Between the blasted glillie and his leaking boat the fishing trip had been postponed for yet another day. I was not amused as I sauntered disconsolately back to the village from the boat lodge . Yet , I noted , the daffodils were pushing up against their massive oppression of winter and I seemed to mellow as I considered with this determined little flower ; an admirable little chappie ; always struggling against adversity . And no matter what the weather , how bitter the winter , this crusty little fellow broke through the bleak lawns and all along the roadside .
My dark mood had abated to some degree as I turned in to the little tavern in the village square . I thought I might imbibe in a little constitutional as it was nearing lunch time.
I was not two seconds in the door when I saw him sitting up at the bar . I could scarcely believe my eyes . For heavens sake ;It was old Maxy !
I hadn’t met him since the war and I was quite overjoyed to see him . I went instantly to shake that stout hand of a fine fellow and officer of distinction.
- Maxi !- I rather expostulated
- Which - he looked at me with his eyebrows raised rather in the fashion of a startled hedgehog. I could see the eyes were rheumy ant misty
_-Maxy old man !
_- Yes What . ? . Who are you ?
-Maxy old Boy ! - Its’s me Percy .! .Old boy Well Old man !! Well .. I mean well !! What
- Ohh - Ahh Percy ?- the man had that thousand yard stare . It perturbed be .But I persisted with my lucidity .
- Yes !! !! Percy.. I say old chap .. Well my Lord !! What a coincidence !! - At last I thought .
- Oh ahh - Percy who ..- I scrutinised him now and I could see that the man was tight
- I say Maxy , I said - Are you tight ?
- Ohh !! Percy .. Ahh Percy !!
He got up and almost fell to his feet .
-Maxy !!- O ld boy , I say .. Steady on old boy , I say you’re dam tight !
- Am I ?
I could see it in the suffused look and rheumy eye and I said so.
- I see it in that rheuminess in the eyes Maxi ! - I said frankly. I was concerned for the man .Maxi was not a man to be tight in the middle of the day.
- Ahh well yes .. I suppose I am !!….Yes ! True .. that’s a fact .!! I’m quite tight ..!
- Maxy old man .. Let me get you another or a coffee perhaps ..
- No .. sorry that’s out .!!. - he held up a defiant fist. One which had felled the best in the regiment in his day .
- Out ,Out of the question !Whiskey ..only whiskey .!! The man gave me one of those resolute looks .I acquiesced .
-Oh very well ! -I called the barman and pointed to his glass .
- And I’ll have the same I think.
- Well I’m having a double .
- Maxie are you sure ? ..Unlike you to be tight before the sun been down o’er the yardarm .and all that .
- Well yes !! .- True .. I suppose - he said as he seemed to drift off a little like an boat flowing off on a loose rope only to be checked at the last instant.
- You see I had a reason for a little celebration you see . . Well I thought it was And then I began to wonder and then No , I thought and or and now I’m beginning to wonder again … But it‘s done now.. And Yes !! Best for all - all things considered for all parties concerned .’-
What on earth all of this meant completely eluded me .But that was Maxi . He never quite knew when his luck was in or out . In much the same way he never realised when his life was in peril or in safe as houses,
He took things in a most unpredictable manner . He cared not a whit about danger . He was mentioned in dispatches many times for his valour , and frequently these missives would be delivered to him when poor Maxi was once again about to be paraded by the C.O. At least twice he was mentioned for the VC . On both occasions when he was informed about it , he had been confined to barracks once again for some little frolic in the mess. Once he clobbered the Military Police captain ,and was detained in a cell whereupon the brigadier arrived in camp to have a little chat with him about the dispatches , and the appreciation London wished to convey to him by way of a medal -. Maxi was duly back in full uniform standing before the Brigadier within a half hour whereupon the brigadier o formally placed the medal on his left epilate .Great lift for the regiment as we were all a bit down having recently lost heavily in an ambush .
He was terribly popular with the men . He seemed to have that Irish gift of mixing with the commoner and the aristocrat with the same easy manner which was utterly devoid of pretence . He took people as he saw them . Titles meant nothing to Maxi , and rank meant just as much or as little .He placed little on gongs or medals. He accepted them with a shrug then they vanished from sight. Unlike others who had far fewer medals and bore them with a swashbuckling arrogance , Maxi rather shelved his and never wore them on parade , rather to the disappointment of the C.O .
