Öèòàòû Âóäõàóçà Wodehouse Quotations

The Editor Regrets


 When Bingo Little's wife, the well-known female novelist Rosie M. Banks, exerted her pull and secured for Bingo the editorship of Wee Tots, that popular and influential organ which has done so much to mould thought in the nursery, a sort of literary renaissance swept the Drones Club. Scarcely an Egg, Bean, Pieface or Crumpet on the list of members but took pen in hand with the feeling that here was where he cashed in and got back some of the stuff that had gone down the drain at Ally Pally and Kempton Park.

It was a painful shock to the intelligentsia, accordingly, when they discovered that their old friend was not going to prove the geyser of easy money they had anticipated. In quick succes­sion he turned down the Egg who wanted to do Racing Notes, the Bean with the inside stuff on Night Clubs, and the Pieface who suggested that he should be given a sort of roving commis­sion to potter round the south of France and contribute gos­sipy articles of human interest from such centres as Cannes and Monte Carlo. Even a Crumpet who had known him since they were in sailor suits had his thoughtful piece on Some Little Known Cocktails declined with thanks.

'On the plea,' said the Crumpet, 'that his proprietor wouldn't like it.'

'That's what he told me,' said the Egg. 'Who is this bally proprietor of Bingo's?'

'A man named Purkiss. It was through her life-long friend­ship with Mrs Purkiss that Mrs Bingo was able to get Bingo the job.'

'Then Purkiss can have no red blood in him,' said the Egg.

'Purkiss lacks vision,' said the Bean.

'Purkiss is an ass,' said the Pieface.

The Crumpet shook his head.

'I'm not so sure,' he said. 'My belief is that Bingo merely uses Purkiss as a blind or screen. I think the man is drunk with a sense of power and definitely enjoys rejecting contributions from outside talent. And one of these days he is going to get himself into serious trouble by coming the heavy editor like this. In fact, not long ago he very nearly did so. Only the luck of the Littles saved him from taking a toss which threatened to jar his fat trouser-seat clean out of the editorial chair, never to return. I allude, of course, to the Bella Mae Jobson affair.'

The Bean asked what the Bella Mae Jobson affair was, and the Crumpet, expressing surprise that he had not heard of it, said that it was the affair of Bella Mae Jobson.

The American authoress, he explained. Scarcely known in this country, she has for some years past been holding Ameri­can childhood spellbound with her tales of Willie Walrus, Charlie Chipmunk, and other fauna. Purkiss, who had been paying a visit to New York, met her on the boat coming back, and she lent him Charlie Chipmunk Up the Orinoco. A single glance was enough to tell him that here was the circulation-building stuff for which Wee Tots had been waiting and he entered into tentative negotiations for her whole output, asking her on arriving in London to look in at the office and fix things up with his editor - viz., Bingo.

Now, unfortunately, Purkiss's absence from the centre of things had caused Bingo to get it up his nose a bit. When on the spot, the other had a way of making criticisms and sugges­tions, and an editor, he tells me, feels shackled when a pro­prietor with bronchial catarrh keeps popping in all the time, trying to dictate the policy of the 'Uncle Joe to His Chicka­biddies' page. All through these last weeks of freedom, there­fore, he had been getting more and more above himself, with the result that, when informed per desk telephone that a Miss Jobson waited without he just tapped his teeth with a pencil and said: 'Oh, she docs, does she? Well, bung her out and tell her to write. We do not see callers without an appoint­ment.'

He then returned to the 'What a Tiny Girlie Can Do to Help Mother' feature, and was still roughing it out when the door opened and in walked Purkiss, looking bronzed and fit. And after a bit of Well-here-I-am-back-again-ing and Oh-hullo-Mr-purkiss-did-you-have-a-good-trip-ing, as is inevitable on these occasions, Purkiss said:

‘By the way, Mr Little, a Miss Jobson will be calling shortly.'

