Reading progress update: I've read 71 out of 287 pages.

Thirteen Guests - J. (Joseph) Jefferson Farjeon

Coming back to the fabulous Mr. Farjeon's writing after the two excursions into Mary Stewart's work of "romantic suspense" makes me appreciate his writing even more. 

 

If we must have an insta-something romance among the threat of blackmail and murder, then let it be written like this:

“You’re not going to ask me what I know about you that would make you wince?”

   “No. You can tell me that voluntarily, if ever you want to. May I put the question?”

“Yes.”

   “Well, here goes. It’ll show you, anyhow, that I’m not idealising you.” She wondered. “When you kissed me just now, did you feel as though you were beginning another ‘affair’?”

   For an instant she almost decided to cheat. But for his reference to David Garrick, she might have. That reference had weakened her defences, however, for she doubted now, as she saw his eyes watching her for every informative little sign, whether she could cheat him. For once in her life, she had the sense that she was being beaten.

“Would you like to withdraw the question?” She gave him that chance, but he did not take it. He shook his head.

“No, I didn’t feel I was beginning an affair,” she answered. “So now where are we?”

   He found, to his dismay, that he did not know. The exact significance of a kiss has baffled countless intelligences. His expression gave him away, and as she felt her power returning she was urged by an intense desire to use it kindly.

   “Listen, John,” she said. “And you can call me Nadine. That doesn’t mean anything these days. I’m not a silly, impulsive woman, though a few fools sometimes imagine I am, but I do react quickly to a situation when it develops. That’s my true nature. I even remember the day when I found it out—consciously, I mean. A pretty foul beast kissed me, and spoilt his chance of a repetition by saying, ‘If you can’t be good, be careful.’

I slapped his face, but I took his advice. I asked myself whether I was ‘good.’ I refused to hedge. I found I wasn’t. But—you may or you may not understand this—I refused to desert myself—to become twisted, or dull, or insignificant—by living the life of some one else. It wouldn’t have been life to a person like me. It would have been death. So I decided to be careful, to stick to a few rules I made, and have generally kept to, and to go through with it.”

She paused suddenly. Then gave a little shrug, and continued: “Rather funny, telling you all this after only a few hours’ acquaintance, but somehow I feel I owe it to you. And then one of my rules is to be frank—although I admit my frankness with you has been unusually rapid.... I wonder why?”

   He restrained an impulse to make a suggestion. Her self-analysis fascinated him, and he did not want to interrupt it. His eyes were on the contours of her shoulder, but his attention was on the contours of her mind.