A Wodehouse Miscellany
P. G. Wodehouse
Part 2 out of 3
through the rest of the over. "Just a single," said Tom to himself as
he faced the bowler at the other end. "Just one solitary single. Miss
Burn--may I call you Dolly? Do you remember that moonlight night? On
the Char? In my Canadian canoe? We two?"
"'S THAT?" shrieked bowler and wicket-keeper as one man.
Tom looked blankly at them. He had not gone within a mile and a half
of the ball, he was certain. And yet--there was the umpire with his
hand raised, as if he were the Pope bestowing a blessing.
He walked quickly back to the trees, flung off his pads, and began to
"Well?" said a voice.
Dick was standing before him, grinning like a gargoyle.
"Of all the absolutely delirious decisions----" began Tom.
"Oh, yes," said Dick rudely, "I know all about that. Why, I could hear
the click from where I was sitting. The point is, what's to be done
now? We shall have to settle it on the second innings."
"If there is one."
"Oh, there'll be a second innings all right. There's another man out.
On a wicket like this we shall all be out in an hour, and we'll have
the other side out in another hour, and then we'll start again on this
business. I shall play a big game next innings. It was only that
infernal ball shooting that did me."
"And I," said Tom; "if the umpire has got over his fit of delirium
tremens, or been removed to Colney Hatch, shall almost certainly make
It was four o'clock by the time Tom and Dick went to the wickets for
the second time. Their side had been headed by their opponents by a
dozen on the first innings--68 to 56.
A splendid spirit of confidence animated the two batsmen. The umpire
who had effected Tom's downfall in the first innings had since
received a hard drive in the small of the back as he turned coyly away
to avoid the ball, and was now being massaged by strong men in the
taproom of the village inn. It was the sort of occurrence, said Tom,
which proved once and for all the existence of an all-seeing,
As for Dick, he had smoothed out a few of the more important
mountain-ranges which marred the smoothness of the wicket, and was
feeling that all was right with the world.
The pair started well. The demon bowler of the enemy, having been
feted considerably under the trees by enthusiastic admirers during the
innings of his side, was a little incoherent in his deliveries. Four
full-pitches did he send down to Dick in his first over, and Dick had
placed 16 to his credit before Tom, who had had to look on anxiously,
had opened his account. Dick was a slow scorer as a rule, but he knew
a full-pitch to leg when he saw one.
From his place at the other crease Tom could see Miss Burn and her
mother sitting under the trees, watching the game.
The sight nerved him. By the time he had played through his first over
he had reduced Dick's lead by half. An oyster would have hit out in
such circumstances, and Tom was always an aggressive batsman. By the
end of the third over the scores were level. Each had made 20.
Enthusiasm ran high amongst the spectators, or such of them as were
natives of the village. Such a stand for the first wicket had not been
seen in all the matches ever played in the neighbourhood. When Tom,
with a nice straight drive (which should have been a 4, but was
stopped by a cow and turned into a single), brought up the century,
small boys burst buttons and octogenarians wept like babes.
The bowling was collared. The demon had long since retired grumbling
to the deep field. Weird trundlers, with actions like nothing else on
earth, had been tried, had fired their ringing shot, and passed. One
individual had gone on with lobs, to the acute delight of everybody
except the fieldsmen who had to retrieve the balls and the
above-mentioned cow. And still Tom and Dick stayed in and smote, while
in the west the sun slowly sank.
The Rev. Henry looked anxious. It was magnificent, but it must not be
overdone. A little more and they would not have time to get the foe
out for the second time. In which case the latter would win on the
first innings. And this thought was as gall to him.
He walked out and addressed the rival captain.
"I think," said he, "we will close our innings."
Tom and Dick made two bee-lines for the scorer and waited
palpitatingly for the verdict.
"What's my score?" panted Tom.
"And mine?" gasped Dick.
"Fifty-fower, too, sur."
* * * * *
"You see, my dear fellows," said the Rev. Henry when they had
finished--and his voice was like unto oil that is poured into a
wound--"we had to win this match, and if you had gone on batting we
should not have had time to get them out. As it is, we shall have to
"But, hang it----" said Tom.
"But, look here----" said Dick.
"What on earth are we to do?" said Tom.
"We're in precisely the same hole as we were before," said Dick.
"We don't know how to manage it."
"We're absolutely bunkered."
"Our competition, you see."
"About Miss Burn, don't you know."
"Which is to propose first?"
"We can't settle it."
The Rev. Henry smiled a faint, saintly smile and raised a protesting
"My advice," he said, "is that both of you should refrain from
"What?" said Dick.
"_Wha-at_?" said Tom.
"You see," purred the Rev. Henry, "you are both very young fellows.
Probably you do not know your own minds. You take these things too
"Now, look here," said Tom.
"None of that rot," said Dick.
"I shall propose tonight."
"I shall propose this evening."
"I shouldn't," said the Rev. Henry. "The fact is----"
"I didn't tell you before, for fear it should put you off your game;
but Miss Burn is engaged already, and has been for three days."
The two rivals started.
"Engaged!" cried Tom.
"Whom to?" hissed Dick.
"Me," murmured Harry.
JEEVES TAKES CHARGE
Now, touching this business of old Jeeves--my man, you know--how do we
stand? Lots of people think I'm much too dependent on him. My Aunt
Agatha, in fact, has even gone so far as to call him my keeper. Well,
what I say is: Why not? The man's a genius. From the collar upward he
stands alone. I gave up trying to run my own affairs within a week of
his coming to me. That was about half a dozen years ago, directly
after the rather rummy business of Florence Craye, my Uncle
Willoughby's book, and Edwin, the Boy Scout.
The thing really began when I got back to Easeby, my uncle's place in
Shropshire. I was spending a week or so there, as I generally did in
the summer; and I had had to break my visit to come back to London to
get a new valet. I had found Meadowes, the fellow I had taken to
Easeby with me, sneaking my silk socks, a thing no bloke of spirit
could stick at any price. It transpiring, moreover, that he had looted
a lot of other things here and there about the place, I was
reluctantly compelled to hand the misguided blighter the mitten and go
to London to ask the registry office to dig up another specimen for my
approval. They sent me Jeeves.
I shall always remember the morning he came. It so happened that the
night before I had been present at a rather cheery little supper, and
I was feeling pretty rocky. On top of this I was trying to read a book
Florence Craye had given me. She had been one of the house-party at
Easeby, and two or three days before I left we had got engaged. I was
due back at the end of the week, and I knew she would expect me to
have finished the book by then. You see, she was particularly keen on
boosting me up a bit nearer her own plane of intellect. She was a girl
with a wonderful profile, but steeped to the gills in serious purpose.
I can't give you a better idea of the way things stood than by telling
you that the book she'd given me to read was called "Types of Ethical
Theory," and that when I opened it at random I struck a page
_The postulate or common understanding involved in speech is
certainly co-extensive, in the obligation it carries, with the
social organism of which language is the instrument, and the
ends of which it is an effort to subserve._
All perfectly true, no doubt; but not the sort of thing to spring on a
lad with a morning head.
I was doing my best to skim through this bright little volume when the
bell rang. I crawled off the sofa and opened the door. A kind of
darkish sort of respectful Johnnie stood without.
"I was sent by the agency, sir," he said. "I was given to understand
that you required a valet."
I'd have preferred an undertaker; but I told him to stagger in, and he
floated noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr. That
impressed me from the start. Meadowes had had flat feet and used to
clump. This fellow didn't seem to have any feet at all. He just
streamed in. He had a grave, sympathetic face, as if he, too, knew
what it was to sup with the lads.
"Excuse me, sir," he said gently.
Then he seemed to flicker, and wasn't there any longer. I heard him
moving about in the kitchen, and presently he came back with a glass
on a tray.
"If you would drink this, sir," he said, with a kind of bedside
manner, rather like the royal doctor shooting the bracer into the sick
prince. "It is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the
Worcester Sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it
nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me
they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening."
I would have clutched at anything that looked like a life-line that
morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had
touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my
throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to
get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in
the tree-tops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.
