The Best British Short Stories of 1922 HTML version
The Devil To Pay
By MAX PEMBERTON
(From The Story-Teller)
To say that the usually amiable Ambrose Cleaver was in the devil of a temper would be
merely to echo the words of his confidential clerk, John, who, looking through the glass
partition between their offices, confessed to James, the office boy, that he had not seen
such goings on since old Ambrose, the founder of the firm, was gathered to his fathers.
"There won't be a bit of furniture in the place presently," said he, "and I wouldn't give
twopence for the cat when he's finished kicking her. This comes of the women, my boy.
Never have nothing to say to a woman until you've finished your dinner and lighted your
cigar. Many a good business have I seen go into the Bankruptcy Court because of a
petticoat before lunch. You keep away from 'em if you want to be Lord Mayor of
London, same as Dick Whittington was."
James did not desire particularly to become Lord Mayor of London, but he was greatly
amused by his employer's temper.
"Never heard such language," said he--"and him about to marry her. Why, he almost
threw them jewels at her 'ead; and when she told him he must have let the devil in by
accident, he says as he was always glad to see her friends. They'll make a happy couple,
John shook his old dense head, and would express no opinion upon the point.
"Misfortunes never come singly," said he. "Here's that Count Florian waiting for him in
the ante-room. Now that's a man I can't abide. If anybody told me he was the devil, I'd
believe him soon enough. A bad 'un, James, or I don't know the breed. An evil man who
seems to pollute the very air you breathe."
James was not so sure of it.
"He give me half a crown for fetching of a cab yesterday, and told me to go to the music-
hall with it. He must have a lot of money, for he never smokes his cigars more than half-
way through, and he wears a different scarf-pin every day. That's wot comes of
observation, Mr. John. I could tell you all the different pairs of trousers he's worn for the
last three weeks, and so I'm going to make my fortune as the advertisements say."
Mr. John would not argue about that. The bell of the inner office now tinkled, and that
was an intimation that the Count Nicholas Florian was to be admitted to the Holy of
Holies. So the old man hurried away and, opening the sacred door with circumspection,