Tải bản đầy đủ

Jonah and co

TheProjectGutenbergEBookofJonahandCo.,byDornfordYates
ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwithalmostno
restrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayorre-useitunderthe
termsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincludedwiththiseBookoronlineat
www.gutenberg.net
Title:JonahandCo.
Author:DornfordYates
ReleaseDate:January9,2009[EBook#27079]
Language:English
***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKJONAHANDCO.
***

ProducedbyAlHaines


JONAHANDCO.
BY
DORNFORDYATES

WARD,LOCK&CO.,LIMITED
LONDONANDMELBOURNE



LIBRARYEDITIONSOF"JONAHANDCO."
FirstPublishedSeptember1922
Reprinted2,000October1922
Reprinted2,000October1923
Reprinted2,000September1924
Reprinted2,000May1925
Reprinted3,000February1926
Reprinted12,000June1927
Reprinted8,000March1928
Reprinted5,000August1929
Reprinted10,000August1930
Reprinted10,000February1933
Reprinted8,000December1935
Reprinted8,000March1939
Reprinted5,000February1942
Reprinted9,000December1943

BOOKPRODUCTIONWARECONOMYSTANDARD
THETYPOGRAPHYOFTHISBOOKCONFORMSTOTHEAUTHORIZEDECONOMY
STANDARD.

MADEINENGLAND
PrintedinGreatBritainbyButler&TannerLtd.,FromeandLondon


To
ELMTREEROAD

MYLADY,
Itishard,sittinghere,tobelievethat,ifIwouldcallforacab,IcouldbeinSt.
James'sStreetinlessthantenminutesoftime.Nevertheless,itistrue.Ihave
proveditsomanytimes.SoonIshallproveitforthelasttime.
BettermenthanIwillsitinthisstudyandpacethelawninthegardenwiththe
highwalls.Theliliesandlaburnumsandallthegayfellowshipofflowerswill
findanewwaterman.Thethrushesandblackbirdsandwood-pigeonswillfinda
newvictualler.Theprivateforecourt,sorichlyhungwithcreeper,willgiveback
myfootfallsnomore.Othereyeswilldwellgratefullyuponthesweetpretty
houseandlookproudlyoutofitsleadedwindow-panes.


Theoldorderchangeth,mylady.AndsoIamgoing,beforeIamdrivenout.
Nineyearsagotherewasafarmupontheoppositesideoftheroad—alittleold
Englishfarm.Goingoutofmydoorofamorning,Iusedtomeetducksand
geesethatweretakingtheair.Andhorsescamehomeateven,andcowslowed.
Nowthefarmisgone,andagaragehastakenitsroom.Andotherchangeshave
come,andothersstillarecoming.
So,yousee,mylady,itishightimeIwasgone.
Thisquietstudyhasseenthemakingofmybooks.This—thelastitwillsee—I
makeboldtooffertoyouformanyreasons,butmainlybecause,foronething,
thishousebelongstoyouand,foranother,nohostesswaseversocharmingto
thestrangerwithinhergates.
Ihavethehonourtobe,
Yourladyship'shumbleservant,DORNFORDYATES.
NumberSix.


CONTENTS
CHAP.
IHOWBERRYSTEPPEDINTOTHEBREACH,ANDJONAHCAMEFIRSTANDWASFIRST
SERVED
IIHOWTHREEWAGERSWEREMADE,ANDADÈLEKILLEDTWOBIRDSWITHONE
STONE
IIIHOWAGOLDENCALFWASSETUP,ANDNOBBYSHOWEDHIMSELFATRUE
PROPHET
IVHOWBERRYMADEANENGAGEMENT,JILLAPICTURE,ANDADÈLEASLIPOFSOME
IMPORTANCE
VHOWLOVECAMETOJILL,HERBERTTOTHERESCUE,ANDAYOUNGMANBYHIS
RIGHT
VIHOWBERRYRANCONTRABANDGOODS,ANDTHEDUKEOFPADUAPLIGHTEDJILL
HISTROTH
VIIHOWDAPHNELOSTHERBEDFELLOW,ANDTHELINEOFLEASTRESISTANCE
PROVEDIRRESISTIBLE
VIIIHOWADÈLEBOUGHTABOTTLEOFPERFUMEWHICHHADNOSMELL,ANDICUT
EULALIEDEAD
IXHOWJONAHTOOKOFFHISCOAT,ANDBERRYFLIRTEDWITHFORTUNEFORALL
HEWASWORTH
XHOWBERRYSOUGHTCOMFORTINVAIN,ANDNOBBYSLEPTUPONAQUEEN'SBED
XIHOWBERRYPUTOFFHISMANHOOD,ANDADÈLESHOWEDAFAIRPAIROFHEELS
XIIHOWATELEGRAMCAMEFORJILL,PIERSDEMANDEDHISSWEETHEART,ANDI


DROVEAFTERMYWIFE

Allthecharactersinthisstoryareimaginaryandhave
noreferencetoanylivingperson.


JONAHANDCO.
CHAPTERI
HOWBERRYSTEPPEDINTOTHEBREACH,ANDJONAHCAMEFIRSTANDWASFIRST
SERVED.

