Love Among the Chickens, p.1P. G. Wodehouse
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Arthur Robinson, SankarViswanathan, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Teamat https://www.pgdp.net
"Never mind the ink, old horse. It'll soak in."]
LOVE AMONG THE CHICKENS
A STORY OF THE HAPS AND MISHAPS ON AN ENGLISH CHICKEN FARM
BY P. G. WODEHOUSE
THE CIRCLE PUBLISHING COMPANY
_Copyright, 1908, by_ A. E. BAERMAN
* * * * *
I. --A LETTER WITH A POSTSCRIPT
II. --UKRIDGE'S SCHEME
III. --WATERLOO, SOME FELLOW-TRAVELERS, AND A GIRL WITH BROWN HAIR
IV. --THE ARRIVAL
V. --BUCKLING TO
VI. --MR. GARNET'S NARRATIVE. HAS TO DO WITH A REUNION
VII. --THE ENTENTE CORDIALE IS SEALED
VIII. --A LITTLE DINNER AT UKRIDGE'S
IX. --DIES IRAE
X. --I ENLIST THE SERVICES OF A MINION
XI. --THE BRAVE PRESERVER
XII. --SOME EMOTIONS AND YELLOW LUBIN
XIII. --TEA AND TENNIS
XIV. --A COUNCIL OF WAR
XV. --THE ARRIVAL OF NEMESIS
XVI. --A CHANCE MEETING
XVII. --OF A SENTIMENTAL NATURE
XVIII. --UKRIDGE GIVES ME ADVICE
XIX. --I ASK PAPA
XX. --SCIENTIFIC GOLF
XXI. --THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
XXII. --THE STORM BREAKS
XXIII. --AFTER THE STORM
* * * * *
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Never mind the ink, old horse. It'll soak in" _Frontispiece_
They had a momentary vision of an excited dog, framed in the doorway
"I've only bin and drove 'im further up," said Mrs. Beale
Things were not going very well on our model chicken farm
"Mr. Garnet," he said, "we parted recently in anger. I hope thatbygones will be bygones"
"I did think Mr. Garnet would have fainted when the best man said, 'Ican't find it, old horse'"
* * * * *
_A LETTER with aPOSTSCRIPT_
Mr. Jeremy Garnet stood with his back to the empty grate--for the timewas summer--watching with a jaundiced eye the removal of his breakfastthings.
"Mrs. Medley," he said.
"Would it bore you if I became auto-biographical?"
"Never mind. I merely wish to sketch for your benefit a portion of mylife's history. At eleven o'clock last night I went to bed, and atonce sank into a dreamless sleep. About four hours later there was aclattering on the stairs which shook the house like a jelly. It wasthe gentleman in the top room--I forget his name--returning to roost.He was humming a patriotic song. A little while later there were acouple of loud crashes. He had removed his boots. All this whilesnatches of the patriotic song came to me through the ceiling of mybedroom. At about four-thirty there was a lull, and I managed to getto sleep again. I wish when you see that gentleman, Mrs. Medley, youwould give him my compliments, and ask him if he could shorten hisprogram another night. He might cut out the song, for a start."
"He's a very young gentleman, sir," said Mrs. Medley, in vague defenseof her top room.
"And it's highly improbable," said Garnet, "that he will ever growold, if he repeats his last night's performance. I have no wish toshed blood wantonly, but there are moments when one must lay asideone's personal prejudices, and act for the good of the race. A man whohums patriotic songs at four o'clock in the morning doesn't seem to meto fit into the scheme of universal happiness. So you will mention itto him, won't you?"
"Very well, sir," said Mrs. Medley, placidly.
On the strength of the fact that he wrote for the newspapers and hadpublished two novels, Mrs. Medley regarded Mr. Garnet as an eccentricindividual who had to be humored. Whatever he did or said filled herwith a mild amusement. She received his daily harangues in the samespirit as that in which a nurse listens to the outpourings of thefamily baby. She was surprised when he said anything sensible enoughfor her to understand.
His table being clear of breakfast and his room free from disturbinginfluences, the exhilaration caused by his chat with his landladyleft Mr. Garnet. Life seemed very gray to him. He was a conscientiousyoung man, and he knew that he ought to sit down and do some work. Onthe other hand, his brain felt like a cauliflower, and he could notthink what to write about. This is one of the things which sour theyoung author even more than do those long envelopes which sotastefully decorate his table of a morning.
