The man upstairs and oth.., p.1
The Man Upstairs and Other Stories, p.1P. G. Wodehouse / Humor
Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks and the Online DistributedProofreading Team
THE MAN UPSTAIRS
AND OTHER STORIES
by P. G. Wodehouse
THE MAN UPSTAIRS
SOMETHING TO WORRY ABOUT
WHEN DOCTORS DISAGREE
BY ADVICE OF COUNSEL
ROUGH-HEW THEM HOW WE WILL
THE MAN WHO DISLIKED CATS
RUTH IN EXILE
THE MAN, THE MAID, AND THE MIASMA
THE GOOD ANGEL
POTS O' MONEY
OUT OF SCHOOL
THREE FROM DUNSTERVILLE
THE TUPPENNY MILLIONAIRE
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
THE GOAL-KEEPER AND THE PLUTOCRAT
THE MAN UPSTAIRS
There were three distinct stages in the evolution of Annette Brougham'sattitude towards the knocking in the room above. In the beginning ithad been merely a vague discomfort. Absorbed in the composition of herwaltz, she had heard it almost subconsciously. The second stage set inwhen it became a physical pain like red-hot pincers wrenching her mindfrom her music. Finally, with a thrill in indignation, she knew it forwhat it was--an insult. The unseen brute disliked her playing, and wasintimating his views with a boot-heel.
Defiantly, with her foot on the loud pedal, she struck--almostslapped--the keys once more.
'Bang!' from the room above. 'Bang! Bang!'
Annette rose. Her face was pink, her chin tilted. Her eyes sparkledwith the light of battle. She left the room and started to mount thestairs. No spectator, however just, could have helped feeling a pang ofpity for the wretched man who stood unconscious of imminent doom,possibly even triumphant, behind the door at which she was on the pointof tapping.
'Come in!' cried the voice, rather a pleasant voice; but what is apleasant voice if the soul be vile?
Annette went in. The room was a typical Chelsea studio, scantilyfurnished and lacking a carpet. In the centre was an easel, behindwhich were visible a pair of trousered legs. A cloud of grey smoke wascurling up over the top of the easel.
'I beg your pardon,' began Annette.
'I don't want any models at present,' said the Brute. 'Leave your cardon the table.'
'I am not a model,' said Annette, coldly. 'I merely came--'
At this the Brute emerged from his fortifications and, removing hispipe from his mouth, jerked his chair out into the open.
'I beg your pardon,' he said. 'Won't you sit down?'
How reckless is Nature in the distribution of her gifts! Not only hadthis black-hearted knocker on floors a pleasant voice, but, inaddition, a pleasing exterior. He was slightly dishevelled at themoment, and his hair stood up in a disordered mop; but in spite ofthese drawbacks, he was quite passably good-looking. Annette admittedthis. Though wrathful, she was fair.
'I thought it was another model,' he explained. 'They've been coming inat the rate of ten an hour ever since I settled here. I didn't objectat first, but after about the eightieth child of sunny Italy had shownup it began to get on my nerves.'
Annette waited coldly till he had finished.
'I am sorry,' she said, in a this-is-where-you-get-yours voice, 'if myplaying disturbed you.'
One would have thought nobody but an Eskimo wearing his furs and winterunder-clothing could have withstood the iciness of her manner; but theBrute did not freeze.
'I am sorry,' repeated Annette, well below zero, 'if my playingdisturbed you. I live in the room below, and I heard you knocking.'
'No, no,' protested the young man, affably; 'I like it. Really I do.'
'Then why knock on the floor?' said Annette, turning to go. 'It is sobad for my ceiling,' she said over shoulder. 'I thought you would notmind my mentioning it. Good afternoon.'
'No; but one moment. Don't go.'
She stopped. He was surveying her with a friendly smile. She noticedmost reluctantly that he had a nice smile. His composure began toenrage her more and more. Long ere this he should have been writhing ather feet in the dust, crushed and abject.
'You see,' he said, 'I'm awfully sorry, but it's like this. I lovemusic, but what I mean is, you weren't playing a _tune_. It wasjust the same bit over and over again.'