Bingo gave a light laugh.

‘Oh, jolly old Jobson?' he said airily. 'She's been and gone, leaving not a wrack behind. I gave her the air.'

'I beg your pardon?'

'Turfed her out,' explained Bingo.

Purkiss reeled.

'You mean ... you refused to see her?'

'That's right,' said Bingo. 'Busy. Busy, busy, busy. Much too busy to talk to females. I told her to write, stating her business ' legibly on one side of the paper only.’

I don't know if any of you happened to see that picture, 'The Hurricane', that was on not long ago. Briefly, the plot of it was that there was a bevy of unfortunate blighters on a South Sea island and the dickens of a howling tempest came along and blew them cross-eyed. I bring this up because Bingo tells me that very much the same sort of thing happened now. For some moments, he says, all he was conscious of was a vast atmospheric disturbance, with him swaying in the middle of it, and then gradually, Purkiss's remarks becoming clearer, he gathered that he had made something of a floater, and that this bird Jobson was a bird who should have been conciliated, sucked up to, given the old oil and generally made to feel that she was among friends and admirers.

'Well, I'm sorry,' he said, feeling that something in the nature of an apology was indicated. 'J deeply regret the whole un­fortunate occurrence. I was the victim of a misunderstanding. It never crossed my mind that the above was a sweet ginger specializing in chipmunks. The impression I received was of somebody trying to sell richly illustrated sets of Dumas on the easy payment plan.'

Then, seeing that Purkiss had buried his face in his hands and hearing him mutter something about 'God's gift to the nursery' and 'ruin', he stepped across and gave him a kindly pat on the shoulder.

 'Cheer up,' he said. 'You still have me.'

‘No, I haven't,' said Purkiss. 'You're fired.'

And in words whose meaning there was no mistaking he informed Bingo that the end of the month would see his finish as Ye Ed., and that it was his, Purkiss's, dearest hope that when j he. Bingo, finally left the premises, he would trip over the door­mat and break his neck.

He, Purkiss, then withdrew.

His departure gave Bingo the opportunity for some inten­sive thinking. And as you will readily appreciate, intensive thinking was just what the situation could do with a spot of.

It was on Mrs Bingo's reactions that he found himself brood­ing for the most part. There were many reasons why it cut him to the quick to be forced to relinquish his grasp on the tiller of Wee Tots. The salary, though small, had come under the head of manna from heaven, and the holding of the post had filled him with a spiritual pride such as he had not experienced since he won the Woolly-Mat-Tatting Prize at his first kinder­garten. But what really got in amongst him was the thought of what Mrs Bingo was going to say on hearing the news.

The Bingo menage, as you are no doubt aware, is one that has been conducted from its inception on one hundred per cent Romeo and Juliet lines. She is devoted to him, and his ingrow­ing love for her is such that you would be justified in compar­ing them to a couple of turtle doves. Nevertheless, he was ill at ease. Any male turtle dove will tell you that, if conditions are right, the female turtle dove can spit on her hands and throw her weight about like Donald Duck. And it needed no diagram to show Bingo that conditions here were just right. Mrs Bingo had taken a lot of trouble to get him his job, and when she found that through sheer fatheadedness he had chucked it away she would, something told him, have a lot of comment to make.

Little wonder, then, that the barometer of his soul pointed steadily to 'Stormy'. Out of the night that covered him, black as the pit from pole to pole, one solitary bit of goose presented itself - the fact that the head of the family was away at the moment, visiting friends in the country. This at least enabled him to postpone the springing of the bad tidings.

But the thought that the hour of that springing must inevit­ably come kept him in pretty much of a doodah, and to distract his mind he plunged into the life of pleasure. And it was at a bottle-party a couple of nights later that he found himself going like a breeze with a female of considerable attractions, and with indescribable emotion learned that her name was Jobson, Bella Mae.

It altered the whole outlook, enabling him to get an entirely new angle on the situation.

