An Indecent Obsession

Free An Indecent Obsession by Colleen McCullough

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Authors: Colleen McCullough
steadfastly refused promotion above the rank of sergeant. It probably had something to do with class consciousness, though by no means in a negative sense. As if they were content where they were, couldn’t see any point in acquiring additional rank. And if Michael Wilson didn’t belong to that special group of men, then her experience with soldiers had led to many more than this wrong conclusion.
    Hadn’t anyone ever told the colonel about men like Michael? Hadn’t he managed to see it for himself? Very obviously not, unless he had simply seized at a straw in order to get under her skin. Colonel bloody Chinstrap. Those vowels of his were unbelievable, even more plummily rounded than Neil’s. Stupid to be so angry with him. Pity him instead. Base Fifteen was a long way from Macquarie Street after all, and he was nowhere near his dotage. He wasn’t bad-looking, and presumably under his pukka uniform he suffered from the same urgencies and importunities as other men. Rumor had it that he had been having an affair with Sister Heather Connolly from theatres for months. Well, most of the MOs had their little flutters, and who else was there to flutter with except the nurses? Good luck to him.
    The pencil was under the far edge of the desk; she crawled under to retrieve it, put it where it belonged, and sat down again. What on earth would Heather Connolly talk to him about? Presumably they did talk. No one spent every moment with a lover in loving. As a peacetime practicing neurologist, Wallace Donaldson’s great interest had been an obscure set of spinal diseases with utterly unpronounceable hyphenated names; perhaps they talked about these, and mourned the lack of obscure spinal diseases in a hospital where when spines were treated it was for the gross, final, ghastly indignities inflicted by a bullet or shrapnel. Perhaps they talked about his wife, keeping the home fires burning in Vaucluse or Bellevue Hill. Men did tend to talk about their wives to their mistresses, like discussing the merits of one friend with another while simultaneously mourning the lack of opportunity to make them known to each other. Men were always so positive their wives and mistresses would be great friends could the social rules permit it. Well, that stood to reason. To think otherwise might reflect badly on their judgment and choice of women.
    Her man had done that, she remembered all too painfully. Talked to her incessantly about his wife, deplored the fact that the conventions did not permit their meeting, sure they would adore each other. After his first three descriptive sentences about his wife, Honour Langtry had known she would loathe the woman. But she had far too much good sense to say so, naturally.
    What a long, long time ago that was! Time, which could not be measured in the ticking away of hours and minutes and seconds, but grew in fits and starts like a gargantuan insect shrugging itself free of successive shells, always emerging looking and feeling different into a different-looking and different-feeling world.
    He had been a consulting specialist, too, at her first hospital in Sydney. Her only hospital in Sydney. A skin specialist—a very new breed of doctor. Tall, dark and handsome, in his middle thirties. Married, of course. If you didn’t manage to catch a doctor while he still wore the full whites of a resident, you never caught one at all. And she had never appealed to the residents, who preferred something prettier, more vivacious, fluffier, more empty-headed. It was only in their middle thirties that they got bored with the choice of their twenties.
    Honour Langtry had been a serious young woman, at the top of her nursing class. The sort there was always a bit of speculation about as to why she chose nursing instead of medicine, even if medicine was notoriously hard going for a woman. Her background was a wealthy farming one, and her education had been acquired at one of Sydney’s very best girls’ boarding schools.

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