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Pip a romance of youth, p.1
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       Pip : A Romance of Youth, p.1

           Ian Hay
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Pip : A Romance of Youth

  Produced by Suzanne Shell, Ernest Schaal, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)




















  IT was to Pipette that the idea originally occurred, but it was uponPip that parental retribution subsequently fell, Pipette being merelydismissed with a caution. This clemency was due chiefly to theintercession of Cook, who stated, in the role of principal witness,that the "poor lamb" (Pipette) "could never have thought of such athing by herself." This in spite of the poor lamb's indignant proteststo the contrary. In this matter, as in many others, Cook showed bothpersonal bias and want of judgment; for Pipette was as sharp as aneedle, while Pip, though a willing accomplice and a philosophicalscapegoat, was lacking in constructive ability and organising power.

  But we have somehow begun at the end of the story, so must make a freshstart.

  The Consulting Room, which was strictly out of bounds (and consequentlya favourite resort of the children when the big, silent man, who kissedthem twice a day, was out), contained many absorbingly interesting andmysterious objects, whose uses Pip and Pipette were dying to know. Forinstance, there was the Oven Door. It was set in the wall near thefireplace, miles up,--quite five feet,--and was exactly like the oven inthe kitchen, except that it was green instead of black. Also, it had abeautiful gold handle. It was not hot, though, for one day Pip climbedon a chair to feel; neither did it open, for he was unable to turn thehandle.

  They had asked Mr. Evans about it, and he had informed them that it wasa place to put bad little boys and girls in. But that was on a day whenMr. Evans was cross, having just had words with Cook about thedisgraceful delay between the fish and joint at last night's dinner.Pipette, therefore, outwardly incredulous but inwardly quaking, appealedto Cook, and asked confidentially if the strange thing were not an oven;whereupon Cook embraced her and presented her with an apple, andwondered what the little precious would get into her poor head next,adding as an afterthought that Mr. Evans ought to be ashamed of himself.Pipette was so pleased with the apple and the task of conveying Cook'smessage to Mr. Evans's pantry--this was the name of the place where helived; there was a delightful thing there called the Filter, with alittle tap that you could turn on if no one was looking--that she quiteforgot to ask what the Oven Door really was; so the mystery remainedunsolved for many a day.

  There were other wonderful things lying about. Books in plenty (butthen books are dull things if you don't happen to be able to read),and two or three curious little articles like wooden trumpets, called"stuffyscopes." It was impossible to play tunes on these, though, andthey puzzled the children sorely, until one joyful day when Pipettewas taken with a cold on her chest, and Father--the name of the big,silent man who kissed them twice a day--took her into the ConsultingRoom and used one of those very instruments "to listen to my tummywiv," as she afterwards explained to the envious Pip, who had not beenpermitted to be present.

  "Did it hurt much?" inquired Pip.

  "Not _bewwy_ much," replied Pipette, unwilling to throw away a goodchance of posing as a martyr. "He putted one end against his ear and theother against my pinny, and said, 'Hold your breff,' and I holded it.Pip, I've thought of a lovely game! Let's see who can hold our brefflongest."

  This suggestion was adopted, and the new game kept them occupied forquite ten minutes. After that Pipette surrendered unconditionally. Tohold your tongue is bad enough, but to hold your breath as well, incompetition with a small, silent boy with a solemn face, seriouseyes, and lungs apparently of gutta-percha, who seems to suffer noinconvenience from feats of endurance that would exhaust a Red Indian,is more than a mere daughter of Eve can compass.

  They were in the Consulting Room at the time, Father having gone out, ashe always did between eleven and one; and the various unexplainedmysteries of that delightful apartment, which were becoming a seriousstrain upon Pipette's feminine curiosity, once more lay before them. Forthe hundredth time they made the tour of the room, gazing, fingering,and wondering.

  They merely sighed as they passed the Oven Door. That mysterious portalwas past all comprehension. They had made one last effort to obtainfirst-hand information on the subject only last night, with highlyunsatisfactory results. They were always taken to the dining-room athalf-past seven to say good-night to Father, who to his numerous othereccentricities added that of eating his dinner at an hour when properlyconstituted people were going to bed. (Pip's rather hazy scheme oftheology, imbibed in scraps from Cook and others, included a privateheaven of his own construction, in which at bedtime little boys, insteadof being hustled upstairs by an under-housemaid, sat down to a heavydinner of several courses.) On this occasion the pair had entered thedining-room bound by the most deadly oaths known to childhood to breakdown their shyness, and ask once and for all what lay behind the OvenDoor. But alas! desire outran performance, and both--all three, infact--made a sorry mess of things. The big man, almost as shy of them asthey were of him, asked Pip, heavily but kindly, how he had spent theafternoon; not because he wished to know, but because the questionafforded a conversational opening. Pip replied politely that he had beendown the street posting a letter with "one of the girls." He used theexpression in all good faith: his firm friend the milkman cried it downthe area every afternoon in some such form as, "Anything fresh to-day,girls?" or, "Well, girls, what news?" The big man, however, frowned, andsaid, "Come, come, sir, no kitchen manners here, if you please," andturned to Pipette, who, with a boldness surprising to herself, wasendeavouring to climb on to his knee.