Until this moment, he had been feeling that his only chance of wangling a happy ending would be to put up a good, care­fully constructed, plausible story. He had planned, accordingly, on Mrs Bingo's return, to inform her quite frankly that he had been relieved of his portfolio for giving Purkiss's girl-friend the raspberry, and then to go on to explain why he had taken this stand. He had felt, he would say, that he owed it to her not to allow himself to be closeted with strange women. Too often, he would tell her, female visitors pat editors on the knee or even straighten their tie, and his pure soul had shrunk from ihe thought of anything like that happening to a sober married man like himself. It might get by, or it might not get by. It was -a straight, sporting venture.

But now he saw that he could do much better than this. He could obviate all necessity for such explanations by retaining his Job.

When I said that he found himself going like a breeze with this chipmunk-fancier, I used the expression in its most exact sense. I don't know if any of you have ever seen Bingo when he was going really well, but I can testify that at such times he does his stuff like a master. Irresistible charm about sums it up. Think of Ronald Colman, and you have the idea. Well, you will understand what I mean when I tell you that as early as the second cocktail B. M. Jobson was saying how lonely she felt in this big, strange city, and he was saying 'There, There' and pointing out that this was a state of things that could be readily adjusted. They parted in a flurry of telephone numbers and good wishes, and he went home feeling that the thing was in the bag.

What he proposed to do, I need scarcely explain, was to keep after this tomato and bump up their ripening friendship to a point where she would be able to refuse him nothing. He would then tear off his whiskers and reveal himself as the editor of Wee Tots, whereupon she would let him have her frightful bilge on easy terms and he would go to Purkiss and say: 'Well, Purkiss, and now how about it?' Upon which, of course. Purkiss would immediately fold him in a close embrace and issue a reprieve at the foot of the scaffold.

To this end, accordingly, he devoted all his energies. He took Bella Mae Jobson to the Zoo, the Tower of London, Madame Tussaud's, five matinees, seven lunches and four dinners. He also gave her a bunch of white heather, several packets of cigarettes, eleven lots of roses and a signed photograph. And came a day when she said she really must buy back. She was sailing for America on the following Wednesday, she said, and on Tuesday she was going to give a lovely luncheon-party at her hotel suite and he must be the guest of honour.

Bingo accepted effusively. The moment, he realized, had come. He had got the thing all worked out. He would stick on till the other guests had gone and then, while she still mellowed with lunch, spring his big scene. He didn't see how it could miss.

It was only when a telegram arrived from Mrs Bingo on the Monday morning, announcing that she would be returning that evening, that he began to appreciate that there might be compli­cations which he had not foreseen.

In normal circs., the return of the wife of his b. after a longish absence would have been enough to send Bingo singing about the house. But now he didn't emit so much as a single bar, and it was with a drawn and thoughtful face that he met her at the station round about six-thirty.

'Well, well, well,' he said heartily, or as heartily as he could manage, embracing her on the platform. 'This is fine! This is great! This is terrific! And what a surprise, what? I thought you were planning to put in rather longer in the provinces.'

Mrs Bingo registered astonishment.

'What, miss our wedding anniversary?' she cried. She paused, and he became aware that she was eyeing him fairly narrowly. 'You hadn't forgotten that tomorrow was our wedding anniver­sary?'

Bingo, who had given a sharp, convulsive leap like a gaffed salmon, reassembled himself.

'Me?' he cried. 'I should say not. I've been ticking off the days on the calendar.'

'So have I,' said Mrs Bingo. 'Oh, Bingo, darling, we'll have lunch tomorrow at that little place near Charing Cross, where we had our wedding breakfast. And we'll pretend we've just been married. Won't it be fun!'

Bingo swallowed a couple of times. He was having trouble with his Adam's apple.

'Stupendous,' he said.

'Only it won't be quite the same, of course, because then you hadn't an important job to hurry back to.'

