Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
Part 3 out of 6
"I'm myself now. I suppose you can't realise that a pretty girl
can hold such views."
Jimmy took her arm.
"Let me help you," he said. "There's a knothole in the deck.
Watch your step. Now, listen to me. I'm glad you've brought up
this subject--I mean the subject of your being the prettiest girl
in the known world--"
"I never said that."
"Your modesty prevented you. But it's a fact, nevertheless. I'm
glad, I say, because I have been thinking a lot along those lines
myself, and I have been anxious to discuss the point with you.
You have the most glorious hair I have ever seen!"
"Do you like red hair?"
"It is nice of you to put it like that. When I was a child all
except a few of the other children called me Carrots."
"They have undoubtedly come to a bad end by this time. If bears
were sent to attend to the children who criticised Elijah, your
little friends were in line for a troupe of tigers. But there
were some of a finer fibre? There were a few who didn't call you
"One or two. They called me Brick-Top."
"They have probably been electrocuted since. Your eyes are
Ann withdrew her arm. An extensive acquaintance of young men told
her that the topic of conversation was now due to be changed.
"You will like America," she said.
"We are not discussing America."
"I am. It is a wonderful country for a man who wants to succeed.
If I were you, I should go out West."
"Do you live out West?"
"Then why suggest my going there? Where do you live?"
"I live in New York."
"I shall stay in New York, then."
Ann was wary, but amused. Proposals of marriage--and Jimmy seemed
to be moving swiftly towards one--were no novelty in her life. In
the course of several seasons at Bar Harbor, Tuxedo, Palm Beach,
and in New York itself, she had spent much of her time foiling
and discouraging the ardour of a series of sentimental youths who
had laid their unwelcome hearts at her feet.
"New York is open for staying in about this time, I believe."
Jimmy was silent. He had done his best to fight a tendency to
become depressed and had striven by means of a light tone to keep
himself resolutely cheerful, but the girl's apparently total
indifference to him was too much for his spirits. One of the
young men who had had to pick up the heart he had flung at Ann's
feet and carry it away for repairs had once confided to an
intimate friend, after the sting had to some extent passed, that
the feelings of a man who made love to Ann might be likened to
the emotions which hot chocolate might be supposed to entertain
on contact with vanilla ice-cream. Jimmy, had the comparison been
presented to him, would have endorsed its perfect accuracy. The
wind from the sea, until now keen and bracing, had become merely
infernally cold. The song of the wind in the rigging, erstwhile
melodious, had turned into a damned depressing howling.
"I used to be as sentimental as any one a few years ago," said
Ann, returning to the dropped subject. "Just after I left
college, I was quite maudlin. I dreamed of moons and Junes and
loves and doves all the time. Then something happened which made
me see what a little fool I was. It wasn't pleasant at the time,
but it had a very bracing effect. I have been quite different
ever since. It was a man, of course, who did it. His method was
quite simple. He just made fun of me, and Nature did the rest."
Jimmy scowled in the darkness. Murderous thoughts towards the
unknown brute flooded his mind.
"I wish I could meet him!" he growled.
"You aren't likely to," said Ann. "He lives in England. His name
is Crocker. Jimmy Crocker. I spoke about him just now."
Through the howling of the wind cut the sharp notes of a bugle.
Ann turned to the saloon entrance.
"Dinner!" she said brightly. "How hungry one gets on board ship!"
She stopped. "Aren't you coming down, Mr. Bayliss?"
"Not just yet," said Jimmy thickly.
PAINFUL SCENE IN A CAFE
The noonday sun beat down on Park Row. Hurrying mortals, released
from a thousand offices, congested the sidewalks, their thoughts
busy with the vision of lunch. Up and down the canyon of Nassau
Street the crowds moved more slowly. Candy-selling aliens jostled
newsboys, and huge dray-horses endeavoured to the best of their
ability not to grind the citizenry beneath their hooves.
Eastward, pressing on to the City Hall, surged the usual dense
army of happy lovers on their way to buy marriage-licenses. Men
popped in and out of the subway entrances like rabbits. It was a
stirring, bustling scene, typical of this nerve-centre of New
York's vast body.
Jimmy Crocker, standing in the doorway, watched the throngs
enviously. There were men in that crowd who chewed gum, there
were men who wore white satin ties with imitation diamond
stick-pins, there were men who, having smoked seven-tenths of a
cigar, were eating the remainder: but there was not one with whom
he would not at that moment willingly have exchanged identities.
For these men had jobs. And in his present frame of mind it
seemed to him that no further ingredient was needed for the
recipe of the ultimate human bliss.
The poet has said some very searching and unpleasant things about
the man "whose heart has ne'er within him burned as home his
footsteps he has turned from wandering on some foreign strand,"
but he might have excused Jimmy for feeling just then not so much
a warmth of heart as a cold and clammy sensation of dismay. He
would have had to admit that the words "High though his titles,
proud his name, boundless his wealth as wish can claim" did not
apply to Jimmy Crocker. The latter may have been "concentred all
on self," but his wealth consisted of one hundred and
thirty-three dollars and forty cents and his name was so far from
being proud that the mere sight of it in the files of the New
York _Sunday Chronicle_, the record-room of which he had just been
visiting, had made him consider the fact that he had changed it
to Bayliss the most sensible act of his career.
The reason for Jimmy's lack of enthusiasm as he surveyed the
portion of his native land visible from his doorway is not far to
seek. The _Atlantic_ had docked on Saturday night, and Jimmy,
having driven to an excellent hotel and engaged an expensive room
therein, had left instructions at the desk that breakfast should
be served to him at ten o'clock and with it the Sunday issue of
the _Chronicle_. Five years had passed since he had seen the dear
old rag for which he had reported so many fires, murders,
street-accidents, and weddings: and he looked forward to its
perusal as a formal taking _seisin_ of his long-neglected country.
Nothing could be more fitting and symbolic than that the first
morning of his return to America should find him propped up in
bed reading the good old _Chronicle_. Among his final meditations
as he dropped off to sleep was a gentle speculation as to who was
City editor now and whether the comic supplement was still
featuring the sprightly adventures of the Doughnut family.
A wave of not unmanly sentiment passed over him on the following
morning as he reached out for the paper. The sky-line of New
York, seen as the boat comes up the bay, has its points, and the
rattle of the Elevated trains and the quaint odour of the Subway
extend a kindly welcome, but the thing that really convinces the
returned traveller that he is back on Manhattan Island is the
first Sunday paper. Jimmy, like every one else, began by opening
the comic supplement: and as he scanned it a chilly discomfort,
almost a premonition of evil, came upon him. The Doughnut Family
was no more. He knew that it was unreasonable of him to feel as
if he had just been informed of the death of a dear friend, for
Pa Doughnut and his associates had been having their adventures
five years before he had left the country, and even the toughest
comic supplementary hero rarely endures for a decade: but
nevertheless the shadow did fall upon his morning optimism, and
he derived no pleasure whatever from the artificial rollickings
of a degraded creature called Old Pop Dill-Pickle who was offered
as a substitute.
But this, he was to discover almost immediately, was a trifling
disaster. It distressed him, but it did not affect his material
welfare. Tragedy really began when he turned to the magazine
section. Scarcely had he started to glance at it when this
headline struck him like a bullet:
PICCADILLY JIM AT IT AGAIN
And beneath it his own name.
Nothing is so capable of diversity as the emotion we feel on
seeing our name unexpectedly in print. We may soar to the heights
or we may sink to the depths. Jimmy did the latter. A mere
cursory first inspection of the article revealed the fact that it
was no eulogy. With an unsparing hand the writer had muck-raked
his eventful past, the text on which he hung his remarks being
that ill-fated encounter with Lord Percy Whipple at the Six
Hundred Club. This the scribe had recounted at a length and with
a boisterous vim which outdid even Bill Blake's effort in the
London _Daily Sun_. Bill Blake had been handicapped by
consideration of space and the fact that he had turned in his
copy at an advanced hour when the paper was almost made up. The
present writer was shackled by no restrictions. He had plenty of
room to spread himself in, and he had spread himself. So liberal
had been the editor's views in the respect that, in addition to
the letter-press, the pages contained an unspeakably offensive
picture of a burly young man in an obviously advanced condition
of alcoholism raising his fist to strike a monocled youth in
evening dress who had so little chin that Jimmy was surprised
that he had ever been able to hit it. The only gleam of
consolation that he could discover in this repellent drawing was
the fact that the artist had treated Lord Percy even more
scurvily than himself. Among other things, the second son of the
Duke of Devizes was depicted as wearing a coronet--a thing which
would have excited remark even in a London night-club.
Jimmy read the thing through in its entirety three times before
he appreciated a _nuance_ which his disordered mind had at first
failed to grasp--to wit, that this character-sketch of himself
was no mere isolated outburst but apparently one of a series. In
several places the writer alluded unmistakeably to other theses
on the same subject.
Jimmy's breakfast congealed on its tray, untouched. That boon
which the gods so seldom bestow, of seeing ourselves as others
see us, had been accorded to him in full measure. By the time he
had completed his third reading he was regarding himself in a
purely objective fashion not unlike the attitude of a naturalist
towards some strange and loathesome manifestation of insect life.
