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An Inland Voyage
by [?]

“By Jove, I will,” said Simpson, with great decision.

I wandered into the ball-room and looked round. Columbine was standing in a corner alone; some outsider had cut her dance. As I looked at her I thought of Simpson letting himself go, and smiled to myself. She caught the edge of the smile and unconsciously smiled back. Remembering the good advice which I had just given another, I decided to risk it.

“Do you ever dance with architects?” I asked her.

“I do sometimes.” she said. “Not in Lent,” she added.

“In Lent,” I agreed, “one has to give up the more furious pleasures. Shall we just finish off this dance? And don’t let’s talk shop about architecture.”

We finished the dance and retired to the stairs.

“I want you to do something for me,” I began cautiously.

“Anything except go into supper again. I’ve just done that for somebody else.”

“No, it’s not that. The fact is, I have a great friend called Simpson.”

“It sounds a case for help,” she murmured.

“He is here to-night disguised as an executioner in glasses. He is, in fact, the only spectacled beheader present. You can’t miss him.”

“All the same, I managed to just now,” she gurgled.

“I know. He asked you for a dance and you rebuffed him. Well, he is now fortifying himself with a small dry ginger, and he will then ask you again. Do be kind this time; he’s really a delightful person when you get to know him. For instance, both his whiskers are false.”

“No doubt I should grow to love him,” she agreed; “but I didn’t much like his outward appearance. However, if both whiskers are false, and if he’s really a friend of yours–“

“He is naturally as harmless as a lamb,” I said; “but at a dance like this he considers it his duty to throw a little Continental ABANDON into his manner.”

Columbine looked at me thoughtfully, nodding her head, and slowly began to smile.

“You see,” I said, “the possibilities.”

“He shall have his dance,” she said decidedly.

“Thank you very much. I should like to ask for another dance for myself later on, but I am afraid I should try to get out of you what he said, and that wouldn’t be fair.”

“Of course I shouldn’t tell you.”

“Well, anyhow, you’ll have had enough of us by then. But softly–he approaches, and I must needs fly, lest he should pierce my disguise. Good-bye, and thank you so much.”

. . . . . . .

So I can’t say with authority what happened between Simpson and Columbine when they met. But Simpson and I had a cigarette together afterwards and certain things came out; enough to make it plain that she must have enjoyed herself.

“Oh, I say, old chap,” he began jauntily, “do you know–match, thanks–er–whereabouts is Finsbury Circus?”

“You’re too old to go to a circus now, Simpson. Come and have a day at the Polytechnic instead.”

“Don’t be an ass; it’s a place like Oxford Circus. I suppose it’s in the City somewhere? I wonder,” he murmured to himself, “what she would be doing in the City at eleven o’clock in the morning.”

“Perhaps her rich uncle is in a bank, and she wants to shoot him. I wish you’d tell me what you’re talking about.”

Simpson took off his mask and spectacles and wiped his brow.

“Dear old chap,” he said in a solemn voice, “in the case of a woman one cannot tell even one’s best friend. You know how it is.”

“Well, if there’s going to be a duel you should have chosen some quieter spot than Finsbury Circus. The motor-buses distract one’s aim.”

Simpson was silent for a minute or two. Then a foolish smile flitted across his face, to be followed suddenly by a look of alarm.

“Don’t do anything that your mother wouldn’t like,” I said warningly.

He frowned and put on his mask again.

“Are chrysanthemums in season?” he asked casually. “Anyhow, I suppose I could always get a yellow one?”

“You could, Simpson. And you could put it in your button-hole, so that you can be recognized, and go to Finsbury Circus to meet somebody at eleven o’clock to-morrow morning. Samuel, I’m ashamed of you. Er–where do you lunch?”

“At the Carlton. Old chap, I got quite carried away. Things seemed to be arranged before I knew where I was.”

“And what’s she going to wear so that you can recognize HER?”

“Yes,” said Simpson, getting up, “that’s the worst of it. I told her it was quite out of date, and that only the suburbs wore fashions a year old, but she insisted on it. I had no idea she was that sort of girl. Well, I’m in for it now.” He sighed heavily and went off for another ginger-ale.

I think that I must be at Finsbury Circus to-morrow, for certainly no Columbine in a harem skirt will be there. Simpson in his loneliness will be delighted to see me, and then we can throw away his button-hole and have a nice little lunch together.