Indiscretions of Archie
by P. G. Wodehouse
DEDICATION TO B.
CHAPTER II. A
SHOCK FOR MR.
CHAPTER III. MR.
CHAPTER IV. WORK
CHAPTER VI. THE
CHAPTER VII. MR.
HAS AN IDEA
CHAPTER VIII. A
FOR DEAR OLD
CHAPTER IX. A
CHAPTER X. DOING
FATHER A BIT OF
CHAPTER XIV. THE
SAD CASE OF
ARCHIE ACCEPTS A
REGGIE COMES TO
CHAPTER XXI. THE
WASHY STEPS INTO
THE HALL OF FAME
THE MELTING OF
CHAPTER XXV. THE
CHAPTER XXVI. A
TALE OF A
It wasn't Archie's fault really. Its true he went to America and
fell in love with Lucille, the daughter of a millionaire hotel
proprietor and if he did marry her—well, what else was there to do?
From his point of view, the whole thing was a thoroughly good egg;
but Mr. Brewster, his father-in-law, thought differently, Archie had
neither money nor occupation, which was distasteful in the eyes of
the industrious Mr. Brewster; but the real bar was the fact that he
had once adversely criticised one of his hotels.
Archie does his best to heal the breach; but, being something of an
ass, genus priceless, he finds it almost beyond his powers to placate
"the man-eating fish" whom Providence has given him as a father-in-law
INDISCRETIONS OF ARCHIE
DEDICATION TO B. W. KING-HALL
My dear Buddy,—
We have been friends for eighteen years. A considerable proportion
of my books were written under your hospitable roof. And yet I have
never dedicated one to you. What will be the verdict of Posterity on
this? The fact is, I have become rather superstitious about
dedications. No sooner do you label a book with the legend—
than X cuts you in Piccadilly, or you bring a lawsuit against him.
There is a fatality about it. However, I can't imagine anyone
quarrelling with you, and I am getting more attractive all the time,
so let's take a chance.
P. G. WODEHOUSE.
CHAPTER I. DISTRESSING SCENE
"I say, laddie!" said Archie.
"Sir?" replied the desk-clerk alertly. All the employes of the
Hotel Cosmopolis were alert. It was one of the things on which Mr.
Daniel Brewster, the proprietor, insisted. And as he was always
wandering about the lobby of the hotel keeping a personal eye on
affairs, it was never safe to relax.
"I want to see the manager."
"Is there anything I could do, sir?"
Archie looked at him doubtfully.
"Well, as a matter of fact, my dear old desk-clerk," he said, "I
want to kick up a fearful row, and it hardly seems fair to lug you
into it. Why you, I mean to say? The blighter whose head I want on a
charger is the bally manager."
At this point a massive, grey-haired man, who had been standing
close by, gazing on the lobby with an air of restrained severity, as
if daring it to start anything, joined in the conversation.
"I am the manager," he said.
His eye was cold and hostile. Others, it seemed to say, might like
Archie Moffam, but not he. Daniel Brewster was bristling for combat.
What he had overheard had shocked him to the core of his being. The
Hotel Cosmopolis was his own private, personal property, and the
thing dearest to him in the world, after his daughter Lucille. He
prided himself on the fact that his hotel was not like other New York
hotels, which were run by impersonal companies and shareholders and
boards of directors, and consequently lacked the paternal touch which
made the Cosmopolis what it was. At other hotels things went wrong,
and clients complained. At the Cosmopolis things never went wrong,
because he was on the spot to see that they didn't, and as a result
clients never complained. Yet here was this long, thin, string-bean of
an Englishman actually registering annoyance and dissatisfaction
before his very eyes.
"What is your complaint?" he enquired frigidly.
Archie attached himself to the top button of Mr. Brewster's coat,
and was immediately dislodged by an irritable jerk of the other's
"Listen, old thing! I came over to this country to nose about in
search of a job, because there doesn't seem what you might call a
general demand for my services in England. Directly I was demobbed,
the family started talking about the Land of Opportunity and shot me
on to a liner. The idea was that I might get hold of something in
He got hold of Mr. Brewster's coat-button, and was again shaken
"Between ourselves, I've never done anything much in England, and I
fancy the family were getting a bit fed. At any rate, they sent me
Mr. Brewster disentangled himself for the third time.
"I would prefer to postpone the story of your life," he said
coldly, "and be informed what is your specific complaint against the
"Of course, yes. The jolly old hotel. I'm coming to that. Well, it
was like this. A chappie on the boat told me that this was the best
place to stop at in New York—"
"He was quite right," said Mr. Brewster.
"Was he, by Jove! Well, all I can say, then, is that the other New
York hotels must be pretty mouldy, if this is the best of the lot! I
took a room here last night," said Archie quivering with self-pity,
"and there was a beastly tap outside somewhere which went drip-drip-
drip all night and kept me awake."
Mr. Brewster's annoyance deepened. He felt that a chink had been
found in his armour. Not even the most paternal hotel-proprietor can
keep an eye on every tap in his establishment.
"Drip-drip-drip!" repeated Archie firmly. "And I put my boots
outside the door when I went to bed, and this morning they hadn't
been touched. I give you my solemn word! Not touched."
"Naturally," said Mr. Brewster. "My employes are honest"
"But I wanted them cleaned, dash it!"
"There is a shoe-shining parlour in the basement. At the Cosmopolis
shoes left outside bedroom doors are not cleaned."
"Then I think the Cosmopolis is a bally rotten hotel!"
Mr. Brewster's compact frame quivered. The unforgivable insult had
been offered. Question the legitimacy of Mr. Brewster's parentage,
knock Mr. Brewster down and walk on his face with spiked shoes, and
you did not irremediably close all avenues to a peaceful settlement.
But make a remark like that about his hotel, and war was definitely
"In that case," he said, stiffening, "I must ask you to give up
"I'm going to give it up! I wouldn't stay in the bally place
Mr. Brewster walked away, and Archie charged round to the cashier's
desk to get his bill. It had been his intention in any case, though
for dramatic purposes he concealed it from his adversary, to leave
the hotel that morning. One of the letters of introduction which he
had brought over from England had resulted in an invitation from a
Mrs. van Tuyl to her house-party at Miami, and he had decided to go
there at once.
"Well," mused Archie, on his way to the station, "one thing's
certain. I'll never set foot in THAT bally place again!"
But nothing in this world is certain.
CHAPTER II. A SHOCK FOR MR. BREWSTER
Mr. Daniel Brewster sat in his luxurious suite at the Cosmopolis,
smoking one of his admirable cigars and chatting with his old friend,
Professor Binstead. A stranger who had only encountered Mr. Brewster
in the lobby of the hotel would have been surprised at the appearance
of his sitting-room, for it had none of the rugged simplicity which
was the keynote of its owner's personal appearance. Daniel Brewster
was a man with a hobby, He was what Parker, his valet, termed a
connoozer. His educated taste in Art was one of the things which went
to make the Cosmopolis different from and superior to other New York
hotels. He had personally selected the tapestries in the dining-room
and the various paintings throughout the building. And in his private
capacity he was an enthusiastic collector of things which Professor
Binstead, whose tastes lay in the same direction, would have stolen
without a twinge of conscience if he could have got the chance.
The professor, a small man of middle age who wore tortoiseshell-
rimmed spectacles, flitted covetously about the room, inspecting its
treasures with a glistening eye. In a corner, Parker, a grave, lean
individual, bent over the chafing-dish, in which he was preparing for
his employer and his guest their simple lunch.
"Brewster," said Professor Binstead, pausing at the mantelpiece.
Mr. Brewster looked up amiably. He was in placid mood to-day. Two
weeks and more had passed since the meeting with Archie recorded in
the previous chapter, and he had been able to dismiss that disturbing
affair from his mind. Since then, everything had gone splendidly with
Daniel Brewster, for he had just accomplished his ambition of the
moment by completing the negotiations for the purchase of a site
further down-town, on which he proposed to erect a new hotel. He liked
building hotels. He had the Cosmopolis, his first-born, a summer hotel
in the mountains, purchased in the previous year, and he was toying
with the idea of running over to England and putting up another in
London, That, however, would have to wait. Meanwhile, he would
concentrate on this new one down-town. It had kept him busy and
worried, arranging for securing the site; but his troubles were over
"Yes?" he said.
Professor Binstead had picked up a small china figure of delicate
workmanship. It represented a warrior of pre-khaki days advancing
with a spear upon some adversary who, judging from the contented
expression on the warrior's face, was smaller than himself.
"Where did you get this?"
"That? Mawson, my agent, found it in a little shop on the east
"Where's the other? There ought to be another. These things go in
pairs. They're valueless alone."
Mr. Brewster's brow clouded.
"I know that," he said shortly. "Mawson's looking for the other one
everywhere. If you happen across it, I give you carte blanche to buy
it for me."
"It must be somewhere."
"Yes. If you find it, don't worry about the expense. I'll settle
up, no matter what it is."
"I'll bear it in mind," said Professor Binstead. "It may cost you a
lot of money. I suppose you know that."
"I told you I don't care what it costs."
"It's nice to be a millionaire," sighed Professor Binstead.
"Luncheon is served, sir," said Parker.
He had stationed himself in a statutesque pose behind Mr.
Brewster's chair, when there was a knock at the door. He went to the
door, and returned with a telegram.
"Telegram for you, sir."
Mr. Brewster nodded carelessly. The contents of the chafing-dish
had justified the advance advertising of their odour, and he was too
busy to be interrupted.
"Put it down. And you needn't wait, Parker."
"Very good, sir."
The valet withdrew, and Mr. Brewster resumed his lunch.
"Aren't you going to open it?" asked Professor Binstead, to whom a
telegram was a telegram.
"It can wait. I get them all day long. I expect it's from Lucille,
saying what train she's making."
"She returns to-day?"
"Yes, Been at Miami." Mr. Brewster, having dwelt at adequate length
on the contents of the chafing-dish, adjusted his glasses and took up
the envelope. "I shall be glad—Great Godfrey!"
He sat staring at the telegram, his mouth open. His friend eyed him
"No bad news, I hope?"
Mr. Brewster gurgled in a strangled way.
"Bad news? Bad—? Here, read it for yourself."
Professor Binstead, one of the three most inquisitive men in New
York, took the slip of paper with gratitude.
"'Returning New York to-day with darling Archie,'" he read. "'Lots
of love from us both. Lucille.'" He gaped at his host. "Who is
Archie?" he enquired.
"Who is Archie?" echoed Mr. Brewster helplessly. "Who is—? That's
just what I would like to know."
"'Darling Archie,'" murmured the professor, musing over the
telegram. "'Returning to-day with darling Archie.' Strange!"
Mr. Brewster continued to stare before him. When you send your only
daughter on a visit to Miami minus any entanglements and she mentions
in a telegram that she has acquired a darling Archie, you are
naturally startled. He rose from the table with a bound. It had
occurred to him that by neglecting a careful study of his mail during
the past week, as was his bad habit when busy, he had lost an
opportunity of keeping abreast with current happenings. He
recollected now that a letter had arrived from Lucille some time ago,
and that he had put it away unopened till he should have leisure to
read it. Lucille was a dear girl, he had felt, but her letters when on
a vacation seldom contained anything that couldn't wait a few days for
a reading. He sprang for his desk, rummaged among his papers, and
found what he was seeking.
It was a long letter, and there was silence in the room for some
moments while he mastered its contents. Then be turned to the
professor, breathing heavily.
"Yes?" said Professor Binstead eagerly. "Yes?"
"What is it?" demanded the professor in an agony.
Mr. Brewster sat down again with a thud.
"Married! To an Englishman!"
"Bless my soul!"
"She says," proceeded Mr. Brewster, referring to the letter again,
"that they were both so much in love that they simply had to slip off
and get married, and she hopes I won't be cross. Cross!" gasped Mr.
Brewster, gazing wildly at his friend.
"Disturbing! You bet it's disturbing! I don't know anything about
the fellow. Never heard of him in my life. She says he wanted a quiet
wedding because he thought a fellow looked such a chump getting
married! And I must love him, because he's all set to love me very
Mr. Brewster put the letter down.
"I have met some very agreeable Englishmen," said Professor
"I don't like Englishmen," growled Mr. Brewster. "Parker's an
"Yes. I believe he wears my shirts on the sly,'" said Mr. Brewster
broodingly, "If I catch him—! What would you do about this,
"Do?" The professor considered the point judiciary. "Well, really,
Brewster, I do not see that there is anything you can do. You must
simply wait and meet the man. Perhaps he will turn out an admirable
"H'm!" Mr. Brewster declined to take an optimistic view. "But an
Englishman, Binstead!" he said with pathos. "Why," he went on, memory
suddenly stirring, "there was an Englishman at this hotel only a week
or two ago who went about knocking it in a way that would have amazed
you! Said it was a rotten place! MY hotel!"
Professor Binstead clicked his tongue sympathetically. He
understood his friend's warmth.
CHAPTER III. MR. BREWSTER DELIVERS
At about the same moment that Professor Binstead was clicking his
tongue in Mr. Brewster's sitting-room, Archie Moffam sat
contemplating his bride in a drawing-room on the express from Miami.
He was thinking that this was too good to be true. His brain had been
in something of a whirl these last few days, but this was one thought
that never failed to emerge clearly from the welter.
Mrs. Archie Moffam, nee Lucille Brewster, was small and slender.
She had a little animated face, set in a cloud of dark hair. She was
so altogether perfect that Archie had frequently found himself
compelled to take the marriage-certificate out of his inside pocket
and study it furtively, to make himself realise that this miracle of
good fortune had actually happened to him.
"Honestly, old bean—I mean, dear old thing,—I mean, darling,"
said Archie, "I can't believe it!"
"What I mean is, I can't understand why you should have married a
blighter like me."
Lucille's eyes opened. She squeezed his hand.
"Why, you're the most wonderful thing in the world, precious!—
Surely you know that?"
"Absolutely escaped my notice. Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure! You wonder-child! Nobody could see you without
Archie heaved an ecstatic sigh. Then a thought crossed his mind. It
was a thought which frequently came to mar his bliss.
"I say, I wonder if your father will think that!"
"Of course he will!"
"We rather sprung this, as it were, on the old lad," said Archie
dubiously. "What sort of a man IS your father?"
"Father's a darling, too."
"Rummy thing he should own that hotel," said Archie. "I had a
frightful row with a blighter of a manager there just before I left
for Miami. Your father ought to sack that chap. He was a blot on the
It had been settled by Lucille during the journey that Archie
should be broken gently to his father-in-law. That is to say, instead
of bounding blithely into Mr. Brewster's presence hand in hand, the
happy pair should separate for half an hour or so, Archie hanging
around in the offing while Lucille saw her father and told him the
whole story, or those chapters of it which she had omitted from her
letter for want of space. Then, having impressed Mr. Brewster
sufficiently with his luck in having acquired Archie for a son-in-
law, she would lead him to where his bit of good fortune awaited him.
The programme worked out admirably in its earlier stages. When the
two emerged from Mr. Brewster's room to meet Archie, Mr. Brewster's
general idea was that fortune had smiled upon him in an almost
unbelievable fashion and had presented him with a son-in-law who
combined in almost equal parts the more admirable characteristics of
Apollo, Sir Galahad, and Marcus Aurelius. True, he had gathered in
the course of the conversation that dear Archie had no occupation and
no private means; but Mr. Brewster felt that a great-souled man like
Archie didn't need them. You can't have everything, and Archie,
according to Lucille's account, was practically a hundred per cent
man in soul, looks, manners, amiability, and breeding. These are the
things that count. Mr. Brewster proceeded to the lobby in a glow of
optimism and geniality.
Consequently, when he perceived Archie, he got a bit of a shock.
"Hullo—ullo—ullo!" said Archie, advancing happily.
"Archie, darling, this is father," said Lucille.
"Good Lord!" said Archie.
There was one of those silences. Mr. Brewster looked at Archie.
Archie gazed at Mr. Brewster. Lucille, perceiving without
understanding why that the big introduction scene had stubbed its toe
on some unlooked-for obstacle, waited anxiously for enlightenment.
Meanwhile, Archie continued to inspect Mr. Brewster, and Mr. Brewster
continued to drink in Archie.
After an awkward pause of about three and a quarter minutes, Mr.
Brewster swallowed once or twice, and finally spoke.
"Is this true?"
Lucille's grey eyes clouded over with perplexity and apprehension.
"Have you really inflicted this—THIS on me for a son-in-law?" Mr.
Brewster swallowed a few more times, Archie the while watching with a
frozen fascination the rapid shimmying of his new relative's
Adam's-apple. "Go away! I want to have a few words alone with this—
This—WASSYOURDAMNAME?" he demanded, in an overwrought manner,
addressing Archie for the first time.
"I told you, father. It's Moom."
"It's spelt M-o-f-f-a-m, but pronounced Moom."
"To rhyme," said Archie, helpfully, "with Bluffinghame."
"Lu," said Mr. Brewster, "run away! I want to speak to-to-to—"
"You called me THIS before," said Archie.
"You aren't angry, father, dear?" said Lucilla
"Oh no! Oh no! I'm tickled to death!"
When his daughter had withdrawn, Mr. Brewster drew a long breath.
"Now then!" he said.
"Bit embarrassing, all this, what!" said Archie, chattily. "I mean
to say, having met before in less happy circs. and what not. Rum
coincidence and so forth! How would it be to bury the jolly old
hatchet—start a new life—forgive and forget—learn to love each
other—and all that sort of rot? I'm game if you are. How do we go?
Is it a bet?"
Mr. Brewster remained entirely unsoftened by this manly appeal to
his better feelings.
"What the devil do you mean by marrying my daughter?"
"Well, it sort of happened, don't you know! You know how these
things ARE! Young yourself once, and all that. I was most frightfully
in love, and Lu seemed to think it wouldn't be a bad scheme, and one
thing led to another, and—well, there you are, don't you know!"
"And I suppose you think you've done pretty well for yourself?"
"Oh, absolutely! As far as I'm concerned, everything's topping!
I've never felt so braced in my life!"
"Yes!" said Mr. Brewster, with bitterness, "I suppose, from your
view-point, everything IS 'topping.' You haven't a cent to your name,
and you've managed to fool a rich man's daughter into marrying you. I
suppose you looked me up in Bradstreet before committing yourself?"
This aspect of the matter had not struck Archie until this moment.
"I say!" he observed, with dismay. "I never looked at it like that
before! I can see that, from your point of view, this must look like
a bit of a wash-out!"
"How do you propose to support Lucille, anyway?"
Archie ran a finger round the inside of his collar. He felt
embarrassed, His father-in-law was opening up all kinds of new lines
"Well, there, old bean," he admitted, frankly, "you rather have
me!" He turned the matter over for a moment. "I had a sort of idea of,
as it were, working, if you know what I mean."
"Working at what?"
"Now, there again you stump me somewhat! The general scheme was
that I should kind of look round, you know, and nose about and buzz to
and fro till something turned up. That was, broadly speaking, the
"And how did you suppose my daughter was to live while you were
doing all this?"
"Well, I think," said Archie, "I THINK we rather expected YOU to
rally round d bit for the nonce!"
"I see! You expected to live on me?"
"Well, you put it a bit crudely, but—as far as I had mapped
anything out—that WAS what you might call the general scheme of
procedure. You don't think much of it, what? Yes? No?"
Mr. Brewster exploded.
"No! I do not think much of it! Good God! You go out of my
hotel—MY hotel—calling it all the names you could think of—roasting
it to beat the band—"
"Trifle hasty!" murmured Archie, apologetically. "Spoke without
thinking. Dashed tap had gone DRIP-DRIP-DRIP all night—kept me
awake—hadn't had breakfast—bygones be bygones—!"
"Don't interrupt! I say, you go out of my hotel, knocking it as no
one has ever knocked it since it was built, and you sneak straight
off and marry my daughter without my knowledge."
"Did think of wiring for blessing. Slipped the old bean, somehow.
You know how one forgets things!"
"And now you come back and calmly expect me to fling my arms round
you and kiss you, and support you for the rest of your life!"
"Only while I'm nosing about and buzzing to and fro."
"Well, I suppose I've got to support you. There seems no way out of
it. I'll tell you exactly what I propose to do. You think my hotel is
a pretty poor hotel, eh? Well, you'll have plenty of opportunity of
judging, because you're coming to live here. I'll let you have a suite
and I'll let you have your meals, but outside of that—nothing doing!
Nothing doing! Do you understand what I mean?"
"Absolutely! You mean, 'Napoo!'"
"You can sign bills for a reasonable amount in my restaurant, and
the hotel will look after your laundry. But not a cent do you get out
me. And, if you want your shoes shined, you can pay for it yourself in
the basement. If you leave them outside your door, I'll instruct the
floor-waiter to throw them down the air-shaft. Do you understand?
Good! Now, is there anything more you want to ask?"
Archie smiled a propitiatory smile.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I was going to ask if you would stagger
along and have a bite with us in the grill-room?"
"I will not!"
"I'll sign the bill," said Archie, ingratiatingly. "You don't think
much of it? Oh, right-o!"
CHAPTER IV. WORK WANTED
It seemed to Archie, as he surveyed his position at the end of the
first month of his married life, that all was for the best in the
best of all possible worlds. In their attitude towards America,
visiting Englishmen almost invariably incline to extremes, either
detesting all that therein is or else becoming enthusiasts on the
subject of the country, its climate, and its institutions. Archie
belonged to the second class. He liked America and got on splendidly
with Americans from the start. He was a friendly soul, a mixer; and
in New York, that city of mixers, he found himself at home. The
atmosphere of good-fellowship and the open-hearted hospitality of
everybody he met appealed to him. There were moments when it seemed
to him as though New York had simply been waiting for him to arrive
before giving the word to let the revels commence.
Nothing, of course, in this world is perfect; and, rosy as were the
glasses through which Archie looked on his new surroundings, he had
to admit that there was one flaw, one fly in the ointment, one
individual caterpillar in the salad. Mr. Daniel Brewster, his
father-in-law, remained consistently unfriendly. Indeed, his manner
towards his new relative became daily more and more a manner which
would have caused gossip on the plantation if Simon Legree had
exhibited it in his relations with Uncle Tom. And this in spite of
the fact that Archie, as early as the third morning of his stay, had
gone to him and in the most frank and manly way had withdrawn his
criticism of the Hotel Cosmopolis, giving it as his considered
opinion that the Hotel Cosmopolis on closer inspection appeared to be
a good egg, one of the best and brightest, and a bit of all right.
"A credit to you, old thing," said Archie cordially.
"Don't call me old thing!" growled Mr. Brewster.
"Eight-o, old companion!" said Archie amiably.
Archie, a true philosopher, bore this hostility with fortitude, but
it worried Lucille.
"I do wish father understood you better," was her wistful comment
when Archie had related the conversation.
"Well, you know," said Archie, "I'm open for being understood any
time he cares to take a stab at it."
"You must try and make him fond of you."
"But how? I smile winsomely at him and what not, but he doesn't
"Well, we shall have to think of something. I want him to realise
what an angel you are. You ARE an angel, you know."
"Of course you are."
"It's a rummy thing," said Archie, pursuing a train of thought
which was constantly with him, "the more I see of you, the more I
wonder how you can have a father like—I mean to say, what I mean to
say is, I wish I had known your mother; she must have been frightfully
"What would really please him, I know," said Lucille, "would be if
you got some work to do. He loves people who work."
"Yes?" said Archie doubtfully. "Well, you know, I heard him
interviewing that chappie behind the desk this morning, who works
like the dickens from early morn to dewy eve, on the subject of a
mistake in his figures; and, if he loved him, he dissembled it all
right. Of course, I admit that so far I haven't been one of the
toilers, but the dashed difficult thing is to know how to start. I'm
nosing round, but the openings for a bright young man seem so
"Well, keep on trying. I feel sure that, if you could only find
something to do, it doesn't matter what, father would be quite
It was possibly the dazzling prospect of making Mr. Brewster quite
different that stimulated Archie. He was strongly of the opinion that
any change in his father-in-law must inevitably be for the better. A
chance meeting with James B. Wheeler, the artist, at the Pen-and-Ink
Club seemed to open the way.
To a visitor to New York who has the ability to make himself liked
it almost appears as though the leading industry in that city was the
issuing of two-weeks' invitation-cards to clubs. Archie since his
arrival had been showered with these pleasant evidences of his
popularity; and he was now an honorary member of so many clubs of
various kinds that he had not time to go to them all. There were the
fashionable clubs along Fifth Avenue to which his friend Reggie van
Tuyl, son of his Florida hostess, had introduced him. There were the
businessmen's clubs of which he was made free by more solid citizens.
And, best of all, there were the Lambs', the Players', the Friars',
the Coffee-House, the Pen-and-Ink,—and the other resorts of the
artist, the author, the actor, and the Bohemian. It was in these that
Archie spent most of his time, and it was here that he made the
acquaintance of J. B. Wheeler, the popular illustrator.
To Mr. Wheeler, over a friendly lunch, Archie had been confiding
some of his ambitions to qualify as the hero of one of the Get-on-
"You want a job?" said Mr. Wheeler.
"I want a job," said Archie.
Mr. Wheeler consumed eight friend potatoes in quick succession. He
was an able trencherman.
"I always looked on you as one of our leading lilies of the field,"
he said. "Why this anxiety to toil and spin?"
"Well, my wife, you know, seems to think it might put me one-up
with the jolly old dad if I did something."
"And you're not particular what you do, so long as it has the outer
aspect of work?"
"Anything in the world, laddie, anything in the world."
"Then come and pose for a picture I'm doing," said J. B. Wheeler.
"It's for a magazine cover. You're just the model I want, and I'll
pay you at the usual rates. Is it a go?"
"You've only got to stand still and look like a chunk of wood. You
can do that, surely?"
"I can do that," said Archie.
"Then come along down to my studio to-morrow."
"Eight-o!" said Archie.
CHAPTER V. STRANGE EXPERIENCES OF AN
"I say, old thing!"
Archie spoke plaintively. Already he was looking back ruefully to
the time when he had supposed that an artist's model had a soft job.
In the first five minutes muscles which he had not been aware that he
possessed had started to ache like neglected teeth. His respect for
the toughness and durability of artists' models was now solid. How
they acquired the stamina to go through this sort of thing all day and
then bound off to Bohemian revels at night was more than he could
"Don't wobble, confound you!" snorted Mr. Wheeler.
"Yes, but, my dear old artist," said Archie, "what you don't seem
to grasp—what you appear not to realise—is that I'm getting a crick
in the back."
"You weakling! You miserable, invertebrate worm. Move an inch and
I'll murder you, and come and dance on your grave every Wednesday and
Saturday. I'm just getting it."
"It's in the spine that it seems to catch me principally."
"Be a man, you faint-hearted string-bean!" urged J. B. Wheeler.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Why, a girl who was posing for
me last week stood for a solid hour on one leg, holding a tennis
racket over her head and smiling brightly withal."
"The female of the species is more india-rubbery than the male,"
"Well, I'll be through in a few minutes. Don't weaken. Think how
proud you'll be when you see yourself on all the bookstalls."
Archie sighed, and braced himself to the task once more. He wished
he had never taken on this binge. In addition to his physical
discomfort, he was feeling a most awful chump. The cover on which Mr.
Wheeler was engaged was for the August number of the magazine, and it
had been necessary for Archie to drape his reluctant form in a
two-piece bathing suit of a vivid lemon colour; for he was supposed to
be representing one of those jolly dogs belonging to the best families
who dive off floats at exclusive seashore resorts. J. B. Wheeler, a
stickler for accuracy, had wanted him to remove his socks and shoes;
but there Archie had stood firm. He was willing to make an ass of
himself, but not a silly ass.
"All right," said J. B. Wheeler, laying down his brush. "That will
do for to-day. Though, speaking without prejudice and with no wish to
be offensive, if I had had a model who wasn't a weak-kneed,
jelly-backboned son of Belial, I could have got the darned thing
finished without having to have another sitting."
"I wonder why you chappies call this sort of thing 'sitting,'" said
Archie, pensively, as he conducted tentative experiments in
osteopathy on his aching back. "I say, old thing, I could do with a
restorative, if you have one handy. But, of course, you haven't, I
suppose," he added, resignedly. Abstemious as a rule, there were
moments when Archie found the Eighteenth Amendment somewhat trying.
J. B. Wheeler shook his head.
"You're a little previous," he said. "But come round in another day
or so, and I may be able to do something for you." He moved with a
certain conspirator-like caution to a corner of the room, and,
lifting to one side a pile of canvases, revealed a stout barrel,
which, he regarded with a fatherly and benignant eye. "I don't mind
telling you that, in the fullness of time, I believe this is going to
spread a good deal of sweetness and light."
"Oh, ah," said Archie, interested. "Home-brew, what?"
"Made with these hands. I added a few more raisins yesterday, to
speed things up a bit. There is much virtue in your raisin. And,
talking of speeding things up, for goodness' sake try to be a bit
more punctual to-morrow. We lost an hour of good daylight to-day."
"I like that! I was here on the absolute minute. I had to hang
about on the landing waiting for you."
"Well, well, that doesn't matter," said J. B. Wheeler, impatiently,
for the artist soul is always annoyed by petty details. "The point is
that we were an hour late in getting to work. Mind you're here
to-morrow at eleven sharp."
It was, therefore, with a feeling of guilt and trepidation that
Archie mounted the stairs on the following morning; for in spite of
his good resolutions he was half an hour behind time. He was relieved
to find that his friend had also lagged by the wayside. The door of
the studio was ajar, and he went in, to discover the place occupied by
a lady of mature years, who was scrubbing the floor with a mop. He
went into the bedroom and donned his bathing suit. When he emerged,
ten minutes later, the charwoman had gone, but J. B. Wheeler was still
absent. Rather glad of the respite, he sat down to kill time by
reading the morning paper, whose sporting page alone he had managed to
master at the breakfast table.
There was not a great deal in the paper to interest him. The usual
bond-robbery had taken place on the previous day, and the police were
reported hot on the trail of the Master-Mind who was alleged to be at
the back of these financial operations. A messenger named Henry
Babcock had been arrested and was expected to become confidential. To
one who, like Archie, had never owned a bond, the story made little
appeal. He turned with more interest to a cheery half-column on the
activities of a gentleman in Minnesota who, with what seemed to
Archie, as he thought of Mr. Daniel Brewster, a good deal of resource
and public spirit, had recently beaned his father- in-law with the
family meat-axe. It was only after he had read this through twice in a
spirit of gentle approval that it occurred to him that J. B. Wheeler
was uncommonly late at the tryst. He looked at his watch, and found
that he had been in the studio three-quarters of an hour.
Archie became restless. Long-suffering old bean though he was, he
considered this a bit thick. He got up and went out on to the
landing, to see if there were any signs of the blighter. There were
none. He began to understand now what had happened. For some reason
or other the bally artist was not coming to the studio at all that
day. Probably he had called up the hotel and left a message to this
effect, and Archie had just missed it. Another man might have waited
to make certain that his message had reached its destination, but not
woollen-headed Wheeler, the most casual individual in New York.
Thoroughly aggrieved, Archie turned back to the studio to dress and
His progress was stayed by a solid, forbidding slab of oak. Somehow
or other, since he had left the room, the door had managed to get
"Oh, dash it!" said Archie.
The mildness of the expletive was proof that the full horror of the
situation had not immediately come home to him. His mind in the first
few moments was occupied with the problem of how the door had got that
way. He could not remember shutting it. Probably he had done it
unconsciously. As a child, he had been taught by sedulous elders that
the little gentleman always closed doors behind him, and presumably
his subconscious self was still under the influence. And then,
suddenly, he realised that this infernal, officious ass of a
subconscious self had deposited him right in the gumbo. Behind that
closed door, unattainable as youthful ambition, lay his gent's
heather-mixture with the green twill, and here he was, out in the
world, alone, in a lemon-coloured bathing suit.
In all crises of human affairs there are two broad courses open to
a man. He can stay where he is or he can go elsewhere. Archie, leaning
on the banisters, examined these alternatives narrowly. If he stayed
where he was he would have to spend the night on this dashed landing.
If he legged it, in this kit, he would be gathered up by the
constabulary before he had gone a hundred yards. He was no pessimist,
but he was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that he was up against
It was while he was musing with a certain tenseness on these things
that the sound of footsteps came to him from below. But almost in the
first instant the hope that this might be J. B. Wheeler, the curse of
the human race, died away. Whoever was coming up the stairs was
running, and J. B. Wheeler never ran upstairs. He was not one of your
lean, haggard, spiritual-looking geniuses. He made a large income with
his brush and pencil, and spent most of it in creature comforts. This
couldn't be J. B. Wheeler.
It was not. It was a tall, thin man whom he had never seen before.
He appeared to be in a considerable hurry. He let himself into the
studio on the floor below, and vanished without even waiting to shut
He had come and disappeared in almost record time, but, brief
though his passing had been, it had been long enough to bring
consolation to Archie. A sudden bright light had been vouchsafed to
Archie, and he now saw an admirably ripe and fruity scheme for ending
his troubles. What could be simpler than to toddle down one flight of
stairs and in an easy and debonair manner ask the chappie's
permission to use his telephone? And what could be simpler, once he
was at the 'phone, than to get in touch with somebody at the
Cosmopolis who would send down a few trousers and what not in a kit
bag. It was a priceless solution, thought Archie, as he made his way
downstairs. Not even embarrassing, he meant to say. This chappie,
living in a place like this, wouldn't bat an eyelid at the spectacle
of a fellow trickling about the place in a bathing suit. They would
have a good laugh about the whole thing.
"I say, I hate to bother you—dare say you're busy and all that
sort of thing—but would you mind if I popped in for half a second and
used your 'phone?"
That was the speech, the extremely gentlemanly and well-phrased
speech. Which Archie had prepared to deliver the moment the man
appeared. The reason he did not deliver it was that the man did not
appear. He knocked, but nothing stirred.
Archie now perceived that the door was ajar, and that on an
envelope attached with a tack to one of the panels was the name "Elmer
M. Moon" He pushed the door a little farther open and tried again.
"Oh, Mr. Moon! Mr. Moon!" He waited a moment. "Oh, Mr. Moon! Mr.
Moon! Are you there, Mr. Moon?"
He blushed hotly. To his sensitive ear the words had sounded
exactly like the opening line of the refrain of a vaudeville song-hit.
He decided to waste no further speech on a man with such an
unfortunate surname until he could see him face to face and get a
chance of lowering his voice a bit. Absolutely absurd to stand outside
a chappie's door singing song-hits in a lemon-coloured bathing suit.
He pushed the door open and walked in; and his subconscious self,
always the gentleman, closed it gently behind him.
"Up!" said a low, sinister, harsh, unfriendly, and unpleasant
"Eh?" said Archie, revolving sharply on his axis.
He found himself confronting the hurried gentleman who had run
upstairs. This sprinter had produced an automatic pistol, and was
pointing it in a truculent manner at his head. Archie stared at his
host, and his host stared at him.
"Put your hands up," he said.
"Oh, right-o! Absolutely!" said Archie. "But I mean to say—"
The other was drinking him in with considerable astonishment.
Archie's costume seemed to have made a powerful impression upon him.
"Who the devil are you?" he enquired.
"Me? Oh, my name's—"
"Never mind your name. What are you doing here?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, I popped in to ask if I might use your
'phone. You see—"
A certain relief seemed to temper the austerity of the other's
gaze. As a visitor, Archie, though surprising, seemed to be better
than he had expected.
"I don't know what to do with you," he said, meditatively.
"If you'd just let me toddle to the 'phone—"
"Likely!" said the man. He appeared to reach a decision. "Here, go
into that room."
He indicated with a jerk of his head the open door of what was
apparently a bedroom at the farther end of the studio.
"I take it," said Archie, chattily, "that all this may seem to you
not a little rummy."
"I was only saying—"
"Well, I haven't time to listen. Get a move on!"
The bedroom was in a state of untidiness which eclipsed anything
which Archie had ever witnessed. The other appeared to be moving
house. Bed, furniture, and floor were covered with articles of
clothing. A silk shirt wreathed itself about Archie's ankles as he
stood gaping, and, as he moved farther into the room, his path was
paved with ties and collars.
"Sit down!" said Elmer M. Moon, abruptly.
"Right-o! Thanks," said Archie, "I suppose you wouldn't like me to
explain, and what not, what?"
"No!" said Mr. Moon. "I haven't got your spare time. Put your hands
behind that chair."
Archie did so, and found them immediately secured by what felt like
a silk tie. His assiduous host then proceeded to fasten his ankles in
a like manner. This done, he seemed to feel that he had done all that
was required of him, and he returned to the packing of a large
suitcase which stood by the window.
"I say!" said Archie.
Mr. Moon, with the air of a man who has remembered something which
he had overlooked, shoved a sock in his guest's mouth and resumed his
packing. He was what might be called an impressionist packer. His aim
appeared to be speed rather than neatness. He bundled his belongings
in, closed the bag with some difficulty, and, stepping to the window,
opened it. Then he climbed out on to the fire-escape, dragged the
suit-case after him, and was gone.
Archie, left alone, addressed himself to the task of freeing his
prisoned limbs. The job proved much easier than he had expected. Mr.
Moon, that hustler, had wrought for the moment, not for all time. A
practical man, he had been content to keep his visitor shackled
merely for such a period as would permit him to make his escape
unhindered. In less than ten minutes Archie, after a good deal of
snake-like writhing, was pleased to discover that the thingummy
attached to his wrists had loosened sufficiently to enable him to use
his hands. He untied himself and got up.
He now began to tell himself that out of evil cometh good. His
encounter with the elusive Mr. Moon had not been an agreeable one,
but it had had this solid advantage, that it had left him right in
the middle of a great many clothes. And Mr. Moon, whatever his moral
defects, had the one excellent quality of taking about the same size
as himself. Archie, casting a covetous eye upon a tweed suit which
lay on the bed, was on the point of climbing into the trousers when
on the outer door of the studio there sounded a forceful knocking.
"Open up here!"
CHAPTER VI. THE BOMB
Archie bounded silently out into the other room and stood listening
tensely. He was not a naturally querulous man, hut he did feel at
this point that Fate was picking on him with a somewhat undue
"In th' name av th' Law!"
There are times when the best of us lose our heads. At this
juncture Archie should undoubtedly have gone to the door, opened it,
explained his presence in a few well-chosen words, and generally have
passed the whole thing off with ready tact. But the thought of
confronting a posse of police in his present costume caused him to
look earnestly about him for a hiding-place.
Up against the farther wall was a settee with a high, arching back,
which might have been put there for that special purpose. He inserted
himself behind this, just as a splintering crash announced that the
Law, having gone through the formality of knocking with its knuckles,
was now getting busy with an axe. A moment later the door had given
way, and the room was full of trampling feet. Archie wedged himself
against the wall with the quiet concentration of a clam nestling in
its shell, and hoped for the best.
It seemed to hiin that his immediate future depended for better or
for worse entirely on the native intelligence of the Force. If they
were the bright, alert men he hoped they were, they would see all
that junk in the bedroom and, deducing from it that their quarry had
stood not upon the order of his going but had hopped it, would not
waste time in searching a presumably empty apartment. If, on the
other hand, they were the obtuse, flat-footed persons who
occasionally find their way into the ranks of even the most
enlightened constabularies, they would undoubtedly shift the settee
and drag him into a publicity from which his modest soul shrank. He
was enchanted, therefore, a few moments later, to hear a gruff voice
state that th' mutt had beaten it down th' fire-escape. His opinion
of the detective abilities of the New York police force rose with a
There followed a brief council of war, which, as it took place in
the bedroom, was inaudible to Archie except as a distant growling
noise. He could distinguish no words, but, as it was succeeded by a
general trampling of large boots in the direction of the door and
then by silence, he gathered that the pack, having drawn the studio
and found it empty, had decided to return to other and more
profitable duties. He gave them a reasonable interval for removing
themselves, and then poked his head cautiously over the settee.
All was peace. The place was empty. No sound disturbed the
Archie emerged. For the first time in this morning of disturbing
occurrences he began to feel that God was in his heaven and all right
with the world. At last things were beginning to brighten up a bit,
and life might be said to have taken on some of the aspects of a good
egg. He stretched himself, for it is cramping work lying under
settees, and, proceeding to the bedroom, picked up the tweed trousers
Clothes had a fascination for Archie. Another man, in similar
circumstances, might have hurried over his toilet; but Archie, faced
by a difficult choice of ties, rather strung the thing out. He
selected a specimen which did great credit to the taste of Mr. Moon,
evidently one of our snappiest dressers, found that it did not
harmonise with the deeper meaning of the tweed suit, removed it,
chose another, and was adjusting the bow and admiring the effect,
when his attention was diverted by a slight sound which was half a
cough and half a sniff; and, turning, found himself gazing into the
clear blue eyes of a large man in uniform, who had stepped into the
room from the fire-escape. He was swinging a substantial club in a
negligent sort of way, and he looked at Archie with a total absence
"Ah!" he observed.
"Oh, THERE you are!" said Archie, subsiding weakly against the
chest of drawers. He gulped. "Of course, I can see you're thinking all
this pretty tolerably weird and all that," he proceeded, in a
The policeman attempted no analysis of his emotions, He opened a
mouth which a moment before had looked incapable of being opened
except with the assistance of powerful machinery, and shouted a
A distant voice gave tongue in answer. It was like alligators
roaring to their mates across lonely swamps.
There was a rumble of footsteps in the region of the stairs, and
presently there entered an even larger guardian of the Law than the
first exhibit. He, too, swung a massive club, and, like his
colleague, he gazed frostily at Archie.
"God save Ireland!" he remarked.
The words appeared to be more in the nature of an expletive than a
practical comment on the situation. Having uttered them, he draped
himself in the doorway like a colossus, and chewed gum.
"Where ja get him?" he enquired, after a pause.
"Found him in here attimpting to disguise himself."
"I told Cap. he was hiding somewheres, but he would have it that
he'd beat it down th' escape," said the gum-chewer, with the sombre
triumph of the underling whose sound advice has been overruled by
those above him. He shifted his wholesome (or, as some say,
unwholesome) morsel to the other side of his mouth, and for the first
time addressed Archie directly. "Ye're pinched!" he observed.
Archie started violently. The bleak directness of the speech roused
him with a jerk from the dream-like state into which he had fallen.
He had not anticipated this. He had assumed that there would be a
period of tedious explanations to be gone through before he was at
liberty to depart to the cosy little lunch for which his interior had
been sighing wistfully this long time past; but that he should be
arrested had been outside his calculations. Of course, he could put
everything right eventually; he could call witnesses to his character
and the purity of his intentions; but in the meantime the whole dashed
business would be in all the papers, embellished with all those
unpleasant flippancies to which your newspaper reporter is so prone to
stoop when he sees half a chance. He would feel a frightful chump.
Chappies would rot him about it to the most fearful extent. Old
Brewster's name would come into it, and he could not disguise it from
himself that his father-in-law, who liked his name in the papers as
little as possible, would be sorer than a sunburned neck.
"No, I say, you know! I mean, I mean to say!"
"Pinched!" repeated the rather larger policeman.
"And annything ye say," added his slightly smaller colleague, "will
be used agenst ya 't the trial."
"And if ya try t'escape," said the first speaker, twiddling his
club, "ya'll getja block knocked off."
And, having sketched out this admirably clear and
neatly-constructed scenario, the two relapsed into silence. Officer
Cassidy restored his gum to circulation. Officer Donahue frowned
sternly at his boots.
"But, I say," said Archie, "it's all a mistake, you know.
Absolutely a frightful error, my dear old constables. I'm not the lad
you're after at all. The chappie you want is a different sort of
fellow altogether. Another blighter entirely."
New York policemen never laugh when on duty. There is probably
something in the regulations against it. But Officer Donahue
permitted the left corner of his mouth to twitch slightly, and a
momentary muscular spasm disturbed the calm of Officer Cassidy's
granite features, as a passing breeze ruffles the surface of some
"That's what they all say!" observed Officer Donahue.
"It's no use tryin' that line of talk," said Officer Cassidy.
"Sure. Squealed 's morning," said Officer Donahue.
Archie's memory stirred vaguely.