'No,' said Bingo.

'How is everything at the office, by the way?'

'Oh, fine.'

'Is Mr Purkiss still pleased with your work?'

'Fascinated,' said Bingo.

But he spoke absently, and it was with a heavy heart that he rose next morning and toyed listlessly with a fried egg and bacon. Nor was he any chirpier when he reached the editorial sanctum. He could see no daylight.

It would be possible, of course, to pop in on Bella Mae in the course of the afternoon, but he saw only too clearly that that would not be the same thing at all. The way he had had it planned out, he was to have been the life and soul of the gathering all through lunch, winning all hearts with his gay wit; and then, when the last guest had tottered away, holding his sides, and his hostess was thanking him brokenly for making her party such a success, he would have given her the works. It would be very different barging in on her at four o'clock and trying to swing the deal in cold blood.

And then, after he had been sitting for a goodish time with his head in his hands, exercising every cell in his brain to its utmost capacity, he received an inspiration and saw what Napoleon would have done. A moment later, he was on the telephone with Mrs Bingo's silvery voice are-you-there-ing at the other end.

'Hullo, darling,' he said.

'Hullo, angel,' said Mrs Bingo.

'Hullo, precious,' said Bingo.

'Hullo, sweetie-pie,' said Mrs Bingo.

'I say, moon of my delight,' said Bingo, 'listen. A rather awkward thing has happened, and I should like your advice as to how to act for the best. There's a most important litterateuse we are anxious to land for the old sheet, and the question has arisen of my taking her out to lunch today.'

‘Oh, Bingo!'

'Now, my personal inclination is to tell her to go to blazes.'

'Oh, no, you mustn't do that.'

'Yes, I think I will. "Nuts to you, litterateuse" I shall say.'

'No, Bingo, please! Of course you must take her out to lunch.'

'But how about our binge?'

'We can have dinner instead.'



Bingo allowed himself to be persuaded.

‘Now, that's an idea,' he said. 'There, I rather think, you've got something.'

'Dinner will be just as good.'

‘Better. More suited to unbridled revelry.'

'You won't have to hurry off after dinner.'

‘That's right.'

‘We'll go to a theatre and supper afterwards.'

‘We will, indeed,' said Bingo, feeling how simple these things were, if only one used a bit of tact. 'That, as I see it, is the exact programme.'

‘And, as a matter of fact,' said Mrs Bingo, 'it's really rather convenient, because now I shall be able to go to Miss Jobson's luncheon-party, after all.'

Bingo swayed like a jelly in a high wind.

‘Miss who's luncheon-party?'

‘Jobson. You wouldn't know her. An American writer named Bella Mae Jobson. Mrs Purkiss rang up a little while ago, saying she was going and could I come along, because Miss Jobson has long been an admirer of my work. Of course, I refused. But now it's all right, and I shall be able to go. She sails tomorrow, so this is our last chance of meeting. Well, goodbye, my poppet, I mustn't keep you from your work any longer.'

If Mrs Bingo supposed that Bingo, having hung up the receiver, immediately returned to the task of assembling whole­some literature for the kiddies, she was gravely in error. For possibly a quarter of an hour after she had rung off, he sat motionless in his chair, using up time which Purkiss was pay­ing him for in staring sightlessly before him and breathing in quick jerks. His whole aspect was that of a man who has un­expectedly been struck by lightning.

This, it seemed to him, was the end. He couldn't possibly roll up to the Jobson lunch, if Mrs Bingo was going to be there. You see, in order not to divert her mind from the main issue, he had avoided informing Bella Mae that he was married. Rightly or wrongly, he had felt that better results were to be obtained by keeping this news item under his hat. And if she lugged Mrs Bingo up to him and said, 'Oh, Mr Little, I wonder if you know Miss Rosie M. Banks?' and he replied, 'Oh, rather. She's my wife,' only embarrassment could ensue.