"ShallImassageit?"saidBerry.Thesuggestionwasloudlycondemned.
"Right,"repliedmybrother-in-law."Thatreducesustofaith-healing.Onthe
command'One,'makeyourmindablank—thatshouldn'tbedifficult—realise
thattheagonyyouaren'tsufferingisimaginary,andclosebothlegs.One!Onthe
command'Two'——"
"Youcango,"Isaidwearily."Youcango.I'llwritetoyouwhenIwantyou.
Don'tbothertoleaveyouraddress."
"Buthowvulgar,"saidBerry."Howveryvulgar."Hepausedtoglanceathis
watch."Dearme!Half-pastten,andIhaven'thadmybeeryet."Hesteppedto
thedoor."Shouldthepainbecomeexcruciating,turnuponthestomachand
repeatKipling's'If.'Should——"
MysisterandJillfairlybundledhimoutofthedoorway.
Sittingbymysideuponthebed,Adèlelaidhercheekagainstmine.
"Isitanybetter,oldchap?"
"Thepain'spracticallystopped,"saidI,"thankHeaven.Puttingitup'sdonethat.
ButI'minforastiffleg,dear.Iknowthat.Notthatthatmattersreally,butit
meansIcan'tdrive."
Itwasunfortunatethat,beforeIhadbeenuponFrenchsoilforhalfanhour,I


shouldbekickedbyatestycab-horseofwhoseexistence—muchlessproximity
—thankstothepoorlightingofBoulogne,Ihadbeentotallyunaware.Ihad
beenkickeduponthesamekneein1916.OnthatoccasionIhadgonewithastiff
legforafortnight.Itseemedunpleasantlyprobablethathistorywouldwholly
repeatitself.
"Icantravel,"Icontinued."Ishallbeabletowalkwithastick,butIshan'tbe
abletodrive.And,asJonahcan'tdrivemorethanonecaratatime,Berry'llhave
totaketheother."
AtmywordsDaphnestarted,andJillgavealittlecry.
"B-but,Boy,he'sonlyhadthreelessons."
"Iknow,buthe'llgetthroughsomehow.I'llsitbyhisside.It'llshortenmylife,of
course,butwhatelsecanwedo?EvenifFitchwashere,there'snoroomfora
chauffeur.Andyou'dfindtowingtediousafterthefirstfivehundredmiles."
Withawhiteforefingertoherlips,mysisterregardedme.
"Iknowhe'sadisgrace,"shesaidslowly,"buthe's—he'stheonlyhusbandI've
got,Boy,and—hehashispoints,"sheconcludedsoftlywiththetenderestsmile.
Istretchedoutahandanddrewhertowardsme.
"Isn'themyonlybrother,darling?Isn'the—Berry?I'llseehecomestono
harm."
"Youreallythinkit'ssafe?"
"Perfectly.Foronething,Ishallbeabletoreachthehand-brakerathermore
easilythanhewill…."
Mysisterkissedme.
"Ilikethesoundofthat,"shesaidcheerfully.
ItwasthefifthdayofNovember,andallsixofuswereforthe
Pyrenees.


AmonthagoAdèleandI,new-wed,hadvisitedPau.Wehadfoundtheplace
good,conceivedtheideaofspendingthewinterthere,andwiredforinstructions.
Withinthreedayswehadreceivedfourletters.
ThefirstwasfromJill.
ADÈLEDARLING,
Howsweetofyoubothtothinkofit!We'reallsimplythrilled.Tryandgetone
withapalm-treeandsomewistaria.Wemissyouawfully.TellBoyNobbyis
splendidandsendshislove.Oh,andhesmellshiscoateveryday.Isn'tit
patheticPMyhairwon'tgolikeyours,butI'mgoingtotryagain.Allourloveto
youandyourHUSBAND,
JILL.

ThencameJonah's.
DEARBOY,
Whatabouttobacco?Youmightexaminethechancesofsmuggling.I'msending
youahundredcigarettesconspicuouslylabelledBENGER'SFOOD,toseewhat
happens.Isupposetheroadsareprettybad.Whataboutfishing?
Yours,JONAH.
(Isubsequentlyreceivedacurtcommunicationtotheeffectthattherewasa
package,addressedtomeandpurportingtocontain"Farine,"lyingatthelocal
custom-house.Adèlewashorrified.Iendeavouredtoreassureher,toreupthe
notice,andcursedmycousinsavagely.Whenthreedayshadpassed,andIwas
stillatliberty,Adèlepluckedupheart,but,fortherestofourvisit,uponsightof
agendarmeshewasapttobecomedistraitandlosethethreadofherdiscourse.)
AletterfromDaphnehadarrivedthenextday.