'I was trying to get a phrase,' said Annette, with dignity, but lesscoldly. In spite of herself she was beginning to thaw. There wassomething singularly attractive about this shock-headed youth.
'Of music. For my waltz. I am composing a waltz.'
A look of such unqualified admiration overspread the young man's facethat the last remnants of the ice-pack melted. For the first time sincethey had met Annette found herself positively liking this blackguardlyfloor-smiter.
'Can you compose music?' he said, impressed.
'I have written one or two songs.'
'It must be great to be able to do things--artistic things, I mean,like composing.'
'Well, you do, don't you? You paint.'
The young man shook his head with a cheerful grin.
'I fancy,' he said, 'I should make a pretty good house-painter. I wantscope. Canvas seems to cramp me.'
It seemed to cause him no discomfort. He appeared rather amused thanotherwise.
'Let me look.'
She crossed over to the easel.
'I shouldn't,' he warned her. 'You really want to? Is this not mererecklessness? Very well, then.'
To the eye of an experienced critic the picture would certainly haveseemed crude. It was a study of a dark-eyed child holding a large blackcat. Statisticians estimate that there is no moment during the day whenone or more young artists somewhere on the face of the globe are notpainting pictures of children holding cats.
'I call it "Child and Cat",' said the young man. 'Rather a neat title,don't you think? Gives you the main idea of the thing right away.That,' he explained, pointing obligingly with the stem of his pipe, 'isthe cat.'
Annette belonged to that large section of the public which likes ordislikes a picture according to whether its subject happens to pleaseor displease them. Probably there was not one of the million or sochild-and-cat eyesores at present in existence which she would not haveliked. Besides, he had been very nice about her music.
'I think it's splendid,' she announced.
The young man's face displayed almost more surprise than joy.
'Do you really?' he said. 'Then I can die happy--that is, if you'll letme come down and listen to those songs of yours first.'
'You would only knock on the floor,' objected Annette.
'I'll never knock on another floor as long as I live,' said theex-brute, reassuringly. 'I hate knocking on floors. I don't seewhat people want to knock on floors _for_, anyway.'
Friendships ripen quickly in Chelsea. Within the space of an hour and aquarter Annette had learned that the young man's name was Alan Beverley(for which Family Heraldic affliction she pitied rather than despisedhim), that he did not depend entirely on his work for a living, havinga little money of his own, and that he considered this a fortunatething. From the very beginning of their talk he pleased her. She foundhim an absolutely new and original variety of the unsuccessful painter.Unlike Reginald Sellers, who had a studio in the same building, andsometimes dropped in to drink her coffee and pour out his troubles, hedid not attribute his non-success to any malice or stupidity on thepart of the public. She was so used to hearing Sellers lash thePhilistine and hold forth on unappreciated merit that she could hardlybelieve the miracle when, in answer to a sympathetic bromide on thepopular lack of taste in Art, Beverley replied that, as far as he wasconcerned, the public showed strong good sense. If he had been strivingwith every nerve to win her esteem, he could not have done it moresurely than with that one remark. Though she invariably listened with asweet patience which encouraged them to continue long after the pointat which she had begun in spirit to throw things at them, Annette hadno sympathy with men who whined. She herself was a fighter. She hatedas much as anyone the sickening blows which Fate hands out to thestruggling and ambitious; but she never made them the basis of amonologue act. Often, after a dreary trip round the offices of themusic-publishers, she would howl bitterly in secret, and even gnaw herpillow in the watches of the night; but in public her pride kept herunvaryingly bright and cheerful.
Today, for the first time, she revealed something of her woes. Therewas that about the mop-headed young man which invited confidences. Shetold him of the stony-heartedness of music-publishers, of thedifficulty of getting songs printed unless you paid for them, of theirwretched sales.
'But those songs you've been playing,' said Beverley, 'they've beenpublished?'
'Yes, those three. But they are the only ones.'
'And didn't they sell?'
'Hardly at all. You see, a song doesn't sell unless somebody well knownsings it. And people promise to sing them, and then don't keep theirword. You can't depend on what they say.'
