Pictorial Review, September 1910
HE traveller champed meditatively at his steak. He paid no attention to the altercation which was in progress between the waiter and the man at the other end of the dingy room.
The sounds of strife ceased. The waiter came over to the traveller’s table, and stood behind his chair. He was ruffled.
“If he meant lamb,” he said querulously, “why didn’t he say lamb so’s a feller could hear him? I thought he said ham, so I brought ham. Now Lord Percy registers a kickgets all peevish.”
He laughed bitterly. The traveller made no reply.
“If people spoke distinct,” said the waiter, “there wouldn’t be half the trouble there is in the world. Not half the trouble there wouldn’t be. I shouldn’t be here for one thing.”
A sigh escaped him.
“I shouldn’t,” he said, “and that’s the truth. I should be getting up when I pleased, eating and drinking to beat the bandall I wanted, and carrying on same as in the good old days. You wouldn’t think to look at me, would you now, that I was once like the lily of the field?”
The waiter was a tall, stringy man, who gave the impression of having no spine. In that he drooped, he might have been said to resemble a flower, but in no other respect. He had sandy hair, weak eyes, set close together, and a day’s growth of red stubble on his chin. One could not see him in the lily class.
“What I mean to say is, I didn’t toil neither did I spin. Ah, them was happy days! Lying on me back, plenty of tobacco, something cool in a jug, —!”
He sighed once more.
“Did you ever know a man of the name of Moore? Jerry Moore?”
The traveller applied himself to his steak in silence.
“Nice feller. Simple sort of feller. Big. Quiet. Bit deaf in one ear. Straw-colored hair. Blue eyes. Handsome, rather. Had a house just out of a place of the name of Marion, IllinoisReigate. Has it still. Money of his own. Left to him by his daddypa. Simple sort of feller. Not much to say for himself. I used to know him well in them days. Used to live with him. Nice feller he was. Big. Bit hard of hearing. Got sleepy kind of grin, like this—something.”
The traveller sipped his alebeer in thoughtful silence.
“I reckon you never met him,” said the waiter, satisfied. “Maybe you never knew Gentleman Bailey, either? We always called him that. He was a broken-down rah-rah boyone of these broken-down Eton or ’Arrer fellers, folks said. We struck up a partnership kind of casual, both being on the road together, walking the ties when we couldn’t get in amongst the freighton the tramp together, and after a while we struck this Marion I’m telling you about’appened to be round about Reigate. And the first house we come to was this Jerry Moore’s. He come up just as we was sliding to the back door, and grins that sleepy grin. Like this—something. ‘Hello!’ he says. Gentleman kind of gives a whoop, and hollers, ‘If it ain’t my old pal Jerry Moore! Jack,’ he says to me, ‘this is my old pal Mr. Jerry Moore.
“It is my privilege and pleasure to show Mr. Moore the sights of the St. Louis Exposition. Jerry,’ he says, ‘to this day I have not been able to trace that roll of bills you gave me to hold and which must have been stolen from me in the crowd. I am sorry, Jerry, sorrier than I can say.’ ‘Pshaw!’ says Jerry, quite red and confused. wot I met in ’appier days down at Ramsgate one summer.’
“They shakes hands, and Jerry Moore says,‘Is this a friend of yours, Bailey?’ Rubberinglooking at me. Gentleman introduces me. ‘We are partners,’ he says, ‘partners in misfortune. This is my friend Mr. Roach.’ Jerry slaps him on the shoulder. ‘Come right in,’ he says.[new paragraph] “ ‘Come along in,’ says Jerry.
“So we went in, and he makes us at home. He’s a bachelor, and lives all by himself in this commodiousdesirable house.
“I gets nextseen pretty quick that Gentleman is ace-high with Jerry. Seems as if[omitted] Jerry thinks the world of him. All that evening Jerry’s acting as if he’s tickled to deathpleased as Punch to have Gentleman around.him there. Couldn’t do enough for him. It was a bit of all right, I said to meself. It was, too.
