Black for Luck
by P. G. Wodehouse
He was black, but comely. Obviously in reduced circumstances, he had
nevertheless contrived to retain a certain smartness, a certain
air—what the French call the tournure. Nor had poverty killed
in him the aristocrat's instinct of personal cleanliness; for even as
Elizabeth caught sight of him he began to wash himself.
At the sound of her step he looked up. He did not move, but there
was suspicion in his attitude. The muscles of his back contracted, his
eyes glowed like yellow lamps against black velvet, his tail switched a
Elizabeth looked at him. He looked at Elizabeth. There was a pause,
while he summed her up. Then he stalked towards her, and, suddenly
lowering his head, drove it vigorously against her dress. He permitted
her to pick him up and carry him into the hall-way, where Francis, the
'Francis,' said Elizabeth, 'does this cat belong to anyone here?'
'No, miss. That cat's a stray, that cat is. I been trying to locate
that cat's owner for days.'
Francis spent his time trying to locate things. It was the one
recreation of his eventless life. Sometimes it was a noise, sometimes a
lost letter, sometimes a piece of ice which had gone astray in the
dumb-waiter—whatever it was, Francis tried to locate it.
'Has he been round here long, then?'
'I seen him snooping about a considerable time.'
'I shall keep him.'
'Black cats bring luck,' said Francis sententiously.
'I certainly shan't object to that,' said Elizabeth. She was feeling
that morning that a little luck would be a pleasing novelty. Things had
not been going very well with her of late. It was not so much that the
usual proportion of her manuscripts had come back with editorial
compliments from the magazine to which they had been sent—she accepted
that as part of the game; what she did consider scurvy treatment at the
hands of fate was the fact that her own pet magazine, the one to which
she had been accustomed to fly for refuge, almost sure of a
welcome—when coldly treated by all the others—had suddenly expired
with a low gurgle for want of public support. It was like losing a kind
and open-handed relative, and it made the addition of a black cat to
the household almost a necessity.
In her flat, the door closed, she watched her new ally with some
anxiety. He had behaved admirably on the journey upstairs, but she
would not have been surprised, though it would have pained her, if he
had now proceeded to try to escape through the ceiling. Cats were so
emotional. However, he remained calm, and, after padding silently about
the room for awhile, raised his head and uttered a crooning cry.
'That's right,' said Elizabeth, cordially. 'If you don't see what
you want, ask for it. The place is yours.'
She went to the ice-box, and produced milk and sardines. There was
nothing finicky or affected about her guest. He was a good trencherman,
and he did not care who knew it. He concentrated himself on the
restoration of his tissues with the purposeful air of one whose last
meal is a dim memory. Elizabeth, brooding over him like a Providence,
wrinkled her forehead in thought.
'Joseph,' she said at last, brightening; 'that's your name. Now
settle down, and start being a mascot.'
Joseph settled down amazingly. By the end of the second day he was
conveying the impression that he was the real owner of the apartment,
and that it was due to his good nature that Elizabeth was allowed the
run of the place. Like most of his species, he was an autocrat. He
waited a day to ascertain which was Elizabeth's favourite chair, then
appropriated it for his own. If Elizabeth closed a door while he was in
a room, he wanted it opened so that he might go out; if she closed it
while he was outside, he wanted it opened so that he might come in; if
she left it open, he fussed about the draught. But the best of us have
our faults, and Elizabeth adored him in spite of his.
It was astonishing what a difference he made in her life. She was a
friendly soul, and until Joseph's arrival she had had to depend for
company mainly on the footsteps of the man in the flat across the way.
Moreover, the building was an old one, and it creaked at night. There
was a loose board in the passage which made burglar noises in the dark
behind you when you stepped on it on the way to bed; and there were
funny scratching sounds which made you jump and hold your breath.
Joseph soon put a stop to all that. With Joseph around, a loose board
became a loose board, nothing more, and a scratching noise just a plain
And then one afternoon he disappeared.
