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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 13

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 13

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



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
manifestly empty.


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 welcoming woofle.

"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

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 three-quarters of--

"Come out!"

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

"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 disappointment.

"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.' Darn it!"

"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!"

"Sit down?"

"Sure. Sit down and take the chill off the arm-chair. I've thought
of something."

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!"

"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 into

"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
snifting noise."

"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 injured

"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!"

"Very well."

"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.

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