“Next day we gets up late and surroundshas a bully[omitted] good breakfast and sits on the porchlawn and smokes. The sun was shining, the little birds were singing, and there wasn’t a thing East, West, North, or South, that looked like work. If I had been asked my address at that moment, on oath, I wouldn’t have hesitated a second. I should have answered ‘No. 1, Easy Street.’
“You see, Jerry Moore was one of these slow, simple menfellers, and you could tell in a moment what a heaplot he thought of Gentleman. Gentleman, you see, had a way with him. Not haughty, he wasn’t.
“More affable, I should call it. He sort of made you feel that all men was born equal, but that it was mightyawful good of him to be talking to you, and that he wouldn’t do it for everybody. It made the biggest kind of hitwent down proper with Jerry Moore. Jerry would sit and listen to him giving his views on things by the hour. By the end of the first day I was having visions of sitting on that porchin that garden a white-haired old man and being laid out, when my time should come, in Jerry’s front room.”
He paused, his mind evidently in the past, among the cigars and big breakfasts. Presently he took up his tale.
“This here Jerry Moore was a simple sort of guy. Deafies are like that. Ever noticed? Not that Jerry was a real deafy. His hearing was a bit on the blinkoff, but he could get nextfoller you if you handed itspoke to him nice and clear.
“Well, I was saying, he was kind of simple. Liked to put in his days pottering about the little garden he’d made for himself, looking after his flowers and his fowls, and sit of an evening listening to Gentleman spieling away about’olding forth on Life. He was a philosopher, Gentleman was. And Jerry took everything he said as gospel. He didn’t want no proofs. He was the original Sweeney.’E and the King of Denmark would have been great pals. [“Tell it to Sweeney” or “Tell it to the King of Denmark” are slang phrases meaning “Tell it to someone more naive or gullible than me; I don’t believe it!” PGW cited both in The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 22, and also cited the King of Denmark in “Archibald’s Benefit”] He just sat by with his big blue eyes getting rounder every minute, and lapped it up.
“Now you’d think a man like that could be counted on, wouldn’t you? Would he want anything more? Not he, you’d say. Kiddo you’d be wrong. Believe me, there isn’t a man on earth that fixed and contented but what some woman can knock his little old Paradise coldinto ’ash [hash] with one punch.
“It wasn’t long before I began to notice a change in Jerry. He never had been what you’d call a champion catch-as-catch-can talker, but now he was silenter than ever. And he got a habit of switching Gentleman off from his theories on Life in general to Woman in particular. This suited Gentleman just right. What he didn’t know about Woman wasn’t knowledge.
“Gentleman was too busy talking to have time to get suspicious, but I got next right quickwasn’t; and one day I draws Gentleman aside and puts it to him straight. ‘Gentleman,’ I says, ‘Jerry Moore is in love!’
“Well, this jolted Gentleman good and hardwas a nasty knock, of course, for Gentleman. He knew as well as I did what it would mean if Jerry was to lead home a blushing bride through that front door. It would be outside into the cold, hard world for the bachelor friends. Gentleman sees that quick, and his jaw drops some.
“I goes on. ‘All the time,’ I says, ‘that you’re talking away of an evening, Jerry’s seeing visions of a little woman sitting in your chair. And you can bet we don’t enter into them visions. He may dream of little feet pattering about the house,’ I says, ‘but they aren’t ours, and that’s the surest thing you know. Get briskyou can ’ave something on that both ways. Look alive, Gentleman,’ I says, ‘and dopethink out some plan, or we might as well be walking the tiespadding the hoof now.’
“Well, Gentleman did what he could. In his evening discourses he started in to knockgive it to Woman all he knew. He dropped generalities and began to talk about Delilahs and Jezebels and Fools-there-was, and the rest of it, and what a boobmug a man was to let a female into his cozy home who’d only make him spend his days hooking her up and his nights wondering how to get back the blankets she had swiped[omitted] without waking her. My, he was cynicalcrisp! Enough to have given Romeo cold feetthe jumps, you’d have thought. But, pshaw!lor! It’s no good talking to them when they’ve got it bad.
