My Own Lord Peter...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Peter accepted the tea and drank it in silence. He was still dissatisfied with himself. It was as though he had invited the woman of his choice to sit down with him at the feast of life, only to discover that his table had not been reserved for him. Men, in these mortifying circumstances, commonly find fault with the waiter, grumble at the food, and irritably reject every effort to restore pleasantness to the occasion. From the worst exhibitions of injured self-conceit, his good manners were sufficient to restrain him, but the mere fact that he knew himself to be in fault made it all the more difficult for him to recover spontaneity. Harriet watched his inner conflict sympathetically. If both of them had been ten years younger, the situation would have resolved itself in a row, tears and reconciling embraces; but for them, that path was plainly marked, NO EXIT. There was no help for it; he must get out of his sulks as best he could. Having inflicted her own savage moods upon him for a good five years, she was in no position to feel aggrieved; compared with herself, indeed, he was making a pretty good showing.

He pushed the tea things aside an lit cigarettes for both of them. Then, rubbing fretfully upon the old sore, he said:

"You show commendable patience with my bad temper."

"Is that what you call it? I've seen tempers in comparison with which you'd call that a burst of heavenly harmony."

"Whatever it is, you are trying to flatter me out of it."

"Not at all." (Very well, he was asking for it; better use shock tactics and carry the place by assault.) "I'm only trying to tell you, in the nicest possible manner, that provided I were with you, I shouldn't greatly mind being deaf, dumb, halt, blind and imbecile, afflicted with shingles and whooping-cough, in an open boat without clothes or food, with a thunderstorm coming on. But you're being painfully stupid about it."

"Oh, my dear!" he said, desperately, and with a very red face, "what the devil am I to say to that? Except that I shouldn't mind anything either. Only I can't help feeling that it's I that have somehow been idiot enough to launch the infernal boat, call up the storm, strip you naked, jettison the cargo, strike you lame and senseless and infect you with whooping-cough and - what was the other thing?"

"Shingles," said Harriet, dryly; "and it isn't infectious."

"Crushed again." His eyes danced, and all of a sudden, his heart seemed to turn right over.

~Dorothy Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon


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