Three And - An
Extra by Rudyard Kipling
"When halter and heel ropes are slipped, do not give chase with
sticks but with gram."
After marriage arrives a reaction, sometimes a big, sometimes a
little one; but it comes sooner or later, and must be tided over by
both parties if they desire the rest of their lives to go with the
In the case of the Cusack-Bremmils this reaction did not set in
till the third year after the wedding. Bremmil was hard to hold at
the best of times; but he was a beautiful husband until the baby died
and Mrs. Bremmil wore black, and grew thin, and mourned as if the
bottom of the universe had fallen out. Perhaps Bremmil ought to have
comforted her. He tried to do so, I think; but the more he comforted
the more Mrs. Bremmil grieved, and, consequently, the more
uncomfortable Bremmil grew. The fact was that they both needed a
tonic. And they got it. Mrs. Bremmil can afford to laugh now, but it
was no laughing matter to her at the time.
You see, Mrs. Hauksbee appeared on the horizon; and where she
existed was fair chance of trouble. At Simla her bye-name was the
"Stormy Petrel." She had won that title five times to my own certain
knowledge. She was a little, brown, thin, almost skinny, woman, with
big, rolling, violet-blue eyes, and the sweetest manners in the world.
You had only to mention her name at afternoon teas for every woman in
the room to rise up, and call her--well--NOT blessed. She was clever,
witty, brilliant, and sparkling beyond most of her kind; but possessed
of many devils of malice and mischievousness. She could be nice,
though, even to her own sex. But that is another story.
Bremmil went off at score after the baby's death and the general
discomfort that followed, and Mrs. Hauksbee annexed him. She took no
pleasure in hiding her captives. She annexed him publicly, and saw
that the public saw it. He rode with her, and walked with her, and
talked with her, and picnicked with her, and tiffined at Peliti's with
her, till people put up their eyebrows and said: "Shocking!" Mrs.
Bremmil stayed at home turning over the dead baby's frocks and crying
into the empty cradle. She did not care to do anything else. But
some eight dear, affectionate lady- friends explained the situation at
length to her in case she should miss the cream of it. Mrs. Bremmil
listened quietly, and thanked them for their good offices. She was
not as clever as Mrs. Hauksbee, but she was no fool. She kept her own
counsel, and did not speak to Bremmil of what she had heard. This is
worth remembering. Speaking to, or crying over, a husband never did
any good yet.
When Bremmil was at home, which was not often, he was more
affectionate than usual; and that showed his hand. The affection was
forced partly to soothe his own conscience and partly to soothe Mrs.
Bremmil. It failed in both regards.
Then "the A.-D.-C. in Waiting was commanded by Their Excellencies,
Lord and Lady Lytton, to invite Mr. and Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil to
Peterhoff on July 26th at 9.30 P. M."--"Dancing" in the bottom-
"I can't go," said Mrs. Bremmil, "it is too soon after poor little
Florrie . . . but it need not stop you, Tom."
She meant what she said then, and Bremmil said that he would go
just to put in an appearance. Here he spoke the thing which was not;
and Mrs. Bremmil knew it. She guessed--a woman's guess is much more
accurate than a man's certainty--that he had meant to go from the
first, and with Mrs. Hauksbee. She sat down to think, and the outcome
of her thoughts was that the memory of a dead child was worth
considerably less than the affections of a living husband. She made
her plan and staked her all upon it. In that hour she discovered that
she knew Tom Bremmil thoroughly, and this knowledge she acted on.
"Tom," said she, "I shall be dining out at the Longmores' on the
evening of the 26th. You'd better dine at the club."
This saved Bremmil from making an excuse to get away and dine with
Mrs. Hauksbee, so he was grateful, and felt small and mean at the
same time--which was wholesome. Bremmil left the house at five for a
ride. About half-past five in the evening a large leather- covered
basket came in from Phelps' for Mrs. Bremmil. She was a woman who
knew how to dress; and she had not spent a week on designing that
dress and having it gored, and hemmed, and herring- boned, and tucked
and rucked (or whatever the terms are) for nothing. It was a gorgeous
dress--slight mourning. I can't describe it, but it was what The
Queen calls "a creation"--a thing that hit you straight between the
eyes and made you gasp. She had not much heart for what she was going
to do; but as she glanced at the long mirror she had the satisfaction
of knowing that she had never looked so well in her life. She was a
large blonde and, when she chose, carried herself superbly.
After the dinner at the Longmores, she went on to the dance--a
little late--and encountered Bremmil with Mrs. Hauksbee on his arm.
That made her flush, and as the men crowded round her for dances she
looked magnificent. She filled up all her dances except three, and
those she left blank. Mrs. Hauksbee caught her eye once; and she knew
it was war--real war--between them. She started handicapped in the
struggle, for she had ordered Bremmil about just the least little bit
in the world too much; and he was beginning to resent it. Moreover,
he had never seen his wife look so lovely. He stared at her from
doorways, and glared at her from passages as she went about with her
partners; and the more he stared, the more taken was he. He could
scarcely believe that this was the woman with the red eyes and the
black stuff gown who used to weep over the eggs at breakfast.
Mrs. Hauksbee did her best to hold him in play, but, after two
dances, he crossed over to his wife and asked for a dance.
"I'm afraid you've come too late, MISTER Bremmil," she said, with
her eyes twinkling.
Then he begged her to give him a dance, and, as a great favor, she
allowed him the fifth waltz. Luckily 5 stood vacant on his
programme. They danced it together, and there was a little flutter
round the room. Bremmil had a sort of notion that his wife could
dance, but he never knew she danced so divinely. At the end of that
waltz he asked for another--as a favor, not as a right; and Mrs.
Bremmil said: "Show me your programme, dear!" He showed it as a
naughty little schoolboy hands up contraband sweets to a master. There
was a fair sprinkling of "H" on it besides "H" at supper. Mrs. Bremmil
said nothing, but she smiled contemptuously, ran her pencil through 7
and 9--two "H's"--and returned the card with her own name written
above--a pet name that only she and her husband used. Then she shook
her finger at him, and said, laughing: "Oh, you silly, SILLY boy!"
Mrs. Hauksbee heard that, and--she owned as much--felt that she had
the worst of it. Bremmil accepted 7 and 9 gratefully. They danced
7, and sat out 9 in one of the little tents. What Bremmil said and
what Mrs. Bremmil said is no concern of any one's.
When the band struck up "The Roast Beef of Old England," the two
went out into the verandah, and Bremmil began looking for his wife's
dandy (this was before 'rickshaw days) while she went into the
cloak-room. Mrs. Hauksbee came up and said: "You take me in to
supper, I think, Mr. Bremmil." Bremmil turned red and looked
foolish. "Ah--h'm! I'm going home with my wife, Mrs. Hauksbee. I
think there has been a little mistake." Being a man, he spoke as
though Mrs. Hauksbee were entirely responsible.
Mrs. Bremmil came out of the cloak-room in a swansdown cloak with a
white "cloud" round her head. She looked radiant; and she had a
The couple went off in the darkness together, Bremmil riding very
close to the dandy.
Then says Mrs. Hauksbee to me--she looked a trifle faded and jaded
in the lamplight: "Take my word for it, the silliest woman can manage
a clever man; but it needs a very clever woman to manage a fool."
Then we went in to supper.