He silenced his wife with a masterful gesture and turned to Archie. “And there’s another thing. I never liked the idea of that lawsuit, but I let you talk me into it. Now I’m going to do things my way. Mr. Moffam, I’m glad you looked in this morning. I’ll do just what you want. Take me to Dan Brewster now, and let’s call the thing off, and shake hands on it.”
“Are you mad, Lindsay?”
It was Cora Bates McCall’s last shot. Mr. McCall paid no attention to it. He was shaking hands with Archie.
“I consider you, Mr. Moffam,” he said, “the most sensible young man I have ever met!”
Archie blushed modestly.
“Awfully good of you, old bean,” he said. “I wonder if you’d mind telling my jolly old father-in-law that? It’ll be a bit of news for him!”
Archie Moffam’s connection with that devastatingly popular ballad, “Mother’s Knee,” was one to which he always looked back later with a certain pride. “Mother’s Knee,” it will be remembered, went through the world like a pestilence. Scots elders hummed it on their way to kirk; cannibals crooned it to their offspring in the jungles of Borneo; it was a best-seller among the Bolshevists. In the United States alone three million copies were disposed of. For a man who has not accomplished anything outstandingly great in his life, it is something to have been in a sense responsible for a song like that; and, though there were moments when Archie experienced some of the emotions of a man who has punched a hole in the dam of one of the larger reservoirs, he never really regretted his share in the launching of the thing.
It seems almost bizarre now to think that there was a time when even one person in the world had not heard “Mother’s Knee”; but it came fresh to Archie one afternoon some weeks after the episode of Washy, in his suite at the Hotel Cosmopolis, where he was cementing with cigarettes and pleasant conversation his renewed friendship with Wilson Hymack, whom he had first met in the neighbourhood of Armentieres during the war.
“What are you doing these days?” enquired Wilson Hymack.
“Me?” said Archie. “Well, as a matter of fact, there is what you might call a sort of species of lull in my activities at the moment. But my jolly old father-in-law is bustling about, running up a new hotel a bit farther down-town, and the scheme is for me to be manager when it’s finished. From what I have seen in this place, it’s a simple sort of job, and I fancy I shall be somewhat hot stuff. How are you filling in the long hours?”
“I’m in my uncle’s office, darn it!”
“Starting at the bottom and learning the business and all that? A noble pursuit, no doubt, but I’m bound to say it would give me the pip in no uncertain manner.”
“It gives me,” said Wilson Hymack, “a pain in the thorax. I want to be a composer.”