A proper tact had made her tell this story without actually naming any of the dramatis personae.
"The problem is, Bertie, that I don't love him," she said, spooning up the last of a strawberry meringue.
She was looking deep into my eyes as she spoke, which made it difficult for me to think of anything sensible to say.
"Rather," I said.
"But I owe my uncle so much. It would seem so ungrateful, so... churlish not to help, when the house means everything to him. And how many married couples go on really loving one another anyway? Why not start off on a low flame?"
There was a wistful silence as I gazed into those fathomless eyes, glinting now with moisture.
I coughed and pulled myself together. "Do you think you could grow to love this fellow?" I said.
"I think so," she said, but with a sigh that came up from the soles of her evening pumps.
I took a deepish breath. "I lost my parents at a fairly young age, too, but happily the coffers were unlocked when I was twenty-one and still at Oxford."
"You were at Oxford?"
I thought there was an edge of surprise in her voice, but I let it pass.
"Absolutely," I said.
Another pall, if that's the word I want, seemed to descend. Then Georgiana stood up suddenly and said, "Come on, Bertie. Let's not be gloomy. Let's go to that café with the gypsy trio."
I felt her take my hand in hers and, pausing only to bung a note on the bill, trotted off with her to the car. Back at the hotel an hour or so later, we said goodnight, exchanged addresses and I wished her bon voyage. She kissed me lightly on the cheek and made off across the lobby, this time without being sent sprawling, and from outside I watched her disappear into the lift. A faint scent of lily of the valley hung in the air behind her.
Then I went across the road to the beach for a bedtime gasper. It was another pleasant evening, but I had the strangest feeling something I had never known before, viz.: that someone had gone to the lighting fusebox, found the one marked "Wooster B" and yanked it from the wall.
Unused as I was to this sensation, I found it a relief when life in the metropolis resumed its merry course. May turned to June; Royal Ascot and Pongo Twistleton's birthday do at the Drones were both within hailing distance, and I had little time to think of Bedford Square.
I was in bed one morning, easing myself into the day with a blend of Indian teas and turning over a tricky choice or two Walton Heath or West Hill for the invigorating nine holes; the lemon-coloured socks or the maroonwhen my eye fell on a notice in the Announcements page of Th e Times, and it was only a fi nely tuned instinct for self-preservation that prevented a cupful of boiling fluid making its way into the Wooster bedding. "Jeeves!" I called though I fancy "squawked" may have been more the mot juste.
"Sir?" he said, materialising in the doorway.
"Georgiana Meadowes is engaged."
"Indeed, sir?" "Yes, in-bally-deed, sir."
"A notable development, sir, though perhaps not entirely unforeseen."
"One feared the young lady might ultimately be unable to resist the pressure exerted by a persistent suitor and a forceful guardian."
I scratched the old bean with more than usual intent. "Sort of a pincer movement, you mean."
"I fear the military meta phor is an apt one, sir."
I scratched again. "I'm not sure. I think it's ... What's it called when you make someone feel a pill if they don't do what you want them to do even if you know it's not what they want to do?"
Excerpted from Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks. Copyright © 2013 by Sebastian Faulks. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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