So this was the sort of fellow he was! He wondered they had let
him in at a reputable hotel.
The rest of the day he passed in a state of such humility that he
could have wept when the waiters were civil to him. On the Monday
morning he made his way to Park Row to read the files of the
_Chronicle_--a morbid enterprise, akin to the eccentric behaviour
of those priests of Baal who gashed themselves with knives or of
authors who subscribe to press-clipping agencies.
He came upon another of the articles almost at once, in an issue
not a month old. Then there was a gap of several weeks, and hope
revived that things might not be as bad as he had feared--only to
be crushed by another trenchant screed. After that he set about
his excavations methodically, resolved to know the worst. He
knew it in just under two hours. There it all was--his row with
the bookie, his bad behaviour at the political meeting, his
breach-of-promise case. It was a complete biography.
And the name they called him. Piccadilly Jim! Ugh!
He went out into Park Row, and sought a quiet doorway where he
could brood upon these matters.
It was not immediately that the practical or financial aspect of
the affair came to scourge him. For an appreciable time he
suffered in his self-esteem alone. It seemed to him that all
these bustling persons who passed knew him, that they were
casting sidelong glances at him and laughing derisively, that
those who chewed gum chewed it sneeringly and that those who ate
their cigars ate them with thinly-veiled disapproval and scorn.
Then, the passage of time blunting sensitiveness, he found that
there were other and weightier things to consider.
As far as he had had any connected plan of action in his sudden
casting-off of the flesh-pots of London, he had determined as
soon as possible after landing to report at the office of his old
paper and apply for his ancient position. So little thought had
he given to the minutiae of his future plans that it had not
occurred to him that he had anything to do but walk in, slap the
gang on the back, and announce that he was ready to work. Work!--
on the staff of a paper whose chief diversion appeared to be the
satirising of his escapades! Even had he possessed the moral
courage--or gall--to make the application, what good would it be?
He was a by-word in a world where he had once been a worthy
citizen. What paper would trust Piccadilly Jim with an
assignment? What paper would consider Piccadilly Jim even on
space rates? A chill dismay crept over him. He seemed to hear the
grave voice of Bayliss the butler speaking in his car as he had
spoken so short a while before at Paddington Station.
"Is it not a little rash, Mr. James?"
Rash was the word. Here he stood, in a country that had no
possible use for him, a country where competition was keen and
jobs for the unskilled infrequent. What on earth was there that
he could do?
Well, he could go home. . . . No, he couldn't. His pride revolted
at that solution. Prodigal Son stuff was all very well in its
way, but it lost its impressiveness if you turned up again at
home two weeks after you had left. A decent interval among the
husks and swine was essential. Besides, there was his father to
consider. He might be a poor specimen of a fellow, as witness the
_Sunday Chronicle_ _passim_, but he was not so poor as to come
slinking back to upset things for his father just when he had
done the only decent thing by removing himself. No, that was out
of the question.
What remained? The air of New York is bracing and healthy, but a
man cannot live on it. Obviously he must find a job. But what
What could he do?
A gnawing sensation in the region of the waistcoat answered the
question. The solution--which it put forward was, it was true,
but a temporary one, yet it appealed strongly to Jimmy. He had
found it admirable at many crises. He would go and lunch, and it
might be that food would bring inspiration.
He moved from his doorway and crossed to the entrance of the
subway. He caught a timely express, and a few minutes later
emerged into the sunlight again at Grand Central. He made his way
westward along Forty-second Street to the hotel which he thought
would meet his needs. He had scarcely entered it when in a chair
by the door he perceived Ann Chester, and at the sight of her all
his depression vanished and he was himself again.
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Bayliss? Are you lunching here?"
"Unless there is some other place that you would prefer," said
Jimmy. "I hope I haven't kept you waiting."
Ann laughed. She was looking very delightful in something soft
"I'm not going to lunch with you. I'm waiting for Mr. Ralstone
and his sister. Do you remember him? He crossed over with us. His
chair was next to mine on the promenade deck."
Jimmy was shocked. When he thought how narrowly she had escaped,
poor girl, from lunching with that insufferable pill Teddy--or
was it Edgar?--he felt quite weak. Recovering himself, he spoke
"When were they to have met you?"
"At one o'clock."
"It is now five past. You are certainly not going to wait any
longer. Come with me, and we will whistle for cabs."
"Don't be absurd!"
"Come along. I want to talk to you about my future."
"I shall certainly do nothing of the kind," said Ann, rising. She
went with him to the door. "Teddy would never forgive me." She
got into the cab. "It's only because you have appealed to me to
help you discuss your future," she said, as they drove off.
"Nothing else would have induced me . . ."
"I know," said Jimmy. "I felt that I could rely on your womanly
sympathy. Where shall we go?"
"Where do you want to go? Oh, I forget that you have never been
in New York before. By the way, what are your impressions of our
"Most gratifying, if only I could get a job."
"Tell him to drive to Delmonico's. It's just around the corner on
"There are some things round the corner, then?"
"That sounds cryptic. What do you mean."
"You've forgotten our conversation that night on the ship. You
refused to admit the existence of wonderful things just round the
corner. You said some very regrettable things that night. About
love, if you remember."
"You can't be going to talk about love at one o'clock in the
afternoon! Talk about your future."
"Love is inextricably mixed up with my future."
"Not with your immediate future. I thought you said that you were
trying to get a job. Have you given up the idea of newspaper
"Well, I'm rather glad."
The cab drew up at the restaurant door, and the conversation was
interrupted. When they were seated at their table and Jimmy had
given an order to the waiter of absolutely inexcusable
extravagance, Ann returned to the topic.
"Well, now the thing is to find something for you to do."
Jimmy looked round the restaurant with appreciative eyes. The
summer exodus from New York was still several weeks distant, and
the place was full of prosperous-looking lunchers, not one of
whom appeared to have a care or an unpaid bill in the world. The
atmosphere was redolent of substantial bank-balances. Solvency
shone from the closely shaven faces of the men and reflected
itself in the dresses of the women. Jimmy sighed.
"I suppose so," he said. "Though for choice I'd like to be one of
the Idle Rich. To my mind the ideal profession is strolling into
the office and touching the old dad for another thousand."
Ann was severe.
"You revolt me!" she said. "I never heard anything so thoroughly
disgraceful. You _need_ work!"
"One of these days," said Jimmy plaintively, "I shall be sitting
by the roadside with my dinner-pail, and you will come by in your
limousine, and I shall look up at you and say '_You_ hounded me
into this!' How will you feel then?"
"Very proud of myself."
"In that case, there is no more to be said. I'd much rather hang
about and try to get adopted by a millionaire, but if you insist
on my working--Waiter!"
"What do you want?" asked Ann.
"Will you get me a Classified Telephone Directory," said Jimmy.
"What for?" asked Ann.
"To look for a profession. There is nothing like being
The waiter returned, bearing a red book. Jimmy thanked him and
opened it at the A's.
"The boy, what will he become?" he said. He turned the pages.
"How about an Auditor? What do you think of that?"
"Do you think you could audit?"
"That I could not say till I had tried. I might turn out to be
very good at it. How about an Adjuster?"
"An adjuster of what?"
"The book doesn't say. It just remarks broadly--in a sort of
spacious way--'Adjuster.' I take it that, having decided to
become an adjuster, you then sit down and decide what you wish to
adjust. One might, for example, become an Asparagus Adjuster."
"Surely you know? Asparagus Adjusters are the fellows who sell
those rope-and-pulley affairs by means of which the Smart Set
lower asparagus into their mouths--or rather Francis the footman
does it for them, of course. The diner leans back in his chair,
and the menial works the apparatus in the background. It is
entirely superseding the old-fashioned method of picking the
vegetable up and taking a snap at it. But I suspect that to be a
successful Asparagus Adjuster requires capital. We now come to
Awning Crank and Spring Rollers. I don't think I should like
that. Rolling awning cranks seems to me a sorry way of spending
life's springtime. Let's try the B's."
"Let's try this omelette. It looks delicious." Jimmy shook his
"I will toy with it--but absently and in a _distrait_ manner, as
becomes a man of affairs. There's nothing in the B's. I might
devote my ardent youth to Bar-Room Glassware and Bottlers'
Supplies. On the other hand, I might not. Similarly, while there
is no doubt a bright future for somebody in Celluloid, Fiberloid,
and Other Factitious Goods, instinct tells me that there is none
for--" he pulled up on the verge of saying, "James Braithwaite
Crocker," and shuddered at the nearness of the pitfall.
"--for--" he hesitated again--"for Algernon Bayliss," he
Ann smiled delightedly. It was so typical that his father should
have called him something like that. Time had not dimmed her
regard for the old man she had seen for that brief moment at
Paddington Station. He was an old dear, and she thoroughly
approved of this latest manifestation of his supposed pride in
"Is that really your name--Algernon?"
"I cannot deny it."
"I think your father is a darling," said Ann inconsequently.
Jimmy had buried himself in the directory again.
"The D's," he said. "Is it possible that posterity will know me
as Bayliss the Dermatologist? Or as Bayliss the Drop Forger? I
don't quite like that last one. It may be a respectable
occupation, but it sounds rather criminal to me. The sentence for
forging drops is probably about twenty years with hard labour."
