Pots O'Money by P. G. Wodehouse
OWEN BENTLEY was feeling embarrassed. He looked at Mr Sheppherd, and
with difficulty restrained himself from standing on one leg and
twiddling his fingers. At one period of his career, before the
influence of his uncle Henry had placed him in the London and Suburban
Bank, Owen had been an actor. On the strength of a batting average of
thirty-three point nought seven for Middlesex, he had been engaged by
the astute musical-comedy impresario to whom the idea first occurred
that, if you have got to have young men to chant 'We are merry and gay,
tra-la, for this is Bohemia,' in the Artists' Ball scene, you might
just as well have young men whose names are known to the public. He had
not been an actor long, for loss of form had put him out of first-class
cricket, and the impresario had given his place in the next piece to a
googly bowler who had done well in the last Varsity match; but he had
been one long enough to experience that sinking sensation which is
known as stage-fright. And now, as he began to explain to Mr Sheppherd
that he wished for his consent to marry his daughter Audrey, he found
himself suffering exactly the same symptoms.
From the very start, from the moment when he revealed the fact that his
income, salary and private means included, amounted to less than two
hundred pounds, he had realized that this was going to be one of his
failures. It was the gruesome Early Victorianness of it all that took
the heart out of him. Mr Sheppherd had always reminded him of a heavy
father out of a three-volume novel, but, compared with his demeanour as
he listened now, his attitude hitherto had been light and whimsical.
Until this moment Owen had not imagined that this sort of thing ever
happened nowadays outside the comic papers. By the end of the second
minute he would not have been surprised to find himself sailing through
the air, urged by Mr Sheppherd's boot, his transit indicated by a
dotted line and a few stars.
Mr Sheppherd's manner was inclined to bleakness.
'This is most unfortunate,' he said. 'Most unfortunate. I have my
daughter's happiness to consider. It is my duty as a father.' He
paused. 'You say you have no prospects? I should have supposed that
your uncle—? Surely, with his influence—?'
'My uncle shot his bolt when he got me into the bank. That finished
him, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not his only nephew, you know. There
are about a hundred others, all trailing him like bloodhounds.'
Mr Sheppherd coughed the small cough of disapproval. He was feeling
more than a little aggrieved.
He had met Owen for the first time at dinner at the house of his uncle
Henry, a man of unquestioned substance, whose habit it was to invite
each of his eleven nephews to dinner once a year. But Mr Sheppherd did
not know this. For all he knew, Owen was in the habit of hobnobbing
with the great man every night. He could not say exactly that it was
sharp practice on Owen's part to accept his invitation to call, and,
having called, to continue calling long enough to make the present
deplorable situation possible; but he felt that it would have been in
better taste for the young man to have effaced himself and behaved more
like a bank-clerk and less like an heir.
'I am exceedingly sorry for this, Mr Bentley,' he said, 'but you will
understand that I cannot—It is, of course, out of the question. It
would be best, in the circumstances, I think, if you did not see my
'She's waiting in the passage outside,' said Owen, simply.
'—after today. Good-bye.'
Owen left the room. Audrey was hovering in the neighbourhood of the
door. She came quickly up to him, and his spirits rose, as they always
did, at the sight of her.
'Well?' she said.
He shook his head.
'No good,' he said.
Audrey considered the problem for a moment, and was rewarded with an
'Shall I go in and cry?'
'It wouldn't be of any use.'
'Tell me what happened.'
'He said I mustn't see you again.'
'He didn't mean it.'
'He thinks he did.'
'We shall simply have to keep writing, then. And we can talk on the
telephone. That isn't seeing each other. Has your bank a telephone?'
'That's all right, then. I'll ring you up every day.'
'I wish I could make some money,' said Owen, thoughtfully. 'But I seem
to be one of those chaps who can't. Nothing I try comes off. I've never
drawn anything except a blank in a sweep. I spent about two pounds on
sixpenny postal orders when the Limerick craze was on, and didn't win a
thing. Once when I was on tour I worked myself to a shadow, dramatizing
a novel. Nothing came of that, either.'
'A thing called White Roses, by a woman named Edith Butler.'
Audrey looked up quickly.
'I suppose you knew her very well? Were you great friends?'
'I didn't know her at all. I'd never met her. I just happened to buy
the thing at a bookstall, and thought it would make a good play. I
expect it was pretty bad rot. Anyhow, she never took the trouble to
send it back or even to acknowledge receipt.'
'Perhaps she never got it?'
'I registered it.'
