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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 16

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 16

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



Lucille moved her wrist slowly round, the better to examine the new

"You really are an angel, angel!" she murmured.

"Like it?" said Archie complacently.

"LIKE it! Why, it's gorgeous! It must have cost a fortune."

"Oh, nothing to speak of. Just a few hard-earned pieces of eight.
Just a few doubloons from the old oak chest."

"But I didn't know there were any doubloons in the old oak chest."

"Well, as a matter of fact," admitted Archie, "at one point in the
proceedings there weren't. But an aunt of mine in England--peace be
on her head!--happened to send me a chunk of the necessary at what
you might call the psychological moment."

"And you spent it all on a birthday present for me! Archie!" Lucille
gazed at her husband adoringly. "Archie, do you know what I think?"


"You're the perfect man!"

"No, really! What ho!"

"Yes," said Lucille firmly. "I've long suspected it, and now I know.
I don't think there's anybody like you in the world."

Archie patted her hand.

"It's a rummy thing," he observed, "but your father said almost
exactly that to me only yesterday. Only I don't fancy he meant the
same as you. To be absolutely frank, his exact expression was that
he thanked God there was only one of me."

A troubled look came into Lucille's grey eyes.

"It's a shame about father. I do wish he appreciated you. But you
mustn't be too hard on him."

"Me?" said Archie. "Hard on your father? Well, dash it all, I don't
think I treat him with what you might call actual brutality, what! I
mean to say, my whole idea is rather to keep out of the old lad's
way and curl up in a ball if I can't dodge him. I'd just as soon be
hard on a stampeding elephant! I wouldn't for the world say anything
derogatory, as it were, to your jolly old pater, but there is no
getting away from the fact that he's by way of being one of our
leading man-eating fishes. It would be idle to deny that he
considers that you let down the proud old name of Brewster a bit
when you brought me in and laid me on the mat."

"Anyone would be lucky to get you for a son-in-law, precious."

"I fear me, light of my life, the dad doesn't see eye to eye with
you on that point. No, every time I get hold of a daisy, I give him
another chance, but it always works out at 'He loves me not!'"

"You must make allowances for him, darling."

"Right-o! But I hope devoutly that he doesn't catch me at it. I've a
sort of idea that if the old dad discovered that I was making
allowances for him, he would have from ten to fifteen fits."

"He's worried just now, you know."

"I didn't know. He doesn't confide in me much."

"He's worried about that waiter."

"What waiter, queen of my soul?"

"A man called Salvatore. Father dismissed him some time ago."


"Probably you don't remember him. He used to wait on this table."


"And father dismissed him, apparently, and now there's all sorts of
trouble. You see, father wants to build this new hotel of his, and
he thought he'd got the site and everything and could start building
right away: and now he finds that this man Salvatore's mother owns a
little newspaper and tobacco shop right in the middle of the site,
and there's no way of getting him out without buying the shop, and
he won't sell. At least, he's made his mother promise that she won't

"A boy's best friend is his mother," said Archie approvingly. "I had
a sort of idea all along--"

"So father's in despair."

Archie drew at his cigarette meditatively.

"I remember a chappie--a policeman he was, as a matter of fact, and
incidentally a fairly pronounced blighter--remarking to me some time
ago that you could trample on the poor man's face but you mustn't be
surprised if he bit you in the leg while you were doing it.
Apparently this is what has happened to the old dad. I had a sort of
idea all along that old friend Salvatore would come out strong in
the end if you only gave him time. Brainy sort of feller! Great pal
of mine."-Lucille's small face lightened. She gazed at Archie with
proud affection. She felt that she ought to have known that he was
the one to solve this difficulty.

"You're wonderful, darling! Is he really a friend of yours?"

"Absolutely. Many's the time he and I have chatted in this very

"Then it's all right. If you went to him and argued with him, he
would agree to sell the shop, and father would be happy. Think how
grateful father would be to you! It would make all the difference."

Archie turned this over in his mind.

"Something in that," he agreed.

"It would make him see what a pet lambkin you really are!"

"Well," said Archie, "I'm bound to say that any scheme which what
you might call culminates in your father regarding me as a pet
lambkin ought to receive one's best attention. How much did he offer
Salvatore for his shop?"

"I don't know. There is father.--Call him over and ask him."

Archie glanced over to where Mr. Brewster had sunk moodily into a
chair at a neighbouring table. It was plain even at that distance
that Daniel Brewster had his troubles and was bearing them with an
ill grace. He was scowling absently at the table-cloth.

"YOU call him," said Archie, having inspected his formidable
relative. "You know him better."

"Let's go over to him."

They crossed the room. Lucille sat down opposite her father.-Archie
draped himself over a chair in the background.

"Father, dear," said Lucille. "Archie has got an idea."

"Archie?" said Mr. Brewster incredulously.

"This is me," said Archie, indicating himself with a spoon. "The
tall, distinguished-looking bird."

"What new fool-thing is he up to now?"

"It's a splendid idea, father. He wants to help you over your new

"Wants to run it for me, I suppose?"

"By Jove!" said Archie, reflectively. "That's not a bad scheme! I
never thought of running an hotel. I shouldn't mind taking a stab at

"He has thought of a way of getting rid of Salvatore and his shop."

For the first time Mr. Brewster's interest in the conversation
seemed to stir. He looked sharply at his son-in-law.

"He has, has he?" he said.

Archie balanced a roll on a fork and inserted a plate underneath.
The roll bounded away into a corner.

