Author: Waugh, Evelyn [Arthur Evelyn St John] () The composition of Vile Bodies was interrupted by a sharp disturbance in my. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Read online, or download in secure EPUB format. Editorial Reviews. Review. Satiric novel by Evelyn Waugh, published in Set in England Kindle Store; ›; Kindle eBooks; ›; Literature & Fiction.
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Vile Bodies. byEvelyn Waugh wm-greece.info: Evelyn Waugh wm-greece.info accessioned: eBooks and Texts. Uploaded by Public Resource. Vile Bodies is a novel by Evelyn Waugh satirising the Bright Young People: decadent young London society between World War I and World War II. Evelyn Waugh's acidly funny and formally daring satire, Vile Bodies reveals the darkness and vulnerability that lurks beneath the glittering surface of the high life.
I remember thinking, I must take that down to Fanny, and then, dear, I got confused over the tips, so you see To Father Rothschild no passage was worse than any other. He thought of the sufferings of the saints, the mutability of human nature, the Four Last Things, and between whiles repeated snatches of the penitential psalms. The Leader of His Majesty's Opposition lay sunk in a rather glorious coma, made splendid by dreams of Oriental imagery--of painted paper houses; of golden dragons and gardens of almond blossom; of golden limbs and almond eyes, humble and caressing; of very small golden feet among almond blossoms; of little painted cups full of golden tea; of a golden voice singing behind a painted paper screen; of humble, caressing little golden hands and eyes shaped like almonds and the colour of night.
The ship creaked in every plate, doors slammed, trunks fell about, the wind howled; the screw, now out of the water, now in, raced and churned, shaking down hat-boxes like ripe apples; but above all the roar and clatter there rose from the second-class ladies' saloon the despairing voices of Mrs Ape's angels, in frequently broken unison, singing, singing, wildly, desperately, as though their hearts would break in the effort and their minds lose their reason, Mrs Ape's famous hymn, There ain't no flies on the Lamb of God.
Search me if I know how they do think of these things. Adam Fenwick-Symes sat among the good sailors in the smoking-room drinking his third Irish whisky and wondering how soon he would feel definitely ill.
Already there was a vague depression gathering at the top of his head. There were thirty-five minutes more, probably longer with the head wind keeping them back.
Opposite him sat a much-travelled and chatty journalist telling him smutty stories. From time to time Adam interposed some more or less appropriate comment, 'No, I say that's a good one,' or, 'I must remember that,' or just 'Ha, Ha, Ha,' but his mind was not really in a receptive condition.
Up went the ship, up, up, up, paused and then plunged down with a sidelong slither. Adam caught at his glass and saved it. Then shut his eyes. Behind them a game of cards was in progress among the commercial gents. At first they had rather a jolly time about it, saying, 'What ho, she bumps,' or 'Steady, the Buffs,' when the cards and glasses and ash-tray were thrown on to the floor, but in the last ten minutes they were growing notably quieter.
It was rather a nasty kind of hush. Just tired. But if you boys want to go on I'm not the one to spoil a game. Look out for the cards, Bill, up she goes again. That's rich, eh? You see he was keen on fishing, see, and she had worms, see, he lived in Aberdeen. That's a good one that is. I only thought a little fresh air Christ, why won't the damn thing stop? I wouldn't go trying to walk about, not if I were you. Much better stay just where you are. What you want's a spot of whisky.
What I mean you didn't ought to have trumped that last trick not if you had a spade. He hasn't got no spades. You'd be tired if you'd been hit on the back same as I was This time no one troubled to pick them up. Presently Mr Henderson said, 'Funny thing, don't know why I feel all swimmy of a sudden.
Must have ate something that wasn't quite right. You never can tell with foreign foods--all messed up like they do. Damn bad ventilation on these Channel boats. I never feel sea-sick, mind, but I often find going on boats doesn't agree with me. Adam held on very tightly to the brass-bound edge of the table and felt a little better. He was not going to be sick, and that was that; not with that gargoyle of a man opposite anyway. They must be in sight of land soon.
It was at this time, when things were at their lowest, that Mrs Ape reappeared in the smoking-room. She stood for a second or two in the entrance balanced between swinging door and swinging door-post; then as the ship momentarily righted herself, she strode to the bar, her feet well apart, her hands in the pockets of her tweed coat.
