Pelham Grenville Wodehouse: The Adventures of Sally

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Pelham Grenville Wodehouse The Adventures of Sally
  • Название:
    The Adventures of Sally
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  • Жанр:
    Юмористическая проза / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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CHAPTER I. SALLY GIVES A PARTY

1

Sally looked contentedly down the long table. She felt happy at last. Everybody was talking and laughing now, and her party, rallying after an uncertain start, was plainly the success she had hoped it would be. The first atmosphere of uncomfortable restraint, caused, she was only too well aware, by her brother Fillmore's white evening waistcoat, had worn off; and the male and female patrons of Mrs. Meecher's select boarding-house (transient and residential) were themselves again.

At her end of the table the conversation had turned once more to the great vital topic of Sally's legacy and what she ought to do with it. The next best thing to having money of one's own, is to dictate the spending of somebody else's, and Sally's guests were finding a good deal of satisfaction in arranging a Budget for her. Rumour having put the sum at their disposal at a high figure, their suggestions had certain spaciousness.

"Let me tell you," said Augustus Bartlett, briskly, "what I'd do, if I were you." Augustus Bartlett, who occupied an intensely subordinate position in the firm of Kahn, Morris and Brown, the Wall Street brokers, always affected a brisk, incisive style of speech, as befitted a man in close touch with the great ones of Finance. "I'd sink a couple of hundred thousand in some good, safe bond-issue—we've just put one out which you would do well to consider—and play about with the rest. When I say play about, I mean have a flutter in anything good that crops up. Multiple Steel's worth looking at. They tell me it'll be up to a hundred and fifty before next Saturday."

Elsa Doland, the pretty girl with the big eyes who sat on Mr. Bartlett's left, had other views.

"Buy a theatre. Sally, and put on good stuff."

"And lose every bean you've got," said a mild young man, with a deep voice across the table. "If I had a few hundred thousand," said the mild young man, "I'd put every cent of it on Benny Whistler for the heavyweight championship. I've private information that Battling Tuke has been got at and means to lie down in the seventh..."

"Say, listen," interrupted another voice, "lemme tell you what I'd do with four hundred thousand..."

"If I had four hundred thousand," said Elsa Doland, "I know what would be the first thing I'd do."

"What's that?" asked Sally.

"Pay my bill for last week, due this morning."

Sally got up quickly, and flitting down the table, put her arm round her friend's shoulder and whispered in her ear:

"Elsa darling, are you really broke? If you are, you know, I'll..."

Elsa Doland laughed.

"You're an angel, Sally. There's no one like you. You'd give your last cent to anyone. Of course I'm not broke. I've just come back from the road, and I've saved a fortune. I only said that to draw you."

Sally returned to her seat, relieved, and found that the company had now divided itself into two schools of thought. The conservative and prudent element, led by Augustus Bartlett, had definitely decided on three hundred thousand in Liberty Bonds and the rest in some safe real estate; while the smaller, more sporting section, impressed by the mild young man's inside information, had already placed Sally's money on Benny Whistler, doling it out cautiously in small sums so as not to spoil the market. And so solid, it seemed, was Mr. Tuke's reputation with those in the inner circle of knowledge that the mild young man was confident that, if you went about the matter cannily and without precipitation, three to one might be obtained. It seemed to Sally that the time had come to correct certain misapprehensions.

"I don't know where you get your figures," she said, "but I'm afraid they're wrong. I've just twenty-five thousand dollars."

The statement had a chilling effect. To these jugglers with half-millions the amount mentioned seemed for the moment almost too small to bother about. It was the sort of sum which they had been mentally setting aside for the heiress's car fare. Then they managed to adjust their minds to it. After all, one could do something even with a pittance like twenty-five thousand.

"If I'd twenty-five thousand," said Augustus Bartlett, the first to rally from the shock, "I'd buy Amalgamated..."

"If I had twenty-five thousand..." began Elsa Doland.

"If I'd had twenty-five thousand in the year nineteen hundred," observed a gloomy-looking man with spectacles, "I could have started a revolution in Paraguay."

He brooded sombrely on what might have been.

"Well, I'll tell you exactly what I'm going to do," said Sally. "I'm going to start with a trip to Europe... France, specially. I've heard France well spoken of—as soon as I can get my passport; and after I've loafed there for a few weeks, I'm coming back to look about and find some nice cosy little business which will let me put money into it and keep me in luxury. Are there any complaints?"

"Even a couple of thousand on Benny Whistler..." said the mild young man.

"I don't want your Benny Whistler," said Sally. "I wouldn't have him if you gave him to me. If I want to lose money, I'll go to Monte Carlo and do it properly."

"Monte Carlo," said the gloomy man, brightening up at the magic name. "I was in Monte Carlo in the year '97, and if I'd had another fifty dollars... just fifty... I'd have..."

At the far end of the table there was a stir, a cough, and the grating of a chair on the floor; and slowly, with that easy grace which actors of the old school learned in the days when acting was acting, Mr. Maxwell Faucitt, the boarding-house's oldest inhabitant, rose to his feet.

"Ladies," said Mr. Faucitt, bowing courteously, "and..." ceasing to bow and casting from beneath his white and venerable eyebrows a quelling glance at certain male members of the boarding-house's younger set who were showing a disposition towards restiveness, "... gentlemen. I feel that I cannot allow this occasion to pass without saying a few words."

His audience did not seem surprised. It was possible that life, always prolific of incident in a great city like New York, might some day produce an occasion which Mr. Faucitt would feel that he could allow to pass without saying a few words; but nothing of the sort had happened as yet, and they had given up hope. Right from the start of the meal they had felt that it would be optimism run mad to expect the old gentleman to abstain from speech on the night of Sally Nicholas' farewell dinner party; and partly because they had braced themselves to it, but principally because Miss Nicholas' hospitality had left them with a genial feeling of repletion, they settled themselves to listen with something resembling equanimity. A movement on the part of the Marvellous Murphys—new arrivals, who had been playing the Bushwick with their equilibristic act during the preceding week—to form a party of the extreme left and heckle the speaker, broke down under a cold look from their hostess. Brief though their acquaintance had been, both of these lissom young gentlemen admired Sally immensely.

And it should be set on record that this admiration of theirs was not misplaced. He would have been hard to please who had not been attracted by Sally. She was a small, trim, wisp of a girl with the tiniest hands and feet, the friendliest of smiles, and a dimple that came and went in the curve of her rounded chin. Her eyes, which disappeared when she laughed, which was often, were a bright hazel; her hair a soft mass of brown. She had, moreover, a manner, an air of distinction lacking in the majority of Mrs. Meecher's guests. And she carried youth like a banner. In approving of Sally, the Marvellous Murphys had been guilty of no lapse from their high critical standard.

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