No, there was only one thing to be done. He must abandon all idea of retaining his job and go back to the plan he had origin­ally sketched out, of explaining to Mrs Bingo why he had re­fused to see Bella Mae Jobson that day when she called at the office. This, he felt with the first stirring of optimism which so far had animated him, might go pretty well after the former had met the latter. For Bella Mae, as I have said, was a female of considerable personal attractions. She had a lissome form, surmounted by a map of elfin charm and platinum-blonde hair. Stranger things had happened than that Mrs Bingo might approve his prudence in declining to be cooped up with all that sex-appeal.

Feeling somewhat better, he went out and dispatched a tele­gram to the Jobson, regretting his inability to be present at the festivities. And he was about to return to the office, when a sudden thought struck him amidships and he had to clutch at a passing lamp-post to keep himself from falling in his tracks.

He had remembered that signed photograph.

The whole question of signed photographs is one that bulks largely in married life. When husbands bestow them on external females, wives want to know why. And the present case was complicated by the fact that in doing the signing Bingo - with the best motives - had rather spread himself. Mere cordiality would have been bad enough, and he had gone a shade beyond the cordial. And the finished product was probably standing on the Jobson's mantelpiece and would be the first thing that Mrs Ringo would see on entering the other's suite.

It was not an enterprise to which he in any sense of the phrase looked forward, but he saw that, if a major disaster was to be avoided and the solidity of the Bingo-Mrs Bingo axis to be maintained, he would have to get hold of that photograph well in advance of the luncheon hour and remove it.

I don't know if you have ever called at an hotel with a view to pinching a signed photograph from one of the suites. If not, I may tell you that technical difficulties present themselves at the very outset - notably the problem of how the hell to get in. Bingo, inquiring at the desk, learned that Miss Jobson was not at home, and was for a moment encouraged by the infor­mation. It was only after he had sneaked up the stairs and was standing outside the locked door that he realized that this was not an end but a beginning.

And then, just as he was feeling that he was a mere puppet in the grip of a remorseless fate and that it wasn't any use going on struggling, he saw a maid coming along the corridor, and remembered that maids have keys.

It was a moment for exerting that charm of his to the utter­most. He switched it on and allowed it to play upon the maid like a searchlight.

'Oh, hullo, maid,' he said. 'Good morning.'

'Good morning, sir,' said the maid.

'Gosh!' said Bingo, 'you have a nice, kind, open, tender­hearted face. I wonder if you would do something for me. First, however,' he said, shoving across a ten-bob note, 'take this.'

'Thank you, sir.' said the maid.

'The facts, briefly,' said Bingo, 'are these. I am lunching to­day with Miss Jobson.'

'She's out,' said the maid. 'I saw her go along the passage with the little dog.'

'Exactly,' said Bingo. 'And there you have put your finger on the nub. She's out, and I want to get in. I hate waiting in hotel lobbies. You know how it is. Bores come up and tell you their troubles. Cadgers come up and try to touch you. I shall be happier in Miss Jobson's suite. Could you possibly -here he ladled out another currency bill - 'let me in?'

'Certainly, sir,' said the maid, and did so.

'Thanks,' said Bingo. 'Heaven bless you, my dear old maid. Lovely day.'

'Beautiful,' said the maid.

He had scarcely crossed the threshold before he perceived that he had done the shrewd thing in sweetening her. He was a quid down, and he could ill spare quids, but it had been worth every penny of the money. There, as he had anticipated, was the photograph, plumb spang in the middle of the mantelpiece where it could not have failed to catch the eye of an incoming wife. To snatch it up and trouser it was with him the work of a moment, and he was just turning to the door to make the quick get away, when his attention was drawn to a row of bottles on the sideboard. There they stood, smiling up at him, and as he was feeling more than a little faint after his ordeal he decided to have one for the road before withdrawing.

