Pan Magazine, May 1921

Three Men and a Maid, by P. G. Wodehouse


Synopsis of Preceding Instalments

  The three men are Sam Marlowe, a lad of brawn and sinew, Eustace Hignett, a sad-eyed poet, and Bream Mortimer, a parrot-faced youth: the maid is Wilhelmina Bennett, a charming red-haired girl known as “Billie.” Each of the three men has fallen in love with Billie. Eustace Hignett, metaphorically speaking, has taken the full count and is hopelessly out of the running as far as Billie is concerned. All four happen to be travelling on the steamer “Atlantic,” from New York to England. A broken heart, coupled with a continuous condition of mal-de-mer, keeps Eustace in his cabin. Incidentally he is quite oblivious to the fact that Billie is a passenger on the same boat. Sam Marlowe makes quite an impression on Billie and ousts Bream Mortimer from his place in Billie’s affections. He proposes to her, and is accepted.
  Billie had a romantic nature which required the man she loved constantly to fulfil the role of dashing hero. Sam, ever anxious to shine in her estimation, overcomes his strong disinclination to provide a turn at the ship’s concert and promises to do an imitation of Frank Tinney. He compels Eustace to play his accompaniment, but Eustace, after striking the opening chord, is suddenly seized in the grip of mal-de-mer. He dashes from the piano, leaving Sam helpless and uncomfortable. Sam retires in confusion. Billie and a new-found friend, Jane Hubbard, a celebrated big game hunter, watch the performance in consternation. Jane Hubbard, with all the sympathy of the big and strong to the weak and helpless, dashes after Eustace. Sam, conscious that he has made rather an exhibition of himself, retires to his state-room, “a soul in torment.” He is aroused by the steward who gives him a note from Billie, asking him to come on to the top deck and speak to her.


Sam could not disguise it from himself that he was a little disappointed. For a first love letter, it might have been longer and perhaps a shade warmer. And, without running any risk of writer’s cramp, she might have signed it.

However, these were small matters. No doubt she had been in a hurry and all that sort of thing. The important point was that he was going to see her. When a man’s afraid, sings the bard, a beautiful maid is a cheering sight to see; and the same truth holds good when a man has made an exhibition of himself at a ship’s concert. A woman’s gentle sympathy, that was what Samuel Marlowe wanted more than anything else at the moment. That, he felt, was what the doctor ordered. He scrubbed the burnt cork off his face with all possible speed and changed his clothes and made his way to the upper deck. It was like Billie, he felt, to have chosen this spot for their meeting. It would be deserted and it was hallowed for them both by sacred associations.

She was standing at the rail looking out over the water. The moon was quite full. Out on the horizon to the south its light shone on the sea, making it look like the silver beach of some distant fairy island. The girl appeared to be wrapped in thought, and it was not till the sharp crack of Sam’s head against an overhanging stanchion announced his approach that she turned.

“Oh, is that you?”


“You’ve been a long time.”

“It wasn’t an easy job,” explained Sam, “getting all that burnt cork off. You’ve no notion how the stuff sticks. You have to use butter . . .”

She shuddered.


“But I did. You have to with burnt cork.”

“Don’t tell me these horrible things.” Her voice rose almost hysterically. “I never want to hear the words burnt cork mentioned again as long as I live.”

“I feel exactly the same.” Sam moved to her side.

“Darling,” he said in a low voice, “it was like you to ask me to meet you here. I know what you were thinking. You thought that I should need sympathy. You wanted to pet me, to smooth my wounded feelings, to hold me in your arms and tell me that, as we loved each other, what did anything else matter?”

“I didn’t.”

“You didn’t?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Oh, you didn’t!. I thought you did!” He looked at her wistfully. “I thought,” he said, “that possibly you might have wished to comfort me. I have been through a great strain. I have had a shock . . . .”

“And what about me?” she demanded passionately. “Haven’t I had a shock?”

He melted at once.

“Have you had a shock, too? Poor little thing! Sit down and tell me all about it.”

She looked away from him, her face working.

“Can’t you understand what a shock I have had? I thought you were the perfect knight.”

“Yes, isn’t it?”

“Isn’t what?”

“I thought you said it was a perfect night.”

“I said I thought you were a perfect knight.”

“Oh, ah!”

Silence fell. Sam was feeling hurt and bewildered. He could not understand her mood. He had come up expecting to be soothed and comforted and she was like a petulant iceberg. She gave a little sob.

“I put you on a pedestal and I find you have feet of clay. You have blurred the image which I formed of you. I can never think of you again without picturing you as you stood in that saloon, stammering and helpless . . . .”

“Well, what can you do when your pianist runs out on you?”

“You could have done something!” The words she had spoken only yesterday to Jane Hubbard came back to her. “I can’t forgive a man for looking ridiculous. Oh, what, what,” she cried, “induced you to try to give an imitation of Bert Williams?”

Sam started, stung to the quick.

