Three Men and a Maid (Chapter 3, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 3

For some moments Sam remained where he was staring after the girl as she flitted down the passage. He felt dizzy. Mental acrobatics always have an unsettling effect, and a young man may be excused for feeling a little dizzy when he is called upon suddenly and without any warning to readjust all his preconceived views on any subject. Listening to Eustace Hignett's story of his blighted romance, Sam had formed an unflattering opinion of this Wilhelmina Bennett who had broken off her engagement simply because on the day of the marriage his cousin had been short of the necessary wedding garment. He had, indeed, thought a little smugly how different his goddess of the red hair was from the object of Eustace Hignett's affections. And how they had proved to be one and the same. It was disturbing. It was like suddenly finding the vampire of a five-reel feature film turn into the heroine.

Some men, on making the discovery of this girl's identity, might have felt that Providence had intervened to save them from a disastrous entanglement. This point of view never occurred to Samuel Marlowe. The way he looked at it was that he had been all wrong about Wilhelmina Bennett. Eustace, he felt, had been to blame throughout. If this girl had maltreated Eustace's finer feelings, then her reason for doing so must have been excellent and praiseworthy.

After all ... poor old Eustace ... quite a good fellow, no doubt in many ways ... but, coming down to brass tacks, what was there about Eustace that gave him any license to monopolise the affections of a wonderful girl? Where, in a word, did Eustace Hignett get off? He made a tremendous grievance of the fact that she had broken off the engagement, but what right had he to go about the place expecting her to be engaged to him? Eustace Hignett, no doubt, looked upon the poor girl as utterly heartless. Marlowe regarded her behaviour as thoroughly sensible. She had made a mistake, and, realising this at the eleventh hour, she had had the force of character to correct it. He was sorry for poor old Eustace, but he really could not permit the suggestion that Wilhelmina Bennett--her friends called her Billie--had not behaved in a perfectly splendid way throughout. It was women like Wilhelmina Bennett--Billie to her intimates--who made the world worth living in.

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