Love Among the Chickens
by P. G. Wodehouse
CHAPTER I. A
LETTER WITH A
CHAPTER II. MR.
AND MRS. S. F.
AND A GIRL WITH
CHAPTER IV. THE
CHAPTER VI. Mr.
DO WITH A
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER VIII. A
LITTLE DINNER AT
CHAPTER IX. DIES
CHAPTER X. I
SERVICES OF A
CHAPTER XI. THE
AND YELLOW LUPIN
TEA AND TENNIS
CHAPTER XIV. A
COUNCIL OF WAR
CHAPTER XV. THE
CHAPTER XVI. A
CHAPTER XVII. OF
UKRIDGE GIVES ME
CHAPTER XXI. THE
CALM BEFORE THE
THE STORM BREAKS
AFTER THE STORM
TO W. TOWNEND
I have never been much of a lad for the
But For Whose Sympathy and Encouragement
Would Never Have Been Written
type of dedication. It sounds so weak-minded. But in the case of
Love Among the Chickens it is unavoidable. It was not so much that you
sympathised and encouraged—where you really came out strong was that
you gave me the stuff. I like people who sympathise with me. I am
grateful to those who encourage me. But the man to whom I raise the
Wodehouse hat—owing to the increased cost of living, the same old
brown one I had last year—it is being complained of on all sides, but
the public must bear it like men till the straw hat season comes
round—I say, the man to whom I raise this venerable relic is the man
who gives me the material.
Sixteen years ago, my William, when we were young and spritely
lads; when you were a tricky centre-forward and I a fast bowler; when
your head was covered with hair and my list of "Hobbies" in Who's Who
included Boxing; I received from you one morning about thirty closely-
written foolscap pages, giving me the details of your friend ——-'s
adventures on his Devonshire chicken farm. Round these I wove as funny
a plot as I could, but the book stands or falls by the stuff you gave
me about "Ukridge"—the things that actually happened.
You will notice that I have practically re-written the book. There
was some pretty bad work in it, and it had "dated." As an instance of
the way in which the march of modern civilisation has left the 1906
edition behind, I may mention that on page twenty-one I was able to
make Ukridge speak of selling eggs at six for fivepence!
P. G. WODEHOUSE
CHAPTER I. A LETTER WITH A POSTSCRIPT
"A gentleman called to see you when you were out last night, sir,"
said Mrs. Medley, my landlady, removing the last of the breakfast
"Yes?" I said, in my affable way.
"A gentleman," said Mrs. Medley meditatively, "with a very powerful
"I said, did he leave a name?"
"Yes, sir. Mr. Ukridge."
"Oh, my sainted aunt!"
"Thank you, sir," said Mrs. Medley, withdrawing from the presence.
Ukridge! Oh, hang it! I had not met him for years, and, glad as I
am, as a general thing, to see the friends of my youth when they drop
in for a chat, I doubted whether I was quite equal to Ukridge at the
moment. A stout fellow in both the physical and moral sense of the
words, he was a trifle too jumpy for a man of my cloistered and
intellectual life, especially as just now I was trying to plan out a
new novel, a tricky job demanding complete quiet and seclusion. It had
always been my experience that, when Ukridge was around, things began
to happen swiftly and violently, rendering meditation impossible.
Ukridge was the sort of man who asks you out to dinner, borrows the
money from you to pay the bill, and winds up the evening by embroiling
you in a fight with a cabman. I have gone to Covent Garden balls with
Ukridge, and found myself legging it down Henrietta Street in the grey
dawn, pursued by infuriated costermongers.
I wondered how he had got my address, and on that problem light was
immediately cast by Mrs. Medley, who returned, bearing an envelope.
"It came by the morning post, sir, but it was left at Number Twenty
"Oh, thank you."
"Thank you, sir," said Mrs. Medley.
I recognised the handwriting. The letter which bore a Devonshire
postmark, was from an artist friend of mine, one Lickford, who was at
present on a sketching tour in the west. I had seen him off at
Waterloo a week before, and I remember that I had walked away from the
station wishing that I could summon up the energy to pack and get off
to the country somewhere. I hate London in July.
The letter was a long one, but it was the postscript which
interested me most.
" . . . By the way, at Yeovil I ran into an old friend of ours,
Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, of all people. As large as life—
quite six foot two, and tremendously filled out. I thought he was
abroad. The last I heard of him was that he had started for Buenos
Ayres in a cattle ship, with a borrowed pipe by way of luggage. It
seems he has been in England for some time. I met him in the
refreshment-room at Yeovil Station. I was waiting for a down train; he
had changed on his way to town. As I opened the door, I heard a huge
voice entreating the lady behind the bar to 'put it in a pewter'; and
there was S. F. U. in a villainous old suit of grey flannels (I'll
swear it was the one he had on last time I saw him) with pince-nez
tacked on to his ears with ginger-beer wire as usual, and a couple of
inches of bare neck showing between the bottom of his collar and the
top of his coat—you remember how he could never get a stud to do its
work. He also wore a mackintosh, though it was a blazing day.
"He greeted me with effusive shouts. Wouldn't hear of my standing
the racket. Insisted on being host. When we had finished, he fumbled
in his pockets, looked pained and surprised, and drew me aside. 'Look
here, Licky, old horse,' he said, 'you know I never borrow money. It's
against my principles. But I must have a couple of bob. Can
you, my dear good fellow, oblige me with a couple of bob till next
Tuesday? I'll tell you what I'll do. (In a voice full of emotion).
I'll let you have this (producing a beastly little threepenny bit with
a hole in it which he had probably picked up in the street) until I
can pay you back. This is of more value to me than I can well express,
Licky, my boy. A very, very dear friend gave it to me when we parted,
years ago . . . It's a wrench . . . Still,—no, no . . . You must take
it, you must take it. Licky, old man, shake hands, old horse. Shake
hands, my boy.' He then tottered to the bar, deeply moved, and paid up
out of the five shillings which he had made it as an after-thought. He
asked after you, and said you were one of the noblest men on earth. I
gave him your address, not being able to get out of it, but if I were
you I should fly while there is yet time."
It seemed to me that the advice was good and should be followed. I
needed a change of air. London may have suited Doctor Johnson, but in
the summer time it is not for the ordinary man. What I wanted, to
enable me to give the public of my best (as the reviewer of a weekly
paper, dealing with my last work, had expressed a polite hope that I
would continue to do) was a little haven in the country somewhere.
I rang the bell.
"Sir?" said Mrs. Medley.
"I'm going away for a bit," I said.
"I don't know where. I'll send you the address, so that you can
"And, if Mr. Ukridge calls again . . ."
At this point a thunderous knocking on the front door interrupted
me. Something seemed to tell me who was at the end of that knocker. I
heard Mrs. Medley's footsteps pass along the hall. There was the click
of the latch. A volume of sound rushed up the stairs.
"Is Mr. Garnet in? Where is he? Show me the old horse. Where is the
man of wrath? Exhibit the son of Belial."
There followed a violent crashing on the stairs, shaking the house.
"Garnet! Where are you, laddie? Garnet!! GARNET!!!!!"
Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge was in my midst.
CHAPTER II. MR. AND MRS. S. F.
I have often thought that Who's Who, though a bulky and
well-meaning volume, omits too many of England's greatest men. It is
not comprehensive enough. I am in it, nestling among the G's:—
"Garnet, Jeremy, o.s. of late Henry Garnet, vicar of Much
Middlefold, Salop; author. Publications: 'The Outsider,' 'The
Manoeuvres of Arthur.' Hobbies: Cricket, football, swimming, golf.
But if you search among the U's for UKRIDGE, Stanley
Featherstonehaugh, details of whose tempestuous career would make
really interesting reading, you find no mention of him. It seems
unfair, though I imagine Ukridge bears it with fortitude. That much-
enduring man has had a lifetime's training in bearing things with
He seemed in his customary jovial spirits, now as he dashed into
the room, clinging on to the pince-nez which even ginger-beer wire
rarely kept stable for two minutes together.
"My dear old man," he shouted, springing at me and seizing my hand
in the grip like the bite of a horse. "How are you, old buck?
This is good. By Jove, this is fine, what?"
He dashed to the door and looked out.
"Come on Millie! Pick up the waukeesis. Here's old Garnet, looking
just the same as ever. Devilish handsome fellow! You'll be glad you
came when you see him. Beats the Zoo hollow!"
There appeared round the corner of Ukridge a young woman. She
paused in the doorway and smiled pleasantly.
"Garny, old horse," said Ukridge with some pride, "this is
! The pride of the home. Companion of joys and sorrows and all the
rest of it. In fact," in a burst of confidence, "my wife."
I bowed awkwardly. The idea of Ukridge married was something too
overpowering to be readily assimilated.
"Buck up, old horse," said Ukridge encouragingly. He had a painful
habit of addressing all and sundry by that title. In his school-master
days—at one period of his vivid career he and I had been colleagues
on the staff of a private school—he had made use of it interviewing
the parents of new pupils, and the latter had gone away, as a rule,
with a feeling that this must be either the easy manner of Genius or
due to alcohol, and hoping for the best. He also used it to perfect
strangers in the streets, and on one occasion had been heard to
address a bishop by that title, rendering that dignity, as Mr. Baboo
Jaberjee would put it, sotto voce with gratification.
"Surprised to find me married, what? Garny, old boy,"—sinking his
voice to a whisper almost inaudible on the other side of the
street—"take my tip. Go and jump off the dock yourself. You'll feel
another man. Give up this bachelor business. It's a mug's game. I look
on you bachelors as excrescences on the social system. I regard you,
old man, purely and simply as a wart. Go and get married, laddie, go
and get married. By gad, I've forgotten to pay the cabby. Lend me a
couple of bob, Garny old chap."
He was out of the door and on his way downstairs before the echoes
of his last remark had ceased to shake the window. I was left to
entertain Mrs. Ukridge.
So far her share in the conversation had been confined to the
pleasant smile which was apparently her chief form of expression.
Nobody talked very much when Ukridge was present. She sat on the edge
of the armchair, looking very small and quiet. I was conscious of
feeling a benevolent pity for her. If I had been a girl, I would have
preferred to marry a volcano. A little of Ukridge, as his former head
master had once said in a moody, reflective voice, went a very long
way. "You and Stanley have known each other a long time, haven't you?"
said the object of my commiseration, breaking the silence.
"Yes. Oh, yes. Several years. We were masters at the same school."
Mrs. Ukridge leaned forward with round, shining eyes.
"Really? Oh, how nice!" she said ecstatically.
Not yet, to judge from her expression and the tone of her voice,
had she found any disadvantages attached to the arduous position of
being Mrs. Stanley Ukridge.
"He's a wonderfully versatile man," I said.
"I believe he could do anything."
"He'd have a jolly good try!"
"Have you ever kept fowls?" asked Mrs. Ukridge, with apparent
I had not. She looked disappointed.
"I was hoping you might have had some experience. Stanley, of
course, can turn his hand to anything; but I think experience is
rather a good thing, don't you?"
"Yes. But . . ."
"I have bought a shilling book called 'Fowls and All About Them,'
and this week's copy of C.A.C."
"Chiefly About Chickens. It's a paper, you know. But it's all
rather hard to understand. You see, we . . . but here is Stanley. He
will explain the whole thing."
"Well, Garny, old horse," said Ukridge, re-entering the room after
another energetic passage of the stairs. "Years since I saw you. Still
"Still, so to speak, buzzing," I assented.
"I was reading your last book the other day."
"Yes?" I said, gratified. "How did you like it?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, laddie, I didn't get beyond the third
page, because the scurvy knave at the bookstall said he wasn't running
a free library, and in one way and another there was a certain amount
of unpleasantness. Still, it seemed bright and interesting up to page
three. But let's settle down and talk business. I've got a scheme for
you, Garny old man. Yessir, the idea of a thousand years. Now listen
to me for a moment. Let me get a word in edgeways."
He sat down on the table, and dragged up a chair as a leg-rest.
Then he took off his pince-nez, wiped them, re-adjusted the
ginger-beer wire behind his ears, and, having hit a brown patch on the
knee of his grey flannel trousers several times, in the apparent hope
of removing it, resumed:
The subject was beginning to interest me. It showed a curious
tendency to creep into the conversation of the Ukridge family.
"I want you to give me your undivided attention for a moment. I was
saying to my wife, as we came here, 'Garnet's the man! Clever devil,
Garnet. Full of ideas.' Didn't I, Millie?"
"Laddie," said Ukridge impressively, "we are going to keep fowls."
He shifted himself farther on to the table and upset the ink-pot.
"Never mind," he said, "it'll soak in. It's good for the texture.
Or am I thinking of tobacco-ash on the carpet? Well, never mind.
Listen to me! When I said that we were going to keep fowls, I didn't
mean in a small, piffling sort of way—two cocks and a couple of hens
and a golf-ball for a nest-egg. We are going to do it on a large
scale. We are going to run a chicken farm!"
"A chicken farm," echoed Mrs. Ukridge with an affectionate and
admiring glance at her husband.
"Ah," I said, feeling my responsibilities as chorus. "A chicken
"I've thought it all over, laddie, and it's as clear as mud. No
expenses, large profits, quick returns. Chickens, eggs, and the money
streaming in faster than you can bank it. Winter and summer
underclothing, my bonny boy, lined with crackling Bradbury's. It's the
idea of a lifetime. Now listen to me for a moment. You get your hen—"
"Call it one for the sake of argument. It makes my calculations
clearer. Very well, then. Harriet the hen—you get her. Do you follow
me so far?"
"Yes. You get a hen."
"I told you Garnet was a dashed bright fellow," said Ukridge
approvingly to his attentive wife. "Notice the way he keeps right
after one's ideas? Like a bloodhound. Well, where was I?"
"You'd just got a hen."
"Exactly. The hen. Pricilla the pullet. Well, it lays an egg every
day of the week. You sell the eggs, six for half a crown. Keep of hen
costs nothing. Profit—at least a couple of bob on every dozen eggs.
What do you think of that?"
"I think I'd like to overhaul the figures in case of error."
"Error!" shouted Ukridge, pounding the table till it groaned.
"Error?" Not a bit of it. Can't you follow a simple calculation like
that? Oh, I forgot to say that you get—and here is the nub of the
thing—you get your first hen on tick. Anybody will be glad to let you
have the hen on tick. Well, then, you let this hen—this first,
original hen, this on-tick-hen—you let it set and hatch chickens. Now
follow me closely. Suppose you have a dozen hens. Very well, then.
When each of the dozen has a dozen chickens, you send the old hens
back to the chappies you borrowed them from, with thanks for kind
loan; and there you are, starting business with a hundred and
forty-four free chickens to your name. And after a bit, when the
chickens grow up and begin to lay, all you have to do is to sit back
in your chair and endorse the big cheques. Isn't that so, Millie?"
"We've fixed it all up. Do you know Combe Regis, in Dorsetshire? On
the borders of Devon. Bathing. Sea-air. Splendid scenery. Just the
place for a chicken farm. A friend of Millie's—girl she knew at
school—has lent us a topping old house, with large grounds. All we've
got to do is to get in the fowls. I've ordered the first lot. We shall
find them waiting for us when we arrive."
"Well," I said, "I'm sure I wish you luck. Mind you let me know how
you get on."
"Let you know!" roared Ukridge. "Why, my dear old horse, you're
coming with us."
"Am I?" I said blankly.
"Certainly you are. We shall take no refusal. Will we, Millie?"
"Of course not. No refusal of any sort. Pack up to-night and meet
us at Waterloo to-morrow."
"It's awfully good of you . . ."
"Not a bit of it—not a bit of it. This is pure business. I was
saying to Millie as we came along that you were the very man for us. A
man with your flow of ideas will be invaluable on a chicken farm.
Absolutely invaluable. You see," proceeded Ukridge, "I'm one of those
practical fellows. The hard-headed type. I go straight ahead,
following my nose. What you want in a business of this sort is a touch
of the dreamer to help out the practical mind. We look to you for
suggestions, laddie. Flashes of inspiration and all that sort of
thing. Of course, you take your share of the profits. That's
understood. Yes, yes, I must insist. Strict business between friends.
Now, taking it that, at a conservative estimate, the net profits for
the first fiscal year amount to—five thousand, no, better be on the
safe side—say, four thousand five hundred pounds . . . But we'll
arrange all that end of it when we get down there. Millie will look
after that. She's the secretary of the concern. She's been writing
letters to people asking for hens. So you see it's a thoroughly
organised business. How many hen-letters did you write last week, old
Ukridge turned triumphantly to me.
"You hear? Ten. Ten letters asking for hens. That's the way to
succeed. Push and enterprise."
"Six of them haven't answered, Stanley, dear, and the rest
"Immaterial," said Ukridge with a grand gesture. "That doesn't
matter. The point is that the letters were written. It shows we are
solid and practical. Well now, can you get your things ready by
to-morrow, Garny old horse?"
Strange how one reaches an epoch-making moment in one's life
without recognising it. If I had refused that invitation, I would not
have—at any rate, I would have missed a remarkable experience. It is
not given to everyone to see Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge manage
a chicken farm.
"I was thinking of going somewhere where I could get some golf," I
"Combes Regis is just the place for you, then. Perfect hot-bed of
golf. Full of the finest players. Can't throw a brick without hitting
an amateur champion. Grand links at the top of the hill not half a
mile from the farm. Bring your clubs. You'll be able to play in the
afternoons. Get through serious work by lunch time."
"You know," I said, "I am absolutely inexperienced as regards
fowls. I just know enough to help myself to bread sauce when I see
one, but no more."
"Excellent! You're just the man. You will bring to the work a mind
unclouded by theories. You will act solely by the light of your
intelligence. And you've got lots of that. That novel of yours showed
the most extraordinary intelligence—at least as far as that blighter
at the bookstall would let me read. I wouldn't have a professional
chicken farmer about the place if he paid to come. If he applied to
me, I should simply send him away. Natural intelligence is what we
want. Then we can rely on you?"
"Very well," I said slowly. "It's very kind of you to ask me."
"Business, laddie, pure business. Very well, then. We shall catch
the eleven-twenty at Waterloo. Don't miss it. Look out for me on the
platform. If I see you first, I'll shout."
CHAPTER III. WATERLOO STATION, SOME
FELLOW-TRAVELLERS, AND A GIRL WITH BROWN HAIR
The austerity of Waterloo Station was lightened on the following
morning at ten minutes to eleven, when I arrived to catch the train to
Combe Regis, by several gleams of sunshine and a great deal of bustle
and activity on the various platforms. A porter took my suitcase and
golf-clubs, and arranged an assignation on Number 6 platform. I bought
my ticket, and made my way to the bookstall, where, in the interests
of trade, I inquired in a loud and penetrating voice if they had got
Jeremy Garnet's "Manoeuvres of Arthur." Being informed that they had
not, I clicked my tongue reproachfully, advised them to order in a
supply, as the demand was likely to be large, and spent a couple of
shillings on a magazine and some weekly papers. Then, with ten minutes
to spare, I went off in search of Ukridge.
I found him on platform six. The eleven-twenty was already
alongside, and presently I observed my porter cleaving a path towards
me with the suit-case and golf-bag.
"Here you are!" shouted Ukridge vigorously. "Good for you. Thought
you were going to miss it."
I shook hands with the smiling Mrs. Ukridge.
"I've got a carriage and collared two corner seats. Millie goes
down in another. She doesn't like the smell of smoke when she's
travelling. Hope we get the carriage to ourselves. Devil of a lot of
people here this morning. Still, the more people there are in the
world, the more eggs we shall sell. I can see with half an eye that
all these blighters are confirmed egg-eaters. Get in, sonnie. I'll
just see the missis into her carriage, and come back to you."
I entered the compartment, and stood at the door, looking out in
the faint hope of thwarting an invasion of fellow-travellers. Then I
withdrew my head suddenly and sat down. An elderly gentleman,
accompanied by a pretty girl, was coming towards me. It was not this
type of fellow traveller whom I had hoped to keep out. I had noticed
the girl at the booking office. She had waited by the side of the
queue while the elderly gentleman struggled gamely for the tickets,
and I had had plenty of opportunity of observing her appearance. I had
debated with myself whether her hair should rightly be described as
brown or golden. I had finally decided on brown. Once only had I met
her eyes, and then only for an instant. They might be blue. They might
be grey. I could not be certain. Life is full of these problems.
"This seems to be tolerably empty, my dear Phyllis," said the
elderly gentleman, coming to the door of the compartment and looking
in. "You're sure you don't object to a smoking-carriage?"
"Oh no, father. Not a bit."
"Then I think . . ." said the elderly gentleman, getting in.
The inflection of his voice suggested the Irishman. It was not a
brogue. There were no strange words. But the general effect was Irish.
"That's good," he said, settling himself and pulling out a cigar
The bustle of the platform had increased momentarily, until now,
when, from the snorting of the engine, it seemed likely that the train
might start at any minute, the crowd's excitement was extreme. Shrill
cries echoed down the platform. Lost sheep, singly and in companies,
rushed to and fro, peering eagerly into carriages in search of seats.
Piercing voices ordered unknown "Tommies" and "Ernies" to "keep by
aunty, now." Just as Ukridge returned, that sauve qui peut of
the railway crowd, the dreaded "Get in anywhere," began to be heard,
and the next moment an avalanche of warm humanity poured into the
The newcomers consisted of a middle-aged lady, addressed as Aunty,
very stout and clad in a grey alpaca dress, skin-tight; a youth called
Albert, not, it was to appear, a sunny child; a niece of some twenty
years, stolid and seemingly without interest in life, and one or two
other camp-followers and retainers.
Ukridge slipped into his corner, adroitly foiling Albert, who had
made a dive in that direction. Albert regarded him fixedly and
reproachfully for a space, then sank into the seat beside me and began
to chew something that smelt of aniseed.
Aunty, meanwhile, was distributing her substantial weight evenly
between the feet of the Irish gentleman and those of his daughter, as
she leaned out of the window to converse with a lady friend in a straw
hat and hair curlers, accompanied by three dirty and frivolous boys.
It was, she stated, lucky that she had caught the train. I could not
agree with her. The girl with the brown hair and the eyes that were
neither blue or grey was bearing the infliction, I noticed, with
angelic calm. She even smiled. This was when the train suddenly moved
off with a jerk, and Aunty, staggering back, sat down on the bag of
food which Albert had placed on the seat beside him.
"Clumsy!" observed Albert tersely.
"Albert, you mustn't speak to Aunty so!"
"Wodyer want to sit on my bag for then?" said Albert disagreeably.
They argued the point. Argument in no wise interfered with Albert's
power of mastication. The odour of aniseed became more and more
painful. Ukridge had lighted a cigar, and I understood why Mrs.
Ukridge preferred to travel in another compartment, for
"In his hand he bore the brand
Which none but he might smoke."
I looked across the carriage stealthily to see how the girl was
enduring this combination of evils, and noticed that she had begun to
read. And as she put the book down to look out of the window, I saw
with a thrill that trickled like warm water down my spine that her
book was "The Manoeuvres of Arthur." I gasped. That a girl should look
as pretty as that and at the same time have the rare intelligence to
read Me . . . well, it seemed an almost superhuman combination of the
excellencies. And more devoutly than ever I cursed in my heart these
intrusive outsiders who had charged in at the last moment and
destroyed for ever my chance of making this wonderful girl's
acquaintance. But for them, we might have become intimate in the first
half hour. As it was, what were we? Ships that pass in the night! She
would get out at some beastly wayside station, and vanish from my life
without my ever having even spoken to her.
Aunty, meanwhile, having retired badly worsted from her encounter
with Albert, who showed a skill in logomachy that marked him out as a
future labour member, was consoling herself with meat sandwiches. The
niece was demolishing sausage rolls. The atmosphere of the carriage
was charged with a blend of odours, topping all Ukridge's cigar, now
in full blast.
The train raced on towards the sea. It was a warm day, and a torpid
peace began to settle down upon the carriage. Ukridge had thrown away
the stump of his cigar, and was now leaning back with his mouth open
and his eyes shut. Aunty, still clutching a much-bitten section of a
beef sandwich, was breathing heavily and swaying from side to side.
Albert and the niece were dozing, Albert's jaws working automatically,
even in sleep.
"What's your book, my dear?" asked the Irishman.
" 'The Manoeuvres of Arthur,' father. By Jeremy Garnet."
I would not have believed without the evidence of my ears that my
name could possibly have sounded so musical.
"Molly McEachern gave it to me when I left the Abbey. She keeps a
shelf of books for her guests when they are going away. Books that she
considers rubbish, and doesn't want, you know."
I hated Miss McEachern without further evidence.
"And what do you think of it?"
"I like it," said the girl decidedly. The carriage swam before my
eyes. "I think it is very clever."
What did it matter after that that the ass in charge of the
Waterloo bookstall had never heard of "The Manoeuvres of Arthur," and
that my publishers, whenever I slunk in to ask how it was selling,
looked at me with a sort of grave, paternal pity and said that it had
not really "begun to move?" Anybody can write one of those rotten
popular novels which appeal to the unthinking public, but it takes a
man of intellect and refinement and taste and all that sort of thing
to turn out something that will be approved of by a girl like this.
"I wonder who Jeremy Garnet is," she said. "I've never heard of him
before. I imagine him rather an old young man, probably with an
eyeglass, and conceited. And I should think he didn't know many girls.
At least if he thinks Pamela an ordinary sort of girl. She's a
cr-r-eature," said Phyllis emphatically.
This was a blow to me. I had always looked on Pamela as a
well-drawn character, and a very attractive, kittenish little thing at
that. That scene between her and the curate in the conservatory . . .
And when she talks to Arthur at the meet of the Blankshires . . . I
was sorry she did not like Pamela. Somehow it lowered Pamela in my
"But I like Arthur," said the girl.
This was better. A good chap, Arthur,—a very complete and
thoughtful study of myself. If she liked Arthur, why, then it followed
. . . but what was the use? I should never get a chance of speaking to
her. We were divided by a great gulf of Aunties and Alberts and meat
The train was beginning to slow down. Signs of returning animation
began to be noticeable among the sleepers. Aunty's eyes opened, stared
vacantly round, closed, and reopened. The niece woke, and started
instantly to attack a sausage roll. Albert and Ukridge slumbered on.
A whistle from the engine, and the train drew up at a station.
Looking out, I saw that it was Yeovil. There was a general exodus.
Aunty became instantly a thing of dash and electricity, collected
parcels, shook Albert, replied to his thrusts with repartee, and
finally heading a stampede out of the door.
The Irishman and his daughter also rose, and got out. I watched
them leave stoically. It would have been too much to expect that they
should be going any further.
"Where are we?" said Ukridge sleepily. "Yeovil? Not far now. I tell
you what it is, old horse, I could do with a drink."
With that remark he closed his eyes again, and returned to his
slumbers. And, as he did so, my eye, roving discontentedly over the
carriage, was caught by something lying in the far corner. It was "The
Manoeuvres of Arthur." The girl had left it behind.
I suppose what follows shows the vanity that obsesses young
authors. It did not even present itself to me as a tenable theory that
the book might have been left behind on purpose, as being of no
further use to the owner. It only occurred to me that, if I did not
act swiftly, the poor girl would suffer a loss beside which the loss
of a purse or vanity-case were trivial.
Five seconds later I was on the platform.
"Excuse me," I said, "I think . . . ?"
"Oh, thank you so much," said the girl.
I made my way back to the carriage, and lit my pipe in a glow of
"They are blue," I said to my immortal soul. "A wonderful, deep,
soft, heavenly blue, like the sea at noonday."
CHAPTER IV. THE ARRIVAL
From Axminster to Combe Regis the line runs through country as
attractive as any that can be found in the island, and the train, as
if in appreciation of this fact, does not hurry over the journey. It
was late afternoon by the time we reached our destination.
The arrangements for the carrying of luggage at Combe Regis border
on the primitive. Boxes are left on the platform, and later, when he
thinks of it, a carrier looks in and conveys them into the valley and
up the hill on the opposite side to the address written on the labels.
The owner walks. Combe Regis is not a place for the halt and maimed.
Ukridge led us in the direction of the farm, which lay across the
valley, looking through woods to the sea. The place was visible from
the station, from which, indeed, standing as it did on the top of a
hill, the view was extensive.
Half-way up the slope on the other side of the valley we left the
road and made our way across a spongy field, Ukridge explaining that
this was a short cut. We climbed through a hedge, crossed a stream and
another field, and after negotiating a difficult bank, topped with
barbed wire, found ourselves in a garden.
Ukridge mopped his forehead, and restored his pince-nez to their
original position from which the passage of the barbed wire had
"This is the place," he said. "We've come in by the back way. Saves
time. Tired, Millie?"
"A little, dear. I should like some tea."
"Same here," I agreed.
"That'll be all right," said Ukridge. "A most competent man of the
name of Beale and his wife are in charge at present. I wrote to them
telling them that we were coming to-day. They will be ready for us.
That's the way to do things, Garny old horse. Quiet efficiency.
We were at the front door by this time. Ukridge rang the bell. The
noise echoed through the house, but there was no answering footsteps.
He rang again. There is no mistaking the note of a bell in an empty
house. It was plain that the competent man and his wife were out.
"Now what?" I said.
Mrs. Ukridge looked at her husband with calm confidence.
