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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 17

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 17

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



"Her eyes," said Bill Brewster, "are like--like--what's the word I

He looked across at Lucille and Archie. Lucille was leaning forward
with an eager and interested face; Archie was leaning back with his
finger-tips together and his eyes closed. This was not the first
time since their meeting in Beale's Auction Rooms that his brother-
in-law had touched on the subject of the girl he had become engaged
to marry during his trip to England. Indeed, Brother Bill had
touched on very little else: and Archie, though of a sympathetic
nature and fond of his young relative, was beginning to feel that he
had heard all he wished to hear about Mabel Winchester. Lucille, on
the other hand, was absorbed. Her brother's recital had thrilled

"Like--" said Bill. "Like--"

"Stars?" suggested Lucille.

"Stars," said Bill gratefully. "Exactly the word. Twin stars shining
in a clear sky on a summer night. Her teeth are like--what shall I


"Pearls. And her hair is a lovely brown, like leaves in autumn. In
fact," concluded Bill, slipping down from the heights with something
of a jerk, "she's a corker. Isn't she, Archie?"

Archie opened his eyes.

"Quite right, old top!" he said. "It was the only thing to do."

"What the devil are you talking about?" demanded Bill coldly. He had
been suspicious all along of Archie's statement that he could listen
better with his eyes shut.

"Eh? Oh, sorry! Thinking of something else."

"You were asleep."

"No, no, positively and distinctly not. Frightfully interested and
rapt and all that, only I didn't quite get what you said."

"I said that Mabel was a corker."

"Oh, absolutely in every respect."

"There!" Bill turned to Lucille triumphantly. "You hear that? And
Archie has only seen her photograph. Wait till he sees her in the

"My dear old chap!" said Archie, shocked. "Ladies present! I mean to
say, what!"

"I'm afraid that father will be the one you'll find it hard to

"Yes," admitted her brother gloomily.

"Your Mabel sounds perfectly charming, but--well, you know what
father is. It IS a pity she sings in the chorus."

"She-hasn't much of a voice,"-argued Bill-in extenuation.

"All the same--"

Archie, the conversation having reached a topic on which he
considered himself one of the greatest living authorities--to wit,
the unlovable disposition of his father-in-law--addressed the
meeting as one who has a right to be heard.

"Lucille's absolutely right, old thing.--Absolutely correct-o! Your
esteemed progenitor is a pretty tough nut, and it's no good trying
to get away from it.-And I'm sorry to have to say it, old bird, but,
if you come bounding in with part of the personnel of the ensemble
on your arm and try to dig a father's blessing out of him, he's
extremely apt to stab you in the gizzard."

"I wish," said Bill, annoyed, "you wouldn't talk as though Mabel
were the ordinary kind of chorus-girl. She's only on the stage
because her mother's hard-up and she wants to educate her little

"I say," said Archie, concerned. "Take my tip, old top. In chatting
the matter over with the pater, don't dwell too much on that aspect
of the affair.--I've been watching him closely, and it's about all
he can stick, having to support ME. If you ring in a mother and a
little brother on him, he'll crack under the strain."

"Well, I've got to do something about it. Mabel will be over here in
a week."

"Great Scot! You never told us that."

"Yes. She's going to be in the new Billington show. And, naturally,
she will expect to meet my family. I've told her all about you."

"Did you explain father to her?" asked Lucille.

"Well, I just said she mustn't mind him, as his bark was worse than
his bite."

"Well," said Archie, thoughtfully, "he hasn't bitten me yet, so you
may be right. But you've got to admit that he's a bit of a barker."

Lucille considered.

"Really, Bill, I think your best plan would be to go straight to
father and tell him the whole thing.--You don't want him to hear
about it in a roundabout way."

"The trouble is that, whenever I'm with father, I can't think of
anything to say."

Archie found himself envying his father-in-law this merciful
dispensation of Providence; for, where he himself was concerned,
there had been no lack of eloquence on Bill's part. In the brief
period in which he had known him, Bill had talked all the time and
always on the one topic. As unpromising a subject as the tariff laws
was easily diverted by him into a discussion of the absent Mabel.

