Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
IF GINGER KEMP had been asked to enumerate his good qualities, it is not probable that he would have drawn up a very lengthy list. He might have started by claiming for himself the virtue of meaning well, but after that he would have had to chew the pencil in prolonged meditation. And, even if he could eventually have added one or two further items to the catalogue, tact and delicacy of feeling would not have been among them.
Yet by staying away from Sally during the next few days he showed considerable delicacy. It was not easy ts stay away from her, but he forced himself to do so. He argued from his own tastes, and was strongly of the opinion, that in times of travail solitude was what the sufferer most desired. In his time he too had had what he would have described as nasty jars, and on these occasions all he had asked was to be allowed to sit and think things over and fight his battle out by himself.
By Saturday, however, he had come to the conclusion that some form of action might now be taken. Saturday was rather a good day for picking up the threads again. He had not to go to the office, and, what was still more to the point, he had just drawn his week’s salary. Mrs. Meecher had deftly taken a certain amount of this off him, but enough remained to enable him to attempt consolation on a fairly princely scale. There presented itself to him, as a judicious move, the idea of hiring a car and taking Sally out to dinner at one of the road house.he had heard about up the Boston Post Road. He examined the scheme. The more he looked at it, the better it seemed.
He was helped to this decision by the extraordinary perfection of the weather. The weather of late had been a revelation to Ginger. It was his first experience of America’s Indian summer, and it had quite overcome him. As he stood on the roof of Mrs. Meecher’s establishment on the Saturday morning, thrilled by the velvet wonder of the sunshine, it seemed to him that the only'possible way of passing such a day was to take Sally for a ride in an open car.
The Maison Meecher was a lofty' building on one of the side streets at the lower end of the avenue. From its roof, after you had worked your way through the groves of washing which hung limply from the clothesline, you
To-day there were four of these funnels, causing Ginger to deduce the Mauretania.
As the boat on which he had come over from England, the Mauretania had a sentimental interest for him. He stood watching her stately progress till the higher buildings further downtown shut her from his sight; then picked his way through the washing and went down to his room to get his hat.
A quarter of an hour later he was in the hallway of Sally’s apartment house, gazing with ill-concealed disgust at the serge-clad back of his cousin Mr. Carmyle, who was engaged in conversation with a gentleman in overalls.
NO CARE-FREE prospector, singing his way through the Mohave Desert and suddenly finding himself confronted by a rattlesnake, could have experienced so abrupt a change of mood as did Ginger at this revolting spectacle.
Even in their native Piccadilly it had been unpleasant to run into Mr. Carmyle. To find him here now was nothing short of nauseating.
Only one thing could have brought him to this place. Obviously he must have come to see Sally, and with a sudden sinking of the heart Ginger remembered the shiny, expensive automobile which he had seen waiting at the door. He, it was clear, was not the only person to whom the idea had occurred of taking Sally for a drive on this golden day.
He was still standing there when Mr. Carmyle swung round with a frown on his dark face which seemed to say that he had not found the janitor’s conversation entertaining. The sight of Ginger plainly did nothing to lighten his gloom..
“Hullo!” he said.
“Hullo!” said Ginger.
Uncomfortable silence followed these civilities.
"Have you coiqe to see Miss Nicholas?”
could see many things of interest. To the left lay Washington Square, full of somnolent Italians and roller-skating children; to the right was a spectacle which never failed to intrigue Ginger —the smokestacks of a Cunard liner moving slowly down the river, sticking up over the housetops as if the boat was traveling down Ninth Avenue.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR — Sally Nicholas, engaged to Gerald Foster, playwright, falls heir to a fortune on her twenty-first birthday. Abroad, she meets an English youth named Lancelot (Ginger) Kemp and his cousin Bruce Carmyle, who follow her back to New York when she returns to see Gerald’s play get its first run at Detroit, Mich. Sally is so disgusted with the inefficient manner in which the show is being managed she buys it out and makes her brother Fillmore manager. She finds Ginger hiding at her boarding-house, broke, and gets him a job as an assistant to Fillmore. Meanwhile, Bruce Carmyle enlists Fillmore’s partnership in a gigantic revue, much to Sally’s alarm. Ginger returns to town, casually mentions to Sally that he met an old schoolmate in Chicago, named Foster, who was married just before he left the Windy City, Foster being none other than Sally’s fiance, the playwright.