DEARESTADÈLE,
We'realldelightedwiththeidea.
Idon'tthinksixmonthswouldbetoolong.Iagreethatavillawouldbemuchthe
best,andwe'reperfectlycontenttoleavetheselectiontoyou.Youknowwhat
roomwemusthave.Isupposetwobathroomswouldbetoomuchtoexpect.
Aboutservants:wecanbringsome,butIthinkweoughttohaveaFrenchcook
todothemarketing,andperhapsoneothertokeephercompanyandhelpinthe
kitchenandhouse.Willyouseewhatyoucando?Plateandlinen,ofcourse,we
canbring.Bytheway,MadgeWilloughbytellsmethatlastyearinFrancethey
hadsomedifficultyaboutcoal;sotellBoytoseeifhecanordersomenow.All
this,ofcourse,ifyoucangetavilla.
Yourlovingsister,DAPHNE.
Berry'scamelast.
DEARBROTHER,
SoweshallourselveswinterthisyearatPau?Ehbien!Thereare,perhaps,
worseplaces.Atleast,thesunwillshine.Mafoi,tothinkthatuponyoudepend
allthearrangements.Tantpis!Mysuitemustfaceitselfsouthandadjointhe
bathroom.OtherwiseIcannotanswerformyhealth,or,forthematterofthat,
yourseither.
_Kindlyomitfromyournextletteranyreferencetothemountains."Impressions
ofthePyrenees"byafoolwhohasbeenmarriedforlessthanthreeweeksnot
onlyarevalueless,butmakemygorgerise—_uneélévationtrèsdangereuse.
Whichbringsmetoyourwife.Howistheshrew?TellherIhavesomesocksfor
hertodarnonherreturn.
Itwasthoughtfulofyoutoemphasisethefactthattheseasonofgreenfigs,toa
surfeitofwhichIsincerelyhopeyouwillsuccumb,willbeoverbeforeIreach
Pau.IaminclinedtothinkthatthefivehundredcigarsGeorgesentyouwillbe
overevenearlier.Besides,Ishallatonceconsoleanddistendmyselfwithfoie


gras.
WemusthaveaFrenchcook,ofcourse—averypriestessofGluttony—skilfulto
lurethetimidappetitefromthefastnessofsatiety.Enfin….
IaskmyselfwhyIshallhavemadethetroubletowritetoyou.Youhave,of
course,anopportunityuniqueofmakingamesswithacopperbottomofmylife
forsixmonths.Mais,monDieu,quevousserezpuni!
Jet'embrasse,vieilharicot,surlesdeuxjoues.
BERRY

P.S.—Thishereletterisatalisman,andshouldbewornupontheexteriorofthe
abdominalwallduringadrought.
Consideringthenatureofourholiday,AdèleandIdidnotdosobadly.Before
weleftPau,Ihadsignedtheleaseofanattractivevilla,standingwellinitsown
groundsandcommandingaprospectofthemountainsasfineascouldbe.Adèle
hadengagedaFrenchwomanandherdaughter,bothofwhomwerewellspoken
of,andhadbeenintheserviceofEnglishandAmericanfamiliesbeforetheWar.
Asupplyoffuelhadbeenreservedandvariousminorarrangementshadbeen
concluded.ErewewerebackatWhiteLadies,Octoberwasold.
IthadbeenJonah'sbelatedsuggestionthatourmigrationshouldbe
accomplishedbycar.ItwasJonah'senterprisethatreducedtheupheavalofour
plans,consequentupontheinstantadoptionofhisidea,toorderand
convenience.BythethirdofNovembereverythinghadbeenarranged.The
heavierstuffhadbeenembarkedforBordeaux;theservantswerereadyto
accompanytherestoftheluggagebywayofParis;theRollshadbeensold.In
thelatter'splacewehadpurchasedtwosmallercars—bothnew,bothofthesame
make,bothcoupés,bothpaintedblue.Indeed,butfortheirnumbers,whichwere
consecutive,wecouldnothavetoldthemapart.Eachseatedthreeinside—
comfortably,whilearespectablequantityofbaggagecouldbeeasilybestowedin
eachofthecapaciousboots.
Certainlymycousin'sstaffworkhadbeensuperb.
Inthecircumstancesitseemedhardlyfairthatuponthis,thefirstnightofour


venture,heshouldbefacedwiththelabourofshepherdingbothcars,singlehanded,firstclearoftheCustoms,andthen,onebyone,throughthecold,dark
streetswhichledfromthequaytothegarageofthehotel.
Asifshehadreadmythought—
"PoorJonah!"saidAdèlesuddenly."Iwonder——"
Aknockuponthedoorinterruptedher.
This,beingopened,admittedNobby,twoporters,ourluggage,twowaiters,a
largedishofsandwiches,somebeer,coffeeanditsaccessories,Jonah,and
finallyBerry.
"Youmustbetired,"saidthelatter."Let'ssitdown,shallI?"Hesankintoachair.
"Andhow'sthecomicpatella?Iwellremember,whenIwasinPlumbago,a
somewhatsimilaraccident.Alargecherry-colouredgibus,onitswrongside
——"
"Atthepresentmoment,"saidI,wrestlingwiththeSealyham'sadvances,"we're
moreconcernedwithyourfuturethanwithyourpast.It'stheBankofEnglandto
aha'p'orthoffigsthatto-morrowmorningIshallhaveastiffleg.Verygood."I
paused."Thosethreelessonsyou'vehad,"Iaddedcarelessly,"willcomein
useful."
Jonah,whowasfillingatumbler,startedviolentlyandspilledsomebeer.Then
heleanedagainstthewallandbegantolaughhelplessly.
ColdlyBerryregardedhim.
"Ifail,"hesaidstiffly,"toseethepointofyourmirth.Igatherthatitisproposed
toenjoymyservicesforthepropulsionofoneoftheautomobiles—that,while
youwillberesponsibleforthe'shoving'ofPing,thesedelicatehandswillflick
PongacrossFrance.Verygood.LetthePressbeinformed;callforththeballadmongers.Whatwouldhavebeenasomewhatsordiddrivewillbecomeawinged
flight,sublimeanddeathless."
"Itrustso,"saidJonah."Sixhundredmileswithafoolatthewheelisatall
order,but,ifyourcompanionssurvivethefirsttwodays,theyoughttopull
through.Trynottodomorethanfivepounds'worthofdamagetothegallon,


