek.
"Abitofsympathy,"saidFreddie,pained,"wouldnotbeoutofplace.Wearefar


fromwell.Somepersonunknownhasputathreshing-machineinsidetheold
beanandsubstitutedapieceofbrownpaperforourtongue.Thingslookdark
andyellowandwobbly!"
"Youshouldn'thaveoverdoneitlastnight."
"ItwasAlgyMartyn'sbirthday,"pleadedFreddie.
"IfIwereanasslikeAlgyMartyn,"saidDerek,"Iwouldn'tgoaboutadvertising
thefactthatI'dbeenborn.I'dhushitup!"
Hehelpedhimselftoaplentifulportionofkedgeree,Freddiewatchinghimwith
repulsionmingledwithenvy.Whenhebegantoeat,thespectaclebecametoo
poignantforthesufferer,andhewanderedtothewindow.
"Whatabeastofaday!"
Itwasanappallingday.January,thatgrimmonth,wastreatingLondonwithits
usualseverity.Earlyinthemorningabankoffoghadrolledupofftheriver,and
wasdeepeningfrompearlywhitetoaluridbrown.Itpressedonthewindowpanelikeablanket,leavingdark,damprivuletsontheglass.
"Awful!"saidDerek.
"Yourmater'strainwillbelate."
"Yes.Damnednuisance.It'sbadenoughmeetingtrainsinanycase,without
havingtohangaboutadraughtystationforanhour."
"Andit'ssure,Ishouldimagine,"wentonFreddie,pursuinghistrainofthought,
"tomakethedearoldthingprettytolerablyratty,ifshehasoneofthoseslow
journeys."Hepotteredbacktothefireplace,andrubbedhisshoulders
reflectivelyagainstthemantelpiece."ItakeitthatyouwrotetoheraboutJill?"
"Ofcourse.That'swhyshe'scomingover,Isuppose.Bytheway,yougotthose
seatsforthattheatretonight?"
"Yes.Threetogetherandonesomewhereontheoutskirts.Ifit'sallthesameto
you,oldthing,I'llhavetheoneontheoutskirts."


Derek,whohadfinishedhiskedgereeandwasnowmakinghimselfabloton
Freddie'shorizonwithtoastandmarmalade,laughed.
"Whatarabbityouare,Freddie!Whyonearthareyousoafraidofmother?"
FreddielookedathimasatimidyoungsquiremighthavegazeduponSt.George
whenthelattersetouttodobattlewiththedragon.Hewasoftheamiabletype
whichmakesheroesofitsfriends.Intheolddayswhenhehadfaggedforhimat
WinchesterhehadthoughtDerekthemostwonderfulpersonintheworld,and
thisviewhestillretained.Indeed,subsequenteventshadstrengthenedit.Derek
haddonethemostamazingthingssinceleavingschool.Hehadhadabrilliant
careeratOxford,andnow,intheHouseofCommons,wasalreadylookedupon
bytheleadersofhispartyasonetobewatchedandencouraged.Heplayedpolo
superlativelywell,andwasafineshot.Butofallhisgiftsandqualitiestheone
thatextortedFreddie'sadmirationinitsintensestformwashislion-likecourage
asexemplifiedbyhisbehaviorinthepresentcrisis.Therehesat,placidlyeating
toastandmarmalade,whiletheboat-traincontainingLadyUnderhillalready
spedonitswayfromDovertoLondon.ItwaslikeDrakeplayingbowlswiththe
SpanishArmadainsight.
"IwishIhadyournerve!"hesaid,awed."WhatIshouldbefeeling,ifIwerein
yourplaceandhadtomeetyourmateraftertellingherthatIwasengagedto
marryagirlshehadneverseen,Idon'tknow.I'dratherfaceawoundedtiger!"
"Idiot!"saidDerekplacidly.
"Not,"pursuedFreddie,"thatImeantosayanythingintheleastderogatoryand
soforthtoyourjollyoldmater,ifyouunderstandme,butthefactremainsshe
scaresmepallid!Alwayshas,eversincethefirsttimeIwenttostayatyour
placewhenIwasakid.IcanstillremembercatchinghereyethemorningI
happenedbypurechancetobunganapplethroughherbedroomwindow,
meaningtoletacatonthesillbelowhaveitintheshortribs.Shewasatleast
thirtyfeetaway,but,byJove,itstoppedmelikeabullet!"
"Pushthebell,oldman,willyou?Iwantsomemoretoast."
Freddiedidashewasrequestedwithgrowingadmiration.
"Thecondemnedmanmadeanexcellentbreakfast,"hemurmured."Moretoast,
Parker,"headded,asthatadmirableservitoropenedthedoor."Gallant!That's


