The First P. G. Wodehouse Omnibus: The Indiscretions of Archie; The Intrusion of Jimmy; The Coming of Bill [MultiFormat]
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eBook by P. G. Wodehouse
eBook Category: Humor/Classic Literature
eBook Description: A Triple-Scoop of Frolicsome, Rollicking Fun from the Creator of Jeeves and Wooster! Archie, who has the world's greatest gift for putting his oversized foot in his oversized mouth, indiscreetly sticks his nose in where he ought not, marrying the beauteous Lucille Brewster, whose millionaire father strongly disapproves. Then Archie develops his knack for getting in deeper and deeper with Father Brewster, with hilarious results. Next, Jimmy Pitt falls in love, befriends a burglar, and burgles a policeman's home; and that's only the beginning of this typically Wodehousian laugh riot that ends in Dreever Castle, amid a dizzying and dizzy cast of misunderstood lovers, detectives, imposters, criminals, and the obligatory scheming elderly aunts. When Kirk Winfield marries his true love Ruth, it seems like the fade-out in a typical Wodehouse farce, but the happy ending turns out anything but when Ruth's pain-in-the-seat Aunt Ruth, a know-it-all writer, decides to dispense marital advice, things go from great to worse, and more laughs follow. Don't miss this bargain collection of three Wodehouse classics at one low price.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, Published: 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2006
CHAPTER I DISTRESSING SCENE
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"I say, laddie!" said Archie.
"Sir?" replied the desk-clerk alertly. All the employes of the Hotel Cosmopolis were alert. It was one of the things on which Mr. Daniel Brewster, the proprietor, insisted. And as he was always wandering about the lobby of the hotel keeping a personal eye on affairs, it was never safe to relax.
"I want to see the manager."
"Is there anything I could do, sir?"
Archie looked at him doubtfully.
"Well, as a matter of fact, my dear old desk-clerk," he said, "I want to kick up a fearful row, and it hardly seems fair to lug you into it. Why you, I mean to say? The blighter whose head I want on a charger is the bally manager."
At this point a massive, grey-haired man, who had been standing close by, gazing on the lobby with an air of restrained severity, as if daring it to start anything, joined in the conversation.
"I am the manager," he said.
His eye was cold and hostile. Others, it seemed to say, might like Archie Moffam, but not he. Daniel Brewster was bristling for combat. What he had overheard had shocked him to the core of his being. The Hotel Cosmopolis was his own private, personal property, and the thing dearest to him in the world, after his daughter Lucille. He prided himself on the fact that his hotel was not like other New York hotels, which were run by impersonal companies and shareholders and boards of directors, and consequently lacked the paternal touch which made the Cosmopolis what it was. At other hotels things went wrong, and clients complained. At the Cosmopolis things never went wrong, because he was on the spot to see that they didn't, and as a result clients never complained. Yet here was this long, thin, string-bean of an Englishman actually registering annoyance and dissatisfaction before his very eyes.
"What is your complaint?" he enquired frigidly.
Archie attached himself to the top button of Mr. Brewster's coat, and was immediately dislodged by an irritable jerk of the other's substantial body.
"Listen, old thing! I came over to this country to nose about in search of a job, because there doesn't seem what you might call a general demand for my services in England. Directly I was demobbed, the family started talking about the Land of Opportunity and shot me on to a liner. The idea was that I might get hold of something in America--"
He got hold of Mr. Brewster's coat-button, and was again shaken off.
"Between ourselves, I've never done anything much in England, and I fancy the family were getting a bit fed. At any rate, they sent me over here--"
Mr. Brewster disentangled himself for the third time.
"I would prefer to postpone the story of your life," he said coldly, "and be informed what is your specific complaint against the Hotel Cosmopolis."
"Of course, yes. The jolly old hotel. I'm coming to that. Well, it was like this. A chappie on the boat told me that this was the best place to stop at in New York--"
"He was quite right," said Mr. Brewster.
"Was he, by Jove! Well, all I can say, then, is that the other New York hotels must be pretty mouldy, if this is the best of the lot! I took a room here last night," said Archie quivering with self-pity, "and there was a beastly tap outside somewhere which went drip-drip-drip all night and kept me awake."