"You're engaged!" I said, as soon as I could say anything.
I perceived clearly that this cove was one of the world's wonders, the
sort no home should be without.
"Thank you, sir. My name is Jeeves."
"You can start in at once?"
"Because I'm due down at Easeby, in Shropshire, the day after
"Very good, sir." He looked past me at the mantelpiece. "That is an
excellent likeness of Lady Florence Craye, sir. It is two years since
I saw her ladyship. I was at one time in Lord Worplesdon's employment.
I tendered my resignation because I could not see eye to eye with his
lordship in his desire to dine in dress trousers, a flannel shirt, and
a shooting coat."
He couldn't tell me anything I didn't know about the old boy's
eccentricity. This Lord Worplesdon was Florence's father. He was the
old buster who, a few years later, came down to breakfast one morning,
lifted the first cover he saw, said "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Damn all eggs!"
in an overwrought sort of voice, and instantly legged it for France,
never to return to the bosom of his family. This, mind you, being a
bit of luck for the bosom of the family, for old Worplesdon had the
worst temper in the county.
I had known the family ever since I was a kid, and from boyhood up
this old boy had put the fear of death into me. Time, the great
healer, could never remove from my memory the occasion when he found
me--then a stripling of fifteen--smoking one of his special cigars in
the stables. He got after me with a hunting-crop just at the moment
when I was beginning to realise that what I wanted most on earth was
solitude and repose, and chased me more than a mile across difficult
country. If there was a flaw, so to speak, in the pure joy of being
engaged to Florence, it was the fact that she rather took after her
father, and one was never certain when she might erupt. She had a
wonderful profile, though.
"Lady Florence and I are engaged, Jeeves," I said.
You know, there was a kind of rummy something about his manner.
Perfectly all right and all that, but not what you'd call chirpy. It
somehow gave me the impression that he wasn't keen on Florence. Well,
of course, it wasn't my business. I supposed that while he had been
valeting old Worplesdon she must have trodden on his toes in some way.
Florence was a dear girl, and, seen sideways, most awfully
good-looking; but if she had a fault it was a tendency to be a bit
imperious with the domestic staff.
At this point in the proceedings there was another ring at the front
door. Jeeves shimmered out and came back with a telegram. I opened it.
_Return immediately. Extremely urgent. Catch first train.
"Rum!" I said.
It shows how little I knew Jeeves in those days that I didn't go a bit
deeper into the matter with him. Nowadays I would never dream of
reading a rummy communication without asking him what he thought of
it. And this one was devilish odd. What I mean is, Florence knew I was
going back to Easeby the day after to-morrow, anyway; so why the hurry
call? Something must have happened, of course; but I couldn't see what
on earth it could be.
"Jeeves," I said, "we shall be going down to Easeby this afternoon.
Can you manage it?"
"You can get your packing done and all that?"
"Without any difficulty, sir. Which suit will you wear for the
I had on a rather sprightly young check that morning, to which I was a
good deal attached; I fancied it, in fact, more than a little. It was
perhaps rather sudden till you got used to it, but, nevertheless, an
extremely sound effort, which many lads at the club and elsewhere had
"Very good, sir."
Again there was that kind of rummy something in his manner. It was the
way he said it, don't you know. He didn't like the suit. I pulled
myself together to assert myself. Something seemed to tell me that,
unless I was jolly careful and nipped this lad in the bud, he would be
starting to boss me. He had the aspect of a distinctly resolute
Well, I wasn't going to have any of that sort of thing, by Jove! I'd
seen so many cases of fellows who had become perfect slaves to their
valets. I remember poor old Aubrey Fothergill telling me--with
absolute tears in his eyes, poor chap!--one night at the club, that he
had been compelled to give up a favourite pair of brown shoes simply
because Meekyn, his man, disapproved of them. You have to keep these
fellows in their place, don't you know. You have to work the good old
iron-hand-in-the-velvet-glove wheeze. If you give them a
what's-its-name, they take a thingummy.
"Don't you like this suit, Jeeves?" I said coldly.
"Oh, yes, sir."
"Well, what don't you like about it?"
"It is a very nice suit, sir."
"Well, what's wrong with it? Out with it, dash it!"
"If I might make the suggestion, sir, a simple brown or blue, with a
hint of some quiet twill----"
"What absolute rot!"
"Very good, sir."
"Perfectly blithering, my dear man!"
"As you say, sir."
I felt as if I had stepped on the place where the last stair ought to
have been, but wasn't. I felt defiant, if you know what I mean, and
there didn't seem anything to defy.
"All right, then," I said.
And then he went away to collect his kit, while I started in again on
"Types of Ethical Theory" and took a stab at a chapter headed
* * * * *
Most of the way down in the train that afternoon, I was wondering what
could be up at the other end. I simply couldn't see what could have
happened. Easeby wasn't one of those country houses you read about in
the society novels, where young girls are lured on to play baccarat
and then skinned to the bone of their jewellery, and so on. The
house-party I had left had consisted entirely of law-abiding birds
Besides, my uncle wouldn't have let anything of that kind go on in his
house. He was a rather stiff, precise sort of old boy, who liked a
quiet life. He was just finishing a history of the family or
something, which he had been working on for the last year, and didn't
stir much from the library. He was rather a good instance of what they
say about its being a good scheme for a fellow to sow his wild oats.
I'd been told that in his youth Uncle Willoughby had been a bit of a
rounder. You would never have thought it to look at him now.
When I got to the house, Oakshott, the butler, told me that Florence
was in her room, watching her maid pack. Apparently there was a dance
on at a house about twenty miles away that night, and she was motoring
over with some of the Easeby lot and would be away some nights.
Oakshott said she had told him to tell her the moment I arrived; so I
trickled into the smoking-room and waited, and presently in she came.
A glance showed me that she was perturbed, and even peeved. Her eyes
had a goggly look, and altogether she appeared considerably pipped.
"Darling!" I said, and attempted the good old embrace; but she
sidestepped like a bantam weight.
"What's the matter?"
"Everything's the matter! Bertie, you remember asking me, when you
left, to make myself pleasant to your uncle?"
The idea being, of course, that as at that time I was more or less
dependent on Uncle Willoughby I couldn't very well marry without his
approval. And though I knew he wouldn't have any objection to
Florence, having known her father since they were at Oxford together,
I hadn't wanted to take any chances; so I had told her to make an
effort to fascinate the old boy.
"You told me it would please him particularly if I asked him to read
me some of his history of the family."
"Wasn't he pleased?"
"He was delighted. He finished writing the thing yesterday afternoon,
and read me nearly all of it last night. I have never had such a shock
in my life. The book is an outrage. It is impossible. It is horrible!"
"But, dash it, the family weren't so bad as all that."
"It is not a history of the family at all. Your uncle has written his
reminiscences! He calls them 'Recollections of a Long Life'!"
I began to understand. As I say, Uncle Willoughby had been somewhat on
the tabasco side as a young man, and it began to look as if he might
have turned out something pretty fruity if he had started recollecting
his long life.
"If half of what he has written is true," said Florence, "your uncle's
youth must have been perfectly appalling. The moment we began to read
he plunged straight into a most scandalous story of how he and my
father were thrown out of a music-hall in 1887!"
"I decline to tell you why."
It must have been something pretty bad. It took a lot to make them
chuck people out of music-halls in 1887.
"Your uncle specifically states that father had drunk a quart and a
half of champagne before beginning the evening," she went on. "The
book is full of stories like that. There is a dreadful one about Lord
"Lord Emsworth? Not the one we know? Not the one at Blandings?"
A most respectable old Johnnie, don't you know. Doesn't do a thing
nowadays but dig in the garden with a spud.
"The very same. That is what makes the book so unspeakable. It is full
of stories about people one knows who are the essence of propriety
today, but who seem to have behaved, when they were in London in the
'eighties, in a manner that would not have been tolerated in the
fo'c'sle of a whaler. Your uncle seems to remember everything
disgraceful that happened to anybody when he was in his early
twenties. There is a story about Sir Stanley Gervase-Gervase at
Rosherville Gardens which is ghastly in its perfection of detail. It
seems that Sir Stanley--but I can't tell you!"
