Mr Galloway was a good trencherman. At a very early date he had
realized that a man who wishes to make satisfactory braces must keep
his strength up. He wanted a good deal here below, and he wanted it
warm and well cooked. It was, therefore, not immediately that his
dinner with Rollo became a feast of reason and a flow of soul. Indeed,
the two revellers had lighted their cigars before the elder gave forth
any remark that was not purely gastronomic.
When he did jerk the conversation up on to a higher plane, he jerked it
hard. He sent it shooting into the realms of the soulful with a whiz.
'Rollo,' he said, blowing a smoke-ring, 'do you believe in affinities?'
Rollo, in the act of sipping a liqueur brandy, lowered his glass in
surprise. His head was singing slightly as the result of some rather
spirited Bollinger (extra sec), and he wondered if he had heard aright.
Mr Galloway continued, his voice rising as he spoke.
'My boy,' he said, 'I feel young tonight for the first time in years.
And, hang it, I'm not so old! Men have married at twice my age.'
Strictly speaking, this was incorrect, unless one counted Methuselah;
but perhaps Mr Galloway spoke figuratively.
'Three times my age,' he proceeded, leaning back and blowing smoke,
thereby missing his nephew's agitated start. 'Four times my age. Five
times my age. Six--'
He pulled himself together in some confusion. A generous wine, that
Bollinger. He must be careful.
'Are you--you aren't--are you--' Rollo paused. 'Are you thinking of
getting married, uncle?'
Mr Galloway's gaze was still on the ceiling.
'A great deal of nonsense,' he yelled severely, 'is talked about men
lowering themselves by marrying actresses. I was a guest at a
supper-party last night at which an actress was present. And a more
charming, sensible girl I never wish to meet. Not one of your silly,
brainless chits who don't know the difference between lobster Newburg
and canvas-back duck, and who prefer sweet champagne to dry. No, sir!
Not one of your mincing, affected kind who pretend they never touch
anything except a spoonful of cold consomme. No, sir! Good, healthy
appetite. Enjoyed her food, and knew why she was enjoying it. I give
you my word, my boy, until I met her I didn't know a woman existed who
could talk so damned sensibly about a bavaroise au rhum.'
He suspended his striking tribute in order to relight his cigar.
'She can use a chafing-dish,' he resumed, his voice vibrating with
emotion. 'She told me so. She said she could fix chicken so that a man
would leave home for it.' He paused, momentarily overcome. 'And
Welsh rarebits,' he added reverently.
He puffed hard at his cigar.
'Yes,' he said. 'Welsh rarebits, too. And because,' he shouted
wrathfully, 'because, forsooth, she earns an honest living by singing
in the chorus of a comic opera, a whole bunch of snivelling idiots will
say I have made a fool of myself. Let them!' he bellowed, sitting up
and glaring at Rollo. 'I say, let them! I'll show them that Andrew
Galloway is not the man to--to--is not the man--' He stopped. 'Well,
anyway, I'll show them,' he concluded rather lamely.
Rollo eyed him with fallen jaw. His liqueur had turned to wormwood. He
had been fearing this for years. You may drive out Nature with a
pitchfork, but she will return. Blood will tell. Once a Pittsburgh
millionaire, always a Pittsburgh millionaire. For eleven years his
uncle had fought against his natural propensities, with apparent
success; but Nature had won in the end. His words could have no other
meaning. Andrew Galloway was going to marry a chorus-girl.
Mr Galloway rapped on the table, and ordered another kummel.
'Marguerite Parker!' he roared dreamily, rolling the words round his
tongue, like port.
'Marguerite Parker!' exclaimed Rollo, bounding in his chair.
His uncle met his eye sternly.
'That was the name I said. You seem to know it. Perhaps you have
something to say against the lady. Eh? Have you? Have you? I warn you
to be careful. What do you know of Miss Parker? Speak!'
'Er--no, no. Oh, no! I just know the name, that's all. I--I rather
think I met her once at lunch. Or it may have been somebody else. I
know it was someone.'
He plunged at his glass. His uncle's gaze relaxed its austerity.
'I hope you will meet her many more times at lunch, my boy. I hope you
will come to look upon her as a second mother.'
This was where Rollo asked if he might have a little more brandy.
When the restorative came he drank it at a gulp; then looked across at
his uncle. The great man still mused.
'Er--when is it to be?' asked Rollo. 'The wedding, and all that?'
'Hardly before the Fall, I think. No, not before the Fall. I shall be
busy till then. I have taken no steps in the matter yet.'
'No steps? You mean--? Haven't you--haven't you proposed?'
'I have had no time. Be reasonable, my boy; be reasonable.'
'Oh!' said Rollo.
He breathed a long breath. A suspicion of silver lining had become
visible through the clouds.
'I doubt,' said Mr Galloway, meditatively, 'if I shall be able to find
time till the end of the week. I am very busy. Let me see. Tomorrow?
No. Meeting of the shareholders. Thursday? Friday? No. No, it will have
to stand over till Saturday. After Saturday's matinee. That will do
- Антон Моргунов
- orange protagonist
- Анна К. ( aka sugar)
- Олик Су
- Алексей Маркин