Three Men and a Maid (Chapter 5, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 5

A sharp yell from the lower berth proclaimed the fact that the significance of the remark had not been lost on Eustace.

"Your fiancee?"

"The girl I'm engaged to. Didn't I tell you about that? Yes, I'm engaged."

Eustace sighed heavily.

"I feared the worst. Tell me, who is she?"

"Didn't I tell you her name?"

"No."

"Curious! I must have forgotten." He hummed an airy strain as he blackened the tip of his nose. "It's rather a curious coincidence, really. Her name is Bennett."

"She may be a relation."

"That's true. Of course, girls do have relations."

"What is her first name?"

"That is another rather remarkable thing. It's Wilhelmina."

"Wilhelmina!"

"Of course, there must be hundreds of girls in the world called Wilhelmina Bennett, but still it is a coincidence."

"What colour is her hair?" demanded Eustace Hignett in a hollow voice. "Her hair! What colour is it?"

"Her hair? Now, let me see. You ask me what colour is her hair. Well, you might call it auburn ... or russet ... or you might call it Titian...."

"Never mind what you might call it. Is it red?"

"Red? Why, yes. That is a very good description of it. Now that you put it to me like that, it is red."

"Has she a trick of grabbing at you suddenly, when she gets excited, like a kitten with a ball of wool?"

"Yes. Yes, she has."

Eustace Hignett uttered a sharp cry.

"Sam," he said, "can you bear a shock?"

"I'll have a dash at it."

"Brace up!"

"The girl you are engaged to is the same girl who promised to marry me."

"Well, well!" said Sam.

There was a silence.

"Awfully sorry, of course, and all that," said Sam.

"Don't apologise to me!" said Eustace. "My poor old chap, my only feeling towards you is one of the purest and profoundest pity." He reached out and pressed Sam's hand. "I regard you as a toad beneath the harrow!"

"Well, I suppose that's one way of offering congratulations and cheery good wishes."

"And on top of that," went on Eustace, deeply moved. "You have got to sing at the ship's concert."

"Why shouldn't I sing at the ship's concert?"

"My dear old man, you have many worthy qualities, but you must know that you can't sing. You can't sing for nuts! I don't want to discourage you, but, long ago as it is, you can't have forgotten what an ass you made of yourself at that house-supper at school. Seeing you up against it like this, I regret that I threw a lump of butter at you on that occasion, though at the time it seemed the only course to pursue."

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