What's it all about? Is it your souls that's wrong or is it that the ship won't keep still? But let me ask you this. If you're put out this way over just an hour's sea-sickness' 'Not sea-sick, ventilation,' said Mr Henderson mechanically , 'what are you going to be like when you make the mighty big journey that's waiting for us all?
Are you right with God? We're going to sing a song together, you and me. You'll feel better for it body and soul. It's a song of Hope. You don't hear much about Hope these days, do you? Plenty about Faith, plenty about Charity.
They've forgotten all about Hope. There's only one great evil in the world to-day. I know all about England, and I tell you straight, boys, I've got the goods for you. Hope's what you want and Hope's what I got. Here, steward, hand round these leaflets. There's the song on the back. Now all together Five bob for you, steward, if you can shout me down. Splendid, all together, boys. In a rich, very audible voice Mrs Ape led the singing. Her arms rose, fell and fluttered with the rhythm of the song.
The bar steward was hers already--inaccurate sometimes in his reading of the words, but with a sustained power in the low notes that defied competition. The journalist joined in next and Arthur set up a little hum. Soon they were all at it, singing like blazes, and it is undoubtedly true that they felt the better for it.
I mean, dear, it sounds so like a hymn. Do you think, possibly, we are in danger? Fanny, are we going to be wrecked? We should have heard it, shouldn't we, if we had actually hit anything? Fanny, dear, if you like I will have a look for your sal volatile. The captain heard it. The Bright Young People heard it. Mrs Hoop heard it. Reckon I'll give the Catholics the once over. Aft, in the second-class saloon, where the screw was doing its worst, the angels heard it.
It was some time since they had given up singing. Mr Outrage alone lay happily undisturbed, his mind absorbed in lovely dream sequences of a world of little cooing voices, so caressing, so humble; and dark eyes, night-coloured, the shape of almonds over painted paper screens; little golden bodies, so flexible, so firm, so surprising in the positions they assumed. They were still singing in the smoking-room when, in very little more than her usual time, the ship came into the harbour at Dover.
Then Mrs Ape, as was her invariable rule, took round the hat and collected nearly two pounds, not counting her own five shillings which she got back from the bar steward. Father Rothschild fluttered a diplomatic laissez-passer and disappeared in the large car that had been sent to meet him. The others were jostling one another with their luggage, trying to attract the Customs officers and longing for a cup of tea. One by one he took the books out and piled them on the counter.
A copy of Dante excited his especial disgust. Now just you wait while I look up these here books '--how he said it! Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can't stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop its being brought in from outside.
That's what he said the other day in Parliament, and I says "Hear, hear Gingerly, as though it might at any moment explode, he produced and laid on the counter a large pile of type-script.
They went together into an inner office, the walls of which were lined with contraband pornography and strange instruments, whose purpose Adam could not guess. From the next room came the shrieks and yells of poor Miss Runcible, who had been mistaken for a well-known jewel smuggler, and was being stripped to the skin by two terrific wardresses. With the help of a printed list which began 'Aristotle, Works of Illustrated ' they went through Adam's books, laboriously, one at a time, spelling out the titles.
The way they looked Positively surgical, my dear, and such wicked old women, just like Dowagers , my dear. As soon as I get to London I shall ring up every Cabinet Minister and all the newspapers and give them all the most shy-making details. The chief was at this time engrossed in Adam's memoirs, giving vent at intervals to a sinister chuckling sound that was partly triumphant and partly derisive, but in the main genuinely appreciative.
But this book on Economics comes under Subversive Propaganda. That you leaves behind. And this here Purgatorio doesn't look right to me, so that stays behind, pending inquiries. But as for this autobiography, that's just downright dirt, and we burns that straight away, see. Now 'ook it quick if you don't want a police-court case. Miss Runcible took his arm and led him back to the station and told him all about a lovely party that was going to happen that night.
All dressed up in white with wings, lovely. Not a bad-looker herself, if it comes to that. Funny thing, I ain't never give a half-crown like that before. She kind of draws it out of you, damned if she doesn't. She has left Buenos Aires. I am afraid she has severed her connection with Lady Metroland altogether. They think that she is in some kind of touring company.
I should never have mentioned it, but whenever I see Agatha Runcible I can't help thinking We had to learn everything for ourselves, didn't we, Fanny, and it took so long. If I'd had Agatha Runcible's chances Who is the young man with her? Still, as I say, if I had had Agatha Runcible's advantages Here is the sal volatile next to my brushes all the time. Perhaps the maid put it there.
