Tuesday, September 29, 2015

sometimes you're the audience; sometimes you're the ball

--------------------- [excerpt, E.F. Benson] ------------------- "...These coming elections to the Town Council.  Benjy-boy and I both feel very strongly -- I believe he mentioned it to you last night -- that something must be done to check the monstrous extravagance that's going on.  Tout le monde is crippled by it:  we shall all be bankrupt if it continues.  We feel it our duty to fight it."

Georgie was stroking his beard:  this had already become a habit with him in anxious moments.  There must be a disclosure now, and Lucia must make it.  It was no use being chivalrous and doing so himself:  it was her business.  So he occupied himself....

"Yes, Major Benjy told me something of his plans last night," said Lucia, "and I take quite the opposite line.  Those slums, for instance, ought to be swept away altogether, and new houses built tutto presto."

"But such a vandalism, dear," said Elizabeth.  "So picturesque and, I expect, so cosy.  As to our plans, there's been a little change in them.  Benjy urged me so strongly that I yielded, and I'm standing instead of him.  So I'm getting to work toute suite, and I looked in to get promise of your support, monsieur, and then you and I must convert dear Lucia."

The time had come.

"Dear Elizabeth," said Lucia very decisively, "you must give up all idea of that.  I am standing for election myself on precisely the opposite policy.  Cost what it may we must have no more slums and no more unemployment in our beloved Tilling.  A Christian duty.  Georgie agrees."

"Well, in a sort of way--" began Georgie. 

"Georgie, tuo buon' cuore agrees," said Lucia, fixing him with the compulsion of her gimlet eye.  "You're enthusiastic about it really."

Elizabeth ignored Lucia, and turned to him.

"Monsieur Georgie, it will be the ruin of us all," she said, "the Town Council is behaving as I said á mon mari just now, as if Tilling was Eldorado and the Rand."...

In their growing enthusiasm both ladies dropped foreign tongues.

"Look in any time, Mr. Georgie," interrupted Elizabeth, "and let me show you the figures of how the authorities are spending your money and mine.  And that new road which nobody wants has already cost--"

"The unemployment here, Georgie," said Lucia, "would make angels weep.  Strong young men willing and eager to get work, and despairing of finding it, while you and dear Elizabeth and I are living in ease and luxury in our beautiful houses."

Georgie was standing between these two impassioned ladies, with his head turning rapidly this way and that, as if he were watching lawn tennis.  At the same time he felt as if he were the ball that was being slogged to and fro between these powerful players, and he was mentally bruised and battered by their alternate intensity.

{excerpt, The Worshipful Lucia, by E.F. Benson.  1935, Doubleday, Doran}


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