by E. F. Benson
Certainly the breakfast tongue, which was cut for the first time that morning, was not of the pleasant reddish hue which Mrs. Altham was justified in expecting, considering that the delicacy in question was not an ordinary tinned tongue (you had to take things as you found them, if your false sense of economy led you to order tinned goods) but one that came out of a fine glass receptacle with an eminent label on it. It was more of the colour of cold mutton, unattractive if not absolutely unpleasant to the eye, while to the palate it proved to be singularly lacking in flavour. Altogether it was a great disappointment, and for this reason, when Mr. Altham set out at a quarter-past twelve to stroll along to the local club in Queensgate Street with the ostensible purpose of seeing if there was any fresh telegram about the disturbances in Morocco, his wife accompanied him to the door of that desirable mansion, round which was grouped a variety of chained-up dogs in various states of boredom and irritation, and went on into the High Street in order to make in person a justifiable complaint at her grocer's. She would be sorry to have to take her custom elsewhere, but if Mr. Pritchard did not see his way to sending her another tongue (of course without further charge) she would be obliged . . .
So this morning there was a special and imperative reason why Mrs. Altham should walk out before lunch to the High Street, and why her husband should make a morning visit to the club. But to avoid misconception it may be stated at once that there was, on every day of the week except Sunday, some equally compelling cause to account for these expeditions. If it was very wet, perhaps, Mrs. Altham might not go to the High Street, but wet or fine her husband went to his club. And exactly the same thing happened in the case of most of their friends and acquaintances, so that Mr. Altham was certain of meeting General Fortescue, Mr. Brodie, Major Ames, and others in the smoking-room, while Mrs. Altham encountered their wives and sisters on errands like her own in the High Street. She often professed superior distaste for gossip, but when she met her friends coming in and out of shops, it was but civil and reasonable that she should have a few moments' chat with them. Thus, if any striking events had taken place since the previous afternoon, they all learned about them. Simultaneously there was a similar interchange of thought and tidings going on in the smoking-room at the club, so that when Mr. Altham had drunk his glass of sherry and returned home to lunch at one-thirty, there was probably little of importance and interest which had not reached the ears of himself or his wife. It could then be discussed at that meal.
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by E. F. Benson
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by E. F. Benson
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by on October 21, 2016
- WDS Publishing, June 2013
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