You never know at the Lotti, do you? After all, you did see another bottle, didn't you, Kitty darling? Do you know, Kitty, I believe it is. He never comes to see me now, the naughty boy. It is a great grief to me. Only I try not to think about it too much--he had so little chance with poor Throbbing what he was. Somewhere not far from Maidstone Mr Outrage became fully conscious.
Opposite him in the carriage the two detectives slept, their bowler hats jammed forwards on their foreheads, their mouths open, their huge red hands lying limply in their laps. Rain beat on the windows; the carriage was intensely cold and smelt of stale tobacco. Inside there were advertisements of horrible picturesque ruins; outside in the rain were hoardings advertising patent medicines and dog biscuits.
Adam got into the carriage with the Younger Set. They still looked a bit queer, but they cheered up wonderfully when they heard about Miss Runcible's outrageous treatment at the hands of the Customs officers. The most bogus man. Miles discovered him, and since then he's been climbing and climbing and climbing , my dear, till he hardly knows us. He's rather sweet, really, only too terribly common, poor darling. He lives at the Ritz, and I think that's rather grand, don't you?
In Edward Throbbing's house. He's Miles' brother, you know, only he's frightfully dim and political, and doesn't know anybody. He got ill and went to Kenya or somewhere and left his perfectly sheepish house in Hertford Street, so we've all gone to live there. You'd better come, too. The caretakers didn't like it a bit at first, but we gave them drinks and things, and now they're simply thrilled to the marrow about it and spend all their time cutting out "bits", my dear, from the papers about our goings on.
Miles broke it, Edward's, I mean, and we simply can't afford to get it mended, so I think we shall have to move soon. Everything's getting rather broken up, too, and dirty, if you know what I mean. Because, you see, there aren't any servants, only the butler and his wife, and they are always tight now. So demoralising. Mary Mouse has been a perfect angel, and sent us great hampers of caviare and things She's paying for Archie's party to-night, of course.
Packed all together in a second-class carriage, the angels were late in recovering their good humour. What's London like, Fortitude? I never been there but once. You're a cute one, Fortitude. Did you hear what Fortitude said? She said "they have their uses". Presently the train arrived at Victoria, and all these passengers were scattered all over London. Adam left his bag at Shepheard's Hotel, and drove straight to Henrietta Street to see his publishers.
It was nearly closing time, so that most of the staff had packed up and gone home, but by good fortune Mr Sam Benfleet, the junior director with whom Adam always did his business, was still in his room correcting proofs for one of his women novelists. He was a competent young man, with a restrained elegance of appearance the stenographer always trembled slightly when she brought him his cup of tea.
She'll have us all in prison. This is nice. Sit down. Have a cigarette. What a day to arrive in London. Did you have a good crossing? Nothing so beastly as a beastly crossing, is there?
Why don't you come round to dinner at Wimpole Street to-night? I've got some rather nice Americans coming. Where are you staying? I've been trying to get an autobiography out of Lottie for ten years. And that reminds me. You're bringing us your manuscript, aren't you? Old Rampole was asking about it only the other day. It's a week overdue, you know.
I hope you'll like the preliminary notices we've sent out. We've fixed the day of publication for the second week in December, so as to give it a fortnight's run before Johnnie Hoop's autobiography.
That's going to be a seller. Sails a bit near the wind in places. We had to cut out some things--you know what old Rampole is. Johnnie didn't like it a bit. But I'm looking forward terribly to reading yours. The date on the contract, you know Adam explained the circumstances of the destruction of his autobiography.
There was a longish pause while Sam Benfleet thought. It's sometimes very difficult for me, Adam, working under him. Now if I had my own way I'd say, "Take your own time.
Start again. Don't worry He's a devil for contracts, you know, and you did say , didn't you? It's all very difficult. You know, I wish it hadn't happened. You've had an advance already, haven't you? Fifty pounds, wasn't it? Well, you know, that makes things very difficult.
Old Rampole never likes big advances like that to young authors. You know I hate to say it, but I can't help feeling that the best thing would be for you to repay the advance--plus interest, of course, old Rampole would insist on that--and cancel the contract.
Then if you ever thought of re-writing the book, well, of course, we should be delighted to consider it. I suppose that--well, I mean, it would be quite convenient , and all that, to repay the advance?