whatIcallit.Gallant!"
Derektiltedhischairback.
"MotherissuretolikeJillwhensheseesher,"hesaid.
"Whensheseesher!Ah!Butthetroubleis,youngfeller-me-lad,thatshehasn't
seenher!That'stheweakspotinyourcase,oldcompanion!Amonthagoshe
didn'tknowofJill'sexistence.Now,youknowandIknowthatJillisoneofthe
bestandbrightest.Asfarasweareconcerned,everythinginthegoodoldgarden
islovely.Why,dashit,JillandIwerechildrentogether.Sportedsidebysideon
thegreen,andwhatnot.IrememberJill,whenshewastwelve,turningthe
garden-hoseonmeandknockingaboutseventy-fivepercentoffthemarket
valueofmybestSundaysuit.Thatsortofthingformsabond,youknow,and
I'vealwaysfeltthatshewasacorker.Butyourmater'sgottodiscoveritfor
herself.It'sadashedpity,byJove,thatJillhasn'tafatheroramotheror
somethingofthatspeciestorallyroundjustnow.Theywouldformagang.
There'snothinglikeagang!Butshe'sonlygotthatolduncleofhers.Arummy
bird!Methim?"
"Severaltimes.Ilikehim."
"Oh,he'sagenialoldbuckallright.Averybonhomouslad.Butyouhearsome
prettyqueerstoriesabouthimifyougetamongpeoplewhoknewhimintheold
days.EvennowI'mnotsodashedsureIshouldcaretoplaycardswithhim.
YoungThreepwoodwastellingmeonlytheotherdaythattheoldboytookthirty
quidoffhimatpicquetascleanasawhistle.AndJimmyMonroe,who'sonthe
StockExchange,sayshe'sfrightfullybusythesetimesbuyingmarginsor
whateveritischappiesdodownintheCity.Margins.That'stheword.Jimmy
mademebuysomemyselfonathingcalledAmalgamatedDyes.Idon't
understandtheprocedureexactly,butJimmysaysit'sasoundeggandwilldo
meabitofgood.WhatwasItalkingabout?Oh,yes,oldSelby.There'snodoubt
he'squiteasportsman.Buttillyou'vegotJillwellestablished,youknow,I
shouldn'tenlargeonhimtoomuchwiththemater."
"Onthecontrary,"saidDerek."Ishallmentionhimatthefirstopportunity.He
knewmyfatheroutinIndia."
"Didhe,byJove!Oh,well,thatmakesadifference."


Parkerenteredwiththetoast,andDerekresumedhisbreakfast.
"Itmaybealittlebitawkward,"hesaid,"atfirst,meetingmother.But
everythingwillbeallrightafterfiveminutes."
"Absolutely!But,oh,boy!thatfirstfiveminutes!"Freddiegazedportentously
throughhiseye-glass.Thenheseemedtobeundergoingsomeinternalstruggle,
forhegulpedonceortwice."Thatfirstfiveminutes!"hesaid,andpausedagain.
Amoment'ssilentself-communion,andhewentonwitharush."Isay,listen.
ShallIcomealong,too?"
"Comealong?"
"Tothestation.Withyou."
"Whatonearthfor?"
"Toseeyouthroughtheopeningstages.Breaktheiceandallthatsortofthing.
Nothinglikecollectingagang,youknow.Momentswhenafellerneedsafriend
andsoforth.Saytheword,andI'llbuzzalongandlendmymoralsupport."
Derek'sheavyeyebrowsclosedtogetherinanoffendedfrown,andseemedto
darkenhiswholeface.Thisunsolicitedofferofassistancehurthisdignity.He
showedatouchofthepetulancewhichcamenowandthenwhenhewas
annoyed,tosuggestthathemightnotpossesssostrongacharacterashis
exteriorindicated.
"It'sverykindofyou,"hebeganstiffly.
Freddienodded.Hewasacutelyconsciousofthishimself.
"Somefellows,"heobserved,"wouldsay'Notatall!'Isuppose.ButnottheLast
oftheRookes!For,honestly,oldman,betweenourselves,Idon'tmindadmitting
thatthisisthebravestdeedoftheyear,andI'mdashedifIwoulddoitfor
anyoneelse."
"It'sverygoodofyou,Freddie…"
"That'sallright.I'maBoyScout,andthisismyactofkindnessfortoday."