"This," said Ukridge, leaning against the door and endeavouring to
button his collar at the back, "reminds me of an afternoon in the
Argentine. Two other cheery sportsmen and myself tried for three-
quarters of an hour to get into an empty house where there looked as
if there might be something to drink, and we'd just got the door open
when the owner turned up from behind a tree with a shot-gun. It was a
little difficult to explain. As a matter of fact, we never did what
you might call really thresh the matter out thoroughly in all its
aspects, and you'd be surprised what a devil of a time it takes to
pick buck-shot out of a fellow. There was a dog, too."
He broke off, musing dreamily on the happy past, and at this moment
history partially repeated itself. From the other side of the door
came a dissatisfied whine, followed by a short bark.
"Hullo," said Ukridge, "Beale has a dog." He frowned, annoyed.
"What right," he added in an aggrieved tone, "has a beastly mongrel,
belonging to a man I employ, to keep me out of my own house? It's a
little hard. Here am I, slaving day and night to support Beale, and
when I try to get into my own house his infernal dog barks at me. Upon
my Sam it's hard!" He brooded for a moment on the injustice of things.
"Here, let me get to the keyhole. I'll reason with the brute."
He put his mouth to the keyhole and roared "Goo' dog!" through it.
Instantly the door shook as some heavy object hurled itself against
it. The barking rang through the house.
"Come round to the back," said Ukridge, giving up the idea of
conciliation, "we'll get in through the kitchen window."
The kitchen window proved to be insecurely latched. Ukridge threw
it open and we climbed in. The dog, hearing the noise, raced back
along the passage and flung himself at the door, scratching at the
panels. Ukridge listened with growing indignation.
"Millie, you know how to light a fire. Garnet and I will be
collecting cups and things. When that scoundrel Beale arrives I shall
tear him limb from limb. Deserting us like this! The man must be a
thorough fraud. He told me he was an old soldier. If that's the sort
of discipline they used to keep in his regiment, thank God, we've got
a Navy! Damn, I've broken a plate. How's the fire getting on, Millie?
I'll chop Beale into little bits. What's that you've got there, Garny
old horse? Tea? Good. Where's the bread? There goes another plate.
Where's Mrs. Beale, too? By Jove, that woman wants killing as much as
her blackguard of a husband. Whoever heard of a cook deliberately
leaving her post on the day when her master and mistress were expected
back? The abandoned woman. Look here, I'll give that dog three
minutes, and if it doesn't stop scratching that door by then, I'll
take a rolling pin and go out and have a heart-to-heart talk with it.
It's a little hard. My own house, and the first thing I find when I
arrive is somebody else's beastly dog scratching holes in the doors
and ruining the expensive paint. Stop it, you brute!"
The dog's reply was to continue his operations with immense vigour.
Ukridge's eyes gleamed behind their glasses.
"Give me a good large jug, laddie," he said with ominous calm.
He took the largest of the jugs from the dresser and strode with it
into the scullery, whence came a sound of running water. He returned
carrying the jug with both hands, his mien that of a general who sees
his way to a masterstroke of strategy.
"Garny, old horse," he said, "freeze onto the handle of the door,
and, when I give the word, fling wide the gates. Then watch that
animal get the surprise of a lifetime."
I attached myself to the handle as directed. Ukridge gave the word.
We had a momentary vision of an excited dog of the mongrel class
framed in the open doorway, all eyes and teeth; then the passage was
occupied by a spreading pool, and indignant barks from the distance
told that the enemy was thinking the thing over in some safe retreat.
his hash," said Ukridge complacently. "Nothing like
resource, Garny my boy. Some men would have gone on letting a good
door be ruined."
"And spoiled the dog for a ha'porth of water," I said.
At this moment Mrs. Ukridge announced that the kettle was boiling.
Over a cup of tea Ukridge became the man of business.
"I wonder when those fowls are going to arrive. They should have
been here to-day. It's a little hard. Here am I, all eagerness and
anxiety, waiting to start an up-to-date chicken farm, and no fowls! I
can't run a chicken farm without fowls. If they don't come to-morrow,
I shall get after those people with a hatchet. There must be no
slackness. They must bustle about. After tea I'll show you the garden,
and we'll choose a place for a fowl-run. To-morrow we must buckle to.
Serious work will begin immediately after breakfast."
"Suppose," I said, "the fowls arrive before we're ready for them?"
"Why, then they must wait."
"But you can't keep fowls cooped up indefinitely in a crate."
"Oh, that'll be all right. There's a basement to this house. We'll
let 'em run about there till we're ready for them. There's always a
way of doing things if you look for it. Organisation, my boy. That's
the watchword. Quiet efficiency."
"I hope you are going to let the hens hatch some of the eggs,
dear," said Mrs. Ukridge. "I should love to have some little
"Of course. By all means. My idea," said Ukridge, "was this. These
people will send us fifty fowls of sorts. That means—call it forty-
five eggs a day. Let 'em . . . Well, I'm hanged! There's that dog
again. Where's the jug?"
But this time an unforeseen interruption prevented the manoeuvre
being the success it had been before. I had turned the handle and was
about to pull the door open, while Ukridge, looking like some modern
and dilapidated version of the Discobolus, stood beside me with
his jug poised, when a voice spoke from the window.
"Stand still!" said the voice, "or I'll corpse you!"
I dropped the handle. Ukridge dropped the jug. Mrs. Ukridge dropped
her tea-cup. At the window, with a double-barrelled gun in his hands,
stood a short, square, red-headed man. The muzzle of his gun, which
rested on the sill, was pointing in a straight line at the third
button of my waistcoat.
Ukridge emitted a roar like that of a hungry lion.
"Beale! You scoundrelly, unprincipled, demon! What the devil are
you doing with that gun? Why were you out? What have you been doing?
Why did you shout like that? Look what you've made me do."
He pointed to the floor. The very old pair of tennis shoes which he
wore were by this time generously soaked with the spilled water.
"Lor, Mr. Ukridge, sir, is that you?" said the red-headed man
calmly. "I thought you was burglars."
A short bark from the other side of the kitchen door, followed by a
renewal of the scratching, drew Mr. Beale's attention to his faithful
"That's Bob," he said.
"I don't know what you call the brute," said Ukridge. "Come in and
tie him up. And mind what you're doing with that gun. After you've
finished with the dog, I should like a brief chat with you, laddie, if
you can spare the time and have no other engagements."
Mr. Beale, having carefully deposited the gun against the wall and
dropped a pair of very limp rabbits on the floor, proceeded to climb
in through the window. This operation concluded, he stood to one side
while the besieged garrison passed out by the same route.
"You will find me in the garden," said Ukridge coldly. "I've one or
two little things to say to you."
Mr. Beale grinned affably. He seemed to be a man of equable
The cool air of the garden was grateful after the warmth of the
kitchen. It was a pretty garden, or would have been if it had not been
so neglected. I seemed to see myself sitting in a deck-chair on the
lawn, smoking and looking through the trees at the harbour below. It
was a spot, I felt, in which it would be an easy and a pleasant task
to shape the plot of my novel. I was glad I had come. About now,
outside my lodgings in town, a particularly foul barrel-organ would be
settling down to work.
"Oh, there you are, Beale," said Ukridge, as the servitor appeared.
"Now then, what have you to say?"
The hired man looked thoughtful for a moment, then said that it was
a fine evening.
"Fine evening?" shouted Ukridge. "What on earth has that got to do
with it? I want to know why you and Mrs. Beale were out when we
"The missus went to Axminster, Mr. Ukridge, sir."
"She had no right to go to Axminster. It isn't part of her duties
to go gadding about to Axminster. I don't pay her enormous sums to go
to Axminster. You knew I was coming this evening."
"Beale," said Ukridge with studied calm, the strong man repressing
himself. "One of us two is a fool."
"Let us sift this matter to the bottom. You got my letter?"
"My letter saying that I should arrive to-day. You didn't get it?"
"Now, look here, Beale, this is absurd. I am certain that that
letter was posted. I remember placing it in my pocket for that
purpose. It is not there now. See. These are all the contents of
my—well, I'm hanged."
He stood looking at the envelope which he had produced from his
breast-pocket. A soft smile played over Mr. Beale's wooden face. He
"Beale," said Ukridge, "you—er—there seems to have been a
"You are not so much to blame as I thought."
There was a silence.
"Anyhow," said Ukridge in inspired tones, "I'll go and slay that
infernal dog. I'll teach him to tear my door to pieces. Where's your
But better counsels prevailed, and the proceedings closed with a
cold but pleasant little dinner, at which the spared mongrel came out
unexpectedly strong with ingenious and diverting tricks.
CHAPTER V. BUCKLING TO
Sunshine, streaming into my bedroom through the open window, woke
me next day as distant clocks were striking eight. It was a lovely
morning, cool and fresh. The grass of the lawn, wet with dew, sparkled
in the sun. A thrush, who knew all about early birds and their
perquisites, was filling in the time before the arrival of the worm
with a song or two, as he sat in the bushes. In the ivy a colony of
sparrows were opening the day with brisk scuffling. On the gravel in
front of the house lay the mongrel, Bob, blinking lazily.
The gleam of the sea through the trees turned my thoughts to
bathing. I dressed quickly and went out. Bob rose to meet me, waving
an absurdly long tail. The hatchet was definitely buried now. That
little matter of the jug of water was forgotten.
A walk of five minutes down the hill brought me, accompanied by
Bob, to the sleepy little town. I passed through the narrow street,
and turned on to the beach, walking in the direction of the
combination of pier and break-water which loomed up through the faint
The tide was high, and, leaving my clothes to the care of Bob, who
treated them as a handy bed, I dived into twelve feet of clear, cold
water. As I swam, I compared it with the morning tub of London, and
felt that I had done well to come with Ukridge to this pleasant spot.
Not that I could rely on unbroken calm during the whole of my visit. I
knew nothing of chicken-farming, but I was certain that Ukridge knew
less. There would be some strenuous moments before that farm became a
profitable commercial speculation. At the thought of Ukridge toiling
on a hot afternoon to manage an undisciplined mob of fowls, I laughed,
and swallowed a generous mouthful of salt water; and, turning, swam
back to Bob and my clothes.
On my return, I found Ukridge, in his shirt sleeves and minus a
collar, assailing a large ham. Mrs. Ukridge, looking younger and more
child-like than ever in brown holland, smiled at me over the tea-pot.
"Hullo, old horse," bellowed Ukridge, "where have you been?
Bathing? Hope it's made you feel fit for work, because we've got to
buckle to this morning."
"The fowls have arrived, Mr. Garnet," said Mrs. Ukridge, opening
her eyes till she looked like an astonished kitten. "Such a lot of
them. They're making such a noise."
To support her statement there floated in through the window a
cackling which for volume and variety beat anything I had ever heard.
Judging from the noise, it seemed as if England had been drained of
fowls and the entire tribe of them dumped into the yard of Ukridge's
"There seems to have been no stint," I said.
"Quite a goodish few, aren't there?" said Ukridge complacently.
"But that's what we want. No good starting on a small scale. The more
you have, the bigger the profits."
"What sorts have you got mostly?" I asked, showing a professional
"Oh, all sorts. My theory, laddie, is this. It doesn't matter a bit
what kind we get, because they'll all lay; and if we sell settings of
eggs, which we will, we'll merely say it's an unfortunate accident if
they turn out mixed when hatched. Bless you, people don't mind what
breed a fowl is, so long as it's got two legs and a beak. These dealer
chaps were so infernally particular. 'Any Dorkings?' they said. 'All
right,' I said, 'bring on your Dorkings.' 'Or perhaps you will require
a few Minorcas?' 'Very well,' I said, 'unleash the Minorcas.' They
were going on—they'd have gone on for hours—but I stopped 'em. 'Look
here, my dear old college chum,' I said kindly but firmly to the
manager johnny—decent old buck, with the manners of a marquess,—
'look here,' I said, 'life is short, and we're neither of us as young
as we used to be. Don't let us waste the golden hours playing guessing
games. I want fowls. You sell fowls. So give me some of all sorts. Mix
'em up, laddie,' I said, 'mix 'em up.' And he has, by jove. You go
into the yard and look at 'em. Beale has turned them out of their
crates. There must be one of every breed ever invented."
"Where are you going to put them?"
"That spot we chose by the paddock. That's the place. Plenty of mud
for them to scratch about in, and they can go into the field when they
feel like it, and pick up worms, or whatever they feed on. We must rig
them up some sort of shanty, I suppose, this morning. We'll go and
tell 'em to send up some wire-netting and stuff from the town."
"Then we shall want hen-coops. We shall have to make those."
"Of course. So we shall. Millie, didn't I tell you that old Garnet
was the man to think of things. I forgot the coops. We can't buy some,
I suppose? On tick, of course."
"Cheaper to make them. Suppose we get a lot of boxes. Sugar boxes
are as good as any. It won't take long to knock up a few coops."
Ukridge thumped the table with enthusiasm, upsetting his cup.
"Garny, old horse, you're a marvel. You think of everything. We'll
buckle to right away, and get the whole pace fixed up the same as
mother makes it. What an infernal noise those birds are making. I
suppose they don't feel at home in the yard. Wait till they see the A1
compact residential mansions we're going to put up for them. Finished
breakfast? Then let's go out. Come along, Millie."
The red-headed Beale, discovered leaning in an attitude of thought
on the yard gate and observing the feathered mob below with much
interest, was roused from his reflections and despatched to the town
for the wire and sugar boxes. Ukridge, taking his place at the gate,
gazed at the fowls with the affectionate air of a proprietor.
"Well, they have certainly taken you at your word," I said, "as far
as variety is concerned."
The man with the manners of a marquess seemed to have been at great
pains to send a really representative selection of fowls. There were
blue ones, black ones, white, grey, yellow, brown, big, little,
Dorkings, Minorcas, Cochin Chinas, Bantams, Wyandottes. It was an
The Hired Man returned towards the end of the morning, preceded by
a cart containing the necessary wire and boxes; and Ukridge, whose
enthusiasm brooked no delay, started immediately the task of
fashioning the coops, while I, assisted by Beale, draped the wire-
netting about the chosen spot next to the paddock. There were little
unpleasantnesses—once a roar of anguish told that Ukridge's hammer
had found the wrong billet, and on another occasion my flannel
trousers suffered on the wire—but the work proceeded steadily. By the
middle of the afternoon, things were in a sufficiently advanced state
to suggest to Ukridge the advisability of a halt for refreshments.
"That's the way to do it," he said, beaming through misty pince-nez
over a long glass. "That is the stuff to administer to 'em! At this
rate we shall have the place in corking condition before bedtime.
Quiet efficiency—that's the wheeze! What do you think of those for
The Hired Man examined them woodenly.
"I've seen worse, sir."
He continued his examination.
"But not many," he added. Beale's passion for the truth had made
him unpopular in three regiments.
"They aren't so bad," I said, "but I'm glad I'm not a fowl."
"So you ought to be," said Ukridge, "considering the way you've put
up that wire. You'll have them strangling themselves."
In spite of earnest labour the housing arrangements of the fowls
were still in an incomplete state at the end of the day. The details
of the evening's work are preserved in a letter which I wrote that
night to my friend Lickford.
" . . . Have you ever played a game called Pigs in Clover? We have
just finished a merry bout of it, with hens instead of marbles, which
has lasted for an hour and a half. We are all dead tired, except the
Hired Man, who seems to be made of india-rubber. He has just gone for
a stroll on the beach. Wants some exercise, I suppose. Personally, I
feel as if I should never move again. You have no conception of the
difficulty of rounding up fowls and getting them safely to bed. Having
no proper place to put them, we were obliged to stow some of them in
the cube sugar-boxes and the rest in the basement. It has only just
occurred to me that they ought to have had perches to roost on. It
didn't strike me before. I shan't mention it to Ukridge, or that
indomitable man will start making some, and drag me into it, too.
After all, a hen can rough it for one night, and if I did a stroke
more work I should collapse.
"My idea was to do the thing on the slow but sure principle. That
is to say, take each bird singly and carry it to bed. It would have
taken some time, but there would have been no confusion. But you can
imagine that that sort of thing would not appeal to Stanley
Featherstonehaugh! He likes his manoeuvres to be on a large, dashing,
Napoleonic scale. He said, 'Open the yard gate and let the blighters
come out into the open; then sail in and drive them in mass formation
through the back door into the basement.' It was a great idea, but
there was one fatal flaw in it. It didn't allow for the hens
scattering. We opened the gate, and out they all came like an audience
coming out of a theatre. Then we closed in on them to bring off the
big drive. For about thirty seconds it looked as if we might do it.
Then Bob, the Hired Man's dog, an animal who likes to be in whatever's
going on, rushed out of the house into the middle of them, barking.
There was a perfect stampede, and Heaven only knows where some of
those fowls are now. There was one in particular, a large yellow bird,
which, I should imagine, is nearing London by this time. The last I
saw of it, it was navigating at the rate of knots in that direction,
with Bob after it, barking his hardest. The fowl was showing a rare
turn of speed and gaining rapidly. Presently Bob came back, panting,
having evidently given the thing up. We, in the meantime, were chasing
the rest of the birds all over the garden. The affair had now resolved
itself into the course of action I had suggested originally, except
that instead of collecting them quietly and at our leisure, we had to
run miles for each one we captured. After a time we introduced some
sort of system into it. Mrs. Ukridge stood at the door. We chased the
hens and brought them in. Then, as we put each through into the
basement, she shut the door on it. We also arranged Ukridge's
sugar-box coops in a row, and when we caught a fowl we put it in the
coop and stuck a board in front of it. By these strenuous means we
gathered in about two-thirds of the lot. The rest are all over
England. A few may be still in Dorsetshire, but I should not like to
bet on it.
"So you see things are being managed on the up-to-date chicken farm
on good, sound Ukridge principles. It is only the beginning. I look
with confidence for further interesting events. I believe if Ukridge
kept white mice he would manage to get feverish excitement out of it.
He is at present lying on the sofa, smoking one of his infernal brand
of cigars, drinking whisky and soda, and complaining with some
bitterness because the whisky isn't as good as some he once tasted in
Belfast. From the basement I can hear faintly the murmur of
CHAPTER VI. Mr. GARNET'S
NARRATIVE—HAS TO DO WITH A REUNION
The day was Thursday, the date July the twenty-second. We had been
chicken-farmers for a whole week, and things were beginning to settle
down to a certain extent. The coops were finished. They were not
masterpieces, and I have seen chickens pause before them in deep
thought, as who should say, "Now what?" but they were coops within the
meaning of the Act, and we induced hens to become tenants.
The hardest work had been the fixing of the wire-netting. This was
the department of the Hired Man and myself, Ukridge holding himself
proudly aloof. While Beale and I worked ourselves to a fever in the
sun, the senior partner of the firm sat on a deck-chair in the shade,
offering not unkindly criticism and advice and from time to time
abusing his creditors, who were numerous. For we had hardly been in
residence a day before he began to order in a vast supply of necessary
and unnecessary things, all on credit. Some he got from the village,
others from neighbouring towns. Axminster he laid heavily under
contribution. He even went as far afield as Dorchester. He had a
persuasive way with him, and the tradesmen seemed to treat him like a
favourite son. The things began to pour in from all sides,—groceries,
whisky, a piano, a gramophone, pictures. Also cigars in great
profusion. He was not one of those men who want but little here below.
As regards the financial side of these transactions, his method was
simple and masterly. If a tradesman suggested that a small cheque on
account would not be taken amiss, as one or two sordid fellows did, he
"Confound it, sir," he would say with tears in his voice, laying a
hand on the man's shoulders in a wounded way, "it's a trifle hard,
when a gentleman comes to settle in your neighbourhood, that you
should dun him for money before he has got the preliminary expenses
about the house off his back." This sounded well, and suggested the
disbursement of huge sums for rent. The fact that the house had been
lent him rent free was kept with some care in the background. Having
weakened the man with pathos, he would strike a sterner note. "A
little more of this," he would go on, "and I'll close my account. Why,
damme, in all my experience I've never heard anything like it!" Upon
which the man would apologise, and go away, forgiven, with a large
order for more goods.
By these statesmanlike methods he had certainly made the place very
comfortable. I suppose we all realised that the things would have to
be paid for some day, but the thought did not worry us.
"Pay?" bellowed Ukridge on the only occasion when I ventured to
bring up the unpleasant topic, "of course we shall pay. Why not? I
don't like to see this faint-hearted spirit in you, old horse. The
money isn't coming in yet, I admit, but we must give it time. Soon we
shall be turning over hundreds a week, hundreds! I'm in touch with all
the big places,—Whiteley's, Harrod's, all the nibs. Here I am, I said
to them, with a large chicken farm with all the modern improvements.
You want eggs, old horses, I said: I supply them. I will let you have
so many hundred eggs a week, I said; what will you give for them?
Well, I'll admit their terms did not come up to my expectations
altogether, but we must not sneer at small prices at first.
"When we get a connection, we shall be able to name our terms. It
stands to reason, laddie. Have you ever seen a man, woman, or child
who wasn't eating an egg or just going to eat an egg or just coming
away from eating an egg? I tell you, the good old egg is the
foundation of daily life. Stop the first man you meet in the street
and ask him which he'd sooner lose, his egg or his wife, and see what
he says! We're on to a good thing, Garny, my boy. Pass the whisky!"
The upshot of it was that the firms mentioned supplied us with a
quantity of goods, agreeing to receive phantom eggs in exchange. This
satisfied Ukridge. He had a faith in the laying power of his hens
which would have flattered them if they could have known it. It might
also have stimulated their efforts in that direction, which up to date
It was now, as I have said, Thursday, the twenty-second of July,—a
glorious, sunny morning, of the kind which Providence sends
occasionally, simply in order to allow the honest smoker to take his
after-breakfast pipe under ideal conditions. These are the pipes to
which a man looks back in after years with a feeling of wistful
reverence, pipes smoked in perfect tranquillity, mind and body alike
at rest. It is over pipes like these that we dream our dreams, and
fashion our masterpieces.
My pipe was behaving like the ideal pipe; and, as I strolled
spaciously about the lawn, my novel was growing nobly. I had neglected
my literary work for the past week, owing to the insistent claims of
the fowls. I am not one of those men whose minds work in placid
independence of the conditions of life. But I was making up for lost
time now. With each blue cloud that left my lips and hung in the still
air above me, striking scenes and freshets of sparkling dialogue
rushed through my brain. Another uninterrupted half hour, and I have
no doubt that I should have completed the framework of a novel which
would have placed me in that select band of authors who have no
christian names. Another half hour, and posterity would have known me
But it was not to be.
"Stop her! Catch her, Garny, old horse!"
I had wandered into the paddock at the moment. I looked up. Coming
towards me at her best pace was a small hen. I recognised her
immediately. It was the disagreeable, sardonic-looking bird which
Ukridge, on the strength of an alleged similarity of profile to his
wife's nearest relative, had christened Aunt Elizabeth. A Bolshevist
hen, always at the bottom of any disturbance in the fowl-run, a bird
which ate its head off daily at our expense and bit the hands which
fed it by resolutely declining to lay a single egg. Behind this fowl
ran Bob, doing, as usual, the thing that he ought not to have done.
Bob's wrong-headedness in the matter of our hens was a constant source
of inconvenience. From the first, he had seemed to regard the laying-
in of our stock purely in the nature of a tribute to his sporting
tastes. He had a fixed idea that he was a hunting dog and that,
recognising this, we had very decently provided him with the material
for the chase.
Behind Bob came Ukridge. But a glance was enough to tell me that he
was a negligible factor in the pursuit. He was not built for speed.
Already the pace had proved too much for him, and he had appointed me
his deputy, with full powers to act.
"After her, Garny, old horse! Valuable bird! Mustn't be lost!"
When not in a catalepsy of literary composition, I am essentially
the man of action. I laid aside my novel for future reference, and we
passed out of the paddock in the following order. First, Aunt
Elizabeth, as fresh as paint, going well. Next, Bob, panting and
obviously doubtful of his powers of staying the distance. Lastly,
myself, determined, but wishing I were five years younger.
After the first field Bob, like the dilettante and unstable dog he
was, gave it up, and sauntered off to scratch at a rabbit-hole with an
insufferable air of suggesting that that was what he had come out for
all the time. I continued to pound along doggedly. I was grimly
resolute. I had caught Aunt Elizabeth's eye as she passed me, and the
contempt in it had cut me to the quick. This bird despised me. I am
not a violent or a quick-tempered man, but I have my self-respect. I
will not be sneered at by hens. All the abstract desire for Fame which
had filled my mind five minutes before was concentrated now on the
task of capturing this supercilious bird.
We had been travelling down hill all this time, but at this point
we crossed a road and the ground began to rise. I was in that painful
condition which occurs when one has lost one's first wind and has not
yet got one's second. I was hotter than I had ever been in my life.
Whether Aunt Elizabeth, too, was beginning to feel the effects of
her run, or whether she did it out of the pure effrontery of her
warped and unpleasant nature, I do not know; but she now slowed down
to walk, and even began to peck in a tentative manner at the grass.
Her behaviour infuriated me. I felt that I was being treated as a
cipher. I vowed that this bird should realise yet, even if, as seemed
probable, I burst in the process, that it was no light matter to be
pursued by J. Garnet, author of "The Manoeuvres of Arthur," etc., a
man of whose work so capable a judge as the Peebles Advertiser
had said "Shows promise."
A judicious increase of pace brought me within a yard or two of my
quarry. But Aunt Elizabeth, apparently distrait, had the situation
well in hand. She darted from me with an amused chuckle, and moved off
rapidly again up the hill.
I followed, but there was that within me that told me I had shot my
bolt. The sun blazed down, concentrating its rays on my back to the
exclusion of the surrounding scenery. It seemed to follow me about
like a limelight.
We had reached level ground. Aunt Elizabeth had again slowed to a
walk, and I was capable of no better pace. Very gradually I closed in.
There was a high boxwood hedge in front of us; and, just as I came
close enough once more to stake my all on a single grab, Aunt
Elizabeth, with another of her sardonic chuckles, dived in head-
foremost and struggled through in the mysterious way in which birds do
get through hedges. The sound of her faint spinster-like snigger came
to me as I stood panting, and roused me like a bugle. The next moment
I too had plunged into the hedge.
I was in the middle of it, very hot, tired, and dirty, when from
the other side I heard a sudden shout of "Mark over! Bird to the
right!" and the next moment I found myself emerging with a black face
and tottering knees on the gravel path of a private garden. Beyond the
path was a croquet lawn, and on this lawn I perceived, as through a
glass darkly, three figures. The mist cleared from my eyes, and I
recognised two of them.
One was the middle-aged Irishman who had travelled down with us in
the train. The other was his blue-eyed daughter.
The third member of the party was a man, a stranger to me. By some
miracle of adroitness he had captured Aunt Elizabeth, and was holding
her in spite of her protests in a workmanlike manner behind the wings.
CHAPTER VII. THE ENTENTE CORDIALE IS
There are moments and moments. The present one belonged to the more
Even to my exhausted mind it was plain that there was a need here
for explanations. An Irishman's croquet-lawn is his castle, and
strangers cannot plunge in through hedges without inviting comment.
Unfortunately, speech was beyond me. I could have emptied a water-
butt, laid down and gone to sleep, or melted ice with a touch of the
finger, but I could not speak. The conversation was opened by the
other man, in whose restraining hand Aunt Elizabeth now lay, outwardly
resigned but inwardly, as I, who knew her haughty spirit, could guess,
boiling with baffled resentment. I could see her looking out of the
corner of her eye, trying to estimate the chances of getting in one
good hard peck with her aquiline beak.
"Come right in," said the man pleasantly. "Don't knock."
I stood there, gasping. I was only too well aware that I presented
a quaint appearance. I had removed my hat before entering the hedge,
and my hair was full of twigs and other foreign substances. My face
was moist and grimy. My mouth hung open. My legs felt as if they had
ceased to belong to me.
"I must apol- . . ." I began, and ended the sentence with gulps.
The elderly gentleman looked at me with what seemed to be indignant
surprise. His daughter appeared to my guilty conscience to be looking
through me. Aunt Elizabeth sneered. The only friendly face was the
man's. He regarded me with a kindly smile, as if I were some old
friend who had dropped in unexpectedly.
"Take a long breath," he advised.
I took several, and felt better.
"I must apologise for this intrusion," I said successfully.
"Unwarrantable" would have rounded off the sentence neatly, but I
would not risk it. It would have been mere bravado to attempt
unnecessary words of five syllables. I took in more breath. "The fact
is, I did—didn't know there was a private garden beyond the hedge. If
you will give me my hen . . ."
I stopped. Aunt Elizabeth was looking away, as if endeavouring to
create an impression of having nothing to do with me. I am told by one
who knows that hens cannot raise their eyebrows, not having any; but I
am prepared to swear that at this moment Aunt Elizabeth raised hers. I
will go further. She sniffed.
"Here you are," said the man. "Though it's hard to say good-bye."
He held out the hen to me, and at this point a hitch occurred. He
did his part, the letting go, all right. It was in my department, the
taking hold, that the thing was bungled. Aunt Elizabeth slipped from
my grasp like an eel, stood for a moment eyeing me satirically with
her head on one side, then fled and entrenched herself in some bushes
at the end of the lawn.
There are times when the most resolute man feels that he can battle
no longer with fate; when everything seems against him and the only
course is a dignified retreat. But there is one thing essential to a
dignified retreat. You must know the way out. It was the lack of that
knowledge that kept me standing there, looking more foolish than
anyone has ever looked since the world began. I could not retire by
way of the hedge. If I could have leaped the hedge with a single
debonair bound, that would have been satisfactory. But the hedge was
high, and I did not feel capable at the moment of achieving a debonair
bound over a footstool.