“She isn’t here,” said Mr. Carmyle, and the fact that he had found someone to share the bad news seemed to cheer him a little.
“No. Apparently—” Bruce Carmyle’s scowl betrayed that resentment which a well-balanced man cannot but feel at the unreasonableness of others. “Apparently, for some extraordinary reason, she has taken it into her head to dash over to England.”
Ginger followed his cousin out into the sunshine in a sort of dream. Bruce Carmyle was addressing the driver of the expensive automobile: “I find I shall not want the car. You can take it back to the garage.”
The chauffeur,, a mobdy man, opened one half-closed eye and spat cautiously. It was the way Rockefeller would have spat when approaching the crisis of some delicate financial negotiation. “You’ll have to pay just the same,” he observed, opening his other eye to lend emphasis to the words.
“Of course I shall pay,” snapped Mr. Carmyle irritably. “How much is it?”
Money passed. The car rolled off.
“Gone to England?” said Ginger dizzily.
“Yes, gone to England.”
“How the devil do I know why?” Bruce Carmyle would have found his best friend trying at this moment. Gaping Ginger gave him almost a physical pain. “All I know is what the janitor told me; that she sailed on the Mauretania this morning.”
npHE tragic irony of this overcame Ginger. That he should have stood on the roof, calmly watching
the boat down the river!......
He nodded absently to Mr. Carmyle and walked off. He had no further remarks to make. The warmth had gone out of the sunshine and all interest had departed from his life. He felt dull, listless, at a loose end. Not even the thought that his cousin, a careful man with his money, had had to pay a day’s hire for a car which he could not use brought him any balm. He loafed aimlessly about the streets. He wandered into the park and out again. The park bored him. The streets bored him. The whole city bored him. A city without Sally in it was a drab, futile city, and nothing that the sun could do to brighten it could make it otherwise.
Night came at last, and with it a letter. It was the first even passably pleasant thing that had happened to Ginger in the whole of his dreary and unprofitable day, fpr the envelope bore the crest of the good ship, Mauretania. He snatched it covetously from the letter rack and bore it upstairs to his room.
Very few of the rooms at Mrs. Meecher’s boarding house struck any note of luxury. Mrs. Meecher was not one of your fashionable interior decorators. She considered that when she had added a morris chair to the essentials which make up a bedroom she had gone as far in the direction of pomp as any guest at seven and a half per could expect her to go. As a rule, the severity of his surroundings afflicted Ginger with a touch of gloom when
There was nothing of haste and much of ceremony in Ginger’s method of approaching the perusal of his • correspondence. He bore himself after the manner of a small boy in the presence of unexpected ice cream, gloating for a while before embarking on the treat, anxious to make it last out. His first move was to feel in the breast pocket of his coat and produce the photograph which he had feloniously removed from her apartment. At this he looked long and earnestly before propping it up within easy reach against his basin, to be handy if required, as it would be, for purposes of reference. He then took off his coat, collar and shoes, filled and lit a pipe, placed pouch and matches on the arm of the morris chair and drew the chair up so that he could sit with his feet on the bed. Having maneuvered himself into a position of ease, he lit his pipe again and took up the letter. He looked at the crest, the handwriting of the address, and the postmark. He weighed it in his hand. It was a bulky letter.
he went to bed, but to-night, such is the magic of a letter
from the right person, he was uplifted and almost gay. There are moments when even illuminated texts over the washstand cannot wholly quell us.