'Give me their names,' said Beverley, 'and I'll go round tomorrow andshoot the whole lot. But can't you do anything?'
'Only keep on keeping on.'
'I wish,' he said, 'that any time you're feeling blue about things youwould come up and pour out the poison on me. It's no good bottling itup. Come up and tell me about it, and you'll feel ever so much better.Or let me come down. Any time things aren't going right just knock onthe ceiling.'
'Don't rub it in,' pleaded Beverley. 'It isn't fair. There's nobody sosensitive as a reformed floor-knocker. You will come up or let me comedown, won't you? Whenever I have that sad, depressed feeling, I go outand kill a policeman. But you wouldn't care for that. So the only thingfor you to do is to knock on the ceiling. Then I'll come charging downand see if there's anything I can do to help.'
'You'll be sorry you ever said this.'
'I won't,' he said stoutly.
'If you really mean it, it _would_ be a relief,' she admitted.'Sometimes I'd give all the money I'm ever likely to make for someoneto shriek my grievances at. I always think it must have been so nicefor the people in the old novels, when they used to say: "Sit down andI will tell you the story of my life." Mustn't it have been heavenly?'
'Well,' said Beverley, rising, 'you know where I am if I'm wanted.Right up there where the knocking came from.'
'Knocking?' said Annette. 'I remember no knocking.'
'Would you mind shaking hands?' said Beverley.
* * * * *
A particularly maddening hour with one of her pupils drove her up thevery next day. Her pupils were at once her salvation and her despair.They gave her the means of supporting life, but they made life hardlyworth supporting. Some of them were learning the piano. Others thoughtthey sang. All had solid ivory skulls. There was about a teaspoonful ofgrey matter distributed among the entire squad, and the pupil Annettehad been teaching that afternoon had come in at the tail-end of thedivision.
In the studio with Beverley she found Reginald Sellers, standing in acritical attitude before the easel. She was not very fond of him. Hewas a long, offensive, patronizing person, with a moustache that lookedlike a smear of charcoal, and a habit of addressing her as 'Ah, littleone!'
Beverley looked up.
'Have you brought your hatchet, Miss Brougham? If you have, you're justin time to join in the massacre of the innocents. Sellers has beensmiting my child and cat hip and thigh. Look at his eye. There! Did yousee it flash then? He's on the warpath again.'
'My dear Beverley,' said Sellers, rather stiffly, 'I am merelyendeavouring to give you my idea of the picture's defects. I am sorryif my criticism has to be a little harsh.'
'Go right on,' said Beverley, cordially. 'Don't mind me; it's all formy good.'
'Well, in a word, then, it is lifeless. Neither the child nor the catlives.'
He stepped back a pace and made a frame of his hands.
'The cat now,' he said. 'It is--how shall I put it? It hasno--no--er--'
'That kind of cat wouldn't,' said Beverley. 'It isn't that breed.'
'I think it's a dear cat,' said Annette. She felt her temper, alwaysquick, getting the better of her. She knew just how incompetentSellers was, and it irritated her beyond endurance to see Beverley'sgood-humoured acceptance of his patronage.
'At any rate,' said Beverley, with a grin, 'you both seem to recognizethat it is a cat. You're solid on that point, and that's something,seeing I'm only a beginner.'
'I know, my dear fellow; I know,' said Sellers, graciously. 'Youmustn't let my criticism discourage you. Don't think that your worklacks promise. Far from it. I am sure that in time you will do verywell indeed. Quite well.'
A cold glitter might have been observed in Annette's eyes.
'Mr Sellers,' she said, smoothly, 'had to work very hard himself beforehe reached his present position. You know his work, of course?'
For the first time Beverley seemed somewhat confused.
'I--er--why--' he began.
'Oh, but of course you do,' she went on, sweetly. 'It's in all themagazines.'
Beverley looked at the great man with admiration, and saw that he hadflushed uncomfortably. He put this down to the modesty of genius.
'In the advertisement pages,' said Annette. 'Mr Sellers drew thatpicture of the Waukeesy Shoe and the Restawhile Settee and the tin ofsardines in the Little Gem Sardine advertisement. He is very good atstill life.'
