“What is a wand of death?” he asked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“A wand of death?”
“I don’t understand.”
The delirium of the conversation was too much for Ashe. He burst out laughing. A moment later the girl did the same. And simultaneously embarrassment ceased to be.
“I suppose you think I’m mad?” said Ashe.
“Certainly,” said the girl.
“Well, I should have been if you hadn’t come in.”
“Why was that?”
“I was trying to write a detective story.”
“I was wondering whether you were a writer.”
“Do you write?”
“Yes. Do you ever read Home Gossip?”
“You are quite right to speak in that thankful tone. It’s a horrid little paper—all brown-paper patterns and advice to the lovelorn and puzzles. I do a short story for it every week, under various names. A duke or an earl goes with each story. I loathe it intensely.”
“I am sorry for your troubles,” said Ashe firmly; “but we are wandering from the point. What is a wand of death?”
“A wand of death?”
“A wand of death.”
The girl frowned reflectively.
“Why, of course; it’s the sacred ebony stick stolen from the Indian temple, which is supposed to bring death to whoever possesses it. The hero gets hold of it, and the priests dog him and send him threatening messages. What else could it be?”
Ashe could not restrain his admiration.
“This is genius!”
“Absolute genius. I see it all. The hero calls in Gridley Quayle, and that patronizing ass, by the aid of a series of wicked coincidences, solves the mystery; and there am I, with another month’s work done.”
She looked at him with interest.
“Are you the author of Gridley Quayle?”
“Don’t tell me you read him!”
“I do not read him! But he is published by the same firm that publishes Home Gossip, and I can’t help seeing his cover sometimes while I am waiting in the waiting room to see the editress.”
Ashe felt like one who meets a boyhood’s chum on a desert island. Here was a real bond between them.
“Does the Mammoth publish you, too? Why, we are comrades in misfortune—fellow serfs! We should be friends. Shall we be friends?”
“I should be delighted.”
“Shall we shake hands, sit down, and talk about ourselves a little?”
“But I am keeping you from your work.”
“An errand of mercy.”
P. G. Wodehouse, Something New ch. 1 (1915).