"I wish you would put that book away and go on with your lunch,"
"Perhaps," said Jimmy, "my grandchildren will cluster round my
knee some day and say in their piping, childish voices, 'Tell us
how you became the Elastic Stocking King, grandpa!' What do you
"I think you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You are wasting
your time, when you ought to be either talking to me or else
thinking very seriously about what you mean to do."
Jimmy was turning the pages rapidly.
"I will be with you in a moment," he said. "Try to amuse yourself
somehow till I am at leisure. Ask yourself a riddle. Tell
yourself an anecdote. Think of life. No, it's no good. I don't
see myself as a Fan Importer, a Glass Beveller, a Hotel Broker,
an Insect Exterminator, a Junk Dealer, a Kalsomine Manufacturer,
a Laundryman, a Mausoleum Architect, a Nurse, an Oculist, a
Paper-Hanger, a Quilt Designer, a Roofer, a Ship Plumber, a
Tinsmith, an Undertaker, a Veterinarian, a Wig Maker, an X-ray
apparatus manufacturer, a Yeast producer, or a Zinc Spelter." He
closed the book. "There is only one thing to do. I must starve in
the gutter. Tell me--you know New York better than I do--where is
there a good gutter?"
At this moment there entered the restaurant an Immaculate Person.
He was a young man attired in faultlessly fitting clothes, with
shoes of flawless polish and a perfectly proportioned floweret in
his buttonhole. He surveyed the room through a monocle. He was a
pleasure to look upon, but Jimmy, catching sight of him, started
violently and felt no joy at all; for he had recognised him. It
was a man he knew well and who knew him well--a man whom he had
last seen a bare two weeks ago at the Bachelors' Club in London.
Few things are certain in this world, but one was that, if
Bartling--such was the Vision's name--should see him, he would
come over and address him as Crocker. He braced himself to the
task of being Bayliss, the whole Bayliss, and nothing but
Bayliss. It might be that stout denial would carry him through.
After all, Reggie Bartling was a man of notoriously feeble
intellect, who could believe in anything.
The monocle continued its sweep. It rested on Jimmy's profile.
"By Gad!" said the Vision.
Reginald Bartling had landed in New York that morning, and
already the loneliness of a strange city had begun to oppress
him. He had come over on a visit of pleasure, his suit-case
stuffed with letters of introduction, but these he had not yet
used. There was a feeling of home-sickness upon him, and he ached
for a pal. And there before him sat Jimmy Crocker, one of the
best. He hastened to the table.
"I say, Crocker, old chap, I didn't know you were over here. When
did you arrive?"
Jimmy was profoundly thankful that he had seen this pest in time
to be prepared for him. Suddenly assailed in this fashion, he
would undoubtedly have incriminated himself by recognition of his
name. But, having anticipated the visitation, he was able to say
a whole sentence to Ann before showing himself aware that it was
he who was addressed.
"I say! Jimmy Crocker!"
Jimmy achieved one of the blankest stares of modern times. He
looked at Ann. Then he looked at Bartling again.
"I think there's some mistake," he said. "My name is Bayliss."
Before his stony eye the immaculate Bartling wilted. It was a
perfectly astounding likeness, but it was apparent to him when
what he had ever heard and read about doubles came to him. He was
confused. He blushed. It was deuced bad form going up to a
perfect stranger like this and pretending you knew him. Probably
the chappie thought he was some kind of a confidence johnnie or
something. It was absolutely rotten! He continued to blush till
one could have fancied him scarlet to the ankles. He backed away,
apologising in ragged mutters. Jimmy was not insensible to the
pathos of his suffering acquaintance's position; he knew Reggie
and his devotion to good form sufficiently well to enable him to
appreciate the other's horror at having spoken to a fellow to
whom he had never been introduced; but necessity forbade any
other course. However Reggie's soul might writhe and however
sleepless Reggie's nights might become as a result of this
encounter, he was prepared to fight it out on those lines if it
took all summer. And, anyway, it was darned good for Reggie to
get a jolt like that every once in a while. Kept him bright and
So thinking, he turned to Ann again, while the crimson Bartling
tottered off to restore his nerve centres to their normal tone at
some other hostelry. He found Ann staring amazedly at him, eyes
wide and lips parted.
"Odd, that!" he observed with a light carelessness which he
admired extremely and of which he would not have believed himself
capable. "I suppose I must be somebody's double. What was the
name he said?"
"Jimmy Crocker!" cried Ann.
Jimmy raised his glass, sipped, and put it down.
"Oh yes, I remember. So it was. It's a curious thing, too, that
it sounds familiar. I've heard the name before somewhere."
"I was talking about Jimmy Crocker on the ship. That evening on
Jimmy looked at her doubtfully.
"Were you? Oh yes, of course. I've got it now. He is the man you
Ann was still looking at him as if he had undergone a change into
something new and strange.
"I hope you aren't going to let the resemblance prejudice you
against _me_?" said Jimmy. "Some are born Jimmy Crockers, others
have Jimmy Crockers thrust upon them. I hope you'll bear in mind
that I belong to the latter class."
"It's such an extraordinary thing."
"Oh, I don't know. You often hear of doubles. There was a man in
England a few years ago who kept getting sent to prison for
things some genial stranger who happened to look like him had
"I don't mean that. Of course there are doubles. But it is
curious that you should have come over here and that we should
have met like this at just this time. You see, the reason I went
over to England at all was to try to get Jimmy Crocker to come
"I don't mean that _I_ did. I mean that I went with my uncle and
aunt, who wanted to persuade him to come and live with them."
Jimmy was now feeling completely out of his depth.
"Your uncle and aunt? Why?"
"I ought to have explained that they are his uncle and aunt, too.
My aunt's sister married his father."
"It's quite simple, though it doesn't sound so. Perhaps you
haven't read the _Sunday Chronicle_ lately? It has been publishing
articles about Jimmy Crocker's disgusting behaviour in
London--they call him Piccadilly Jim, you know--"
In print, that name had shocked Jimmy. Spoken, and by Ann, it was
loathly. Remorse for his painful past tore at him.
"There was another one printed yesterday."
"I saw it," said Jimmy, to avert description.
"Oh, did you? Well, just to show you what sort of a man Jimmy
Crocker is, the Lord Percy Whipple whom he attacked in the club
was his very best friend. His step-mother told my aunt so. He
seems to be absolutely hopeless." She smiled. "You're looking
quite sad, Mr. Bayliss. Cheer up! You may look like him, but you
aren't him he?--him?--no, 'he' is right. The soul is what counts.
If you've got a good, virtuous, Algernonish soul, it doesn't
matter if you're so like Jimmy Crocker that his friends come up
and talk to you in restaurants. In fact, it's rather an
advantage, really. I'm sure that if you were to go to my aunt and
pretend to be Jimmy Crocker, who had come over after all in a fit
of repentance, she would be so pleased that there would be
nothing she wouldn't do for you. You might realise your ambition
of being adopted by a millionaire. Why don't you try it? I won't
give you away."
"Before they found me out and hauled me off to prison, I should
have been near you for a time. I should have lived in the same
house with you, spoken to you--!" Jimmy's voice shook.
Ann turned her head to address an imaginary companion.
"You must listen to this, my dear," she said in an undertone. "He
speaks _wonderfully!_ They used to call him the Boy Orator in his
home-town. Sometimes that, and sometimes Eloquent Algernon!"
Jimmy eyed her fixedly. He disapproved of this frivolity.
"One of these days you will try me too high--!"
"Oh, you didn't hear what I was saying to my friend, did you?"
she said in concern. "But I meant it, every word. I love to hear
you talk. You have such _feeling!_"
Jimmy attuned himself to the key of the conversation.
"Have you no sentiment in you?" he demanded.
"I was just warming up, too! In another minute you would have
heard something worth while. You've damped me now. Let's talk
about my lifework again."
"Have you thought of anything?"
"I'd like to be one of those fellows who sit in offices, and sign
checks, and tell the office-boy to tell Mr. Rockerfeller they can
give him five minutes. But of course I should need a check-book,
and I haven't got one. Oh well, I shall find something to do all
right. Now tell me something about yourself. Let's drop the
future for awhile."
* * * * *
An hour later Jimmy turned into Broadway. He walked pensively,
for he had much to occupy his mind. How strange that the Petts
should have come over to England to try to induce him to return
to New York, and how galling that, now that he was in New York,
this avenue to a prosperous future was closed by the fact that
something which he had done five years ago--that he could
remember nothing about it was quite maddening--had caused Ann to
nurse this abiding hatred of him. He began to dream tenderly of
Ann, bumping from pedestrian to pedestrian in a gentle trance.
From this trance the seventh pedestrian aroused him by uttering
his name, the name which circumstances had compelled him to
Surprise brought Jimmy back from his dreams to the hard world
--surprise and a certain exasperation. It was ridiculous to be
incognito in a city which he had not visited in five years and to
be instantly recognised in this way by every second man he met.
