The Strand Magazine, March 1911
By P. G. WODEHOUSE
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I want to tell you all about dear old Bobbie Cardew. It’s a most interesting story. I can’t put in any literary style and all that; but I don’t have to, don’t you know, because it goes on its Moral Lesson. If you’re a man you mustn’t miss it, because it’ll be a warning to you; and if you’re a woman you won’t want to, because it’s all about how a girl made a man feel pretty well fed up with thingslike thirty cents.
If you’re a recent acquaintance of Bobbie’s, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that there was a time when he was more remarkable for the weakness of his memory than anything else. Dozens of fellows, who have only met Bobbie since the change took place, have been surprised when I told them that. Yet it’s true. Believe me.
In the days when I first knew him Bobbie Cardew was about the most pronounced young rotter inside the four-mile radiusbonehead between the Battery and Harlem. People have called me a silly ass, but I was never in the same class with Bobbie. When it came to being a silly ass, he was a plus four man, while my handicap was about six.He was a champion, and I was just jogging along in the preliminaries. Why, if I wanted him to dine with me, I used to postmail him a letter at the beginning of the week, and then the day before send him a telegram and a ’phone-call on the day itself, and—half an hour before the time we’d fixed—a messenger in a taxi, whose business it was to see that he got in and that the chauffeur had the address all correct. By doing that I generally managed to get him, unless he had left town before my messenger arrived.
The funny thing was that he wasn’t altogether a fool in other ways. Deep down in him there was a kind of stratum of sense. I had known him, once or twice, show an almost human intelligence. But to reach that stratum, mind you, you needed dynamite.
At least, that’s what I thought. But there was another way which hadn’t occurred to me. Marriage, I mean. Marriage, the dynamite of the soul; that was what hit Bobbie. He married. Have you ever seen a bull-pup chasing a bee? The pup sees the bee. It looks good to him. But he doesn’t know what’s at the end of it till he gets there. It was like that with Bobbie. He fell in love, got married—with a sort of whoop, as if it were the greatest fun in the world—and then began to find out things.
She wasn’t the sort of girl you would have expected Bobbie to raveget up in the air about. And yet, I don’t know. What I mean is, she worked for her living; and to a fellow who has never done a hand’s turn in his life there’s undoubtedly a sort of fascination, a kind of romance, about a girl who works for her living. [US passage omitted]I was in love myself once with a girl called Kathryn Mae Shubrick, who worked for a firm on Fifth Avenue: and the story of how she turned me down for a bill-clerk will be recorded in my biography, if I ever write it.
HerBobbie’s girl’s name was Anthony. Mary Anthony. She was about five feet six; she had a ton and a half of red-gold hair, grey eyes, and one of those determined chins. She was a hospital nurse. When Bobbie smashed himself up at polo, she was told off by the authorities to smooth his brow and rally round with cooling unguents and all that; and the old boy hadn’t been up and about again for more than a week before they popped off to the registrar’s and fixed it up. Quite the romance.She worked in Bobbie's lawyer’s office. That’s where Bobbie met her. I don’t know what her particular job was, but I bet she was good at it. She had character.
Bobbie broke the news to me at the club one evening, and next day he introduced me to her. I admired her. I’ve never worked myself—my name’s Pepper, by the way. Almost forgot to mention it. Reggie Pepper. My uncle Edward was Pepper, Wells, and Co., the colliery peoplePepper’s Safety-Razor. He left me a sizable chunk of bullionwad—I say I’ve never worked myself, but I admire anyone who earns a living under difficulties, especially a girl. And this girl had had a rather unusually tough time of it, being an orphan and all that, and having had to do everything off her own bat for years.[new ¶] Bobbie told me about her. Her father had had money at one time, I believe, but he’d lost it all somehow; and, being too proud to work, he just filled in his time drinking. He had a habit of coming to offices where Mary had a job, and weeping on the boss’s shoulder—which had lost Mary more than one place. Also, I gathered, he got away with most of her weekly envelope. Take him for all in all, he was something of a nut.
Mary and I got along together splendidlyfine. We don’t now, but we’ll come to that later. I’m speaking of the past. She seemed to think Bobbie the greatest thing on earth, judging by the way she looked at him when she thought I wasn’t noticing. And Bobbie seemed to think the samewas crazy about her. So that I came to the conclusion that, if only dear old Bobbie didn’t forget to go to the wedding, they had a sporting chance of being quite happy.