But he took the view that he didn’t want to show conceit in front of the men . Makes for emphasising class distinction he maintained .So his many medals never saw the light of day. That was his nature .
One never quite what to make of it but it did seem very thoughtful from one perspective . But I could see the bozos in London rather taking a dim view of it. One imagined that Lord Kitchener would take deep umbrage.. But Maxi was quite indifferent to how his seniors judged him.
And now he didn’t know whether he was celebrating a triumph or drowning his sorrows.
That was Maxi. I was utterly lost. He seemed to think one knew what he was referring to when one hadn’t the foggiest .I said as much now
- What is it old man - I said amiably.
- What’s in the old bean - I said .
I dearly liked the old rascal. A wild Irishman , a fine shot , played a good rubber of bridge and a superb athlete between battles, and strangest of all he took to cricket as if he had played it all his life, when he confessed humorously that the closest he’d ever been to a cricket bat was seeing one across the sports field in Crook ham , where we formed up .
Every one was very fond of him. One couldn’t help but be attracted to him. Even the CO who had had to paraded him so often for his carousing and drinking was so endeared to him that once at the end of his tether , having paraded him so often asked Maxi himself what on earth he - he Maxi should do with himself if he were in the CO‘s shoes .
- To tell you the truth ‘tis better your decision than mine , Sir - I wouldn’t know the hell !
The CO was an old Eaton boy , as indeed I was myself . One rarely encountered such a bird as Maxi .
He was without doubt still a very handsome chap. Good cheek bones , with those strong patrician features one associates with royalty ; light blue eyes on a wide brow , he showed a fearless face to the world . And if you didn’t like the look of it you should rather look the other way. Maxi was not one to be trifled with . He stood about six foot two and had held the regimental boxing heavyweight belt throughout the war years.
He’d let himself go which was quite apparent to me but and I suspected that his current predicament was as was usually the case related to the ladies in his life . His troubles usually revolved around his continuum of amorous affairs. He seemed to be constantly falling in love or thinking he was and letting the other party believe he was whereupon she would swoon and fall into his manly arms and be thoroughly swept off her feet . When he sobered he’d think the thing over and decide that the gentlemanly thing to do was to admit to her that he was unworthy of her affection and he was boarding a train with the unit which was sailing for Java in the morning he‘d implore her to accept his deferral of the engagement until after the war . He’d broken many hearts , through this little weakness of his , but one always felt he was unprepared for the settled life . Perhaps in his fifties one could see him settle into being quite the country squire .
He continued now after some thoughtful reflection. His brow was furrowed and his speech was slow and hesitant .
- You would have known Jingo ?
- Stinking Jingo- ! Why of course - the old bird who penned us in to camp in Abyssinia ?
- He had a neice .. She came out when we were in Alexandria .. don’t know if you remember .. It was before we shipped out for Abyssinia in fact ..?
Good lord ! Heavens above !! I said . Who could ever forget her. She was a girl of about twenty at the time and the brigadier had taken her on the grande tour before the outbreak of hostilities .., Cairo , Alexandria.. Beirut ..All of that ...She certainly was quite a stunner , but the brig. kept her closely under his wing.
- You know Jingo had me sent up to Oxford ?- He said this as if it had been a sentence .
- Yes I had heard ..-
I had heard . Maxi won a scholarship to Oxford under tutelage the old boy who had sponsored Maxi’s studies after the war. That’s the type Maxi was ; gifted but flawed in some respects . And the old bird being very attached to him had decided he was the Oxbridge type and had him enter this scholarship contest which he’d won quite easily.
- Heard you got sent down too .- I said . I knew he would be . But he was one of those students the University wouldn’t ever risk losing wither . So his admonishment while severe , his expulsion was brief. He ‘d earned his Oxford Blue and they needed him back for Boat Race Week
- Bit of a knees up eh !
-Not really ! I struck the Dean of the Faculty at the Lit. and deb..
-You struck the Dean ?
- Ahh yes . The dam fellow made a disparaging comment about Robert Emmet ..
- Emmet , - the Irish nationalist and patriot.
This was a subject Maxi could be quite unpredictable about.