Quite ignorant men, too. Liberty of the subject, I mean, and all that. I tell you what we'll do. We'll start a correspondence about it in the New Statesman It is all so deuced awkward. But I think I can see a way out. I suppose you could get the book rewritten in time for the Spring List?
Well, we'll cancel the contract and forget all about the advance. No, no, my dear fellow, don't thank me. If only I was alone here I'd be doing that kind of thing all day. Now instead we'll have a new contract. It won't be quite so good as the last, I'm afraid. Old Rampole wouldn't stand for that. I'll tell you what, we'll give you our standard first-novel contract. I've got a printed form here. It won't take a minute to fill up.
Just sign here. They look a bit hard at first, I know, but it's our usual form. We made a very special case for you, you know. It's very simple. No royalty on the first two thousand, then a royalty of two and a half per cent.
We retain serial, cinema, dramatic, American, Colonial and translation rights, of course. And, of course, an option on your next twelve books on the same terms. It's a very straightforward arrangement really.
Doesn't leave room for any of the disputes which embitter the relations of author and publisher. Most of our authors are working on a contract like that Now don't you bother any more about that advance. I understand perfectly , and I'll square old Rampole somehow, even if it comes out of my director's fees.
It was fortunate, he reflected, that none of the authors ever came across the senior partner, that benign old gentleman, who once a week drove up to board meetings from the country, whose chief interest in the business was confined to the progress of a little book of his own about bee-keeping, which they had published twenty years ago and, though he did not know it, allowed long ago to drop out of print.
He often wondered in his uneasy moments what he would find to say when Rampole died. It was about now that Adam remembered that he was engaged to be married. The name of his young lady was Nina Blount. So he went into a tube station to a telephone-box, which smelt rather nasty, and rang her up.
Why don't we dine together? Well, I'll tell you what. Let's meet at Archie Schwert's party. Are you going? He hung up the receiver and left the telephone-box. People had crowded into the Underground station for shelter from the rain, and were shaking their umbrellas and reading their evening papers. Adam could see the headlines over their shoulders. And such a good sweet face. I see her picture in the papers only yesterday.
Nasty prying minds. That's what they got. And her poor father and all. Look, Jane, there's a piece about him, too. You know I feels about that girl just as though it was me own daughter. Seeing her picture so often and our Sarah having done the back stairs, Tuesdays, at them flats where her aunt used to live--the one as had that 'orrible divorce last year. Adam bought a paper. He had just ten shillings left in the world. It was too wet to walk, so he took a very crowded tube train to Dover Street and hurried across in the rain to Shepheard's Hotel which, for the purposes of the narrative, may be assumed to stand at the corner of Hay Hill.
Lottie Crump, proprietress of Shepheard's Hotel, Dover Street, attended invariably by two Cairn terriers, is a happy reminder to us that the splendours of the Edwardian era were not entirely confined to Lady Anchorage or Mrs Blackwater.
She is a fine figure of a woman, singularly unscathed by any sort of misfortune and superbly oblivious of those changes in the social order which agitate the more observant grandes dames of her period. When the war broke out she took down the signed photograph of the Kaiser and, with some solemnity, hung it in the men-servants' lavatory; it was her one combative action; since then she has had her worries--income-tax forms and drink restrictions and young men whose fathers she used to know, who give her bad cheques, but these have been soon forgotten; one can go to Shepheard's parched with modernity any day, if Lottie likes one's face, and still draw up, cool and uncontaminated, great, healing draughts from the well of Edwardian certainty.
Shepheard's has a plain, neatly pointed brick front and large, plain doorway. Inside it is like a country house. Lottie is a great one for sales, and likes, whenever one of the great houses of her day is being sold up, to take away something for old times' sake.
There is a good deal too much furniture at Shepheard's, some of it rare, some of it hideous beyond description; there is plenty of red plush and red morocco and innumerable wedding presents of the 'eighties; in particular many of those massive, mechanical devices covered with crests and monograms, and associated in some way with cigars.
It is the sort of house in which one expects to find croquet mallets and polo sticks in the bathroom, and children's toys at the bottom of one's chest of drawers, and an estate map and an archery target--exuding straw--and a bicycle and one of those walking-sticks which turn into saws, somewhere in passages, between baize doors, smelling of damp.
As a matter of fact, all you are likely to find in your room at Lottie's is an empty champagne bottle or two and a crumpled camisole. The servants, like the furniture, are old and have seen aristocratic service.