The man saved the situation. He seemed to possess that magnetic
power over his fellows which marks the born leader. Under his command
we became an organised army. The common object, the pursuit of the
elusive Aunt Elizabeth, made us friends. In the first minute of the
proceedings the Irishman was addressing me as "me dear boy," and the
man, who had introduced himself as Mr. Chase—a lieutenant, I learned
later, in His Majesty's Navy—was shouting directions to me by name. I
have never assisted at any ceremony at which formality was so
completely dispensed with. The ice was not merely broken; it was
shivered into a million fragments.
"Go in and drive her out, Garnet," shouted Mr. Chase. "In my
direction if you can. Look out on the left, Phyllis."
Even in that disturbing moment I could not help noticing his use of
the Christian name. It seemed to me more than sinister. I did not like
the idea of dashing young lieutenants in the senior service calling a
girl Phyllis whose eyes had haunted me since I had first seen them.
Nevertheless, I crawled into the bushes and administered to Aunt
Elizabeth a prod in the lower ribs—if hens have lower ribs. The more
I study hens, the more things they seem able to get along without—
which abruptly disturbed her calm detachment. She shot out at the spot
where Mr. Chase was waiting with his coat off, and was promptly
enveloped in that garment and captured.
"The essence of strategy," observed Mr. Chase approvingly, "is
surprise. A neat piece of work!"
I thanked him. He deprecated my thanks. He had, he said, only done
his duty, as expected to by England. He then introduced me to the
elderly Irishman, who was, it seemed, a professor at Dublin
University, by name, Derrick. Whatever it was that he professed, it
was something that did not keep him for a great deal of his time at
the University. He informed me that he always spent his summers at
"I was surprised to see you at Combe Regis," I said. "When you got
out at Yeovil, I thought I had seen the last of you."
I think I am gifted beyond other men as regards the unfortunate
turning of sentences.
"I meant," I added, "I was afraid I had."
"Ah, of course," he said, "you were in our carriage coming down. I
was confident I had seen you before. I never forget a face."
"It would be a kindness," said Mr. Chase, "if you would forget
Garnet's as now exhibited. You seem to have collected a good deal of
the scenery coming through that hedge."
"I was wondering——" I said. "A wash—if I might——"
"Of course, me boy, of course," said the professor. "Tom, take Mr.
Garnet off to your room, and then we'll have lunch. You'll stay to
lunch, Mr. Garnet?"
I thanked him, commented on possible inconvenience to his
arrangements, was overruled, and went off with my friend the
lieutenant to the house. We imprisoned Aunt Elizabeth in the stables,
to her profound indignation, gave directions for lunch to be served to
her, and made our way to Mr. Chase's room.
"So you've met the professor before?" he said, hospitably laying
out a change of raiment for me—we were fortunately much of a height
"I have never spoken to him," I said. "We travelled down from
London in the same carriage."
"He's a dear old boy, if you rub him the right way. But—I'm
telling you this for your good and guidance; a man wants a chart in a
strange sea—he can cut up rough. And, when he does, he goes off like
a four- point-seven and the population for miles round climbs trees. I
think, if I were you, I shouldn't mention Sir Edward Carson at lunch."
I promised that I would try to avoid the temptation.
"In fact, you'd better keep off Ireland altogether. It's the safest
plan. Any other subject you like. Chatty remarks on Bimetallism would
meet with his earnest attention. A lecture on What to do with the Cold
Mutton would be welcomed. But not Ireland. Shall we do down?"
We got to know each other at lunch.
"Do you hunt hens," asked Tom Chase, who was mixing the salad—he
was one of those men who seemed to do everything a shade better than
anyone else—"for amusement or by your doctor's orders? Many doctors,
I believe, insist on it."
"Neither," I said, "and especially not for amusement. The fact is,
I've been lured down here by a friend of mine who has started a
I was interrupted. All three of them burst out laughing. Tom Chase
allowed the vinegar to trickle on to the cloth, missing the salad-bowl
by a clear two inches.
"You don't mean to tell us," he said, "that you really come from
the one and only chicken farm? Why, you're the man we've all been
praying to meet for days past. You're the talk of the town. If you can
call Combe Regis a town. Everybody is discussing you. Your methods are
new and original, aren't they?"
"Probably. Ukridge knows nothing about fowls. I know less. He
considers it an advantage. He says our minds ought to be unbiassed."
"Ukridge!" said the professor. "That was the name old Dawlish, the
grocer, said. I never forget a name. He is the gentleman who lectures
on the management of poultry? You do not?"
I hastened to disclaim any such feat. I had never really approved
of these infernal talks on the art of chicken-farming which Ukridge
had dropped into the habit of delivering when anybody visited our
farm. I admit that it was a pleasing spectacle to see my managing
director in a pink shirt without a collar and very dirty flannel
trousers lecturing the intelligent native; but I had a feeling that
the thing tended to expose our ignorance to men who had probably had
to do with fowls from their cradle up.
"His lectures are very popular," said Phyllis Derrick with a little
splutter of mirth.
"He enjoys them," I said.
"Look here, Garnet," said Tom Chase, "I hope you won't consider all
these questions impertinent, but you've no notion of the thrilling
interest we all take—at a distance—in your farm. We have been
talking of nothing else for a week. I have dreamed of it three nights
running. Is Mr. Ukridge doing this as a commercial speculation, or is
he an eccentric millionaire?"
"He's not a millionaire yet, but I believe he intends to be one
shortly, with the assistance of the fowls. But you mustn't look on me
as in any way responsible for the arrangements at the farm. I am
merely a labourer. The brainwork of the business lies in Ukridge's
department. As a matter of fact, I came down here principally in
search of golf."
"Golf?" said Professor Derrick, with the benevolent approval of the
enthusiast towards a brother. "I'm glad you play golf. We must have a
"As soon as ever my professional duties will permit," I said
* * * * *
There was croquet after lunch,—a game of which I am a poor
performer. Phyllis Derrick and I played the professor and Tom Chase.
Chase was a little better than myself; the professor, by dint of
extreme earnestness and care, managed to play a fair game; and Phyllis
was an expert.
"I was reading a book," she said, as we stood together watching the
professor shaping at his ball at the other end of the lawn, "by an
author of the same surname as you, Mr. Garnet. Is he a relation of
"My name is Jeremy, Miss Derrick."
"Oh, you wrote it?" She turned a little pink. "Then you must
"I couldn't help it, I'm afraid."
"Did you know what I was going to say?"
"I guessed. You were going to say that I must have heard your
criticisms in the train. You were very lenient, I thought."
"I didn't like your heroine."
"No. What is a 'creature,' Miss Derrick?"
"Pamela in your book is a 'creature,' " she replied
Shortly after this the game came somehow to an end. I do not
understand the intricacies of croquet. But Phyllis did something
brilliant and remarkable with the balls, and we adjourned for tea. The
sun was setting as I left to return to the farm, with Aunt Elizabeth
stored neatly in a basket in my hand. The air was deliciously cool,
and full of that strange quiet which follows soothingly on the skirts
of a broiling midsummer afternoon. Far away, seeming to come from
another world, a sheep-bell tinkled, deepening the silence. Alone in a
sky of the palest blue there gleamed a small, bright star.
I addressed this star.
"She was certainly very nice to me. Very nice indeed." The star
"On the other hand, I take it that, having had a decent
up-bringing, she would have been equally polite to any other man whom
she had happened to meet at her father's house. Moreover, I don't feel
altogether easy in my mind about that naval chap. I fear the worst."
The star winked.
"He calls her Phyllis," I said.
"Charawk!" chuckled Aunt Elizabeth from her basket, in that beastly
cynical, satirical way which has made her so disliked by all right-
CHAPTER VIII. A LITTLE DINNER AT
"Edwin comes to-day," said Mrs. Ukridge.
"And the Derricks," said Ukridge, sawing at the bread in his
energetic way. "Don't forget the Derricks, Millie."
"No, dear. Mrs. Beale is going to give us a very nice dinner. We
talked it over yesterday."
"Who is Edwin?" I asked.
We were finishing breakfast on the second morning after my visit to
the Derricks. I had related my adventures to the staff of the farm on
my return, laying stress on the merits of our neighbours and their
interest in our doings, and the Hired Retainer had been sent off next
morning with a note from Mrs. Ukridge inviting them to look over the
farm and stay to dinner.
"Edwin?" said Ukridge. "Oh, beast of a cat."
"Oh, Stanley!" said Mrs. Ukridge plaintively. "He's not. He's such
a dear, Mr. Garnet. A beautiful, pure-bred Persian. He has taken
"He's always taking something. That's why he didn't come down with
"A great, horrid,
beast of a dog bit him, Mr. Garnet. And
poor Edwin had to go to a cats' hospital."
"And I hope," said Ukridge, "the experience will do him good.
Sneaked a dog's dinner, Garnet, under his very nose, if you please.
Naturally the dog lodged a protest."
"I'm so afraid that he will be frightened of Bob. He will be very
timid, and Bob's so boisterous. Isn't he, Mr. Garnet?"
"That's all right," said Ukridge. "Bob won't hurt him, unless he
tries to steal his dinner. In that case we will have Edwin made into a
"Stanley doesn't like Edwin," said Mrs. Ukridge, sadly.
Edwin arrived early in the afternoon, and was shut into the
kitchen. He struck me as a handsome cat, but nervous.
The Derricks followed two hours later. Mr. Chase was not of the
"Tom had to go to London," explained the professor, "or he would
have been delighted to come. It was a disappointment to the boy, for
he wanted to see the farm."
"He must come some other time," said Ukridge. "We invite
inspection. Look here," he broke off suddenly—we were nearing the
fowl-run now, Mrs. Ukridge walking in front with Phyllis
Derrick—"were you ever at Bristol?"
"Never, sir," said the professor.
"Because I knew just such another fat little buffer there a few
years ago. Gay old bird, he was. He—"
"This is the fowl-run, professor," I broke in, with a moist,
tingling feeling across my forehead and up my spine. I saw the
professor stiffen as he walked, while his face deepened in colour.
Ukridge's breezy way of expressing himself is apt to electrify the
"You will notice the able way—ha! ha!—in which the wire-netting
is arranged," I continued feverishly. "Took some doing, that. By Jove,
yes. It was hot work. Nice lot of fowls, aren't they? Rather a mixed
lot, of course. Ha! ha! That's the dealer's fault though. We are
getting quite a number of eggs now. Hens wouldn't lay at first.
Couldn't make them."
I babbled on, till from the corner of my eye I saw the flush fade
from the professor's face and his back gradually relax its poker-like
attitude. The situation was saved for the moment but there was no
knowing what further excesses Ukridge might indulge in. I managed to
draw him aside as we went through the fowl-run, and expostulated.
"For goodness sake, be careful," I whispered. "You've no notion how
touchy he is."
"But I said nothing," he replied, amazed.
"Hang it, you know, nobody likes to be called a fat little buffer
to his face."
"What! My dear old man, nobody minds a little thing like that. We
can't be stilted and formal. It's ever so much more friendly to relax
and be chummy."
Here we rejoined the others, and I was left with a leaden
foreboding of gruesome things in store. I knew what manner of man
Ukridge was when he relaxed and became chummy. Friendships of years'
standing had failed to survive the test.
For the time being, however, all went well. In his role of lecturer
he offended no one, and Phyllis and her father behaved admirably. They
received his strangest theories without a twitch of the mouth.
"Ah," the professor would say, "now is that really so? Very
Only once, when Ukridge was describing some more than usually
original device for the furthering of the interests of his fowls, did
a slight spasm disturb Phyllis's look of attentive reverence.
"And you have really had no previous experience in
chicken-farming?" she said.
"None," said Ukridge, beaming through his glasses. "Not an atom.
But I can turn my hand to anything, you know. Things seem to come
naturally to me somehow."
"I see," said Phyllis.
It was while matters were progressing with this beautiful
smoothness that I observed the square form of the Hired Retainer
approaching us. Somehow—I cannot say why—I had a feeling that he
came with bad news. Perhaps it was his air of quiet satisfaction which
struck me as ominous.
"Beg pardon, Mr. Ukridge, sir."
Ukridge was in the middle of a very eloquent excursus on the
feeding of fowls, a subject on which he held views of his own as
ingenious as they were novel. The interruption annoyed him.
"Well, Beale," he said, "what is it?"
"That there cat, sir, what came to-day."
"Oh, Beale," cried Mrs. Ukridge in agitation, "what has happened?"
"Having something to say to the missis—"
"What has happened? Oh, Beale, don't say that Edwin has been hurt?
Where is he? Oh, poor Edwin!"
"Having something to say to the missis—"
"If Bob has bitten him I hope he had his nose
scratched," said Mrs. Ukridge vindictively.
"Having something to say to the missis," resumed the Hired Retainer
tranquilly, "I went into the kitchen ten minutes back. The cat was
sitting on the mat."
Beale's narrative style closely resembled that of a certain book I
had read in my infancy. I wish I could remember its title. It was a
well- written book.
"Yes, Beale, yes?" said Mrs. Ukridge. "Oh, do go on."
" 'Hullo, puss,' I says to him, 'and 'ow are
you, sir?' 'Be
careful,' says the missis. ' 'E's that timid,' she says, 'you wouldn't
believe,' she says. ' 'E's only just settled down, as you may say,'
she says. 'Ho, don't you fret,' I says to her, ' 'im and me
understands each other. 'Im and me,' I says, 'is old friends. 'E's my
dear old pal, Corporal Banks.' She grinned at that, ma'am, Corporal
Banks being a man we'd 'ad many a 'earty laugh at in the old days. 'E
was, in a manner of speaking, a joke between us."
"Oh, do—go—on, Beale. What has happened to Edwin?"
The Hired Retainer proceeded in calm, even tones.
"We was talking there, ma'am, when Bob, what had followed me
unknown, trotted in. When the cat ketched sight of 'im sniffing about,
there was such a spitting and swearing as you never 'eard; and
blowed," said Mr. Beale amusedly, "blowed if the old cat didn't give
one jump, and move in quick time up the chimney, where 'e now remains,
paying no 'eed to the missis' attempts to get him down again."
Sensation, as they say in the reports.
"But he'll be cooked," cried Phyllis, open-eyed.
"No, he won't. Nor will our dinner. Mrs. Beale always lets the
kitchen fire out during the afternoon. And how she's going to light it
There was a pause while one might count three. It was plain that
the speaker was struggling with himself.
"—that cat," he concluded safely, "up the chimney? It's a cold
dinner we'll get to-night, if that cat doesn't come down."
The professor's face fell. I had remarked on the occasion when I
had lunched with him his evident fondness for the pleasures of the
table. Cold impromptu dinners were plainly not to his taste.
We went to the kitchen in a body. Mrs. Beale was standing in front
of the empty grate, making seductive cat-noises up the chimney.
"What's all this, Mrs. Beale?" said Ukridge.
"He won't come down, sir, not while he thinks Bob's about. And how
I'm to cook dinner for five with him up the chimney I don't see, sir."
"Prod at him with a broom handle, Mrs. Beale," said Ukridge.
"Oh, don't hurt poor Edwin," said Mrs. Ukridge.
"I 'ave tried that, sir, but I can't reach him, and I'm only bin
and drove 'im further up. What must be," added Mrs. Beale
philosophically, "must be. He may come down of his own accord in the
night. Bein' 'ungry."
"Then what we must do," said Ukridge in a jovial manner, which to
me at least seemed out of place, "is to have a regular, jolly picnic-
dinner, what? Whack up whatever we have in the larder, and eat that."
"A regular, jolly picnic-dinner," repeated the professor gloomily.
I could read what was passing in his mind,—remorse for having come at
all, and a faint hope that it might not be too late to back out of it.
"That will be splendid," said Phyllis.
"Er, I think, my dear sir," said her father, "it would be hardly
fair for us to give any further trouble to Mrs. Ukridge and yourself.
If you will allow me, therefore, I will——"
Ukridge became gushingly hospitable. He refused to think of
allowing his guests to go empty away. He would be able to whack up
something, he said. There was quite a good deal of the ham left. He
was sure. He appealed to me to endorse his view that there was a tin
of sardines and part of a cold fowl and plenty of bread and cheese.
"And after all," he said, speaking for the whole company in the
generous, comprehensive way enthusiasts have, "what more do we want in
weather like this? A nice, light, cold, dinner is ever so much better
for us than a lot of hot things."
We strolled out again into the garden, but somehow things seemed to
drag. Conversation was fitful, except on the part of Ukridge, who
continued to talk easily on all subjects, unconscious of the fact that
the party was depressed and at least one of his guests rapidly
becoming irritable. I watched the professor furtively as Ukridge
talked on, and that ominous phrase of Mr. Chase's concerning four-
point-seven guns kept coming into my mind. If Ukridge were to tread on
any of his pet corns, as he might at any minute, there would be an
explosion. The snatching of the dinner from his very mouth, as it
were, and the substitution of a bread-and-cheese and sardines menu had
brought him to the frame of mind when men turn and rend their nearest
The sight of the table, when at length we filed into the dining
room, sent a chill through me. It was a meal for the very young or the
very hungry. The uncompromising coldness and solidity of the viands
was enough to appall a man conscious that his digestion needed
humouring. A huge cheese faced us in almost a swashbuckling way. I do
not know how else to describe it. It wore a blatant, rakish, nemo-me-impune- lacessit air, and I noticed that the professor
shivered slightly as he saw it. Sardines, looking more oily and
uninviting than anything I had ever seen, appeared in their native tin
beyond the loaf of bread. There was a ham, in its third quarter, and a
chicken which had suffered heavily during a previous visit to the
table. Finally, a black bottle of whisky stood grimly beside Ukridge's
plate. The professor looked the sort of man who drank claret of a
special year, or nothing.
We got through the meal somehow, and did our best to delude
ourselves into the idea that it was all great fun; but it was a
shallow pretence. The professor was very silent by the time we had
finished. Ukridge had been terrible. The professor had forced himself
to be genial. He had tried to talk. He had told stories. And when he
began one—his stories would have been the better for a little more
briskness and condensation—Ukridge almost invariably interrupted him,
before he had got half way through, without a word of apology, and
started on some anecdote of his own. He furthermore disagreed with
nearly every opinion the professor expressed. It is true that he did
it all in such a perfectly friendly way, and was obviously so innocent
of any intention of giving offence, that another man—or the same man
at a better meal—might have overlooked the matter. But the professor,
robbed of his good dinner, was at the stage when he had to attack
somebody. Every moment I had been expecting the storm to burst.
It burst after dinner.
We were strolling in the garden, when some demon urged Ukridge,
apropos of the professor's mention of Dublin, to start upon the Irish
question. I had been expecting it momentarily, but my heart seemed to
stand still when it actually arrived.
Ukridge probably knew less about the Irish question than any male
adult in the kingdom, but he had boomed forth some very positive
opinions of his own on the subject before I could get near enough to
him to whisper a warning. When I did, I suppose I must have whispered
louder than I had intended, for the professor heard me, and my words
acted as the match to the powder.
"He's touchy about Ireland, is he?" he thundered. "Drop it, is it?
And why? Why, sir? I'm one of the best tempered men that ever came
from Dublin, let me tell you, and I will not stay here to be insulted
by the insinuation that I cannot discuss Ireland as calmly as any one
in this company or out of it. Touchy about Ireland, is it? Touchy—?"
"Take your hand off my arm, Mr. Garnet. I will not be treated like
a child. I am as competent to discuss the affairs of Ireland without
heat as any man, let me tell you."
"And let me tell you, Mr. Ukridge, that I consider your opinions
poisonous. Poisonous, sir. And you know nothing whatever about the
subject, sir. Every word you say betrays your profound ignorance. I
don't wish to see you or to speak to you again. Understand that, sir.
Our acquaintance began to-day, and it will cease to-day. Good-night to
you, sir. Come, Phyllis, me dear. Mrs. Ukridge, good-night."
CHAPTER IX. DIES IRAE
Why is it, I wonder, that stories of Retribution calling at the
wrong address strike us as funny instead of pathetic? I myself had
been amused by them many a time. In a book which I had read only a few
days before our cold-dinner party a shop-woman, annoyed with an
omnibus conductor, had thrown a superannuated orange at him. It had
found its billet not on him but on a perfectly inoffensive spectator.
The missile, said the writer, " 'it a young copper full in the
hyeball." I had enjoyed this when I read it, but now that Fate had
arranged a precisely similar situation, with myself in the role of the
young copper, the fun of the thing appealed to me not at all.
It was Ukridge who was to blame for the professor's regrettable
explosion and departure, and he ought by all laws of justice to have
suffered for it. As it was, I was the only person materially affected.
It did not matter to Ukridge. He did not care twopence one way or the
other. If the professor were friendly, he was willing to talk to him
by the hour on any subject, pleasant or unpleasant. If, on the other
hand, he wished to have nothing more to do with us, it did not worry
him. He was content to let him go. Ukridge was a self-sufficing
But to me it was a serious matter. More than serious. If I have
done my work as historian with an adequate degree of skill, the reader
should have gathered by this time the state of my feelings.
"I did not love as others do:
None ever did that I've heard tell of.
My passion was a by-word through
The town she was, of course, the belle of."
At least it was—fortunately—not quite that; but it was certainly
genuine and most disturbing, and it grew with the days. Somebody with
a taste for juggling with figures might write a very readable page or
so of statistics in connection with the growth of love. In some cases
it is, I believe, slow. In my own I can only say that Jack's beanstalk
was a backward plant in comparison. It is true that we had not seen a
great deal of one another, and that, when we had met, our interview
had been brief and our conversation conventional; but it is the
intervals between the meeting that do the real damage. Absence—I do
not claim the thought as my own—makes the heart grow fonder. And now,
thanks to Ukridge's amazing idiocy, a barrier had been thrust between
us. Lord knows, the business of fishing for a girl's heart is
sufficiently difficult and delicate without the addition of needless
obstacles. To cut out the naval miscreant under equal conditions would
have been a task ample enough for my modest needs. It was terrible to
have to re-establish myself in the good graces of the professor before
I could so much as begin to dream of Phyllis. Ukridge gave me no balm.
"Well, after all," he said, when I pointed out to him quietly but
plainly my opinion of his tactlessness, "what does it matter? Old
Derrick isn't the only person in the world. If he doesn't want to know
us, laddie, we just jolly well pull ourselves together and stagger
along without him. It's quite possible to be happy without knowing old
Derrick. Millions of people are going about the world at this moment,
singing like larks out of pure light-heartedness, who don't even know
of his existence. And, as a matter of fact, old horse, we haven't time
to waste making friends and being the social pets. Too much to do on
the farm. Strict business is the watchword, my boy. We must be the
keen, tense men of affairs, or, before we know where we are, we shall
find ourselves right in the gumbo.
"I've noticed, Garny, old horse, that you haven't been the whale
for work lately that you might be. You must buckle to, laddie. There
must be no slackness. We are at a critical stage. On our work now
depends the success of the speculation. Look at those damned cocks.
They're always fighting. Heave a stone at them, laddie, while you're
up. What's the matter with you? You seem pipped. Can't get the novel
off your chest, or what? You take my tip and give your brain a rest.
Nothing like manual labour for clearing the brain. All the doctors say
so. Those coops ought to be painted to-day or to-morrow. Mind you, I
think old Derrick would be all right if one persevered—"
"—and didn't call him a fat little buffer and contradict
everything he said and spoil all his stories by breaking in with
chestnuts of your own in the middle," I interrupted with bitterness.
"My dear old son, he didn't mind being called a fat little buffer.
You keep harping on that. It's no discredit to a man to be a fat
little buffer. Some of the noblest men I have met have been fat little
buffers. What was the matter with old Derrick was a touch of liver. I
said to myself, when I saw him eating cheese, 'that fellow's going to
have a nasty shooting pain sooner or later.' I say, laddie, just heave
another rock or two at those cocks, will you. They'll slay each
I had hoped, fearing the while that there was not much chance of
such a thing happening, that the professor might get over his feeling
of injury during the night and be as friendly as ever next day. But he
was evidently a man who had no objection whatever to letting the sun
go down upon his wrath, for when I met him on the following morning on
the beach, he cut me in the most uncompromising manner.
Phyllis was with him at the time, and also another girl, who was, I
supposed, from the strong likeness between them, her sister. She had
the same mass of soft brown hair. But to me she appeared almost
commonplace in comparison.
It is never pleasant to be cut dead, even when you have done
something to deserve it. It is like treading on nothing where one
imagined a stair to be. In the present instance the pang was mitigated
to a certain extent—not largely—by the fact that Phyllis looked at
me. She did not move her head, and I could not have declared
positively that she moved her eyes; but nevertheless she certainly
looked at me. It was something. She seemed to say that duty compelled
her to follow her father's lead, and that the act must not be taken as
evidence of any personal animus.
That, at least, was how I read off the message.
Two days later I met Mr. Chase in the village.
"Hullo, so you're back," I said.
"You've discovered my secret," he admitted; "will you have a cigar
or a cocoanut?"
There was a pause.
"Trouble I hear, while I was away," he said.
"The man I live with, Ukridge, did what you warned me against.
Touched on the Irish question."
"He mentioned it among other things."
"And the professor went off?"
"Like a bomb."
"He would. So now you have parted brass rags. It's a pity."
I agreed. I am glad to say that I suppressed the desire to ask him
to use his influence, if any, with Mr. Derrick to effect a
reconciliation. I felt that I must play the game. To request one's
rival to give one assistance in the struggle, to the end that he may
be the more readily cut out, can hardly be considered cricket.
"I ought not to be speaking to you, you know," said Mr. Chase.
"You're under arrest."
"He's still——?" I stopped for a word.
"Very much so. I'll do what I can."
"It's very good of you."
"But the time is not yet ripe. He may be said at present to be
"I see. Thanks. Good-bye."
And Mr. Chase walked on with long strides to the Cob.
The days passed slowly. I saw nothing more of Phyllis or her
sister. The professor I met once or twice on the links. I had taken
earnestly to golf in this time of stress. Golf is the game of
disappointed lovers. On the other hand, it does not follow that
because a man is a failure as a lover he will be any good at all on
the links. My game was distinctly poor at first. But a round or two
put me back into my proper form, which is fair.
The professor's demeanour at these accidental meetings on the links
was a faithful reproduction of his attitude on the beach. Only by a
studied imitation of the Absolute Stranger did he show that he had
observed my presence.
Once or twice, after dinner, when Ukridge was smoking one of his
special cigars while Mrs. Ukridge nursed Edwin (now moving in society
once more, and in his right mind), I lit my pipe and walked out across
the fields through the cool summer night till I came to the hedge that
shut off the Derrick's grounds. Not the hedge through which I had made
my first entrance, but another, lower, and nearer the house. Standing
there under the shade of a tree I could see the lighted windows of the
drawing-room. Generally there was music inside, and, the windows being
opened on account of the warmth of the night, I was able to make
myself a little more miserable by hearing Phyllis sing. It deepened
the feeling of banishment.
I shall never forget those furtive visits. The intense stillness of
the night, broken by an occasional rustling in the grass or the hedge;
the smell of the flowers in the garden beyond; the distant drone of
"God makes sech nights, all white and still,
Fur'z you to look and listen."
Another day had generally begun before I moved from my
hiding-place, and started for home, surprised to find my limbs stiff
and my clothes bathed with dew.
CHAPTER X. I ENLIST THE SERVICES OF
It would be interesting to know to what extent the work of authors
is influenced by their private affairs. If life is flowing smoothly,
are the novels they write in that period of content coloured with
optimism? And if things are running crosswise, do they work off the
resultant gloom on their faithful public? If, for instance, Mr. W. W.
Jacobs had toothache, would he write like Hugh Walpole? If Maxim Gorky
were invited to lunch by Trotsky, to meet Lenin, would he sit down and
dash off a trifle in the vein of Stephen Leacock? Probably the eminent
have the power of detaching their writing self from their living,
work-a-day self; but, for my own part, the frame of mind in which I
now found myself had a disastrous effect on my novel that was to be. I
had designed it as a light comedy effort. Here and there a page or two
to steady the reader and show him what I could do in the way of pathos
if I cared to try; but in the main a thing of sunshine and laughter.
But now great slabs of gloom began to work themselves into the scheme
of it. A magnificent despondency became its keynote. It would not do.
I felt that I must make a resolute effort to shake off my depression.
More than ever the need of conciliating the professor was borne in
upon me. Day and night I spurred my brain to think of some suitable
means of engineering a reconciliation.
In the meantime I worked hard among the fowls, drove furiously on
the links, and swam about the harbour when the affairs of the farm did
not require my attention.
Things were not going well on our model chicken farm. Little
accidents marred the harmony of life in the fowl-run. On one occasion
a hen—not Aunt Elizabeth, I am sorry to say,—fell into a pot of tar,
and came out an unspeakable object. Ukridge put his spare pair of
tennis shoes in the incubator to dry them, and permanently spoiled the
future of half-a-dozen eggs which happened to have got there first.
Chickens kept straying into the wrong coops, where they got badly
pecked by the residents. Edwin slew a couple of Wyandottes, and was
only saved from execution by the tears of Mrs. Ukridge.