“It wasn’t Bert Williams. It was Frank Tinney!”

“Well, how was I to know?”

“I did my best,” said Sam sullenly.

“That is the awful thought.”

“I did it for your sake.”

“I know. It gives me a horrible sense of guilt.” She shuddered again. Then suddenly, with the nervous quickness of a woman unstrung, thrust a small black golliwog into his hand.

“Take it!”

“What’s this?”

“You bought it for me yesterday at the barber’s shop. It is the only present which you have given me. Take it back.”

“I don’t want it. I shouldn’t know what to do with it.”

“You must take it,” she said in a low voice. “It is a symbol.”

“A what?”

“A symbol of our broken love.”

“I don’t see how you make that out. It’s a golliwog.”

“I can never marry you now.”

“What! Good heavens! Don’t be absurd.”

She shook her head.

“No, I couldn’t.”

“Oh, hang it all!”

“I couldn’t. I’m a strange girl . . .”

“You’re a darned silly girl . . .”

“I don’t see what right you have to say that,” she flared.

“I don’t see what right you have to say you can’t marry me and try to load me up with golliwogs,” he retorted with equal heat.

“Oh, can’t you understand?”

“No, I’m dashed if I can.”

She looked at him despondently.

“When I said I would marry you, you were a hero to me. You stood to me for everything that was noble and brave and wonderful. Now—” her voice trembled, “if I shut my eyes now, I can only see a man with a hideous black face making himself the laughing-stock of the ship. How can I marry you, haunted by that picture?”

“But, good heavens, you talk as though I made a habit of blacking up! You talk as though you expected me to come to the altar smothered in burnt cork.”

“I shall always think of you as I saw you to-night.”

She looked at him sadly. “There’s a bit of black still on your left ear.”

He tried to take her hand. But she drew it away. He fell back as if struck.

“So this is the end,” he muttered.

“Yes. It’s partly on your ear and partly on your cheek.”

“So this is the end,” he repeated.

“You had better go below and ask your steward to give you some more butter.”

He laughed bitterly.

“Good-bye, then, Miss Bennett!”

“Good-bye,” said Billie sadly. “I—I’m sorry.”

“Don’t mention it!”

“You do understand, don’t you?”

“You have made everything perfectly clear.”

“I hope—I hope you won’t be unhappy.”

“Unhappy!” Sam produced a strangled noise from his larynx. “Unhappy! I’m not unhappy! Whatever gave you that idea? I’m smiling! I’m laughing! I feel I’ve had a merciful escape.”

“It’s very unkind and rude of you to say that.”

“It reminds me of a moving picture I saw in New York. It was called ‘Saved from the Scaffold.’ ”


“I’m not unhappy! What have I got to be unhappy about? What on earth does any man want to get married for? I don’t. . . . Give me my gay bachelor life! My uncle Charlie used to say ‘It’s better luck to get married than it is to be kicked in the head by a mule.’ But he was an optimist. Good night, Miss Bennett. And good-bye—for ever.”

He turned on his heel and strode across the deck. From a white heaven the moon still shone benignantly down, mocking him. He had spoken bravely: the most captious critic could not but have admitted that he had made a good exit. But already his heart was aching.

As he drew near to his state-room, he was amazed and disgusted to hear a high tenor voice raised in song proceeding from behind the closed door.

“I fee-er naw faw in shee-ining arr-mor,
 Though his lance be sharrrp and-er keen;
But I fee-er, I fee-er the glah-mour
 Therough thy der-rooping lashes seen:
I fee-er, I fee-er the glah-mour . . .”

Sam flung open the door wrathfully. That Eustace Hignett should still be alive was bad—he had pictured him hurling himself overboard and bobbing about, a pleasing sight, in the wake of the vessel; that he should be singing was an outrage. Remorse, Sam felt, should have stricken Eustace Hignett dumb. Instead of which, here he was comporting himself like a blasted linnet. That was all wrong. The man could have no conscience whatever.

“Well,” he said sternly, “so there you are!”

Eustace Hignett looked up brightly, even beamingly. In the brief interval which had elapsed since Sam had seen him last, an extraordinary transformation had taken place in this young man. His wan look had disappeared. His eyes were bright. His face wore that beastly self-satisfied smirk which you see in pictures advertising certain makes of fine-mesh underwear.

“Hullo!” he said. “I was wondering where you had got to.”

“Never mind,” said Sam coldly, “where I had got to! Where did you get to and why? You poor, miserable worm,” he went on in a burst of generous indignation, “what have you to say for yourself? What do you mean by dashing away like that and killing my little entertainment?”

“Awfully sorry, old man. I hadn’t foreseen the cigar. I was bearing up tolerably well till I began to sniff the smoke. Then everything seemed to go black—I don’t mean you, of course. You were black already—and I got the feeling that I simply must get on deck and drown myself.”

“Well, why didn’t you?” demanded Sam, with a strong sense of injury. “I might have forgiven you then. But to come down here and find you singing . . .”

