Pearson’s Magazine (UK), August 1905
I noticed that Pillingshot was smoking cigarettes, and asked him why.
“I’ve lost my pipe,” said Pillingshot.
He spoke without emotion.
“You appear to bear it with fortitude,” I said coldly. I hate to see a man deficient in the natural affections, and Pillingshot could not have taken it more coolly if he had lost his mother-in-law. He saw that I did not like it, and hastened to explain.
“No, no, Smith,” he said hurriedly. “It’s not that. I love my pipe passionately. In the whole course of our friendship, from the first moment that we met, we have not once fallen out. You wonder, then, why I do not mourn for its loss? I will tell you. It is because I know that that pipe will return.”
His face as he uttered these words was illumined by so soft and happy a smile that it became for the moment almost beautiful. Which, as you will admit if you ever see the normal Pillingshot, was a most remarkable phenomenon.
“Ten years ago,” he began in a dreamy, reminiscent voice, “I bought that pipe. But for Robertson—you know Robertson, the champion bore of clubland?—I might never have seen it, and when Robertson has to account for his conduct on the last day, I trust that that will be remembered in his favour. Not that he meant me to see it. He was an unconscious instrument. He was walking in front of me, and to avoid overtaking him I stopped and looked in at a tobacconist’s window. And there I saw it!”
“It was one of those pipes,” he said, “which defy description. It was not curved exactly, nor was it precisely straight. Well, it was just a pipe. You know what I mean. I went into the shop. How well I can recall every detail of that interview. How I longed to snatch my treasure from its plush case and fly with it. But I restrained myself. I bargained with the individual behind the counter. He wore a red tie with five blue horseshoes on it, and he had forgotten to shave that morning.
“After some discussion I bought the pipe, and for one blissful fortnight, knew what perfect happiness meant. Then I went abroad, and when I landed I found to my horror that the pipe was no longer in my pocket. I advertised. I hired criers. I had the military turned out. I asked everybody I met if they had seen a pipe. Not curved or straight, I explained. Simply a pipe. At last a humble fisherman called at my hotel. With him he brought it. I heaped rewards upon him, and promised to remember him in my will. He thanked me, and said that he had found the pipe inside a shark. He said it seemed to him worth mentioning.
“About a week afterwards I went with a few friends to look at the crater of Mount Vesuvius. As I bent over the edge to get a more satisfactory look, my pipe slipped from my mouth, and fell into the abyss. Then I definitely gave up hope. I ordered a complete suit of mourning, and bought a box of a hundred cigarettes. I couldn’t bear to let any other pipe pass my lips. I felt that it would be sacrilege. One morning the landlord of the hotel came in to announce that there had been an eruption of Mount Vesuvius during the night.
“He hinted that he had arranged it all for our delectation, and hoped we would remember it in his favour. It had destroyed three villages, he said, and would we care to see it? We went, and as I walked my foot knocked against something. There was my pipe resting against a piece of lava. Slightly charred, but otherwise in excellent shape.
“It would take too long to recount all its other adventures. About this time I was captured by brigands. They took everything I possessed, my money, my watch, my clothes, my boots, and my walking-stick—everything except the pipe. I returned to England and was almost immediately run over by a motor-car. It broke my left leg and three ribs, but not my pipe. I emerged from the hospital, and accepted an invitation to shoot at a friend’s house. On the second morning a person, who, whatever his other merits, was not a good shot, picked me off at ten yards. The doctor subsequently observed that if the shot had struck me a quarter of an inch to the left it would probably have injured my pipe. Some time after——”
At this moment Harrison came in.
“Hullo, Pillingshot,” he said, “why are you smoking cigarettes?”
Pillingshot said that he had lost his pipe.
“Curious,” said Harrison, “I’ve found a pipe. It was under the seat of a first-class smoking-carriage near York. My foot knocked against it.”
“What sort of a pipe?”
“Well, it was not exactly curved. Nor was it precisely straight. It was just a pipe. Here it is.”
Pillingshot uttered a shriek of rapture and called wildly for tobacco.