Having searched the flat without finding him, Elizabeth went to the
window, with the intention of making a bird's-eye survey of the street.
She was not hopeful, for she had just come from the street, and there
had been no sign of him then.
Outside the window was a broad ledge, running the width of the
building. It terminated on the left, in a shallow balcony belonging to
the flat whose front door faced hers—the flat of the young man whose
footsteps she sometimes heard. She knew he was a young man, because
Francis had told her so. His name, James Renshaw Boyd, she had learned
from the same source.
On this shallow balcony, licking his fur with the tip of a crimson
tongue and generally behaving as if he were in his own backyard, sat
'Jo-seph!' cried Elizabeth—surprise, joy, and reproach combining to
give her voice an almost melodramatic quiver.
He looked at her coldly. Worse, he looked at her as if she had been
an utter stranger. Bulging with her meat and drink, he cut her dead;
and, having done so, turned and walked into the next flat.
Elizabeth was a girl of spirit. Joseph might look at her as if she
were a saucerful of tainted milk, but he was her cat, and she meant to
get him back. She went out and rang the bell of Mr James Renshaw Boyd's
The door was opened by a shirt-sleeved young man. He was by no means
an unsightly young man. Indeed, of his type—the rough-haired,
clean-shaven, square-jawed type—he was a distinctly good-looking young
man. Even though she was regarding him at the moment purely in the
light of a machine for returning strayed cats, Elizabeth noticed that.
She smiled upon him. It was not the fault of this nice-looking young
man that his sitting-room window was open; or that Joseph was an
ungrateful little beast who should have no fish that night.
'Would you mind letting me have my cat, please?' she said
pleasantly. 'He has gone into your sitting-room through the window.'
He looked faintly surprised.
'My black cat, Joseph. He is in your sitting-room.'
'I'm afraid you have come to the wrong place. I've just left my
sitting-room, and the only cat there is my black cat, Reginald.'
'But I saw Joseph go in only a minute ago.'
'That was Reginald.'
For the first time, as one who examining a fair shrub abruptly
discovers that it is a stinging-nettle, Elizabeth realized the truth.
This was no innocent young man who stood before her, but the blackest
criminal known to criminologists—a stealer of other people's cats. Her
manner shot down to zero.
'May I ask how long you have had your Reginald?'
'Since four o'clock this afternoon.'
'Did he come in through the window?'
'Why, yes. Now you mention it, he did.'
'I must ask you to be good enough to give me back my cat,' said
He regarded her defensively.
'Assuming,' he said, 'purely for the purposes of academic argument,
that your Joseph is my Reginald, couldn't we come to an agreement of
some sort? Let me buy you another cat. A dozen cats.'
'I don't want a dozen cats. I want Joseph.'
'Fine, fat, soft cats,' he went on persuasively. 'Lovely,
affectionate Persians and Angoras, and—'
'Of course, if you intend to steal Joseph—'
'These are harsh words. Any lawyer will tell you that there are
special statutes regarding cats. To retain a stray cat is not a tort or
a misdemeanour. In the celebrated test-case of Wiggins v.
Bluebody it was established—'
'Will you please give me back my cat?'
She stood facing him, her chin in the air and her eyes shining, and
the young man suddenly fell a victim to conscience.
'Look here,' he said, 'I'll throw myself on your mercy. I admit the
cat is your cat, and that I have no right to it, and that I am just a
common sneak-thief. But consider. I had just come back from the first
rehearsal of my first play; and as I walked in at the door that cat
walked in at the window. I'm as superstitious as a coon, and I felt
that to give him up would be equivalent to killing the play before ever
it was produced. I know it will sound absurd to you. You have no
idiotic superstitions. You are sane and practical. But, in the
circumstances, if you could see your way to waiving your
Before the wistfulness of his eye Elizabeth capitulated. She felt
quite overcome by the revulsion of feeling which swept through her. How
she had misjudged him! She had taken him for an ordinary soulless
purloiner of cats, a snapper-up of cats at random and without reason;
and all the time he had been reluctantly compelled to the act by this
deep and praiseworthy motive. All the unselfishness and love of
sacrifice innate in good women stirred within her.