He felt particularly unfitted for writing at that moment. The morningis not the time for inventive work. An article may be polished then,or a half-finished story completed, but 11 A.M. is not the hour atwhich to invent.
Jerry Garnet wandered restlessly about his sitting room. Rarely had itseemed so dull and depressing to him as it did then. The photographson the mantelpiece irritated him. There was no change in them. Theystruck him as the concrete expression of monotony. His eye was caughtby a picture hanging out of the straight. He jerked it to one side,and the effect became worse. He jerked it back again, and the thinglooked as if it had been hung in a dim light by an astigmaticdrunkard. Five minutes' pulling and hauling brought it back to aposition only a shade less crooked than that in which he had found it,and by that time his restlessness had grown like a mushroom.
He looked out of the window. The sunlight was playing on the houseopposite. He looked at his boots. At this point conscience prodded himsharply.
"I won't," he muttered fiercely, "I will work. I'll turn outsomething, even if it's the worst rot ever written."
With which admirable sentiment he tracked his blotting pad to itshiding place (Mrs. Medley found a fresh one every day), collected inkand pens, and sat down.
There was a distant thud from above, and shortly afterwards a thintenor voice made itself heard above a vigorous splashing. The younggentleman on the top floor was starting another day.
"Oi'll--er--sing thee saw-ongs"--brief pause, then in a triumphantburst, as if the singer had just remembered the name--"ovarraby."
Mr. Garnet breathed a prayer and glared at the ceiling.
The voice continued:
"Ahnd--er--ta-ales of fa-arr Cahsh-meerer."
Sudden and grewsome pause. The splashing ceased. The singer couldhardly have been drowned in a hip bath, but Mr. Garnet hoped for thebest.
His hopes were shattered.
"Come," resumed the young gentleman persuasively, "into the garden,Maud, for ther black batter nah-eet hath--er--florn."
Jerry Garnet sprang from his seat and paced the room.
"This is getting perfectly impossible," he said to himself. "I mustget out of this. A fellow can't work in London. I'll go down to somefarmhouse in the country. I can't think here. You might just as welltry to work at a musical 'At Home.'"
Here followed certain remarks about the young man upstairs, who wasnow, in lighter vein, putting in a spell at a popular melody from theGaiety Theater.
He resumed his seat and set himself resolutely to hammer out somethingwhich, though it m
This was the luminous item which first met Mr. Garnet's eye:
_Mem._ Dead body found in railway carriage under seat. Only one livingoccupant of carriage. He is suspected of being the murderer, butproves that he only entered carriage at twelve o'clock in the morning,while the body has been dead since the previous night.
To this bright scheme were appended the words:
This will want some working up.
"It will," thought Jerry Garnet grimly, "but it will have to go onwanting as far as I'm concerned."
The next entry he found was a perfectly inscrutable lyric outburst.
There are moments of annoyance, Void of every kind of joyance, In the complicated course of Man's affairs; But the very worst of any He experiences when he Meets a young, but active, lion on the stairs.
Sentiment unexceptionable. But as to the reason for the existence ofthe fragment, his mind was a blank. He shut the book impatiently. Itwas plain that no assistance was to be derived from it.
His thoughts wandered back to the idea of leaving London. London mighthave suited Dr. Johnson, but he had come to the conclusion that whathe wanted to enable him to give the public of his best (as thereviewer of the _Academy_, dealing with his last work, had expressed apolite hope that he would continue to do) was country air. A farmhouseby the sea somewhere ... cows ... spreading boughs ... rooks ...brooks ... cream. In London the day stretches before a man, if he hasno regular and appointed work to do, like a long, white, dusty road.It seems impossible to get to the end of it without vast effort. Butin the country every hour has its amusements. Up with the lark.Morning dip. Cheery greetings. Local color. Huge breakfast. Longwalks. Flannels. The ungirt loin. Good, steady spell of work fromdinner till bedtime. The prospect fascinated him. His third novel wasalready in a nebulous state in his brain. A quiet week or two in thecountry would enable him to get it into shape.
