Click here to Download A Town Like Alice PDF Book by Nevil Shute Norway English having PDF Size 1.4 MB and No of Pages 391.
It was natural that Douglas Macfadden should put his affairs into the hands of Jock Dalhousie, and Mr Dalhousie handled them personally till he died in 1928. In splitting up the work I took Mr Macfadden on to my list of clients, and forgot about him in the pressure of other matters. It was not until 1935 that any business for him came up. I had a letter from him then, from an address in Ayr.
A Town Like Alice PDF Book by Nevil Shute Norway
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|No of Pages||391|
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He said that his brother-in-law, Arthur Paget, had been killed in a motor car accident in Malaya and so he wanted to redraft his will to make a trust in favour of his sister Jean and her two children. I am sorry to say that I was so ignorant of this client that I did not even know he was unmarried and had no issue of his own.
He finished up by saying that he was too unwell to travel down to London, and he suggested that perhaps a junior member of the firm might be sent up to see him and arrange the matter. This fitted in with my arrangements fairly well, because when I got this letter I was just leaving for a fortnight’s fishing holiday on Loch Shiel.
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I wrote and told him that I would visit him on my way south, and I put the file concerning his affairs in the bottom of my suitcase to study one evening during my vacation. When I got to Ayr I took a room at the Station Hotel, because in our correspondence there had been no suggestion that he could put me up.
I changed out of my plus-fours into a dark business suit, and went to call upon my client. He did not live at all in the manner I had expected. I did not know much about his estate except that it was probably well over twenty thousand pounds, and I had expected to find my client living in a house with a servant or two.
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Instead, I discovered that he had a bedroom and a sitting-room on the same floor of a small private hotel just off the sea front. He was evidently leading the life of an invalid though he was hardly more than fifty years old at that time, ten years younger than I was myself. He was as frail as an old lady of eighty, and he had a peculiar grey look about him which didn’t look at all good to me.
All the windows of his sitting-room were shut and after the clean air of the lochs and moors I found his room stuffy and close; he had a number of budgerigars in cages in the window, and the smell of these birds made the room very unpleasant. It was clear from the furnishings that he had lived in that hotel and in that room for a good many years.
He told me something about his life as we discussed the will; he was quite affable, and pleased that I had been able to come to visit him myself. He seemed to be an educated man, though he spoke with a marked Scots accent. “I live very quietly, Mr Strachan,” he said. “My health will not permit me to go far abroad. A Town Like Alice PDF Book
Whiles I get out upon the front on a fine day and sit for a time, and then again Maggie—that’s the daughter of Mrs Doyle who keeps the house—Maggie wheels me out in the chair. They are very good to me here.” Turning to the matter of the will, he told me that he had no close relatives at all except his sister, Jean Paget.
“Forbye my father might have left what you might call an indiscretion or two in Australia,” he said. “I would not say that there might not be some of those about, though I have never met one, or corresponded. Jean told me once that my mother had been sore distressed. Women talk about these things, of course, and my father was a lusty type of man.”
“No,” she replied. “They left us pretty free.” And then she changed the conversation very positively, and said, “What happened to you, Mr Strachan? Were you in London all the time?” I could not press her to talk about her war experiences if she didn’t want to, and so I told her about mine – such as they were. A Town Like Alice PDF Book
And from that, presently, I found myself telling her about my two sons, Harry on the China station and Martin in Basra, and their war records, and their families and children. “I’m a grandfather three times over,” I said ruefully. “There’s going to be a fourth soon, I believe.” She laughed. “What does it feel like?”
“Just like it did before,” I told her. “You don’t feel any different as you get older. Only, you can’t do so much.” Presently I got the conversation back on to her own affairs. I pointed out to her what sort of life she would be able to lead upon nine hundred a year. As an instance, I told her that she could have a country cottage in Devonshire and a little car, and a daily maid.
And still have money to spare for a moderate amount of foreign travel. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself unless I worked at something,” she said. “I’ve always worked at something, all my life.” I knew of several charitable appeals who would have found a firstclass shorthand typist, unpaid, a perfect god-send, and I told her so. A Town Like Alice PDF Book
She was inclined to be critical about those. “Surely, if a thing is really worth while, it’ll pay,” she said. She evidently had quite a strong business instinct latent in her. “It wouldn’t need to have an unpaid secretary.” “Charitable organizations like to keep the overheads down,” I remarked.
“I shouldn’t have thought organizations that haven’t got enough margin to pay a secretary can possibly do very much good,” she said. “If I’m going to work at anything, I want it to be something really worth while.” I told her about the almoner’s job at a hospital, and she was very much interested in that. “That’s much more like it, Mr Strachan,” she said.
“I think that’s the sort of job one might get stuck into and take really seriously. But I wish it hadn’t got to do with sick people. Either you’ve got a mission for sick people or you haven’t, and I think I’m one of the ones who hasn’t. But it’s worth thinking about.” She turned to me. “You know, out in Malaya. A Town Like Alice PDF Book Download
When we were dying of malaria and dysentery, shivering with fever in the rain, with no clothes and no food and nowhere to go, because no one wanted us, I used to think about the rink at Southampton more than anything. It was a sort of symbol of the life that used to be—something to hold on to in one’s mind.” She paused.