Well, let’s briskspeed up a bit here, and jump a year. The story doesn’t really start till then. [omitted]All I’ve told you up to now is only like dealing the deck. We now sit in at the game.
They took a flatan apartment at the Gargantua, and settled down. I was in and out of the place quite a good deal. I kept my eyes open, and everything seemed to me to be running along as smooth as you could want. [omitted]Sioux Falls out of sight over the horizon, and Reno not on the map at all. If this was marriage, I thought, I couldn’t see why fellows were so frightenedscared of it. There were a lotwas a heap of worse things that could happen to a man.
But we now come to the incident of the Quiet Dinner, and it’s just here that love’s young dream hits a snaggets a jolt, and things begin to occur.
I happened to meet Bobbie in Piccadilly, and he asked me to come back to dinner at the flat. And, like a fool, instead of bolting and putting myself under police protection, I went.It was one of those come-right-along dinners. You know. You get talking with a man at the club or somewhere, and, when you’re through, he says: “Come right along and have a bit of dinner. My wife’ll be tickled to death to see you.” It sounds good, but it’s incomplete. It wants the word not slipped into it. Generally I side-step like a shying horse; but, seeing that I was so much the old family friend in that particular household, I thought I should be safe in breaking my rule for once; so, like a fool, I went along.
When we got to the flatGargantua, there was Mrs. Bobbie looking—well, I tell you, it staggered me. Her goldgolden hair was all piled up in waves and crinkles and things, with a what-d’-you-call-it of diamonds in it. And she was wearing the most perfectly rippingcorking dress. I couldn’t begin to describe it. I can only say it was the limit. It struck me that if this was how she was in the habit of looking every night when they were dining quietly at home together, it was no wonder that Bobbie liked domesticity.
“Here’s old Reggie, dear,” said Bobbie. “I’ve brought him home to have a bit of dinner. I’ll ’phone down to the kitchen and ask them to send it up now—what?right away.”
She stared at him as if she had never seen him before. Then she turned scarlet. Then she turned as white as a sheet. Then she gave a little laugh. It was most interesting to watch. Made me wish I was up a tree about eight hundred miles away. Then she recovered herself.
“I am so glad you were able to come, Mr. Pepper,” she said, smiling at me.
And after that she was all right. At least, you would have said so. She talked a lot at dinner, and chaffed Bobbie, and played us rag-time on the piano afterwards, as if she hadn’t a care in the world. Quite a jolly little party it was—not. I’m no lynx-eyed sleuth, and all that sort of thing, but I had seen her face at the beginning, and I knew that she was working the whole time, and working hard, to keep herself in hand, and that she would have given that diamond what’s-its-name in her hair and everything else she possessed to have one good scream—just one. I’ve sat through some pretty thicktough evenings in my time, but that one had the rest beaten in a canterlashed to the mast. At the very earliest moment I grabbed my hat and got awaymade my getaway.
Having seen what I did, I wasn’t particularly surprised to meet Bobbie at the club next day looking about as merry and bright as a lonely gum-drop at an Eskimo tea-partychicken at a camp-meeting.
He started in straightawayright away. He seemed glad to have someone to talk to about it.
“Do you know how long I’ve been married?” he said.
I didn’t exactly.
“About a year, isn’t it?”
“Not about a year,” he said, sadly. “[omitted] About nothing. Exactly a year—yesterday!”
Then I understoodgot him. I saw light—a regular flash of light.
“The anniversary of the wedding. I’d arranged to take Mary to the SavoySherry’s, and on to Covent Gardenthe opera. She particularly wanted to hear Caruso. I had the ticket for the box in my pocket. Do you know,Say, all through dinner I had a kind of rummy[omitted] idea that there was something I’d forgotten, but I couldn’t think what?fix it.”
“Till your wife mentioned it?”
“She—mentioned it,” he said, thoughtfully.
I didn’t ask for details. Women with hair and chins like Mary’s may be angels most of the time, but, when they take off their wings for a bit, they aren’t half-hearted about it.spell, they are no pikers—they go the limit.
“To be absolutely frank, old topscout,” said poor old Bobbie, in a broken sort of way, “my stock’s pretty lowI’m in rather bad at home.”