He took from the pocket of his blazer a letter which had arrived somedays before from an artist friend of his who was on a sketching tourin Devonshire and Somerset. There was a penciled memorandum on theenvelope in his own handwriting:
_Mem._ Might work K. L.'s story about M. and the W--s's into comicyarn for one of the weeklies.
He gazed at this for a while, with a last hope that in it might becontained the germ of something which would enable him to turn out amorning's work; but having completely forgotten who K. L. was, andespecially what was his (or her) story about M., whoever he (or she)might be, he abandoned this hope and turned to the letter in theenvelope.
The earlier portions of the letter dealt tantalizingly with thescenery. "Bits," come upon by accident at the end of disused lanes andtransferred with speed to canvas, were described concisely but withsufficient breadth to make Garnet long to see them for himself. Therewere brief _resumes_ of dialogues between Lickford (the writer) andweird rustics. The whole letter breathed of the country and the openair. The atmosphere of Garnet's sitting room seemed to him to becomestuffier with every sentence he read.
The postscript interested him.
"... By the way, at Yeovil I came across an old friend of yours.Stanley Featherstonhaugh Ukridge, of all people. As large aslife--quite six foot two, and tremendously filled out. I thought hewas abroad. The last I heard of him was that he had started for BuenosAyres in a cattle-ship. It seems he has been in England sometime. Imet him in the refreshment room at Yeovil station. I was waiting for adown train; he had changed on his way to town. As I opened the door Iheard a huge voice in a more or less violent altercation, and therewas S. F. U., in a villainous old suit of gray flannels (I'll swear itwas the same one that he had on last time I saw him), and amackintosh, though it was a blazing hot day. His pince-nez were tackedonto his ears with wire as usual. He greeted me with effusive shouts,and drew me aside. Then after a few commonplaces of greeting, hefumbled in his pockets, looked pained and surprised.
"'Look here, Licky,' he said. 'You know I never borrow. It's againstmy principles. But I _must_ have a shilling, or I'm a ruined man. Iseem to have had my pocket picked by some scoundrelly blackguard. Canyou, my dear fellow, oblige me with a shilling until next Tuesdayafternoon at three-thirty? I never borrow, so I'll tell you what I'lldo. I'll let you have this (producing a beastly little three-penny-bitwith a hole in it) until I can pay you back. This is of more value tome than I can well express, Licky, my boy. A very, very dear friendgave it to me when we parted, years ago. It's a wrench to part withit. But grim necessity ... I can hardly do it.... Still, no, no, ...you must take it, you must take it. Licky, old man, shake hands!Shake hands, my boy!'
"He then asked after you, and said you were the noblest man--exceptme--on earth. I gave him your address, not being able to get out ofit, but if I were you I should fly while there is yet time."
"That," said Jerry Garnet, "is the soundest bit of advice I've heard.I will."
"Mrs. Medley," he said, when that lady made her appearance.
"I'm going away for a few weeks. You can let the rooms if you like.I'll drop you a line when I think of coming back."
"Yes, sir. And your letters. Where shall I send them, sir?"
"Till further notice," said Jerry Garnet, pulling out a giantportmanteau from a corner of the room and flinging it open, "care ofthe Dalai Lama, No. 3 Younghusband Terrace, Tibet."
"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Medley placidly.
"I'll write you my address to-night. I don't know where I'm going yet.Is that an A. B. C. over there? Good. Give my love to that brightyoung spirit on the top floor, and tell him that I hope my not beinghere to listen won't interfere in any way with his morning popularconcerts."
"And, Mrs. Medley, if a man named ----"
Mrs. Medley had drifted silently away. During his last speech athunderous knocking had begun on the front door.
Jerry Garnet stood and listened, transfixed. Something seemed to tellhim who was at the business end of that knocker.
He heard Mrs. Medley's footsteps pass along the hall and pause at thedoor. Then there was the click of the latch. Then a volume of soundrushed up to him where he stood over his empty portmanteau.
"Is Mr. Garnet in?"
Mrs. Medley's reply was inaudible, but apparently in the affirmative.
"Where is he?" boomed the voice. "Show me the old horse. First floor.Thank you. Where is the man of wrath?"
There followed a crashing on the stairs such as even the younggentleman of the top floor had been unable to produce in his nocturnalrovings. The house shook.
And with the tramping came the thunderous voice, as the visitor oncemore gave tongue.
"Garnet! GARNET!! GARNET!!!"
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