(A Soliloquy for Lady Molly, with apologies to Anthony Powell)
Poor Jeavons! He never did understand, poor lamb, but just accepted the little fellow in his kindly, somnambulistic way.
Ricki just didn’t like Jeavons hanging around me, back then, you see. Didn’t understood what I saw in him, I suppose. That hardly made Ricki unique, of course. Jeavons was, shall we say, not out of the top drawer. He’d had style once, though. And dash—my old friend Mildred Blaides could tell you something about that, if she thought hard about it, and could see the man in front of her. Yes, Jeavons made sense back then. And he still does, damn it! I’m fond of him, and he’s … restful.
But Ricki tried to make trouble when we were first married. No man would do for me but Ruddy, as far as Ricki was concerned. Oh, the time he gave Jeavons, and me come to that. Because, after all, Ruddy had meant a great deal to me, and I was sorry I had to break it off—but there are limits, you know.
Oh, a girl likes a bit of poetry, and a bit of romancing, but enough is as good as a feast, my dear, and Ruddy could, if he got started, bore for England. And India, too, come to that. Still I remember his bristly little moustache and—oh, yes, he had his talents, did my Ruddy.
But too clingy, too needy, too clever by half. He didn’t blub when I gave him his notice, though. Left Ricki behind, and went out again to the Punjab. But I had Ricki to remember him by. Oh, the pranks he would play on Jeavons! Tripping him, pouncing on him in bed, gnawing his ankles—
They do that, you know. Gnaw things, I mean. All very well if he’s in a book, slaying King Cobras—Nag and Nagina, was it? Splendid creature in the subcontinent. But in London? Nothing worse than waking up with a bit of a head early some morning, but unable to lie abed because you can hear it—no matter how you try to not hear it!—again and again:
Well, my dear, you try sleeping through that, if you can.
I ask you.
Ruddy claimed he was the original, the one in the story. That clever Nick Jenkins laughed at that, saying it couldn’t be. That the story had come out in 1894, and that Ricki couldn’t have lived thirty years later.
So Ruddy was a bit naughty, and lied to me, I suppose.
I wouldn’t have paid to have him stuffed if I knew that, of course—Ricki, I mean, not Ruddy. Ruddy wasn’t stuffed. Although he could be very formal.
Still, he could do such lovely things with his moustache—
I’m not sorry I had Ricki stuffed, anyway. He was a sweet little fellow and became much nicer as he got older. Jeavons cried like a child when he died.
That’s why I keep him, I think.
Jeavons, not Ricki, I mean.
I keep Ricki because he was sweet and cute, when he wasn’t biting Jeavons, at least, and Ruddy was a famous man, who fell for me when I was a pretty young thing, and he gave me the very animal he’d made a hero in one of his books. Let’s see Mr. Nicholas Jenkins top that!
But neither of them could top my Jeavons. It takes a special man to weep for a little animal who ate his carpet slippers, and bit his ankles, and was given to his wife by a famous man who was her—friend, long before he came on the scene.
And Jeavons learns, you know. His moustache has made splendid progress in our years together, you know. He’s not quite in Ruddy’s class but—oh, Alymer! How nice of you to drop by! Have you met General Conyers, Isobel?