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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 24

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 24

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 main dining-room of the Hotel Cosmopolis is a decorous place.
The lighting is artistically dim, and the genuine old tapestries on
the walls seem, with their mediaeval calm, to discourage any essay
in the riotous. Soft-footed waiters shimmer to and fro over thick,
expensive carpets to the music of an orchestra which abstains wholly
from the noisy modernity of jazz. To Archie, who during the past few
days had been privileged to hear Miss Huskisson rehearsing, the
place had a sort of brooding quiet, like the ocean just before the
arrival of a cyclone. As Lucille had said, Miss Huskisson's voice
was loud. It was a powerful organ, and there was no doubt that it
would take the cloistered stillness of the Cosmopolis dining-room
and stand it on one ear. Almost unconsciously, Archie found himself
bracing his muscles and holding his breath as he had done in France
at the approach of the zero hour, when awaiting the first roar of a
barrage. He listened mechanically to the conversation of Mr.

The music-publisher was talking with some vehemence on the subject
of Labour. A recent printers' strike had bitten deeply into Mr.
Blumenthal's soul. The working man, he considered, was rapidly
landing God's Country in the soup, and he had twice upset his glass
with the vehemence of his gesticulation. He was an energetic right-
and-left-hand talker.

"The more you give 'em the more they want!" he complained. "There's
no pleasing 'em! It isn't only in my business. There's your father,
Mrs. Moffam!"

"Good God! Where?" said Archie, starting.

"I say, take your father's case. He's doing all he knows to get this
new hotel of his finished, and what happens? A man gets fired for
loafing on his job, and Connolly calls a strike. And the building
operations are held up till the thing's settled! It isn't right!"

"It's a great shame," agreed Lucille. "I was reading about it in the
paper this morning."

"That man Connolly's a tough guy. You'd think, being a personal
friend of your father, he would--"

"I didn't know they were friends."

"Been friends for years. But a lot of difference that makes. Out
come the men just the same. It isn't right! I was saying it wasn't
right!" repeated Mr. Blumenthal to Archie, for he was a man who
liked the attention of every member of his audience.

Archie did not reply. He was staring glassily across the room at two
men who had just come in. One was a large, stout, square-faced man
of commanding personality. The other was Mr. Daniel Brewster.

Mr. Blumenthal followed his gaze.

"Why, there is Connolly coming in now!"

"Father!" gasped Lucille.

Her eyes met Archie's. Archie took a hasty drink of ice-water.

"This," he murmured, "has torn it!"

"Archie, you must do something!"

"I know! But what?"

"What's the trouble?" enquired Mr. Blumenthal, mystified.

"Go over to their table and talk to them," said Lucille.

"Me!" Archie quivered. "No, I say, old thing, really!"

"Get them away!"

"How do you mean?"

"I know!" cried Lucille, inspired, "Father promised that you should
be manager of the new hotel when it was built. Well, then, this
strike affects you just as much as anybody else. You have a perfect
right to talk it over with them. Go and ask them to have dinner up
in our suite where you can discuss it quietly. Say that up there
they won't be disturbed by the--the music."

At this moment, while Archie wavered, hesitating like a diver on the
edge of a spring-board who is trying to summon up the necessary
nerve to project himself into the deep, a bell-boy approached the
table where the Messrs. Brewster and Connolly had seated themselves.
He murmured something in Mr. Brewster's ear, and the proprietor of
the Cosmopolis rose and followed him out of the room.

"Quick! Now's your chance!" said Lucille, eagerly. "Father's been
called to the telephone. Hurry!"

Archie took another drink of ice-water to steady his shaking nerve-
centers, pulled down his waistcoat, straightened his tie, and then,
with something of the air of a Roman gladiator entering the arena,
tottered across the room. Lucille turned to entertain the perplexed

The nearer Archie got to Mr. Aloysius Connolly the less did he like
the looks of him. Even at a distance the Labour leader had had a
formidable aspect. Seen close to, he looked even more uninviting.
His face had the appearance of having been carved out of granite,
and the eye which collided with Archie's as the latter, with an
attempt at an ingratiating smile, pulled up a chair and sat down at
the table was hard and frosty. Mr. Connolly gave the impression that
he would be a good man to have on your side during a rough-and-
tumble fight down on the water-front or in some lumber-camp, but he
did not look chummy.

"Hallo-allo-allo!" said Archie.

"Who the devil," inquired Mr. Connolly, "are you?"

"My name's Archibald Moffam."

"That's not my fault."

"I'm jolly old Brewster's son-in-law."

"Glad to meet you."

"Glad to meet YOU," said Archie, handsomely.

"Well, good-bye!" said Mr. Connolly.


"Run along and sell your papers. Your father-in-law and I have
business to discuss."

"Yes, I know."

"Private," added Mr. Connolly.

"Oh, but I'm in on this binge, you know. I'm going to be the manager
of the new hotel."



"Well, well!" said Mr. Connolly, noncommittally.

Archie, pleased with the smoothness with which matters had opened,
bent forward winsomely.

