Thirteen Guests

Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon

Book: Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon Read Free Book Online
Authors: J Jefferson Farjeon
“Want me to go on? Now I’m warning you !”
    He nodded. She pressed her cigarette-end into an ash-tray, and continued:
    â€œI don’t know the name of the particular trouble that sent you scurrying out of London to a remote place like Flensham, without even a definite address for the night.…By the way, I’m quite aware that you were behind me at the ticket office in London, and you can try and work that out if it has any significance and if it amuses you.…But I do know that, whatever her name is, you didn’t treat her shabbily. And you can think, if you want to, that it was because of that knowledge—just instinctive then, of course—just a feeling—that I stuck to you rather more than I might have done after your accident. I don’t mean—since we’re being frank—that the adventure of it all didn’t attract me. But I soon realised that you weren’t chasing me.”
    He stared at her. She laughed.
    â€œIt’s funny how little men believe in a woman’s instinct,” she said, “and yet how much they owe to it! Do you really suppose that—well, do you suppose that if a man like Mr. Chater had tumbled out of that train, I’d have troubled to lug him along here like this?”
    â€œI’m sure you would have!” he exclaimed impulsively. “You’d never have left him—or anybody else—in a hole!”
    â€œFor heaven’s sake, don’t start idealising me!” she begged, good-naturedly. “I’m not idealising you . I’m just suggesting that you’re rather straight—as men go. No, I wouldn’t have left Mr. Chater in a hole—though I would now , and help to pile the earth on top! I’d have taken him to the doctor’s, and I’d have parked him there. Or even if I’m underrating the Good Samaritan in my nature—even if I had brought him here—I wouldn’t have deserted the ballroom for him, and smoked a cigarette with him, and have thrown the cabbages and kings overboard. Am I mixing my metaphors?” She paused, and the light he had seen in her eyes before, and which he found himself instinctively watching for, sent a queer sensation through him. “So perhaps I’ve as much necessity to warn you, Mr. Foss, as you have to warn me?”
    She looked at him with provocative inquiry. He shoved aside a sudden wonder whether, after all—behind everything—she were laughing at him. He knew the wonder was not worthy, or genuine, and that it was merely another protective device. He decided that the most protective thing to do would be to go on idealising her.
    â€œI believe I’m a little bit out of my depth,” he said.
    â€œMost of us are,” she answered.
    â€œYes, perhaps. Life’s a puzzle. But what I meant was—I may as well admit it—I haven’t had time yet to become a man of much experience.” Was he talking idiotically? Like a small boy? He had no notion, but he plunged on, “Things still seem rather wonderful to me, you know. Probably I’ll grow out of that, only I don’t want to. I thought I’d grown out of it this morning. Now—I’m not quite sure.” He stopped, arrested by a thought. Instinctively she bent a little closer, following his mind rather than hers. He continued hurriedly, “That was an extraordinary guess of yours just now. About my trouble. I mean. I don’t know which is more extraordinary—your guessing it, or my not minding. I didn’t think I could ever talk about it to anybody. When a fellow’s been turned down—”
    â€œDon’t say more than you mean to—”
    â€œNo, it’s all right. Well, he generally keeps it pretty well inside him. Or so I should imagine. Doesn’t want people to be sorry for him. Gets into a sort of—mental loneliness that no one must disturb. You know, I believe it’s a sort of

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