Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
Part 2 out of 4
between us. We would not have you go away and say to yourself, 'Did
I make my meaning clear? Was I too elusive?' Say on."
"I am speaking in your best interests."
"Who would doubt it, Comrade Parker. Nothing has buoyed us up more
strongly during the hours of doubt through which we have passed
than the knowledge that you wish us well."
Billy Windsor suddenly became militant. There was a feline
smoothness about the visitor which had been jarring upon him ever
since he first spoke. Billy was of the plains, the home of blunt
speech, where you looked your man in the eye and said it quick. Mr.
Parker was too bland for human consumption. He offended Billy's
"See here," cried he, leaning forward, "what's it all about? Let's
have it. If you've anything to say about those articles, say it
right out. Never mind our best interests. We can look after them.
Let's have what's worrying you."
Psmith waved a deprecating hand.
"Do not let us be abrupt on this happy occasion. To me it is
enough simply to sit and chat with Comrade Parker, irrespective of
the trend of his conversation. Still, as time is money, and this is
our busy day, possibly it might be as well, sir, if you unburdened
yourself as soon as convenient. Have you come to point out some
flaw in those articles? Do they fall short in any way of your
standard for such work?"
Mr. Parker's smooth face did not change its expression, but he came
to the point.
"I should not go on with them if I were you," he said.
"Why?" demanded Billy.
"There are reasons why you should not," said Mr. Parker.
"And there are reasons why we should."
"Less powerful ones."
There proceeded from Billy a noise not describable in words. It was
partly a snort, partly a growl. It resembled more than anything
else the preliminary sniffing snarl a bull-dog emits before he
joins battle. Billy's cow-boy blood was up. He was rapidly
approaching the state of mind in which the men of the plains,
finding speech unequal to the expression of their thoughts, reach
for their guns.
"We do not completely gather your meaning, Comrade Parker. I fear
we must ask you to hand it to us with still more breezy frankness.
Do you speak from purely friendly motives? Are you advising us to
discontinue the articles merely because you fear that they will
damage our literary reputation? Or are there other reasons why you
feel that they should cease? Do you speak solely as a literary
connoisseur? Is it the style or the subject-matter of which you
Mr. Parker leaned forward.
"The gentleman whom I represent--"
"Then this is no matter of your own personal taste? You are an
"These articles are causing a certain inconvenience to the
gentleman whom I represent. Or, rather, he feels that, if
continued, they may do so."
"You mean," broke in Billy explosively, "that if we kick up enough
fuss to make somebody start a commission to inquire into this
rotten business, your friend who owns the private Hades we're
trying to get improved, will have to get busy and lose some of his
money by making the houses fit to live in? Is that it?"
"It is not so much the money, Mr. Windsor, though, of course, the
expense would be considerable. My employer is a wealthy man."
"I bet he is," said Billy disgustedly. "I've no doubt he makes a
mighty good pile out of Pleasant Street."
"It is not so much the money," repeated Mr. Parker, "as the
publicity involved. I speak quite frankly. There are reasons why my
employer would prefer not to come before the public just now as the
owner of the Pleasant Street property. I need not go into those
reasons. It is sufficient to say that they are strong ones."
"Well, he knows what to do, I guess. The moment he starts in to
make those houses decent, the articles stop. It's up to him."
"Comrade Windsor is correct. He has hit the mark and rung the bell.
No conscientious judge would withhold from Comrade Windsor a cigar
or a cocoanut, according as his private preference might dictate.
That is the matter in a nutshell. Remove the reason for those very
scholarly articles, and they cease."
Mr. Parker shook his head.
"I fear that is not feasible. The expense of reconstructing the
houses makes that impossible."
"Then there's no use in talking," said Billy. "The articles will
Mr. Parker coughed. A tentative cough, suggesting that the
situation was now about to enter upon a more delicate phase. Billy
and Psmith waited for him to begin. From their point of view the
discussion was over. If it was to be reopened on fresh lines, it
was for their visitor to effect that reopening.
"Now, I'm going to be frank, gentlemen," said he, as who should
say, "We are all friends here. Let us be hearty." "I'm going to put
my cards on the table, and see if we can't fix something up. Now,
see here: We don't want unpleasantness. You aren't in this business
for your healths, eh? You've got your living to make, just like
everybody else, I guess. Well, see here. This is how it stands. To
a certain extant, I don't mind admitting, seeing that we're being
frank with one another, you two gentlemen have got us--that's to
say, my employer--in a cleft stick. Frankly, those articles are
beginning to attract attention, and if they go on there's going to
be a lot of inconvenience for my employer. That's clear, I reckon.
Well, now, here's a square proposition. How much do you want to
stop those articles? That's straight. I've been frank with you,
and I want you to be frank with me. What's your figure? Name it,
and, if it's not too high, I guess we needn't quarrel."
He looked expectantly at Billy. Billy's eyes were bulging. He
struggled for speech. He had got as far as "Say!" when Psmith
interrupted him. Psmith, gazing sadly at Mr. Parker through his
monocle, spoke quietly, with the restrained dignity of some old
Roman senator dealing with the enemies of the Republic.