Mr. Brewster's annoyance deepened. He felt that a chink had been found in his armour. Not even the most paternal hotel-proprietor can keep an eye on every tap in his establishment.
"Drip-drip-drip!" repeated Archie firmly. "And I put my boots outside the door when I went to bed, and this morning they hadn't been touched. I give you my solemn word! Not touched."
"Naturally," said Mr. Brewster. "My employes are honest"
"But I wanted them cleaned, dash it!"
"There is a shoe-shining parlour in the basement. At the Cosmopolis shoes left outside bedroom doors are not cleaned."
"Then I think the Cosmopolis is a bally rotten hotel!"
Mr. Brewster's compact frame quivered. The unforgivable insult had been offered. Question the legitimacy of Mr. Brewster's parentage, knock Mr. Brewster down and walk on his face with spiked shoes, and you did not irremediably close all avenues to a peaceful settlement. But make a remark like that about his hotel, and war was definitely declared.
"In that case," he said, stiffening, "I must ask you to give up your room."
"I'm going to give it up! I wouldn't stay in the bally place another minute."
Mr. Brewster walked away, and Archie charged round to the cashier's desk to get his bill. It had been his intention in any case, though for dramatic purposes he concealed it from his adversary, to leave the hotel that morning. One of the letters of introduction which he had brought over from England had resulted in an invitation from a Mrs. van Tuyl to her house-party at Miami, and he had decided to go there at once.
"Well," mused Archie, on his way to the station, "one thing's certain. I'll never set foot in THAT bally place again!"
But nothing in this world is certain. * * * * CHAPTER II A SHOCK FOR MR. BREWSTER
Mr. Daniel Brewster sat in his luxurious suite at the Cosmopolis, smoking one of his admirable cigars and chatting with his old friend, Professor Binstead. A stranger who had only encountered Mr. Brewster in the lobby of the hotel would have been surprised at the appearance of his sitting-room, for it had none of the rugged simplicity which was the keynote of its owner's personal appearance. Daniel Brewster was a man with a hobby, He was what Parker, his valet, termed a connoozer. His educated taste in Art was one of the things which went to make the Cosmopolis different from and superior to other New York hotels. He had personally selected the tapestries in the dining-room and the various paintings throughout the building. And in his private capacity he was an enthusiastic collector of things which Professor Binstead, whose tastes lay in the same direction, would have stolen without a twinge of conscience if he could have got the chance.
The professor, a small man of middle age who wore tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles, flitted covetously about the room, inspecting its treasures with a glistening eye. In a corner, Parker, a grave, lean individual, bent over the chafing-dish, in which he was preparing for his employer and his guest their simple lunch.
"Brewster," said Professor Binstead, pausing at the mantelpiece.
Mr. Brewster looked up amiably. He was in placid mood to-day. Two weeks and more had passed since the meeting with Archie recorded in the previous chapter, and he had been able to dismiss that disturbing affair from his mind. Since then, everything had gone splendidly with Daniel Brewster, for he had just accomplished his ambition of the moment by completing the negotiations for the purchase of a site further down-town, on which he proposed to erect a new hotel. He liked building hotels. He had the Cosmopolis, his first-born, a summer hotel in the mountains, purchased in the previous year, and he was toying with the idea of running over to England and putting up another in London, That, however, would have to wait. Meanwhile, he would concentrate on this new one down-town. It had kept him busy and worried, arranging for securing the site; but his troubles were over now.
"Yes?" he said.
Professor Binstead had picked up a small china figure of delicate workmanship. It represented a warrior of pre-khaki days advancing with a spear upon some adversary who, judging from the contented expression on the warrior's face, was smaller than himself.
"Where did you get this?"
"That? Mawson, my agent, found it in a little shop on the east side."
"Where's the other? There ought to be another. These things go in pairs. They're valueless alone."
Mr. Brewster's brow clouded.
"I know that," he said shortly. "Mawson's looking for the other one everywhere. If you happen across it, I give you carte blanche to buy it for me."
"It must be somewhere."
"Yes. If you find it, don't worry about the expense. I'll settle up, no matter what it is."