"Babcock?" he said. "Do you know, that name seems familiar to me,
somehow. I'm almost sure I've read it in the paper or something."
"Ah, cut it out!" said Officer Cassidy, disgustedly. The two
constables exchanged a glance of austere disapproval. This hypocrisy
pained them. "Read it in th' paper or something!"
"By Jove! I remember now. He's the chappie who was arrested in that
bond business. For goodness' sake, my dear, merry old constables,"
said Archie, astounded, "you surely aren't labouring under the
impression that I'm the Master-Mind they were talking about in the
paper? Why, what an absolutely priceless notion! I mean to say, I ask
you, what! Frankly, laddies, do I look like a Master-Mind?"
Officer Cassidy heaved a deep sigh, which rumbled up from his
interior like the first muttering of a cyclone.
"If I'd known," he said, regretfully, "that this guy was going to
turn out a ruddy Englishman, I'd have taken a slap at him with m'
stick and chanced it!"
Officer Donahue considered the point well taken.
"Ah!" he said, understandingly. He regarded Archie with an
unfriendly eye. "I know th' sort well! Trampling on th' face av th'
"Ya c'n trample on the poor man's face," said Officer Cassidy,
severely; "but don't be surprised if one day he bites you in the
"But, my dear old sir," protested Archie, "I've never trampled—"
"One of these days," said Officer Donahue, moodily, "the Shannon
will flow in blood to the sea!"
Officer Cassidy uttered a glad cry.
"Why couldn't we hit him a lick," he suggested, brightly, "an' tell
th' Cap. he resisted us in th' exercise of our jooty?"
An instant gleam of approval and enthusiasm came into Officer
Donahue's eyes. Officer Donahue was not a man who got these luminous
inspirations himself, but that did not prevent him appreciating them
in others and bestowing commendation in the right quarter. There was
nothing petty or grudging about Officer Donahue.
"Ye're the lad with the head, Tim!" he exclaimed admiringly.
"It just sorta came to me," said Mr. Cassidy, modestly.
"It's a great idea, Timmy!"
"Just happened to think of it," said Mr. Cassidy, with a coy
gesture of self-effacement.
Archie had listened to the dialogue with growing uneasiness. Not
for the first time since he had made their acquaintance, he became
vividly aware of the exceptional physical gifts of these two men. The
New York police force demands from those who would join its ranks an
extremely high standard of stature and sinew, but it was obvious that
jolly old Donahue and Cassidy must have passed in first shot without
any difficulty whatever.
"I say, you know," he observed, apprehensively.
And then a sharp and commanding voice spoke from the outer room.
"Donahue! Cassidy! What the devil does this mean?"
Archie had a momentary impression that an angel had fluttered down
to his rescue. If this was the case, the angel had assumed an
effective disguise—that of a police captain. The new arrival was a
far smaller man than his subordinates—so much smaller that it did
Archie good to look at him. For a long time he had been wishing that
it were possible to rest his eyes with the spectacle of something of
a slightly less out-size nature than his two companions.
"Why have you left your posts?"
The effect of the interruption on the Messrs. Cassidy and Donahue
was pleasingly instantaneous. They seemed to shrink to almost normal
proportions, and their manner took on an attractive deference.
Officer Donahue saluted.
"If ye plaze, sorr—"
Officer Cassidy also saluted, simultaneously.
"'Twas like this, sorr—"
The captain froze Officer Cassidy with a glance and, leaving him
congealed, turned to Officer Donahue.
"Oi wuz standing on th' fire-escape, sorr," said Officer Donahue,
in a tone of obsequious respect which not only delighted, but
astounded Archie, who hadn't known he could talk like that, "accordin'
to instructions, when I heard a suspicious noise. I crope in, sorr,
and found this duck—found the accused, sorr—in front of the mirror,
examinin' himself. I then called to Officer Cassidy for assistance.
We pinched—arrested um, sorr."
The captain looked at Archie. It seemed to Archie that he looked at
him coldly and with contempt.
"Who is he?"
"The Master-Mind, sorr."
"The accused, sorr. The man that's wanted."
"You may want him. I don't," said the captain. Archie, though
relieved, thought he might have put it more nicely. "This isn't Moon.
It's not a bit like him."
"Absolutely not!" agreed Archie, cordially. "It's all a mistake,
old companion, as I was trying to—"
"Cut it out!"
"You've seen the photographs at the station. Do you mean to tell me
you see any resemblance?"
"If ye plaze, sorr," said Officer Cassidy, coming to life.
"We thought he'd bin disguising himself, the way he wouldn't be
"You're a fool!" said the captain.
"Yes, sorr," said Officer Cassidy, meekly.
"So are you, Donahue."
Archie's respect for this chappie was going up all the time. He
seemed to be able to take years off the lives of these massive
blighters with a word. It was like the stories you read about lion-
tamers. Archie did not despair of seeing Officer Donahue and his old
college chum Cassidy eventually jumping through hoops.
"Who are you?" demanded the captain, turning to Archie.
"Well, my name is—"
"What are you doing here?"
"Well, it's rather a longish story, you know. Don't want to bore
you, and all that."
"I'm here to listen. You can't bore ME."
"Dashed nice of you to put it like that," said Archie, gratefully.
"I mean to say, makes it easier and so forth. What I mean is, you
know how rotten you feel telling the deuce of a long yarn and
wondering if the party of the second part is wishing you would turn
off the tap and go home. I mean—"
"If," said the captain, "you're reciting something, stop. If you're
trying to tell me what you're doing here, make it shorter and
Archie saw his point. Of course, time was money—the modern spirit
of hustle—all that sort of thing.
"Well, it was this bathing suit, you know," he said.
"What bathing suit?"
"Mine, don't you know, A lemon-coloured contrivance. Rather bright
and so forth, but in its proper place not altogether a bad egg. Well,
the whole thing started, you know, with my standing on a bally
pedestal sort of arrangement in a diving attitude—for the cover, you
know. I don't know if you have ever done anything of that kind
yourself, but it gives you a most fearful crick in the spine.
However, that's rather beside the point, I suppose—don't know why I
mentioned it. Well, this morning he was dashed late, so I went out—
"What the devil are you talking about?"
Archie looked at him, surprised.
"Aren't I making it clear?"
"Well, you understand about the bathing suit, don't you? The jolly
old bathing suit, you've grasped that, what?"
"Oh, I say," said Archie. "That's rather a nuisance. I mean to say,
the bathing suit's what you might call the good old pivot of the
whole dashed affair, you see. Well, you understand about the cover,
what? You're pretty clear on the subject of the cover?"
"Why, for the magazine."
"Now there you rather have me. One of these bright little
periodicals, you know, that you see popping to and fro on the
"I don't know what you're talking about," said the captain. He
looked at Archie with an expression of distrust and hostility. "And
I'll tell you straight out I don't like the looks of you. I believe
you're a pal of his."
"No longer," said Archie, firmly. "I mean to say, a chappie who
makes you stand on a bally pedestal sort of arrangement and get a
crick in the spine, and then doesn't turn up and leaves you biffing
all over the countryside in a bathing suit—"
The reintroduction of the bathing suit motive seemed to have the
worst effect on the captain. He flushed darkly.
"Are you trying to josh me? I've a mind to soak you!"
"If ye plaze, sorr," cried Officer Donahue and Officer Cassidy in
chorous. In the course of their professional career they did not
often hear their superior make many suggestions with which they saw
eye to eye, but he had certainly, in their opinion, spoken a mouthful
"No, honestly, my dear old thing, nothing was farther from my
He would have spoken further, but at this moment the world came to
an end. At least, that was how it sounded. Somewhere in the immediate
neighbourhood something went off with a vast explosion, shattering the
glass in the window, peeling the plaster from the ceiling, and sending
him staggering into the inhospitable arms of Officer Donahue.
The three guardians of the Law stared at one another.
"If ye plaze, sorr," said. Officer Cassidy, saluting.
"May I spake, sorr?"
"Something's exploded, sorr!"
The information, kindly meant though it was, seemed to annoy the
"What the devil did you think I thought had happened?" he demanded,
with not a little irritation, "It was a bomb!"
Archie could have corrected this diagnosis, for already a faint but
appealing aroma of an alcoholic nature was creeping into the room
through a hole in the ceiling, and there had risen before his eyes
the picture of J. B. Wheeler affectionately regarding that barrel of
his on the previous morning in the studio upstairs. J. B. Wheeler had
wanted quick results, and he had got them. Archie had long since
ceased to regard J. B. Wheeler as anything but a tumour on the social
system, but he was bound to admit that he had certainly done him a
good turn now. Already these honest men, diverted by the superior
attraction of this latest happening, appeared to have forgotten his
"Sorr!" said Officer Donahue.
"It came from upstairs, sorr."
"Of course it came from upstairs. Cassidy!"
"Get down into the street, call up the reserves, and stand at the
front entrance to keep the crowd back. We'll have the whole city here
in five minutes."
"Don't let anyone in."
"Well, see that you don't. Come along, Donahue, now. Look slippy."
"On the spot, sorr!" said Officer Donahue.
A moment later Archie had the studio to himself. Two minutes later
he was picking his way cautiously down the fire-escape after the
manner of the recent Mr. Moon. Archie had not seen much of Mr. Moon,
but he had seen enough to know that in certain crises his methods
were sound and should be followed. Elmer Moon was not a good man; his
ethics were poor and his moral code shaky; but in the matter of
legging it away from a situation of peril and discomfort he had no
CHAPTER VII. MR. ROSCOE SHERIRIFF
HAS AN IDEA
Archie inserted a fresh cigarette in his long holder and began to
smoke a little moodily. It was about a week after his disturbing
adventures in J. B. Wheeler's studio, and life had ceased for the
moment to be a thing of careless enjoyment. Mr. Wheeler, mourning
over his lost home-brew and refusing, like Niobe, to be comforted,
has suspended the sittings for the magazine cover, thus robbing
Archie of his life-work. Mr. Brewster had not been in genial mood of
late. And, in addition to all this, Lucille was away on a visit to a
school-friend. And when Lucille went away, she took with her the
sunshine. Archie was not surprised at her being popular and in demand
among her friends, but that did not help him to become reconciled to
He gazed rather wistfully across the table at his friend, Roscoe
Sherriff, the Press-agent, another of his Pen-and-Ink Club
acquaintances. They had just finished lunch, and during the meal
Sherriff, who, like most men of action, was fond of hearing the sound
of his own voice and liked exercising it on the subject of himself,
had been telling Archie a few anecdotes about his professional past.
From these the latter had conceived a picture of Roscoe Sherriff's
life as a prismatic thing of energy and adventure and well-paid
withal—just the sort of life, in fact, which he would have enjoyed
leading himself. He wished that he, too, like the Press-agent, could
go about the place "slipping things over" and "putting things across."
Daniel Brewster, he felt, would have beamed upon a son-in-law like
"The more I see of America," sighed Archie, "the more it amazes me.
All you birds seem to have been doing things from the cradle upwards.
I wish I could do things!"
"Well, why don't you?"
Archie flicked the ash from his cigarette into the finger-bowl.
"Oh, I don't know, you know," he said, "Somehow, none of our family
ever have. I don't know why it is, but whenever a Moffam starts out
to do things he infallibly makes a bloomer. There was a Moffam in the
Middle Ages who had a sudden spasm of energy and set out to make a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, dressed as a wandering friar. Rum ideas they
had in those days."
"Did he get there?"
"Absolutely not! Just as he was leaving the front door his
favourite hound mistook him for a tramp—or a varlet, or a scurvy
knave, or whatever they used to call them at that time—and bit him in
the fleshy part of the leg."
"Well, at least he started."
"Enough to make a chappie start, what?"
Roscoe Sherriff sipped his coffee thoughtfully. He was an apostle
of Energy, and it seemed to him that he could make a convert of Archie
and incidentally do himself a bit of good. For several days he had
been, looking for someone like Archie to help him in a small matter
which he had in mind.
"If you're really keen on doing things," he said, "there's
something you can do for me right away."
Archie beamed. Action was what his soul demanded.
"Anything, dear boy, anything! State your case!"
"Would you have any objection to putting up a snake for me?"
"Putting up a snake?"
"Just for a day or two."
"But how do you mean, old soul? Put him up where?"
"Wherever you live. Where do you live? The Cosmopolis, isn't it? Of
course! You married old Brewster's daughter. I remember reading about
"But, I say, laddie, I don't want to spoil your day and disappoint
you and so forth, but my jolly old father-in-law would never let me
keep a snake. Why, it's as much as I can do to make him let me stop
on in the place."
"He wouldn't know."
"There's not much that goes on in the hotel that he doesn't know,"
said Archie, doubtfully.
"He musn't know. The whole point of the thing is that it must be a
Archie flicked some more ash into the finger-bowl.
"I don't seem absolutely to have grasped the affair in all its
aspects, if you know what I mean," he said. "I mean to say—in the
first place—why would it brighten your young existence if I
entertained this snake of yours?"
"It's not mine. It belongs to Mme. Brudowska. You've heard of her,
"Oh yes. She's some sort of performing snake female in vaudeville
or something, isn't she, or something of that species or order?"
"You're near it, but not quite right. She is the leading exponent
of high-brow tragedy on any stage in the civilized world."
"Absolutely! I remember now. My wife lugged me to see her perform
one night. It all comes back to me. She had me wedged in an
orchestra-stall before I knew what I was up against, and then it was
too late. I remember reading in some journal or other that she had a
pet snake, given her by some Russian prince or other, what?"
"That," said Sherriff, "was the impression I intended to convey
when I sent the story to the papers. I'm her Press-agent. As a matter
of fact, I bought Peter-its name's Peter-myself down on the East Side.
I always believe in animals for Press-agent stunts. I've nearly
always had good results. But with Her Nibs I'm handicapped. Shackled,
so to speak. You might almost say my genius is stifled. Or strangled,
if you prefer it,"
"Anything you say," agreed Archie, courteously, "But how? Why is
your what-d'you-call-it what's-its-named?"
"She keeps me on a leash. She won't let me do anything with a kick
in it. If I've suggested one rip-snorting stunt, I've suggested
twenty, and every time she turns them down on the ground that that
sort of thing is beneath the dignity of an artist in her position. It
doesn't give a fellow a chance. So now I've made up my mind to do her
good by stealth. I'm going to steal her snake."
"Steal it? Pinch it, as it were?"
"Yes. Big story for the papers, you see. She's grown very much
attached to Peter. He's her mascot. I believe she's practically
kidded herself into believing that Russian prince story. If I can
sneak it away and keep it away for a day or two, she'll do the rest.
She'll make such a fuss that the papers will be full of it."
"Wow, any ordinary woman would work in with me. But not Her Nibs.
She would call it cheap and degrading and a lot of other things. It's
got to be a genuine steal, and, if I'm caught at it, I lose my job. So
that's where you come in."
"But where am I to keep the jolly old reptile?"
"Oh, anywhere. Punch a few holes in a hat-box, and make it up a
shakedown inside. It'll be company for you."
"Something in that. My wife's away just now and it's a bit lonely
in the evenings."
"You'll never be lonely with Peter around. He's a great scout.
Always merry and bright"
"He doesn't bite, I suppose, or sting or what-not?"
"He may what-not occasionally. It depends on the weather. But,
outside of that, he's as harmless as a canary."
"Dashed dangerous things, canaries," said Archie, thoughtfully.
"They peck at you."
"Don't weaken!" pleaded the Press-agent
"Oh, all right. I'll take him. By the way, touching the matter of
browsing and sluicing. What do I feed him on?"
"Oh, anything. Bread-and-milk or fruit or soft-boiled egg or dog-
biscuit or ants'-eggs. You know—anything you have yourself. Well,
I'm much obliged for your hospitality. I'll do the same for you
another time. Now I must be getting along to see to the practical end
of the thing. By the way, Her Nibs lives at the Cosmopolis, too. Very
convenient. Well, so long. See you later."
Archie, left alone, began for the first time to have serious
doubts. He had allowed himself to be swayed by Mr. Sherriff's magnetic
personality, but now that the other had removed himself he began to
wonder if he had been entirely wise to lend his sympathy and co-
operation to the scheme. He had never had intimate dealings with a
snake before, but he had kept silkworms as a child, and there had
been the deuce of a lot of fuss and unpleasantness over them. Getting
into the salad and what-not. Something seemed to tell him that he was
asking for trouble with a loud voice, but he had given his word and he
supposed he would have to go through with it.
He lit another cigarette and wandered out into Fifth Avenue. His
usually smooth brow was ruffled with care. Despite the eulogies which
Sherriff had uttered concerning Peter, he found his doubts increasing.
Peter might, as the Press-agent had stated, be a great scout, but was
his little Garden of Eden on the fifth floor of the Cosmopolis Hotel
likely to be improved by the advent of even the most amiable and
winsome of serpents? However—
"Moffam! My dear fellow!"
The voice, speaking suddenly in his ear from behind, roused Archie
from his reflections. Indeed, it roused him so effectually that he
jumped a clear inch off the ground and bit his tongue. Revolving on
his axis, he found himself confronting a middle-aged man with a face
like a horse. The man was dressed in something of an old-world style.
His clothes had an English cut. He had a drooping grey moustache. He
also wore a grey bowler hat flattened at the crown— but who are we to
"Archie Moffam! I have been trying to find you all the morning."
Archie had placed him now. He had not seen General Mannister for
several years—not, indeed, since the days when he used to meet him
at the home of young Lord Seacliff, his nephew. Archie had been at
Eton and Oxford with Seacliff, and had often visited him in the Long
"Halloa, General! What ho, what ho! What on earth are you doing
"Let's get out of this crush, my boy." General Mannister steered
Archie into a side-street, "That's better." He cleared his throat
once or twice, as if embarrassed. "I've brought Seacliff over," he
"Dear old Squiffy here? Oh, I say! Great work!"
General Mannister did not seem to share his enthusiasm. He looked
like a horse with a secret sorrow. He coughed three times, like a
horse who, in addition to a secret sorrow, had contracted asthma.
"You will find Seacliff changed," he said. "Let me see, how long is
it since you and he met?"
"I was demobbed just about a year ago. I saw him in Paris about a
year before that. The old egg got a bit of shrapnel in his foot or
something, didn't he? Anyhow, I remember he was sent home."
"His foot is perfectly well again now. But, unfortunately, the
enforced inaction led to disastrous results. You recollect, no doubt,
that Seacliff always had a—a tendency;—a—a weakness—it was a
"Mopping it up, do you mean? Shifting it? Looking on the jolly old
stuff when it was red and what not, what?"
"Dear old Squiffy was always rather-a lad for the wassail-bowl.
When I met him in Paris, I remember, he was quite tolerably blotto."
"Precisely. And the failing has, I regret to say, grown on him
since he returned from the war. My poor sister was extremely worried.
In fact, to cut a long story short, I induced him to accompany me to
America. I am attached to the British Legation in Washington now, you
"I wished Seacliff to come with me to Washington, but he insists on
remaining in New York. He stated specifically that the thought of
living in Washington gave him the—what was the expression be used?"
"The pip. Precisely."
"But what was the idea of bringing him to America?"
"This admirable Prohibition enactment has rendered America—to my
mind—the ideal place for a young man of his views." The General
looked at his watch. "It is most fortunate that I happened to run
into you, my dear fellow. My train for Washington leaves in another
hour, and I have packing to do. I want to leave poor Seacliff in your
charge while I am gone."
"Oh, I say! What!"
"You can look after him. I am credibly informed that even now there
are places in New York where a determined young man may obtain the—
er—stuff, and I should be infinitely obliged—and my poor sister
would he infinitely grateful—if you would keep an eye on him." He
hailed a taxi-cab. "I am sending Seacliff round to the Cosmopolis
to-night. I am sure you, will do everything you can. Good-bye, my
Archie continued his walk. This, he felt, was beginning to be a bit
thick. He smiled a bitter, mirthless smile as he recalled the fact
that less than half an hour had elapsed since he had expressed a
regret that he did not belong to the ranks of those who do things.
Fate since then had certainly supplied him with jobs with a lavish
hand. By bed-time he would be an active accomplice to a theft, valet
and companion to a snake he had never met, and—as far as could
gather the scope of his duties—a combination of nursemaid and
private detective to dear old Squiffy.
It was past four o'clock when he returned to the Cosmopolis. Roscoe
Sherriff was pacing the lobby of the hotel nervously, carrying a
"Here you are at last! Good heavens, man, I've been waiting two
"Sorry, old bean. I was musing a bit and lost track of the time."
The Press-agent looked cautiously round. There was nobody within
"Here he is!" he said.
"Where?" said Archie, staring blankly.
"In this bag. Did you expect to find him strolling arm-in-arm with
me round the lobby? Here you are! Take him!"
He was gone. And Archie, holding the bag, made his way to the lift.
The bag squirmed gently in his grip.
The only other occupant of the lift was a striking-looking woman of
foreign appearance, dressed in a way that made Archie feel that she
must be somebody or she couldn't look like that. Her face, too,
seemed vaguely familiar. She entered the lift at the second floor
where the tea-room is, and she had the contented expression of one
who had tea'd to her satisfaction. She got off at the same floor as
Archie, and walked swiftly, in a lithe, pantherist way, round the
bend in the corridor. Archie followed more slowly. When he reached
the door of his room, the passage was empty. He inserted the key in
his door, turned it, pushed the door open, and pocketed the key. He
was about to enter when the bag again squirmed gently in his grip.
From the days of Pandora, through the epoch of Bluebeard's wife,
down to the present time, one of the chief failings of humanity has
been the disposition to open things that were better closed. It would
have been simple for Archie to have taken another step and put a door
between himself and the world, but there came to him the irresistible
desire to peep into the bag now—not three seconds later, but now. All
the way up in the lift he had been battling with the temptation, and
now he succumbed.
The bag was one of those simple bags with a thingummy which you
press. Archie pressed it. And, as it opened, out popped the head of
Peter. His eyes met Archie's. Over his head there seemed to be an
invisible mark of interrogation. His gaze was curious, but kindly. He
appeared to be saying to himself, "Have I found a friend?"
Serpents, or Snakes, says the Encyclopaedia, are reptiles of the
saurian class Ophidia, characterised by an elongated, cylindrical,
limbless, scaly form, and distinguished from lizards by the fact that
the halves (RAMI) of the lower jaw are not solidly united at the chin,
but movably connected by an elastic ligament. The vertebra are very
numerous, gastrocentrous, and procoelous. And, of course, when they
put it like that, you can see at once that a man might spend hours
with combined entertainment and profit just looking at a snake.
Archie would no doubt have done this; but long before he had time
really to inspect the halves (RAMI) of his new friend's lower jaw and
to admire its elastic fittings, and long before the gastrocentrous and
procoelous character of the other's vertebrse had made any real
impression on him, a piercing scream almost at his elbow—startled him
out of his scientific reverie. A door opposite had opened, and the
woman of the elevator was standing staring at him with an expression
of horror and fury that went through, him like a knife. It was the
expression which, more than anything else, had made Mme. Brudowska
what she was professionally. Combined with a deep voice and a sinuous
walk, it enabled her to draw down a matter of a thousand dollars per
Indeed, though the fact gave him little pleasure, Archie, as a
matter of fact, was at this moment getting about—including war-tax-
-two dollars and seventy-five cents worth of the great emotional star
for nothing. For, having treated him gratis to the look of horror and
fury, she now moved towards him with the sinuous walk and spoke in the
tone which she seldom permitted herself to use before the curtain of
act two, unless there was a whale of a situation that called for it in
It was the way she said it.
Archie staggered backwards as though he had been hit. between the
eyes, fell through the open door of his room, kicked it to with a
flying foot, and collapsed on the bed. Peter, the snake, who had
fallen on the floor with a squashy sound, looked surprised and pained
for a moment; then, being a philosopher at heart, cheered up and began
hunting for flies under the bureau.
CHAPTER VIII. A DISTURBED NIGHT FOR
DEAR OLD SQUIFFY
Peril sharpens the intellect. Archie's mind as a rule worked in
rather a languid and restful sort of way, but now it got going with a
rush and a whir. He glared round the room. He had never seen a room so
devoid of satisfactory cover. And then there came to him a scheme, a
ruse. It offered a chance of escape. It was, indeed, a bit of all
Peter, the snake, loafing contentedly about the carpet, found
himself seized by what the Encyclopaedia calls the "distensible
gullet" and looked up reproachfully. The next moment he was in his
bag again; and Archie, bounding silently into the bathroom, was
tearing the cord off his dressing-gown.
There came a banging at the door. A voice spoke sternly. A
masculine voice this time.
"Say! Open this door!"
Archie rapidly attached the dressing-gown cord to the handle of the
bag, leaped to the window, opened it, tied the cord to a projecting
piece of iron on the sill, lowered Peter and the bag into the depths,
and closed the window again. The whole affair took but a few seconds.
Generals have received the thanks of their nations for displaying less
resource on the field of battle.
He opened the-door. Outside stood the bereaved woman, and beside
her a bullet-headed gentleman with a bowler hat on the back of his
head, in whom Archie recognised the hotel detective.
The hotel detective also recognised Archie, and the stern cast of
his features relaxed. He even smiled a rusty but propitiatory smile.
He imagined—erroneously—that Archie, being the son-in-law of the
owner of the hotel, had a pull with that gentleman; and he resolved
to proceed warily lest he jeopardise his job.
"Why, Mr. Moffam!" he said, apologetically. "I didn't know it was
you I was disturbing."
"Always glad to have a chat," said Archie, cordially. "What seems
to be the trouble?"
"My snake!" cried the queen of tragedy. "Where is my snake?"
Archie, looked at the detective. The detective looked at Archie.
"This lady," said the detective, with a dry little cough, "thinks
her snake is in your room, Mr. Moffam,"
"Snake's what the lady said,"
"My snake! My Peter!" Mme. Brudowska's voice shook with emotion.
"He is here—here in this room,"
Archie shook his head.
"No snakes here! Absolutely not! I remember noticing when I came
"The snake is here—here in this room. This man had it in a bag! I
saw him! He is a thief!"
"Easy, ma'am!" protested the detective. "Go easy! This gentleman is
the boss's son-in-law."
"I care not who he is! He has my snake! Here—' here in this room!"
"Mr. Moffam wouldn't go round stealing snakes."
"Rather not," said Archie. "Never stole a snake in my life. None of
the Moffams have ever gone about stealing snakes. Regular family
tradition! Though I once had an uncle who kept gold-fish."
"Here he is! Here! My Peter!"
Archie looked at the detective. The detective looked at Archie. "We
must humour her!" their glances said.
"Of course," said Archie, "if you'd like to search the room, what?
What I mean to say is, this is Liberty Hall. Everybody welcome! Bring
"I will search the room!" said Mme. Brudowska.
The detective glanced apologetically at Archie.
"Don't blame me for this, Mr. Moffam," he urged.
"Rather not! Only too glad you've dropped in!"
He took up an easy attitude against the window, and watched the
empress of the emotional drama explore. Presently she desisted,
baffled. For an instant she paused, as though about to speak, then
swept from the room. A moment later a door banged across the passage.
"How do they get that way?" queried the detective, "Well, g'bye,
Mr. Moffam. Sorry to have butted in."
The door closed. Archie waited a few moments, then went to the
window and hauled in the slack. Presently the bag appeared over the
edge of the window-sill.
"Good God!" said Archie.
In the rush and swirl of recent events he must have omitted to see
that the clasp that fastened the bag was properly closed; for the
bag, as it jumped on to the window-sill, gaped at him like a yawning
face. And inside it there was nothing.
Archie leaned as far out of the window as he could manage without
committing suicide. Far below him, the traffic took its usual course
and the pedestrians moved to and fro upon the pavements. There was no
crowding, no excitement. Yet only a few moments before a long green
snake with three hundred ribs, a distensible gullet, and
gastrocentrous vertebras must have descended on that street like the
gentle rain from Heaven upon the place beneath. And nobody seemed
even interested. Not for the first time since he had arrived in
America, Archie marvelled at the cynical detachment of the New
Yorker, who permits himself to be surprised at nothing.
He shut the window and moved away with a heavy Heart. He had not
had the pleasure of an extended acquaintanceship with Peter, but he
had seen enough of him to realise his sterling qualities. Somewhere
beneath Peter's three hundred ribs there had lain a heart of gold,
and Archie mourned for his loss.
Archie had a dinner and theatre engagement that night, and it was
late when he returned to the hotel. He found his father-in-law
prowling restlessly about the lobby. There seemed to be something on
Mr. Brewster's mind. He came up to Archie with a brooding frown on
his square face.
"Who's this man Seacliff?" he demanded, without preamble. "I hear
he's a friend of yours."
"Oh, you've met him, what?" said Archie. "Had a nice little chat
together, yes? Talked of this and that, no!"
"We have not said a word to each other."
"Really? Oh, well, dear old Squiffy is one of those strong, silent
fellers you know. You mustn't mind if he's a bit dumb. He never says
much, but it's whispered round the clubs that he thinks a lot. It was
rumoured in the spring of nineteen-thirteen that Squiffy was on the
point of making a bright remark, but it never came to anything."
Mr. Brewster struggled with his feelings.
"Who is he? You seem to know him."
"Oh yes. Great pal of mine, Squiffy. We went through Eton, Oxford,
and the Bankruptcy Court together. And here's a rummy coincidence.
When they examined ME, I had no assets. And, when they examined
Squiffy, HE had no assets! Rather extraordinary, what?"
Mr. Brewster seemed to be in no mood for discussing coincidences.
"I might have known he was a friend of yours!" he said, bitterly.
"Well, if you want to see him, you'll have to do it outside my
"Why, I thought he was stopping here."
"He is—to-night. To-morrow he can look for some other hotel to
"Great Scot! Has dear old Squiffy been breaking the place up?"
Mr. Brewster snorted.
"I am informed that this precious friend of yours entered my grill-
room at eight o'clock. He must have been completely intoxicated,
though the head waiter tells me he noticed nothing at the time."
Archie nodded approvingly.
"Dear old Squiffy was always like that. It's a gift. However
woozled he might be, it was impossible to detect it with the naked
eye. I've seen the dear old chap many a time whiffled to the eyebrows,
and looking as sober as a bishop. Soberer! When did it begin to dawn
on the lads in the grill-room that the old egg had been pushing the
"The head waiter," said Mr. Brewster, with cold fury, "tells me
that he got a hint of the man's condition when he suddenly got up from
his table and went the round of the room, pulling off all the table-
cloths, and breaking everything that was on them. He then threw a
number of rolls at the diners, and left. He seems to have gone
straight to bed."
"Dashed sensible of him, what? Sound, practical chap, Squiffy. But
where on earth did he get the—er—materials?"
"From his room. I made enquiries. He has six large cases in his
"Squiffy always was a chap of infinite resource! Well, I'm dashed
sorry this should have happened, don't you know."
"If it hadn't been for you, the man would never have come here."
Mr. Brewster brooded coldly. "I don't know why it is, but ever since
you came to this hotel I've had nothing but trouble."
"Dashed sorry!" said Archie, sympathetically.
"Grrh!" said Mr. Brewster.
Archie made his way meditatively to the lift. The injustice of his
father-in-law's attitude pained him. It was absolutely rotten and all
that to be blamed for everything that went wrong in the Hotel
While this conversation was in progress, Lord Seacliff was enjoying
a refreshing sleep in his room on the fourth floor. Two hours passed.
The noise of the traffic in the street below faded away. Only the
rattle of an occasional belated cab broke the silence. In the hotel
all was still. Mr. Brewster had gone to bed. Archie, in his room,
smoked meditatively. Peace may have been said to reign.
At half-past two Lord Seacliff awoke. His hours of slumber were
always irregular. He sat up in bed and switched the light on. He was
a shock-headed young man with a red face and a hot brown eye. He
yawned and stretched himself. His head was aching a little. The room
seemed to him a trifle close. He got out of bed and threw open the
window. Then, returning to bed, he picked up a book and began to
read. He was conscious of feeling a little jumpy, and reading
generally sent him to sleep.
Much has been written on the subject of bed-books. The general
consensus of opinion is that a gentle, slow-moving story makes the
best opiate. If this be so, dear old Squiffy's choice of literature
had been rather injudicious. His book was The Adventures of Sherlock
Holmes, and the particular story, which he selected for perusal was
the one entitled, "The Speckled Band." He was not a great reader,
but, when he read, he liked something with a bit of zip to it.
Squiffy became absorbed. He had read the story before, but a long
time back, and its complications were fresh to him. The tale, it may
be remembered, deals with the activities of an ingenious gentleman
who kept a snake, and used to loose it into people's bedrooms as a
preliminary to collecting on their insurance. It gave Squiffy
pleasant thrills, for he had always had a particular horror of
snakes. As a child, he had shrunk from visiting the serpent house at
the Zoo; and, later, when he had come to man's estate and had put off
childish things, and settled down in real earnest to his self-
appointed mission of drinking up all the alcoholic fluid in England,
the distaste for Ophidia had lingered. To a dislike for real snakes
had been added a maturer shrinking from those which existed only in
his imagination. He could still recall his emotions on the occasion,
scarcely three months before, when he had seen a long, green serpent
which a majority of his contemporaries had assured him wasn't there.
Squiffy read on:—
"Suddenly another sound became audible—a very gentle, soothing
sound, like that of a small jet of steam escaping continuously from a
Lord Seacliff looked up from his book with a start Imagination was
beginning to play him tricks. He could have sworn that he had
actually heard that identical sound. It had seemed to come from the
window. He listened again. No! All was still. He returned to his book
and went on reading.
"It was a singular sight that met our eyes. Beside the table, on a
wooden chair, sat Doctor Grimesby Rylott, clad in a long dressing-
gown. His chin was cocked upward and his eyes were fixed in a
dreadful, rigid stare at the corner of the ceiling. Round his brow he
had a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles, which seemed to be
bound tightly round his head."
"I took a step forward. In an instant his strange head-gear began
to move, and there reared itself from among his hair the squat,
diamond-shaped head and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent..."
"Ugh!" said Squiffy.
He closed the book and put it down. His head was aching worse than
ever. He wished now that he had read something else. No fellow could
read himself to sleep with this sort of thing. People ought not to
write this sort of thing.
His heart gave a bound. There it was again, that hissing sound. And
this time he was sure it came from the window.
He looked at the window, and remained staring, frozen. Over the
sill, with a graceful, leisurely movement, a green snake was
crawling. As it crawled, it raised its head and peered from side to
side, like a shortsighted man looking for his spectacles. It
hesitated a moment on the edge of the sill, then wriggled to the
floor and began to cross the room. Squiffy stared on.
It would have pained Peter deeply, for he was a snake of great
sensibility, if he had known how much his entrance had disturbed the
occupant of the room. He himself had no feeling but gratitude for the
man who had opened the window and so enabled him to get in out of the
rather nippy night air. Ever since the bag had swung open and shot him
out onto the sill of the window below Archie's, he had been waiting
patiently for something of the kind to happen. He was a snake who took
things as they came, and was prepared to rough it a bit if necessary;
but for the last hour or two he had been hoping that somebody would do
something practical in the way of getting him in out of the cold. When
at home, he had an eiderdown quilt to sleep on, and the stone of the
window-sill was a little trying to a snake of regular habits. He
crawled thankfully across the floor under Squiffy's bed. There was a
pair of trousers there, for his host had undressed when not in a frame
of mind to fold his clothes neatly and place them upon a chair. Peter
looked the trousers over. They were not an eiderdown quilt, but they
would serve. He curled up in them and went to sleep. He had had an
exciting day, and was glad to turn in.
After about ten minutes, the tension of Squiffy's attitude relaxed.
His heart, which had seemed to suspend its operations, began beating
again. Reason reasserted itself. He peeped cautiously under the bed.
He could see nothing.
Squiffy was convinced. He told himself that he had never really
believed in Peter as a living thing. It stood to reason that there
couldn't really be a snake in his room. The window looked out on
emptiness. His room was several stories above the ground. There was a
stern, set expression on Squiffy's face as he climbed out of bed. It
was the expression of a man who is turning over a new leaf, starting a
new life. He looked about the room for some implement which would
carry out the deed he had to do, and finally pulled out one of the
curtain-rods. Using this as a lever, he broke open the topmost of the
six cases which stood in the corner. The soft wood cracked and split.
Squiffy drew out a straw-covered bottle. For a moment he stood looking
at it, as a man might gaze at a friend on the point of death. Then,
with a sudden determination, he went into the bathroom. There was a
crash of glass and a gurgling sound.
Half an hour later the telephone in Archie's room rang. "I say,
Archie, old top," said the voice of Squiffy.
"Halloa, old bean! Is that you?"
"I say, could you pop down here for a second? I'm rather upset."
"Absolutely! Which room?"
"I'll be with you eftsoons or right speedily."
"Thanks, old man."
"What appears to be the difficulty?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, I thought I saw a snake!"
"I'll tell you all about it when you come down."
Archie found Lord Seacliff seated on his bed. An arresting aroma of
mixed drinks pervaded the atmosphere.
"I say! What?" said Archie, inhaling.
"That's all right. I've been pouring my stock away. Just finished
the last bottle."
"I told you. I thought I saw a snake!"
Squiffy shivered slightly.
Archie hesitated. He perceived that there are moments when silence
is the best policy. He had been worrying himself over the unfortunate
case of his friend, and now that Fate seemed to have provided a
solution, it would be rash to interfere merely to ease the old bean's
mind. If Squiffy was going to reform because he thought he had seen an
imaginary snake, better not to let him know that the snake was a real
"Dashed serious!" he said.
"Bally dashed serious!" agreed Squiffy. "I'm going to cut it out!"
"You don't think," asked Squiffy, with a touch of hopefulness,
"that it could have been a real snake?"
"Never heard of the management supplying them."
"I thought it went under the bed."
"Well, take a look."
"Not me! I say, old top, you know, I simply can't sleep in this
room now. I was wondering if you could give me a doss somewhere in
"Rather! I'm in five-forty-one. Just above. Trot along up. Here's
the key. I'll tidy up a bit here, and join you in a minute."
Squiffy put on a dressing-gown and disappeared. Archie looked under
the bed. From the trousers the head of Peter popped up with its usual
expression of amiable enquiry. Archie nodded pleasantly, and sat down
on the bed. The problem of his little friend's immediate future wanted
He lit a cigarette and remained for a while in thought. Then he
rose. An admirable solution had presented itself. He picked Peter up
and placed him in the pocket of his dressing-gown. Then, leaving the
room, he mounted the stairs till he reached the seventh floor.
Outside a room half-way down the corridor he paused.
From within, through the open transom, came the rhythmical snoring
of a good man taking his rest after the labours of the day. Mr.
Brewster was always a heavy sleeper.
"There's always a way," thought Archie, philosophically, "if a
chappie only thinks of it."
His father-in-law's snoring took on a deeper note. Archie extracted
Peter from his pocket and dropped him gently through the transom.
CHAPTER IX. A LETTER FROM PARKER
As the days went by and he settled down at the Hotel Cosmopolis,
Archie, looking about him and revising earlier judgments, was
inclined to think that of all his immediate circle he most admired
Parker, the lean, grave valet of Mr. Daniel Brewster. Here was a man
who, living in the closest contact with one of the most difficult
persons in New York, contrived all the while to maintain an unbowed
head, and, as far as one could gather from appearances, a tolerably
cheerful disposition. A great man, judge him by what standard you
pleased. Anxious as he was to earn an honest living, Archie would not
have changed places with Parker for the salary of a movie-star.
It was Parker who first directed Archie's attention to the hidden
merits of Pongo. Archie had drifted into his father-in-law's suite
one morning, as he sometimes did in the effort to establish more
amicable relations, and had found it occupied only by the valet, who
was dusting the furniture and bric-a-brac with a feather broom rather
in the style of a man-servant at the rise of the curtain of an
old-fashioned farce. After a courteous exchange of greetings, Archie
sat down and lit a cigarette. Parker went on dusting.
"The guv'nor," said Parker, breaking the silence, "has some nice
little objay dar, sir."
"Objay dar, sir."
Light dawned upon Archie.
"Of course, yes. French for junk. I see what you mean now. Dare say
you're right, old friend. Don't know much about these things myself."
Parker gave an appreciative flick at a vase on the mantelpiece.
"Very valuable, some of the guv'nor's things." He had picked up the
small china figure of the warrior with the spear, and was grooming it
with the ostentatious care of one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus.
He regarded this figure with a look of affectionate esteem which
seemed to Archie absolutely uncalled-for. Archie's taste in Art was
not precious. To his untutored eye the thing was only one degree less
foul than his father-in-law's Japanese prints, which he had always
observed with silent loathing. "This one, now," continued Parker.
"Worth a lot of money. Oh, a lot of money."
"What, Pongo?" said Archie incredulously.
"I always call that rummy-looking what-not Pongo. Don't know what
else you could call him, what!"
The valet seemed to disapprove of this levity. He shook his head
and replaced the figure on the mantelpiece.
"Worth a lot of money," he repeated. "Not by itself, no."
"Oh, not by itself?"
"No, sir. Things like this come in pairs. Somewhere or other
there's the companion-piece to this here, and if the guv'nor could get
hold of it, he'd have something worth having. Something that
connoozers would give a lot of money for. But one's no good without
the other. You have to have both, if you understand my meaning, sir."
"I see. Like filling a straight flush, what?"
Archie gazed at Pongo again, with the dim hope of discovering
virtues not immediately apparent to the casual observer. But without
success. Pongo left him cold—even chilly. He would not have taken
Pongo as a gift, to oblige a dying friend.
"How much would the pair be worth?" he asked. "Ten dollars?"
Parker smiled a gravely superior smile. "A leetle more than that,
sir. Several thousand dollars, more like it."
"Do you mean to say," said Archie, with honest amazement, "that
there are chumps going about loose—absolutely loose—who would pay
that for a weird little object like Pongo?"
"Undoubtedly, sir. These antique china figures are in great demand
Archie looked at Pongo once more, and shook his head.
"Well, well, well! It takes all sorts to make a world, what!"
What might be called the revival of Pongo, the restoration of Pongo
to the ranks of the things that matter, took place several weeks
later, when Archie was making holiday at the house which his father-
in-law had taken for the summer at Brookport. The curtain of the
second act may be said to rise on Archie strolling back from the
golf-links in the cool of an August evening. From time to time he
sang slightly, and wondered idly if Lucille would put the finishing
touch upon the all-rightness of everything by coming to meet him and
sharing his homeward walk.
She came in view at this moment, a trim little figure in a white
skirt and a pale blue sweater. She waved to Archie; and Archie, as
always at the sight of her, was conscious of that jumpy, fluttering
sensation about the heart, which, translated into words, would have
formed the question, "What on earth could have made a girl like that
fall in love with a chump like me?" It was a question which he was
continually asking himself, and one which was perpetually in the mind
also of Mr. Brewster, his father-in-law. The matter of Archie's
unworthiness to be the husband of Lucille was practically the only
one on which the two men saw eye to eye.
"Hallo—allo—allo!" said Archie. "Here we are, what! I was just
hoping you would drift over the horizon,"
Lucille kissed him.
"You're a darling," she said. "And you look like a Greek god in
"Glad you like it." Archie squinted with some complacency down his
chest. "I always say it doesn't matter what you pay for a suit, so
long as it's right. I hope your jolly old father will feel that way
when he settles up for it."
"Where is father? Why didn't he come back with you?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, he didn't seem any too keen on my
company. I left him in the locker-room chewing a cigar. Gave me the
impression of having something on his mind,"
"Oh, Archie! You didn't beat him AGAIN?"
Archie looked uncomfortable. He gazed out to sea with something of
"Well, as a matter of fact, old thing, to be absolutely frank, I,
as it were, did!"
"Well, yes! I rather fancy I put it across him with some vim and
not a little emphasis. To be perfectly accurate, I licked him by ten
"But you promised me you would let him beat you to-day. You know
how pleased it would have made him."
"I know. But, light of my soul, have you any idea how dashed
difficult it is to get beaten by your festive parent at golf?"
"Oh, well!" Lucille sighed. "It can't be helped, I suppose." She
felt in the pocket of her sweater. "Oh, there's a letter for you.
I've just been to fetch the mail. I don't know who it can be from.
The handwriting looks like a vampire's. Kind of scrawly."
