J. Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was the author of “Topper / The Jovial Ghosts,” “Topper Takes a Trip,” “The Night Life of the Gods,” “The Stray Lamb,” “Turnabout,” “The Glorious Pool,” etc.
“Topper Takes a Trip” was published in 1932.
Public Domain in countries where copyright is Life+70.
The beloved characters—mortal and immortal—of Topper return in this uproarious romp through the south of France. One of Thorne Smith's best-loved comedies, it proves once again that he is the undisputed master of urbane wit and sophisticated repartee. Cosmo Topper, the mild-mannered bank manager who was persuaded to take a walk on the wild side by the ghosts of George and Marion Kerby in Topper, finds himself reunited with his dyspeptic wife for an extended vacation on the Riviera. But he doesn't have long to enjoy the peace and quiet before the irrepressible Kerbys materialize once again and start causing fracases, confusing the citizenry, alarming the gendarmes, getting naked, and turning every occasion into revelry or melee. Soon Marion decides that Topper as a ghost would be even more laughs than Topper in the flesh. And all she needs to arrange is one simple little murder.
Vesuvius had given Topper some mighty bad moments in the course of their relations. Even now he was not sure just where he stood as regards Vesuvius, and what was even worse, just where Vesuvius stood as regards him.
Vesuvius existed in a metal box that did things about making cold water different. But Vesuvius had, Mr. Topper feared, potentialities of achieving other and more ambitious flights than that. It could, for instance, take its name seriously and emulate the volcano, exploding most horrifically. This might result in depositing Topper, still soapy but otherwise unadorned, in the bosom of a vociferous French family picnicking on the beach. This would not be gentil, neither would it be diverting, that is, not for Topper. He had no desire to compete with the German model.
Topper’s first introduction to Vesuvius had been made through the medium of an extremely emotional Monsieur Grandon, one who claimed the distinction of being Mr. Topper’s propriétaire.
“Voilà” Monsieur Grandon had exploded dramatically through his beard. “One has it!”
“What, Monsieur Grandon?” demanded Topper, slightly confused. “One has what, exactly?”
“In truth,” explained Monsieur le propriétaire, running frantic hands over numerous pipes, taps, and levers darting dangerously from all sides of the box. “It is there—l’appareil de chauffage.”
Topper, none the wiser, read the name of the box and became restive.
“One pulls this one here and that one there,” continued Monsieur Grandon, recklessly laying hands on various protruding bits of Vesuvius. “Alors! One pushes here, makes to turn there, then ignites this one here—but first,” and here the Frenchman paused and darkly considered the blank face of Topper, “but first,” he repeated with seeming reluctance, “one makes the water to run in the basin.”
“What!” ejaculated Topper incredulously. “Is that quite necessary?”
“The one who would bathe,” Monsieur Grandon explained with patience. “You, m’sieu, for example.”
Mr. Topper was more astounded than shocked. “I was merely thinking of my wife,” he said coldly.
“Madame is your wife?” exclaimed Monsieur in a mixture of surprise and disappointment.
“But yes,” replied Mr. Topper. “Is it that you believed her my mistress?”
Monsieur Grandon shrugged temporizingly. “It is of an occurrence unique,” he observed. “One expects more of an American when he visits our Riviera.”
Topper turned on the tap as a gesture of possession.
“Hein!” cried Monsieur Grandon. “Now shall I cause him to march?”
“Cause,” replied Mr. Topper after a moment’s hesitation. “But cause him to march with the utmost tranquillity. Cause him almost to amble.”
“There is not of danger, m’sieu.”
“But yes, my old,” replied Topper. “Something tells me in a loud, clear voice that there is of danger—that there is even of stark peril. Upon the body of Vesuvius there are certain telltale marks that give me to believe he once went ‘poof!’”
“Of a verity,” admitted Monsieur Grandon. “It is a long time since that one there went ‘poof!’”
“That, Monsieur Grandon, is most unfortunate,” commented Mr. Topper, “because after his so great and profound tranquillity he may imagine it about the right time to go ‘poof!’ encore.”
“It is a thing not to think of,” assured Monsieur Grandon.
“It is a thing I hate to think of,” agreed Topper, “yet it is a thing from which I cannot tear my thoughts.”
“Have of courage, m’sieu,” urged the intrepid Frenchman. “His first ‘poof!’ was his last.”
From what Monsieur Grandon allowed to remain unsaid he let it be delicately inferred that what had passed between himself and Vesuvius on the occasion of the first “poof!” had definitely settled matters for all time.
“But,” observed Monsieur Grandon with an alarming reversal of form, “should it eventuate that he does go ‘poof!’ then it is that one makes water to run on a scale very grand.”
“Have little fear on that point, m’sieu,” Topper hastened to assure him. “If he ever takes it into his head to go ‘poof!’ in earnest, water will be made on a scale of the utmost grandeur and with startling promptitude.”
“Is it not so?” murmured Monsieur Grandon abstractedly, as he did things to Vesuvius that made Mr. Topper shudder.
Thus it came about that Mr. Topper and Vesuvius, l’appareil de chauffage, met each other on terms of mutual suspicion which never quite wore off in spite of their daily contact. Those scars of a previous “poof!” were a constant reminder of an unreliable past. Familiarity had never bred contempt, although Topper was now able to pass through the ritual of ignition with his mind on other matters.
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