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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 6 - THE BOMB-SHELL
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The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 6 - THE BOMB-SHELL Post by :MSCOTT Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2523

Click below to download : The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 6 - THE BOMB-SHELL (Format : PDF)

The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 6 - THE BOMB-SHELL

Part Two Chapter 6 - THE BOMB-SHELL


Clarence had called at the offices of the _Encore on a Friday.
The paper's publishing day is Thursday. The _Encore is the Times
of the music-hall world. It casts its curses here, bestows its
benedictions (sparely) there. The _Encore criticising the latest
action of the Variety Artists' Federation is the nearest modern
approach to Jove hurling the thunderbolt. Its motto is, "Cry havoc, and
let loose the performing dogs of war."

It so happened that on the Thursday following his momentous visit to
Wellington Street, there was need of someone on the staff of Clarence's
evening paper to go and obtain an interview from the Russian general.
Mr. Hubert Wales had just published a novel so fruity in theme and
treatment that it had been publicly denounced from the pulpit by no
less a person than the Rev. Canon Edgar Sheppard, D.D., Sub-Dean
of His Majesty's Chapels Royal, Deputy Clerk of the Closet and
Sub-Almoner to the King. A morning paper had started the question,
"Should there be a Censor of Fiction?" and, in accordance with custom,
editors were collecting the views of celebrities, preferably of those
whose opinion on the subject was absolutely valueless.

All the other reporters being away on their duties, the editor was at a
loss.

"Isn't there anybody else?" he demanded.

The chief sub-editor pondered.

"There is young blooming Chugwater," he said.

(It was thus that England's deliverer was habitually spoken of in the
office.)

"Then send him," said the editor.

* * * * *

Grand Duke Vodkakoff's turn at the Magnum Palace of Varieties started
every evening at ten sharp. He topped the bill. Clarence, having been
detained by a review of the Scouts, did not reach the hall till five
minutes to the hour. He got to the dressing-room as the general was
going on to the stage.

The Grand Duke dressed in the large room with the other male turns.
There were no private dressing-rooms at the Magnum. Clarence sat down
on a basket-trunk belonging to the Premier Troupe of Bounding Zouaves
of the Desert, and waited. The four athletic young gentlemen who
composed the troupe were dressing after their turn. They took no notice
of Clarence.

Presently one Zouave spoke.

"Bit off to-night, Bill. Cold house."

"Not 'arf," replied his colleague. "Gave me the shivers."

"Wonder how his nibs'll go."

Evidently he referred to the Grand Duke.

"Oh, _'e's all right. They eat his sort of swank. Seems to me the
profession's going to the dogs, what with these bloomin' amytoors an'
all. Got the 'airbrush, 'Arry?"

Harry, a tall, silent Zouave, handed over the hairbrush.

Bill continued.

"I'd like to see him go on of a Monday night at the old Mogul. They'd
soon show him. It gives me the fair 'ump, it does, these toffs coming
in and taking the bread out of our mouths. Why can't he give us chaps a
chance? Fair makes me rasp, him and his bloomin' eight hundred and
seventy-five o' goblins a week."

"Not so much of your eight hundred and seventy-five, young feller me
lad," said the Zouave who had spoken first. "Ain't you seen the rag
this week?"

"Naow. What's in it? How does our advert, look?"

"Ow, that's all right, never mind that. You look at 'What the
_Encore Would Like to Know.' That's what'll touch his nibs up."

He produced a copy of the paper from the pocket of his great-coat which
hung from the door, and passed it to his bounding brother.

"Read it out, old sort," he said.

The other took it to the light and began to read slowly and cautiously,
as one who is no expert at the art.

"'What the _Encore would like to know:--Whether Prince Otto of
Saxe-Pfennig didn't go particularly big at the Lobelia last week? And
Whether his success hasn't compelled Agent Quhayne to purchase a
larger-sized hat? And Whether it isn't a fact that, though they are
press-agented at the same figure, Prince Otto is getting fifty a week
more than Grand Duke Vodkakoff? And If it is not so, why a little bird
has assured us that the Prince is being paid five hundred a week and
the Grand Duke only four hundred and fifty? And, In any case, whether
the Prince isn't worth fifty a week more than his Russian friend?'
Lumme!"