won'tyou?"
"Sourgrapes,"saidBerry."Theprofessionalrevilesthedistinguishedamateur."
"Seriously,"saidI,"it'snolaughingmatter."
"Iagree,"saidDaphne."You'llhavetojustcrawlalongalltheway.Afterall,
we'vegotsixmonthstogettherein.Promisemeyouwon'ttryandpass
anything."
"Ipromise,"repliedherhusband."Shouldanothervehicleapproach,
I'llstoptheengineandgoandhideinawoodtillit'sgone."
"Fool,"saidhiswife."Imeant'overtakeanything'ofcourse.YouknowIdid.
Promiseyouwon'ttryandrushpastthingsjusttogetinfrontofthem."
Itookupthecudgels.
"We'vegottogetalong,darling,andhecan'tgiveapromiselikethat.You
wouldn'twanttodofiftymilesbehindatraction-engine,wouldyou?Remember,
Ishallbebyhisside.Hemaybeholdingthewheel,butIshallbedrivingthecar.
Makehimpromisetoobeymeimplicitly,ifyoulike."
"That'sright,"saidJill."Youwill,won'tyou,Berry?"
ThelatterlookedatAdèle.
"Doyoualsosubscribetomyhumiliation?"hesaid.
Adèlesmiledandnodded.
"Unquestionably,"shesaid."BythetimeyougettoPau,you'llbeanexpert.And
thenyoucanteachme."
"Thepill-gilder,"saidmybrother-in-law."Well,well.Sofarasinmelies,I'lldo
asI'mtold.ButIinsistuponplainEnglish.I'mnotgoingtobesuddenlyyelledat
to'double-clutch,'or'feelthebrake,'or'closethethrottle,'orsomething.It
makesmewanttoburstintotears.Thatfellowwhowasteachingmeaskedme,
withoutanywarningandinthemiddleofsomesheep,whatIshoulddoifoneof
my'bigendsweretorunout.'IsaidIshouldconsultaspecialist,butthequestion


upsetme.Indirectly,italsoupsettheshepherd….Whichremindsme,Inever
knewahumanbeingcouldjumpsofar.Themomenthefelttheradiator…."
"Younevertoldusthis,"saidDaphnereproachfully."IfI'dknownyou'dknocked
somebodydown——"
"Ineverknockedhimdown,"saidBerry."Itellyouhejumped….Westopped,
ofcourse,andexplained.Hewasalittlenettledatfirst,butwepartedonthebest
ofterms."
"It'sallverywell,"saidmysister,"butI'dnoidea——"
"Everydogmusthavehisbite,"saidI,laughing."Hewon'tdoitagain.Andnow,
sinceI'mtethered,willsomebodygivemesomebeer?"
Thenandtheresupperwasconsumed.
Avigorousdiscussionoftheturneventshadtaken,andtheadvancementand
scrutinyofavarietyofhighspeculationsregardingtheprobablestyleofour
progresstoPau,prevaileduntilpasttwelveo'clock,butatlengththeotherswere
evicted,andAdèle,Nobby,andIwereabletoprepareforthenight.
OutoftheluxurioussilenceofahotbathAdèle'svoicecamefloatingintothe
bedroom.
"Boy!"
"Yes,lady?"
"IwishIwasgoingwithyouto-morrowinsteadofDaphne."
"SodoI,"Isaidheartily.
Adèlesighed.Then—
"Itcan'tbehelped,"shesaid."Ithink,onthewhole,shewouldhaveworried
morethanIshall."
"Notadoubtofit,"saidIcheerfully."Asshesaid,Berry'stheonlyhusbandshe's
got."


Adèlechoked.Presently—
"Therealreason,"shesaid,"isbecauseshemistrustsherhusbandevenmore
thanItrustmine."
WhenIhadworkedthisout—
"Aha,"Isaidpleasedly.
"Butthen,ofcourse,"saidAdèle,"she'sbeenmarriedmuchlonger."
*****
WithRouenasourobjective,weleftBoulognethenextmorningatteno'clock.
Tospeakmoreaccurately,weleftthehotelatteno'clockandBoulogneitself
somefortyminuteslater.Thenegotiationofanup-gradientleadingoutofthe
townwasresponsibleforthedelay.
MysisterandIshallrememberthathillsolongaswelive.So,Iimagine,will
Berry.Wewerehalf-wayupwhenhestoppedtheengineforthefirsttime.We
werestillhalf-wayupwhenhestoppeditfortheeighthtime.Indeed,itwasat
thisjuncturethatIsuggestedthatheshouldrestfromhislaboursandsmokea
cigarette.
Mybrother-in-lawshookhishead.
"ShallIslidedownbackwardsandbeginagain?"heinquired.
"No,thanks,"saidI."Ihaveafoolishpreferenceforfacingdeath."
"D'youthinkwecouldpushitup?"saidDaphne.
"Frankly,"saidI,"Idon't.Yousee,sheweighsoveratonwithouttheluggage."
Berryclearedhisthroat.
"Iamnot,"hesaid,"goingthroughthefarceofaskingwhatIdowrong,because
Iknowtheanswer.It'snottherightone,butyouseemincapableofgivingany
other."
"Iam,"saidI.


