through!" The Commander's voice was like thin ice
breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily
braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray
eye. "We can't make it, sir. It's spoiling for a
hurricane, if you ask me." "I'm not asking you,
Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander. "Throw on the
power lights! Rev her up to 8500! We're going through!"
The pounding of the cylinders increased:
ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander
stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over
and twisted a row of complicated dials. "Switch on No. 8
auxiliary!" he shouted. "Switch on No. 8
auxiliary!" repeated Lieutenant Berg. "Full
strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander.
"Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending
to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined
Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The
Old Man'll get us through," they said to one another.
"The Old Man ain't afraid of hell!" . . .
"Not so fast! You're driving too fast!" said Mrs.
Mitty. "What are you driving so fast for?"
"Hmm?" said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in
the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed
grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at
him in a crowd. "You were up to fifty-five," she
said. "You know I don't like to go more than forty. You
were up to fifty-five." Walter Mitty drove on toward
Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the
worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the
remote, intimate airways of his mind. "You're tensed up
again," said Mrs. Mitty. "It's one of your days. I
wish you'd let Dr. Renshaw look you over."
Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the building where
his wife went to have her hair done. "Remember to get
those overshoes while I'm having my hair done," she
said. "I don't need overshoes," said Mitty. She put
her mirror back into her bag. "We've been all through
that," she said, getting out of the car. "You're
not a young man any longer." He raced the engine a
little. "Why don't you wear your gloves? Have you lost
your gloves?" Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and
brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had
turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a
red light, he took them off again. "Pick it up,
brother!" snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty
hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead. He drove
around the streets aimlessly for a time, and then he drove
past the hospital on his way to the parking lot.
. . . "It's the millionaire banker, Wellington
McMillan," said the pretty nurse. "Yes?" said
Walter Mitty, removing his gloves slowly. "Who has the
case?" "Dr. Renshaw and Dr. Benbow, but there are
two specialists here, Dr. Remington from New York and Dr.
Pritchard-Mitford from London. He flew over." A door
opened down a long, cool corridor and Dr. Renshaw came out.
He looked distraught and haggard. "Hello, Mitty,"
he said. `'We're having the devil's own time with McMillan,
the millionaire banker and close personal friend of
Roosevelt. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish
you'd take a look at him." "Glad to," said
In the operating room there were whispered introductions:
"Dr. Remington, Dr. Mitty. Dr. Pritchard-Mitford, Dr.
Mitty." "I've read your book on
streptothricosis," said Pritchard-Mitford, shaking
hands. "A brilliant performance, sir." "Thank
you," said Walter Mitty. "Didn't know you were in
the States, Mitty," grumbled Remington. "Coals to
Newcastle, bringing Mitford and me up here for a
tertiary." "You are very kind," said Mitty. A
huge, complicated machine, connected to the operating table,
with many tubes and wires, began at this moment to go
pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. "The new anesthetizer is giving
away!" shouted an intern. "There is no one in the
East who knows how to fix it!" "Quiet, man!"
said Mitty, in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine,
which was now going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep . He
began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials.
"Give me a fountain pen!" he snapped. Someone
handed him a fountain pen. He pulled a faulty piston out of
the machine and inserted the pen in its place. "That
will hold for ten minutes," he said. "Get on with
the operation. A nurse hurried over and whispered to Renshaw,
and Mitty saw the man turn pale. "Coreopsis has set
in," said Renshaw nervously. "If you would take
over, Mitty?" Mitty looked at him and at the craven
figure of Benbow, who drank, and at the grave, uncertain
faces of the two great specialists. "If you wish,"
he said. They slipped a white gown on him, he adjusted a mask
and drew on thin gloves; nurses handed him shining . . .
"Back it up, Mac!! Look out for that Buick!" Walter
Mitty jammed on the brakes. "Wrong lane, Mac," said
the parking-lot attendant, looking at Mitty closely.
"Gee. Yeh," muttered Mitty. He began cautiously to
back out of the lane marked "Exit Only."
"Leave her sit there," said the attendant.
"I'll put her away." Mitty got out of the car.
"Hey, better leave the key." "Oh," said
Mitty, handing the man the ignition key. The attendant
vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and
put it where it belonged.
They're so damn cocky, thought Walter Mitty, walking along
Main Street; they think they know everything. Once he had
tried to take his chains off, outside New Milford, and he had
got them wound around the axles. A man had had to come out in
a wrecking car and unwind them, a young, grinning garageman.
Since then Mrs. Mitty always made him drive to a garage to
have the chains taken off. The next time, he thought, I'll
wear my right arm in a sling; they won't grin at me then.
I'll have my right arm in a sling and they'll see I couldn't
possibly take the chains off myself. He kicked at the slush
on the sidewalk. "Overshoes," he said to himself,
and he began looking for a shoe store.
