Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Old Dark House by J. B. Priestley (Harper and Brothers Publishers 1928)

'Why, am I bitter?'

'I think you are,' she told him. She appealed to the Wavertons.

'I know what you mean,' said Margaret. 'It's not perhaps the exact word but it will do.' Then she addressed herself to Penderel: 'Yes, you are bitter, you know.'

'Of course you are, Penderel,' said Philip heartily. 'You're one of the worst post-War cases I know, a thundering sight worse than I am. Come on, admit it. You're the sort of bloke they denounce in little talks in Bright Sunday Evening Services.' He grinned and pointed his pipe stem across the table. 'Stand up to your question and explain the wormwood.'

Penderel made a little comical grimace. 'Well, I never knew I was so obvious. I suppose I shall have to explain myself. I went into the War when I was seventeen, ran away from school to do it, enlisting as a Tommy and telling them I was nineteen. I'm not going to talk about the War. You know all about that. It killed my father, who died from over-work. It killed my elder brother, Jim, who was blown to pieces up at Passchendaele. He was the best fellow in the world, and I idolised him. It was always fellows like him, the salt of the earth, who got done in, whether they were British or French or German or American. People wonder what's the matter with the world these days. They forget that all the best fellows, the men who'd have been in their prime now, who'd have been giving us a lead in everything, are dead. If you could bring 'em all back, fellows like Jim, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of 'em, you'd soon see the difference they'd make in the place. But they're dead, and a lot of other people, very different sort of people, are alive and kicking. Well, I saw all this, took an honours course in it, you might say, for it was the only education I got after the fifth form.

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