There was a tense silence. Beverley could almost hear the voice of thereferee uttering the count.
'Miss Brougham,' said Sellers at last, spitting out the words, 'hasconfined herself to the purely commercial side of my work. There isanother.'
'Why, of course there is. You sold a landscape for five pounds onlyeight months ago, didn't you? And another three months before that.'
It was enough. Sellers bowed stiffly and stalked from the room.
Beverley picked up a duster and began slowly to sweep the floor withit.
'What are you doing?' demanded Annette, in a choking voice.
'The fragments of the wretched man,' whispered Beverley. 'They must beswept up and decently interred. You certainly have got the punch, MissBrougham.'
He dropped the duster with a startled exclamation, for Annette hadsuddenly burst into a flood of tears. With her face buried in her handsshe sat in her chair and sobbed desperately.
'Good Lord!' said Beverley, blankly.
'I'm a cat! I'm a beast! I hate myself!'
'Good Lord!' said Beverley, blankly.
'I'm a pig! I'm a fiend!'
'Good Lord!' said Beverley, blankly.
'We're all struggling and trying to get on and having hard luck, andinstead of doing what I can to help, I go and t-t-taunt him with notbeing able to sell his pictures! I'm not fit to live! _Oh!_'
'Good Lord!' said Beverley, blankly.
A series of gulping sobs followed, diminishing by degrees into silence.Presently she looked up and smiled, a moist and pathetic smile.
'I'm sorry,' she said, 'for being so stupid. But he was so horrid andpatronizing to you, I couldn't help scratching. I believe I'm the worstcat in London.'
'No, this is,' said Beverley, pointing to the canvas. 'At least,according to the late Sellers. But, I say, tell me, isn't the deceaseda great artist, then? He came curveting in here with his chest out andstarted to slate my masterpiece, so I naturally said, "What-ho! 'Tis agenius!" Isn't he?'
'He can't sell his pictures anywhere. He lives on the little he can getfrom illustrating advertisements. And I t-taunt--'
'_Please!_' said Beverley, apprehensively.
She recovered herself with a gulp.
'I can't help it,' she said, miserably. 'I rubbed it in. Oh, it washateful of me! But I was all on edge from teaching one of my awfulpupils, and when he started to patronize you--'
'Poor devil!' said Beverley. 'I never guessed. Good Lord!'
'I must go and tell him I'm sorry,' she said. 'He'll snub me horribly,but I must.'
She went out. Beverley lit a pipe and stood at the window lookingthoughtfully down into the street.
* * * * *
It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of peopledo not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage ofthem. Sellers belonged to the latter class. When Annette, meek,penitent, with all her claws sheathed, came to him and grovelled, heforgave her with a repulsive magnanimity which in a less subdued moodwould have stung her to renewed pugnacity. As it was, she allowedherself to be forgiven, and retired with a dismal conviction that fromnow on he would be more insufferable than ever.
Her surmise proved absolutely correct. His visits to the newcomer'sstudio began again, and Beverley's picture, now nearing completion,came in for criticism enough to have filled a volume. The good humourwith which he received it amazed Annette. She had no proprietaryinterest in the painting beyond what she acquired from a growing regardfor its parent (which disturbed her a good deal when she had time tothink of it); but there were moments when only the recollection of herremorse for her previous outbreak kept her from rending the critic.Beverley, however, appeared to have no artistic sensitivenesswhatsoever. When Sellers savaged the cat in a manner which should havebrought the S.P.C.A. down upon him, Beverley merely beamed. Hislong-sufferingness was beyond Annette's comprehension.
She began to admire him for it.
To make his position as critic still more impregnable, Sellers was nowable to speak as one having authority. After years of floundering, hisluck seemed at last to have turned. His pictures, which for months hadlain at an agent's, careened like crippled battleships, had at lengthbegun to find a market. Within the past two weeks three landscapes andan allegorical painting had sold for good prices; and under theinfluence of success he expanded like an opening floweret. WhenEpstein, the agent, wrote to say that the allegory had been purchasedby a Glasgow plutocrat of the name of Bates for one hundred and sixtyguineas, Sellers' views on Philistines and their crass materialism andlack of taste underwent a marked modification. He spoke with somefriendliness of the man Bates.