In spite of these occurrences, however, his buoyant optimism never
"After all," he said, "What's one bird more or less? Yes, I know I
made a fuss when that beast of a cat lunched off those two, but that
was simply the principle of the thing. I'm not going to pay large sums
for chickens purely in order that a cat which I've never liked can
lunch well. Still, we've plenty left, and the eggs are coming in
better now, though we've still a deal of leeway to make up yet in that
line. I got a letter from Whiteley's this morning asking when my first
consignment was going to arrive. You know, these people make a mistake
in hurrying a man. It annoys him. It irritates him. When we really get
going, Garny, my boy, I shall drop Whiteley's. I shall cut them out of
my list and send my eggs to their trade rivals. They shall have a
sharp lesson. It's a little hard. Here am I, worked to death looking
after things down here, and these men have the impertinence to bother
me about their wretched business. Come in and have a drink, laddie,
and let's talk it over."
It was on the morning after this that I heard him calling me in a
voice in which I detected agitation. I was strolling about the
paddock, as was my habit after breakfast, thinking about Phyllis and
trying to get my novel into shape. I had just framed a more than
usually murky scene for use in the earlier part of the book, when
Ukridge shouted to me from the fowl-run.
"Garny, come here. I want you to see the most astounding thing."
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Blast if I know. Look at those chickens. They've been doing that
for the last half-hour."
I inspected the chickens. There was certainly something the matter
with them. They were yawning—broadly, as if we bored them. They stood
about singly and in groups, opening and shutting their beaks. It was
an uncanny spectacle.
"What's the matter with them?"
"Can a chicken get a fit of the blues?" I asked. "Because if so,
that's what they've got. I never saw a more bored-looking lot of
"Oh, do look at that poor little brown one by the coop," said Mrs.
Ukridge sympathetically; "I'm sure it's not well. See, it's lying
down. What can be the matter with it?"
"I tell you what we'll do," said Ukridge. "We'll ask Beale. He once
lived with an aunt who kept fowls. He'll know all about it. Beale!"
A sturdy form in shirt-sleeves appeared through the bushes,
carrying a boot. We seemed to have interrupted him in the act of
"Beale, you know all about fowls. What's the matter with these
The Hired Retainer examined the blase birds with a wooden
expression on his face.
"Well?" said Ukridge.
"The 'ole thing 'ere," said the Hired Retainer, "is these 'ere
fowls have been and got the roop."
I had never heard of the disease before, but it sounded bad.
"Is that what makes them yawn like that?" said Mrs. Ukridge.
"And have they all got it?"
"What ought we to do?" asked Ukridge.
"Well, my aunt, sir, when 'er fowls 'ad the roop, she gave them
"Give them snuff, she did," he repeated, with relish, "every
"Snuff!" said Mrs. Ukridge.
"Yes, ma'am. She give 'em snuff till their eyes bubbled."
Mrs. Ukridge uttered a faint squeak at this vivid piece of word-
"And id it cure them?" asked Ukridge.
"No, sir," responded the expert soothingly.
"Oh, go away, Beale, and clean your beastly boots," said Ukridge.
"You're no use. Wait a minute. Who would know about this infernal roop
thing? One of those farmer chaps would, I suppose. Beale, go off to
the nearest farmer, and give him my compliments, and ask him what he
does when his fowls get the roop."
"No, I'll go, Ukridge," I said. "I want some exercise."
I whistled to Bob, who was investigating a mole-heap in the
paddock, and set off in the direction of the village of Up Lyme to
consult Farmer Leigh on the matter. He had sold us some fowls shortly
after our arrival, so might be expected to feel a kindly interest in
their ailing families.
The path to Up Lyme lies across deep-grassed meadows. At intervals
it passes over a stream by means of a footbridge. The stream curls
through the meadows like a snake.
And at the first of these bridges I met Phyllis.
I came upon her quite suddenly. The other end of the bridge was
hidden from my view. I could hear somebody coming through the grass,
but not till I was on the bridge did I see who it was. We reached the
bridge simultaneously. She was alone. She carried a sketching-block.
All nice girls sketch a little.
There was room for one alone on the footbridge, and I drew back to
let her pass.
It being the privilege of woman to make the first sign of
recognition, I said nothing. I merely lifted my hat in a
"Are you going to cut me, I wonder?" I said to myself. She answered
the unspoken question as I hoped it would be answered.
"Mr. Garnet," she said, stopping at the end of the bridge. A pause.
"I couldn't tell you so before, but I am so sorry this has
"Oh, thanks awfully," I said, realising as I said it the miserable
inadequacy of the English language. At a crisis when I would have
given a month's income to have said something neat, epigrammatic,
suggestive, yet withal courteous and respectful, I could only find a
hackneyed, unenthusiastic phrase which I should have used in accepting
an invitation from a bore to lunch with him at his club.
"Of course you understand my friends—must be my father's friends."
"Yes," I said gloomily, "I suppose so."
"So you must not think me rude if I—I——"
"Cut me," said I, with masculine coarseness.
"Don't seem to see you," said she, with feminine delicacy, "when I
am with my father. You will understand?"
"I shall understand."
"You see,"—she smiled—"you are under arrest, as Tom says."
"I see," I said.
I watched her out of sight, and went on to interview Mr. Leigh.
We had a long and intensely uninteresting conversation about the
maladies to which chickens are subject. He was verbose and
reminiscent. He took me over his farm, pointing out as we went
Dorkings with pasts, and Cochin Chinas which he had cured of diseases
generally fatal on, as far as I could gather, Christian Science
I left at last with instructions to paint the throats of the
stricken birds with turpentine—a task imagination boggled at, and one
which I proposed to leave exclusively to Ukridge and the Hired
Retainer—and also a slight headache. A visit to the Cob would, I
thought, do me good. I had missed my bathe that morning, and was in
need of a breath of sea-air.
It was high-tide, and there was deep water on three sides of the
In a small boat in the offing Professor Derrick appeared, fishing.
I had seen him engaged in this pursuit once or twice before. His only
companion was a gigantic boatman, by name Harry Hawk, possibly a
descendant of the gentleman of that name who went to Widdicombe Fair
with Bill Brewer and old Uncle Tom Cobley and all on a certain
memorable occasion, and assisted at the fatal accident to Tom Pearse's
I sat on the seat at the end of the Cob and watched the professor.
It was an instructive sight, an object-lesson to those who hold that
optimism has died out of the race. I had never seen him catch a fish.
He never looked to me as if he were at all likely to catch a fish. Yet
There are few things more restful than to watch some one else busy
under a warm sun. As I sat there, my pipe drawing nicely as the result
of certain explorations conducted that morning with a straw, my mind
ranged idly over large subjects and small. I thought of love and
chicken-farming. I mused on the immortality of the soul and the
deplorable speed at which two ounces of tobacco disappeared. In the
end I always returned to the professor. Sitting, as I did, with my
back to the beach, I could see nothing but his boat. It had the ocean
I began to ponder over the professor. I wondered dreamily if he
were very hot. I tried to picture his boyhood. I speculated on his
future, and the pleasure he extracted from life.
It was only when I heard him call out to Hawk to be careful, when a
movement on the part of that oarsman set the boat rocking, that I
began to weave romances round him in which I myself figured.
But, once started, I progressed rapidly. I imagined a sudden upset.
Professor struggling in water. Myself (heroically): "Courage! I'm
coming!" A few rapid strokes. Saved! Sequel, a subdued professor,
dripping salt water and tears of gratitude, urging me to become his
son-in-law. That sort of thing happened in fiction. It was a shame
that it should not happen in real life. In my hot youth I once had
seven stories in seven weekly penny papers in the same month, all
dealing with a situation of the kind. Only the details differed. In
"Not really a Coward" Vincent Devereux had rescued the earl's daughter
from a fire, whereas in "Hilda's Hero" it was the peppery old father
whom Tom Slingsby saved. Singularly enough, from drowning. In other
words, I, a very mediocre scribbler, had effected seven times in a
single month what the Powers of the Universe could not manage once,
even on the smallest scale.
* * * * *
It was precisely three minutes to twelve—I had just consulted my
watch—that the great idea surged into my brain. At four minutes to
twelve I had been grumbling impotently at Providence. By two minutes
to twelve I had determined upon a manly and independent course of
Briefly it was this. Providence had failed to give satisfaction. I
would, therefore, cease any connection with it, and start a rival
business on my own account. After all, if you want a thing done well,
you must do it yourself.
In other words, since a dramatic accident and rescue would not
happen of its own accord, I would arrange one for myself. Hawk looked
to me the sort of man who would do anything in a friendly way for a
I had now to fight it out with Conscience. I quote the brief report
which subsequently appeared in the Recording Angel/:—
* * * * *
Three-Round Contest/: CONSCIENCE (Celestial B.C.) v. J. GARNET
Round One.—Conscience came to the scratch smiling and
confident. Led off lightly with a statement that it would be bad for a
man of the professor's age to get wet. Garnet countered heavily,
alluding to the warmth of the weather and the fact that the professor
habitually enjoyed a bathe every day. Much sparring, Conscience not
quite so confident, and apparently afraid to come to close quarters
with this man. Time called, with little damage done.
Round Two.—Conscience, much freshened by the half minute's
rest, feinted with the charge of deceitfulness, and nearly got home
heavily with "What would Phyllis say if she knew?" Garnet, however,
side- stepped cleverly with "But she won't know," and followed up the
advantage with a damaging, "Besides, it's all for the best." The round
ended with a brisk rally on general principles, Garnet crowding in a
lot of work. Conscience down twice, and only saved by the call of
Round Three (and last).—Conscience came up very weak, and
with Garnet as strong as ever it was plain that the round would be a
brief one. This proved to be the case. Early in the second minute
Garnet cross-countered with "All's Fair in Love and War." Conscience
down and out. The winner left the ring without a mark.
* * * * *
I rose, feeling much refreshed.
That afternoon I interviewed Mr. Hawk in the bar-parlour of the Net
"Hawk," I said to him darkly, over a mystic and conspirator-like
pot of ale, "I want you, next time you take Professor Derrick out
fishing"—here I glanced round, to make sure that we were not
overheard—"to upset him."
His astonished face rose slowly from the pot of ale like a full
"What 'ud I do that for?" he gasped.
"Five shillings, I hope," said I, "but I am prepared to go to ten."
I encored his pot of ale.
He kept on gurgling.
I argued with the man.
I spoke splendidly. I was eloquent, but at the same time concise.
My choice of words was superb. I crystallised my ideas into pithy
sentences which a child could have understood.
And at the end of half-an-hour he had grasped the salient points of
the scheme. Also he imagined that I wished the professor upset by way
of a practical joke. He gave me to understand that this was the type
of humour which was to be expected from a gentleman from London. I am
afraid he must at one period in his career have lived at one of those
watering-places at which trippers congregate. He did not seem to think
highly of the Londoner.
I let it rest at that. I could not give my true reason, and this
served as well as any.
* * * * *
At the last moment he recollected that he, too, would get wet when
the accident took place, and he raised the price to a sovereign.
A mercenary man. It is painful to see how rapidly the old simple
spirit is dying out of our rural districts. Twenty years ago a
fisherman would have been charmed to do a little job like that for a
screw of tobacco.
CHAPTER XI. THE BRAVE PRESERVER
I could have wished, during the next few days, that Mr. Harry
Hawk's attitude towards myself had not been so unctuously confidential
and mysterious. It was unnecessary, in my opinion, for him to grin
meaningly when he met me in the street. His sly wink when we passed
each other on the Cob struck me as in indifferent taste. The thing had
been definitely arranged (ten shillings down and ten when it was
over), and there was no need for any cloak and dark-lantern effects. I
objected strongly to being treated as the villain of a melodrama. I
was merely an ordinary well-meaning man, forced by circumstances into
doing the work of Providence. Mr. Hawk's demeanour seemed to say, "We
are two reckless scoundrels, but bless you, I won't give away
your guilty secret." The climax came one morning as I was going along
the street towards the beach. I was passing a dark doorway, when out
shimmered Mr. Hawk as if he had been a spectre instead of the most
substantial man within a radius of ten miles.
" 'St!" He whispered.
"Now look here, Hawk," I said wrathfully, for the start he had
given me had made me bite my tongue, "this has got to stop. I refuse
to be haunted in this way. What is it now?"
"Mr. Derrick goes out this morning, zur."
"Thank goodness for that," I said. "Get it over this morning, then,
without fail. I couldn't stand another day of it."
I went on to the Cob, where I sat down. I was excited. Deeds of
great import must shortly be done. I felt a little nervous. It would
never do to bungle the thing. Suppose by some accident I were to drown
the professor! Or suppose that, after all, he contented himself with a
mere formal expression of thanks, and refused to let bygones be
bygones. These things did not bear thinking of.
I got up and began to pace restlessly to and fro.
Presently from the farther end of the harbour there put off Mr.
Hawk's boat, bearing its precious cargo. My mouth became dry with
Very slowly Mr. Hawk pulled round the end of the Cob, coming to a
standstill some dozen yards from where I was performing my beat. It
was evidently here that the scene of the gallant rescue had been
My eyes were glued upon Mr. Hawk's broad back. Only when going in
to bat at cricket have I experienced a similar feeling of suspense.
The boat lay almost motionless on the water. I had never seen the sea
smoother. Little ripples plashed against the side of the Cob.
It seemed as if this perfect calm might continue for ever. Mr. Hawk
made no movement. Then suddenly the whole scene changed to one of vast
activity. I heard Mr. Hawk utter a hoarse cry, and saw him plunge
violently in his seat. The professor turned half round, and I caught
sight of his indignant face, pink with emotion. Then the scene changed
again with the rapidity of a dissolving view. I saw Mr. Hawk give
another plunge, and the next moment the boat was upside down in the
water, and I was shooting headforemost to the bottom, oppressed with
the indescribably clammy sensation which comes when one's clothes are
I rose to the surface close to the upturned boat. The first sight I
saw was the spluttering face of Mr. Hawk. I ignored him, and swam to
where the professor's head bobbed on the waters.
"Keep cool," I said. A silly remark in the circumstances.
He was swimming energetically but unskilfully. He appeared to be
one of those men who can look after themselves in the water only when
they are in bathing costume. In his shore clothes it would have taken
him a week to struggle to land, if he had got there at all, which was
I know all about saving people from drowning. We used to practise
it with a dummy in the swimming-bath at school. I attacked him from
the rear, and got a good grip of him by the shoulders. I then swam on
my back in the direction of land, and beached him with much eclat
at the feet of an admiring crowd. I had thought of putting him under
once or twice just to show him he was being rescued, but decided
against such a source as needlessly realistic. As it was, I fancy he
had swallowed of sea-water two or three hearty draughts.
The crowd was enthusiastic.
"Brave young feller," said somebody.
I blushed. This was Fame.
"Jumped in, he did, sure enough, an' saved the gentleman!"
"Be the old soul drownded?"
"That girt fule, 'Arry 'Awk!"
I was sorry for Mr. Hawk. Popular opinion was against him. What the
professor said of him, when he recovered his breath, I cannot repeat,
—not because I do not remember it, but because there is a line, and
one must draw it. Let it be sufficient to say that on the subject of
Mr. Hawk he saw eye to eye with the citizen who had described him as a
"girt fule." I could not help thinking that my fellow conspirator did
well to keep out of it all. He was now sitting in the boat, which he
had restored to its normal position, baling pensively with an old tin
can. To satire from the shore he paid no attention.
The professor stood up, and stretched out his hand. I grasped it.
"Mr. Garnet," he said, for all the world as if he had been the
father of the heroine of "Hilda's Hero," "we parted recently in anger.
Let me thank you for your gallant conduct and hope that bygones will
I came out strong. I continued to hold his hand. The crowd raised a
I said, "Professor, the fault was mine. Show that you have forgiven
me by coming up to the farm and putting on something dry."
"An excellent idea, me boy; I
am a little wet."
"A little," I agreed.
We walked briskly up the hill to the farm.
Ukridge met us at the gate.
He diagnosed the situation rapidly.
"You're all wet," he said. I admitted it.
"Professor Derrick has had an unfortunate boating accident," I
"And Mr. Garnet heroically dived in, in all his clothes, and saved
me life," broke in the professor. "A hero, sir. A—choo!"
"You're catching cold, old horse," said Ukridge, all friendliness
and concern, his little differences with the professor having vanished
like thawed snow. "This'll never do. Come upstairs and get into
something of Garnet's. My own toggery wouldn't fit. What? Come along,
come along, I'll get you some hot water. Mrs. Beale—Mrs. Beale
! We want a large can of hot water. At once. What? Yes, immediately.
What? Very well then, as soon as you can. Now then, Garny, my boy, out
with the duds. What do you think of this, now, professor? A sweetly
pretty thing in grey flannel. Here's a shirt. Get out of that wet
toggery, and Mrs. Beale shall dry it. Don't attempt to tell me about
it till you're changed. Socks! Socks forward. Show socks. Here you
are. Coat? Try this blazer. That's right—that's right."
He bustled about till the professor was clothed, then marched him
downstairs, and gave him a cigar.
"Now, what's all this? What happened?"
The professor explained. He was severe in his narration upon the
unlucky Mr. Hawk.
"I was fishing, Mr. Ukridge, with me back turned, when I felt the
boat rock violently from one side to the other to such an extent that
I nearly lost me equilibrium, and then the boat upset. The man's a
fool, sir. I could not see what had happened, my back being turned, as
"Garnet must have seen. What happened, old horse?"
"It was very sudden," I said. "It seemed to me as if the man had
got an attack of cramp. That would account for it. He has the
reputation of being a most sober and trustworthy fellow."
"Never trust that sort of man," said Ukridge. "They are always the
worst. It's plain to me that this man was beastly drunk, and upset the
boat while trying to do a dance."
"A great curse, drink," said the professor. "Why, yes, Mr. Ukridge,
I think I will. Thank you. Thank you. That will be enough. Not all the
soda, if you please. Ah! this tastes pleasanter than salt water, Mr.
Garnet. Eh? Eh? Ha—Ha!"
He was in the best of tempers, and I worked strenuously to keep him
so. My scheme had been so successful that its iniquity did not worry
me. I have noticed that this is usually the case in matters of this
kind. It is the bungled crime that brings remorse.
"We must go round the links together one of these days, Mr.
Garnet," said the professor. "I have noticed you there on several
occasions, playing a strong game. I have lately taken to using a
wooden putter. It is wonderful what a difference it makes."
Golf is a great bond of union. We wandered about the grounds
discussing the game, the entente cordiale growing more firmly
established every moment.
"We must certainly arrange a meeting," concluded the professor. "I
shall be interested to see how we stand with regard to one another. I
have improved my game considerably since I have been down here.
"My only feat worthy of mention since I started the game," I said,
"has been to halve a round with Angus M'Lurkin at St. Andrews."
"The M'Lurkin?" asked the professor, impressed.
"Yes. But it was one of his very off days, I fancy. He must have
had gout or something. And I have certainly never played so well
"Still——," said the professor. "Yes, we must really arrange to
With Ukridge, who was in one of his less tactless moods, he became
Ukridge's ready agreement with his strictures on the erring Hawk
had a great deal to do with this. When a man has a grievance, he feels
drawn to those who will hear him patiently and sympathise. Ukridge was
"The man is an unprincipled scoundrel," he said, "and should be
torn limb from limb. Take my advice, and don't go out with him again.
Show him that you are not a man to be trifled with. The spilt child
dreads the water, what? Human life isn't safe with such men as Hawk
"You are perfectly right, sir. The man can have no defence. I shall
not employ him again."
I felt more than a little guilty while listening to this duet on
the subject of the man whom I had lured from the straight and narrow
path. But the professor would listen to no defence. My attempts at
excusing him were ill received. Indeed, the professor shewed such
signs of becoming heated that I abandoned my fellow-conspirator to his
fate with extreme promptness. After all, an addition to the stipulated
reward—one of these days—would compensate him for any loss which he
might sustain from the withdrawal of the professor's custom. Mr. Harry
Hawk was in good enough case. I would see that he did not suffer.
Filled with these philanthropic feelings, I turned once more to
talk with the professor of niblicks and approach shots and holes done
in three without a brassy. We were a merry party at lunch—a lunch
fortunately in Mrs. Beale's best vein, consisting of a roast chicken
and sweets. Chicken had figured somewhat frequently of late on our
daily bill of fare.
We saw the professor off the premises in his dried clothes, and I
turned back to put the fowls to bed in a happier frame of mind than I
had known for a long time. I whistled rag-time airs as I worked.
"Rum old buffer," said Ukridge meditatively, pouring himself out
another whisky and soda. "My goodness, I should have liked to have
seen him in the water. Why do I miss these good things?"
CHAPTER XII. SOME EMOTIONS AND
The fame which came to me through that gallant rescue was a little
embarrassing. I was a marked man. Did I walk through the village,
heads emerged from windows, and eyes followed me out of sight. Did I
sit on the beach, groups formed behind me and watched in silent
admiration. I was the man of the moment.
"If we'd wanted an advertisement for the farm," said Ukridge on one
of these occasions, "we couldn't have had a better one than you,
Garny, my boy. You have brought us three distinct orders for eggs
during the last week. And I'll tell you what it is, we need all the
orders we can get that'll bring us in ready money. The farm is in a
critical condition. The coffers are low, deuced low. And I'll tell you
another thing. I'm getting precious tired of living on nothing but
chicken and eggs. So's Millie, though she doesn't say so."
"So am I," I said, "and I don't feel like imitating your wife's
proud reserve. I never want to see a chicken again. As for eggs, they
are far too much for us."
For the last week monotony had been the keynote of our
commissariat. We had had cold chicken and eggs for breakfast, boiled
chicken and eggs for lunch, and roast chicken and eggs for dinner.
Meals became a nuisance, and Mrs. Beale complained bitterly that we
did not give her a chance. She was a cook who would have graced an
alderman's house and served up noble dinners for gourmets, and here
she was in this remote corner of the world ringing the changes on
boiled chicken and roast chicken and boiled eggs and poached eggs. Mr.
Whistler, set to paint sign-boards for public-houses, might have felt
the same restless discontent. As for her husband, the Hired Retainer,
he took life as tranquilly as ever, and seemed to regard the whole
thing as the most exhilarating farce he had ever been in. I think he
looked on Ukridge as an amiable lunatic, and was content to rough it a
little in order to enjoy the privilege of observing his movements. He
made no complaints of the food. When a man has supported life for a
number of years on incessant Army beef, the monotony of daily chicken
and eggs scarcely strikes him.
"The fact is," said Ukridge, "these tradesmen round here seem to be
a sordid, suspicious lot. They clamour for money."
He mentioned a few examples. Vickers, the butcher, had been the
first to strike, with the remark that he would like to see the colour
of Mr. Ukridge's money before supplying further joints. Dawlish, the
grocer, had expressed almost exactly similar sentiments two days
later; and the ranks of these passive resisters had been receiving
fresh recruits ever since. To a man the tradesmen of Combe Regis
seemed as deficient in Simple Faith as they were in Norman Blood.
"Can't you pay some of them a little on account?" I suggested. "It
would set them going again."
"My dear old man," said Ukridge impressively, "we need every penny
of ready money we can raise for the farm. The place simply eats money.
That infernal roop let us in for I don't know what."
That insidious epidemic had indeed proved costly. We had painted
the throats of the chickens with the best turpentine—at least Ukridge
and Beale had,—but in spite of their efforts, dozens had died, and we
had been obliged to sink much more money than was pleasant in
restocking the run. The battle which took place on the first day after
the election of the new members was a sight to remember. The results
of it were still noticeable in the depressed aspect of certain of the
"No," said Ukridge, summing up, "these men must wait. We can't help
their troubles. Why, good gracious, it isn't as if they'd been waiting
for the money long. We've not been down here much over a month. I
never heard of such a scandalous thing. 'Pon my word, I've a good mind
to go round, and have a straight talk with one or two of them. I come
and settle down here, and stimulate trade, and give them large orders,
and they worry me with bills when they know I'm up to my eyes in work,
looking after the fowls. One can't attend to everything. The business
is just now at its most crucial point. It would be fatal to pay any
attention to anything else with things as they are. These scoundrels
will get paid all in good time."
It is a peculiarity of situations of this kind that the ideas of
debtor and creditor as to what constitutes a good time never coincide.
* * * * *
I am afraid that, despite the urgent need for strict attention to
business, I was inclined to neglect my duties about this time. I had
got into the habit of wandering off, either to the links, where I
generally found the professor, sometimes Phyllis, or on long walks by
myself. There was one particular walk along the cliffs, through some
of the most beautiful scenery I have ever set eyes on, which more than
any other suited my mood. I would work my way through the woods till I
came to a small clearing on the very edge of the cliff. There I would
sit and smoke by the hour. If ever I am stricken with smoker's heart,
or staggers, or tobacco amblyopia, or any other of the cheery things
which doctors predict for the devotee of the weed, I shall feel that I
sowed the seeds of it that summer in that little clearing overlooking
the sea. A man in love needs much tobacco. A man thinking out a novel
needs much tobacco. I was in the grip of both maladies. Somehow I
found that my ideas flowed more readily in that spot than in any
I had not been inside the professor's grounds since the occasion
when I had gone in through the box-wood hedge. But on the afternoon
following my financial conversation with Ukridge I made my way
thither, after a toilet which, from its length, should have produced
better results than it did. Not for four whole days had I caught so
much as a glimpse of Phyllis. I had been to the links three times, and
had met the professor twice, but on both occasions she had been
absent. I had not had the courage to ask after her. I had an absurd
idea that my voice or my manner would betray me in some way. I felt
that I should have put the question with such an exaggerated show of
indifference that all would have been discovered.
The professor was not at home. Nor was Mr. Chase. Nor was Miss
Norah Derrick, the lady I had met on the beach with the professor.
Miss Phyllis, said the maid, was in the garden.
I went into the garden. She was sitting under the cedar by the
tennis- lawn, reading. She looked up as I approached.
I said it was a lovely afternoon. After which there was a lull in
the conversation. I was filled with a horrid fear that I was boring
her. I had probably arrived at the very moment when she was most
interested in her book. She must, I thought, even now be regarding me
as a nuisance, and was probably rehearsing bitter things to say to the
maid for not having had the sense to explain that she was out.
"I—er—called in the hope of seeing Professor Derrick," I said.
"You would find him on the links," she replied. It seemed to me
that she spoke wistfully.
"Oh, it—it doesn't matter," I said. "It wasn't anything
This was true. If the professor had appeared then and there, I
should have found it difficult to think of anything to say to him
which would have accounted to any extent for my anxiety to see him.
"How are the chickens, Mr. Garnet?" said she.
The situation was saved. Conversationally, I am like a clockwork
toy. I have to be set going. On the affairs of the farm I could speak
fluently. I sketched for her the progress we had made since her visit.
I was humorous concerning roop, epigrammatic on the subject of the
Hired Retainer and Edwin.
"Then the cat did come down from the chimney?" said Phyllis.
We both laughed, and—I can answer for myself—I felt the better
"He came down next day," I said, "and made an excellent lunch of
one of our best fowls. He also killed another, and only just escaped
death himself at the hands of Ukridge."
"Mr. Ukridge doesn't like him, does he?"
"If he does, he dissembles his love. Edwin is Mrs. Ukridge's pet.
He is the only subject on which they disagree. Edwin is certainly in
the way on a chicken farm. He has got over his fear of Bob, and is now
perfectly lawless. We have to keep a steady eye on him."
"And have you had any success with the incubator? I love
incubators. I have always wanted to have one of my own, but we have
never kept fowls."
"The incubator has not done all that it should have done," I said.
"Ukridge looks after it, and I fancy his methods are not the right
methods. I don't know if I have got the figures absolutely correct,
but Ukridge reasons on these lines. He says you are supposed to keep
the temperature up to a hundred and five degrees. I think he said a
hundred and five. Then the eggs are supposed to hatch out in a week or
so. He argues that you may just as well keep the temperature at
seventy-two, and wait a fortnight for your chickens. I am certain
there's a fallacy in the system somewhere, because we never seem to
get as far as the chickens. But Ukridge says his theory is
mathematically sound, and he sticks to it."
"Are you quite sure that the way you are doing it is the best way
to manage a chicken farm?"
"I should very much doubt it. I am a child in these matters. I had
only seen a chicken in its wild state once or twice before we came
down here. I had never dreamed of being an active assistant on a real
farm. The whole thing began like Mr. George Ade's fable of the Author.
An Author—myself—was sitting at his desk trying to turn out any old
thing that could be converted into breakfast-food when a friend came
in and sat down on the table, and told him to go right on and not mind
"Did Mr. Ukridge do that?"
"Very nearly that. He called at my rooms one beautiful morning when
I was feeling desperately tired of London and overworked and dying for
a holiday, and suggested that I should come to Combe Regis with him
and help him farm chickens. I have not regretted it."
"It is a lovely place, isn't it?"
"The loveliest I have ever seen. How charming your garden is."
"Shall we go and look at it? You have not seen the whole of it."
As she rose, I saw her book, which she had laid face downwards on
the grass beside her. It was the same much-enduring copy of the
"Manoeuvres of Arthur." I was thrilled. This patient perseverance must
surely mean something. She saw me looking at it.
"Did you draw Pamela from anybody?" she asked suddenly.
I was glad now that I had not done so. The wretched Pamela, once my
pride, was for some reason unpopular with the only critic about whose
opinion I cared, and had fallen accordingly from her pedestal.
As we wandered down from the garden paths, she gave me her opinion
of the book. In the main it was appreciative. I shall always associate
the scent of yellow lupin with the higher criticism.
"Of course, I don't know anything about writing books," she said.
"Yes?" my tone implied, or I hope it did, that she was an expert on
books, and that if she was not it didn't matter.
"But I don't think you do your heroines well. I have just got 'The
Outsider—' " (My other novel. Bastable Kirby, 6s. Satirical. All
about Society—of which I know less than I know about chicken-farming.