He looked sourly at the man. The other was a sturdy,
square-shouldered, battered young man, who wore on his homely
face a grin of recognition and regard. Jimmy was not particularly
good at remembering faces, but this person's was of a kind which
the poorest memory might have recalled. It was, as the
advertisements say, distinctively individual. The broken nose,
the exiguous forehead, and the enlarged ears all clamoured for
recognition. The last time Jimmy had seen Jerry Mitchell had been
two years before at the National Sporting Club in London, and,
placing him at once, he braced himself, as a short while ago he
had braced himself to confound immaculate Reggie.
"Hello!" said the battered one.
"Hello indeed!" said Jimmy courteously. "In what way can I
brighten your life?"
The grin faded from the other's face. He looked puzzled.
"You're Jimmy Crocker, ain't you?"
"No. My name chances to be Algernon Bayliss."
Jerry Mitchell reddened.
"'Scuse me. My mistake."
He was moving off, but Jimmy stopped him. Parting from Ann had
left a large gap in his life, and he craved human society.
"I know you now," he said. "You're Jerry Mitchell. I saw you
fight Kid Burke four years ago in London."
The grin returned to the pugilist's face, wider than ever. He
beamed with gratification.
"Gee! Think of that! I've quit since then. I'm working for an old
guy named Pett. Funny thing, he's Jimmy Crocker's uncle that I
mistook you for. Say, you're a dead ringer for that guy! I could
have sworn it was him when you bumped into me. Say, are you doing
"Nothing in particular."
"Come and have a yarn. There's a place I know just round by
They made their way to the place.
"What's yours?" said Jerry Mitchell. "I'm on the wagon myself,"
he said apologetically.
"So am I," said Jimmy. "It's the only way. No sense in always
drinking and making a disgraceful exhibition of yourself in
Jerry Mitchell received this homily in silence. It disposed
definitely of the lurking doubt in his mind as to the possibility
of this man really being Jimmy Crocker. Though outwardly
convinced by the other's denial, he had not been able to rid
himself till now of a nebulous suspicion. But this convinced him.
Jimmy Crocker would never have said a thing like that nor would
have refused the offer of alcohol. He fell into pleasant
conversation with him. His mind eased.
MRS. PETT IS SHOCKED
At five o'clock in the afternoon some ten days after her return
to America, Mrs. Pett was at home to her friends in the house on
Riverside Drive. The proceedings were on a scale that amounted to
a reception, for they were not only a sort of official
notification to New York that one of its most prominent hostesses
was once more in its midst, but were also designed to entertain
and impress Mr. Hammond Chester, Ann's father, who had been
spending a couple of days in the metropolis preparatory to
departing for South America on one of his frequent trips. He was
very fond of Ann in his curious, detached way, though he never
ceased in his private heart to consider it injudicious of her not
to have been born a boy, and he always took in New York for a day
or two on his way from one wild and lonely spot to another, if he
could manage it.
The large drawing-room overlooking the Hudson was filled almost
to capacity with that strange mixture of humanity which Mrs. Pett
chiefly affected. She prided herself on the Bohemian element in
her parties, and had become during the past two years a human
drag-net, scooping Genius from its hiding-place and bringing it
into the open. At different spots in the room stood the six
resident geniuses to whose presence in the home Mr. Pett had such
strong objections, and in addition to these she had collected so
many more of a like breed from the environs of Washington Square
that the air was clamorous with the hoarse cries of futurist
painters, esoteric Buddhists, _vers libre_ poets, interior
decorators, and stage reformers, sifted in among the more
conventional members of society who had come to listen to them.
Men with new religions drank tea with women with new hats.
Apostles of Free Love expounded their doctrines to persons who
had been practising them for years without realising it. All over
the room throats were being strained and minds broadened.
Mr. Chester, standing near the door with Ann, eyed the assemblage
with the genial contempt of a large dog for a voluble pack of
small ones. He was a massive, weather-beaten man, who looked very
like Ann in some ways and would have looked more like her but for
the misfortune of having had some of his face clawed away by an
irritable jaguar with whom he had had a difference some years
back in the jungles of Peru.
"Do you like this sort of thing?" he asked.
"I don't mind it," said Ann.
"Well, I shall be very sorry to leave you, Ann, but I'm glad I'm
pulling out of here this evening. Who are all these people?"
Ann surveyed the gathering.
"That's Ernest Wisden, the playwright, over there, talking to
Lora Delane Porter, the feminist writer. That's Clara
What's-her-name, the sculptor, with the bobbed hair. Next to
Mr. Chester cut short the catalogue with a stifled yawn.
"Where's old Pete? Doesn't he come to these jamborees?"
"Poor uncle Peter! If he gets back from the office before these
people leave, he will sneak up to his room and stay there till
it's safe to come out. The last time I made him come to one of
these parties he was pounced on by a woman who talked to him for
an hour about the morality of Finance and seemed to think that
millionaires were the scum of the earth."
"He never would stand up for himself." Mr. Chester's gaze hovered
about the room, and paused. "Who's that fellow? I believe I've
seen him before somewhere."
A constant eddying swirl was animating the multitude. Whenever
the mass tended to congeal, something always seemed to stir it up
again. This was due to the restless activity of Mrs. Pett, who
held it to be the duty of a good hostess to keep her guests
moving. From the moment when the room began to fill till the
moment when it began to empty she did not cease to plough her way
to and fro, in a manner equally reminiscent of a hawk swooping on
chickens and an earnest collegian bucking the line. Her guests
were as a result perpetually forming new ententes and
combinations, finding themselves bumped about like those little
moving figures which one sees in shop-windows on Broadway, which
revolve on a metal disc until, urged by impact with another
little figure, they scatter to regroup themselves elsewhere. It
was a fascinating feature of Mrs. Pett's at-homes and one which
assisted that mental broadening process already alluded to that
one never knew, when listening to a discussion on the sincerity
of Oscar Wilde, whether it would not suddenly change in the
middle of a sentence to an argument on the inner meaning of the
Plunging now into a group dominated for the moment by an angular
woman who was saying loud and penetrating things about the
suffrage, Mrs. Pett had seized and removed a tall, blonde young
man with a mild, vacuous face. For the past few minutes this
young man had been sitting bolt upright on a chair with his hands
on his knees, so exactly in the manner of an end-man at a
minstrel show that one would hardly have been surprised had he
burst into song or asked a conundrum.
Ann followed her father's gaze.
"Do you mean the man talking to aunt Nesta? There, they've gone
over to speak to Willie Partridge. Do you mean that one?"
"Yes. Who is he?"
"Well, I like that!" said Ann. "Considering that you introduced
him to us! That's Lord Wisbeach, who came to uncle Peter with a
letter of introduction from you. You met him in Canada."
"I remember now. I ran across him in British Columbia. We camped
together one night. I'd never seen him before and I didn't see
him again. He said he wanted a letter to old Pete for some
reason, so I scribbled him one in pencil on the back of an
envelope. I've never met any one who played a better game of draw
poker. He cleaned me out. There's a lot in that fellow, in spite
of his looking like a musical comedy dude. He's clever."
Ann looked at him meditatively.
"It's odd that you should be discovering hidden virtues in Lord
Wisbeach, father. I've been trying to make up my mind about him.
He wants me to marry him."
"He does! I suppose a good many of these young fellows here want
the same thing, don't they, Ann?" Mr. Chester looked at his
daughter with interest. Her growing-up and becoming a beauty had
always been a perplexity to him. He could never rid himself of
the impression of her as a long-legged child in short skirts. "I
suppose you're refusing them all the time?"
"Every day from ten to four, with an hour off for lunch. I keep
regular office hours. Admission on presentation of visiting
"And how do you feel about this Lord Wisbeach?"
"I don't know," said Ann frankly. "He's very nice. And--what is
more important--he's different. Most of the men I know are all
turned out of the same mould. Lord Wisbeach--and one other
man--are the only two I've met who might not be the brothers of
all the rest."
"Who's the other?"
"A man I hardly know. I met him on board ship--"
Mr. Chester looked at his watch.
"It's up to you, Ann," he said. "There's one comfort in being
your father--I don't mean that exactly; I mean that it is a
comfort to me AS your father--to know that I need feel no
paternal anxiety about you. I don't have to give you advice.
You've not only got three times the sense that I have, but you're
not the sort of girl who would take advice. You've always known
just what you wanted ever since you were a kid. . . . Well, if
you're going to take me down to the boat, we'd better be
starting. Where's the car?"
"Waiting outside. Aren't you going to say good-bye to aunt
"Good God, no!" exclaimed Mr. Chester in honest concern. "What!
Plunge into that pack of coyotes and fight my way through to her!
I'd be torn to pieces by wild poets. Besides, it seems silly to
make a fuss saying good-bye when I'm only going to be away a
short time. I shan't go any further than Colombia this trip."
"You'll be able to run back for week-ends," said Ann.
She paused at the door to cast a fleeting glance over her
shoulder at the fair-haired Lord Wisbeach, who was now in
animated conversation with her aunt and Willie Partridge; then
she followed her father down the stairs. She was a little
thoughtful as she took her place at the wheel of her automobile.
