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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 14

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 14

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



Archie was a simple soul, and, as is the case with most simple
souls, gratitude came easily to him. He appreciated kind treatment.
And when, on the following day, Lucille returned to the Hermitage,
all smiles and affection, and made no further reference to Beauty's
Eyes and the flies that got into them, he was conscious of a keen
desire to show some solid recognition of this magnanimity. Few
wives, he was aware, could have had the nobility and what not to
refrain from occasionally turning the conversation in the direction
of the above-mentioned topics. It had not needed this behaviour on
her part to convince him that Lucille was a topper and a corker and
one of the very best, for he had been cognisant of these facts since
the first moment he had met her: but what he did feel was that she
deserved to be rewarded in no uncertain manner. And it seemed a
happy coincidence to him that her birthday should be coming along in
the next week or so. Surely, felt Archie, he could whack up some
sort of a not unjuicy gift for that occasion--something pretty ripe
that would make a substantial hit with the dear girl. Surely
something would come along to relieve his chronic impecuniosity for
just sufficient length of time to enable him to spread himself on
this great occasion.

And, as if in direct answer to prayer, an almost forgotten aunt in
England suddenly, out of an absolutely blue sky, shot no less a sum
than five hundred dollars across the ocean. The present was so
lavish and unexpected that Archie had the awed feeling of one who
participates in a miracle. He felt, like Herbert Parker, that the
righteous was not forsaken. It was the sort of thing that restored a
fellow's faith in human nature. For nearly a week he went about in a
happy trance: and when, by thrift and enterprise--that is to say, by
betting Reggie van Tuyl that the New York Giants would win the
opening game of the series against the Pittsburg baseball team--he
contrived to double his capital, what it amounted to was simply that
life had nothing more to offer. He was actually in a position to go
to a thousand dollars for Lucille's birthday present. He gathered in
Mr. van Tuyl, of whose taste in these matters he had a high opinion,
and dragged him off to a jeweller's on Broadway.

The jeweller, a stout, comfortable man, leaned on the counter and
fingered lovingly the bracelet which he had lifted out of its nest
of blue plush. Archie, leaning on the other side of the counter,
inspected the bracelet searchingly, wishing that he knew more about
these things; for he had rather a sort of idea that the merchant was
scheming to do him in the eyeball. In a chair by his side, Reggie
van Tuyl, half asleep as usual, yawned despondently. He had
permitted Archie to lug him into this shop; and he wanted to buy
something and go. Any form of sustained concentration fatigued

"Now this," said the jeweller, "I could do at eight hundred and
fifty dollars."

"Grab it!" murmured Mr. van Tuyl.

The jeweller eyed him approvingly, a man after his own heart; but
Archie looked doubtful. It was all very well for Reggie to tell him
to grab it in that careless way. Reggie was a dashed millionaire,
and no doubt bought bracelets by the pound or the gross or what not;
but he himself was in an entirely different position.

"Eight hundred and fifty dollars!" he said, hesitating.

"Worth it," mumbled Reggie van Tuyl.

"More than worth it," amended the jeweller. "I can assure you that
it is better value than you could get anywhere on Fifth Avenue."

"Yes?" said Archie. He took the bracelet and twiddled it
thoughtfully. "Well, my dear old jeweller, one can't say fairer than
that, can one--or two, as the case may be!" He frowned. "Oh, well,
all right! But it's rummy that women are so fearfully keen on these
little thingummies, isn't it? I mean to say, can't see what they see
in them. Stones, and all that. Still, there, it is, of course!"

"There," said the jeweller, "as you say, it is, sir."

"Yes, there it is!"

"Yes, there it is," said the jeweller, "fortunately for people in my
line of business. Will you take it with you, sir?"

Archie reflected.

"No. No, not take it with me. The fact is, you know, my wife's
coming back from the country to-night, and it's her birthday to-
morrow, and the thing's for her, and, if it was popping about the
place to-night, she might see it, and it would sort of spoil the
surprise. I mean to say, she doesn't know I'm giving it her, and all

"Besides," said Reggie, achieving a certain animation now that the
tedious business interview was concluded, "going to the ball-game
this afternoon--might get pocket picked--yes, better have it sent."