Doge, the head waiter, who is hard of hearing, partially blind, and tortured with gout, was once a Rothschild's butler. He had, in fact, on more than one occasion in Father Rothschild's youth, dandled him on his knee, when he came with his father at one time the fifteenth richest man in the world to visit his still richer cousins, but it would be unlike him to pretend that he ever really liked the embryo Jesuit who was 'too clever by half', given to asking extraordinary questions, and endowed with a penetrating acumen in the detection of falsehood and exaggeration.
Besides Doge, there are innumerable old housemaids always trotting about with cans of hot water and clean towels.
There is also a young Italian who does most of the work and gets horribly insulted by Lottie, who once caught him powdering his nose, and will not let him forget it. Indeed, it is one of the few facts in Lottie's recent experience that seems always accessible. Lottie's parlour, in which most of the life of Shepheard's centres, contains a comprehensive collection of signed photographs. Most of the male members of the royal families of Europe are represented except the ex-Emperor of Germany who has not been reinstated, although there was a distinct return of sentiment towards him on the occasion of his second marriage.
There are photographs of young men on horses riding in steeple-chases, of elderly men leading in the winners of 'classic' races, of horses alone and of young men alone, dressed in tight, white collars or in the uniform of the Brigade of Guards.
There are caricatures by 'Spy', and photographs cut from illustrated papers, many of them with brief obituary notices, 'killed in action'. There are photographs of yachts in full sail and of elderly men in yachting caps; there are some funny pictures of the earliest kind of motor car. There are very few writers or painters and no actors, for Lottie is true to the sound old snobbery of pound sterling and strawberry leaves.
Come along in. We were just thinking about having a little drink. You'll find a lot of your friends here. She led Adam into the parlour, where they found several men, none of whom Adam had ever seen before. Bless you, I knew you before you were born. How's your father? Not dead, is he? I could tell you some things about him. Now let me introduce you--that's Mr What's-his-name, you remember him, don't you?
And over there in the corner, that's the Major, and there's Mr What-d'you-call-him, and that's an American, and there's the King of Ruritania.
They gave him the boot after the war. Hasn't got a penny. Not that he ever did have much. His wife's locked up in a looney house, too. It is true how Mrs Crump says. Her brains, they are quite gone out. All the time she thinks everyone is a bomb. I won't have him travelling third class.
It fair brought tears to my eyes. Kept skipping about all the time, she did, dodging. Thought they were throwing things at her. My poor Uncle Joseph he blow all to bits one night at the opera, and my sister she find three bombs in her bed. But my wife, never. But one day her maid is brushing her hair before dinner, and she said, "Madam," she said, "the cook has had lesson from the cook at the French Legation"--the food at my home was not what you call chic.
One day it was mutton hot, then mutton cold, then the same mutton hot again, but less nicer, not chic , you understand me--"he has had lesson from the French cook," the maid say, "and he has made one big bomb as a surprise for your dinner party to-night for the Swedish Minister.
Here, you over there, your Honour Judge What's-your-name, how about a drink for the gentlemen? The American, who, like all the listeners, had been profoundly moved by the ex-King's recitation, roused himself to bow and say, 'I shall esteem it a great honour if His Majesty and yourself, Mrs Crump, and these other good gentlemen Powdering hisself again, I suppose. Come here, Nancy, and put away the beauty cream. There is also a mysterious game played with dice which always ends with someone giving a bottle of wine to every one in the room, but Lottie has an equitable soul and she generally sees to it, in making up the bills, that the richest people pay for everything.
After the third or fourth bottle of wine Lottie said, 'Who d'you think we've got dining upstairs to-night? Prime Minister. They talk and talk and then they talk more. After the war my people give me the bird, yes, but they throw my Prime Minister out of the window, bump right bang on the floor.
Ha, ha. How they keep changing. I've no patience with it. What's the Prime Minister's name? I didn't quite hear you. Sir James Brown, mum, Bart. A very nice gentleman, so I've been told. Conservative, I've heard said. Gloucestershire they come from, I think. My tutor had been a master at your Eton school. And now when I come to England always there is a different Prime Minister and no one knows which is which.
We, too, had Liberals. I tell you something now, I had a gold fountain-pen. My godfather, the good Archduke of Austria, give me one gold fountain-pen with eagles on him. I loved my gold fountain-pen. Champagne was a rare luxury to him now.