Slated by Times and Spectator. Well received by London Mail and
Winning Post/)—"and," continued Phyllis, "Lady
Maud is exactly the same as Pamela in the 'Manoeuvres of Arthur.' I
thought you must have drawn both characters from some one you knew."
"No," I said. "No. Purely imaginary."
"I am so glad," said Phyllis.
And then neither of us seemed to have anything to say. My knees
began to tremble. I realised that the moment had arrived when my fate
must be put to the touch; and I feared that the moment was premature.
We cannot arrange these things to suit ourselves. I knew that the time
was not yet ripe; but the magic scent of the yellow lupin was too much
"Miss Derrick," I said hoarsely.
Phyllis was looking with more intentness than the attractions of
the flower justified at a rose she held in her hand. The bee hummed in
"Miss Derrick," I said, and stopped again.
"I say, you people," said a cheerful voice, "tea is ready. Hullo,
Garnet, how are you? That medal arrived yet from the Humane Society?"
I spun round. Mr. Tom Chase was standing at the end of the path.
The only word that could deal adequately with the situation slapped
against my front teeth. I grinned a sickly grin.
"Well, Tom," said Phyllis.
And there was, I thought, just the faintest tinkle of annoyance in
* * * * *
"I've been bathing," said Mr. Chase,
a propos des bottes.
"Oh," I replied. "And I wish," I added, "that you'd drowned
But I added it silently to myself.
CHAPTER XIII. TEA AND TENNIS
"Met the professor's late boatman on the Cob," said Mr. Chase,
dissecting a chocolate cake.
"Clumsy man," said Phyllis. "I hope he was ashamed of himself. I
shall never forgive him for trying to drown papa."
My heart bled for Mr. Henry Hawk, that modern martyr.
"When I met him," said Tom Chase, "he looked as if he had been
trying to drown his sorrow as well."
"I knew he drank," said Phyllis severely, "the very first time I
"You might have warned the professor," murmured Mr. Chase.
"He couldn't have upset the boat if he had been sober."
"You never know. He may have done it on purpose."
"Tom, how absurd."
"Rather rough on the man, aren't you?" I said.
"Merely a suggestion," continued Mr. Chase airily. "I've been
reading sensational novels lately, and it seems to me that Mr. Hawk's
cut out to be a minion. Probably some secret foe of the professor's
My heart stood still. Did he know, I wondered, and was this all a
roundabout way of telling me he knew?
"The professor may be a member of an Anarchist League, or
something, and this is his punishment for refusing to assassinate some
"Have another cup of tea, Tom, and stop talking nonsense."
Mr. Chase handed in his cup.
"What gave me the idea that the upset was done on purpose was this.
I saw the whole thing from the Ware Cliff. The spill looked to me just
like dozens I had seen at Malta."
"Why do they upset themselves on purpose at Malta particularly?"
"Listen carefully, my dear, and you'll know more about the ways of
the Navy that guards your coasts than you did before. When men are
allowed on shore at Malta, the owner has a fancy to see them snugly on
board again at a certain reasonable hour. After that hour any Maltese
policeman who brings them aboard gets one sovereign, cash. But he has
to do all the bringing part of it on his own. Consequence is, you see
boats rowing out to the ship, carrying men who have overstayed their
leave; and when they get near enough, the able-bodied gentleman in
custody jumps to his feet, upsets the boat, and swims for the gangway.
The policemen, if they aren't drowned—they sometimes are—race him,
and whichever gets there first wins. If it's the policeman, he gets
his sovereign. If it's the sailor, he is considered to have arrived
not in a state of custody and gets off easier. What a judicious remark
that was of the governor of North Carolina to the governor of South
Carolina, respecting the length of time between drinks. Just one more
cup, please, Phyllis."
"But how does all that apply?" I asked, dry-mouthed.
"Mr. Hawk upset the professor just as those Maltese were upset.
There's a patent way of doing it. Furthermore, by judicious
questioning, I found that Hawk was once in the Navy, and stationed at
Malta. Now, who's going to drag in Sherlock Holmes?"
"You don't really think—?" I said, feeling like a criminal in the
dock when the case is going against him.
"I think friend Hawk has been re-enacting the joys of his vanished
youth, so to speak."
"He ought to be prosecuted," said Phyllis, blazing with
Alas, poor Hawk!
"Nobody's safe with a man of that sort, hiring out a boat." Oh,
"But why on earth should he play a trick like that on Professor
"Pure animal spirits, probably. Or he may, as I say, be a minion."
I was hot all over.
"I shall tell father that," said Phyllis in her most decided voice,
"and see what he says. I don't wonder at the man taking to drink after
doing such a thing."
"I—I think you're making a mistake," I said.
"I never make mistakes," Mr. Chase replied. "I am called Archibald
the All-Right, for I am infallible. I propose to keep a reflective eye
upon the jovial Hawk."
He helped himself to another section of the chocolate cake.
"Haven't you finished
yet, Tom?" inquired Phyllis. "I'm sure
Mr. Garnet's getting tired of sitting talking here," she said.
I shot out a polite negative. Mr. Chase explained with his mouth
full that he had by no means finished. Chocolate cake, it appeared,
was the dream of his life. When at sea he was accustomed to lie awake
o' nights thinking of it.
"You don't seem to realise," he said, "that I have just come from a
cruise on a torpedo-boat. There was such a sea on as a rule that
cooking operations were entirely suspended, and we lived on ham and
"On the other hand," added Mr. Chase philosophically, "it didn't
matter much, because we were all ill most of the time."
"Don't be nasty, Tom."
"I was merely defending myself. I hope Mr. Hawk will be able to do
as well when his turn comes. My aim, my dear Phyllis, is to show you
in a series of impressionist pictures the sort of thing I have to go
through when I'm not here. Then perhaps you won't rend me so savagely
over a matter of five minutes' lateness for breakfast."
"Five minutes! It was three-quarters of an hour, and everything was
"Quite right too in weather like this. You're a slave to
convention, Phyllis. You think breakfast ought to be hot, so you
always have it hot. On occasion I prefer mine cold. Mine is the truer
wisdom. You can give the cook my compliments, Phyllis, and tell
her—gently, for I don't wish the glad news to overwhelm her—that I
enjoyed that cake. Say that I shall be glad to hear from her again.
Care for a game of tennis, Garnet?"
"What a pity Norah isn't here," said Phyllis. "We could have had a
"But she is a present wasting her sweetness on the desert air of
Yeovil. You had better sit down and watch us, Phyllis. Tennis in this
sort of weather is no job for the delicately-nurtured feminine. I will
explain the finer points of my play as we go on. Look out particularly
for the Tilden Back-Handed Slosh. A winner every time."
We proceeded to the tennis court. I played with the sun in my eyes.
I might, if I chose, emphasise that fact, and attribute my subsequent
rout to it, adding, by way of solidifying the excuse, that I was
playing in a strange court with a borrowed racquet, and that my mind
was preoccupied—firstly, with l'affaire Hawk, secondly, and
chiefly, with the gloomy thought that Phyllis and my opponent seemed
to be on friendly terms with each other. Their manner at tea had been
almost that of an engaged couple. There was a thorough understanding
between them. I will not, however, take refuge behind excuses. I
admit, without qualifying the statement, that Mr. Chase was too good
for me. I had always been under the impression that lieutenants in the
Royal Navy were not brilliant at tennis. I had met them at various
houses, but they had never shone conspicuously. They had played an
earnest, unobtrusive game, and generally seemed glad when it was over.
Mr. Chase was not of this sort. His service was bottled lightning. His
returns behaved like jumping crackers. He won the first game in
precisely six strokes. He served. Only once did I take the service
with the full face of the racquet, and then I seemed to be stopping a
bullet. I returned it into the net. The last of the series struck the
wooden edge of my racquet, and soared over the back net into the
shrubbery, after the manner of a snick to long slip off a fast bowler.
"Game," said Mr. Chase, "we'll look for that afterwards."
I felt a worm and no man. Phyllis, I thought, would probably judge
my entire character from this exhibition. A man, she would reflect,
who could be so feeble and miserable a failure at tennis, could not be
good for much in any department of life. She would compare me
instinctively with my opponent, and contrast his dash and brilliance
with my own inefficiency. Somehow the massacre was beginning to have a
bad effect on my character. All my self-respect was ebbing. A little
more of this, and I should become crushed,—a mere human jelly. It was
my turn to serve. Service is my strong point at tennis. I am
inaccurate, but vigorous, and occasionally send in a quite unplayable
shot. One or two of these, even at the expense of a fault or so, and I
might be permitted to retain at least a portion of my self-respect.
I opened with a couple of faults. The sight of Phyllis, sitting
calm and cool in her chair under the cedar, unnerved me. I served
another fault. And yet another.
"Here, I say, Garnet," observed Mr. Chase plaintively, "do put me
out of this hideous suspense. I'm becoming a mere bundle of quivering
I loathe facetiousness in moments of stress.
I frowned austerely, made no reply, and served another fault, my
Matters had reached a crisis. Even if I had to lob it underhand, I
must send the ball over the net with the next stroke.
I restrained myself this time, eschewing the careless vigour which
had marked my previous efforts. The ball flew in a slow semicircle,
and pitched inside the correct court. At least, I told myself, I had
not served a fault.
What happened then I cannot exactly say. I saw my opponent spring
forward like a panther and whirl his racquet. The next moment the back
net was shaking violently, and the ball was rolling swiftly along the
ground on a return journey to the other court.
"Love-forty," said Mr. Chase. "Phyllis!"
"That was the Tilden Slosh."
"I thought it must be," said Phyllis.
In the third game I managed to score fifteen. By the merest chance
I returned one of his red-hot serves, and—probably through
surprise—he failed to send it back again.
In the fourth and fifth games I omitted to score. Phyllis had left
the cedar now, and was picking flowers from the beds behind the court.
We began the sixth game. And now for some reason I played really
well. I struck a little vein of brilliance. I was serving, and this
time a proportion of my serves went over the net instead of trying to
get through. The score went from fifteen all to forty-fifteen. Hope
began to surge through my veins. If I could keep this up, I might win
The Tilden Slosh diminished my lead by fifteen. Then I got in a
really fine serve, which beat him. 'Vantage In. Another Slosh. Deuce.
Another Slam. 'Vantage out. It was an awesome moment. There is a tide
in the affairs of men, which, taken by the flood—I served. Fault. I
served again,—a beauty. He returned it like a flash into the corner
of the court. With a supreme effort I got to it. We rallied. I was
playing like a professor. Then whizz—!
The Slosh had beaten me on the post.
"Game and/—," said Mr. Chase, tossing his racquet into the air
and catching it by the handle. "Good game that last one."
I turned to see what Phyllis thought of it.
At the eleventh hour I had shown her of what stuff I was made.
She had disappeared.
"Looking for Miss Derrick?" said Chase, jumping the net, and
joining me in my court, "she's gone into the house."
"When did she go?"
"At the end of the fifth game," said Chase.
"Gone to dress for dinner, I suppose," he continued. "It must be
getting late. I think I ought to be going, too, if you don't mind. The
professor gets a little restive if I keep him waiting for his daily
bread. Great Scott, that watch can't be right! What do you make of it?
Yes, so do I. I really think I must run. You won't mind. Good-night,
then. See you to-morrow, I hope."
I walked slowly out across the fields. That same star, in which I
had confided on a former occasion, was at its post. It looked placid
and cheerful. It never got beaten by six games to love under
the very eyes of a lady-star. It was never cut out
ignominiously by infernally capable lieutenants in His Majesty's Navy.
No wonder it was cheerful.
CHAPTER XIV. A COUNCIL OF WAR
"The fact is," said Ukridge, "if things go on as they are now, my
lad, we shall be in the cart. This business wants bucking up. We don't
seem to be making headway. Why it is, I don't know, but we are not
making headway. Of course, what we want is time. If only these
scoundrels of tradesmen would leave us alone for a spell we could get
things going properly. But we're hampered and rattled and worried all
the time. Aren't we, Millie?"
"You don't let me see the financial side of the thing enough," I
complained. "Why don't you keep me thoroughly posted? I didn't know we
were in such a bad way. The fowls look fit enough, and Edwin hasn't
had one for a week."
"Edwin knows as well as possible when he's done wrong, Mr. Garnet,"
said Mrs. Ukridge. "He was so sorry after he had killed those other
"Yes," said Ukridge, "I saw to that."
"As far as I can see," I continued, "we're going strong. Chicken
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a shade monotonous, perhaps, but
look at the business we're doing. We sold a whole heap of eggs last
"But not enough, Garny old man. We aren't making our presence felt.
England isn't ringing our name. We sell a dozen eggs where we ought to
be selling them by the hundred, carting them off in trucks for the
London market and congesting the traffic. Harrod's and Whiteley's and
the rest of them are beginning to get on their hind legs and talk.
That's what they're doing. Devilish unpleasant they're making
themselves. You see, laddie, there's no denying it—we did
touch them for the deuce of a lot of things on account, and they
agreed to take it out in eggs. All they've done so far is to take it
out in apologetic letters from Millie. Now, I don't suppose there's a
woman alive who can write a better apologetic letter than her nibs,
but, if you're broad-minded and can face facts, you can't help seeing
that the juiciest apologetic letter is not an egg. I meant to say,
look at it from their point of view. Harrod—or Whiteley—comes into
his store in the morning, rubbing his hands expectantly. 'Well,' he
says, 'how many eggs from Combe Regis to-day?' And instead of leading
him off to a corner piled up with bursting crates, they show him a
four-page letter telling him it'll all come right in the future. I've
never run a store myself, but I should think that would jar a chap.
Anyhow, the blighters seem to be getting tired of waiting."
"The last letter from Harrod's was quite pathetic," said Mrs.
I had a vision of an eggless London. I seemed to see homes rendered
desolate and lives embittered by the slump, and millionaires bidding
against one another for the few rare specimens which Ukridge had
actually managed to despatch to Brompton and Bayswater.
Ukridge, having induced himself to be broad-minded for five
minutes, now began to slip back to his own personal point of view and
became once more the man with a grievance. His fleeting sympathy with
the wrongs of Mr. Harrod and Mr. Whiteley disappeared.
"What it all amounts to," he said complainingly, "is that they're
infernally unreasonable. I've done everything possible to meet them.
Nothing could have been more manly and straightforward than my
attitude. I told them in my last letter but three that I proposed to
let them have the eggs on the Times instalment system, and they
said I was frivolous. They said that to send thirteen eggs as payment
for goods supplied to the value of 25 pounds 1s. 8 1/2 d. was mere
trifling. Trifling, I'll trouble you! That's the spirit in which they
meet my suggestions. It was Harrod who did that. I've never met Harrod
personally, but I'd like to, just to ask him if that's his idea of
cementing amiable business relations. He knows just as well as anyone
else that without credit commerce has no elasticity. It's an
elementary rule. I'll bet he'd have been sick if chappies had refused
to let him have tick when he was starting his store. Do you suppose
Harrod, when he started in business, paid cash down on the nail for
everything? Not a bit of it. He went about taking people by the coat-
button and asking them to be good chaps and wait till Wednesday week.
Trifling! Why, those thirteen eggs were absolutely all we had over
after Mrs. Beale had taken what she wanted for the kitchen. As a
matter of fact, if it's anybody's fault, it's Mrs. Beale's. That woman
literally eats eggs."
"The habit is not confined to her," I said.
"Well, what I mean to say is, she seems to bathe in them."
"She says she needs so many for puddings, dear," said Mrs. Ukridge.
"I spoke to her about it yesterday. And of course, we often have
"She can't make omelettes without breaking eggs," I urged.
"She can't make them without breaking us, dammit," said Ukridge.
"One or two more omelettes, and we're done for. No fortune on earth
could stand it. We mustn't have any more omelettes, Millie. We must
economise. Millions of people get on all right without omelettes. I
suppose there are families where, if you suddenly produced an
omelette, the whole strength of the company would get up and cheer,
led by father. Cancel the omelettes, old girl, from now onward."
"Yes, dear. But—"
think Mrs. Beale would like that very much, dear.
She has been complaining a good deal about chicken at every meal. She
says that the omelettes are the only things that give her a chance.
She says there are always possibilities in an omelette."
"In short," I said, "what you propose to do is deliberately to
remove from this excellent lady's life the one remaining element of
poetry. You mustn't do it. Give Mrs. Beale her omelettes, and let's
hope for a larger supply of eggs."
"Another thing," said Ukridge. "It isn't only that there's a
shortage of eggs. That wouldn't matter so much if only we kept
hatching out fresh squads of chickens. I'm not saying the hens aren't
doing their best. I take off my hat to the hens. As nice a
hard-working lot as I ever want to meet, full of vigour and
earnestness. It's that damned incubator that's letting us down all the
time. The rotten thing won't work. I don't know what's the
matter with it. The long and the short of it is that it simply
declines to incubate."
"Perhaps it's your dodge of letting down the temperature. You
remember, you were telling me? I forget the details."
"My dear old boy," he said earnestly, "there's nothing wrong with
my figures. It's a mathematical certainty. What's the good of
mathematics if not to help you work out that sort of thing? No,
there's something deuced wrong with the machine itself, and I shall
probably make a complaint to the people I got it from. Where did we
get the incubator, old girl?"
"Harrod's, I think, dear,—yes, it was Harrod's. It came down with
the first lot of things."
"Then," said Ukridge, banging the table with his fist, while his
glasses flashed triumph, "we've got 'em. The Lord has delivered
Harrod's into our hand. Write and answer that letter of theirs to-
night, Millie. Sit on them."
"Tell 'em that we'd have sent them their confounded eggs long ago,
if only their rotten, twopenny-ha'penny incubator had worked with any
approach to decency." He paused. "Or would you be sarcastic, Garny,
old horse? No, better put it so that they'll understand. Say that I
consider that the manufacturer of the thing ought to be in Colney
Hatch—if he isn't there already—and that they are scoundrels for
palming off a groggy machine of that sort on me."
"The ceremony of opening the morning's letters at Harrod's ought to
be full of interest and excitement to-morrow," I said.
This dashing counter-stroke seemed to relieve Ukridge. His
pessimism vanished. He seldom looked on the dark side of things for
long at a time. He began now to speak hopefully of the future. He
planned out ingenious improvements. Our fowls were to multiply so
rapidly and consistently that within a short space of time Dorsetshire
would be paved with them. Our eggs were to increase in size till they
broke records and got three-line notices in the "Items of Interest"
column in the Daily Mail. Briefly, each hen was to become a
happy combination of rabbit and ostrich.
"There is certainly a good time coming," I said. "May it be soon.
Meanwhile, what of the local tradesmen?"
Ukridge relapsed once more into gloom.
"They are the worst of the lot. I don't mind the London people so
much. They only write, and a letter or two hurts nobody. But when it
comes to butchers and bakers and grocers and fishmongers and
fruiterers and what not coming up to one's house and dunning one in
one's own garden,—well it's a little hard, what?"
"Oh, then those fellows I found you talking to yesterday were duns?
I thought they were farmers, come to hear your views on the rearing of
"Which were they? Little chap with black whiskers and long, thin
man with beard? That was Dawlish, the grocer, and Curtis, the
fishmonger. The others had gone before you came."
It may be wondered why, before things came to such a crisis, I had
not placed my balance at the bank at the disposal of the senior
partner for use on behalf of the farm. The fact was that my balance
was at the moment small. I have not yet in the course of this
narrative gone into my pecuniary position, but I may state here that
it was an inconvenient one. It was big with possibilities, but of
ready cash there was but a meagre supply. My parents had been poor.
But I had a wealthy uncle. Uncles are notoriously careless of the
comfort of their nephews. Mine was no exception. He had views. He was
a great believer in matrimony, as, having married three wives—not
simultaneously—he had every right to be. He was also of opinion that
the less money the young bachelor possessed, the better. The
consequence was that he announced his intention of giving me a
handsome allowance from the day that I married, but not an instant
before. Till that glad day I would have to shift for myself. And I am
bound to admit that—for an uncle— it was a remarkably sensible idea.
I am also of the opinion that it is greatly to my credit, and a proof
of my pure and unmercenary nature, that I did not instantly put myself
up to be raffled for, or rush out into the streets and propose
marriage to the first lady I met. But I was making quite enough with
my pen to support myself, and, be it never so humble, there is
something pleasant in a bachelor existence, or so I had thought until
I had thus no great stake in Ukridge's chicken farm. I had
contributed a modest five pounds to the preliminary expenses, and
another five after the roop incident. But further I could not go with
safety. When his income is dependent on the whims of editors and
publishers, the prudent man keeps something up his sleeve against a
sudden slump in his particular wares. I did not wish to have to make a
hurried choice between matrimony and the workhouse.
Having exhausted the subject of finance—or, rather, when I began
to feel that it was exhausting me—I took my clubs, and strolled up
the hill to the links to play off a match with a sportsman from the
village. I had entered some days previously for a competition for a
trophy (I quote the printed notice) presented by a local supporter of
the game, in which up to the present I was getting on nicely. I had
survived two rounds, and expected to beat my present opponent, which
would bring me into the semi-final. Unless I had bad luck, I felt that
I ought to get into the final, and win it. As far as I could gather
from watching the play of my rivals, the professor was the best of
them, and I was convinced that I should have no difficulty with him.
But he had the most extraordinary luck at golf, though he never
admitted it. He also exercised quite an uncanny influence on his
opponent. I have seen men put completely off their stroke by his good
I disposed of my man without difficulty. We parted a little coldly.
He had decapitated his brassy on the occasion of his striking
Dorsetshire instead of his ball, and he was slow in recovering from
the complex emotions which such an episode induces.
In the club-house I met the professor, whose demeanour was a
welcome contrast to that of my late opponent. The professor had just
routed his opponent, and so won through to the semi-final. He was
warm, but jubilant.
I congratulated him, and left the place.
Phyllis was waiting outside. She often went round the course with
"Good afternoon," I said. "Have you been round with the professor?"
"Yes. We must have been in front of you. Father won his match."
"So he was telling me. I was very glad to hear it."
"Did you win, Mr. Garnet?"
"Yes. Pretty easily. My opponent had bad luck all through. Bunkers
seemed to have a magnetic attraction for him."
"So you and father are both in the semi-final? I hope you will play
"Thank you," I said.
"Yes, it does sound rude, doesn't it? But father has set his heart
on winning this year. Do you know that he has played in the final
round two years running now?"
"Both times he was beaten by the same man."
"Who was that? Mr. Derrick plays a much better game than anybody I
have seen on these links."
"It was nobody who is here now. It was a Colonel Jervis. He has not
come to Combe Regis this year. That's why father is hopeful."
"Logically," I said, "he ought to be certain to win."
"Yes; but, you see, you were not playing last year, Mr. Garnet."
"Oh, the professor can make rings round me," I said.
"What did you go round in to-day?"
"We were playing match-play, and only did the first dozen holes;
but my average round is somewhere in the late eighties."
"The best father has ever done is ninety, and that was only once.
So you see, Mr. Garnet, there's going to be another tragedy this
"You make me feel a perfect brute. But it's more than likely, you
must remember, that I shall fail miserably if I ever do play your
father in the final. There are days when I play golf as badly as I
play tennis. You'll hardly believe me."
She smiled reminiscently.
"Tom is much too good at tennis. His service is perfectly
"It's a little terrifying on first acquaintance."
"But you're better at golf than at tennis, Mr. Garnet. I wish you
"This is special pleading," I said. "It isn't fair to appeal to my
better feelings, Miss Derrick."
"I didn't know golfers had any where golf was concerned. Do you
really have your off-days?"
"Nearly always. There are days when I slice with my driver as if it
were a bread-knife."
"And when I couldn't putt to hit a haystack."
"Then I hope it will be on one of those days that you play father."
"I hope so, too," I said.
"You hope so?"
"But don't you want to win?"
"I should prefer to please you."
"Really, how very unselfish of you, Mr. Garnet," she replied, with
a laugh. "I had no idea that such chivalry existed. I thought a golfer
would sacrifice anything to win a game."
"And trample on the feelings of anybody."
"Not everybody," I said.
At this point the professor joined us.
CHAPTER XV. THE ARRIVAL OF NEMESIS
Some people do not believe in presentiments. They attribute that
curious feeling that something unpleasant is going to happen to such
mundane causes as liver, or a chill, or the weather. For my own part,
I think there is more in the matter than the casual observer might
I awoke three days after my meeting with the professor at the club-
house, filled with a dull foreboding. Somehow I seemed to know that
that day was going to turn out badly for me. It may have been liver or
a chill, but it was certainly not the weather. The morning was
perfect,—the most glorious of a glorious summer. There was a haze
over the valley and out to sea which suggested a warm noon, when the
sun should have begun the serious duties of the day. The birds were
singing in the trees and breakfasting on the lawn, while Edwin, seated
on one of the flower-beds, watched them with the eye of a connoisseur.
Occasionally, when a sparrow hopped in his direction, he would make a
sudden spring, and the bird would fly away to the other side of the
lawn. I had never seen Edwin catch a sparrow. I believe they looked on
him as a bit of a crank, and humoured him by coming within springing
distance, just to keep him amused. Dashing young cock-sparrows would
show off before their particular hen-sparrows, and earn a cheap
reputation for dare-devilry by going within so many years of Edwin's
lair, and then darting away. Bob was in his favourite place on the
gravel. I took him with me down to the Cob to watch me bathe.
"What's the matter with me to-day, Robert, old son?" I asked him,
as I dried myself.
He blinked lazily, but contributed no suggestion.
"It's no good looking bored," I went on, "because I'm going to talk
about myself, however much it bores you. Here am I, as fit as a prize-
fighter, living in the open air for I don't know how long, eating good
plain food—bathing every morning—sea-bathing, mind you—and yet
what's the result? I feel beastly."
Bob yawned, and gave a little whine.
"Yes," I said, "I know I'm in love. But that can't be it, because I
was in love just as much a week ago, and I felt all right then. But
isn't she an angel, Bob? Eh? Isn't she? And didn't you feel bucked
when she patted you? Of course you did. Anybody would. But how about
Tom Chase? Don't you think he's a dangerous man? He calls her by her
Christian name, you know, and behaves generally as if she belonged to
him. And then he sees her every day, while I have to trust to meeting
her at odd times, and then I generally feel such a fool I can't think
of anything to talk about except golf and the weather. He probably
sings duets with her after dinner, and you know what comes of duets
Here Bob, who had been trying for some time to find a decent excuse
for getting away, pretended to see something of importance at the
other end of the Cob, and trotted off to investigate it, leaving me to
finish dressing by myself.
"Of course," I said to myself, "It may be merely hunger. I may be
all right after breakfast. But at present I seem to be working up for
a really fine fit if the blues. I feel bad."
I whistled to Bob, and started for home. On the beach I saw the
professor some little distance away, and waved my towel in a friendly
manner. He made no reply.
Of course, it was possible that he had not seen me; but for some
reason his attitude struck me as ominous. As far as I could see, he
was looking straight at me, and he was not a short-sighted man. I
could think of no reason why he should cut me. We had met on the links
on the previous morning, and he had been friendliness itself. He had
called me "me dear boy," supplied me with a gin and gingerbeer at the
clubhouse, and generally behaved as if he had been David and I
Jonathan. Yet in certain moods we are inclined to make mountains out
of molehills, and I went on my way, puzzled and uneasy, with a
distinct impression that I had received the cut direct.
I felt hurt. What had I done that Providence should make things so
unpleasant for me? It would be a little hard, as Ukridge would have
said, if, after all my trouble, the professor had discovered some
fresh grievance against me. Perhaps Ukridge had been irritating him
again. I wished he would not identify me so completely with Ukridge. I
could not be expected to control the man. Then I reflected that they
could hardly have met in the few hours between my parting from the
professor at the club-house and my meeting with him on the beach.
Ukridge rarely left the farm. When he was not working among the fowls,
he was lying on his back in the paddock, resting his massive mind.
I came to the conclusion that after all the professor had not seen
"I'm an idiot, Bob," I said, as we turned in at the farm gate, "and
I let my imagination run away with me."
Bob wagged his tail in approval of the sentiment.
Breakfast was ready when I got in. There was a cold chicken on the
sideboard, devilled chicken on the table, a trio of boiled eggs, and a
dish of scrambled eggs. As regarded quantity Mrs. Beale never failed
Ukridge was sorting the letters.
"Morning, Garny," he said. "One for you, Millie."
"It's from Aunt Elizabeth," said Mrs. Ukridge, looking at the
I had only heard casual mention of this relative hitherto, but I
had built up a mental picture of her partly from remarks which Ukridge
had let fall, but principally from the fact that he had named the most
malignant hen in our fowl-run after her. A severe lady, I imagined
with a cold eye.
"Wish she'd enclose a cheque," said Ukridge. "She could spare it.
You've no idea, Garny, old man, how disgustingly and indecently rich
that woman is. She lives in Kensington on an income which would do her
well in Park Lane. But as a touching proposition she had proved almost
negligible. She steadfastly refuses to part."
"I think she would, dear, if she knew how much we needed it. But I
don't like to ask her. She's so curious, and says such horrid things."
"She does," agreed Ukridge, gloomily. He spoke as one who had had
experience. "Two for you, Garny. All the rest for me. Ten of them, and
He spread the envelopes out on the table, and drew one at a
"Whiteley's," he said. "Getting jumpy. Are in receipt of my favour
of the 7th inst. and are at a loss to understand. It's rummy about
these blighters, but they never seem able to understand a damn thing.