He took Sally’s photograph from the washstand and scrutinized it once more. Then he lit his pipe again, and finally, wriggling himself into the chair, opened the envelope.
Having read so far, Ginger found it necessary to take up the photograph and study it with an even greater intentness than before. He gazed at it for many minutes, then laid it down and lit his pipe again. Then he went on with the letter.
“ZWINGER DEAR: I’m afraid this address is vJ going to give you rat her a shock, and I'm feeling very guilty I’m running away, and 1 haven’t even stopped to say good-bye. I can’t help it. I know it’s weak and cowardly, but I simply can't help it. I stood it for a day or two, and then I saw that it was no good. (Thank you for leaving me alone and not coming round to see me. Nobody else but you would have done that; but, then, noever has been or ever could beso understanding as you.)” Ginger found himself compelled at this point to look ai i lit' photograph again.
"There was too much in New York to remind me. That’s the worst of being happy in a place. When things go wrong you find there are too many ghosts about. I just couldn’t stand it.
I tried it, but I couldn’t. I’m going away to get cured—if I can.
Mr. Faucitt is over in England, and when I went down to Mrs. Meecher’s for my letters I foundonefromhim.
His brother is dead you know, and he has inherited, of all things, a fashionable dressmaking place in Regent Street! His brother was Laurette et Cie. I suppose he will sell the business later on, but just at present the poor old dear is apparently quite bewildered, and that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.
He kept saying in his letter how much he wished I was with him, to help him, and I was tempted and ran. Anything to get away from the
“There was a letter from Elsa Doland too. Bubbling over with affection. We have always been tremendous friends. Of course she never knew anything about my being engaged to Gerald. I lent Fillmore the money to buy that piece which gave Elsa her first big chance, and so she’s very grateful. She says if ever she gets the opportunity of doing me a good turn.— .... Aren’t things muddled!
“And there was a letter from Gerald. I was expecting one, of course, but....what would you have done, Ginger? Would you have read it? I sat with it in front of me for an hour, I should think, just looking at the envelope, and
then____You see what was the use? I could guess
exactly the sort of thing that would be in it, and reading it would only have hurt a lot more. The thing was done, so why bother about explanations? What good are explanations, anyway? They don’t help. They don’t
do anything____I burned it, Ginger. The last letter I
shall ever get from him. I made a bonfire on the bathroom floor, and it smoldered and went brown and then flared a little, ^nd every now and then I lit another match and kept it burning, and at last it was just black ashes and a stain on the tiles. Just a mess!
GINGER, burn this letter too. I'm pouring out all the poison to you, hoping it will make me feel better. You don’t mind, do you? But I know you don’t. If ever
anybody had a real pal......
“It’s a dreadful thing, fascination, Ginger. It grips you and you are helpless. One can be so sensible and reasonable about other people’s love affairs. When I was working at that dance place I told you about, there was a girl who fell in love with the most awful little beast. He had a mean mouth and shiny black hair brushed straight back and anybody would have seen what he was. But this girl wouldn’t listen to a word. I talked to her by the hour. It makes me smile now when I think how sensible and level-headed I was. But she wouldn’t listen. In some mysterious way this was the man she wanted, and of course, everything happened that one knew would happen.
“If only one could manage one’s own life as well as one can manage other people’s! If all this wretched thing of mine had happened to some other girl, how beautifully I could have proved that it was the best thing that could have happened, and that a man who could behave as Gerald has done wasn’t worth worrying about. I can jast hear myself. But, you see, whatever he has done, Gerald is still Gerald, and Sally is still Sally, and, however much I argue, I can’t get away from that. All I can do is to come howling to my red-headed pal, when I know just as well as he does that a girl of any spirit would be dig-
ghosts and have something to do. I don’t suppose I shall feel much better in England, but at least every corner won’t have associations. Don’t ever be happy anywhere, Ginger. It’s too big a risk, much too big a risk. nified and keep her troubles to herself and be much too proud to let anyone know that she was hurt.