Derekgotupfromthetable.
"Ofcourseyoumustn'tcome,"hesaid."Wecan'tformasortofdebatingsociety
todiscussJillontheplatformatCharingCross."
"Oh,Iwouldjusthangaroundintheoffing,shovinginanoccasionaltactful
word."
"Nonsense!"
"Thewheezewouldsimplybeto…"
"It'simpossible."
"Oh,verywell,"saidFreddie,damped."Justasyousay,ofcourse.Butthere's
nothinglikeagang,oldman,nothinglikeagang!"



2.
DerekUnderhillthrewdownthestumpofhiscigar,andgruntedirritably.Inside
CharingCrossStationbusinesswasproceedingasusual.Porterswheeling
baggage-trucksmovedtoandfrolikeJuggernauts.Belatedtrainsclankedin,
gladtogethome,whileothers,lessfortunate,creptreluctantlyoutthroughthe
blacknessanddisappearedintoaninfernoofdetonatingfog-signals.Foroutside
thefogstillheld.Theairwascoldandrawandtastedcoppery.Inthestreet
trafficmovedatafuneralpace,totheaccompanimentofhoarsecriesand
occasionalcrashes.Oncethesunhadworkeditswaythroughthemurkandhad
hungintheskylikeagreatredorange,butnowallwasdarknessanddiscomfort
again,blendedwiththatoddsuggestionofmysteryandromancewhichisa
Londonfog'sonlyredeemingquality.
ItseemedtoDerekthathehadbeenpatrollingtheplatformforalife-time,buthe
resumedhissentinelduty.Thefactthattheboat-train,beingalreadyforty-five
minutesoverdue,mightarriveatanymomentmadeitimperativethatheremain
wherehewasinsteadofsitting,ashewouldmuchhavepreferredtosit,inoneof
thewaiting-rooms.Itwouldbeadisasterifhismothershouldgetoutofthetrain
andnotfindhimtheretomeether.Thatwasjustthesortofthingwhichwould
infuriateher;andhermood,afteraChannelcrossingandadrearyjourneyby
rail,wouldbesufficientlydangerousasitwas.
ThefogandthewaitinghadhadtheireffectuponDerek.Theresolutefronthe
hadexhibitedtoFreddieatthebreakfast-tablehadmeltedsincehisarrivalatthe
station,andhewasfeelingnervousattheprospectofthemeetingthatlaybefore
him.CalmashehadappearedtotheeyeofFreddieandbravelyashehad
spoken,Derek,intherecessesofhisheart,wasafraidofhismother.Thereare
men—andDerekUnderhillwasoneofthem—whoneverwhollyemergefrom
thenursery.Theymayputawaychildishthingsandriseintheworldtoaffluence
andsuccess,butthehandthatrockedtheircradlestillrulestheirlives.Asaboy,
Derekhadalwaysbeenfirmlycontrolledbyhismother,andtheswayofher
aggressivepersonalityhadenduredthroughmanhood.LadyUnderhillwasa
bornruler,dominatingmostofthepeoplewithwhomlifebroughtherincontact.
Distantcousinsquakedathername,whileamongthemaleportionofhernearer
relativesshewasgenerallyalludedtoasTheFamilyCurse.


