Building Today, Volume 1 Number 2 (January 1937)
An Architect's Revenge — The Blood - Curdling Tale of a Worm Who Turned
An Architect's Revenge
The Blood - Curdling Tale of a Worm Who Turned.
• • Yesterday in the Club I met my friend, William Barrows, the architect. He hailed me boisterously and told me a strange story. "Do you remember how disgusted I was with architecture six months ago? I was seriously thinking of taking up bookmaking. But that is all a thing of the past now. I am happy—joyous! elated! I have just come from a most painful interview. That is," as I registered bewilderment, "painful for my clients. I have solved the problem of how to handle them. It is absurdly simple; merely take them at their word. Six months ago, you may recall, I was struggling with the Freddy Wyckoffs." I nodded, remembering my friend's hideous curses during our last interview.
"You probably also remember how I told you then thatpage 47
they wanted all the usual impossible things, the high ceilings and the low silhouette—'that old-world cottage effect,' Mrs. Wyckoff called it"—he laughed cynically—"the playroom on the second floor and the unbroken roof, the bay windows and the simple facade, the plentiful ground-floor fireplaces, the window seat round the living-room, with bull's-eye windows … laddie, they've got 'em!" His mirth was almost uncanny. "Well, I struggled along with them until just about the time when I saw you. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown; I fought, bled, and died with Lucy Wyckoff, trying to convince her of the impossibility of her ideas. I figured and reasoned and drew sketches and showed her horrible examples and reduced her to tears, and then one day a great, blazing light burst upon me. I decided to give them exactly what they wanted. Freddie and his wife had been drawing countless diagrams of just the arrangements they had in mind. I got them to submit a final set and went to work. In a week the plans were finished." "Did they like them?" I asked. "Like them? They were delighted—and triumphant. 'There,' they said, 'you see it can be done.' I made Freddie O.K. the drawings and then, shepherded by the Divine Hand, they went to England.
"My orders were to go ahead with the construction at once…. You know Freddie doesn't mind costs very much …" "You don't mean—?" "Yes," shouted Barrows, "the house is built." He rocked to and fro in a paroxysm of joy. "You ought to have seen them when we came in sight of the house. They were too thunderstruck to say a word. They simply looked at each other and I saw Freddie turn very white. Of course, what they had wanted upstairs had made the second floor just twice as large as the one below. It overlaps on every side except the front, which I have kept simple; at the side and back it is supported on columns, some of which are forty feet from the building. Then we went inside. I had kept the O.K.'d plans with me and kept pointing out how exactly I had followed them. There was the little extra room, Freddie's study, just where they wanted it. To answer the door the servants have to go through the study and the only possible way of getting out the ashes from the furnace is through the breakfast room. The cellar is hermetically sealed.
"But it was upstairs that I had my real revenge. The landing of the main stair takes up the entire end of Lucy's bedroom and in the dead centre of the best guest-room is a large chimney. And the closets!—and baths! They are all over the place, broom-closets, linen-closets, housemaids' closets, plain closets. No room has fewer than twelve doors in it. The furniture will have to be hung from the ceiling. Naturally, none of the front rooms have any windows. They can't with the low sweeping eaves which give the 'old-world effect.' As I led them towards the service stairs, I said: 'Now I want to show you the big second-floor playroom. Of course, it's pitch-dark, because I couldn't spoil the simple unbroken roof-lines; but I have my electric torch and if'—but I had to stop. Lucy had swooned at the foot of the stairs. I turned to Freddie and—I think I was rather excited—I yelled, 'Well, go on! Say it!' 'Say what?' was all he could manage. 'Say what they all say,' I shrieked. 'Say that Mr. Barrows drew out the plans, but that the ideas were all your wife's—and yours.' And with that I left them."
To quiet his peals of laughter I put my hand on his shoulder. "This is rather terrible, Will," I said. "What of your future? Your practice?" "To blazes with it," he shouted. "I have had enough joy out of the last four hours to repay me for ten years of suffering."