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   Chapter 10 No.10

What Timmy Did By Marie Belloc Lowndes Characters: 9177

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Radmore felt secretly relieved that he and Timmy got home too late for him to see Mr. Tosswill alone before dinner. And when at last he came down, just a minute or two late, for he had to do things for himself to which he had become unaccustomed-unpacking his bag, putting out his evening clothes, placing of studs in his evening shirt, and so on-he found what looked to him like a large party of strangers all gathered together in the dear old drawing-room.

As he walked in among them he looked first with quick interest at the three girls. Yes, Timmy was right-Rosamund was lovely. Dolly struck him as commonplace, though as a matter of fact she looked more attractive than usual. Betty looked very hot-or was it that the exquisite complexion that once had been her chief physical beauty had gone?

After a moment or two Betty slipped out of the room, leaving Radmore and Mr. Tosswill shaking hands quite cordially, if a little awkwardly.

"Well, sir, here I am again, turned up just like a bad penny!" And his host answered absently:-"Yes, yes, Godfrey-very glad to see you, I'm sure."

Then, after he had shaken hands with Janet and Tom, they all stood together on the hearthrug waiting, so Radmore supposed, for the parlourmaid to come in and announce dinner.

But instead of that happening, the door opened and Timmy appeared. "Will you come into the dining-room? Everything's ready now."

They all followed him, three of the younger ones-Tom, Dolly and Rosamund-laughing and whispering together. Somehow Timmy never associated himself with those of his brothers and sisters nearest to him in age.

Radmore came last of all with Janet. He felt as if he were in a strange, unreal dream. It was all at once so like and so unlike what he had expected to find it. All these quiet, demure-looking young strangers, instead of the jolly, familiar children he had left nine years ago-and, as he realised with a sharp pang-no George. He had not known till to-night how much he had counted on seeing George, or at least on hearing all about him. Instead, here was Jack, so very self-possessed-or was it superior?-in his smart evening jacket. He could hardly believe that Jack was George's brother.

For a moment he forgot Betty. Then he saw her come hurrying in. Her colour had gone down, and she looked very charming, and yet-yes, a stranger too.

The table was laid very much as it had been in the old days on a Sunday, when they always had supper instead of dinner at Old Place. But to-day was not Sunday-where could all the servants be?

Janet, looking very nice in the bright blue gown her little son had admired, placed the guest on her right hand. To her left, Timmy, with snorts and wriggles, settled himself. The others all sorted themselves out; Betty sat the nearest to the door, on the right of her father,-lovely Rosamund on his left.

Timmy stood up and mumbled out a Latin grace. How it brought back Radmore's boyhood and early manhood days! But in those days it was Tom, a simple cherubic-looking little boy of seven, who said grace-the usual "For what we are going to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful!" The stranger-how queer to think he was a stranger here, in this familiar room-did not care for the innovation.

They all sat down, and Radmore began to eat his soup, served in a covered cup. It was very good soup, and as he was rather tired and hungry, he enjoyed it. Then Timmy got up and removed the cup and its cover; and suddenly the guest became aware that only four people at the table had taken soup-himself, Mr. Tosswill, Jack, and Timmy. What an odd thing!

They were all rather silent, and Radmore began to have a strange, uncanny feeling that none of them could see him, that he was a wraith, projected out of the past into the present. It was a novel and most disconcerting sensation. But no one glancing at his keen face, now illumined with a half humorous expression of interest, would have guessed the mixed and painful feelings which possessed him.

He stole a look to his left. Janet, in his eyes, was almost unchanged. Of course she looked a thought older, a thought thicker-not so much in her upright figure, as in her clever, irregular-featured face. In the days of his early manhood she had never seemed to him to be very much older than himself-but now she looked a lifetime older than he felt.