So he sloshed some Italian vermouth into a glass, and sloshed some French vermouth on top of it, and was reaching for the gin, to start sloshing that, when his heart did three double somersaults and a swan-dive. There had come to his ears the rattle of a key in the door.

It is difficult to say what would really have been the right thing to do in the circumstances. Some chaps, I suppose, would just have stayed put and tried to pass it off with jovial breeziness. Others might have jumped out of the window. But he wasn't feeling equal to jovial breeziness and the suite was Jon the fourth floor, so he took a middle course. He cleared the sofa in a single bound, and had scarcely gone to earth behind it when the door opened.

It was not Bella Mae Jobson who entered, but his old pal the maid. She was escorting another early popper-in. Through the gap at the bottom of his zareba he could see the concluding portion of a pair of trousers and a pair of boots. And when the lips above these trousers spoke, he found that this was no stranger but a familiar acquaintance. The voice was the voice of Purkiss.

'Thank you, my dear,' said Purkiss.

Thank you, sir,' said the maid, leading Bingo to suppose that once more money had passed into her possession. He found himself brooding on the irony of the thing. Such a big day for the maid, I mean, and such a rotten one for him.

Purkiss coughed.

'I seem to be early.'

‘Yes, sir.'

'Then, perhaps, to fill in the time, I might be taking Miss Jobson's dog for a run.'

'Miss Jobson's out with the dog now, sir.'

'Oh?'said Purkiss.

There was a momentary silence, and then the maid said that that was funny, and Purkiss asked what was funny.

'There ought to be another gentleman here,' said the maid. 'But I don't see him. Oh yes,' she proceeded, as Bingo, who for some little while now had been inhaling fluff in rather large quantities, gave a hearty sneeze, 'there he is, behind the sofa.'

And the next moment Bingo was aware of an eye peering down at him from the upper regions. Purkiss's eye.

‘Mr Little!' cried Purkiss.

Bingo rose, feeling that it was useless to dissemble further.

'Ah, Purkiss,' he said distantly, for they were not on good terms, and with what dignity he could muster, which was not much, he rose and made for the door.

'Hey!' cried Purkiss. 'Just a minute.'

Bingo carried on doorwards.

'If you wish to speak to me, Purkiss,' he said, 'you will find me in the bar.'

But it was not thither that he immediately proceeded. His need for a bracer was urgent, but even more than a bracer he wanted air. He had been under the sofa only about three minutes, but as nobody had swept there for nearly six years quite a lot of mixed substances had found their way into his lungs. He was, indeed, feeling more like a dustbin than a man. He passed through the lobby and stood outside the door of the hotel, drinking in great draughts of the life-giving, and after a while began to feel better.

The improvement in his condition, however, was purely physical. Spiritually, he continued in the depths. As he reviewed the position of affairs, his heart struck a new low. He had secured the photograph, yes, and that was good, as far as it went. But it did not, he perceived, go so dashed far. If Purkiss was to be one of the guests at the Jobson lunch, he was still waist-high in the soup and likely to sink without trace at any moment.

He could envisage just what would occur at the beano. His tortured mind threw the thing into a sort of dialogue scene.

The Apartment of B. M. Jobson. Afternoon. Discovered - B. M.

Jobson and Purkiss. Enter Mrs Bingo.

 mrs bingo: Cheerio. I'm Rosie M. Banks.

iobson: Oh, what ho. Miss Banks. Do you know Mr Purkiss?

mrs bingo: You betcher. He owns the paper my husband is

editor of.

iobson: You're married, then?

mrs bingo: Oh, rather. Name of Little.

jobson: Little? Odd. I know a bird named Little. In fact when 1 say 'know', that's understating it a bit. He's been giving me the rush of a lifetime. 'Bingo', mine calls himself. Some relation, perhaps.

mrs bingo:

But he preferred not to sketch in Mrs Bingo's lines. He stood there groaning in spirit. And he had just groaned for about the fifteenth time, when a car drew up before him and through a sort of mist he saw Mrs Bingo seated at the steering-wheel.