There didn’t seem much to be done. I just lit a cigarette and sat there. He didn’t want to talk. Presently he went out. I stood at the window of our upper smoking-room, which looks out on to Piccadillythe Avenue, and watched him. He walked slowly along for a few yards, stopped, then walked on again, and finally turned into a jeweller’s. WhichTiffany’s—which was an instance of what I meant when I said that deep down in him there was a certain stratum of sense.
It was from now on that I began to be really interested in this problemthing of Bobbie’s married life. Of course, one’s always mildly interested in one’s friends’ marriages, hoping they’ll turn out well and all that; but this was different. The average man isn’t like Bobbie, and the average girl isn’t like Mary. It was that old businessstunt of the immovable mass and the irresistible force. There was Bobbie, ambling gently through life, a dear old chap in a hundred ways, but undoubtedly a chump of the first waterstar performer in the chump class.
And there was Mary, determined that he shouldn’t be a chump. And Nature, mind you, on Bobbie’s side. When Nature makes a chump like dear old Bobbie, she’s proud of him, and doesn’t want her handiwork disturbed. She gives him a sort of natural armourarmor to protect him against outside interference. And that armourarmor is shortness of memory. Shortness of memory keeps a man a chump, when, but for it, he might cease to be one. Take my case, for instance. I’m a chump. Well, if I had remembered half the things people have tried to teach me during my life, my size in hats would be about number nineI should be a high-brow of the first water. But I didn’t. I forgot them. And it was just the same with Bobbie.
For about a week, perhapsmaybe a bit more, the recollection of that quiet little domestic evening bucked him up like a tonickept him up on his toes. Elephants, I read somewhere, are champions at the memory businessthing, but they were fools tohadn’t anything on Bobbie during that week. But bless you, the shock wasn’t nearly big enough. It had dinteddented the armourarmor, but it hadn’t made a hole in it. Pretty soon he was back at the old gamestunts.
It was pathetic, don’t you know. The poor girl loved him, and she was frightenedscared. It was the thin end of the wedge, you see, and she knew it. A man who forgets what day he was married, when he’s been married one year, will forget, at about the end of the fourth, that he’s married at all. If she meant to get him in hand at all, she had gotever, it was up to her to do it now, before he began to drift away.
I saw that clearlyclear enough, and I tried to make Bobbie see it, when he was by way of pouring out his troublesputting up a hard-luck story to me one afternoon. I can’t remember what it was that he had forgotten the day before, but it was something she had asked him to bring home for her—it may have been a book.
“It’s such a littledinky thing to make a fuss about,” said Bobbie. “And she knows that it’s simply because I’ve got such an infernal memory about everything. I can’t remember anything. Never could.”
He talked on for a while, and, just as he was going, he pulled out a couple of sovereignsten-spot.
“Oh, by the way,” he said.
“What’s this for?” I asked, though I knew.
“I owe it you.”
“How’s that?” I said.
“Why, that bet on Tuesday. In the billiard-room. Murray and Brown were playing a hundred up, and I gave you two to oneten bucks to five that Brown would win, and Murray beat him by twenty odd.”
“So you do remember some things?” I said.
He got quite excitedwarm beneath the collar.
Said that if I thought he was the sort of rottercheap skate who forgot to pay when he lost
a bet, it was pretty rotten of me after knowing him all these years, and a lot
more like that.
“Subside, laddie,” I said.I’d got another guess coming, and pulled a lot more stuff like that. I told him to cut it out, and gave him a cocktail.
Then I spoke to him like a father.
“What you’ve got to do, my old college chum,” I said, “is to pull yourself together, and jolly quick, too.“You want to pull yourself together, old scout,” I said. As things are shaping, you’re due for a nasty knockto get yours before you know what’s hit you. You’ve gotYou want to make an effort. Don’t say you can’t. This two quid businessbusiness of the ten-spot shows that, even if your memory is rocky, you can remember some things. What you’ve got to do isIt’s up to you to see that wedding anniversaries and so on are included in the listbunch. It may be a brain-strain, but you can’t get out ofside-step it.”
“I supposeguess you’re right,” said Bobbie. “But it beats me why she thinks such a lotheap of these rottendinky little dates. What’s it matter if I forget what day we were married on or what day she was born on or what day the catjanitor’s cat had the measles? She knows I love her just as much as if I were a memorizing freak at the hallsin vaudeville.”