"Have a dash!"
"Oh, well, I shouldn't worry. No publisher will print the book if it's
as bad as all that."
"On the contrary, your uncle told me that all negotiations are settled
with Riggs and Ballinger, and he's sending off the manuscript tomorrow
for immediate publication. They make a special thing of that sort of
book. They published Lady Carnaby's 'Memories of Eighty Interesting
"I read 'em!"
"Well, then, when I tell you that Lady Carnaby's Memories are simply
not to be compared with your uncle's Recollections, you will
understand my state of mind. And father appears in nearly every story
in the book! I am horrified at the things he did when he was a young
"What's to be done?"
"The manuscript must be intercepted before it reaches Riggs and
Ballinger, and destroyed!"
I sat up.
This sounded rather sporting.
"How are you going to do it?" I enquired.
"How can I do it? Didn't I tell you the parcel goes off to-morrow? I
am going to the Murgatroyds' dance to-night and shall not be back till
Monday. You must do it. That is why I telegraphed to you."
She gave me a look.
"Do you mean to say you refuse to help me, Bertie?"
"No; but--I say!"
"It's quite simple."
"But even if I--What I mean is--Of course, anything I can do--but--if
you know what I mean----"
"You say you want to marry me, Bertie?"
"Yes, of course; but still----"
For a moment she looked exactly like her old father.
"I will never marry you if those Recollections are published."
"But, Florence, old thing!"
"I mean it. You may look on it as a test, Bertie. If you have the
resource and courage to carry this thing through, I will take it as
evidence that you are not the vapid and shiftless person most people
think you. If you fail, I shall know that your Aunt Agatha was right
when she called you a spineless invertebrate and advised me strongly
not to marry you. It will be perfectly simple for you to intercept the
manuscript, Bertie. It only requires a little resolution."
"But suppose Uncle Willoughby catches me at it? He'd cut me off with a
"If you care more for your uncle's money than for me----"
"No, no! Rather not!"
"Very well, then. The parcel containing the manuscript will, of
course, be placed on the hall table to-morrow for Oakshott to take to
the village with the letters. All you have to do is to take it away
and destroy it. Then your uncle will think it has been lost in the
It sounded thin to me.
"Hasn't he got a copy of it?"
"No; it has not been typed. He is sending the manuscript just as he
"But he could write it over again."
"As if he would have the energy!"
"If you are going to do nothing but make absurd objections, Bertie----"
"I was only pointing things out."
"Well, don't! Once and for all, will you do me this quite simple act
The way she put it gave me an idea.
"Why not get Edwin to do it? Keep it in the family, kind of, don't you
know. Besides, it would be a boon to the kid."
A jolly bright idea it seemed to me. Edwin was her young brother, who
was spending his holidays at Easeby. He was a ferret-faced kid, whom I
had disliked since birth. As a matter of fact, talking of
Recollections and Memories, it was young blighted Edwin who, nine
years before, had led his father to where I was smoking his cigar and
caused all of the unpleasantness. He was fourteen now and had just
joined the Boy Scouts. He was one of those thorough kids, and took his
responsibilities pretty seriously. He was always in a sort of fever
because he was dropping behind schedule with his daily acts of
kindness. However hard he tried, he'd fall behind; and then you would
find him prowling about the house, setting such a clip to try and
catch up with himself that Easeby was rapidly becoming a perfect hell
for man and beast.
The idea didn't seem to strike Florence.
"I shall do nothing of the kind, Bertie. I wonder you can't appreciate
the compliment I am paying you--trusting you like this."
"Oh, I see that all right, but what I mean is, Edwin would do it so
much better than I would. These Boy Scouts are up to all sorts of
dodges. They spoor, don't you know, and take cover and creep about,
and what not."
"Bertie, will you or will you not do this perfectly trivial thing for
me? If not, say so now, and let us end this farce of pretending that
you care a snap of the fingers for me."
"Dear old soul, I love you devotedly!"
"Then will you or will you not----"
"Oh, all right," I said. "All right! All right! All right!"
And then I tottered forth to think it over. I met Jeeves in the
passage just outside.
"I beg your pardon, sir. I was endeavouring to find you."
"What's the matter?"
"I felt that I should tell you, sir, that somebody has been putting
black polish on our brown walking shoes."
"What! Who? Why?"
"I could not say, sir."
"Can anything be done with them?"
"Very good, sir."
* * * * *
I've often wondered since then how these murderer fellows manage to
keep in shape while they're contemplating their next effort. I had a
much simpler sort of job on hand, and the thought of it rattled me to
such an extent in the night watches that I was a perfect wreck next
day. Dark circles under the eyes--I give you my word! I had to call on
Jeeves to rally round with one of those life-savers of his.
From breakfast on I felt like a bag-snatcher at a railway station. I
had to hang about waiting for the parcel to be put on the hall table,
and it wasn't put. Uncle Willoughby was a fixture in the library,
adding the finishing touches to the great work, I supposed, and the
more I thought the thing over the less I liked it. The chances against
my pulling it off seemed about three to two, and the thought of what
would happen if I didn't gave me cold shivers down the spine. Uncle
Willoughby was a pretty mild sort of old boy, as a rule, but I've
known him to cut up rough, and, by Jove, he was scheduled to extend
himself if he caught me trying to get away with his life work.
It wasn't till nearly four that he toddled out of the library with the
parcel under his arm, put it on the table, and toddled off again. I
was hiding a bit to the south-east at the moment, behind a suit of
armour. I bounded out and legged it for the table. Then I nipped
upstairs to hide the swag. I charged in like a mustang and nearly
stubbed my toe on young blighted Edwin, the Boy Scout. He was standing
at the chest of drawers, confound him, messing about with my ties.
"Hallo!" he said.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm tidying your room. It's my last Saturday's act of kindness."
"I'm five days behind. I was six till last night, but I polished your
"Was it you----"
"Yes. Did you see them? I just happened to think of it. I was in here,
looking round. Mr. Berkeley had this room while you were away. He left
this morning. I thought perhaps he might have left something in it
that I could have sent on. I've often done acts of kindness that way."
"You must be a comfort to one and all!"
It became more and more apparent to me that this infernal kid must
somehow be turned out eftsoons or right speedily. I had hidden the
parcel behind my back, and I didn't think he had seen it; but I wanted
to get at that chest of drawers quick, before anyone else came along.
"I shouldn't bother about tidying the room," I said.
"I like tidying it. It's not a bit of trouble--really."
"But it's quite tidy now."
"Not so tidy as I shall make it."
This was getting perfectly rotten. I didn't want to murder the kid,
and yet there didn't seem any other way of shifting him. I pressed
down the mental accelerator. The old lemon throbbed fiercely. I got an
"There's something much kinder than that which you could do," I said.
"You see that box of cigars? Take it down to the smoking-room and snip
off the ends for me. That would save me no end of trouble. Stagger
He seemed a bit doubtful; but he staggered. I shoved the parcel into a
drawer, locked it, trousered the key, and felt better. I might be a
chump, but, dash it, I could out-general a mere kid with a face like a
ferret. I went downstairs again. Just as I was passing the
smoking-room door, out curveted Edwin. It seemed to me that if he
wanted to do a real act of kindness he would commit suicide.
"I'm snipping them," he said.
"Snip on! Snip on!"
"Do you like them snipped much, or only a bit?"
"All right. I'll be getting on, then."
And we parted.
Fellows who know all about that sort of thing--detectives, and so
on--will tell you that the most difficult thing in the world is to get
rid of the body. I remember, as a kid, having to learn by heart a poem
about a bird by the name of Eugene Aram, who had the deuce of a job in
this respect. All I can recall of the actual poetry is the bit that
_Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum-tumty-tum,
I slew him, tum-tum-tum!_
But I recollect that the poor blighter spent much of his valuable time
dumping the corpse into ponds and burying it, and what not, only to
have it pop out at him again. It was about an hour after I had shoved
the parcel into the drawer when I realised that I had let myself in
for just the same sort of thing.