'To me,' said Beverley, when informed of the event by Annette, 'thematter has a deeper significance. It proves that Glasgow has at lastproduced a sober man. No drinker would have dared face that allegory.The whole business is very gratifying.'
Beverley himself was progressing slowly in the field of Art. He hadfinished the 'Child and Cat', and had taken it to Epstein together witha letter of introduction from Sellers. Sellers' habitual attitude nowwas that of the kindly celebrity who has arrived and wishes to give theyoungsters a chance.
Since its departure Beverley had not done much in the way of actualexecution. Whenever Annette came to his studio he was either sitting ina chair with his feet on the window-sill, smoking, or in the sameattitude listening to Sellers' views on art. Sellers being on theupgrade, a man with many pounds to his credit in the bank, had moreleisure now. He had given up his advertisement work, and was planning agreat canvas--another allegorical work. This left him free to devote agood deal of time to Beverley, and he did so. Beverley sat and smokedthrough his harangues. He may have been listening, or he may not.Annette listened once or twice, and the experience had the effect ofsending her to Beverley, quivering with indignation.
'Why do you _let_ him patronize you like that?' she demanded. 'Ifanybody came and talked to me like that about my music, I'd--I'd--Idon't know what I'd do. Yes, even if he were really a great musician.'
'Don't you consider Sellers a great artist, then, even now?'
'He seems to be able to sell his pictures, so I suppose they must begood; but nothing could give him the right to patronize you as hedoes.'
'"My learned friend's manner would be intolerable in an emperor to ablack-beetle,"' quoted Beverley. 'Well, what are we going to do aboutit?'
'If only you could sell a picture, too!'
'Ah! Well, I've done my part of the contract. I've delivered the goods.There the thing is at Epstein's. The public can't blame me if itdoesn't sell. All they've got to do is to waltz in in their thousandsand fight for it. And, by the way, talking of waltzes--'
'Oh, it's finished,' said Annette, dispiritedly. 'Published too, forthat matter.'
'Published! What's the matter, then? Why this drooping sadness? Whyaren't you running around the square, singing like a bird?'
'Because,' said Annette, 'unfortunately, I had to pay the expenses ofpublication. It was only five pounds, but the sales haven't caught upwith that yet. If they ever do, perhaps there'll be a new edition.'
'And will you have to pay for that?'
'No. The publishers would.'
'Who are they?'
'Grusczinsky and Buchterkirch.'
'Heavens, then what are you worrying about? The thing's a cert. A manwith a name like Grusczinsky could sell a dozen editions by himself.Helped and inspired by Buchterkirch, he will make the waltz the talk ofthe country. Infants will croon it in their cots.'
'He didn't seem to think so when I saw him last.'
'Of course not. He doesn't know his own power. Grusczinsky's shrinkingdiffidence is a by-word in musical circles. He is the genuine HumanViolet. You must give him time.'
'I'll give him anything if he'll only sell an edition or two,' saidAnnette.
The outstanding thing was that he did. There seemed no particularreason why the sale of that waltz should not have been as small and asslow as that of any other waltz by an unknown composer. But almostwithout warning it expanded from a trickle into a flood. Grusczinsky,beaming paternally whenever Annette entered the shop--which wasoften--announced two new editions in a week. Beverley, his artisticgrowth still under a watchful eye of Sellers, said he had never hadany doubts as to the success of the thing from the moment when a singlephrase in it had so carried him away that he had been compelled to stamphis applause enthusiastically on the floor. Even Sellers forgot his owntriumphs long enough to allow him to offer affable congratulations. Andmoney came rolling in, smoothing the path of life.
Those were great days. There was a hat ...