And one day there was a Liberal Minister. A Count Tampen, one man, Mrs Crump, of exceedingly evilness. He come to talk to me and he stood at my little escritoire and he thump and talk too much about somethings I not understand, and when he go--where was my gold fountain-pen with eagles--gone too. Esteem it a great honour,' said the American, 'if your Majesty and these gentlemen and Mrs Crump Should honour it a great esteem Don't let him fall down, boys. Bless me, how these Americans do drink.
It must be remembered in all these people's favour that none of them had yet dined. Now there was a very bland, natty, moustachioed young man sitting there who had been drinking away quietly in the corner without talking to anyone except for an occasional 'Cheerio' to Judge Skimp. Suddenly he got up and said:. He put three halfpennies on the table, moved them about very deliberately for a bit, and then looked up with an expression of pride.
He took the halfpennies and moved them about just as the young man had done. When he finished he said, 'How's that? I've won a lot of money this week with that trick. Here you are. Then he sat down in his corner again.
She liked to feel like that about all her guests. Actually in this young man's case she was wrong. He happened to have all that money in his pocket because he had just sold out his few remaining securities to download a new motor car. So next day he bought a second-hand motor bicycle instead. I've got a thousand pounds. He went back to the parlour. Miss Runcible had arrived and was standing in the hall very much dressed up.
How do you do, my dear, come in. We're just thinking of having a little drink. You know everyone here, of course, don't you? That's the King with the beard No, dearie, the King of Ruritania.
You didn't mind my taking you for a tart, did you, dear? You look so like one, got up like that. Of course, I can see you aren't now. Oh, well, then I think I download a gold pen with eagles on him like the Liberals stole. Horse named Indian Runner. It's at twenty to one at present, and the odds are likely to lengthen. Now if you were to put a thousand on him to win and he won, why you'd be rich, wouldn't you? How marvellous. D'you know, I think I'll do that. It's a very good idea. How can I do it?
Look, here's the money. Have a drink, won't you? Now I come to think of it, he did look like a Major, didn't he? But this sweet little girlie here is telling me a story.
Go on, my dear. I can hardly bear to hear it, it's so wicked. While Miss Runcible finished her story which began to sound each time she told it more and more like the most lubricious kind of anti-Turkish propaganda the ex-King of Ruritania told Adam about a Major he had known, who had come from Prussia to reorganize the Ruritanian Army.
He had disappeared south, taking with him all the mess plate of the Royal Guard, and the Lord Chamberlain's wife, and a valuable pair of candlesticks from the Chapel Royal. And I used to know your poor father, too, before you were born or thought of. I'll talk to the Prime Minister about this,' she said, taking up the telephone. Didn't Doge say so Hullo, is that Outrage?
This is Lottie. A fine chap you are, I don't think. Tearing the clothes off the back of a poor innocent girl. Mr Outrage had finished dinner, and, as a matter of fact, the phrasing of this accusation was not wholly inappropriate to his mood.
It was some minutes before he began to realize that all this talk was only about Miss Runcible. By that time Lottie's flow of invective had come to an end, but she finished finely. Now how about a little drink? But her party was breaking up.
The Major was gone. Judge Skimp was sleeping, his fine white hair in an ash-tray. Adam and Miss Runcible were talking about where they would dine.
Soon only the King remained. He gave her his arm with a grace he had acquired many years ago; far away in his sunny little palace, under a great chandelier which scattered with stars of light like stones from a broken necklace, a crimson carpet woven with a pattern of crowned ciphers. Upstairs in No. He really would have brought matters to a crisis if it had not been for that telephone, he told himself, but now the Baroness was saying she was sure he was busy, must be wanting her to go: It was so difficult.
Her acceptance on the first night of his return to England had thrown him into a flutter of expectation. But all through dinner she had been so self-possessed, so supremely social. Yet, surely, just before the telephone rang, surely then, when they left the table and moved to the fire, there had been something in the atmosphere. But you never know with Orientals. He clutched his knees and said in a voice which sounded very extraordinary to him, must she go, it was lovely after a fortnight, and then, desperately, he had thought of her in Paris such a lot.
Oh, for words, words! That massed treasury of speech that was his to squander at will, to send bowling and spinning in golden pieces over the floor of the House of Commons; that glorious largesse of vocables he cast far and wide, in ringing handfuls about his constituency!