Florence had talked in an airy sort of way about destroying the
manuscript; but when one came down to it, how the deuce can a chap
destroy a great chunky mass of paper in somebody else's house in the
middle of summer? I couldn't ask to have a fire in my bedroom, with
the thermometer in the eighties. And if I didn't burn the thing, how
else could I get rid of it? Fellows on the battle-field eat dispatches
to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy, but it would
have taken me a year to eat Uncle Willoughby's Recollections.
I'm bound to say the problem absolutely baffled me. The only thing
seemed to be to leave the parcel in the drawer and hope for the best.
I don't know whether you have ever experienced it, but it's a dashed
unpleasant thing having a crime on one's conscience. Towards the end
of the day the mere sight of the drawer began to depress me. I found
myself getting all on edge; and once when Uncle Willoughby trickled
silently into the smoking-room when I was alone there and spoke to me
before I knew he was there, I broke the record for the sitting high
I was wondering all the time when Uncle Willoughby would sit up and
take notice. I didn't think he would have time to suspect that
anything had gone wrong till Saturday morning, when he would be
expecting, of course, to get the acknowledgment of the manuscript from
the publishers. But early on Friday evening he came out of the library
as I was passing and asked me to step in. He was looking considerably
"Bertie," he said--he always spoke in a precise sort of pompous kind
of way--"an exceedingly disturbing thing has happened. As you know, I
dispatched the manuscript of my book to Messrs. Riggs and Ballinger,
the publishers, yesterday afternoon. It should have reached them by
the first post this morning. Why I should have been uneasy I cannot
say, but my mind was not altogether at rest respecting the safety of
the parcel. I therefore telephoned to Messrs. Riggs and Ballinger a
few moments back to make enquiries. To my consternation they informed
me that they were not yet in receipt of my manuscript."
"I recollect distinctly placing it myself on the hall table in good
time to be taken to the village. But here is a sinister thing. I have
spoken to Oakshott, who took the rest of the letters to the post
office, and he cannot recall seeing it there. He is, indeed,
unswerving in his assertions that when he went to the hall to collect
the letters there was no parcel among them."
"Bertie, shall I tell you what I suspect?"
"The suspicion will no doubt sound to you incredible, but it alone
seems to fit the facts as we know them. I incline to the belief that
the parcel has been stolen."
"Oh, I say! Surely not!"
"Wait! Hear me out. Though I have said nothing to you before, or to
anyone else, concerning the matter, the fact remains that during the
past few weeks a number of objects--some valuable, others not--have
disappeared in this house. The conclusion to which one is irresistibly
impelled is that we have a kleptomaniac in our midst. It is a
peculiarity of kleptomania, as you are no doubt aware, that the
subject is unable to differentiate between the intrinsic values of
objects. He will purloin an old coat as readily as a diamond ring, or
a tobacco pipe costing but a few shillings with the same eagerness as
a purse of gold. The fact that this manuscript of mine could be of no
possible value to any outside person convinces me that----"
"But, uncle, one moment; I know all about those things that were
stolen. It was Meadowes, my man, who pinched them. I caught him
snaffling my silk socks. Right in the act, by Jove!"
He was tremendously impressed.
"You amaze me, Bertie! Send for the man at once and question him."
"But he isn't here. You see, directly I found that he was a
sock-sneaker I gave him the boot. That's why I went to London--to
get a new man."
"Then, if the man Meadowes is no longer in the house it could not be
he who purloined my manuscript. The whole thing is inexplicable."
After which we brooded for a bit. Uncle Willoughby pottered about the
room, registering baffledness, while I sat sucking at a cigarette,
feeling rather like a chappie I'd once read about in a book, who
murdered another cove and hid the body under the dining-room table,
and then had to be the life and soul of a dinner party, with it there
all the time. My guilty secret oppressed me to such an extent that
after a while I couldn't stick it any longer. I lit another cigarette
and started for a stroll in the grounds, by way of cooling off.
It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can
hear a snail clear its throat a mile away. The sun was sinking over
the hills and the gnats were fooling about all over the place, and
everything smelled rather topping--what with the falling dew and so
on--and I was just beginning to feel a little soothed by the peace of
it all when suddenly I heard my name spoken.
"It's about Bertie."
It was the loathsome voice of young blighted Edwin! For a moment I
couldn't locate it. Then I realised that it came from the library. My
stroll had taken me within a few yards of the open window.
I had often wondered how those Johnnies in books did it--I mean the
fellows with whom it was the work of a moment to do about a dozen
things that ought to have taken them about ten minutes. But, as a
matter of fact, it was the work of a moment with me to chuck away my
cigarette, swear a bit, leap about ten yards, dive into a bush that
stood near the library window, and stand there with my ears flapping.
I was as certain as I've ever been of anything that all sorts of
rotten things were in the offing.
"About Bertie?" I heard Uncle Willoughby say.
"About Bertie and your parcel. I heard you talking to him just now. I
believe he's got it."
When I tell you that just as I heard these frightful words a fairly
substantial beetle of sorts dropped from the bush down the back of my
neck, and I couldn't even stir to squash the same, you will understand
that I felt pretty rotten. Everything seemed against me.
"What do you mean, boy? I was discussing the disappearance of my
manuscript with Bertie only a moment back, and he professed himself as
perplexed by the mystery as myself."
"Well, I was in his room yesterday afternoon, doing him an act of
kindness, and he came in with a parcel. I could see it, though he
tried to keep it behind his back. And then he asked me to go to the
smoking-room and snip some cigars for him; and about two minutes
afterwards he came down--and he wasn't carrying anything. So it must
be in his room."
I understand they deliberately teach these dashed Boy Scouts to
cultivate their powers of observation and deduction and what not.
Devilish thoughtless and inconsiderate of them, I call it. Look at the
trouble it causes.
"It sounds incredible," said Uncle Willoughby, thereby bucking me up a
"Shall I go and look in his room?" asked young blighted Edwin. "I'm
sure the parcel's there."
"But what could be his motive for perpetrating this extraordinary
"Perhaps he's a--what you said just now."
"A kleptomaniac? Impossible!"
"It might have been Bertie who took all those things from the very
start," suggested the little brute hopefully. "He may be like
"He's a chap in a book who went about pinching things."
"I cannot believe that Bertie would--ah--go about pinching things."
"Well, I'm sure he's got the parcel. I'll tell you what you might do.
You might say that Mr. Berkeley wired that he had left something here.
He had Bertie's room, you know. You might say you wanted to look for
"That would be possible. I----"
I didn't wait to hear any more. Things were getting too hot. I sneaked
softly out of my bush and raced for the front door. I sprinted up to
my room and made for the drawer where I had put the parcel. And then I
found I hadn't the key. It wasn't for the deuce of a time that I
recollected I had shifted it to my evening trousers the night before
and must have forgotten to take it out again.
Where the dickens were my evening things? I had looked all over the
place before I remembered that Jeeves must have taken them away to
brush. To leap at the bell and ring it was, with me, the work of a
moment. I had just rung it when there was a footstep outside, and in
came Uncle Willoughby.
"Oh, Bertie," he said, without a blush, "I have--ah--received a
telegram from Berkeley, who occupied this room in your absence, asking
me to forward him his--er--his cigarette-case, which, it would appear,
he inadvertently omitted to take with him when he left the house. I
cannot find it downstairs; and it has, therefore, occurred to me that
he may have left it in this room. I will--er--just take a look
It was one of the most disgusting spectacles I've ever seen--this
white-haired old man, who should have been thinking of the hereafter,
standing there lying like an actor.
"I haven't seen it anywhere," I said.
"Nevertheless, I will search. I must--ah--spare no effort."
"I should have seen it if it had been here--what?"
"It may have escaped your notice. It is--er--possibly in one of the
He began to nose about. He pulled out drawer after drawer, pottering
around like an old bloodhound, and babbling from time to time about
Berkeley and his cigarette-case in a way that struck me as perfectly
ghastly. I just stood there, losing weight every moment.