'Why, of course you mustn't let him go! It would mean awful
'But how about you—'
'Never mind about me. Think of all the people who are dependent on
your play being a success.'
The young man blinked.
'This is overwhelming,' he said.
'I had no notion why you wanted him. He was nothing to me—at least,
nothing much—that is to say—well, I suppose I was rather fond of
him—but he was not—not—'
'That's just the word I wanted. He was just company, you know.'
'Haven't you many friends?'
'I haven't any friends.'
'You haven't any friends! That settles it. You must take him back.'
'I couldn't think of it.'
'Of course you must take him back at once.'
'I really couldn't.'
'But, good gracious, how do you suppose I should feel, knowing that
you were all alone and that I had sneaked your—your ewe lamb, as it
'And how do you suppose I should feel if your play failed simply for
lack of a black cat?'
He started, and ran his fingers through his rough hair in an
'Solomon couldn't have solved this problem,' he said. 'How would it
be—it seems the only possible way out—if you were to retain a sort of
managerial right in him? Couldn't you sometimes step across and chat
with him—and me, incidentally—over here? I'm very nearly as lonesome
as you are. Chicago is my home. I hardly know a soul in New York.'
Her solitary life in the big city had forced upon Elizabeth the
ability to form instantaneous judgements on the men she met. She
flashed a glance at the young man and decided in his favour.
'It's very kind of you,' she said. 'I should love to. I want to hear
all about your play. I write myself, you know, in a very small way, so
a successful playwright is Someone to me.'
'I wish I were a successful playwright.'
'Well, you are having the first play you have ever written produced
on Broadway. That's pretty wonderful.'
''M—yes,' said the young man. It seemed to Elizabeth that he spoke
doubtfully, and this modesty consolidated the favourable impression she
* * * * *
The gods are just. For every ill which they inflict they also supply
a compensation. It seems good to them that individuals in big cities
shall be lonely, but they have so arranged that, if one of these
individuals does at last contrive to seek out and form a friendship
with another, that friendship shall grow more swiftly than the tepid
acquaintanceships of those on whom the icy touch of loneliness has
never fallen. Within a week Elizabeth was feeling that she had known
this James Renshaw Boyd all her life.
And yet there was a tantalizing incompleteness about his personal
reminiscences. Elizabeth was one of those persons who like to begin a
friendship with a full statement of their position, their previous
life, and the causes which led up to their being in this particular
spot at this particular time. At their next meeting, before he had had
time to say much on his own account, she had told him of her life in
the small Canadian town where she had passed the early part of her
life; of the rich and unexpected aunt who had sent her to college for
no particular reason that anyone could ascertain except that she
enjoyed being unexpected; of the legacy from this same aunt, far
smaller than might have been hoped for, but sufficient to send a
grateful Elizabeth to New York, to try her luck there; of editors,
magazines, manuscripts refused or accepted, plots for stories; of life
in general, as lived down where the Arch spans Fifth Avenue and the
lighted cross of the Judson shines by night on Washington Square.
Ceasing eventually, she waited for him to begin; and he did not
begin—not, that is to say, in the sense the word conveyed to
Elizabeth. He spoke briefly of college, still more briefly of
Chicago—which city he appeared to regard with a distaste that made
Lot's attitude towards the Cities of the Plain almost kindly by
comparison. Then, as if he had fulfilled the demands of the most
exacting inquisitor in the matter of personal reminiscence, he began to
speak of the play.
The only facts concerning him to which Elizabeth could really have
sworn with a clear conscience at the end of the second week of their
acquaintance were that he was very poor, and that this play meant
everything to him.