The little Baroness Yoshiwara, her golden hands clasped in the lap of her golden Paquin frock, sat where she had been sent, more puzzled than Mr Outrage, waiting for orders. What did the clever Englishman want? If he was busy with his telephone, why did he not send her away; tell her another time to come: Why did he not pick her out of her red plush chair and sit her on his knee?
Was she, perhaps, looking ugly to-night? She had thought not. It was so hard to know what these Occidentals wanted.
Father Rothschild wants to speak to you,' said a voice. Is that you, Outrage? Will you be good enough to come round and see me as soon as you can? There are several things which I must discuss with you.
The waiter who brought you your coffee has a brother at the Japanese Embassy. What are you going to say about it? There's Nina Blount's engagement being broken off, but she's not got any publicity value to speak of. Agatha Runcible's usually worth a couple of paragraphs, but they're featuring her as a front-page news story to-morrow over this Customs House business.
I thought that was fairly good because, you see, I could contrast that with Miles being dressed as a Red Indian to-night, don't you think so, or don't you? I'm sure she's famous in some way. It's not Mrs Melrose Ape, is it? I heard she was coming.
The family can't bear her. She's been divorced twice since then, you know. Five minutes later he was busy at the telephone dictating his story. Orchid stop, new paragraph. She dresses with that severely masculine chic, italics, which American women know so well how to assume, stop.
Her son, comma, the present Earl, comma, was with her, stop. Lord Balcairn is one of the few young men about town Miles Malpractice was dressed as a Red Indian. He is at present living in the house of his brother, Lord Throbbing, at which yesterday's party was held. His choice of costume was particularly--what shall I say?
Miss Mouse in a very enterprising frock by Cheruit sat on a chair with her eyes popping out of her head. She never could get used to so much excitement, never. To-night she had brought a little friend with her--a Miss Brown--because it was so much more fun if one had some one to talk to.
It was too thrilling to see all that dull money her father had amassed, metamorphosed in this way into so much glitter and noise and so many bored young faces.
Archie Schwert, as he passed, champagne bottle in hand, paused to say, 'How are you, Mary darling? Quite all right? I never see any one. But you know, was it dreadful of me, I hadn't heard of any of the names. These had two columns of close print; in one was a list of all the things Johnnie hated, and in the other all the things he thought he liked.
Most of the parties which Miss Mouse financed had invitations written by Johnnie Hoop. She almost wished in this new mood of exaltation that she had come to the party in fancy dress. It was called a Savage party, that is to say that Johnnie Hoop had written on the invitation that they were to come dressed as savages.
Numbers of them had done so; Johnnie himself in a mask and black gloves represented the Maharanee of Pukkapore, somewhat to the annoyance of the Maharajah, who happened to drop in. The real aristocracy, the younger members of those two or three great brewing families which rule London, had done nothing about it.
They had come on from a dance and stood in a little group by themselves, aloof, amused but not amusing. Pit-a-pat went the heart of Miss Mouse. How she longed to tear down her dazzling frock to her hips and dance like a Bacchante before them all. One day she would surprise them all, thought Miss Mouse.
There was a famous actor making jokes but it was not so much what he said as the way he said it that made the people laugh who did laugh. They were that kind of joke--but, of course, he made a droll face when he said it. She had heard some one say something about an Independent Labour Party, and was furious that she had not been asked.
There were two men with a lot of explosive powder taking photographs in another room. Their flashes and bangs had rather a disquieting effect on the party, causing a feeling of tension, because every one looked negligent and said what a bore the papers were, and how too like Archie to let the photographers come, but most of them as a matter of fact wanted dreadfully to be photographed and the others were frozen with unaffected terror that they might be taken unawares and then their mamas would know where they had been when they said they were at the Bicesters' dance, and then there would be a row again, which was so exhausting , if nothing else.
Poor Agatha had to pay for dinner as it was, and God knows what I'm going to do about Lottie Crump's bill. I believe he's really much richer than he looks. He might give us some money until your books start paying. I hadn't thought of that before. I don't at all see why I shouldn't do that, do you?
There were about a dozen people left at the party; that hard kernel of gaiety that never breaks. It was about three o'clock. So they all got into two taxicabs and drove across Berkeley Square to Dover Street.
But at Shepheard's the night porter said that Mrs Crump had just gone to bed. He thought that Judge Skimp was still up with some friends; would they like to join them? They went up to Judge Skimp's suite, but there had been a disaster there with a chandelier that one of his young ladies had tried to swing on. They were bathing her forehead with champagne; two of them were asleep. They went to Agatha Runcible's house, which was quite near, but she found that she'd lost her latchkey, so that was no good.