Archie inspected the envelope. It provided no solution.
"That's rummy! Who could be writing to me?"
"Open it and see."
"Dashed bright scheme! I will, Herbert Parker. Who the deuce is
"Parker? Father's valet's name was Parker. The one he dismissed
when he found he was wearing his shirts."
"Do you mean to say any reasonable chappie would willingly wear the
sort of shirts your father—? I mean to say, there must have been
"Do read the letter. I expect he wants to use your influence with
father to have him taken back."
"MY influence? With your FATHER? Well, I'm dashed. Sanguine sort of
Johnny, if he does. Well, here's what he says. Of course, I remember
jolly old Parker now—great pal of mine."
Dear Sir,—It is some time since the undersigned had the
honour of conversing with you, but I am respectfully trusting
that you may recall me to mind when I mention that until
recently I served Mr. Brewster, your father-in-law, in the
capacity of valet. Owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding,
I was dismissed from that position and am now temporarily out
of a job. "How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of
the morning!" (Isaiah xiv. 12.)
"You know," said Archie, admiringly, "this bird is hot stuff! I
mean to say he writes dashed well."
It is not, however, with my own affairs that I desire to
trouble you, dear sir. I have little doubt that all will be
well with me and that I shall not fall like a sparrow to the
ground. "I have been young and now am old; yet have I not
seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread"
(Psalms xzxvii. 25). My object in writing to you is as
follows. You may recall that I had the pleasure of meeting
you one morning in Mr. Brewster's suite, when we had an
interesting talk on the subject of Mr. B.'s objets d'art.
You may recall being particularly interested in a small
china figure. To assist your memory, the figure to which I
allude is the one which you whimsically referred to as Pongo.
I informed you, if you remember, that, could the accompanying
figure be secured, the pair would be extremely valuable.
I am glad to say, dear sir? that this has now transpired, and
is on view at Beale's Art Galleries on West Forty-Fifty
where it will be sold to-morrow at auction, the sale
at two-thirty sharp. If Mr. Brewster cares to attend, he will,
I fancy, have little trouble in securing it at a reasonable
I confess that I had thought of refraining from apprising my
employer of this matter, but more Christian feelings have
prevailed. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst,
him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on
head" (Romans xii. 20). Nor, I must confess, am I altogether
uninfluenced by the thought that my action in this matter may
conceivably lead to Mr. B. consenting to forget the past and
reinstate me in my former position. However, I am confident
I can leave this to his good feeling.
I remain, respectfully yours,
Lucille clapped her hands.
"How splendid! Father will be pleased!"
"Yes. Friend Parker has certainly found a way to make the old dad
fond of him. Wish I could!"
"But you can, silly! He'll be delighted when you show him that
"Yes, with Parker. Old Herb. Parker's is the neck he'll fall
"I wish—" she began. She stopped. Her eyes lit up. "Oh, Archie,
darling, I've got an idea!"
"Why don't you slip up to New York to-morrow and buy the thing, and
give it to father as a surprise?"
Archie patted her hand kindly. He hated to spoil her girlish day-
"Yes," he said. "But reflect, queen of my heart! I have at the
moment of going to press just two dollars fifty in specie, which I
took off your father this after-noon. We were playing twenty-five
cents a Hole. He coughed it up without enthusiasm—in fact, with a
nasty hacking sound—but I've got it. But that's all I have got."
"That's all right. You can pawn that ring and that bracelet of
"Oh, I say, what! Pop the family jewels?"
"Only for a day or two. Of course, once you've got the thing,
father will pay us back. He would give you all the money we asked him
for, if he knew what it was for. But I want to surprise him. And if
you were to go to him and ask him for a thousand dollars without
telling him what it was for, he might refuse."
"He might!" said Archie. "He might!"
"It all works out splendidly. To-morrow's the Invitation Handicap,
and father's been looking forward to it for weeks. He'd hate to have
to go up to town himself and not play in it. But you can slip up and
slip back without his knowing anything about it."
"It sounds a ripe scheme. Yes, it has all the ear-marks of a
somewhat fruity wheeze! By Jove, it IS a fruity wheeze! It's an egg!"
"Good egg, you know. Halloa, here's a postscript. I didn't see it."
P.S.—I should be glad if you would convey my most
cordial respects to Mrs. Moffam. Will you also inform
her that I chanced to meet Mr. William this morning on
Broadway, just off the boat. He desired me to send his
regards and to say that he would be joining you at
Brookport in the course of a day or so. Mr. B. will be
pleased to have him back. "A wise son maketh a glad
father" (Proverbs x. 1).
"Who's Mr. William?" asked Archie.
"My brother Bill, of course. I've told you all about him."
"Oh yes, of course. Your brother Bill. Rummy to think I've got a
brother-in-law I've never seen."
"You see, we married so suddenly. When we married, Bill was in
"Good God! What for?"
"Not jail, silly. Yale. The university."
"Oh, ah, yes."
"Then he went over to Europe for a trip to broaden his mind. You
must look him up to-morrow when you get back to New York. He's sure
to be at his club."
"I'll make a point of it. Well, vote of thanks to good old Parker!
This really does begin to look like the point in my career where I
start to have your forbidding old parent eating out of my hand."
"Yes, it's an egg, isn't it!"
"Queen of my soul," said Archie enthusiastically, "it's an
The business negotiations in connection with the bracelet and the
ring occupied Archie on his arrival in New York to an extent which
made it impossible for him to call on Brother Bill before lunch. He
decided to postpone the affecting meeting of brothers-in-law to a
more convenient season, and made his way to his favourite table at
the Cosmopolis grill-room for a bite of lunch preliminary to the
fatigues of the sale. He found Salvatore hovering about as usual, and
instructed him to come to the rescue with a minute steak.
Salvatore was the dark, sinister-looking waiter who attended, among
other tables, to the one at the far end of the grill-room at which
Archie usually sat. For several weeks Archie's conversations with the
other had dealt exclusively with the bill of fare and its contents;
but gradually he had found himself becoming more personal. Even before
the war and its democratising influences, Archie had always lacked
that reserve which characterises many Britons; and since the war he
had looked on nearly everyone he met as a brother. Long since, through
the medium of a series of friendly chats, he had heard all about
Salvatore's home in Italy, the little newspaper and tobacco shop which
his mother owned down on Seventh Avenue, and a hundred other personal
details. Archie had an insatiable curiosity about his fellow-man.
"Well done," said Archie.
"The steak. Not too rare, you know."
"Very good, sare."
Archie looked at the waiter closely. His tone had been subdued and
sad. Of course, you don't expect a waiter to beam all over his face
and give three rousing cheers simply because you have asked him to
bring you a minute steak, but still there was something about
Salvatore's manner that disturbed Archie. The man appeared to have
the pip. Whether he was merely homesick and brooding on the lost
delights of his sunny native land, or whether his trouble was more
definite, could only be ascertained by enquiry. So Archie enquired.
"What's the matter, laddie?" he said sympathetically. "Something on
"I say, there seems to be something on your mind. What's the
The waiter shrugged his shoulders, as if indicating an
unwillingness to inflict his grievances on one of the tipping classes.
"Come on!" persisted Archie encouragingly. "All pals here. Barge
alone, old thing, and let's have it."
Salvatore, thus admonished, proceeded in a hurried undertone—with
one eye on the headwaiter—to lay bare his soul. What he said was not
very coherent, but Archie could make out enough of it to gather that
it was a sad story of excessive hours and insufficient pay. He mused
awhile. The waiter's hard case touched him.
"I'll tell you what," he said at last. "When jolly old Brewster
conies back to town—he's away just now—I'll take you along to him
and we'll beard the old boy in his den. I'll introduce you, and you
get that extract from Italian opera-off your chest which you've just
been singing to me, and you'll find it'll be all right. He isn't what
you might call one of my greatest admirers, but everybody says he's a
square sort of cove and he'll see you aren't snootered. And now,
laddie, touching the matter of that steak."
The waiter disappeared, greatly cheered, and Archie, turning,
perceived that his friend Reggie van Tuyl was entering the room. He
waved to him to join his table. He liked Reggie, and it also occurred
to him that a man of the world like the heir of the van Tuyls, who had
been popping about New York for years, might be able to give him some
much-needed information on the procedure at an auction sale, a matter
on which he himself was profoundly ignorant.
CHAPTER X. DOING FATHER A BIT OF
Reggie Van Tuyl approached the table languidly, and sank down into
a chair. He was a long youth with a rather subdued and deflated look,
as though the burden of the van Tuyl millions was more than his frail
strength could support. Most things tired him.
"I say, Reggie, old top," said Archie, "you're just the lad I
wanted to see. I require the assistance of a blighter of ripe
intellect. Tell me, laddie, do you know anything about sales?"
Reggie eyed him sleepily.
"Well, they're sales, you know." He checked a yawn. "Auction sales,
"Yes," said Archie encouragingly. "Something—the name or
something- -seemed to tell me that."
"Fellows put things up for sale you know, and other fellows—other
fellows go in and—and buy 'em, if you follow me."
"Yes, but what's the procedure? I mean, what do I do? That's what
I'm after. I've got to buy something at Beale's this afternoon. How
do I set about it?"
"Well," said Reggie, drowsily, "there are several ways of bidding,
you know. You can shout, or you can nod, or you can twiddle your
fingers—" The effort of concentration was too much for him. He
leaned back limply in his chair. "I'll tell you what. I've nothing to
do this afternoon. I'll come with you and show you."
When he entered the Art Galleries a few minutes later, Archie was
glad of the moral support of even such a wobbly reed as Reggie van
Tuyl. There is something about an auction room which weighs heavily
upon the novice. The hushed interior was bathed in a dim, religious
light; and the congregation, seated on small wooden chairs, gazed in
reverent silence at the pulpit, where a gentleman of commanding
presence and sparkling pince-nez was delivering a species of chant.
Behind a gold curtain at the end of the room mysterious forms flitted
to and fro. Archie, who had been expecting something on the lines of
the New York Stock Exchange, which he had once been privileged to
visit when it was in a more than usually feverish mood, found the
atmosphere oppressively ecclesiastical. He sat down and looked about
him. The presiding priest went on with his chant.
"Sixteen-sixteen-sixteen-sixteen-sixteen—worth three hundred—
sixteen-sixteen-sixteen-sixteen-sixteen—ought to bring five
nineteen-nineteen-nineteen." He stopped and eyed the worshippers with
a glittering and reproachful eye. They had, it seemed, disappointed
him. His lips curled, and he waved a hand towards a grimly
uncomfortable-looking chair with insecure legs and a good deal of gold
paint about it. "Gentlemen! Ladies and gentlemen! You are not here to
waste my time; I am not here to waste yours. Am I seriously offered
nineteen dollars for this eighteenth-century chair, acknowledged to be
the finest piece sold in New York for months and months? Am I—twenty?
I thank you. Twenty-twenty-twenty- twenty. YOUR opportunity!
Priceless. Very few extant. Twenty-five- five-five-five-thirty-thirty.
Just what you are looking for. The only one in the City of New York.
Thirty-five-five-five-five. Forty- forty-forty-forty-forty. Look at
those legs! Back it into the light, Willie. Let the light fall on
Willie, a sort of acolyte, manoeuvred the chair as directed. Reggie
van Tuyl, who had been yawning in a hopeless sort of way, showed his
first flicker of interest.
"Willie," he observed, eyeing that youth more with pity than
reproach, "has a face like Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy, don't you think
Archie nodded briefly. Precisely the same criticism had occurred to
"Forty-five-five-five-five-five," chanted the high-priest. "Once
forty-five. Twice forty-five. Third and last call, forty-five. Sold
at forty-five. Gentleman in the fifth row."
Archie looked up and down the row with a keen eye. He was anxious
to see who had been chump enough to give forty-five dollars for such a
frightful object. He became aware of the dog-faced Willie leaning
"Name, please?" said the canine one.
"Eh, what?" said Archie. "Oh, my name's Moffam, don't you know."
The eyes of the multitude made him feel a little nervous "Er—glad to
meet you and all that sort of rot."
"Ten dollars deposit, please," said Willie.
"I don't absolutely follow you, old bean. What is the big thought
at the back of all this?"
"Ten dollars deposit on the chair."
"You bid forty-five dollars for the chair."
"You nodded," said Willie, accusingly. "If," he went on, reasoning
closely, "you didn't want to bid, why did you nod?"
Archie was embarrassed. He could, of course, have pointed out that
be had merely nodded in adhesion to the statement that the other had
a face like Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy; but something seemed to tell him
that a purist might consider the excuse deficient in tact. He
hesitated a moment, then handed over a ten-dollar bill, the price of
Willie's feelings. Willie withdrew like a tiger slinking from the
body of its victim.
"I say, old thing," said Archie to Reggie, "this is a bit thick,
you know. No purse will stand this drain."
Reggie considered the matter. His face seemed drawn under the
"Don't nod again," he advised. "If you aren't careful, you get into
the habit of it. When you want to bid, just twiddle your fingers.
Yes, that's the thing. Twiddle!"
He sighed drowsily. The atmosphere of the auction room was close;
you weren't allowed to smoke; and altogether he was beginning to
regret that he had come. The service continued. Objects of varying
unattractiveness came and went, eulogised by the officiating priest,
but coldly received by the congregation. Relations between the former
and the latter were growing more and more distant. The congregation
seemed to suspect the priest of having an ulterior motive in his
eulogies, and the priest seemed to suspect the congregation of a
frivolous desire to waste his time. He had begun to speculate openly
as to why they were there at all. Once, when a particularly repellent
statuette of a nude female with an unwholesome green skin had been
offered at two dollars and had found no bidders—the congregation
appearing silently grateful for his statement that it was the only
specimen of its kind on the continent—he had specifically accused
them of having come into the auction room merely with the purpose of
sitting down and taking the weight off their feet.
"If your thing—your whatever-it-is, doesn't come up soon, Archie,"
said Reggie, fighting off with an effort the mists of sleep, "I
rather think I shall be toddling along. What was it you came to get?"
"It's rather difficult to describe. It's a rummy-looking sort of
what-not, made of china or something. I call it Pongo. At least, this
one isn't Pongo, don't you know—it's his little brother, but
presumably equally foul in every respect. It's all rather
complicated, I know, but—hallo!" He pointed excitedly. "By Jove!
We're off! There it is! Look! Willie's unleasing it now!"
Willie, who had disappeared through the gold curtain, had now
returned, and was placing on a pedestal a small china figure of
delicate workmanship. It was the figure of a warrior in a suit of
armour advancing with raised spear upon an adversary. A thrill
permeated Archie's frame. Parker had not been mistaken. This was
undoubtedly the companion-figure to the redoubtable Pongo. The two
were identical. Even from where he sat Archie could detect on the
features of the figure on the pedestal the same expression of
insufferable complacency which had alienated his sympathies from the
The high-priest, undaunted by previous rebuffs, regarded the figure
with a gloating enthusiasm wholly unshared by the congregation, who
were plainly looking upon Pongo's little brother as just another of
"This," he said, with a shake in his voice, "is something very
special. China figure, said to date back to the Ming Dynasty. Unique.
Nothing like it on either side of the Atlantic. If I were selling this
at Christie's in London, where people," he said, nastily, "have an
educated appreciation of the beautiful, the rare, and the exquisite, I
should start the bidding at a thousand dollars. This afternoon's
experience has taught me that that might possibly be too high." His
pince-nez sparkled militantly, as he gazed upon the stolid throng.
"Will anyone offer me a dollar for this unique figure?"
"Leap at it, old top," said Reggie van Tuyl. "Twiddle, dear boy,
twiddle! A dollar's reasonable."
"One dollar I am offered," said the high-priest, bitterly. "One
gentleman here is not afraid to take a chance. One gentleman here
knows a good thing when he sees one." He abandoned the gently
sarcastic manner for one of crisp and direct reproach. "Come, come,
gentlemen, we are not here to waste time. Will anyone offer me one
hundred dollars for this superb piece of—" He broke off, and seemed
for a moment almost unnerved. He stared at someone in one of the
seats in front of Archie. "Thank you," he said, with a sort of gulp.
"One hundred dollars I am offered! One hundred—one hundred—one
Archie was startled. This sudden, tremendous jump, this wholly
unforeseen boom in Pongos, if one might so describe it, was more than
a little disturbing. He could not see who his rival was, but it was
evident that at least one among those present did not intend to allow
Pongo's brother to slip by without a fight. He looked helplessly at
Reggie for counsel, but Reggie had now definitely given up the
struggle. Exhausted nature had done its utmost, and now he was leaning
back with closed eyes, breathing softly through his nose. Thrown on
his own resources, Archie could think of no better course than to
twiddle his fingers again. He did so, and the high- priest's chant
took on a note of positive exuberance.
"Two hundred I am offered. Much better! Turn the pedestal round,
Willie, and let them look at it. Slowly! Slowly! You aren't spinning
a roulette-wheel. Two hundred. Two-two-two-two-two." He became
suddenly lyrical. "Two-two-two—There was a young lady named Lou, who
was catching a train at two-two. Said the porter, 'Don't worry or
hurry or scurry. It's a minute or two to two-two!' Two-two-two-
Archie's concern increased. He seemed to be twiddling at this
voluble man across seas of misunderstanding. Nothing is harder to
interpret to a nicety than a twiddle, and Archie's idea of the
language of twiddles and the high-priest's idea did not coincide by a
mile. The high-priest appeared to consider that, when Archie twiddled,
it was his intention to bid in hundreds, whereas in fact Archie had
meant to signify that he raised the previous bid by just one dollar.
Archie felt that, if given time, he could make this clear to the
high-priest, but the latter gave him no time. He had got his audience,
so to speak, on the run, and he proposed to hustle them before they
"Two hundred—two hundred—two—three—thank you, sir—three-three-
Archie sat limply in his wooden chair. He was conscious of a
feeling which he had only experienced twice in his life—once when he
had taken his first lesson in driving a motor and had trodden on the
accelerator instead of the brake; the second time more recently, when
he had made his first down-trip on an express lift. He had now
precisely the same sensation of being run away with by an
uncontrollable machine, and of having left most of his internal
organs at some little distance from the rest of his body. Emerging
from this welter of emotion, stood out the one clear fact that, be
the opposition bidding what it might, he must nevertheless secure the
prize. Lucille had sent him to New York expressly to do so. She had
sacrificed her jewellery for the cause. She relied on him. The
enterprise had become for Archie something almost sacred. He felt
dimly like a knight of old hot on the track of the Holy Grail.
He twiddled again. The ring and the bracelet had fetched nearly
twelve hundred dollars. Up to that figure his hat was in the ring.
"Eight hundred I am offered. Eight hundred.
A voice spoke from somewhere at the back of the room. A quiet,
cold, nasty, determined voice.
Archie rose from his seat and spun round. This mean attack from the
rear stung his fighting spirit. As he rose, a young man sitting
immediately in front of him rose too and stared likewise. He was a
square-built resolute-looking young man, who reminded Archie vaguely
of somebody he had seen before. But Archie was too busy trying to
locate the man at the back to pay much attention to him. He detected
him at last, owing to the fact that the eyes of everybody in that
part of the room were fixed upon him. He was a small man of middle
age, with tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles. He might have been a
professor or something of the kind. Whatever he was, he was obviously
a man to be reckoned with. He had a rich sort of look, and his
demeanour was the demeanour of a man who is prepared to fight it out
on these lines if it takes all the summer.
"Nine hundred I am offered. Nine-nine-nine-nine—"
Archie glared defiantly at the spectacled man.
"A thousand!" he cried.
The irruption of high finance into the placid course of the
afternoon's proceedings had stirred the congregation out of its
lethargy. There were excited murmurs. Necks were craned, feet
shuffled. As for the high-priest, his cheerfulness was now more than
restored, and his faith in his fellow-man had soared from the depths
to a very lofty altitude. He beamed with approval. Despite the warmth
of his praise he would have been quite satisfied to see Pongo's little
brother go at twenty dollars, and the reflection that the bidding had
already reached one thousand and that his commission was twenty per
cent, had engendered a mood of sunny happiness.
"One thousand is bid!" he carolled. "Now, gentlemen, I don't want
to hurry you over this. You are all connoisseurs here, and you don't
want to see a priceless china figure of the Ming Dynasty get away
from you at a sacrifice price. Perhaps you can't all see the figure
where it is. Willie, take it round and show it to 'em. We'll take a
little intermission while you look carefully at this wonderful
figure. Get a move on, Willie! Pick up your feet!"
Archie, sitting dazedly, was aware that Reggie van Tuyl had
finished his beauty sleep and was addressing the young man in the seat
"Why, hallo," said Reggie. "I didn't know you were back. You
remember me, don't you? Reggie van Tuyl. I know your sister very
well. Archie, old man, I want you to meet my friend, Bill Brewster.
Why, dash it!" He chuckled sleepily. "I was forgetting. Of course!
"How are you?" said the young man. "Talking of my sister," he said
to Reggie, "I suppose you haven't met her husband by any chance? I
suppose you know she married some awful chump?"
"Me," said Archie.
"I married your sister. My name's Moffam."
The young man seemed a trifle taken aback.
"Sorry," he said.
"Not at all," said Archie.
"I was only going by what my father said in his letters," he
explained, in extenuation.
"I'm afraid your jolly old father doesn't appreciate me. But I'm
hoping for the best. If I can rope in that rummy-looking little china
thing that Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy is showing the customers, he will
be all over me. I mean to say, you know, he's got another like it,
and, if he can get a full house, as it were, I'm given to understand
he'll be bucked, cheered, and even braced."
The young man stared.
"Are YOU the fellow who's been bidding against me?"
"Eh, what? Were you bidding against ME?"
"I wanted to buy the thing for my father. I've a special reason for
wanting to get in right with him just now. Are you buying it for him,
"Absolutely. As a surprise. It was Lucille's idea. His valet, a
chappie named Parker, tipped us off that the thing was to be sold."
"Parker? Great Scot! It was Parker who tipped ME off. I met him on
Broadway, and he told me about it."
"Rummy he never mentioned it in his letter to me. Why, dash it, we
could have got the thing for about two dollars if we had pooled our
"Well, we'd better pool them now, and extinguish that pill at the
back there. I can't go above eleven hundred. That's all I've got."
"I can't go above eleven hundred myself."
"There's just one thing. I wish you'd let me be the one to hand the
thing over to Father. I've a special reason for wanting to make a hit
"Absolutely!" said Archie, magnanimously. "It's all the same to me.
I only wanted to get him generally braced, as it were, if you know
what I mean."
"That's awfully good of you."
"Not a bit, laddie, no, no, and far from it. Only too glad."
Willie had returned from his rambles among the connoisseurs, and
Pongo's brother was back on his pedestal. The high-priest cleared his
throat and resumed his discourse.
"Now that you have all seen this superb figure we will—I was
offered one thousand—one thousand-one-one-one-one—eleven hundred.
Thank you, sir. Eleven hundred I am offered."
The high-priest was now exuberant. You could see him doing figures
in his head.
"You do the bidding," said Brother Bill.
"Right-o!" said Archie.
He waved a defiant hand.
"Thirteen," said the man at the back.
"Fourteen, dash it!"
The high-priest did everything but sing. He radiated good will and
"Two thousand I am offered. Is there any advance on two thousand?
Come, gentlemen, I don't want to give this superb figure away.
Twenty-one hundred. Twenty-one-one-one-one. This is more the sort of
thing I have been accustomed to. When I was at Sotheby's Rooms in
London, this kind of bidding was a common-place. Twenty-two-two-two-
two-two. One hardly noticed it. Three-three-three. Twenty-three-
three-three. Twenty-three hundred dollars I am offered."
He gazed expectantly at Archie, as a man gazes at some favourite
dog whom he calls upon to perform a trick. But Archie had reached the
end of his tether. The hand that had twiddled so often and so bravely
lay inert beside his trouser-leg, twitching feebly. Archie was
"Twenty-three hundred," said the high-priest, ingratiatingly.
Archie made no movement. There was a tense pause. The high-priest
gave a little sigh, like one waking from a beautiful dream.
"Twenty-three hundred," he said. "Once twenty-three. Twice twenty-
three. Third, last, and final call, twenty-three. Sold at twenty-
three hundred. I congratulate you, sir, on a genuine bargain!"
Reggie van Tuyl had dozed off again. Archie tapped his brother-in-
law on the shoulder.
"May as well be popping, what?"
They threaded their way sadly together through the crowd, and made
for the street. They passed into Fifth Avenue without breaking the
"Bally nuisance," said Archie, at last.
"Wonder who that chappie was?"
"Some collector, probably."
"Well, it can't be helped," said Archie.
Brother Bill attached himself to Archie's arm, and became
"I didn't want to mention it in front of van Tuyl," he said,
"because he's such a talking-machine, and it would have been all over
New York before dinner-time. But you're one of the family, and you can
keep a secret."
"Absolutely! Silent tomb and what not."
"The reason I wanted that darned thing was because I've just got
engaged to a girl over in England, and I thought that, if I could
hand my father that china figure-thing with one hand and break the
news with the other, it might help a bit. She's the most wonderful
"I'll bet she is," said Archie, cordially.
"The trouble is she's in the chorus of one of the revues over
there, and Father is apt to kick. So I thought—oh, well, it's no good
worrying now. Come along where it's quiet, and I'll tell you all
"That'll be jolly," said Archie.
CHAPTER XI. SALVATORE CHOOSES THE
Archie reclaimed the family jewellery from its temporary home next
morning; and, having done so, sauntered back to the Cosmopolis. He
was surprised, on entering the lobby, to meet his father-in-law. More
surprising still, Mr. Brewster was manifestly in a mood of
extraordinary geniality. Archie could hardly believe his eyes when
the other waved cheerily to him—nor his ears a moment later when Mr.
Brewster, addressing him as "my boy," asked him how he was and
mentioned that the day was a warm one.
Obviously this jovial frame of mind must be taken advantage of; and
Archie's first thought was of the downtrodden Salvatore, to the tale
of whose wrongs he had listened so sympathetically on the previous
day. Now was plainly the moment for the waiter to submit his
grievance, before some ebb-tide caused the milk of human kindness to
flow out of Daniel Brewster. With a swift "Cheerio!" in his father-
in-law's direction, Archie bounded into the grill-room. Salvatore,
the hour for luncheon being imminent but not yet having arrived, was
standing against the far wall in an attitude of thought.
"Laddie!" cried Archie.
"A most extraordinary thing has happened. Good old Brewster has
suddenly popped up through a trap and is out in the lobby now. And
what's still more weird, he's apparently bucked."
"Braced, you know. In the pink. Pleased about something. If you go
to him now with that yarn of yours, you can't fail. He'll kiss you on
both cheeks and give you his bank-roll and collar-stud. Charge along
and ask the head-waiter if you can have ten minutes off."
Salvatore vanished in search of the potentate named, and Archie
returned to the lobby to bask in the unwonted sunshine.
"Well, well, well, what!" he said. "I thought you were at
"I came up this morning to meet a friend of mine," replied Mr.
Brewster genially. "Professor Binstead."
"Don't think I know him."
"Very interesting man," said Mr. Brewster, still with the same
uncanny amiability. "He's a dabbler in a good many things—science,
phrenology, antiques. I asked him to bid for me at a sale yesterday.
There was a little china figure—"
Archie's jaw fell.
"China figure?" he stammered feebly.
"Yes. The companion to one you may have noticed on my mantelpiece
upstairs. I have been trying to get the pair of them for years. I
should never have heard of this one if it had not been for that valet
of mine, Parker. Very good of him to let me know of it, considering I
had fired him. Ah, here is Binstead."-He moved to greet the small,
middle-aged man with the tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles who was
bustling across the lobby. "Well, Binstead, so you got it?"
"I suppose the price wasn't particularly stiff?"
"Twenty-three hundred!" Mr. Brewster seemed to reel in his tracks.
"You gave me carte blanche."
"Yes, but twenty-three hundred!"
"I could have got it for a few dollars, but unfortunately I was a
little late, and, when I arrived, some young fool had bid it up to a
thousand, and he stuck to me till I finally shook him off at twenty-
three hundred. Why, this is the very man! Is he a friend of yours?"
"More a relation than a friend, what? Son-in-law, don't you know!"
Mr. Brewster's amiability had vanished.
"What damned foolery have you been up to NOW?" he demanded. "Can't
I move a step without stubbing my toe on you? Why the devil did you
"We thought it would be rather a fruity scheme. We talked it over
and came to the conclusion that it was an egg. Wanted to get hold of
the rummy little object, don't you know, and surprise you."
"Lucille and I."
"But how did you hear of it at all?"
"Parker, the valet-chappie, you know, wrote me a letter about it."
"Parker! Didn't he tell you that he had told me the figure was to
"Absolutely not!" A sudden suspicion came to Archie. He was
normally a guileless young man, but even to him the extreme fishiness
of the part played by Herbert Parker had become apparent. "I say, you
know, it looks to me as if friend Parker had been having us all on a
bit, what? I mean to say it was jolly old Herb, who tipped your son
off— Bill, you know—to go and bid for the thing."
"Bill! Was Bill there?"
"Absolutely in person! We were bidding against each other like the
dickens till we managed to get together and get acquainted. And then
this bird—this gentleman—sailed in and started to slip it across
Professor Binstead chuckled—the care-free chuckle of a man who
sees all those around him smitten in the pocket, while he himself
"A very ingenious rogue, this Parker of yours, Brewster. His method
seems to have been simple but masterly. I have no doubt that either
he or a confederate obtained the figure and placed it with the
auctioneer, and then he ensured a good price for it by getting us all
to bid against each other. Very ingenious!"
Mr. Brewster struggled with his feelings. Then he seemed to
overcome them and to force himself to look on the bright side.
"Well, anyway," he said. "I've got the pair of figures, and that's
what I wanted. Is that it in that parcel?"
"This is it. I wouldn't trust an express company to deliver it.
Suppose we go up to your room and see how the two look side by side."
They crossed the lobby to the lift.-The cloud was still on Mr.
Brewster's brow as they stepped out and made their way to his suite.
Like most men who have risen from poverty to wealth by their own
exertions, Mr. Brewster objected to parting with his money
unnecessarily, and it was plain that that twenty-three hundred
dollars still rankled.
Mr. Brewster unlocked the door and crossed the room. Then,
suddenly, he halted, stared, and stared again. He sprang to the bell
and pressed it, then stood gurgling wordlessly.
"Anything wrong, old bean?" queried Archie, solicitously.
"Wrong! Wrong! It's gone!"
The floor-waiter had manifested himself silently in answer to the
bell, and was standing in the doorway.
"Simmons!" Mr. Brewster turned to him wildly. "Has anyone been in
this suite since I went away?"
"Nobody except your valet, sir—Parker. He said he had come to
fetch some things away. I supposed he had come from you, sir, with
Professor Binstead had unwrapped his parcel, and had placed the
Pongo on the table. There was a weighty silence. Archie picked up the
little china figure and balanced it on the palm of his hand. It was a
small thing, he reflected philosophically, but it had made quite a
stir in the world.
Mr. Brewster fermented for a while without speaking.
"So," he said, at last, in a voice trembling with self-pity, "I
have been to all this trouble—"
"And expense," put in Professor Binstead, gently.
"Merely to buy back something which had been stolen from me! And,
owing to your damned officiousness," he cried, turning on Archie, "I
have had to pay twenty-three hundred dollars for it! I don't know why
they make such a fuss about Job. Job never had anything like you
"Of course," argued Archie, "he had one or two boils."
"Boils! What are boils?"
"Dashed sorry," murmured Archie. "Acted for the best. Meant well.
And all that sort of rot!"
Professor Binstead's mind seemed occupied to the exclusion of all
other aspects of the affair, with the ingenuity of the absent Parker.
"A cunning scheme!" he said. "A very cunning scheme! This man
Parker must have a brain of no low order. I should like to feel his
"I should like to give him some!" said the stricken Mr. Brewster.
He breathed a deep breath. "Oh, well," he said, "situated as I am,
with a crook valet and an imbecile son-in-law, I suppose I ought to be
thankful that I've still got my own property, even if I have had to
pay twenty-three hundred dollars for the privilege of keeping it." He
rounded on Archie, who was in a reverie. The thought of the
unfortunate Bill had just crossed Archie's mind. It would be many
moons, many weary moons, before Mr. Brewster would be in a suitable
mood to listen sympathetically to the story of love's young dream.
"Give me that figure!"
Archie continued to toy absently with Pongo. He was wondering now
how best to break this sad occurrence to Lucille. It would be a
disappointment for the poor girl.
"GIVE ME THAT FIGURE!"
Archie started violently. There was an instant in which Pongo
seemed to hang suspended, like Mohammed's coffin, between heaven and
earth, then the force of gravity asserted itself. Pongo fell with a
sharp crack and disintegrated. And as it did so there was a knock at
the door, and in walked a dark, furtive person, who to the inflamed
vision of Mr. Daniel Brewster looked like something connected with
the executive staff of the Black Hand. With all time at his disposal,
the unfortunate Salvatore had selected this moment for stating his
"Get out!" bellowed Mr. Brewster. "I didn't ring for a waiter."
Archie, his mind reeling beneath the catastrophe, recovered himself
sufficiently to do the honours. It was at his instigation that
Salvatore was there, and, greatly as he wished that he could have
seen fit to choose a more auspicious moment for his business chat, he
felt compelled to do his best to see him through.
"Oh, I say, half a second," he said. "You don't quite understand.
As a matter of fact, this chappie is by way of being downtrodden and
oppressed and what not, and I suggested that he should get hold of
you and speak a few well-chosen words. Of course, if you'd rather—
some other time—"
But Mr. Brewster was not permitted to postpone the interview.
Before he could get his breath, Salvatore had begun to talk. He was a
strong, ambidextrous talker, whom it was hard to interrupt; and it
was not for some moments that Mr. Brewster succeeded in getting a
word in. When he did, he spoke to the point. Though not a linguist,
he had been able to follow the discourse closely enough to realise
that the waiter was dissatisfied with conditions in his hotel; and
Mr. Brewster, as has been indicated, had a short way with people who
criticised the Cosmopolis.
"You're fired!" said Mr. Brewster.
"Oh, I say!" protested Archie.
Salvatore muttered what sounded like a passage from Dante.
"Fired!" repeated Mr. Brewster resolutely. "And I wish to heaven,"
he added, eyeing his son-in-law malignantly, "I could fire you!"
"Well," said Professor Binstead cheerfully, breaking the grim
silence which followed this outburst, "if you will give me your
cheque, Brewster, I think I will be going. Two thousand three hundred
dollars. Make it open, if you will, and then I can run round the
corner and cash it before lunch. That will be capital!"
CHAPTER XII. BRIGHT EYES—AND A FLY
The Hermitage (unrivalled scenery, superb cuisine, Daniel Brewster,
proprietor) was a picturesque summer hotel in the green heart of the
mountains, built by Archie's father-in-law shortly after he assumed
control of the Cosmopolis. Mr. Brewster himself seldom went there,
preferring to concentrate his attention on his New York
establishment; and Archie and Lucille, breakfasting in the airy
dining-room some ten days after the incidents recorded in the last
chapter, had consequently to be content with two out of the three
advertised attractions of the place. Through the window at their side
quite a slab of the unrivalled scenery was visible; some of the superb
cuisine was already on the table; and the fact that the eye searched
in vain for Daniel Brewster, proprietor, filled Archie, at any rate,
with no sense of aching loss. He bore it with equanimity and even with
positive enthusiasm. In Archie's opinion, practically all a place
needed to make it an earthly Paradise was for Mr. Daniel Brewster to
be about forty-seven miles away from it.
It was at Lucille's suggestion that they had come to the Hermitage.
Never a human sunbeam, Mr. Brewster had shown such a bleak front to
the world, and particularly to his son-in-law, in the days following
the Pongo incident, that Lucille had thought that he and Archie would
for a time at least be better apart—a view with which her husband
cordially agreed. He had enjoyed his stay at the Hermitage, and now he
regarded the eternal hills with the comfortable affection of a healthy
man who is breakfasting well.
"It's going to be another perfectly topping day," he observed,
eyeing the shimmering landscape, from which the morning mists were
swiftly shredding away like faint puffs of smoke. "Just the day you
ought to have been here."
"Yes, it's too bad I've got to go. New York will be like an oven."
"Put it off."
"I can't, I'm afraid. I've a fitting."
Archie argued no further. He was a married man of old enough
standing to know the importance of fittings.
"Besides," said Lucille, "I want to see father." Archie repressed
an exclamation of astonishment. "I'll be back to-morrow evening. You
will be perfectly happy."
"Queen of my soul, you know I can't be happy with you away. You
"Yes?" murmured Lucille, appreciately. She never tired of hearing
Archie say this sort of thing.
Archie's voice had trailed off. He was looking across the room.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "What an awfully pretty woman!"
"Over there. Just coming in, I say, what wonderful eyes! I don't
think I ever saw such eyes. Did you notice her eyes? Sort of
flashing! Awfully pretty woman!"
Warm though the morning was, a suspicion of chill descended upon
the breakfast-table. A certain coldness seemed to come into Lucille's
face. She could not always share Archie's fresh young enthusiasms.
"Do you think so?"
"Wonderful figure, too!"
"Well, what I mean to say, fair to medium," said Archie, recovering
a certain amount of that intelligence which raises man above the
level of the beasts of the field. "Not the sort of type I admire
myself, of course."
"You know her, don't you?"
"Absolutely not and far from it," said Archie, hastily. "Never met
her in my life."
"You've seen her on the stage. Her name's Vera Silverton. We saw
"Of course, yes. So we did. I say, I wonder what she's doing here?
She ought to be in New York, rehearsing. I remember meeting what's-
his-name—you know—chappie who writes plays and what not—George
Benham—I remember meeting George Benham, and he told me she was
rehearsing in a piece of his called—I forget the name, but I know it
was called something or other. Well, why isn't she?"
"She probably lost her temper and broke her contract and came away.
She's always doing that sort of thing. She's known for it. She must
be a horrid woman."
"I don't want to talk about her. She used to be married to someone,
and she divorced him. And then she was married to someone else, and
he divorced her. And I'm certain her hair wasn't that colour two
years ago, and I don't think a woman ought to make up like that, and
her dress is all wrong for the country, and those pearls can't be
genuine, and I hate the way she rolls her eyes about, and pink
doesn't suit her a bit. I think she's an awful woman, and I wish you
wouldn't keep on talking about her."
"Right-o!" said Archie, dutifully.
They finished breakfast, and Lucille went up to pack her bag.
Archie strolled out on to the terrace outside the hotel, where he
smoked, communed with nature, and thought of Lucille. He always
thought of Lucille when he was alone, especially when he chanced to
find himself in poetic surroundings like those provided by the
unrivalled scenery encircling the Hotel Hermitage. The longer he was
married to her the more did the sacred institution seem to him a good
egg. Mr. Brewster might regard their marriage as one of the world's
most unfortunate incidents, but to Archie it was, and always had been,
a bit of all right. The more he thought of it the more did he marvel
that a girl like Lucille should have been content to link her lot
with that of a Class C specimen like himself. His meditations were,
in fact, precisely what a happily-married man's meditations ought to
He was roused from them by a species of exclamation or cry almost
at his elbow, and turned to find that the spectacular Miss Silverton
was standing beside him. Her dubious hair gleamed in the sunlight,
and one of the criticised eyes was screwed up. The other gazed at
Archie with an expression of appeal.
"There's something in my eye," she said.
"I wonder if you would mind? It would be so kind of you!"
Archie would have preferred to remove himself, but no man worthy of
the name can decline to come to the rescue of womanhood in distress.
To twist the lady's upper lid back and peer into it and jab at it
with the corner of his handkerchief was the only course open to him.
His conduct may be classed as not merely blameless but definitely
praiseworthy. King Arthur's knights used to do this sort of thing all
the time, and look what people think of them. Lucille, therefore,
coming out of the hotel just as the operation was concluded, ought not
to have felt the annoyance she did. But, of course, there is a certain
superficial intimacy about the attitude of a man who is taking a fly
out of a woman's eye which may excusably jar upon the sensibilities of
his wife. It is an attitude which suggests a sort of rapprochement or
camaraderie or, as Archie would have put it, what not.
"Thanks so much!" said Miss Silverton.
"Oh no, rather not," said Archie.
"Such a nuisance getting things in your eye."
"I'm always doing it!"
"But I don't often find anyone as clever as you to help me."
Lucille felt called upon to break in on this feast of reason and
flow of soul.
"Archie," she said, "if you go and get your clubs now, I shall just
have time to walk round with you before my train goes."
"Oh, ah!" said Archie, perceiving her for the first time. "Oh, ah,
yes, right-o, yes, yes, yes!"
On the way to the first tee it seemed to Archie that Lucille was
distrait and abstracted in her manner; and it occurred to him, not
for the first time in his life, what a poor support a clear
conscience is in moments of crisis. Dash it all, he didn't see what
else he could have done. Couldn't leave the poor female staggering
about the place with squads of flies wedged in her eyeball.
"Rotten thing getting a fly in your eye," he hazarded at length.
"Dashed awkward, I mean."
"Well, it's a very good way of dispensing with an introduction."
"Oh, I say! You don't mean you think—"
"She's a horrid woman!"
"Absolutely! Can't think what people see in her."
"Well, you seemed to enjoy fussing over her!"
"No, no! Nothing of the kind! She inspired me with absolute what-
d'you-call-it—the sort of thing chappies do get inspired with, you
"You were beaming all over your face."
"I wasn't. I was just screwing up my face because the sun was in my
"All sorts of things seem to be in people's eyes this morning!"
Archie was saddened. That this sort of misunderstanding should
have occurred on such a topping day and at a moment when they were to
be torn asunder for about thirty-six hours made him feel—well, it
gave him the pip. He had an idea that there were words which would
have straightened everything out, but he was not an eloquent young man
and could not find them. He felt aggrieved. Lucille, he considered,
ought to have known that he was immune as regarded females with
flashing eyes and experimentally-coloured hair. Why, dash it, he
could have extracted flies from the eyes of Cleopatra with one hand
and Helen of Troy with the other, simultaneously, without giving them
a second thought. It was in depressed mood that he played a listless
nine holes; nor had life brightened for him when he came back to the
hotel two hours later, after seeing Lucille off in the train to New
York. Never till now had they had anything remotely resembling a
quarrel. Life, Archie felt, was a bit of a wash-out. He was disturbed
and jumpy, and the sight of Miss Silverton, talking to somebody on a
settee in the corner of the hotel lobby, sent him shooting off at
right angles and brought him up with a bump against the desk behind
which the room-clerk sat.
The room-clerk, always of a chatty disposition, was saying
something to him, but Archie did not listen. He nodded mechanically.
It was something about his room. He caught the word "satisfactory."
"Oh, rather, quite!" said Archie.
A fussy devil, the room-clerk! He knew perfectly well that Archie
found his room satisfactory. These chappies gassed on like this so as
to try to make you feel that the management took a personal interest
in you. It was part of their job. Archie beamed absently and went in
to lunch. Lucille's empty seat stared at him mournfully, increasing
his sense of desolation.
He was half-way through his lunch, when the chair opposite ceased
to be vacant. Archie, transferring his gaze from the scenery outside
the window, perceived that his friend, George Benham, the playwright,
had materialised from nowhere and was now in his midst.
"Hallo!" he said.
George Benham was a grave young man whose spectacles gave him the
look of a mournful owl. He seemed to have something on his mind
besides the artistically straggling mop of black hair which swept
down over his brow. He sighed wearily, and ordered fish-pie.
"I thought I saw you come through the lobby just now," he said.
"Oh, was that you on the settee, talking to Miss Silverton?"
"She was talking to ME," said the playwright, moodily.
"What are you doing here?" asked Archie. He could have wished Mr.
Benham elsewhere, for he intruded on his gloom, but, the chappie
being amongst those present, it was only civil to talk to him. "I
thought you were in New York, watching the rehearsals of your jolly
"The rehearsals are hung up. And it looks as though there wasn't
going to be any drama. Good Lord!" cried George Benham, with honest
warmth, "with opportunities opening out before one on every side—
with life extending prizes to one with both hands—when you see
coal-heavers making fifty dollars a week and the fellows who clean
out the sewers going happy and singing about their work—why does a
man deliberately choose a job like writing plays? Job was the only
man that ever lived who was really qualified to write a play, and he
would have found it pretty tough going if his leading woman had been
anyone like Vera Silverton!"