It was not often that her independent nature craved outside
support, but she was half conscious of wishing at the present
juncture that she possessed a somewhat less casual father. She
would have liked to ask him to help her decide a problem which
had been vexing her for nearly three weeks now, ever since Lord
Wisbeach had asked her to marry him and she had promised to give
him his answer on her return from England. She had been back in
New York several days now, but she had not been able to make up
her mind. This annoyed her, for she was a girl who liked swift
decisiveness of thought and action both in others and in herself.
She was fond of Mr. Chester in much the same unemotional,
detached way that he was fond of her, but she was perfectly well
aware of the futility of expecting counsel from him. She said
good-bye to him at the boat, fussed over his comfort for awhile
in a motherly way, and then drove slowly back. For the first time
in her life she was feeling uncertain of herself. When she had
left for England, she had practically made up her mind to accept
Lord Wisbeach, and had only deferred actual acceptance of him
because in her cool way she wished to re-examine the position at
her leisure. Second thoughts had brought no revulsion of feeling.
She had not wavered until her arrival in New York. Then, for some
reason which baffled her, the idea of marrying Lord Wisbeach had
become vaguely distasteful. And now she found herself fluctuating
between this mood and her former one.
She reached the house on Riverside Drive, but did not slacken the
speed of the machine. She knew that Lord Wisbeach would be
waiting for her there, and she did not wish to meet him just yet.
She wanted to be alone. She was feeling depressed. She wondered
if this was because she had just departed from her father, and
decided that it was. His swift entrances into and exits from her
life always left her temporarily restless. She drove on up the
river. She meant to decide her problem one way or the other
before she returned home.
Lord Wisbeach, meanwhile, was talking to Mrs. Pett and Willie,
its inventor, about Partridgite. Willie, on hearing himself
addressed, had turned slowly with an air of absent
self-importance, the air of a great thinker disturbed in
mid-thought. He always looked like that when spoken to, and there
were those--Mr. Pett belonged to this school of thought--who held
that there was nothing to him beyond that look and that he had
built up his reputation as a budding mastermind on a foundation
that consisted entirely of a vacant eye, a mop of hair through
which he could run his fingers, and the fame of his late father.
Willie Partridge was the son of the great inventor, Dwight
Partridge, and it was generally understood that the explosive,
Partridgite, was to be the result of a continuation of
experiments which his father had been working upon at the time of
his death. That Dwight Partridge had been trying experiments in
the direction of a new and powerful explosive during the last
year of his life was common knowledge in those circles which are
interested in such things. Foreign governments were understood to
have made tentative overtures to him. But a sudden illness,
ending fatally, had finished the budding career of Partridgite
abruptly, and the world had thought no more of it until an
interview in the _Sunday Chronicle_, that store-house of
information about interesting people, announced that Willie was
carrying on his father's experiments at the point where he had
left off. Since then there had been vague rumours of possible
sensational developments, which Willie had neither denied nor
confirmed. He preserved the mysterious silence which went so well
with his appearance.
Having turned slowly so that his eyes rested on Lord Wisbeach's
ingenuous countenance, Willie paused, and his face assumed the
expression of his photograph in the _Chronicle_.
"Ah, Wisbeach!" he said.
Lord Wisbeach did not appear to resent the patronage of his
manner. He plunged cheerily into talk. He had a pleasant, simple
way of comporting himself which made people like him.
"I was just telling Mrs. Pett," he said, "that I shouldn't be
surprised if you were to get an offer for your stuff from our
fellows at home before long. I saw a lot of our War Office men
when I was in England, don't you know. Several of them mentioned
Willie resented Partridgite as being referred to as "the stuff,"
but he made allowance. All Englishmen talked that way, he
"Indeed?" he said.
"Of course," said Mrs. Pett, "Willie is a patriot and would have
to give our own authorities the first chance."
"But you know what officials are all over the world. They are so
sceptical and they move so slowly."
"I know. Our men at home are just the same as a rule. I've got a
pal who invented something-or-other, I forget what, but it was a
most decent little contrivance and very useful and all that; and
he simply can't get them to say Yes or No about it. But, all the
same, I wonder you didn't have some of them trying to put out
feelers to you when you were in London."
"Oh, we were only in London a few hours. By the way, Lord
Wisbeach, my sister--"--Mrs. Pett paused; she disliked to have to
mention her sister or to refer to this subject at all, but
curiosity impelled her--"my sister said that you are a great
friend of her step-son, James Crocker. I didn't know that you
Lord Wisbeach seemed to hesitate for a moment.
"He's not coming over, is he? Pity! It would have done him a
world of good. Yes, Jimmy Crocker and I have always been great
pals. He's a bit of a nut, of course, . . . I beg your pardon!
. . . I mean . . ." He broke off confusedly, and turned to Willie
again to cover himself. "How are you getting on with the jolly
old stuff?" he asked.
If Willie had objected to Partridgite being called "the stuff,"
he was still less in favour of its being termed "the jolly old
stuff." He replied coldly.
"I have ceased to get along with the jolly old stuff."
"Struck a snag?" enquired Lord Wisbeach sympathetically.
"On the contrary, my experiments have been entirely successful. I
have enough Partridgite in my laboratory to blow New York to
"Willie!" exclaimed Mrs. Pett. "Why didn't you tell me before?
You know I am so interested."
"I only completed my work last night."
He moved off with an important nod. He was tired of Lord
Wisbeach's society. There was something about the young man which
he did not like. He went to find more congenial company in a
group by the window.
Lord Wisbeach turned to his hostess. The vacuous expression had
dropped from his face like a mask. A pair of keen and intelligent
eyes met Mrs. Pett's.
"Mrs. Pett, may I speak to you seriously?"
Mrs. Pett's surprise at the alteration in the man prevented her
from replying. Much as she liked Lord Wisbeach, she had never
given him credit for brains, and it was a man with brains and
keen ones who was looking at her now. She nodded.
"If your nephew has really succeeded in his experiments, you
should be awfully careful. That stuff ought not to lie about in
his laboratory, though no doubt he has hidden it as carefully as
possible. It ought to be in a safe somewhere. In that safe in
your library. News of this kind moves like lightning. At this
very moment, there may be people watching for a chance of getting
at the stuff."
Every nerve in Mrs. Pett's body, every cell of a brain which had
for years been absorbing and giving out sensational fiction,
quivered irrepressibly at these words, spoken in a low, tense
voice which gave them additional emphasis. Never had she
misjudged a man as she had misjudged Lord Wisbeach.
"Spies?" she quavered.
"They wouldn't call themselves that," said Lord Wisbeach. "Secret
Service agents. Every country has its men whose only duty it is
to handle this sort of work."
"They would try to steal Willie's--?" Mrs. Pett's voice failed.
"They would not look on it as stealing. Their motives would be
patriotic. I tell you, Mrs. Pett, I have heard stories from
friends of mine in the English Secret Service which would amaze
you. Perfectly straight men in private life, but absolutely
unscrupulous when at work. They stick at nothing--nothing. If I
were you, I should suspect every one, especially every stranger."
He smiled engagingly. "You are thinking that that is odd advice
from one who is practically a stranger like myself. Never mind.
Suspect me, too, if you like. Be on the safe side."
"I would not dream of doing such a thing, Lord Wisbeach," said
Mrs. Pett horrified. "I trust you implicitly. Even supposing such
a thing were possible, would you have warned me like this, if you
"That's true," said Lord Wisbeach. "I never thought of that.
Well, let me say, suspect everybody but me." He stopped abruptly.
"Mrs. Pett," he whispered, "don't look round for a moment.
Wait." The words were almost inaudible. "Who is that man behind
you? He has been listening to us. Turn slowly."
With elaborate carelessness, Mrs. Pett turned her head. At first
she thought her companion must have alluded to one of a small
group of young men who, very improperly in such surroundings,
were discussing with raised voices the prospects of the clubs
competing for the National League Baseball Pennant. Then,
extending the sweep of her gaze, she saw that she had been
mistaken. Midway between her and this group stood a single
figure, the figure of a stout man in a swallow-tail suit, who
bore before him a tray with cups on it. As she turned, this man
caught her eye, gave a guilty start, and hurried across the room.
"You saw?" said Lord Wisbeach. "He was listening. Who is that
man? Your butler apparently. What do you know of him?"
"He is my new butler. His name is Skinner."
"Ah, your _new_ butler? He hasn't been with you long, then?"
"He only arrived from England three days ago."
"From England? How did he get in here? I mean, on whose
"Mr. Pett offered him the place when we met him at my sister's in
London. We went over there to see my sister, Eugenia--Mrs.
Crocker. This man was the butler who admitted us. He asked Mr.
Pett something about baseball, and Mr. Pett was so pleased that
he offered him a place here if he wanted to come over. The man
did not give any definite answer then, but apparently he sailed
on the next boat, and came to the house a few days after we had
Lord Wisbeach laughed softly.
"Very smart. Of course they had him planted there for the
"What ought I to do?" asked Mrs. Pett agitatedly.
"Do nothing. There is nothing that you can do, for the present,
except keep your eyes open. Watch this man Skinner. See if he has
any accomplices. It is hardly likely that he is working alone.
Suspect everybody. Believe me . . ."