"Sorry!" said Archie. "My fault, absolutely! I owe you a roll. I'll
sign a bill for it. Oh, about this sportsman Salvatore, Well, it's
like this, you know. He and I are great pals. I've known him for
years and years. At least, it seems like years and years. Lu was
suggesting that I seek him out in his lair and ensnare him with my
diplomatic manner and superior brain power and what not."

"It was your idea, precious," said Lucille.

Mr. Brewster was silent.--Much as it went against the grain to have
to admit it, there seemed to be something in this.

"What do you propose to do?"

"Become a jolly old ambassador. How much did you offer the chappie?"

"Three thousand dollars. Twice as much as the place is worth. He's
holding out on me for revenge."

"Ah, but how did you offer it to him, what? I mean to say, I bet you
got your lawyer to write him a letter full of whereases,
peradventures, and parties of the first part, and so forth. No good,
old companion!"

"Don't call me old companion!"

"All wrong, laddie! Nothing like it, dear heart! No good at all,
friend of my youth! Take it from your Uncle Archibald! I'm a student
of human nature, and I know a thing or two."

"That's not much," growled Mr. Brewster, who was finding his son-in-
law's superior manner a little trying.

"Now, don't interrupt, father," said Lucille, severely. "Can't you
see that Archie is going to be tremendously clever in a minute?"

"He's got to show me!"

"What you ought to do," said Archie, "is to let me go and see him,
taking the stuff in crackling bills. I'll roll them about on the
table in front of him. That'll fetch him!" He prodded Mr. Brewster
encouragingly with a roll. "I'll tell you what to do. Give me three
thousand of the best and crispest, and I'll undertake to buy that
shop. It can't fail, laddie!"

"Don't call me laddie!" Mr. Brewster pondered. "Very well," he said
at last. "I didn't know you had so much sense," he added grudgingly.

"Oh, positively!" said Archie. "Beneath a rugged exterior I hide a
brain like a buzz-saw. Sense? I exude it, laddie; I drip with it."

There were moments during the ensuing days when Mr. Brewster
permitted himself to hope; but more frequent were the moments when
he told himself that a pronounced chump like his son-in-law could
not fail somehow to make a mess of the negotiations. His relief,
therefore, when Archie curveted into his private room and announced
that he had succeeded was great.

"You really managed to make that wop sell out?"

Archie brushed some papers off the desk with a careless gesture, and
seated himself on the vacant spot.

"Absolutely! I spoke to him as one old friend to another, sprayed
the bills all over the place; and he sang a few bars from
'Rigoletto,' and signed on the dotted line."

"You're not such a fool as you look," owned Mr. Brewster.

Archie scratched a match on the desk and lit a cigarette.

"It's a jolly little shop," he said. "I took quite a fancy to it.
Full of newspapers, don't you know, and cheap novels, and some
weird-looking sort of chocolates, and cigars with the most fearfully
attractive labels. I think I'll make a success of it. It's bang in
the middle of a dashed good neighbourhood. One of these days
somebody will be building a big hotel round about there, and that'll
help trade a lot. I look forward to ending my days on the other side
of the counter with a full set of white whiskers and a skull-cap,
beloved by everybody. Everybody'll say, 'Oh, you MUST patronise that
quaint, delightful old blighter! He's quite a character.'"

Mr. Brewster's air of grim satisfaction had given way to a look of
discomfort, almost of alarm. He presumed his son-in-law was merely
indulging in badinage; but even so, his words were not soothing.

"Well, I'm much obliged," he said. "That infernal shop was holding
up everything. Now I can start building right away."

Archie raised his eyebrows.

"But, my dear old top, I'm sorry to spoil your daydreams and stop
you chasing rainbows, and all that, but aren't you forgetting that
the shop belongs to me? I don't at all know that I want to sell,

"I gave you the money to buy that shop!"

"And dashed generous of you it was, too!" admitted Archie,
unreservedly. "It was the first money you ever gave me, and I shall
always, tell interviewers that it was you who founded my fortunes.
Some day, when I'm the Newspaper-and-Tobacco-Shop King, I'll tell
the world all about it in my autobiography."

Mr. Brewster rose dangerously from his seat.

"Do you think you can hold me up, you--you worm?"

"Well," said Archie, "the way I look at it is this. Ever since we
met, you've been after me to become one of the world's workers, and
earn a living for myself, and what not; and now I see a way to repay
you for your confidence and encouragement. You'll look me up
sometimes at the good old shop, won't you?" He slid off the table
and moved towards the door. "There won't be any formalities where
you are concerned. You can sign bills for any reasonable amount any
time you want a cigar or a stick of chocolate. Well, toodle-oo!"


"Now what?"

"How much do you want for that damned shop?"

"I don't want money.-I want a job.-If you are going to take my life-
work away from me, you ought to give me something else to do."

"What job?"

"You suggested it yourself the other day. I want to manage your new

"Don't be a fool! What do you know about managing an hotel?"

"Nothing. It will be your pleasing task to teach me the business
while the shanty is being run up."

There was a pause, while Mr. Brewster chewed three inches off a pen-

"Very well," he said at last.

"Topping!" said Archie. "I knew you'd, see it. I'll study your
methods, what! Adding some of my own, of course. You know, I've
thought of one improvement on the Cosmopolis already."

"Improvement on the Cosmopolis!" cried Mr. Brewster, gashed in his
finest feelings.

"Yes. There's one point where the old Cosmop slips up badly, and I'm
going to see that it's corrected at my little shack. Customers will
be entreated to leave their boots outside their doors at night, and
they'll find them cleaned in the morning. Well, pip, pip! I must be
popping. Time is money, you know, with us business men."

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