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JEROME K.JEROME



THEY AND I




HE SIGHED WHEN HE SAW OUR KITCHEN"

(Page 176)



THEY AND I



BY



JEROME K. JEROME

Author of "Three Men in a Boa'/^Hle
Thoughts of an Idle Fellow," "Second
Thoughts of an Idle FiMquf"> t fc. I ■



FRONTISPIECE BY E. A. POUCHER




NEW YORK

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

1909



J5t
t



Copyright, 1909, by
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

Published, September, 1909



CHAPTER I

" It is not a large house," I said. " We don't
want a large house. Two spare "bedrooms, and
the little three-cornered place you see, 'marked
there on the plan, next to the bathroom and which
will just do for a bachelor, will be all we shall
require: at all events for the present. Later on,
if I ever get rich we can throw out a wing. The
kitchen I shall have to break to your mother
gently. Whatever the original architect could
have been thinking of "

"Never mind the kitchen," said Dick; "what
about the billiard-room?"

The way children nowadays will interrupt a
parent is nothing short of a national disgrace. I
also wish Dick would not sit on the table, swinging
his legs. It is not respectful. " Why, when I
was a boy," as I said to him, " I should as soon
have thought of sitting on a table, interrupting

my father "

" What's this thing in the middle of the hall,
that looks like a grating?" demanded Robina.

1.0



2 THEY AND I

" She means the stairs," explained Dick.

" Then why don't they look like stairs," com-
mented Robina.

"They do," replied Dick, "to people with
sense."

; ' They don't," persisted Robina, " they look
like a gratmg." -Robina, with the plan spread out
across her knee, was sitting balanced on the arm
of an easy chair. Really, I hardly see the use of
buying chairs for these people. Nobody seems to
know what they are for — except it be one or an-
other of the dogs. Perches are all they want.

" If we threw the drawing-room into the hall
and could do away with the stairs," thought Ro-
bina, " we should be able to give a dance now and
then."

" Perhaps," I suggested " you would like to
clear out the house altogether, leaving nothing but
the four bare walls. That would give us still
more room, that would. For just living in we
could fix up a shed in the garden; or "

"I'm talking seriously," said Robina; "what's
the good of a drawing-room? One only wants it
to show the sort of people into that one wishes
hadn't come. They'd sit about, looking miser-



THEY AND I 3

able, just as well anywhere else. If we could
only get rid of the stairs "

" Oh, of course! we could get rid of the stairs,"
I agreed. " It would be a bit awkward at first,
when we wanted to go to bed. But I daresay
we should get used to it. We could have a ladder
and climb up to our rooms through the windows.
Or we might adopt the Norwegian method and
have the stairs outside."

" I wish you would be sensible," said Robin.

" I am trying to be," I explained; " and I am
also trying to put a little sense into you. At
present you are crazy about dancing. If you had
your way, you would turn the house into a dancing
saloon with primitive sleeping-accommodation at-
tached. It will last six months, your dancing
craze. Then you will want the house transformed
into a swimming-bath, or a skating-rink, or cleared
out for hockey. My idea may be conventional. I
don't expect you to sympathise with it. My no-
tion is just an ordinary Christian house, not a gym-
nasium. There are going to be bedrooms in this
house, and there's going to be a staircase leading
to them. It may strike you as sordid, but there
is also going to be a kitchen: though why when



4 THEY AND I

building the house they should have put the
kitchen "

11 Don't forget the billiard-room," said Dick.

" If you thought more of your future career,
and less about billiards," Robin pointed out to
him, " perhaps you'd get through your Littlego
in the course of the next few years. If Pa only
had sense — I mean if he wasn't so absurdly in-
dulgent wherever you are concerned, he would
not have a billiard-table in the house."

" You talk like that," retorted Dick, " merely
because you can't play."

" I can beat you, anyhow," retorted Robin.

11 Once," admitted Dick — " once in six weeks."

II Twice," corrected Robin.

" You don't play," Dick explained to her; " you
just whack round and trust to Providence."

II I don't whack round," said Robin; " I always
aim at something. When you try and it doesn't
come off, you say it's 'hard luck'; and when I
try and it does come off, you say it's fluking. So
like a man."

