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Mansfield's Short Stories
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Mr. and Mrs. Dove
Of course he knew--no man better--that he hadn't a ghost of a chance, he hadn't an
earthly. The very idea of such a thing was preposterous. So preposterous that he'd
perfectly understand it if her father--well, whatever her father chose to do he'd perfectly
understand. In fact, nothing short of desperation, nothing short of the fact that this was
positively his last day in England for God knows how long, would have screwed him up
to it. And even now...He chose a tie out of the chest of drawers, a blue and cream check
tie, and sat on the side of his bed. Supposing she replied, "What impertinence!" would he
be surprised? Not in the least, he decided, turning up his soft collar and turning it down
over the tie. He expected her to say something like that. He didn't see, if he looked at the
affair dead soberly, what else she could say.
Here he was! And nervously he tied a bow in front of the mirror, jammed his hair down
with both hands, pulled out the flaps of his jacket pockets. Making between 500 and 600
pounds a year on a fruit farm in--of all places- -Rhodesia. No capital. Not a penny
coming to him. No chance of his income increasing for at least four years. As for looks
and all that sort of thing, he was completely out of the running. He couldn't even boast of
top-hole health, for the East Africa business had knocked him out so thoroughly that he'd
had to take six months' leave. He was still fearfully pale--worse even than usual this
afternoon, he thought, bending forward and peering into the mirror. Good heavens! What
had happened? His hair looked almost bright green. Dash it all, he hadn't green hair at all
events. That was a bit too steep. And then the green light trembled in the glass; it was the
shadow from the tree outside. Reggie turned away, took out his cigarette case, but
remembering how the mater hated him to smoke in his bedroom, put it back again and
drifted over to the chest of drawers. No, he was dashed if he could think of one blessed
thing in his favour, while she...Ah!...He stopped dead, folded his arms, and leaned hard
against the chest of drawers.
And in spite of her position, her father's wealth, the fact that she was an only child and far
and away the most popular girl in the neighbourhood; in spite of her beauty and her
cleverness--cleverness!--it was a great deal more than that, there was really nothing she
couldn't do; he fully believed, had it been necessary, she would have been a genius at
anything-- in spite of the fact that her parents adored her, and she them, and they'd as
soon let her go all that way as...In spite of every single thing you could think of, so
terrific was his love that he couldn't help hoping. Well, was it hope? Or was this queer,
timid longing to have the chance of looking after her, of making it his job to see that she
had everything she wanted, and that nothing came near her that wasn't perfect--just love?
How he loved her! He squeezed hard against the chest of drawers and murmured to it, "I
love her, I love her!" And just for the moment he was with her on the way to Umtali. It
was night. She sat in a corner asleep. Her soft chin was tucked into her soft collar, her
gold-brown lashes lay on her cheeks. He doted on her delicate little nose, her perfect lips,
her ear like a baby's, and the gold-brown curl that half covered it. They were passing
through the jungle. It was warm and dark and far away. Then she woke up and said,
"Have I been asleep?" and he answered, "Yes. Are you all right? Here, let me--" And he