"I'll bear it in mind," said Professor Binstead. "It may cost you a lot of money. I suppose you know that."
"I told you I don't care what it costs."
"It's nice to be a millionaire," sighed Professor Binstead.
"Luncheon is served, sir," said Parker.
He had stationed himself in a statutesque pose behind Mr. Brewster's chair, when there was a knock at the door. He went to the door, and returned with a telegram.
"Telegram for you, sir."
Mr. Brewster nodded carelessly. The contents of the chafing-dish had justified the advance advertising of their odour, and he was too busy to be interrupted.
"Put it down. And you needn't wait, Parker."
"Very good, sir."
The valet withdrew, and Mr. Brewster resumed his lunch.
"Aren't you going to open it?" asked Professor Binstead, to whom a telegram was a telegram.
"It can wait. I get them all day long. I expect it's from Lucille, saying what train she's making."
"She returns to-day?"
"Yes, Been at Miami." Mr. Brewster, having dwelt at adequate length on the contents of the chafing-dish, adjusted his glasses and took up the envelope. "I shall be glad-Great Godfrey!"
He sat staring at the telegram, his mouth open. His friend eyed him solicitously.
"No bad news, I hope?"
Mr. Brewster gurgled in a strangled way.
"Bad news? Bad-? Here, read it for yourself."
Professor Binstead, one of the three most inquisitive men in New York, took the slip of paper with gratitude.
"'Returning New York to-day with darling Archie,'" he read. "'Lots of love from us both. Lucille.'" He gaped at his host. "Who is Archie?" he enquired.
"Who is Archie?" echoed Mr. Brewster helplessly. "Who is-? That's just what I would like to know."
"'Darling Archie,'" murmured the professor, musing over the telegram. "'Returning to-day with darling Archie.' Strange!"
Mr. Brewster continued to stare before him. When you send your only daughter on a visit to Miami minus any entanglements and she mentions in a telegram that she has acquired a darling Archie, you are naturally startled. He rose from the table with a bound. It had occurred to him that by neglecting a careful study of his mail during the past week, as was his bad habit when busy, he had lost an opportunity of keeping abreast with current happenings. He recollected now that a letter had arrived from Lucille some time ago, and that he had put it away unopened till he should have leisure to read it. Lucille was a dear girl, he had felt, but her letters when on a vacation seldom contained anything that couldn't wait a few days for a reading. He sprang for his desk, rummaged among his papers, and found what he was seeking.
It was a long letter, and there was silence in the room for some moments while he mastered its contents. Then he turned to the professor, breathing heavily.
"Yes?" said Professor Binstead eagerly. "Yes?"
"What is it?" demanded the professor in an agony.
Mr. Brewster sat down again with a thud.
"Married! To an Englishman!"
"Bless my soul!"
"She says," proceeded Mr. Brewster, referring to the letter again, "that they were both so much in love that they simply had to slip off and get married, and she hopes I won't be cross. Cross!" gasped Mr. Brewster, gazing wildly at his friend.
"Disturbing! You bet it's disturbing! I don't know anything about the fellow. Never heard of him in my life. She says he wanted a quiet wedding because he thought a fellow looked such a chump getting married! And I must love him, because he's all set to love me very much!"
Mr. Brewster put the letter down.
"I have met some very agreeable Englishmen," said Professor Binstead.
"I don't like Englishmen," growled Mr. Brewster. "Parker's an Englishman."
"Yes. I believe he wears my shirts on the sly,'" said Mr. Brewster broodingly, "If I catch him-! What would you do about this, Binstead?"
"Do?" The professor considered the point judiciary. "Well, really, Brewster, I do not see that there is anything you can do. You must simply wait and meet the man. Perhaps he will turn out an admirable son-in-law."
"H'm!" Mr. Brewster declined to take an optimistic view. "But an Englishman, Binstead!" he said with pathos. "Why," he went on, memory suddenly stirring, "there was an Englishman at this hotel only a week or two ago who went about knocking it in a way that would have amazed you! Said it was a rotten place! MY hotel!"