" You both of you," I said, " attach too much
importance to the score. When you try for a
cannon off the white and hit it on the wrong side



THEY AND I 5

and send it into a pocket, and your own ball
travels on and makes a losing hazard off the red,
instead of being vexed with yourselves "

" If you get a really good table, governor,"
said Dick, " I'll teach you billiards."

I do believe Dick really thinks he can play. It
is the same with golf. Beginners are invariably
lucky. "I think I shall like it," they tell you;
" I seem to have the game in me, if you under-
stand."

There is a friend of mine, an old sea-captain.
He is the sort of man that when the three balls
are lying in a straight line, tucked up under the
cushion, looks pleased; because then he knows
he can make a cannon and leave the red just
where he wants it. An Irish youngster named
Malooney, a college chum of Dick's, was staying
with us; and the afternoon being wet, the Captain
said he would explain it to Malooney, how a
young man might practise billiards without any
danger of cutting the cloth. He taught him how
to hold the cue, and he told him how
to make a bridge. Malooney was grateful, and
worked for about an hour. He did not show
much promise. He is a powerfully built young



6 THEY AND I

man, and he didn't seem able to get it into his
head that he wasn't playing cricket. Whenever
he hit a little low the result was generally lost
ball. To save time — and damage to furniture —
Dick and I fielded for him. Dick stood at long-
stop, and I was short slip. It was dangerous
work, however, and when Dick had caught him
out twice running, we agreed that we had won,
and took him in to tea. In the evening — none
of the rest of us being keen to try our luck a
second time — the Captain said, that just for the
joke of the thing, he would give Malooney eighty-
five and play him a hundred up. To confess the
truth, I find no particular fun myself in playing
billiards with the Captain. The game consists,
as far as I am concerned, in walking round the
table throwing him back the balls, and saying
"Good I" By the time my turn comes I don't
seem to care what happens; everything seems
against me. He is a kind old gentleman and he
means well, but the tone in which he says " Hard
lines ! " whenever I miss an easy stroke irritates
me. I feel I'd like to throw the balls at his head
and fling the table out of the window. I suppose
it is that I am in a fretful state of mind, but the



THEY AND I 7

mere way in which he chalks his cue aggravates
me. He carries his own chalk in his waistcoat
pocket — as if our chalk wasn't good enough for
him — and when he has finished chalking, he
smooths the tip round with his finger and thumb
and taps the cue against the table. " Oh ! go on
with the game," I want to say to him; " don't be
so full of tricks."

The Captain led off with a miss in baulk.
Malooney gripped his cue, drew in a deep breath,
and let fly. The result was ten: a cannon and
all three balls in the same pocket. As a matter
of fact he made the cannon twice; but the second
time, as we explained to him, of course did not
count.

"Good beginning!" said the Captain.

Malooney seemed pleased with himself, and
took off his coat.

Malooney's ball missed the red on its first jour-
ney up the table by about a foot, but found it later
on and sent it into a pocket.

" Ninety-nine plays nothing," said Dick, who
was marking. " Better make it a hundred and
fifty, hadn't we, Captain?"

" Well, I'd like to get in a shot," said the Cap-



8 THEY AND I

tain, " before the game is over. Perhaps we had
better make it a hundred and fifty, if Mr. Ma-
looney has no objection."

" Whatever you think right, sir," said Rory
Malooney.

Malooney finished his break for twenty-two,
leaving himself hanging over the middle pocket
and the red tucked up in baulk.

" Nothing plays a hundred and eight," said
Dick.

"When I want the score," said the Captain,
" I'll ask for it."

" Beg pardon, sir," said Dick.

" I hate a noisy game," said the Captain.

The Captain, making up his mind without much
waste of time, sent his ball under the cushion, six
inches outside baulk.

" What will I do here? " asked Malooney.

11 1 don't know what you will do," said the
Captain; " I'm waiting to see."

Owing to the position of the ball, Malooney
was unable to employ his whole strength. All
he did that turn was to pocket the Captain's ball
and leave himself under the bottom cushion, four
inches from the red. The Captain said a nautical



THEY AND I 9

word, and gave another miss. Malooney squared
up to the balls for the third time. They flew be-
fore him, panic-stricken. They banged against
one another, came back and hit one another again
for no reason whatever. The red, in particular,
Malooney had succeeded apparently in frighten-
ing out of its wits. It is a stupid ball, generally
speaking, our red — its one idea to get under a
cushion and watch the game. With Malooney it
soon found it was safe nowhere on the table. Its
only hope was pockets. I may have been mis-
taken, my eye may have been deceived by the
rapidity of the play, but it seemed to me that
the red never waited to be hit. When it saw
Malooney's ball coming for it at the rate of forty
miles an hour, it just made for the nearest pocket.
It rushed round the table looking for pockets.
If, in its excitement, it passed an empty pocket,
it turned back and crawled in. There were times
when in its terror it jumped the table and took
shelter under the sofa or behind the sideboard.
One began to feel sorry for the red.

