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A. V. Laider   By: (1872-1956)

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A. V. Laider

By

MAX BEERBOHM

I unpacked my things and went down to await luncheon.

It was good to be here again in this little old sleepy hostel by the sea. Hostel I say, though it spelt itself without an "s" and even placed a circumflex above the "o." It made no other pretension. It was very cozy indeed.

I had been here just a year before, in mid February, after an attack of influenza. And now I had returned, after an attack of influenza. Nothing was changed. It had been raining when I left, and the waiter there was but a single, a very old waiter had told me it was only a shower. That waiter was still here, not a day older. And the shower had not ceased.

Steadfastly it fell on to the sands, steadfastly into the iron gray sea. I stood looking out at it from the windows of the hall, admiring it very much. There seemed to be little else to do. What little there was I did. I mastered the contents of a blue hand bill which, pinned to the wall just beneath the framed engraving of Queen Victoria's Coronation, gave token of a concert that was to be held or, rather, was to have been held some weeks ago in the town hall for the benefit of the Life Boat Fund. I looked at the barometer, tapped it, was not the wiser. I wandered to the letter board.

These letter boards always fascinate me. Usually some two or three of the envelops stuck into the cross garterings have a certain newness and freshness. They seem sure they will yet be claimed. Why not? Why SHOULDN'T John Doe, Esq., or Mrs. Richard Roe turn up at any moment? I do not know. I can only say that nothing in the world seems to me more unlikely. Thus it is that these young bright envelops touch my heart even more than do their dusty and sallowed seniors. Sour resignation is less touching than impatience for what will not be, than the eagerness that has to wane and wither. Soured beyond measure these old envelops are. They are not nearly so nice as they should be to the young ones. They lose no chance of sneering and discouraging. Such dialogues as this are only too frequent:

A Very Young Envelop: Something in me whispers that he will come to day!

A Very Old Envelop: He? Well, that's good! Ha, ha, ha! Why didn't he come last week, when YOU came? What reason have you for supposing he'll ever come now? It isn't as if he were a frequenter of the place. He's never been here. His name is utterly unknown here. You don't suppose he's coming on the chance of finding YOU?

A. V. Y. E.: It may seem silly, but something in me whispers

A. V. O. E.: Something in YOU? One has only to look at you to see there's nothing in you but a note scribbled to him by a cousin. Look at ME! There are three sheets, closely written, in ME. The lady to whom I am addressed

A. V. Y. E.: Yes, sir, yes; you told me all about her yesterday.

A. V. O. E.: And I shall do so to day and to morrow and every day and all day long. That young lady was a widow. She stayed here many times. She was delicate, and the air suited her. She was poor, and the tariff was just within her means. She was lonely, and had need of love. I have in me for her a passionate avowal and strictly honorable proposal, written to her, after many rough copies, by a gentleman who had made her acquaintance under this very roof. He was rich, he was charming, he was in the prime of life. He had asked if he might write to her. She had flutteringly granted his request. He posted me to her the day after his return to London. I looked forward to being torn open by her. I was very sure she would wear me and my contents next to her bosom. She was gone. She had left no address. She never returned. This I tell you, and shall continue to tell you, not because I want any of your callow sympathy, no, THANK you! but that you may judge how much less than slight are the probabilities that you yourself

But my reader has overheard these dialogues as often as I... Continue reading book >>




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