An awed silence fell upon the group. To Clarence, who had dictated the
matter (though the style was the editor's), the paragraph did not come
as a surprise. His only feeling was one of relief that the editor had
served up his material so well. He felt that he had been justified in
leaving the more delicate literary work to that master-hand.

"That'll be one in the eye," said the Zouave Harry. "'Ere, I'll stick
it up opposite of him when he comes back to dress. Got a pin and a
pencil, some of you?"

He marked the quarter column heavily, and pinned it up beside the
looking-glass. Then he turned to his companions.

"'Ow about not waiting, chaps?" he suggested. "I shouldn't 'arf wonder,
from the look of him, if he wasn't the 'aughty kind of a feller who'd
cleave you to the bazooka for tuppence with his bloomin' falchion. I'm
goin' to 'urry through with my dressing and wait till to-morrow night
to see how he looks. No risks for Willie!"

The suggestion seemed thoughtful and good. The Bounding Zouaves, with
one accord, bounded into their clothes and disappeared through the door
just as a long-drawn chord from the invisible orchestra announced the
conclusion of the Grand Duke's turn.

General Vodkakoff strutted into the room, listening complacently to the
applause which was still going on. He had gone well. He felt pleased
with himself.

It was not for a moment that he noticed Clarence.

"Ah," he said, "the interviewer, eh? You wish to--"

Clarence began to explain his mission. While he was doing so the Grand
Duke strolled to the basin and began to remove his make-up. He
favoured, when on the stage, a touch of the Raven Gipsy No. 3
grease-paint. It added a picturesque swarthiness to his appearance, and
made him look more like what he felt to be the popular ideal of a
Russian general.

The looking-glass hung just over the basin.

Clarence, watching him in the glass, saw him start as he read the first
paragraph. A dark flush, almost rivalling the Raven Gipsy No. 3, spread
over his face. He trembled with rage.

"Who put that paper there?" he roared, turning.

"With reference, then, to Mr. Hubert Wales's novel," said Clarence.

The Grand Duke cursed Mr. Hubert Wales, his novel, and Clarence in one
sentence.

"You may possibly," continued Clarence, sticking to his point like a
good interviewer, "have read the trenchant, but some say justifiable
remarks of the Rev. Canon Edgar Sheppard, D.D., Sub-Dean of His
Majesty's Chapels Royal, Deputy Clerk of the Closet, and Sub-Almoner to
the King."

The Grand Duke swiftly added that eminent cleric to the list.

"Did you put that paper on this looking-glass?" he shouted.

"I did not put that paper on that looking-glass," replied Clarence
precisely.

"Ah," said the Grand Duke, "if you had, I'd have come and wrung your
neck like a chicken, and scattered you to the four corners of this
dressing-room."

"I'm glad I didn't," said Clarence.

"Have you read this paper on the looking-glass?"

"I have not read that paper on the looking-glass," replied Clarence,
whose chief fault as a conversationalist was that he was perhaps a
shade too Ollendorfian. "But I know its contents."

"It's a lie!" roared the Grand Duke. "An infamous lie! I've a good mind
to have him up for libel. I know very well he got them to put those
paragraphs in, if he didn't write them himself."

"Professional jealousy," said Clarence, with a sigh, "is a very sad
thing."

"I'll professional jealousy him!"

"I hear," said Clarence casually, "that he _has been going very
well at the Lobelia. A friend of mine who was there last night told me
he took eleven calls."

For a moment the Russian General's face swelled apoplectically. Then he
recovered himself with a tremendous effort.

"Wait!" he said, with awful calm. "Wait till to-morrow night! I'll show
him! Went very well, did he? Ha! Took eleven calls, did he? Oh, ha, ha!
And he'll take them to-morrow night, too! Only"--and here his voice
took on a note of fiendish purpose so terrible that, hardened scout as
he was, Clarence felt his flesh creep--"only this time they'll be
catcalls!"

And, with a shout of almost maniac laughter, the jealous artiste flung
himself into a chair, and began to pull off his boots.

Clarence silently withdrew. The hour was very near.

Content of Part Two Chapter 6 - THE BOMB-SHELL (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Swoop! or How Clarence Saved England)

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