-Oh well - I said as if I quite understood the justification for striking a dean , which would usually warrant permanent expulsion. But he’d been accepted back after another severe rebuke and a final warning.
-But you were saying about Jingo s niece .
- Was I ? - He looked at me with a riveting eye , which could be quite unnerving .
- Maxi , Old man . ..You were saying something about Jingo’s niece and Oxford ..
. - Oh yes - Anne was her name .. did you know her ?
-No ! -I did not . .. How the devil … !! ..Maxi please try to keep focused -
- Well yes … She was .. Fine woman.. Good girl .. Decent type .intelligent .. Good horsewoman too .. Game girl ..
I couldn’t quite see where this was going, but I saw the rheumy eye had widened and twinkled now like a bright star ,He was becoming quite animated
- Good shot too..!! But well No !! It was never to come to anything. No No .It would never have worked out . So I had a little chin wag with her you see ….did I say we’d been engaged ?
- What ? ? Maxi. Please !! . No You did not tell me you were engaged. !!Well I’ll be .. Maxi engaged .. Well I’ll be.. That’s one for the books. !! If any one had said to me Maxi was eng…
- Oh shut up Corky . Shut up .!!. There’s a good man.- I was engaged to her but she was..well .. She was sort of spoken for when I came on the scene . That pal of you brothers , Kintyre ..
- Oh him !
- Yes him.
Kintyre had inherited the title and had an estate in the neighbouring county to my homestead in the west midlands. An excruciating bore ,
- Did you find him an excruciating bore Maxi
- I did and wha’ts more I let him know.
- Good . ! ‘bout time someone did .
- I put him down in the fourth round
- Oh I see !! .. It went to a boxing match did it.. Look here maxi could you just row back a little there .. And start at the beginning..
At length I dragged the whole story out of him.
He went up to Oxford and got his double first. He won a further scholarship to advance to a Masters . It was during the course of his Masters research he’d met up with Jingo’s niece who was also studying Middle Eastern Archaeology. So it appears that they both ended up on a dig on some site in Syria when he developed a fondness for her. She was engaged to Kintyre , the old brute at the time . In any event of course she fell in love with Maxi and they were engaged aboard the ship on the homeward journey. She had omitted to tell Maxi she’d already been betrothed . But I could she became so enchanted with Maxi that she dropped Kintyre like a shot .
She’d invited him down to her place for a weekend on their return. Maxi duly arrived and discovered that Ann had been engaged to Kintyre before she became engaged to him. Vituperous words were exchanged and Kintyre eventually crossed the line . Not anything, mark you to do with the fair Anne , whom Kintyre had resigned himself to having lost , but rather by making some remark about this patriot fellow . It appears that during dinner one evening Kintyre said something that seemed to offend the good name of this Emmet chap whom Maxi had alluded to earlier.. Some Irish patriot. In any event Maxi insisted on having his honour and as duels are now forbidden in the Home Counties they settled for a boxing match. The idiot of a fellow Kintyre accepted the challenge .He held some intervarsity title and thought quite a bit of himself.
Quite a bit of lucre was waged on the match which was held in the village hall. It had been widely believed at this stage that the challenge was really for the hand of the lovely Anne .
Maxi as he said knocked Kintyre out in the fourth. Though it seems he could have done so in the second once he got his right hook nicely oiled up .
The lovely Anne duly accepted the winner and came to Maxi to tell him of her love for him and especially his valour in protecting her good name .
Oh No Maxi told her ! The fight was because he insulted the name of Emmet.. Robert Emmet the Irish patriot and Nationalist..Somewhat disconcerted with this Anne said she accepted his proposal in any event as she loved him more than Kintyre , his title notwithstanding- he was Lord Kintyre at the time of course , and she would have become Lady Kintyre , but love trumped all and she accepted the noble hand of this wild Irishman .Maxi had to think this over he told her as he left the old pile and headed back for the City. The idiotic girl followed him up to the City and plagued him for his answer . He needed more time he told her and went on a bit of a skite eventually ending up here . He had telegrammed her this morning . He could not accept that his proposal was proper in the circumstances and begged her forgiveness; asking that she release him from the betrothal.