Then he came to the drawer where the parcel was.
"This appears to be locked," he said, rattling the handle.
"Yes; I shouldn't bother about that one. It--it's--er--locked, and all
that sort of thing."
"You have not the key?"
A soft, respectful voice spoke behind me.
"I fancy, sir, that this must be the key you require. It was in the
pocket of your evening trousers."
It was Jeeves. He had shimmered in, carrying my evening things, and
was standing there holding out the key. I could have massacred the
"Thank you," said my uncle.
"Not at all, sir."
The next moment Uncle Willoughby had opened the drawer. I shut my
"No," said Uncle Willoughby, "there is nothing here. The drawer is
empty. Thank you, Bertie. I hope I have not disturbed you. I
fancy--er--Berkeley must have taken his case with him after all."
When he had gone I shut the door carefully. Then I turned to Jeeves.
The man was putting my evening things out on a chair.
It was deuced difficult to know how to begin.
"Did you--Was there--Have you by chance----"
"I removed the parcel this morning, sir."
"I considered it more prudent, sir."
I mused for a while.
"Of course, I suppose all this seems tolerably rummy to you, Jeeves?"
"Not at all, sir. I chanced to overhear you and Lady Florence speaking
of the matter the other evening, sir."
"Did you, by Jove?"
"Well--er--Jeeves, I think that, on the whole, if you were to--as it
were--freeze on to that parcel until we get back to London----"
"And then we might--er--so to speak--chuck it away somewhere--what?"
"I'll leave it in your hands."
"You know, Jeeves, you're by way of being rather a topper."
"I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir."
"One in a million, by Jove!"
"It is very kind of you to say so, sir."
"Well, that's about all, then, I think."
"Very good, sir."
Florence came back on Monday. I didn't see her till we were all having
tea in the hall. It wasn't till the crowd had cleared away a bit that
we got a chance of having a word together.
"Well, Bertie?" she said.
"It's all right."
'You have destroyed the manuscript?"
"Not exactly; but----"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I haven't absolutely----"
"Bertie, your manner is furtive!"
"It's all right. It's this way----"
And I was just going to explain how things stood when out of the
library came leaping Uncle Willoughby looking as braced as a
two-year-old. The old boy was a changed man.
"A most remarkable thing, Bertie! I have just been speaking with Mr.
Riggs on the telephone, and he tells me he received my manuscript by
the first post this morning. I cannot imagine what can have caused the
delay. Our postal facilities are extremely inadequate in the rural
districts. I shall write to headquarters about it. It is insufferable
if valuable parcels are to be delayed in this fashion."
I happened to be looking at Florence's profile at the moment, and at
this juncture she swung round and gave me a look that went right
through me like a knife. Uncle Willoughby meandered back to the
library, and there was a silence that you could have dug bits out of
with a spoon.
"I can't understand it," I said at last. "I can't understand it, by
"I can. I can understand it perfectly, Bertie. Your heart failed you.
Rather than risk offending your uncle you----"
"No, no! Absolutely!"
"You preferred to lose me rather than risk losing the money. Perhaps
you did not think I meant what I said. I meant every word. Our
engagement is ended."
"Not another word!"
"But, Florence, old thing!"
"I do not wish to hear any more. I see now that your Aunt Agatha was
perfectly right. I consider that I have had a very lucky escape. There
was a time when I thought that, with patience, you might be moulded
into something worth while. I see now that you are impossible!"
And she popped off, leaving me to pick up the pieces. When I had
collected the debris to some extent I went to my room and rang for
Jeeves. He came in looking as if nothing had happened or was ever
going to happen. He was the calmest thing in captivity.
"Jeeves!" I yelled. "Jeeves, that parcel has arrived in London!"
"Did you send it?"
"Yes, sir. I acted for the best, sir. I think that both you and Lady
Florence overestimated the danger of people being offended at being
mentioned in Sir Willoughby's Recollections. It has been my
experience, sir, that the normal person enjoys seeing his or her name
in print, irrespective of what is said about them. I have an aunt,
sir, who a few years ago was a martyr to swollen limbs. She tried
Walkinshaw's Supreme Ointment and obtained considerable relief--so
much so that she sent them an unsolicited testimonial. Her pride at
seeing her photograph in the daily papers in connection with
descriptions of her lower limbs before taking, which were nothing less
than revolting, was so intense that it led me to believe that
publicity, of whatever sort, is what nearly everybody desires.
Moreover, if you have ever studied psychology, sir, you will know that
respectable old gentlemen are by no means averse to having it
advertised that they were extremely wild in their youth. I have an
I cursed his aunts and his uncles and him and all the rest of the
"Do you know that Lady Florence has broken off her engagement with
Not a bit of sympathy! I might have been telling him it was a fine
"Very good, sir."
He coughed gently.
"As I am no longer in your employment, sir, I can speak freely without
appearing to take a liberty. In my opinion you and Lady Florence were
quite unsuitably matched. Her ladyship is of a highly determined and
arbitrary temperament, quite opposed to your own. I was in Lord
Worplesdon's service for nearly a year, during which time I had ample
opportunities of studying her ladyship. The opinion of the servants'
hall was far from favourable to her. Her ladyship's temper caused a
good deal of adverse comment among us. It was at times quite
impossible. You would not have been happy, sir!"
"I think you would also have found her educational methods a little
trying, sir. I have glanced at the book her ladyship gave you--it has
been lying on your table since our arrival--and it is, in my opinion,
quite unsuitable. You would not have enjoyed it. And I have it from
her ladyship's own maid, who happened to overhear a conversation
between her ladyship and one of the gentlemen staying here--Mr.
Maxwell, who is employed in an editorial capacity by one of the
reviews--that it was her intention to start you almost immediately
upon Nietzsche. You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is
"Very good, sir."
* * * * *
It's rummy how sleeping on a thing often makes you feel quite
different about it. It's happened to me over and over again. Somehow
or other, when I woke next morning the old heart didn't feel half so
broken as it had done. It was a perfectly topping day, and there was
something about the way the sun came in at the window and the row the
birds were kicking up in the ivy that made me half wonder whether
Jeeves wasn't right. After all, though she had a wonderful profile,
was it such a catch being engaged to Florence Craye as the casual
observer might imagine? Wasn't there something in what Jeeves had said
about her character? I began to realise that my ideal wife was
something quite different, something a lot more clinging and drooping
and prattling, and what not.
I had got as far as this in thinking the thing out when that "Types of
Ethical Theory" caught my eye. I opened it, and I give you my honest
word this was what hit me:
_Of the two antithetic terms in the Greek philosophy one only
was real and self-subsisting; and that one was Ideal Thought as
opposed to that which it has to penetrate and mould. The other,
corresponding to our Nature, was in itself phenomenal, unreal,
without any permanent footing, having no predicates that held
true for two moments together, in short, redeemed from negation
only by including indwelling realities appearing through_.
Well--I mean to say--what? And Nietzsche, from all accounts, a lot
worse than that!
"Jeeves," I said, when he came in with my morning tea, "I've been
thinking it over. You're engaged again."
"Thank you, sir."
I sucked down a cheerful mouthful. A great respect for this bloke's
judgment began to soak through me.
"Oh, Jeeves," I said; "about that check suit."
"Is it really a frost?"
"A trifle too bizarre, sir, in my opinion."
"But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is."
"Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir."
"He's supposed to be one of the best men in London."
"I am saying nothing against his moral character, sir."
I hesitated a bit. I had a feeling that I was passing into this
chappie's clutches, and that if I gave in now I should become just
like poor old Aubrey Fothergill, unable to call my soul my own. On the
other hand, this was obviously a cove of rare intelligence, and it
would be a comfort in a lot of ways to have him doing the thinking for
me. I made up my mind.
"All right, Jeeves," I said. "You know! Give the bally thing away to
He looked down at me like a father gazing tenderly at the wayward
"Thank you, sir. I gave it to the under-gardener last night. A little
more tea, sir?"