Nowthathismeetingwithhermightoccuratanymoment,Derekshrankfromit.
Itwasnotlikelytobeapleasantone.ThemerefactthatLadyUnderhillwas
comingtoLondonatallmadethatimprobable.Whenamanwritestoinformhis
mother,whoiswinteringontheRiviera,thathehasbecomeengagedtobe
married,thenaturalcourseforhertopursue,ifsheapprovesofthestep,isto
wirehercongratulationsandgoodwishes.Whenfortheseshesubstitutesacurt
announcementthatsheisreturningimmediately,acertainlackofcomplaisance
seemstobeindicated.
WouldhismotherapproveofJill?Thatwasthequestionwhichhehadbeen
askinghimselfoverandoveragainashepacedtheplatforminthedisheartening
fog.Nothinghadbeensaid,nothinghadevenbeenhinted,buthewasperfectly
awarethathismarriagewasamatterregardingwhichLadyUnderhillhad
alwaysassumedthatshewastobeconsulted,evenifshedidnot,ashe
suspected,claimtherighttodictate.Andhehadbecomeengagedquitesuddenly,
withoutawordtoheruntilitwasalloverandsettled.
That,asFreddiehadpointedout,wastheconfoundedlyawkwardpartofit.His
engagementhadbeensosudden.Jillhadsweptintohislifelikeacomet.His
motherknewnothingofher.Amonthagohehadknownnothingofherhimself.
Itwould,heperceived,asfarasthebenevolentapprovalofLadyUnderhillwas
concerned,havebeenanaltogetherdifferentmatterhadhischoicefallenupon
oneofthosedamselswhosecharacters,personality,andancestrysheknew.
Daughtersofsolidandusefulmen;sistersofrisingyoungpoliticianslike
himself;niecesofBurke'speerage;hecouldhaveintroducedwithout
embarrassmentoneoftheseintheroleofbride-elect.ButJill…Oh,well,when
oncehismotherhadmetJill,everythingwassuretobeallright.Nobodycould
resistJill.Itwouldbelikeresistingthesunshine.
Somewhatcomfortedbythisreflection,Derekturnedtobeginonemorewalk
alongtheplatform,andstoppedinmid-stride,raging.Beamingoverthecollarof
aplaidgreatcoat,allhelpfulnessanddevotion,FreddieRookewasadvancing
towardshim,thefriendthatstickethcloserthanabrother.Likesomelovingdog,
who,orderedhome,sneakssoftlyonthroughalleysandby-ways,peepinground
cornersandcrouchingbehindlamp-posts,thefaithfulFreddiehadfollowedhim
afterall.Andwithhim,toaddthelasttouchtoDerek'sdiscomfiture,werethose
twoinseparablealliesofhis,RonnyDevereuxandAlgyMartyn.
"Well,oldthing,"saidFreddie,pattingDerekencouraginglyontheshoulder,


"hereweareafterall!Iknowyoutoldmenottorollroundandsoforth,butI
knewyoudidn'tmeanit.Ithoughtitoverafteryouhadleft,anddecidedit
wouldbearottentricknottoclusteraboutyouinyourhourofneed.Ihopeyou
don'tmindRonnyandAlgybreezingalong,too.Thefactis,Iwasinthedeuce
ofafunk—yourjollyoldmateralwaysratherparalyzesmynerve-centers,you
know—soIropedthemin.Met'eminPiccadilly,gropingaboutfortheclub,and
conscripted'emboth,theyverydecentlyconsenting.Wealltoddledoffandhad
apick-me-upatthatchemistchappie'satthetopoftheHay-market,andnow
we'refeelingfullofbeansandbuck,readyforanything.I'veexplainedthewhole
thingtothem,andthey'rewithyoutothedeath!Collectagang,dearboy,collect
agang!That'sthemotto.There'snothinglikeit!"
"Nothing!"saidRonny.
"Absolutelynothing!"saidAlgy.
"We'lljustseeyouthroughtheopeningstages,"saidFreddie,"andthenlegit.
We'llkeeptheconversationgeneral,youknow."
"Stopitgettingintopainfulchannels,"saidRonny.
"Steeritclear,"saidAlgy,"ofthetouchytopic."
"That'sthewheeze,"saidFreddie."We'll…Oh,golly!There'sthetraincoming
innow!"Hisvoicequavered,fornoteventhecomfortingpresenceofhistwo
alliescouldaltogethersustainhiminthisordeal.Buthepulledhimselftogether
withamanfuleffort."Stickit,oldbeans!"hesaiddoughtily."Nowisthetime
forallgoodmentocometotheaidoftheparty!"
"We'rehere!"saidRonnyDevereux.
"Onthespot!"saidAlgyMartyn.



