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|My Man Jeeves||P. G. Wodehouse|
Rallying Round Old George
|Page 3 of 12||
About five minutes later, just as the rest of them were going to move off to breakfast, a boat hailed us and came alongside. A tall, thin man came up the gangway. He looked round the group, and fixed on old Marshall as the probable owner of the yacht.
"Good morning," he said. "I believe you have a Mr. Lattaker on board--Mr. George Lattaker?"
"Yes," said Marshall. "He's down below. Want to see him? Whom shall I say?"
"He would not know my name. I should like to see him for a moment on somewhat urgent business."
"Take a seat. He'll be up in a moment. Reggie, my boy, go and hurry him up."
I went down to George's state-room.
"George, old man!" I shouted.
No answer. I opened the door and went in. The room was empty. What's more, the bunk hadn't been slept in. I don't know when I've been more surprised. I went on deck.
"He isn't there," I said.
"Not there!" said old Marshall. "Where is he, then? Perhaps he's gone for a stroll ashore. But he'll be back soon for breakfast. You'd better wait for him. Have you breakfasted? No? Then will you join us?"
The man said he would, and just then the gong went and they trooped down, leaving me alone on deck.
I sat smoking and thinking, and then smoking a bit more, when I thought I heard somebody call my name in a sort of hoarse whisper. I looked over my shoulder, and, by Jove, there at the top of the gangway in evening dress, dusty to the eyebrows and without a hat, was dear old George.
"Great Scot!" I cried.
"'Sh!" he whispered. "Anyone about?"
"They're all down at breakfast."
He gave a sigh of relief, sank into my chair, and closed his eyes. I regarded him with pity. The poor old boy looked a wreck.
"I say!" I said, touching him on the shoulder.
He leaped out of the chair with a smothered yell.
"Did you do that? What did you do it for? What's the sense of it? How do you suppose you can ever make yourself popular if you go about touching people on the shoulder? My nerves are sticking a yard out of my body this morning, Reggie!"
"Yes, old boy?"
"I did a murder last night."
"It's the sort of thing that might happen to anybody. Directly Stella Vanderley broke off our engagement I----"
"Broke off your engagement? How long were you engaged?"
"About two minutes. It may have been less. I hadn't a stop-watch. I proposed to her at ten last night in the saloon. She accepted me. I was just going to kiss her when we heard someone coming. I went out. Coming along the corridor was that infernal what's-her-name--Mrs. Vanderley's maid--Pilbeam. Have you ever been accepted by the girl you love, Reggie?"
"Never. I've been refused dozens----"
"Then you won't understand how I felt. I was off my head with joy. I hardly knew what I was doing. I just felt I had to kiss the nearest thing handy. I couldn't wait. It might have been the ship's cat. It wasn't. It was Pilbeam."
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P. G. Wodehouse
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