The Gentleman’s Prerogative

The hat and the monocle and the cane – he wore all of these with a sense of dash; one might almost be tempted to say a dash of dash, but we are endeavouring to be serious here. The silk scarf and kid gloves, the gold watch chain, the waxed moustache: all were in place and the overall effect was what a gentleman in his position would hope to convey. He was expensively dressed, he could afford to be expensively dressed, and he knew other people who are also expensively dressed. Sensible people they were: people who owned property and paid taxes; people with titles; people who were seen socialising with each other; people who met at auctions and bid against each other for rare and beautiful items; people who bought jewels from the dealers who don’t allow just anyone inside their doors, and then gave them to a lady friend of but a few days’ acquaintance. People who were men and men who were of some consequence.

He was a man of consequence and it conferred respect. Strangers sometimes bowed to him in the street. When he entered an omnibus he would make sure no lady was standing if he was about to sit – that was the least thing a gentleman might do, a gesture but so important – and this deferential behaviour was extended to all women, that is even to ladies who were not, in fact, ladies. Men in his position agreed, or seemed to agree, that all women were due the respect of giving up one’s seat or opening a door or offering to carry heavy parcels or hail a hansom cab. It was easier, in some ways, to just treat all women alike. Even those who didn’t really deserve it. Sometimes it was difficult to tell who deserved it and who didn’t.

It seemed a long way from riding on the roof of an omnibus, across the river in the sunshine, to this small room at the rear of this grey building in the early morning, with the fire flickering faintly and the stillness in that hour before the dawn, and Molly lying on the bed with an enigmatic smile on her face. The dark curtains were drawn and two glasses sat on the rough table with the empty bottle of gin. Molly was still too. She wasn’t snoring any more.

He looked one last time at her pretty, pudgy face and left a couple of coins on the table before he closed the door on his way out – a small gift for a man he would never meet. The smile was still on her face as he left the room and walked into the courtyard.

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Published in: on October 2, 2013 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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