The Modern Girl’s View of Marriage: Hammersmith (four)
Hogben tried singing counterpoint to the melody…
Got absorbed in the challenge, started over, switched to “Nearer My God to Thee”. He fell silent, the hymn reminding him to plan. They’d always begun a show that way, with a prayer and a song. Brought the audience together, gave them a sense of common purpose, one that with luck would carry forward. Was there any reason the Professor couldn’t, this one time, be present in spirit?
“As my late partner…always used liking to say…”
Hogben spoke aloud, acted the little catch, the timbre of his voice made fond and regretful. His shoes scudded over greening weedy stuff and moss. He noted tiny flowers, a mound of them in a sunny patch warmed also by the bridge abutment. Too puny to make a nosegay. But it was a thought…if he wasn’t wrong about Mrs. Bard, he’d get more mileage from a bunch of chickweed, than Shaw from running her errands.
Hogben started. A head of disheveled hair, and a mud-smeared chin and nose, emerged from the underside, near where Hogben had proposed to do his meditating. The rest began to come out, and what showed earliest was clad in an undershirt.
“Sir, I…may I ask you, will you… Go!” The young man gestured. He rose, clear of the arch, and stood, clutching the band of his trousers. “And, for a minute, wait on the road? Please.”
“Mr. Hogben!” The voice was Minnie Leybourne’s. “Is that you? Don’t go!”
Hogben had been prepared to hightail it. He had to debate with himself, whether in such circumstances a lady’s preference still must be obeyed—and the chance to decide got away from him. Minnie came out from under the bridge, fixing on her hat. Her skirts bore the sort of debris that might gather if lying on a patch of ground (cloth or occupant, Hogben was not judging); her state of dress otherwise was more presentable than her comrade’s.
Minnie was a lyric soprano. Nico vibrated like a wine glass, as (what Hogben supposed must be) his inamorata sang out his name. He had fastened his braces on, and was donning his jacket.
The Modern Girl’s View of Marriage
(2017, 2018 Stephanie Foster)