A soft light came into Eustace Hignett’s eyes.

“I want to tell you all about that,” he said. “It’s the most astonishing story. A miracle, you might almost call it. Makes you believe in Fate and all that kind of thing. A week ago I was on the subway in New York . . .”

He broke off while Sam cursed him, the subway, and the City of New York in the order named.

“My dear chap, what is the matter?”

“What is the matter? Ha!”

“Something is the matter,” persisted Eustace Hignett. “I can tell it by your manner. Something has happened to disturb and upset you. I know you so well that I can pierce the mask. What is it? Tell me.”

“Ha, ha!”

“You surely can’t still be brooding on that concert business? Why, that’s all over. I take it that after my departure you made the most colossal ass of yourself, but why let that worry you? These things cannot affect one permanently.”

“Can’t they? Let me tell you that, as a result of that concert, my engagement is broken off.”

Eustace sprang forward with outstretched hand.

“Not really? How splendid! Accept my congratulations! This is the finest thing that could possibly have happened. These are not idle words. As one who has been engaged to the girl himself, I speak feelingly. You are well out of it, Sam.”

Sam thrust aside his hand. Had it been his neck he might have clutched it eagerly, but he drew the line at shaking hands with Eustace Hignett.

“My heart is broken,” he said with dignity.

“That feeling will pass, giving way to one of devout thankfulness. I know! I’ve been there! After all . . . Wilhelmina Bennett . . . what is she? A rag and a bone and a hank of hair!”

“She is the only girl in the world, and owing to your idiotic behaviour, I have lost her.”

“You speak of the only girl in the world,” said Eustace blithely. “If you want to hear about the only girl in the world, I will tell you. A week ago I was on the subway in New York. . . .”

“I’m going to bed,” said Sam brusquely.

“All right. I’ll tell you while you’re undressing.”

“I don’t want to listen.”

“A week ago,” said Eustace Hignett, “I will ask you to picture me seated after some difficulty in a carriage in the New York subway. I got into conversation with a girl with an elephant gun. She had grave brown eyes, a wonderful personality, and this elephant gun.”

“Did she shoot you with it?”

“Shoot me? What do you mean? Why, no!”

“The girl must have been a fool!” said Sam bitterly. “The chance of a lifetime, and she missed it. Where are my pyjamas?”

“I haven’t seen your pyjamas. She talked to me about this elephant gun, and explained its mechanism. She told me the correct part of a hippopotamus to aim at, how to make a nourishing soup out of mangoes, and what to do when bitten by a Borneo wire-snake. Well, we parted at Sixty-sixth Street, and, strange as it may seem, I forgot all about her.”

“Do it again!”

“Tell it again?”

“Good heavens, no! Forget all about her again.”

“Nothing,” said Eustace Hignett gravely, “could make me do that. Our souls have blended. Little did I know that she was sailing on this very boat! But just now she came to me as I writhed on the deck. She came to me and healed me. Sam, that girl is an angel.”

“Switch off the light when you’ve finished.”

“She seemed to understand without a word how I was feeling. There are some situations which do not need words. She went away and returned with a mixture of some description in a glass. I don’t know what it was. It had Worcester Sauce in it. She put it to my lips. She made me drink it. She said it was what she always used in Africa for bull-calves with the staggers. Well, believe me or believe me not. . . . Are you asleep?”


“Believe me or believe me not, in under two minutes I was not merely freed from the nausea caused by your cigar, I was smoking myself! I was walking the deck with her without the slightest qualm. I was even able to look over the side from time to time and comment on the beauty of the moon on the water. . . . Jane Hubbard has restored my faith in woman. Sam! Sam!”


“I said that Jane Hubbard had restored my faith in woman.”

“Oh, all right.”

Eustace Hignett finished undressing and got into bed. With a soft smile on his face he switched off the light. There was a long silence, broken only by the distant purring of the engines.

At about twelve-thirty a voice came from the lower berth.


“What is it now?”

“There is a sweet womanly strength about her, Sam. She was telling me she once killed a panther with a hat-pin.”

Sam groaned and tossed on his mattress.

Silence fell again.

“At least I think it was a panther,” said Eustace Hignett, at a quarter past one.

“Either a panther or a puma.”


Chapter VIII

A week after the liner Atlantic had docked at Southampton Sam Marlowe might have been observed—and was observed by various of the residents—sitting on a bench on the esplanade of that rising watering-place, Bingley-on-the-Sea, in Sussex. The asphalt on the Bingley esplanade is several degrees more depressing than the asphalt on other esplanades. The Swiss waiters at the Hotel Magnificent, where Sam was stopping, are in a class of bungling incompetence by themselves, the envy and despair of all the other Swiss waiters at all the other Hotels Magnificent along the coast. For dreariness of aspect Bingley-on-the-Sea stands alone. The very waves that break on its shingle seem to creep up the beach reluctantly, as if it revolted them to have to come to such a place.

