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Episode from The Small Bachelor


Still, looks are not everything: and if this wretched creature
had been able to talk one-tenth as well as the George of the day
dreams, something might yet have been saved out of the wreck.
But the poor blister was inarticulate as well. All he seemed able
to do was clear his throat. And what nice girl's heart has ever been
won by a series of roopy coughs ?
And he could not even achieve a reasonably satisfactory
expression. When he tried to relax his features (such as they were)
into a charming smile, he merely grinned weakly. When he forced
himself not to grin, his face froze into a murderous scowl.
But it was his inability to speak that was searing George's soul.
Actually, since the departure of Mr. Waddington, the silence had
lasted for perhaps six seconds: but to George Finch it seemed
like a good hour. He goaded himself to utterance.
"My name," said George, speaking in a low, husky voice, "is
not Pinch."

"Isn't it ?" said the girl. "How jolly!"

"Nor Winch."

"Better still"

"It is Finch George Finch "


She seemed genuinely pleased. She beamed upon him as if he
had brought her good news from a distant land.

"Your father," proceeded George, not having anything to add
by way of development of the theme but unable to abandon it,
"thought it was Pinch or Winch. But it is not. It is Finch."

His eye, roaming nervously about the room, caught hers for
an instant: and he was amazed to perceive that there was in it
nothing of that stunned abhorrence which he felt his appearance
and behaviour should rightly have aroused in any nice-minded
girl. Astounding though it seemed, she appeared to be looking at
him in a sort of pleased, maternal way, as if he were a child she
was rather fond of. For the first time a faint far-off glimmer of
light shone upon George's darkness. It would be too much to
say that he was encouraged, but out of the night that covered him,
black as the pit from pole to pole, there did seem to sparkle for an
instant a solitary star.

"How did you come to know father ?"

George could answer that. He was all right if you asked him
questions. It was the having to invent topics of conversation that
baffled him.

"I met him outside the house: and when he found that I came
from the West he asked me in to dinner."

"Do you mean he rushed at you and grabbed you as you were
walking by ?"

"Oh, no. I wasn't walking by. I was—er—sort of standing on .
the door-step. At least..."

"Standing on the door-step ? Why ?"

George's ears turned a riper red.

"Well, I was—er—coining, as it were, to pay a call."

"A call ?"


"On mother?"

"On you."

The girl's eyes widened.

"On me?"

"To make inquiries."

"What about ?"

"Your dog."

"I don't understand."

"Well, I thought—result of the excitement—and nerve-strain
"I thought he might be upset."

"Because he ran away, do you mean ?"


"You thought he would have a nervous break-down because
he ran away ?"

"Dangerous traffic," explained George. "Might have been
run over. Reaction. Nervous collapse."

Woman's intuition is a wonderful thing. There was probably
not an alienist in the land who, having listened so far, would not
have sprung at George and held him down with one hand while
with the other he signed the necessary certificate of lunacy. But
Molly Waddington saw deeper into the matter. She was touched.
As she realized that this young man thought so highly of her that,
despite his painful shyness, he was prepared to try to worm his
way into her house on an excuse which even he must have recognized
 as pure banana-oil, her heart warmed to him. More than
ever, she became convinced that George was a lamb and that she
wanted to stroke his head and straighten his tie and make cooing
noises to him.

"How very sweet of you," she said.

"Fond of dogs," mumbled George.

"You must be fond of dogs."

"Are you fond of dogs ?"

"Yes, I'm very fond of dogs."

"So am I. Very fond of dogs."


"Yes. Very fond of dogs. Some people are not fond of dogs, but I am."

And suddenly eloquence descended upon George Finch. With
gleaming eyes he broke out into a sort of Litany. He began to talk
easily and fluently.

"I am fond of Airedales and wire-haired terriers and bull-dogs
and Pekingese and Sealyhams and Alsatians and fox-terriers and
greyhounds and Aberdeens and West Highlands and Cairns and
Pomeranians and spaniels and schipperkes and pugs and Maltese
and Yorkshires and borzois and bloodhounds and Bedlingtons and
pointers and setters and mastiffs and Newfoundlands and St.
Bernards and Great Danes and dachshunds and collies and chows
and poodles and . . ."

"I see," said Molly. "You're fond of dogs."

"Yes," said George. "Very fond of dogs."

"So am I. There's something about dogs."

"Yes," said George. "Of course, there's something about cats,


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Index from book Wodehouse on Wodehouse. | Article "About Stories" | Dedications1 | Dedications 2 | Prefaces1 | Prefaces2 | Prefaces3 | Prefaces4 | "Facts from Usborn" (forewords from Vintage Wodehouse)