P. G. Wodehouse: The Man Upstairs and Other Stories

8. RUTH IN EXILE (continued)

It would have amazed Mr Eugene Warden, that genial old gentleman, if, on one of those occasions of manly emotion when he was in the habit of observing that he had been nobody's enemy but his own, somebody had hinted that he had spoiled his daughter's life. Such a thought had never entered his head. He was one of those delightful, irresponsible, erratic persons whose heads thoughts of this kind do not enter, and who are about as deadly to those whose lives are bound up with theirs as a Upas tree.

In the memory of his oldest acquaintance, Ruth's father had never done anything but drift amiably through life. There had been a time when he had done his drifting in London, feeding cheerfully from the hand of a long-suffering brother-in-law. But though blood, as he was wont to remark while negotiating his periodical loans, is thicker than water, a brother-in-law's affection has its limits. A day came when Mr Warden observed with pain that his relative responded less nimbly to the touch. And a little while later the other delivered his ultimatum. Mr Warden was to leave England, and to stay away from England, to behave as if England no longer existed on the map, and a small but sufficient allowance would be made to him. If he declined to do this, not another penny of the speaker's money would he receive. He could choose.

He chose. He left England, Ruth with him. They settled in Roville, that haven of the exile who lives upon remittances.

Ruth's connexion with the mont-de-piete had come about almost automatically. Very soon after their arrival it became evident that, to a man of Mr Warden's nature, resident a stone's-throw distant from two casinos, the small allowance was not likely to go very far. Even if Ruth had not wished to work, circumstances could have compelled her. As it was, she longed for something to occupy her, and, the vacancy at the mont-de-piete occurring, she had snatched at it. There was a certain fitness in her working there. Business transactions with that useful institution had always been conducted by her, it being Mr Warden's theory that Woman can extract in these crises just that extra franc or two which is denied to the mere male. Through constantly going round, running across, stepping over, and popping down to the mont-de-piete she had established almost a legal claim on any post that might be vacant there.

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