“A few days later we caught him with the goods, talking in the road to a girl in a pink dress.
“I couldn’t but admit that Jerry had picked one right from the top of the basket. This wasn’t one of them languishing sort who sit around in cozy corners, and read best sellersstory-books, and don’t care what’s doing in the home so long as they find out what happened to the hero in his duel with the Grand Duke. She was a brown, slim, wiry-looking little old son-of-a-gunthing. You know. Held her chin up and looked you up and down with eyes the color of rye whiskeyScotch whisky, as much as to say ‘Make good, or back to the bench for yours!’‘Well, what about it?’
“You could tell without rubberinglooking at her, just by the feel of the atmosphere when she was around, that she had as much ginger and get-upsnap and go in her composition as Jerry Moore hadn’t, which was somea good bit. I knew, just as sure as I was standing there on one leg, that this was the sort of girl who would have me and Gentleman out of that house about ’steenthree seconds after the ministerclergyman had tied the knot.
“Jerry says, ‘These are my friends, Miss Tuxton, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Roach. They are staying with me for a spellvisit. Boys, this is Miss Jane Tuxton. I was just going to see Miss Tuxton home,’ says Jerry, sort of wistful. ‘Excellent,’ says Gentleman. ‘We’ll come too!’ And we all pikesgoes along.
“There wasn’t much doing in the way of conversation. Jerry never was one for handing outpushing out the words; nor was I, when in the presence of the sect; and Miss Jane had her chin in the air, as if she thought me and Gentleman was the real Van Buttinsons, straight from Butte, Montananot needed in any way whatsoever. The only talk before we turned her in at the Tuxton main-entrancegarden gate was done by Gentleman, who told a pretty long story about a friend of his in New MexicoUpper Sydenham, who had been silly enough to marry, and had had trouble ever since.
“That night, after we had went to bed, I said to Gentleman, ‘Gentleman,’ I says, ‘we’re up against it. We’ve got about as much chance if Jerry marries that girl, as a couple of helpless packets of chewing-gum at a gathering of stenographerspink chocolate creams at a schoolgirls’ picnic. ‘If,’ says Gentleman. ‘He hasn’t married her yet. Did you get a line on her character, Jack?That is a girl of character, Jack. Trust me. Didn’t she strike you as a girl who would like a man with a bit of devil in him, a man with some sand togo in him, a you-be-durned kind of man? Does Jerry fill the bill? He’s more like a door mat with “Welcome” written on it than anything else.’
“Well, we seen a good deal of Miss Jane in the next week or so. We keeps Jerry under—what’s it the heroine says in the melodrama? ‘Oh, cruel, cruel S. P. something.’ Espionage, that’s it. We keeps Jerry under espionage, and whenever he goes snooping around after the girl, we goes snooping around after him. Lots of little parties of four we had. Nothing much doing in the way of sparkling conversation at them, except Gentleman’s stories of married men he knew who had trouble. He seemed to know stacks of married men, and they had all had trouble.[omitted]
“ ‘Things is running our way,’ says Gentleman to me, after one of these festsmeetings. ‘That girl is getting sore oncross with Jerry. She wants Reckless Rudolf, not a man who stands and grins when other men butt in on him and his girl. Mark my words, Jack. She’ll sour onget tired of Jerry, and go off and marry a cow-boysoldier, and we’ll live happy ever after.’ ‘Think so?’ I says. ‘Sure of it,’ says Gentleman.
“It was the Sunday after this that Jerry Moore announces to us, wriggling, that he has a datean engagement to take supper with Jane and her folks. He’d have liked to have slipped away secret, but we was keeping him under espionage too fiercecrisp for that, so he had to tell us. ‘Excellent,’ says Gentleman. ‘It will be a great treat to my friend and myself to meet the family. We will go along with you.’ So off we all goes, and pushes our boots in sociable fashion under the Tuxton table. I rubberedlooked at Miss Jane out of the corner of my eye; and, honest, kiddo,[omitted] that chin of hers was sticking out a foot, and Jerry didn’t dare look at her.