"I say, you know! It won't do, you know! Absolutely no! Not a bit
like it! No, no, far from it! Well, how about it? How do we go?
What? Yes? No?"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Call it off, old thing!"

"Call what off?"

"This festive old strike."

"Not on your--hallo, Dan! Back again?"

Mr. Brewster, looming over the table like a thundercloud, regarded
Archie with more than his customary hostility. Life was no pleasant
thing for the proprietor of the Cosmopolis just now. Once a man
starts building hotels, the thing becomes like dram-drinking. Any
hitch, any sudden cutting-off of the daily dose, has the worst
effects; and the strike which was holding up the construction of his
latest effort had plunged Mr. Brewster into a restless gloom. In
addition to having this strike on his hands, he had had to abandon
his annual fishing-trip just when he had begun to enjoy it; and, as
if all this were not enough, here was his son-in-law sitting at his
table. Mr. Brewster had a feeling that this was more than man was
meant to bear.

"What do you want?" he demanded.

"Hallo, old thing!" said Archie. "Come and join the party!"

"Don't call me old thing!"

"Right-o, old companion, just as you say. I say, I was just going to
suggest to Mr. Connolly that we should all go up to my suite and
talk this business over quietly."

"He says he's the manager of your new hotel," said Mr. Connolly. "Is
that right?"

"I suppose so," said Mr. Brewster, gloomily.

"Then I'm doing you a kindness," said Mr. Connolly, "in not letting
it be built."

Archie dabbed at his forehead with his handkerchief. The moments
were flying, and it began to seem impossible to shift these two men.
Mr. Connolly was as firmly settled in his chair as some primeval
rock. As for Mr. Brewster, he, too, had seated himself, and was
gazing at Archie with a weary repulsion. Mr. Brewster's glance
always made Archie feel as though there were soup on his shirt-

And suddenly from the orchestra at the other end of the room there
came a familiar sound, the prelude of "Mother's Knee."

"So you've started a cabaret, Dan?" said Mr. Connolly, in a
satisfied voice. "I always told you you were behind the times here!"

Mr. Brewster jumped.


He stared unbelievingly at the white-robed figure which had just
mounted the orchestra dais, and then concentrated his gaze on

Archie would not have looked at his father-in-law at this juncture
if he had had a free and untrammelled choice; but Mr. Brewster's eye
drew his with something of the fascination which a snake's has for a
rabbit. Mr. Brewster's eye was fiery and intimidating. A basilisk
might have gone to him with advantage for a course of lessons. His
gaze went right through Archie till the latter seemed to feel his
back-hair curling crisply in the flames.

"Is this one of your fool-tricks?"

Even in this tense moment Archie found time almost unconsciously to
admire his father-in-law's penetration and intuition. He seemed to
have a sort of sixth sense. No doubt this was how great fortunes
were made.

"Well, as a matter of fact--to be absolutely accurate--it was like

"Say, cut it out!" said Mr. Connolly. "Can the chatter! I want to

Archie was only too ready to oblige him. Conversation at the moment
was the last thing he himself desired. He managed with a strong
effort to disengage himself from Mr. Brewster's eye, and turned to
the orchestra dais, where Miss Spectatia Huskisson was now beginning
the first verse of Wilson Hymack's masterpiece.

Miss Huskisson, like so many of the female denizens of the Middle
West, was tall and blonde and constructed on substantial lines. She
was a girl whose appearance suggested the old homestead and fried
pancakes and pop coming home to dinner after the morning's
ploughing. Even her bobbed hair did not altogether destroy this
impression. She looked big and strong and healthy, and her lungs
were obviously good. She attacked the verse of the song with
something of the vigour and breadth of treatment with which in other
days she had reasoned with refractory mules. Her diction was the
diction of one trained to call the cattle home in the teeth of
Western hurricanes. Whether you wanted to or not, you heard every

The subdued clatter of knives and forks had ceased. The diners,
unused to this sort of thing at the Cosmopolis, were trying to
adjust their faculties to cope with the outburst. Waiters stood
transfixed, frozen, in attitudes of service. In the momentary lull
between verse and refrain Archie could hear the deep breathing of
Mr. Brewster. Involuntarily he turned to gaze at him once more, as
refugees from Pompeii may have turned to gaze upon Vesuvius; and, as
he did so, he caught sight of Mr. Connolly, and paused in

Mr. Connolly was an altered man. His whole personality had undergone
a subtle change. His face still looked as though hewn from the
living rock, but into his eyes had crept an expression which in
another man might almost have been called sentimental. Incredible as
it seemed to Archie, Mr. Connolly's eyes were dreamy. There was even
in them a suggestion of unshed tears. And when with a vast
culmination of sound Miss Huskisson reached the high note at the end
of the refrain and, after holding it as some storming-party, spent
but victorious, holds the summit of a hard-won redoubt, broke off
suddenly, in the stillness which followed there proceeded from Mr.
Connolly a deep sigh.

Miss Huskisson began the second verse. And Mr. Brewster, seeming to
recover from some kind of a trance, leaped to his feet.

"Great Godfrey!"

