The restraints of modern civilization irke me

 Unconscious of these eulogies which, coming from one whose judgment he respected, might have cheered him up, George wandered down Shaftesbury Avenue, feeling more depressed than ever. The sun had gone in for the time being, and the east wind was frolicking round him like a playful puppy patting him with a cold paw, nuzzling his ankles, bounding away and bounding back again, and behaving generally as east winds do when they discover a victim who has come out without his spring overcoat. It was plain to George now that the sun and the wind were a couple of confidence tricksters, working together as a team. The sun had disarmed him with specious promises and an air of cheery goodfellowship and had delivered him into the hands of the wind which was now going through him with the swift thoroughness of the professional hold-up artist. He quickened his steps and began to wonder if he was so sunk in senile decay as to have acquired a liver.

He discarded the theory as repellent. And yet there must be a reason for his depression. Today off all days, as Mac had pointed out, he had everything to make him happy. Popular as he was in America, this was the first piece of his to be produced in London, and there was no doubt that it was a success of unusual dimensions. And yet he felt no elation.

He reached Picadilly and turned westward. And then, as he passed the gates of the In and Out Club, he had a moment of clear vision and understood everything. He was depressed because he was bored and he was bored because he was lonely. Mac, that solid thinker, had been right. The solution of the problem of life was to get hold of the right girl and have a home to go back to at night. He was mildly surprised that he had tried in any other direction for an explanation of his gloom. It was all the more inexplicable in that fully eighty per cent of the lyrics which he had set in the course of his musical comedy career had had that thought at the back of them.

George gave himself up to an orgy of sentimentality. He seemed to be alone in the world which had paired itself off into a sort of seething welter of happy couples. Taxicabs full of happy couples rolled by every minute. Passing omnibuses creaked beneath the weight of happy couples. The very policeman across the street had just grinned at a flitting shopgirl, and she had smiled back at him. The only female in London who did not appear to be attached was a girl in brown who was coming along the sidewalk at a leisurely pace, looking about her in a manner that suggested that she found Piccadilly a new and stimulating spectacle.

As far as George could see she was an extremely pretty girl, small and dainty, with a proud little tilt to her head and the jaunty walk that spoke of perfect health. She was, in fact, precisely the sort of girl that George felt he could love with all the stored-up devotion of an old buffer of twenty-seven who had squandered none of his rich nature in foolish flirtations. He had just begun to weave a rose-tinted romance about their two selves, when a cold reaction set in. Even as he paused to watch the girl threading her way through the crowd, the east wind jabbed an icy finger down the back of his neck and the chill of it sobered him. After all, he reflected bitterly, this girl was only alone because she was on her way somewhere to meet some confounded man. Besides, there was no earthly chance of getting to know her. You can't rush up to pretty girls in the street and tell them you are lonely. At least you can, but it doesn't get you anywhere except the police station. George's gloom deepened, a thing he would not have believed possible a moment before. He felt that he had been born too late. The restraints of modern civilization irked him. It was not, he told himself, like this in the good old days.

In the Middle Ages, for example, this girl would have been a damsel; and in that happy time practically everybody whose technical rating was that of damsel was in distress and only too willing to waive the formalities in return for services rendered by the casual passer-by. But the twentieth century is a prosaic age, when girls are merely girls and have no troubles at all. Were he to stop this girl in brown and assure her that his aid and comfort were at her disposal, she would undoubtedly call that large policeman from across the way, and the romance would begin and end within the space of thirty seconds or, if the policeman were a quick mover, rather less.

Better to dismiss dreams and return to the practical side of life by buying the evening papers from the shabby individual beside him who had just thrust an early edition in his face. After all notices are notices, even when the heart is aching. George felt in his pocket for the necessary money, found emptiness, and remembered that he had left all his ready funds at his hotel. It was just one of the things he might have expected on a day like this.

The man with the papers had the air of one whose business is conducted on purely cash principles. There was only one thing to be done, return to the hotel, retrieve his money, and try to forget the weight of the world and its cares in lunch. And from the hotel he could dispatch the two or three cables which he wanted to send to New York.

The girl in brown was quite close now, and George was enabled to get a clearer glimpse of her. She more than fulfilled the promise she had given at a distance. Had she been constructed to his own specifications, she could not have been more acceptable in George's sight. And now she was going out of his life forever. With an overwhelming sense of pathos, for there is no pathos more bitter than that of parting from someone we have never met, George hailed a taxicab which crawled at the side of the road and, with all the refrains of all the sentimental song hits he had ever composed ringing in his ears, got in and passed away.

"A rotten world," he mused, as the cab, after proceeding a couple of yards, came to a standstill in a block of the traffic. "A dull, flat bore of a world, in which nothing happens or ever will happen. Even when you take a cab, it just sticks and doesn't move.

At this point, the door of the cab opened and the girl in brown jumped in.
"I'm so sorry," she said breathlessly, "but would you mind hiding me, please!"

 ~ ~ ~

George Bevan has it tough - you may think you have it tough but look at George . . .

What I mean to say is, you are on the map. You have a sporting chance. Whereas George... Well, just go over to England and try wooing an earl's daughter whom you have only met once--and then without an introduction; whose brother's hat you have smashed beyond repair; whose family wishes her to marry some other man: who wants to marry some other man herself--and not the same other man, but another other man; who is closely immured in a mediaeval castle . . . Well, all I say is--try it. And then go back to your porch with a chastened spirit and admit that you might be a whole lot worse off.


What can I say - Wodehouse is amazing!

Read it again, read it out loud. It only gets better.

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