“That’s not enough for a woman,” I said. “They“Women come from Missouri,” I said, “—all of them; and they want to be shown. Bear that in mind, and you’re all rightyou win out. Forget it, and there’ll be trouble.you’re up against it.”
He chewed the knob of his stick.
“Women are frightfully rummydarned queer,” he said, gloomily.
“You should have thought of that before you married one,” I said.
[omitted]Then I gave him another cocktail, and left him to think it over.
I don’t see that I could have done any more. I had put the whole thing in a nutshell for him. You would have thought he’d have seen the point, and that it would have made him brace up and get a hold on himself. But, no. Off he went again in the same old way. I gave up arguing with him. I had a good deal of time on my hands, but not enough to amount to anything when it was a question of reforming dear old Bobbie by argument. If you see a man asking for trouble, and insisting on getting it, the only thing to do is to stand by and wait till it comes to him. After that you may get a chance. But till then there’s nothing to be done. But I thought a lotheap about him.
Bobbie didn’t get into the soupTrouble didn’t hit Bobbie all at once. Weeks went by, and months, and still nothing happenedit was a case of all quiet along the Potomac. Now and then he’d comeblow into the club with a kind of cloud on his shining morning face, and I’d know that there had been doingssomething doing in the home; but it wasn’t till well’way on in the spring that he got the thunderbolt just where he had been asking for it—in the thorax.
I was smoking a quiet cigarette one morning in the window looking out over Piccadillythe Avenue, and watching the busescarriages and motors going up one way and down the other—most interesting it is; I often do it—when in rushed Bobbie, with his eyes bulging and his face the colour of an oyster, waving a piece of paper in his hand.
“Reggie,” he said. “Reggie, old top, she’s gone!”
“Gone!” I said. “Who?”
“Mary, of course! Gone! LeftQuit me! Gone!”
“Where?” I said.
SillyFoolish question? Perhaps you’re right.Maybe. Anyhow, dear old Bobbie nearly foamed at the mouth.
“Where? How should I know where? Here, read this.”
He pushed the paper into my hand. It was a letter.
“Go on,” said Bobbie. “Read it.”
So I did. It certainly was quite asome letter. There was not much of it, but it was all to the point.
This is what it said :—
“My dear Bobbie,—I am going away. When you care enough about me to remember to wish me many happy returns on my birthday, I will come back. My address will be Box 341, London Morning News.New York ‘Morning News.’”
I read it twice, then I said, “Well, why don’t you?”
“Why don’t I what?”
“Why don’t you wish her many happy returns? It doesn’t seem much to ask.”
“But she says on her birthday.”
“Well, when is her birthday?”
“Can’t you understand?” said Bobbie. “I’ve forgottenforgotten, you lunkhead.”
“Forgotten!” I said.
“Yes,” said Bobbie. “Forgotten.”
“How do you mean, forgotten?” I said. “Forgotten whether it’s the twentieth or the twenty-first, or what? How near do you get to it?”
“I know it came somewhere between the first of January and the thirty-first of December. That’s how near I get to it.”
“Think? What’s the use of saying ‘Think’? Think I haven’t thought? I’ve been knocking sparks out of my brain ever since I opened that letter.”
“And you can’t remember?”
I rang the bell and ordered restoratives.
“Well, Bobbie,” I said, “it’s a pretty hard casetough proposition to spring on an untrained amateur like me. [omitted]I guess old Doctor Holmes himself would have sidestepped it. Suppose someone had come to Sherlock Holmeshim and said, ‘Mr. Holmes, here’s a case for you. When is my wife’s birthday?’ Wouldn’t that have given Sherlock a joltjarred Sherlock? However, I know enough about the game to understand that a fellowsleuth can’t shoot offunlimber his deductive theories unless you start himstart him off with a clue, so rouse yourself out of that pop-eyed trance and come across with two or three. For instance, can’t you remember the last time she had a birthday? What sort of weather was it? That might fix the month.”
Bobbie shook his head.
“It was just ordinary weather, as near as I can recollect.”
“Well, fairlyhalf-way cold, perhaps. I can’t remember.”
I ordered two more of the same. They seemed indicated in the Young Detective’s Manual. “You’re a great help, Bobbie,” I said. “An invaluable assistant. Once of those indispensable adjuncts without which no home is complete.”
BobbieBobbie worked steadily down to the cherry without answering. He seemed to be thinking.