Archie—and it was this fact, no doubt, which accounted for his
possession of such a large and varied circle of friends—was always
able to shelve his own troubles in order to listen to other people's
"Tell me all, laddie," he said. "Release the film! Has she walked
out on you?"
"Left us flat! How did you hear about it? Oh, she told you, of
Archie hastened to try to dispel the idea that he was on any such
terms of intimacy with Miss Silverton.
"No, no! My wife said she thought it must be something of that
nature or order when we saw her come in to breakfast. I mean to say,"
said Archie, reasoning closely, "woman can't come into breakfast here
and be rehearsing in New York at the same time. Why did she administer
the raspberry, old friend?"
Mr. Benham helped himself to fish-pie, and spoke dully through the
"Well, what happened was this. Knowing her as intimately as you
"I DON'T know her!"
"Well, anyway, it was like this. As you know, she has a dog—"
"I didn't know she had a dog," protested Archie. It seemed to him
that the world was in conspiracy to link him with this woman.
"Well, she has a dog. A beastly great whacking brute of a bulldog.
And she brings it to rehearsal." Mr. Benham's eyes filled with tears,
as in his emotion he swallowed a mouthful of fish-pie some
eighty-three degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it looked. In the
intermission caused by this disaster his agile mind skipped a few
chapters of the story, and, when he was able to speak again, he said,
"So then there was a lot of trouble. Everything broke loose!"
"Why?" Archie was puzzled. "Did the management object to her
bringing the dog to rehearsal?"
"A lot of good that would have done! She does what she likes in the
"Then why was there trouble?"
"You weren't listening," said Mr. Benham, reproachfully. "I told
you. This dog came snuffling up to where I was sitting—it was quite
dark in the body of the theatre, you know—and I got up to say
something about something that was happening on the stage, and
somehow I must have given it a push with my foot."
"I see," said Archie, beginning to get the run of the plot. "You
kicked her dog."
"Pushed it. Accidentally. With my foot."
"I understand. And when you brought off this kick—"
"Push," said Mr. Benham, austerely.
"This kick or push. When you administered this kick or push—"
"It was more a sort of light shove."
"Well, when you did whatever you did, the trouble started?"
Mr. Benham gave a slight shiver.
"She talked for a while, and then walked out, taking the dog with
her. You see, this wasn't the first time it had happened."
"Good Lord! Do you spend your whole time doing that sort of thing?"
"It wasn't me the first time. It was the stage-manager. He didn't
know whose dog it was, and it came waddling on to the stage, and he
gave it a sort of pat, a kind of flick—"
"NOT a slosh," corrected Mr. Benham, firmly. "You might call it a
tap—with the promptscript. Well, we had a lot of difficulty
smoothing her over that time. Still, we managed to do it, but she
said that if anything of the sort occurred again she would chuck up
"She must be fond of the dog," said Archie, for the first time
feeling a touch of goodwill and sympathy towards the lady.
"She's crazy about, it. That's what made it so awkward when I
happened—quite inadvertently—to give it this sort of accidental
shove. Well, we spent the rest of the day trying to get her on the
'phone at her apartment, and finally we heard that she had come here.
So I took the next train, and tried to persuade her to come back. She
wouldn't listen. And that's how matters stand."
"Pretty rotten!" said Archie, sympathetically.
"You can bet it's pretty rotten—for me. There's nobody else who
can play the part. Like a chump, I wrote the thing specially for her.
It means the play won't be produced at all, if she doesn't do it. So
you're my last hope!"
Archie, who was lighting a cigarette, nearly swallowed it.
"I thought you might persuade her. Point out to her what a lot
hangs on her coming back. Jolly her along, YOU know the sort of
"But, my dear old friend, I tell you I don't know her!"
Mr. Benham's eyes opened behind their zareba of glass.
"Well, she knows YOU. When you came through the lobby just now she
said that you were the only real human being she had ever met."
"Well, as a matter of fact, I did take a fly out of her eye. But—"
"You did? Well, then, the whole thing's simple. All you have to do
is to ask her how her eye is, and tell her she has the most beautiful
eyes you ever saw, and coo a bit."
"But, my dear old son!" The frightful programme which his friend
had mapped out stunned Archie. "I simply can't! Anything to oblige and
all that sort of thing, but when it comes to cooing, distinctly
"Nonsense! It isn't hard to coo."
"You don't understand, laddie. You're not a married man. I mean to
say, whatever you say for or against marriage—personally I'm all for
it and consider it a ripe egg—the fact remains that it practically
makes a chappie a spent force as a cooer. I don't want to dish you in
any way, old bean, but I must firmly and resolutely decline to coo."
Mr. Benham rose and looked at his watch.
"I'll have to be moving," he said. "I've got to get back to New
York and report. I'll tell them that I haven't been able to do
anything myself, but that I've left the matter in good hands. I know
you will do your best."
"Think," said Mr. Benham, solemnly, "of all that depends on it! The
other actors! The small-part people thrown out of a job! Myself—but
no! Perhaps you had better touch very lightly or not at all on my
connection with the thing. Well, you know how to handle it. I feel I
can leave it to you. Pitch it strong! Good-bye, my dear old man, and
a thousand thanks. I'll do the same for you another time." He moved
towards the door, leaving Archie transfixed. Half-way there he turned
and came back. "Oh, by the way," he said, "my lunch. Have it put on
your bill, will you? I haven't time to stay and settle. Good- bye!
CHAPTER XIII. RALLYING ROUND PERCY
It amazed Archie through the whole of a long afternoon to reflect
how swiftly and unexpectedly the blue and brilliant sky of life can
cloud over and with what abruptness a man who fancies that his feet
are on solid ground can find himself immersed in Fate's gumbo. He
recalled, with the bitterness with which one does recall such things,
that that morning he had risen from his bed without a care in the
world, his happiness unruffled even by the thought that Lucille would
be leaving him for a short space. He had sung in his bath. Yes, he had
chirruped like a bally linnet. And now—
Some men would have dismissed the unfortunate affairs of Mr. George
Benham from their mind as having nothing to do with themselves, but
Archie had never been made of this stern stuff. The fact that Mr.
Benham, apart from being an agreeable companion with whom he had
lunched occasionally in New York, had no claims upon him affected him
little. He hated to see his fellowman in trouble. On the other hand,
what could he do? To seek Miss Silverton out and plead with her—even
if he did it without cooing—would undoubtedly establish an intimacy
between them which, instinct told him, might tinge her manner after
Lucille's return with just that suggestion of Auld Lang Syne which
makes things so awkward.
His whole being shrank from extending to Miss Silverton that inch
which the female artistic temperament is so apt to turn into an ell;
and when, just as he was about to go in to dinner, he met her in the
lobby and she smiled brightly at him and informed him that her eye
was now completely recovered, he shied away like a startled mustang
of the prairie, and, abandoning his intention of worrying the table
d'hote in the same room with the amiable creature, tottered off to
the smoking-room, where he did the best he could with sandwiches and
Having got through the time as best he could till eleven o'clock,
he went up to bed.
The room to which he and Lucille had been assigned by the
management was on the second floor, pleasantly sunny by day and at
night filled with cool and heartening fragrance of the pines. Hitherto
Archie had always enjoyed taking a final smoke on the balcony
overlooking the woods, but, to-night such was his mental stress that
he prepared to go to bed directly he had closed the door. He turned to
the cupboard to get his pyjamas.
His first thought, when even after a second scrutiny no pyjamas
were visible, was that this was merely another of those things which
happen on days when life goes wrong. He raked the cupboard for a
third time with an annoyed eye. From every hook hung various garments
of Lucille's, but no pyjamas. He was breathing a soft malediction
preparatory to embarking on a point-to-point hunt for his missing
property, when something in the cupboard caught his eye and held him
for a moment puzzled.
He could have sworn that Lucille did not possess a mauve neglige.
Why, she had told him a dozen times that mauve was a colour which she
did not like. He frowned perplexedly; and as he did so, from near the
window came a soft cough.
Archie spun round and subjected the room to as close a scrutiny as
that which he had bestowed upon the cupboard. Nothing was visible.
The window opening on to the balcony gaped wide. The balcony was
This time there was no possibility of error. The cough had come
from the immediate neighbourhood of the window.
Archie was conscious of a pringly sensation about the roots of his
closely-cropped back-hair, as he moved cautiously across the room.
The affair was becoming uncanny; and, as he tip-toed towards the
window, old ghost stories, read in lighter moments before cheerful
fires with plenty of light in the room, flitted through his mind. He
had the feeling—precisely as every chappie in those stories had
had—that he was not alone.
Nor was he. In a basket behind an arm-chair, curled up, with his
massive chin resting on the edge of the wicker-work, lay a fine
"Urrf!" said the bulldog.
"Good God!" said Archie.
There was a lengthy pause in which the bulldog looked earnestly at
Archie and Archie looked earnestly at the bulldog.
Normally, Archie was a dog-lover. His hurry was never so great as
to prevent him stopping, when in the street, and introducing himself
to any dog he met. In a strange house, his first act was to assemble
the canine population, roll it on its back or backs, and punch it in
the ribs. As a boy, his earliest ambition had been to become a
veterinary surgeon; and, though the years had cheated him of his
career, he knew all about dogs, their points, their manners, their
customs, and their treatment in sickness and in health. In short, he
loved dogs, and, had they met under happier conditions, he would
undoubtedly have been on excellent terms with this one within the
space of a minute. But, as things were, he abstained from
fraternising and continued to goggle dumbly.
And then his eye, wandering aside, collided with the following
objects: a fluffy pink dressing-gown, hung over the back of a chair,
an entirely strange suit-case, and, on the bureau, a photograph in a
silver frame of a stout gentleman in evening-dress whom he had never
seen before in his life.
Much has been written of the emotions of the wanderer who,
returning to his childhood home, finds it altered out of all
recognition; but poets have neglected the theme—far more poignant—of
the man who goes up to his room in an hotel and finds it full of
somebody else's dressing-gowns and bulldogs.
Bulldogs! Archie's heart jumped sideways and upwards with a
wiggling movement, turning two somersaults, and stopped beating. The
hideous truth, working its way slowly through the concrete, had at
last penetrated to his brain. He was not only in somebody else's room,
and a woman's at that. He was in the room belonging to Miss Vera
He could not understand it. He would have been prepared to stake
the last cent he could borrow from his father-in-law on the fact that
he had made no error in the number over the door. Yet, nevertheless,
such was the case, and, below par though his faculties were at the
moment, he was sufficiently alert to perceive that it behoved him to
He leaped to the door, and, as he did so, the handle began to turn.
The cloud which had settled on Archie's mind lifted abruptly. For
an instant he was enabled to think about a hundred times more quickly
than was his leisurely wont. Good fortune had brought him to within
easy reach of the electric-light switch. He snapped it back, and was
in darkness. Then, diving silently and swiftly to the floor, he
wriggled under the bed. The thud of his head against what appeared to
be some sort of joist or support, unless it had been placed there by
the maker as a practical joke, on the chance of this kind of thing
happening some day, coincided with the creak of the opening door. Then
the light was switched on again, and the bulldog in the corner gave a
"And how is mamma's precious angel?"
Rightly concluding that the remark had not been addressed to
himself and that no social obligation demanded that he reply, Archie
pressed his cheek against the boards and said nothing. The question
was not repeated, but from the other side of the room came the sound
of a patted dog.
"Did he think his muzzer had fallen down dead and was never coming
The beautiful picture which these words conjured up filled Archie
with that yearning for the might-have-been which is always so
painful. He was finding his position physically as well as mentally
distressing. It was cramped under the bed, and the boards were harder
than anything he had ever encountered. Also, it appeared to be the
practice of the housemaids at the Hotel Hermitage to use the space
below the beds as a depository for all the dust which they swept off
the carpet, and much of this was insinuating itself into his nose and
mouth. The two things which Archie would have liked most to do at that
moment were first to kill Miss Silverton—if possible, painfully—and
then to spend the remainder of his life sneezing.
After a prolonged period he heard a drawer open, and noted the fact
as promising. As the old married man, he presumed that it signified
the putting away of hair-pins. About now the dashed woman would be
looking at herself in the glass with her hair down. Then she would
brush it. Then she would twiddle it up into thingummies. Say, ten
minutes for this. And after that she would go to bed and turn out the
light, and he would be able, after giving her a bit of time to go to
sleep, to creep out and leg it. Allowing at a conservative estimate
Archie stiffened. For an instant a feeble hope came to him that
this remark, like the others, might be addressed to the dog.
"Come out from under that bed!" said a stern voice. "And mind how
you come! I've got a pistol!"
"Well, I mean to say, you know," said Archie, in a propitiatory
voice, emerging from his lair like a tortoise and smiling as
winningly as a man can who has just bumped his head against the leg
of a bed, "I suppose all this seems fairly rummy, but—"
"For the love of Mike!" said Miss Silverton.
The point seemed to Archie well taken and the comment on the
situation neatly expressed.
"What are you doing in my room?"
"Well, if it comes to that, you know—shouldn't have mentioned it
if you hadn't brought the subject up in the course of general chit-
chat—what are you doing in mine?"
"Well, apparently there's been a bloomer of some species somewhere,
but this was the room I had last night," said Archie.
"But the desk-clerk said that he had asked you if it would be quite
satisfactory to you giving it up to me, and you said yes. I come here
every summer, when I'm not working, and I always have this room."
"By Jove! I remember now. The chappie did say something to me about
the room, but I was thinking of something else and it rather went
over the top. So that's what he was talking about, was it?"
Miss Silverton was frowning. A moving-picture director, scanning
her face, would have perceived that she was registering
"Nothing breaks right for me in this darned world," she said,
regretfully. "When I caught sight of your leg sticking out from under
the bed, I did think that everything was all lined up for a real find
ad. at last. I could close my eyes and see the thing in the papers. On
the front page, with photographs: 'Plucky Actress Captures Burglar.'
"Fearfully sorry, you know!"
"I just needed something like that. I've got a Press-agent, and I
will say for him that he eats well and sleeps well and has just
enough intelligence to cash his monthly cheque without forgetting
what he went into the bank for, but outside of that you can take it
from me he's not one of the world's workers! He's about as much solid
use to a girl with aspirations as a pain in the lower ribs. It's three
weeks since he got me into print at all, and then the brightest thing
he could thing up was that my favourite breakfast- fruit was an apple.
Well, I ask you!"
"Rotten!" said Archie.
"I did think that for once my guardian angel had gone back to work
and was doing something for me. 'Stage Star and Midnight Marauder,' "
murmured Miss Silverton, wistfully. "'Footlight Favourite Foils
"Bit thick!" agreed Archie, sympathetically. "Well, you'll probably
be wanting to get to bed and all that sort of rot, so I may as well
be popping, what! Cheerio!"
A sudden gleam came into Miss Silverton's compelling eyes.
"Wait! I've got an idea!" The wistful sadness had gone from her
manner. She was bright and alert. "Sit down!"
"Sure. Sit down and take the chill off the arm-chair. I've thought
Archie sat down as directed. At his elbow the bulldog eyed him
gravely from the basket.
"Do they know you in this hotel?"
"Know me? Well, I've been here about a week."
"I mean, do they know who you are? Do they know you're a good
"Well, if it comes to that, I suppose they don't. But—"
"Fine!" said Miss Silverton, appreciatively. "Then it's all right.
We can carry on!"
"Why, sure! All I want is to get the thing into the papers. It
doesn't matter to me if it turns out later that there was a mistake
and that you weren't a burglar trying for my jewels after all. It
makes just as good a story either way. I can't think why that never
struck me before. Here have I been kicking because you weren't a real
burglar, when it doesn't amount to a hill of beans whether you are or
not. All I've got to do is to rush out and yell and rouse the hotel,
and they come in and pinch you, and I give the story to the papers,
and everything's fine!"
Archie leaped from his chair.
"I say! What!"
"What's on your mind?" enquired Miss Silverton, considerately.
"Don't you think it's a nifty scheme?"
"Nifty! My dear old soul! It's frightful!"
"Can't see what's wrong with it," grumbled Miss Silverton. "After
I've had someone get New York on the long-distance 'phone and give
the story to the papers you can explain, and they'll let you out.
Surely to goodness you don't object, as a personal favour to me, to
spending an hour or two in a cell? Why, probably they haven't got a
prison at all out in these parts, and you'll simply be locked in a
room. A child of ten could do it on his head," said Miss Silverton.
"A child of six," she emended.
"But, dash it—I mean—what I mean to say—I'm married!"
"Yes?" said Miss Silverton, with the politeness of faint interest.
"I've been married myself. I wouldn't say it's altogether a bad
thing, mind you, for those that like it, but a little of it goes a
long way. My first husband," she proceeded, reminiscently, "was a
travelling man. I gave him a two-weeks' try-out, and then I told him
to go on travelling. My second husband—now, HE wasn't a gentleman in
any sense of the word. I remember once—"
"You don't grasp the point. The jolly old point! You fail to grasp
it. If this bally thing comes out, my wife will be most frightfully
Miss Silverton regarded him with pained surprise.
"Do you mean to say you would let a little thing like that stand in
the way of my getting on the front page of all the papers—WITH
photographs? Where's your chivalry?"
"Never mind my dashed chivalry!"
"Besides, what does it matter if she does get a little sore? She'll
soon get over it. You can put that right. Buy her a box of candy. Not
that I'm strong for candy myself. What I always say is, it may taste
good, but look what it does to your hips! I give you my honest word
that, when I gave up eating candy, I lost eleven ounces the first
week. My second husband—no, I'm a liar, it was my third—my third
husband said—Say, what's the big idea? Where are you going?"
"Out!" said Archie, firmly. "Bally out!"
A dangerous light flickered in Miss Silverton's eyes.
"That'll be all of that!" she said, raising the pistol. "You stay
right where you are, or I'll fire!"
"I mean it!"
"My dear old soul," said Archie, "in the recent unpleasantness in
France I had chappies popping off things like that at me all day and
every day for close on five years, and here I am, what! I mean to
say, if I've got to choose between staying here and being pinched in
your room by the local constabulary and having the dashed thing get
into the papers and all sorts of trouble happening, and my wife
getting the wind up and—I say, if I've got to choose—"
"Suck a lozenge and start again!" said Miss Silverton.
"Well, what I mean to say is, I'd much rather take a chance of
getting a bullet in the old bean than that. So loose it off and the
best o' luck!"
Miss Silverton lowered the pistol, sank into a chair, and burst
"I think you're the meanest man I ever met!" she sobbed. "You know
perfectly well the bang would send me into a fit!"
"In that case," said Archie, relieved, "cheerio, good luck,
pip-pip, toodle-oo, and good-bye-ee! I'll be shifting!"
"Yes, you will!" cried Miss Silverton, energetically, recovering
with amazing swiftness from her collapse. "Yes, you will, I by no
means suppose! You think, just because I'm no champion with a pistol,
I'm helpless. You wait! Percy!"
"My name is not Percy."
"I never said it was. Percy! Percy, come to muzzer!"
There was a creaking rustle from behind the arm-chair. A heavy body
flopped on the carpet. Out into the room, heaving himself along as
though sleep had stiffened his joints, and breathing stertorously
through his tilted nose, moved the fine bulldog. Seen in the open, he
looked even more formidable than he had done in his basket.
"Guard him, Percy! Good dog, guard him! Oh, heavens! What's the
matter with him?"
And with these words the emotional woman, uttering a wail of
anguish, flung herself on the floor beside the animal.
Percy was, indeed, in manifestly bad shape. He seemed quite unable
to drag his limbs across the room. There was a curious arch in his
back, and, as his mistress touched him, he cried out plaintively,
"Percy! Oh, what IS the matter with him? His nose is burning!"
Now was the time, with both sections of the enemy's forces
occupied, for Archie to have departed softly from the room. But never,
since the day when at the age of eleven he had carried a large, damp,
and muddy terrier with a sore foot three miles and deposited him on
the best sofa in his mother's drawing-room, had he been able to ignore
the spectacle of a dog in trouble.
"He does look bad, what!"
"He's dying! Oh, he's dying! Is it distemper? He's never had
Archie regarded the sufferer with the grave eye of the expert. He
shook his head.
"It's not that," he said. "Dogs with distemper make a sort of
"But he IS making a snifting noise!"
"No, he's making a snuffling noise. Great difference between
snuffling and snifting. Not the same thing at all. I mean to say,
when they snift they snift, and when they snuffle they—as it were—
snuffle. That's how you can tell. If you ask ME"—he passed his hand
over the dog's back. Percy uttered another cry. "I know what's the
matter with him."
"A brute of a man kicked him at rehearsal. Do you think he's
"It's rheumatism," said Archie. "Jolly old rheumatism. That's all
that's the trouble."
"Are you sure?"
"But what can I do?"
"Give him a good hot bath, and mind and dry him well. He'll have a
good sleep then, and won't have any pain. Then, first thing to-
morrow, you want to give him salicylate of soda."
"I'll never remember that."-"I'll write it down for you. You ought
to give him from ten to twenty grains three times a day in an ounce
of water. And rub him with any good embrocation."
"And he won't die?"
"Die! He'll live to be as old as you are!-I mean to say—"
"I could kiss you!" said Miss Silverton, emotionally.
Archie backed hastily.
"No, no, absolutely not! Nothing like that required, really!"
"You're a darling!"
"Yes. I mean no. No, no, really!"
"I don't know what to say. What can I say?"
"Good night," said Archie.
"I wish there was something I could do! If you hadn't been here, I
should have gone off my head!"
A great idea flashed across Archie's brain.
"Do you really want to do something?"
"Then I do wish, like a dear sweet soul, you would pop straight
back to New York to-morrow and go on with those rehearsals."
Miss Silverton shook her head.
"I can't do that!"
"Oh, right-o! But it isn't much to ask, what!"
"Not much to ask! I'll never forgive that man for kicking Percy!"
"Now listen, dear old soul. You've got the story all wrong. As a
matter of fact, jolly old Benham told me himself that he has the
greatest esteem and respect for Percy, and wouldn't have kicked him
for the world. And, you know it was more a sort of push than a kick.
You might almost call it a light shove. The fact is, it was beastly
dark in the theatre, and he was legging it sideways for some reason
or other, no doubt with the best motives, and unfortunately he
happened to stub his toe on the poor old bean."
"Then why didn't he say so?"
"As far as I could make out, you didn't give him a chance."
Miss Silverton wavered.
"I always hate going back after I've walked out on a show," she
said. "It seems so weak!"
"Not a bit of it! They'll give three hearty cheers and think you a
topper. Besides, you've got to go to New York in any case. To take
Percy to a vet., you know, what!"
"Of course. How right you always are!" Miss Silverton hesitated
again. "Would you really be glad if I went back to the show?"
"I'd go singing about the hotel! Great pal of mine, Benham. A
thoroughly cheery old bean, and very cut up about the whole affair.
Besides, think of all the coves thrown out of work—the thingummabobs
and the poor what-d'you-call-'ems!"
"You'll do it?"
"I say, you really are one of the best! Absolutely like mother
made! That's fine! Well, I think I'll be saying good night."
"Good night. And thank you so much!"
"Oh, no, rather not!"
Archie moved to the door.
"Oh, by the way."
"If I were you, I think I should catch the very first train you can
get to New York.-You see—er—you ought to take Percy to the vet. as
soon as ever you can."
"You really do think of everything," said Miss Silverton.
"Yes," said Archie, meditatively.
CHAPTER XIV. THE SAD CASE OF LOONEY
Archie was a simple soul, and, as is the case with most simple
souls, gratitude came easily to him. He appreciated kind treatment.
And when, on the following day, Lucille returned to the Hermitage,
all smiles and affection, and made no further reference to Beauty's
Eyes and the flies that got into them, he was conscious of a keen
desire to show some solid recognition of this magnanimity. Few wives,
he was aware, could have had the nobility and what not to refrain from
occasionally turning the conversation in the direction of the
above-mentioned topics. It had not needed this behaviour on her part
to convince him that Lucille was a topper and a corker and one of the
very best, for he had been cognisant of these facts since the first
moment he had met her: but what he did feel was that she deserved to
be rewarded in no uncertain manner. And it seemed a happy coincidence
to him that her birthday should be coming along in the next week or
so. Surely, felt Archie, he could whack up some sort of a not unjuicy
gift for that occasion—something pretty ripe that would make a
substantial hit with the dear girl. Surely something would come along
to relieve his chronic impecuniosity for just sufficient length of
time to enable him to spread himself on this great occasion.
And, as if in direct answer to prayer, an almost forgotten aunt in
England suddenly, out of an absolutely blue sky, shot no less a sum
than five hundred dollars across the ocean. The present was so lavish
and unexpected that Archie had the awed feeling of one who
participates in a miracle. He felt, like Herbert Parker, that the
righteous was not forsaken. It was the sort of thing that restored a
fellow's faith in human nature. For nearly a week he went about in a
happy trance: and when, by thrift and enterprise—that is to say, by
betting Reggie van Tuyl that the New York Giants would win the
opening game of the series against the Pittsburg baseball team—he
contrived to double his capital, what it amounted to was simply that
life had nothing more to offer. He was actually in a position to go
to a thousand dollars for Lucille's birthday present. He gathered in
Mr. van Tuyl, of whose taste in these matters he had a high opinion,
and dragged him off to a jeweller's on Broadway.
The jeweller, a stout, comfortable man, leaned on the counter and
fingered lovingly the bracelet which he had lifted out of its nest of
blue plush. Archie, leaning on the other side of the counter,
inspected the bracelet searchingly, wishing that he knew more about
these things; for he had rather a sort of idea that the merchant was
scheming to do him in the eyeball. In a chair by his side, Reggie van
Tuyl, half asleep as usual, yawned despondently. He had permitted
Archie to lug him into this shop; and he wanted to buy something and
go. Any form of sustained concentration fatigued Reggie.
"Now this," said the jeweller, "I could do at eight hundred and
"Grab it!" murmured Mr. van Tuyl.
The jeweller eyed him approvingly, a man after his own heart; but
Archie looked doubtful. It was all very well for Reggie to tell him
to grab it in that careless way. Reggie was a dashed millionaire, and
no doubt bought bracelets by the pound or the gross or what not; but
he himself was in an entirely different position.
"Eight hundred and fifty dollars!" he said, hesitating.
"Worth it," mumbled Reggie van Tuyl.
"More than worth it," amended the jeweller. "I can assure you that
it is better value than you could get anywhere on Fifth Avenue."
"Yes?" said Archie. He took the bracelet and twiddled it
thoughtfully. "Well, my dear old jeweller, one can't say fairer than
that, can one—or two, as the case may be!" He frowned. "Oh, well,
all right! But it's rummy that women are so fearfully keen on these
little thingummies, isn't it? I mean to say, can't see what they see
in them. Stones, and all that. Still, there, it is, of course!"
"There," said the jeweller, "as you say, it is, sir."
"Yes, there it is!"
"Yes, there it is," said the jeweller, "fortunately for people in
my line of business. Will you take it with you, sir?"
"No. No, not take it with me. The fact is, you know, my wife's
coming back from the country to-night, and it's her birthday to-
morrow, and the thing's for her, and, if it was popping about the
place to-night, she might see it, and it would sort of spoil the
surprise. I mean to say, she doesn't know I'm giving it her, and all
"Besides," said Reggie, achieving a certain animation now that the
tedious business interview was concluded, "going to the ball-game
this afternoon—might get pocket picked—yes, better have it sent."
"Where shall I send it, sir?"
"Eh? Oh, shoot it along to Mrs. Archibald Moffam, at the
Cosmopolis. Not to-day, you know. Buzz it in first thing to-morrow."
Having completed the satisfactory deal, the jeweller threw off the
business manner and became chatty.
"So you are going to the ball-game? It should be an interesting
Reggie van Tuyl, now—by his own standards—completely awake, took
exception to this remark.
"Not a bit of it!" he said, decidedly. "No contest! Can't call it a
contest! Walkover for the Pirates!"
Archie was stung to the quick. There is that about baseball which
arouses enthusiasm and the partisan spirit in the unlikeliest bosoms.
It is almost impossible for a man to live in America and not become
gripped by the game; and Archie had long been one of its warmest
adherents. He was a whole-hearted supporter of the Giants, and his
only grievance against Reggie, in other respects an estimable young
man, was that the latter, whose money had been inherited from
steel-mills in that city, had an absurd regard for the Pirates of
"What absolute bally rot!" he exclaimed. "Look what the Giants did
to them yesterday!"
"Yesterday isn't to-day," said Reggie.
"No, it'll be a jolly sight worse," said Archie. "Looney Biddle'll
be pitching for the Giants to-day."
"That's just what I mean. The Pirates have got him rattled. Look
what happened last time."
Archie understood, and his generous nature chafed at the innuendo.
Looney Biddle—so-called by an affectionately admiring public as the
result of certain marked eccentricities—was beyond dispute the
greatest left-handed pitcher New York had possessed in the last
decade. But there was one blot on Mr. Biddle's otherwise stainless
scutcheon. Five weeks before, on the occasion of the Giants' invasion
of Pittsburg, he had gone mysteriously to pieces. Few native-born
partisans, brought up to baseball from the cradle, had been plunged
into a profounder gloom on that occasion than Archie; but his soul
revolted at the thought that that sort of thing could ever happen
"I'm not saying," continued Reggie, "that Biddle isn't a very fair
pitcher, but it's cruel to send him against the Pirates, and somebody
ought to stop it. His best friends should interfere. Once a team gets
a pitcher rattled, he's never any good against them again. He loses
The jeweller nodded approval of this sentiment.
"They never come back," he said, sententiously.
The fighting blood of the Moffams was now thoroughly stirred.
Archie eyed his friend sternly. Reggie was a good chap—in many
respects an extremely sound egg—but he must not be allowed to talk
rot of this description about the greatest left-handed pitcher of the
"It seems to me, old companion," he said, "that a small bet is
indicated at this juncture. How about it?"
"Don't want to take your money."
"You won't have to! In the cool twilight of the merry old summer
evening I, friend of my youth and companion of my riper years, shall
be trousering yours."
Reggie yawned. The day was very hot, and this argument was making
him feel sleepy again.
"Well, just as you like, of course. Double or quits on yesterday's
bet, if that suits you."
For a moment Archie hesitated. Firm as his faith was in Mr.
Biddle's stout left arm, he had not intended to do the thing on quite
this scale. That thousand dollars of his was earmarked for Lucille's
birthday present, and he doubted whether he ought to risk it. Then
the thought that the honour of New York was in his hands decided him.
Besides, the risk was negligible. Betting on Looney Biddle was like
betting on the probable rise of the sun in the east. The thing began
to seem to Archie a rather unusually sound and conservative
investment. He remembered that the jeweller, until he drew him firmly
but kindly to earth and urged him to curb his exuberance and talk
business on a reasonable plane, had started brandishing bracelets that
cost about two thousand. There would be time to pop in at the shop
this evening after the game and change the one he had selected for one
of those. Nothing was too good for Lucille on her birthday.
"Right-o!" he said. "Make it so, old friend!"
Archie walked back to the Cosmopolis. No misgivings came to mar his
perfect contentment. He felt no qualms about separating Reggie from
another thousand dollars. Except for a little small change in the
possession of the Messrs. Rockefeller and Vincent Astor, Reggie had
all the money in the world and could afford to lose. He hummed a gay
air as he entered the lobby and crossed to the cigar-stand to buy a
few cigarettes to see him through the afternoon.
The girl behind the cigar counter welcomed him with a bright smile.
Archie was popular with all the employes of the Cosmopolis.
"'S a great day, Mr. Moffam!"
"One of the brightest and best," Agreed Archie. "Could you dig me
out two, or possibly three, cigarettes of the usual description? I
shall want something to smoke at the ball-game."
"You going to the ball-game?"
"Rather! Wouldn't miss it for a fortune."
"Absolutely no! Not with jolly old Biddle pitching."
The cigar-stand girl laughed amusedly.
"Is he pitching this afternoon? Say, that feller's a nut? D'you
"Know him? Well, I've seen him pitch and so forth."
"I've got a girl friend who's engaged to him!"
Archie looked at her with positive respect. It would have been more
dramatic, of course, if she had been engaged to the great man
herself, but still the mere fact that she had a girl friend in that
astounding position gave her a sort of halo.
"No, really!" he said. "I say, by Jove, really! Fancy that!"
"Yes, she's engaged to him all right. Been engaged close on a
coupla months now."
"I say! That's frightfully interesting! Fearfully interesting,
"It's funny about that guy," said the cigar-stand girl. "He's a
nut! The fellow who said there's plenty of room at the top must have
been thinking of Gus Biddle's head! He's crazy about m' girl friend,
y' know, and, whenever they have a fuss, it seems like he sort of
flies right off the handle."
"Goes in off the deep end, eh?"
"Yes, SIR! Loses what little sense he's got. Why, the last time him
and m' girl friend got to scrapping was when he was going on to
Pittsburg to play, about a month ago. He'd been out with her the day
he left for there, and he had a grouch or something, and he started
making low, sneaky cracks about her Uncle Sigsbee. Well, m' girl
friend's got a nice disposition, but she c'n get mad, and she just
left him flat and told him all was over. And he went off to
Pittsburg, and, when he started in to pitch the opening game, he just
couldn't keep his mind on his job, and look what them assassins done
to him! Five runs in the first innings! Yessir, he's a nut all right!"
Archie was deeply concerned. So this was the explanation of that
mysterious disaster, that weird tragedy which had puzzled the
sporting press from coast to coast.
"Good God! Is he often taken like that?"
"Oh, he's all right when he hasn't had a fuss with m' girl friend,"
said the cigar-stand girl, indifferently. Her interest in baseball
was tepid. Women are too often like this—mere butterflies, with no
concern for the deeper side of life.
"Yes, but I say! What I mean to say, you know! Are they pretty
pally now? The good old Dove of Peace flapping its little wings fairly
briskly and all that?"
"Oh, I guess everything's nice and smooth just now. I seen m' girl
friend yesterday, and Gus was taking her to the movies last night, so
I guess everything's nice and smooth."
Archie breathed a sigh of relief.
"Took her to the movies, did he? Stout fellow!"
"I was at the funniest picture last week," said the cigar-stand
girl. "Honest, it was a scream! It was like this—"
Archie listened politely; then went in to get a bite of lunch. His
equanimity, shaken by the discovery of the rift in the peerless one's
armour, was restored. Good old Biddle had taken the girl to the movies
last night. Probably he had squeezed her hand a goodish bit in the
dark. With what result? Why, the fellow would be feeling like one of
those chappies who used to joust for the smiles of females in the
Middle Ages. What he meant to say, presumably the girl would be at the
game this afternoon, whooping him on, and good old Biddle would be so
full of beans and buck that there would be no holding him.
Encouraged by these thoughts, Archie lunched with an untroubled
mind. Luncheon concluded, he proceeded to the lobby to buy back his
hat and stick from the boy brigand with whom he had left them. It was
while he was conducting this financial operation that he observed that
at the cigar-stand, which adjoined the coat-and-hat alcove, his friend
behind the counter had become engaged in conversation with another
This was a determined looking young woman in a blue dress and a
large hat of a bold and flowery species, Archie happening to attract
her attention, she gave him a glance out of a pair of fine brown
eyes, then, as if she did not think much of him, turned to her
companion and resumed their conversation—which, being of an
essentially private and intimate nature, she conducted, after the
manner of her kind, in a ringing soprano which penetrated into every
corner of the lobby. Archie, waiting while the brigand reluctantly
made change for a dollar bill, was privileged to hear every word.
"Right from the start I seen he was in a ugly mood. YOU know how he
gets, dearie! Chewing his upper lip and looking at you as if you were
so much dirt beneath his feet! How was _I_ to know he'd lost fifteen
dollars fifty-five playing poker, and anyway, I don't see where he
gets a licence to work off his grouches on me. And I told him so. I
said to him, 'Gus,' I said, 'if you can't be bright and smiling and
cheerful when you take me out, why do you come round at all? Was I
wrong or right, dearie?"
The girl behind the counter heartily endorsed her conduct. "Once
you let a man think he could use you as a door-mat, where were you?"
"What happened then, honey?"
"Well, after that we went to the movies."
Archie started convulsively. The change from his dollar-bill leaped
in his hand. Some of it sprang overboard and tinkled across the
floor, with the brigand in pursuit. A monstrous suspicion had begun,
to take root in his mind.
"Well, we got good seats, but—well, you know how it is, once
things start going wrong. You know that hat of mine, the one with the
daisies and cherries and the feather—I'd taken it off and given it
him to hold when we went in, and what do you think that fell'r'd
done? Put it on the floor and crammed it under the seat, just to save
himself the trouble of holding it on his lap! And, when I showed him I
was upset, all he said was that he was a pitcher and not a hatstand!"
Archie was paralysed. He paid no attention to the hat-check boy,
who was trying to induce him to accept treasure-trove to the amount of
forty-five cents. His whole being was concentrated on this frightful
tragedy which had burst upon him like a tidal wave. No possible room
for doubt remained. "Gus" was the only Gus in New York that mattered,
and this resolute and injured female before him was the Girl Friend,
in whose slim hands rested the happiness of New York's baseball
followers, the destiny of the unconscious Giants, and the fate of his
thousand dollars. A strangled croak proceeded from his parched lips.
"Well, I didn't say anything at the moment. It just shows how them
movies can work on a girl's feelings. It was a Bryant Washburn film,
and somehow, whenever I see him on the screen, nothing else seems to
matter. I just get that goo-ey feeling, and couldn't start a fight if
you asked me to. So we go off to have a soda, and I said to him, 'That
sure was a lovely film, Gus!' and would you believe me, he says
straight out that he didn't think it was such a much, and he thought
Bryant Washburn was a pill! A pill!" The Girl Friend's penetrating
voice shook with emotion.
"He never!" exclaimed the shocked cigar-stand girl.
"He did, if I die the next moment! I wasn't more than half-way
through my vanilla and maple, but I got up without a word and left
him. And I ain't seen a sight of him since. So there you are, dearie!
Was I right or wrong?"
The cigar-stand girl gave unqualified approval. What men like Gus
Biddle needed for the salvation of their souls was an occasional good
jolt right where it would do most good.
"I'm glad you think I acted right, dearie," said the Girl Friend.
"I guess I've been too weak with Gus, and he's took advantage of it. I
s'pose I'll have to forgive him one of these old days, but, believe
me, it won't be for a week."
The cigar-stand girl was in favour of a fortnight.
"No," said the Girl Friend, regretfully. "I don't believe I could
hold out that long. But, if I speak to him inside a week, well—!
Well, I gotta be going. Goodbye, honey."
The cigar-stand girl turned to attend to an impatient customer, and
the Girl Friend, walking with the firm and decisive steps which
indicate character, made for the swing-door leading to the street.
And as she went, the paralysis which had pipped Archie relased its
hold. Still ignoring the forty-five cents which the boy continued to
proffer, he leaped in her wake like a panther and came upon her just
as she was stepping into a car. The car was full, but not too full
for Archie. He dropped his five cents into the box and reached for a
vacant strap. He looked down upon the flowered hat. There she was.
And there he was. Archie rested his left ear against the forearm of a
long, strongly-built young man in a grey suit who had followed him
into the car and was sharing his strap, and pondered.
CHAPTER XV. SUMMER STORMS
Of course, in a way, the thing was simple. The wheeze was, in a
sense, straightforward and uncomplicated. What he wanted to do was to
point out to the injured girl all that hung on her. He wished to touch
her heart, to plead with her, to desire her to restate her war-aims,
and to persuade her—before three o'clock when that stricken gentleman
would be stepping into the pitcher's box to loose off the first ball
against the Pittsburg Pirates—to let bygones be bygones and forgive
Augustus Biddle. But the blighted problem was, how the deuce to find
the opportunity to start. He couldn't yell at the girl in a crowded
street-car; and, if he let go of his strap and bent over her, somebody
would step on his neck.
The Girl Friend, who for the first five minutes had remained
entirely concealed beneath her hat, now sought diversion by looking
up and examining the faces of the upper strata of passengers. Her eye
caught Archie's in a glance of recognition, and he smiled feebly,
endeavouring to register bonhomie and good-will. He was surprised to
see a startled expression come into her brown eyes. Her face turned
pink. At least, it was pink already, but it turned pinker. The next
moment, the car having stopped to pick up more passengers, she jumped
off and started to hurry across the street.
Archie was momentarily taken aback. When embarking on this business
he had never intended it to become a blend of otter-hunting and a
moving-picture chase. He followed her off the car with a sense that
his grip on the affair was slipping. Preoccupied with these thoughts,
he did not perceive that the long young man who had shared his strap
had alighted too. His eyes were fixed on the vanishing figure of the
Girl Friend, who, having buzzed at a smart pace into Sixth Avenue, was
now legging it in the direction of the staircase leading to one of the
stations of the Elevated Railroad. Dashing up the stairs after her, he
shortly afterwards found himself suspended as before from a strap,
gazing upon the now familiar flowers on top of her hat. From another
strap farther down the carriage swayed the long young man in the grey
The train rattled on. Once or twice, when it stopped, the girl
seemed undecided whether to leave or remain. She half rose, then sank
back again. Finally she walked resolutely out of the car, and Archie,
following, found himself in a part of New York strange to him. The
inhabitants of this district appeared to eke out a precarious
existence, not by taking in one another's washing, but by selling one
another second-hand clothes.
Archie glanced at his watch. He had lunched early, but so crowded
with emotions had been the period following lunch that he was
surprised to find that the hour was only just two. The discovery was
a pleasant one. With a full hour before the scheduled start of the
game, much might be achieved. He hurried after the girl, and came us
with her just as she turned the comer into one of those forlorn New
York side-streets which are populated chiefly by children, cats,
desultory loafers, and empty meat-tins.
The girl stopped and turned. Archie smiled a winning smile.
"I say, my dear sweet creature!" he said. "I say, my dear old
thing, one moment!"
"Is that so?" said the Girl Friend.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Is that so?"
Archie began to feel certain tremors. Her eyes were gleaming, and
her determined mouth had become a perfectly straight line of scarlet.
It was going to be difficult to be chatty to this girl. She was going
to be a hard audience. Would mere words be able to touch her heart?
The thought suggested itself that, properly speaking, one would need
to use a pick-axe.
"If you could spare me a couples of minutes of your valuable
"Say!" The lady drew herself up menacingly. "You tie a can to
yourself and disappear! Fade away, or I'll call a cop!"
Archie was horrified at this misinterpretation of his motives. One
or two children, playing close at hand, and a loafer who was trying
to keep the wall from falling down, seemed pleased. Theirs was a
colourless existence and to the rare purple moments which had
enlivened it in the past the calling of a cop had been the unfailing
preliminary. The loafer nudged a fellow-loafer, sunning himself
against the same wall. The children, abandoning the meat-tin round
which their game had centred, drew closer.
"My dear old soul!" said Archie. "You don't understand!"
"Don't I! I know your sort, you trailing arbutus!"
"No, no! My dear old thing, believe me! I wouldn't dream!"
"Are you going or aren't you?"
Eleven more children joined the ring of spectators. The loafers
stared silently, like awakened crocodiles.
"But, I say, listen! I only wanted—"
At this point another voice spoke.
The word "Say!" more almost than any word in the American language,
is capable of a variety of shades of expression. It can be genial, it
can be jovial, it can be appealing. It can also be truculent The
"Say!" which at this juncture smote upon Archie's ear-drum with a
suddenness which made him leap in the air was truculent; and the two
loafers and twenty-seven children who now formed the audience were
well satisfied with the dramatic development of the performance. To
their experienced ears the word had the right ring.
Archie spun round. At his elbow stood a long, strongly-built young
man in a grey suit.