'She was a cat,' said Audrey, decidedly. 'I'm glad of it, though. If
another woman had helped you make a lot of money, I should have died of
Routine is death to heroism. For the first few days after his parting
with Mr Sheppherd, Owen was in heroic mood, full of vaguely dashing
schemes, regarding the world as his oyster, and burning to get at it,
sword in hand. But routine, with its ledgers and its copying-ink and
its customers, fell like a grey cloud athwart his horizon, blotting out
rainbow visions of sudden wealth, dramatically won. Day by day the glow
faded and hopelessness grew.
If the glow did not entirely fade it was due to Audrey, who more than
fulfilled her promise of ringing him up on the telephone. She rang him
up at least once, frequently several times, every day, a fact which was
noted and commented upon in a harshly critical spirit by the head of
his department, a man with no soul and a strong objection to doing his
subordinates' work for them.
As a rule, her conversation, though pleasing, was discursive and lacked
central motive, but one morning she had genuine news to impart.
'Owen'—her voice was excited—'have you seen the paper today? Then
listen. I'll read it out. Are you listening? This is what it says: "The
Piccadilly Theatre will reopen shortly with a dramatized version of
Miss Edith Butler's popular novel, White Roses, prepared by the
authoress herself. A strong cast is being engaged, including—" And
then a lot of names. What are you going to do about it, Owen?'
'What am I going to do?'
'Don't you see what's happened? That awful woman has stolen your play.
She has waited all these years, hoping you would forget. What are you
'I wasn't laughing.'
'Yes, you were. It tickled my ear. I'll ring off if you do it again.
You don't believe me. Well, you wait and see if I'm not—'
'Edith Butler's incapable of such a thing.'
There was a slight pause at the other end of the wire.
'I thought you said you didn't know her,' said Audrey, jealously.
'I don't—I don't,' said Owen, hastily. 'But I've read her books.
They're simply chunks of superfatted sentiment. She's a sort of
literary onion. She compels tears. A woman like that couldn't steal a
play if she tried.'
'You can't judge authors from their books. You must go and see the play
when it comes on. Then you'll see I'm right. I'm absolutely certain
that woman is trying to swindle you. Don't laugh in that horrid way.
Very well, I told you I should ring off, and now I'm going to.'
At the beginning of the next month Owen's annual holiday arrived. The
authorities of the London and Suburban Bank were no niggards. They
recognized that a man is not a machine. They gave their employees ten
days in the year in which to tone up their systems for another twelve
Owen spent his boyhood in the Shropshire village of which his father
had been rector, and thither he went when his holiday came round, to
the farm of one Dorman. He was glad of the chance to get to Shropshire.
There is something about the country there, with its green fields and
miniature rivers, that soothes the wounded spirit and forms a pleasant
background for sentimental musings.
It was comfortable at the farm. The household consisted of Mr Dorman,
an old acquaintance, his ten-year-old son George, and Mr Dorman's
mother, an aged lady with a considerable local reputation as a wise
woman. Rumour had it that the future held no mysteries for her, and it
was known that she could cure warts, bruised fingers, and even the
botts by means of spells.
Except for these, Owen had fancied that he was alone in the house. It
seemed not, however. There was a primeval piano in his sitting-room,
and on the second morning it suited his mood to sit down at this and
sing 'Asthore', the fruity pathos of which ballad appealed to him
strongly at this time, accompanying himself by an ingenious arrangement
in three chords. He had hardly begun, however, when Mr Dorman appeared,
'If you don't mind, Mr Owen,' he said. 'I forgot to tell you. There's a
lit'ery gent boarding with me in the room above, and he can't bear to
A muffled stamping from the ceiling bore out his words.
'Writing a book he is,' continued Mr Dorman. 'He caught young George a
clip over the ear-'ole yesterday for blowing his trumpet on the stairs.
Gave him sixpence afterwards, and said he'd skin him if he ever did it
again. So, if you don't mind—'
'Oh, all right,' said Owen. 'Who is he?'
'Gentleman of the name of Prosser.'
Owen could not recollect having come across any work by anyone of that
name; but he was not a wide reader; and, whether the man above was a
celebrity or not, he was entitled to quiet.
'I never heard of him,' he said, 'but that's no reason why I should
disturb him. Let him rip. I'll cut out the musical effects in future.'
The days passed smoothly by. The literary man remained invisible,
though occasionally audible, tramping the floor in the frenzy of
composition. Nor, until the last day of his visit, did Owen see old Mrs
That she was not unaware of his presence in the house, however, was
indicated on the last morning. He was smoking an after-breakfast pipe
at the open window and waiting for the dog-cart that was to take him to
the station, when George, the son of the house, entered.
