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Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

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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--?"

"But, professor--"

"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."



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.

I nodded.

"The man I live with, Ukridge, did what you warned me against. Touched
on the Irish question."

"Home Rule?"

"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
simmering down."

"I see. Thanks. Good-bye."

"So long."

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
the sea.

"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.



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
deserted Ukridge.

"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!"

No answer.


A sturdy form in shirt-sleeves appeared through the bushes, carrying a
boot. We seemed to have interrupted him in the act of cleaning it.

"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.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Poor things!"

"Yes, ma'am."

"And have they all got it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"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 morning."

"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 did 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."

"Yes, sir."

"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 non-committing fashion.

"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 happened."

"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 Cob.

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
grey mare.

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
he persevered.

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
to itself.

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 few

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
and Mackerel.

"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 moon.

"What 'ud I do that for?" he gasped.

"Five shillings, I hope," said I, "but I am prepared to go to ten."

He gurgled.

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.



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 excitement.

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
thoroughly wet.

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 be

I came out strong. I continued to hold his hand. The crowd raised a
sympathetic cheer.

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 I

"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 since."

"Still----," said the professor. "Yes, we must really arrange to

With Ukridge, who was in one of his less tactless moods, he became
very friendly.

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 all

"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 roaming

"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?"



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
recently enrolled.

"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 important."

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 for

"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

"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
for me.

"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 the

"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 her

* * * * *

"I've been bathing," said Mr. Chase, /a propos des bottes/.

"Oh," I replied. "And I wish," I added, "that you'd drowned yourself."

But I added it silently to myself.



"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 saw

"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 bribed

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?"
inquired Phyllis.

"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 indignation.

Alas, poor Hawk!

"Nobody's safe with a man of that sort, hiring out a boat." Oh,
miserable Hawk!

"But why on earth should he play a trick like that on Professor
Derrick, Chase?"

"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
sardines--without bread."

"How horrible!"

"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
simply frozen."

"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 yet.

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



"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?"

"Yes, dear."

"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 week."

"But not enough, Garny old man. We aren't making our presence felt.
England isn't ringing with 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. Ukridge

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--"


"I don't /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."

"Yes, dear."

"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 very recently.

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

I congratulated him, and left the place.

Phyllis was waiting outside. She often went round the course with him.

"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
very badly."

"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 year."

"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 dreadful."

"It's a little terrifying on first acquaintance."

"But you're better at golf than at tennis, Mr. Garnet. I wish you were

"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."

"Most things."

"And trample on the feelings of anybody."

"Not everybody," I said.

At this point the professor joined us.



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
after dinner."

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 me.

"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
all bills."

He spread the envelopes out on the table, and drew one at a venture.

"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."

"Sordid brute!"

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

"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 letter.

"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 strong."

"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.

"Always interfering--"


"And backbiting--"


"I shan't stand it."

"I shouldn't!"

"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.

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