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Конкурс переводов - Тур 84 (декабрь 2009 г.)
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The main difficulty in writing a story is to convey to the reader clearly yet tersely the natures and dispositions of one's leading characters. Brevity, brevity--that is the cry. Perhaps, after all, the play-bill style is the best. In this drama of love, football (Association code), and politics, then, the principals are as follows, in their order of entry:



LADY RUNNYMEDE (a proud old aristocrat).

MR RACKSTRAW (a multi-millionaire City man and Radical politician).

More about Clarence later. For the moment let him go as a Greek god. There were other sides, too, to Mr Rackstraw's character, but for the moment let him go as a multi-millionaire City man and Radical politician. Not that it is satisfactory; it is too mild. The Radical politics of other Radical politicians were as skim-milk to the Radical politics of Radical Politician Rackstraw. Where Mr Lloyd George referred to the House of Lords as blithering backwoodsmen and asinine anachronisms, Mr Rackstraw scorned to be so guarded in his speech. He did not mince his words. His attitude towards a member of the peerage was that of the terrier to the perambulating cat.

It was at a charity bazaar that Isabel and Clarence first met. Isabel was presiding over the Billiken, Teddy--bear, and Fancy Goods stall. There she stood, that slim, radiant girl, bouncing Ardent Youth out of its father's hard--earned with a smile that alone was nearly worth the money, when she observed, approaching, the handsomest man she had ever seen. It was--this is not one of those mystery stories--it was Clarence Tresillian. Over the heads of the bevy of gilded youths who clustered round the stall their eyes met. A thrill ran through Isabel. She dropped her eyes. The next moment Clarence had made his spring; the gilded youths had shredded away like a mist, and he was leaning towards her, opening negotiations for the purchase of a yellow Teddy-bear at sixteen times its face value.

He returned at intervals during the afternoon. Over the second Teddy-bear they became friendly, over the third intimate. He proposed as she was wrapping up the fourth golliwog, and she gave him her heart and the parcel simultaneously. At six o'clock, carrying four Teddy-bears, seven photograph frames, five golliwogs, and a billiken, Clarence went home to tell the news to his parents.

Clarence, when not at the University, lived with his father and mother in Belgrave Square. His mother had been a Miss Trotter, of Chicago, and it was on her dowry that the Runnymedes contrived to make both ends meet. For a noble family they were in somewhat straitened circumstances financially. They lived, simply and without envy of their rich fellow-citizens, on their hundred thousand pounds a year. They asked no more. It enabled them to entertain on a modest scale. Clarence had been able to go to Oxford; his elder brother, Lord Staines, into the Guards. The girls could buy an occasional new frock. On the whole, they were a thoroughly happy, contented English family of the best sort. Mr Trotter, it is true, was something of a drawback. He was a rugged old tainted millionaire of the old school, with a fondness for shirt-sleeves and a tendency to give undue publicity to toothpicks. But he had been made to understand at an early date that the dead-line for him was the farther shore of the Atlantic Ocean, and he now gave little trouble.

Having dressed for dinner, Clarence proceeded to the library, where he found his mother in hysterics and his father in a state of collapse on the sofa. Clarence was too well-bred to make any comment. A true Runnymede, he affected to notice nothing, and, picking up the evening paper, began to read. The announcement of his engagement could be postponed to a more suitable time.

'Clarence!' whispered a voice from the sofa.

'Yes, father?'

The silver-haired old man gasped for utterance.

'I've lost my little veto,' he said, brokenly, at length.

'Where did you see it last?' asked Clarence, ever practical.

'It's that fellow Rackstraw!' cried the old man, in feeble rage. 'That bounder Rackstraw! He's the man behind it all. The robber!'


It was his mother who spoke. Her voice seemed to rip the air into a million shreds and stamp on them. There are few things more terrible than a Chicago voice raised in excitement or anguish.


'Never mind your pop and his old veto. He didn't know he had one till the paper said he'd lost it. You listen to me. Clarence, we are ruined.'

Clarence looked at her inquiringly.

'Ruined much?' he asked.

'Bed-rock,' said his mother. 'If we have sixty thousand dollars a year after this, it's all we shall have.'

A low howl escaped from the stricken old man on the sofa.

Clarence betrayed no emotion.

'Ah,' he said, calmly. 'How did it happen?'

'I've just had a cable from Chicago, from your grand-pop. He's been trying to corner wheat. He always was an impulsive old gazook.'

'But surely,' said Clarence, a dim recollection of something he had heard or read somewhere coming to him, 'isn't cornering wheat a rather profitable process?'

'Sure,' said his mother. 'Sure it is. I guess dad's try at cornering wheat was about the most profitable thing that ever happened--to the other fellows. It seems like they got busy and clubbed fifty-seven varieties of Hades out of your old grand-pop. He's got to give up a lot of his expensive habits, and one of them is sending money to us. That's how it is.'

'And on top of that, mind you,' moaned Lord Runnymede, 'I lose my little veto. It's bitter--bitter.'

Clarence lit a cigarette and drew at it thoughtfully. 'I don't see how we're going to manage on twelve thousand quid a year,' he said.

His mother crisply revised his pronouns.

'We aren't,' she said. 'You've got to get out and hustle.'

Clarence looked at her blankly.





Clarence drew a deep breath.

'Work? Well, of course, mind you, fellows _do_ work,' he went on, thoughtfully. 'I was lunching with a man at the Bachelor's only yesterday who swore he knew a fellow who had met a man whose cousin worked. But I don't see what I could do, don't you know.'

His father raised himself on the sofa.

'Haven't I given you the education of an English gentleman?'

'That's the difficulty,' said Clarence.

'Can't you do _anything_?' asked his mother.

'Well, I can play footer. By Jove, I'll sign on as a pro. I'll take a new name. I'll call myself Jones. I can get signed on in a minute. Any club will jump at me.'

This was no idle boast. Since early childhood Clarence had concentrated his energies on becoming a footballer, and was now an exceedingly fine goal-keeper. It was a pleasing sight to see him, poised on one foot in the attitude of a Salome dancer, with one eye on the man with the ball, the other gazing coldly on the rest of the opposition forward line, uncurl abruptly like the main-spring of a watch and stop a hot one. Clarence in goal was the nearest approach to an india-rubber acrobat and society contortionist to be seen off the music-hall stage. He was, in brief, hot stuff. He had the goods.

Scarcely had he uttered these momentous words when the butler entered with the announcement that he was wanted by a lady on the telephone.

It was Isabel, disturbed and fearful.

'Oh, Clarence,' she cried, 'my precious angel wonder-child, I don't know how to begin.'

'Begin just like that,' said Clarence, approvingly. 'It's topping. You can't beat it.'

'Clarence, a terrible thing has happened. I told papa of our engagement, and he wouldn't hear of it. He c-called you a a p-p-p--'

'A what?'

'A pr-pr-pr--'

'He's wrong. I'm nothing of the sort. He must be thinking of someone else.'

'A preposterous excrescence on the social cosmos. He doesn't like your father being an earl.'

'A man may be an earl and still a gentleman,' said Clarence, not without a touch of coldness in his voice.

'I forgot to tell him that. But I don't think it would make any difference. He says I shall only marry a man who works.'

'I am going to work, dearest,' said Clarence. 'I am going to work like a horse. Something--I know not what--tells me I shall be rather good at work. And one day when I--'

'Good-bye,' said Isabel, hastily. 'I hear papa coming.'


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