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Конкурс переводов - Тур 58 (сентябрь 2006 г.)
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Joan, meanwhile, enterenched behind her magazine, was also busy with her thoughts. She was not reading the magazine: she held it before her as a protection, knowing that, if she laid it down, Ashe would begin to talk. And just at present she had no desire for conversation. She, like Ashe, was contemplating the immediate future, but unlike him was not doing so with much pleasure. She was regretting heartily that she had not resisted the temptation to uplift this young man, and wishing that she had left him to wallow in the slothful peace in which she had found him. It is curious how frequently in this world our attempts to stimulate and uplift swoop back on us and smite us like boomerangs. Ashe's presence was the direct outcome of her lecture on Enterprise, and it added a complication to an already complicated venture.

She did her best to be fair to Ashe. It was not his fault that he was about to try to deprive her of five thousand dollars, which she looked upon as her personal property. But, illogically, she found herself feeling a little hostile.

She glanced furtively at him over the magazine, choosing by ill chance a moment when he had just directed his gaze at her. Their eyes met, and there was nothing for it but to talk. So she tucked away her hostility in a corner of her mind, where she could find it again when she wanted it, and prepared for the time being to be friendly. After all, except for the fact that he was her rival, this was a pleasant and amusing young man, and one for whom, till he made the announcement which had changed her whole attitude toward him, she had entertained a distinct feeling of friendship

Nothing warmer. There was something about him which made her feel that she would have liked to stroke his hair in a motherly way and straighten his tie, and have cozy chats with him in darkened rooms by the light of open fires, and make him tell her his inmost thoughts, and stimulate him to do something really worth-while with his life: but this, she held, was merely the instinct of a generous nature to be kind and helpful even to a comparative stranger.

"Well, Mr. Marson," she said, "Here we are!"

"Exactly what I was thinking," said Ashe.

He was conscious of a marked increase in the exhilaration the starting of the expedition had brought to him. At the back of his mind, he realized there had been all along a kind of wistful resentment at the change in this girl's manner toward him. During the brief conversation when he had told her of his having secured his present situation, and later, only a few minutes back, on the platform of Paddington Station, he had sensed a coldness, a certain hostility, so different from her pleasant friendliness at their first meeting.

She had returned now to her earlier manner and he was surprised at the difference it made. He felt somehow younger, more alive. The lilt of the train's rattle changed to a gay ragtime. This was curious, because Joan was nothing more than a friend. He was not in love with her. One does not fall in love with a girl whom one has met only three times. One is attracted--yes; but one does not fall in love.

A moment's reflection enabled him to diagnose his sensations correctly. This odd impulse to leap across the compartment and kiss Joan was not love. It was merely the natural desire of a good-hearted young man to be decently chummy with his species.

"Well, what do you think of it all, Mr. Marson?" said Joan. "Are you sorry or glad that you let me persuade you to do this perfectly mad thing? I feel responsible for you, you know. If it had not been for me you would have been comfortably in Arundell Street, writing your 'Wand of Death'."

"I'm glad."

"You don't feel any misgivings now that you are actually committed to domestic service?"

"Not one."

Joan, against her will, smiled approval on this uncompromising attitude. This young man might be her rival, but his demeanour on the eve of perilous times appealed to her. That was the spirit she liked and admired, that reckless acceptance of whatever might come. It was the spirit in which she herself had gone into the affair, and she was pleased to find that it animated Ashe also. Though, to be sure, it had its drawbacks. It made his rivalry the more dangerous.

This reflection injected a touch of the old hostility into her manner.

"I wonder whether you will continue to feel so brave."

"What do you mean?"

Joan perceived that she was in danger of going too far. She had no wish to unmask Ashe at the expense of revealing her own secret. She must resist the temptation to hint that she had discovered his.

"I meant," she said quickly, "that from what I have seen of him Mr. Peters seems likely to be a rather trying man to work for."

Ashe's face cleared. For a moment he had almost suspected that she had guessed his errand.

"Yes. I imagine he will be. He is what you might call quick-tempered. He has dyspepsia, you know."

"I know."

"What he wants is plenty of fresh air and no cigars, and a regular course of those Larsen exercises which amused you so much."

Joan laughed.

"Are you going to try and persuade Mr. Peters to twist himself about like that? Do let me see it if you do."

"I wish I could."

"Do suggest it to him."

"Don't you think he would resent it from a valet?"

"I keep forgetting that you are a valet. You look so unlike one."

"Old Peters didn't think so. He rather complimented me on my appearance. He said I was ordinary looking."

"I shouldn't have called you that. You look so very strong and fit."

