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chapter ten
 It was quite late in fact it was almost eight when Selia came back and tho she knew she had done no wrong she felt a little sly as she quickly slipped up the hotel stares, gazed on by the usual knot of folk who hung around to get a peep of her and Harold in the hotel lounge. She panted into the eating apartment. No one. So she popped up into her room where Scrogg sat eating a sandwich, and got off her white which was now dashed, and Scrogg fluffed her hair out archly, and put her into a evening gown, making her tuck her vest straps under her arms and expose a great deal too much or so she felt but Scrogg said no it had to be so. Scrogg then told her one or two things which 100opened her eyes. But she affected to hear nothing altho really it soaked in.
 
After a gaze in the mirror which pleased her as she looked quite like a lady by now with waved hair and a sleek traily gown of black with lace streamers hanging, and all her neck and front and half her back bare, she sailed from the room as Scrogg told her a rather diffrent walk is needed in the evening much more snake-like. Entering once more the eating-apartment, she found the white-hatted chef alone, altho’ the table was set.
 
“Where is Mr. Withersq” said she.
 
“I am afraid he is not well” the chief replied “he entered a little while ago, with pale look, and went away again.”
 
Like a hen robbed of her young Selia darted to the room of her Harold. There spread on the imense wooden bed with four posts, lay her devestated Harold, and the blinds were down.
 
101 Tiptoeing in “What is it, what is it” she cried, “Have you written too much?”
 
“It is not that,” came the mournful voice of our hero from the bed, “it is worse. I am a ruined man.”
 
“Oh, Harold!” gasped the distracted Selia in dismay.
 
A great groan burst from his brest. Together they sobbed a while.
 
“Come” said Selia at last “I command you tell me what it is. Are you married in secret?”
 
“No, not so bad as that perhaps, because it can be cured.”
 
“Are you going to prison? Are you mad?”
 
“No, no” sniveled the wretched man. “I cant tell you.”
 
“Dont say the money has gone!”
 
“Ah no” cried he of a sudden sitting up at the mere idear, “ah no! I think we shall yet win, but it is a bad mess I am in.”
 
And so he sobbed out his sad story.
 
102 During the while she had been away that day who should Harold meet but the head poet of the limerick class from the school of poetry and they had been to have a quick one together. Falling into talk as men will they had begun to exchange the latest tales, some not too nice, and indeed most of what Harold had brought with him from the lower world but he thought that the limerick poet would not mind as poets always like low life. He had told him a couple of good ones, and as it happened they were both about sport.
 
“I thought something was up” moaned the unhappy man, “for he gave me a very funny look. And as we were to come out, as we stood with our toothpicks on the step, he made a fishy excuse to pop off for a minute. When he came back he said there was a man he would like me to meet, so we went in the new car. It was a house out of Oxford St., which I thought strange, still as I was having a sigar 103I thought perhaps it was that made me a bit nervy. Imagine my woe when we entered and I then found myself alone and defenseless with ... what do you think?”
 
“Lie down dear Harold and dont get excited” Selia said altho she was all agogg herself. “What was it? Cardsharpers?”
 
“Oh, no” sighed he, “it was the smell that told me almost before I was within, like floor-polish and cough-drops mixed and a bit of gin thrown in for sport. No, it was a doctors, one of the costly kind with carpets on the floor and carving instruments in glass cases.”
 
“A doctor!” screamed Selia. “Have you then an ilness?” And she rapidly mopped odor cologne on to his brow cuasing him to sneze which eased him.
 
“Well it is a kind of ilness but very odd and you will not catch it” he said. “And I think it was a trick tho’ meant well by the limerick-poet as you will see.”
 
104 “How so?” said Selia very bold for she would have tore his enemys in half.
 
“Well to cut a long story short, I have got a kind of hidden passion which is nawing at my heart, and that is why I cannot write any more poems.”
 
“What did the Doctor do to you” urged she eager to get to the point and hear the worst, “did he operate?”
 
“No he was very kind” said Harold propping himself up a bit against his pillows “and it took me a long while to get the hang of it all. He told me I have been under a strane and feared I was ill and wished to ask me a few questions. Said he leaning back and making cats cradles on his pink fingers, “have you anything on your mind?”
 
So of course says I, “No.”
 
At that he shot me a serpentine glance.
 
“Now my good man” said he “just let your mind ease out and answer me at random.”
 
105 “As I was feeling a bit mad I thought it best to humor him as I feared otherwise I might give him a smartish tap for you know what I am when roused.”
 
“Bat” said he to me, simple like.
 
“Ball” said I to humour him.
 
“Out” says he cunning.
 
“Over” says I to catch him, and this got him for a moment. Then he dartled to a little exercise book and made a mark in it on some squares, and rang his bell at which a seceretary came in, and mutered with her, till she went out. A nice girl in a white blouse too.”
 
“Ha” said Selia as tho’ stung. “But what were they at.”
 