"Well!" said the young man, nastily. And he extended a large,
freckled face toward Archie's. It seemed to the latter, as he backed
against the wall, that the young man's neck must be composed of
india-rubber. It appeared to be growing longer every moment. His
face, besides being freckled, was a dull brick-red in colour; his
lips curled back in an unpleasant snarl, showing a gold tooth; and
beside him, swaying in an ominous sort of way, hung two clenched red
hands about the size of two young legs of mutton. Archie eyed him
with a growing apprehension. There are moments in life when, passing
idly on our way, we see a strange face, look into strange eyes, and
with a sudden glow of human warmth say to ourselves, "We have found a
friend!" This was not one of those moments. The only person Archie had
ever seen in his life who looked less friendly was the sergeant- major
who had trained him in the early days of the war, before he had got
"I've had my eye on you!" said the young man.
He still had his eye on him. It was a hot, gimlet-like eye, and it
pierced the recesses of Archie's soul. He backed a little farther
against the wall.
Archie was frankly disturbed. He was no poltroon, and had proved
the fact on many occasions during the days when the entire German army
seemed to be picking on him personally, but he hated and shrank from
anything in the nature of a bally public scene.
"What," enquired the young man, still bearing the burden of the
conversation, and shifting his left hand a little farther behind his
back, "do you mean by following this young lady?"
Archie was glad he had asked him. This was precisely what he wanted
"My dear old lad—" he began.
In spite of the fact that he had asked a question and presumably
desired a reply, the sound of Archie's voice seemed to be more than
the young man could endure. It deprived him of the last vestige of
restraint. With a rasping snarl he brought his left fist round in a
sweeping semicircle in the direction of Archie's head.
Archie was no novice in the art of self-defence. Since his early
days at school he had learned much from leather-faced professors of
the science. He had been watching this unpleasant young man's eyes
with close attention, and the latter could not have indicated his
scheme of action more clearly if he had sent him a formal note.
Archie saw the swing all the way. He stepped nimbly aside, and the
fist crashed against the wall. The young man fell back with a yelp of
"Gus!" screamed the Girl Friend, bounding forward.
She flung her arms round the injured man, who was ruefully
examining a hand which, always of an out-size, was now swelling to
still further dimensions.
A sudden chill gripped Archie. So engrossed had he been with, his
mission that it had never occurred to him that the love-lorn pitcher
might have taken it into his head to follow the girl as well in the
hope of putting in a word for himself. Yet such apparently had been
the case. Well, this had definitely torn it. Two loving hearts were
united again in complete reconciliation, but a fat lot of good that
was. It would be days before the misguided Looney Biddle would be
able to pitch with a hand like that. It looked like a ham already,
and was still swelling. Probably the wrist was sprained. For at least
a week the greatest left-handed pitcher of his time would be about as
much use to the Giants in any professional capacity as a cold in the
head. And on that crippled hand depended the fate of all the money
Archie had in the world. He wished now that he had not thwarted the
fellow's simple enthusiasm. To have had his head knocked forcibly
through a brick wall would not have been pleasant, but the ultimate
outcome would not have been as unpleasant as this. With a heavy heart
Archie prepared to withdraw, to be alone with his sorrow.
At this moment, however, the Girl Friend, releasing her wounded
lover, made a sudden dash for him, with the plainest intention of
blotting him from the earth.
"No, I say! Really!" said Archie, bounding backwards. "I mean to
In a series of events, all of which had been a bit thick, this, in
his opinion, achieved the maximum of thickness. It was the extreme
ragged, outside edge of the limit. To brawl with a fellow-man in a
public street had been bad, but to be brawled with by a girl—the
shot was not on the board. Absolutely not on the board. There was
only one thing to be done. It was dashed undignified, no doubt, for a
fellow to pick up the old waukeesis and leg it in the face of the
enemy, but there was no other course. Archie started to run; and, as
he did so, one of the loafers made the mistake of gripping him by the
collar of his coat.
"I got him!" observed the loafer.-There is a time for all things.
This was essentially not the time for anyone of the male sex to grip
the collar of Archie's coat. If a syndicate of Dempsey, Carpentier,
and one of the Zoo gorillas had endeavoured to stay his progress at
that moment, they would have had reason to consider it a rash move.
Archie wanted to be elsewhere, and the blood of generations of
Moffams, many of whom had swung a wicked axe in the free-for-all
mix-ups of the Middle Ages, boiled within him at any attempt to
revise his plans. There was a good deal of the loafer, but it was all
soft. Releasing his hold when Archie's heel took him shrewdly on the
shin, he received a nasty punch in what would have been the middle of
his waistcoat if he had worn one, uttered a gurgling bleat like a
wounded sheep, and collapsed against the wall. Archie, with a torn
coat, rounded the corner, and sprinted down Ninth Avenue.
The suddenness of the move gave him an initial advantage. He was
halfway down the first block before the vanguard of the pursuit
poured out of the side street. Continuing to travel well, he skimmed
past a large dray which had pulled up across the road, and moved on.
The noise of those who pursued was loud and clamorous in the rear,
but the dray hid him momentarily from their sight, and it was this
fact which led Archie, the old campaigner, to take his next step.
It was perfectly obvious—he was aware of this even in the novel
excitement of the chase—that a chappie couldn't hoof it at twenty-
five miles an hour indefinitely along a main thoroughfare of a great
city without exciting remark. He must take cover. Cover! That was the
wheeze. He looked about him for cover.
"You want a nice suit?"
It takes a great deal to startle your commercial New Yorker. The
small tailor, standing in his doorway, seemed in no way surprised at
the spectacle of Archie, whom he had seen pass at a conventional walk
some five minutes before, returning like this at top speed. He assumed
that Archie had suddenly remembered that he wanted to buy something.
This was exactly what Archie had done. More than anything else in
the world, what he wanted to do now was to get into that shop and
have a long talk about gents' clothing. Pulling himself up abruptly,
he shot past the small tailor into the dim interior. A confused aroma
of cheap clothing greeted him. Except for a small oasis behind a
grubby counter, practically all the available space was occupied by
suits. Stiff suits, looking like the body when discovered by the
police, hung from hooks. Limp suits, with the appearance of having
swooned from exhaustion, lay about on chairs and boxes. The place was
a cloth morgue, a Sargasso Sea of serge.
Archie would not have had it otherwise. In these quiet groves of
clothing a regiment could have lain hid.
"Something nifty in tweeds?" enquired the business-like proprietor
of this haven, following him amiably into the shop, "Or, maybe, yes,
a nice serge? Say, mister, I got a sweet thing in blue serge that'll
fit you like the paper on the wall!"
Archie wanted to talk about clothes, but not yet.
"I say, laddie," he said, hurriedly. "Lend me, your ear for half a
jiffy!" Outside the baying of the pack had become imminent. "Stow me
away for a moment in the undergrowth, and I'll buy anything you
He withdrew into the jungle. The noise outside grew in volume. The
pursuit had been delayed for a priceless few instants by the arrival
of another dray, moving northwards, which had drawn level with the
first dray and dexterously bottled up the fairway. This obstacle had
now been overcome, and the original searchers, their ranks swelled by
a few dozen more of the leisured classes, were hot on the trail again.
"You done a murder?" enquired the voice of the proprietor, mildly
interested, filtering through a wall of cloth. "Well, boys will be
boys!" he said, philosophically. "See anything there that you like?
There some sweet things there!"
"I'm inspecting them narrowly," replied Archie. "If you don't let
those chappies find me, I shouldn't be surprised if I bought one."
"One?" said the proprietor, with a touch of austerity.
"Two," said Archie, quickly. "Or possibly three or six."
The proprietor's cordiality returned.
"You can't have too many nice suits," he said, approvingly, "not a
young feller like you that wants to look nice. All the nice girls
like a young feller that dresses nice. When you go out of here in a
suit I got hanging up there at the back, the girls 'll be all over
you like flies round a honey-pot."
"Would you mind," said Archie, "would you mind, as a personal
favour to me, old companion, not mentioning that word 'girls'?"
He broke off. A heavy foot had crossed the threshold of the shop.
"Say, uncle," said a deep voice, one of those beastly voices that
only the most poisonous blighters have, "you seen a young feller run
"Young feller?" The proprietor appeared to reflect. "Do you mean a
young feller in blue, with a Homburg hat?"
"That's the duck! We lost him. Where did he go?"
"Him! Why, he come running past, quick as he could go. I wondered
what he was running for, a hot day like this. He went round the
corner at the bottom of the block."
There was a silence.
"Well, I guess he's got away," said the voice, regretfully.
"The way he was travelling," agreed the proprietor, "I wouldn't be
surprised if he was in Europe by this. You want a nice suit?"
The other, curtly expressing a wish that the proprietor would go to
eternal perdition and take his entire stock with him, stumped out.
"This," said the proprietor, tranquilly, burrowing his way to where
Archie stood and exhibiting a saffron-coloured outrage, which
appeared to be a poor relation of the flannel family, "would put you
back fifty dollars. And cheap!"
"Sixty, I said. I don't speak always distinct."
Archie regarded the distressing garment with a shuddering horror. A
young man with an educated taste in clothes, it got right in among
his nerve centres.
"But, honestly, old soul, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but
that isn't a suit, it's just a regrettable incident!"
The proprietor turned to the door in a listening attitude.
"I believe I hear that feller coming back," he said.
"How about trying it on?" he said. "I'm not sure, after all, it
isn't fairly ripe."
"That's the way to talk," said the proprietor, cordially. "You try
it on. You can't judge a suit, not a real nice suit like this, by
looking at it. You want to put it on. There!" He led the way to a
dusty mirror at the back of the shop. "Isn't that a bargain at
seventy dollars? ... Why, say, your mother would be proud if she
could see her boy now!"
A quarter of an hour later, the proprietor, lovingly kneading a
little sheaf of currency bills, eyed with a fond look the heap of
clothes which lay on the counter.
"As nice a little lot as I've ever had in my shop!" Archie did not
deny this. It was, he thought, probably only too true.
"I only wish I could see you walking up Fifth Avenue in them!"
rhapsodised the proprietor. "You'll give 'em a treat! What you going
to do with 'em? Carry 'em under your arm?" Archie shuddered strongly.
"Well, then, I can send 'em for you anywhere you like. It's all the
same to me. Where'll I send 'em?"
Archie meditated. The future was black enough as it was. He shrank
from the prospect of being confronted next day, at the height of his
misery, with these appalling reach-me-downs.
An idea struck him.
"Yes, send 'em," he said.
"What's the name and address?"
"Daniel Brewster," said Archie, "Hotel Cosmopolis."
It was a long time since he had given his father-in-law a present.
Archie went out into the street, and began to walk pensively down a
now peaceful Ninth Avenue. Out of the depths that covered him, black
as the pit from pole to pole, no single ray of hope came to cheer
him. He could not, like the poet, thank whatever gods there be for
his unconquerable soul, for his soul was licked to a splinter. He
felt alone and friendless in a rotten world. With the best
intentions, he had succeeded only in landing himself squarely amongst
the ribstons. Why had he not been content with his wealth, instead of
risking it on that blighted bet with Reggie? Why had he trailed the
Girl Friend, dash her! He might have known that he would only make an
ass of himself, And, because he had done so, Looney Biddle's left
hand, that priceless left hand before which opposing batters quailed
and wilted, was out of action, resting in a sling, careened like a
damaged battleship; and any chance the Giants might have had of
beating the Pirates was gone—gone—as surely as that thousand dollars
which should have bought a birthday present for Lucille.
A birthday present for Lucille! He groaned in bitterness of spirit.
She would be coming back to-night, dear girl, all smiles and
happiness, wondering what he was going to give her tomorrow. And when
to-morrow dawned, all he would be able to give her would be a kind
smile. A nice state of things! A jolly situation! A thoroughly good
egg, he did NOT think!
It seemed to Archie that Nature, contrary to her usual custom of
indifference to human suffering, was mourning with him. The sky was
overcast, and the sun had ceased to shine. There was a sort of
sombreness in the afternoon, which fitted in with his mood. And then
something splashed on his face.
It says much for Archie's pre-occupation that his first thought,
as, after a few scattered drops, as though the clouds were submitting
samples for approval, the whole sky suddenly began to stream like a
shower-bath, was that this was simply an additional infliction which
he was called upon to bear, On top of all his other troubles he would
get soaked to the skin or have to hang about in some doorway. He
cursed richly, and sped for shelter.
The rain was setting about its work in earnest. The world was full
of that rending, swishing sound which accompanies the more violent
summer storms. Thunder crashed, and lightning flicked out of the grey
heavens. Out in the street the raindrops bounded up off the stones
like fairy fountains. Archie surveyed them morosely from his refuge in
the entrance of a shop.
And then, suddenly, like one of those flashes which were lighting
up the gloomy sky, a thought lit up his mind.
"By Jove! If this keeps up, there won't be a ball-game to-day!"
With trembling fingers he pulled out his watch. The hands pointed
to five minutes to three. A blessed vision came to him of a moist and
disappointed crowd receiving rain-checks up at the Polo Grounds.
"Switch it on, you blighters!" he cried, addressing the leaden
clouds. "Switch it on more and more!"
It was shortly before five o'clock that a young man bounded into a
jeweller's shop near the Hotel Cosmopolis—a young man who, in spite
of the fact that his coat was torn near the collar and that he oozed
water from every inch of his drenched clothes, appeared in the
highest spirits.. It was only when he spoke that the jeweller
recognised in the human sponge the immaculate youth who had looked in
that morning to order a bracelet.
"I say, old lad," said this young man, "you remember that jolly
little what-not you showed me before lunch?"
"The bracelet, sir?"
"As you observe with a manly candour which does you credit, my dear
old jeweller, the bracelet. Well, produce, exhibit, and bring it
forth, would you mind? Trot it out! Slip it across on a lordly dish!"
"You wished me, surely, to put it aside and send it to the
The young man tapped the jeweller earnestly on his substantial
"What I wished and what I wish now are two bally separate and
dashed distinct things, friend of my college days! Never put off till
to- morrow what you can do to-day, and all that! I'm not taking any
more chances. Not for me! For others, yes, but not for Archibald! Here
are the doubloons, produce the jolly bracelet Thanks!"
The jeweller counted the notes with the same unction which Archie
had observed earlier in the day in the proprietor of the second-hand
clothes-shop. The process made him genial.
"A nasty, wet day, sir, it's been," he observed, chattily.
Archie shook his head.
"Old friend," he said, "you're all wrong. Far otherwise, and not a
bit like it, my dear old trafficker in gems! You've put your finger
on the one aspect of this blighted p.m. that really deserves credit
and respect. Rarely in the experience of a lifetime have I
encountered a day so absolutely bally in nearly every shape and form,
but there was one thing that saved it, and that was its merry old
wetness! Toodle-oo, laddie!"
"Good evening, sir," said the jeweller.
CHAPTER XVI. ARCHIE ACCEPTS A
Lucille moved her wrist slowly round, the better to examine the new
"You really are an angel, angel!" she murmured.
"Like it?" said Archie complacently.
"LIKE it! Why, it's gorgeous! It must have cost a fortune."
"Oh, nothing to speak of. Just a few hard-earned pieces of eight.
Just a few doubloons from the old oak chest."
"But I didn't know there were any doubloons in the old oak chest."
"Well, as a matter of fact," admitted Archie, "at one point in the
proceedings there weren't. But an aunt of mine in England—peace be
on her head!—happened to send me a chunk of the necessary at what
you might call the psychological moment."
"And you spent it all on a birthday present for me! Archie!"
Lucille gazed at her husband adoringly. "Archie, do you know what I
"You're the perfect man!"
"No, really! What ho!"
"Yes," said Lucille firmly. "I've long suspected it, and now I
know. I don't think there's anybody like you in the world."
Archie patted her hand.
"It's a rummy thing," he observed, "but your father said almost
exactly that to me only yesterday. Only I don't fancy he meant the
same as you. To be absolutely frank, his exact expression was that he
thanked God there was only one of me."
A troubled look came into Lucille's grey eyes.
"It's a shame about father. I do wish he appreciated you. But you
mustn't be too hard on him."
"Me?" said Archie. "Hard on your father? Well, dash it all, I don't
think I treat him with what you might call actual brutality, what! I
mean to say, my whole idea is rather to keep out of the old lad's way
and curl up in a ball if I can't dodge him. I'd just as soon be hard
on a stampeding elephant! I wouldn't for the world say anything
derogatory, as it were, to your jolly old pater, but there is no
getting away from the fact that he's by way of being one of our
leading man-eating fishes. It would be idle to deny that he considers
that you let down the proud old name of Brewster a bit when you
brought me in and laid me on the mat."
"Anyone would be lucky to get you for a son-in-law, precious."
"I fear me, light of my life, the dad doesn't see eye to eye with
you on that point. No, every time I get hold of a daisy, I give him
another chance, but it always works out at 'He loves me not!'"
"You must make allowances for him, darling."
"Right-o! But I hope devoutly that he doesn't catch me at it. I've
a sort of idea that if the old dad discovered that I was making
allowances for him, he would have from ten to fifteen fits."
"He's worried just now, you know."
"I didn't know. He doesn't confide in me much."
"He's worried about that waiter."
"What waiter, queen of my soul?"
"A man called Salvatore. Father dismissed him some time ago."
"Probably you don't remember him. He used to wait on this table."
"And father dismissed him, apparently, and now there's all sorts of
trouble. You see, father wants to build this new hotel of his, and he
thought he'd got the site and everything and could start building
right away: and now he finds that this man Salvatore's mother owns a
little newspaper and tobacco shop right in the middle of the site,
and there's no way of getting him out without buying the shop, and he
won't sell. At least, he's made his mother promise that she won't
"A boy's best friend is his mother," said Archie approvingly. "I
had a sort of idea all along—"
"So father's in despair."
Archie drew at his cigarette meditatively.
"I remember a chappie—a policeman he was, as a matter of fact, and
incidentally a fairly pronounced blighter—remarking to me some time
ago that you could trample on the poor man's face but you mustn't be
surprised if he bit you in the leg while you were doing it.
Apparently this is what has happened to the old dad. I had a sort of
idea all along that old friend Salvatore would come out strong in the
end if you only gave him time. Brainy sort of feller! Great pal of
mine."-Lucille's small face lightened. She gazed at Archie with proud
affection. She felt that she ought to have known that he was the one
to solve this difficulty.
"You're wonderful, darling! Is he really a friend of yours?"
"Absolutely. Many's the time he and I have chatted in this very
"Then it's all right. If you went to him and argued with him, he
would agree to sell the shop, and father would be happy. Think how
grateful father would be to you! It would make all the difference."
Archie turned this over in his mind.
"Something in that," he agreed.
"It would make him see what a pet lambkin you really are!"
"Well," said Archie, "I'm bound to say that any scheme which what
you might call culminates in your father regarding me as a pet
lambkin ought to receive one's best attention. How much did he offer
Salvatore for his shop?"
"I don't know. There is father.—Call him over and ask him."
Archie glanced over to where Mr. Brewster had sunk moodily into a
chair at a neighbouring table. It was plain even at that distance
that Daniel Brewster had his troubles and was bearing them with an
ill grace. He was scowling absently at the table-cloth.
"YOU call him," said Archie, having inspected his formidable
relative. "You know him better."
"Let's go over to him."
They crossed the room. Lucille sat down opposite her father.-Archie
draped himself over a chair in the background.
"Father, dear," said Lucille. "Archie has got an idea."
"Archie?" said Mr. Brewster incredulously.
"This is me," said Archie, indicating himself with a spoon. "The
tall, distinguished-looking bird."
"What new fool-thing is he up to now?"
"It's a splendid idea, father. He wants to help you over your new
"Wants to run it for me, I suppose?"
"By Jove!" said Archie, reflectively. "That's not a bad scheme! I
never thought of running an hotel. I shouldn't mind taking a stab at
"He has thought of a way of getting rid of Salvatore and his shop."
For the first time Mr. Brewster's interest in the conversation
seemed to stir. He looked sharply at his son-in-law.
"He has, has he?" he said.
Archie balanced a roll on a fork and inserted a plate underneath.
The roll bounded away into a corner.
"Sorry!" said Archie. "My fault, absolutely! I owe you a roll. I'll
sign a bill for it. Oh, about this sportsman Salvatore, Well, it's
like this, you know. He and I are great pals. I've known him for
years and years. At least, it seems like years and years. Lu was
suggesting that I seek him out in his lair and ensnare him with my
diplomatic manner and superior brain power and what not."
"It was your idea, precious," said Lucille.
Mr. Brewster was silent.—Much as it went against the grain to have
to admit it, there seemed to be something in this.
"What do you propose to do?"
"Become a jolly old ambassador. How much did you offer the
"Three thousand dollars. Twice as much as the place is worth. He's
holding out on me for revenge."
"Ah, but how did you offer it to him, what? I mean to say, I bet
you got your lawyer to write him a letter full of whereases,
peradventures, and parties of the first part, and so forth. No good,
"Don't call me old companion!"
"All wrong, laddie! Nothing like it, dear heart! No good at all,
friend of my youth! Take it from your Uncle Archibald! I'm a student
of human nature, and I know a thing or two."
"That's not much," growled Mr. Brewster, who was finding his
son-in- law's superior manner a little trying.
"Now, don't interrupt, father," said Lucille, severely. "Can't you
see that Archie is going to be tremendously clever in a minute?"
"He's got to show me!"
"What you ought to do," said Archie, "is to let me go and see him,
taking the stuff in crackling bills. I'll roll them about on the
table in front of him. That'll fetch him!" He prodded Mr. Brewster
encouragingly with a roll. "I'll tell you what to do. Give me three
thousand of the best and crispest, and I'll undertake to buy that
shop. It can't fail, laddie!"
"Don't call me laddie!" Mr. Brewster pondered. "Very well," he said
at last. "I didn't know you had so much sense," he added grudgingly.
"Oh, positively!" said Archie. "Beneath a rugged exterior I hide a
brain like a buzz-saw. Sense? I exude it, laddie; I drip with it."
There were moments during the ensuing days when Mr. Brewster
permitted himself to hope; but more frequent were the moments when he
told himself that a pronounced chump like his son-in-law could not
fail somehow to make a mess of the negotiations. His relief,
therefore, when Archie curveted into his private room and announced
that he had succeeded was great.
"You really managed to make that wop sell out?"
Archie brushed some papers off the desk with a careless gesture,
and seated himself on the vacant spot.
"Absolutely! I spoke to him as one old friend to another, sprayed
the bills all over the place; and he sang a few bars from
'Rigoletto,' and signed on the dotted line."
"You're not such a fool as you look," owned Mr. Brewster.
Archie scratched a match on the desk and lit a cigarette.
"It's a jolly little shop," he said. "I took quite a fancy to it.
Full of newspapers, don't you know, and cheap novels, and some
weird-looking sort of chocolates, and cigars with the most fearfully
attractive labels. I think I'll make a success of it. It's bang in
the middle of a dashed good neighbourhood. One of these days somebody
will be building a big hotel round about there, and that'll help trade
a lot. I look forward to ending my days on the other side of the
counter with a full set of white whiskers and a skull-cap, beloved by
everybody. Everybody'll say, 'Oh, you MUST patronise that quaint,
delightful old blighter! He's quite a character.'"
Mr. Brewster's air of grim satisfaction had given way to a look of
discomfort, almost of alarm. He presumed his son-in-law was merely
indulging in badinage; but even so, his words were not soothing.
"Well, I'm much obliged," he said. "That infernal shop was holding
up everything. Now I can start building right away."
Archie raised his eyebrows.
"But, my dear old top, I'm sorry to spoil your daydreams and stop
you chasing rainbows, and all that, but aren't you forgetting that
the shop belongs to me? I don't at all know that I want to sell,
"I gave you the money to buy that shop!"
"And dashed generous of you it was, too!" admitted Archie,
unreservedly. "It was the first money you ever gave me, and I shall
always, tell interviewers that it was you who founded my fortunes.
Some day, when I'm the Newspaper-and-Tobacco-Shop King, I'll tell the
world all about it in my autobiography."
Mr. Brewster rose dangerously from his seat.
"Do you think you can hold me up, you—you worm?"
"Well," said Archie, "the way I look at it is this. Ever since we
met, you've been after me to become one of the world's workers, and
earn a living for myself, and what not; and now I see a way to repay
you for your confidence and encouragement. You'll look me up
sometimes at the good old shop, won't you?" He slid off the table and
moved towards the door. "There won't be any formalities where you are
concerned. You can sign bills for any reasonable amount any time you
want a cigar or a stick of chocolate. Well, toodle-oo!"
"How much do you want for that damned shop?"
"I don't want money.-I want a job.-If you are going to take my
life- work away from me, you ought to give me something else to do."
"You suggested it yourself the other day. I want to manage your new
"Don't be a fool! What do you know about managing an hotel?"
"Nothing. It will be your pleasing task to teach me the business
while the shanty is being run up."
There was a pause, while Mr. Brewster chewed three inches off a
"Very well," he said at last.
"Topping!" said Archie. "I knew you'd, see it. I'll study your
methods, what! Adding some of my own, of course. You know, I've
thought of one improvement on the Cosmopolis already."
"Improvement on the Cosmopolis!" cried Mr. Brewster, gashed in his
"Yes. There's one point where the old Cosmop slips up badly, and
I'm going to see that it's corrected at my little shack. Customers
will be entreated to leave their boots outside their doors at night,
and they'll find them cleaned in the morning. Well, pip, pip! I must
be popping. Time is money, you know, with us business men."
CHAPTER XVII. BROTHER BILL'S ROMANCE
"Her eyes," said Bill Brewster, "are like—like—what's the word I
He looked across at Lucille and Archie. Lucille was leaning forward
with an eager and interested face; Archie was leaning back with his
finger-tips together and his eyes closed. This was not the first time
since their meeting in Beale's Auction Rooms that his brother- in-law
had touched on the subject of the girl he had become engaged to marry
during his trip to England. Indeed, Brother Bill had touched on very
little else: and Archie, though of a sympathetic nature and fond of
his young relative, was beginning to feel that he had heard all he
wished to hear about Mabel Winchester. Lucille, on the other hand, was
absorbed. Her brother's recital had thrilled her.
"Like—" said Bill. "Like—"
"Stars?" suggested Lucille.
"Stars," said Bill gratefully. "Exactly the word. Twin stars
shining in a clear sky on a summer night. Her teeth are like—what
shall I say?"
"Pearls. And her hair is a lovely brown, like leaves in autumn. In
fact," concluded Bill, slipping down from the heights with something
of a jerk, "she's a corker. Isn't she, Archie?"
Archie opened his eyes.
"Quite right, old top!" he said. "It was the only thing to do."
"What the devil are you talking about?" demanded Bill coldly. He
had been suspicious all along of Archie's statement that he could
listen better with his eyes shut.
"Eh? Oh, sorry! Thinking of something else."
"You were asleep."
"No, no, positively and distinctly not. Frightfully interested and
rapt and all that, only I didn't quite get what you said."
"I said that Mabel was a corker."
"Oh, absolutely in every respect."
"There!" Bill turned to Lucille triumphantly. "You hear that? And
Archie has only seen her photograph. Wait till he sees her in the
"My dear old chap!" said Archie, shocked. "Ladies present! I mean
to say, what!"
"I'm afraid that father will be the one you'll find it hard to
"Yes," admitted her brother gloomily.
"Your Mabel sounds perfectly charming, but—well, you know what
father is. It IS a pity she sings in the chorus."
"She-hasn't much of a voice,"-argued Bill-in extenuation.
"All the same—"
Archie, the conversation having reached a topic on which he
considered himself one of the greatest living authorities—to wit,
the unlovable disposition of his father-in-law—addressed the meeting
as one who has a right to be heard.
"Lucille's absolutely right, old thing.—Absolutely correct-o! Your
esteemed progenitor is a pretty tough nut, and it's no good trying to
get away from it.-And I'm sorry to have to say it, old bird, but, if
you come bounding in with part of the personnel of the ensemble on
your arm and try to dig a father's blessing out of him, he's extremely
apt to stab you in the gizzard."
"I wish," said Bill, annoyed, "you wouldn't talk as though Mabel
were the ordinary kind of chorus-girl. She's only on the stage
because her mother's hard-up and she wants to educate her little
"I say," said Archie, concerned. "Take my tip, old top. In chatting
the matter over with the pater, don't dwell too much on that aspect
of the affair.—I've been watching him closely, and it's about all he
can stick, having to support ME. If you ring in a mother and a little
brother on him, he'll crack under the strain."
"Well, I've got to do something about it. Mabel will be over here
in a week."
"Great Scot! You never told us that."
"Yes. She's going to be in the new Billington show. And, naturally,
she will expect to meet my family. I've told her all about you."
"Did you explain father to her?" asked Lucille.
"Well, I just said she mustn't mind him, as his bark was worse than
"Well," said Archie, thoughtfully, "he hasn't bitten me yet, so you
may be right. But you've got to admit that he's a bit of a barker."
"Really, Bill, I think your best plan would be to go straight to
father and tell him the whole thing.—You don't want him to hear
about it in a roundabout way."
"The trouble is that, whenever I'm with father, I can't think of
anything to say."
Archie found himself envying his father-in-law this merciful
dispensation of Providence; for, where he himself was concerned,
there had been no lack of eloquence on Bill's part. In the brief
period in which he had known him, Bill had talked all the time and
always on the one topic. As unpromising a subject as the tariff laws
was easily diverted by him into a discussion of the absent Mabel.
"When I'm with father," said Bill, "I sort of lose my nerve, and
"Dashed awkward," said Archie, politely. He sat up suddenly. "I
say! By Jove! I know what you want, old friend! Just thought of it!"
"That busy brain is never still," explained Lucille.
"Saw it in the paper this morning. An advertisement of a book,
don't you know."
"I've no time for reading."
"You've time for reading this one, laddie, for you can't afford to
miss it. It's a what-d'you-call-it book. What I mean to say is, if
you read it and take its tips to heart, it guarantees to make you a
convincing talker. The advertisement says so. The advertisement's all
about a chappie I whose name I forget, whom everybody loved because he
talked so well. And, mark you, before he got hold of this book—The
Personality That Wins was the name of it, if I remember rightly—he
was known to all the lads in the office as Silent Samuel or something.
Or it may have been Tongue-Tied Thomas. Well, one day he happened by
good luck to blow in the necessary for the good old P. that W.'s, and
now, whenever they want someone to go and talk Rockefeller or someone
into lending them a million or so, they send for Samuel. Only now they
call him Sammy the Spell-Binder and fawn upon him pretty copiously and
all that. How about it, old son? How do we go?"
"What perfect nonsense," said Lucille.
"I don't know," said Bill, plainly impressed. "There might he
something in it."
"Absolutely!" said Archie. "I remember it said, 'Talk convincingly,
and no man will ever treat you with cold, unresponsive indifference.'
Well, cold, unresponsive indifference is just what you don't want the
pater to treat you with, isn't it, or is it, or isn't it, what? I
"It sounds all right," said Bill.
"It IS all right," said Archie. "It's a scheme! I'll go farther.
It's an egg!"
"The idea I had," said Bill, "was to see if I couldn't get Mabel a
job in some straight comedy. That would take the curse off the thing
a bit. Then I wouldn't have to dwell on the chorus end of the
business, you see."
"Much more sensible," said Lucille.
"But what a-deuce of a sweat"—argued Archie. "I mean to say,
having to pop round and nose about and all that."
"Aren't you willing to take a little trouble for your stricken
brother-in-law, worm?" said Lucille severely.
"Oh, absolutely! My idea was to get this book and coach the dear
old chap. Rehearse him, don't you know. He could bone up the early
chapters a bit and then drift round and try his convincing talk on
"It might be a good idea," said Bill reflectively.
"Well, I'll tell you what _I'm_ going to do," said Lucille. "I'm
going to get Bill to introduce me to his Mabel, and, if she's as nice
as he says she is, _I'll_ go to father and talk convincingly to him."
"You're an ace!" said Bill.
"Absolutely!" agreed Archie cordially. "MY partner, what! All the
same, we ought to keep the book as a second string, you know. I mean
to say, you are a young and delicately nurtured girl—full of
sensibility and shrinking what's-its-name and all that—and you know
what the jolly old pater is. He might bark at you and put you out of
action in the first round. Well, then, if anything like that
happened, don't you see, we could unleash old Bill, the trained
silver-tongued expert, and let him have a shot. Personally, I'm all
for the P. that W.'s."-"Me, too," said Bill.
Lucille looked at her watch.
"Good gracious! It's nearly one o'clock!"
"No!" Archie heaved himself up from his chair. "Well, it's a shame
to break up this feast of reason and flow of soul and all that, but,
if we don't leg it with some speed, we shall be late."
"We're lunching at the Nicholson's!" explained Lucille to her
brother. "I wish you were coming too."
"Lunch!" Bill shook his head with a kind of tolerant scorn. "Lunch
means nothing to me these days. I've other things to think of besides
food." He looked as spiritual as his rugged features would permit. "I
haven't written to Her yet to-day."
"But, dash it, old scream, if she's going to be over here in a
week, what's the good of writing? The letter would cross her."
"I'm not mailing my letters to England." said Bill. "I'm keeping
them for her to read when she arrives."
"My sainted aunt!" said Archie.
Devotion like this was something beyond his outlook.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE SAUSAGE CHAPPIE
The personality that wins cost Archie two dollars in cash and a lot
of embarrassment when he asked for it at the store. To buy a treatise
of that name would automatically seem to argue that you haven't a
winning personality already, and Archie was at some pains to explain
to the girl behind the counter that he wanted it for a friend. The
girl seemed more interested in his English accent than in his
explanation, and Archie was uncomfortably aware, as he receded, that
she was practising it in an undertone for the benefit of her
colleagues and fellow-workers. However, what is a little discomfort,
if endured in friendship's name?
He was proceeding up Broadway after leaving the store when he
encountered Reggie van Tuyl, who was drifting along in somnambulistic
fashion near Thirty-Ninth Street.
"Hullo, Reggie old thing!" said Archie.
"Hullo!" said Reggie, a man of few words.
"I've just been buying a book for Bill Brewster," went on Archie.
"It appears that old Bill—What's the matter?"
He broke off his recital abruptly. A sort of spasm had passed
across his companion's features. The hand holding Archie's arm had
tightened convulsively. One would have said that Reginald had
received a shock.
"It's nothing," said Reggie. "I'm all right now. I caught sight of
that fellow's clothes rather suddenly. They shook me a bit. I'm all
right now," he said, bravely.
Archie, following his friend's gaze, understood. Reggie van Tuyl
was never at his strongest in the morning, and he had a sensitive eye
for clothes. He had been known to resign from clubs because members
exceeded the bounds in the matter of soft shirts with dinner-
jackets. And the short, thick-set man who was standing just in front
of them in attitude of restful immobility was certainly no dandy. His
best friend could not have called him dapper. Take him for all in all
and on the hoof, he might have been posing as a model for a sketch of
What the Well-Dressed Man Should Not Wear.
In costume, as in most other things, it is best to take a definite
line and stick to it. This man had obviously vacillated. His neck was
swathed in a green scarf; he wore an evening-dress coat; and his lower
limbs were draped in a pair of tweed trousers built for a larger man.
To the north he was bounded by a straw hat, to the south by brown
Archie surveyed the man's back carefully.
"Bit thick!" he said, sympathetically. "But of course Broadway
isn't Fifth Avenue. What I mean to say is, Bohemian licence and what
not. Broadway's crammed with deuced brainy devils who don't care how
they look. Probably this bird is a master-mind of some species."
"All the same, man's no right to wear evening-dress coat with tweed
"Absolutely not! I see what you mean."
At this point the sartorial offender turned. Seen from the front,
he was even more unnerving. He appeared to possess no shirt, though
this defect was offset by the fact that the tweed trousers fitted
snugly under the arms. He was not a handsome man. At his best he
could never have been that, and in the recent past he had managed to
acquire a scar that ran from the corner of his mouth half-way across
his cheek. Even when his face was in repose he had an odd expression;
and when, as he chanced to do now, he smiled, odd became a mild
adjective, quite inadequate for purposes of description. It was not an
unpleasant face, however. Unquestionably genial, indeed. There was
something in it that had a quality of humorous appeal.
Archie started. He stared at the man, Memory stirred.
"Great Scot!" he cried. "It's the Sausage Chappie!"
Reginald van Tuyl gave a little moan. He was not used to this sort
of thing. A sensitive young man as regarded scenes, Archie's
behaviour unmanned him. For Archie, releasing his arm, had bounded
forward and was shaking the other's hand warmly.
"Well, well, well! My dear old chap! You must remember me, what?
The man with the scar seemed puzzled. He shuffled the brown shoes,
patted the straw hat, and eyed Archie questioningly.
"I don't seem to place you," he said.
Archie slapped the back of the evening-dress coat. He linked his
arm affectionately with that of the dress-reformer.
"We met outside St Mihiel in the war. You gave me a bit of sausage.
One of the most sporting events in history. Nobody but a real
sportsman would have parted with a bit of sausage at that moment to a
stranger. Never forgotten it, by Jove. Saved my life, absolutely.
Hadn't chewed a morse for eight hours. Well, have you got anything
on? I mean to say, you aren't booked for lunch or any rot of that
species, are you? Fine! Then I move we all toddle off and get a bite
somewhere." He squeezed the other's arm. fondly. "Fancy meeting you
again like this! I've often wondered what became of you. But, by
Jove, I was forgetting. Dashed rude of me. My friend, Mr. van Tuyl."
Reggie gulped. The longer he looked at it, the harder this man's
costume was to bear. His eye passed shudderingly from the brown shoes
to the tweed trousers, to the green scarf, from the green scarf to the
"Sorry," he mumbled. "Just remembered. Important date. Late
already. Er—see you some time—"
He melted away, a broken man. Archie was not sorry to see him go.
Reggie was a good chap, but he would undoubtedly have been de trop at
"I vote we go to the Cosmopolis," he said, steering his newly-found
friend through the crowd. "The browsing and sluicing isn't bad there,
and I can sign the bill which is no small consideration nowadays."
The Sausage Chappie chuckled amusedly.
"I can't go to a place like the Cosmopolis looking like this."
Archie, was a little embarrassed.
"Oh, I don't know, you know, don't you know!" he said. "Still,
since you have brought the topic up, you DID get the good old wardrobe
a bit mixed this morning what? I mean to say, you seem absent-
mindedly, as it were, to have got hold of samples from a good number
of your various suitings."
"Suitings? How do you mean, suitings? I haven't any suitings! Who
do you think I am? Vincent Astor? All I have is what I stand up in."
Archie was shocked. This tragedy touched him. He himself had never
had any money in his life, but somehow he had always seemed to manage
to have plenty of clothes. How this was he could not say. He had
always had a vague sort of idea that tailors were kindly birds who
never failed to have a pair of trousers or something up their sleeve
to present to the deserving. There was the drawback, of course, that
once they had given you things they were apt to write you rather a lot
of letters about it; but you soon managed to recognise their
handwriting, and then it was a simple task to extract their
communications from your morning mail and drop them in the waste-paper
basket. This was the first case he had encountered of a man who was
really short of clothes.
"My dear old lad," he said, briskly, "this must be remedied! Oh,
positively! This must be remedied at once! I suppose my things
wouldn't fit you? No. Well, I tell you what. We'll wangle something
from my father-in-law. Old Brewster, you know, the fellow who runs
the Cosmopolis. His'll fit you like the paper on the wall, because
he's a tubby little blighter, too. What I mean to say is, he's also
one of those sturdy, square, fine-looking chappies of about the
middle height. By the way, where are you stopping these days?"
"Nowhere just at present. I thought of taking one of those self-
contained Park benches."
"Are you broke?"
Archie was concerned.
"You ought to get a job."
"I ought. But somehow I don't seem able to."
"What did you do before the war?"
"How do you mean—forgotten? You can't mean—FORGOTTEN?"
"Yes. It's quite gone."
"But I mean to say. You can't have forgotten a thing like that."
"Can't I! I've forgotten all sorts of things. Where I was born. How
old I am. Whether I'm married or single. What my name is—"
"Well, I'm dashed!" said Archie, staggered. "But you remembered
about giving me a bit of sausage outside St. Mihiel?"
"No, I didn't. I'm taking your word for it. For all I know you may
be luring me into some den to rob me of my straw hat. I don't know
you from Adam. But I like your conversation—especially the part
about eating—and I'm taking a chance."
Archie was concerned.
"Listen, old bean. Make an effort. You must remember that sausage
episode? It was just outside St. Mihiel, about five in the evening.
Your little lot were lying next to my little lot, and we happened to
meet, and I said 'What ho!' and you said 'Halloa!' and I said 'What
ho! What ho!' and you said 'Have a bit of sausage?' and I said 'What
ho! What ho! What HO!'"
"The dialogue seems to have been darned sparkling but I don't
remember it. It must have been after that that I stopped one. I don't
seem quite to have caught up with myself since I got hit."
"Oh! That's how you got that scar?"
"No. I got that jumping through a plate-glass window in London on
"What on earth did you do that for?"
"Oh, I don't know. It seemed a good idea at the time."
"But if you can remember a thing like that, why can't you remember
"I remember everything that happened after I came out of hospital.
It's the part before that's gone."
Archie patted him on the shoulder.
"I know just what you want. You need a bit of quiet and repose, to
think things over and so forth. You mustn't go sleeping on Park
benches. Won't do at all. Not a bit like it. You must shift to the
Cosmopolis. It isn't half a bad spot, the old Cosmop. I didn't like
it much the first night I was there, because there was a dashed tap
that went drip-drip-drip all night and kept me awake, but the place
has its points."
"Is the Cosmopolis giving free board and lodging these days?"
"Rather! That'll be all right. Well, this is the spot. We'll start
by trickling up to the old boy's suite and looking over his reach-
me-downs. I know the waiter on his floor. A very sound chappie. He'll
let us in with his pass-key."
And so it came about that Mr. Daniel Brewster, returning to his
suite in the middle of lunch in order to find a paper dealing with
the subject he was discussing with his guest, the architect of his
new hotel, was aware of a murmur of voices behind the closed door of
his bedroom. Recognising the accents of his son-in-law, he breathed
an oath and charged in. He objected to Archie wandering at large
about his suite.
The sight that met his eyes when he opened the door did nothing to
soothe him. The floor was a sea of clothes. There were coats on the
chairs, trousers on the bed, shirts on the bookshelf. And in the
middle of his welter stood Archie, with a man who, to Mr. Brewster's
heated eye, looked like a tramp comedian out of a burlesque show.
"Great Godfrey!" ejaculated Mr. Brewster.
Archie looked up with a friendly smile.
"Oh, halloa-halloa!" he said, affably, "We were just glancing
through your spare scenery to see if we couldn't find something for
my pal here. This is Mr. Brewster, my father-in-law, old man."
Archie scanned his relative's twisted features. Something in his
expression seemed not altogether encouraging. He decided that the
negotiations had better be conducted in private. "One moment, old
lad," he said to his new friend. "I just want to have a little talk
with my father-in-law in the other room. Just a little friendly
business chat. You stay here."
In the other room Mr. Brewster turned on Archie like a wounded lion
of the desert.
Archie secured one of his coat-buttons and began to massage it
"Ought to have explained!" said Archie, "only didn't want to
interrupt your lunch. The sportsman on the horizon is a dear old pal
Mr. Brewster wrenched himself free.
"What the devil do you mean, you worm, by bringing tramps into my
bedroom and messing about with my clothes?"
"That's just what I'm trying to explain, if you'll only listen.
This bird is a bird I met in France during the war. He gave me a bit
of sausage outside St. Mihiel—"
"Damn you and him and the sausage!"
"Absolutely. But listen. He can't remember who he is or where he
was born or what his name is, and he's broke; so, dash it, I must look
after him. You see, he gave me a bit of sausage."
Mr. Brewster's frenzy gave way to an ominous calm.
"I'll give him two seconds to clear out of here. If he isn't gone
by then I'll have him thrown out"
Archie was shocked.
"You don't mean that?"
"I do mean that."
"But where is he to go?"
"But you don't understand. This chappie has lost his memory because
he was wounded in the war. Keep that fact firmly fixed in the old
bean. He fought for you. Fought and bled for you. Bled profusely, by
Jove. AND he saved my life!"
"If I'd got nothing else against him, that would be enough."
"But you can't sling a chappie out into the cold hard world who
bled in gallons to make the world safe for the Hotel Cosmopolis."
Mr. Brewster looked ostentatiously at his watch.
"Two seconds!" he said.
