The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Love Is Strange

For a while, we planned to have a second reading at our wedding. In the end, we decided against it, but this is what was suggested - lovingly edited down from the original text and reproduced here in a flagrant breach of copyright.

The Reverent Wooing of Archibald by PG Wodehouse.

The story so far; young Archibald Mulliner has fallen in love with Aurelia Cammarleigh and, one night, he has crept outside her bedroom, only to overhear the following conversation:

“Archie Mulliner?” said Aurelia wistfully. “There was something about him. I liked the way his ears wiggled. And I had always heard he was such a genial, merry old soul. Algy Wymondham-Wymondham told me that his imitation of a hen laying an egg was enough to keep any reasonable girl happy through a long married life.’

Can he imitate a hen?” said Aurelia’s friend.

“No. It was nothing but an idle rumour. I asked him and he stoutly denied he had ever done such a thing in his life. He was quite stuffy about it. The man is beyond question a flat tyre and a wet smack.”

Archibald Mulliner was stunned. Like every man who is abruptly called upon to revise his entire scheme of values, he felt as if he had been standing on top of the Eiffel Tower and some practical joker had suddenly drawn it away from under him. Tottering back to his bedroom, he sat down on the bed to grapple with this amazing development.

He was roused from his thoughts by light footsteps on the balcony outside. It was Aurelia, who had come to play a prank on him by leaving a loudly snoring dog at his window.

Then inspiration descended on Archibald. He knew what to do, and he did it.

Yes, gentlemen, in that supreme crisis of his life, with his whole fate hanging in the balance, Archibald Mulliner, showing for the first time in his life a well-nigh human intelligence, began to give his celebrated imitation of a hen laying an egg.

The rendition started quietly, with a sort of soft, liquid crooning – the joyful yet half-incredulous murmur of a mother who can scarcely believe that her union has really been blessed, and that it is indeed she who is responsible for that oval mixture of chalk and albumen which she sees beside her in the straw.

Then, gradually, conviction comes. “It looks like an egg”, one seems to hear her say. “It feels like an egg. It’s shaped like an egg. Damn, it is an egg!”

And at that, the crooning takes on a firmer note; soars into a maternal paean of joy – a ‘Charawk-chawk-chawk-chawk’ of such a calibre that few have been able to listen to it dry-eyed. Following which, it was Archibald’s custom to run around the room, flapping the sides of his coat, and then, leaping on to a sofa, to stand there with his arms at right angles, crowing himself purple in the face.

All these things he had done many a time for the idle entertainment of fellow-members of the Drones, but never with the gusto, the brio, with which he performed them now. Every artist knows when the divine fire is within him, and an inner voice told Archibald Mulliner that he was at the top of his form and giving the performance of a lifetime. Love thrilled through every “Brt-t’t-t’t” he uttered, animated each flap of his arms. Indeed, so deeply did Love drive in its spur that, instead of the customary once, he actually made the circle of the room three times before coming to rest on top of the chest of drawers.

When at length he did, he glanced towards the window and saw the loveliest face in the world peering through the curtains. And in Aurelia Cammarleigh’s glorious eyes there was a look he had never seen before. A look of worship.

There was a long silence. Then she spoke.

“Do it again!” she said.

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