When he came out into the street again, with the overshoes in
a box under his arm, Walter Mitty began to wonder what the
other thing was his wife had told him to get. She had told
him, twice before they set out from their house for
Waterbury. In a way he hated these weekly trips to town--he
was always getting something wrong. Kleenex, he thought,
Squibb's, razor blades? No. Tooth paste, toothbrush,
bicarbonate, Carborundum, initiative and referendum? He gave
it up. But she would remember it. "Where's the
what's-its- name?" she would ask. "Don't tell me
you forgot the what's-its-name." A newsboy went by
shouting something about the Waterbury trial.
. . . "Perhaps this will refresh your memory." The
District Attorney suddenly thrust a heavy automatic at the
quiet figure on the witness stand. "Have you ever seen
this before?'' Walter Mitty took the gun and examined it
expertly. "This is my Webley-Vickers 50.80," ho
said calmly. An excited buzz ran around the courtroom. The
Judge rapped for order. "You are a crack shot with any
sort of firearms, I believe?" said the District
Attorney, insinuatingly. "Objection!" shouted
Mitty's attorney. "We have shown that the defendant
could not have fired the shot. We have shown that he wore his
right arm in a sling on the night of the fourteenth of
July." Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the
bickering attorneys were stilled. "With any known make
of gun," he said evenly, "I could have killed
Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left
hand." Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom. A
woman's scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely,
dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty's arms. The District
Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his
chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin.
"You miserable cur!" . . .
"Puppy biscuit," said Walter Mitty. He stopped
walking and the buildings of Waterbury rose up out of the
misty courtroom and surrounded him again. A woman who was
passing laughed. "He said 'Puppy biscuit,'" she
said to her companion. "That man said 'Puppy biscuit' to
himself." Walter Mitty hurried on. He went into an A.
& P., not the first one he came to but a smaller one
farther up the street. "I want some biscuit for small,
young dogs," he said to the clerk. "Any special
brand, sir?" The greatest pistol shot in the world
thought a moment. "It says 'Puppies Bark for It' on the
box," said Walter Mitty.
His wife would be through at the hairdresser's in fifteen
minutes' Mitty saw in looking at his watch, unless they had
trouble drying it; sometimes they had trouble drying it. She
didn't like to get to the hotel first, she would want him to
be there waiting for her as usual. He found a big leather
chair in the lobby, facing a window, and he put the overshoes
and the puppy biscuit on the floor beside it. He picked up an
old copy of Liberty and sank down into the chair. "Can
Germany Conquer the World Through the Air?" Walter Mitty
looked at the pictures of bombing planes and of ruined
. . . "The cannonading has got the wind up in young
Raleigh, sir," said the sergeant. Captain Mitty looked
up at him through tousled hair. "Get him to bed,"
he said wearily, "with the others. I'll fly alone."
"But you can't, sir," said the sergeant anxiously.
"It takes two men to handle that bomber and the Archies
are pounding hell out of the air. Von Richtman's circus is
between here and Saulier." "Somebody's got to get
that ammunition dump," said Mitty. "I'm going over.
Spot of brandy?" He poured a drink for the sergeant and
one for himself. War thundered and whined around the dugout
and battered at the door. There was a rending of wood and
splinters flew through the room. "A bit of a near
thing," said Captain Mitty carelessly. 'The box barrage
is closing in," said the sergeant. "We only live
once, Sergeant," said Mitty, with his faint, fleeting
smile. "Or do we?" He poured another brandy and
tossed it off. "I never see a man could hold his brandy
like you, sir," said the sergeant. "Begging your
pardon, sir." Captain Mitty stood up and strapped on his
huge Webley-Vickers automatic. "It's forty kilometers
through hell, sir," said the sergeant. Mitty finished
one last brandy. "After all," he said softly,
"what isn't?" The pounding of the cannon increased;
there was the rat-tat-tatting of machine guns, and from
somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the
new flame-throwers. Walter Mitty walked to the door of the
dugout humming "Aupres de Ma Blonde." He turned and
waved to the sergeant. "Cheerio!" he said. . . .
Something struck his shoulder. "I've been looking all
over this hotel for you," said Mrs. Mitty. "Why do
you have to hide in this old chair? How did you expect me to
find you?" "Things close in," said Walter
Mitty vaguely. "What?" Mrs. Mitty said. "Did
you get the what's-its-name? The puppy biscuit? What's in
that box?" "Overshoes," said Mitty.
"Couldn't you have put them on in the store?" 'I
was thinking," said Walter Mitty. "Does it ever
occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?" She looked
at him. "I'm going to take your temperature when I get
you home," she said.
They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly
derisive whistling sound when you pushed them. It was two
blocks to the parking lot. At the drugstore on the corner she
said, "Wait here for me. I forgot something. I won't be
a minute." She was more than a minute. Walter Mitty
lighted a cigarette. It began to rain, rain with sleet in it.
He stood up against the wall of the drugstore, smoking. . . .
He put his shoulders back and his heels together. "To
hell with the handkerchief," said Waker Mitty
scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and
snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile
playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and
motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the
Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.