proud to anyone know that she was
“Proud! That’s the real trouble, Ginger. My pride has been battered, and chopped up and broken into as many pieces as you broke Mr. Scrymgeour’s stick! What pitiful creatures we are. Girls, I mean. At least I sup-
pose a good many girls are like me. If Gerald had died and I had lost him that way, I know quite well I shouldn’t be feeling as I do now. I should have been broken-hearted, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s my pride that is hurt. I have always been a bossy, cocksuré little creature, swaggering about the world like an English sparrow, and now I’m paying for it. Oh, Ginger, I’m paying for it! I wonder if running away is going to do me any good at all. Perhaps if Mr. Faucitt has some real hard work for me to do—
“Of course, I know exactly how all this has come about. Elsa’s pretty and attractive, but the point is that she is a success, and as a success she appeals to Gerald’s weakest side. He worships success. She is going' to have a marvelous career, and she can help Gerald on in his. He can write plays for her to star in. What have I to offer against
that? Yes, I know it’s groveling and contemptible of me to say that, Ginger. I ought to be above it, oughtn’t I— talking as if I were something for some prize? But I haven’t any pride left. Oh, well?
_ “There! I’ve poured it all out, and I really do feel a little better just for the moment. It won’t last, of course, but even a minute is something. Ginger, dear, I shan’t see you for ever so long, even if we ever do meet again, but you’ll try to remember that I’m thinking of you a whole lot, won’t you? I feel responsible for you. You’re my baby! You’ve got started now, and you’re going to stick to it. Please, please, please don’t ‘make a hash of it’! Göodby. I never did find that photograph of me that we were looking for that afternoon in the apartment, or I
“Good-by, Ginger. I shall have to stop now. The mail is just closing.
“Always your pal, wherever I am,
would send it to you. Then you could have kept it on your mantelpiece, and whenever you felt inclined to make a hash of anything I would have caught your eye sternly, and, you would have pulled up.
Ginger laid the letter down, and a little sound escaped him that was half a sigh, half an oath. He was wondering whether even now some desirable end might not be achieved by going to Chicago and break-
Laurette Et Cie.
Jan. 21 London W., England
“Dear Ginger: I am feeling better. As it is three months since I last wrote you, no doubt you will say
ing Gerald Foster’s neck. Abandoning this scheme as impracticable, he relit his pipe and again read the letter. to yourself that I would be a poor, weak-minded creature if I wasn’t. I suppose one ought to be able to get over anything in three months. Unfortunately, I’m afraid 1 haven’t quite succeeded in doing that, but at least I havemanaged to get my troubles stowed away in the cellar and I’m not dragging them eut and looking at them all the time. That’s something, isn’t it?
“I ought to give you all my impressions of London, I. suppose, but I’ve grown so used to the place that I don’t think I have any now. I seem to have been here years; and years.
“You will see by the address that Mr. Faucitt has notyet sold his inheritance. He expects to do so very soon,, he tells me—there is a rich-looking man with whiskers and: a keen eye whom he is always lunching with, and I think, big deals are in progress. Poor dear, he is crazy to get away into the country and settle down and grow ducks and things. ‘London has disappointed him. It is not the place it used to be. Until quite lately, when he grew resigned, he used to wander about in a disconsolate sort of way, trying to locate the landmarks of his youth. (Hehas not been in England for nearly thirty years!) The troúble is, it seems, that about once in every thirty years a sort of craze for change comes over London and they paint a shop front red instead of blue, and that upsets the returned exile dreadfully. Mr. Faucitt feels like Rip Van Winkle. His first shock was when he found that the Empire was a theatre now instead of a musió hall. Then he was told that another music hall, the Tivoli, had been pulled down altogether. And when on top of that he went to look at the baker’s shop in Rupert Street, over which he had had lodgings in the eighties, and discovered that it had been turned into a dressmaker’s, he grew very melancholy, and only cheered up a little when a lovely magenta fog came on and showed him that some things were still going along as in the good old days.