DISENTANGLING OLD DUGGIE
Doesn't some poet or philosopher fellow say that it's when our
intentions are best that we always make the worst breaks? I can't put
my hand on the passage, but you'll find it in Shakespeare or
somewhere, I'm pretty certain.
At any rate, it's always that way with me. And the affair of Douglas
Craye is a case in point.
I had dined with Duggie (a dear old pal of mine) one night at his
club, and as he was seeing me out he said: "Reggie, old top"--my
name's Reggie Pepper--"Reggie, old top, I'm rather worried."
"Are you, Duggie, old pal?" I said.
"Yes, Reggie, old fellow," he said, "I am. It's like this. The Booles
have asked me down to their place for the week-end, and I don't know
whether to go or not. You see, they have early breakfast, and besides
that there's a frightful risk of music after dinner. On the other
hand, young Roderick Boole thinks he can play piquet."
"I should go," I said.
"But I'm not sure Roderick's going to be there this time."
It was a problem, and I didn't wonder poor old Dug had looked pale and
tired at dinner.
Then I had the idea which really started all the trouble.
"Why don't you consult a palmist?" I said.
"That sounds a good idea," said Duggie.
"Go and see Dorothea in Forty-second Street. She's a wonder. She'll
settle it for you in a second. She'll see from your lines that you are
thinking of making a journey, and she'll either tell you to get a move
on, which will mean that Roderick will be there, or else to keep away
because she sees disaster."
"You seem to be next to the game all right."
"I've been to a good many of them. You'll like Dorothea."
"What did you say her name was--Dorothea? What do I do? Do I just walk
in? Shan't I feel a fearful chump? How much do I give her?"
"Five bucks. You'd better write and make a date."
"All right," said Duggie. "But I know I shall look a frightful fool."
About a week later I ran into him between the acts at the
Knickerbocker. The old boy was beaming.
"Reggie," he said, "you did me the best turn anyone's ever done me,
sending me to Mrs. Darrell."
"You know. Dorothea. Her real name's Darrell. She's a widow. Her
husband was in some regiment, and left her without a penny. It's a
frightfully pathetic story. Haven't time to tell you now. My boy,
she's a marvel. She had hardly looked at my hand, when she said: 'You
will prosper in any venture you undertake.' And next day, by George, I
went down to the Booles' and separated young Roderick from seventy
dollars. She's a wonderful woman. Did you ever see just that shade of
"I didn't notice her hair."
He gaped at me in a sort of petrified astonishment.
"You--didn't--notice--her--hair!" he gasped.
I can't fix the dates exactly, but it must have been about three weeks
after this that I got a telegram:
"Call Madison Avenue immediately--Florence Craye."
She needn't have signed her name. I should have known who it was from
by the wording. Ever since I was a kid, Duggie's sister Florence has
oppressed me to the most fearful extent. Not that I'm the only one.
Her brothers live in terror of her, I know. Especially Edwin. He's
never been able to get away from her and it's absolutely broken his
spirit. He's a mild, hopeless sort of chump who spends all his time at
home--they live near Philadelphia--and has never been known to come to
New York. He's writing a history of the family, or something, I
You see, events have conspired, so to speak, to let Florence do pretty
much as she likes with them. Originally there was old man Craye,
Duggie's father, who made a fortune out of the Soup Trust; Duggie's
elder brother Edwin; Florence; and Duggie. Mrs. Craye has been dead
some years. Then came the smash. It happened through the old man. Most
people, if you ask them, will tell you that he ought to be in
Bloomingdale; and I'm not sure they're not right. At any rate, one
morning he came down to breakfast, lifted the first cover on the
sideboard, said in a sort of despairing way, "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Curse
all eggs!" and walked out of the room. Nobody thought much of it till
about an hour afterward, when they found that he had packed a grip,
left the house, and caught the train to New York. Next day they got a
letter from him, saying that he was off to Europe, never to return,
and that all communications were to be addressed to his lawyers. And
from that day on none of them had seen him. He wrote occasionally,
generally from Paris; and that was all.
Well, directly news of this got about, down swooped a series of aunts
to grab the helm. They didn't stay long. Florence had them out, one
after the other, in no time. If any lingering doubt remained in their
minds, don't you know, as to who was going to be boss at home, it
wasn't her fault. Since then she has run the show.
I went to Madison Avenue. It was one of the aunts' houses. There was
no sign of the aunt when I called--she had probably climbed a tree and
pulled it up after her--but Florence was there.
She is a tall woman with what, I believe, is called "a presence." Her
eyes are bright and black, and have a way of getting right inside you,
don't you know, and running up and down your spine. She has a deep
voice. She is about ten years older than Duggie's brother Edwin, who
is six years older than Duggie.
"Good afternoon," she said. "Sit down."
I poured myself into a chair.
"Reginald," she said, "what is this I hear about Douglas?"
I said I didn't know.
"He says that you introduced him."
"To this woman--this Mrs. Darrell."
My memory's pretty rocky, and the name conveyed nothing to me.
She pulled out a letter.
"Yes," she said, "Mrs. Dorothy Darrell."
"Great Scott! Dorothea!"
Her eyes resumed their spine drill.
"Who is she?"
"Only a palmist."
"Only a palmist!" Her voice absolutely boomed. "Well, my brother
Douglas is engaged to be married to her."
"Many happy returns of the day," I said.
I don't know why I said it. It wasn't what I meant to say. I'm not
sure I meant to say anything.
She glared at me. By this time I was pure jelly. I simply flowed about
"You are facetious, Reginald," she said.
"No, no, no," I shouted. "It slipped out. I wouldn't be facetious for
"I am glad. It is no laughing matter. Have you any suggestions?"
"You don't imagine it can be allowed to go on? The engagement must be
broken, of course. But how?"
"Why don't you tell him he mustn't?"
"I shall naturally express my strong disapproval, but it may not be
effective. When out of the reach of my personal influence, my wretched
brother is self-willed to a degree."
I saw what she meant. Good old Duggie wasn't going to have those eyes
patrolling his spine if he knew it. He meant to keep away and conduct
this business by letter. There was going to be no personal interview
with sister, if he had to dodge about America like a snipe.
We sat for a long time without speaking. Then I became rather subtle.
I had a brain-wave and saw my way to making things right for Dug and
at the same time squaring myself with Florence. After all, I thought,
the old boy couldn't keep away from home for the rest of his life. He
would have to go there sooner or later. And my scheme made it pleasant
and easy for him.
"I'll tell you what I should do if I were you," I said. "I'm not sure
I didn't read some book or see some play somewhere or other where they
tried it on, and it worked all right. Fellow got engaged to a girl,
and the family didn't like it, but, instead of kicking, they pretended
to be tickled to pieces, and had the fellow and the girl down to visit
them. And then, after the fellow had seen the girl with the home
circle as a background, don't you know, he came to the conclusion that
it wouldn't do, and broke off the engagement."
It seemed to strike her.
"I hardly expected so sensible a suggestion from you, Reginald," she
said. "It is a very good plan. It shows that you really have a
definite substratum of intelligence; and it is all the more deplorable
that you should idle your way through the world as you do, when you
might be performing some really useful work."
That was Florence all over. Even when she patted you on the head, she
had to do it with her knuckles.
"I will invite them down next week," she went on. "You had better
"It's awfully kind of you, but the fact is----"
"Next Wednesday. Take the three-forty-seven."
I met Duggie next day. He was looking happy, but puzzled, like a man
who has found a dime on the street and is wondering if there's a
string tied to it. I congratulated him on his engagement.
"Reggie," he said, "a queer thing has happened. I feel as if I'd
trodden on the last step when it wasn't there. I've just had a letter
from my sister Florence asking me to bring Dorothy home on Wednesday.
Florence doesn't seem to object to the idea of the engagement at all;
and I'd expected that I'd have to call out the police reserves when
she heard of it. I believe there's a catch somewhere."
I tapped him on the breastbone.
