That night, when we were tired but not ready to go to sleep, I asked, ‘When must you return to Plattsburg, my love? '
He was so long in answering that I added, ‘Was that an improper question, Brian? It has been so long since ‘98 that I am unused to the notion of questions that may not be asked. '
‘My dearest, you may ask any question. Some I may not be able to answer because the answer is restricted but far more likely I won't be able to answer because a first lieutenant isn't told very much. But this one I can answer. I don't think I'll be going back to Plattsburg. I'm sufficiently sure of it that Ididn't leave anything there, not even a toothbrush:
‘Don't you want to know why? '
‘My husband, you will tell me if it suits you. Or when you can. '
‘Maureen, you're too durned agreeable. Don't you ever buybookonline.ru have any female-type nosiness? '
(Of course I have, dear man - but I get more out of you if I am not nosy! ) ‘I would like to know. '
‘Well. .. I don't know what the papers here have been saying but the so-called "Zimmerman telegram" is authentic. There is not a chance that we can stay out of the War more than another month. The question is: do we send more troops to the Mexican border? Or do we send troops to Europe? Or both? Do we wait for Mexico to attack us, or do we go ahead and declare war on Mexico? Or do we declare war first on the Kaiser? If we do, do we dare turn our backs on Mexico? '
‘Is it really that bad? '
‘A lot depends on President Carranza. Yes, it's that bad; I already have my mobilisation assignment. All it takes is a telegram and I'm on active duty and on my way to my point of mobilisation. .. and it's not Plattsburg. ' He reached out and caressed me. ‘Now forget war and think about me, Mrs Mac Gillicuddy:
‘Yes, Clarence. '
Two choruses of ‘Old Riley's Daughter' - later Brian said, ‘Mrs Mac, that was acceptable. I think you've been practising. '
I shook my head. ‘Nary a bit, my love; Father has watched me unceasingly - he thinks I'm an immoral woman who sleeps with other men. '
‘What a canard! You never let them sleep. Never. I'll tell him. '
‘Don't bother; Father made up his mind about me before you and I ever met. How are the Plattsburg pussies? Tasty? Affectionate? '
‘Hepzibah, I hate to admit this but. .. Well, the fact is. .. . didn't get any. Not any. '
‘Why, Clarence! '
‘Honey, girl, they worked my tail off. Field instruction and drills and lectures in the daytime, six days a week - and surprise drills on Sundays. More lectures in the evenings and always more book work than we could possibly handle. Stagger to bed around midnight, reveille at six. Feel my ribs; I'm skinny. Hey! That's not a rib! '
‘So it isn't; it's not a bone of any sort. Hubert, I'm going to keep you in bed until we get you fatted up and stronger; your story has touched my heart. '
‘It's a tragic ore, I know. But what's your excuse? Justin would have offered you a little gentle exercise, I'm certain. '
‘Dearest man, I did have Justin and Eleanor over for dinner, yes. But with a house full of youngsters and Father a notorious night owl I didn't even get my bottom patted. Nothing but a few gallant indecencies whispered into my horrified ear. '
‘Your what? You should have gone over there. '
‘But they live so far away. ' It was a far piece even by automobile, an interminable distance by streetcar. We had first met the Weatherals at our new church, the Linwood Methodist, when we moved into our home on Benton Boulevard. But that same year, after we got on friendly but not intimate terms with the Weatherals, they moved far out south into the new J. C. Nichols subdivision, the Country Club district, and there they switched to an Episcopalian church near their new Nome, which put them clear out of our orbit.
Briney and I had discussed them - they both smelled good - but they had moved too far away for much socialising, and they were older than we and clearly quite well to do. All these factors left me a bit intimidated, so I had moved the Weatherals to the inactive file.
Then Brian ran into them again when Justin tried to get accepted for Plattsburg; Justin had given Brian as a reference, which flattered him. Justin was turned down for officer candidate training - a damaged foot, an accident that had maimed him before he learned to walk. He limped but it was hardly noticeable. Brian wrote a letter, urging a waiver; it was not granted. But as a consequence Eleanor had invited us to dinner in January, a week before Brian left for Plattsburg.
A fine big house and even more children than we had - Justin had incorporated into the house design an elegant but expensive idea; Justin and Eleanor occupied not just a master bedroom but the entire upper floor of ore wing, a master suite consisting of a sitting-room (in addition to a formal parlour and a family sitting-room downstairs), a huge bedroom with a pantry and wine safe in ore corner, a bath broken into units; a tub, a shower, and two closets, ore of the latter having in addition to its WC a fixture I had heard of but never seen before: a fountain bidet.
Eleanor helped me try out the latter and I was delighted! Just what Maureen, with her give-away body odour, needed. I told her so, and told her why.
‘I think your natural fragrance is delightful, ' Eleanor told me seriously, ‘and so does Justin. '
‘Justin said that about me? '
Eleanor took my face between her hands and kissed me, softly and gently, her mouth slack-not a tongue kiss but not totally dry. ‘Justin said that. He said considerably more than that. Dear, he feels enormous attraction to you' - I knew that - ‘and so do I. And so I do for your husband. Brian affects me all through. If by any chance you two share our feelings. .. Justin and I are willing and eager to realise our feelings in acts. '
‘You mean a trade-off? All the way? '