'Oh, Bingo, darling!' cried Mrs Bingo. 'What luck finding you here. Is this where you're lunching with your writer? What an extraordinary coincidence.'

It seemed to Bingo that if he was going to put up any kind of a story, now was the time to put it up. In a few brief moments Mrs Bingo would be entering the presence of the Jobson, with results as already indicated, and her mind must be prepared.

But beyond a sort of mixed snort and gurgle he found him­self unable to utter, and Mrs Bingo carried on.

'I can't stop a minute,' she said. 'I've got to rush back to Mrs Purkiss. She's in great distress. When I got to her house, to pick her up and drive her here, I found her in a terrible state. Apparently her dog has been lost. I just came here to tell Miss Jobson that we shan't be able to lunch. Will you be an angel and ring her up from the desk and explain?'

Bingo blinked. The hotel, though solidly built, seemed to be swaying above him.

'You ... what was that you said? You won't be able to lunch with—'

'No. Mrs Purkiss wants me with her. She's gone to bed with a hot-water bottle. So will you ring Miss Jobson up? Then I can hurry off.'

Bingo drew a deep breath.

'Of course, of course, of course, of course, of course,' he said. 'Oh rather. Rather. Ring Miss Jobson up ... tell her you and Mrs Purkiss will not be among those present ... explain fully. A simple task. Leave it to me, light of my life.'

Thank you, darling. Goodbye.'

‘Goodbye,' said Bingo.

She drove off, and he stood there, his eyes closed and his lips moving silently. Only once in his life before had he been conscious of this awed sense of being the favourite son of a " benevolent providence. That was at his private school, when the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, his headmaster, in the very act of raising the cane to land him a juicy one on the old spot, had ricked his shoulder and had to postpone the ceremony indefinitely.

Presently, life returned to the rigid limbs and he tottered to the bar to have one quick, followed by another rather slower. And the first person he saw there, sucking down something pink, was Purkiss. He gave him an austere look, and settled himself at the farther end of the counter. Later on, it would pre­sumably be his nauseous task to step across and inform the man of the tragedy which had come upon his home, but the thought of holding speech with him after the way he had be­haved was so revolting that he did not propose to do it until he had fortified himself with a couple of refreshers.

And he had had the first one and was waiting for the second, when he felt something pawing at his sleeve. He glanced round, and there was Purkiss with a pleading look in his eyes, like a »-spaniel trying to ingratiate itself with someone whom it knows to be allergic to dogs.

‘Mr Little.'

‘Well, Purkiss?'

'Mr Little, it is in your power to do me a great kindness.'

Well, I don't know what you would have replied to that, if you had been in Bingo's position - addressed in this fashion, I mean, by a man who had not only given you the push but in doing so called you at least six offensive names. Personally, I would have said 'Oh?' or possibly 'Ho!' and that may have been what Bingo was intending to say. But before he could get going, Purkiss proceeded.

'Mr Little, I am faced by a disaster so hideous that the mind reels, contemplating it, and only you can save me. At any moment now, my wife will be arriving here. We are lunching with Miss Jobson. Mr Little, I appeal to you. Will you think of some suitable story and go and stand at the door and intercept her and prevent her coming to tins luncheon-party? My whole future happiness depends on this.'

At this juncture, Bingo's second refresher arrived and he sat sipping it thoughtfully. He could make nothing of all this, but is a pretty intelligent chap, and he was beginning to see that circumstances had arisen which might culminate in him doing a bit of good for himself.

'It is imperative that my wife does not enter Miss Jobson's suite.'

Bingo got outside the mixture, and laid the glass down.

'Tell me the whole story in your own words, Purkiss,' he said.

Purkiss had produced a handkerchief, and was mopping his forehead with it. With his other hand he continued to massage Bingo's arm. his whole deportment was vastly different from what it had been when he had called Bingo those six offen­sive names.