At this moment, apparently from some upper region, there burst
forth an uproar so sudden and overwhelming that it might well
have been taken for a premature testing of a large sample of
Partridgite; until a moment later it began to resemble more
nearly the shrieks of some partially destroyed victim of that
death-dealing invention. It was a bellow of anguish, and it
poured through the house in a cascade of sound, advertising to
all beneath the roof the twin facts that some person unknown was
suffering and that whoever the sufferer might be he had excellent
The effect on the gathering in the drawing-room was immediate and
impressive. Conversation ceased as if it had been turned off with
a tap. Twelve separate and distinct discussions on twelve highly
intellectual topics died instantaneously. It was as if the last
trump had sounded. Futurist painters stared pallidly at _vers
libre_ poets, speech smitten from their lips; and stage performers
looked at esoteric Buddhists with a wild surmise.
The sudden silence had the effect of emphasising the strange
noise and rendering it more distinct, thus enabling it to carry
its message to one at least of the listeners. Mrs. Pett, after a
moment of strained attention in which time seemed to her to stand
still, uttered a wailing cry and leaped for the door.
"Ogden!" she shrilled; and passed up the stairs two at a time,
gathering speed as she went. A boy's best friend is his mother.
INSTRUCTION IN DEPORTMENT
While the feast of reason and flow of soul had been in progress
in the drawing-room, in the gymnasium on the top floor Jerry
Mitchell, awaiting the coming of Mr. Pett, had been passing the
time in improving with strenuous exercise his already impressive
physique. If Mrs. Pett's guests had been less noisily
concentrated on their conversation, they might have heard the
muffled _tap-tap-tap_ that proclaimed that Jerry Mitchell was
punching the bag upstairs.
It was not until he had punched it for perhaps five minutes that,
desisting from his labours, he perceived that he had the pleasure
of the company of little Ogden Ford. The stout boy was standing
in the doorway, observing him with an attentive eye.
"What are you doing?" enquired Ogden.
Jerry passed a gloved fist over his damp brow.
"Punchin' the bag."
He began to remove his gloves, eyeing Ogden the while with a
disapproval which he made no attempt to conceal. An extremist on
the subject of keeping in condition, the spectacle of the bulbous
stripling was a constant offence to him. Ogden, in pursuance of
his invariable custom on the days when Mrs. Pett entertained, had
been lurking on the stairs outside the drawing-room for the past
hour, levying toll on the food-stuffs that passed his way. He
wore a congested look, and there was jam about his mouth.
"Why?" he said, retrieving a morsel of jam from his right cheek
with the tip of his tongue.
"To keep in condition."
"Why do you want to keep in condition?"
Jerry flung the gloves into their locker.
"Fade!" he said wearily. "Fade!"
"Huh?" Much pastry seemed to have clouded the boy's mind.
"Don't want to run away."
The annoyed pugilist sat down and scrutinised his visitor
"You never do anything you don't want to, I guess?"
"No," said Ogden simply. "You've got a funny nose," he added
dispassionately. "What did you do to it to make it like that?"
Mr. Mitchell shifted restlessly on his chair. He was not a vain
man, but he was a little sensitive about that particular item in
"Lizzie says it's the funniest nose she ever saw. She says it's
something out of a comic supplement."
A dull flush, such as five minutes with the bag had been unable
to produce, appeared on Jerry Mitchell's peculiar countenance. It
was not that he looked on Lizzie Murphy, herself no Lillian
Russell, as an accepted authority on the subject of facial
beauty; but he was aware that in this instance she spoke not
without reason, and he was vexed, moreover, as many another had
been before him, by the note of indulgent patronage in Ogden's
voice. His fingers twitched a little eagerly, and he looked
sullenly at his tactless junior.
"Get outa here!"
"Don't want to get out of here," said Ogden with finality. He put
his hand in his trouser-pocket and pulled out a sticky mass which
looked as if it might once have been a cream-puff or a meringue.
He swallowed it contentedly. "I'd forgotten I had that," he
explained. "Mary gave it to me on the stairs. Mary thinks you've
a funny nose, too," he proceeded, as one relating agreeable
"Can it! Can it!" exclaimed the exasperated pugilist.
"I'm only telling you what I heard her say."
Mr. Mitchell rose convulsively and took a step towards his
persecutor, breathing noisily through the criticised organ. He
was a chivalrous man, a warm admirer of the sex, but he was
conscious of a wish that it was in his power to give Mary what he
would have described as "hers." She was one of the parlour-maids,
a homely woman with a hard eye, and it was part of his grievance
against her that his Maggie, alias Celestine, Mrs. Pett's maid,
had formed an enthusiastic friendship with her. He had no
evidence to go on, but he suspected Mary of using her influence
with Celestine to urge the suit of his leading rival for the
latter's hand, Biggs the chauffeur. He disliked Mary intensely,
even on general grounds. Ogden's revelation added fuel to his
aversion. For a moment he toyed with the fascinating thought of
relieving his feelings by spanking the boy, but restrained
himself reluctantly at the thought of the inevitable ruin which
would ensue. He had been an inmate of the house long enough to
know, with a completeness which would have embarrassed that
gentleman, what a cipher Mr. Pett was in the home and how little
his championship would avail in the event of a clash with Mrs.
Pett. And to give Ogden that physical treatment which should long
since have formed the main plank in the platform of his education
would be to invite her wrath as nothing else could. He checked
himself, and reached out for the skipping-rope, hoping to ease
his mind by further exercise.
Ogden, chewing the remains of the cream-puff, eyed him with
"What are you doing that for?"
Mr. Mitchell skipped grimly on.
"What are you doing that for? I thought only girls skipped."
Mr. Mitchell paid no heed. Ogden, after a moment's silent
contemplation, returned to his original train of thought.
"I saw an advertisement in a magazine the other day of a sort of
machine for altering the shape of noses. You strap it on when you
go to bed. You ought to get pop to blow you to one."
Jerry Mitchell breathed in a laboured way.
"You want to look nice about the place, don't you? Well, then!
there's no sense in going around looking like that if you don't
have to, is there? I heard Mary talking about your nose to Biggs
and Celestine. She said she had to laugh every time she saw it."
The skipping-rope faltered in its sweep, caught in the skipper's
legs, and sent him staggering across the room. Ogden threw back
his head and laughed merrily. He liked free entertainments, and
this struck him as a particularly enjoyable one.
There are moments in the life of every man when the impulse
attacks him to sacrifice his future to the alluring gratification
of the present. The strong man resists such impulses. Jerry
Mitchell was not a weak man, but he had been sorely tried. The
annoyance of Ogden's presence and conversation had sapped his
self-restraint, as dripping water will wear away a rock. A short
while before, he had fought down the urgent temptation to
massacre this exasperating child, but now, despised love adding
its sting to that of injured vanity, he forgot the consequences.
Bounding across the room, he seized Ogden in a powerful grip, and
the next instant the latter's education, in the true sense of the
word, so long postponed, had begun; and with it that avalanche of
sound which, rolling down into the drawing-room, hurled Mrs. Pett
so violently and with such abruptness from the society of her
Disposing of the last flight of stairs with the agility of the
chamois which leaps from crag to crag of the snow-topped Alps,
Mrs. Pett finished with a fine burst of speed along the passage
on the top floor, and rushed into the gymnasium just as Jerry's
avenging hand was descending for the eleventh time.
JIMMY DECIDES TO BE HIMSELF
It was less than a quarter of an hour later--such was the speed
with which Nemesis, usually slow, had overtaken him--that Jerry
Mitchell, carrying a grip and walking dejectedly, emerged from
the back premises of the Pett home and started down Riverside
Drive in the direction of his boarding-house, a cheap, clean, and
respectable establishment situated on Ninety-seventh Street
between the Drive and Broadway. His usually placid nervous system
was ruffled and a-quiver from the events of the afternoon, and
his cauliflower ears still burned reminiscently at the
recollection of the uncomplimentary words shot at them by Mrs.
Pett before she expelled him from the house. Moreover, he was in
a mild panic at the thought of having to see Ann later on and try
to explain the disaster to her. He knew how the news would affect
her. She had set her heart on removing Ogden to more disciplinary
surroundings, and she could not possibly do it now that her ally
was no longer an inmate of the house. He was an essential factor
in the scheme, and now, to gratify the desire of the moment, he
had eliminated himself. Long before he reached the brown-stone
house, which looked exactly like all the other brown-stone houses
in all the other side-streets of uptown New York, the first fine
careless rapture of his mad outbreak had passed from Jerry
Mitchell, leaving nervous apprehension in its place. Ann was a
girl whom he worshipped respectfully, but he feared her in her
Having entered the boarding-house, Jerry, seeking company in his
hour of sorrow, climbed the stairs till he reached a door on the
second floor. Sniffing and detecting the odour of tobacco, he
knocked and was hidden to enter.
"Hello, Bayliss!" he said sadly, having obeyed the call.
He sat down on the end of the bed and heaved a deep sigh.
The room which he had entered was airy but small, so small,
indeed, that the presence of any furniture in it at all was
almost miraculous, for at first sight it seemed incredible that
the bed did not fill it from side to side. There were however, a
few vacant spots, and in these had been placed a wash-stand, a
chest of drawers, and a midget rocking-chair. The window, which
the thoughtful architect had designed at least three sizes too
large for the room and which admitted the evening air in pleasing
profusion, looked out onto a series of forlorn back-yards. In
boarding-houses, it is only the windows of the rich and haughty
that face the street.