“Love’s young dream, I muses to myself, how swift it fades when a man has the nature and disposition of a jack-rabbitlop-eared rabbit.
“The Tuxton folkTuxtons was four in number, not counting the parrot, and all male. There was Pa Tuxton, an old snoozerfeller with a beard and glasses; a fat uncle; a big brother who worked in a bank and was dressed like Moses in all his glory; and a little brother with a snub nose, that sassycheeky you’d have been surprised. And the parrot in its cage, and a fat yellow dog. And they’re all playing it up to Jerry, the wealthy future son-in-law, something fierceawful.
“It’s ‘How are the fowls, Mr. Moore?’ and ‘A little bit of this pie, Mr. Moore, Jane made,’ and Jerry sitting there with a feeble grin, saying, ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ and nothing much more, while Miss Jane’s eyes are snapping like Fourth of JulyFifth of November fireworks. I could feel Jerry’s chances going back a mile a minute. I felt as happy as a little child that evening. I sang, going back home.
“Gentleman sure isGentleman’s pleased, too. ‘Jack,’ he says to me when we’re in bed, ‘this is too easy. In my most sanguinary dreams I hardly hoped for this. No girl of spirit’s going to love a man who behaves that way to her folksparents. The way to win the heart of a certain type of girl,’ he says, cutting loose withbeginning on his theories, ‘the type to which Jane Tuxton belongs, is to be rude to her family. I’ve got Jane Tuxton sized up and labelled. Her kind wants her folks to be mad atdislike her young man. She wants to feel that she is the only one in the family that’s got the sense to see the hidden good in Willie. She doesn’t want to be one of a crowd hollering out what a nice young man he is. It takes some gingerpluck in a man to hand itstand up to a girl’s family, and that’s what Jane Tuxton is looking for in Jerry. Take it from one who has studied the sect,’ says Gentleman, ‘from San Francisco to the BatteryJohn o’ Groat’s to Land’s End, and back again.’
“Next day Jerry Moore’s looking like as if he’d only half a dollarsixpence in the world and had swallowed it. ‘What’s the matter, Jerry?’ says Gentleman. Jerry pushes outheaves a sigh. ‘Bailey,’ he says, ‘and you, Mr. Roach, I guessexpect you both seen how it is with me. I love Miss Jane Tuxton, and you seen for yourselves what transpires. The amount of ice I cuts with her wouldn’t cool a high-ball.She don’t value me, not tuppence.’
“ ‘Say not so,’ says Gentleman, sympathetic. ‘You’re doing fine. If you knew the sect as I do, you wouldn’t go by mere superficial silences and chin-tiltings. I can read a girl’s heart, Jerry,’ he says, patting him on the shoulder, ‘and I tell you you’ve got her hanging onto the ropesyou’re doing fine. All you want now is a little rapid work, and you win easy. To make the thing a cinchcert.,’ he says, getting up, ‘all you have to do is to make a dead set at her folks.’ He winks at me. ‘Don’t just sit there like you did last night. Show ’em you’ve got something in you. You know what folks are; they think themselves the most important things on the map. Well, go to work. Consult them all you know. Every opportunity you get. There’s nothing like consulting a girl’s folks to put you in good with her.’
“And he pats Jerry on the shoulder again, and goes indoors to find his pipe.
“Jerry turns to me. ‘Do you guessthink that’s really so?’ he says. I says I sure do. ‘He knows all about girls, I reckon,’ says Jerry. ‘You can stand ongo by him every time,’ I says. ‘Well, well,’ says Jerry, sort of thoughtful.”
The waiter paused. His eye was sad and dreamy. Then he took up the burden of his tale.