George stood in the doorway, grinned, and said:
'Eh?' said Owen.
The youth repeated the word.
On the second repetition light began to creep in. A boyhood spent in
the place, added to this ten days' stay, had made Owen something of a
'Father says would I like grandma to do what?'
'Tell yer forch'n by ther cards.'
'Where is she?'
Owen followed him into the kitchen, where he found Mr Dorman, the
farmer, and, seated at the table, fumbling with a pack of cards, an old
woman, whom he remembered well.
'Mother wants to tell your fortune,' said Mr Dorman, in a hoarse aside.
'She always will tell visitors' fortunes. She told Mr Prosser's, and he
didn't half like it, because she said he'd be engaged in two months and
married inside the year. He said wild horses wouldn't make him do it.'
'She can tell me that if she likes. I shan't object.'
'Mother, here's Mr Owen.'
'I seed him fast enough,' said the old woman, briskly. 'Shuffle, an' cut
She then performed mysterious manoeuvres with the cards.
'I see pots o' money,' announced the sibyl.
'If she says it, it's there right enough,' said her son.
'She means my bonus,' said Owen. 'But that's only ten pounds. And I lose
it if I'm late twice more before Christmas.'
'It'll come sure enough.'
'Pots,' said the old woman, and she was still mumbling the encouraging
word when Owen left the kitchen and returned to the sitting-room.
He laughed rather ruefully. At that moment he could have found a use
for pots o' money.
He walked to the window, and looked out. It was a glorious morning. The
heat-mist was dancing over the meadow beyond the brook, and from the
farmyard came the liquid charawks of care-free fowls. It seemed wicked
to leave these haunts of peace for London on such a day.
An acute melancholy seized him. Absently, he sat down at the piano. The
prejudices of literary Mr Prosser had slipped from his mind. Softly at
first, then gathering volume as the spirit of the song gripped him, he
began to sing 'Asthore'. He became absorbed.
He had just, for the sixth time, won through to 'Iyam-ah waiting for-er
theeee-yass-thorre,' and was doing some intricate three-chord work
preparatory to starting over again, when a loaf of bread whizzed past
his ear. It missed him by an inch, and crashed against a plaster
statuette of the Infant Samuel on the top of the piano.
It was a standard loaf, containing eighty per cent of semolina, and it
practically wiped the Infant Samuel out of existence. At the same
moment, at his back, there sounded a loud, wrathful snort.
He spun round. The door was open, and at the other side of the table
was standing a large, black-bearded, shirt-sleeved man, in an attitude
rather reminiscent of Ajax defying the lightning. His hands trembled.
His beard bristled. His eyes gleamed ferociously beneath enormous
eyebrows. As Owen turned, he gave tongue in a voice like the discharge
of a broadside.
Owen's mind, wrenched too suddenly from the dreamy future to the vivid
present, was not yet completely under control. He gaped.
'Stop—that—infernal—noise!' roared the man.
He shot through the door, banging it after him, and pounded up the
Owen was annoyed. The artistic temperament was all very well, but
there were limits. It was absurd that obscure authors should behave in
this way. Prosser! Who on earth was Prosser? Had anyone ever heard of
him? No! Yet here he was going about the country clipping small boys
over the ear-hole, and flinging loaves of bread at bank-clerks as if he
were Henry James or Marie Corelli. Owen reproached himself bitterly for
his momentary loss of presence of mind. If he had only kept his head,
he could have taken a flying shot at the man with the marmalade-pot. It
had been within easy reach. Instead of which, he had merely stood and
gaped. Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It
might have been.'
His manly regret was interrupted by the entrance of Mr Dorman with the
information that the dog-cart was at the door.
Audrey was out of town when Owen arrived in London, but she returned a
week later. The sound of her voice through the telephone did much to
cure the restlessness from which he had been suffering since the
conclusion of his holiday. But the thought that she was so near yet so
inaccessible produced in him a meditative melancholy which enveloped
him like a cloud that would not lift. His manner became distrait. He
If customers were not vaguely pained by his sad, pale face, it was only
because the fierce rush of modern commercial life leaves your business
man little leisure for observing pallor in bank-clerks. What did pain
them was the gentle dreaminess with which he performed his duties. He
was in the Inward Bills Department, one of the features of which was
the sudden inrush, towards the end of each afternoon, of hatless,
energetic young men with leather bags strapped to their left arms,
clamouring for mysterious crackling documents, much fastened with pins.