3.
Theboat-trainslidintothestation.Bellsrang,enginesblewoffsteam,porters
shouted,baggage-trucksrattledovertheplatform.Thetrainbegantogiveupits
contents,nowinonesandtwos,nowinasteadystream.Mostofthetravellers
seemedlimpandexhausted,andwerepalewiththepallorthatcomesofa
choppyChannelcrossing.Almosttheonlyexceptiontothegeneralconditionof
collapsewastheeagle-facedladyinthebrownulster,whohadtakenupher
standinthemiddleoftheplatformandwasharanguingasubduedlittlemaidina
voicethatcutthegloomyairlikeasteelknife.Liketheothertravellers,shewas
pale,butsheboreupresolutely.NoonecouldhavetoldfromLadyUnderhill's
demeanorthatthesolidplatformseemedtoheavebeneathherfeetlikeadeck.
"Haveyougotaporter,Ferris?Whereishe,then?Ah!Haveyougotallthe
bags?Myjewel-case?Thesuit-case?Thesmallbrownbag?Therugs?Where
aretherugs?
"Yes,Icanseethem,mygoodgirl.Thereisnoneedtobrandishtheminmy
face.Keepthejewel-caseandgivetherestofthethingstotheporter,andtake
himtolookafterthetrunks.Yourememberwhichtheyare?Thesteamertrunk,
theothertrunk,theblackbox…Verywell.Thenmakehaste.And,whenyou've
gotthemalltogether,telltheportertofindyouafour-wheeler.Thesmallthings
willgoinside.DrivetotheSavoyandaskformysuite.Iftheymakeany
difficulty,tellthemthatIengagedtheroomsyesterdaybytelegraphfrom
Mentone.Doyouunderstand?"
"Yes,m'lady."
"Thengoalong.Oh,andgivetheportersixpence.Sixpenceisample."
"Yes,m'lady."
Thelittlemaid,graspingthejewel-case,trottedoffbesidethenowpessimistic
porter,whohadstartedonthisjobundertheimpressionthattherewasatleasta
bob's-worthinit.Theremarkaboutthesixpencehadjarredtheporter'sfaithin
hisspecies.


Derekapproached,acutelyconsciousofFreddie,Ronny,andAlgy,whowere
skirmishingabouthisflank.Hehadenoughtoworryhimwithoutthem.Hehad
listenedwithgrowingapprehensiontothecatalogueofhismother'spossessions.
Plainlythiswasnoflyingvisit.YoudonotpopovertoLondonforadayortwo
withasteamertrunk,anothertrunk,ablackbox,asuit-case,andasmallbrown
bag.LadyUnderhillhadevidentlycomepreparedtostay;andthefactseemedto
presagetrouble.
"Well,mother!Sothereyouareatlast!"
"Well,Derek!"
Derekkissedhismother.Freddie,Ronny,andAlgyshuffledcloser,likeleopards.
Freddie,withtheexpressionofonewholeadsaforlornhope,movedhisAdam's
applebrisklyupanddownseveraltimes,andspoke.
"Howdoyoudo,LadyUnderhill?"
"Howdoyoudo,MrRooke?"
LadyUnderhillbowedstifflyandwithoutpleasure.ShewasnotfondoftheLast
oftheRookes.ShesupposedtheAlmightyhadhadsomewisepurposein
creatingFreddie,butithadalwaysbeeninscrutabletoher.
"Likeyou,"mumbledFreddie,"tomeetmyfriends.LadyUnderhill.Mr
Devereux."
"Charmed,"saidRonnyaffably.
"MrMartyn."
"Delighted,"saidAlgywithold-worldcourtesy.
LadyUnderhillregardedthismob-scenewithaneyeofice.
"Howdoyoudo?"shesaid."Haveyoucometomeetsomebody?"
"I-er-we-er-why-er—"ThiswomanalwaysmadeFreddiefeelasifhewerebeing
disembowelledbysomeclumsyamateur.Hewishedthathehaddefiedthe
dictatesofhisbetternatureandremainedinhissnugroomsattheAlbany,


allowingDerektogothroughthisbusinessbyhimself."I-er-we-er-cametomeet
you,don'tyouknow!"
"Indeed!Thatwasverykindofyou!"
"Oh,notatall."
"Thoughtwe'dwelcomeyoubacktotheoldhomestead,"saidRonny,beaming.
"Whatcouldbesweeter?"saidAlgy.Heproducedacigar-case,andextracteda
formidabletorpedo-shapedHavana.Hewasfeelingdelightfullyathisease,and
couldn'tunderstandwhyFreddiehadmadesuchafussaboutmeetingthisnice
oldlady."Don'tmindifIsmoke,doyou?Air'sabitrawtoday.Getsintothe
lungs."
Derekchafedimpotently.Theseunsoughtalliesweremakingadifficultsituation
athousandtimesworse.AmoreacuteobserverthanyoungMrMartyn,henoted
thetightlinesabouthismother'smouthandknewthemforthedanger-signal
theywere.Endeavoringtodistractherwithlightconversation,heselecteda
subjectwhichwasalittleunfortunate.
"Whatsortofcrossingdidyouhave,mother?"
LadyUnderhillwinced.AcurrentofairhadsenttheperfumeofAlgy'scigar
playingabouthernostrils.Sheclosedhereyes,andherfaceturnedashadepaler.
Freddie,observingthis,feltquitesorryforthepooroldthing.Shewasapestand
apotofpoison,ofcourse,butallthesame,hereflectedcharitably,itwasa
shamethatsheshouldlooksogreenaboutthegills.Hecametotheconclusion
thatshemustbehungry.Thethingtodowastotakehermindoffittillshecould
beconductedtoarestaurantanddumpeddowninfrontofabowlofsoup.
"Bitchoppy,Isuppose,what?"hebellowed,inavoicethatranupanddown
LadyUnderhill'snervoussystemlikeanelectricneedle."Iwasafraidyouwere
goingtohaveaprettyroughtimeofitwhenIreadtheforecastinthepaper.The
goodoldboatwobbledabit,eh?"
LadyUnderhillutteredafaintmoan.Freddienoticedthatshewaslooking
deucedlychippy,evenchippierthanamomentago.
"It'sanextraordinarythingaboutthatChannelcrossing,"saidAlgyMartyn