It's hard! You put things in words of one syllable for them, and they
just goggle and wonder what it all means. They want something on
account. Upon my Sam, I'm disappointed with Whiteley's. I'd been
thinking in rather a kindly spirit of them, and feeling that they were
a more intelligent lot than Harrod's. I'd had half a mind to give
Harrod's the miss-in-baulk and hand my whole trade over to these
fellows. But not now, dash it! Whiteley's have disappointed me. From
the way they write, you'd think they thought I was doing it for fun.
How can I let them have their infernal money when there isn't any?
Here's one from Dorchester. Smith, the chap we got the gramophone
from. Wants to know when I'm going to settle up for sixteen records."
I wanted to get on with my own correspondence, but Ukridge held me
with a glittering eye.
"The chicken-men, the dealer people, you know, want me to pay for
the first lot of hens. Considering that they all died of roop, and
that I was going to send them back anyhow after I'd got them to hatch
out a few chickens, I call that cool. I mean to say, business is
business. That's what these fellows don't seem to understand. I can't
afford to pay enormous sums for birds which die off quicker than I can
get them in."
"I shall never speak to Aunt Elizabeth again," said Mrs. Ukridge
She had dropped the letter she had been reading, and was staring
indignantly in front of her. There were two little red spots on her
"What's the matter, old chap?" inquired Ukridge affectionately,
glancing up from his pile of bills and forgetting his own troubles in
an instant. "Buck up! Aunt Elizabeth been getting on your nerves
again? What's she been saying this time?"
Mrs. Ukridge left the room with a sob. Ukridge sprang at the
"If that demon doesn't stop writing her infernal letters and
upsetting Millie, I shall strangle her with my bare hands, regardless
of her age and sex." He turned over the pages of the letter till he
came to the passage which had caused the trouble. "Well, upon my Sam!
Listen to this, Garny, old horse. 'You tell me nothing regarding the
success of this chicken farm of yours, and I confess that I find your
silence ominous. You know my opinion of your husband. He is perfectly
helpless in any matter requiring the exercise of a little common-sense
and business capability.' " He stared at me, amazed. "I like that!
'Pon my soul, that is really rich! I could have believed almost
anything of that blighted female, but I did think she had a reasonable
amount of intelligence. Why, you know that it's just in matters
requiring common-sense and business capability that I come out really
"Of course, old man," I replied dutifully. "The woman's a fool."
"That's what she calls me two lines further on. No wonder Millie
was upset. Why can't these cats leave people alone?"
"Oh, woman, woman!" I threw in helpfully.
"I shan't stand it."
"Look here! On the next page she calls me a gaby!"
"It's time you took a strong line."
"And in the very next sentence refers to me as a perfect guffin.
What's a guffin, Garny, old boy?"
I considered the point.
"Broadly speaking, I should say, one who guffs."
"I believe it's actionable."
"I shouldn't wonder."
Ukridge rushed to the door.
He slammed the door, and I heard him dashing upstairs.
I turned to my letters. One was from Lickford, with a Cornish
postmark. I glanced through it and laid it aside for a more exhaustive
The other was in a strange handwriting. I looked at the signature.
"Patrick Derrick." This was queer. What had the professor to say to
The next moment my heart seemed to spring to my throat.
"Sir," the letter began.
A pleasant cheery opening!
Then it got off the mark, so to speak, like lightning. There was no
sparring for an opening, no dignified parade of set phrases, leading
up to the main point. It was the letter of a man who was almost too
furious to write. It gave me the impression that, if he had not
written it, he would have been obliged to have taken some very violent
form of exercise by way of relief to his soul.
"You will be good enough to look on our acquaintance as closed. I
have no wish to associate with persons of your stamp. If we should
happen to meet, you will be good enough to treat me as a total
stranger, as I shall treat you. And, if I may be allowed to give you a
word of advice, I should recommend you in future, when you wish to
exercise your humour, to do so in some less practical manner than by
bribing boatmen to upset your—(/friends crossed out thickly, and acquaintances substituted.) If you require further enlightenment
in this matter, the enclosed letter may be of service to you."
With which he remained mine faithfully, Patrick Derrick.
The enclosed letter was from one Jane Muspratt. It was bright and
"DEAR SIR,—My Harry, Mr. Hawk, sas to me how it was him upsetting
the boat and you, not because he is not steady in a boat which he is
no man more so in Combe Regis, but because one of the gentlemen what
keeps chikkens up the hill, the little one, Mr. Garnick his name is,
says to him, Hawk, I'll give you a sovrin to upset Mr. Derick in your
boat, and my Harry being esily led was took in and did, but he's sory
now and wishes he hadn't, and he sas he'll niver do a prackticle joke
again for anyone even for a banknote.—Yours obedly.,
Oh, woman, woman!
At the bottom of everything! History is full of tragedies caused by
the lethal sex. Who lost Mark Antony the world? A woman. Who let
Samson in so atrociously? Woman again. Why did Bill Bailey leave home?
Once more, because of a woman. And here was I, Jerry Garnet, harmless,
well-meaning writer of minor novels, going through the same old mill.
I cursed Jane Muspratt. What chance had I with Phyllis now? Could I
hope to win over the professor again? I cursed Jane Muspratt for the
My thoughts wandered to Mr. Harry Hawk. The villain! The scoundrel!
What business had he to betray me? . . . Well, I could settle with
him. The man who lays a hand upon a woman, save in the way of
kindness, is justly disliked by Society; so the woman Muspratt,
culpable as she was, was safe from me. But what of the man Hawk? There
no such considerations swayed me. I would interview the man Hawk. I
would give him the most hectic ten minutes of his career. I would say
things to him the recollection of which would make him start up
shrieking in his bed in the small hours of the night. I would arise,
and be a man, and slay him; take him grossly, full of bread, with all
his crimes broad-blown, as flush as May, at gaming, swearing, or about
some act that had no relish of salvation in it.
My life—ruined. My future—grey and black. My heart—shattered.
And why? Because of the scoundrel, Hawk.
Phyllis would meet me in the village, on the Cob, on the links, and
pass by as if I were the Invisible Man. And why? Because of the
reptile, Hawk. The worm, Hawk. The dastard and varlet, Hawk.
I crammed my hat on, and hurried out of the house towards the
CHAPTER XVI. A CHANCE MEETING
I roamed the place in search of the varlet for the space of
half-an- hour, and, after having drawn all his familiar haunts, found
him at length leaning over the sea-wall near the church, gazing
thoughtfully into the waters below.
I confronted him.
"Well," I said, "you're a beauty, aren't you?"
He eyed me owlishly. Even at this early hour, I was grieved to see,
he showed signs of having looked on the bitter while it was brown. His
eyes were filmy, and his manner aggressively solemn.
"Beauty?" he echoed.
"What have you got to say for yourself?"
It was plain that he was engaged in pulling his faculties together
by some laborious process known only to himself. At present my words
conveyed no meaning to him. He was trying to identify me. He had seen
me before somewhere, he was certain, but he could not say where, or
who I was.
"I want to know," I said, "what induced you to be such an abject
idiot as to let our arrangement get known?"
I spoke quietly. I was not going to waste the choicer flowers of
speech on a man who was incapable of understanding them. Later on,
when he had awakened to a sense of his position, I would begin really
to talk to him.
He continued to stare at me. Then a sudden flash of intelligence
lit up his features.
"Mr. Garnick," he said at last.
"From ch—chicken farm," he continued, with the triumphant air of a
cross-examining King's counsel who has at last got on the track.
"Yes," I said.
"Up top the hill," he proceeded, clinchingly. He stretched out a
"How you?" he inquired with a friendly grin.
"I want to know," I said distinctly, "what you've got to say for
yourself after letting our affair with the professor become public
He paused awhile in thought.
"Dear sir," he said at last, as if he were dictating a letter,
"dear sir, I owe you—ex—exp——"
He waved his hand, as who should say, "It's a stiff job, but I'm
going to do it."
"Explashion," he said.
"You do," said I grimly. "I should like to hear it."
"Dear sir, listen me."
"Go on then."
"You came me. You said 'Hawk, Hawk, ol' fren', listen me. You tip
this ol' bufflehead into watter,' you said, 'an' gormed if I don't
give 'ee a poond note.' That's what you said me. Isn't that what you
I did not deny it.
" 'Ve' well,' I said you. 'Right,' I said. I tipped the ol' soul
into watter, and I got the poond note."
"Yes, you took care of that. All this is quite true, but it's
beside the point. We are not disputing about what happened. What I
want to know—for the third time—is what made you let the cat out of
the bag? Why couldn't you keep quiet about it?"
He waved his hand.
"Dear sir," he replied, "this way. Listen me."
It was a tragic story that he unfolded. My wrath ebbed as I
listened. After all the fellow was not so greatly to blame. I felt
that in his place I should have acted as he had done. It was Fate's
fault, and Fate's alone.
It appeared that he had not come well out of the matter of the
accident. I had not looked at it hitherto from his point of view.
While the rescue had left me the popular hero, it had had quite the
opposite result for him. He had upset his boat and would have drowned
his passenger, said public opinion, if the young hero from London—
myself—had not plunged in, and at the risk of his life brought the
professor ashore. Consequently, he was despised by all as an
inefficient boatman. He became a laughing-stock. The local wags made
laborious jests when he passed. They offered him fabulous sums to take
their worst enemies out for a row with him. They wanted to know when
he was going to school to learn his business. In fact, they behaved as
wags do and always have done at all times all the world over.
Now, all this, it seemed, Mr. Hawk would have borne cheerfully and
patiently for my sake, or, at any rate for the sake of the crisp pound
note I had given him. But a fresh factor appeared in the problem,
complicating it grievously. To wit, Miss Jane Muspratt.
"She said to me," explained Mr. Hawk with pathos, " 'Harry 'Awk,'
she said, 'yeou'm a girt fule, an' I don't marry noone as is ain't to
be trusted in a boat by hisself, and what has jokes made about him by
that Tom Leigh!' "
"I punched Tom Leigh," observed Mr. Hawk parenthetically. " 'So,'
she said me, 'you can go away, an' I don't want to see yeou again!' "
This heartless conduct on the part of Miss Muspratt had had the
natural result of making him confess in self-defence; and she had
written to the professor the same night.
I forgave Mr. Hawk. I think he was hardly sober enough to
understand, for he betrayed no emotion. "It is Fate, Hawk," I said,
"simply Fate. There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them
how we will, and it's no good grumbling."
"Yiss," said Mr. Hawk, after chewing this sentiment for a while in
silence, "so she said me, 'Hawk,' she said—like that—'you're a girt
"That's all right," I replied. "I quite understand. As I say, it's
simply Fate. Good-bye." And I left him.
As I was going back, I met the professor and Phyllis. They passed
me without a look.
I wandered on in quite a fervour of self-pity. I was in one of
those moods when life suddenly seems to become irksome, when the
future stretches black and grey in front of one. I should have liked
to have faded almost imperceptibly from the world, like Mr. Bardell,
even if, as in his case, it had involved being knocked on the head
with a pint pot in a public-house cellar.
In such a mood it is imperative that one should seek distraction.
The shining example of Mr. Harry Hawk did not lure me. Taking to drink
would be a nuisance. Work was what I wanted. I would toil like a navvy
all day among the fowls, separating them when they fought, gathering
in the eggs when they laid, chasing them across country when they got
away, and even, if necessity arose, painting their throats with
turpentine when they were stricken with roop. Then, after dinner, when
the lamps were lit, and Mrs. Ukridge nursed Edwin and sewed, and
Ukridge smoked cigars and incited the gramophone to murder "Mumbling
Mose," I would steal away to my bedroom and write—and write—and
write. And go on writing till my fingers were numb and my eyes
refused to do their duty. And, when time had passed, I might come to
feel that it was all for the best. A man must go through the fire
before he can write his masterpiece. We learn in suffering what we
teach in song. What we lose on the swings we make up on the
roundabouts. Jerry Garnet, the Man, might become a depressed, hopeless
wreck, with the iron planted immovably in his soul; but Jeremy Garnet,
the Author, should turn out such a novel of gloom, that strong critics
would weep, and the public jostle for copies till Mudie's doorway
became a shambles.
Thus might I some day feel that all this anguish was really a
* * * * *
But I doubted it.
* * * * *
We were none of us very cheerful now at the farm. Even Ukridge's
spirit was a little daunted by the bills which poured in by every
post. It was as if the tradesmen of the neighbourhood had formed a
league, and were working in concert. Or it may have been due to
thought-waves. Little accounts came not in single spies but in
battalions. The popular demand for the sight of the colour of his
money grew daily. Every morning at breakfast he would give us fresh
bulletins of the state of mind of each of our creditors, and thrill us
with the announcement that Whiteley's were getting cross, and Harrod's
jumpy or that the bearings of Dawlish, the grocer, were becoming
overheated. We lived in a continual atmosphere of worry. Chicken and
nothing but chicken at meals, and chicken and nothing but chicken
between meals had frayed our nerves. An air of defeat hung over the
place. We were a beaten side, and we realised it. We had been playing
an uphill game for nearly two months, and the strain was beginning to
tell. Ukridge became uncannily silent. Mrs. Ukridge, though she did
not understand, I fancy, the details of the matter, was worried
because Ukridge was. Mrs. Beale had long since been turned into a
soured cynic by the lack of chances vouchsafed her for the exercise of
her art. And as for me, I have never since spent so profoundly
miserably a week. I was not even permitted the anodyne of work. There
seemed to be nothing to do on the farm. The chickens were quite happy,
and only asked to be let alone and allowed to have their meals at
regular intervals. And every day one or more of their number would
vanish into the kitchen, Mrs. Beale would serve up the corpse in some
cunning disguise, and we would try to delude ourselves into the idea
that it was something altogether different.
There was one solitary gleam of variety in our menu. An editor sent
me a cheque for a set of verses. We cashed that cheque and trooped
round the town in a body, laying out the money. We bought a leg of
mutton, and a tongue and sardines, and pine-apple chunks, and potted
meat, and many other noble things, and had a perfect banquet. Mrs.
Beale, with the scenario of a smile on her face, the first that she
had worn in these days of stress, brought in the joint, and uncovered
it with an air.
"Thank God!" said Ukridge, as he began to carve.
It was the first time I had ever heard him say a grace, and if ever
an occasion merited such a deviation from habit, this occasion did.
After that we relapsed into routine again.
Deprived of physical labour, with the exception of golf and
bathing— trivial sports compared with work in the fowl-run at its
hardest—I tried to make up for it by working at my novel.
It refused to materialise.
The only progress I achieved was with my villain.
I drew him from the professor, and made him a blackmailer. He had
several other social defects, but that was his profession. That was
the thing he did really well.
It was on one of the many occasions on which I had sat in my room,
pen in hand, through the whole of a lovely afternoon, with no better
result than a slight headache, that I bethought me of that little
paradise on the Ware Cliff, hung over the sea and backed by green
woods. I had not been there for some time, owing principally to an
entirely erroneous idea that I could do more solid work sitting in a
straight hard chair at a table than lying on soft turf with the sea
wind in my eyes.
But now the desire to visit that little clearing again drove me
from my room. In the drawing-room below the gramophone was dealing
brassily with "Mister Blackman." Outside the sun was just thinking of
setting. The Ware Cliff was the best medicine for me. What does
"And soon you will find that the sun and the wind
And the Djinn of the Garden, too,
Have lightened the hump, Cameelious Hump,
The Hump that is black and blue."
His instructions include digging with a hoe and a shovel also, but
I could omit that. The sun and the wind were what I needed.
I took the upper road. In certain moods I preferred it to the path
along the cliff. I walked fast. The exercise was soothing.
To reach my favourite clearing I had to take to the fields on the
left, and strike down hill in the direction of the sea. I hurried down
the narrow path.
I broke into the clearing at a jog trot, and stood panting. And at
the same moment, looking cool and beautiful in her white dress,
Phyllis entered in from the other side. Phyllis—without the
CHAPTER XVII. OF A SENTIMENTAL
She was wearing a panama, and she carried a sketching-block and
"Good evening," I said.
"Good evening," said she.
It is curious how different the same words can sound, when spoken
by different people. My "good evening" might have been that of a man
with a particularly guilty conscience caught in the act of doing
something more than usually ignoble. She spoke like a rather offended
"It's a lovely evening," I went on pluckily.
She raised a pair of blue eyes, devoid of all expression save a
faint suggestion of surprise, and gazed through me for a moment at
some object a couple of thousand miles away, and lowered them again,
leaving me with a vague feeling that there was something wrong with my
Very calmly she moved to the edge of the cliff, arranged her camp-
stool, and sat down. Neither of us spoke a word. I watched her while
she filled a little mug with water from a little bottle, opened her
paint-box, selected a brush, and placed her sketching-block in
She began to paint.
Now, by all the laws of good taste, I should before this have made
a dignified exit. It was plain that I was not to be regarded as an
essential ornament of this portion of the Ware Cliff. By now, if I had
been the Perfect Gentleman, I ought to have been a quarter of a mile
But there is a definite limit to what a man can do. I remained.
The sinking sun flung a carpet of gold across the sea. Phyllis'
hair was tinged with it. Little waves tumbled lazily on the beach
below. Except for the song of a distant blackbird, running through its
repertoire before retiring for the night, everything was silent.
She sat there, dipping and painting and dipping again, with never a
word for me—standing patiently and humbly behind her.
"Miss Derrick," I said.
She half turned her head.
"Why won't you speak to me?" I said.
"I don't understand you."
"Why won't you speak to me?"
"I think you know, Mr. Garnet."
"It is because of that boat accident?"
"Episode," I amended.
She went on painting in silence. From where I stood I could see her
profile. Her chin was tilted. Her expression was determined.
"Is it?" I said.
"Need we discuss it?"
"Not if you do not wish it."
"But," I added, "I should have liked a chance to defend myself. . .
. What glorious sunsets there have been these last few days. I believe
we shall have this sort of weather for another month."
"I should not have thought that possible."
"The glass is going up," I said.
"I was not talking about the weather."
"It was dull of me to introduce such a worn-out topic."
"You said you could defend yourself."
"I said I should like the chance to do so."
"You have it."
"That's very kind of you. Thank you."
"Is there any reason for gratitude?"
"Go on, Mr. Garnet. I can listen while I paint. But please sit
down. I don't like being talked to from a height."
I sat down on the grass in front of her, feeling as I did so that
the change of position in a manner clipped my wings. It is difficult
to speak movingly while sitting on the ground. Instinctively I avoided
eloquence. Standing up, I might have been pathetic and pleading.
Sitting down, I was compelled to be matter-of-fact.
"You remember, of course, the night you and Professor Derrick dined
with us? When I say dined, I use the word in a loose sense."
For a moment I thought she was going to smile. We were both
thinking of Edwin. But it was only for a moment, and then her face
grew cold once more, and the chin resumed its angle of determination.
"Yes," she said.
"You remember the unfortunate ending of the festivities?"
"If you recall that at all clearly, you will also remember that the
fault was not mine, but Ukridge's."
"It was his behaviour that annoyed Professor Derrick. The position,
then, was this, that I was to be cut off from the pleasantest
friendship I had ever formed——"
I stopped for a moment. She bent a little lower over her easel, but
"——Simply through the tactlessness of a prize idiot."
"I like Mr. Ukridge."
"I like him, too. But I can't pretend that he is anything but an
idiot at times."
"I naturally wished to mend matters. It occurred to me that an
excellent way would be by doing your father a service. It was seeing
him fishing that put the idea of a boat-accident into my head. I hoped
for a genuine boat-accident. But those things only happen when one
does not want them. So I determined to engineer one."
"You didn't think of the shock to my father."
"I did. It worried me very much."
"But you upset him all the same."
She looked up, and our eyes met. I could detect no trace of
forgiveness in hers.
"You behaved abominably," she said.
"I played a risky game, and I lost. And I shall now take the
consequences. With luck I should have won. I did not have luck, and I
am not going to grumble about it. But I am grateful to you for letting
me explain. I should not have liked you to have gone on thinking that
I played practical jokes on my friends. That is all I have to say. I
think it was kind of you to listen. Good-bye, Miss Derrick."
I got up.
"Are you going?"
"Please sit down again."
"But you wish to be alone——"
"Please sit down!"
There was a flush on the cheek turned towards me, and the chin was
I sat down.
To westward the sky had changed to the hue of a bruised cherry. The
sun had sunk below the horizon, and the sea looked cold and leaden.
The blackbird had long since flown.
"I am glad you told me, Mr. Garnet."
She dipped her brush in the water.
"Because I don't like to think badly of—people."
She bent her head over her painting.
"Though I still think you behaved very wrongly. And I am afraid my
father will never forgive you for what you did."
Her father! As if he counted.
"But you do?" I said eagerly.
"I think you are less to blame than I thought you were at first."
"No more than that?"
"You can't expect to escape all consequences. You did a very stupid
"I was tempted."
The sky was a dull grey now. It was growing dusk. The grass on
which I sat was wet with dew.
I stood up.
"Isn't it getting a little dark for painting?" I said. "Are you
sure you won't catch cold? It's very damp."
"Perhaps it is. And it is late, too."
She shut her paint-box, and emptied the little mug on to the grass.
"May I carry your things?" I said.
I think she hesitated, but only for a moment.
I possessed myself of the camp-stool, and we started on our
We were both silent. The spell of the quiet summer evening was on
" 'And all the air a solemn stillness holds,' " she said softly. "I
love this cliff, Mr. Garnet. It's the most soothing place in the
"I found it so this evening."
She glanced at me quickly.
"You're not looking well," she said. "Are you sure you are not
"No, it's not that."
Somehow we had stopped, as if by agreement, and were facing each
other. There was a look in her eyes I had never seen there before. The
twilight hung like a curtain between us and the world. We were alone
together in a world of our own.
"It is because I had offended you," I said.
She laughed a high, unnatural laugh.
"I have loved you ever since I first saw you," I said doggedly.
CHAPTER XVIII. UKRIDGE GIVES ME
Hours after—or so it seemed to me—we reached the spot at which
our ways divided. We stopped, and I felt as if I had been suddenly
cast back into the workaday world from some distant and pleasanter
planet. I think Phyllis must have felt much the same sensation, for we
both became on the instant intensely practical and businesslike.
"But about your father," I said.
"That's the difficulty."
"He won't give us his consent?"
"I'm afraid he wouldn't dream of it."
"You can't persuade him?"
"I can in most things, but not in this. You see, even if nothing
had happened, he wouldn't like to lose me just yet, because of Norah."
"My sister. She's going to be married in October. I wonder if we
shall ever be as happy as they will."
"Happy! They will be miserable compared with us. Not that I know
who the man is."
"Why, Tom of course. Do you mean to say you really didn't know?"
"Tom! Tom Chase?"
"Well, I'm hanged," I said. "When I think of the torments I've been
through because of that wretched man, and all for nothing, I don't
know what to say."
"Don't you like Tom?"
"Very much. I always did. But I was awfully jealous of him."
"You weren't! How silly of you."
"Of course I was. He was always about with you, and called you
Phyllis, and generally behaved as if you and he were the heroine and
hero of a musical comedy, so what else could I think? I heard you
singing duets after dinner once. I drew the worst conclusions."
"When was that? What were you doing there?"
"It was shortly after Ukridge had got on your father's nerves, and
nipped our acquaintance in the bud. I used to come every night to the
hedge opposite your drawing-room window, and brood there by the hour."
"Poor old boy!"
"Hoping to hear you sing. And when you did sing, and he joined in
all flat, I used to swear. You'll probably find most of the bark
scorched off the tree I leaned against."
"Poor old man! Still, it's all over now, isn't it?"
"And when I was doing my very best to show off before you at
tennis, you went away just as I got into form."
"I'm very sorry, but I couldn't know, could I? I though you always
played like that."
"I know. I knew you would. It nearly turned my hair white. I didn't
see how a girl could ever care for a man who was so bad at tennis."
"One doesn't love a man because he's good at tennis."
"What does a girl see to love in a man?" I inquired
abruptly; and paused on the verge of a great discovery.
"Oh, I don't know," she replied, most unsatisfactorily.
And I could draw no views from her.
"But about father," said she. "What
are we to do?"
"He objects to me."
"He's perfectly furious with you."
"Blow, blow," I said, "thou winter wind. Thou are not so
"He'll never forgive you."
"——As man's ingratitude. I saved his life. At the risk of my own.
Why I believe I've got a legal claim on him. Who ever heard of a man
having his life saved, and not being delighted when his preserver
wanted to marry his daughter? Your father is striking at the very root
of the short-story writer's little earnings. He mustn't be allowed to
"Again!" I said.
"Say it again. Do, please. Now."
"Very well. Jerry!"
"It was the first time you had called me by my Christian name. I
don't suppose you've the remotest notion how splendid it sounds when
you say it. There is something poetical, almost holy, about it."
"Do be sensible. Don't you see how serious this is? We must think
how we can make father consent."
"All right," I said. "We'll tackle the point. I'm sorry to be
frivolous, but I'm so happy I can't keep it all in. I've got you and I
can't think of anything else."
"I'll pull myself together. . . . Now, say on once more."
"We can't marry without his consent."
"Why not?" I said, not having a marked respect for the professor's
whims. "Gretna Green is out of date, but there are registrars."
"I hate the very idea of a registrar," she said with decision.
"Poor father would never get over it. We've always been such
friends. If I married against his wishes, he would—oh, you know. Not
let me near him again, and not write to me. And he would hate it all
the time he was doing it. He would be bored to death without me."
"Who wouldn't?" I said.
"Because, you see, Norah has never been quite the same. She has
spent such a lot of her time on visits to people, that she and father
don't understand each other so well as he and I do. She would try and
be nice to him, but she wouldn't know him as I do. And, besides, she
will be with him such a little, now she's going to be married."
"But, look here," I said, "this is absurd. You say your father
would never see you again, and so on, if you married me. Why? It's
nonsense. It isn't as if I were a sort of social outcast. We were the
best of friends till that man Hawk gave me away like that."
"I know. But he's very obstinate about some things. You see, he
thinks the whole thing has made him look ridiculous, and it will take
him a long time to forgive you for that."
I realised the truth of this. One can pardon any injury to oneself,
unless it hurts one's vanity. Moreover, even in a genuine case of
rescue, the rescued man must always feel a little aggrieved with his
rescuer, when he thinks the matter over in cold blood. He must regard
him unconsciously as the super regards the actor-manager, indebted to
him for the means of supporting existence, but grudging him the
limelight and the centre of the stage and the applause. Besides, every
one instinctively dislikes being under an obligation which they can
never wholly repay. And when a man discovers that he has experienced
all these mixed sensations for nothing, as the professor had done, his
wrath is likely to be no slight thing.
Taking everything into consideration, I could not but feel that it
would require more than a little persuasion to make the professor
bestow his blessing with that genial warmth which we like to see in
our fathers-in-law's elect.
"You don't think," I said, "that time, the Great Healer, and so
on—? He won't feel kindlier disposed towards me—say in a month's
"Of course he
might," said Phyllis; but she spoke
"He strikes me from what I have seen of him as a man of moods. I
might do something one of these days which would completely alter his
views. We will hope for the best."
"About telling father——?"
"Need we, do you think?" I said.
"Yes, we must. I couldn't bear to think that I was keeping it from
him. I don't think I've ever kept anything from him in my life.
Nothing bad, I mean."
"You count this among your darker crimes, then?"
"I was looking at it from father's point of view. He will be
awfully angry. I don't know how I shall begin telling him."
"Good heavens!" I cried, "you surely don't think I'm going to let
you do that! Keep safely out of the way while you tell him! Not much.
I'm coming back with you now, and we'll break the bad news together."
"No, not to-night. He may be tired and rather cross. We had better
wait till to-morrow. You might speak to him in the morning."
"Where shall I find him?"
"He is certain to go to the beach before breakfast for a swim."
"Good. I'll be there."
* * * * *
"Ukridge," I said, when I got back, "I want your advice."
It stirred him like a trumpet blast. I suppose, when a man is in
the habit of giving unsolicited counsel to everyone he meets, it is as
invigorating as an electric shock to him to be asked for it
"Bring it out, laddie!" he replied cordially. "I'm with you. Here,
come along into the garden, and state your case."
This suited me. It is always easier to talk intimately in the dark,
and I did not wish to be interrupted by the sudden entrance of the
Hired Man or Mrs. Beale, of which there was always a danger indoors.
We walked down to the paddock. Ukridge lit a cigar.
"Ukridge," I said, "I'm engaged!"
"What!" A huge hand whistled through the darkness and smote me
heavily between the shoulder-blades. "By Jove, old boy, I wish you
luck. 'Pon my Sam I do! Best thing in the world for you. Bachelors are
mere excrescences. Never knew what happiness was till I married.
When's the wedding to be?"
"That's where I want your advice. What you might call a difficulty
has arisen about the wedding. It's like this. I'm engaged to Phyllis
"You can't have forgotten her! Good Lord, what eyes some men have!
Why, if I'd only seen her once, I should have remembered her all my
"I know, now. Rather a pretty girl, with blue eyes."
I stared at him blankly. It was not much good, as he could not see
my face, but it relieved me. "Rather a pretty girl!" What a
"Of course, yes," continued Ukridge. "She came to dinner here one
night with her father, that fat little buffer."
"As you were careful to call him to his face at the time, confound
you! It was that that started all the trouble."
"Trouble? What trouble?"
"Why, her father. . . ."