Owen had never quite understood what it was that these young men did
want, and now his detached mind refused even more emphatically to
grapple with the problem. He distributed the documents at random with
the air of a preoccupied monarch scattering largess to the mob, and the
subsequent chaos had to be handled by a wrathful head of the department
Man's power of endurance is limited. At the end of the second week the
overwrought head appealed passionately for relief, and Owen was removed
to the Postage Department, where, when he had leisure from answering
Audrey's telephone calls, he entered the addresses of letters in a
large book and took them to the post. He was supposed also to stamp
them, but a man in love cannot think of everything, and he was apt at
times to overlook this formality.
One morning, receiving from one of the bank messengers the usual
intimation that a lady wished to speak to him on the telephone, he went
to the box and took up the receiver.
'Is that you, Owen? Owen, I went to White Roses last night. Have
you been yet?'
'Then you must go tonight. Owen, I'm certain you wrote it. It's
perfectly lovely. I cried my eyes out. If you don't go tonight, I'll
never speak to you again, even on the telephone. Promise.'
'Yes, you must. Why, suppose it is yours! It may mean a fortune.
The stalls were simply packed. I'm going to ring up the theatre now and
engage a seat for you, and pay for it myself.'
'No—I say—' protested Owen.
'Yes, I shall. I can't trust you to go if I don't. And I'll ring up
early tomorrow to hear all about it. Good-bye.'
Owen left the box somewhat depressed. Life was quite gloomy enough as
it was, without going out of one's way to cry one's eyes out over
His depression was increased by the receipt, on his return to his
department, of a message from the manager, stating that he would like
to see Mr Bentley in his private room for a moment. Owen never enjoyed
these little chats with Authority. Out of office hours, in the circle
of his friends, he had no doubt the manager was a delightful and
entertaining companion; but in his private room his conversation was
The manager was seated at his table, thoughtfully regarding the
ceiling. His resemblance to a stuffed trout, always striking, was
subtly accentuated, and Owen, an expert in these matters, felt that his
fears had been well founded—there was trouble in the air. Somebody had
been complaining of him, and he was now about, as the phrase went, to
A large man, seated with his back to the door, turned as he entered,
and Owen recognized the well-remembered features of Mr Prosser, the
Owen regarded him without resentment. Since returning to London he had
taken the trouble of looking up his name in Who's Who and had
found that he was not so undistinguished as he had supposed. He was, it
appeared, a Regius Professor and the author of some half-dozen works on
sociology—a record, Owen felt, that almost justified loaf-slinging and
ear-hole clipping in moments of irritation.
The manager started to speak, but the man of letters anticipated him.
'Is this the fool?' he roared. 'Young man, I have no wish to be hard on
a congenital idiot who is not responsible for his actions, but I must
insist on an explanation. I understand that you are in charge of the
correspondence in this office. Well, during the last week you have
three times sent unstamped letters to my fiancee, Miss Vera Delane,
Woodlands, Southbourne, Hants. What's the matter with you? Do you think
she likes paying twopence a time, or what is it?'
Owen's mind leaped back at the words. They recalled something to him.
Then he remembered.
He was conscious of a not unpleasant thrill. He had not known that he
was superstitious, but for some reason he had not been able to get
those absurd words of Mr Dorman's mother out of his mind. And here was
another prediction of hers, equally improbable, fulfilled to the
'Great Scott!' he cried. 'Are you going to be married?'
Mr Prosser and the manager started simultaneously.
'Mrs Dorman said you would be,' said Owen. 'Don't you remember?'
Mr Prosser looked keenly at him.
'Why, I've seen you before,' he said. 'You're the young turnip-headed
scallywag at the farm.'
'That's right,' said Owen.
'I've been wanting to meet you again. I thought the whole thing over,
and it struck me,' said Mr Prosser, handsomely, 'that I may have seemed
a little abrupt at our last meeting.'
'The fact is, I was in the middle of an infernally difficult passage of
my book that morning, and when you began—'
'It was my fault entirely. I quite understand.'
Mr Prosser produced a card-case.
'We must see more of each other,' he said. 'Come and have a bit of
dinner some night. Come tonight.'
'I'm very sorry. I have to go to the theatre tonight.'
'Then come and have a bit of supper afterwards. Excellent. Meet me at
the Savoy at eleven-fifteen. I'm glad I didn't hit you with that loaf.