On the bed, a corn-cob pipe between his teeth, lay Jimmy Crocker.
He was shoeless and in his shirt-sleeves. There was a crumpled
evening paper on the floor beside the bed. He seemed to be taking
his rest after the labours of a trying day.
At the sound of Jerry's sigh he raised his head, but, finding the
attitude too severe a strain on the muscles of the neck, restored
it to the pillow.
"What's the matter, Jerry? You seem perturbed. You have the
aspect of one whom Fate has smitten in the spiritual solar
plexus, or of one who has been searching for the leak in Life's
gaspipe with a lighted candle. What's wrong?"
Jimmy, through long absence from his native land, was not always
able to follow Jerry's thoughts when concealed in the wrappings
of the peculiar dialect which he affected.
"I get you not, friend. Supply a few footnotes."
"I've been fired."
Jimmy sat up. This was no imaginary trouble, no mere _malaise_
of the temperament. It was concrete, and called for sympathy.
"I'm awfully sorry," he said. "No wonder you aren't rollicking.
How did it happen?"
"That half-portion Bill Taft came joshing me about my beezer till
it got something fierce," explained Jerry. "William J. Bryan
couldn't have stood for it."
Once again Jimmy lost the thread. The wealth of political
allusion baffled him.
"What's Taft been doing to you?"
"It wasn't Taft. He only looks like him. It was that kid Ogden up
where I work. He came butting into the gym, joshing me
about--makin' pers'nal remarks till I kind of lost my goat, and
the next thing I knew I was giving him his!" A faint gleam of
pleasure lightened the gloom of his face. "I cert'nly give him
his!" The gleam faded. "And after that--well, here I am!"
Jimmy understood now. He had come to the boarding-house the night
of his meeting with Jerry Mitchell on Broadway, and had been
there ever since, and frequent conversations with the pugilist
had put him abreast of affairs at the Pett home. He was familiar
with the _personnel_ of the establishment on Riverside Drive,
and knew precisely how great was the crime of administering
correction to Ogden Ford, no matter what the cause. Nor did he
require explanation of the phenomenon of Mrs. Pett dismissing one
who was in her husband's private employment. Jerry had his
"You appear," he said, "to have acted in a thoroughly capable and
praiseworthy manner. The only point in your conduct which I would
permit myself to criticise is your omission to slay the kid.
That, however, was due, I take it, to the fact that you were
interrupted. We will now proceed to examine the future. I cannot
see that it is altogether murky. You have lost a good job, but
there are others, equally good, for a man of your calibre. New
York is crammed with dyspeptic millionaires who need an efficient
physical instructor to look after them. Cheer up, Cuthbert, for
the sun is still shining!"
Jerry Mitchell shook his head. He refused to be comforted.
"It's Miss Ann," he said. "What am I going to say to her?"
"What has she got to do with it?" asked Jimmy, interested.
For a moment Jerry hesitated, but the desire for sympathy and
advice was too strong for him. And after all there was no harm in
confiding in a good comrade like Jimmy.
"It's like this," he said. "Miss Ann and me had got it all fixed
up to kidnap the kid!"
"Say, I don't mean ordinary kidnapping. It's this way. Miss Ann
come to me and we agree that the kid's a pest that had ought to
have some strong-arm keep him in order, so we decide to get him
away to a friend of mine who keeps a dogs' hospital down on Long
Island. Bud Smithers is the guy to handle that kid. You ought to
see him take hold of a dog that's all grouch and ugliness and
make it over into a dog that it's a pleasure to have around. I
thought a few weeks with Bud was what the doctor ordered for
Ogden, and Miss Ann guessed I was right, so we had it all framed.
And now this happens and balls everything up! She can't do
nothing with a husky kid like that without me to help her. And
how am I going to help her if I'm not allowed in the house?"
Jimmy was conscious of a renewed admiration for a girl whom he
had always considered a queen among women. How rarely in this
world did one find a girl who combined every feminine charm of
mind and body with a resolute determination to raise Cain at the
"What an absolutely corking idea!"
Jerry smirked modestly at the approbation, but returned instantly
to his gloom.
"You get me now? What am I to say to her? She'll be sore!"
"The problem," Jimmy had begun, "is one which, as you suggest,
presents certain--" when there was a knock at the door and the
head of the boarding-house's maid-of-all-work popped in.
"Mr. Bayliss, is Mr. Mitchell--? Oh, say, Mr. Mitchell, there's a
lady down below wants to see you. Says her name's Chester."
Jerry looked at Jimmy appealingly.
"What'll I do?"
"Do nothing," said Jimmy, rising and reaching for his shoes.
"I'll go down and see her. I can explain for you."
"It's mighty good of you."
"It will be a pleasure. Rely on me."
Ann, who had returned from her drive shortly after the Ogden
disaster and had instantly proceeded to the boarding-house, had
been shown into the parlour. Jimmy found her staring in a rapt
way at a statuette of the Infant Samuel which stood near a bowl
of wax fruit on the mantelpiece. She was feeling aggrieved with
Fate and extremely angry with Jerry Mitchell, and she turned at
the sound of the opening door with a militant expression in her
eyes, which changed to one of astonishment on perceiving who it
was that had come in.
"Good evening, Miss Chester. We, so to speak, meet again. I have
come as an intermediary. To be brief, Jerry Mitchell daren't face
you, so I offered to come down instead."
"But how--but why are you here?"
"I live here." He followed her gaze. It rested on a picture of
cows in a field. "Late American school," he said. "Attributed to
the landlady's niece, a graduate of the Wissahickon, Pa.
Correspondence School of Pictorial Art. Said to be genuine."
"You _live_ here?" repeated Ann. She had been brought up all her
life among the carefully thought out effects of eminent interior
decorators, and the room seemed more dreadful to her than it
actually was. "What an awful room!"
"Awful? You must be overlooking the piano. Can't you see the
handsome plush cover from where you are standing? Move a little
to the southeast and shade your eyes. We get music here of an
evening--when we don't see it coming and sidestep."
"Why in the name of goodness do you live here, Mr. Bayliss?"
"Because, Miss Chester, I am infernally hard up! Because the
Bayliss bank-roll has been stricken with a wasting sickness."
Ann was looking at him incredulously.
"But--but--then, did you really mean all that at lunch the other
day? I thought you were joking. I took it for granted that you
could get work whenever you wanted to or you wouldn't have made
fun of it like that! Can't you really find anything to do?"
"Plenty to do. But I'm not paid for it. I walk a great number of
blocks and jump into a great number of cars and dive into
elevators and dive out again and open doors and say 'Good
morning' when people tell me they haven't a job for me. My days
are quite full, but my pocket-book isn't!"
Ann had forgotten all about her errand in her sympathy.
"I'm so sorry. Why, it's terrible! I should have thought you
could have found _something_."
"I thought the same till the employers of New York in a body told
me I couldn't. Men of widely differing views on religion,
politics, and a hundred other points, they were unanimous on
that. The nearest I came to being a financial Titan was when I
landed a job in a store on Broadway, demonstrating a patent
collar-clip at ten dollars a week. For awhile all Nature seemed
to be shouting 'Ten per! Ten per!' than which there are few
sweeter words in the language. But I was fired half-way through
the second day, and Nature changed her act."
"It wasn't my fault. Just Fate. This contrivance was called
Klipstone's Kute Kollar-Klip, and it was supposed to make it easy
for you to fasten your tie. My job was to stand in the window in
my shirt-sleeves, gnashing my teeth and registering baffled rage
when I tried the old, obsolete method and beaming on the
multitude when I used the Klip. Unfortunately I got the cards
mixed. I beamed when I tried the old, obsolete method and nearly
burst myself with baffled fury just after I had exhibited the
card bearing the words 'I will now try Klipstone's Kute Klip.' I
couldn't think what the vast crowd outside the window was
laughing at till the boss, who chanced to pause on the outskirts
of the gathering on his way back from lunch, was good enough to
tell me. Nothing that I could say would convince him that I was
not being intentionally humorous. I was sorry to lose the job,
though it did make me feel like a goldfish. But talking of being
fired brings us back to Jerry Mitchell."
"Oh, never mind Jerry Mitchell now--"
"On the contrary, let us discuss his case and the points arising
from it with care and concentration. Jerry Mitchell has told me
Ann was startled.
"What do you mean?"
"The word 'all,'" said Jimmy, "is slang for 'everything.' You see
in me a confidant. In a word, I am hep."
"Everything. A colloquialism," explained Jimmy, "for 'all.' About
Ogden, you know. The scheme. The plot. The enterprise."
Ann found nothing to say.
"I am thoroughly in favour of the plan. So much so that I propose
to assist you by taking Jerry's place."
"I don't understand."
"Do you remember at lunch that day, after that remarkable person
had mistaken me for Jimmy Crocker, you suggested in a light,
casual way that if I were to walk into your uncle's office and
claim to be Jimmy Crocker I should be welcomed without a
question? I'm going to do it. Then, once aboard the lugger--once
in the house, I am at your orders. Use me exactly as you would
have used Jerry Mitchell."