“I’ve got it,” he said suddenly. “LookSee here. I gave her a present on her last birthday. All we have to do is to go to the shopstore, hunt up the date when it was bought, and the thing’s done.”
“Absolutely.Sure. What did you give her?”
“I can’t remember,” he said.
Getting ideas is like golf. Some days you are right off it, others it’s as easy as falling off a log. I don’t suppose dear old Bobbie had ever had two ideas inon the same morning before in his life; but now he did it without an effort. He just loosed another dry Martini into the undergrowth, and before you could turn round it had flushed quite a brain-wave.scared up the best brainwave of the session.
[Visit to Mary’s father omitted in Strand; if this long passage doesn’t fit on your screen, read it in the Collier’s version of the story.] “I have it,” he said. “Why didn’t I
think of it before? Come along and find Mary’s
father. He’ll put us next.”
Old man Anthony, that prominent alcohol specialist, lived way out on Staten Island. He had been something of a problem to Bobbie for a while after the marriage, owing to his habit of blowing into the club in search of son-in-law and shedding tears of pure rye in the vestibule. The club authorities had tipped Bobbie off to close down the entertainment, and after that the dead-line for father, except when he paid state visits to the apartment, was Fourteenth Street. It was Bobbie who had suggested Staten Island. He held the purse, and what he said went.
The exile was charmed to see us, and made an automatic movement toward the ice-chest, but Bobbie stopped him, and explained that we were not there for social revelry, but strictly on business. When was Mary’s birthday? That was the burning question of the day.
“Mary’s birthday?” he said. “Why, September 10, of course. Where’s your memory? I know it was September 10 because I remember saying to my poor dear wife, now in heaven, how strange that it should be September 10.”
“Why strange?” I asked.
“Why, it was the anniversary of something. I can’t for the moment recollect what, but something.”
“You’re sure of it?” said Bobbie.
“Certain,” said dad. “You’ll have one now, won’t you?” We said we would. Poor old Bobbie, he was as pleased as if he’d found a million in his Christmas stocking. It was quite touching to see him doing the grateful son-in-law act. The old man had two twenties off him in the first minute, and he smiled through it all.
Just as we were going a thoughtful look came into father’s face.
“Wait,” he said.
“What’s the matter now?” said Bobbie.
“I was wrong,” said father.
“Yes. It wasn’t September 10. It all comes back to me now. I can’t think what put it into my head. Mary wasn’t born on September 10.”
“When was she born, then?”
“Ah!” said dad, scorning to deceive, “there you have me, my boy.”
Nobody could say the old man wasn’t obliging. He did his best. He dug up April 4. For about ten minutes he went solid for April 4. Then he weakened. It might be April 4, or it might not. He rather fancied it was July 4. In another quarter of an hour he had given up July 11 and was rooting hard for January 8. And he had good reasons for all of them, mind you. They were all anniversaries of something which had slipped his memory for the moment, and he had said as much at the time to his poor, dear wife, now in heaven. Alcohol may be a food, as the wise guys tell you, but you can take it from me it’s not a brain food. I led Bobbie off after a while in what you might call an overwrought condition, and we moved back in bad order to old Manhattan.
There was no yellow streak in Bobbie. He was no quitter. Up he came next day with another idea. And this time it was a corker.
Do you know those
little books called “When were you born?” There’s one for each month. They tell
you your character, your talents, your strong points, and your weak points at
fourpence-half-penny a go. Bobbie’s idea was to buyfive cents a throw. Bobbie had bought the whole twelve, and go
through them till we found out which month hit off Mary’s character. That would
give us the month, and narrow it down a whole lot.he was red-hot on the trail.
“See here,” he said, “we’ll go through these and find out which month hits old Mary’s character. That’ll give us the month and narrow it down a whole heap.”
A pretty hot idea for a non-thinker like dear old Bobbie. We sallied out at once. He took half and I took half, and we settled down to work. As I say, it sounded good.It sounded good, I admit. But when we came to go into the thing, we saw that there was a flaw. There was plenty of information all right, but there wasn’t a single month that didn’t have something that exactly hit off Mary. For instance, in the December book it said, “December people are apt to keep their own secrets. They are extensive travelers.” Well, Mary had certainly kept her secret, and she had travelled quite extensively enough for Bobbie’s needs. Then, October people were “born with original ideas” and “loved moving.” You couldn’t have summed up Mary’s little jaunt more neatly. February people had “wonderful memories”—Mary’s speciality.