"Well,don'tsayit,"saidBerry,"because,ifyoudo,Ishallscream.Nomanborn
ofwomancouldletinthatclutchmoreslowly,andyetyousayit'stoofast.The
truthis,there'ssomethingwrongwiththecar."
"Theresoonwillbe,"Iretorted."Thestarterwillfail.Theneverytimeyoustop
theengineyou'llhavetogetoutandcrank.That'llmakeyouthink."
"'Makemethink'?"yelledBerry."D'youthinkIhaven'tbeenthinking?D'you
thinkI'mnotthinkingnow?Haven'tIalmostburstmybrainswiththinking?"
Daphnebegantolaughhelplessly."That'sright,"addedherhusbandsavagely.
"Seethehumorousside.Imaygomadanyminute,butdon'tletthatstopyou."
And,withthat,hesethisfootupontheself-starter.
Whenhehadstoppedtheengineanotherthreetimes,heappliedthehand-brake
withunnecessaryviolence,sankbackinhisseat,andfoldedhishands.
MysisterandIclungtooneanotherinanagonyofstifledmirth.
Berryclosedhiseyes.
"Mywork,"hesaidquietly,"isover.Inowseethatitisordainedthatweshall
notleavethisspot.There'sprobablyanangelinthewaywithadrawnsword,
andthecarseesit,althoughwecan't.Anyway,I'mnotgoingtofightagainst
Fate.Andnowdon'tspeaktome.I'mgoingtodwellonbullock-cartsandgoatchaisesandotherhorse-drawnvehicles.Ishan'tlastmanyminutes,andIshould
liketodieinpeace."
Withaswiftrush,Pingdrewupalongside.FromitsinteriorAdèle,
Jill,NobbyandJonahpeeredatusexcitedly.
"Hullo!"saidthelatter."What'sup?"
"Goaway,"saidBerry."Driveontoyourdoom.Anapparitionhasappearedto
us,warningusnottoproceed.Itwasquitedefiniteaboutit.Good-bye."
"Jonah,oldchap,"saidI,"I'mafraidyou'reforit.Unlessyoutakeusup,we
shallbeheretillnightfall."
Withagroanmycousinopenedhisdooranddescendedintotheroad….


Oneminutelaterwewereatthetopofthehill.
"Andnow,"saidDaphne,withtheMichelinGuideopenuponherknees,"now
forMontreuil."
Whenfiveminuteshadpassedandmybrother-in-lawwasbreathingthroughhis
noselessaudibly,Ilightedacigaretteandventuredtolookaboutme.
Itwascertainlyafinehighwaythatwewereusing.Broad,direct,smoothbeyond
allexpectation,itlaylikeaclean-cutsashuponthecountryside,ripplingaway
intothedistanceasthoughitwereindeedthatlong,longlanethathathno
turning.Presentlyacurvewouldcometosavethefaceoftheproverb,butthe
bendswerefewinnumber,and,asageneralrule,didlittlemorethanswitchthe
roadapointortwotoeastorwest,as,themoodtookthem.Therewaslittle
traffic,andthesurfacewasdry.
Somethinghadbeensaidaboutthetwocarskeepingtogether,butIwasnot
surprisedwhenJonahpasseduslikeawhirlwindbeforewewerehalf-wayto
Samer.Heexplainedafterwardsthathehadstuckitaslongashecould,butthat
toholdacardowntotwentyonaroadlikeaprivateracing-trackwasworsethan
"pulling."
FiredbyJonah'sexample,Berrylaidholdofthewheel,andwetookthenexthill
attwenty-five.
Itwasabrilliantday,butthecoldwasintense,andIthinkwewereallgladthat
Pongwasacloseablecar.ThatWinter'sreignhadbegunwasmostapparent.
Therewasableaklookuponthecountry'sface:birch-rodsthathadbeenpoplars
madeusgauntavenues:hereandtherethecoldjewelleryoffrostwassparkling.
Ifelltowonderinghowfarsouthwemustgotofinditwarmer.
PresentlywecametoMontreuil.
Asweenteredthelittletown—
"This,"saidI,"wastheheadquartersoftheBritishExpeditionary
Force.Frombehindthesewalls——"
"Don'ttalk,"saidDaphne,"orIshallmakeamistake.Roundtothelefthere.
Waitaminute.No,that'sright.Andstraighton.WhatablessingthisMichelin


