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


He returned at intervals during the afternoon. Over the second Teddy-bear they became friendly, over the third intimate. He proposed as she was wrapping up the fourth golliwog, and she gave him her heart and the parcel simultaneously. At six o'clock, carrying four Teddy-bears, seven photograph frames, five golliwogs, and a billiken, Clarence went home to tell the news to his parents.

Clarence, when not at the University, lived with his father and mother in Belgrave Square. His mother had been a Miss Trotter, of Chicago, and it was on her dowry that the Runnymedes contrived to make both ends meet. For a noble family they were in somewhat straitened circumstances financially. They lived, simply and without envy of their rich fellow-citizens, on their hundred thousand pounds a year. They asked no more. It enabled them to entertain on a modest scale. Clarence had been able to go to Oxford; his elder brother, Lord Staines, into the Guards. The girls could buy an occasional new frock. On the whole, they were a thoroughly happy, contented English family of the best sort. Mr Trotter, it is true, was something of a drawback. He was a rugged old tainted millionaire of the old school, with a fondness for shirt-sleeves and a tendency to give undue publicity to toothpicks. But he had been made to understand at an early date that the dead-line for him was the farther shore of the Atlantic Ocean, and he now gave little trouble.

Having dressed for dinner, Clarence proceeded to the library, where he found his mother in hysterics and his father in a state of collapse on the sofa. Clarence was too well-bred to make any comment. A true Runnymede, he affected to notice nothing, and, picking up the evening paper, began to read. The announcement of his engagement could be postponed to a more suitable time.

'Clarence!' whispered a voice from the sofa.

'Yes, father?'

The silver-haired old man gasped for utterance.

'I've lost my little veto,' he said, brokenly, at length.

'Where did you see it last?' asked Clarence, ever practical.

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