“I am kept quite busy at Laurette et Cie,. thank goodness. (Not being a French scholar like you—do you remember Jules?—I thought at first that Cie was the name of the junior partner and looked forward to meeting him. ‘Miss Nicholas, shake hands with Mr. Cie, one of your greatest admirers.’) I hold down the female equivalent of your job at the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprise Ltd.—that is to say, I’m an intermediary between the public and the staff of Laurette and Cie. When the aristocratic ladies come in I say ‘Chawming weather, moddom!’ (which is usually a black lie), and pass them on to the staff, who do the actual work. I never wish to leave the job.
I would stay here for years, but Mr. Faucitt is determined to sell. I don’t know if you are like that, but every other Englishman I’ve ever met seems to have an ambition to own a house and lot in Loamshire or Hants or Salop 'or somewhere. Their one object in life is to make some money and ‘buy back the old place’—which was sold^ ol course, at the end of Act One to pay the heir’s gambling debts.
“Mr. Faucitt, when he was a small boy, used to live in a little village in Gloucestershire, near a place called Cir-
encester—at least it isn’t: it’s called Cissister, which I bet you didn’t know— and after forgetting all about it for fifty years he has suddenly been bitten by the desire to end his days there, surrounded by pigs and chickens. He took me down to see the ' place the other day. Oh,' Ginger, this Eng1 i s h country ! Why any of you ever live in towns I can’t think. Old, old gray stone houses with yel1 o w haystacks and lovely squelchy muddy lanes and great fat trees and blue hills in the distance. The peace of it! If ever I sell my soul, I shall insist on the devil giving me at least
forty years in some English country place in exchange.
“Perhaps you will think from all this that I am too much occupied to remember your existence. Just to show how interested I am in you, let me tell you that, when I was reading the paper a week ago, I happened to see the headline ‘International Match.’ It didn’t seem to, mean anything at first, and then I suddenly recollected, ' This was the thing you had once been a snip for! So l went down to a place called Twickenham where this football game was to be, to see the sort of thing you used to do before I took charge of you and made you a respectable rightband man. There was an enormous crowd there, and I was nearly squeezed to death, but I bore it for your sake. I found out that the English team were the ones wearing white shirts, and that the ones in red were the Welsh. I said to the man next me, after he had finished yelling himself black in the face: ‘Could you kindly inform me which is the English scrum half?’ And just at that moment the player came quite near where I was, and about a dozen assassins in red hurled themselves violently on top of a meek-looking little fellow who had just fallen on the ball. Ginger, you are well out of it! Thai was the scrum half, and I gathered that that sort of thing was a mere commonplace in his existence. Stopping a rush, it is called, and he is expected to do it all the time. The idea of you ever going in for such brutal sports!
Continued on page 42
Continued from page 26
“As I was taking a ride down Piccadilly the other day on top of a bus, I saw somebody walking along who seemed familiar. It was Mr. Carmyle. So he’s back in England again. He didn’t see me thank goodness. I don’t want to meet anybody just at present who reminds me of New York.
“Thanks for telling me all the news, but please don’t do it again. It makes me remember and I don’t want to. It’s this way, Ginger. Let me write to you, because it really does relieve me, but don’t answer my letters. Do you mind? I’m sure you’ll understand.
“So Fillmore and Gladys Winch are married! From what I have seen of her, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to Brother F. She is a splendid girl. I must write to him......”
Laurette et Cie.
March 12. London
DEAR GINGER: I saw irí a Sunday paper last week that ‘The Primrose Way’ had been produced in New York and was a great success. Well, I’m very glad. But I don’t think the papers ought to print things like that. It’s unsettling.
“Mr. Faucitt has sold the business and retired to the country, and I am rather at a loose end......”