“Has it ever occurred to you, kiddo, that the things we look forward to as certain to pan out just so are always the things that pan out just different? See what I mean? There’s many a dead-sure cup slips up before it gets to the lip.[omitted]
“First thing that happens is that Gentleman has a sore tooth on the next Sunday, so don’t feel like coming along with the crowd. He sits at home, dosing it with whiskey, and Jerry and me goes off to the Tuxton house[omitted] alone. I put down a lot of what happened that night, that, because if Gentleman had been along to work the hypnotic eye on Jerry,—but what’s the use? No good kicking now. I guess it just had to be.[omitted]
“So Jerry and me pikes off, and once more we prepares to settle down around the board. I hadn’t noticed Jerry particular, but just now I catches sight of his face in the light of the lamp. Ever see one of these fighters when he’s sitting in his corner before a fight waiting for the gong to go? Well, Jerry looks just like that, and it surprises me.
“I told you about the fat yellow dog that permeated the Tuxton home, didn’t I? The family sure thought a whole heaplot of that dog, though of all the grouchy propositionsugly brutes I ever struckmet he was the worst. Sniffing round and growling ’most ofall the time.
“Well this evening he comes up to Jerry just as he’s going to sit down, and starts in to growl. Old Pa Tuxton looks over his glasses, and clicks his tongue. ‘Rover! Rover!’ he says, kind of mild. ‘Naughty Rover, he don’t like strangers, I’m afraid.’ Jerry looks at Pa Tuxton and he looks at the dog, and I’m just expecting him to say ‘No,’ or ‘Yes,’ same as the other night, when he lets out a nasty laugh. One of them bitter laughs. ‘Ho?’ he says. ‘Ho? Don’t he? Then I guess he’d better get further away from them.’ And he ups with his boot and—say, I’ve been reading in the papers about the way this Coy feller, at Yale, does them punts down the field. Well, I guess he hasn’t got anything on Jerry. Thatwell, the dog hit the far wall.
“Jerry sits down, and pulls up his chair. ‘I don’t approve,’ he says, fierce, ‘of folks keeping great, fat, ugly, bad-tempered yellow dogs that are a nuisance to all. I don’t like it.’
“There was a silence you could have scooped out with a spoon. Say, have you ever had a jack-rabbit turn around on you and growl? That’s how we all felt when Jerry cuts looseouts with them harsh words. They took our breath away.
“While we was getting it back again, the parrot, which was in its cage on a table, lets out a squawk. Honest, I jumped a foot in my chair.
“Jerry gets up very deliberate, and walks over to the parrot.
“ ‘Is this a menagerie?’ he says ‘Can’t a man have supper in peace without an image like you starting in to holler? Go to sleep.’
“We was all rubberingstaring at him, plumb[omitted] surprised. Especially Uncle Dick Tuxton, whose particular pet the parrot was. He’d brought him home all the way from some foreign parts.
“ ‘Hello, Billy!’ says the bird, shrugging his shoulders and puffing himself up. ‘R-r-r-r! R-r-r-r! ’lo, Billy! ’Lo, ’lo, ’lo! R-r-WAH!’
“ ‘Don’t you talk back at me,’ he says, ‘or I’ll knock your blockhead off. You think just because you’ve got a green tail you’re someone. Go to sleep, you loafer.[omitted]’ And he stalks back to his chair, and sits glaring at Uncle Dick, looking as though he dared him to speak[omitted].
“Well, say, [omitted]all this wasn’t what you might call promoting an easy flow of conversation. Everyone’s looking at Jerry, especially me, wondering what next and trying to catch up with their breath, and Jerry’s frowning at the cold beef, and there’s a sort of awkward pause.
“Miss Jane is the first to get busy. She hustles aroundbustles about and gets the rationsfood served out, and we begins to eat. But still there’s not so much conversation you’d notice it. This goes on till we reaches the concluding stages, and then Uncle Dick comes up to the scratch.
“ ‘How is the fowls, Mr. Moore?’ he says.
“ ‘Gimme some more pie,’ says Jerry. ‘What?’
