DUDLEY JONES, BORE-HUNTER.
Punch, May 6, 1903
I think Stanley Pettigrew had his suspicions from the first that all was not thoroughly above board with regard to Jones. Personally, I think it was owing to the latter’s disguise. It was one of Jones’s foibles never to undertake a case without assuming a complete disguise. There was rarely any necessity for a disguise, but he always assumed one. In reply to a question of mine on the subject he had once replied that there was a sportsmanlike way of doing things, and an unsportsmanlike way. And we had to let it go at that.
On the present occasion he appeared in a bright check suit, a “property” bald head, fringed with short scarlet curls (to match his tie and shirt), and a large pasteboard nose, turned up at the end and painted crimson. Add to this that he elected to speak in the high falsetto of a child of four, and it is scarcely to be wondered at that a man of Stanley’s almost diabolical shrewdness should suspect that there was something peculiar about him. As regarded my appearance Jones never troubled very much. Except that he insisted on my wearing long yellow side-whiskers, he left my make-up very much to my own individual taste.
I shall never forget dinner on the first night after our arrival. I was standing at the sideboard, trying to draw a cork (which subsequently came out of its own accord, and broke three glasses and part of the butler), when I heard Jones ask Stanley Pettigrew to think of a number.
His adversary turned pale, and a gleam of suspicion appeared in his eye.
“Double it,” went on Jones relentlessly. “Have you doubled it?”
“Yes,” growled the baffled wretch.
“Add two. Take away the number you first thought of. Double it. Add three. Divide half the first number (minus eighteen) by four. Subtract seven. Multiply by three hundred and sixteen, and the result is the number you first thought of minus four hundred and five.”
“Really?” said Stanley Pettigrew with assumed indifference.
“My dear Jones, how——?” I began admiringly.
Jones flashed a warning glance at me. Miss Pettigrew saved the situation with magnificent tact.
“John,” she said, “you forget yourself. Leave the room.”
I was therefore deprived of the pleasure of witnessing the subsequent struggles which, to judge from the account Jones gave me in my room afterwards, must have been magnificent.
“After the fish,” said Jones, “he began—as I had suspected that he would—to tell dog-stories. For once, however, he had found his match. My habit of going out at odd moments during the day to see men about dogs has rendered me peculiarly fitted to cope with that type of attack. I had it all my own way. Miss Pettigrew, poor girl, fainted after about twenty minutes of it, and had to be carried out. I foresee that this will be a rapid affair, Wuddus.”
But it was not. On the contrary, after the first shock of meeting a powerful rival so unexpectedly, Stanley Pettigrew began to hold his own, and soon to have the better of it.
“I tell you what it is, Wuddus,” said Jones to me one night, after a fierce encounter had ended decidedly in his rival’s favour, “a little more of this and I shall have to own myself defeated. He nearly put me to sleep in the third round to-night, and I was in Queer Street all the time. I never met such a bore in my life.”
But it is the unexpected that happens. Three days later, Stanley Pettigrew came down to breakfast, looking haggard and careworn. Jones saw his opportunity.
“Talking of amusing anecdotes of children,” he said (the conversation up to this point had dealt exclusively with the weather), “reminds me of a peculiarly smart thing a little nephew of mine said the other day. A bright little chap of two. It was like this——”
He concluded the anecdote, and looked across at his rival with a challenge in his eye. Stanley Pettigrew was silent, and apparently in pain.
Jones followed up his advantage. He told stories of adventure on Swiss mountains. A bad Switzerland bore is the deadliest type known to scientists.
Jones was a peerless Switzerland bore. His opponent’s head sank onto his chest, and he grew very pale.
“And positively,” concluded Jones, “old Franz Wilhelm, the guide, you know, a true son of the mountains, assured us that if we had decided to go for a climb that day instead of staying in the smoking-room, and the rope had broken at the exact moment when we were crossing the Thingummy glacier, we should in all probability have been killed on the spot. Positively on the spot, my dear Sir. He said that we should all have been killed on the spot.”
He paused. No reply came from Pettigrew. The silence became uncanny. I hurried to his side, and placed a hand upon his heart. I felt in vain. Like a superannuated policeman, the heart was no longer on its beat. Stanley Pettigrew (it follows, of course) was dead.
Jones looked thoughtfully at the body, and helped himself to another egg.
“He was a bad man,” he said quietly, “and he won’t be missed. R.S.V.P.”
A brief post-mortem examination revealed the fact that he had fallen into the pit which he had digged for another. He had been bored to death.
“Why, Jones,” said I, as we sprang into the midnight mail that was to take us back to town, “did deceased collapse in that extraordinary manner?”
“I will tell you. Listen. After our duel had been in progress some days, it was gradually borne in upon me that this Stanley Pettigrew must have some secret reservoir of matter to draw upon in case of need. I searched his room.”
“And under the bed I found a large case literally crammed with tip-books. I abstracted the books and filled the box with bricks. Deprived of his resources, he collapsed. That’s all.”
“But——” I began.
“If you ask any more questions, Wuddus,” said Jones, “I shall begin to suspect that you are developing into a bore yourself. Pass the morphia and don’t say another word till we get to London.”
Unsigned story as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 124 of Punch.
tip-books: Schoolboy slang for books of academic shortcuts: word-by-word translations of classical texts, hints on points thought likely to arise in exams, and so forth. “Crammed” has a double meaning in this context.
Printer’s error corrected above: Magazine had a semicolon after ‘back to town’ in the sixth paragraph from the end; replaced with a comma for grammatical sense.