Monk’s Crofton (Whatever that means) Much Middleford * Salop
(Slang for Shropshire) April 18 England
DEAR GINGER: What’s the use? What is the use? I do all I can to get right away from New York, and New York ¡ comes after me and tracks me down to my 1 hiding place. A week or so ago, as I was ! walking down the Strand in an aimless sort I of way, out there came right on top of me— i who do you think? Fillmore, arm in arm I with Mr. Carmyle! I couldn’t dodge. In I the first place, Mr. Carmyle had seen me;
I in the second place, it is a day’s journey to I dodge dear Fillmore now. I blushed for him, Ginger! Right there in the Strand I blushed for him. In my worst dreams I had never pictured him so enormous. Upon what meat doth this our Fillmore feed that he is grown so great? Poor Gladys! When she looks at him she must feel like a bigamist.
“Apparently Fillmore is still full of big schemes, for he talked airily about buying all sorts of English plays. He has come over, as I suppose you know, to arrange about putting on ‘The Primrose Way’ over here.
WELL, it’s no use worrying, 1 suppose. Let’s change the subject. Do you know Monk’s Crofton? Probably you don’t, as I seem to remember hearing something said about it being a recent purchase. Mr. Carmyle bought it from some lord or other who had been losing money on the Stock Exchange.
“By the way, it’s going to be a delicate business getting this letter through to you, rather like carrying the dispatches through the enemy’s lines in a Civil War play. You're supposed to put your letters on the table in the hall, and someone collects them in the afternoon and takes them down to the village on a bicycle. But, if I do that, some aunt or uncle is bound to see it, and I shall be an object of loathing, for it is no light matter, my lad, to be caught having correspondence with a human Jimpson weed like you. It would blast me socially. At least so I gather from the way they behaved when your name came up at dinner last night. Somebody mentioned you, and the most awful roasting party broke loose, Uncle Donald acting as cheer leader.
“I said feebly that I had met you and had found you part human, and there was an awful silence till they all started at the same time to show me where I was wrong and how cruelly my girlish inexperience had deceived me. A young and innocent halfportion like me, it appears, is absolutely incapable of suspecting the true infamy of the dregs of society. You aren’t fit to speak to the likes of me, being at the kindest estimate little more than a blot on the human race. I tell you this in case you may imagine you’re popular with the Family. You’re not.
“So I shall have to exercise a good deal of snaky craft in smuggling this letter through. I’ll take it down to the village myself if I can sneak away. But it’s going to be pretty difficult, because for some reason I seem to be a center of attraction. Except when I take refuge in my room, hardly a moment passes without an aunt or an uncle popping out and having a cozy talk with me. It sometimes seems as though they were weighing me jn the balance. Well, let ’em weigh!
“Time to dress for dinner now. Goodby. Yours, in the balance, Sally.
“P. S—You were perfectly right about your uncle Donald’s mustache. But I don’t agree with you that it is more his misfortune than his fault. I think he doeg it on purpose,”
(Just for the moment) Monk’s Crofton Much Middleford Salop
April 20 England
“T'XEAR GINGER: Leaving here today. In disgrace. Hard, cold looks from the Family. Strained silences. Uncle Donald far from chummy. You can guess what has happened. I might have seen it coming. I can see now that it was in the air all along.
‘Fillmore knows nothing about it. He left just before it happened. T shall see him very soon, for I have decided to come back and stop running away from things any longer. It’s cowardly to skulk about over here. Besides, I’m feeling so much better that I believe I can face the ghosts. Anyway, I’m going to try. See you almost as soon as you get this.
“I shall mail this in London, and I suppose it will come over by the same boat as me. It’s hardly worth writing, really, of course, but I have sneaked up to my room to wait till the motor arrives to take me to the station and it’s something to do. I can hear muffled voices. The Family talking me over, probably. Saying they never really liked me all along. Oh, well!
“Yours, moving in an orderly manner to the exit,” '
(To be Continued)