Another Delectable Bon Mot de M. Simonson

from Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson

"I understand," said Grace. She looked at him and he read in her eyes a disappointment that he should have stooped to the dead relative excuse. Yet he was as entitled as the next man to use it. People did it all the time; it was understood that there was a defined window of availability beginning a decent few days after a funeral and continuing for no more than a couple of months. Of course, some people took dreadful advantage and a year later were still hauling around their dead relatives on their backs, showing them off to explain late tax payments and missed dentist appointments: something he would never do.
"I will just have to do the best I can," said Grace and her face drooped, as if defeat were inevitable. "I was afraid I might let Daisy down again, but of course that is no excuse for me to trespass on your very great grief. Please forgive me." She put out her hand and touched him lightly on the forearm. He was suddenly aware of a slow burn of shame.

"Oh, look here, sometime next week would probably be fine," he said, his voice gruff. He patted her hand. "I'll have most things straightened out with the family by then."

"Oh, thank you, Daisy will be so pleased."

"There's surely no need for that," he said. "Can't we keep it between ourselves?" Alec dug him in the ribs with an elbow and he was aware from Grace's delicate mauve blush that his words were open to interpretation. He would have liked to clarify, but she was already retreating from the room, bumping a bony hip on the corner of a table as she hurried away. The Major groaned and looked at his sandwich which seemed as appetizing now as two rubber mats filled with horsehair. He pushed the plate away and signaled Tom to bring another lager.

How delightful it is to discover a novel in which people still blush and innocent remarks can be interpreted in ways that while not straying from innocence, still are enough to provoke said blush.  This is worlds away from the Philip Roths, the John Updikes, and the too-numerous-to-mention modern authors whose characters not only never blush, but never have blushed and wouldn't understand the need for it.  What a pleasant world to while away a few hours in.

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