Guideis!Nottoofast,Berry.Straighton.ThisoughttobeGrandeRue."She
peeredoutofthewindow."Yes,that'sright.Now,inaminuteyouturntothe
left…."
Afterall,Ireflected,wehadtogettoRouen,anditwaspastmid-day.
WehadswornnottolunchbeforewehadpassedAbbeville,so,sincewehad
breakfastedbetimes,Ifurtivelyencouragedmybrother-in-lawto"putheralong."
Hisresponsewastoovertakeandpassalorryuponthewrongside,drivean
unsuspectingbicyclistintoaditchandswerve,likeadrunkensea-gull,toavoida
deadfowl.Asweweregoingoverfortyitwasalloverbeforeweknewwhere
wewere,buttheimpressionofimpendingdeathwasvividandlasting,and
nearlyaminutehadelapsedbeforeIcouldtrustmyvoice.
"Arewestillalive?"breathedDaphne."I'mafraidtoopenmyeyes."
"Ithinkwemustbe,"saidI."Atleast,I'mstillthirsty,ifthat'sanythingtogo
by."
"Iconsider,"saidBerry,"thatthewayinwhichIextricatedusfromthatimpasse
waslittleshortofmasterly.Thatcyclistoughttoremembermeinhisprayers."
"Idon'twanttodiscourageyou,"Isaidgrimly,"butIshouldn'tbankonit."
TheplanofAbbeville,printedintheGuide,wasassimpletoreadasweremy
sister'sdirectionstofollow.Atacriticalmoment,however,Berryfeltunableto
turntotheright.
"Thetroubleis,"heexplained,asweplungedintoamazeofbackstreets,"I've
onlygottwohandsandfeet.Tohavegotroundthatcorner,Ishouldhavehadto
takeouttheclutch,gointothird,releasethebrake,putoutahand,accelerate,
soundtheclarionandputthewheeloversimultaneously.Now,withsevenlimbs
Icouldhavedoneit.Witheight,Icouldalsohavescratchedmyself—an
operation,Imaysay,whichcanbenolongerpostponed."Hedrewupbeforea
charcuterieandmoppedhisface."Whatabeautifulbunchofsausages!"he
added."Shallwegetsome?Ord'youthinkthey'dbedeadbeforewegetto
Rouen?"
IncontemptuoussilenceDaphneloweredherwindow,accostedthefirstpasserby,andaskedtheway.AnadmissionthatitwaspossibletoreachtheNeufchatel


roadwithoutactuallyretracingourstepswasatlengthextracted,and,aftera
prolongedstudyoftheplan,mysistergavethewordtoproceed.Savethatwe
twicemountedthepavement,grazedawaggon,andliterallybrushedanurchin
outoftheway,ouremergencefromAbbevillewasaccomplishedwithoutfurther
incident.
Withtheknowledgethat,barringaccidents,weoughttoreachRouenbyhalfpastfive,weventuredtodevourawaysidelunchsometenminuteslater.
ItwasafterNeufchatelthatthesurfaceofthegreatgreyroadarguedneglectin
nouncertainterms.Formileaftermile,fatbullsofBasan,intheshapeof
giganticpot-holes,gapedthreateninglyuponus.Berry,whowasdrivingmuch
better,didallthathecould,butonlyatrick-cyclistcouldhavepickedhisway
betweenthem.Thecarhiccoughedalongpiteously….
Withtheapproachofdarkness,drivingbecameaburden,beingdrivena
wearinessoftheflesh,andwewereallthankfulwhenwesliddownapavedhill
intotheCathedralCityand,presently,pastthegreatchurchandontothevery
bankoftheRiverSeine.
Theothershadbeenawaitingusfornearlytwohours.
*****
"Withthissun,"saidAdèle,"theyoughttobeglorious."
ImpiouslyIreflectedthatBerrywasalmostcertainlyenjoyinghisbreakfastin
bed.
"Iexpecttheywill,"Isaidabstractedly.
Adèleslidanarmthroughmine.
"It'sverysweetofyoutocomewithme,Boy."
Istoodstillandlookedather.
"You'reawonderfulchild,"Isaid."Whenyouspeaklikethat,Iwanttokick
myselfandburstintosongsimultaneously.Isupposethat'sLove."


