The Merciless Ladies

Free The Merciless Ladies by Winston Graham

Book: The Merciless Ladies by Winston Graham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Winston Graham
success a beautiful, merciless lady. One woos her at one’s own risk. A sort of modern La Belle Dame Sans Merci, pursued by all and gained by few. And she has a knack of destroying those she accepts as lovers. They flourish and flower for a year or two and then suddenly it’s all gone to the devil.’
    â€˜I think’, I said, ‘if I were Paul I might point out that failure is another merciless lady. Only she’s not even beautiful; she’s an ugly hag. Who wouldn’t prefer the beautiful whore?’
    â€˜Who indeed? Give me the tart carrying the champagne every day.’ Winthrop looked at me. ‘You’ve faith in Stafford, haven’t you?’
    â€˜Faith? I don’t know. But he’s a tough nut.’
    â€˜Maybe it’s not just success I mean as such quick success. What is he going to do with the rest of his life?’
    â€˜Paint, I imagine.’
    â€˜But you think we’re wasting our metaphors.’
    â€˜I believe so.’

Chapter Six
    During my absence a very strange thing had happened to the Lynns. Dr Lynn had been given a knighthood. This occurrence might have shaken a lesser man, but Sir Clement bore the affliction bravely and refused to be put off his stroke.
    As Bertie said to me in a letter, the KBE would have been more welcome if it had had a few golden guineas dangling from the ribbon.
    In fact, the breadwinner seemed capable of many things but not of earning bread; and in the end, reluctantly brought to face up to the question of his finances, Sir Clement had been persuaded much against his will to make a lecture tour of America. Lady Lynn – save the mark with her horse’s bonnet and ankle socks – refused to accompany him. She had, she said, far too many interests in Reading and district to jettison them at short notice and catch the first boat to New York like a girl of twenty. Let Holly go. Holly had got her expected scholarship for Oxford and her mathematical progress was absurdly rapid. Missing one term wouldn’t hurt her. She seemed to enjoy looking after Clem and was just the right age.
    So they left England the month before I returned and I didn’t see them.
    Bertie had left England at about the same time. The story sounded typically eccentric, so I went down to Reading on my first free week-end to discover what it was all about.
    I found Lady Lynn there with her sister to keep her company. Lady Lynn greeted me effusively but vaguely, and her sister, tall and ragged as a fir-tree, offered me a limp hand.
    â€˜Clem’s away’, said Lady Lynn. ‘He’s in Cleveland, I think. Lecturing on Röntgen rays. As if he knew.’ She pulled down the front of her jumper, which was too short and immediately sprang up again. ‘ Holly’s gone with him to see he changes his collars. Leo—’
    â€˜What’s this about Bertie?’ I said. ‘Giving up his job and—’
    â€˜Yes, he wrote to you, I’m sure. Perhaps it’s gone to Turkey, or Rome, is it? He told us over tea one Sunday. ‘‘I’m giving up this insurance racket’’, he said. Those were his words. Slang phraseology was always one of his weak points.’
    â€˜But West Africa’, I said, ‘to work among lepers?’
    â€˜Put the kettle on, dear. We can have tea now. It’s this Toc H, Bill. They called for six volunteers from all over England. They’d only funds for six, and Bertie was one of the chosen. Sounds like the New Testament, doesn’t it? He’s looking forward to it frightfully; he says he’ll be the only white man in the camp.’
    â€˜There’s no gas’, said her sister.
    â€˜I must have forgotten to wind it up this morning. We’ll light a fire. There should be some sticks somewhere.’
    â€˜How do you feel about it?’ I asked.
    â€˜Well, Clem said, had he really looked at it all round and did it justify giving up a steady

Similar Books

Finding Elizabeth

Louise Forster

Split Second

David Baldacci

Vermilion Sands

J. G. Ballard

Love Gently Falling

Melody Carlson

Forbidden Desires

Marina Anderson

Someday Find Me

Nicci Cloke