“Uncle Dick repeats his yawpremark.
“ ‘Fowls?’ says Jerry. ‘What do you know about fowls? Your notion of a fowl is an ugly bird with a green tail, a Wellington nose and—Gimme a bit of cheese.”
“Uncle Dick’s fond of the parrot, so he speaks up for him. ‘Polly’s always been reckoned a handsome bird,’ he says.
“ ‘He wants stuffing,’ says Jerry.
“And Uncle Dick drops out of the talk.
“Up comes big brother, Ralph his name was. He’s the bank clerk, and a dude. He gives his cuffs a flick, and starts in to make things jolly all round by telling a story about a man he knows named Wotherspoon. Jerry fixes him with his eye, and half-way through interrupts.
“ ‘That vestwaistcoat of yours is a joke. It’s something fierce,’ he says.
“ ‘Pardon?’ says Ralph rattled some.
“ ‘I said that vest of yours is fierce,’ says Jerry. ‘It hurts me eyes. It’s like an electric sign.’
“ ‘Why, Jerry,’ I says, but he just scowls at me, and I stops.
“Ralph is proud of his clothes, and he isn’t going to stand for this. He glares at Jerry, and Jerry glares at him.
“ ‘Who do you guessthink you are?’ says Ralph, breathing hard.
“ ‘Button up your coat,’ says Jerry.
“ ‘Smart Alec!Look ’ere!’ says Ralph.
“ ‘Cover it up, I tell you,’ says Jerry. ‘Do you want to blind me?’ At this moment[omitted] Pa Tuxton butts ininterrupts.
“ ‘Why, Mr. Moore,’ he begins, sort of soothing; when the kidsmall brother, who’s been rubberingstaring at Jerry, chips in. I told you he was sassycheeky.
“He says, ‘Pa, what a funny nose Mr. Moore’s got.’
“And that put the lid on itdid it. Jerry rises, very slow, and leans across the table and clips the kid brother one side of the headear-’ole. And then there’s a general imbroglio, everyone standing up and the kid hollering and the dog barking.
“ ‘If you’d brought him up better,’ says Jerry severely to Pa Tuxton, ‘this wouldn’t ever have happened.’
“Pa Tuxton lets outgives a sort of howl.
“ ‘Mr. Moore,’ he yells, ‘what is the meaning of this extraordinary behavior? You come here, and strike me child—’
“Jerry bangs on the table.
“ ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘and I’d strike him again. Listen to me,’ he says. ‘You think just because I’m quiet I ain’t got no spirit. You think all I can do is to sit and smile. You think—Pshaw!Bah! You aren’t onto the hidden depths in me character. I’m one of them still waters that runs deep. I’m—. Here, you beat it!get out of it! Yes, all of you. Except Jane. Jane and me wants this room to have a private talk in. I’ve got a whole heaplot of things to say to Jane. Are you going?’
“I turns to the crowd. I was plumbawful disturbed.
“ ‘You mustn’t take any notice,’ I says. ‘He ain’t well. He ain’t himself.’ When just then the parrot outs with another of them squawks.
“Jerry jumps at it.
“ ‘You first,’ he says, and flings the cage out of the window. ‘Now you,’ he says to the yellow dog, putting him out through the door. And then he folds his arms and scowls at us, and we all notice suddenly that he’s very big. We looks at one another, and we begins to edge towards the door. All except Jane, who’s staring at Jerry as if he’s a ghost.
“ ‘Mr. Moore,’ says Pa Tuxton, dignified, ‘we’ll leave you. You’re drunk.’
“ ‘I’m not drunk,’ says Jerry. ‘I’m in love.’
“ ‘Jane,’ says Pa Tuxton, ‘come with me, and leave this ruffian to himself.’
“ ‘Jane,’ says Jerry, ‘stop here, and come and lay your head on my shoulder.’
“ ‘Jane,’ says Pa Tuxton, ‘do you hear me?’
“ ‘Jane,’ says Jerry, ‘I’m waiting.’