  Having reached that eminence, Pipette, assuming a certain coaxingexpression which she had found absolutely infallible with Cook, and notwithout a certain effect on Mr. Evans himself, said rather tremulously--

  "Please, Father, is that oven door in the Ker
sultin' Room _reelly_ aoven, or is it just--just to put bad little boys and girls in, like whatMr. Evans says?"

  Mr. Evans, who up to this point had been standing in the background,listening to the conversation with an indulgent smile, suddenlyremembered that it was time to bring the fish up.

  Her father glanced down upon Pipette curiously. He looked tired andworried, as West-End physicians with enormous practices not infrequentlydo.

  "What do you mean by 'oven door'? And what's all this nonsense about_Mr._ Evans?"

  Pipette began to quail. This big man was cross about something, justlike Mr. Evans when he had "indergestion." Her lip began to tremble.

  "I didn't fink it would make you angry," she said rather piteously. "Itwas just that big oven door in the Kersultin' Room. Me and Pip wanted toknow so much, and there wasn't nobody to ask, exceptin' Mr.----"

  Here Father, much to Pipette's surprise and embarrassment, suddenlyhugged her to his breast, murmuring the while to himself. Then he kissedher twice,--as a rule she kissed him once,--shook hands solemnly withPip, and despatched them to bed.

  The children had no nurse. The last holder of that position had leftsoon after their mother's death, and Cook had begged so hard to beallowed to take care of the "little dears" herself, that Father, who wastoo deeply sunk in the apathy of grief to desire to haggle overquestions of domestic management, listlessly agreed. Since then Pip andPipette had been washed, dressed, fed, and bedded by a syndicatecomposed of Cook and her myrmidons, who brought them up according totheir own notions of respectability. Emily, the kitchen-maid, forinstance, made no objection to Pip stirring his tea with the handle ofhis knife; but what shocked her ideas of etiquette and deportment wasthe fact that he insisted on doing so with his left hand. Somehow Pip'sleft hand was always getting him into trouble. It was so officious; itwas constantly usurping the duties and privileges of its fellow, such ascleaning his teeth, shaking hands, and blowing his nose,--literal actsof _gaucherie_ that distressed Emily's genteel soul considerably.

  After the children had gone Father sat staring at his untasted dinner.Occasionally his gaze travelled to the opposite end of the table, wheresome one used to sit,--some one who had been taken from him by aninscrutable Providence five years before. Had she lived, Pip would nothave referred to the kitchen-maid as "one of the girls," nor wouldPipette be calling the butler "Mr. Evans." All these years he had beentrying to hide his desolation by burying himself in his work, with theresult that he now found himself busy,--overworked, in fact,--rich, andfamous, a man at the head of his profession. _Cui bono?_ His children,whom he had promised his dying Dorothea to love and cherish, werelearning to venerate the butler and to converse in the jargon of thescullery!

  So the Oven Door had to remain an unsolved mystery, and Pip and Pipettewere compelled to comfort themselves with the Talking-Hole. This was amost absorbing affair, and, thank goodness! it was no mystery.

  The Talking-Hole was carefully plugged with a whistle; and whenever avisitor came to see Father,--they came in shoals between one o'clock andthree,--Mr. Evans would uncork a similar hole in the wall of the hall,and after blowing up it vigorously, would murmur the name of thevisitor; and his words, owing to the fact that the Talking-Hole in thehall was in some mysterious way connected with the Talking-Hole in theConsulting Room, were conveyed to Father's ear. The conversation as arule was of a formal and fragmentary nature, limited on Mr. Evans's partto the announcement of the visitor's name and some such remark as"Special appointment," or "No appointment," and occasionally, "Urgentcase,"--always concluding with "Very good, sir." After that Mr. Evanswould conduct the visitor up the three carpeted stairs which led to theConsulting Room.

  Pip and Pipette loved the Talking-Hole. It was almost their only toy,and it was the more precious to them because they could not use itexcept when Father was out and Mr. Evans taking his afternoon siesta.Their one child-friend, Tattie Fowler, who was occasionally brought tospend the afternoon with them when her nurse had made arrangements tospend it elsewhere, was always regaled with a full-dress performancewhenever she came.

