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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Indiscretions of Archie -> Chapter 9

Indiscretions of Archie - Chapter 9

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



As the days went by and he settled down at the Hotel Cosmopolis,
Archie, looking about him and revising earlier judgments, was
inclined to think that of all his immediate circle he most admired
Parker, the lean, grave valet of Mr. Daniel Brewster. Here was a man
who, living in the closest contact with one of the most difficult
persons in New York, contrived all the while to maintain an unbowed
head, and, as far as one could gather from appearances, a tolerably
cheerful disposition. A great man, judge him by what standard you
pleased. Anxious as he was to earn an honest living, Archie would
not have changed places with Parker for the salary of a movie-star.

It was Parker who first directed Archie's attention to the hidden
merits of Pongo. Archie had drifted into his father-in-law's suite
one morning, as he sometimes did in the effort to establish more
amicable relations, and had found it occupied only by the valet, who
was dusting the furniture and bric-a-brac with a feather broom
rather in the style of a man-servant at the rise of the curtain of
an old-fashioned farce. After a courteous exchange of greetings,
Archie sat down and lit a cigarette. Parker went on dusting.

"The guv'nor," said Parker, breaking the silence, "has some nice
little objay dar, sir."

"Little what?"

"Objay dar, sir."

Light dawned upon Archie.

"Of course, yes. French for junk. I see what you mean now. Dare say
you're right, old friend. Don't know much about these things

Parker gave an appreciative flick at a vase on the mantelpiece.

"Very valuable, some of the guv'nor's things." He had picked up the
small china figure of the warrior with the spear, and was grooming
it with the ostentatious care of one brushing flies off a sleeping
Venus. He regarded this figure with a look of affectionate esteem
which seemed to Archie absolutely uncalled-for. Archie's taste in
Art was not precious. To his untutored eye the thing was only one
degree less foul than his father-in-law's Japanese prints, which he
had always observed with silent loathing. "This one, now," continued
Parker. "Worth a lot of money. Oh, a lot of money."

"What, Pongo?" said Archie incredulously.


"I always call that rummy-looking what-not Pongo. Don't know what
else you could call him, what!"

The valet seemed to disapprove of this levity. He shook his head and
replaced the figure on the mantelpiece.

"Worth a lot of money," he repeated. "Not by itself, no."

"Oh, not by itself?"

"No, sir. Things like this come in pairs. Somewhere or other there's
the companion-piece to this here, and if the guv'nor could get hold
of it, he'd have something worth having. Something that connoozers
would give a lot of money for. But one's no good without the other.
You have to have both, if you understand my meaning, sir."

"I see. Like filling a straight flush, what?"

"Precisely, sir."

Archie gazed at Pongo again, with the dim hope of discovering
virtues not immediately apparent to the casual observer. But without
success. Pongo left him cold--even chilly. He would not have taken
Pongo as a gift, to oblige a dying friend.

"How much would the pair be worth?" he asked. "Ten dollars?"

Parker smiled a gravely superior smile. "A leetle more than that,
sir. Several thousand dollars, more like it."

"Do you mean to say," said Archie, with honest amazement, "that
there are chumps going about loose--absolutely loose--who would pay
that for a weird little object like Pongo?"

"Undoubtedly, sir. These antique china figures are in great demand
among collectors."

Archie looked at Pongo once more, and shook his head.

"Well, well, well! It takes all sorts to make a world, what!"

What might be called the revival of Pongo, the restoration of Pongo
to the ranks of the things that matter, took place several weeks
later, when Archie was making holiday at the house which his father-
in-law had taken for the summer at Brookport. The curtain of the
second act may be said to rise on Archie strolling back from the
golf-links in the cool of an August evening. From time to time he
sang slightly, and wondered idly if Lucille would put the finishing
touch upon the all-rightness of everything by coming to meet him and
sharing his homeward walk.

She came in view at this moment, a trim little figure in a white
skirt and a pale blue sweater. She waved to Archie; and Archie, as
always at the sight of her, was conscious of that jumpy, fluttering
sensation about the heart, which, translated into words, would have
formed the question, "What on earth could have made a girl like that
fall in love with a chump like me?" It was a question which he was
continually asking himself, and one which was perpetually in the
mind also of Mr. Brewster, his father-in-law. The matter of Archie's
unworthiness to be the husband of Lucille was practically the only
one on which the two men saw eye to eye.

"Hallo--allo--allo!" said Archie. "Here we are, what! I was just
hoping you would drift over the horizon,"

Lucille kissed him.

"You're a darling," she said. "And you look like a Greek god in that

"Glad you like it." Archie squinted with some complacency down his
chest. "I always say it doesn't matter what you pay for a suit, so
long as it's right. I hope your jolly old father will feel that way
when he settles up for it."