"Iexpectso,"saidAdèlemischievously.
FiveminuteslaterwewerestandingbeneaththeshadowofChartres
Cathedral.
Wehadcome,mywifeandI,toseethewindows.Thedaybeforehadbeendull,
andwhatlighttherewashadbeenfailingwhenwehadvisitedtheshrine.Today,however,wasallglorious.
Ifwehadrisenearly,wehadourreward.
Theplacehadbecomeagallerywithjewelsforpictures.Outofthesombre
depthstheagedwebsofmagicglowedwiththematchlessflushofprecious
stones.Fromeverysidecolourswehadnotdreamedofenrichedoureyes.To
makethegreatwestrose,theworldherselfmighthavebeenspoiledofhergems.
Lookinguponthismystery,nomancanwonderthattheartislost.Clearlyit
wentthewayofBabel.ForofsuchistheKingdomofHeaven.Windowsthesun
waslightingwereatoncemorerealandmoremagnificent.Crimsonsandblues,
purplesandgreens,yellowsandviolets,blazedwiththatancientmajestywhich
onlylivesto-dayinthepealofagreatorgan,thecallofasilvertrumpet,orthe
proudrollofdrums.Outofthegorgeouspageantmote-riddenraysissuedlike
messengers,tobadgethecoldgreystonewithtenderimagesandsetasmile
uponthefaceofstateliness."Suchold,oldpanes,"sayssomeone."Sixhundred
yearsandmore.Howwonderful!"Pardonme,butIhaveseenthem,anditisnot
wonderfulatall.Beneaththeirspell,centuriesshrinktoafternoons.The
windowsofChartresareaboveTime.TheyarethepeepholesofImmortality.
Wereturnedtothehotelintimetocontributetoaheatedargumentuponthe
subjectoftipping.
"It'sperfectlysimple,"saidBerry."Youthinkofwhatyouwouldhatetohave
givenbeforetheWar,doubleit,addfortypercent.fortheincreasedcostof
living,halveitbecauseoftheExchange,askthemwhetherthey'dlikeitinnotes
orgold,andpaytheminpostage-stamps."
"Iwanttoknow,"saidDaphne,"whattogivethechambermaid."
"Eightfrancsfifty.That'stheequivalentofhalf-a-crownbeforethe
War."


"Nonsense,"saidhiswife."Fivefrancsisheaps,andyouknowit."
"Ithinkit'stoomuch,"saidBerry."Giveheroneinstead,andtellheryou've
hiddentherestinthebathroomandthat,whenshetouchesthetowel-rail,she's
warm."
"Asamatteroffact,"saidJilluneasily,"it'sallover.I'vedoneit."
Therewasadreadfulsilence.Then—
"Tellustheworst,"saidI,"andgetitover."
"I'm—I'mafraidIgaveherratheralot,butshehadaniceface."
"Shehadanicestep,"saidBerry."Inoticedthataboutfivethismorning."
"Howmuch?"saidIrelentlessly.
Jilllookedroundguiltily.
"Igaveherfifty,"shesaid.
Therewasashriekoflaughter.
"Didshefaint?"saidBerry."Ortrytoeatgrass,oranything?"
GravelyJillshookherhead.
"Shetalkedagreatdeal—veryfast.Icouldn'tfollowher.Andthensheturned
awayandbegantocry.IwassogladI'ddoneit."
"Soareweall,"saidDaphne.
Shewassupportedheartily.
Jonahlookedathiswatch.
"Isuggest,"hesaid,"thatwestartateleven,thenweshallfetchupintimetosee
thecathedral."
"HowfarisTours?"saidDaphne.


"Eighty-sixmiles."
"Let'skeeptogetherto-day,"saidJill."It'smuchmorefun."
Herbrothershookhishead.
"Idon'twant,"hesaid,"tobearrestedforloitering."
"Don'tyouworry,"saidBerry."Wewouldn'tbeseenwithyou."
Jonahsighed.
"Wherethere'sawillthere'saway,"hemurmured.
"More,"saidBerry."Weregardyouratherlessthanthedustbeneathour
detachablewheels.Youpollutetheroadwithyourhoghood.Isupposeit'snouse
askingyoutokeepbehindus."
"Nonewhatever,"repliedourcousin."Whyshouldwe?"
"Well,"saidBerry,"supposingatirediscoversthatI'mdrivingandburstswith
pride,who'sgoingtochangethewheel?"
Jonahstifledayawn.
"Youcan'thaveitbothways,"hesaid."Ifwe'retowarnpeoplenottoshootat
you,wemustbeinfront."
Berryregardedhisfinger-nails.
"Perhapsyou'reright,"hesaid."Thinkofmewhenyougetyourthirdpuncture,
won'tyou?Andrememberthatmyheartgoesouttoyouinyourtiretroubleand
thatyouhaveallmylove.Thenyouwon'tsweatsomuch."
HalfanhourlaterPongstormedoutofthegarageandintothePlacedesEpars.
Adèle'swishhadbeengranted,andshewastravellingwithBerryandmeinstead
ofwithJonah.
ForthisneworderofbattleNobbywassolelyresponsible.Uponthefirstday's
journeytheterrierhadwhinedallthewaytoRouenbecausehehadwantedtobe