"Where shall I send it, sir?"

"Eh? Oh, shoot it along to Mrs. Archibald Moffam, at the Cosmopolis.
Not to-day, you know. Buzz it in first thing to-morrow."

Having completed the satisfactory deal, the jeweller threw off the
business manner and became chatty.

"So you are going to the ball-game? It should be an interesting

Reggie van Tuyl, now--by his own standards--completely awake, took
exception to this remark.

"Not a bit of it!" he said, decidedly. "No contest! Can't call it a
contest! Walkover for the Pirates!"

Archie was stung to the quick. There is that about baseball which
arouses enthusiasm and the partisan spirit in the unlikeliest
bosoms. It is almost impossible for a man to live in America and not
become gripped by the game; and Archie had long been one of its
warmest adherents. He was a whole-hearted supporter of the Giants,
and his only grievance against Reggie, in other respects an
estimable young man, was that the latter, whose money had been
inherited from steel-mills in that city, had an absurd regard for
the Pirates of Pittsburg.

"What absolute bally rot!" he exclaimed. "Look what the Giants did
to them yesterday!"

"Yesterday isn't to-day," said Reggie.

"No, it'll be a jolly sight worse," said Archie. "Looney Biddle'll
be pitching for the Giants to-day."

"That's just what I mean. The Pirates have got him rattled. Look
what happened last time."

Archie understood, and his generous nature chafed at the innuendo.
Looney Biddle--so-called by an affectionately admiring public as the
result of certain marked eccentricities--was beyond dispute the
greatest left-handed pitcher New York had possessed in the last
decade. But there was one blot on Mr. Biddle's otherwise stainless
scutcheon. Five weeks before, on the occasion of the Giants'
invasion of Pittsburg, he had gone mysteriously to pieces. Few
native-born partisans, brought up to baseball from the cradle, had
been plunged into a profounder gloom on that occasion than Archie;
but his soul revolted at the thought that that sort of thing could
ever happen again.

"I'm not saying," continued Reggie, "that Biddle isn't a very fair
pitcher, but it's cruel to send him against the Pirates, and
somebody ought to stop it. His best friends should interfere. Once a
team gets a pitcher rattled, he's never any good against them again.
He loses his nerve."

The jeweller nodded approval of this sentiment.

"They never come back," he said, sententiously.

The fighting blood of the Moffams was now thoroughly stirred. Archie
eyed his friend sternly. Reggie was a good chap--in many respects an
extremely sound egg--but he must not be allowed to talk rot of this
description about the greatest left-handed pitcher of the age.

"It seems to me, old companion," he said, "that a small bet is
indicated at this juncture. How about it?"

"Don't want to take your money."

"You won't have to! In the cool twilight of the merry old summer
evening I, friend of my youth and companion of my riper years, shall
be trousering yours."

Reggie yawned. The day was very hot, and this argument was making
him feel sleepy again.

"Well, just as you like, of course. Double or quits on yesterday's
bet, if that suits you."

For a moment Archie hesitated. Firm as his faith was in Mr. Biddle's
stout left arm, he had not intended to do the thing on quite this
scale. That thousand dollars of his was earmarked for Lucille's
birthday present, and he doubted whether he ought to risk it. Then
the thought that the honour of New York was in his hands decided
him. Besides, the risk was negligible. Betting on Looney Biddle was
like betting on the probable rise of the sun in the east. The thing
began to seem to Archie a rather unusually sound and conservative
investment. He remembered that the jeweller, until he drew him
firmly but kindly to earth and urged him to curb his exuberance and
talk business on a reasonable plane, had started brandishing
bracelets that cost about two thousand. There would be time to pop
in at the shop this evening after the game and change the one he had
selected for one of those. Nothing was too good for Lucille on her

"Right-o!" he said. "Make it so, old friend!"

Archie walked back to the Cosmopolis. No misgivings came to mar his
perfect contentment. He felt no qualms about separating Reggie from
another thousand dollars. Except for a little small change in the
possession of the Messrs. Rockefeller and Vincent Astor, Reggie had
all the money in the world and could afford to lose. He hummed a gay
air as he entered the lobby and crossed to the cigar-stand to buy a
few cigarettes to see him through the afternoon.

