The Irrepressible: Third Allied Forces
Jesmine, so much the counterpoint to her headstrong sister,
had kept to her tuffet by the fireplace, demure with her teacup.
Maude, as she would, spoke at once, the moment Mrs. Davenant rejoined them.
‘Oh, tell, Margaret! You can’t mean to leave us hanging!’
‘I ought not to have made the allusion,’ came the sensible Margaret’s reply.
‘Bad on you, then! But I understand these people aren’t…’
‘Anything to do with us.’ Jesmine finished for her sister, goaded to it.
‘For charity’s sake, they are, however,’ said Margaret Davenant.
‘And the son…? Some disgrace on the poor mother? But how can it be
when he fought at Second Marne and came home wounded?
Heroism, isn’t it?’
‘Oh, Maude! How young you are!’
‘How, wounded?’ Jesmine put in. Her curiosity, despite herself, was now genuine.
‘One doesn’t know such things.’
‘Please!’ said Maude. ‘One may not, but I’ll wager you do!’
Margaret sighed heavily. ‘The young man’s name was Tomaso. He enlisted as
Thomas, of course.’
‘Why of course?’ Jesmine asked, at the same time the irrepressible Maude
remarked, ‘A regular Tommy!’
It emerged, on the two young ladies’ further probing of their older cousin,
that Tomaso Falco’s mother and father had not been married; that he had
by deed poll changed his name to Thomas Hawk. And that the lasting
of his injuries had been the loss of an eye.
‘Discharged with a patch, but he seems at some point to have fitted himself
with a secondhand glass one. Rather sadly conspicuous, once spotted, although
that is not the reason…’ Margaret sank into an armchair. ‘Thomas has a vengeful
temper, by all accounts. He has taken against his mother receiving our support,
knocked her flat last time… Poor Mrs. Milburne hadn’t known him to be
in the bedroom.’
‘Gracious! And Tommy’s mummy wouldn’t have the bobby?’ Maude said. ‘Why,
if I had been Mrs. Milburne…!’
‘Never mind! Jesmine is quite right. It has little to do with us. We shall, naturally,
be to poor Mrs. Falco all the help we can.’
And on this note, part one, of ‘Maude and the Country Hens’, seems—
To Virginia Keltenham…not altogether. Fortunately, she is half-owner
of The New Woman’s Quarterly, and can publish an unsatisfactory thing
if she pleases.
‘But Trout, I say it needs punch. My cliff looks barely a bluff.’
He yawns. The hurly-burly has rendered him a more worldly creature,
a change not wholly to Virginia’s liking.
‘Time in the world to write the next. Have your Milburne rush in and say,
(2020, Stephanie Foster)