Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Waugh: Dialogue

'Good afternoon,' said Guy.

Claire looked up, said, 'Good afternoon,' and wiped his dog's face with a silk handkerchief. 'The snow is very bad for Freda's eyes. Perhaps you want Colonel Tommy. He's out climbing.' Then, after a pause, politely: 'Have you seen last week's paper?'

And he held out the Rum, Muck, Mugg and Eigg Times.

Guy gazed about him at the heads of deer, the fumed oak staircase, the vast extent of carpet woven in the local hunting tartan.

'I think I've seen you about in Bellamy's.'

'How one longs for it.'

'My name is Crouchback.'

'Ah.' Claire had the air of having very shrewdly elicited this piece of information, of having made a move, early in a game of chess, which would later develop into mate. ' I should have some Kümmel if I were you. We've unearthed a cache of Wolfschmidt. You just score it up on that piece of paper over there.'

There were glasses on the central table and bottles and a list of names, marked with their potations.

'I'm here for training,' Guy volunteered.

'It's a death trap.'

'Have you any idea where my quarters will be?'

'Colonel Tommy lives here. So do most of us. But it's full up now. Recent arrivals are at the coastguard station, I believe. I looked in once. It smells awfully of fish. I say, do you mind much if we don't talk? I fell fifty feet on the ice the other morning.'

Guy studied last week's Rum, Muck, Mugg and Eigg Times. Claire plucked Freda's eyebrows.

Soon, as in an old-fashioned, well-constructed comedy, other characters began to enter Left: first a medical officer.

'Is the boat in?' he asked of both indiscriminately.

Claire shut his eyes, so Guy answered: 'I came in her a few minutes ago.'

'I must telephone the harbour-master and have her held. Anstruther-Kerr has had a fall. They're bringing him down as fast as they can.'

Claire opened his eyes.

'Poor Angus. Dead?'

'Certainly not. But I must get him to the mainland at once.'

'That is your opportunity,' Claire said to Guy. 'Angus had a room here.'

The doctor went to the telephone, Guy to the reception office.

Evelyn Waugh Officers and Gentlemen