meditatively,ashepuffedarefreshingcloud."I'veknownfellowswhocould
travelquitehappilyeverywhereelseintheworld—roundtheHorninsailingshipsandallthatsortofthing—yielduptheirimmortalsoulcrossingthe
Channel!Absolutelyyielduptheirimmortalsoul!Don'tknowwhy.Rummy,but
thereitis!"
"I'mlikethatmyself,"assentedRonnyDevereux."ThatdashedtripfromCalais
getsmeeverytime.Bowlsmerightover.Igoaboard,stokedtotheeyebrows
withseasickremedies,swearingthatthistimeI'llfool'em,butdownIgoten
minutesafterwe'vestartedandthenextthingIknowissomebodysaying,'Well,
well!SothisisDover!'"
"It'sexactlythesamewithme,"saidFreddie,delightedwiththesmooth,easy
waytheconversationwasflowing."Whetherit'sthehot,greasysmellofthe
engines…"
"It'snottheengines,"contendedRonnyDevereux.
"Standstoreasonitcan'tbe.Iratherlikethesmellofengines.Thisstationis
reekingwiththesmellofengine-grease,andIcandrinkitinandenjoyit."He
sniffedluxuriantly."It'ssomethingelse."
"Ronny'sright,"saidAlgycordially."Itisn'ttheengines.It'sthewaytheboat
heavesupanddownandupanddownandupanddown…"Heshiftedhiscigar
tohislefthandinordertogivewithhisrightaspiritedillustrationofaChannel
steamergoingupanddownandupanddownandupanddown.LadyUnderhill,
whohadopenedhereyes,hadanexcellentviewoftheperformance,andclosed
hereyesagainquickly.
"Bequiet!"shesnapped.
"Iwasonlysaying…"
"Bequiet!"
"Oh,rather!"
LadyUnderhillwrestledwithherself.Shewasawomanofgreatwill-powerand
accustomedtotriumphovertheweaknessesoftheflesh.Afterawhilehereyes
opened.Shehadforcedherself,againsttheevidenceofhersenses,torecognize


thatthiswasaplatformonwhichshestoodandnotadeck.
Therewasapause.Algy,damped,wastemporarilyoutofaction,andhisfriends
hadforthemomentnothingtoremark.
"I'mafraidyouhadatryingjourney,mother,"saidDerek."Thetrainwasvery
late."
"Now,train-sickness,"saidAlgy,comingtothesurfaceagain,"isathinglotsof
peoplesufferfrom.Nevercouldunderstanditmyself."
"I'veneverhadatouchoftrain-sickness,"saidRonny.
"Oh,Ihave,"saidFreddie."I'veoftenfeltrottenonatrain.Igetfloatingspotsin
frontofmyeyesandasortofheavingsensation,andeverythingkindofgoes
black…"
"MrRooke!"
"Eh?"
"Ishouldbegreatlyobligedifyouwouldkeeptheseconfidencesfortheearof
yourmedicaladviser."
"Freddie,"intervenedDerekhastily,"mymother'srathertired.Doyouthinkyou
couldbegoingaheadandgettingataxi?"
"Mydearoldchap,ofcourse!Getyouoneinasecond.Comealong,Algy.Pick
uptheoldwaukeesis,Ronny."
AndFreddie,accompaniedbyhishenchmen,ambledoff,wellpleasedwith
himself.Hehad,hefelt,helpedtobreaktheiceforDerekandhadseenhim
safelythroughthoseawkwardopeningstages.Nowhecouldtotteroffwitha
lightheartandgetabiteoflunch.
LadyUnderhill'seyesglittered.Theyweresmall,keen,blackeyes,unlike
Derek's,whichwerelargeandbrown.Intheirotherfeaturesthetwowere
obviouslymotherandson.Eachhadthesamelongupperlip,thesamethin,firm
mouth,theprominentchinwhichwasafamilycharacteristicoftheUnderhills,
andthejuttingUnderhillnose.MostoftheUnderhillscameintotheworld