There was a silence. Archie appeared to be thinking. "Right-o!" he
said at last. "No need to get the wind up. I know where he can go.
It's just occurred to me I'll put him up at my little shop."
The purple ebbed from Mr. Brewster's face. Such was his emotion
that he had forgotten that infernal shop. He sat down. There was more
"Oh, gosh!" said Mr. Brewster.
"I knew you would be reasonable about it," said Archie,
approvingly. "Now, honestly, as man to man, how do we go?"
"What do you want me to do?" growled Mr. Brewster.
"I thought you might put the chappie up for a while, and give him a
chance to look round and nose about a bit"
"I absolutely refuse to give any more loafers free board and
"Well, he would be the second, wouldn't he?"
Archie looked pained.
"It's true," he said, "that when I first came here I was
temporarily resting, so to speak; but didn't I go right out and grab
the managership of your new hotel? Positively!"
"I will NOT adopt this tramp."
"Well, find him a job, then."
"What sort of a job?"
"Oh, any old sort"
"He can be a waiter if he likes."
"All right; I'll put the matter before him."
He returned to the bedroom. The Sausage Chappie was gazing fondly
into the mirror with a spotted tie draped round his neck.
"I say, old top," said Archie, apologetically, "the Emperor of the
Blighters out yonder says you can have a job here as waiter, and he
won't do another dashed thing for you. How about it?"
"Do waiters eat?"
"I suppose so. Though, by Jove, come to think of it, I've never
seen one at it."
"That's good enough for me!" said the Sausage Chappie. "When do I
CHAPTER XIX. REGGIE COMES TO LIFE
The advantage of having plenty of time on one's hands is that one
has leisure to attend to the affairs of all one's circle of friends;
and Archie, assiduously as he watched over the destinies of the
Sausage Chappie, did not neglect the romantic needs of his brother-
in-law Bill. A few days later, Lucille, returning one morning to
their mutual suite, found her husband seated in an upright chair at
the table, an unusually stern expression on his amiable face. A large
cigar was in the corner of his mouth. The fingers of one hand rested
in the armhole of his waistcoat: with the other hand he tapped
menacingly on the table.
As she gazed upon him, wondering what could be the matter with him,
Lucille was suddenly aware of Bill's presence. He had emerged sharply
from the bedroom and was walking briskly across the floor. He came to
a halt in front of the table.
"Father!" said Bill.
Archie looked up sharply, frowning heavily over his cigar.
"Well, my boy," he said in a strange, rasping voice. "What is it?
Speak up, my boy, speak up! Why the devil can't you speak up? This is
my busy day!"
"What on earth are you doing?" asked Lucille.
Archie waved her away with the large gesture of a man of blood and
iron interrupted while concentrating.
"Leave us, woman! We would be alone! Retire into the jolly old
background and amuse yourself for a bit. Read a book. Do acrostics.
Charge ahead, laddie."
"Father!" said Bill, again.
"Yes, my boy, yes? What is it?"
Archie picked up the red-covered volume that lay on the table.
"Half a mo', old son. Sorry to stop you, but I knew there was
something. I've just remembered. Your walk. All wrong!"
"All wrong! Where's the chapter on the Art. of Walking? Here we
are. Listen, dear old soul. Drink this in. 'In walking, one should
strive to acquire that swinging, easy movement from the hips. The
correctly-poised walker seems to float along, as it were.' Now, old
bean, you didn't float a dam' bit. You just galloped in like a
chappie charging into a railway restaurant for a bowl of soup when
his train leaves in two minutes. Dashed important, this walking
business, you know. Get started wrong, and where are you? Try it
again. . . . Much better." He turned to Lucille. "Notice him float
along that time? Absolutely skimmed, what?"
Lucille had taken a seat,-and was waiting for enlightenment.
"Are you and Bill going into vaudeville?" she asked.
Archie, scrutinising-his-brother-in-law closely, had further
criticism to make.
"'The man of self-respect and self-confidence,'" he read, "'stands
erect in an easy, natural, graceful attitude. Heels not too far
apart, head erect, eyes to the front with a level gaze'—get your
gaze level, old thing!—'shoulders thrown back, arms hanging
naturally at the sides when not otherwise employed'—that means that,
if he tries to hit you, it's all right to guard—'chest expanded
naturally, and abdomen'—this is no place for you, Lucille. Leg it out
of earshot—'ab—what I said before—drawn in somewhat and above all
not protruded.' Now, have you got all that? Yes, you look all right.
Carry on, laddie, carry on. Let's have two-penn'orth of the Dynamic
Voice and the Tone of Authority—some of the full, rich, round stuff
we hear so much about!"
Bill fastened a gimlet eye upon his brother-in-law and drew a deep
"Father!" he said. "Father!"
"You'll have to brighten up Bill's dialogue a lot," said Lucille,
critically, "or you will never get bookings."
"I mean, it's all right as far as it goes, but it's sort of
monotonous. Besides, one of you ought to be asking questions and the
other answering. Mill ought to be saying, 'Who was that lady I saw
you coming down the street with?' so that you would be able to say,
'That wasn't a lady. That was my wife.' I KNOW! I've been to lots of
Bill relaxed his attitude. He deflated his chest, spread his heels,
and ceased to draw in his abdomen.
"We'd better try this another time, when we're alone," he said,
frigidly. "I can't do myself justice."
"Why do you want to do yourself justice?" asked Lucille.
"Right-o!" said Archie, affably, casting off his forbidding
expression like a garment. "Rehearsal postponed. I was just putting
old Bill through it," he explained, "with a view to getting him into
mid-season form for the jolly old pater."
"Oh!" Lucille's voice was the voice of one who sees light in
darkness. "When Bill walked in like a cat on hot bricks and stood
there looking stuffed, that was just the Personality That Wins!"
"That was it."
"Well, you couldn't blame me for not recognising it, could you?"
Archie patted her head paternally.
"A little less of the caustic critic stuff," he said. "Bill will be
all right on the night. If you hadn't come in then and put him off
his stroke, he'd have shot out some amazing stuff, full of authority
and dynamic accents and what not. I tell you, light of my soul, old
Bill is all right! He's got the winning personality up a tree, ready
whenever he wants to go and get it. Speaking as his backer and
trainer, I think he'll twist your father round his little finger.
Absolutely! It wouldn't surprise me if at the end of five minutes the
good old dad started pumping through hoops and sitting up for lumps of
"It would surprise ME."
"Ah, that's because you haven't seen old Bill in action. You
crabbed his act before he had begun to spread himself."
"It isn't that at all. The reason why I think that Bill, however
winning his, personality may be, won't persuade father to let him
marry a girl in the chorus is something that happened last night."
"Well, at three o'clock this morning. It's on the front page of the
early editions of the evening papers. I brought one in for you to
see, only you were so busy. Look! There it is!"
Archie seized the paper.
"Oh, Great Scot!"
"What is it?" asked Bill, irritably. "Don't stand goggling there!
What the devil is it?"
"Listen to this, old thing!"
REVELRY BY NIGHT.
SPIRITED BATTLE ROYAL AT HOTEL
THE HOTEL DETECTIVE HAD A GOOD HEART
BUT PAULINE PACKED THE PUNCH.
The logical contender for Jack Dempsey's championship honours has
been discovered; and, in an age where women are stealing men's jobs
all the time, it will not come as a surprise to our readers to learn
that she belongs to the sex that is more deadly than the male. Her
name is Miss Pauline Preston, and her wallop is vouched for under
oath—under many oaths—by Mr. Timothy O'Neill, known to his
intimates as Pie-Face, who holds down the arduous job of detective at
the Hotel Cosmopolis.
At three o'clock this morning, Mr. O'Neill was advised by the
night- clerk that the occupants of every room within earshot of number
618 had 'phoned the desk to complain of a disturbance, a noise, a
vocal uproar proceeding from the room mentioned. Thither, therefore,
marched Mr. O'Neill, his face full of cheese-sandwich, (for he had
been indulging in an early breakfast or a late supper) and his heart
of devotion to duty. He found there the Misses Pauline Preston and
"Bobbie" St. Clair, of the personnel of the chorus of the
Frivolities, entertaining a few friends of either sex. A pleasant
time was being had by all, and at the moment of Mr. O'Neill's entry
the entire strength of the company was rendering with considerable
emphasis that touching ballad, "There's a Place For Me In Heaven, For
My Baby-Boy Is There."
The able and efficient officer at once suggested that there was a
place for them in the street and the patrol-wagon was there; and,
being a man of action as well as words, proceeded to gather up an
armful of assorted guests as a preliminary to a personally-conducted
tour onto the cold night. It was at this point that Miss Preston
stepped into the limelight. Mr. O'Neill contends that she hit him
with a brick, an iron casing, and the Singer Building. Be that as it
may, her efforts were sufficiently able to induce him to retire for
reinforcements, which, arriving, arrested the supper-party regardless
of age or sex.
At the police-court this morning Miss Preston maintained that she
and her friends were merely having a quiet home-evening and that Mr.
O'Neill was no gentleman. The male guests gave their names
respectively as Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd-George, and William J.
Bryan. These, however, are believed to be incorrect. But the moral
is, if you want excitement rather than sleep, stay at the Hotel
Bill may have quaked inwardly as he listened to this epic but
outwardly he was unmoved.
"Well," he said, "what about it?"
"What about it!" said Lucille.
"What about it!" said Archie. "Why, my dear old friend, it simply
means that all the time we've been putting in making your personality
winning has been chucked away. Absolutely a dead loss! We might just
as well have read a manual on how to knit sweaters."
"I don't see it," maintained Bill, stoutly.
Lucille turned apologetically to her husband.
"You mustn't judge me by him, Archie, darling. This sort of thing
doesn't run in the family.-We are supposed to be rather bright on the
whole. But poor Bill was dropped by his nurse when he was a baby, and
fell on his head."
"I suppose what you're driving at," said the goaded Bill, "is that
what has happened will make father pretty sore against girls who
happen to be in the chorus?"
"That's absolutely it, old thing, I'm sorry to say. The next person
who mentions the word chorus-girl in the jolly old governor's
presence is going to take his life in his hands. I tell you, as one
man to another, that I'd much rather be back in France hopping over
the top than do it myself."
"What darned nonsense! Mabel may be in the chorus, but she isn't
like those girls."
"Poor old Bill!" said Lucille. "I'm awfully sorry, but it's no use
not facing facts. You know perfectly well that the reputation of the
hotel is the thing father cares more about than anything else in the
world, and that this is going to make him furious with all the
chorus-girls in creation. It's no good trying to explain to him that
your Mabel is in the chorus but not of the chorus, so to speak."
"Deuced well put!" said Archie, approvingly. "You're absolutely
right. A chorus-girl by the river's brim, so to speak, a simple
chorus-girl is to him, as it were, and she is nothing more, if you
know what I mean."
"So now," said Lucille, "having shown you that the imbecile scheme
which you concocted with my poor well-meaning husband is no good at
all, I will bring you words of cheer. Your own original plan—of
getting your Mabel a part in a comedy—was always the best one. And
you can do it. I wouldn't have broken the bad news so abruptly if I
hadn't had some consolation to give you afterwards. I met Reggie van
Tuyl just now, wandering about as if the cares of world were on his
shoulders, and he told me that he was putting up most of the money
for a new play that's going into rehearsal right away. Reggie's an
old friend of yours. All you have to do is to go to him and ask him
to use his influence to get your Mabel a small part. There's sure to
be a maid or something with only a line or two that won't matter."
"A ripe scheme!" said Archie. "Very sound and fruity!"
The cloud did not lift from Bill's corrugated brow.
"That's all very well," he said. "But you know what a talker Reggie
is. He's an obliging sort of chump, but his tongue's fastened on at
the middle and waggles at both ends. I don't want the whole of New
York to know about my engagement, and have somebody spilling the news
to father, before I'm ready."
"That's all right," said Lucille. "Archie can speak to him. There's
no need for him to mention your name at all. He can just say there's
a girl he wants to get a part for. You would do it, wouldn't you,
"Like a bird, queen of my soul."
"Then that's splendid. You'd better give Archie that photograph of
Mabel to give to Reggie, Bill."
"Photograph?" said Bill. "Which photograph? I have twenty-four!"
Archie found Reggie van Tuyl brooding in a window of his club that
looked over Fifth Avenue. Reggie was a rather melancholy young man
who suffered from elephantiasis of the bank-roll and the other evils
that arise from that complaint. Gentle and sentimental by nature, his
sensibilities had been much wounded by contact with a sordid world;
and the thing that had first endeared Archie to him was the fact that
the latter, though chronically hard-up, had never made any attempt to
borrow money from him. Reggie would have parted with it on demand, but
it had delighted him to find that Archie seemed to take a pleasure in
his society without having any ulterior motives. He was fond of
Archie, and also of Lucille; and their happy marriage was a constant
source of gratification to him.
For Reggie was a sentimentalist. He would have liked to live in a
world of ideally united couples, himself ideally united to some
charming and affectionate girl. But, as a matter of cold fact, he was
a bachelor, and most of the couples he knew were veterans of several
divorces. In Reggie's circle, therefore, the home-life of Archie and
Lucille shone like a good deed in a naughty world. It inspired him. In
moments of depression it restored his waning faith in human nature.
Consequently, when Archie, having greeted him and slipped into a
chair at his side, suddenly produced from his inside pocket the
photograph of an extremely pretty girl and asked him to get her a
small part in the play which he was financing, he was shocked and
disappointed. He was in a more than usually sentimental mood that
afternoon, and had, indeed, at the moment of Archie's arrival, been
dreaming wistfully of soft arms clasped snugly about his collar and
the patter of little feet and all that sort of thing.-He gazed
reproachfully at Archie.
"Archie!" his voice quivered with emotion. "is it worth it?, is it
worth it, old man?-Think of the poor little woman at home!"
Archie was puzzled.
"Eh, old top? Which poor little woman?"
"Think of her trust in you, her faith—".
"I don't absolutely get you, old bean."
"What would Lucille say if she knew about this?"
"Oh, she does. She knows all about it."
"Good heavens!" cried Reggie.-He was shocked to the core of his
being.-One of the articles of his faith was, that the union of
Lucille and Archie was different from those loose partnerships which
were the custom in his world.-He had not been conscious of such a
poignant feeling that the foundations of the universe were cracked
and tottering and that there was no light and sweetness in life since
the morning, eighteen months back, when a negligent valet had sent him
out into Fifth Avenue with only one spat on.
"It was Lucille's idea," explained Archie. He was about to mention
his brother-in-law's connection with the matter, but checked himself
in time, remembering Bill's specific objection to having his secret
revealed to Reggie. "It's like this, old thing, I've never met this
female, but she's a pal of Lucille's"-he comforted his conscience by
the reflection that, if she wasn't now, she would be in a few days-
"and Lucille wants to do her a bit of good. She's been on the stage
in England, you know, supporting a jolly old widowed mother and
educating a little brother and all that kind and species of rot, you
understand, and now she's coming over to America, and Lucille wants
you to rally round and shove her into your show and generally keep
the home fires burning and so forth. How do we go?"
Reggie beamed with relief. He felt just as he had felt on that
other occasion at the moment when a taxi-cab had rolled up and enabled
him to hide his spatless leg from the public gaze.
"Oh, I see!" he said. "Why, delighted, old man, quite delighted!"
"Any small part would do. Isn't there a maid or something in your
bob's-worth of refined entertainment who drifts about saying, 'Yes,
madam,' and all that sort of thing? Well, then that's just the thing.
Topping! I knew I could rely on you, old bird. I'll get Lucille to
ship her round to your address when she arrives. I fancy she's due to
totter in somewhere in the next few days. Well, I must be popping.
"Pip-pip!" said Reggie.
It was about a week later that Lucille came into the suite at the
Hotel Cosmopolis that was her home, and found Archie lying on the
couch, smoking a refreshing pipe after the labours of the day. It
seemed to Archie that his wife was not in her usual cheerful frame of
mind. He kissed her, and, having relieved her of her parasol,
endeavoured without success to balance it on his chin. Having picked
it up from the floor and placed it on the table, he became aware that
Lucille was looking at him in a despondent sort of way. Her grey eyes
"Halloa, old thing," said Archie. "What's up?"
Lucille sighed wearily.
"Archie, darling, do you know any really good swear-words?"
"Well," said Archie, reflectively, "let me see. I did pick up a few
tolerably ripe and breezy expressions out in France. All through my
military career there was something about me—some subtle magnetism,
don't you know, and that sort of thing—that seemed to make colonels
and blighters of that order rather inventive. I sort of inspired
them, don't you know. I remember one brass-hat addressing me for
quite ten minutes, saying something new all the time. And even then
he seemed to think he had only touched the fringe of the subject. As
a matter of fact, he said straight out in the most frank and
confiding way that mere words couldn't do justice to me. But why?"
"Because I want to relieve my feelings."
"Everything's wrong. I've just been having tea with Bill and his
"Oh, ah!" said Archie, interested. "And what's the verdict?"
"Guilty!" said Lucille. "And the sentence, if I had anything to do
with it, would be transportation for life." She peeled off her gloves
irritably. "What fools men are! Not you, precious! You're the only man
in the world that isn't, it seems to me. You did marry a nice girl,
didn't you? YOU didn't go running round after females with crimson
hair, goggling at them with your eyes popping out of your head like a
bulldog waiting for a bone."
"Oh, I say! Does old Bill look like that?"
Archie rose to a point of order.
"But one moment, old lady. You speak of crimson hair. Surely old
Bill—in the extremely jolly monologues he used to deliver whenever I
didn't see him coming and he got me alone—used to allude to her hair
"It isn't brown now. It's bright scarlet. Good gracious, I ought to
know. I've been looking at it all the afternoon. It dazzled me. If
I've got to meet her again, I mean to go to the oculist's and get a
pair of those smoked glasses you wear at Palm Beach." Lucille brooded
silently for a while over the tragedy. "I don't want to say anything
against her, of course."
"No, no, of course not."
"But of all the awful, second-rate girls I ever met, she's the
worst! She has vermilion hair and an imitation Oxford manner. She's
so horribly refined that it's dreadful to listen to her. She's a sly,
creepy, slinky, made-up, insincere vampire! She's common! She's awful!
She's a cat!"
"You're quite right not to say anything against her," said Archie,
approvingly. "It begins to look," he went on, "as if the good old
pater was about due for another shock. He has a hard life!"
"If Bill DARES to introduce that girl to Father, he's taking his
life in his hands."
"But surely that was the idea—the scheme—the wheeze, wasn't it?
Or do you think there's any chance of his weakening?"
"Weakening! You should have seen him looking at her! It was like a
small boy flattening his nose against the window of a candy-store."
Lucille kicked the leg of the table.
"And to think," she said, "that, when I was a little girl, I used
to look up to Bill as a monument of wisdom. I used to hug his knees
and gaze into his face and wonder how anyone could be so magnificent."
She gave the unoffending table another kick. "If I could have looked
into the future," she said, with feeling, "I'd have bitten him in the
In the days which followed, Archie found himself a little out of
touch with Bill and his romance. Lucille referred to the matter only
when he brought the subject up, and made it plain that the topic of
her future sister-in-law was not one which she enjoyed discussing.
Mr. Brewster, senior, when Archie, by way of delicately preparing his
mind for what was about to befall, asked him if he liked red hair,
called him a fool, and told him to go away and bother someone else
when they were busy. The only person who could have kept him
thoroughly abreast of the trend of affairs was Bill himself; and
experience had made Archie wary in the matter of meeting Bill. The
position of confidant to a young man in the early stages of love is
no sinecure, and it made Archie sleepy even to think of having to
talk to his brother-in-law. He sedulously avoided his love-lorn
relative, and it was with a sinking feeling one day that, looking
over his shoulder as he sat in the Cosmopolis grill-room preparatory
to ordering lunch, he perceived Bill bearing down upon him, obviously
resolved upon joining his meal.
To his surprise, however, Bill did not instantly embark upon his
usual monologue. Indeed, he hardly spoke at all. He champed a chop,
and seemed to Archie to avoid his eye. It was not till lunch was over
and they were smoking that he unburdened himself.
"Archie!" he said.
"Hallo, old thing!" said Archie. "Still there? I thought you'd died
or something. Talk about our old pals, Tongue-tied Thomas and Silent
Sammy! You could beat 'em both on the same evening."
"It's enough to make me silent."
Bill had relapsed into a sort of waking dream. He sat frowning
sombrely, lost to the world. Archie, having waited what seemed to him
a sufficient length of time for an answer to his question, bent
forward and touched his brother-in-law's hand gently with the lighted
end of his cigar. Bill came to himself with a howl.
"What is?" said Archie.
"What is what?" said Bill.
"Now listen, old thing," protested Archie. "Life is short and time
is flying. Suppose we cut out the cross-talk. You hinted there was
something on your mind—something worrying the old bean—and I'm
waiting to hear what it is."
Bill fiddled a moment with his coffee-spoon.
"I'm in an awful hole," he said at last.
"What's the trouble?"
"It's about that darned girl!"
"That darned girl!"
Archie could scarcely credit his senses. He had been prepared—
indeed, he had steeled himself—to hear Bill allude to his affinity
in a number of ways. But "that darned girl" was not one of them.
"Companion of my riper years," he said, "let's get this thing
straight. When you say 'that darned girl,' do you by any possibility
"Of course I do!"
"But, William, old bird—"
"Oh, I know, I know, I know!" said Bill, irritably. "You're
surprised to hear me talk like that about her?"
"A trifle, yes. Possibly a trifle. When last heard from, laddie,
you must recollect, you were speaking of the lady as your soul-mate,
and at least once—if I remember rightly—you alluded to her as your
little dusky-haired lamb."
A sharp howl escaped Bill.
"Don't!" A strong shudder convulsed his frame. "Don't remind me of
"There's been a species of slump, then, in dusky-haired lambs?"
"How," demanded Bill, savagely, "can-a girl be a dusky-haired lamb
when her hair's bright scarlet?"
"Dashed difficult!" admitted Archie.
"I suppose Lucille told you about that?"
"She did touch on it. Lightly, as it were. With a sort of gossamer
touch, so to speak."
Bill threw off the last fragments of reserve.
"Archie, I'm in the devil of a fix. I don't know why it was, but
directly I saw her—things seemed so different over in England—I
mean." He swallowed ice-water in gulps. "I suppose it was seeing her
with Lucille. Old Lu is such a thoroughbred. Seemed to kind of show
her up. Like seeing imitation pearls by the side of real pearls. And
that crimson hair! It sort of put the lid on it." Bill brooded
morosely. "It ought to be a criminal offence for women to dye their
hair. Especially red. What the devil do women do that sort of thing
"Don't blame me, old thing. It's not my fault."
Bill looked furtive and harassed.
"It makes me feel such a cad. Here am I, feeling that I would give
all I've got in the world to get out of the darned thing, and all the
time the poor girl seems to be getting fonder of me than ever."
"How do you know?" Archie surveyed his brother-in-law critically.
"Perhaps her feelings have changed too. Very possibly she may not
like the colour of YOUR hair. I don't myself. Now if you were to dye
"Oh, shut up! Of course a man knows when a girl's fond of him."
"By no means, laddie. When you're my age—"
"I AM your age."
"So you are! I forgot that. Well, now, approaching the matter from
another angle, let us suppose, old son, that Miss What's-Her-Name—
the party of the second part—"
"Stop it!" said Bill suddenly. "Here comes Reggie!"
"Here comes Reggie van Tuyl. I don't want him to hear us talking
about the darned thing."
Archie looked over his shoulder and perceived that it was indeed
so. Reggie was threading his way among the tables.
"Well, HE looks pleased with things, anyway," said Bill, enviously.
"Glad somebody's happy."
He was right. Reggie van Tuyl's usual mode of progress through a
restaurant was a somnolent slouch. Now he was positively bounding
along. Furthermore, the usual expression on Reggie's face was a
sleepy sadness. Now he smiled brightly and with animation. He
curveted towards their table, beaming and erect, his head up, his
gaze level, and his chest expanded, for all the world as if he had
been reading the hints in "The Personality That Wins."
Archie was puzzled. Something had plainly happened to Reggie. But
what? It was idle to suppose that somebody had left him money, for he
had been left practically all the money there was a matter of ten
"Hallo, old bean," he said, as the new-comer, radiating good will
and bonhomie, arrived at the table and hung over it like a noon-day
sun. "We've finished. But rally round and we'll watch you eat. Dashed
interesting, watching old Reggie eat. Why go to the Zoo?"
Reggie shook his head.
"Sorry, old man. Can't. Just on my way to the Ritz. Stepped in
because I thought you might be here. I wanted you to be the first to
hear the news."
"I'm the happiest man alive!"
"You look it, darn you!" growled Bill, on whose mood of grey gloom
this human sunbeam was jarring heavily.
"I'm engaged to be married!"
"Congratulations, old egg!" Archie shook his hand cordially. "Dash
it, don't you know, as an old married man I like to see you young
fellows settling down."
"I don't know how to thank you enough, Archie, old man," said
"It was through you that I met her. Don't you remember the girl you
sent to me? You wanted me to get her a small part—"
He stopped, puzzled. Archie had uttered a sound that was half gasp
and half gurgle, but it was swallowed up in the extraordinary noise
from the other side of the table. Bill Brewster was leaning forward
with bulging eyes and soaring eyebrows.
"Are you engaged to Mabel Winchester?"
"Why, by George!" said Reggie. "Do you know her?"
Archie recovered himself.
"Slightly," he said. "Slightly. Old Bill knows her slightly, as it
were. Not very well, don't you know, but—how shall I put it?"
"Slightly," suggested Bill.
"Just the word. Slightly."
"Splendid!" said Reggie van Tuyl. "Why don't you come along to the
Ritz and meet her now?"
Bill stammered. Archie came to the rescue again.
"Bill can't come now. He's got a date."
"A date?" said Bill.
"A date," said Archie. "An appointment, don't you know. A—a—in
fact, a date."
"But—er—wish her happiness from me," said Bill, cordially.
"Thanks very much, old man," said Reggie.
"And say I'm delighted, will you?"
"You won't forget the word, will you? Delighted."
"That's right. Delighted."
Reggie looked at his watch.
"Halloa! I must rush!"
Bill and Archie watched him as he bounded out of the restaurant.
"Poor old Reggie!" said Bill, with a fleeting compunction.
"Not necessarily," said Archie. "What I mean to say is, tastes
differ, don't you know. One man's peach is another man's poison, and
"There's something in that."
"Absolutely! Well," said Archie, judicially, "this would appear to
be, as it were, the maddest, merriest day in all the glad New Year,
Bill drew a deep breath.
"You bet your sorrowful existence it is!" he said. "I'd like to do
something to celebrate it."
"The right spirit!" said Archie. "Absolutely the right spirit!
Begin by paying for my lunch!"
Rendered restless by relief, Bill Brewster did not linger long at
the luncheon-table. Shortly after Reggie van Tuyl had retired, he got
up and announced his intention of going for a bit of a walk to calm
his excited mind. Archie dismissed him with a courteous wave of the
hand; and, beckoning to the Sausage Chappie, who in his role of waiter
was hovering near, requested him to bring the best cigar the hotel
could supply. The padded seat in which he sat was comfortable; he had
no engagements; and it seemed to him that a pleasant half- hour could
be passed in smoking dreamily and watching his fellow-men eat.
The grill-room had filled up. The Sausage Chappie, having brought
Archie his cigar, was attending to a table close by, at which a woman
with a small boy in a sailor suit had seated themselves. The woman was
engrossed with the bill of fare, but the child's attention seemed
riveted upon the Sausage Chappie. He was drinking him in with wide
eyes. He seemed to be brooding on him.
Archie, too, was brooding on the Sausage Chappie, The latter made
an excellent waiter: he was brisk and attentive, and did the work as
if he liked it; but Archie was not satisfied. Something seemed to tell
him that the man was fitted for higher things. Archie was a grateful
soul. That sausage, coming at the end of a five-hour hike, had made a
deep impression on his plastic nature. Reason told him that only an
exceptional man could have parted with half a sausage at such a
moment; and he could not feel that a job as waiter at a New York
hotel was an adequate job for an exceptional man. Of course, the root
of the trouble lay in the fact that the fellow could not remember what
his real life-work had been before the war. It was exasperating to
reflect, as the other moved away to take his order to the kitchen,
that there, for all one knew, went the dickens of a lawyer or doctor
or architect or what not.
His meditations were broken by the voice of the child.
"Mummie," asked the child interestedly, following the Sausage
Chappie with his eyes as the latter disappeared towards the kitchen,
"why has that man got such a funny face?"
"Yes, but why HAS he?"
"I don't know, darling."
The child's faith in the maternal omniscience seemed to have
received a shock. He had the air of a seeker after truth who has been
baffled. His eyes roamed the room discontentedly.
"He's got a funnier face than that man there," he said, pointing to
"But he has. Much funnier."
In a way it was a sort of compliment, but Archie felt embarrassed.
He withdrew coyly into the cushioned recess. Presently the Sausage
Chappie returned, attended to the needs of the woman and the child,
and came over to Archie. His homely face was beaming.
"Say, I had a big night last night," he said, leaning on the table.
"Yes?" said Archie. "Party or something?"
"No, I mean I suddenly began to remember things. Something seems to
have happened to the works."
Archie sat up excitedly. This was great news.
"No, really? My dear old lad, this is absolutely topping. This is
"Yessir! First thing I remembered was that I was born at
Springfield, Ohio. It was like a mist starting to life. Springfield,
Ohio. That was it. It suddenly came back to me."
"Splendid! Anything else?"
"Yessir! Just before I went to sleep I remembered my name as well."
Archie was stirred to his depths.
"Why, the thing's a walk-over!" he exclaimed. "Now you've once got
started, nothing can stop you. What is your name?"
"Why, it's—That's funny! It's gone again. I have an idea it began
with an S. What was it? Skeffington? Skillington?"
"No; I'll get it in a moment. Cunningham? Carrington? Wilberforce?
"Dennison?" suggested Archie, helpfully.—"No, no, no. It's on the
tip of my tongue. Barrington? Montgomery? Hepplethwaite? I've got it!
"By Jove! Really?"
"Certain of it."
"What's the first name?"
An anxious expression came into the man's eyes. He hesitated. He
lowered his voice.
"I have a horrible feeling that it's Lancelot!"
"Good God!" said Archie.
"It couldn't really be that, could it?"
Archie looked grave. He hated to give pain, but he felt he must be
"It might," he said. "People give their children all sorts of rummy
names. My second name's Tracy. And I have a pal in England who was
christened Cuthbert de la Hay Horace. Fortunately everyone calls him
The head-waiter began to drift up like a bank of fog, and the
Sausage Chappie returned to his professional duties. When he came
back, he was beaming again.
"Something else I remembered," he said, removing the cover. "I'm
"At least I was before the war. She had blue eyes and brown hair
and a Pekingese dog."
"What was her name?"
"I don't know."
"Well, you're coming on," said Archie. "I'll admit that. You've
still got a bit of a way to go before you become like one of those
blighters who take the Memory Training Courses in the magazine
advertisements—I mean to say, you know, the lads who meet a fellow
once for five minutes, and then come across him again ten years later
and grasp him by the hand and say, 'Surely this is Mr. Watkins of
Seattle?' Still, you're doing fine. You only need patience. Everything
comes to him who waits." Archie sat up, electrified. "I say, by Jove,
that's rather good, what! Everything comes to him who waits, and
you're a waiter, what, what. I mean to say, what!"
"Mummie," said the child at the other table, still speculative, "do
you think something trod on his face?"
"Perhaps it was bitten by something?"
"Eat your nice fish, darling," said the mother, who seemed to be
one of those dull-witted persons whom it is impossible to interest in
a discussion on first causes.
Archie felt stimulated. Not even the advent of his father-in-law,
who came in a few moments later and sat down at the other end of the
room, could depress his spirits.
The Sausage Chappie came to his table again.
"It's a funny thing," he said. "Like waking up after you've been
asleep. Everything seems to be getting clearer. The dog's name was
Marie. My wife's dog, you know. And she had a mole on her chin."
"No. My wife. Little beast! She bit me in the leg once."
"No. The dog. Good Lord!" said the Sausage Chappie.
Archie looked up and followed his gaze.
A couple of tables away, next to a sideboard on which the
management exposed for view the cold meats and puddings and pies
mentioned in volume two of the bill of fare ("Buffet Froid"), a man
and a girl had just seated themselves. The man was stout and
middle-aged. He bulged in practically every place in which a man can
bulge, and his head was almost entirely free from hair. The girl was
young and pretty. Her eyes were blue. Her hair was brown. She had a
rather attractive little mole on the left side of her chin.
"Good Lord!" said the Sausage Chappie.
"Now what?" said Archie.
"Who's that? Over at the table there?"
Archie, through long attendance at the Cosmopolis Grill, knew most
of the habitues by sight.
"That's a man named Gossett. James J. Gossett. He's a
motion-picture man. You must have seen his name around."
"I don't mean him. Who's the girl?"
"I've never seen her before."
"It's my wife!" said the Sausage Chappie.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure!"
"Well, well, well!" said Archie. "Many happy returns of the day!"
At the other table, the girl, unconscious of the drama which was
about to enter her life, was engrossed in conversation with the stout
man. And at this moment the stout man leaned forward and patted her on
It was a paternal pat, the pat which a genial uncle might bestow on
a favourite niece, but it did not strike the Sausage Chappie in that
light. He had been advancing on the table at a fairly rapid pace, and
now, stirred to his depths, he bounded forward with a hoarse cry.
Archie was at some pains to explain to his father-in-law later
that, if the management left cold pies and things about all over the
place, this sort of thing was bound to happen sooner or later. He
urged that it was putting temptation in people's way, and that Mr.
Brewster had only himself to blame. Whatever the rights of the case,
the Buffet Froid undoubtedly came in remarkably handy at this crisis
in the Sausage Chappie's life. He had almost reached the sideboard
when the stout man patted the girl's cheek, and to seize a
huckleberry pie was with him the work of a moment. The next instant
the pie had whizzed past the other's head and burst like a shell
against the wall.
There are, no doubt, restaurants where this sort of thing would
have excited little comment, but the Cosmopolis was not one of them.
Everybody had something to say, but the only one among those present
who had anything sensible to say was the child in the sailor suit.
"Do it again!" said the child, cordially.
The Sausage Chappie did it again. He took up a fruit salad, poised
it for a moment, then decanted it over Mr. Gossett's bald head. The
child's happy laughter rang over the restaurant. Whatever anybody
else might think of the affair, this child liked it and was prepared
to go on record to that effect.
Epic events have a stunning quality. They paralyse the faculties.
For a moment there was a pause. The world stood still. Mr. Brewster
bubbled inarticulately. Mr. Gossett dried himself sketchily with a
napkin. The Sausage Chappie snorted.
The girl had risen to her feet and was staring wildly.
"John!" she cried.
Even at this moment of crisis the Sausage Chappie was able to look
"So it is!" he said. "And I thought it was Lancelot!"
"I thought you were dead!"
"I'm not!" said the Sausage Chappie.
Mr. Gossett, speaking thickly through the fruit-salad, was
understood to say that he regretted this. And then confusion broke
loose again. Everybody began to talk at once.
"I say!" said Archie. "I say! One moment!"
Of the first stages of this interesting episode Archie had been a
paralysed spectator. The thing had numbed him. And then—
Sudden a thought came, like a full-blown rose.
Flushing his brow.
When he reached the gesticulating group, he was calm and business-
like. He had a constructive policy to suggest.
"I say," he said. "I've got an idea!"
"Go away!" said Mr. Brewster. "This is bad enough without you
Archie quelled him with a gesture.
"Leave us," he said. "We would be alone. I want to have a little
business-talk with Mr. Gossett." He turned to the movie-magnate, who
was gradually emerging from the fruit-salad rather after the manner
of a stout Venus rising from the sea. "Can you spare me a moment of
your valuable time?"
"I'll have him arrested!"
"Don't you do it, laddie. Listen!"
"The man's mad. Throwing pies!"
Archie attached himself to his coat-button.
"Be calm, laddie. Calm and reasonable!"
For the first time Mr. Gossett seemed to become aware that what he
had been looking on as a vague annoyance was really an individual.
"Who the devil are you?"
Archie drew himself up with dignity.
"I am this gentleman's representative," he replied, indicating the
Sausage Chappie with a motion of the hand. "His jolly old personal
representative. I act for him. And on his behalf I have a pretty ripe
proposition to lay before you. Reflect, dear old bean," he proceeded
earnestly. "Are you going to let this chance slip? The opportunity of
a lifetime which will not occur again. By Jove, you ought to rise up
and embrace this bird. You ought to clasp the chappie to your bosom!
He has thrown pies at you, hasn't he? Very well. You are a
movie-magnate. Your whole fortune is founded on chappies who throw
pies. You probably scour the world for chappies who throw pies. Yet,
when one comes right to you without any fuss or trouble and
demonstrates before your very eyes the fact that he is without a peer
as a pie-propeller, you get the wind up and talk about having him
arrested. Consider! (There's a bit of cherry just behind your left
ear.) Be sensible. Why let your personal feeling stand in the way of
doing yourself a bit of good? Give this chappie a job and give it him
quick, or we go elsewhere. Did you ever see Fatty Arbuckle handle
pastry with a surer touch? Has Charlie Chaplin got this fellow's speed
and control. Absolutely not. I tell you, old friend, you're in danger
of throwing away a good thing!"
He paused. The Sausage Chappie beamed.
"I've aways wanted to go into the movies," he said. "I was an actor
before the war. Just remembered."
Mr. Brewster attempted to speak. Archie waved him down.
"How many times have I got to tell you not to butt in?" he said,
Mr. Gossett's militant demeanour had become a trifle modified
during Archie's harangue. First and foremost a man of business, Mr.
Gossett was not insensible to the arguments which had been put
forward. He brushed a slice of orange from the back of his neck, and
"How do I know this fellow would screen well?" he said, at length.
"Screen well!" cried Archie. "Of course he'll screen well. Look at
his face. I ask you! The map! I call your attention to it." He turned
apologetically to the Sausage Chappie. "Awfully sorry, old lad, for
dwelling on this, but it's business, you know." He turned to Mr.
Gossett. "Did you ever see a face like that? Of course not. Why should
I, as this gentleman's personal representative, let a face like that
go to waste? There's a fortune in it. By Jove, I'll give you two
minutes to think the thing over, and, if you don't talk business then,
I'll jolly well take my man straight round to Mack Sennett or someone.
We don't have to ask for jobs. We consider offers."
There was a silence. And then the clear voice of the child in the
sailor suit made itself heard again.
"Is the man with the funny face going to throw any more pies?"
The child uttered a scream of disappointed fury.
"I want the funny man to throw some more pies! I want the funny man
to throw some more pies!"
A look almost of awe came into Mr. Gossett's face. He had heard the
voice of the Public. He had felt the beating of the Public's pulse.
"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," he said, picking a
piece of banana off his right eyebrow, "Out of the mouths of babes and
sucklings. Come round to my office!"
CHAPTER XXI. THE GROWING BOY
The lobby of the Cosmopolis Hotel was a favourite stamping-ground
of Mr. Daniel Brewster, its proprietor. He liked to wander about
there, keeping a paternal eye on things, rather in the manner of the
Jolly Innkeeper (hereinafter to be referred to as Mine Host) of the
old- fashioned novel. Customers who, hurrying in to dinner, tripped
over Mr. Brewster, were apt to mistake him for the hotel
detective—for his eye was keen and his aspect a trifle austere—but,
nevertheless, he was being as jolly an innkeeper as he knew how. His
presence in the lobby supplied a personal touch to the Cosmopolis
which other New York hotels lacked, and it undeniably made the girl at
the book- stall extraordinarily civil to her clients, which was all to
Most of the time Mr. Brewster stood in one spot and just looked
thoughtful; but now and again he would wander to the marble slab
behind which he kept the desk-clerk and run his eye over the
register, to see who had booked rooms—like a child examining the
stocking on Christmas morning to ascertain what Santa Claus had
As a rule, Mr. Brewster concluded this performance by shoving the
book back across the marble slab and resuming his meditations. But
one night a week or two after the Sausage Chappie's sudden
restoration to the normal, he varied this procedure by starting
rather violently, turning purple, and uttering an exclamation which
was manifestly an exclamation of chagrin. He turned abruptly and
cannoned into Archie, who, in company with Lucille, happened to be
crossing the lobby at the moment on his way to dine in their suite.
Mr. Brewster apologised gruffly; then, recognising his victim,
seemed to regret having done so.
"Oh, it's you! Why can't you look where you're going?" he demanded.
He had suffered much from his son-in-law.
"Frightfully sorry," said Archie, amiably. "Never thought you were
going to fox-trot backwards all over the fairway."
"You mustn't bully Archie," said Lucille, severely, attaching
herself to her father's back hair and giving it a punitive tug,
"because he's an angel, and I love him, and you must learn to love
"Give you lessons at a reasonable rate," murmured Archie.
Mr. Brewster regarded his young relative with a lowering eye.
"What's the matter, father darling?" asked Lucille. "You seem
"I am upset!" Mr. Brewster snorted. "Some people have got a nerve!"
He glowered forbiddingly at an inoffensive young man in a light
overcoat who had just entered, and the young man, though his
conscience was quite clear and Mr. Brewster an entire stranger to
him, stopped dead, blushed, and went out again—to dine elsewhere.
"Some people have got the nerve of an army mule!"
"Why, what's happened?"
"Those darned McCalls have registered here!"
"Bit beyond me, this," said Archie, insinuating himself into the
conversation. "Deep waters and what not! Who are the McCalls?"
"Some people father dislikes," said Lucille. "And they've chosen
his hotel to stop at. But, father dear, you mustn't mind. It's really
a compliment. They've come because they know it's the best hotel in
"Absolutely!" said Archie. "Good accommodation for man and beast!
All the comforts of home! Look on the bright side, old bean. No good
getting the wind up. Cherrio, old companion!"
"Don't call me old companion!"
"Eh, what? Oh, right-o!"
Lucille steered her husband out of the danger zone, and they
entered the lift.
"Poor father!" she said, as they went to their suite, "it's a
shame. They must have done it to annoy him. This man McCall has a
place next to some property father bought in Westchester, and he's
bringing a law-suit against father about a bit of land which he
claims belongs to him. He might have had the tact to go to another
hotel. But, after all, I don't suppose it was the poor little
fellow's fault. He does whatever his wife tells him to."
"We all do that," said Archie the married man.
Lucille eyed him fondly.
"Isn't it a shame, precious, that all husbands haven't nice wives
"When I think of you, by Jove," said Archie, fervently, "I want to
babble, absolutely babble!"
"Oh, I was telling you about the McCalls. Mr. McCall is one of
those little, meek men, and his wife's one of those big, bullying
women. It was she who started all the trouble with father. Father and
Mr. McCall were very fond of each other till she made him begin the
suit. I feel sure she made him come to this hotel just to annoy
father. Still, they've probably taken the most expensive suite in the
place, which is something."
Archie was at the telephone. His mood was now one of quiet peace.
Of all the happenings which went to make up existence in New York, he
liked best the cosy tete-a-tete dinners with Lucille in their suite,
which, owing to their engagements—for Lucille was a popular girl,
with many friends—occurred all too seldom.
"Touching now the question of browsing and sluicing," he said.
"I'll be getting them to send along a waiter."
"Oh, good gracious!"
"What's the matter?"
"I've just remembered. I promised faithfully I would go and see
Jane Murchison to-day. And I clean forgot. I must rush."
"But light of my soul, we are about to eat. Pop around and see her
"I can't. She's going to a theatre to-night."
"Give her the jolly old miss-in-baulk, then, for the nonce, and
spring round to-morrow."
"She's sailing for England to-morrow morning, early. No, I must go
and see her now. What a shame! She's sure to make me stop to dinner,
I tell you what. Order something for me, and, if I'm not back in half
an hour, start."
"Jane Murchison," said Archie, "is a bally nuisance."
"Yes. But I've known her since she was eight."
"If her parents had had any proper feeling," said Archie, "they
would have drowned her long before that."