Why, then, was Sam Marlowe visiting this ozone-swept Gehenna? Why, with all the rest of England at his disposal, had he chosen to spend a week at breezy, blighted Bingley?

Simply because he had been disappointed in love.

To a certain extent the Hotel Magnificent had dulled the pain. At any rate, the service and cooking there had done much to take his mind off it. His heart still ached, but he felt equal to going to London and seeing his father, which, of course, he ought to have done seven days before.

He rose from his bench—he had sat down on it directly after breakfast—and went back to the hotel to inquire about trains. An hour later he had begun his journey, and two hours after that he was at the door of his father’s office.

The offices of the old-established firm of Marlowe, Thorpe, Prescott, Winslow and Appleby are in Ridgeway’s Inn, not far from Fleet Street. There is plenty of dirt in other parts of Ridgeway’s Inn, but nowhere is it so plentiful, so rich in alluvial deposits as on the offices of Marlowe, Thorpe, Prescott, Winslow and Appleby. As you tap on the topmost of the geological strata concealing the ground-glass of the door, a sense of relief and security floods your being. For in London grubbiness is the gauge of a lawyer’s respectability.

The brass plate, let into the woodwork of this door, is misleading. Reading it, you get the impression that on the other side quite a covey of lawyers await your arrival. The name of the firm leads you to suppose that there will be barely standing room in the office. You picture Thorpe jostling you aside as he makes for Prescott to discuss with him the latest case of demurrer, and Winslow and Appleby treading on your toes, deep in conversation on replevin. But these legal firms dwindle. The years go by and take their toll, snatching away here a Prescott, there an Appleby, till, before you know where you are, you are down to your last lawyer. The only surviving member of the firm of Marlowe, Thorpe—what I said before—was, at the time with which this story deals, Sir Mallaby Marlowe, son of the original founder of the firm and father of the celebrated black-face comedian, Samuel of that ilk; and the outer office, where callers were received and parked till Sir Mallaby could find time for them, was occupied by a single clerk.

When Sam opened the door this clerk, Jno. Peters by name, was seated on a high stool, holding in one hand a half-eaten sausage, in the other an extraordinarily large and powerful-looking revolver. At the sight of Sam he laid down both engines of destruction and beamed. He was not a particularly successful beamer, being hampered by a cast in one eye which gave him a truculent and sinister look.

Between Sam and himself there had always existed terms of great cordiality, starting from the time when the former was a small boy and it had been Jno. Peters’ mission to take him now to the Zoo, now to the train back to school.

“Why, Mr. Samuel!”

“Hullo, Peters!”

“We were expecting you back a week ago.”

“Oh, I had some things to see to before I came to town,” said Sam carelessly.

“So you got back safe!” said Jno. Peters.

“Safe! Why, of course.”

Peters shook his head.

“I confess that, when there was this delay in your coming here, I sometimes feared something might have happened to you. I recall mentioning it to the young lady who recently did me the honour to promise to become my wife.”

“Ocean liners aren’t often wrecked nowadays.”

“I was thinking more of the brawls on shore. America’s a dangerous country. But perhaps you were not in touch with the underworld?”

“I don’t think I was.”

“Ah!” said Jno. Peters significantly.

He took up the revolver, gave it a fond and almost paternal look, and replaced it on the desk.

“What on earth are you doing with that thing?” asked Sam.

Mr. Peters lowered his voice.

“I’m going to America myself in a few days’ time, Mr. Samuel. It’s my annual holiday and the guvnor’s sending me over with papers in connection with The People v. Schultz and Bowen. It’s a big case over there. A client of ours is mixed up in it, an American gentleman. I am to take these important papers to his legal representative in New York. So I thought it best to be prepared.”

The first smile that he had permitted himself in nearly two weeks flitted across Sam’s face.

“What on earth sort of place do you think New York is?” he asked. “It’s safer than London.”

“Ah, but what about the underworld? I’ve seen these American films that they send over here, Mr. Samuel. Every Saturday night regular I take my young lady to a cinema, and, I tell you, they teach you something. Did you ever see Wolves of the Bowery? There was a man in that in just my position, carrying important papers, and what they didn’t try to do to him! No, I’m taking no chances, Mr. Samuel!”

“I should have said you were, lugging that thing about with you.”

Mr. Peters seemed wounded.

“Oh, I understand the mechanism perfectly, and I am becoming a very fair shot. When I get home of a night I try how quick I can draw. You have to draw like a flash of lightning, Mr. Samuel. If you’d ever seen a film called ‘Two-Gun-Thomas’ you’d realise that. You haven’t time to wait loitering about.”

“I haven’t,” agreed Sam. “Is my father in? I’d like to see him if he’s not busy.”

Mr. Peters, recalled to his professional duties, shed his sinister front like a garment. He picked up a speaking-tube and blew down it.

“Mr. Samuel to see you, Sir Mallaby. Yes, sir, very good. Will you go right in, Mr. Samuel?”