'It was only late this morning,' he said, 'that Miss Jobson informed me on the telephone that she had invited my wife to be a guest at this luncheon-party - which, until then, I had sup­posed would be a tete-a-tete between her and myself. I may mention that I have concluded negotiations with Miss Jobson for the publication of her brilliant works. I had presumed that over the luncheon-table we would discuss such details as illus­trations and general make-up.'

'Matters,' said Bingo coldly, 'more customarily left to the editor.'

'Quite, quite, but as ... yes, quite. But the point is, Mr Little, that in order to secure this material from Miss Jobson I had been compelled to - ah - how shall I put it—'

'Bring a little pressure to bear?'

'Precisely. Yes, that is exactly what I did. It seemed to me that the end justified the means. Wee Tots, as I saw it, was standing at the cross-roads. Let me secure the works of Bella Mae Jobson, and the dear old paper would soar beyond reach of rival competition. Let her, on the other hand, go to any of my trade rivals, and it would sustain a blow from which it might not recover. So I left no stone unturned.'

'And avenues?'

‘Avenues, too. I explored them all.'

Bingo pursed his lips.

'I have no wish to condemn you unheard, Purkiss,' he said, 'but all this begins to look a bit French. Did you kiss Miss Jobson?'

A violent start shook Purkiss from stem to stern.

'No, no, no, no!' he protested vehemently. 'Certainly not.

Most decidedly not. Nothing of that nature whatsoever. From start to finish our relations have been conducted with the utmost circumspection on my part, complete maidenly dignity on hers. But I took her to the National Gallery, the British Museum, and a matinee at Sadlers Wells. And then, seeing that she was weakening, I ...'

His voice faltered and died away. Recovering it, he asked the barman for another of those pink ones for himself and what­ever Bingo desired for Bingo. Then, when the tissue-restorers had appeared and he had drained his at a gulp, he found strength to continue.

'I gave her my wife's Pekinese.'


'Yes. She had admired the animal when visiting my house, and I smuggled it out in a hat-box when I left home this morn­ing and brought it to this hotel. Ten minutes later she had signed the contract. An hour later she apparently decided to include my wife in her list of guests. Two hours after that, she was informing me of this fact on the telephone, and I hastened here in the hope of being able to purloin the animal.

'But it was not to be. She had taken it for a run. Consider my position, Mr Little. What am I to do if my wife enters Miss Jobson's suite and finds her in possession of this dog? There will be explanations. And what will be the harvest when those explanations have been made?' He broke off, quivering in every limb. 'But why are we wasting time? While we sit talk­ing here, she may be arriving. Your post is at the door. Fly, Mr Little!'

Bingo eyed him coldly.

'It's all very well to say "Fly!",' he said, 'but the question that springs to the lips is, "What is there in this for me?"

Really, Purkiss, after your recent behaviour I rather fail to see why I should sweat myself to the bone, lugging you out of messes. It is true,' he went on meditatively, 'that I have thought of a pippin of a story which cannot fail to head Mrs Purkiss off when she arrives, but why should I bother to dish it out? At the end of this week I cease to be in your employment. It would be a very different thing, of course, if I were continuing as editor of Wee Tots—'

'But you are, Mr Little, you are.'

'- at a considerably increased salary—'

'Your salary shall be doubled.'

Bingo reflected.

'H'm!' he said. 'And no more muscling in and trying to dictate the policy of the "Uncle Joe To His Chickabiddies" page?'

'None, none. From now on, none. You shall have a com­pletely free hand.'

'Then, Purkiss, you may set your mind at rest. Mrs Purkiss will not be present at the luncheon-party.'

'You guarantee that?'

'I guarantee it,' said Bingo. 'Just step along with me to the writing-room and embody the terms of our new contract in a brief letter, and I will do the needful.'



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Quotes - By books

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