A Damsel in Distress (Chapter 5, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 5

George awoke next morning with a misty sense that somehow the world
had changed. As the last remnants of sleep left him, he was aware
of a vague excitement. Then he sat up in bed with a jerk. He had
remembered that he was in love.

There was no doubt about it. A curious happiness pervaded his
entire being. He felt young and active. Everything was emphatically
for the best in this best of all possible worlds. The sun was
shining. Even the sound of someone in the street below whistling
one of his old compositions, of which he had heartily sickened
twelve months before, was pleasant to his ears, and this in spite
of the fact that the unseen whistler only touched the key in odd
spots and had a poor memory for tunes. George sprang lightly out of
bed, and turned on the cold tap in the bath-room. While he lathered
his face for its morning shave he beamed at himself in the mirror.

It had come at last. The Real Thing.

George had never been in love before. Not really in love. True,
from the age of fifteen, he had been in varying degrees of
intensity attracted sentimentally by the opposite sex. Indeed, at
that period of life of which Mr. Booth Tarkington has written so
searchingly--the age of seventeen--he had been in love with
practically every female he met and with dozens whom he had only
seen in the distance; but ripening years had mellowed his taste and
robbed him of that fine romantic catholicity. During the last five
years women had found him more or less cold. It was the nature of
his profession that had largely brought about this cooling of the
emotions. To a man who, like George, has worked year in and year
out at the composition of musical comedies, woman comes to lose
many of those attractive qualities which ensnare the ordinary male.
To George, of late years, it had begun to seem that the salient
feature of woman as a sex was her disposition to kick. For five
years he had been wandering in a world of women, many of them
beautiful, all of them superficially attractive, who had left no
other impress on his memory except the vigour and frequency with
which they had kicked. Some had kicked about their musical
numbers, some about their love-scenes; some had grumbled about
their exit lines, others about the lines of their second-act
frocks. They had kicked in a myriad differing ways--wrathfully,
sweetly, noisily, softly, smilingly, tearfully, pathetically and
patronizingly; but they had all kicked; with the result that woman
had now become to George not so much a flaming inspiration or a
tender goddess as something to be dodged--tactfully, if possible;
but, if not possible, by open flight. For years he had dreaded to
be left alone with a woman, and had developed a habit of gliding
swiftly away when he saw one bearing down on him.

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