Abruptness has been my failing through life. My father was just the
same. Eleven-fifteen at the Savoy, then.'
The manager, who had been listening with some restlessness to the
conversation, now intervened. He was a man with a sense of fitness of
things, and he objected to having his private room made the scene of
what appeared to be a reunion of old college chums. He hinted as much.
'Ha! Prrumph!' he observed, disapprovingly. 'Er—Mr Bentley, that is
all. You may return to your work—ah'mmm! Kindly be more careful
another time in stamping the letters.'
'Yes, by Jove,' said Mr Prosser, suddenly reminded of his wrongs,
'that's right. Exercise a little ordinary care, you ivory-skulled
young son of a gun. Do you think Miss Delane is made of
twopences? Keep an eye on him,' he urged the manager. 'These young
fellows nowadays want someone standing over them with a knout all the
time. Be more careful another time, young man. Eleven-fifteen,
remember. Make a note of it, or you'll go forgetting that.'
The seat Audrey had bought for him at the Piccadilly Theatre proved to
be in the centre of the sixth row of stalls—practically a death-trap.
Whatever his sufferings might be, escape was impossible. He was
securely wedged in.
The cheaper parts of the house were sparsely occupied, but the stalls
were full. Owen, disapproving of the whole business, refused to buy a
programme, and settled himself in his seat prepared for the worst. He
had a vivid recollection of White Roses, the novel, and he did
not anticipate any keen enjoyment from it in its dramatized form. He
had long ceased to be a member of that large public for which Miss
Edith Butler catered. The sentimental adventures of governesses in
ducal houses—the heroine of White Roses was a governess—no
longer contented his soul.
There is always a curiously dream-like atmosphere about a play founded
on a book. One seems to have seen it all before. During the whole of
the first act Owen attributed to this his feeling of familiarity with
what was going on on the stage. At the beginning of the second act he
found himself anticipating events. But it was not till the third act
that the truth sank in.
The third was the only act in which, in his dramatization, he had taken
any real liberties with the text of the novel. But in this act he had
introduced a character who did not appear in the novel—a creature of
his own imagination. And now, with bulging eyes, he observed this
creature emerge from the wings, and heard him utter lines which he now
clearly remembered having written.
Audrey had been right! Serpent Edith Butler had stolen his play.
His mind, during the remainder of the play, was active. By the time the
final curtain fell and he passed out into the open air he had perceived
some of the difficulties of the case. To prove oneself the author of an
original play is hard, but not impossible. Friends to whom one had
sketched the plot may come forward as witnesses. One may have preserved
rough notes. But a dramatization of a novel is another matter. All
dramatizations of any given novel must necessarily be very much alike.
He started to walk along Piccadilly, and had reached Hyde Park Corner
before he recollected that he had an engagement to take supper with Mr
Prosser at the Savoy Hotel. He hailed a cab.
'You're late,' boomed the author of sociological treatises, as he
appeared. 'You're infernally late. I suppose, in your woollen-headed
way, you forgot all about it. Come along. We'll just have time for an
olive and a glass of something before they turn the lights out.'
Owen was still thinking deeply as he began his supper. Surely there was
some way by which he could prove his claims. What had he done with the
original manuscript? He remembered now. He had burnt it. It had seemed
mere useless litter then. Probably, he felt bitterly, the woman Butler
had counted on this.
Mr Prosser concluded an animated conversation with a waiter on the
subject of the wines of France, leaned forward, and, having helped
himself briskly to anchovies, began to talk. He talked loudly and
rapidly. Owen, his thoughts far away, hardly listened.
Presently the waiter returned with the selected brand. He filled Owen's
glass, and Owen drank, and felt better. Finding his glass magically
full once more, he emptied it again. And then suddenly he found himself
looking across the table at his Host, and feeling a sense of absolute
conviction that this was the one man of all others whom he would have
selected as a confidant. How kindly, though somewhat misty, his face
was! How soothing, if a little indistinct, his voice!
'Prosser,' he said, 'you are a man of the world, and I should like your
advice. What would you do in a case like this? I go to a theatre to see
a play, and what do I find?'
He paused, and eyed his host impressively.
'What's that tune they're playing?' said Mr Prosser. 'You hear it
everywhere. One of these Viennese things, I suppose.'
Owen was annoyed. He began to doubt whether, after all, Mr Prosser's
virtues as a confidant were not more apparent than real.
'I find, by Jove,' he continued, 'that I wrote the thing myself.'
'It's not a patch on The Merry Widow,' said Mr Prosser.
Owen thumped the table.