lookingasthoughtheymeanttodrivetheirwaythroughlifelikeawedge.
"Alittlemore,"shesaidtensely,"andIshouldhavestruckthoseunspeakable
youngmenwithmyumbrella.OneofthethingsIhaveneverbeenableto
understand,Derek,iswhyyoushouldhaveselectedthatimbecileRookeasyour
closestfriend."
Dereksmiledtolerantly.
"Itwasmoreacaseofhimselectingme.ButFreddieisquiteagoodfellow
really.He'samanyou'vegottoknow."
"Ihavenotgottoknowhim,andIthankheavenforit!"
"He'saverygood-naturedfellow.Itwasdecentofhimtoputmeupatthe
Albanywhileourhousewaslet.Bytheway,hehassomeseatsforthefirstnight
ofanewpiecethisevening.HesuggestedthatwemightalldineattheAlbany
andgoontothetheatre."Hehesitatedamoment."Jillwillbethere,"hesaid,
andfelteasiernowthathernamehadatlastcomeintothetalk."She'slongingto
meetyou."
"Thenwhydidn'tshemeetme?"
"Here,doyoumean?Atthestation?Well,I—Iwantedyoutoseeherforthe
firsttimeinpleasantersurroundings."
"Oh!"saidLadyUnderhillshortly.
Itisadisturbingthoughtthatwesufferinthisworldjustasmuchbybeing
prudentandtakingprecautionsaswedobybeingrashandimpulsiveandacting
asthespiritmovesus.IfJillhadbeenpermittedbyherwaryfiancétocomewith
himtothestationtomeethismother,itiscertainthatmuchtroublewouldhave
beenavoided.True,LadyUnderhillwouldprobablyhavebeenrudetoherinthe
openingstagesoftheinterview,butshewouldnothavebeenalarmedand
suspicious;or,rather,thevaguesuspicionwhichshehadbeenfeelingwouldnot
havesolidified,asitdidnow,intodefinitecertaintyoftheworst.AllthatDerek
hadeffectedbyhiscarefuldiplomacyhadbeentoconvincehismotherthathe
consideredhisbride-electsomethingtobebrokengentlytoher.
Shestoppedandfacedhim.


"Whoisshe?"shedemanded."Whoisthisgirl?"
Derekflushed.
"IthoughtImadeeverythingclearinmyletter."
"Youmadenothingclearatall."
"Byyourleave!"chantedaporterbehindthem,andabaggage-truckclovethem
apart.
"Wecan'ttalkinacrowdedstation,"saidDerekirritably."Letmegetyoutothe
taxiandtakeyoutothehotel.…WhatdoyouwanttoknowaboutJill?"
"Everything.Wheredoesshecomefrom?Whoareherpeople?Idon'tknowany
Mariners."
"Ihaven'tcross-examinedher,"saidDerekstiffly."ButIdoknowthather
parentsaredead.HerfatherwasanAmerican."
"American!"
"Americansfrequentlyhavedaughters,Ibelieve."
"Thereisnothingtobegainedbylosingyourtemper,"saidLadyUnderhillwith
steelycalm.
"Thereisnothingtobegained,asfarasIcansee,byallthistalk,"retorted
Derek.Hewonderedvexedlywhyhismotheralwayshadthispowerofmaking
himlosecontrolofhimself.Hehatedtolosecontrolofhimself.Itupsethim,and
blurredthatvisionwhichhelikedtohaveofhimselfasacalm,importantman
superiortoordinaryweaknesses."JillandIareengaged,andthereisanendof
it."
"Don'tbeafool,"saidLadyUnderhill,andwasdrivenawaybyanother
baggage-truck."Youknowperfectlywell,"sheresumed,returningtotheattack,
"thatyourmarriageisamatterofthegreatestconcerntomeandtothewholeof
thefamily."
"Listen,mother!"Derek'slongwaitonthedraughtyplatformhadgeneratedan