The girl behind the cigar counter welcomed him with a bright smile.
Archie was popular with all the employes of the Cosmopolis.

"'S a great day, Mr. Moffam!"

"One of the brightest and best," Agreed Archie. "Could you dig me
out two, or possibly three, cigarettes of the usual description? I
shall want something to smoke at the ball-game."

"You going to the ball-game?"

"Rather! Wouldn't miss it for a fortune."


"Absolutely no! Not with jolly old Biddle pitching."

The cigar-stand girl laughed amusedly.

"Is he pitching this afternoon? Say, that feller's a nut? D'you know

"Know him? Well, I've seen him pitch and so forth."

"I've got a girl friend who's engaged to him!"

Archie looked at her with positive respect. It would have been more
dramatic, of course, if she had been engaged to the great man
herself, but still the mere fact that she had a girl friend in that
astounding position gave her a sort of halo.

"No, really!" he said. "I say, by Jove, really! Fancy that!"

"Yes, she's engaged to him all right. Been engaged close on a coupla
months now."

"I say! That's frightfully interesting! Fearfully interesting,

"It's funny about that guy," said the cigar-stand girl. "He's a nut!
The fellow who said there's plenty of room at the top must have been
thinking of Gus Biddle's head! He's crazy about m' girl friend, y'
know, and, whenever they have a fuss, it seems like he sort of flies
right off the handle."

"Goes in off the deep end, eh?"

"Yes, SIR! Loses what little sense he's got. Why, the last time him
and m' girl friend got to scrapping was when he was going on to
Pittsburg to play, about a month ago. He'd been out with her the day
he left for there, and he had a grouch or something, and he started
making low, sneaky cracks about her Uncle Sigsbee. Well, m' girl
friend's got a nice disposition, but she c'n get mad, and she just
left him flat and told him all was over. And he went off to
Pittsburg, and, when he started in to pitch the opening game, he
just couldn't keep his mind on his job, and look what them assassins
done to him! Five runs in the first innings! Yessir, he's a nut all

Archie was deeply concerned. So this was the explanation of that
mysterious disaster, that weird tragedy which had puzzled the
sporting press from coast to coast.

"Good God! Is he often taken like that?"

"Oh, he's all right when he hasn't had a fuss with m' girl friend,"
said the cigar-stand girl, indifferently. Her interest in baseball
was tepid. Women are too often like this--mere butterflies, with no
concern for the deeper side of life.

"Yes, but I say! What I mean to say, you know! Are they pretty pally
now? The good old Dove of Peace flapping its little wings fairly
briskly and all that?"

"Oh, I guess everything's nice and smooth just now. I seen m' girl
friend yesterday, and Gus was taking her to the movies last night,
so I guess everything's nice and smooth."

Archie breathed a sigh of relief.

"Took her to the movies, did he? Stout fellow!"

"I was at the funniest picture last week," said the cigar-stand
girl. "Honest, it was a scream! It was like this--"

Archie listened politely; then went in to get a bite of lunch. His
equanimity, shaken by the discovery of the rift in the peerless
one's armour, was restored. Good old Biddle had taken the girl to
the movies last night. Probably he had squeezed her hand a goodish
bit in the dark. With what result? Why, the fellow would be feeling
like one of those chappies who used to joust for the smiles of
females in the Middle Ages. What he meant to say, presumably the
girl would be at the game this afternoon, whooping him on, and good
old Biddle would be so full of beans and buck that there would be no
holding him.

Encouraged by these thoughts, Archie lunched with an untroubled
mind. Luncheon concluded, he proceeded to the lobby to buy back his
hat and stick from the boy brigand with whom he had left them. It
was while he was conducting this financial operation that he
observed that at the cigar-stand, which adjoined the coat-and-hat
alcove, his friend behind the counter had become engaged in
conversation with another girl.