Soon some one would say those fatal words, 'Well, I think it's time for me to go to bed. Can I give any one a lift to Knightsbridge? So they all got into taxicabs again and drove rather a long way to Miss Brown's house. She turned on the lights in a sombre dining-room and gave them glasses of whisky and soda.
She turned out to be rather a good hostess, though over-zealous. Then Miles said he wanted something to eat, so they all went downstairs into a huge kitchen lined with every shape of pot and pan and found some eggs and some bacon and Miss Brown cooked them. Then they had some more whisky upstairs and Adam feel asleep again. Presently Vanburgh said, 'D'you mind if I use the telephone? I must just send the rest of my story to the paper. It was a lovely evening for Miss Brown.
Flushed with successful hospitality, she trotted from guest to guest, offering here a box of matches, there a cigar, there a fruit from the enormous gilt dishes on the sideboard. To think that all these brilliant people, whom she had heard so much about, with what envy, from Miss Mouse, should be here in papa's dining-room, calling her 'my dear' and 'darling'. And when at last they said they really had to go, Miss Runcible said, 'Well, I can't go, because I've lost my latchkey.
D'you mind awfully if I sleep here? Miss Brown, her heart in her mouth, but in the most natural way possible, said, 'Of course not, Agatha darling, that would be divine. There were four quiet girls of whom the Miss Brown who had given the party was the youngest , their brother worked in a motor shop and had had to get off early. They were seated at the table when their mama came down.
He was quite hurt yesterday. He feels out of things. It's so easy to bring him into the conversation if you take a little trouble, and he does so enjoy hearing about everything. You girls are very lucky nowadays. There were not nearly so many dances when I was your age.
Perhaps two a week in the season, you know, but none before Christmas ever. She thinks there must have been burglars. At this moment Agatha Runcible came down to breakfast.
She was not looking her best really in the morning light. D'you know, I popped into a study or something. There was a sweet old boy sitting at a desk. He did look surprised to see me. Was it your papa? All this is really much more embarrassing for me , isn't it, don't you think I think I must be losing my reason.
I was in my study just now going over that speech for this afternoon, when suddenly the door opened and in came a sort of dancing Hottentot woman half-naked.
It just said, "Oh, how shy-making," and then disappeared, and Forgive me if I appeared inhospitable Oh, why doesn't somebody else say something. Listen, " What must be the most extraordinary party of the little season took place in the small hours of this morning at No. At about 4 a. Can't you imagine what they were like? The Honourable Agatha Oh, my God!
He's always doing that kind of thing. It really would serve him right if we complained and he lost his job, don't you think so, Sir James Then she turned round and, trailing garlands of equatorial flowers, fled out of the room and out of the house to the huge delight and profit of the crowd of reporters and Press photographers who were already massed round the historic front door.
Adam woke up feeling terribly ill. He rang his bell once or twice, but nobody came. Later he woke up again and rang the bell. The Magus. John Fowles. Horse Under Water. Len Deighton. Wasted Years. John Harvey. Red Famine. Anne Applebaum. The Girl Who Wasn't There. Ferdinand von Schirach. Red, White, and Blue Murder. Bill Crider. Flaubert's Parrot. Julian Barnes.
Oscar and Lucinda. Peter Carey. Peter Longerich. The Jewel in the Crown. Paul Scott. Tristram Shandy. Laurence Sterne.
The Longest Journey. Dropped Names. Frank Langella. Night Vision. Randy Wayne White. Double Indemnity. James Cain. The Old Patagonian Express. Paul Theroux.
Excellent Women. Barbara Pym. When We Were Orphans. Kazuo Ishiguro. Beckoning Lady. Margery Allingham. Another Day in the Death of America. Gary Younge. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Cold Comfort Farm. Stella Gibbons. Alan Partridge: Alan Partridge. Rhonda Garelick. The Postman Always Rings Twice. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Scott Fitzgerald. This Rough Magic. Mary Stewart. From Russia with Love. Ian Fleming. Brideshead Revisited. Evelyn Waugh.
Men at Arms. Decline and Fall. Vile Bodies. A Handful of Dust. Officers and Gentlemen. The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold.
Black Mischief. Unconditional Surrender. Put Out More Flags. How to write a great review.