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Authors: John P. Marquand

So Little Time

BOOK: So Little Time
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So Little Time

A Novel

John P. Marquand

To

ALFRED McINTYRE

In memory of all the trips we have taken together over the rough roads of fiction

Contents

For the Reader Who Takes His Fiction Seriously

1 Why Didn't You Ever Tell Me?

2 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

3 Really Simple Fellows, Just like You or Me

4 Just a Report from London

5 Don't Get Me Started on That

6 There's Everything in New York

7 It Completely Lacks Validity

8 That Old Town by the Sea

9 And Fred Too, of Course

10 Just Don't Say We're Dead

11 This—Is London

12 I'll Wait for You by Moonlight

13 You Can't Blame Those Little People

14 Those Ways We Took from Old Bragg High

15 Now You've Found Your Way

16 Just the Day for Tea

17 We'll Show 'Em, Won't We, Jeff?

18 Never Twice in a Lifetime

19 And All the Heart Desires

20 Old Kaspar, and the Sun Was Low

21 Careful How You Stir Them, George

22 Where Everything Was Bright

23 The Peach Crop's Always Fine

24 Well, Hardly That

25 He Had to Call on Jim

26 We Were Young Ourselves Once

27 The World of Tomorrow

28 Your Sister, Not Mine

29 To the Publishers, God Bless Them

30 But When It Comes to Living

31 It Was Simpler for the Prince

32 He Didn't Have Much Time

33 Where the Initials Are Marked in Pencil

34 Dear Jim:…

35 Mr. Mintz Was Very Tired

36 You're in the Army Now

37 Don't Speak Any Lines

38 It's Time to Take the Clipper

39 By the Numbers

40 Wonder Spelled Backwards

41 Nothing Goes On Forever

42 Author's Reading

43 You Can't Do with Them—or without Them

44 My Son as Much as Your Son

45 Well, Here We Are

46 Conversation in the Small Hours

47 Just around the Corner

48 The Little Men

49 The Time for all Good Men

50 Old Soldiers Never Die

51 Forgive Us Our Debts

About the Author

For the Reader Who Takes His Fiction Seriously

This novel is an attempt to depict certain phases of contemporary life, and it is hoped that these will be realistic enough to appear familiar to the reader. To create this illusion the names of certain widely known persons have been mentioned, particularly in the dialogue, although none of these persons actually appear in any scene. The active characters, and the backgrounds against which they move are drawn, as these always must be, from a reservoir of experience derived from what an author has seen, heard and read. If these characters are successful, they should exhibit traits which will arouse the reader's own recollection and should seem like persons of his own acquaintance. This, it must be emphasized, is only a trick of illusion observable in all presentable fiction. The persons in these pages are known to the author only in his creative mind. He has never known a world correspondent, for example, like Walter Newcombe. Individuals who have worked for him have been honest and faithful and have in no wise resembled the transient couples in these pages, or the busy Mr. Gorman. If these characters bear the names of real persons, this is a purely unintentional and unavoidable coincidence, considering the large population of the world. In short, no one here is intended to represent, however remotely, either accurately or in caricature, any actual person, whether living or dead.

A device, shopworn perhaps, but still effective, for evoking in a reader's mind the spirit of some period in the recent past is the quoting of a snatch of some popular song representative of that time. The author is most grateful to the music publishers for permission to quote occasional lines from their copyrighted works, and detailed acknowledgment appears at the end of this foreword. In this connection, the careful reader will note that a song about “looking for a happy land where everything is bright” has been used frequently and is seldom quoted in exactly the same way, since it was a parody fashioned in the first World War and still, as far as can be discovered, is word-of-mouth. It was parodied from a song, “The Dying Hobo,” which appears in the anthology by Sigmund Spaeth,
Weep Some More, My Lady
.

J
OHN
P. M
ARQUAND

K
ENT
'
S
I
SLAND

N
EWBURY
, M
ASSACHUSETTS

1943

1

Why Didn't You Ever Tell Me
?

In the mornings when they were in the city, they had breakfast on a card table in Jeffrey's study. The table was placed in front of a window which looked south over the chimneys and skylights of old brownstone houses. The geometric bulk of apartment houses rose up among them and the pointed top of the Chrysler Building and hazy large buildings stood beyond. In the morning those buildings seemed to have an organic life of their own, and their texture changed with the changing light.

Madge always had orange juice and Melba toast and black coffee without any sugar in it, although Jeffrey could not understand why. Madge had always been too thin and Jeffrey often told her that she would feel much better if she had a boiled egg or a little bacon in the morning, or perhaps oatmeal and cream. He could never understand why the mention of oatmeal and cream seemed to Madge revolting.

“The only thing I have left is my figure,” Madge used to say. “And I'm not going to lose my figure.”

Jeffrey always told her that she looked fine except when she looked tired, and how could she help looking tired if she didn't eat anything?

“I don't want to look like a contented cow,” Madge used to say. “Besides you'd feel a great deal better if you just had orange juice and coffee. Breakfast always makes you lazy.”

Jeffrey would tell her that breakfast was the only meal that ever pulled him together—that he had never been accustomed to working before eleven in the morning. And then Madge always said that it was because he was Bohemian—a word which always annoyed Jeffrey. She used to tell him that if he would get up at a quarter to eight in the morning like other people's husbands, he would get his work done with and not have it hanging over him until the last minute. Other people's husbands were out of the house and on their way downtown by eight-thirty, but Jeffrey was deliberately different because he wanted to be Bohemian. Jeffrey never could tell exactly what she meant by the term except that it embraced all those traits of his against which Madge never could stop struggling.

“Try to find another word for it,” he used to tell her. “Call me a congenital loafer if you want, but whatever else we are, you've fixed it so we aren't Bohemian.”

Sometimes Madge would laugh, because time had made it one of those controversies which had no rancor left in it.

“Darling,” she would say, “you might get to be Bohemian almost any time.”

Breakfast was always like that, but still it was a pleasant meal at which you could talk about plans without anything's worrying you too much. Madge wore her blue satin slippers that morning, and she wore her blue kimono with the white bamboo design on it. Jeffrey liked to see her in it because it seemed to add to the tilt of her nose and to the curve of her lips. She never looked serious in the morning. Jeffrey wore a Burgundy silk dressing gown and slippers that pinched his feet. He had to wear both the dressing gown and the slippers because the children had given them to him for Christmas and because Madge had picked them out herself.

“What's in the paper?” Madge asked.

“Just about the same as yesterday,” he said. “Here, do you want to read it?”

She always asked him what was in the paper, but she never wanted to read it.

“I can't,” she said. “You always leave it all twisted-up. When you get through with it all I can find is the obituaries.”

Jeffrey picked up the paper again. In all the thousands of mornings they had spent together, she had always hated to have him read.

“Darling,” Madge said, “if you want me to pay the bills, you'll have to put some more money in the account.”

“All right,” Jeffrey said.

“I can't pay the bills,” Madge said, “until you put some more in the account.”

“Where's Jim?” Jeffrey asked.

“He's still asleep,” Madge said. “Don't wake him up, please don't, Jeffrey.”

“It's time he got up,” Jeffrey said, “all he does is sleep whenever he comes home. Where's Gwen?”

BOOK: So Little Time
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