The statement that it meant everything to him insinuated itself so
frequently into his conversation that it weighed on Elizabeth's mind
like a burden, and by degrees she found herself giving the play place
of honour in her thoughts over and above her own little ventures. With
this stupendous thing hanging in the balance, it seemed almost wicked
of her to devote a moment to wondering whether the editor of an evening
paper, who had half promised to give her the entrancing post of Adviser
to the Lovelorn on his journal, would fulfil that half-promise.
At an early stage in their friendship the young man had told her the
plot of the piece; and if he had not unfortunately forgotten several
important episodes and had to leap back to them across a gulf of one or
two acts, and if he had referred to his characters by name instead of
by such descriptions as 'the fellow who's in love with the girl—not
what's-his-name but the other chap'—she would no doubt have got that
mental half-Nelson on it which is such a help towards the proper
understanding of a four-act comedy. As it was, his precis had left her
a little vague; but she said it was perfectly splendid, and he said did
she really think so. And she said yes, she did, and they were both
Rehearsals seemed to prey on his spirits a good deal. He attended
them with the pathetic regularity of the young dramatist, but they
appeared to bring him little balm. Elizabeth generally found him
steeped in gloom, and then she would postpone the recital, to which she
had been looking forward, of whatever little triumph she might have
happened to win, and devote herself to the task of cheering him up. If
women were wonderful in no other way, they would be wonderful for their
genius for listening to shop instead of talking it.
Elizabeth was feeling more than a little proud of the way in which
her judgement of this young man was being justified. Life in Bohemian
New York had left her decidedly wary of strange young men, not formally
introduced; her faith in human nature had had to undergo much
straining. Wolves in sheep's clothing were common objects of the
wayside in her unprotected life; and perhaps her chief reason for
appreciating this friendship was the feeling of safety which it gave
Their relations, she told herself, were so splendidly unsentimental.
There was no need for that silent defensiveness which had come to seem
almost an inevitable accompaniment to dealings with the opposite sex.
James Boyd, she felt, she could trust; and it was wonderful how
soothing the reflexion was.
And that was why, when the thing happened, it so shocked and
It had been one of their quiet evenings. Of late they had fallen
into the habit of sitting for long periods together without speaking.
But it had differed from other quiet evenings through the fact that
Elizabeth's silence hid a slight but well-defined feeling of injury.
Usually she sat happy with her thoughts, but tonight she was ruffled.
She had a grievance.
That afternoon the editor of the evening paper, whose angelic status
not even a bald head and an absence of wings and harp could conceal,
had definitely informed her that the man who had conducted the column
hitherto having resigned, the post of Heloise Milton, official adviser
to readers troubled with affairs of the heart, was hers; and he looked
to her to justify the daring experiment of letting a woman handle so
responsible a job. Imagine how Napoleon felt after Austerlitz, picture
Colonel Goethale contemplating the last spadeful of dirt from the
Panama Canal, try to visualize a suburban householder who sees a flower
emerging from the soil in which he has inserted a packet of guaranteed
seeds, and you will have some faint conception how Elizabeth felt as
those golden words proceeded from that editor's lips. For the moment
Ambition was sated. The years, rolling by, might perchance open out
other vistas; but for the moment she was content.
Into James Boyd's apartment she had walked, stepping on fleecy
clouds of rapture, to tell him the great news.
She told him the great news.
He said, 'Ah!'
There are many ways of saying 'Ah!' You can put joy, amazement,
rapture into it; you can also make it sound as if it were a reply to a
remark on the weather. James Boyd made it sound just like that. His
hair was rumpled, his brow contracted, and his manner absent. The
impression he gave Elizabeth was that he had barely heard her. The next
moment he was deep in a recital of the misdemeanours of the actors now
rehearsing for his four-act comedy. The star had done this, the leading
woman that, the juvenile something else. For the first time Elizabeth
The time came when speech failed James Boyd, and he sat back in his
chair, brooding. Elizabeth, cross and wounded, sat in hers, nursing
Joseph. And so, in a dim light, time flowed by.
