THE FINAL TEST.
Punch, October 15, 1902
“Well,” I said, “when is it to be?”
Pettifer sighed gloomily.
“Never,” he replied. “Never. It’s all off. Absolutely off. We have parted, and for ever. I loved that girl, Smith, with an asbestos-defying passion to which no words of mine can hope to do justice. We were made for each other, Smith. She disliked parsnips. I loathed them. We both collected postage-stamps. We both played ping-pong. Our tastes, in short, were identical, and the union, you might have thought, was of the sort that is made in Heaven. But, no. Far from it.”
“You appear broken-hearted,” I said, at the same time offering him the only consolation within my reach.
“Absolutely. Thanks. When. Not too much soda. Right. Utterly broken-hearted.”
“I will tell you. Do you read the——?”
His voice sank to a reverent whisper as he mentioned the name of one of our great halfpenny journals.
“Regularly,” I said, uncovering. “It has a circulation five times as large as any penny morning paper.”
“It is too true,” said Pettifer. “Well, I, like you, am a constant reader of that great periodical. It is to that fact that I owe my present misery. A few days since I saw in its columns an article, brief but replete with interest, addressed to those about to marry. ‘No man,’ said the writer, ‘should marry without previously examining his fiancée with the utmost strictness on the subject of music.’ ”
“Precisely. The idea is that you play selections, and mark the effects. By these means, said the article, thousands of unhappy marriages might be prevented annually. I resolved to try the scheme. The result is as you see. Four days ago——”
“I know,” I interrupted hurriedly; “four days ago you were a thing of life and joy, whereas now——! Well?”
“There was a good deal more of it,” said Pettifer querulously; “but that is certainly the gist of what I was about to remark. Well, I tried her first with an extract from Saint-Saens. It took her fancy from the first bar. That was a good beginning. Intelligence and a well-balanced character belong to the girl who admires Saint-Saens. I proceeded. She seemed pleased with a sonata of Beethoven’s, and positively encored with the Soldiers’ Chorus from Faust. I gathered, therefore, that she was not only artistic but exceedingly tender- hearted.”
“Then why did you——?”
“I am coming to that. On the following day I opened with a few bars of Offenbach. To my dismay she was undeniably attracted by them.”
“What did that imply?”
“Cunning. Guile and cunning of the worst description. I began to think that the pleasure she had exhibited at Saint-Saens and Beethoven might—nay, must—have been a mere veneer. I resolved to stake my all on a final test. Fixing her with my eye, I began to play a little thing of my own, a beautiful little piece in five flats, key of G. Scarcely had I struck the keys, when from the street outside came the raucous strains of a peripatetic barrel-organ. The effect upon Lucinda—I should say Miss Robinson—was electrical. She sprang to her feet, ran to the window, and began to listen with every symptom of extreme pleasure. The ruffian in charge played three airs, all extracts from that idiot Brown’s latest comic opera.”
“You don’t like Brown?” I queried.
Brown is Pettifer’s deadliest rival in the world of music.
He ignored the remark.
“When he had finished,” he said, “she threw him half-a-crown, closed the window, and requested me to continue. I excused myself coldly, and retired.”
“The same evening I wrote to say that our engagement was at an end, and that, on receipt of a fully stamped and addressed envelope, I would return her letters.”
Unsigned story as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 123 of Punch.