Sam proceeded to the inner office, and found his father dictating into the attentive ear of Miss Milliken, his elderly and respectable stenographer, replies to his morning mail.

The grime which encrusted the lawyer’s professional stamping-ground did not extend to his person. Sir Mallaby Marlowe was a dapper little man, with a round, cheerful face and a bright eye. His morning coat had been cut by London’s best tailor, and his trousers perfectly creased by a sedulous valet. A pink carnation in his buttonhole matched his healthy complexion. His golf handicap was twelve. His sister, Mrs. Horace Hignett, considered him worldly.

“Dear Sirs, We are in receipt of your favour and in reply beg to state that nothing will induce us . . . will induce us . . . where did I put that letter? Ah! . . . nothing will induce us . . . oh, tell ’em to go to blazes, Miss Milliken.”

“Very well, Sir Mallaby.”

“That’s that. Ready? Messrs. Brigney, Goole and Butterworth. What infernal names these people have. Sirs, On behalf of our client . . . oh, hullo, Sam!”

“Good morning, father.”

His attention now diverted to his son, Sir Mallaby seemed to remember that the latter had just returned from a long journey, and that he had not seen him for many weeks. He inspected him with interest.

“Very glad you’re back, Sam. So you didn’t win?”

“No, I got beaten in the semi-finals.”

“American amateurs are a very hot lot: the best ones. I suppose you were weak on the greens. I warned you about that. You’ll have to rub up your putting before next year.”

At the idea that any such mundane pursuit as practising putting could appeal to his broken spirit now, Sam uttered a bitter laugh. It was as if Dante had recommended some lost soul in the Inferno to occupy his mind by knitting jumpers.

“Well, you seem to be in great spirits,” said Sir Mallaby approvingly. “It’s pleasant to hear your merry laugh again, isn’t it, Miss Milliken?”

“Extremely exhilarating,” agreed the stenographer, adjusting her spectacles and smiling at Sam, for whom there was a soft spot in her heart.

A sense of the futility of life oppressed Sam. As he gazed in the glass that morning, he had thought, not without a certain gloomy satisfaction, how remarkably pale and drawn his face looked. And these people seemed to imagine that he was in the highest spirits. His laughter, which had sounded to him like the wailing of a demon, struck Miss Milliken as exhilarating.

“On behalf of our client, Mr. Wibblesley Eggshaw,” said Sir Mallaby, swooping back to duty once more, “we beg to state that we are prepared to accept service . . . sounds like a tennis match, eh, Sam? It isn’t though. This young ass, Eggshaw . . . what time did you dock this morning?”

“I landed nearly a week ago.”

“A week ago! Then what the deuce have you been doing with yourself? Why haven’t I seen you?”

“I’ve been down at Bingley-on-the-Sea.”

“Bingley! What on earth were you doing at that God-forsaken place?”

“Wrestling with myself,” said Sam with simple dignity.

Sir Mallaby’s agile mind had leaped back to the letter which he was answering.

“We should be glad to meet you . . . Wrestling, eh? Well, I like a boy to be fond of manly sports. Still, life isn’t all athletics. Life is real! Life is earnest, Sam. I want to speak to you about that when I’ve finished answering these infernal letters. Where was I? We should be glad to meet you at any time, if you will make an appointment. . . . Bingley-on-the-Sea! Good heavens! Why Bingley-on-the-Sea? Why not Margate while you were about it?”

“Margate is too bracing. I did not wish to be braced. Bingley suited my mood. It was grey and dark and it rained all the time, and the sea slunk about in the distance like some baffled beast . . .”

He stopped, becoming aware that his father was not listening. Sir Mallaby’s attention had returned to the letter.

“Oh, what’s the good of answering the dashed thing at all?” said Sir Mallaby. “Brigney, Goole and Butterworth know perfectly well that they’ve got us in a cleft stick. Butterworth knows it better than Goole, and Brigney knows it better than Butterworth. This young fool, Eggshaw, Sam, admits that he wrote the girl twenty-three letters, twelve of them in verse, and twenty-one specifically asking her to marry him, and he comes to me and expects me to get him out of it. The girl is suing him for ten thousand.”

“How like a woman!”

Miss Milliken bridled reproachfully at this slur on her sex. Sir Mallaby took no notice of it whatever.

“. . . If you will make an appointment, when we can discuss the matter without prejudice. Get those typed, Miss Milliken. Have a cigar, Sam. Miss Milliken, tell Peters as you go out that I am occupied with a conference and can see nobody for half an hour.”

When Miss Milliken had withdrawn, Sir Mallaby occupied ten seconds of the period which he had set aside for communion with his son in staring silently at him.

“I’m glad you’re back, Sam,” he said at length. “I want to have a talk with you. You know, it’s time you were settling down. I’ve been thinking about you while you were in America, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been letting you drift along. Very bad for a young man. You’re getting on. I don’t say you’re senile, but you’re not twenty-one any longer, and at your age I was working like a beaver. In fact, it’s time you took your coat off and started work.”