Just how it happened she never knew. One moment, peace; the next
chaos. One moment stillness; the next, Joseph hurtling through the air,
all claws and expletives, and herself caught in a clasp which shook the
breath from her.
One can dimly reconstruct James's train of thought. He is in
despair; things are going badly at the theatre, and life has lost its
savour. His eye, as he sits, is caught by Elizabeth's profile. It is a
pretty—above all, a soothing—profile. An almost painful
sentimentality sweeps over James Boyd. There she sits, his only friend
in this cruel city. If you argue that there is no necessity to spring
at your only friend and nearly choke her, you argue soundly; the point
is well taken. But James Boyd was beyond the reach of sound argument.
Much rehearsing had frayed his nerves to ribbons. One may say that he
was not responsible for his actions.
That is the case for James. Elizabeth, naturally, was not in a
position to take a wide and understanding view of it. All she knew was
that James had played her false, abused her trust in him. For a moment,
such was the shock of the surprise, she was not conscious of
indignation—or, indeed, of any sensation except the purely physical
one of semi-strangulation. Then, flushed, and more bitterly angry than
she could ever have imagined herself capable of being, she began to
struggle. She tore herself away from him. Coming on top of her
grievance, this thing filled her with a sudden, very vivid hatred of
James. At the back of her anger, feeding it, was the humiliating
thought that it was all her own fault, that by her presence there she
had invited this.
She groped her way to the door. Something was writhing and
struggling inside her, blinding her eyes, and robbing her of speech.
She was only conscious of a desire to be alone, to be back and safe in
her own home. She was aware that he was speaking, but the words did not
reach her. She found the door, and pulled it open. She felt a hand on
her arm, but she shook it off. And then she was back behind her own
door, alone and at liberty to contemplate at leisure the ruins of that
little temple of friendship which she had built up so carefully and in
which she had been so happy.
The broad fact that she would never forgive him was for a while her
only coherent thought. To this succeeded the determination that she
would never forgive herself. And having thus placed beyond the pale the
only two friends she had in New York, she was free to devote herself
without hindrance to the task of feeling thoroughly lonely and
The shadows deepened. Across the street a sort of bubbling
explosion, followed by a jerky glare that shot athwart the room,
announced the lighting of the big arc-lamp on the opposite side-walk.
She resented it, being in the mood for undiluted gloom; but she had not
the energy to pull down the shade and shut it out. She sat where she
was, thinking thoughts that hurt.
The door of the apartment opposite opened. There was a single ring
at her bell. She did not answer it. There came another. She sat where
she was, motionless. The door closed again.
* * * * *
The days dragged by. Elizabeth lost count of time. Each day had its
duties, which ended when you went to bed; that was all she knew—except
that life had become very grey and very lonely, far lonelier even than
in the time when James Boyd was nothing to her but an occasional sound
Of James she saw nothing. It is not difficult to avoid anyone in New
York, even when you live just across the way.
* * * * *
It was Elizabeth's first act each morning, immediately on awaking,
to open her front door and gather in whatever lay outside it. Sometimes
there would be mail; and always, unless Francis, as he sometimes did,
got mixed and absent-minded, the morning milk and the morning paper.
One morning, some two weeks after that evening of which she tried
not to think, Elizabeth, opening the door, found immediately outside it
a folded scrap of paper. She unfolded it.
I am just off to the theatre. Won't you wish me luck? I feel
it is going to be a hit. Joseph is purring like a dynamo.
In the early morning the brain works sluggishly. For an instant
Elizabeth stood looking at the words uncomprehendingly; then, with a
leaping of the heart, their meaning came home to her. He must have left
this at her door on the previous night. The play had been produced! And
somewhere in the folded interior of the morning paper at her feet must
be the opinion of 'One in Authority' concerning it!
