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Weird Tales

January, 1925

As Obligated

By Armstrong Livingston

1. The Bathroom Bell.

SIR GEOFFREY COOMBE, Bart., snorted contentedly as his round bald head and his plump white shoulders emerged above the waters of his morning tub; without troubling to open his eyes, he reached over the edge of his porcelain container and groped blindly along the length of the heated towel rail. Then he snorted again, in a very different key. The second housemaid, derelict in her duty, had evidently neglected to place any towels upon the device intended for them; worse than that, a more thorough examination through reluctantly opened eyes showed that there were no towels in the room at all.

Of all life's little misadventures, this is admittedly one of the most annoying. The baronet was on the point of being veiy annoyed indeed, until his eye chanced to fall upon the button of an electric bell that was placed in the wall at the side of the tub. A sudden smile came to his face instead of the threatened frown, and his blue eyes were twinkling as he reached up and pressed firmly upon the button.

"That's one to Hodgkins!" he murmured good-humoredly. "I must tell the old chap about it the next time I see him. He'll be tremendously bucked."

When he had added this new and perfectly equipped bathroom to the ancient country seat of his fathers, that bell had been a bone of contention between Hodgkins and himself. The baronet, weary of antiquated appliances, had drawn the plans of the room himself to the end that they might be perfect, and with the aid of a London catalogue of modem lavatory fixtures, plus his own vivid imagination, he had succeeded admirably. He was proud of those plans. . . .

Of course the task of executing them had fallen to the lot of Hodgkins, the village plumber. Any other arrangement would have been manifestly improper. Hodgkins was a tradition. Ever since plumbing had been invented a Hodgkins had been plumber for a Coombe, just as a Stubbs had always supplied the meat and a Smith the groceries. The system worked excellently for all concerned: the village profited by the patronage of the Hall, and the Hall benefited by good meat and groceries and plumbing. Traditions, properly adhered to, have a practical as well as a sentimental value.

Hodgkins had glanced over the plans and warmly approved them. A glow of pride suffused the amateur draftsman's being, to be presently chilled by a growing doubt in the plumber's eye.

"You've not allowed for a bell, Sir Geoffrey."

"A bell in a bathroom? Don't be silly, Hodgkins!"

"It's not silly, sir. You'll want a bell—there."

Hodgkins had jabbed at the neat plan with a sadly maculate finger, and when he removed it there was no difficulty in finding the spot he had indicated.

"Just where you can reach it from the tub. Handylike."

"Absurd! Have you no sense of decency, Hodgkins? Under what conceivable circumstances would a man in a tub want to ring a bell—especially if he knew it was bound to be answered by a housemaid?"

Hodgkins accepted the implied challenge with gusto. He began to enumerate a series of hypothetical cases in- which a bell by the bathtub might be most useful, and when he presently showed signs of deserving the reputation he had in the local Conservative Club of being its most eloquent and long-winded member, the baronet threw up his hands in despair.

"Have it your own way! I can always tie a bow of pink ribbon on it and pretend it's a mural decoration."

"Yes, sir."

Hodgkins, having gained his poiat, magnanimously proceeded to explain his insistence.

"You'll not regret it, Sir Geoffrey. You see, sir, it's like this: my father always did his best for your father, and my grandfather for yours, before that, and now' it's up to me to do the best I can for you. So w-hen my judgment tells me you ought to have a, bell in that bathroom, I'm just plain obligated to say so!"

"Thank you, Hodgkins," replied the...

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