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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 12

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 12

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

23. Chapter 23

24. Chapter 24

25. Chapter 25

26. Chapter 26

27. Dedication and Contents



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, appreciatively. 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 her

"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.

"No, really!"

"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!"

"Rotten luck!"

"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."

"Or convenient."


"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
old drama."

"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
hard-luck stories.

"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 do--"

"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--"

"A slosh?"

"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
her part."

"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_ am?"

"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 thing!"

"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."

"But, laddie!"

"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! Good-bye!"

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