We took a bit of a rest, then had another go at the thing.[omitted]
Bobbie was allstrong for May, because the book said that women born in that month were “inclined to be capricious, which is always a barrier to a happy married life”; but I plumped for February, because February women “are unusually determined to have their own way, are very earnest, and expect a full return in their companions or mates.” Which he owned was about as like Mary as anything could be.raised him with August, because August women were “apt to blunder in their first marriage, but usually do not hesitate to get a divorce.” He didn’t like that a little bit, but he owned that it seemed to him more than apt to be Mary.
In the endAfter a while he tore the books up, stamped on themone by one, burnt them, and went home.
It was wonderful what a change the next few days made in dear old Bobbie. Have you ever seen that picture, “The Soul’s Awakening”? It represents a flapper of sorts gazingblonde well up in the peacherino class rubbering in a startled sort of way into the middle distance with a look in her eyes that seems to say, “Surely that is George’s step I hear on the mat!porch. Can this be love?” Well, Bobbie had a soul’s awakening too. I don’t suppose he had ever troubled to think in his life before—not really think. But now he was wearing his brain to the bone. [omitted] He was saying the sort of things to himself that the football coach says to the squad when they’re eight points down at the end of the second quarter.It was painful in a way, of course, to see a fellow human being so thoroughly in the soupup against it, but I felt strongly that it was all for the best. I could see as plainly as possible that all these brain-storms were improving Bobbie out of knowledge. When it was all over he might possibly become a rotter again of a sortchump of a sort again, but it would only be a pale reflection of the rotterchump he had been. It bore out the idea I had always had that what he needed was a real good jolt.
I saw a great deal of him these days. I was his best friend, and he came to me for sympathy. I gave it him, too, with both hands, but I never failed to hand him the Moral Lesson when I had him weak.
One day he came to me as I was sitting in the club, and I could see that he had had an idea. He looked happier than he had done infor weeks.
“Reggie,” he said, “I’m on the trail. This time I’m convinced that I shall pull it offwin out. I’ve remembered something of vital importance.”
“Yes?” I said.
“I remember distinctly,” he said, “that on Mary’s last birthday we went together to the Coliseumshow at Weinstein’s. How does that hit you?”
“It’s a fine bit of memorizing,” I said; “but how does it help?”
“Why, they change the programmeprogram every week there.”
“Ah!” I said. “Now you are talking.showing a flash of speed.”
“And the week we went one of the turns was Professor Someone’s Terpsichorean Cats. I recollect them distinctlydistinctly because Mary said it was a shame making cats do those stunts. Now, are we narrowing it down, or aren’t we? Reggie,Say, I’m going roundaround to the ColiseumWeinstein’s this minute, and I’m going to dig the date of those Terpsichorean Cats out of them, if I have to use a crowbar.”
So that got him within six days; for the management treated us like brothers; brought out the archives, and ran agilefat fingers over the pages till they treed the cats in the middle of May.
“I told you it was May,” said Bobbie. “Maybe you’ll listen to me another time.”
“If you’ve any sense,” I said, “there won’t be another time.”
And Bobbie saidallowed that there wouldn’t.
Once you get your memory on the run, it partsloosens up as if it enjoyed doing it. I had just got off to sleep that night when my telephone-bell rang. It was Bobbie, of course. He didn’t apologize.
“Reggie,” he said, “I’ve got it now for certainthe goods now sure. It’s just come to me. We saw those Terpsichorean Cats at a matinée, old manscout.”
“Yes?” I said.
“Well, don’t you see that that brings it down to two days? It must have been either Wednesday the seventh or Saturday the tenth.”
“Yes,” I said, “if they didn’t have daily matinées at the ColiseumWeinstein’s.”
I heard him give a sort of howl.
“Bobbie,” I said. My feet were freezing, but I was fond of him.
“I’ve remembered something too. It’s this. The day you went to the ColiseumWeinstein’s I lunched with you both at the RitzPiazza. You had forgotten to bring any moneyyour roll with you, so you wrote a chequecheck.”
“But I’m always writing chequeschecks.”
“You areSure. But this was for a tenner,hundred dollars and made out to the hotel. Hunt up your cheque-book and see how many cheques for ten poundsa hundred dollars payable to the RitzPiazza Hotel you wrote out between May the fifth and May the tenth.”
