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


It was Joe. There was no doubt about that. But it was not the Joe she remembered, he of the twisted ringers and silent stare. In his case, New York had conjured effectively. He was better-looking, better-dressed, improved in every respect. In the old days one had noticed the hands and feet and deduced the presence of Joe somewhere in the background. Now they were merely adjuncts. It was with a rush of indignation that Mary found herself bucolic and awkward. Awkward with Joe! It was an outrage.

His manner heightened the feeling. If he had given the least sign of embarrassment she might have softened towards him. He showed no embarrassment whatever. He was very much at his ease. He was cheerful. He was even flippant.

'Welcome to our beautiful little city,' he said.

Mary was filled with a helpless anger. What right had he to ignore the past in this way, to behave as if her presence had never reduced him to pulp?

'Won't you sit down?' he went on. 'It's splendid, seeing you again, Mary. You're looking very well. How long have you been in New York? Eddy tells me you want to be taken on as a secretary. As it happens, there is a vacancy for just that in this office. A big, wide vacancy, left by a lady who departed yester-day in a shower of burning words and hairpins. She said she would never return, and between ourselves, that was the right guess. Would you mind letting me see what you can do? Will you take this letter down?'

Certainly there was something compelling about this new Joe. Mary took the pencil and pad which he offered--and she took them meekly. Until this moment she had always been astonished by the reports which filtered through to Dunsterville of his success in the big city. Of course, nobody had ever doubted his perseverance; but it takes something more than perseverance to fight New York fairly and squarely, and win. And Joe had that something. He had force. He was sure of himself.

'Read it please,' he said, when he had finished dictating. 'Yes, that's all right. You'll do.'

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