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A short story by A. A. Milne


Title:     Epilogue
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

You may believe this or not as you like. Personally I don't know what to think. It happened on the first day of spring (do you remember it? A wonderful day), and on the first of spring all sorts of enchantments may happen.

I was writing my weekly story: one of those things with a He and a She in it. He was Reginald, a fine figure of a man. She was Dorothy, rather a dear. I was beginning in a roundabout sort of way with the weather, and the scenery, and the birds, and how Reginald was thinking of the spring, and how his young fancy was lightly turning to thoughts of love, when suddenly--

At that moment I was called out of the room to speak to the housekeeper about something. In three minutes I was back again; and I had just dipped my pen in the ink, when there came a cough from the direction of the sofa--and there, as cool as you please, were sitting two persons entirely unknown to me....

"I beg your pardon," I said. "The housekeeper never told me. Whom have I the--what did you--"

"Thanks," said the man. "I'm Reginald."

"Are you really?" I cried. "Jove, I AM glad to see you. I was just--just thinking of you. How are you?"

"I'm sick of it," said Reginald.

"Sick of what?"

"Of being accepted by Dorothy."

I turned to the girl.

"You don't mean to say--"

"Yes; I'm Dorothy. I'm sick of it too."

"Dorothy!" I cried. "By the way, let me introduce you. Reginald, this is Dorothy. She's sick of it too."

"Thanks," said Reginald coldly. "We have met before."

"Surely not. Just let me look a moment.... No, I thought not. You don't meet till the next paragraph. If you wouldn't mind taking a seat, I shan't be a moment."

Reginald stood up.

"Look here," he said. "Do you know who I am?"

"You're just Reginald," I said; "and there's no need to stand about looking so dignified, because I only thought of you ten minutes ago, and if you're not careful I shall change your name to Harold. You're Reginald, and you're going to meet Dorothy in the next paragraph, and you'll flirt with her mildly for about two columns. And at the end, I expect--no, I am almost sure, that you will propose and be accepted."

"Never," said Reginald angrily.

"That's what we've come about," said Dorothy.

I rubbed my forehead wearily.

"Would one of you explain?" I asked. "I can't think what's happened. You're at least a paragraph ahead of me."

Reginald sat down again and lit a cigarette.

"It's simply this," he said, trying to keep calm. "You may call me what you like, but I am always the same person week after week."

"Nonsense. Why, it was Richard last week."

"But the same person."

"And Gerald the week before. Gerald, yes; he was rather a good chap."

"Just the same, only the name was different. And who are we? We are you as you imagine yourself to be."

I looked inquiringly at Dorothy.

"Last week," he went on, "you called me Richard. And I proposed to Phyllis."

"And I accepted him," said Dorothy.

"You!" I said. "What were YOU doing there, I should like to know?"

"Last week I was Phyllis."

"The week before," went on Reginald, "I was Gerald, and I proposed to Millicent."

"I was Millicent, and I accepted him."

"The week before that I was--Good Heavens, think of it--I was George!"

"A beastly name, I agree," I said.

"You gave it me."

"Yes, but I wasn't feeling very well that week."

"I was Mabel," put in Dorothy, "and I accepted him."

"No, no, no--no, don't say that. I mean, one doesn't accept people called George."

"You made me."

"Did I? I'm awfully sorry. Yes, I quite see your point."

"The week before," went on Reginald remorselessly, "I was--"

"Don't go back into February, please! February is such a rotten month with me. Well now, what's your complaint?"

"Just what I said," explained Reginald. "You think you have a new hero and heroine every week, but you're mistaken. We are always the same; and, personally, I am tired of proposing week after week to the same girl."

There was just something about Reginald that I seemed to recognize. Just the very slightest something.

"Then who are you really," I asked, "if you're always the same person?"

"Yourself. Not really yourself, of course, but yourself as you fondly imagine you are."

I laughed scornfully. "You're nothing of the sort. How ridiculous! The hero of my own stories, indeed! Myself idealized--then I suppose you think you're rather a fine fellow?" I sneered.

"I suppose you think I am."

"No, I don't. I think you are a silly ass. Saying I'm my own hero. I'm nothing of the sort. And I suppose Dorothy is me, too?"

"I'm the girl you're in love with," said Dorothy. "Idealized."

"I'm not in love with any one," I denied indignantly.

"Then your ideal girl."

"Ah, you might well be that," I smiled.

I looked at her longingly. She was wonderfully beautiful. I went a little closer to her.

"And we've come," said Reginald, putting his oar in again, "to say that we're sick of getting engaged every week."

I ignored Reginald altogether.

"Are you really sick of him?" I asked Dorothy.


"As sick of him as I am?"

"I--I daresay."

"Then let's cross him out," I said. And I went back to the table and took up my pen. "Say the word," I said to Dorothy.

"Steady on," began Reginald uneasily. "All I meant was--"

"Personally, as you know," I said to Dorothy, "I think he's a silly ass. And if you think so too--"

"I say, look here, old chap--"

Dorothy nodded. I dipped the pen in the ink.

"Then out he goes," I said, and I drew a line through him. When I looked up only Dorothy was there....

"Dorothy!" I said. "At last!"

"But my name isn't really Dorothy, you know," she said with a smile. "It's Dorothy this week, and last week it was Phyllis, and the week before--"

"Then what is it really? Tell me! So that I may know my ideal when I see her again."

I got ready to write the name down. I dipped my pen in the ink again, and I drew a line through Dorothy, and then I looked up questioningly at her, and...

Fool, fool! She was gone!

II faut vivre. You'll see the story in one of the papers this week. You'll recognize it, because he is called Harold, and she is called Lucy. At the end of the second column he proposes and she accepts him. Lucy--of all names! It serves them right.

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: Epilogue