“She looks from one to the other for a spell, and then she moves to where Jerry’s standing.
“ ‘I’ll stop,’ she says, sort of quiet.
“And we beats itdrifts out.”
The waiter snorted.
“I gets back home, quick as I could,” he said, “and relates the proceedings to Gentleman. Gentleman’s rattled. ‘I don’t believe it,’ he says. ‘Don’t stand there and tell me Jerry Moore did them things. Why, it ain’t in the man. Specially after what I said to him about the way he ought to behave. How could he have done so?’ Just then in comes Jerry, beaming all over. ‘Boys,’ he shouts, ‘congratulate me. It’s all right. We’ve fixed it up. She says she hadn’t sized me upknown me properly before. She says she’d always reckoned me a sheep, while all the time I was one of these strong, silent men that a woman can lean upon and put perfect trust in.’ He turns to Gentleman, and the happiness that shone in his face was something wonderful. He[omitted]—”
The man at the other end of the room had finished his meal some time ago and was calling with a good deal of impatience for his checkwas calling for his bill.
“All right, all right,” said the waiter, but he could not leave till he had finished his story[omitted]. “Coming! He turns to Gentleman,” he went on rapidly, “and he says, ‘Bailey, I owe it all to you, because if it hadn’t been for you wakin’ me up an tellin’ meif you hadn’t told me to insult her folks—’.”
He leaned on the traveller’s table and fixed him with an eye that pleaded for sympathy.
“What do you know about that?” he said. “Insult her folks! Them was his very words. And goodness knows how he ever misunderstood Gentleman’s advice that way. But it done the trick all right for him an’ no mistake.‘Insult her folks.’”
The traveller looked at him enquiringly.
“Can you beat it?” said the waiter, craving sympathy.
“I don’t know what you are saying,” said the traveller. “If it is important, write it on a slip of paper. I am stone deaf.”
Thanks to Tony Ring for providing a copy of this item, which I have long wanted to make available here.
Compare this American text with the British version from the Strand magazine. This version makes it clear that Jack Roach and Gentleman Bailey are railroad hoboes, and the narration employs American slang very effectively.
The differences are striking enough that I have used “dynamic footnotes” to highlight most of the significant differences; hover your mouse pointer over the words in purple, like theseThis is an example of a dynamic footnote. above to see a pop-up footnote on a yellow banner at the bottom of the window showing the same passage in the British version. (Tablet users: this feature depends on your browser and operating system; in some cases tapping on the highlighted phrase will work.) In nearly every case, a piquant Americanism is watered down to a stock British phrase which could have been selected by the Strand editors. Only a few of the substitutions seem to me to be witty enough to be Wodehouse’s choices of wording for a British audience.
There are of course many tiny differences that I have not noted here; the full British text is at the link above.
He was the original Sweeney: “Tell it to Sweeney” means “Tell it to someone more naive or gullible than me; I don’t believe it!” So the narrator emphasizes that Jerry was too trusting. The Strand version here has “ ’E and the King of Denmark would have been great pals” (a variant on “Tell it to the King of Denmark”); both “Tell it to…” phrases are used by Spike Mullins in Ch. 22 of The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure.
Fools-there-was: Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 poem The Vampire begins:
A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you or I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair. . .
The 1909 Broadway play A Fool There Was further popularized the phrase; the play was later made into a 1915 silent film starring Theda Bara, one of the few surviving films of this screen “vamp.”
Coy feller, at Yale: Edward Harris “Ted” Coy (1888–1935), All-American football player for Yale from 1907 to 1909, playing in only one losing game during three seasons.
For some further excellent annotations to this story, see DG’s Annotated Wodehouse blog.
Printer’s errors corrected above:
Magazine had “inbroglio” in text and “imbroglio” in caption as shown above.
Magazine had ‘Fools?’; corrected to “ ‘Fowls?’ says Jerry.” as in Strand and book texts.
A number of quotation marks were inconsistently typeset in magazine; I have silently corrected these.