“Directly I got back to England I went back to Southampton, as soon as I could—I had something or other to do down there, but really it was because all through those years I had promised myself that one day I would go back and skate there again. And it had been blitzed. It was just a blackened and a burnt-out shell—there’s no rink in Southampton now.
I stood there on the pavement with the taxi waiting behind me with my boots and skates in my hand, and I couldn’t keep from crying with the disappointment. I don’t know what the taxidriver thought of me.” Her brother had gone out to Malaya in 1937 when Jean was sixteen. She left school at the age of seventeen and went to a commercial college in Southampton. A Town Like Alice PDF Book Download
And emerged from it six months later with a diploma as a shorthand typist. She worked then for about a year in a solicitor’s office in the town, but during this year a future for her in Malaya was taking shape. Her mother had kept in contact with the chairman of the Kuala Perak Plantation Company, and the chairman was very satisfied with the reports he had of Donald from the plantation manager.
Unmarried girls were never very plentiful in Malaya; and when Mrs Paget approached the chairman with a proposal that he should find a job for Jean in the head office at Kuala Lumpur it was considered seriously. It was deemed undesirable by the Company that their manager should marry or contract liaisons with native women.
And the obvious way to prevent it was to encourage unmarried girls to come out from England. Here was a girl who was not only of a family that they knew but who could also speak Malay, a rare accomplishment in a shorthand typist from England. So Jean got her job. The officer laughed shortly. “No I can’t. The Japs are at Kerling, or they were when I last heard. They may be further south by now.” A Town Like Alice PDF Book Download
Kerling was only twenty miles away. “I’m taking you to Panong. You’ll get a boat from there to get you down to Singapore.” He refused to take the truck back for their luggage, probably rightly; it was already loaded with a number of families who had messed up their evacuation, and the Austin was five miles in the direction of the enemy.
Kuala means the mouth of a river, and Kuala Panong is a small town at the entrance to the Panong River. There is a District Commissioner stationed there. By the time the truck reached his office it was loaded with about forty men, women, and children picked up for forcible evacuation from the surrounding estates.
Most of these were Englishwomen of relatively humble birth, the wives of foreman engineers at the tin mines or gangers on the railway. Few of them had been able to appreciate the swiftness and the danger of the Japanese advance. Plantation managers and those in the Secretariat and other Government positions had had better sources of information and more money to spend. A Town Like Alice PDF Book Free
And these had got their families away to Singapore in good time. Those who were left to be picked up by truck at the last moment were the least competent. The truck halted at the DC’s office and the subaltern went inside; the DC came out presently, a very worried man, and looked at the crowded women and children, and the few men amongst them.
“Christ,” he said quietly as he realized the extent of the new responsibility. “Well, drive them to the accounts office over there; they must sit in the veranda for an hour or two and I’ll try and get something fixed up for them. Tell them not to wander about too much.” He turned back into the office. “I can send them down in fishing-boats, I think,” he said. “There are some of those left.
That’s the best I can do. I haven’t got a launch.” Kuala Panong lies in a marshy district of mangrove swamps at the entrance to a muddy river; the mosquitoes are intense. All night the children moaned and wailed fretfully, preventing what sleep might have been possible for the adults. A Town Like Alice PDF Book Free
The night passed slowly, wearily on the hard floor of the veranda; between the crushing misery of captivity and defeat and the torment of the mosquitoes few of the prisoners slept at all. Jean dozed a little in the early hours and woke stiff and aching and with swollen face and arms as a fresh outburst from the children heralded the more intense attack from the mosquitoes that comes in the hour before the dawn.
When the first light came the prisoners were in a very unhappy state. There was a latrine behind the accounts office, inadequate for the numbers that had to use it They made the best of that, and there was nothing then to do but to sit and wait for what would happen. Holland and Eileen made sandwiches for the children of tinned meat and sweet biscuits, and after this small breakfast they felt better.
Many of the others had some small supplies of food, and those that had none were fed by those who had. Nothing was provided for the prisoners that morning by the Japanese. Esmé was a child of eight. She had had dysentery for some time and was growing very thin and weak; she slept little and cried a great deal. A Town Like Alice PDF Book Free
Presently she got fever, and for two days ran a temperature of a hundred and four as the malaria rose in her. Mrs Horsefall told Captain Yoniata that the child must see a doctor and go to hospital. He said he was very sorry, but there was no hospital. He would try and get a doctor, but the doctors were all fighting with the victorious army of the Emperor.
That evening Esmé entered on a series of convulsions, and shortly before dawn she died. She was buried that morning in the Moslem cemetery behind the village; her mother and one other woman were allowed to attend the burial. They read a little of the service out of a prayer book before the uncomprehending soldiers and Malays, and then it was over. Life went on as before in the accounts office, but the children now had nightmares of death to follow them to sleep.