"Jerry!" said Jimmy scornfully. "Can't I do everything that he
could have done? And more. A bonehead like Jerry would have been
certain to have bungled the thing somehow. I know him well. A
good fellow, but in matters requiring intellect and swift thought
dead from the neck up. It's a very lucky thing he is out of the
running. I love him like a brother, but his dome is of ivory.
This job requires a man of tact, sense, shrewdness, initiative,
_esprit_, and _verve_." He paused. "Me!" he concluded.
"But it's ridiculous! It's out of the question!"
"Not at all. I must be extraordinarily like Jimmy Crocker, or
that fellow at the restaurant wouldn't have taken me for him.
Leave this in my hands. I can get away with it."
"I shan't dream of allowing you--"
"At nine o'clock to-morrow morning," said Jimmy firmly, "I
present myself at Mr. Pett's office. It's all settled."
Ann was silent. She was endeavouring to adjust her mind to the
idea. Her first startled revulsion from it had begun to wane. It
was an idea peculiarly suited to her temperament, an idea that
she might have suggested herself if she had thought of it. Soon,
from being disapproving, she found herself glowing with
admiration for its author. He was a young man of her own sort!
"You asked me on the boat, if you remember," said Jimmy, "if I
had an adventurous soul. I am now submitting my proofs. You also
spoke highly of America as a land where there were adventures to
be had. I now see that you were right."
Ann thought for a moment.
"If I consent to your doing this insane thing, Mr. Bayliss, will
you promise me something?"
"Well, in the first place I absolutely refuse to let you risk all
sorts of frightful things by coming into this kidnapping plot."
She waved him down, and went on. "But I see where you can help me
very much. As I told you at lunch, my aunt would do anything for
Jimmy Crocker if he were to appear in New York now. I want you to
promise that you will confine your activities to asking her to
let Jerry Mitchell come back."
"You said you would promise me anything."
"Anything but that."
"Then it is all off!"
"It's terribly tame that way."
"Never mind. It's the only way I will consider."
"Very well. I protest, though."
Ann sat down.
"I think you're splendid, Mr. Bayliss. I'm much obliged!"
"Not at all."
"It will be such a splendid thing for Ogden, won't it?"
"Now the only thing to do is just to see that we have got
everything straight. How about this, for instance? They will ask
you when you arrived in New York. How are you going to account
for your delay in coming to see them?"
"I've thought of that. There's a boat that docks to-morrow--the
_Caronia_, I think. I've got a paper upstairs. I'll look it up. I
can say I came by her."
"That seems all right. It's lucky you and uncle Peter never met
on the _Atlantic_."
"And now as to my demeanour on entering the home? How should I
behave? Should I be jaunty or humble? What would a long-lost
nephew naturally do?"
"A long-lost nephew with a record like Jimmy Crocker's would
crawl in with a white flag, I should think."
A bell clanged in the hall.
"Supper!" said Jimmy. "To go into painful details, New England
boiled dinner, or my senses deceive me, and prunes."
"I must be going."
"We shall meet at Philippi."
He saw her to the door, and stood at the top of the steps
watching her trim figure vanish into the dusk. She passed from
his sight. Jimmy drew a deep breath, and, thinking hard, went
down the passage to fortify himself with supper.
JIMMY CATCHES THE BOSS'S EYE
When Jimmy arrived at Mr. Pett's office on Pine Street at
ten-thirty the next morning--his expressed intention of getting
up early enough to be there by nine having proved an empty
boast--he was in a high state of preparedness. He had made ready
for what might be a trying interview by substituting a
combination of well-chosen dishes at an expensive hotel for the
less imaginative boarding-house breakfast with which he had of
late been insulting his interior. His suit was pressed, his shoes
gleamed brightly, and his chin was smoothly shaven. These things,
combined with the perfection of the morning and that vague
exhilaration which a fine day in down-town New York brings to the
man who has not got to work, increased his natural optimism.
Something seemed to tell him that all would be well. He would
have been the last person to deny that his position was a little
complicated--he had to use a pencil and a sheet of paper to show
himself just where he stood--but what of that? A few
complications in life are an excellent tonic for the brain. It
was with a sunny geniality which startled that unaccustomed
stripling considerably--and indeed caused him to swallow his
chewing gum--that he handed in his card to Mr. Pett's watchfully
"This to the boss, my open-faced lad!" he said. "Get swiftly off
The boy departed dumbly.
From where he stood, outside the barrier which separated visitors
to the office from the workers within, Jimmy could see a vista of
efficient-looking young men with paper protectors round their
cuffs working away at mysterious jobs which seemed to involve the
use of a great deal of paper. One in particular was so surrounded
by it that he had the appearance of a bather in surf. Jimmy eyed
these toilers with a comfortable and kindly eye. All this
industry made him feel happy. He liked to think of this sort of
thing going on all round him.
The office-boy returned. "This way, please."
The respectfulness of the lad's manner had increased noticeably.
Mr. Pett's reception of the visitor's name had impressed him. It
was an odd fact that the financier, a cipher in his own home,
could impress all sorts of people at the office.
To Mr. Pett, the announcement that Mr. James Crocker was waiting
to see him had come like the announcement of a miracle. Not a day
had passed since their return to America without lamentations
from Mrs. Pett on the subject of their failure to secure the
young man's person. The occasion of Mrs. Pett's reading of the
article in the _Sunday Chronicle_ descriptive of the Lord Percy
Whipple affair had been unique in the little man's domestic
history. For the first time since he had known her the
indomitable woman had completely broken down. Of all sad words of
tongue or pen the saddest are these "It might have been!" and the
thought that, if she had only happened to know it, she had had in
her hands during that interview with her sister in London a
weapon which would have turned defeat into triumph was more than
even Mrs. Pett's strong spirit could endure. When she looked back
on that scene and recalled the airy way in which Mrs. Crocker had
spoken of her step-son's "best friend, Lord Percy Whipple" and
realised that at that very moment Lord Percy had been recovering
in bed from the effects of his first meeting with Jimmy Crocker,
the iron entered into her soul and she refused to be comforted.
In the first instant of realisation she thought of six separate
and distinct things she could have said to her sister, each more
crushing than the last--things which now she would never be able
And now, suddenly and unaccountably, the means was at hand for
restoring her to her tranquil self-esteem. Jimmy Crocker, despite
what his stepmother had said, probably in active defiance of her
commands, had come to America after all. Mr. Pett's first thought
was that his wife would, as he expressed it to himself, be
"tickled to death about this." Scarcely waiting for the
office-boy to retire, he leaped towards Jimmy like a gambolling
lamb and slapped him on the back with every evidence of joy and
"My dear boy!" he cried. "My dear boy! I'm delighted to see you!"
Jimmy was surprised, relieved, and pleased. He had not expected
this warmth. A civil coldness had been the best he had looked
for. He had been given to understand that in the Pett home he was
regarded as the black sheep: and, while one may admit a black
sheep into the fold, it does not follow that one must of
necessity fawn upon him.
"You're very kind," he said, rather startled.
They inspected each other for a brief moment. Mr. Pett was
thinking that Jimmy was a great improvement on the picture his
imagination had drawn of him. He had looked for something
tougher, something flashy and bloated. Jimmy, for his part, had
taken an instant liking to the financier. He, too, had been
misled by imagination. He had always supposed that these
millionaires down Wall Street way were keen, aggressive fellows,
with gimlet eyes and sharp tongues. On the boat he had only seen
Mr. Pett from afar, and had had no means of estimating his
character. He found him an agreeable little man.
"We had given up all hope of your coming," said Mr. Pett.
A little manly penitence seemed to Jimmy to be in order.
"I never expected you would receive me like this. I thought I
must have made myself rather unpopular."
Mr. Pett buried the past with a gesture.
"When did you land?" he asked.
"This morning. On the _Caronia_ . . ."
There was a silence. It seemed to Jimmy that Mr. Pett was looking
at him rather more closely than was necessary for the actual
enjoyment of his style of beauty. He was just about to throw out
some light remark about the health of Mrs. Pett or something
about porpoises on the voyage to add local colour and
verisimilitude, when his heart missed a beat, as he perceived
that he had made a blunder. Like many other amateur plotters, Ann
and he had made the mistake of being too elaborate. It had struck
them as an ingenious idea for Jimmy to pretend that he had
arrived that morning, and superficially it was a good idea: but
he now remembered for the first time that, if he had seen Mr.
Pett on the _Atlantic_, the probability was that Mr. Pett had seen
him. The next moment the other had confirmed this suspicion.
"I've an idea I've seen you before. Can't think where."
"Everybody well at home?" said Jimmy.
"I'm sure of it."
"I'm looking forward to seeing them all."
"I've seen you some place."
"I'm often there."
Mr. Pett seemed to be turning this remark over in his mind a
trifle suspiciously. Jimmy changed the subject.
"To a young man like myself," he said, "with life opening out
before him, there is something singularly stimulating in the
sight of a modern office. How busy those fellows seem!"
"Yes," said Mr. Pett. "Yes." He was glad that this conversational
note had been struck. He was anxious to discuss the future with
this young man.
"Everybody works but father!" said Jimmy.
Mr. Pett started.
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