“I am quite ready, father.”

“You didn’t hear what I said,” exclaimed Sir Mallaby with a look of surprise. “I said it was time you began work.”

“And I said I was quite ready.”

“Bless my soul! You’ve changed your views a trifle since I saw you last.”

“I have changed them altogether.”

“Your trip has done you good,” said Sir Mallaby approvingly. “The sea air has given you some sense. I’m glad of it. It makes it easier for me to say something else that I’ve had on my mind for a good while. Sam, it’s time you got married.”

Sam barked bitterly. His father looked at him with concern.

“Swallowed some smoke the wrong way?”

“I was laughing,” explained Sam with dignity.

Sir Mallaby shook his head.

“I don’t want to discourage your high spirits, but I must ask you to approach this matter seriously. Marriage would do you a world of good, Sam. It would brace you up. You really ought to consider the idea. I was two years younger than you are when I married your poor mother, and it was the making of me. A wife might make something of you.”


“I don’t see why she shouldn’t. There’s lots of good in you, my boy, though you may not think so.”

“When I said it was impossible,” said Sam coldly, “I was referring to the impossibility of the possibility . . . I mean, that it was impossible that I could possibly . . . in other words, father, I can never marry. My heart is dead.”

“Your what?”

“My heart.”

“Don’t be a fool. There’s nothing wrong with your heart. All our family have had hearts like steam-engines. Probably you have been feeling a sort of burning. Knock off cigars and that will soon stop.”

“You don’t understand me. I mean that a woman has treated me in a way that has finished her whole sex as far as I am concerned. For me, women do not exist.”

“You didn’t tell me about this,” said Sir Mallaby, interested. “When did this happen? Did she jilt you?”


“In America was it?”

“On the boat.”

Sir Mallaby chuckled heartily.

“My dear boy, you don’t mean to tell me that you’re taking a shipboard flirtation seriously. Why, you’re expected to fall in love with a different girl every time you go on a voyage. You’ll get over this in a week. You’d have got over it by now if you hadn’t gone and buried yourself in a depressing place like Bingley-on-the-Sea.”

The whistle of the speaking-tube blew. Sir Mallaby put the instrument to his ear.

“All right,” he turned to Sam. “I shall have to send you away now, Sam. Man waiting to see me. Good-bye. By the way, are you doing anything to-night?”


“Not got a wrestling match on with yourself, or anything like that? Well, come to dinner at the house. Seven-thirty. Don’t be late.”

Sam, reaching Bruton Street at a quarter past seven, was informed by the butler who admitted him that his father was dressing and would be down in a few minutes. The butler, an old retainer of the Marlowe family, who, if he had not actually dandled Sam on his knees when an infant, had known him as a small boy, was delighted to see him again.

“Missed you very much, Mr. Samuel, we all have,” he said affectionately, as he preceded him to the drawing-room.

“Yes?” said Sam absently.

“Very much indeed, sir. I happened to remark only the other day that the place didn’t seem the same without your happy laugh. It’s good to see you back once more, looking so well and merry.”

Sam stalked into the drawing-room with the feeling that comes to all of us from time to time, that it is hopeless to struggle. The whole damned circle of his acquaintance seemed to have made up their minds that he had not a care in the world, so what was the use? He lowered himself into a deep armchair and lit a cigarette.

Presently the butler reappeared with a cocktail on a tray. Sam drained it, and scarcely had the door closed behind the old retainer when an abrupt change came over the whole outlook. What had he got to worry about? He was a young man, fit and strong, in the springtide of life, just about to plunge into an absorbing business. Why should he brood over a sentimental episode which had ended a little unfortunately. It had ended—that was the point. It was over, a thing of the past.

He would never see the girl again. If anything in this world was certain, that was. She would go her way, and he his. And he didn’t want to see her again. The whole episode was concluded. Wilhelmina Bennett was nothing but a memory. She was a ghost, a wraith, a spectre. “And are you going to allow yourself to be snookered by a spectre?” demanded the cocktail masterfully, lighting up a fresh section of the hinterland with its torch. “No!” replied Samuel Marlowe’s soul, squaring its shoulders and chucking out its chest. “Not by a darn sight!” And Samuel Marlowe rose from his chair, a new man, to greet his father, who came in at that moment fingering a snowy white tie.

Sam started at his parent’s splendour in some consternation. Sir Mallaby’s neat little barrel of a stomach was sheathed in a waistcoat of white and gleaming as his tie. The tails of his well-cut coat flapped to his knees. Sam himself, with his dinner-jacket and black tie, felt in comparison almost like a tramp cyclist.

“Great Scott, father! Are you expecting a lot of people? I thought we were dining alone.”

“That’s all right, my boy. A dinner-jacket is perfectly in order. We shall be quite a small party. Six in all. You and I, a friend of mine and his daughter, a friend of my friend’s friend and my friend’s friend’s son.”