The Captain had scored a legitimate thirty-
eight, and Malooney had given him twenty-four,
when it really seemed as if the Captain's chance



io THEY AND I

had come. I could have scored myself as the balls
were then.

" Sixty-two plays one hundred and twenty-eight.
Now then, Captain, game in your hands," said
Dick.

We gathered round. The children left their
play. It was a pretty picture: the bright young
faces, eager with expectation, the old worn veteran
squinting down his cue, as if afraid that watching
Malooney's play might have given it the squirms.

" Now follow this," I whispered to Malooney.
" Don't notice merely what he does, but try and
understand why he does it. Any fool — after a
little practice, that is — can hit a ball. But why
do you hit it? What happens after you've hit
it? What "

" Hush," said Dick.

The Captain drew his cue back and gently
pushed it forward.

" Pretty stroke," I whispered to Malooney;
" now, that's the sort "

I offer, by way of explanation, that the Captain
by this time was probably too full of bottled-up
language to be master of his nerves. The ball
travelled slowly past the red. Dick said after-



THEY AND I n

wards that you couldn't have put so much as a
sheet of paper between them. It comforts a man,
sometimes, when you tell him this; and at other
times it only makes him madder. It travelled on
and passed the white — you could have put quite
a lot of paper between it and the white — and
dropped with a contented thud into the top left-
hand pocket.

" Why does he do that? " Malooney whispered.
Malooney has a singularly hearty whisper.

Dick and I got the women and children out
of the room as quickly as we could, but of course
Veronica managed to tumble over something on
the way — Veronica would find something to tum-
ble over in the desert of Sahara; and a few days
later I overheard expressions, scorching their way
through the nursery door, that made my hair
rise up. I entered, and found Veronica standing
on the table. Jumbo was sitting upon the music
stool. The poor dog himself was looking scared,
though he must have heard a bit of language in
his time, one way and another.

" Veronica," I said, " are you not ashamed of
yourself? You wicked child, how dare you "

" It's all right," said Veronica. " I don't really



i2 THEY AND I

mean any harm. He's a sailor, and I have to talk
to him like that, else he don't know he's being
talked to."

I pay hard-working, conscientious ladies to
teach this child things right and proper for her
to know. They tell her clever things that Julius
Caesar said; observations made by Marcus Au-
relius that, pondered over, might help her to be-
come a beautiful character. She complains that it
produces a strange buzzy feeling in her head; and
her mother argues that perhaps her brain is of
the creative order, not intended to remember much
— thinks that perhaps she is going to be some-
thing. A good round-dozen oaths the Captain
must have let fly before Dick and I succeeded in
rolling her out of the room. She had only heard
them once, yet, so far as I could judge, she had got
them letter perfect.

The Captain, now no longer under the neces-
sity of employing all his energies to suppress his
natural instincts, gradually recovered form, and
eventually the game stood at one hundred and
forty-nine all. Malooney to play. The Captain
had left the balls in a position that would have
disheartened any other opponent than Malooney.



THEY AND I 13

To any other opponent than Malooney the Cap-
tain would have offered irritating sympathy.
" Afraid the balls are not rolling well for you
to-night," the Captain would have said; or,
" Sorry, sir, I don't seem to have left you very
much." To-night the Captain wasn't feeling
playful.

" Well, if he scores off thatl " said Dick.

11 Short of locking up the balls and turning out
the lights, I don't myself see how one is going to
stop him," sighed the Captain.

The Captain's ball was in hand. Malooney
went for the red and hit — perhaps it would be
more correct to say, frightened — it into a pocket.
Malooney's ball, with the table to itself, then
gave a solo performance, and ended up by break-
ing a window. It was what the lawyers call a
nice point. What was the effect upon the score?