Professor Binstead clicked his tongue sympathetically. He understood his friend's warmth. * * * * CHAPTER III MR. BREWSTER DELIVERS SENTENCE
At about the same moment that Professor Binstead was clicking his tongue in Mr. Brewster's sitting-room, Archie Moffam sat contemplating his bride in a drawing-room on the express from Miami. He was thinking that this was too good to be true. His brain had been in something of a whirl these last few days, but this was one thought that never failed to emerge clearly from the welter.
Mrs. Archie Moffam, nee Lucille Brewster, was small and slender. She had a little animated face, set in a cloud of dark hair. She was so altogether perfect that Archie had frequently found himself compelled to take the marriage-certificate out of his inside pocket and study it furtively, to make himself realise that this miracle of good fortune had actually happened to him.
"Honestly, old bean-I mean, dear old thing,--I mean, darling," said Archie, "I can't believe it!"
"What I mean is, I can't understand why you should have married a blighter like me."
Lucille's eyes opened. She squeezed his hand.
"Why, you're the most wonderful thing in the world, precious!--Surely you know that?"
"Absolutely escaped my notice. Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure! You wonder-child! Nobody could see you without loving you!"
Archie heaved an ecstatic sigh. Then a thought crossed his mind. It was a thought which frequently came to mar his bliss.
"I say, I wonder if your father will think that!"
"Of course he will!"
"We rather sprung this, as it were, on the old lad," said Archie dubiously. "What sort of a man IS your father?"
"Father's a darling, too."
"Rummy thing he should own that hotel," said Archie. "I had a frightful row with a blighter of a manager there just before I left for Miami. Your father ought to sack that chap. He was a blot on the landscape!"
It had been settled by Lucille during the journey that Archie should be broken gently to his father-in-law. That is to say, instead of bounding blithely into Mr. Brewster's presence hand in hand, the happy pair should separate for half an hour or so, Archie hanging around in the offing while Lucille saw her father and told him the whole story, or those chapters of it which she had omitted from her letter for want of space. Then, having impressed Mr. Brewster sufficiently with his luck in having acquired Archie for a son-in-law, she would lead him to where his bit of good fortune awaited him.
The programme worked out admirably in its earlier stages. When the two emerged from Mr. Brewster's room to meet Archie, Mr. Brewster's general idea was that fortune had smiled upon him in an almost unbelievable fashion and had presented him with a son-in-law who combined in almost equal parts the more admirable characteristics of Apollo, Sir Galahad, and Marcus Aurelius. True, he had gathered in the course of the conversation that dear Archie had no occupation and no private means; but Mr. Brewster felt that a great-souled man like Archie didn't need them. You can't have everything, and Archie, according to Lucille's account, was practically a hundred per cent man in soul, looks, manners, amiability, and breeding. These are the things that count. Mr. Brewster proceeded to the lobby in a glow of optimism and geniality.
Consequently, when he perceived Archie, he got a bit of a shock.
"Hullo-ullo-ullo!" said Archie, advancing happily.
"Archie, darling, this is father," said Lucille.
"Good Lord!" said Archie.
There was one of those silences. Mr. Brewster looked at Archie. Archie gazed at Mr. Brewster. Lucille, perceiving without understanding why that the big introduction scene had stubbed its toe on some unlooked-for obstacle, waited anxiously for enlightenment. Meanwhile, Archie continued to inspect Mr. Brewster, and Mr. Brewster continued to drink in Archie.
After an awkward pause of about three and a quarter minutes, Mr. Brewster swallowed once or twice, and finally spoke.
"Is this true?"
Lucille's grey eyes clouded over with perplexity and apprehension.
"Have you really inflicted this-THIS on me for a son-in-law?" Mr. Brewster swallowed a few more times, Archie the while watching with a frozen fascination the rapid shimmying of his new relative's Adam's-apple. "Go away! I want to have a few words alone with this--This-WASSYOURDAMNAME?" he demanded, in an overwrought manner, addressing Archie for the first time.
"I told you, father. It's Moom."
"It's spelt M-o-f-f-a-m, but pronounced Moom."
"To rhyme," said Archie, helpfully, "with Bluffinghame."
"Lu," said Mr. Brewster, "run away! I want to speak to-to-to--"
"You called me THIS before," said Archie.