"By Jove, I remember now! So worried lately, old boy, that my
memory's gone groggy. Of course! Her father fell into the sea, and you
fished him out. Why, damme, it's like the stories you read."
"It's also very like the stories I used to write. But they had one
point about them which this story hasn't. They invariably ended
happily, with the father joining the hero's and heroine's hands and
giving his blessing. Unfortunately, in the present case, that doesn't
seem likely to happen."
"The old man won't give his consent?"
"I'm afraid not. I haven't asked him yet, but the chances are
"But why? What's the matter with you? You're an excellent chap,
sound in wind and limb, and didn't you once tell me that, if you
married, you came into a pretty sizeable bit of money?"
"Yes, I do. That part of it is all right."
Ukridge's voice betrayed perplexity.
"I don't understand this thing, old horse," he said. "I should have
thought the old boy would have been all over you. Why, damme, I never
heard of anything like it. You saved his life! You fished him out of
"After chucking him in. That's the trouble."
"You chucked him in?"
I explained. Ukridge, I regret to say, laughed in a way that must
have been heard miles away in distant villages in Devonshire.
"You devil!" he bellowed. " 'Pon my Sam, old horse, to look at you
one would never have thought you'd have had it in you."
"I can't help looking respectable."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"That's where I wanted your advice. You're a man of resource. What
would you do in my place?"
Ukridge tapped me impressively on the shoulder.
"Laddie," he said, "there's one thing that'll carry you through any
"And that is——?"
"Cheek, my boy, cheek. Gall. Nerve. Why, take my case. I never told
you how I came to marry, did I. I thought not. Well, it was this way.
It'll do you a bit of good, perhaps, to hear the story, for, mark you,
blessings weren't going cheap in my case either. You know Millie's
Aunt Elizabeth, the female who wrote that letter? Well, when I tell
you that she was Millie's nearest relative and that it was her consent
I had to snaffle, you'll see that I was faced with a bit of a
"Let's have it," I said.
"Well, the first time I ever saw Millie was in a first-class
carriage on the underground. I'd got a third-class ticket, by the way.
The carriage was full, and I got up and gave her my seat, and, as I
hung suspended over her by a strap, damme, I fell in love with her
then and there. You've no conception, laddie, how indescribably
ripping she looked, in a sort of blue dress with a bit of red in it
and a hat with thingummies. Well, we both got out at South Kensington.
By that time I was gasping for air and saw that the thing wanted
looking into. I'd never had much time to bother about women, but I
realised that this must not be missed. I was in love, old horse. It
comes over you quite suddenly, like a tidal wave. . . ."
"I know! I know! Good Heavens, you can't tell me anything about
"Well, I followed her. She went to a house in Thurloe Square. I
waited outside and thought it over. I had got to get into that shanty
and make her acquaintance, if they threw me out on my ear. So I rang
the bell. 'Is Lady Lichenhall at home?' I asked. You spot the devilish
cunning of the ruse, what? My asking for a female with a title was to
make 'em think I was one of the Upper Ten."
"How were you dressed?" I could not help asking.
"Oh, it was one of my frock-coat days. I'd been to see a man about
tutoring his son, and by a merciful dispensation of Providence there
was a fellow living in the same boarding-house with me who was about
my build and had a frock-coat, and he had lent it to me. At least, he
hadn't exactly lent it to me, but I knew where he kept it and he was
out at the time. There was nothing the matter with my appearance.
Quite the young duke, I assure you, laddie, down to the last button.
'Is Lady Lichenhall at home?' I asked. 'No,' said the maid, 'nobody of
that name here. This is Lady Lakenheath's house.' So, you see, I had a
bit of luck at the start, because the names were a bit alike. Well, I
got the maid to show me in somehow, and, once in you can bet I talked
for all I was worth. Kept up a flow of conversation about being
misdirected and coming to the wrong house. Went away, and called a few
days later. Gradually wormed my way in. Called regularly. Spied on
their movements, met 'em at every theatre they went to, and bowed, and
finally got away with Millie before her aunt knew what was happening
or who I was or what I was doing or anything."
"And what's the moral?"
"Why, go in like a mighty, rushing wind! Bustle 'em! Don't give 'em
a moment's rest or time to think or anything. Why, if I'd given
Millie's Aunt Elizabeth time to think, where should we have been? Not
at Combe Regis together, I'll bet. You heard that letter, and know
what she thinks of me now, on reflection. If I'd gone slow and played
a timid waiting-game, she'd have thought that before I married Millie,
instead of afterwards. I give you my honest word, laddie, that there
was a time, towards the middle of our acquaintance—after she had
stopped mixing me up with the man who came to wind the clocks—when
that woman ate out of my hand! Twice—on two separate occasions—she
actually asked my advice about feeding her toy Pomeranian! Well, that
shows you! Bustle 'em, laddie! Bustle 'em!"
"Ukridge," I said, "you inspire me. You would inspire a
caterpillar. I will go to the professor—I was going anyhow, but now I
shall go aggressively. I will prise a father's blessing out of him, if
I have to do it with a crowbar."
"That's the way to talk, old horse. Don't beat about the bush. Tell
him exactly what you want and stand no nonsense. If you don't see what
you want in the window, ask for it. Where did you think of tackling
"Phyllis tells me that he always goes for a swim before breakfast.
I thought of going down to-morrow and waylaying him."
"You couldn't do better. By Jove!" said Ukridge suddenly. "I'll
tell you what I'll do, laddie. I wouldn't do it for everybody, but I
look on you as a favourite son. I'll come with you, and help break the
"Don't you be under any delusion, old horse," said Ukridge
paternally. "You haven't got an easy job in front of you and what
you'll need more than anything else, when you really get down to
brass-tacks, is a wise, kindly man of the world at your elbow, to
whoop you on when your nerve fails you and generally stand in your
corner and see that you get a fair show."
"But it's rather an intimate business. . . ."
"Never mind! Take my tip and have me at your side. I can say things
about you that you would be too modest to say for yourself. I can
plead your case, laddie. I can point out in detail all that the old
boy will be missing if he gives you the miss-in-baulk. Well, that's
settled, then. About eight to-morrow morning, what? I'll be there, my
boy. A swim will do me good."
CHAPTER XIX. ASKING PAPA
Reviewing the matter later, I could see that I made one or two
blunders in my conduct of the campaign to win over Professor Derrick.
In the first place, I made a bad choice of time and place. At the
moment this did not strike me. It is a simple matter, I reflected, for
a man to pass another by haughtily and without recognition, when they
meet on dry land; but, when the said man, being it should be
remembered, an indifferent swimmer, is accosted in the water and out
of his depth, the feat becomes a hard one. It seemed to me that I
should have a better chance with the professor in the water than out
My second mistake—and this was brought home to me almost
immediately —was in bringing Ukridge along. Not that I really brought
him along; it was rather a case of being unable to shake him off. When
he met me on the gravel outside the house at a quarter to eight on the
following morning, clad in a dingy mackintosh which, swinging open,
revealed a purple bathing-suit, I confess that my heart sank.
Unfortunately, all my efforts to dissuade him from accompanying me
were attributed by him to a pardonable nervousness—or, as he put it,
to the needle.
"Buck up, laddie!" he roared encouragingly. "I had anticipated
this. Something seemed to tell me that your nerve would go when it
came to the point. You're deuced lucky, old horse, to have a man like
me at your side. Why, if you were alone, you wouldn't have a word to
say for yourself. You'd just gape at the man and yammer. But I'm with
you laddie, I'm with you. If your flow of conversation dries up, count
on me to keep the thing going."
And so it came about that, having reached the Cob and spying in the
distance the grey head of the professor bobbing about on the face of
the waters, we dived in and swam rapidly towards him.
His face was turned in the opposite direction when we came up with
him. He was floating peacefully on his back, and it was plain that he
had not observed our approach. For when, treading water easily in his
rear, I wished him good morning in my most conciliatory tone, he stood
not upon the order of his sinking, but went under like so much pig-
I waited courteously until he rose to the surface again, when I
repeated my remark.
He expelled the last remnant of water from his mouth with a
wrathful splutter, and cleared his eyes with the back of his hand. I
confess to a slight feeling of apprehension as I met his gaze. Nor was
my uneasiness diminished by the spectacle of Ukridge splashing
tactfully in the background like a large seal. Ukridge so far had made
no remarks. He had dived in very flat, and I imagine that his breath
had not yet returned to him. He had the air of one who intends to get
used to his surroundings before trusting himself to speech.
"The water is delightfully warm," I said.
"Oh, it's you!" said the professor; and I could not cheat myself
into the belief that he spoke cordially. Ukridge snorted loudly in the
offing. The professor turned sharply, as if anxious to observe this
marine phenomenon; and the annoyed gurgle which he gave showed that he
was not approving of Ukridge either. I did not approve of Ukridge
myself. I wished he had not come. Ukridge, in the water, lacks
dignity. I felt that he prejudiced my case.
"You are swimming splendidly this morning," I went on
perseveringly, feeling that an ounce of flattery is worth a pound of
rhetoric. "If," I added, "you will allow me to say so."
"I will not!" he snapped. "I—" here a small wave, noticing that
his mouth was open, stepped in. "I wish," he resumed warmly, "as I
said in me letter, to have nothing to do with you. I consider that
ye've behaved in a manner that can only be described as abominable,
and I will thank you to leave me alone."
"But allow me—"
"I will not allow ye, sir. I will allow ye nothing. Is it not
enough to make me the laughing-stock, the butt, sir, of this town,
without pursuing me in this way when I wish to enjoy a quiet swim?"
"Now, laddie, laddie," said Ukridge, placing a large hand on his
shoulder, "these are harsh words! Be reasonable! Think before you
speak. You little know . . ."
"Go to the devil!" said the professor. "I wish to have nothing to
do with either of you. I should be glad if you would cease this
persecution. Persecution, sir!"
His remarks, which I have placed on paper as if they were
continuous and uninterrupted, were punctuated in reality by a series
of gasps and puffings, as he received and rejected the successors of
the wave he had swallowed at the beginning of our little chat. The art
of conducting conversation while in the water is not given to every
swimmer. This he seemed to realise, for, as if to close the interview,
he proceeded to make his way as quickly as he could to the shore.
Unfortunately, his first dash brought him squarely up against Ukridge,
who, not having expected the collision, clutched wildly at him and
took him below the surface again. They came up a moment later on the
"Are you trying to drown me, sir?" barked the professor.
"My dear old horse," said Ukridge complainingly, "it's a little
hard. You might look where you're going."
"You grappled with me!"
"You took me by surprise, laddie. Rid yourself of the impression
that you're playing water-polo."
"But, professor," I said, joining the group and treading water,
I was growing annoyed with the man. I could have ducked him, but
for the reflection that my prospects of obtaining his consent to my
engagement would scarcely have been enhanced thereby.
"But, professor," I said, "one moment."
"Go away, sir! I have nothing to say to you."
"But he has lots to say to you," said Ukridge. "Now's the time, old
horse," he added encouragingly to me. "Spill the news!"
Without preamble I gave out the text of my address.
"I love your daughter, Phyllis, Mr. Derrick. She loves me. In fact,
we are engaged."
"Devilish well put, laddie," said Ukridge approvingly.
The professor went under as if he had been seized with cramp. It
was a little trying having to argue with a man, of whom one could not
predict with certainty that at any given moment he would not be under
water. It tended to spoil the flow of one's eloquence. The best of
arguments is useless if the listener suddenly disappears in the middle
"Stick to it, old horse," said Ukridge. "I think you're going to
bring it off."
I stuck to it.
"Mr. Derrick," I said, as his head emerged, "you are naturally
"You would be," said Ukridge. "We don't blame you," he added
"You—you—you—" So far from cooling the professor, liberal doses
of water seemed to make him more heated. "You impudent scoundrel!"
My reply was more gentlemanly, more courteous, on a higher plane
I said, winningly: "Cannot we let bygones be bygones?"
From his remarks I gathered that we could not. I continued. I was
under the unfortunate necessity of having to condense my speech. I was
not able to let myself go as I could have wished, for time was an
important consideration. Ere long, swallowing water at his present
rate, the professor must inevitably become waterlogged.
"I have loved your daughter," I said rapidly, "ever since I first
saw her . . ."
"And he's a capital chap," interjected Ukridge. "One of the best.
Known him for years. You'll like him."
"I learned last night that she loved me. But she will not marry me
without your consent. Stretch your arms out straight from the
shoulders and fill your lungs well and you can't sink. So I have come
this morning to ask for your consent."
"Give it!" advised Ukridge. "Couldn't do better. A very sound
fellow. Pots of money, too. At least he will have when he marries."
"I know we have not been on the best of terms lately. For Heaven's
sake don't try to talk, or you'll sink. The fault," I said,
generously, "was mine . . ."
"Well put," said Ukridge.
"But when you have heard my explanation, I am sure you will forgive
me. There, I told you so."
He reappeared some few feet to the left. I swam up, and resumed.
"When you left us so abruptly after our little dinner-party——"
"Come again some night," said Ukridge cordially. "Any time you're
" . . . you put me in a very awkward position. I was desperately in
love with your daughter, and as long as you were in the frame of mind
in which you left I could not hope to find an opportunity of revealing
my feelings to her."
"Revealing feelings is good," said Ukridge approvingly. "Neat."
"You see what a fix I was in, don't you? Keep your arms well out. I
thought for hours and hours, to try and find some means of bringing
about a reconciliation. You wouldn't believe how hard I thought."
"Got as thin as a corkscrew," said Ukridge.
"At last, seeing you fishing one morning when I was on the Cob, it
struck me all of a sudden . . ."
"You know how it is," said Ukridge.
" . . . all of a sudden that the very best way would be to arrange
a little boating accident. I was confident that I could rescue you all
Here I paused, and he seized the opportunity to curse me—briefly,
with a wary eye on an incoming wavelet.
"If it hadn't been for the inscrutable workings of Providence,
which has a mania for upsetting everything, all would have been well.
In fact, all was well till you found out."
"Always the way," said Ukridge sadly. "Always the way."
"You young blackguard!"
He managed to slip past me, and made for the shore.
"Look at the thing from the standpoint of a philosopher, old
horse," urged Ukridge, splashing after him. "The fact that the rescue
was arranged oughtn't to matter. I mean to say, you didn't know it at
the time, so, relatively, it was not, and you were genuinely saved
from a watery grave and all that sort of thing."
I had not imagined Ukridge capable of such an excursion into
metaphysics. I saw the truth of his line of argument so clearly that
it seemed to me impossible for anyone else to get confused over it. I
had certainly pulled the professor out of the water, and the fact that
I had first caused him to be pushed in had nothing to do with the
case. Either a man is a gallant rescuer or he is not a gallant
rescuer. There is no middle course. I had saved his life—for he would
certainly have drowned if left to himself—and I was entitled to his
gratitude. That was all there was to be said about it.
These things both Ukridge and I tried to make plain as we swam
along. But whether it was that the salt water he had swallowed had
dulled the professor's normally keen intelligence or that our power of
stating a case was too weak, the fact remains that he reached the
beach an unconvinced man.
"Then may I consider," I said, "that your objections are removed? I
have your consent?"
He stamped angrily, and his bare foot came down on a small, sharp
pebble. With a brief exclamation he seized his foot in one hand and
hopped up the beach. While hopping, he delivered his ultimatum.
Probably the only instance on record of a father adopting this
attitude in dismissing a suitor.
"You may not!" he cried. "You may consider no such thing. My
objections were never more absolute. You detain me in the water, sir,
till I am blue, sir, blue with cold, in order to listen to the most
preposterous and impudent nonsense I ever heard."
This was unjust. If he had listened attentively from the first and
avoided interruptions and had not behaved like a submarine we should
have got through the business in half the time.
I said so.
"Don't talk to me, sir," he replied, hobbling off to his dressing-
tent. "I will not listen to you. I will have nothing to do with you. I
consider you impudent, sir."
"I assure you it was unintentional."
"Isch!" he said—being the first occasion and the last on which I
have ever heard that remarkable monosyllable proceed from the mouth of
a man. And he vanished into his tent.
"Laddie," said Ukridge solemnly, "do you know what I think?"
"You haven't clicked, old horse!" said Ukridge.
CHAPTER XX. SCIENTIFIC GOLF
People are continually writing to the papers—or it may be one
solitary enthusiast who writes under a number of pseudonyms—on the
subject of sport, and the over-doing of the same by the modern young
man. I recall one letter in which "Efficiency" gave it as his opinion
that if the Young Man played less golf and did more drill, he would be
all the better for it. I propose to report my doings with the
professor on the links at some length, in order to refute this absurd
view. Everybody ought to play golf, and nobody can begin it too soon.
There ought not to be a single able-bodied infant in the British Isles
who has not foozled a drive. To take my case. Suppose I had employed
in drilling the hours I had spent in learning to handle my clubs. I
might have drilled before the professor by the week without softening
his heart. I might have ported arms and grounded arms and presented
arms, and generally behaved in the manner advocated by "Efficiency,"
and what would have been the result? Indifference on his part, or—and
if I overdid the thing—irritation. Whereas, by devoting a reasonable
portion of my youth to learning the intricacies of golf I was enabled
. . .
It happened in this way.
To me, as I stood with Ukridge in the fowl-run in the morning
following my maritime conversation with the professor, regarding a hen
that had posed before us, obviously with a view to inspection, there
appeared a man carrying an envelope. Ukridge, who by this time saw, as
Calverley almost said, "under every hat a dun," and imagined that no
envelope could contain anything but a small account, softly and
silently vanished away, leaving me to interview the enemy.
"Mr. Garnet, sir?" said the foe.
I recognised him. He was Professor Derrick's gardener.
I opened the envelope. No. Father's blessings were absent. The
letter was in the third person. Professor Derrick begged to inform Mr.
Garnet that, by defeating Mr. Saul Potter, he had qualified for the
final round of the Combe Regis Golf Tournament, in which, he
understood, Mr. Garnet was to be his opponent. If it would be
convenient for Mr. Garnet to play off the match on the present
afternoon, Professor Derrick would be obliged if he would be at the
Club House at half-past two. If this hour and day were unsuitable,
would he kindly arrange others. The bearer would wait.
The bearer did wait. He waited for half-an-hour, as I found it
impossible to shift him, not caring to use violence on a man well
stricken in years, without first plying him with drink. He absorbed
more of our diminishing cask of beer than we could conveniently spare,
and then trudged off with a note, beautifully written in the third
person, in which Mr. Garnet, after numerous compliments and thanks,
begged to inform Professor Derrick that he would be at the Club House
at the hour mentioned.
"And," I added—to myself, not in the note—"I will give him such a
licking that he'll brain himself with a cleek."
For I was not pleased with the professor. I was conscious of a
malicious joy at the prospect of snatching the prize from him. I knew
he had set his heart on winning the tournament this year. To be
runner-up two years in succession stimulates the desire for first
place. It would be doubly bitter to him to be beaten by a newcomer,
after the absence of his rival, the colonel, had awakened hope in him.
And I knew I could do it. Even allowing for bad luck—and I am never a
very unlucky golfer—I could rely almost with certainty on crushing
"And I'll do it," I said to Bob, who had trotted up. I often make
Bob the recipient of my confidences. He listens appreciatively, and
never interrupts. And he never has grievances of his own. If there is
one person I dislike, it is the man who tries to air his grievances
when I wish to air mine.
"Bob," I said, running his tail through my fingers, "listen to me,
my old University chum, for I have matured a dark scheme. Don't run
away. You know you don't really want to go and look at that chicken.
Listen to me. If I am in form this afternoon, and I feel in my bones
that I shall be, I shall nurse the professor. I shall play with him.
Do you understand the principles of Match play at Golf, Robert? You
score by holes, not strokes. There are eighteen holes. All right, how
was I to know that you knew that without my telling you? Well,
if you understand so much about the game, you will appreciate my dark
scheme. I shall toy with the professor, Bob. I shall let him get
ahead, and then catch him up. I shall go ahead myself, and let him
catch me up. I shall race him neck and neck till the very end. Then,
when his hair has turned white with the strain, and he's lost a couple
of stone in weight, and his eyes are starting out of his head, and
he's praying— if he ever does pray—to the Gods of Golf that he may
be allowed to win, I shall go ahead and beat him by a hole. I'll
teach him, Robert. He shall taste of my despair, and learn by proof
in some wild hour how much the wretched dare. And when it's all over,
and he's torn all his hair out and smashed all his clubs, I shall go
and commit suicide off the Cob. Because, you see, if I can't marry
Phyllis, I shan't have any use for life."
Bob wagged his tail cheerfully.
"I mean it," I said, rolling him on his back and punching him on
the chest till his breathing became stertorous. "You don't see the
sense of it, I know. But then you've got none of the finer feelings.
You're a jolly good dog, Robert, but you're a rank materialist. Bones
and cheese and potatoes with gravy over them make you happy. You don't
know what it is to be in love. You'd better get right side up now, or
you'll have apoplexy."
It has been my aim in the course of this narrative to extenuate
nothing, nor set down aught in malice. Like the gentleman who played
euchre with the Heathen Chinee, I state but facts. I do not,
therefore, slur over my scheme for disturbing the professor's peace of
mind. I am not always good and noble. I am the hero of this story, but
I have my off moments.
I felt ruthless towards the professor. I cannot plead ignorance of
the golfer's point of view as an excuse for my plottings. I knew that
to one whose soul is in the game as the professor's was, the agony of
being just beaten in an important match exceeds in bitterness all
other agonies. I knew that, if I scraped through by the smallest
possible margin, his appetite would be destroyed, his sleep o' nights
broken. He would wake from fitful slumber moaning that if he had only
used his iron instead of his mashie at the tenth, all would have been
well; that, if he had putted more carefully on the seventh green, life
would not be drear and blank; that a more judicious manipulation of
his brassey throughout might have given him something to live for. All
these things I knew.
And they did not touch me. I was adamant. The professor was waiting
for me at the Club House, and greeted me with a cold and stately
inclination of the head.
"Beautiful day for golf," I observed in my gay, chatty manner. He
bowed in silence.
"Very well," I thought. "Wait. Just wait."
"Miss Derrick is well, I hope?" I added, aloud.
That drew him. He started. His aspect became doubly forbidding.
"Miss Derrick is perfectly well, sir, I thank you."
"And you? No bad effect, I hope, from your dip yesterday?"
"Mr. Garnet, I came here for golf, not conversation," he said.
We made it so. I drove off from the first tee. It was a splendid
drive. I should not say so if there were any one else to say so for
me. Modesty would forbid. But, as there is no one, I must repeat the
statement. It was one of the best drives of my experience. The ball
flashed through the air, took the bunker with a dozen feet to spare,
and rolled on to the green. I had felt all along that I should be in
form. Unless my opponent was equally above himself, he was a lost man.
I could toy with him.
The excellence of my drive had not been without its effect on the
professor. I could see that he was not confident. He addressed his
ball more strangely and at greater length than any one I had ever
seen. He waggled his club over it as if he were going to perform a
conjuring trick. Then he struck, and topped it.
The ball rolled two yards.
He looked at it in silence. Then he looked at me—also in silence.
I was gazing seawards.
When I looked round he was getting to work with a brassey.
This time he hit the bunker, and rolled back. He repeated this
"Hard luck!" I murmured sympathetically on the third occasion,
thereby going as near to being slain with a niblick as it has ever
been my lot to go. Your true golfer is easily roused in times of
misfortune; and there was a red gleam in the eye of the professor
turned to me.
"I shall pick my ball up," he growled.
We walked on in silence to the second tee. He did the second hole
in four, which was good. I did it in three, which—unfortunately for
him —was better.
I won the third hole.
I won the fourth hole.
I won the fifth hole.
I glanced at my opponent out of the corner of my eyes. The man was
suffering. Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead.
His play had become wilder and wilder at each hole in arithmetical
progression. If he had been a plough he could hardly have turned up
more soil. The imagination recoiled from the thought of what he could
be doing in another half-hour if he deteriorated at his present speed.
A feeling of calm and content stole over me. I was not sorry for
him. All the viciousness of my nature was uppermost in me. Once, when
he missed the ball clean at the fifth tee, his eye met mine, and we
stood staring at each other for a full half-minute without moving. I
believe, if I had smiled then, he would have attacked me without
hesitation. There is a type of golfer who really almost ceases to be
human under stress of the wild agony of a series of foozles.
The sixth hole involves the player in a somewhat tricky piece of
cross-country work, owing to the fact that there is a nasty ditch to
be negotiated some fifty yards from the green. It is a beast of a
ditch, which, if you are out of luck, just catches your second shot.
"All hope abandon ye who enter here" might be written on a notice
board over it.
The professor entered there. The unhappy man sent his second, as
nice and clean a brassey shot as he had made all day, into its very
jaws. And then madness seized him. A merciful local rule, framed by
kindly men who have been in that ditch themselves, enacts that in such
a case the player may take his ball and throw it over his shoulder,
losing a stroke. But once, so the legend runs, a scratch man who found
himself trapped, scorning to avail himself of this rule at the expense
of its accompanying penalty, wrought so shrewdly with his niblick that
he not only got out but actually laid his ball dead: and now optimists
sometimes imitate his gallantry, though no one yet has been able to
imitate his success.
The professor decided to take a chance: and he failed miserably. As
I was on the green with my third, and, unless I putted extremely
poorly, was morally certain to be down in five, which is bogey for the
hole, there was not much practical use in his continuing to struggle.
But he did in a spirit of pure vindictiveness, as if he were trying to
take it out of the ball. It was a grisly sight to see him, head and
shoulders above the ditch, hewing at his obstinate colonel. It was a
similar spectacle that once induced a lay spectator of a golf match to
observe that he considered hockey a silly game.
"Sixteen!" said the professor between his teeth. Then he picked up
I won the seventh hole.
I won the eighth hole.
The ninth we halved, for in the black depths of my soul I had
formed a plan of fiendish subtlety. I intended to allow him to
win—with extreme labour—eight holes in succession.
Then, when hope was once more strong in him, I would win the last,
and he would go mad.
I watched him carefully as we trudged on. Emotions chased one
another across his face. When he won the tenth hole he merely
refrained from oaths. When he won the eleventh a sort of sullen
pleasure showed in his face. It was at the thirteenth that I detected
the first dawning of hope. From then onward it grew.
When, with a sequence of shocking shots, he took the seventeenth
hole in seven, he was in a parlous condition. His run of success had
engendered within him a desire for conversation. He wanted, as it
were, to flap his wings and crow. I could see Dignity wrestling with
Talkativeness. I gave him the lead.
"You have got your form now," I said.
Talkativeness had it. Dignity retired hurt. Speech came from him in
a rush. When he brought off an excellent drive from the eighteenth
tee, he seemed to forget everything.
"Me dear boy,"—he began; and stopped abruptly in some confusion.
Silence once more brooded over us as we played ourselves up the
fairway and on to the green.
He was on the green in four. I reached it in three. His sixth
stroke took him out.
I putted carefully to the very mouth of the hole.
I walked up to my ball and paused. I looked at the professor. He
looked at me.
"Go on," he said hoarsely.
Suddenly a wave of compassion flooded over me. What right had I to
torture the man like this?
"Professor," I said.
"Go on," he repeated.
"That looks a simple shot," I said, eyeing him steadily, "but I
might miss it."
"And then you would win the Championship."
He dabbed at his forehead with a wet ball of a handkerchief.
"It would be very pleasant for you after getting so near it the
last two years."
"Go on," he said for the third time. But there was a note of
hesitation in his voice.
"Sudden joy," I said, "would almost certainly make me miss it."
We looked at each other. He had the golf fever in his eyes.
"If," I said slowly, lifting my putter, "you were to give your
consent to my marriage with Phyllis——"
He looked from me to the ball, from the ball to me, and back to the
ball. It was very, very near the hole.
"Why not?" I said.
He looked up, and burst into a roar of laughter.
"You young devil," said he, smiting his thigh, "you young devil,
you've beaten me."
"On the contrary," I said, "you have beaten me."
* * * * *
I left the professor at the Club House and raced back to the farm.
I wanted to pour my joys into a sympathetic ear. Ukridge, I knew,
would offer that same sympathetic ear. A good fellow, Ukridge. Always
interested in what you had to tell him; never bored.
"Ukridge!" I shouted.
I flung open the dining-room door. Nobody.
I went into the drawing-room. It was empty. I drew the garden, and
his bedroom. He was not in either.
"He must have gone for a stroll," I said.
I rang the bell.
The Hired Retainer appeared, calm and imperturbable as ever.
"Oh, where is Mr. Ukridge, Beale?"
"Mr. Ukridge, sir," said the Hired Retainer nonchalantly, "has
"Yes, sir. Mr. Ukridge and Mrs. Ukridge went away together by the
three o'clock train."
CHAPTER XXI. THE CALM BEFORE THE
"Beale," I said, "are you drunk?"
"Wish I was, sir," said the Hired Man.
"Then what on earth do you mean? Gone? Where have they gone to?"
"Don't know, sir. London, I expect."
"Don't know, sir."
"When did they go? Oh, you told me that. Didn't they say why they
"Didn't you ask! When you saw them packing up and going to the
station, didn't you do anything?"
"Why on earth not?"
"I didn't see them, sir. I only found out as they'd gone after
they'd been and went, sir. Walking down by the Net and Mackerel, met
one of them coastguards. 'Oh,' says he, 'so you're moving?' 'Who's
a-moving?' I says to him. 'Well,' he says to me, 'I seen your Mr.
Ukridge and his missus get into the three o'clock train for Axminster.