irritabilitywhichovercamethedeep-seatedaweofhismotherwhichwasthe
resultofyearsofdefeatinbattlesofthewill."Letmetellyouinafewwordsall
thatIknowofJill,andthenwe'lldropthesubject.Inthefirstplace,sheisalady.
Secondly,shehasplentyofmoney…"
"TheUnderhillsdonotneedtomarryformoney."
"Iamnotmarryingformoney!"
"Well,goon."
"Ihavealreadydescribedtoyouinmyletter—veryinadequately,butIdidmy
best—whatshelookslike.Hersweetness,herloveableness,allthesubtlethings
aboutherwhichgotomakeherwhatsheis,youwillhavetojudgeforyourself."
"Iintendto!"
"Well,that'sall,then.Sheliveswithheruncle,aMajorSelby…"
"MajorSelby?Whatregiment?"
"Ididn'taskhim,"snappedthegoadedDerek."And,inthenameofheaven,what
doesitmatter?"
"NottheGuards?"
"ItellyouIdon'tknow."
"Probablyalineregiment,"saidLadyUnderhillwithanindescribablesniff.
"Possibly.Whatthen?"Hepaused,toplayhistrumpcard."Ifyouareworrying
aboutMajorSelby'ssocialstanding,Imayaswelltellyouthatheusedtoknow
father."
"What!When?Where?"
"Yearsago.InIndia,whenfatherwasatSimla."
"Selby?Selby?NotChristopherSelby?"
"Oh,yourememberhim?"


"Icertainlyrememberhim!NotthatheandIevermet,butyourfatheroften
spokeofhim."
Derekwasrelieved.Itwasabominablethatthissortofthingshouldmatter,but
onehadtofacefacts,and,asfarashismotherwasconcerned,itdid.Thefact
thatJill'sunclehadknownhisdeadfatherwouldmakeallthedifferencetoLady
Underhill.
"ChristopherSelby!"saidLadyUnderhillreflectively."Yes!Ihaveoftenheard
yourfatherspeakofhim.HewasthemanwhogaveyourfatheranI.O.U.topay
acarddebt,andredeemeditwithacheckwhichwasreturnedbythebank!"
"What!"
"Didn'tyouhearwhatIsaid?Iwillrepeatit,ifyouwish."
"Theremusthavebeensomemistake."
"Onlytheoneyourfathermadewhenhetrustedtheman."
"Itmusthavebeensomeotherfellow."
"Ofcourse!"saidLadyUnderhillsatirically."Nodoubtyourfatherknew
hundredsofChristopherSelbys!"
Derekbithislip.
"Well,afterall,"hesaiddoggedly,"whetherit'strueornot…"
"Iseenoreasonwhyyourfathershouldnothavespokenthetruth."
"Allright.We'llsayitistrue,then.Butwhatdoesitmatter?IammarryingJill,
notheruncle."
"Nevertheless,itwouldbepleasanterifheronlylivingrelativewerenota
swindler!…Tellme,whereandhowdidyoumeetthisgirl?"
"Ishouldbegladifyouwouldnotrefertoheras'thisgirl.'Thename,ifyou
haveforgottenit,isMariner."
"Well,wheredidyoumeetMissMariner?"


"AtPrince's."
"Restaurant?"
"Skating-rink,"saidDerekimpatiently."JustafteryouleftforMentone.Freddie
Rookeintroducedme."
"Oh,yourintellectualfriendMrRookeknowsher?"
"Theywerechildrentogether.HerpeoplelivednexttotheRookesin
Worcestershire."
"IthoughtyousaidshewasanAmerican."
"Isaidherfatherwas.HesettledinEngland.Jillhasn'tbeeninAmericasince
shewaseightornine."
"Thefact,"saidLadyUnderhill,"thatthegirlisafriendofMrRookeisnogreat
recommendation."
Derekkickedangrilyataboxofmatcheswhichsomeonehadthrowndownon
theplatform.
"Iwonderifyoucouldpossiblygetitintoyourhead,mother,thatIwantto
marryJill,notengageherasanunder-housemaid.Idon'tconsiderthatshe
requiresrecommendations,asyoucallthem.However,don'tyouthinkthemost
sensiblethingisforyoutowaittillyoumeetheratdinnertonight,andthenyou
canformyourownopinion?I'mbeginningtogetalittleboredwiththisfutile
discussion."
"Asyouseemquiteunabletotalkonthesubjectofthisgirlwithoutbecoming
rude,"saidLadyUnderhill,"Iagreewithyou.Letushopethatmyfirst
impressionwillbeafavorableone.Experiencehastaughtmethatfirst
impressionsareeverything."
"I'mgladyouthinkso,"saidDerek,"forIfellinlovewithJilltheveryfirst
momentIsawher!"



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