Love and the Loveless

Love and the Loveless by Henry Williamson Read Free Book Online

Book: Love and the Loveless by Henry Williamson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Henry Williamson
I’ll see if I can wangle you dinner with us. It’s his birthday. We’re going on to the theatre afterwards. He’s got a stage box.”
    “I haven’t signed out.” Phillip shrunk from the idea of sponging.
    “What’s the odds? It isn’t as though it’s a battalion mess, and who’s to know, or care for that matter? Anyway, Ho-bart’s got pots of it, so we may as well help him spend it. I’d feel the same if I were in his shoes. What’s money for, but to be spent?”
    Captain Hobart threaded his way to the bar. Phillip saw at a glance that he was Yeomanry, by his open genial look and hair parted in the middle and brushed back, with a whiff of eau-de-Cologne; by the cut of his well-worn breeches, washed almost white, and the buttons fastened beside and below thekneecap, the top button of each row pressing upon the little crater in the kneecap, the “button of the knee” as tailors called it; by the pale fawn stock tie, the well-boned mahogany boots, the silver spurs set high upon each ankle, with leather straps above and below. A pre-war officer, he decided. Teddie Pinnegar, by contrast, wore a pair of the much-advertised Harry Hall’s breeches with a wide cut. They were horsey, and of a rather livid salmon-pink hue, fastened with laces, and kept almost formally in shape below the knee by whale-bone strips inserted beside the lace-holes. His shirt and tie were very nearly of the same hue, so was his cap, with the peak worn at an angle and the crown crushed in: rather bounderish, Phillip thought, rather a show-off; not that Teddie, he hastened to tell himself, was a bounder, not at all, only he didn’t seem to know, exactly, what made up good form.
    “This is Phil Maddison, Jack.”
    “How do you do, sir.”
    “Don’t you call me sir, young feller! My name’s Hubb’t. Or Ho-bart, as some prefer to call me.”
    “Now don’t you pretend you’re not Ho-bart of Ho-bart’s Boot Polish, Jack, for I’ve been telling Phillip all about you——”
    “How about our appointment with the Widow? It’s my birthday, let’s crack a bottle, shall we? In fact, I’ve got some on ice. Let’s go into the office, what?”
    Pinnegar winked at Phillip, to confirm the success of his strategy. Phillip felt uneasiness; it looked like deliberate sponging. He was soon reassured in the company of the two girls, and their mother, who were glad to see everyone, as was Captain Hobart. A nice fellow, he thought; so was Teddie, but he wished he would see that Hobart, under his easy manner, was bored by the continued remarks about his name.
    “What tripe some pronunciations of names are! Mere snobbery, when you come to think of it. Everyone trying to be one up on the people next door! It’s like fashions in women’s hats at Ascot”—with an ingenuous smile at the younger blue-eyed girl who had brought in the ice bucket. Then,
    “Shall I crack it for you, Jack?” he asked, as he lifted a bottle of Veuve Cliquot 1906 from the ice, and started to undo the wire over the cork.
    “No, you must let me take the risk,” replied Hobart, taking the bottle, and loosening the cork. Pop! It struck the ceiling,while Hobart managed to get most of the froth into a glass. Some fell on Pinnegar’s new breeches.
    “My word, now I’ve spoiled your new Harry Hall’s, Teddie!”
    “That’s all right,” cried Pinnegar. “I wet them myself sometimes! Well, cheero, Jack, all the best, and many happy returns!”
    After the toast had been drunk, Pinnegar went on, “As I was saying, women at Ascot before the war went there solely to out-do other women in hats. Don’t you agree? You’ll bear me out there, I dare say, Jack?”
    “I never looked at the hats, Teddie.”
    “I bet you didn’t!” said Pinnegar, knowingly. Then, to Phillip, “You want to keep in with Jack! He’s looking for a transport officer! He might ask you, if he takes a fancy to you.”
    While Phillip was trying to think of something to say, Captain Hobart turned to him

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