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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNot George Washington: An Autobiographical Novel - Part Two. James Orlebar Cloyster's Narrative - Chapter 13. The Second Ghost
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Not George Washington: An Autobiographical Novel - Part Two. James Orlebar Cloyster's Narrative - Chapter 13. The Second Ghost Post by :extra02dog Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :May 2012 Read :3283

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Not George Washington: An Autobiographical Novel - Part Two. James Orlebar Cloyster's Narrative - Chapter 13. The Second Ghost

_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued)


The reasons which had led me to select Sidney Price as the sponsor of my Society dialogues will be immediately apparent to those who have read them. They were just the sort of things you would expect an insurance clerk to write. The humour was thin, the satire as cheap as the papers in which they appeared, and the vulgarity in exactly the right quantity for a public that ate it by the pound and asked for more. Every thing pointed to Sidney Price as the man.

It was my intention to allow each of my three ghosts to imagine that he was alone in the business; so I did not get Price's address from Hatton, who might have wondered why I wanted it, and had suspicions. I applied to the doorkeeper at Carnation Hall; and on the following evening I rang the front-door bell of The Hollyhocks, Belmont Park Road, Brixton.

Whilst I was waiting on the step, I was able to get a view through the slats of the Venetian blind of the front ground-floor sitting-room. I could scarcely restrain a cry of pure aesthetic delight at what I saw within. Price was sitting on a horse-hair sofa with an arm round the waist of a rather good-looking girl. Her eyes were fixed on his. It was Edwin and Angelina in real life.

Up till then I had suffered much discomfort from the illustrated record of their adventures in the comic papers. "Is there really," I had often asked myself, "a body of men so gifted that they can construct the impossible details of the lives of nonexistent types purely from imagination? If such creative genius as theirs is unrecognized and ignored, what hope of recognition is there for one's own work?" The thought had frequently saddened me; but here at last they were--Edwin and Angelina in the flesh!

I took the gallant Sidney for a fifteen-minute stroll up and down the length of the Belmont Park Road. Poor Angelina! He came, as he expressed it, "like a bird." Give him a sec. to slip on a pair of boots, he said, and he would be with me in two ticks.

He was so busy getting his hat and stick from the stand in the passage that he quite forgot to tell the lady that he was going out, and, as we left, I saw her with the tail of my eye sitting stolidly on the sofa, still wearing patiently the expression of her comic-paper portraits.

The task of explaining was easier than it had been with Hatton.

"Sorry to drag you out, Price," I said, as we went down the steps.

"Don't mention it, Mr. Cloyster," he said. "Norah won't mind a bit of a sit by herself. Looked in to have a chat, or is there anything I can do?"

"It's like this," I said. "You know I write a good deal?"

"Yes."

"Well, it has occurred to me that, if I go on turning out quantities of stuff under my own name, there's a danger of the public getting tired of me."

He nodded.

"Now, I'm with you there, mind you," he said. "'Can't have too much of a good thing,' some chaps say. I say, 'Yes, you can.' Stands to reason a chap can't go on writing and writing without making a bloomer every now and then. What he wants is to take his time over it. Look at all the real swells--'Erbert Spencer, Marie Corelli, and what not--you don't find them pushing it out every day of the year. They wait a bit and have a look round, and then they start again when they're ready. Stands to reason that's the only way."

"Quite right," I said; "but the difficulty, if you live by writing, is that you must turn out a good deal, or you don't make enough to live on. I've got to go on getting stuff published, but I don't want people to be always seeing my name about."

"You mean, adopt a _nom de ploom_?"

"That's the sort of idea; but I'm going to vary it a little."

And I explained my plan.

"But why me?" he asked, when he had understood the scheme. "What made you think of me?"

"The fact is, my dear fellow," I said, "this writing is a game where personality counts to an enormous extent. The man who signs my Society dialogues will probably come into personal contact with the editors of the papers in which they appear. He will be asked to call at their offices. So you see I must have a man who looks as if he had written the stuff."

"I see," he said complacently. "Dressy sort of chap. Chap who looks as if he knew a thing or two."

"Yes. I couldn't get Alf Joblin, for instance."

We laughed together at the notion.

"Poor old Alf!" said Sidney Price.

"Now you probably know a good deal about Society?"

"Rath_er_" said Sidney. "They're a hot lot. My _word_! Saw _The Walls of Jericho three times. Gives it 'em pretty straight, that does. _Visits of Elizabeth_, too. Chase me! Used to think some of us chaps in the 'Moon' were a bit O.T., but we aren't in it--not in the same street. Chaps, I mean, who'd call a girl behind the bar by her Christian name as soon as look at you. One chap I knew used to give the girl at the cash-desk of the 'Mecca' he went to bottles of scent. Bottles of it--regular! 'Here you are, Tottie,' he used to say, 'here's another little donation from yours truly.' Kissed her once. Slap in front of everybody. Saw him do it. But, bless you, they'd think nothing of that in the Smart Set. Ever read 'God's Good Man'? There's a book! My stars! Lets you see what goes on. Scorchers they are."

"That's just what my dialogues point out. I can count on you, then?"

He said I could. He was an intelligent young man, and he gave me to understand that all would be well. He would carry the job through on the strict Q.T. He closely willingly with my offer of ten per cent, thus affording a striking contrast to the grasping Hatton. He assured me he had found literary chaps not half bad. Had occasionally had an idea of writing a bit himself.

We parted on good terms, and I was pleased to think that I was placing my "Dialogues of Mayfair" and my "London and Country House Tales" in really competent and appreciative hands.

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_(James Orlebar Cloyster's narrative continued) A difficulty in the life of a literary man in London is the question of getting systematic exercise. At school and college I had been accustomed to play games every day, and now I felt the change acutely. It was through this that I first became really intimate with John Hatton, and incidentally with Sidney Price, of the Moon Assurance Company. I happened to mention my trouble one night in Hatton's rooms. I had been there frequently since my first visit. "None of my waistcoats fit," I remarked. "My dear fellow," said Hatton, "I'll give you
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