He swallowed it like a roach. England's going to the dogs, that's where it is; no snug little sinecures left for chaps like you and me; all this beastly competition. And no respect for the feelings of gentlemen, either! Why, would you believe it, Cumberground—we used to call you Cumberground at Charterhouse, I remember, or was it Fig Tree? There's no mistake about it; England's NOT a country now for a gentleman to live in.
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He shook his head. No, thank you! I'm not taking any. None of your colonies for ME, IF you please. I shall stick to the old ship. I'm too much attached to the Empire. What, no? I suppose that comes of being a sawbones, don't it? He slapped his thighs metaphorically, by way of suggesting the depleted condition of his pockets.
Sorry to have to say NO. But I'll tell you what I can do for you; I can put you upon a straight thing—".
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I glanced at the mantelpiece. I'll trouble you. She IS a clinker, Sissie is! You should see that girl smoke. I give you my word of honour, Cumberledge, she can consume cigarettes against any fellow I know in London. Hang it all, a girl like that, you know—well, one can't help admiring her! Ever seen her? He whistled a moment, then broke into an imbecile laugh.
You don't mean to tell me YOU are the other Johnnie. He leaned back and laughed again. Got two strings to her bow; that's where the trouble comes in. Me and another fellow. She likes me for love and the other fellow for money. Now, don't you come and tell me that YOU are the other fellow. She's a caulker, Sissie is; you don't take a rise out of Sissie in a hurry. She knows that if I knew who the other bloke was, I'd blow upon her little game to him and put him off her. I tell you, Cumberledge, she IS a clinker!
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I had not the slightest compunction in handing Reggie Nettlecraft over to Sissie, nor in handing Sissie over to Reggie Nettlecraft. That's just it. There, you hit the right nail plump on the cocoanut, Cumberground! But Sissie's an artful one, she is. She's playing for the other Johnnie. He's got the dibs, you know; and Sissie wants the dibs even more than she wants yours truly. He rolls in it, she says. I can't find out the chap's name, but I know his Guv'nor's something or other in the millionaire trade somewhere across in America.
Careless little beggar! Yes, she writes to me—pages. She's awfully gone on me, really. She'd marry me if it wasn't for the Johnnie with the dibs. She doesn't care for HIM: she wants his money. He dresses badly, don't you see; and, after all, the clothes make the man! I'D like to get at him.
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I'D spoil his pretty face for him. Why, of course!
Chuck him into the river some nice dark night if I could once get a look at him! He drew a long breath. She pitches it pretty warm on the affection-stop, I can tell you. But if you really think you can give the other Johnnie a cut on the head with her letters—well, in the interests of true love, which never DOES run smooth, I don't mind letting you have a squint, as my friend, at one of her charming billy-doos.
He took a bundle from a drawer, ran his eye over one or two with a maudlin air, and then selected a specimen not wholly unsuitable for publication. She always calls him C. She says, 'I only wish that beastly old bore C. But, hang it all, Reggie boy, what's the good of true love if you haven't got the dibs? I MUST have my comforts. Love in a cottage is all very well in its way; but who's to pay for the fizz, Reggie?
Sissie's awfully refined. She was brought up with the tastes and habits of a lady. I doubt if it extended much beyond oyster shells. He handed me the letter. I read it through with equal amusement and gratification. If Miss Sissie had written it on purpose in order to open Cecil Holsworthy's eyes, she couldn't have managed the matter better or more effectually.
It breathed ardent love, tempered by a determination to sell her charms in the best and highest matrimonial market.
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It would set him against the girl, who, as a matter of fact, is wholly unwor—I mean totally unfitted for him. Like a bird! Why, Sissie promised me herself that if she couldn't bring 'that solemn ass, C. It's here, in writing. I felt they both deserved it.
here Sissie was a minx, as Hilda rightly judged; while as for Nettlecraft—well, if a public school and an English university leave a man a cad, a cad he will be, and there is nothing more to be said about it. I went straight off with the letters to Cecil Holsworthy. He read them through, half incredulously at first; he was too honest-natured himself to believe in the possibility of such double-dealing—that one could have innocent eyes and golden hair and yet be a trickster.