  The method of procedure was invariably the same. The children knew everymove by heart. The moment that Mr. Evans, having closed the front dooron Father, had closed his bedroom door upon himself, Pip would stalkwith much majesty into the Consulting Room, shutting the door carefullybehind him.

  After an interval of about one second, Tattie, endeavouring faithfullyto imitate Mr. Evans's stately tread,--have you ever seen a kittentrying to walk like an elephant, reader?--would approach theTalking-Hole in the hall, uncork the tube, and despatch an excitedhurricane on its way to the Consulting Room. The following dialoguewould then ensue:--

  _A gruff voice down the tube._ Well?

  _Tattie_ [_reading from an imaginary card_]. Mr. Henry Hatkins, sir! (This, by the way, happened to be the name of Tattie's nurse's "young man.")

  _The Voice._ Any appointment?

  _Tattie._ None, sir.

  _The Voice._ What's the matter wiv him?

  _Tattie._ Infruenza, _he_ thinks, sir.

  _The Voice._ Send him up.

  _Tattie._ Very good, sir.

  Then Tattie would cork up the tube and conduct Pipette, who had beensitting patiently in the Waiting Room, up the three stairs to theConsulting Room. Here she abruptly dropped the role of Mr. Evans, andannounced firmly--

  "Now, Pip, it's my turn to be Father!"

  (Tattie had no father of her own, and imagined that the term merelyimplied a large, silent man who lived in a room full of fascinatingplaythings, opening Oven Doors and blowing down Talking-Holes.)

  After that Pip would be the patient, Pipette Mr. Evans, and TattieFather, and the performance was repeated _in extenso_. Pipette, as theyoungest, succeeded to the proud position of "Father" last of all.

  Each of them played the leading part in different fashion. Pip, enjoyingevery moment of his impersonation, always sat solemnly in the bigswivel-chair at the table until the whistle blew, when he would loungeacross to the Talking-Hole and conduct the conversation as deliberatelyas possible. Pipette, on the other hand, possessed none of this artisticrestraint, and was always standing on a chair, with her small earecstatically pressed against the mouth of the tube, by the time thatPip, in the character of Mr. Evans, was ready to converse with her.Consequently his withering blast, when it arrived, impinged straightupon Pipette's eardrum, frequently knocking her off her chair andinvariably dulling her hearing for the afternoon.

  Considerable freedom, too, was permitted in the interpretation of thepart of Mr. Evans, especially in describing the patients' symptoms. Inthis respect the children were compelled to draw chiefly upon their ownsomewhat slight experience; for Mr. Evans, though he invariably gave thepatients' names, was not as a rule entrusted with their complaints aswell. Consequently the maladies which were shrieked up the tube sogleefully were those indigenous to small children, cooks and the like.When introduced by Pipette, the patient was usually suffering from"palpurtations, that bad!" (an echo of Cook); Tattie, whose pretty andinteresting mamma affected fashionable complaints, would diagnose thecase in hand as "nerves all in a jangle again"; while Pip, who waslacking in imagination but possessed a retentive memory, invariablyannounced, with feeling, that the visitor was a victim of a "_fearful_pain in his (or her) tummy!"

  Near the Talking-Hole, on a small table, stood "The Terriphone." This,they gathered, was a sort of long-distance talking-hole. You turned alittle handle, and, taking a queer, cup-shaped arrangement off a hook,conversed affably through it with unseen people, situated somewhere atthe back of beyond. The children had seen Mr. Evans use it for sendingmessages to Father _via_ Mr. Pipes. Mr. Pipes was a great friend ofPipette's. In the first place, he wore a uniform, which always appealsto the feminine mind. Then he lived in a fascinating little glass houseat the gates of a great building called "The Orspital," where Fatherapparently spent much of his time. In the courtyard inside the gatesbareheaded young men passed to and f
ro, discoursing learnedly ofmysterious things called "Ops." Mr. Pipes wore two medals on hisuniform, but beyond these there was nothing very attractive in the glasshouse excepting the Terriphone, which stood on a little ledge beside thepigeon-hole. Mr. Pipes, being attached to Emily, the under-housemaid,was always glad to see the children when it was that engaging damsel'sturn to take them for a walk. From him they learned one day that hisTerriphone communicated with the one at home, quite three streets away.

  "It must be a long hole," remarked Pip reflectively to his sister.

  The conversation then turned upon the weather. Mr. Pipes announced tothe sympathetic Emily that, as a result of having to sit all day in ablooming greenhouse, his feet were slowly turning to ice. Theauthorities of the Orspital, he added bitterly, declined to allow him afire, alleging that an oil-stove was sufficient for his needs.