Only Mr. Tosswill looked absolutely unchanged. His mild benevolent face, his deep blue eyes, his grey hair, seemed exactly the same as when Radmore had last sat down, in the Old Place dining-room, to a full tabl

e. That had been in the Christmas holidays of 1910. Very well he remembered all that had happened then, for he and Betty had just become engaged.

At nineteen Betty Tosswill had belonged to the ideal type of old-fashioned English girlhood-high-spirited, cheerful, artless yet intelligent, with a strong sense of humour. She had worn a pink evening frock during those long-ago Christmas holidays, and had looked, at any rate in her young lover's eyes, beautiful.

They had been ardently, passionately in love, he a masterful, exacting lover, and though seeming older than his age, without any of the magnanimity which even the passage of only a very few years brings to most intelligent men. Poor little Betty of long ago-what a child she had been at nineteen!-but a child capable of deep and varied emotions.

At the time of their parting he had been absorbed in his own selfish sensations of anger, revolt, and the sharp sense of loss, savagely glad that she was unhappy too. But after he had gone, after he had plunged into the new, to him exciting and curious, life of the great vessel taking him to Australia, he had forced himself to put Betty out of his mind, and, after a few days, he had started a violent flirtation with the most attractive woman on board the liner. The flirtation had developed, by the time they reached Sydney, into a serious affair, and had been the determining cause why he had not written even to George. Godfrey Radmore had not thought of that woman for years. But to-night her now hateful, meretricious image rose, with horrid vividness, before him. It had been an ugly, debasing episode, and had dragged on and on, as such episodes have a way of doing.

Wrenching his mind free of that odious memory, he looked across at Betty. Yes, it was at once a relief and something of a disappointment to feel her, too, transformed into a stranger. For one thing she had had, when he had last seen her, a great deal of long fair hair. But she had cut it off when starting her arduous war work, and the lack of it altered her amazingly, all the more that she did not wear her short hair "bobbed," in what had become the prevailing fashion, but brushed back from her low forehead, and staidly held in place by a broad, black, snood-like ribbon.

He looked to his right, down the old-fashioned, almost square dining table. Jack was the least changed, after his father, of the young people sitting at this table. Jack, nine years ago, had been a rather complacent boy, doing very well at school, the type of boy who is as if marked out by fate to do well in life. Yes, Jack had hardly changed at all, but Radmore, looking at Jack, felt a sudden intolerable jealousy for George....

He came back with a start to what was going on around him, and idly he wondered what had happened to all the servants this evening. Truth to tell he had been just a little surprised and taken aback at not finding his bag unpacked and his evening clothes laid out before dinner.

Timmy had slipped out of his chair and brought him a plateful of roast mutton, and now Rosamund was playing waitress, smiling at his elbow, a lovely Hebe indeed, with dishes of potatoes and greens. He helped himself a little awkwardly, while Timmy was taking round platefuls of meat to his father, to Jack, and finally one to his own little self.

Then Betty went out of the room, and came back with a large dish of macaroni cheese, which she put on a side table. Jack got up and whispered something to her rather angrily. He was evidently remonstrating with her for not having allowed him to go and get the dish, for he motioned her rather imperiously back to her seat by her father, while he himself, calling to Dolly to help him, dealt out generous portions of macaroni cheese to those who had not taken meat.

All at once Timmy exclaimed in his shrill voice:-"I like macaroni cheese. Why shouldn't I have a little to-day, too? Here, Tom, you take my meat, and I'll have your macaroni cheese." He did not wait for Tom's assent to this peculiar proposal, and was proceeding to effect the exchange when Tom muttered crossly, while yet, or so Radmore fancied, casting rather longing eyes at Timmy's plate.

"You know perfectly well you've got to have meat to drive the ghosties out of your silly head."

Timmy submitted with a grunt of disappointment, and the meal proceeded. Again Radmore felt surprised and puzzled. Was it conceivable that the whole family-with the exception of Mr. Tosswill, Jack and Timmy, had become so High Church that Friday was with them a meatless day?

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