“Well dearest you see it is a new disease. The doctors being hard up between you and me and the gatepost because the herd are not dying off so much as they did.”
 
“No I’ve noticed that, there’s hardly ever a nice funeral nowadays,” said Selia.
 
106 “Well and what with that and having no more apendicles to cut out they had to be at something fresh,” he continued.
 
“I see” said Selia who as will have been noticed had growed almost meek in these latter days and sat merely stroking her Harolds hand in pity.
 
“So now they declare in their bold way that all clever folk have a brane sickness on the lines of a drain stoppage (if you will excuse me) and he was artful-like pumping me to try and find out what had stopped the drain.”
 
“Oh!” With a yell Selia lept from the bed.
 
“Calm yourself Selia” said her Harold, preparing to rise from his couch, “for you know what bad form it is to show emoshun. And all these adventers of mine are very smart indeed.”
 
“Smart? How smart?” snapt she quivering with distres partly from the snub she had had.
 
“Sit down dear Selia” he said with a cool 107drorl, “and I will tell you how for you know we must let nothing get past us even if it is only a sickness.”
 
“Too true” she said subsidising somewhat and becoming seated though at a distance.
 
“Well I think this must be very like the latest craze of all” he said passing his hand over his brow and settling again on the bed, “though come too soon in my career as it is more fitted to those who are played out whereas I am only at the post as you might say and in my first flush. Still there is no saying but it is smart.”
 
So Selia came and sat again on the bed’s side while her love got it off his chest which is always a good thing even in high life.
 
“Well this old meddiko kept on at me and on and on and I began to get sleepy because it was hot and there was a blue-bottel buzzing. I do not know what I said but he was very interested. Suddenly he sprang up. ‘Eureka’ 108he cried, and began pacing up and down and down and up till I went quite swimmy. So then it all came out.”
 
“And what was it” inquired Selia all agag.
 
“It was cricket.”
 
“What was?”
 
“My sickness.”
 
“How so? You were sick with cricket. What cricket? Come do not play any tosh with me.”
 
“It is no tosh” said Harold simpering a little with pride. “I am the first case. Of course between you and me it is somewhat tosh. Still they are writing a article on me called ‘Sport and Poetry: a Sycoanalsis of Genius’ to prove that I am suffering from a sort of squashed wish to play cricket just as Shakespere suffered because his wish to play tennis was squashed as he had not got the price.”
 
109 “Oh I see” said Selia which she now knew whas a useful thing to say.
 
“Dont interrupt” said he giving himself one or two airs “it is all due to the squashed wish. It is quite true I have said to myself lately that now the summer is come it is a pity I am a rich man because I cannot now very well play with the boys as I did, and I dreamt a bit about the good old times, and thought of the ball I left in a box under my bed. Still, that was all it was and we ought to be glad it was no worse for it seems some men suffer from squashed wishes of a kind it would little befit me to tell you of.”
 
“Go on” said she “I’ve got you now. I read of it in the Sunday papers.”
 
“Indeed” quoth he “I did not know you were so advansed. It all goes to show how truly I chose you for mine own dearest Selia.”
 
110 “Hity tity” quoth she somewhat nettled, “not so much stiffness even if you have a squashed wish. You need not be so uppish towards me.”
 
“Indeed must I” corrected he “for if we are not stiff in private we may make a slip before the world, and that will do no one any good, will it?”
 
Springing from the bed now, he went to the mirror and administered a little patting to his attire to settle himself after being couched, then pressing a kiss on the nape of his dear, he prepared to lead her from the room.
 
“Come, fair” said he, this he had overheard at the first party and kept for use “we have lobster for dinner, so let’s make a hop.”
 
They entered the dining-apartment where the chef had patiently waited keeping the lobster on ice till needed, and they sat down and tucked in, pondering within a while the new sickness of Harold.
 
111 “And is your squashed wish cured now?” said she at last, wondering what form it might take.
 
“Yes thank you it is greatly better, for it is only a matter of letting the back come to the front as in telling the doctor of it, and then all is eased.”
 
“I see” said she “and I am glad you will not play cricket for of a truth I think it is a little common.”
 
And as they had now finished they wiped their mouths, and he helped her rise, and they went by their blue car to the opera where Mr. Withersq had retained a box.
 
The opera of course was already on, and as they were both more than a little tired and could not chatter as much as the fashion required Mr. Withersq hired a small gramafone from the box office which they plaiced on the ground between their two gold chairs in their regal box which was trimmed with red plush, 112and this they put on from time to time in the dull parts, which drew much attention as it could be quite clearly heard all over the theater, during the softer parts of the music, which is the idea and much simpler than having to keep on jawing. Because it is not smart to sit silent at the opera.
 
And when the hero had killed the heroine and sang a long song over her corpse, they got up and went out and the crowd clapped a good bit to see them go. And so they went home to bed.
 


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