  "What a shime!" said pretty Emily.

  "Something crool!" exclaimed sympathetic Pipette. (She had picked upthis expression from Susan, the kitchen-maid, who was regarded by hercolleagues as being somewhat "common in her talk.")

  "Pore devil!" remarked Pip dispassionately.

  "Master Pip!" cried the scandalised Emily, blushing in a manner whichMr. Pipes thought most becoming.

  Pip, who had just gathered this pearl of speech from the lips of one ofthe hatless young gentlemen who talked of "Ops," turned his steady andinscrutable gaze upon Emily, beneath which that damsel's fetching frownfaded, as it always did, into an uneasy smirk.

  "There is something about that child," she once confided to Cook, "thatmakes me feel as weak as water. Looks at you as though your 'air wascoming down on your face smudged. Says nothink, but he's a masterfulone. Be a terror some day!"

  Meanwhile Pipette, in whose charitable little soul a new and splendidscheme of outdoor relief had just sprung into being, asked, in a tone ofsuppressed excitement--

  "Mr. Pipes, _please_, does your Terriphone go straight to our house?"

  "As straight as straight, me lady," replied Mr. Pipes, who affected aneasy jocularity when conversing with Pipette.

  "Ooh!" Pipette turned to her brother.

  "Pip, amind me to tell you somethin' when we get home."

  Pip turned a cold glance upon her.

  "You'll tell me all about it on the way there, I expect."

  "I _won't_!" cried Pipette indignantly.

  "Oh, yes, you will. Women can't keep nothin' to theirselves."

  This pronouncement, delivered in Mr. Evans's most impressive manner,roused Emily and Mr. Pipes to unseemly mirth, and nearly reduced Pipetteto tears. Mr. Pipes remarked that Pip was a "caution," while Emilysummed him up as a "cure." Shortly after that, Emily and Mr. Pipeshaving made a now familiar reference to "the same old spot at half-pastfour on Sunday," the visit terminated with the usual expressions ofgood-will, and the children were taken home to tea.

  Pipette's offended dignity held out till next morning, when, as soon asthe banging of the front door announced that Father had gone off in hisbrougham for his daily round, she proposed a visit to the ConsultingRoom.

  "In the morning? What for?" said Pip.

  Pipette was positively heaving with suppressed excitement.

  "You go there and wait," she said, "and I'll run down to Cook a minute,and then we'll--no, I _won't_ tell you yet! Go on!"

  Fearful of letting her precious secret escape too soon, she gave Pip apush in the direction of the Consulting Room and danced off to thekitchen, leaving that impassive philosopher to ruminate upon thevolatile temperament of the female sex. However, he departed as bidden,and amused himself by sitting in the swing-chair, and endeavouringwithout success, for the hundredth time, to play a tune on astethoscope.

  Presently Pipette returned, carrying two little basins of the soup whichusually served to span the yawning gulf between their breakfast anddinner.

  Pip took his soup, and began to drink it.

  "Stop a minute, Pip!" screamed Pipette.

  Pip put down his basin.

  "Well, what is it now?" he remarked.

  Pipette at last unfolded her plan.

  "Pip," she began a little shyly,--like all inventors, she dreadedcriticism,--"you 'member poor Mr. Pipes saying how cold he was?"


  "Well, let's send him this nice hot soup, Pip,--by Terriphone!"

  The last words came with a rush. Then Pipette, heaving such a sigh asSinbad must have emitted when he had got rid of the Old Man of the Sea,awaited her brother's reply.

  Pip smiled indulgently.

  "Silly kid!" he remarked.

  Pipette had expected this.

  "Yes," she said; "but, Pip, wouldn't it be _loverly_ to do it?"

  Pip's practical mind began to evolve difficulties.

  "_How_ are you goin' to do it?"

  Pipette projected upon him a glance in which artless surprise,deferential admiration, and simple faith were exquisitely mingled,--aglance which, in after years, her husband once ruefully described as"good for a ten-pound note at any hour of the day,"--and repliedsimply--

  "I thought _you_ would manage all that, Pip. You're so bewwy clever!"

  "All right," said Pip. "Let's do it."

  Thus it is that women make fools of the strongest men.

  They carried their soup carefully over to the little table beside thetelephone.

  "I say," said Pip suddenly, "is he to have both basins?"

  Pipette's bounteous nature would gladly have sacrificed both Pip's lunchand her own, but she thought it wiser to concede this point.

  "No; one will do, I fink," she replied.

  "All right. You can drink half mine," said Pip.

