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Конкурс переводов - Тур 73 (июль 2008 г.)
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Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French. One of the things which Gertrude Butterwick had impressed upon Monty Bodkin when he left for this holiday on the Riviera was that he must be sure to practise his French, and Gertrude's word was law. So now, though he knew that it was going to make his nose tickle, he said:

'Er, garcon.'


'Er, garcon, esker-vous avez un spot de l'encre et une piece de papier - note-papier, vous savez - et une enveloppe et une plume?'

'Ben, m'sieur.'

The strain was too great. Monty relapsed into his native tongue.

'I want to write a letter,' he said. And having, like all lovers, rather a tendency to share his romance with the world, he would probably have added 'to the sweetest girl on earth', had not the waiter already bounded off like a retriever, to return a few moments later with the fixings.

'Via, sir! Zere you are, sir,' said the waiter. He was engaged to a girl in Paris who had told him that when on the Riviera he must be sure to practise his English. 'Eenk - pin - pipper -enveloppe - and a liddle bit of bloddin-pipper.'

'Oh, merci,' said Monty, well pleased at this efficiency. 'Thanks. Right ho.'

'Right ho, m'sieur,' said the waiter.

Left alone, Monty lost no time in spreading paper on the table, taking up the pen and dipping it in the ink. So far, so good. But now, as so often happened when he started to write to the girl he loved, there occurred a stage wait. He paused, wondering how to begin.

It always irked him, this unreadiness of his as a correspondent. He worshipped Gertrude Butterwick as no man had ever worshipped woman before. Closeted with her, his arm about her waist, her head nestling on his shoulder, he could speak of his love eloquently and well. But he always had the most extraordinary difficulty in starting getting the stuff down on paper. He envied fellows like Gertrude's cousin, Ambrose Tennyson. Ambrose was a novelist, and a letter like this would have been pie to him. Ambrose Tennyson would probably have covered his eight sheets and be licking the envelope now.

However, one thing was certain. Absolutely and without fail he must get something off by today's post. Apart from picture postcards, the last occasion on which he had written to Gertrude had been a full week before, when he had sent her that snapshot of himself in bathing costume on the Eden Rock. And girls, he knew, take these things to heart.

Chewing the pen and looking about him for inspiration, he decided to edge into the thing with a description of the scenery.

'Hotel Magnifique, 'Cannes,

'France, A.M.

'My Darling Old Egg,

'I'm writing this on the terrace outside the hotel. It's a lovely day. The sea is blue -'

He stopped, perceiving that he had missed a trick. He tore up the paper and began again:

'Hotel Magnifique, 'Cannes,

'France, A.M.

'My Precious Dream-Rabbit,

'I'm writing this on the terrace outside the hotel. It's a lovely day, and how I wish you were with me, because I miss you all the time and it's perfectly foul to think that when I get back you will have popped off to America and I shan't see you for ages. I'm dashed if I know how I shall stick it out

This terrace looks out on the esplanade. The Croisette they call it - I don't know why. Silly, but there it is. The sea is blue. The sand is yellow. One or two yachts are mucking about. There are a couple of islands over to the left, and over to the right some mountains.'

He stopped once more. This, he felt, was about as much as the scenery was good for in the way of entertainment value. Carry on in the same vein, and he might just as well send her the local guide-book. What was required now was a splash of human interest. That gossipy stuff that girls like. He looked about him again, and again received inspiration.

A fat man, accompanied by a slim girl, had just come out on to the terrace. He knew this fat man by sight and reputation, and he was a personality well worth a paragraph in anybody's letter. Ivor Llewellyn, President of the Superba-Llewellyn Motion Picture Corporation of Hollywood.

He resumed:

'There aren't many people about at this time of day, as most of the lads play tennis in the morning or go off to Antibes to bathe. On the skyline, however, has just appeared a bird you may have heard of - Ivor Llewellyn, the motion picture bloke.

'At least, if you haven't heard of him, you've seen lots of his pictures. That thing we went to see my last day in London was one of his, the thing called - well, I forget what it was called, but there were gangsters in it and Lotus Blossom was the girl who loved the young reporter.

'He's parked himself at a table not far away, and is talking to a female.'

Monty paused again. Re-reading what he had written, he found himself wondering if it was the goods, after all. Gossipy stuff was all very well, but was it quite wise to dig up the dead past like this? That mention of Lotus Blossom ... on the occasion referred to, he recalled, his open admiration of Miss Blossom had caused Gertrude to look a trifle squiggle-eyed, and it had taken two cups of tea and a plate of fancy cakes at the Ritz to pull her round.

With a slight sigh, he wrote the thing again, keeping in the scenery but omitting the human interest. It then struck him that it would be a graceful act, and one likely to be much appreciated, if he featured her father for a moment. He did not like her father, considering him, indeed, a pig-headed old bohunkus, but there are times when it is polite to sink one's personal prejudices.

'As I sit here in this lovely sunshine, I find myself brooding a good deal on your dear old father. How is he? (Tell him I asked, will you?) I hope he has been having no more trouble with his -'

Monty sat back with a thoughtful frown. He had struck a snag. He wished now that he had left her dear old father alone. For the ailment from which Mr Butterwick suffered was that painful and annoying malady sciatica, and he hadn't the foggiest how to spell it.


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