P. G. Wodehouse: The Man Upstairs and Other Stories


My companion, with the artist's instinct for the 'curtain', paused. He looked round the brightly-lit restaurant. From every side arose the clatter of knife and fork, and the clear, sharp note of those who drank soup. In a distant corner a small waiter with a large voice was calling the cook names through the speaking-tube. It was a cheerful scene, but it brought no cheer to my companion. He sighed heavily and resumed:

* * * * *

I 'urry over that painful scene. There is blooming row. My uncle is 'ot-tempered man. The cat is 'eavy cat. I 'ave thrown 'im very hard, for my nerves and my toothache and my 'atred 'ave given me the giant's strength. Alone is this enough to enrage my 'ot-tempered uncle. I am there in his hotel, you will understand, as cashier, not as cat-thrower. And now, besides all this, I have insulted valuable patron. She 'ave left the hotel that day.

There are no doubts in my mind as to the outcome. With certainty I await my conge. And after painful scene I get it. I am to go. At once. He 'ave assured the angry American woman that I go at once.

He has called me into his private office. 'Jean,' he has said to me, at the end of other things, 'you are a fool, dolt, no-good imbecile. I give you good place in my hotel, and you spend your time flinging cats. I will 'ave no more of you. But even now I cannot forget that you are my dear brother's child. I will now give you one thousand francs and never see you again.'

I have thanked him, for to me it is wealth. Not before have I ever had one thousand francs of my own.

I go out of the hotel. I go to a cafe and order a bock. I smoke a cigarette. It is necessary that I think out plans. Shall I with my one thousand francs rent a studio in the Quarter and commence my life as artist? No. I have still the genius, the ent'usiasm, but I have not the training. To train myself to paint pictures I must study long, and even one thousand francs will not last for ever. Then what shall I do? I do not know. I order one other bock, and smoke more cigarettes, but still I do not know.

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