"Surely there are muscular valets?"

"Well yes, I suppose there are."

Ashe looked at her. He was thinking that never in his life had he seen a girl so amazingly pretty. What it was that she had done to herself was beyond him; but something, some trick of dress, had given her a touch of the demure that made her irresistible. She was dressed in sober black, the ideal background for her fairness.

"While on the subject," he said, "I suppose you know you don't look in the least like a lady's maid? You look like a disguised princess."

She laughed.

"That's very nice of you, Mr. Marson, but you're quite wrong. Anyone could tell I was a lady's maid, a mile away. You aren't criticizing the dress, surely?"

"The dress is all right. It's the general effect. I don't think your expression is right. It's--it's--there's too much attack in it. You aren't meek enough."

"Meek! Have you ever seen a lady's maid, Mr. Marson?"

"Why, no, now that I come to think of it, I don't believe I have."

"Well, let me tell you that meekness is her last quality. Why should she be meek? Doesn't she go in after the Groom of the Chambers?"

"Go in? Go in where?"

"Into dinner."

She smiled at the sight of his bewildered face.

"I'm afraid you don't know much about the etiquette of the new world you have entered so rashly. Didn't you know that the rules of precedence among the servants of a big house are more rigid and complicated than in Society?"

"You're joking."

"I'm not joking. You try going in to dinner out of your proper place when we get to Blandings, and see what happens. A public rebuke from the butler is the least that you could expect."

A bead of perspiration appeared on Ashe's forehead.

"My God!" he whispered. "If a butler publicly rebuked me I think I should commit suicide. I couldn't survive it."

He stared with fallen jaw into the abyss of horror into which he had leaped so light-heartedly. The Servant Problem, on this large scale, had been non-existent for him until now. In the days of his youth, at Much Middleford, Salop, his needs had been ministered to by a muscular Irishwoman. Later, at Oxford, there had been his "scout" and his bedmaker, harmless persons both, provided you locked up your whisky. And in London, his last phase, a succession of servitors of the type of the dishevelled maid at No 7A, had tended him. That, dotted about the land, there were houses in which larger staffs of domestics were maintained, he had been vaguely aware. Indeed, in "Gridley Quayle, Investigator, The Adventure of the Missing Marquis" (number four of the series) he had drawn a picture of the home-life of a Duke, in which a butler and two powdered footmen had played their parts. But he had had no idea that rigid and complicated rules of etiquette swayed the private lives of these individuals. If he had given the matter a thought, he had supposed that, when the dinner-hour arrived, the butler and the two footmen would troop into the kitchen and squash in at the table wherever they found room.

"Tell me," he said, "tell me all you know. I feel as if I had escaped a frightful disaster."

"You probably have. I don't suppose there is anything so terrible as a snub from a butler."

"If there is I can't think of it. When I was at Oxford, I used to go and stay with a friend of mine who had a butler who looked like a Roman emperor in swallow-tails. He terrified me. I used to grovel to the man. Please give me all the tips you can."

"Well, as Mr Peters' valet, I suppose you will be rather a big man."

"I shan't feel it."

"However large the house-party is, Mr Peters is sure to be the principal guest, so your standing will be correspondingly magnificent. You come after the butler, the housekeeper, the groom of the chambers, Lord Emsworth's valet, Lady Ann Warblington's lady's maid--"

"Who is she?"

"Lady Ann? Lord Emsworth's sister. She has lived with him since his wife died. What was I saying? Oh, yes! After them come the honorable Frederick Threepwood's valet and myself, and then you."

"I'm not so high up then, after all?"

"Yes, you are. There's a whole crowd who come after you. It all depends on how many other guests there are besides Mr Peters."

"I suppose I charge in at the head of a drove of housemaids and scullery-maids?"

"My dear Mr Marson, if a housemaid or a scullery-maid tried to get into the Steward's Room and have her meals with us, she would be--"

"Rebuked by the butler?"

"Lynched, I should think. Kitchen-maids and scullery-maids eat in the kitchen. Chauffeurs, footmen, under-butler, pantry-boys, hall-boys, odd man and steward's-room footman take their meals in the Servants' Hall, waited on by the hall-boy. The still-room maids have breakfast and tea in the still-room, and dinner and supper in the Hall. The housemaids and nursery-maids have breakfast and tea in the housemaid's sitting-room, and dinner and supper in the Hall. The head-housemaid ranks next to the head still-room maid. The laundry-maids have a place of their own near the laundry, and the head laundry-maid ranks above the head housemaid. The chef has his meals in a room of his own near the kitchen... Is there anything else I can tell you, Mr Marson?"


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