Life, in short, was very full and splendid. There was, indeed, but onething which kept it from being perfect. The usual drawback to success isthat it annoys one's friends so; but in Annette's case this drawback wasabsent. Sellers' demeanour towards her was that of an old-establishedinmate welcoming a novice into the Hall of Fame. Her pupils--worthysouls, though bone-headed--fawned upon her. Beverley seemed more pleasedthan anyone. Yet it was Beverley who prevented her paradise from beingcomplete. Successful herself, she wanted all her friends to be successful;but Beverley, to her discomfort, remained a cheery failure, and worse,absolutely refused to snub Sellers. It was not as if Sellers' advice andcomments were disinterested. Beverley was simply the instrument on whichhe played his songs of triumph. It distressed Annette to such an extentthat now, if she went upstairs and heard Sellers' voice in the studio,she came down again without knocking.
* * * * *
One afternoon, sitting in her room, she heard the telephone-bell ring.
The telephone was on the stairs, just outside her door. She went outand took up the receiver.
'Halloa!' said a querulous voice. 'Is Mr Beverley there?'
Annette remembered having heard him go out. She could always tell hisfootstep.
'He is out,' she said. 'Is there any message?'
'Yes,' said the voice, emphatically. 'Tell him that Rupert Morrisonrang up to ask what he was to do with all this great stack of musicthat's arrived. Does he want it forwarded on to him, or what?' Thevoice was growing high and excited. Evidently Mr Morrison was in astate of nervous tension when a man does not care particularly whohears his troubles so long as he unburdens himself of them to someone.
'Music?' said Annette.
'Music!' shrilled Mr Morrison. 'Stacks and stacks and stacks of it. Ishe playing a practical joke on me, or what?' he demanded, hysterically.Plainly he had now come to regard Annette as a legitimate confidante.She was listening. That was the main point. He wanted someone--he didnot care whom--who would listen. 'He lends me his rooms,' wailed MrMorrison, 'so that I can be perfectly quiet and undisturbed while Iwrite my novel, and, first thing I know, this music starts to arrive.How can I be quiet and undisturbed when the floor's littered two yardshigh with great parcels of music, and more coming every day?'
Annette clung weakly to the telephone box. Her mind was in a whirl, butshe was beginning to see many things.
'Are you there?' called Mr Morrison.
'Yes. What--what firm does the music come from?'
'Who are the publishers who send the music?'
'I can't remember. Some long name. Yes, I've got it. Grusczinsky andsomeone.'
'I'll tell Mr Beverley,' said Annette, quietly. A great weight seemedto have settled on her head.
'Halloa! Halloa! Are you there?' came Mr Morrison's voice.
'And tell him there are some pictures, too.'
'Four great beastly pictures. The size of elephants. I tell you, thereisn't room to move. And--'
Annette hung up the receiver.
* * * * *
Mr Beverley, returned from his walk, was racing up the stairs three ata time in his energetic way, when, as he arrived at Annette's door, itopened.
'Have you a minute to spare?' said Annette.
'Of course. What's the trouble? Have they sold another edition of thewaltz?'
'I have not heard, Mr--Bates.'
For once she looked to see the cheerful composure of the man upstairsbecome ruffled; but he received the blow without agitation.
'You know my name?' he said.
'I know a good deal more than your name. You are a Glasgowmillionaire.'
'It's true,' he admitted, 'but it's hereditary. My father was onebefore me.'
'And you use your money,' said Annette, bitterly, 'creating fools'paradises for your friends, which last, I suppose, until you grow tiredof the amusement and destroy them. Doesn't it ever strike you, MrBates, that it's a little cruel? Do you think Mr Sellers will settledown again cheerfully to hack-work when you stop buying his pictures,and he finds out that--that--'
'I shan't stop,' said the young man. 'If a Glasgow millionaire mayn'tbuy Sellers' allegorical pictures, whose allegorical pictures may hebuy? Sellers will never find out. He'll go on painting and I'll go onbuying, and all will be joy and peace.'
'Indeed! And what future have you arranged for me?'
'You?' he said, reflectively. 'I want to marry you.'
Annette stiffened from head to foot. He met her blazing eyes with alook of quiet devotion.
'I know what you are thinking,' he said. 'Your mind is dwelling on theprospect of living in a house decorated throughout with Sellers'allegorical pictures. But it won't be. We'll store them in the attic.'