Malooney argued that, seeing he had pocketed
the red before his own ball left the table, his three
should be counted first, and that therefore he had
won. Dick maintained that a ball that had ended
up in a flower-bed couldn't be deemed to have
scored anything. The Captain declined to assist.
He said that, although he had been playing bil-



i 4 THEY AND I

liards for upwards of forty years, the incident
was new to him. My own feeling was that of
thankfulness that we had got through the game
without anybody being really injured. We agreed
that the person to decide the point would be the
editor of The Field.

It remains still undecided. The Captain came
into my study the next morning. He said: " If
you haven't written that letter to The Field, don't
mention my name. They knew me on The Field.
I would rather it did not get about that I have
been playing with a man who cannot keep his
ball within the four walls of a billiard-room."

" Well," I answered, " I know most of the fel-
lows on The Field myself. They don't often get
hold of anything novel in the way of a story.
When they do, they are apt to harp upon it. My
idea was to keep my own name out of it alto-
gether."

" It is not a point likely to crop up often,"
said the Captain. " I'd let it rest if I were
you."

I should like to have had it settled. In the end,
I wrote the editor a careful letter, in a disguised
hand, giving a false name and address. But if



THEY AND I 15

any answer ever appeared I must have missed
it.

Myself I have a sort of consciousness that some-
where inside me there is quite a good player, if
only I could persuade him to come out. He is
shy, that is all. He does not seem able to play
when people are looking on. The shots he misses
when people are looking on would give you a
wrong idea of him. When nobody is about, a
prettier game you do not often see. If some folks
who fancy themselves could see me when there
is nobody about, it might take the conceit out of
them. Only once I played up to what I feel is
my real form, and then it led to argument. I
was staying at an hotel in Switzerland, and the
second evening a pleasant-spoken young fellow,
who said he had read all my books — later, he
appeared surprised on learning I had written
more than two — asked me if I would care to play
a hundred up. We played even, and I payed for
the table. The next evening he said he thought
it would make a better game if he gave me forty
and I broke. It was a fairly close finish, and af-
terwards he suggested that I should put down my
name for the handicap they were arranging.



1 6 THEY AND I

" I am afraid," I answered " that I hardly play
well enough. Just a quiet game with you is one
thing; but in a handicap with a crowd looking
on "

"I should not let that trouble you," he said;
" there are some here who play worse than you —
just one or two. It passes the evening."

It was merely a friendly affair. I paid my
twenty marks, and was given plus a hundred.
I drew for my first game a chatty type of
man, who started minus twenty. We neither of
us did much for the first five minutes, and then I
made a break of forty-four.

There was not a fluke in it from beginning to
end. I was never more astonished in my life.
It seemed to me it was the cue was doing it.

Minus Twenty was even more astonished. I
heard him as I passed:

"Who handicapped this man?" he asked.

11 1 did," responded the pleasant-spoken young-
ster.

" Oh," said Minus Twenty — " friend of yours,
I presume? "

There are evenings that seem to belong to you.
We finished that two hundred and fifty under



THEY AND I 17

the three-quarters of an hour. I explained to
Minus Twenty — he was plus sixty-three at the
end — that my play that night had been excep-
tional. He said that he had heard of cases simi-
lar. I left him talking volubly to the committee.
He was not a nice man at all.

After that I did not care to win; and that of
course was fatal. The less I tried, the more
impossible it seemed for me to do wrong. I was
left in at the last with a man from another hotel.
But for that I am convinced I should have car-
ried off the handicap. Our hotel didn't, anyhow,
want the other hotel to win. So they gathered
round me, and offered me sound advice, and
begged me to be careful; with the natural result
that I went back to my usual form quite sud-
denly.

Never before or since have I played as I played
that week. But it showed me what I could do.
I shall get a new table, with proper pockets this
time. There is something wrong about our
pockets. The balls go into them and then come
out again. You would think they had seen some-
thing there to frighten them. They come out
trembling and hold on to the cushion.



1 8 THEY AND I

I shall also get a new red ball. I fancy it must
be a very old ball, our red. It seems to me to be
always tired.

" The billiard-room," I said to Dick, " I see
my way to easily enough. Adding another ten feet
to what is now the dairy will give us twenty-
eight by twenty. I am hopeful that will be suffi-
cient even for your friend Malooney. The draw-
ing-room is too small to be of any use. I may
decide — as Robina has suggested — to 'throw it
into the hall.' But the stairs will remain. For
dancing, private theatricals — things to keep you
children out of mischief — I have an idea that
I will explain to you fully later on. The
kitchen "

" Can I have a room to myself? " asked Veron-
ica.