"You aren't angry, father, dear?" said Lucilla
"Oh no! Oh no! I'm tickled to death!"
When his daughter had withdrawn, Mr. Brewster drew a long breath.
"Now then!" he said.
"Bit embarrassing, all this, what!" said Archie, chattily. "I mean to say, having met before in less happy circs. and what not. Rum coincidence and so forth! How would it be to bury the jolly old hatchet-start a new life-forgive and forget-learn to love each other-and all that sort of rot? I'm game if you are. How do we go? Is it a bet?"
Mr. Brewster remained entirely unsoftened by this manly appeal to his better feelings.
"What the devil do you mean by marrying my daughter?"
"Well, it sort of happened, don't you know! You know how these things ARE! Young yourself once, and all that. I was most frightfully in love, and Lu seemed to think it wouldn't be a bad scheme, and one thing led to another, and-well, there you are, don't you know!"
"And I suppose you think you've done pretty well for yourself?"
"Oh, absolutely! As far as I'm concerned, everything's topping! I've never felt so braced in my life!"
"Yes!" said Mr. Brewster, with bitterness, "I suppose, from your view-point, everything IS 'topping.' You haven't a cent to your name, and you've managed to fool a rich man's daughter into marrying you. I suppose you looked me up in Bradstreet before committing yourself?"
This aspect of the matter had not struck Archie until this moment.
"I say!" he observed, with dismay. "I never looked at it like that before! I can see that, from your point of view, this must look like a bit of a wash-out!"
"How do you propose to support Lucille, anyway?"
Archie ran a finger round the inside of his collar. He felt embarrassed, His father-in-law was opening up all kinds of new lines of thought.
"Well, there, old bean," he admitted, frankly, "you rather have me!" He turned the matter over for a moment. "I had a sort of idea of, as it were, working, if you know what I mean."
"Working at what?"
"Now, there again you stump me somewhat! The general scheme was that I should kind of look round, you know, and nose about and buzz to and fro till something turned up. That was, broadly speaking, the notion!"
"And how did you suppose my daughter was to live while you were doing all this?"
"Well, I think," said Archie, "I THINK we rather expected YOU to rally round a bit for the nonce!"
"I see! You expected to live on me?"
"Well, you put it a bit crudely, but-as far as I had mapped anything out-that WAS what you might call the general scheme of procedure. You don't think much of it, what? Yes? No?"
Mr. Brewster exploded.
"No! I do not think much of it! Good God! You go out of my hotel-MY hotel-calling it all the names you could think of-roasting it to beat the band--"
"Trifle hasty!" murmured Archie, apologetically. "Spoke without thinking. Dashed tap had gone DRIP-DRIP-DRIP all night-kept me awake-hadn't had breakfast-bygones be bygones-!"
"Don't interrupt! I say, you go out of my hotel, knocking it as no one has ever knocked it since it was built, and you sneak straight off and marry my daughter without my knowledge."
"Did think of wiring for blessing. Slipped the old bean, somehow. You know how one forgets things!"
"And now you come back and calmly expect me to fling my arms round you and kiss you, and support you for the rest of your life!"
"Only while I'm nosing about and buzzing to and fro."
"Well, I suppose I've got to support you. There seems no way out of it. I'll tell you exactly what I propose to do. You think my hotel is a pretty poor hotel, eh? Well, you'll have plenty of opportunity of judging, because you're coming to live here. I'll let you have a suite and I'll let you have your meals, but outside of that-nothing doing! Nothing doing! Do you understand what I mean?"
"Absolutely! You mean, 'Napoo!'"
"You can sign bills for a reasonable amount in my restaurant, and the hotel will look after your laundry. But not a cent do you get out me. And, if you want your shoes shined, you can pay for it yourself in the basement. If you leave them outside your door, I'll instruct the floor-waiter to throw them down the air-shaft. Do you understand? Good! Now, is there anything more you want to ask?"
Archie smiled a propitiatory smile.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I was going to ask if you would stagger along and have a bite with us in the grill-room?"
"I will not!"
"I'll sign the bill," said Archie, ingratiatingly. "You don't think much of it? Oh, right-o!"