"There is, Dug," I said, "and I'll tell you what it is. I saw her
yesterday, and I can put you next to the game. She thinks that if you
see Mrs. Darrell mingling with the home circle, you'll see flaws in
her which you don't see when you don't see her mingling with the home
circle, don't you see? Do you see now?"
He laughed--heroically, don't you know.
"I'm afraid she'll be disappointed. Love like mine is not dependent on
Which wasn't bad, I thought, if it was his own.
I said good-by to him, and toddled along rather pleased with myself.
It seemed to me that I had handled his affairs in a pretty masterly
manner for a chap who's supposed to be one of the biggest chumps in
Well, of course, the thing was an absolute fliver, as I ought to have
guessed it would be. Whatever could have induced me to think that a
fellow like poor old Dug stood a dog's chance against a determined
female like his sister Florence, I can't imagine. It was like
expecting a rabbit to put up a show with a python. From the very start
there was only one possible end to the thing. To a woman like
Florence, who had trained herself as tough as whalebone by years of
scrapping with her father and occasional by-battles with aunts, it was
as easy as killing rats with a stick.
I was sorry for Mrs. Darrell. She was a really good sort and, as a
matter of fact, just the kind of wife who would have done old Duggie a
bit of good. And on her own ground I shouldn't wonder if she might not
have made a fight for it. But now she hadn't a chance. Poor old Duggie
was just like so much putty in Florence's hands when he couldn't get
away from her. You could see the sawdust trickling out of Love's Young
Dream in a steady flow.
I took Mrs. Darrell for a walk one afternoon, to see if I couldn't
cheer her up a bit, but it wasn't much good. She hardly spoke a word
till we were on our way home. Then she said with a sort of jerk: "I'm
going back to New York tomorrow, Mr. Pepper."
I suppose I ought to have pretended to be surprised, but I couldn't
"I'm afraid you've had a bad time," I said. "I'm very sorry."
"Thank you," she said. "It's nice of you to be sympathetic instead of
tactful. You're rather a dear, Mr. Pepper."
I hadn't any remarks to make. I whacked at a nettle with my stick.
"I shall break off my engagement after dinner, so that Douglas can
have a good night's rest. I'm afraid he has been brooding on the
future a good deal. It will be a great relief to him."
"Oh, no," I said.
"Oh, yes. I know exactly how he feels. He thought he could carry me
off, but he finds he overestimated his powers. He has remembered that
he is a Craye. I imagine that the fact has been pointed out to him."
"If you ask my opinion," I said--I was feeling pretty sore about
it--"that woman Florence is an absolute cat."
"My dear Mr. Pepper, I wouldn't have dreamed of asking your opinion on
such a delicate subject. But I'm glad to have it. Thank you very much.
Do I strike you as a vindictive woman, Mr. Pepper?"
"I don't think you do," I said.
"By nature I don't think I am. But I'm feeling a little vindictive
just at present."
She stopped suddenly.
"I don't know why I'm boring you like this, Mr. Pepper," she said.
"For goodness' sake let's be cheerful. Say something bright."
I was going to take a whirl at it, but she started in to talk, and
talked all the rest of the way. She seemed to have cheered up a whole
She left next day. I gather she fired Duggie as per schedule, for the
old boy looked distinctly brighter, and Florence wore an off-duty
expression and was quite decently civil. Mrs. Darrell bore up all
right. She avoided Duggie, of course, and put in most of the time
talking to Edwin. He evidently appreciated it, for I had never seen
him look so nearly happy before.
I went back to New York directly afterward, and I hadn't been there
much more than a week when a most remarkably queer thing happened.
Turning in at Hammerstein's for half an hour one evening, whom should
I meet but brother Edwin, quite fairly festive, with a fat cigar in
his mouth. "Hello, Reggie," he said.
"What are you doing here?" I said.
"I had to come up to New York to look up a life of Hilary de Craye at
the library. I believe Mister Man was a sort of ancestor."
"This isn't the library."
"I was beginning to guess as much. The difference is subtle but well
It struck me that there was another difference that was subtle but
well marked, and that was the difference between the Edwin I'd left
messing about over his family history a week before and the jovial
rounder who was blowing smoke in my face now.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "the library would be all the better
for a little of this sort of thing. It's too conservative. That's
what's the trouble with the library. What's the matter with having a
cross-talk team and a few performing dogs there? It would brighten the
place up and attract custom. Reggie, you're looking fatigued. I've
heard there's a place somewhere in this city, if you can only find it,
expressly designed for supplying first-aid to the fatigued. Let's go
and look for it."
I'm not given to thinking much as a rule, but I couldn't help
pondering over this meeting with Edwin. It's hard to make you see the
remarkableness of the whole thing, for, of course, if you look at it,
in one way, there's nothing so record-breaking in smoking a cigar and
drinking a highball. But then you have never seen Edwin. There are
degrees in everything, don't you know. For Edwin to behave as he did
with me that night was simply nothing more nor less than a frightful
outburst, and it disturbed me. Not that I cared what Edwin did, as a
rule, but I couldn't help feeling a sort of what-d'you-call-it--a
presentiment, that somehow, in some way I didn't understand, I was
mixed up in it, or was soon going to be. I think the whole fearful
family had got on my nerves to such an extent that the mere sight of
any of them made me jumpy.
And, by George, I was perfectly right, don't you know. In a day or two
along came the usual telegram from Florence, telling me to come to
The mere idea of Madison Avenue was beginning to give me that tired
feeling, and I made up my mind I wouldn't go near the place. But of
course I did. When it came to the point, I simply hadn't the common
manly courage to keep away.
Florence was there as before.
"Reginald," she said, "I think I shall go raving mad."
This struck me as a mighty happy solution of everybody's troubles, but
I felt it was too good to be true.
"Over a week ago," she went on, "my brother Edwin came up to New York
to consult a book at the library. I anticipated that this would occupy
perhaps an afternoon, and was expecting him back by an early train
next day. He did not arrive. He sent an incoherent telegram. But even
then I suspected nothing." She paused. "Yesterday morning," she said,
"I had a letter from my aunt Augusta."
She paused again. She seemed to think I ought to be impressed.
Her eyes tied a bowknot in my spine.
"Let me read you her letter. No, I will tell you its contents. Aunt
Augusta had seen Edwin lunching at the Waldorf with a creature."
"My aunt described her. Her hair was of a curious dull bronze tint."
"The woman's. It was then that I began to suspect. How many women with
dull bronze hair does Edwin know?"
"Great Scott! Why ask me?"
I had got used to being treated as a sort of "Hey, Bill!" by Florence,
but I was darned if I was going to be expected to be an encyclopedia
"One," she said. "That appalling Darrell woman."
She drew a deep breath.
"Yesterday evening," she said, "I saw them together in a taximeter
cab. They were obviously on their way to some theatre."
She fixed me with her eye.
"Reginald," she said, "you must go and see her the first thing
"What!" I cried. "Me? Why? Why me?"
"Because you are responsible for the whole affair. You introduced
Douglas to her. You suggested that he should bring her home. Go to her
to-morrow and ascertain her intentions."
"The very first thing."
"But wouldn't it be better to have a talk with Edwin?"
"I have made every endeavour to see Edwin, but he deliberately avoids
me. His answers to my telegrams are willfully evasive."
There was no doubt that Edwin had effected a thorough bolt. He was
having quite a pleasant little vacation: Two Weeks in Sunny New York.
And from what I'd seen of him, he seemed to be thriving on it. I
didn't wonder Florence had got rather anxious. She'd have been more
anxious if she had seen him when I did. He'd got a sort of
"New-York-is-so-bracing" look about him, which meant a whole heap of
trouble before he trotted back to the fold.
Well, I started off to interview Mrs. Darrell, and, believe me, I
didn't like the prospect. I think they ought to train A. D. T.
messengers to do this sort of thing. I found her alone. The rush hour
of clients hadn't begun.
"How do you do, Mr. Pepper?" she said. "How nice of you to call."
Very friendly, and all that. It made the situation darned difficult
for a fellow, if you see what I mean.