He gave a kind of gulp.
“Reggie,” he said, “you’re a genius. I’ve always said so. I believe you’ve got it. Hold the line.”
Presently he came back again[omitted].
“Halloa!Hello,” he said.
“I’m here,” I said.
“It was the eighth. Reggie, old man, I——”
“ToppingFine,” I said. “Good night.”
It was working along into the small hours now, but I thought I might as well make a night of it and finish the thing up, so I rang up ana hotel near the StrandWashington Square.
“Put me through to Mrs. Cardew,” I said.
“It’s lateSay, it’s pretty late,” said the man at the other end.
“And getting later every minute,” I said. “Buck along, laddie.Get a move on.”
I waited patiently. I had missed my beauty-sleep, and my feet had frozen hard, but I was past regrets.
“What is the matter?” said Mary’s voice.
“My feet are cold,” I said. “But I didn’t call you up to tell you that particularly. I’ve just been chatting with Bobbie, Mrs. Cardew.”
“Oh! Is that Mr. Pepper?”
“Yes. He’s remembered it, Mrs. Cardew.”
She gave a sort of scream. I’ve often thought how interesting it must be to be one of those ExchangeCentral girls. The things they must hear, don’t you know. Bobbie’s howl and gulp and Mrs. Bobbie’s scream and all about my feet and all that. Most interesting it must be.
“He’s remembered it!” she gasped.“He’s remembered it?” she gasped.
“He’s got it pinned down for keeps,” I said.
“Did you tell him?”
Well, I hadn’t.
“Was he—has he been—was he very worried?”
I chuckled. This was where I was billedscheduled to be the life and soul of the party.
“Worried! He was about the most worried manthing between here and EdinburghSan Francisco. He has been worrying as if he was paid to do it by the nation. He has started outin to worry after breakfast, and——”
Oh, well, you can never tell with women. My idea was that we should pass the rest of the night slapping each other on the back across the wire, and telling each other what bally brainybully good conspirators we were, don’t you know, and all that[omitted]. But I’d got just as far as this, when she bit at me. Absolutely!absolutely bit at me. I heard the snap. And then she said “Oh!” in that choked kind of way. And when a woman says “Oh!” like that, it means all the bad words she’d love to say if she only knew them.
And then she begancut loose.
“What brutes men are! What horrid brutes! How you could stand by and see poor dear Bobbie worrying himself into a fever, when a word from you would have put everything right, I can’t——”
“And you call yourself his friend! His friend!” (Metallic laugh, most unpleasant.) “It shows how one can be deceived. I used to think you a kind-hearted man.”
“But, I say, when I suggested the thing, you thought it perfectly——”
“I thought it hateful, abominable.”
“But you said it was absolutely top——cork—”
“I said nothing of the kind. And if I did, I didn’t mean it. I don’t wish to be unjust, Mr. Pepper, but I must say that to me there seems to be something positively fiendish in a man who can go out of his way to separate a husband from his wife, simply in order to amuse himself by gloating over his agony——”
“When one single word would have——”
“But you made me promise not to——” I bleated.
“And if I did, do you suppose I didn’t expect you to have the sense to break your promise?”
I had finishedwas through. I had no further observations to make. I hung up the receiver, and crawled into bed.
I still see Bobbie when he comes to the club, but I do not visit the old homestead[omitted]. He is friendly, but he stops short of issuing invitations. I ran across Mary at the AcademyHorse Show last week, and her eyes went through me like a couple of bullets through a pat of butter. And as they came out of the other side, and I limped off to piece myself together again, there occurred to me the simple epitaph which, when I am no more, I intend to have inscribed on my tombstone. It was this: “He was a man who acted from the best motives. There is one born every minute.”
For the British version alone, complete with illustrations and end notes, see the Strand magazine version. The American version with illustrations and end notes is also on this site.
You are welcome to draw your own conclusions, but it seems to me that though the British version was published first, it must have been adapted from an earlier version closer to the American magazine text. I can imagine a Strand editor changing “feel like thirty cents” to “feel pretty well fed up with things”; I cannot imagine a Collier’s editor doing the converse. Not all the British variants are this bland, and a few seem likely to be Wodehouse’s own wording rather than just a hack editor’s substitutions; I suspect that the majority of the changes fall into the latter category, however.