The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1912
Daphne put her hands on my shoulders. She assumed her persuasive air. Daphne can be very persuasive.
"Walter, dear," she said, "I wish you would stay home on Thursday. Mabel Courtenay's coming."
"Thursday." I said, hurriedly. "Oh, yes. Jack Smith'll probably want me to go boating on Thursday."
"Oh!" Said Daphne.
"Yes," said I. "We arranged it last Friday."
"Jack Smith." Said Daphne, solemnly, "has been away a fortnight .Oh, Walter, how can you be so nasty? I would so like you to meet Mabel. She's the dearest girl."
I broke away and left the room. It's no use arguing with Daphne—it only ends with my giving in, and I felt very strongly on this subject. For the best part of a year I have been regularly trotted out to show myself to, and otherwise blend amusement with instruction for, the numerous girl friends of Daphne. At first I rather enjoyed it, but in time the novelty of the thing wore off, and the general inanity of the sex became very evident. I stood it as long as I could for Daphne's sake, for I really believe that Daphne is above the usual run of sisters. But even my patience became exhausted. I made up my mind to put my foot down.
I went back to Daphne and told her this. "No carthorse on earth," said I, "could now drag me into an acquaintance with Mabel Courtenay. At the same time, I am willing to provide the funds for her entertainment, and to compensate her for her natural disappointment, and to compensate her for her natural disappointment. You can take her to the zoo, or the circus—expense is no object." I put down threepence, and left the room haughtily.
At the same time I thought it the part of wisdom, under the circumstances, to adjure the house for the remainder of the day. Daphne can very unpleasant when she is angry. I put some biscuits in my pocket (it's a cardinal rule of my existence never to move without biscuits), and set out for a ramble.page 32
The day was warm and fine. Nature was happy, and it was not long before I fell into her mood. By the time I had reached my objective, a thick belt of trees some eight miles distant, I was once more on good terms with the world.
I chose a comfortable place under a shady tree and sat down for a snack. Hardly bad I bitten into my first biscuit when I was abruptly, though, I must admit, most charmingly, arrested by a voice from the heavens.
"Oh, please," said the voice.
I looked up. Half-way up the tree under which I was sitting was a girl—a deucedly pretty girl.
"Hullo, Helen," Said I.
" I can't get down," said Helen.
I climbed to conversational distance up a neighbouring tree.
"Now, tell me all about it," I said in a soothing tone. "How did you get up?"
"I don't know," she returned," and I can't get down."
"Delighted to hear it," said I.
Helen looked surprised, and rather annoyed.
"Aren't you going to help me down," she said, in her most polite voice.
"Not at the moment," said I. Silence.
"It's a nice tree you're on," said I. No answer.
I determined to try another tack.
"Up to now," I ventured, "I have preferred fair girls."
"Oh," said Helen, Obviously interested.
"Yes," said I. Now we were all right.
"Why 'Helen'? " said she.
" I like the name," said I; "I've always wanted to a girl named Helen.
"It's a nice name," said she.
"Yes," said I; "if there is any name that I could have preferred for myself, It's Adolphus. Whenever you start an argument, Helen, it's always best to define your terms at the outset."
"Couldn't we argue better on the ground? "
"You don't understand the position, Helen. Roosting on this tree you see a desperate victim of feminine oppression. Pursued on all sides, I have sought a page 33 precarious sanctuary in the depths of the forest. For the momest I believe I have eluded pursuit."
"Poor Adolphus!" said Helen.
"Yes," said I. "While you're up the tree I'm safe. How am I to know you're not a minion of the oppressor?"
"Oh," I'm not," said Helen. "I like men—nice men."
"Then you'll like me," said I.
Helen demurred. "No nice man would let me remain here," said she.
"I'm going to," said I.
"I've had no lunch," said Helen.
"I carry sustenance in my pocket. Have a biscuit." I tossed over the bag, and—wonder of wonders—she caught it.
"Tell me about the oppressor," said Helen, munching happily, and apparently resigned to her position.
"It's Daphne," said I; "Daphne's my sister, you know. She's very popular girl, with a large following. She brings them all home—all kinds of girls—and I'm expected to go through my tricks. I've stood it for a long time, because I'm naturally fond of girls."
"Of course," said Helen.
"Yes," said I. "But the thing's got beyond a joke. I've jibbed at last. She's got a new friend—a girl named Courtenay—and of course she wants to show me to her. I refused, and escaped. They're after me now."
"Are they using bloodhounds?" said Helen.
"I believe so," said I. "The position's desperate."
"I'm so sorry for you, Adolphus" said Helen.
"That's sweet of you," said I.
"Don't you think I might help," said she. "If you let me down I could tell them I'd seen you going the other way, or something."
"I don't know, said I. "I rather like this."