'I tell you I find I wrote the thing myself.'
'This play I'm telling you about. This White Roses thing.'
He found that he had at last got his host's ear. Mr Prosser seemed
'What do you mean?'
Owen plunged on with his story. He started from its dim beginning, from
the days when he had bought the novel on his journey from Bath to
Cheltenham. He described his methods of work, his registering of the
package, his suspense, his growing resignation. He sketched the
progress of his life. He spoke of Audrey and gave a crisp
character-sketch of Mr Sheppherd. He took his hearer right up to
the moment when the truth had come home to him.
Towards the end of his narrative the lights went out, and he finished
his story in the hotel courtyard. In the cool air he felt revived. The
outlines of Mr Prosser became sharp and distinct again.
The sociologist listened admirably. He appeared absorbed, and did not
'What makes you so certain that this was your version?' he asked, as
they passed into the Strand.
Owen told him of the creature of his imagination in Act III.
'But you have lost your manuscript?'
'Yes; I burnt it.'
'Just what one might have expected you to do,' said Mr Prosser,
unkindly. 'Young man, I begin to believe that there may be something in
this. You haven't got a ghost of a proof that would hold water in a
court of law, of course; but still, I'm inclined to believe you. For
one thing, you haven't the intelligence to invent such a story.'
Owen thanked him.
'In fact, if you can answer me one question I shall be satisfied.'
It seemed to Owen that Mr Prosser was tending to get a little above
himself. As an intelligent listener he had been of service, but that
appeared to be no reason why he should constitute himself a sort of
judge and master of the ceremonies.
'That's very good of you,' he said; 'but will Edith Butler be
satisfied? That's more to the point.'
'I am Edith Butler,' said Mr Prosser.
Owen stopped. 'You?'
'You need not babble it from the house-tops. You are the only person
besides my agent who knows it, and I wouldn't have told you if I could
have helped it. It isn't a thing I want known. Great Scott, man, don't
goggle at me like a fish! Haven't you heard of pseudonyms before?'
'Well, never mind. Take it from me that I am Edith Butler. Now
listen to me. That manuscript reached me when I was in the country.
There was no name on it. That in itself points strongly to the fact
that you were its author. It was precisely the chuckle-headed sort of
thing you would have done, to put no name on the thing.'
'I enclosed a letter, anyhow.'
'There was a letter enclosed. I opened the parcel out of doors. There
was a fresh breeze blowing at the time. It caught the letter, and that
was the last I saw of it. I had read as far as "Dear Madam". But one
thing I do remember about it, and that was that it was sent from some
hotel in Cheltenham, and I could remember it if I heard it. Now, then?'
'I can tell it you. It was Wilbraham's. I was stopping there.'
'You pass,' said Mr Prosser. 'It was Wilbraham's.'
Owen's heart gave a jump. For a moment he walked on air.
'Then do you mean to say that it's all right—that you believe—'
'I do,' said Mr Prosser. 'By the way,' he said, 'the notice of White
Roses went up last night.'
Owen's heart turned to lead.
'But—but—' he stammered. 'But tonight the house was packed.'
'It was. Packed with paper. All the merry dead-heads in London were
there. It has been the worst failure this season. And, by George,' he
cried, with sudden vehemence, 'serve 'em right. If I told them once it
would fail in England, I told them a hundred times. The London public
won't stand that sort of blithering twaddle.'
Owen stopped and looked round. A cab was standing across the road. He
signalled to it. He felt incapable of walking home. No physical blow
could have unmanned him more completely than this hideous
disappointment just when, by a miracle, everything seemed to be running
'Sooner ride than walk,' said Mr Prosser, pushing his head through the
open window. 'Laziness—slackness—that's the curse of the modern young
man. Where shall I tell him to drive to?'
Owen mentioned his address. It struck him that he had not thanked his
host for his hospitality.
'It was awfully good of you to give me supper, Mr Prosser,' he said.
'I've enjoyed it tremendously.'
'Come again,' said Mr Prosser. 'I'm afraid you're disappointed about
Owen forced a smile.
'Oh, no, that's all right,' he said. 'It can't be helped.'
Mr Prosser half turned, then thrust his head through the window again.
'I knew there was something I had forgotten to say,' he said. 'I ought
to have told you that the play was produced in America before it came
to London. It ran two seasons in New York and one in Chicago, and there
are three companies playing it still on the road. Here's my card. Come
round and see me tomorrow. I can't tell you the actual figures
off-hand, but you'll be all right. You'll have pots o' money.'