“Surely that’s more than six?”


“It sounded more.”

“Six,” said Sir Mallaby firmly. He raised a shapely hand with the fingers outspread. “Count ’em for yourself.” He twiddled his thumb. “Number one—Bennett.”

“Who?” cried Sam.

“Bennett. Rufus Bennett. He’s an American over here for the summer. Haven’t I ever mentioned his name to you? He’s a great fellow. Always thinking he’s at death’s door but keeps up a fine appetite. Does one good to see him eat. I’ve been his legal representative in London for years. Then——” Sir Mallaby twiddled his first finger—“there’s his daughter Wilhelmina, who has just arrived in England.” A look of enthusiasm came into Sir Mallaby’s face. “Sam, my boy, I don’t intend to say a word about Miss Wilhelmina Bennett, because I think there’s nothing more prejudicial than singing a person’s praises in advance. I merely remark that I fancy you will appreciate her! I’ve only met her once and then only for a few minutes, but what I say is, if there’s a girl living who’s likely to make you forget whatever fool of a woman you may be fancying yourself in love with at the moment, that girl is Wilhelmina Bennett! I don’t attempt to influence you in any way. All I ask of you is, when she arrives, to take a look at her. You won’t find it hard. She is easy to look at, Sam. Very easy! In all my life I have never seen hair of such a gorgeous shade! A deep rich red, Sam my boy, like . . . have you ever seen autumn leaves with the sun on them? Well, like that. But there, you will be seeing her for yourself in a minute or two. The others are Bennett’s friend, Henry Mortimer, also an American—a big lawyer, I believe, on the other side—and his son Bream. I haven’t met either of them. They ought to be here any moment now.” He looked at his watch. “Ah! I think that was the front door. Yes, I can hear them on the stairs.”


Chapter IX

After the first shock of astonishment, Sam Marlowe had listened to his father’s harangue with a growing indignation which, towards the end of the speech, had assumed the proportions of a cold fury. If there is one thing which your high-spirited young man resents, it is being the toy of Fate. He chafes at the idea that Fate has got it all mapped out for him. Fate, thought Sam, had constructed a cheap, mushy, sentimental, five-reel film scenario, and without consulting him had had the cool cheek to cast him for one of the puppets.

Sam Marlowe felt sulky and defiant. This girl had treated him shamefully, and he wanted to have nothing more to do with her. If he had had his wish, he would never have met her again. Fate, in her interfering way, had forced this meeting on him and was now complacently looking to him to behave in a suitable manner. Well, he would show her! In a few seconds now, Billie and he would be meeting. He would be distant and polite. He would be cold and aloof. He would chill her to the bone, and rip a hole in the scenario six feet wide. Then the door opened, and the room became full of Bennetts and Mortimers.


Billie, looking, as Marlowe could not but admit, particularly pretty, headed the procession. Following her came a large, red-faced man whose buttons seemed to creak beneath the strain of their duties. After him trotted a small, thin, pale, semi-bald individual who wore glasses and carried his nose raised and puckered as though some faintly unpleasant smell were troubling his nostrils. The fourth member of the party was dear old Bream.

There was a confused noise of mutual greetings and introductions, and then Bream got a good sight of Sam and flapped forward with his right wing outstretched.

“Why, hello!” said Bream.

“How are you, Mortimer?” said Sam coldly.

“What! do you know my son?” exclaimed Sir Mallaby.

“Came over in the boat together,” said Bream.

“Capital!” said Sir Mallaby. “Old friends, eh? Miss Bennett,” he turned to Billie, who had been staring wide-eyed at her late fiancé, “let me present my son, Sam. Sam, this is Miss Bennett.”

“How do you do?” said Sam.

“How—how do you do?” said Billie with a little gasp.

“Bennett, you’ve never met my son, I think?”

Mr. Bennett peered at Sam with protruding eyes which gave him the appearance of a rather unusually stout prawn.

“How are you?” he asked, with such intensity that Sam unconsciously found himself replying to a question which does not as a rule call for any answer.

“Very well, thanks.”

Mr. Bennett shook his head moodily. “You are lucky to be able to say so! Very few of us can assert as much. I can truthfully say that in the last fifteen years I have not known what it is to enjoy sound health for a single day. Marlowe,” he proceeded, swinging ponderously round on Sir Mallaby like a liner turning in the river, “I assure you that at twenty-five minutes past four this afternoon I was very nearly convinced that I should have to call you up on the ’phone and cancel this dinner engagement. I had shooting pains in the small of my back, my tongue was furry, and there were distinct indications of fever. Fortunately, I pulled round a little subsequently, but I am still a sick man. When I prod myself sharply in the side, there is pain. I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Abstain from prodding yourself,” said Mr. Mortimer, Senior, judicially. He gave out his lightest utterances as if he were administering professional advice to an anxious client. Just as few parrots have ever looked so parrot-like as Bream, few lawyers have ever looked so like lawyers as Mr. Mortimer. In repose he had always an air of waiting to be consulted on some point of legal interest.