She began to speak, but he interrupted her.
'Listen!' he said. 'Sit down and I will tell you the story of my life.We'll skip the first twenty-eight years and three months, merelymentioning that for the greater part of that time I was looking forsomebody just like you. A month and nine days ago I found you. You werecrossing the Embankment. I was also on the Embankment. In a taxi. Istopped the taxi, got out, and observed you just stepping into theCharing Cross Underground. I sprang--'
'This does not interest me,' said Annette.
'The plot thickens,' he assured her. 'We left our hero springing, Ithink. Just so. Well, you took the West End train and got off at SloaneSquare. So did I. You crossed Sloane Square, turned up King's Road, andfinally arrived here. I followed. I saw a notice up, "Studio to Let". Ireflected that, having done a little painting in an amateur way, Icould pose as an artist all right; so I took the studio. Also the nameof Alan Beverley. My own is Bill Bates. I had often wondered what itwould feel like to be called by some name like Alan Beverley or CyrilTrevelyan. It was simply the spin of the coin which decided me infavour of the former. Once in, the problem was how to get to know you.When I heard you playing I knew it was all right. I had only to keepknocking on the floor long enough--'
'Do--you--mean--to--tell--me'--Annette's voice trembled 'do you mean totell me that you knocked that time simply to make me come up?'
'That was it. Rather a scheme, don't you think? And now, would you mindtelling me how you found out that I had been buying your waltz? Thoseremarks of yours about fools' paradises were not inspired solely bythe affairs of Sellers. But it beats me how you did it. I sworeRozinsky, or whatever his name is, to secrecy.'
'A Mr Morrison,' sad Annette, indifferently, 'rang up on the telephoneand asked me to tell you that he was greatly worried by the piles ofmusic which were littering the rooms you lent him.'
The young man burst into a roar of laughter.
'Poor old Morrison! I forgot all about him. I lent him my rooms at theAlbany. He's writing a novel, and he can't work if the slightest thinggoes wrong. It just shows--'
'Perhaps you didn't intend to hurt me. I dare say you meant only to bekind. But--but--oh, can't you see how you have humiliated me? You havetreated me like a child, giving me a make-believe success just to--justto keep me quiet, I suppose. You--'
He was fumbling in his pocket.
'May I read you a letter?' he said.
'Quite a short one. It is from Epstein, the picture-dealer. This iswhat he says. "Sir," meaning me, not "Dear Bill," mind you--just "Sir.""I am glad to be able to inform you that I have this morning receivedan offer of ten guineas for your picture, 'Child and Cat'. Kindly letme know if I am to dispose of it at this price."'
'Well?' said Annette, in a small voice.
'I have just been to Epstein's. It seems that the purchaser is a MissBrown. She gave an address in Bayswater. I called at the address. NoMiss Brown lives there, but one of your pupils does. I asked her if shewas expecting a parcel for Miss Brown, and she said that she had hadyour letter and quite understood and would take it in when it arrived.'
Annette was hiding her face in her hands.
'Go away!' she said, faintly.
Mr Bates moved a step nearer.
'Do you remember that story of the people on the island who eked out aprecarious livelihood by taking in one another's washing?' he asked,casually.
'Go away!' cried Annette.
'I've always thought,' he said, 'that it must have drawn them veryclose together--made them feel rather attached to each other. Don'tyou?'
'I don't want to go away. I want to stay and hear you say you'll marryme.'
'_Please_ go away! I want to think.'
She heard him moving towards the door. He stopped, then went on again.The door closed quietly. Presently from the room above came the soundof footsteps--footsteps pacing monotonously to and fro like those of ananimal in a cage.
Annette sat listening. There was no break in the footsteps.
Suddenly she got up. In one corner of the room was a long pole used forraising and lowering the window-sash. She took it, and for a momentstood irresolute. Then with a quick movement, she lifted it andstabbed three times at the ceiling.
The Man Upstairs and Other Stories by P. G. Wodehouse / Humor have rating 5.3 out of 5 / Based on37 votes