He unhooked the receiver, and asked despondently to be connected
with Room Service. He thought bitterly of the exigent Jane, whom he
recollected dimly as a tall female with teeth. He half thought of
going down to the grill-room on the chance of finding a friend there,
but the waiter was on his way to the room. He decided that he might as
well stay where he was.
The waiter arrived, booked the order, and departed. Archie had just
completed his toilet after a shower-bath when a musical clinking
without announced the advent of the meal. He opened the door. The
waiter was there with a table congested with things under covers,
from which escaped a savoury and appetising odour. In spite of his
depression, Archie's soul perked up a trifle.
Suddenly he became aware that he was not the only person present
who was deriving enjoyment from the scent of the meal. Standing beside
the waiter and gazing wistfully at the foodstuffs was a long, thin
boy of about sixteen. He was one of those boys who seem all legs and
knuckles. He had pale red hair, sandy eyelashes, and a long neck; and
his eyes, as he removed them from the-table and raised them to
Archie's, had a hungry look. He reminded Archie of a half-grown,
"That smells good!" said the long boy. He inhaled deeply. "Yes,
sir," he continued, as one whose mind is definitely made up, "that
Before Archie could reply, the telephone bell rang. It was Lucille,
confirming her prophecy that the pest Jane would insist on her
staying to dine.
"Jane," said Archie, into the telephone, "is a pot of poison. The
waiter is here now, setting out a rich banquet, and I shall have to
eat two of everything by myself."
He hung up the receiver, and, turning, met the pale eye of the long
boy, who had propped himself up in the doorway.
"Were you expecting somebody to dinner?" asked the boy.
"Why, yes, old friend, I was."
The waiter left. The long boy hitched his back more firmly against
the doorpost, and returned to his original theme.
"That surely does smell good!" He basked a moment in the aroma.
"Yes, sir! I'll tell the world it does!"
Archie was not an abnormally rapid thinker, but he began at this
point to get a clearly defined impression that this lad, if invited,
would waive the formalities and consent to join his meal. Indeed, the
idea Archie got was that, if he were not invited pretty soon, he would
"Yes," he agreed. "It doesn't smell bad, what!"
"It smells GOOD!" said the boy. "Oh, doesn't it! Wake me up in the
night and ask me if it doesn't!"
"Poulet en casserole," said Archie.
"Golly!" said the boy, reverently.
There was a pause. The situation began to seem to Archie a trifle
difficult. He wanted to start his meal, but it began to appear that
he must either do so under the penetrating gaze of his new friend or
else eject the latter forcibly. The boy showed no signs of ever
wanting to leave the doorway.
"You've dined, I suppose, what?" said Archie.
"I never dine."
"Not really dine, I mean. I only get vegetables and nuts and
"I don't absolutely catch the drift, old bean," said Archie. The
boy sniffed with half-closed eyes as a wave of perfume from the poulet
en casserole floated past him. He seemed to be anxious to intercept
as much of it as possible before it got through the door.
"Mother's a food-reformer," he vouchsafed. "She lectures on it. She
makes Pop and me live on vegetables and nuts and things."
Archie was shocked. It was like listening to a tale from the abyss.
"My dear old chap, you must suffer agonies—absolute shooting
pains!" He had no hesitation now. Common humanity pointed out his
course. "Would you care to join me in a bite now?"
"Would I!" The boy smiled a wan smile. "Would I! Just stop me on
the street and ask me!"
"Come on in, then," said Archie, rightly taking this peculiar
phrase for a formal acceptance. "And close the door. The fatted calf
is getting cold."
Archie was not a man with a wide visiting-list among people with
families, and it was so long since he had seen a growing boy in
action at the table that he had forgotten what sixteen is capable of
doing with a knife and fork, when it really squares its elbows, takes
a deep breath, and gets going. The spectacle which he witnessed was
consequently at first a little unnerving. The long boy's idea of
trifling with a meal appeared to be to swallow it whole and reach out
for more. He ate like a starving Eskimo. Archie, in the time he had
spent in the trenches making the world safe for the working-man to
strike in, had occasionally been quite peckish, but he sat dazed
before this majestic hunger. This was real eating.
There was little conversation. The growing boy evidently did not
believe in table-talk when he could use his mouth for more practical
purposes. It was not until the final roll had been devoured to its
last crumb that the guest found leisure to address his host. Then he
leaned back with a contented sigh.
"Mother," said the human python, "says you ought to chew every
mouthful thirty-three times...."
"Yes, sir! Thirty-three times!" He sighed again, "I haven't ever
had meal like that."
"All right, was it, what?"
"Was it! Was it! Call me up on the 'phone and ask me!-Yes, sir!-
Mother's tipped off these darned waiters not to serve-me anything but
vegetables and nuts and things, darn it!"
"The mater seems to have drastic ideas about the good old feed-bag,
"I'll say she has! Pop hates it as much as me, but he's scared to
kick. Mother says vegetables contain all the proteids you want.
Mother says, if you eat meat, your blood-pressure goes all blooey. Do
you think it does?"
"Mine seems pretty well in the pink."
"She's great on talking," conceded the boy. "She's out to-night
somewhere, giving a lecture on Rational Eating to some ginks. I'll
have to be slipping up to our suite before she gets back." He rose,
sluggishly. "That isn't a bit of roll under that napkin, is it?" he
Archie raised the napkin.
"No. Nothing of that species."
"Oh, well!" said the boy, resignedly. "Then I believe I'll be
going. Thanks very much for the dinner."
"Not a bit, old top. Come again if you're ever trickling round in
The long boy removed himself slowly, loath to leave. At the door he
cast an affectionate glance back at the table.
"Some meal!" he said, devoutly. "Considerable meal!"
Archie lit a cigarette. He felt like a Boy Scout who has done his
day's Act of Kindness.
On the following morning it chanced that Archie needed a fresh
supply of tobacco. It was his custom, when this happened, to repair
to a small shop on Sixth Avenue which he had discovered accidentally
in the course of his rambles about the great city. His relations with
Jno. Blake, the proprietor, were friendly and intimate. The discovery
that Mr. Blake was English and had, indeed, until a few years back
maintained an establishment only a dozen doors or so from Archie's
London club, had served as a bond.
To-day he found Mr. Blake in a depressed mood. The tobacconist was
a hearty, red-faced man, who looked like an English sporting publican-
-the kind of man who wears a fawn-coloured top-coat and drives to the
Derby in a dog-cart; and usually there seemed to be nothing on his
mind except the vagaries of the weather, concerning which he was a
great conversationalist. But now moodiness had claimed him for its
own. After a short and melancholy "Good morning," he turned to the
task of measuring out the tobacco in silence.
Archie's sympathetic nature was perturbed.—"What's the matter,
laddie?" he enquired. "You would seem to be feeling a bit of an onion
this bright morning, what, yes, no? I can see it with the naked eye."
Mr. Blake grunted sorrowfully.
"I've had a knock, Mr. Moffam."
"Tell me all, friend of my youth."
Mr. Blake, with a jerk of his thumb, indicated a poster which hung
on the wall behind the counter. Archie had noticed it as he came in,
for it was designed to attract the eye. It was printed in black
letters on a yellow ground, and ran as follows:
CLOVER-LEAF SOCIAL AND OUTING CLUB
PIE-EATING CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WEST SIDE
FOR A PURSE OF $50 AND SIDE-BET
Archie examined this document gravely. It conveyed nothing to him
except—what he had long suspected—that his sporting-looking friend
had sporting blood as well as that kind of exterior. He expressed a
kindly hope that the other's Unknown would bring home the bacon.
Mr. Blake laughed one of those hollow, mirthless laughs.
"There ain't any blooming Unknown," he said, bitterly. This man had
plainly suffered. "Yesterday, yes, but not now."
"In the midst of life—Dead?" he enquired, delicately.
"As good as," replied the stricken tobacconist. He cast aside his
artificial restraint and became voluble. Archie was one of those
sympathetic souls in whom even strangers readily confided their most
intimate troubles. He was to those in travail of spirit very much
what catnip is to a cat. "It's 'ard, sir, it's blooming 'ard! I'd got
the event all sewed up in a parcel, and now this young feller- me-lad
'as to give me the knock. This lad of mine—sort of cousin 'e is;
comes from London, like you and me—'as always 'ad, ever since he
landed in this country, a most amazing knack of stowing away grub.
'E'd been a bit underfed these last two or three years over in the old
country, what with food restrictions and all, and 'e took to the food
over 'ere amazing. I'd 'ave backed 'im against a ruddy orstridge!
Orstridge! I'd 'ave backed 'im against 'arff a dozen orstridges—take
'em on one after the other in the same ring on the same evening—and
given 'em a handicap, too! 'E was a jewel, that boy. I've seen him
polish off four pounds of steak and mealy potatoes and then look round
kind of wolfish, as much as to ask when dinner was going to begin!
That's the kind of a lad 'e was till this very morning. 'E would have
out-swallowed this 'ere O'Dowd without turning a hair, as a relish
before 'is tea! I'd got a couple of 'undred dollars on 'im, and
thought myself lucky to get the odds. And now—"
Mr. Blake relapsed into a tortured silence.
"But what's the matter with the blighter? Why can't he go over the
top? Has he got indigestion?"
"Indigestion?" Mr. Blaife laughed another of his hollow laughs.
"You couldn't give that boy indigestion if you fed 'im in on
safety-razor blades. Religion's more like what 'e's got."
"Well, you can call it that. Seems last night, instead of goin' and
resting 'is mind at a picture-palace like I told him to, 'e sneaked
off to some sort of a lecture down on Eighth Avenue. 'E said 'e'd
seen a piece about it in the papers, and it was about Rational
Eating, and that kind of attracted 'im. 'E sort of thought 'e might
pick up a few hints, like. 'E didn't know what rational eating was,
but it sounded to 'im as if it must be something to do with food, and
'e didn't want to miss it. 'E came in here just now," said Mr. Blake,
dully, "and 'e was a changed lad! Scared to death 'e was! Said the way
'e'd been goin' on in the past, it was a wonder 'e'd got any stummick
left! It was a lady that give the lecture, and this boy said it was
amazing what she told 'em about blood-pressure and things 'e didn't
even know 'e 'ad. She showed 'em pictures, coloured pictures, of what
'appens inside the injudicious eater's stummick who doesn't chew his
food, and it was like a battlefield! 'E said 'e would no more think of
eatin' a lot of pie than 'e would of shootin' 'imself, and anyhow
eating pie would be a quicker death. I reasoned with 'im, Mr. Moffam,
with tears in my eyes. I asked 'im was he goin' to chuck away fame and
wealth just because a woman who didn't know what she was talking about
had shown him a lot of faked pictures. But there wasn't any doin'
anything with him. 'E give me the knock and 'opped it down the street
to buy nuts." Mr. Blake moaned. "Two 'undred dollars and more gone
pop, not to talk of the fifty dollars 'e would have won and me to get
Archie took his tobacco and walked pensively back to the hotel. He
was fond of Jno. Blake, and grieved for the trouble that had come
upon him. It was odd, he felt, how things seemed to link themselves
up together. The woman who had delivered the fateful lecture to
injudicious eaters could not be other than the mother of his young
guest of last night. An uncomfortable woman! Not content with
starving her own family—Archie stopped in his tracks. A pedestrian,
walking behind him, charged into his back, but Archie paid no
attention. He had had one of those sudden, luminous ideas, which help
a man who does not do much thinking as a rule to restore his average.
He stood there for a moment, almost dizzy at the brilliance of his
thoughts; then hurried on. Napoleon, he mused as he walked, must have
felt rather like this after thinking up a hot one to spring on the
As if Destiny were suiting her plans to his, one of the first
persons he saw as he entered the lobby of the Cosmopolis was the long
boy. He was standing at the bookstall, reading as much of a morning
paper as could be read free under the vigilant eyes of the presiding
girl. Both he and she were observing the unwritten rules which govern
these affairs—to wit, that you may read without interference as much
as can be read without touching the paper. If you touch the paper, you
lose, and have to buy.
"Well, well, well!" said Archie. "Here we are again, what!" He
prodded the boy amiably in the lower ribs. "You're just the chap I
was looking for. Got anything on for the time being?"
The boy said he had no engagements.
"Then I want you to stagger round with me to a chappie I know on
Sixth Avenue. It's only a couple of blocks away. I think I can do you
a bit of good. Put you on to something tolerably ripe, if you know
what I mean. Trickle along, laddie. You don't need a hat."
They found Mr. Blake brooding over his troubles in an empty shop.
"Cheer up, old thing!" said Archie. "The relief expedition has
arrived." He directed his companion's gaze to the poster. "Cast your
eye over that. How does that strike you?"
The long boy scanned the poster. A gleam appeared in his rather
"Some people have all the luck!" said the long boy, feelingly.
"Would you like to compete, what?"
The boy smiled a sad smile.
"Would I! Would I! Say!..."
"I know," interrupted Archie. "Wake you up in the night and ask
you! I knew I could rely on you, old thing." He turned to Mr. Blake.
"Here's the fellow you've been wanting to meet. The finest left-and-
right-hand eater east of the Rockies! He'll fight the good fight for
Mr. Blake's English training had not been wholly overcome by
residence in New York. He still retained a nice eye for the
distinctions of class.
"But this is young gentleman's a young gentleman," he urged,
doubtfully, yet with hope shining in his eye. "He wouldn't do it."
"Of course, he would. Don't be ridic, old thing."
"Wouldn't do what?" asked the boy.
"Why save the old homestead by taking on the champion. Dashed sad
case, between ourselves! This poor egg's nominee has given him the
rasberry at the eleventh hour, and only you can save him. And you owe
it to him to do something you know, because it was your jolly old
mater's lecture last night that made the nominee quit. You must charge
in and take his place. Sort of poetic justice, don't you know, and
what not!" He turned to Mr. Blake. "When is the conflict supposed to
start? Two-thirty? You haven't any important engagement for
two-thirty, have you?"
"No. Mother's lunching at some ladies' club, and giving a lecture
afterwards. I can slip away."
Archie patted his head.
"Then leg it where glory waits you, old bean!"
The long boy was gazing earnestly at the poster. It seemed to
"Pie!" he said in a hushed voice.
The word was like a battle-cry.
CHAPTER XXII. WASHY STEPS INTO THE
HALL OF FAME
At about nine o'clock next morning, in a suite at the Hotel
Cosmopolis, Mrs. Cora Bates McCall, the eminent lecturer on Rational
Eating, was seated at breakfast with her family. Before her sat Mr.
McCall, a little hunted-looking man, the natural peculiarities of
whose face were accentuated by a pair of glasses of semicircular
shape, like half-moons with the horns turned up. Behind these, Mr.
McCall's eyes played a perpetual game of peekaboo, now peering over
them, anon ducking down and hiding behind them. He was sipping a cup
of anti-caffeine. On his right, toying listlessly with a plateful of
cereal, sat his son, Washington. Mrs. McCall herself was eating a
slice of Health Bread and nut butter. For she practised as well as
preached the doctrines which she had striven for so many years to
inculcate in an unthinking populace. Her day always began with a
light but nutritious breakfast, at which a peculiarly uninviting
cereal, which looked and tasted like an old straw hat that had been
run through a meat chopper, competed for first place in the dislike
of her husband and son with a more than usually offensive brand of
imitation coffee. Mr. McCall was inclined to think that he loathed
the imitation coffee rather more than the cereal, but Washington held
strong views on the latter's superior ghastliness. Both Washington and
his father, however, would have been fair-minded enough to admit that
it was a close thing.
Mrs. McCall regarded her offspring with grave approval.
"I am glad to see, Lindsay," she said to her husband, whose eyes
sprang dutifully over the glass fence as he heard his name, "that
Washy has recovered his appetite. When he refused his dinner last
night, I was afraid that he might be sickening for something.
Especially as he had quite a flushed look. You noticed his flushed
"He did look flushed."
"Very flushed. And his breathing was almost stertorous. And, when
he said that he had no appetite, I am bound to say that I was anxious.
But he is evidently perfectly well this morning. You do feel
perfectly well this morning, Washy?"
The heir of the McCall's looked up from his cereal. He was a long,
thin boy of about sixteen, with pale red hair, sandy eyelashes, and a
"Uh-huh," he said.
Mrs. McCall nodded.
"Surely now you will agree, Lindsay, that a careful and rational
diet is what a boy needs? Washy's constitution is superb. He has a
remarkable stamina, and I attribute it entirely to my careful
supervision of his food. I shudder when I think of the growing boys
who are permitted by irresponsible people to devour meat, candy,
pie—" She broke off. "What is the matter, Washy?"
It seemed that the habit of shuddering at the thought of pie ran in
the McCall family, for at the mention of the word a kind of internal
shimmy had convulsed Washington's lean frame, and over his face there
had come an expression that was almost one of pain. He had been
reaching out his hand for a slice of Health Bread, but now he withdrew
it rather hurriedly and sat back breathing hard.
"I'm all right," he said, huskily.
"Pie," proceeded Mrs. McCall, in her platform voice. She stopped
again abruptly. "Whatever is the matter, Washington? You are making
me feel nervous."
"I'm all right."
Mrs. McCall had lost the thread of her remarks. Moreover, having
now finished her breakfast, she was inclined for a little light
reading. One of the subjects allied to the matter of dietary on which
she felt deeply was the question of reading at meals. She was of the
opinion that the strain on the eye, coinciding with the strain on the
digestion, could not fail to give the latter the short end of the
contest; and it was a rule at her table that the morning paper should
not even be glanced at till the conclusion of the meal. She said that
it was upsetting to begin the day by reading the paper, and events
were to prove that she was occasionally right.
All through breakfast the New York Chronicle had been lying neatly
folded beside her plate. She now opened it, and, with a remark about
looking for the report of her yesterday's lecture at the Butterfly
Club, directed her gaze at the front page, on which she hoped that an
editor with the best interests of the public at heart had decided to
Mr. McCall, jumping up and down behind his glasses, scrutinised her
face closely as she began to read. He always did this on these
occasions, for none knew better than he that his comfort for the day
depended largely on some unknown reporter whom he had never met. If
this unseen individual had done his work properly and as befitted the
importance of his subject, Mrs. McCall's mood for the next twelve
hours would be as uniformly sunny as it was possible for it to be. But
sometimes the fellows scamped their job disgracefully; and once, on a
day which lived in Mr. McCall's memory, they had failed to make a
report at all.
To-day, he noted with relief, all seemed to be well. The report
actually was on the front page, an honour rarely accorded to his
wife's utterances. Moreover, judging from the time it took her to
read the thing, she had evidently been reported at length.
"Good, my dear?" he ventured. "Satisfactory?"
"Eh?" Mrs. McCall smiled meditatively. "Oh, yes, excellent. They
have used my photograph, too. Not at all badly reproduced."
"Splendid!" said Mr. McCall.
Mrs. McCall gave a sharp shriek, and the paper fluttered from her
"My dear!" said Mr. McCall, with concern.
His wife had recovered the paper, and was reading with burning
eyes. A bright wave of colour had flowed over her masterful features.
She was breathing as stertorously as ever her son Washington had done
on the previous night.
A basilisk glare shot across the table and turned the long boy to
stone—all except his mouth, which opened feebly.
"Washington! Is this true?"
Washy closed his mouth, then let it slowly open again.
"My dear!" Mr. McCall's voice was alarmed. "What is it?" His eyes
had climbed up over his glasses and remained there. "What is the
matter? Is anything wrong?"
"Wrong! Read for yourself!"
Mr. McCall was completely mystified. He could not even formulate a
guess at the cause of the trouble. That it appeared to concern his
son Washington seemed to be the one solid fact at his disposal, and
that only made the matter still more puzzling. Where, Mr. McCall
asked himself, did Washington come in?
He looked at the paper, and received immediate enlightenment.
Headlines met his eyes:
GOOD STUFF IN THIS BOY.
ABOUT A TON OF IT.
SON OF CORA BATES McCALL
FAMOUS FOOD-REFORM LECTURER
WINS PIE-EATING CHAMPIONSHIP OF
There followed a lyrical outburst. So uplifted had the reporter
evidently felt by the importance of his news that he had been unable
to confine himself to prose:—
My children, if you fail to shine or triumph in your
special line; if, let us say, your hopes are bent on
some day being President, and folks ignore your proper
worth, and say you've not a chance on earth—Cheer up!
for in these stirring days Fame may be won in many ways.
Consider, when your spirits fall, the case of Washington
Yes, cast your eye on Washy, please! He looks just like
a piece of cheese: he's not a brilliant sort of chap: he
has a dull and vacant map: his eyes are blank, his face
is red, his ears stick out beside his head. In fact, to
end these compliments, he would be dear at thirty cents.
Yet Fame has welcomed to her Hall this self-same
His mother (nee Miss Cora Bates) is one who frequently
orates upon the proper kind of food which every menu
should include. With eloquence the world she weans from
chops and steaks and pork and beans. Such horrid things
she'd like to crush, and make us live on milk and mush.
But oh! the thing that makes her sigh is when she sees
us eating pie. (We heard her lecture last July upon "The
Nation's Menace—Pie.") Alas, the hit it made was small
with Master Washington McCall.
For yesterday we took a trip to see the great Pie
Championship, where men with bulging cheeks and eyes
consume vast quantities of pies. A fashionable West Side
crowd beheld the champion, Spike O'Dowd, endeavour to
defend his throne against an upstart, Blake's Unknown.
He wasn't an Unknown at all. He was young Washington
We freely own we'd give a leg if we could borrow, steal,
or beg the skill old Homer used to show. (He wrote the
Iliad, you know.) Old Homer swung a wicked pen, but we
are ordinary men, and cannot even start to dream of
doing justice to our theme. The subject of that great
repast is too magnificent and vast. We can't describe
(or even try) the way those rivals wolfed their pie.
Enough to say that, when for hours each had extended all
his pow'rs, toward the quiet evenfall O'Dowd succumbed
to young McCall.
The champion was a willing lad. He gave the public all
he had. His was a genuine fighting soul. He'd lots of
speed and much control. No yellow streak did he evince.
He tackled apple-pie and mince. This was the motto on
his shield—"O'Dowds may burst. They never yield." His
eyes began to start and roll. He eased his belt another
hole. Poor fellow! With a single glance one saw that he
had not a chance. A python would have had to crawl and
own defeat from young McCall.
At last, long last, the finish came. His features
overcast with shame, O'Dowd, who'd faltered once or
twice, declined to eat another slice. He tottered off,
and kindly men rallied around with oxygen. But Washy,
Cora Bates's son, seemed disappointed it was done. He
somehow made those present feel he'd barely started on
his meal. We ask him, "Aren't you feeling bad?" "Me!"
said the lion-hearted lad. "Lead me"—he started for the
street—"where I can get a bite to eat!" Oh, what a
lesson does it teach to all of us, that splendid speech!
How better can the curtain fall on Master Washington
Mr. McCall read this epic through, then he looked at his son. He
first looked at him over his glasses, then through his glasses, then
over his glasses again, then through his glasses once more. A curious
expression was in his eyes. If such a thing had not been so
impossible, one would have said that his gaze had in it something of
respect, of admiration, even of reverence.
"But how did they find out your name?" he asked, at length.
Mrs. McCall exclaimed impatiently.
"Is THAT all you have to say?"
"No, no, my dear, of course not, quite so. But the point struck me
"Wretched boy," cried Mrs. McCall, "were you insane enough to
reveal your name?"
Washington wriggled uneasily. Unable to endure the piercing stare
of his mother, he had withdrawn to the window, and was looking out
with his back turned. But even there he could feel her eyes on the
back of his neck.
"I didn't think it 'ud matter," he mumbled. "A fellow with
tortoiseshell-rimmed specs asked me, so I told him. How was I to
His stumbling defence was cut short by the opening of the door.
"Hallo-allo-allo! What ho! What ho!"
Archie was standing in the doorway, beaming ingratiatingly on the
The apparition of an entire stranger served to divert the lightning
of Mrs. McCall's gaze from the unfortunate Washy. Archie, catching it
between the eyes, blinked and held on to the wall. He had begun to
regret that he had yielded so weakly to Lucille's entreaty that he
should look in on the McCalls and use the magnetism of his personality
upon them in the hope of inducing them to settle the lawsuit. He
wished, too, if the visit had to be paid that he had postponed it till
after lunch, for he was never at his strongest in the morning. But
Lucille had urged him to go now and get it over, and here he was.
"I think," said Mrs. McCall, icily, "that you must have mistaken
Archie rallied his shaken forces.
"Oh, no. Rather not. Better introduce myself, what? My name's
Moffam, you know. I'm old Brewster's son-in-law, and all that sort of
rot, if you know what I mean." He gulped and continued. "I've come
about this jolly old lawsuit, don't you know."
Mr. McCall seemed about to speak, but his wife anticipated him.
"Mr. Brewster's attorneys are in communication with ours. We do not
wish to discuss the matter."
Archie took an uninvited seat, eyed the Health Bread on the
breakfast table for a moment with frank curiosity, and resumed his
"No, but I say, you know! I'll tell you what happened. I hate to
totter in where I'm not wanted and all that, but my wife made such a
point of it. Rightly or wrongly she regards me as a bit of a hound in
the diplomacy line, and she begged me to look you up and see whether
we couldn't do something about settling the jolly old thing. I mean to
say, you know, the old bird—old Brewster, you know—is considerably
perturbed about the affair—hates the thought of being in a posish
where he has either got to bite his old pal McCall in the neck or be
bitten by him—and—well, and so forth, don't you know! How about it?"
He broke off. "Great Scot! I say, what!"
So engrossed had he been in his appeal that he had not observed the
presence of the pie-eating champion, between whom and himself a large
potted plant intervened. But now Washington, hearing the familiar
voice, had moved from the window and was confronting him with an
"HE made me do it!" said Washy, with the stern joy a sixteen-year-
old boy feels when he sees somebody on to whose shoulders he can
shift trouble from his own. "That's the fellow who took me to the
"What are you talking about, Washington?"
"I'm telling you! He got me into the thing."
"Do you mean this—this—" Mrs. McCall shuddered. "Are you
referring to this pie-eating contest?"
"You bet I am!"
"Is this true?" Mrs. McCall glared stonily at Archie, "Was it you
who lured my poor boy into that—that—"
"Oh, absolutely. The fact is, don't you know, a dear old pal of
mine who runs a tobacco shop on Sixth Avenue was rather in the soup.
He had backed a chappie against the champion, and the chappie was
converted by one of your lectures and swore off pie at the eleventh
hour. Dashed hard luck on the poor chap, don't you know! And then I
got the idea that our little friend here was the one to step in and
save the situash, so I broached the matter to him. And I'll tell you
one thing," said Archie, handsomely, "I don't know what sort of a
capacity the original chappie had, but I'll bet he wasn't in your
son's class. Your son has to be seen to be believed! Absolutely! You
ought to be proud of him!" He turned in friendly fashion to Washy.
"Rummy we should meet again like this! Never dreamed I should find
you here. And, by Jove, it's absolutely marvellous how fit you look
after yesterday. I had a sort of idea you would be groaning on a bed
of sickness and all that."
There was a strange gurgling sound in the background. It resembled
something getting up steam. And this, curiously enough, is precisely
what it was. The thing that was getting up steam was Mr. Lindsay
The first effect of the Washy revelations on Mr. McCall had been
merely to stun him. It was not until the arrival of Archie that he
had had leisure to think; but since Archie's entrance he had been
thinking rapidly and deeply.
For many years Mr. McCall had been in a state of suppressed
revolution. He had smouldered, but had not dared to blaze. But this
startling upheaval of his fellow-sufferer, Washy, had acted upon him
like a high explosive. There was a strange gleam in his eye, a gleam
of determination. He was breathing hard.
His voice had lost its deprecating mildness. It rang strong and
"How many pies did you eat yesterday?"
"A good few."
"How many? Twenty?"
"More than that. I lost count. A good few."
"And you feel as well as ever?"
"I feel fine."
Mr. McCall dropped his glasses. He glowered for a moment at the
breakfast table. His eye took in the Health Bread, the imitation
coffee-pot, the cereal, the nut-butter. Then with a swift movement he
seized the cloth, jerked it forcibly, and brought the entire contents
rattling and crashing to the floor.
Mr. McCall met his wife's eye with quiet determination. It was
plain that something had happened in the hinterland of Mr. McCall's
"Cora," he said, resolutely, "I have come to a decision. I've been
letting you run things your own way a little too long in this family.
I'm going to assert myself. For one thing, I've had all I want of this
food-reform foolery. Look at Washy! Yesterday that boy seems to have
consumed anything from a couple of hundredweight to a ton of pie, and
he has thriven on it! Thriven! I don't want to hurt your feelings,
Cora, but Washington and I have drunk our last cup of anti-caffeine!
If you care to go on with the stuff, that's your look-out. But Washy
and I are through."
He silenced his wife with a masterful gesture and turned to Archie.
"And there's another thing. I never liked the idea of that lawsuit,
but I let you talk me into it. Now I'm going to do things my way. Mr.
Moffam, I'm glad you looked in this morning. I'll do just what you
want. Take me to Dan Brewster now, and let's call the thing off, and
shake hands on it."
"Are you mad, Lindsay?"
It was Cora Bates McCall's last shot. Mr. McCall paid no attention
to it. He was shaking hands with Archie.
"I consider you, Mr. Moffam," he said, "the most sensible young man
I have ever met!"
Archie blushed modestly.
"Awfully good of you, old bean," he said. "I wonder if you'd mind
telling my jolly old father-in-law that? It'll be a bit of news for
CHAPTER XXIII. MOTHER'S KNEE
Archie Moffam's connection with that devastatingly popular ballad,
"Mother's Knee," was one to which he always looked back later with a
certain pride. "Mother's Knee," it will be remembered, went through
the world like a pestilence. Scots elders hummed it on their way to
kirk; cannibals crooned it to their offspring in the jungles of
Borneo; it was a best-seller among the Bolshevists. In the United
States alone three million copies were disposed of. For a man who has
not accomplished anything outstandingly great in his life, it is
something to have been in a sense responsible for a song like that;
and, though there were moments when Archie experienced some of the
emotions of a man who has punched a hole in the dam of one of the
larger reservoirs, he never really regretted his share in the
launching of the thing.
It seems almost bizarre now to think that there was a time when
even one person in the world had not heard "Mother's Knee"; but it
came fresh to Archie one afternoon some weeks after the episode of
Washy, in his suite at the Hotel Cosmopolis, where he was cementing
with cigarettes and pleasant conversation his renewed friendship with
Wilson Hymack, whom he had first met in the neighbourhood of
Armentieres during the war.
"What are you doing these days?" enquired Wilson Hymack.
"Me?" said Archie. "Well, as a matter of fact, there is what you
might call a sort of species of lull in my activities at the moment.
But my jolly old father-in-law is bustling about, running up a new
hotel a bit farther down-town, and the scheme is for me to be manager
when it's finished. From what I have seen in this place, it's a simple
sort of job, and I fancy I shall be somewhat hot stuff. How are you
filling in the long hours?"
"I'm in my uncle's office, darn it!"
"Starting at the bottom and learning the business and all that? A
noble pursuit, no doubt, but I'm bound to say it would give me the
pip in no uncertain manner."
"It gives me," said Wilson Hymack, "a pain in the thorax. I want to
be a composer."
"A composer, eh?"
Archie felt that he should have guessed this. The chappie had a
distinctly artistic look. He wore a bow-tie and all that sort of
thing. His trousers bagged at the knees, and his hair, which during
the martial epoch of his career had been pruned to the roots, fell
about his ears in luxuriant disarray.
"Say! Do you want to hear the best thing I've ever done?"
"Indubitably," said Archie, politely. "Carry on, old bird!"
"I wrote the lyric as well as the melody," said Wilson Hymack, who
had already seated himself at the piano. "It's got the greatest title
you ever heard. It's a lallapaloosa! It's called 'It's a Long Way Back
to Mother's Knee.' How's that? Poor, eh?"
Archie expelled a smoke-ring doubtfully.
"Isn't it a little stale?"
"Stale? What do you mean, stale? There's always room for another
song boosting Mother."
"Oh, is it boosting Mother?" Archie's face cleared. "I thought it
was a hit at the short skirts. Why, of course, that makes all the
difference. In that case, I see no reason why it should not be ripe,
fruity, and pretty well all to the mustard. Let's have it."
Wilson Hymack pushed as much of his hair out of his eyes as he
could reach with one hand, cleared his throat, looked dreamily over
the top of the piano at a photograph of Archie's father-in-law, Mr.
Daniel Brewster, played a prelude, and began to sing in a weak, high,
composer's voice. All composers sing exactly alike, and they have to
be heard to be believed.
"One night a young man wandered through the glitter of Broadway:
His money he had squandered. For a meal he couldn't pay."
"Tough luck!" murmured Archie, sympathetically.
"He thought about the village where his boyhood he had
spent, And yearned for all the simple joys with which
he'd been content."
"The right spirit!" said Archie, with approval. "I'm beginning to
like this chappie!"
"Oh, right-o! Carried away and all that!"
"He looked upon the city, so frivolous and gay; And,
as he heaved a weary sigh, these words he then did say:
It's a long way back to Mother's knee,
It's a long way back to Mother's knee,
Where I used to stand and prattle
With my teddy-bear and rattle:
Oh, those childhood days in Tennessee,
They sure look good to me!
It's a long, long way, but I'm gonna start to-day!
I'm going back,
Believe me, oh!
I'm going back
(I want to go!)
I'm going back—back—on the seven-three
To the dear old shack where I used to be!
I'm going back to Mother's knee!"
Wilson Hymack's voice cracked on the final high note, which was of
an altitude beyond his powers. He turned with a modest cough.
"That'll give you an idea of it!"
"It has, old thing, it has!"
"Is it or is it not a ball of fire?"
"It has many of the earmarks of a sound egg," admitted Archie. "Of
"Of course, it wants singing."
"Just what I was going to suggest."
"It wants a woman to sing it. A woman who could reach out for that
last high note and teach it to take a joke. The whole refrain is
working up to that. You need Tetrazzini or someone who would just
pick that note off the roof and hold it till the janitor came round
to lock up the building for the night."
"I must buy a copy for my wife. Where can I get it?"
"You can't get it! It isn't published. Writing music's the darndest
job!" Wilson Hymack snorted fiercely. It was plain that the man was
pouring out the pent-up emotion of many days. "You write the biggest
thing in years and you go round trying to get someone to sing it, and
they say you're a genius and then shove the song away in a drawer and
forget about it."
Archie lit another cigarette.
"I'm a jolly old child in these matters, old lad," he said, "but
why don't you take it direct to a publisher? As a matter of fact, if
it would be any use to you, I was foregathering with a music-publisher
only the other day. A bird of the name of Blumenthal. He was lunching
in here with a pal of mine, and we got tolerably matey. Why not let me
tool you round to the office to-morrow and play it to him?"
"No, thanks. Much obliged, but I'm not going to play that melody in
any publisher's office with his hired gang of Tin-Pan Alley composers
listening at the keyhole and taking notes. I'll have to wait till I
can find somebody to sing it. Well, I must be going along. Glad to
have seen you again. Sooner or later I'll take you to hear that high
note sung by someone in a way that'll make your spine tie itself in
knots round the back of your neck."
"I'll count the days," said Archie, courteously. "Pip-pip!"
Hardly had the door closed behind the composer when it opened again
to admit Lucille.
"Hallo, light of my soul!" said Archie, rising and embracing his
wife. "Where have you been all the afternoon? I was expecting you
this many an hour past. I wanted you to meet—"
"I've been having tea with a girl down in Greenwich Village. I
couldn't get away before. Who was that who went out just as I came
along the passage?"
"Chappie of the name of Hymack. I met him in France. A composer and
"We seem to have been moving in artistic circles this afternoon.
The girl I went to see is a singer. At least, she wants to sing, but
gets no encouragement."
"Precisely the same with my bird. He wants to get his music sung
but nobody'll sing it. But I didn't know you knew any Greenwich
Village warblers, sunshine of my home. How did you meet this female?"
Lucille sat down and gazed forlornly at him with her big grey eyes.
She was registering something, but Archie could not gather what it
"Archie, darling, when you married me you undertook to share my
sorrows, didn't you?"
"Absolutely! It's all in the book of words. For better or for
worse, in sickness and in health,
all-down-set-'em-up-in-the-other-alley. Regular iron-clad contract!"
"Then share 'em!" said Lucille. "Bill's in love again!"
"Bill? When you say Bill, do you mean Bill? Your brother Bill? My
brother-in-law Bill? Jolly old William, the son and heir of the
"You say he's in love? Cupid's dart?"
"But, I say! Isn't this rather—What I mean to say is, the lad's an
absolute scourge! The Great Lover, what! Also ran, Brigham Young, and
all that sort of thing! Why, it's only a few weeks ago that he was
moaning brokenly about that vermilion-haired female who subsequently
hooked on to old Reggie van Tuyl!"
"She's a little better than that girl, thank goodness. All the
same, I don't think Father will approve."
"Of what calibre is the latest exhibit?"
"Well, she comes from the Middle West, and seems to be trying to be
twice as Bohemian as the rest of the girls down in Greenwich Village.
She wears her hair bobbed and goes about in a kimono. She's probably
read magazine stories about Greenwich Village, and has modelled
herself on them. It's so silly, when you can see Hicks Corners
sticking out of her all the time."
"That one got past me before I could grab it. What did you say she
had sticking out of her?"
"I meant that anybody could see that she came from somewhere out in
the wilds. As a matter of fact, Bill tells me that she was brought up
in Snake Bite, Michigan."
"Snake Bite? What rummy names you have in America! Still, I'll
admit there's a village in England called Nether Wallop, so who am I
to cast the first stone? How is old Bill? Pretty feverish?"
"He says this time it is the real thing."
"That's what they all say! I wish I had a dollar for every time—
Forgotten what I was going to say!" broke off Archie, prudently. "So
you think," he went on, after a pause, "that William's latest is
going to be one more shock for the old dad?"
"I can't imagine Father approving of her."
"I've studied your merry old progenitor pretty closely," said
Archie, "and, between you and me, I can't imagine him approving of
"I can't understand why it is that Bill goes out of his way to pick
these horrors. I know at least twenty delightful girls, all pretty
and with lots of money, who would be just the thing for him; but he
sneaks away and goes falling in love with someone impossible. And the
worst of it is that one always feels one's got to do one's best to see
"Absolutely! One doesn't want to throw a spanner into the works of
Love's young dream. It behoves us to rally round. Have you heard this
"Yes. She sang this afternoon."
"What sort of a voice has she got?"
"Could she pick a high note off the roof and hold it till the
janitor came round to lock up the building for the night?"
"What on earth do you mean?"
"Answer me this, woman, frankly. How is her high note? Pretty
"Then say no more," said Archie. "Leave this to me, my dear old
better four-fifths! Hand the whole thing over to Archibald, the man
who never lets you down. I have a scheme!"
As Archie approached his suite on the following afternoon he heard
through the closed door the drone of a gruff male voice; and, going
in, discovered Lucille in the company of his brother-in-law. Lucille,
Archie thought, was looking a trifle fatigued. Bill, on the other
hand, was in great shape. His eyes were shining, and his face looked
so like that of a stuffed frog that Archie had no difficulty in
gathering that he had been lecturing on the subject of his latest
"Hallo, Bill, old crumpet!" he said.
"I'm so glad you've come," said Lucille. "Bill is telling me all
"Spectatia. The girl, you know. Her name is Spectatia Huskisson."
"It can't be!" said Archie, incredulously.
"Why not?" growled Bill.
"Well, how could it?" said Archie, appealing to him as a reasonable
man. "I mean to say! Spectatia Huskisson! I gravely doubt whether
there is such a name."
"What's wrong with it?" demanded the incensed Bill. "It's a darned
sight better name than Archibald Moffam."
"Don't fight, you two children!" intervened Lucille, firmly. "It's
a good old Middle West name. Everybody knows the Huskissons of Snake
Bite, Michigan. Besides, Bill calls her Tootles."
"Pootles," corrected Bill, austerely.
"Oh, yes, Pootles. He calls her Pootles."
"Young blood! Young blood!" sighed Archie.
"I wish you wouldn't talk as if you were my grandfather."
"I look on you as a son, laddie, a favourite son!"
"If I had a father like you—!"-"Ah, but you haven't, young-feller-
me-lad, and that's the trouble. If you had, everything would be
simple. But as your actual father, if you'll allow me to say so, is
one of the finest specimens of the human vampire-bat in captivity,
something has got to be done about it, and you're dashed lucky to
have me in your corner, a guide, philosopher, and friend, full of the
fruitiest ideas. Now, if you'll kindly listen to me for a moment—"
"I've been listening to you ever since you came in."
"You wouldn't speak in that harsh tone of voice if you knew all!
William, I have a scheme!"
"The scheme to which I allude is what Maeterlinck would call a
"What a little marvel he is!" said Lucille, regarding her husband
affectionately. "He eats a lot of fish, Bill. That's what makes him
"Shrimps!" diagnosed Bill, churlishly.
"Do you know the leader of the orchestra in the restaurant
downstairs?" asked Archie, ignoring the slur.
"I know there IS a leader of the orchestra. What about him?"
"A sound fellow. Great pal of mine. I've forgotten his name—"
"Call him Pootles!" suggested Lucille.
"Desist!" said Archie, as a wordless growl proceeded from his
stricken brother-in-law. "Temper your hilarity with a modicum of
reserve. This girlish frivolity is unseemly. Well, I'm going to have
a chat with this chappie and fix it all up."
"Fix what up?"
"The whole jolly business. I'm going to kill two birds with one
stone. I've a composer chappie popping about in the background whose
one ambish. is to have his pet song sung before a discriminating
audience. You have a singer straining at the leash. I'm going to
arrange with this egg who leads the orchestra that your female shall
sing my chappie's song downstairs one night during dinner. How about
it? Is it or is it not a ball of fire?"
"It's not a bad idea," admitted Bill, brightening visibly. "I
wouldn't have thought you had it in you."
"It's a capital idea," said Lucille. "Quite out of the question, of
"How do you mean?"
"Don't you know that the one thing Father hates more than anything
else in the world is anything like a cabaret? People are always
coming to him, suggesting that it would brighten up the dinner hour
if he had singers and things, and he crushes them into little bits.
He thinks there's nothing that lowers the tone of a place more. He'll
bite you in three places when you suggest it to him!"
"Ah! But has it escaped your notice, lighting system of my soul,
that the dear old dad is not at present in residence? He went off to
fish at Lake What's-its-name this morning."
"You aren't dreaming of doing this without asking him?"
"That was the general idea."
"But he'll be furious when he finds out."
"But will he find out? I ask you, will he?"
"Of course he will."
"I don't see why he should," said Bill, on whose plastic mind the
plan had made a deep impression.
"He won't," said Archie, confidently. "This wheeze is for one night
only. By the time the jolly old guv'nor returns, bitten to the bone
by mosquitoes, with one small stuffed trout in his suit-case,
everything will be over and all quiet once more along the Potomac.
The scheme is this. My chappie wants his song heard by a publisher.
Your girl wants her voice heard by one of the blighters who get up
concerts and all that sort of thing. No doubt you know such a bird,
whom you could invite to the hotel for a bit of dinner?"
"I know Carl Steinburg. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of
writing to him about Spectatia."
"You're absolutely sure that IS her name?" said Archie, his voice
still tinged with incredulity. "Oh, well, I suppose she told you so
herself, and no doubt she knows best. That will be topping. Rope in
your pal and hold him down at the table till the finish. Lucille, the
beautiful vision on the sky-line yonder, and I will be at another
table entertaining Maxie Blumenthal"
"Who on earth is Maxie Blumenthal?" asked Lucille.
"One of my boyhood chums. A music-publisher. I'll get him to come
along, and then we'll all be set. At the conclusion of the
performance Miss—" Archie winced—"Miss Spectatia Huskisson will be
signed up for a forty weeks' tour, and jovial old Blumenthal will be
making all arrangements for publishing the song. Two birds, as I
indicated before, with one stone! How about it?"
"It's a winner," said Bill.
"Of course," said Archie, "I'm not urging you. I merely make the
suggestion. If you know a better 'ole go to it!"
"It's terrific!" said Bill.
"It's absurd!" said Lucille.