“Capital suggestion!” said Sir Mallaby cheerily. “You are among friends, Bennett. If you don’t prod yourself, nobody here will prod you.”

Sir Mallaby Marlowe’s dinner table, which, like most of the furniture in the house had belonged to his deceased father and had been built at a period when people liked things big and solid, was a good deal too spacious to be really ideal for a small party. A white sea of linen separated each diner from the diner opposite and created a forced intimacy with the person seated next to him. Billie Bennett and Sam Marlowe, as a consequence, found themselves, if not exactly in a solitude of their own, at least sufficiently cut off from their kind to make silence between them impossible.

“How strange meeting you here,” she said.

Sam, who had been crumbling bread in an easy and debonair manner, looked up and met her eye. Its expression was one of cheerful friendliness. He could not see his own eye, but he imagined and hoped that it was cold and forbidding, like the surface of some bottomless mountain tarn.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said, how strange meeting you here.”

“Why?” said Sam coldly. “It is my father’s house.”

“I never dreamed Sir Mallaby was your father.”

“I knew it all along,” said Sam, and there was an interval caused by the maid insinuating herself between them and collecting his soup plate. He sipped sherry and felt a sombre self-satisfaction. He had, he considered, given the conversation the right tone from the start. Cool and distant. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Billie bite her lip. He turned to her again. Now that he had definitely established the fact that he and she were strangers, meeting by chance at a dinner-party, he was in a position to go on talking.

“And how do you like England, Miss Bennett?”

Billie’s eye had lost its cheerful friendliness. A somewhat feline expression had taken its place.

“Pretty well,” she replied.

“You don’t like it?”

“Well, the way I look at it is this. It’s no use grumbling. One has got to realise that in England one is in a savage country, and one should simply be thankful one isn’t eaten by the natives.”

“What makes you call England a savage country?” demanded Sam, a staunch patriot, deeply stung.

“What would you call a country where you can’t get ice, central heating, corn-on-the-cob, or bathrooms? My father and Mr. Mortimer have just taken a house down on the coast and there’s just one niggly little bathroom in the place.”

“Is that your only reason for condemning England?”

“Oh, no, it has other drawbacks.”

“Such as?”

“Well, Englishmen, for instance. Young Englishmen in particular. English young men are awful! Idle, rude, conceited, and ridiculous.”

Marlowe refused hock with a bitter intensity which nearly startled the old retainer, who had just offered it to him, into dropping the decanter in his surprise.

“How many English young men have you met?”

Billie met his eye squarely and steadily. “Well, now that I come to think of it, not many. In fact, very few. As a matter of fact, only——


“Well, very few,” said Billie. “Yes,” she said meditatively, “I suppose I really have been rather unjust. I should not have condemned a class simply because . . . I mean, I suppose there are young Englishmen who are not rude and ridiculous?”

“I suppose there are American girls who have hearts.”

“Oh, plenty.”

“I’ll believe that when I meet one.”

Sam paused. Cold aloofness was all very well, but this conversation was developing into a vulgar brawl. The ghosts of dead and gone Marlowes, all noted for their courtesy to the sex, seemed to stand beside his chair, eyeing him reprovingly. His work, they seemed to whisper, was becoming raw. It was time to jerk the interchange of thought back into the realm of distant civility.

“Are you making a long stay in London, Miss Bennett?”

“No, not long. We are going down to the country almost immediately. I told you my father and Mr. Mortimer had taken a house there.”

“You will enjoy that.”

“I’m sure I shall. Mr. Mortimer’s son Bream will be there. That will be nice.”

“Why?” said Sam backsliding.

There was a pause.

He isn’t rude and ridiculous, eh?” said Sam gruffly.

“Oh, no. His manners are perfect, and he has such a natural dignity,” she went on, looking affectionately across the table at the heir of the Mortimers, who, finding Mr. Bennett’s medical confidences a trifle fatiguing, was yawning broadly and absently balancing his wine glass on a fork.

“Besides,” said Billie in a soft and dreamy voice, “we are engaged to be married!”

(To be continued)



Text printed in green above is also present in US editions, but is missing from the UK version The Girl on the Boat.
Text printed in purple above is also present in UK editions, but is missing from the US version Three Men and a Maid.
Text printed in blue above is only present in this Pan serialization.
In general, only phrases of a few words or more are thus marked; simple word substitutions are not usually shown by colors here, and there is no attempt to present text that appears in one or both book versions which does not appear in this serial.
Printer’s errors corrected above:
Magazine had extraneous single quote mark: “I’ fee-er naw faw”; removed as in other sources.
Magazine omitted closing quotation marks in “you asleep?”; “in, Mr. Samuel?”; “prod you.”
Magazine omitted first hyphen in ‘Two-Gun-Thomas’.