I thought as you was all a-moving.' 'Ho,' I says, 'Ho,' wondering, and
I goes on. When I gets back, I asks the missus did she see them
packing their boxes, and she says, No, she says, they didn't pack no
boxes as she knowed of. And blowed if they had, Mr. Garnet, sir."
"What! They didn't pack!"
We looked at one another.
"Beale," I said.
"Do you know what I think?"
"So I says to the missus, sir. It struck me right off, in a manner
"This is awful," I said.
His face betrayed no emotion, but he was one of those men whose
expression never varies. It's a way they have in the Army.
"This wants thinking out, Beale," I said.
"You'd better ask Mrs. Beale to give me some dinner, and then I'll
think it over."
I was in an unpleasant position. Ukridge by his defection had left
me in charge of the farm. I could dissolve the concern, I supposed, if
I wished, and return to London, but I particularly desired to remain
in Combe Regis. To complete the victory I had won on the links, it was
necessary for me to continue as I had begun. I was in the position of
a general who has conquered a hostile country, and is obliged to
soothe the feelings of the conquered people before his labours can be
considered at an end. I had rushed the professor. It must now be my
aim to keep him from regretting that he had been rushed. I must,
therefore, stick to my post with the tenacity of an able-bodied leech.
There would be trouble. Of that I was certain. As soon as the news got
about that Ukridge had gone, the deluge would begin. His creditors
would abandon their passive tactics, and take active steps. There was
a chance that aggressive measures would be confined to the enemy at
our gates, the tradesmen of Combe Regis. But the probability was that
the news would spread, and the injured merchants of Dorchester and
Axminster rush to the scene of hostilities.
I summoned Beale after dinner and held a council of war. It was no
time for airy persiflage. I said, "Beale, we're in the cart."
"Mr. Ukridge going away like this has left me in a most unpleasant
position. I would like to talk it over with you. I daresay you know
that we—that Mr. Ukridge owes a considerable amount of money round
about here to tradesmen?"
"Well, when they find out that he has—er——"
"Shot the moon, sir," suggested the Hired Retainer helpfully.
"Gone up to town," I amended. "When they find out that he has gone
up to town, they are likely to come bothering us a good deal."
"I fancy that we shall have them all round here to-morrow. News of
this sort always spreads quickly. The point is, then, what are we to
He propounded no scheme, but stood in an easy attitude of
attention, waiting for me to continue.
"Let's see exactly how we stand," I said. "My point is that I
particularly wish to go on living down here for at least another
fortnight. Of course, my position is simple. I am Mr. Ukridge's guest.
I shall go on living as I have been doing up to the present. He asked
me down here to help him look after the fowls, so I shall go on
looking after them. Complications set in when we come to consider you
and Mrs. Beale. I suppose you won't care to stop on after this?"
The Hired Retainer scratched his chin and glanced out of the
window. The moon was up, and the garden looked cool and mysterious in
the dim light.
"It's a pretty place, Mr. Garnet, sir," he said.
"It is," I said, "but about other considerations? There's the
matter of wages. Are yours in arrears?"
"Yes, sir. A month."
"And Mrs. Beale's the same, I suppose?"
"Yes, sir. A month."
"H'm. Well, it seems to me, Beale, you can't lose anything by
"I can't be paid any less than I have bin, sir," he agreed.
"Exactly. And, as you say, it's a pretty place. You might just as
well stop on, and help me in the fowl-run. What do you think?"
"Very well, sir."
"And Mrs. Beale will do the same?"
"That's excellent. You're a hero, Beale. I shan't forget you.
There's a cheque coming to me from a magazine in another week for a
short story. When it arrives, I'll look into that matter of back
wages. Tell Mrs. Beale I'm much obliged to her, will you?"
Having concluded that delicate business, I lit my pipe, and
strolled out into the garden with Bob. I cursed Ukridge as I walked.
It was abominable of him to desert me in this way. Even if I had not
been his friend, it would have been bad. The fact that we had known
each other for years made it doubly discreditable. He might at least
have warned me, and given me the option of leaving the sinking ship
But, I reflected, I ought not to be surprised. His whole career, as
long as I had known him, had been dotted with little eccentricities of
a type which an unfeeling world generally stigmatises as shady. They
were small things, it was true; but they ought to have warned me. We
are most of us wise after the event. When the wind has blown, we can
generally discover a multitude of straws which should have shown us
which way it was blowing.
Once, I remembered, in our schoolmaster days, when guineas, though
regular, were few, he had had occasion to increase his wardrobe. If I
recollect rightly, he thought he had a chance of a good position in
the tutoring line, and only needed good clothes to make it his. He
took four pounds of his salary in advance,—he was in the habit of
doing this: he never had any salary left by the end of term, it having
vanished in advance loans beforehand. With this he was to buy two
suits, a hat, new boots, and collars. When it came to making the
purchases, he found, what he had overlooked previously in his
optimistic way, that four pounds did not go very far. At the time, I
remember, I thought his method of grappling with the situation
humorous. He bought a hat for three-and-sixpence, and got the suits
and the boots on the instalment system, paying a small sum in advance,
as earnest of more to come. He then pawned one suit to pay for the
first few instalments, and finally departed, to be known no more. His
address he had given—with a false name—at an empty house, and when
the tailor arrived with his minions of the law, all he found was an
annoyed caretaker, and a pile of letters written by himself,
containing his bill in its various stages of evolution.
Or again. There was a bicycle and photograph shop near the school.
He went into this one day, and his roving eye fell on a tandem
bicycle. He did not want a tandem bicycle, but that influenced him not
at all. He ordered it provisionally. He also ordered an enlarging
camera, a kodak, and a magic lantern. The order was booked, and the
goods were to be delivered when he had made up his mind concerning
them. After a week the shopman sent round to ask if there were any
further particulars which Mr. Ukridge would like to learn before
definitely ordering them. Mr. Ukridge sent back word that he was
considering the matter, and that in the meantime would he be so good
as to let him have that little clockwork man in his window, which
walked when wound up? Having got this, and not paid for it, Ukridge
thought that he had done handsomely by the bicycle and photograph man,
and that things were square between them. The latter met him a few
days afterwards, and expostulated plaintively. Ukridge explained. "My
good man," he said, "you know, I really think we need say no more
about the matter. Really, you're come out of it very well. Now, look
here, which would you rather be owed for? A clockwork man—which is
broken, and you can have it back—or a tandem bicycle, an enlarging
camera, a kodak, and a magic-lantern? What?" His reasoning was too
subtle for the uneducated mind. The man retired, puzzled, and unpaid,
and Ukridge kept the clockwork toy.
CHAPTER XXII. THE STORM BREAKS
Rather to my surprise, the next morning passed off uneventfully.
Our knocker advertised no dun. Our lawn remained untrodden by
hob-nailed boots. By lunch-time I had come to the conclusion that the
expected Trouble would not occur that day, and I felt that I might
well leave my post for the afternoon, while I went to the professor's
to pay my respects. The professor was out when I arrived. Phyllis was
in, and it was not till the evening that I started for the farm again.
As I approached, the sound of voices smote my ears.
I stopped. I could hear Beale speaking. Then came the rich notes of
Vickers, the butcher. Then Beale again. Then Dawlish the grocer. Then
The storm had burst, and in my absence.
I blushed for myself. I was in command, and I had deserted the fort
in time of need. What must the faithful Hired Man be thinking of me?
Probably he placed me, as he had placed Ukridge, in the ragged ranks
of those who have Shot the Moon.
Fortunately, having just come from the professor's I was in the
costume which of all my wardrobe was most calculated to impress. To a
casual observer I should probably suggest wealth and respectability. I
stopped for a moment to cool myself, for, as is my habit when pleased
with life, I had been walking fast; then opened the gate and strode
in, trying to look as opulent as possible.
It was an animated scene that met my eyes. In the middle of the
lawn stood the devoted Beale, a little more flushed than I had seen
him hitherto, parleying with a burly and excited young man without a
coat. Grouped round the pair were some dozen men, young, middle-aged,
and old, all talking their hardest. I could distinguish nothing of
what they were saying. I noticed that Beale's left cheekbone was a
little discoloured, and there was a hard, dogged expression on his
face. He, too, was in his shirt-sleeves.
My entry created no sensation. Nobody, apparently, had heard the
latch click, and nobody had caught sight of me. Their eyes were fixed
on the young man and Beale. I stood at the gate, and watched them.
There seemed to have been trouble already. Looking more closely, I
perceived sitting on the grass apart a second young man. His face was
obscured by a dirty pocket handkerchief, with which he dabbed tenderly
at his features. Every now and then the shirt-sleeved young man flung
his hand towards him with an indignant gesture, talking hard the
while. It did not need a preternaturally keen observer to deduce what
had happened. Beale must have fallen out with the young man who was
sitting on the grass and smitten him; and now his friend had taken up
"Now this," I said to myself, "is rather interesting. Here, in this
one farm, we have the only three known methods of dealing with duns.
Beale is evidently an exponent of the violent method. Ukridge is an
apostle of Evasion. I shall try Conciliation. I wonder which of us
will be the most successful."
Meanwhile, not to spoil Beale's efforts by allowing him too little
scope for experiment, I refrained from making my presence known, and
continued to stand by the gate, an interested spectator.
Things were evidently moving now. The young man's gestures became
more vigorous. The dogged look on Beale's face deepened. The comments
of the Ring increased in point and pungency.
"What did you hit him for, then?"
The question was put, always the same words and with the same air
of quiet triumph, at intervals of thirty seconds by a little man in a
snuff-coloured suit with a purple tie. Nobody ever answered him, or
appeared to listen to him, but he seemed each time to think that he
had clinched the matter and cornered his opponent.
Other voices chimed in.
"You hit him, Charlie. Go on. You hit him."
"We'll have the law."
"Go on, Charlie."
Flushed with the favour of the many-headed, Charlie now proceeded
from threats to action. His right fist swung round suddenly. But Beale
was on the alert. He ducked sharply, and the next moment Charlie was
sitting on the ground beside his fallen friend. A hush fell on the
Ring, and the little man in the purple tie was left repeating his
formula without support.
I advanced. It seemed to me that the time had come to be
conciliatory. Charlie was struggling to his feet, obviously anxious
for a second round, and Beale was getting into position once more. In
another five minutes conciliation would be out of the question.
"What's all this?" I said.
I may mention here that I do not propose to inflict dialect upon
the reader. If he had borne with my narrative thus far, I look on him
as a friend, and feel that he deserves consideration. I may not have
brought out the fact with sufficient emphasis in the foregoing pages,
but nevertheless I protest that I have a conscience. Not so much as a
"thiccy" shall he find.
My advent caused a stir. Excited men left Beale, and rallied round
me. Charlie, rising to his feet, found himself dethroned from his
position of Man of the Moment, and stood blinking at the setting sun
and opening and shutting his mouth. There was a buzz of conversation.
"Don't all speak at once, please," I said. "I can't possibly follow
what you say. Perhaps you will tell me what you want?"
I singled out a short, stout man in grey. He wore the largest
whiskers ever seen on human face.
"It's like this, sir. We all of us want to know where we are."
"I can tell you that," I said, "you're on our lawn, and I should be
much obliged if you would stop digging your heels into it."
This was not, I suppose, Conciliation in the strictest and best
sense of the word; but the thing had to be said. It is the duty of
every good citizen to do his best to score off men with whiskers.
"You don't understand me, sir," he said excitedly. "When I said we
didn't know where we were, it was a manner of speaking. We want to
know how we stand."
"On your heels," I replied gently, "as I pointed out before."
"I am Brass, sir, of Axminster. My account with Mr. Ukridge is ten
pounds eight shillings and fourpence. I want to know——"
The whole strength of the company now joined in.
"You know me, Mr. Garnet. Appleby, in the High——" (Voice lost in
the general roar).
" . . . and eightpence."
"My account with Mr. Uk . . ."
" . . . settle . . ."
"I represent Bodger . . ."
A diversion occurred at this point. Charlie, who had long been
eyeing Beale sourly, dashed at him with swinging fists, and was
knocked down again. The whole trend of the meeting altered once more,
Conciliation became a drug. Violence was what the public wanted. Beale
had three fights in rapid succession. I was helpless. Instinct
prompted me to join the fray; but prudence told me that such a course
would be fatal.
At last, in a lull, I managed to catch the Hired Retainer by the
arm, as he drew back from the prostrate form of his latest victim.
"Drop it, Beale," I whispered hotly, "drop it. We shall never manage
these people if you knock them about. Go indoors, and stay there while
I talk to them."
"Mr. Garnet, sir," said he, the light of battle dying out of his
eyes, "it's 'ard. It's cruel 'ard. I ain't 'ad a turn-up, not to call a turn-up, since I've been a time-expired man. I ain't
hitting of 'em, Mr. Garnet, sir, not hard I ain't. That there first
one of 'em he played me dirty, hittin' at me when I wasn't looking.
They can't say as I started it."
"That's all right, Beale," I said soothingly. "I know it wasn't
your fault, and I know it's hard on you to have to stop, but I wish
you would go indoors. I must talk to these men, and we shan't have a
moment's peace while you're here. Cut along."
"Very well, sir. But it's 'ard. Mayn't I 'ave just one go at that
Charlie, Mr. Garnet?" he asked wistfully.
"No, no. Go in."
"And if they goes for you, sir, and tries to wipe the face off
"They won't, they won't. If they do, I'll shout for you."
He went reluctantly into the house, and I turned again to my
"If you will kindly be quiet for a moment—" I said.
"I am Appleby, Mr. Garnet, in the High Street. Mr. Ukridge—"
"Eighteen pounds fourteen shillings—"
I waved my hands wildly above my head.
"Stop! stop! stop!" I shouted.
The babble continued, but diminished gradually in volume. Through
the trees, as I waited, I caught a glimpse of the sea. I wished I was
out on the Cob, where beyond these voices there was peace. My head was
beginning to ache, and I felt faint for want of food.
"Gentlemen," I cried, as the noise died away.
The latch of the gate clicked. I looked up, and saw a tall thin
young man in a frock coat and silk hat enter the garden. It was the
first time I had seen the costume in the country.
He approached me.
"Mr. Ukridge, sir?" he said.
"My name is Garnet. Mr. Ukridge is away at the moment."
"I come from Whiteley's, Mr. Garnet. Our Mr. Blenkinsop having
written on several occasions to Mr. Ukridge calling his attention to
the fact that his account has been allowed to mount to a considerable
figure, and having received no satisfactory reply, desired me to visit
him. I am sorry that he is not at home."
"So am I," I said with feeling.
"Do you expect him to return shortly?"
"No," I said, "I do not."
He was looking curiously at the expectant band of duns. I
forestalled his question.
"Those are some of Mr. Ukridge's creditors," I said. "I am just
about to address them. Perhaps you will take a seat. The grass is
quite dry. My remarks will embrace you as well as them."
Comprehension came into his eyes, and the natural man in him peeped
through the polish.
"Great Scott, has he done a bunk?" he cried.
"To the best of my knowledge, yes," I said.
I turned again to the local talent.
"Gentlemen," I shouted.
"Hear, hear," said some idiot.
"Gentlemen, I intend to be quite frank with you. We must decide
just how matters stand between us. (A voice: Where's Ukridge?) Mr.
Ukridge left for London suddenly (bitter laughter) yesterday
afternoon. Personally I think he will come back very shortly."
Hoots of derision greeted this prophecy. I resumed.
"I fail to see your object in coming here. I have nothing for you.
I couldn't pay your bills if I wanted to."
It began to be borne upon me that I was becoming unpopular.
"I am here simply as Mr. Ukridge's guest," I proceeded. After all,
why should I spare the man? "I have nothing whatever to do with his
business affairs. I refuse absolutely to be regarded as in any way
indebted to you. I am sorry for you. You have my sympathy. That is all
I can give you, sympathy—and good advice."
Dissatisfaction. I was getting myself disliked. And I had meant to
be so conciliatory, to speak to these unfortunates words of cheer
which should be as olive oil poured into a wound. For I really did
sympathise with them. I considered that Ukridge had used them
disgracefully. But I was irritated. My head ached abominably.
"Then am I to tell our Mr. Blenkinsop," asked the frock-coated one,
"that the money is not and will not be forthcoming?"
"When next you smoke a quiet cigar with your Mr. Blenkinsop," I
replied courteously, "and find conversation flagging, I rather think I should say something of the sort."
"We shall, of course, instruct our solicitors at once to institute
legal proceedings against your Mr. Ukridge."
"Don't call him my Mr. Ukridge. You can do whatever you please."
"That is your last word on the subject?"
"I hope so. But I fear not."
"Where's our money?" demanded a discontented voice from the crowd.
An idea struck me.
"Beale!" I shouted.
Out came the Hired Retainer at the double. I fancy he thought that
his help was needed to save me from my friends.
He slowed down, seeing me as yet unassaulted.
"Sir?" he said.
"Isn't there a case of that whisky left somewhere, Beale?"
I had struck the right note. There was a hush of pleased
anticipation among the audience.
"Yes, sir. One."
"Then bring it out here and open it."
Beale looked pained
"For them, sir!" he ejaculated.
"Yes. Hurry up."
He hesitated, then without a word went into the house. A hearty
cheer went up as he reappeared with the case. I proceeded indoors in
search of glasses and water.
Coming out, I realised my folly in having left Beale alone with our
visitors even for a minute. A brisk battle was raging between him and
a man whom I did not remember to have seen before. The frock-coated
young man was looking on with pale fear stamped upon his face; but the
rest of the crowd were shouting advice and encouragement was being
given to Beale. How I wondered, had he pacified the mob?
I soon discovered. As I ran up as quickly as I could, hampered as I
was by the jugs and glasses, Beale knocked his man out with the clean
precision of the experienced boxer; and the crowd explained in chorus
that it was the pot-boy, from the Net and Mackerel. Like everything
else, the whisky had not been paid for and the pot-boy, arriving just
as the case was being opened, had made a gallant effort to save it
from being distributed free to his fellow-citizens. By the time he
came to, the glasses were circulating merrily; and, on observing this,
he accepted the situation philosophically enough, and took his turn
and turn about with the others.
Everybody was now in excellent fettle. The only malcontents were
Beale, whose heart plainly bled at the waste of good Scotch whisky,
and the frock-coated young man, who was still pallid.
I was just congratulating myself, as I eyed the revellers, on
having achieved a masterstroke of strategy, when that demon Charlie,
his defeat, I suppose, still rankling, made a suggestion. From his
point of view a timely and ingenious suggestion.
"We can't see the colour of our money," he said pithily, "but we
can have our own back."
That settled it. The battle was over. The most skilful general must
sometime recognise defeat. I recognised it then, and threw up my hand.
I could do nothing further with them. I had done my best for the farm.
I could do no more.
I lit my pipe, and strolled into the paddock.
Chaos followed. Indoors and out-of-doors they raged without check.
Even Beale gave the thing up. He knocked Charlie into a flower-bed,
and then disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.
It was growing dusk. From inside the house came faint sounds of
bibulous mirth, as the sacking party emptied the rooms of their
contents. In the fowl-run a hen was crooning sleepily in its coop. It
was a very soft, liquid, soothing sound.
Presently out came the invaders with their loot, one with a
picture, another with a vase, another bearing the gramophone upside
down. They were singing in many keys and times.
Then I heard somebody—Charlie again, it seemed to me—propose a
raid on the fowl-run.
The fowls had had their moments of unrest since they had been our
property, but what they had gone through with us was peace compared
with what befell them then. Not even on the second evening of our
visit, when we had run unmeasured miles in pursuit of them, had there
been such confusion. Roused abruptly from their beauty-sleep they fled
in all directions. Their pursuers, roaring with laughter, staggered
after them. They tumbled over one another. The summer evening was made
hideous with the noise of them.
"Disgraceful, sir. Is it not disgraceful!" said a voice in my ear.
The young man from Whiteley's stood beside me. He did not look
happy. His forehead was damp. Somebody seemed to have stepped on his
hat, and his coat was smeared with mould.
I was turning to answer him when from the dusk in the direction of
the house came a sudden roar. A passionate appeal to the world in
general to tell the speaker what all this meant.
There was only one man of my acquaintance with a voice like that.
I walked without hurry towards him.
"Good evening, Ukridge," I said.
CHAPTER XXIII. AFTER THE STORM
A yell of welcome drowned the tumult of the looters.
"Is that you, Garny, old horse? What's up? What's the matter? Has
everyone gone mad? Who are those infernal scoundrels in the fowl-run?
What are they doing? What's been happening?"
"I have been entertaining a little meeting of your creditors," I
said. "And now they are entertaining themselves."
"But what did you let them do it for?"
"What is one amongst so many?"
"Well, 'pon my Sam," moaned Ukridge, as, her sardonic calm laid
aside, that sinister hen which we called Aunt Elizabeth flashed past
us pursued by the whiskered criminal, "it's a little hard! I can't go
away for a day—"
"You certainly can't! You're right there. You can't go away without
"Without a word? What do you mean? Garny, old boy, pull yourself
together. You're over-excited. Do you mean to tell me you didn't get
"The one I left on the dining-room table."
"There was no note there."
I was reminded of the scene that had taken place on the first day
of our visit.
"Feel in your pockets," I said.
"Why, damme, here it is!" he said in amazement.
"Of course. Where did you expect it would be? Was it important?"
"Why, it explained the whole thing."
"Then," I said, "I wish you would let me read it. A note like that
ought to be worth reading."
"It was telling you to sit tight and not worry about us going
"That's good about worrying. You're a thoughtful chap, Ukridge."
"—because we should be back immediately."
"And what sent you up to town?"
"Why, we went to touch Millie's Aunt Elizabeth."
"Oh!" I said, a light shining on the darkness of my understanding.
"You remember Aunt Elizabeth? The old girl who wrote that letter."
"I know. She called you a gaby."
"And a guffin."
"Yes. I remember thinking her a shrewd and discriminating old lady,
with a great gift for character delineation. So you went to touch
"That's it. We had to have more money. So I naturally thought of
her. Aunt Elizabeth isn't what you might call an admirer of mine—"
"Bless her for that."
"—but she's very fond of Millie, and would do anything if she's
allowed to chuck about a few home-truths before doing it. So we went
off together, looked her up at her house, stated our case, and
collected the stuff. Millie and I shared the work. She did the asking,
while I inquired after the rheumatism. She mentioned the figure that
would clear us; I patted the dog. Little beast! Got after me when I
wasn't looking and chewed my ankle!"
"In the end Millie got the money, and I got the home-truths."
"Did she call you a gaby?"
"Twice. And a guffin three times."
"Your Aunt Elizabeth is beginning to fascinate me. She seems just
the sort of woman I would like. Well, you got the money?"
"Rather! And I'll tell you another thing, old horse. I scored
heavily at the end of the visit. She'd got to the quoting-proverbs
stage by that time. 'Ah, my dear,' she said to Millie. 'Marry in
haste, repent at leisure.' Millie stood up to her like a little brick.
'I'm afraid that proverb doesn't apply to me, Aunt Elizabeth,' she
said, 'because I haven't repented!' What do you think of that,
"Of course, she
hasn't had much leisure lately," I agreed.
Ukridge's jaw dropped slightly. But he rallied swiftly.
"Idiot! That wasn't what she meant. Millie's an angel!"
"Of course she is," I said cordially. "She's a precious sight too
good for you, you old rotter. You bear that fact steadily in mind, and
we'll make something of you yet."
At this point Mrs. Ukridge joined us. She had been exploring the
house, and noting the damage done. Her eyes were open to their fullest
"Oh, Mr. Garnet,
couldn't you have stopped them?"
I felt a worm. Had I done as much as I might have done to stem the
"I'm awfully sorry, Mrs. Ukridge," I said humbly. "I really don't
think I could have done much more. We tried every method. Beale had
seven fights, and I made a speech on the lawn, but it was all no good.
Directly they had finished the whisky—"
Ukridge's cry was like that of a lost spirit.
"They didn't get hold of the whisky!"
"They did! It seemed to me that it would smooth things down a
little if I served it out. The mob had begun to get a trifle out of
"I thought those horrid men were making a lot of noise," said Mrs.
Ukridge preserved a gloomy silence. Of all the disasters of that
stricken field, I think the one that came home most poignantly to him
was the loss of the whisky. It seemed to strike him like a blow.
"Isn't it about time to collect these men and explain things?" I
suggested. "I don't believe any of them know you've come back."
"They will!" said Ukridge grimly, coming out of his trance. "They
soon will! Where's Beale! Beale!"
The Hired Retainer came running out at the sound of the well-
"Lumme, Mr. Ukridge, sir!" he gasped.
It was the first time Beale had ever betrayed any real emotion in
my presence. To him, I suppose, the return of Ukridge was as
sensational and astonishing an event as a re-appearance from the tomb.
He was not accustomed to find those who had shot the moon revisiting
their ancient haunts.
"Beale, go round the place and tell those scoundrels that I've come
back, and would like a word with them on the lawn. And, if you find
any of them stealing the fowls, knock them down!"
"I 'ave knocked down one or two," said Beale, with approval. "That
"Beale," said Ukridge, much moved, "you're an excellent fellow! One
of the very best. I will pay you your back wages before I go to bed."
"These fellars, sir," said Beale, having expressed his
gratification, "they've bin and scattered most of them birds already,
sir. They've bin chasin' of them this half-hour back."
Beale went off.
"Millie, old girl," said Ukridge, adjusting the ginger-beer wire
behind his ears and hoisting up his grey flannel-trousers, which
showed an inclination to sag, "you'd better go indoors. I propose to
speak pretty chattily to these blighters, and in the heat of the
moment one or two expressions might occur to me which you would not
like. It would hamper me, your being here."
Mrs. Ukridge went into the house, and the vanguard of the audience
began to come on to the lawn. Several of them looked flushed and
dishevelled. I have a suspicion that Beale had shaken sobriety into
them. Charlie, I noticed, had a black eye.
They assembled on the lawn in the moonlight, and Ukridge, with his
cap well over his eyes and his mackintosh hanging round him like a
Roman toga, surveyed them sternly, and began his speech.
"You—you—you—you scoundrels! You blighters! You worms! You
I always like to think of Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge as I
saw him at that moment. There have been times during a friendship of
many years when his conduct did not recommend itself to me. It has
sometimes happened that I have seen flaws in him. But on this occasion
he was at his best. He was eloquent. He dominated his audience. Long
before he had finished I was feeling relieved that he had thought of
sending Mrs. Ukridge indoors when he did, and Beale was hanging on his
words with a look in his eyes which I had never seen there before,—a
look of reverence, almost of awe, the look of a disciple who listens
to a master.
He poured scorn upon his hearers, and they quailed. He flung
invective at them, and they wilted. Strange oaths, learned among
strange men on cattle-ships or gleaned on the waterfronts of Buenos
Ayres and San Francisco, slid into the stream of his speech. It was
hard, he said in part, it was, upon his Sam, a little hard that a
gentleman—a gentleman, moreover, who had done so much to stimulate
local trade with large orders and what not—could not run up to London
for five minutes on business without having his private grounds turned
upside down by a gang of cattle-ship adjectived San Francisco
substantives who behaved as if the whole of the Buenos Ayres phrased
place belonged to them. He had intended to do well by them. He had
meant to continue putting business in their way, expanding their
trade. But would he after what had occurred? Not by a jugful! As soon
as ever the sun had risen and another day begun, their miserable
accounts should be paid in full, and their connection with him cut
off. Afterwards it was probable that he would institute legal
proceedings against them in the matter of trespass and wholesale
damage to property, and if they didn't all end their infernal days in
some dashed prison they might consider themselves uncommonly lucky,
and if they didn't make themselves scarce in considerably under two
ticks, he proposed to see what could be done with Beale's shot-gun.
(Beale here withdrew with a pleased expression to fetch the weapon.)
He was sick of them. They were blighters. Creatures that it would be
fulsome flattery to describe as human beings. He would call them
skunks, only he did not see what the skunks had done to be compared
with them. And now they might go—quick!
* * * * *
We were quiet at the farm that night. Ukridge sat like Marius among
the ruins of Carthage, and refused to speak. Eventually he took Bob
with him and went for a walk.
Half an hour later I, too, wearied of the scene of desolation. My
errant steps took me in the direction of the sea. As I approached, I
was aware of a figure standing in the moonlight, gazing silently out
over the waters. Beside the figure was a dog.
The dark moments of optimistic minds are sacred, and I would no
more have ventured to break in on Ukridge's thoughts at that moment
than, if I had been a general in the Grand Army, I would have opened
conversation with Napoleon during the retreat from Moscow. I was
withdrawing as softly as I could, when my foot grated on the shingle.
"Hullo, old man." I murmured in a death-bedside voice.
He came towards me, Bob trotting at his heels: and, as he came, I
saw with astonishment that his mien was calm, even cheerful. I should
have known my Ukridge better than to be astonished. You cannot keep a
good man down, and already Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge was
himself again. His eyes sparkled buoyantly behind their pince-nez.
"Garny, old horse, I've been thinking, laddie! I've got an idea!
The idea of a lifetime. The best ever, 'pon my Sam! I'm going to start
a duck farm!"
"A duck farm?"
"A duck farm, laddie! And run it without water. My theory is, you
see, that ducks get thin by taking exercise and swimming about all
over the place, so that, if you kept them always on land, they'd get
jolly fat in about half the time—and no trouble and expense. See?
What? Not a flaw in it, old horse! I've thought the whole thing out."
He took my arm affectionately. "Now, listen. We'll say that the
profits of the first year at a conservative estimate . . ."