To Room Nineteen

To Room Nineteen by Doris Lessing

Book: To Room Nineteen by Doris Lessing Read Free Book Online
Authors: Doris Lessing
was to be hoped the awkward moment was over. But no; for Francis Clarke seemed to think matters needed clarifying. He said, with a sort of rallying gallantry towards his wife, ‘She’s got a bee in her bonnet about getting on.’
    ‘Well,’ cried Betty, ‘it makes a good impression, you must admit that. And when Mr Beaker – Mr Beaker is his boss,’ she explained to Mary, ‘when you said to Mr Beaker at the whist drive you were going to the south of France, he was impressed, you can say what you like.’
    Tommy offered his wife an entirely disloyal, sarcastic grin.
    ‘A woman should think of her husband’s career,’ said Betty. ‘It’s true, isn’t? And I know I’ve helped Francie a lot. I’m sure he wouldn’t have got that raise if it weren’t for making a good impression. Besides you meet such nice people. Last year, we made friends well, acquaintance, if you like – with some people who live at Ealing. We wouldn’t have, otherwise. He’s in the films.’
    ‘He’s a cameraman,’ said Francis, being accurate.
    ‘Well, that’s films, isn’t it? And they asked us to a party. And who do you think was there?’
    ‘Mr Beaker?’ inquired Mary finely.
    ‘How did you guess? Well, they could see, couldn’t they? And I wouldn’t be surprised if Francis couldn’t be buyer, now they know he’s used to foreigners. He should learn French, I tell him.’
    ‘Can’t speak a word,’ said Francis. ‘Can’t stand it anyway – gabble, gabble, gabble.’
    ‘Oh, but Mrs Rogers speaks it so beautifully,’ cried Betty.
    ‘She’s cracked,’ said Francis, good-humouredly, nodding to indicate his wife. ‘She spends half the year making clothes for three weeks’ holiday at the sea. Then the other half making Christmas presents out of bits and pieces. That’s all she ever does.’
    ‘Oh, but it’s so nice to give people presents with that individual touch,’ said Betty.
    ‘If you want to waste your time I’m not stopping you,’ said Francis. ‘I’m not stopping you. It’s your funeral.’
    ‘They’re not grateful for what we do for them,’ said Betty, wrestling with tears, trying to claim the older woman as an ally. ‘If I didn’t work hard, we couldn’t afford the friends we got …’
    But Mary Rogers had risen from her place. ‘I think I’m ready for bed,’ she said. ‘Good night, Mrs Clarke. Good night, Mr Clarke.’ Without looking at her husband, she walked away.
    Tommy Rogers hastily got up, paid the bill, bade the young couple an embarrassed good night, and hurried after his wife. He caught her up at the turning of the steep road up to the villa. The stars were brilliant overhead; the palms waved seductively in the soft breeze. ‘I say,’ he said angrily, ‘that wasn’t very nice of you.’
    ‘I haven’t any patience with that sort of thing,’ said Mary. Her voice was high and full of tears. He looked at her in astonishment and held his peace.
    But next day he went off fishing. For Mary, the holiday was over. She was packing and did not go to the beach.
    That evening he said, ‘They’ve asked us back for dinner.’
    ‘You go. I’m tired.’
    ‘I shall go,’ he said defiantly, and went. He did not return until very late.
    They had to catch the train early next morning. At the little station, they stood with their suitcases in a crowd of people who regretted the holiday was over. But Mary was regretting nothing. As soon as the train came, she got in and left Tommy shaking hands with crowds of English people whom, apparently, he had met the night before. At the last minute, the young Clarkes came running up in bathing suits to say goodbye. She nodded stiffly out of the train window and went on arranging the baggage. Then the train started and her husband came in.
    The compartment was full and there was an excuse not to talk. The silence persisted, however. Soon Tommy was watching her anxiously and making remarks about the weather, which worsened steadily as they went

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