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



She heard him moving towards her, but she did not look up. The next moment his arms were round her, and he was babbling.

And a customer, pushing open the door unnoticed two minutes later, retired hurriedly to get shaved elsewhere, doubting whether Arthur's mind was on his job.

For a time this little thunderstorm undoubtedly cleared the air. For a day or two Maud was happier than she ever remembered to have been. Arthur's behaviour was unexceptionable. He bought her a wrist-watch-- light brown leather, very smart. He gave her some chocolates to eat in the Tube. He entertained her with amazing statistics, culled from the weekly paper which he bought on Tuesdays. He was, in short, the perfect lover. On the second day the red-faced man came in again. Arthur joined in the laughter at his stories. Everything seemed ideal.

It could not last. Gradually things slipped back into the old routine. Maud, looking up from her work, would see the frown and the bitten lip. She began again to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious as she worked. Sometimes their conversation on the way to the Tube was almost formal.

It was useless to say anything. She had a wholesome horror of being one of those women who nagged; and she felt that to complain again would amount to nagging. She tried to put the thing out of her mind, but it insisted on staying there. In a way she understood his feelings. He loved her so much, she supposed, that he hated the idea of her exchanging a single word with another man. This, in the abstract, was gratifying; but in practice it distressed her. She wished she were some sort of foreigner, so that nobody could talk to her. But then they would look at her, and that probably would produce much the same results. It was a hard world for a girl.

And then the strange thing happened. Arthur reformed. One might almost say that he reformed with a jerk. It was a parallel case to those sudden conversions at Welsh revival meetings. On Monday evening he had been at his worst. On the following morning he was a changed man. Not even after the original thunderstorm had he been more docile. Maud could not believe that first. The lip, once bitten, was stretched in a smile. She looked for the frown. It was not there.

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