"When I'm with father," said Bill, "I sort of lose my nerve, and

"Dashed awkward," said Archie, politely. He sat up suddenly. "I say!
By Jove! I know what you want, old friend! Just thought of it!"

"That busy brain is never still," explained Lucille.

"Saw it in the paper this morning. An advertisement of a book, don't
you know."

"I've no time for reading."

"You've time for reading this one, laddie, for you can't afford to
miss it. It's a what-d'you-call-it book. What I mean to say is, if
you read it and take its tips to heart, it guarantees to make you a
convincing talker. The advertisement says so. The advertisement's
all about a chappie I whose name I forget, whom everybody loved
because he talked so well. And, mark you, before he got hold of this
book--The Personality That Wins was the name of it, if I remember
rightly--he was known to all the lads in the office as Silent Samuel
or something. Or it may have been Tongue-Tied Thomas. Well, one day
he happened by good luck to blow in the necessary for the good old
P. that W.'s, and now, whenever they want someone to go and talk
Rockefeller or someone into lending them a million or so, they send
for Samuel. Only now they call him Sammy the Spell-Binder and fawn
upon him pretty copiously and all that. How about it, old son? How
do we go?"

"What perfect nonsense," said Lucille.

"I don't know," said Bill, plainly impressed. "There might be
something in it."

"Absolutely!" said Archie. "I remember it said, 'Talk convincingly,
and no man will ever treat you with cold, unresponsive
indifference.' Well, cold, unresponsive indifference is just what
you don't want the pater to treat you with, isn't it, or is it, or
isn't it, what? I mean, what?"

"It sounds all right," said Bill.

"It IS all right," said Archie. "It's a scheme! I'll go farther.
It's an egg!"

"The idea I had," said Bill, "was to see if I couldn't get Mabel a
job in some straight comedy. That would take the curse off the thing
a bit. Then I wouldn't have to dwell on the chorus end of the
business, you see."

"Much more sensible," said Lucille.

"But what a-deuce of a sweat"--argued Archie. "I mean to say, having
to pop round and nose about and all that."

"Aren't you willing to take a little trouble for your stricken
brother-in-law, worm?" said Lucille severely.

"Oh, absolutely! My idea was to get this book and coach the dear old
chap. Rehearse him, don't you know. He could bone up the early
chapters a bit and then drift round and try his convincing talk on

"It might be a good idea," said Bill reflectively.

"Well, I'll tell you what _I'm_ going to do," said Lucille. "I'm
going to get Bill to introduce me to his Mabel, and, if she's as
nice as he says she is, _I'll_ go to father and talk convincingly to

"You're an ace!" said Bill.

"Absolutely!" agreed Archie cordially. "MY partner, what! All the
same, we ought to keep the book as a second string, you know. I mean
to say, you are a young and delicately nurtured girl--full of
sensibility and shrinking what's-its-name and all that--and you know
what the jolly old pater is. He might bark at you and put you out of
action in the first round. Well, then, if anything like that
happened, don't you see, we could unleash old Bill, the trained
silver-tongued expert, and let him have a shot. Personally, I'm all
for the P. that W.'s."-"Me, too," said Bill.

Lucille looked at her watch.

"Good gracious! It's nearly one o'clock!"

"No!" Archie heaved himself up from his chair. "Well, it's a shame
to break up this feast of reason and flow of soul and all that, but,
if we don't leg it with some speed, we shall be late."

"We're lunching at the Nicholson's!" explained Lucille to her
brother. "I wish you were coming too."

"Lunch!" Bill shook his head with a kind of tolerant scorn. "Lunch
means nothing to me these days. I've other things to think of
besides food." He looked as spiritual as his rugged features would
permit. "I haven't written to Her yet to-day."

"But, dash it, old scream, if she's going to be over here in a week,
what's the good of writing? The letter would cross her."

"I'm not mailing my letters to England." said Bill. "I'm keeping
them for her to read when she arrives."

"My sainted aunt!" said Archie.

Devotion like this was something beyond his outlook.

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