Dramatic criticisms have this peculiarity, that if you are looking
for them, they burrow and hide like rabbits. They dodge behind murders;
they duck behind baseball scores; they lie up snugly behind the Wall
Street news. It was a full minute before Elizabeth found what she
sought, and the first words she read smote her like a blow.
In that vein of delightful facetiousness which so endears him to all
followers and perpetrators of the drama, the 'One in Authority' rent
and tore James Boyd's play. He knocked James Boyd's play down, and
kicked it; he jumped on it with large feet; he poured cold water on it,
and chopped it into little bits. He merrily disembowelled James Boyd's
Elizabeth quivered from head to foot. She caught at the door-post to
steady herself. In a flash all her resentment had gone, wiped away and
annihilated like a mist before the sun. She loved him, and she knew now
that she had always loved him.
It took her two seconds to realize that the 'One in Authority' was a
miserable incompetent, incapable of recognizing merit when it was
displayed before him. It took her five minutes to dress. It took her a
minute to run downstairs and out to the news-stand on the corner of the
street. Here, with a lavishness which charmed and exhilarated the
proprietor, she bought all the other papers which he could supply.
Moments of tragedy are best described briefly. Each of the papers
noticed the play, and each of them damned it with uncompromising
heartiness. The criticisms varied only in tone. One cursed with relish
and gusto; another with a certain pity; a third with a kind of wounded
superiority, as of one compelled against his will to speak of something
unspeakable; but the meaning of all was the same. James Boyd's play was
a hideous failure.
Back to the house sped Elizabeth, leaving the organs of a free
people to be gathered up, smoothed, and replaced on the stand by the
now more than ever charmed proprietor. Up the stairs she sped, and
arriving breathlessly at James's door rang the bell.
Heavy footsteps came down the passage; crushed, disheartened
footsteps; footsteps that sent a chill to Elizabeth's heart. The door
opened. James Boyd stood before her, heavy-eyed and haggard. In his
eyes was despair, and on his chin the blue growth of beard of the man
from whom the mailed fist of Fate has smitten the energy to perform his
Behind him, littering the floor, were the morning papers; and at the
sight of them Elizabeth broke down.
'Oh, Jimmy, darling!' she cried; and the next moment she was in his
arms, and for a space time stood still.
How long afterwards it was she never knew; but eventually James Boyd
'If you'll marry me,' he said hoarsely, 'I don't care a hang.'
'Jimmy, darling!' said Elizabeth, 'of course I will.'
Past them, as they stood there, a black streak shot silently, and
disappeared out of the door. Joseph was leaving the sinking ship.
'Let him go, the fraud,' said Elizabeth bitterly. 'I shall never
believe in black cats again.'
But James was not of this opinion.
'Joseph has brought me all the luck I need.'
'But the play meant everything to you.'
'It did then.'
'Jimmy, dear, it's all right, you know. I know you will make a
fortune out of your next play, and I've heaps for us both to live on
till you make good. We can manage splendidly on my salary from the
'What! Have you got a job on a New York paper?'
'Yes, I told you about it. I am doing Heloise Milton. Why, what's
He groaned hollowly.
'And I was thinking that you would come back to Chicago with me!'
'But I will. Of course I will. What did you think I meant to do?'
'What! Give up a real job in New York!' He blinked. 'This isn't
really happening. I'm dreaming.'
'But, Jimmy, are you sure you can get work in Chicago? Wouldn't it
be better to stay on here, where all the managers are, and—'
He shook his head.
'I think it's time I told you about myself,' he said. 'Am I sure I
can get work in Chicago? I am, worse luck. Darling, have you in your
more material moments ever toyed with a Boyd's Premier
Breakfast-Sausage or kept body and soul together with a slice off a
Boyd's Excelsior Home-Cured Ham? My father makes them, and the tragedy
of my life is that he wants me to help him at it. This was my position.
