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Ahead Of Schedule
by [?]

It was to Wilson, his valet, with whom he frequently chatted in airy fashion before rising of a morning, that Rollo Finch first disclosed his great idea. Wilson was a man of silent habit, and men of silent habit rarely escaped Rollo’s confidences.

‘Wilson,’ he said one morning from the recesses of his bed, as the valet entered with his shaving-water, ‘have you ever been in love?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said the valet, unperturbed.

One would hardly have expected the answer to be in the affirmative. Like most valets and all chauffeurs, Wilson gave the impression of being above the softer emotions.

‘What happened?’ inquired Rollo.

‘It came to nothing, sir,’ said Wilson, beginning to strop the razor with no appearance of concern.

‘Ah!’ said Rollo. ‘And I bet I know why. You didn’t go the right way to work.’

‘No, sir?’

‘Not one fellow in a hundred does. I know. I’ve thought it out. I’ve been thinking the deuce of a lot about it lately. It’s dashed tricky, this making love. Most fellows haven’t a notion how to work it. No system. No system, Wilson, old scout.’

‘No, sir?’

‘Now, I have a system. And I’ll tell it you. It may do you a bit of good next time you feel that impulse. You’re not dead yet. Now, my system is simply to go to it gradually, by degrees. Work by schedule. See what I mean?’

‘Not entirely, sir.’

‘Well, I’ll give you the details. First thing, you want to find the girl.’

‘Just so, sir.’

‘Well, when you’ve found her, what do you do? You just look at her. See what I mean?’

‘Not entirely, sir.’

‘Look at her, my boy. That’s just the start–the foundation. You develop from that. But you keep away. That’s the point. I’ve thought this thing out. Mind you, I don’t claim absolutely all the credit for the idea myself. It’s by way of being based on Christian Science. Absent treatment, and all that. But most of it’s mine. All the fine work.’

‘Yes, sir?’

‘Yes. Absolutely all the fine work. Here’s the thing in a nutshell. You find the girl. Right. Of course, you’ve got to meet her once, just to establish the connexion. Then you get busy. First week, looks. Just look at her. Second week, letters. Write to her every day. Third week, flowers. Send her some every afternoon. Fourth week, presents with a bit more class about them. Bit of jewellery now and then. See what I mean? Fifth week,–lunches and suppers and things. Sixth week, propose, though you can do it in the fifth week if you see a chance. You’ve got to leave that to the fellow’s judgement. Well, there you are. See what I mean?’

Wilson stropped his master’s razor thoughtfully.

‘A trifle elaborate, sir, is it not?’ he said.

Rollo thumped the counterpane.

‘I knew you’d say that. That’s what nine fellows out of ten would say. They’d want to rush it. I tell you, Wilson, old scout, you can’t rush it.’

Wilson brooded awhile, his mind back in the passionate past.

‘In Market Bumpstead, sir–‘

‘What the deuce is Market Bumpstead?’

‘A village, sir, where I lived until I came to London.’

‘Well?’

‘In Market Bumpstead, sir, the prevailing custom was to escort the young lady home from church, buy her some little present–some ribbons, possibly–next day, take her for a walk, and kiss her, sir.’

Wilson’s voice, as he unfolded these devices of the dashing youth of Market Bumpstead, had taken on an animation quite unsuitable to a conscientious valet. He gave the impression of a man who does not depend on idle rumour for his facts. His eye gleamed unprofessionally for a moment before resuming its habitual expression of quiet introspection.

Rollo shook his head.

‘That sort of thing might work in a village,’ he said, ‘but you want something better for London.’

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