withme.Asoneofhisaudience,Jonahhadbeenoffensivelyoutspoken
regardingthispredilection.Uponthefollowingdaythedog'sdesirehadbeen
gratified,whereuponhehadwhinedallthewaytoChartresbecausehewasapart
fromAdèle.Commentinguponthisunsuspecteddevotion,Berryhadbeenquite
asoutspokenasJonah,andmuchmoreoffensive.Naturally,towithstandsuch
importunitywasoutofthequestion,and,sinceitwasimpossibleformetoleave
Berry,thelineofleastresistancewasfollowed,andDaphneandAdèlechanged
places.
OurwayoutofChartreswasshortandsimple,and,withtheexceptionof
temporarilyobstructingtwotramsbytheartlessexpedientofremaining
motionlessuponthepermanentway,Pongemergedfromthecitywithoutastain
uponhischaracter.
TheVendômeroadlookedpromisingandprovedexcellent.Verysoonwewere
flying.Forallthat,JonahovertookusaswewerenearingBonneval….
Itwassomethirtyminuteslater,aswewereleavingChâteaudun,thatasourfacedgendarmewithabluenosemotionedtoustostop.Standinguponthenear
pavement,thefellowwasatonceconversingwithapostmanandlooking
malevolentlyinourdirection.Ithinkweallscentedmischief.
"Whatcanhewant?"growledBerry,ashebroughtthecartoastandstill.
"He'sprobablybeingofficious,"saidI,gettingourpapersready."We're
strangers,andhe'sinabadhumour.Consequently,he'sgoingtoscrutiniseour
triptyque,passports,passesandcertificates,toseeifhecanaccuseusof
anything.Happilythey'reallinorder,sohe'llbedisappointed.Whenhe's
thoroughlysatisfiedthathecanbringnochargeagainstus,he'llorderusto
proceed."
"He'stakinghistimeaboutit,"observedmybrother-in-law.
Ilookedupfromthedocuments.
Mygentlemanwasstilltalkingtothepostman,whilehispig'seyeswerestill
surveyingthecar.Fromhiscompanion'sdemeanour,heseemedtobewhetting
hiswitatourexpense.
"Thisisintolerable,"saidI."Askhimwhathewants,lady."


Adèleleanedforwardandputherheadoutofthewindow.
"Ithinkyouwishedustostop,Monsieur?"
Thegendarmewavedhishand.
"Wait,"hesaidinsolently.
Thepostmansniggeredshamefacedly.
Adèlesankbackinherseat,hercheeksflaming.
InavoicetremblingwithpassionIconjuredBerrytoproceed.
Themomentthecarmoved,theofficialsprangforward,gesticulatingfuriously.
Aswepassedhim,Iputoutmyhead.
"Nowit'sourturn,"Isaidwarmly,"tomakethepostmanlaugh."
Fromthehoarseyellswhichfollowedus,itwasclearthatwehadleftthefellow
besidehimselfwithrage.Lookingbackthroughthelittlewindow,Icouldsee
himdancing.Suddenlyhestopped,peeredafterus,andthenswungaboutand
ranridiculouslyupthestreet.
"Blasthim,he'sgoingtotelephone!"saidI."Where'sthemap?"
TogetherAdèleandIporedoverthesections.
"If,"saidBerry,"you'regoingtodirectmetoturnoff,forHeaven'ssakebequick
aboutit.AtthepresentmomentI'mjustblindingalongintotheblueand,forallI
know,anoversizedhornets'nest.Ofcoursetheymayn'tstingwhenthere'san'r'
inthemonth,butthentheymightn'tknowthat.OramIthinkingofoysters?"
"They'llstopusatVendôme,"saidI."Notbefore.Rightoh!Wemustturntothe
rightatCloyesandmakeforSt.Calais.WecangetroundtoToursthatway.It'll
takeusabouttwentymilesoutofourway,but——"
"Yes,andwhenwedon'tshowupatVendôme,they'llwiretoCalais.
Seriously,asShakespearesays,I'mallofadoo-dah."


ThatweshouldbestoppedatSt.Calaiswasnotlikely,andIsaidasmuch.What
didworryme,becauseitwasfarmoreprobable,wasthatwhentheydrewblank
atVendôme,theauthoritieswouldtelephonetoTours.Anyapprehension,
however,regardingourreceptionatthatcitywassoonmercifully,unmercifully,
andsomewhatparadoxicallyovershadowedbyamoreinstantanxietylestwe
shouldneverarrivethereatall.Fromthemomentweleftthemainroad,the
obstaclesintheshapeofunchartedroadsandvillages,pavements,cattle,goats,a
horsefair,andfinallyaseriesofappallinggradients,opposedourpassage.All
thingsconsidered,mybrother-in-lawdroveadmirably.Butitwasabadbusiness,
and,whilemywifeandBerrywereverystaunch,IthinkweallregrettedthatI
hadbeensohighwithBlueNose.
NighthadfallenereweslunkintoTours.
Fullyexpectingtofindthattheothershadwell-nighgivenusup,wewere
astoundedtolearnatthehotelthatPinghadnotyetarrived.Indeed,wehad
finisheddinner,andweredebatingseriouslywhetherweshouldtakeahiredcar
andgotoseekthem,whentherewasaflurryofstepsinthecorridor,Nobby
rushedtothedoor,andthenextmomentDaphneandJillburstintotheroom.
"Mydarling,"saidBerry,advancing,"whereonearthhaveyoubeen?"
Mysisterputherarmsabouthisneckandlookedintohiseyes.
"Kissme'Good-bye,'"shesaid."Jonah'sjustcoming."
Herhusbandstaredather.Then—
"Isitasbadasallthat?"hesaid."Dear,dear.Andhowdidhegetthebooze?"
Somebodyclearedhisthroat.
Iswunground,toseeJonahregardingus.
"Youthreebeauties,"hesaid."FourwithNobby."
"Butwhatdoyoumean?"saidAdèle."Whathavewedone?"
"Done?"criedJonah."Done?Whered'youthinkwe'vebeen?"


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×