"Very well," he said.
Mr. Pett offered a word of consolation.
"Maybe you'll be able to run over for the World's Series?"
Mr. Crocker's face cleared.
"And I'll cable you the scores every day, dad," said Jimmy.
Mrs. Crocker looked at him with a touch of disapproval clouding
the happiness of her face.
"Are you staying over here, James? There is no reason why you
should not come back, too. If you make up your mind to change
your habits - "
"I have made up my mind to change them. But I'm going to do it in
New York. Mr. Pett is going to give me a job in his office. I am
going to start at the bottom and work my way still further down."
Mr. Pett yapped with rapture. He was experiencing something of
the emotion of the preacher at the camp-meeting who sees the
Sinners' Bench filling up. To have secured Willie Partridge, whom
he intended to lead gradually into the realms of high finance by
way of envelope-addressing, was much. But that Jimmy, with a
choice in the matter, should have chosen the office filled him
with such content that he only just stopped himself from dancing
on his bad foot.
"Don't worry about me, dad. I shall do wonders. It's quite easy
to make a large fortune. I watched uncle Pete in his office this
morning, and all he does is sit at a mahogany table and tell the
office-boy to tell callers that he has gone away for the day. I
think I ought to rise to great heights in that branch of
industry. From the little I have seen of it, it seems to have
been made for me!"
Jimmy looked at Ann. They were alone. Mr. Pett had gone back to
bed, Mrs. Crocker to her hotel. Mr. Crocker was removing his
make-up in his room. A silence had followed their departure.
"This is the end of a perfect day!" said Jimmy.
Ann took a step towards the door.
"Mr. Crocker!" she said.
"Jimmy," he corrected.
"Mr. Crocker!" repeated Ann firmly.
"Or Algernon, if you prefer it."
"May I ask - " Ann regarded him steadily. "May I ask."
"Nearly always," said Jimmy, "when people begin with that, they
are going to say something unpleasant."
"May I ask why you went to all this trouble to make a fool of me?
Why could you not have told me who you were from the start?"
"Have you forgotten all the harsh things you said to me from time
to time about Jimmy Crocker? I thought that, if you knew who I
was, you would have nothing more to do with me."
"You were quite right."
"Surely, though, you won't let a thing that happened five years
ago make so much difference?"
"I shall never forgive you!"
"And yet, a little while ago, when Willie's bomb was about to go
off, you flung yourself into my arms!"
Ann's face flamed.
"I lost my balance."
"Why try to recover it?"
Ann bit her lip.
"You did a cruel, heartless thing. What does it matter how long
ago it was? If you were capable of it then - "
"Be reasonable. Don't you admit the possibility of reformation?
Take your own case. Five years ago you were a minor poetess. Now
you are an amateur kidnapper - a bright, lovable girl at whose
approach people lock up their children and sit on the key. As for
me, five years ago I was a heartless brute. Now I am a sober
serious business-man, specially called in by your uncle to help
jack up his tottering firm. Why not bury the dead past?
Besides - I don't want to praise myself, I just want to call your
attention to it - think what I have done for you. You admitted
yourself that it was my influence that had revolutionised your
character. But for me, you would now be doing worse than write
poetry. You would be writing _vers libre_. I saved you from that.
And you spurn me!"
"I hate you!" said Ann.
Jimmy went to the writing-desk and took up a small book.
"Put that down!"
"I just wanted to read you 'Love's Funeral!' It illustrates my
point. Think of yourself as you are now, and remember that it is
I who am responsible for the improvement. Here we are. 'Love's
Funeral.' 'My heart is dead. . . .' "
Ann snatched the book from his hands and flung it away. It soared
up, clearing the gallery rails, and fell with a thud on the
gallery floor. She stood facing him with sparkling eyes. Then she
"I beg your pardon," she said stiffly. "I lost my temper."
"It's your hair," said Jimmy soothingly. "You're bound to be
quick-tempered with hair of that glorious red shade. You must
marry some nice, determined fellow, blue-eyed, dark-haired,
clean-shaven, about five foot eleven, with a future in business.
He will keep you in order."
"Gently, of course. Kindly-lovingly. The velvet thingummy rather
than the iron what's-its-name. But nevertheless firmly."
Ann was at the door.