"Where is father? Why didn't he come back with you?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, he didn't seem any too keen on my
company. I left him in the locker-room chewing a cigar. Gave me the
impression of having something on his mind,"

"Oh, Archie! You didn't beat him AGAIN?"

Archie looked uncomfortable. He gazed out to sea with something of

"Well, as a matter of fact, old thing, to be absolutely frank, I, as
it were, did!"

"Not badly?"

"Well, yes! I rather fancy I put it across him with some vim and not
a little emphasis. To be perfectly accurate, I licked him by ten and

"But you promised me you would let him beat you to-day. You know how
pleased it would have made him."

"I know. But, light of my soul, have you any idea how dashed
difficult it is to get beaten by your festive parent at golf?"

"Oh, well!" Lucille sighed. "It can't be helped, I suppose." She
felt in the pocket of her sweater. "Oh, there's a letter for you.
I've just been to fetch the mail. I don't know who it can be from.
The handwriting looks like a vampire's. Kind of scrawly."

Archie inspected the envelope. It provided no solution.

"That's rummy! Who could be writing to me?"

"Open it and see."

"Dashed bright scheme! I will, Herbert Parker. Who the deuce is
Herbert Parker?"

"Parker? Father's valet's name was Parker. The one he dismissed when
he found he was wearing his shirts."

"Do you mean to say any reasonable chappie would willingly wear the
sort of shirts your father--? I mean to say, there must have been
some mistake."

"Do read the letter. I expect he wants to use your influence with
father to have him taken back."

"MY influence? With your FATHER? Well, I'm dashed. Sanguine sort of
Johnny, if he does. Well, here's what he says. Of course, I remember
jolly old Parker now--great pal of mine."

Dear Sir,--It is some time since the undersigned had the
honour of conversing with you, but I am respectfully trusting
that you may recall me to mind when I mention that until
recently I served Mr. Brewster, your father-in-law, in the
capacity of valet. Owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding,
I was dismissed from that position and am now temporarily out
of a job. "How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of
the morning!" (Isaiah xiv. 12.)

"You know," said Archie, admiringly, "this bird is hot stuff! I mean
to say he writes dashed well."

It is not, however, with my own affairs that I desire to
trouble you, dear sir. I have little doubt that all will be
well with me and that I shall not fall like a sparrow to the
ground. "I have been young and now am old; yet have I not
seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread"
(Psalms xzxvii. 25). My object in writing to you is as
follows. You may recall that I had the pleasure of meeting
you one morning in Mr. Brewster's suite, when we had an
interesting talk on the subject of Mr. B.'s objets d'art.
You may recall being particularly interested in a small
china figure. To assist your memory, the figure to which I
allude is the one which you whimsically referred to as Pongo.
I informed you, if you remember, that, could the accompanying
figure be secured, the pair would be extremely valuable.

I am glad to say, dear sir? that this has now transpired, and
is on view at Beale's Art Galleries on West Forty-Fifty Street,
where it will be sold to-morrow at auction, the sale commencing
at two-thirty sharp. If Mr. Brewster cares to attend, he will,
I fancy, have little trouble in securing it at a reasonable price.
I confess that I had thought of refraining from apprising my late
employer of this matter, but more Christian feelings have
prevailed. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give
him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his
head" (Romans xii. 20). Nor, I must confess, am I altogether
uninfluenced by the thought that my action in this matter may
conceivably lead to Mr. B. consenting to forget the past and to
reinstate me in my former position. However, I am confident that
I can leave this to his good feeling.

I remain, respectfully yours,
Herbert Parker.

Lucille clapped her hands.

"How splendid! Father will be pleased!"

"Yes. Friend Parker has certainly found a way to make the old dad
fond of him. Wish I could!"

"But you can, silly! He'll be delighted when you show him that

"Yes, with Parker. Old Herb. Parker's is the neck he'll fall on--not

Lucille reflected.

"I wish--" she began. She stopped. Her eyes lit up. "Oh, Archie,
darling, I've got an idea!"

"Decant it."

"Why don't you slip up to New York to-morrow and buy the thing, and
give it to father as a surprise?"

Archie patted her hand kindly. He hated to spoil her girlish day-

"Yes," he said. "But reflect, queen of my heart! I have at the
moment of going to press just two dollars fifty in specie, which I
took off your father this after-noon. We were playing twenty-five
cents a Hole. He coughed it up without enthusiasm--in fact, with a
nasty hacking sound--but I've got it. But that's all I have got."

"That's all right. You can pawn that ring and that bracelet of

"Oh, I say, what! Pop the family jewels?"

"Only for a day or two. Of course, once you've got the thing, father
will pay us back. He would give you all the money we asked him for,
if he knew what it was for. But I want to surprise him. And if you
were to go to him and ask him for a thousand dollars without telling
him what it was for, he might refuse."