She silly girl wouldn’t accept this and duly followed him over to Ireland . I could see this .happening . There are a lot of silly girls coming out every season. All very alluring by Jove ! .. But Silly Billys really if you ask me. And a girl who had a contest fought in her honour saw something of Sir Galahad in her lover ; in defence of her honour she saw the two contestants for her hand as something of an enchantment . All very nobllesse oblige gallantry, knights in shining armour and all that rot; it goes to a girls head . And they can be such ninnies at that age .
But I sensed that Maxi had no intention of marrying her at that stage .And so he’d just now returned from Dublin where he had told the distraught girl that he was asking her to release him from the arrangement . Kintyre had travelled over to Dublin and Maxi had left the weeping girl as she fell in a tremendous swoon into the arms of the devoted Kintyre .
I think that was a metaphorical swoon , and I may have taken a little liberty with the story verbatim as it were , but I do not deviate from the narrative one iota when I say that the blistering hound Kintyre had followed her over to Ireland and was there at the opportune moment when Maxi informed her of his inevitable decision. She pleaded with him that she had forgiven him for taking advantage of her weak moment when she surrendered herself so thoroughly on the boat trip home .No ! he said He was resolute . It would be ungentlmanly and she and he would live in the shadow of an unwise , even impetuous decision ; one that lacked nobility , and they would live with this deception all their lives . No , he pleaded . He had taken advantage of her . He regretted it deeply and now he wished her every happiness with her true love .
This was all a lot of poppycock to me . If the silly girl had been engaged when Maxi proposed there was neither a romantic nor a legal commitment involved . She could not , for example sue him for breach of promise .
But the girl obviously had a penchant for being seen to be in demand . The drama surrounding the little menage a trois as it were was something she clearly bathed in. It was the bliss ; the self aggrandisement , which these girls adore and she was loath to let it go. But Maxi brought the dream to a halt . Kintyre was delighted . Anne would be Lady Kintyre . The whole thing was like one of those soppy stories one reads in the cheap tabloids.
He continued with what I suspected was a little more lucidity. His eyes were bright and twinkled gaily in the midday sunlight. An intensity seemed to peer through every so often revealing his massive intellect , but disappeared just as quickly ; like a child playing hide and seek behind a curtain.
I have the impression that Maxi was in his cups again when he proposed to this Anne , who was beginning to sound more and more like those Amazonian creatures who make the finest men wither and wilt like dying flowers .
Maxi’s troubles with the fairer sex was that he se have an unnatural tendancy to propose before considering the consequences . It was not the first time he had extricated himself from such a situation .That was his failing , and this was just another chapter in long saga Maxi’s failed romances .
And to settle matters in his head he stayed on his skite and made his way back here to the West of Ireland to celebrate ; or ruminate . To the little fishing hamlet where I‘d been booked in for the May fly .And he had just now sent her a telegram saying that while he would always hold her with deepest affection . No . His intentions were not worthy of her She dissevered better , and at whatever pain it cost him , he insisted that Kintyre was the more worthy contender for her fair hand .And that was that
Rather a longish telegram if you ask me , but Maxi was very conversant with these matters having had so many affairs under his belt
Well I dare say I had to toast him now. He has escaped the clutches of yet another young lady who undoubtedly had these reformist ideas planned for Old Maxi - and By thunder !! He escaped unscathed once again .
I have omitted to add until this juncture that I had another reason for having a particular interest in this story . You see ; That blasted Kintyre had been a senior boy in Eton while I was a junior there .
He had made my life a misery . He had ravished my locker every odd week ; he had me run errands for him in a sort of feudal way; and he biffed me up when ever I didn’t fork out my pocket money to him- he was a damn Rotter !!, a stinker if there was one !!; a damn bully -!! And now forty odd years later I still loathed the man . And not alone had old Maxi biffed him in the fourth round but he had offloaded an obvious Virago on him .
And to my great delight I now toasted the man with all the vigour I could muster.
Sun over the yardarm bedammed !! . I thought .
-Lets drink !! I said calling another two doubles
-To the regiment !!
- To Robert -
- Ahh Which ??
- Damn you Percy you idiot .!! . Emmett .. Robert Emmet the Irish Patriot and Nationalist
- Oh Well - Rather .. To Robert ..
- And the Cause ..!!
- Oh Indeed .. To the Cause .
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