I loathed the family business as much as dad loved it. I had a
notion—a fool notion, as it has turned out—that I could make good in
the literary line. I've scribbled in a sort of way ever since I was in
college. When the time came for me to join the firm, I put it to dad
straight. I said, “Give me a chance, one good, square chance, to see if
the divine fire is really there, or if somebody has just turned on the
alarm as a practical joke.” And we made a bargain. I had written this
play, and we made it a test-case. We fixed it up that dad should put up
the money to give it a Broadway production. If it succeeded, all right;
I'm the young Gus Thomas, and may go ahead in the literary game. If
it's a fizzle, off goes my coat, and I abandon pipe-dreams of literary
triumphs and start in as the guy who put the Co. in Boyd &Co. Well,
events have proved that I am the guy, and now I'm going to keep
my part of the bargain just as squarely as dad kept his. I know quite
well that if I refused to play fair and chose to stick on here in New
York and try again, dad would go on staking me. That's the sort of man
he is. But I wouldn't do it for a million Broadway successes. I've had
my chance, and I've foozled; and now I'm going back to make him happy
by being a real live member of the firm. And the queer thing about it
is that last night I hated the idea, and this morning, now that I've
got you, I almost look forward to it.'
He gave a little shiver.
'And yet—I don't know. There's something rather gruesome still to
my near-artist soul in living in luxury on murdered piggies. Have you
ever seen them persuading a pig to play the stellar role in a Boyd
Premier Breakfast-Sausage? It's pretty ghastly. They string them up by
their hind legs, and—b-r-r-r-r!'
'Never mind,' said Elizabeth soothingly. 'Perhaps they don't mind it
'Well, I don't know,' said James Boyd, doubtfully. 'I've watched
them at it, and I'm bound to say they didn't seem any too well
'Try not to think of it.'
'Very well,' said James dutifully.
There came a sudden shout from the floor above, and on the heels of
it a shock-haired youth in pyjamas burst into the apartment.
'Now what?' said James. 'By the way, Miss Herrold, my fiancee; Mr
Briggs—Paul Axworthy Briggs, sometimes known as the Boy Novelist.
What's troubling you, Paul?'
Mr Briggs was stammering with excitement.
'Jimmy,' cried the Boy Novelist, 'what do you think has happened! A
black cat has just come into my apartment. I heard him mewing outside
the door, and opened it, and he streaked in. And I started my new novel
last night! Say, you do believe this thing of black cats
bringing luck, don't you?'
'Luck! My lad, grapple that cat to your soul with hoops of steel.
He's the greatest little luck-bringer in New York. He was boarding with
me till this morning.'
'Then—by Jove! I nearly forgot to ask—your play was a hit? I
haven't seen the papers yet'
'Well, when you see them, don't read the notices. It was the worst
frost Broadway has seen since Columbus's time.'
'But—I don't understand.'
'Don't worry. You don't have to. Go back and fill that cat with
fish, or she'll be leaving you. I suppose you left the door open?'
'My God!' said the Boy Novelist, paling, and dashed for the door.
'Do you think Joseph will bring him luck?' said Elizabeth,
'It depends what sort of luck you mean. Joseph seems to work in
devious ways. If I know Joseph's methods, Briggs's new novel will be
rejected by every publisher in the city; and then, when he is sitting
in his apartment, wondering which of his razors to end himself with,
there will be a ring at the bell, and in will come the most beautiful
girl in the world, and then—well, then, take it from me, he will be
'He won't mind about the novel?'
'Not in the least.'
'Not even if it means that he will have to go away and kill pigs and
'About the pig business, dear. I've noticed a slight tendency in you
to let yourself get rather morbid about it. I know they string them up
by the hind-legs, and all that sort of thing; but you must remember
that a pig looks at these things from a different standpoint. My belief
is that the pigs like it. Try not to think of it.'
'Very well,' said Elizabeth, dutifully.