  They gravely drank Pip's soup, turn about, and then applied themselvesto the matter in hand.

  First, they lifted the receiver of the telephone from its rest andsurveyed it doubtfully. There was a cup-shaped receptacle at one endinto which soup could easily be poured, but the "tube" which connectedit to the instrument was of very meagre dimensions.

  "Are you sure there's a pipe all the way?" inquired Pip doubtfully.

  "Certain. It's just the same as the Talking-Hole, only thinner. And theTalking-Hole has got a pipe all the way, 'cause don't you remember youput a glass marble in one day when I told you not to, and it fell out inthe hall?"

  Pip's doubts were not quite satisfied even with this brilliant parallel.

  "It'll take a long time to get through," he said. He was fingering thesilk-coated wire. "This pipe's awful thin. A marble would never get down_it_."

  "No, but the soup will twickle down all right," said Pipette, whosemind, busy with works of mercy, soared far above these utilitariandetails. (In later years she was a confirmed bazaar organiser.)

  "We'll ring and tell him first, shall we?" suggested Pip.

  "Yes, let's!" murmured Pipette joyfully.

  She turned the call-handle, and Pip held the receiver, just as he hadseen Mr. Evans do. After a decent interval he remarked into the cup--

  "Are you there, Mr. Pipes? This is us."

  This highly illuminating statement met with no response.

  "I suppose he can hear you," said Pipette anxiously.

  "Oh, yes. I'm talkin' just as loud as Mr. Evans does."

  "I suppose you'll be able to hear him, then?"

  "I expect so. But it's a long way. Ring again."

  This time, in turning the call-handle, Pipette accidentally placed herhand on the receiver-hook, with the result that she actually rang up theExchange Office.

  Presently a voice inquired brusquely of Pip what he wanted. His replywas a delighted yell, and an announcement to Mr. Pipes that he hadsomething for him. Further revelations were frustrated by Pipette, whotore the receiver from his grasp, and, holding her hand over the openingto prevent eavesdropping on the part of the _beneficiaire_, whisperedexcitedly in his ear--

  "Don't tell him any more! We'll just pour it in now, and give him such asurprise!"

  Consequently the young lady in the Exchange Office was soon c
ompelled torelinquish her languid efforts to find out what No. 015273 reallywanted, and incontinently switched him off, recking little of the way inwhich two small philanthropists at the other end of the wire weretreating the property of the National Telephone Company.

  Very carefully Pip poured the soup into the cup-shaped receiver of thetelephone, which Pipette held as steadily as her excitement wouldpermit.

  From the first it became obvious that soup-delivery by telephone wasgoing to be a slow business, for the cup transmitted the generous fluidmost reluctantly.

  "It's such a _very_ thin pipe," they explained to each other hopefully.

  At length Pip remarked--

  "I should think some of it had got there by now."

  "Not bewwy much, I don't fink," said Pipette; "this handle thing's stillpretty full."

  "But the basin's nearly empty," said Pip. "The stuff must have gonesomewhere."

  "Some of it has gone on the floor," said Pipette truthfully.

  At this moment the clock struck one.

  "Father will be in soon," said Pip. "We'd better wipe up."

  They propped the telephone receiver on the little table between thedirectory and a bookstand, and cleared up the mess on the floor with ahandkerchief--Pipette's. As they finished they heard the brougham driveup.

  "It isn't nearly all gone," said Pip gloomily, peering into thereceiver. "If we hang it up on its hook the stuff will all fall out.Let's leave it like it is. Father doesn't never use the Terriphone tillafter lunch, and it will be all gone by then. Come on, Pipette."

  The two Samaritans turned their backs upon the telephone and stole outof the room, leaving that sorely tried instrument to digest itsunaccustomed luncheon as best it might.

  It was Mr. Evans who suffered most. He was sent into the Consulting Roomjust before dinner to telephone a message to a patient. The telephonestood in a dark corner, and the gas in the room was turned low. Mr.Evans was surprised to find that the receiver, instead of hanging on itshook, was lying on the little table, carefully propped between thedirectory and a bookstand.

  On lifting it up he was surprised by an unwonted feeling of stickiness;but when he held the instrument to the light, the reason revealed itselfto him immediately in the form of a dollop of congealed chicken-broth,nicely rounded to the shape of the cup, which shot from itsresting-place, with a clammy thud, on to his clean shirtfront, and thenproceeded to slide rapidly down inside his dress waistcoat, leaving asnail-like track, dotted with grains of rice, behind it.

  Pip was sent supperless to bed, where Pipette, completely broken down byremorse and sisterly affection, voluntarily joined him not much later.The following week they were sent to school.

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