"To a girl with your ardent nature some one with whom you can
quarrel is an absolute necessity of life. You and I are
affinities. Ours will be an ideally happy marriage. You would be
miserable if you had to go through life with a human doormat with
'Welcome' written on him. You want some one made of sterner
stuff. You want, as it were, a sparring-partner, some one with
whom you can quarrel happily with the certain knowledge that he
will not curl up in a ball for you to kick, but will be there
with the return wallop. I may have my faults - " He paused
expectantly. Ann remained silent. "No, no!" he went on. "But I am
such a man. Brisk give-and-take is the foundation of the happy
marriage. Do you remember that beautiful line of Tennyson's - 'We
fell out, my wife and I'? It always conjures up for me a vision
of wonderful domestic happiness. I seem to see us in our old age,
you on one side of the radiator, I on the other, warming our old
limbs and thinking up snappy stuff to hand to each
other - sweethearts still! If I were to go out of your life now,
you would be miserable. You would have nobody to quarrel with.
You would be in the position of the female jaguar of the Indian
jungle, who, as you doubtless know, expresses her affection for
her mate by biting him shrewdly in the fleshy part of the leg, if
she should snap sideways one day and find nothing there."
Of all the things which Ann had been trying to say during this
discourse, only one succeeded in finding expression. To her
mortification, it was the only weak one in the collection.
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
"You think so now, because I am not appearing at my best. You see
me nervous, diffident, tongue-tied. All this will wear off,
however, and you will be surprised and delighted as you begin to
understand my true self. Beneath the surface - I speak
conservatively - I am a corker!"
The door banged behind Ann. Jimmy found himself alone. He walked
thoughtfully to Mr. Pett's armchair and sat down. There was a
feeling of desolation upon him. He lit a cigarette and began to
smoke pensively. What a fool he had been to talk like that! What
girl of spirit could possibly stand it? If ever there had been a
time for being soothing and serious and pleading, it had been
these last few minutes. And he talked like that!
Ten minutes passed. Jimmy sprang from his chair. He thought he
had heard a footstep. He flung the door open. The passage was
empty. He returned miserably to his chair. Of course she had not
come back. Why should she?
A voice spoke.
He leaped up again, and looked wildly round. Then he looked up.
Ann was leaning over the gallery rail.
"Jimmy, I've been thinking it over. There's something I want to
ask you. Do you admit that you behaved abominably five years
"Yes!" shouted Jimmy.
"And that you've been behaving just as badly ever since?"
"And that you are really a pretty awful sort of person?"
"Then it's all right. You deserve it!"
"Deserve to marry a girl like me. I was worried about it, but now
I see that it's the only punishment bad enough for you!" She
raised her arm.
"Here's the dead past, Jimmy! Go and bury it! Good-night!"
A small book fell squashily at Jimmy's feet. He regarded it dully
for a moment. Then, with a wild yell which penetrated even to Mr.
Pett's bedroom and woke that sufferer just as he was dropping off
to sleep for the third time that night he bounded for the gallery
At the further end of the gallery a musical laugh sounded, and a
door closed. Ann had gone.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Transcriber's Notes for edition 11:
I am greatly indebted to the Wodehouse readers from the BLANDINGS
e-mail group who did such detailed research on this text, not only
on simple typos but on the differences between the 1916 Saturday
Evening Post serialization and the US and UK early printings.
I have made use, in this new PG edition, of the 1918 UK first edition
references provided by these helpful savants, to correct misprints or
other publisher's errors in the US edition, but I have otherwise
followed the US edition.
The punctuation is somewhat different from the UK versions, notably in
its use of colons. The words "Uncle" and "Aunt", where used with a name
("Uncle Peter", "Aunt Nesta"), were capitalized in the original
serialized and UK editions, but lower-cased in the US edition, so I have
retained the lower-case.
I have also restored some _italics_ omitted in the previous PG edition.
I note below some significant differences between the early printings:
""Well played, sir!" when they meant "'at-a-boy!""
"mean" is in the US edition; other editions have "meant".
"Regent's bill-of-fare" has been corrected from "Regent's bill-of-fair"
in the US edition.
"pull some boner" has been corrected from "pull some bone"
in the US edition.
"Before his stony eye the immaculate Bartling wilted.
It was a perfectly astounding likeness, but it was
apparent to him when what he had ever heard and read
about doubles came to him."
This is a somewhat clumsy construction, and quite un-Wodehousian.
The original passage in the serialization read:
"Before his stony eye the immaculate Bartling wilted. All that
he had ever heard and read about doubles came to him."
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