"My dear old partner of joys and sorrows," said Archie, wounded,
"we court criticism, but this is mere abuse. What seems to be the
"The leader of the orchestra would be afraid to do it."
"Ten dollars—supplied by William here—push it over, Bill, old
man- -will remove his tremors."
"And Father's certain to find out."
"Am I afraid of Father?" cried Archie, manfully. "Well, yes, I am!"
he added, after a moment's reflection. "But I don't see how he can
possibly get to know."
"Of course he can't," said Bill, decidedly. "Fix it up as soon as
you can, Archie. This is what the doctor ordered."
CHAPTER XXIV. THE MELTING OF MR.
The main dining-room of the Hotel Cosmopolis is a decorous place.
The lighting is artistically dim, and the genuine old tapestries on
the walls seem, with their mediaeval calm, to discourage any essay in
the riotous. Soft-footed waiters shimmer to and fro over thick,
expensive carpets to the music of an orchestra which abstains wholly
from the noisy modernity of jazz. To Archie, who during the past few
days had been privileged to hear Miss Huskisson rehearsing, the place
had a sort of brooding quiet, like the ocean just before the arrival
of a cyclone. As Lucille had said, Miss Huskisson's voice was loud. It
was a powerful organ, and there was no doubt that it would take the
cloistered stillness of the Cosmopolis dining-room and stand it on one
ear. Almost unconsciously, Archie found himself bracing his muscles
and holding his breath as he had done in France at the approach of the
zero hour, when awaiting the first roar of a barrage. He listened
mechanically to the conversation of Mr. Blumenthal.
The music-publisher was talking with some vehemence on the subject
of Labour. A recent printers' strike had bitten deeply into Mr.
Blumenthal's soul. The working man, he considered, was rapidly
landing God's Country in the soup, and he had twice upset his glass
with the vehemence of his gesticulation. He was an energetic right-
"The more you give 'em the more they want!" he complained. "There's
no pleasing 'em! It isn't only in my business. There's your father,
"Good God! Where?" said Archie, starting.
"I say, take your father's case. He's doing all he knows to get
this new hotel of his finished, and what happens? A man gets fired for
loafing on his job, and Connolly calls a strike. And the building
operations are held up till the thing's settled! It isn't right!"
"It's a great shame," agreed Lucille. "I was reading about it in
the paper this morning."
"That man Connolly's a tough guy. You'd think, being a personal
friend of your father, he would—"
"I didn't know they were friends."
"Been friends for years. But a lot of difference that makes. Out
come the men just the same. It isn't right! I was saying it wasn't
right!" repeated Mr. Blumenthal to Archie, for he was a man who liked
the attention of every member of his audience.
Archie did not reply. He was staring glassily across the room at
two men who had just come in. One was a large, stout, square-faced man
of commanding personality. The other was Mr. Daniel Brewster.
Mr. Blumenthal followed his gaze.
"Why, there is Connolly coming in now!"
"Father!" gasped Lucille.
Her eyes met Archie's. Archie took a hasty drink of ice-water.
"This," he murmured, "has torn it!"
"Archie, you must do something!"
"I know! But what?"
"What's the trouble?" enquired Mr. Blumenthal, mystified.
"Go over to their table and talk to them," said Lucille.
"Me!" Archie quivered. "No, I say, old thing, really!"
"Get them away!"
"How do you mean?"
"I know!" cried Lucille, inspired, "Father promised that you should
be manager of the new hotel when it was built. Well, then, this
strike affects you just as much as anybody else. You have a perfect
right to talk it over with them. Go and ask them to have dinner up in
our suite where you can discuss it quietly. Say that up there they
won't be disturbed by the—the music."
At this moment, while Archie wavered, hesitating like a diver on
the edge of a spring-board who is trying to summon up the necessary
nerve to project himself into the deep, a bell-boy approached the
table where the Messrs. Brewster and Connolly had seated themselves.
He murmured something in Mr. Brewster's ear, and the proprietor of
the Cosmopolis rose and followed him out of the room.
"Quick! Now's your chance!" said Lucille, eagerly. "Father's been
called to the telephone. Hurry!"
Archie took another drink of ice-water to steady his shaking nerve-
centers, pulled down his waistcoat, straightened his tie, and then,
with something of the air of a Roman gladiator entering the arena,
tottered across the room. Lucille turned to entertain the perplexed
The nearer Archie got to Mr. Aloysius Connolly the less did he like
the looks of him. Even at a distance the Labour leader had had a
formidable aspect. Seen close to, he looked even more uninviting. His
face had the appearance of having been carved out of granite, and the
eye which collided with Archie's as the latter, with an attempt at an
ingratiating smile, pulled up a chair and sat down at the table was
hard and frosty. Mr. Connolly gave the impression that he would be a
good man to have on your side during a rough-and- tumble fight down on
the water-front or in some lumber-camp, but he did not look chummy.
"Hallo-allo-allo!" said Archie.
"Who the devil," inquired Mr. Connolly, "are you?"
"My name's Archibald Moffam."
"That's not my fault."
"I'm jolly old Brewster's son-in-law."
"Glad to meet yon."
"Glad to meet YOU," said Archie, handsomely.
"Well, good-bye!" said Mr. Connolly.
"Run along and sell your papers. Your father-in-law and I have
business to discuss."
"Yes, I know."
"Private," added Mr. Connolly.
"Oh, but I'm in on this binge, you know. I'm going to be the
manager of the new hotel."
"Well, well!" said Mr. Connolly, noncommittally.
Archie, pleased with the smoothness with which matters had opened,
bent forward winsomely.
"I say, you know! It won't do, you know! Absolutely no! Not a bit
like it! No, no, far from it! Well, how about it? How do we go? What?
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"Call it off, old thing!"
"Call what off?"
"This festive old strike."
"Not on your—hallo, Dan! Back again?"
Mr. Brewster, looming over the table like a thundercloud, regarded
Archie with more than his customary hostility. Life was no pleasant
thing for the proprietor of the Cosmopolis just now. Once a man
starts building hotels, the thing becomes like dram-drinking. Any
hitch, any sudden cutting-off of the daily dose, has the worst
effects; and the strike which was holding up the construction of his
latest effort had plunged Mr. Brewster into a restless gloom. In
addition to having this strike on his hands, he had had to abandon
his annual fishing-trip just when he had begun to enjoy it; and, as
if all this were not enough, here was his son-in-law sitting at his
table. Mr. Brewster had a feeling that this was more than man was
meant to bear.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
"Hallo, old thing!" said Archie. "Come and join the party!"
"Don't call me old thing!"
"Right-o, old companion, just as you say. I say, I was just going
to suggest to Mr. Connolly that we should all go up to my suite and
talk this business over quietly."
"He says he's the manager of your new hotel," said Mr. Connolly.
"Is that right?"
"I suppose so," said Mr. Brewster, gloomily.
"Then I'm doing you a kindness," said Mr. Connolly, "in not letting
it be built."
Archie dabbed at his forehead with his handkerchief. The moments
were flying, and it began to seem impossible to shift these two men.
Mr. Connolly was as firmly settled in his chair as some primeval
rock. As for Mr. Brewster, he, too, had seated himself, and was
gazing at Archie with a weary repulsion. Mr. Brewster's glance always
made Archie feel as though there were soup on his shirt- front.
And suddenly from the orchestra at the other end of the room there
came a familiar sound, the prelude of "Mother's Knee."
"So you've started a cabaret, Dan?" said Mr. Connolly, in a
satisfied voice. "I always told you you were behind the times here!"
Mr. Brewster jumped.
He stared unbelievingly at the white-robed figure which had just
mounted the orchestra dais, and then concentrated his gaze on Archie.
Archie would not have looked at his father-in-law at this juncture
if he had had a free and untrammelled choice; but Mr. Brewster's eye
drew his with something of the fascination which a snake's has for a
rabbit. Mr. Brewster's eye was fiery and intimidating. A basilisk
might have gone to him with advantage for a course of lessons. His
gaze went right through Archie till the latter seemed to feel his
back-hair curling crisply in the flames.
"Is this one of your fool-tricks?"
Even in this tense moment Archie found time almost unconsciously to
admire his father-in-law's penetration and intuition. He seemed to
have a sort of sixth sense. No doubt this was how great fortunes were
"Well, as a matter of fact—to be absolutely accurate—it was like
"Say, cut it out!" said Mr. Connolly. "Can the chatter! I want to
Archie was only too ready to oblige him. Conversation at the moment
was the last thing he himself desired. He managed with a strong
effort to disengage himself from Mr. Brewster's eye, and turned to
the orchestra dais, where Miss Spectatia Huskisson was now beginning
the first verse of Wilson Hymack's masterpiece.
Miss Huskisson, like so many of the female denizens of the Middle
West, was tall and blonde and constructed on substantial lines. She
was a girl whose appearance suggested the old homestead and fried
pancakes and pop coming home to dinner after the morning's ploughing.
Even her bobbed hair did not altogether destroy this impression. She
looked big and strong and healthy, and her lungs were obviously good.
She attacked the verse of the song with something of the vigour and
breadth of treatment with which in other days she had reasoned with
refractory mules. Her diction was the diction of one trained to call
the cattle home in the teeth of Western hurricanes. Whether you wanted
to or not, you heard every word.
The subdued clatter of knives and forks had ceased. The diners,
unused to this sort of thing at the Cosmopolis, were trying to adjust
their faculties to cope with the outburst. Waiters stood transfixed,
frozen, in attitudes of service. In the momentary lull between verse
and refrain Archie could hear the deep breathing of Mr. Brewster.
Involuntarily he turned to gaze at him once more, as refugees from
Pompeii may have turned to gaze upon Vesuvius; and, as he did so, he
caught sight of Mr. Connolly, and paused in astonishment.
Mr. Connolly was an altered man. His whole personality had
undergone a subtle change. His face still looked as though hewn from
the living rock, but into his eyes had crept an expression which in
another man might almost have been called sentimental. Incredible as
it seemed to Archie, Mr. Connolly's eyes were dreamy. There was even
in them a suggestion of unshed tears. And when with a vast
culmination of sound Miss Huskisson reached the high note at the end
of the refrain and, after holding it as some storming-party, spent
but victorious, holds the summit of a hard-won redoubt, broke off
suddenly, in the stillness which followed there proceeded from Mr.
Connolly a deep sigh.
Miss Huskisson began the second verse. And Mr. Brewster, seeming to
recover from some kind of a trance, leaped to his feet.
"Sit down!" said Mr. Connolly, in a broken voice. "Sit down, Dan!"
"He went back to his mother on the train that very day:
He knew there was no other who could make him bright and
He kissed her on the forehead and he whispered, 'I've come
He told her he was never going any more to roam.
And onward through the happy years, till he grew old and
He never once regretted those brave words he once did say:
It's a long way back to mother's knee—"
The last high note screeched across the room like a shell, and the
applause that followed was like a shell's bursting. One could hardly
have recognised the refined interior of the Cosmopolis dining-room.
Fair women were waving napkins; brave men were hammering on the
tables with the butt-end of knives, for all the world as if they
imagined themselves to be in one of those distressing midnight-revue
places. Miss Huskisson bowed, retired, returned, bowed, and retired
again, the tears streaming down her ample face. Over in a corner
Archie could see his brother-in-law clapping strenuously. A waiter,
with a display of manly emotion that did him credit, dropped an order
of new peas.
"Thirty years ago last October," said Mr. Connolly, in a shaking
Mr. Brewster interrupted him violently.
"I'll fire that orchestra-leader! He goes to-morrow! I'll fire—"
He turned on Archie. "What the devil do you mean by it, you—you—"
"Thirty years ago," said Mr. Connolly, wiping away a tear with his
napkin, "I left me dear old home in the old country—"
"MY hotel a bear-garden!"
"Frightfully sorry and all that, old companion—"
"Thirty years ago last October! 'Twas a fine autumn evening the
finest ye'd ever wish to see. Me old mother, she came to the station
to see me off."
Mr. Brewster, who was not deeply interested in Mr. Connolly's old
mother, continued to splutter inarticulately, like a firework trying
to go off.
"'Ye'll always be a good boy, Aloysius?' she said to me," said Mr.
Connolly, proceeding with, his autobiography. "And I said: 'Yes,
Mother, I will!'" Mr. Connolly sighed and applied the napkin again.
"'Twas a liar I was!" he observed, remorsefully. "Many's the dirty
I've played since then. 'It's a long way back to Mother's knee.' 'Tis
a true word!" He turned impulsively to Mr. Brewster. "Dan, there's a
deal of trouble in this world without me going out of me way to make
more. The strike is over! I'll send the men back tomorrow! There's me
hand on it!"
Mr. Brewster, who had just managed to co-ordinate his views on the
situation and was about to express them with the generous strength
which was ever his custom when dealing with his son-in-law, checked
himself abruptly. He stared at his old friend and business enemy,
wondering if he could have heard aright. Hope began to creep back
into Mr. Brewster's heart, like a shamefaced dog that has been away
from home hunting for a day or two.
"I'll send the men back to-morrow! That song was sent to guide me,
Dan! It was meant! Thirty years ago last October me dear old mother-
Mr. Brewster bent forward attentively. His views on Mr. Connolly's
dear old mother had changed. He wanted to hear all about her.
"'Twas that last note that girl sang brought it all back to me as
if 'twas yesterday. As we waited on the platform, me old mother and I,
out comes the train from the tunnel, and the engine lets off a
screech the way ye'd hear it ten miles away. 'Twas thirty years ago-
Archie stole softly from the table. He felt that his presence, if
it had ever been required, was required no longer. Looking back, he
could see his father-in-law patting Mr. Connolly affectionately on
Archie and Lucille lingered over their coffee. Mr. Blumenthal was
out in the telephone-box settling the business end with Wilson
Hymack. The music-publisher had been unstinted in his praise of
"Mother's Knee." It was sure-fire, he said. The words, stated Mr.
Blumenthal, were gooey enough to hurt, and the tune reminded him of
every other song-hit he had ever heard. There was, in Mr.
Blumenthal's opinion, nothing to stop this thing selling a million
Archie smoked contentedly.
"Not a bad evening's work, old thing," he said. "Talk about birds
with one stone!" He looked at Lucille reproachfully. "You don't seem
bubbling over with joy."
"Oh, I am, precious!" Lucille sighed. "I was only thinking about
"What about Bill?"
"Well, it's rather awful to think of him tied for life to that-that
"Oh, we mustn't look on the jolly old dark side. Perhaps—Hallo,
Bill, old top! We were just talking about you."
"Were you?" said Bill Brewster, in a dispirited voice.
"I take it that you want congratulations, what?"
"I want sympathy!"
"Sympathy! And lots of it! She's gone!"
"How do you mean, gone?"
Bill glowered at the tablecloth.
"Gone home. I've just seen her off in a cab. She's gone back to
Washington Square to pack. She's catching the ten o'clock train back
to Snake Bite. It was that damned song!" muttered Bill, in a stricken
voice. "She says she never realised before she sang it to- night how
hollow New York was. She said it suddenly came over her. She says
she's going to give up her career and go back to her mother. What the
deuce are you twiddling your fingers for?" he broke off, irritably.
"Sorry, old man. I was just counting."
"Counting? Counting what?"
"Birds, old thing. Only birds!" said Archie.
CHAPTER XXV. THE WIGMORE VENUS
The morning was so brilliantly fine; the populace popped to and fro
in so active and cheery a manner; and everybody appeared to be so
absolutely in the pink, that a casual observer of the city of New
York would have said that it was one of those happy days. Yet Archie
Moffam, as he turned out of the sun-bathed street into the ramshackle
building on the third floor of which was the studio belonging to his
artist friend, James B. Wheeler, was faintly oppressed with a sort of
a kind of feeling that something was wrong. He would not have gone so
far as to say that he had the pip—it was more a vague sense of
discomfort. And, searching for first causes as he made his way
upstairs, he came to the conclusion that the person responsible for
this nebulous depression was his wife, Lucille. It seemed to Archie
that at breakfast that morning Lucille's manner had been subtly rummy.
Nothing you could put your finger on, still— rummy.
Musing thus, he reached the studio, and found the door open and the
room empty. It had the air of a room whose owner has dashed in to
fetch his golf-clubs and biffed off, after the casual fashion of the
artist temperament, without bothering to close up behind him. And
such, indeed, was the case. The studio had seen the last of J. B.
Wheeler for that day: but Archie, not realising this and feeling that
a chat with Mr. Wheeler, who was a light-hearted bird, was what he
needed this morning, sat down to wait. After a few moments, his gaze,
straying over the room, encountered a handsomely framed picture, and
he went across to take a look at it.
J. B. Wheeler was an artist who made a large annual income as an
illustrator for the magazines, and it was a surprise to Archie to
find that he also went in for this kind of thing. For the picture,
dashingly painted in oils, represented a comfortably plump young
woman who, from her rather weak-minded simper and the fact that she
wore absolutely nothing except a small dove on her left shoulder, was
plainly intended to be the goddess Venus. Archie was not much of a lad
around the picture-galleries, but he knew enough about Art to
recognise Venus when he saw her; though once or twice, it is true,
artists had double-crossed him by ringing in some such title as "Day
Dreams," or "When the Heart is Young."
He inspected this picture for awhile, then, returning to his seat,
lit a cigarette and began to meditate on Lucille once more. "Yes, the
dear girl had been rummy at breakfast. She had not exactly said
anything or done anything out of the ordinary; but—well, you know
how it is. We husbands, we lads of the for-better-or-for-worse
brigade, we learn to pierce the mask. There had been in Lucille's
manner that curious, strained sweetness which comes to women whose
husbands have failed to match the piece of silk or forgotten to post
an important letter. If his conscience had not been as clear as
crystal, Archie would have said that that was what must have been the
matter. But, when Lucille wrote letters, she just stepped out of the
suite and dropped them in the mail-chute attached to the elevator. It
couldn't be that. And he couldn't have forgotten anything else,
"Oh my sainted aunt!"
Archie's cigarette smouldered, neglected, between his fingers. His
jaw had fallen and his eyes were staring glassily before him. He was
appalled. His memory was weak, he knew; but never before had it let
him down, so scurvily as this. This was a record. It stood in a class
by itself, printed in red ink and marked with a star, as the bloomer
of a lifetime. For a man may forget many things: he may forget his
name, his umbrella, his nationality, his spats, and the friends of his
youth: but there is one thing which your married man, your
in-sickness-and-in-health lizard must not forget: and that is the
anniversary of his wedding-day.
Remorse swept over Archie like a wave. His heart bled for Lucille.
No wonder the poor girl had been rummy at breakfast. What girl
wouldn't be rummy at breakfast, tied for life to a ghastly outsider
like himself? He groaned hollowly, and sagged forlornly in his chair:
and, as he did so, the Venus caught his eye. For it was an
eye-catching picture. You might like it or dislike it, but you could
not ignore it.
As a strong swimmer shoots to the surface after a high dive,
Archie's soul rose suddenly from the depths to which it had
descended. He did not often get inspirations, but he got one now.
Hope dawned with a jerk. The one way out had presented itself to him.
A rich present! That was the wheeze. If he returned to her bearing a
rich present, he might, with the help of Heaven and a face of brass,
succeed in making her believe that he had merely pretended to forget
the vital date in order to enhance the surprise.
It was a scheme. Like some great general forming his plan of
campaign on the eve of battle, Archie had the whole binge neatly
worked out inside a minute. He scribbled a note to Mr. Wheeler,
explaining the situation and promising reasonable payment on the
instalment system; then, placing the note in a conspicuous position
on the easel, he leaped to the telephone: and presently found himself
connected with Lucille's room at the Cosmopolis.
"Hullo, darling," he cooed.
There was a slight pause at the other end of the wire.
"Oh, hullo, Archie!"
Lucille's voice was dull and listless, and Archie's experienced ear
could detect that she had been crying. He raised his right foot, and
kicked himself indignantly on the left ankle.
"Many happy returns of the day, old thing!"
A muffled sob floated over the wire.
"Have you only just remembered?" said Lucille in a small voice.
Archie, bracing himself up, cackled gleefully into the receiver.
"Did I take you in, light of my home? Do you mean to say you really
thought I had forgotten? For Heaven's sake!"
"You didn't say a word at breakfast."
"Ah, but that was all part of the devilish cunning. I hadn't got a
present for you then. At least, I didn't know whether it was ready."
"Oh, Archie, you darling!" Lucille's voice had lost its crushed
melancholy. She trilled like a thrush, or a linnet, or any bird that
goes in largely for trilling. "Have you really got me a present?"
"It's here now. The dickens of a fruity picture. One of J. B.
Wheeler's things. You'll like it."
"Oh, I know I shall. I love his work. You are an angel. We'll hang
it over the piano."
"I'll be round with it in something under three ticks, star of my
soul. I'll take a taxi."
"Yes, do hurry! I want to hug you!"
"Right-o!" said Archie. "I'll take two taxis."
It is not far from Washington Square to the Hotel Cosmopolis, and
Archie made the journey without mishap. There was a little
unpleasantness with the cabman before starting—he, on the prudish
plea that he was a married man with a local reputation to keep up,
declining at first to be seen in company with the masterpiece. But,
on Archie giving a promise to keep the front of the picture away from
the public gaze, he consented to take the job on; and, some ten
minutes later, having made his way blushfully through the hotel lobby
and endured the frank curiosity of the boy who worked the elevator,
Archie entered his suite, the picture under his arm.
He placed it carefully against the wall in order to leave himself
more scope for embracing Lucille, and when the joyful reunion—or the
sacred scene, if you prefer so to call it, was concluded, he stepped
forward to turn it round and exhibit it.
"Why, it's enormous," said Lucille. "I didn't know Mr. Wheeler ever
painted pictures that size. When you said it was one of his, I
thought it must be the original of a magazine drawing or something
Archie had moved back and given her an uninterrupted view of the
work of art, and she had started as if some unkindly disposed person
had driven a bradawl into her.
"Pretty ripe, what?" said Archie enthusiastically.
Lucille did not speak for a moment. It may have been sudden joy
that kept her silent. Or, on the other hand, it may not. She stood
looking at the picture with wide eyes and parted lips.
"A bird, eh?" said Archie.
"Y—yes," said Lucille.
"I knew you'd like it," proceeded Archie with animation, "You see?
you're by way of being a picture-hound—know all about the things,
and what not—inherit it from the dear old dad, I shouldn't wonder.
Personally, I can't tell one picture from another as a rule, but I'm
bound to say, the moment I set eyes on this, I said to myself 'What
ho!' or words to that effect, I rather think this will add a touch of
distinction to the home, yes, no? I'll hang it up, shall I? 'Phone
down to the office, light of my soul, and tell them to send up a nail,
a bit of string,, and the hotel hammer."
"One moment, darling. I'm not quite sure."
"Where it ought to hang, I mean. You see—"
"Over the piano, you said. The jolly old piano."
"Yes, but I hadn't seen it then."
A monstrous suspicion flitted for an instant into Archie's mind.
"I say, you do like it, don't you?" he said anxiously.
"Oh, Archie, darling! Of course I do!-And it was so sweet of you to
give it to me. But, what I was trying to say was that this picture is
so—so striking that I feel that we ought to wait a little while and
decide where it would have the best effect. The light over the piano
is rather strong."
"You thing it ought to hang in a dimmish light, what?"
"Yes, yes. The dimmer the—I mean, yes, in a dim light. Suppose we
leave it in the corner for the moment—over there—behind the sofa,
and—and I'll think it over. It wants a lot of thought, you know."
"Yes, that will do splendidly. Oh, and, Archie."
"I think perhaps... Just turn its face to the wall, will you?"
Lucille gave a little gulp. "It will prevent it getting dusty."
It perplexed Archie a little during the next few days to notice in
Lucille, whom he had always looked on as pre-eminently a girl who
knew her own mind, a curious streak of vacillation. Quite half a
dozen times he suggested various spots on the wall as suitable for
the Venus, but Lucille seemed unable to decide. Archie wished that
she would settle on something definite, for he wanted to invite J. B.
Wheeler to the suite to see the thing. He had heard nothing from the
artist since the day he had removed the picture, and one morning,
encountering him on Broadway, he expressed his appreciation of the
very decent manner in which the other had taken the whole affair.
"Oh, that!" said J. B. Wheeler. "My dear fellow, you're welcome."
He paused for a moment. "More than welcome," he added. "You aren't
much of an expert on pictures, are you?"
"Well," said Archie, "I don't know that you'd call me an absolute
nib, don't you know, but of course I know enough to see that this
particular exhibit is not a little fruity. Absolutely one of the best
things you've ever done, laddie."
A slight purple tinge manifested itself in Mr. Wheeler's round and
rosy face. His eyes bulged.
"What are you talking about, you Tishbite? You misguided son of
Belial, are you under the impression that _I_ painted that thing?"
Mr. Wheeler swallowed a little convulsively.
"My fiancee painted it," he said shortly.
"Your fiancee? My dear old lad, I didn't know you were engaged. Who
is she? Do I know her?"
"Her name is Alice Wigmore. You don't know her."
"And she painted that picture?" Archie was perturbed. "But, I say!
Won't she be apt to wonder where the thing has got to?"
"I told her it had been stolen. She thought it a great compliment,
and was tickled to death. So that's all right."
"And, of course, she'll paint you another."
"Not while I have my strength she won't," said J. B. Wheeler
firmly. "She's given up painting since I taught her golf, thank
goodness, and my best efforts shall be employed in seeing that she
doesn't have a relapse."
"But, laddie," said Archie, puzzled, "you talk as though there were
something wrong with the picture. I thought it dashed hot stuff."
"God bless you!" said J. B. Wheeler.
Archie proceeded on his way, still mystified. Then he reflected
that artists as a class were all pretty weird and rummy and talked
more or less consistently through their hats. You couldn't ever take
an artist's opinion on a picture. Nine out of ten of them had views on
Art which would have admitted them to any looney-bin, and no
questions asked. He had met several of the species who absolutely
raved over things which any reasonable chappie would decline to be
found dead in a ditch with. His admiration for the Wigmore Venus,
which had faltered for a moment during his conversation with J. B.
Wheeler, returned in all its pristine vigour. Absolute rot, he meant
to say, to try to make out that it wasn't one of the ones and just
like mother used to make. Look how Lucille had liked it!
At breakfast next morning, Archie once more brought up the question
of the hanging of the picture. It was absurd to let a thing like that
go on wasting its sweetness behind a sofa with its face to the wall.
"Touching the jolly old masterpiece," he said, "how about it? I
think it's time we hoisted it up somewhere."
Lucille fiddled pensively with her coffee-spoon.
"Archie, dear," she said, "I've been thinking."
"And a very good thing to do," said Archie. "I've often meant to do
it myself when I got a bit of time."
"About that picture, I mean. Did you know it was father's birthday
"Why no, old thing, I didn't, to be absolutely honest. Your revered
parent doesn't confide in me much these days, as a matter of fact."
"Well, it is. And I think we ought to give him a present."
"Absolutely. But how? I'm all for spreading sweetness and light,
and cheering up the jolly old pater's sorrowful existence, but I
haven't a bean. And, what is more, things have come to such a pass
that I scan the horizon without seeing a single soul I can touch. I
suppose I could get into Reggie van Tuyl's ribs for a bit, but—I
don't know—touching poor old Reggie always seems to me rather like
potting a pitting bird."
"Of course, I don't want you to do anything like that. I was
thinking—Archie, darling, would you be very hurt if I gave father
"Oh, I say!"
"Well, I can't think of anything else."
"But wouldn't you miss it most frightfully?"
"Oh, of course I should. But you see—father's birthday—"
Archie had always thought Lucille the dearest and most unselfish
angel in the world, but never had the fact come home to him so
forcibly as now. He kissed her fondly.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "You really are, you know! This is the
biggest thing since jolly old Sir Philip What's-his-name gave the
drink of water to the poor blighter whose need was greater than his,
if you recall the incident. I had to sweat it up at school, I
remember. Sir Philip, poor old bean, had a most ghastly thirst on,
and he was just going to have one on the house, so to speak, when...
but it's all in the history-books. This is the sort of thing Boy
Scouts do! Well, of course, it's up to you, queen of my soul. If you
feel like making the sacrifice, right-o! Shall I bring the pater up
here and show him the picture?"
"No, I shouldn't do that. Do you think you could get into his suite
to-morrow morning and hang it up somewhere? You see, if he had the
chance of—what I mean is, if—yes, I think it would be best to hang
it up and let him discover it there."
"It would give him a surprise, you mean, what?"
Lucille sighed inaudibly. She was a girl with a conscience, and
that conscience was troubling her a little. She agreed with Archie
that the discovery of the Wigmore Venus in his artistically furnished
suite would give Mr. Brewster a surprise. Surprise, indeed, was
perhaps an inadequate word. She was sorry for her father, but the
instinct of self-preservation is stronger than any other emotion.
Archie whistled merrily on the following morning as, having driven
a nail into his father-in-law's wallpaper, he adjusted the cord from
which the Wigmore Venus was suspended. He was a kind-hearted young
man, and, though Mr. Daniel Brewster had on many occasions treated
him with a good deal of austerity, his simple soul was pleased at the
thought of doing him a good turn, He had just completed his work and
was stepping cautiously down, when a voice behind him nearly caused
him to overbalance.
"What the devil?"
Archie turned beamingly.
"Hullo, old thing! Many happy returns of the day!"
Mr. Brewster was standing in a frozen attitude. His strong face was
"What—what—?" he gurgled.
Mr. Brewster was not in one of his sunniest moods that morning. The
proprietor of a large hotel has many things to disturb him, and to-
day things had been going wrong. He had come up to his suite with the
idea of restoring his shaken nerve system with a quiet cigar, and the
sight of his son-in-law had, as so frequently happened, made him feel
worse than ever. But, when Archie had descended from the chair and
moved aside to allow him an uninterrupted view of the picture, Mr.
Brewster realised that a worse thing had befallen him than a mere
visit from one who always made him feel that the world was a bleak
He stared at the Venus dumbly. Unlike most hotel-proprietors,
Daniel Brewster was a connoisseur of Art. Connoisseuring was, in fact,
his hobby. Even the public rooms of the Cosmopolis were decorated with
taste, and his own private suite was a shrine of all that was best
and most artistic. His tastes were quiet and restrained, and it is
not too much to say that the Wigmore Venus hit him behind the ear
like a stuffed eel-skin.
So great was the shock that for some moments it kept him silent,
and before he could recover speech Archie had explained.
"It's a birthday present from Lucille, don't you know,"
Mr. Brewster crushed down the breezy speech he had intended to
"Lucille gave me—that?" he muttered.
He swallowed pathetically. He was suffering, but the iron courage
of the Brewsters stood him in good stead. This man was no weakling.
Presently the rigidity of his face relaxed. He was himself again. Of
all things in the world he loved his daughter most, and if, in
whoever mood of temporary insanity, she had brought herself to
suppose that this beastly daub was the sort of thing he would like
for a birthday present, he must accept the situation like a man. He
would on the whole have preferred death to a life lived in the
society of the Wigmore Venus, but even that torment must be endured
if the alternative was the hurting of Lucille's feelings.
"I think I've chosen a pretty likely spot to hang the thing, what?"
said Archie cheerfully. "It looks well alongside those Japanese
prints, don't you think? Sort of stands out."
Mr. Brewster licked his dry lips and grinned a ghastly grin.
"It does stand out!" he agreed.
CHAPTER XXVI. A TALE OF A
Archie was not a man who readily allowed himself to become worried,
especially about people who were not in his own immediate circle of
friends, but in the course of the next week he was bound to admit
that he was not altogether easy in his mind about his father-in-
law's mental condition. He had read all sorts of things in the Sunday
papers and elsewhere about the constant strain to which captains of
industry are subjected, a strain which sooner or later is only too apt
to make the victim go all blooey, and it seemed to him that Mr.
Brewster was beginning to find the going a trifle too tough for his
stamina. Undeniably he was behaving in an odd manner, and Archie,
though no physician, was aware that, when the American business-man,
that restless, ever-active human machine, starts behaving in an odd
manner, the next thing yon know is that two strong men, one attached
to each arm, are hurrying him into the cab bound for Bloomingdale.
He did not confide his misgivings to Lucille, not wishing to cause
her anxiety. He hunted up Reggie van Tuyl at the club, and sought
advice from him.
"I say, Reggie, old thing—present company excepted—have there
been any loonies in your family?"
Reggie stirred in the slumber which always gripped him in the early
"Loonies?" he mumbled, sleeply. "Rather! My uncle Edgar thought he
"Yes. Silly idea! I mean, you'd have thought one of my uncle Edgar
would have been enough for any man."
"How did the thing start?" asked Archie.
"Start? Well, the first thing we noticed was when he began wanting
two of everything. Had to set two places for him at dinner and so on.
Always wanted two seats at the theatre. Ran into money, I can tell
"He didn't behave rummily up till then? I mean to say, wasn't sort
of jumpy and all that?"
"Not that I remember. Why?"
Archie's tone became grave.
"Well, I'll tell you, old man, though I don't want it to go any
farther, that I'm a bit worried about my jolly old father-in-law. I
believe he's about to go in off the deep-end. I think he's cracking
under the strain. Dashed weird his behaviour has been the last few
"Such as?" murmured Mr. van Tuyl.
"Well, the other morning I happened to be in his
suite—incidentally he wouldn't go above ten dollars, and I wanted
twenty-five-and he suddenly picked up a whacking big paper-weight and
bunged it for all he was worth."
"Not at me. That was the rummy part of it. At a mosquito on the
wall, he said. Well, I mean to say, do chappies bung paper-weights at
mosquitoes? I mean, is it done?"
"Curiously enough, no. But he only just missed a rather decent
picture which Lucille had given him for his birthday. Another foot to
the left and it would have been a goner."
"And, talking of that picture, I looked in on him about a couple of
afternoons later, and he'd taken it down from the wall and laid it on
the floor and was staring at it in a dashed marked sort of manner.
That was peculiar, what?"
"On the floor?"
"On the jolly old carpet. When I came in, he was goggling at it in
a sort of glassy way. Absolutely rapt, don't you know. My coming in
gave him a start—seemed to rouse him from a kind of trance, you
know—and he jumped like an antelope; and, if I hadn't happened to
grab him, he would have trampled bang on the thing. It was deuced
unpleasant, you know. His manner was rummy. He seemed to be brooding
on something. What ought I to do about it, do you think? It's not my
affair, of course, but it seams to me that, if he goes on like this,
one of these days he'll be stabbing, someone with a pickle-fork."
To Archie's relief, his father-in-law's symptoms showed no signs of
development. In fact, his manner reverted to the normal once more,
and a few days later, meeting Archie in the lobby of the hotel, he
seemed quite cheerful. It was not often that he wasted his time
talking to his son-in-law, but on this occasion he chatted with him
for several minutes about the big picture-robbery which had formed
the chief item of news on the front pages of the morning papers that
day. It was Mr. Brewster's opinion that the outrage had been the work
of a gang and that nobody was safe.
Daniel Brewster had spoken of this matter with strange earnestness,
but his words had slipped from Archie's mind when he made his way
that night to his father-in-law's suite. Archie was in an exalted
mood. In the course of dinner he had had a bit of good news which was
occupying his thoughts to the exclusion of all other matters. It had
left him in a comfortable, if rather dizzy, condition of benevolence
to all created things. He had smiled at the room-clerk as he crossed
the lobby, and if he had had a dollar, he would have given it to the
boy who took him up in the elevator.
He found the door of the Brewster suite unlocked which at any other
time would have struck him as unusual; but to-night he was in no
frame of mind to notice these trivialities. He went in, and, finding
the room dark and no one at home, sat down, too absorbed in his
thoughts to switch on the lights, and gave himself up to dreamy
There are certain moods in which one loses count of time, and
Archie could not have said how long he had been sitting in the deep
arm- chair near the window when he first became aware that he was not
alone in the room. He had closed his eyes, the better to meditate, so
had not seen anyone enter. Nor had he heard the door open. The first
intimation he had that somebody had come in was when some hard
substance knocked against some other hard object, producing a sharp
sound which brought him back to earth with a jerk.
He sat up silently. The fact that the room was still in darkness
made it obvious that something nefarious was afoot. Plainly there was
dirty work in preparation at the cross-roads. He stared into the
blackness, and, as his eyes grew accustomed to it, was presently able
to see an indistinct form bending over something on the floor. The
sound of rather stertorous breathing came to him.
Archie had many defects which prevented him being the perfect man,
but lack of courage was not one of them. His somewhat rudimentary
intelligence had occasionally led his superior officers during the
war to thank God that Great Britain had a Navy, but even these stern
critics had found nothing to complain of in the manner in which he
bounded over the top. Some of us are thinkers, others men of action.
Archie was a man of action, and he was out of his chair and sailing
in the direction of the back of the intruder's neck before a wiser
man would have completed his plan of campaign. The miscreant
collapsed under him with a squashy sound, like the wind going out of
a pair of bellows, and Archie, taking a firm seat on his spine,
rubbed the other's face in the carpet and awaited the progress of
At the end of half a minute it became apparent that there was going
to be no counter-attack. The dashing swiftness of the assault had
apparently had the effect of depriving the marauder of his entire
stock of breath. He was gurgling to himself in a pained sort of way
and making no effort to rise. Archie, feeling that it would be safe
to get up and switch on the light, did so, and, turning after
completing this manoeuvre, was greeted by the spectacle of his
father-in-law, seated on the floor in a breathless and dishevelled
condition, blinking at the sudden illumination. On the carpet beside
Mr. Brewster lay a long knife, and beside the knife lay the
handsomely framed masterpiece of J. B. Wheeler's fiancee, Miss Alice
Wigmore. Archie stared at this collection dumbly.
"Oh, what-ho!" he observed at length, feebly.
A distinct chill manifested itself in the region of Archie's spine.
This could mean only one thing. His fears had been realised. The
strain of modern life, with all its hustle and excitement, had at
last proved too much for Mr. Brewster. Crushed by the thousand and
one anxieties and worries of a millionaire's existence, Daniel
Brewster had gone off his onion.
Archie was nonplussed. This was his first experience of this kind
of thing. What, he asked himself, was the proper procedure in a
situation of this sort? What was the local rule? Where, in a word,
did he go from here? He was still musing in an embarrassed and
baffled way, having taken the precaution of kicking the knife under
the sofa, when Mr. Brewster spoke. And there was in, both the words
and the method of their delivery so much of his old familiar self
that Archie felt quite relieved.
"So it's you, is it, you wretched blight, you miserable weed!" said
Mr. Brewster, having recovered enough breath to be going on with. He
glowered at his son-in-law despondently. "I might have, expected it!
If I was at the North Pole, I could count on you butting in!"
"Shall I get you a drink of water?" said Archie.
"What the devil," demanded Mr. Brewster, "do you imagine I want
with a drink of water?"
"Well—" Archie hesitated delicately. "I had a sort of idea that
you had been feeling the strain a bit. I mean to say, rush of modern
life and all that sort of thing—"
"What are you doing in my room?" said Mr. Brewster, changing the
"Well, I came to tell you something, and I came in here and was
waiting for you, and I saw some chappie biffing about in the dark,
and I thought it was a burglar or something after some of your
things, so, thinking it over, I got the idea that it would be a
fairly juicy scheme to land on him with both feet. No idea it was
you, old thing! Frightfully sorry and all that. Meant well!"
Mr. Brewster sighed deeply. He was a just man, and he could not but
realise that, in the circumstances, Archie had behaved not
"Oh, well!" he said. "I might have known something would go wrong."
"It can't be helped. What was it you wanted to tell me?" He eyed
his son-in-law piercingly. "Not a cent over twenty dollars!" he said
Archie hastened to dispel the pardonable error.
"Oh, it wasn't anything like that," he said. "As a matter of fact,
I think it's a good egg. It has bucked me up to no inconsiderable
degree. I was dining with Lucille just now, and, as we dallied with
the food-stuffs, she told me something which—well, I'm bound to say,
it made me feel considerably braced. She told me to trot along and ask
you if you would mind—"
"I gave Lucille a hundred dollars only last Tuesday."
Archie was pained.
"Adjust this sordid outlook, old thing!" he urged. "You simply
aren't anywhere near it. Right off the target, absolutely! What
Lucille told me to ask you was if you would mind—at some tolerably
near date—being a grandfather! Rotten thing to be, of course,"
proceeded Archie commiseratingly, "for a chappie of your age, but
there it is!"
Mr. Brewster gulped.
"Do you mean to say—?"
"I mean, apt to make a fellow feel a bit of a patriarch. Snowy hair
and what not. And, of course, for a chappie in the prime of life like
"Do you mean to tell me—? Is this true?"
"Absolutely! Of course, speaking for myself, I'm all for it. I
don't know when I've felt more bucked. I sang as I came up here—
absolutely warbled in the elevator. But you—"
A curious change had come over Mr. Brewster. He was one of those
men who have the appearance of having been hewn out of the solid rock,
but now in some indescribable way he seemed to have melted. For a
moment he gazed at Archie, then, moving quickly forward, he grasped
his hand in an iron grip.
"This is the best news I've ever had!" he mumbled.
"Awfully good of you to take it like this," said Archie cordially.
"I mean, being a grandfather—"
Mr. Brewster smiled. Of a man of his appearance one could hardly
say that be smiled playfully; but there was something in his
expression that remotely suggested playfulness.
"My dear old bean," he said.
"My dear old bean," repeated Mr. Brewster firmly, "I'm the happiest
man in America!" His eye fell on the picture which lay on the floor.
He gave a slight shudder, but recovered himself immediately. "After
this," he said, "I can reconcile myself to living with that thing for
the rest of my life. I feel it doesn't matter."
"I say," said Archie, "how about that? Wouldn't have brought the
thing up if you hadn't introduced the topic, but, speaking as man to
man, what the dickens WERE you up to when I landed on your spine just
"I suppose you thought I had gone off my head?"
"Well, I'm bound to say—"
Mr. Brewster cast an unfriendly glance at the picture.
"Well, I had every excuse, after living with that infernal thing
for a week!"
Archie looked at him, astonished.
"I say, old thing, I don't know if I have got your meaning exactly,
but you somehow give me the impression that you don't like that jolly
old work of Art."
"Like it!" cried Mr. Brewster. "It's nearly driven me mad! Every
time it caught my eye, it gave me a pain in the neck. To-night I felt
as if I couldn't stand it any longer. I didn't want to hurt Lucille's
feelings, by telling her, so I made up my mind I would cut the damned
thing out of its frame and tell her it had been stolen."
"What an extraordinary thing! Why, that's exactly what old Wheeler
"Who is old Wheeler?"
"Artist chappie. Pal of mine. His fiancee painted the thing, and,
when I lifted it off him, he told her it had been stolen. HE didn't
seem frightfully keen on it, either."
"Your friend Wheeler has evidently good taste."
Archie was thinking.
"Well, all this rather gets past me," he said. "Personally, I've
always admired the thing. Dashed ripe bit of work, I've always
considered. Still, of course, if you feel that way—"
"You may take it from me that I do!"
"Well, then, in that case—You know what a clumsy devil I am—You
can tell Lucille it was all my fault—"
The Wigmore Venus smiled up at Archie—it seemed to Archie with a
pathetic, pleading smile. For a moment he was conscious of a feeling
of guilt; then, closing his eyes and hardening his heart, he sprang
lightly in the air and descended with both feet on the picture. There
was a sound of rending canvas, and the Venus ceased to smile.
"Golly!" said Archie, regarding the wreckage remorsefully.
Mr. Brewster did not share his remorse. For the second time that
night he gripped him by the hand.
"My boy!" he quavered. He stared at Archie as if he were seeing him
with new eyes. "My dear boy, you were through the war, were you not?"
"Eh? Oh yes! Right through the jolly old war."
"What was your rank?"
"Oh, second lieutenant."
"You ought to have been a general!" Mr. Brewster clasped his hand
once more in a vigorous embrace. "I only hope," he added "that your
son will be like you!"
There are certain compliments, or compliments coming from certain
sources, before which modesty reels, stunned. Archie's did.
He swallowed convulsively. He had never thought to hear these words
from Daniel Brewster.
"How would it be, old thing," he said almost brokenly, "if you and
I trickled down to the bar and had a spot of sherbet?"