"He might!" said Archie. "He might!"

"It all works out splendidly. To-morrow's the Invitation Handicap,
and father's been looking forward to it for weeks. He'd hate to have
to go up to town himself and not play in it. But you can slip up and
slip back without his knowing anything about it."

Archie pondered.

"It sounds a ripe scheme. Yes, it has all the ear-marks of a
somewhat fruity wheeze! By Jove, it IS a fruity wheeze! It's an

"An egg?"

"Good egg, you know. Halloa, here's a postscript. I didn't see it."

P.S.--I should be glad if you would convey my most
cordial respects to Mrs. Moffam. Will you also inform
her that I chanced to meet Mr. William this morning on
Broadway, just off the boat. He desired me to send his
regards and to say that he would be joining you at
Brookport in the course of a day or so. Mr. B. will be
pleased to have him back. "A wise son maketh a glad
father" (Proverbs x. 1).

"Who's Mr. William?" asked Archie.

"My brother Bill, of course. I've told you all about him."

"Oh yes, of course. Your brother Bill. Rummy to think I've got a
brother-in-law I've never seen."

"You see, we married so suddenly. When we married, Bill was in

"Good God! What for?"

"Not jail, silly. Yale. The university."

"Oh, ah, yes."

"Then he went over to Europe for a trip to broaden his mind. You
must look him up to-morrow when you get back to New York. He's sure
to be at his club."

"I'll make a point of it. Well, vote of thanks to good old Parker!
This really does begin to look like the point in my career where I
start to have your forbidding old parent eating out of my hand."

"Yes, it's an egg, isn't it!"

"Queen of my soul," said Archie enthusiastically, "it's an

The business negotiations in connection with the bracelet and the
ring occupied Archie on his arrival in New York to an extent which
made it impossible for him to call on Brother Bill before lunch. He
decided to postpone the affecting meeting of brothers-in-law to a
more convenient season, and made his way to his favourite table at
the Cosmopolis grill-room for a bite of lunch preliminary to the
fatigues of the sale. He found Salvatore hovering about as usual,
and instructed him to come to the rescue with a minute steak.

Salvatore was the dark, sinister-looking waiter who attended, among
other tables, to the one at the far end of the grill-room at which
Archie usually sat. For several weeks Archie's conversations with
the other had dealt exclusively with the bill of fare and its
contents; but gradually he had found himself becoming more personal.
Even before the war and its democratising influences, Archie had
always lacked that reserve which characterises many Britons; and
since the war he had looked on nearly everyone he met as a brother.
Long since, through the medium of a series of friendly chats, he had
heard all about Salvatore's home in Italy, the little newspaper and
tobacco shop which his mother owned down on Seventh Avenue, and a
hundred other personal details. Archie had an insatiable curiosity
about his fellow-man.

"Well done," said Archie.


"The steak. Not too rare, you know."

"Very good, sare."

Archie looked at the waiter closely. His tone had been subdued and
sad. Of course, you don't expect a waiter to beam all over his face
and give three rousing cheers simply because you have asked him to
bring you a minute steak, but still there was something about
Salvatore's manner that disturbed Archie. The man appeared to have
the pip. Whether he was merely homesick and brooding on the lost
delights of his sunny native land, or whether his trouble was more
definite, could only be ascertained by enquiry. So Archie enquired.

"What's the matter, laddie?" he said sympathetically. "Something on
your mind?"


"I say, there seems to be something on your mind. What's the

The waiter shrugged his shoulders, as if indicating an unwillingness
to inflict his grievances on one of the tipping classes.

"Come on!" persisted Archie encouragingly. "All pals here. Barge
alone, old thing, and let's have it."

Salvatore, thus admonished, proceeded in a hurried undertone--with
one eye on the headwaiter--to lay bare his soul. What he said was
not very coherent, but Archie could make out enough of it to gather
that it was a sad story of excessive hours and insufficient pay. He
mused awhile. The waiter's hard case touched him.

"I'll tell you what," he said at last. "When jolly old Brewster
conies back to town--he's away just now--I'll take you along to him
and we'll beard the old boy in his den. I'll introduce you, and you
get that extract from Italian opera-off your chest which you've just
been singing to me, and you'll find it'll be all right. He isn't
what you might call one of my greatest admirers, but everybody says
he's a square sort of cove and he'll see you aren't snootered. And
now, laddie, touching the matter of that steak."

The waiter disappeared, greatly cheered, and Archie, turning,
perceived that his friend Reggie van Tuyl was entering the room. He
waved to him to join his table. He liked Reggie, and it also
occurred to him that a man of the world like the heir of the van
Tuyls, who had been popping about New York for years, might be able
to give him some much-needed information on the procedure at an
auction sale, a matter on which he himself was profoundly ignorant.

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