"What do you like?" said Helen."
I like looking at you," said I. "Besides, the situation's a novel one. I don't remember anything quite like this."
"But I want to get down," said Helen.
"Your position's nothing to mine. You'll get down from the tree all right."
"Will I?" said she.page 34
"Yes," said I. "But I'll never escape Mable Courtenay."
"Poor Adolphus," said she.
"Yes," said I. "What's your opinion of the Suffragette question?"
"I don't want vote," said Helen.
"Good," said I. "Daphne's friends mostly do. I say, I wish you knew Daphne."
"So do I," said Helen.
"I wouldn't mind your coming to see me."
"wouldn't you?" said Helen.
"No," said I. "I say, do you play tennis?"
"I did before I got treed."
"Helen," said I, "you really ought to know me."
"If you helped me down I beheve I'd like to," said Helen.
"That settles it," said I; "my trusting nature is over-come".
I helped her down. She said she lived closed by, She would not let me escort her home. So I told her that I should lie low in that spot or thereabouts until the pursuit might be expected to have slackened. I begged her aid for a fellow-being in distress. She granted it. I requested her to do her utmost to put the bloodhounds on the track of the butcher's cart, and to report progress the next day. She agreed, and we parted. As dear old Pepys would have put it," She left me and I her."
Each day for the next week we kept up the pleasant little farce, and I found myself looking forward strangely to the meetings. Another cheering thing was that during the week the attitude of Daphne had been rather decent. Usually she gets distressingly bad-tempered after one of our little tiffs, but on this occasion she seemed to see in it a subject for mirth. Indeed, when I casually mentioned Miss Courtenay's name she was almost overcome. I was rather pleased she took it so well.
On the eighth day, when I got to our conspirator's tree, Helen was already there. Her air was tragic.
"Adolphus," said she," all is lost."
I sighed. "Tell me at once. I am prepared for the worst."page 35
"The enemy have arranged to waylay you at dinner," said Helen.
"All is indeed lost," said I (it is a cardinal rule of my existence never to miss my dinner). "I resign myself to the inevitable. I have thought a good fight, but it's no use holding out any longer. This very night I shall give myself up. Life is sweet and liberty is sweet, but I can't miss my dinner. It is very sad."
"Very sad," said Helen. She sighed.
"Yes," said I. "Won't you shake hands before I go to my fate?"
I took her hands in mine. She looked at the ground.
I can't explain how it happened. For a moment things were a bit mixed up. It was all over in a second.
"How dare you kiss me," said Helen, pulling her hands away.
"I don't know," said I. "Must have been bit above myself, I think. I feel it coming on again, too."
Before I could stop her she was gone—and I did not even know her name. I went home savagely.
Something told me that attack would be delivered that very night. I spent the afternoon reading in the library. I read of the stoical indifference to torture of the Red Indians. I took courage. I would face it smilingly.
I went down to execution (hitherto known to me as dinner) in good time. Daphne was met me in the hall.
"Walter," said Daphne. Daphne was smiling.
"I surrender," said I.
"What do you mean?" said Daphne .
"It's all right," I said. "I'll come quietly. Where is she?"
"In the drawing-room," said Daphne. She giggled.
I followed her. We entered the room.
Ye Gods! Miss Courtenay was not there—but Helen was!
"Hullo, Helen!" said I.
"Hullo, Adolphus!" said Helen.
"Have you two met before?" said Daphne, with a break in her voice.
"I k——" I was going to say "I kissed her this morning," but somehow it did not seem the sort of thing one ought to say in a drawing-room.page 36
"Used to play together as children," said I.
"Oh," said Daphne.
"Yes," said I. "Old sweethearts, in fact."
Daphne went to the door.
"Then why wouldn't you meet Miss Courtenay before?" said she. She shut the door and giggled in the hall. Helen—er—Miss Courtenay—laughed also.
I had been an ass—as usual. I dropped into a chair, and groaned aloud. I felt bad. They had played a pretty trick on me. What a fool I had been! I began to get angry. I stood up and glared at the visitor.
"It's all right," said I. "The joke's over; I'm the fool." I walked to the door " You two can enjoy the fun better without me. I can't appreciate it, Miss Courtenay."
Miss Courtenay stopped laughing. I turned the handle.
"Don't go just yet," said she.
I waited. She traced the pattern of the carpet with her toe, and seemed in doubt as to what to say next. When she did speak it was in a whisper.
"I think Helen is much nicer name than Miss Courtenay," she said.
I began to feel less angry. I shut the door—from the outside. I relented altogether.
"What do you think of Adolphus?" said I.
She did not answer at once. It was not until I was quite close to her that she lifted her head.
"I think Adolphus is perfectly delightful," said Helen.
I made no excuses this time.
C. A. Berendsen.