Marriage and Mabel

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Somerset Maugham

I was at Pagan, in Burma, and from there I took the steamer to Mandalay, but a couple of days before I got there, when the boat tied up for the night at a riverside village, I made up my mind to go ashore. The skipper told me that there was there a pleasant little club in which I had only to make myself at home; they were quite used to having strangers drop off like that from the steamer, and the secretary was a very decent chap; I might even get a game of bridge. I had nothing in the world to do, so I got into one of the bullock-carts that were waiting at the landing-stage and was driven to the club. There was a man sitting on the veranda and as I walked up he nodded to me and asked whether I would have a whisky and soda or a gin and bitters. The possibility that I would have nothing at all did not even occur to him. I chose the longer drink and sat down. He was a tall, thin, bronzed man, with a big moustache, and he wore khaki shorts and a khaki shirt. I never knew his name, but when we had been chatting a little while another man came in who told me he was the secretary, and he addressed my friend as George. 'Have you heard from your wife yet?' he asked him.

The other's eyes brightened.
'Yes, I had letters by this mail. She's having no end of a time.' 'Did she tell you not to fret?'
George gave a little chuckle, but was I mistaken in thinking that there was in it the shadow of a sob? 'In point of fact she did. But that's easier said than done. Of course I know she wants a holiday, and I'm glad she should have it, but it's devilish hard on a chap.' He turned to me. 'You see, this is the first time I've ever been separated from my missus, and I'm like a lost dog without her.' 'How long have you been married?'

'Five minutes.'
The secretary of the club laughed.
'Don't be a fool, George. You've been married eight years.'
After we had talked for a little, George, looking at his watch, said he must go and change his clothes for...
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