"Sit down!" said Mr. Connolly, in a broken voice. "Sit down, Dan!"

"He went back to his mother on the train that very day:
He knew there was no other who could make him bright and
He kissed her on the forehead and he whispered, 'I've come
He told her he was never going any more to roam.
And onward through the happy years, till he grew old and
He never once regretted those brave words he once did say:
It's a long way back to mother's knee--"

The last high note screeched across the room like a shell, and the
applause that followed was like a shell's bursting. One could hardly
have recognised the refined interior of the Cosmopolis dining-room.
Fair women were waving napkins; brave men were hammering on the
tables with the butt-end of knives, for all the world as if they
imagined themselves to be in one of those distressing midnight-revue
places. Miss Huskisson bowed, retired, returned, bowed, and retired
again, the tears streaming down her ample face. Over in a corner
Archie could see his brother-in-law clapping strenuously. A waiter,
with a display of manly emotion that did him credit, dropped an
order of new peas.

"Thirty years ago last October," said Mr. Connolly, in a shaking
voice, "I--"

Mr. Brewster interrupted him violently.

"I'll fire that orchestra-leader! He goes to-morrow! I'll fire--" He
turned on Archie. "What the devil do you mean by it, you--you--"

"Thirty years ago," said Mr. Connolly, wiping away a tear with his
napkin, "I left me dear old home in the old country--"

"MY hotel a bear-garden!"

"Frightfully sorry and all that, old companion--"

"Thirty years ago last October! 'Twas a fine autumn evening the
finest ye'd ever wish to see. Me old mother, she came to the station
to see me off."

Mr. Brewster, who was not deeply interested in Mr. Connolly's old
mother, continued to splutter inarticulately, like a firework trying
to go off.

"'Ye'll always be a good boy, Aloysius?' she said to me," said Mr.
Connolly, proceeding with, his autobiography. "And I said: 'Yes,
Mother, I will!'" Mr. Connolly sighed and applied the napkin again.
"'Twas a liar I was!" he observed, remorsefully. "Many's the dirty
I've played since then. 'It's a long way back to Mother's knee.'
'Tis a true word!" He turned impulsively to Mr. Brewster. "Dan,
there's a deal of trouble in this world without me going out of me
way to make more. The strike is over! I'll send the men back
tomorrow! There's me hand on it!"

Mr. Brewster, who had just managed to co-ordinate his views on the
situation and was about to express them with the generous strength
which was ever his custom when dealing with his son-in-law, checked
himself abruptly. He stared at his old friend and business enemy,
wondering if he could have heard aright. Hope began to creep back
into Mr. Brewster's heart, like a shamefaced dog that has been away
from home hunting for a day or two.

"You'll what!"

"I'll send the men back to-morrow! That song was sent to guide me,
Dan! It was meant! Thirty years ago last October me dear old mother--"

Mr. Brewster bent forward attentively. His views on Mr. Connolly's
dear old mother had changed. He wanted to hear all about her.

"'Twas that last note that girl sang brought it all back to me as if
'twas yesterday. As we waited on the platform, me old mother and I,
out comes the train from the tunnel, and the engine lets off a
screech the way ye'd hear it ten miles away. 'Twas thirty years ago--"

Archie stole softly from the table. He felt that his presence, if it
had ever been required, was required no longer. Looking back, he
could see his father-in-law patting Mr. Connolly affectionately on
the shoulder.

Archie and Lucille lingered over their coffee. Mr. Blumenthal was
out in the telephone-box settling the business end with Wilson
Hymack. The music-publisher had been unstinted in his praise of
"Mother's Knee." It was sure-fire, he said. The words, stated Mr.
Blumenthal, were gooey enough to hurt, and the tune reminded him of
every other song-hit he had ever heard. There was, in Mr.
Blumenthal's opinion, nothing to stop this thing selling a million

Archie smoked contentedly.

"Not a bad evening's work, old thing," he said. "Talk about birds
with one stone!" He looked at Lucille reproachfully. "You don't seem
bubbling over with joy."

"Oh, I am, precious!" Lucille sighed. "I was only thinking about

"What about Bill?"

"Well, it's rather awful to think of him tied for life to that-that

"Oh, we mustn't look on the jolly old dark side. Perhaps--Hallo,
Bill, old top! We were just talking about you."

"Were you?" said Bill Brewster, in a dispirited voice.

"I take it that you want congratulations, what?"

"I want sympathy!"


"Sympathy! And lots of it! She's gone!"

"Gone! Who?"


"How do you mean, gone?"

Bill glowered at the tablecloth.

"Gone home. I've just seen her off in a cab. She's gone back to
Washington Square to pack. She's catching the ten o'clock train back
to Snake Bite. It was that damned song!" muttered Bill, in a
stricken voice. "She says she never realised before she sang it to-
night how hollow New York was. She said it suddenly came over her.
She says she's going to give up her career and go back to her
mother. What the deuce are you twiddling your fingers for?" he broke
off, irritably.

"Sorry, old man. I was just counting."

"Counting? Counting what?"

"Birds, old thing. Only birds!" said Archie.

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