This was a determined looking young woman in a blue dress and a
large hat of a bold and flowery species, Archie happening to attract
her attention, she gave him a glance out of a pair of fine brown
eyes, then, as if she did not think much of him, turned to her
companion and resumed their conversation--which, being of an
essentially private and intimate nature, she conducted, after the
manner of her kind, in a ringing soprano which penetrated into every
corner of the lobby. Archie, waiting while the brigand reluctantly
made change for a dollar bill, was privileged to hear every word.

"Right from the start I seen he was in a ugly mood. YOU know how he
gets, dearie! Chewing his upper lip and looking at you as if you
were so much dirt beneath his feet! How was _I_ to know he'd lost
fifteen dollars fifty-five playing poker, and anyway, I don't see
where he gets a licence to work off his grouches on me. And I told
him so. I said to him, 'Gus,' I said, 'if you can't be bright and
smiling and cheerful when you take me out, why do you come round at
all? Was I wrong or right, dearie?"

The girl behind the counter heartily endorsed her conduct. "Once you
let a man think he could use you as a door-mat, where were you?"

"What happened then, honey?"

"Well, after that we went to the movies."

Archie started convulsively. The change from his dollar-bill leaped
in his hand. Some of it sprang overboard and tinkled across the
floor, with the brigand in pursuit. A monstrous suspicion had begun,
to take root in his mind.

"Well, we got good seats, but--well, you know how it is, once things
start going wrong. You know that hat of mine, the one with the
daisies and cherries and the feather--I'd taken it off and given it
him to hold when we went in, and what do you think that fell'r'd
done? Put it on the floor and crammed it under the seat, just to
save himself the trouble of holding it on his lap! And, when I
showed him I was upset, all he said was that he was a pitcher and
not a hatstand!"

Archie was paralysed. He paid no attention to the hat-check boy, who
was trying to induce him to accept treasure-trove to the amount of
forty-five cents. His whole being was concentrated on this frightful
tragedy which had burst upon him like a tidal wave. No possible room
for doubt remained. "Gus" was the only Gus in New York that
mattered, and this resolute and injured female before him was the
Girl Friend, in whose slim hands rested the happiness of New York's
baseball followers, the destiny of the unconscious Giants, and the
fate of his thousand dollars. A strangled croak proceeded from his
parched lips.

"Well, I didn't say anything at the moment. It just shows how them
movies can work on a girl's feelings. It was a Bryant Washburn film,
and somehow, whenever I see him on the screen, nothing else seems to
matter. I just get that goo-ey feeling, and couldn't start a fight
if you asked me to. So we go off to have a soda, and I said to him,
'That sure was a lovely film, Gus!' and would you believe me, he
says straight out that he didn't think it was such a much, and he
thought Bryant Washburn was a pill! A pill!" The Girl Friend's
penetrating voice shook with emotion.

"He never!" exclaimed the shocked cigar-stand girl.

"He did, if I die the next moment! I wasn't more than half-way
through my vanilla and maple, but I got up without a word and left
him. And I ain't seen a sight of him since. So there you are,
dearie! Was I right or wrong?"

The cigar-stand girl gave unqualified approval. What men like Gus
Biddle needed for the salvation of their souls was an occasional
good jolt right where it would do most good.

"I'm glad you think I acted right, dearie," said the Girl Friend. "I
guess I've been too weak with Gus, and he's took advantage of it. I
s'pose I'll have to forgive him one of these old days, but, believe
me, it won't be for a week."

The cigar-stand girl was in favour of a fortnight.

"No," said the Girl Friend, regretfully. "I don't believe I could
hold out that long. But, if I speak to him inside a week, well--!
Well, I gotta be going. Goodbye, honey."

The cigar-stand girl turned to attend to an impatient customer, and
the Girl Friend, walking with the firm and decisive steps which
indicate character, made for the swing-door leading to the street.
And as she went, the paralysis which had pipped Archie released its
hold. Still ignoring the forty-five cents which the boy continued to
proffer, he leaped in her wake like a panther and came upon her just
as she was stepping into a car. The car was full, but not too full
for Archie. He dropped his five cents into the box and reached for a
vacant strap. He looked down upon the flowered hat. There she was.
And there he was. Archie rested his left ear against the forearm of
a long, strongly-built young man in a grey suit who had followed him
into the car and was sharing his strap, and pondered.

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