Thursday, April 03, 2008

At Lady Molly's - post II

Widmerpool is one of those odd characters that inspires mockery in some people but never in the narrator Nicholas Jenkins. He seems to accept that he will bump into his old school acquaintance at various times in his life.

On each occurrence Widmerpool displays an odd mix of a highly ambitious man hungry for power and influence but one also prone to gaffs both of a social and a physical nature.

Sitting down to lunch with him the conversation or pre-marital sexual relations comes up and Widmerpool displays a self-obsession with his own problems that although not bothering Jenkins is noted by the narrator.

He leaves his old school friend, who is now set on a plan to be a Mr and Mrs Smith in a hotel one weekend soon, to go and meet his future in-laws. The old general and his wife, who were first introduced at the start of the story are bemused by the prospect of Widmerpool entering their family. But the arrival of one of the Tolland girls changes things and the scene swishes off, just as a dance with another partner, to another location.

This time there is a chance for Jenkins to be taken into the heart of scandal with a trip to the flat of Norah Tolland and Frederica Walpole-Wilson who are sharing their flat. He hears about their strange brother and meets a lesbian piano player before escaping.

A chance meeting with Quiggin leads to an invitation to the country and a chance more by mistake than design to meet the Tolland boy that everyone is moaning about. He turns out to be Quiggin’s patron and Marxist mentor.

A meal at the large house that Tolland lives in is interrupted by the appearance of the youngest Tolland sister Isobel and jenkins is back in love but this time there is a ring of permanence to it.

“The sound of girls' voices and laughter came from the passage outside. Then the door burst open, and two young women came boisterously into the room . . . The elder, so it turned out, was Susan Tolland; the younger, Isobel.

The atmosphere changed suddenly, violently. One became all at once aware of the delicious, sparkling proximity of young feminine beings. The room was transformed."

"Would it be too explicit, too exaggerated, to say that when I set eyes on Isobel Tolland, I knew at once that I should marry her?"


More tomorrow…

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