Veronica was sitting on the floor, staring into
the fire, her chin supported by her hand. Veron-
ica, in those rare moments when she is resting
from her troubles, wears a holy, far-away expres-
sion apt to mislead the stranger. Governesses,
new to her, have their doubts whether on these
occasions they are justified in dragging her back
to discuss mere dates and tables. Poets who are



THEY AND I 19

friends of mine, coming unexpectedly upon Veron-
ica standing by the window, gazing upward at
the evening star, have thought it was a vision,
until they got closer and found that she was suck-
ing peppermints.

" I should so like to have a room all to myself,"
added Veronica.

" It would be a room! " commented Robin.

" It wouldn't have your hairpins sticking up all
over the bed, anyhow," murmured Veronica
dreamily.

" I like that! " said Robin; " why—"

" You're harder than I am," said Veronica.

" I should wish you to have a room, Veronica,"
I said. " My fear is that in place of one untidy
bedroom in the house — a room that makes me
shudder every time I see it through the open door;
and the door, in spite of all I can say, generally
is wide open "

" I'm not untidy," said Robin, " not really.
I know where everything is in the dark — if peo-
ple would only leave them alone."

" You are. You're about the most untidy girl
I know," said Dick.

"I'm not," said Robin; "you don't see other



20 THEY AND I

girls' rooms. Look at yours at Cambridge. Ma-
looney told us you'd had a fire, and we all be-
lieved him at first."

" When a man's working " said Dick.

II He must have an orderly place to work in,"
suggested Robin.

Dick sighed. " It's never any good talking to
you," said Dick. " You don't even see your own
faults."

"I can," said Robin; "I see them more than
any one. All I claim is justice."

" Show me, Veronica," I said, " that you are
worthy to possess a room. At present you ap-
pear to regard the whole house as your room. I
find your gaiters on the croquet lawn. A por-
tion of your costume — an article that anyone pos-
sessed of the true feelings of a lady would desire
to keep hidden from the world — is discovered
waving from the staircase window."

II I put it out to be mended," explained Veron-
ica.

11 You opened the door and flung it out. I told
you of it at the time," said Robin. " You do
the same with your boots."



THEY AND I 21

" You are too high-spirited for your size,"
explained Dick to her. "Try to be less dash-
ing."

" I could also wish, Veronica," I continued,
" that you shed your back comb less easily, or at
least that you knew when you had shed it. As
for your gloves — well, hunting your gloves has
come to be our leading winter sport."

" People look in such funny places for them,"
said Veronica.

" Granted. But be just, Veronica," I pleaded.
" Admit that it is in funny places we occasionally
find them. When looking for your things one
learns, Veronica, never to despair. So long as
there remains a corner unexplored inside or out-
side the house, within the half-mile radius, hope
need not be abandoned."

Veronica was still gazing dreamily into the fire.

" I suppose," said Veronica, " it's reditty."

"It's what?" I said.

" She means heredity," suggested Dick —
"cheeky young beggar! I wonder you let her
talk to you the way she does."

" Besides," added Robin, " as I am always



22 THEY AND I

explaining to you, Pa is a literary man. With
him it is part of his temperament."

" It's hard on us children," said Veronica.

We were all agreed — with the exception of
Veronica — that it was time Veronica went to bed.
As chairman I took it upon myself to closure the
debate.



CHAPTER II

" Do you mean, Governor, that you have actually
bought the house? " demanded Dick, " or are we
only talking about it? "

11 This time, Dick," I answered, " I have done
it."

Dick looked serious. " Is it what you
wanted? " he asked.

"No, Dick," I replied, "it is not what I
wanted. I wanted an old-fashioned, picturesque,
rambling sort of a place, all gables and ivy and
oriel windows."

"You are mixing things up," Dick inter-
rupted, " gables and oriel windows don't go to-
gether."

" I beg your pardon, Dick," I corrected him,
" in the house I wanted, they do. It is the style
of house you find in the Christmas number. I
have never seen it anywhere else, but I took a
fancy to it from the first. It is not too far from
the church, and it lights up well at night. ' One
of these days,' I used to say to myself when a

23



24 THEY AND I

boy, ' I'll be a clever man and live in a house just


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