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Monkey Nuts
by [?]

At the cross-roads they stopped—Miss Stokes should turn off. She had another mile to go.

“You’ll let us see you home,” said Albert.

“Do me a kindness,” she said.”Put my bike in your shed, and take it to Baker’s on Monday, will you?”

“I’ll sit up all night and mend it for you, if you like.”

“No thanks. And Joe and I’ll walk on.”

“Oh—ho! Oh—ho!” sang Albert.”Joe! Joe! What do you say to that, now, boy? Aren’t you in luck’s way? And I get the bloomin’ old bike for my pal! Consider it again, Miss Stokes.”

Joe turned aside his face, and did not speak.

“Oh, well! I wheel the grid [grid: Bicycle (slang). ], do I? I leave you, boy——”

“I ain’t keen on going any further,” barked out Joe in an uncouth voice.”She bain’t my choice.”

The girl stood silent, and watched the two men.

“There now!” said Albert.”Think o’ that. If it was menow—” But he was uncomfortable.”Well, Miss Stokes, have me,” he

Miss Stokes stood quite still, neither moved nor spoke. And so the three remained for some time at the lane end. At last Joe began kicking the ground—then he suddenly lifted his face. At that moment Miss Stokes was at his side. She put her arm delicately round his waist.

“Seems I’m the one extra, don’t you think?” Albert inquired of the high bland moon.

Joe had dropped his head and did not answer. Miss Stokes stood with her arm lightly round his waist. Albert bowed, saluted, and bade good-night. He walked away, leaving the two standing.

Miss Stokes put a light pressure on Joe’s waist, and drew him down the road. They walked in silence. The night was full of scent—wild cherry, the first bluebells. Still they walked in silence. A nightingale was singing. They approached nearer, and nearer, till they stood close by his dark bush. The powerful notes sounded from the cover, almost like flashes of light—then the interval of silence—then the moaning notes, almost like a dog faintly howling, followed by the long, rich trill and flashing notes. Then a short silence again.

Miss Stokes turned at last to Joe. She looked up at him, and in the moonlight he saw her faintly smiling. He felt maddened, but helpless. Her arm was round his waist, she drew him closely to her with a soft pressure that made his bones rotten.

Meanwhile Albert was waiting at home. He put on his overcoat, for the fire was out, and he had had malarial fever. He looked fitfully at the Daily Mirrorand the Daily Sketch, but saw nothing. It seemed a long time. He began to yawn widely, even to nod. At last Joe came in.

Albert looked at him keenly. The young man’s brow was black, his face sullen.

“All right, boy?” asked Albert.

Joe merely grunted for a reply. There was nothing more to be got out of him. So they went to bed.

Next day Joe was silent, sullen. Albert could make nothing of him. He proposed a walk after tea.

“I’m going somewhere,” said Joe.

“Where—monkey-nuts?” asked the corporal.

But Joe’s brow only became darker.

So the days went by. Almost every evening Joe went off alone, returning late. He was sullen, taciturn, and had a hang-dog look, a curious way of dropping his head and looking dangerously from under his brow. And he and Albert did not get on so well any more with one another. For all his fun and nonsense, Albert was really irritable, soon made angry. And Joe’s stand-offish sulkiness and complete lack of confidence riled him, got on his nerves. His fun and nonsense took a biting, sarcastic turn, at which Joe’s eyes glittered occasionally, though the young man turned unheeding aside. Then again Joe would be full of odd, whimsical fun, outshining Albert himself.