"Say," I said. "What about it, don't you know?"
"I certainly don't," she said. "What ought I to know about what?"
"Well, about Edwin--Edwin Craye," I said.
"Oh! So you're an ambassador, Mr. Pepper?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, I did come to see if I could find out how
things were running. What's going to happen?"
"Are you consulting me professionally? If so, you must show me your
hand. Or perhaps you would rather I showed you mine?"
It was subtle, but I got on to it after a bit.
"Yes," I said, "I wish you would."
"Very well. Do you remember a conversation we had, Mr. Pepper, my last
afternoon at the Crayes'? We came to the conclusion that I was rather
a vindictive woman."
"By George! You're stringing old Edwin so as to put one over on
She flushed a little.
"How very direct you are, Mr. Pepper! How do you know I'm not very
fond of Mr. Craye? At any rate, I'm very sorry for him."
"He's such a chump."
"But he's improving every day. Have you seen him? You must notice the
"There is a difference."
"He only wanted taking out of himself. I think he found his sister
Florence's influence a little oppressive sometimes."
"No, but see here," I said, "are you going to marry him?"
"I'm only a palmist. I don't pretend to be a clairvoyant. A marriage
may be indicated in Mr. Craye's hand, but I couldn't say without
looking at it."
"But I shall have to tell her something definite, or she won't give me
a moment's peace."
"Tell her her brother is of age. Surely that's definite enough?"
And I couldn't get any more out of her. I went back to Florence and
reported. She got pretty excited about it.
"Oh, if I were a man!" she said.
I didn't see how that would have helped. I said so.
"I'd go straight to Edwin and _drag_ him away. He is staying at
his club. If I were a man I could go in and find him----"
"Not if you weren't a member," I said.
"--And tell him what I thought of his conduct. As I'm only a woman, I
have to wait in the hall while a deceitful small boy pretends to go
and look for him."
It had never struck me before what a splendid institution a club was.
Only a few days back I'd been thinking that the subscription to mine
was a bit steep. But now I saw that the place earned every cent of the
"Have you no influence with him, Reginald?"
I said I didn't think I had. She called me something. Invertebrate, or
something. I didn't catch it.
"Then there's only one thing to do. You must find my father and tell
him all. Perhaps you may rouse him to a sense of what is right. You
may make him remember that he has duties as a parent."
I thought it far more likely that I should make him remember that he
had a foot. I hadn't a very vivid recollection of old man Craye. I was
quite a kid when he made his great speech on the Egg Question and beat
it for Europe--but what I did recollect didn't encourage me to go and
chat with him about the duties of a parent.
As I remember him, he was a rather large man with elephantiasis of the
temper. I distinctly recalled one occasion when I was spending a
school vacation at his home, and he found me trying to shave old
Duggie, then a kid of fourteen, with his razor.
"I shouldn't be able to find him," I said.
"You can get his address from his lawyers."
"He may be at the North Pole."
"Then you must go to the North Pole."
"Oh, all right."
I knew just what would happen. Parbury and Stevens, the lawyers,
simply looked at me as if I had been caught snatching bags. At least,
Stevens did. And Parbury would have done it, too, only he had been
dead a good time. Finally, after drinking me in for about a quarter of
an hour, Stevens said that if I desired to address a communication to
his client, care of this office, it would be duly forwarded. Good
morning. Good morning. Anything further? No, thanks. Good morning,
I handed the glad news on to Florence and left her to do what she
liked about it. She went down and interviewed Stevens. I suppose he'd
had experience of her. At any rate, he didn't argue. He yielded up the
address in level time. Old man Craye was living in Paris, but was to
arrive in New York that night, and would doubtless be at his club.
It was the same club where Edwin was hiding from Florence. I pointed
this out to her.
"There's no need for me to butt in after all," I said. "He'll meet
Edwin there, and they can fight it out in the smoking room. You've
only to drop him a line explaining the facts."
"I shall certainly communicate with him in writing, but, nevertheless,
you must see him. I cannot explain everything in a letter."
"But doesn't it strike you that he may think it pretty bad
gall-impertinence, don't you know, for a comparative stranger like me
to be tackling a delicate family affair like this?"
"You will explain that you are acting for me."
"It wouldn't be better if old Duggie went along instead?"
"I wish you to go, Reginald."
Well, of course, it was all right, don't you know, but I was losing
several pounds a day over the business. I was getting so light that I
felt that, when the old man kicked me, I should just soar up to the
ceiling like an air balloon.
The club was one of those large clubs that look like prisons. I used
to go there to lunch with my uncle, the one who left me his money, and
I always hated the place. It was one of those clubs that are all red
leather and hushed whispers.
I'm bound to say, though, there wasn't much hushed whispering when I
started my interview with old man Craye. His voice was one of my
He was most extraordinarily like Florence. He had just the same eyes.
I felt boneless from the start.
"Good morning," I said.
"What?" he said. "Speak up. Don't mumble."
I hadn't known he was deaf. The last time we'd had any
conversation--on the subject of razors--he had done all the talking.
This seemed to me to put the lid on it.
"I only said 'Good morning,'" I shouted.
"Good what? Speak up. I believe you're sucking candy. Oh, good
morning? I remember you now. You're the boy who spoiled my razor."
I didn't half like this reopening of old wounds. I hurried on.
"I came about Edwin," I said.
"Edwin. Your son."
"What about him?"
"Florence told me to see you."
"Florence. Your daughter."
"What about her?"
All this vaudeville team business, mind you, as if we were bellowing
at each other across the street. All round the room you could see old
gentlemen shooting out of their chairs like rockets and dashing off at
a gallop to write to the governing board about it. Thousands of
waiters had appeared from nowhere, and were hanging about, dusting
table legs. If ever a business wanted to be discussed privately, this
seemed to me to be it. And it was just about as private as a
conversation through megaphones in Longacre Square.
"Didn't she write to you?"
"I got a letter from her. I tore it up. I didn't read it."
Pleasant, was it not? It was not. I began to understand what a
shipwrecked sailor must feel when he finds there's something gone
wrong with the life belt.
I thought I might as well get to the point and get it over.
"Edwin's going to marry a palmist," I said.
"Who the devil's Harry?"
"Not Harry. Marry. He's going to marry a palmist."
About four hundred waiters noticed a speck of dust on an ash tray at
the table next to ours, and swooped down on it.
"Edwin is going to marry a palmist?"
"She must be mad. Hasn't she seen Edwin?"
And just then who should stroll in but Edwin himself. I sighted him
and gave him a hail.
He curveted up to us. It was amazing the way the fellow had altered.
He looked like a two-year-old. Flower in his button-hole and a
six-inch grin, and all that. The old man seemed surprised, too. I
didn't wonder. The Edwin he remembered was a pretty different kind of
"Hullo, dad," he said. "Fancy meeting you here. Have a cigarette?"
He shoved out his case. Old man Craye helped himself in a sort of
"You _are_ Edwin?" he said slowly.
I began to sidle out. They didn't notice me. They had moved to a
settee, and Edwin seemed to be telling his father a funny story.
At least, he was talking and grinning, and the old man was making a
noise like distant thunder, which I supposed was his way of chuckling.
I slid out and left them.
Some days later Duggie called on me. The old boy was looking scared.
"Reggie," he said, "what do doctors call it when you think you see
things when you don't? Hal-something. I've got it, whatever it is.
It's sometimes caused by overwork. But it can't be that with me,
because I've not been doing any work. You don't think my brain's going
or anything like that, do you?"
"What do you mean? What's been happening?"
"It's like being haunted. I read a story somewhere of a fellow who
kept thinking he saw a battleship bearing down on him. I've got it,
too. Four times in the last three days I could have sworn I saw my
father and Edwin. I saw them as plainly as I see you. And, of course,
Edwin's at home and father's in Europe somewhere. Do you think it's
some sort of a warning? Do you think I'm going to die?"
"It's all right, old top," I said. "As a matter of fact, they are both
in New York just now."
"You don't mean that? Great Scot, what a relief! But, Reggie, old fox,
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