"Comrade Parker," he said, "I fear that you have allowed constant
communication with the conscienceless commercialism of this worldly
city to undermine your moral sense. It is useless to dangle rich
bribes before our eyes. Cosy Moments cannot be muzzled. You
doubtless mean well, according to your--if I may say so--somewhat
murky lights, but we are not for sale, except at ten cents weekly.
From the hills of Maine to the Everglades of Florida, from Sandy
Hook to San Francisco, from Portland, Oregon, to Melonsquashville,
Tennessee, one sentence is in every man's mouth. And what is that
sentence? I give you three guesses. You give it up? It is this:
'Cosy Moments cannot be muzzled!'"
Mr. Parker rose.
"There's nothing more to be done then," he said.
"Nothing," agreed Psmith, "except to make a noise like a hoop and
"And do it quick," yelled Billy, exploding like a fire-cracker.
"Speed," he admitted, "would be no bad thing. Frankly--if I may
borrow the expression--your square proposition has wounded us. I am
a man of powerful self-restraint, one of those strong, silent men,
and I can curb my emotions. But I fear that Comrade Windsor's
generous temperament may at any moment prompt him to start throwing
ink-pots. And in Wyoming his deadly aim with the ink-pot won him
among the admiring cowboys the sobriquet of Crack-Shot Cuthbert. As
man to man, Comrade Parker, I should advise you to bound swiftly
"I'm going," said Mr. Parker, picking up his hat. "And I'll give
you a piece of advice, too. Those articles are going to be stopped,
and if you've any sense between you, you'll stop them yourselves
before you get hurt. That's all I've got to say, and that goes."
He went out, closing the door behind him with a bang that added
emphasis to his words.
"To men of nicely poised nervous organisation such as ourselves,
Comrade Windsor," said Psmith, smoothing his waistcoat thoughtfully,
"these scenes are acutely painful. We wince before them. Our
ganglions quiver like cinematographs. Gradually recovering command
of ourselves, we review the situation. Did our visitor's final
remarks convey anything definite to you? Were they the mere casual
badinage of a parting guest, or was there something solid behind
Billy Windsor was looking serious.
"I guess he meant it all right. He's evidently working for somebody
pretty big, and that sort of man would have a pull with all kinds
of Thugs. We shall have to watch out. Now that they find we can't
be bought, they'll try the other way. They mean business sure
enough. But, by George, let 'em! We're up against a big thing, and
I'm going to see it through if they put every gang in New York on
"Precisely, Comrade Windsor. Cosy Moments, as I have had occasion
to observe before, cannot be muzzled."
"That's right," said Billy Windsor. "And," he added, with the
contented look the Far West editor must have worn as the bullet
came through the window, "we must have got them scared, or they
wouldn't have shown their hand that way. I guess we're making a
hit. Cosy Moments is going some now."
THE MAN AT THE ASTOR
The duties of Master Pugsy Maloney at the offices of Cosy Moments
were not heavy; and he was accustomed to occupy his large store of
leisure by reading narratives dealing with life in the prairies,
which he acquired at a neighbouring shop at cut rates in
consideration of their being shop-soiled. It was while he was
engrossed in one of these, on the morning following the visit of
Mr. Parker, that the seedy-looking man made his appearance. He
walked in from the street, and stood before Master Maloney.
"Hey, kid," he said.
Pugsy looked up with some hauteur. He resented being addressed as
"kid" by perfect strangers.
"Editor in, Tommy?" inquired the man.
Pugsy by this time had taken a thorough dislike to him. To be
called "kid" was bad. The subtle insult of "Tommy" was still worse.
"Nope," he said curtly, fixing his eyes again on his book. A
movement on the part of the visitor attracted his attention. The
seedy man was making for the door of the inner room. Pugsy
instantly ceased to be the student and became the man of action. He
sprang from his seat and wriggled in between the man and the door.
"Youse can't butt in dere," he said authoritatively. "Chase
The man eyed him with displeasure.
"Fresh kid!" he observed disapprovingly.
"Fade away," urged Master Maloney.
The visitor's reply was to extend a hand and grasp Pugsy's left ear
between a long finger and thumb. Since time began, small boys in
every country have had but one answer for this action. Pugsy made
it. He emitted a piercing squeal in which pain, fear, and
resentment strove for supremacy.
The noise penetrated into the editorial sanctum, losing only a
small part of its strength on the way. Psmith, who was at work on
a review of a book of poetry, looked up with patient sadness.
"If Comrade Maloney," he said, "is going to take to singing as well
as whistling, I fear this journal must put up its shutters.
Concentrated thought will be out of the question."
A second squeal rent the air. Billy Windsor jumped up.
"Somebody must be hurting the kid," he exclaimed.
He hurried to the door and flung it open. Psmith followed at a more
leisurely pace. The seedy man, caught in the act, released Master
Maloney, who stood rubbing his ear with resentment written on every
On such occasions as this Billy was a man of few words. He made a
dive for the seedy man; but the latter, who during the preceding
moment had been eyeing the two editors as if he were committing
their appearance to memory, sprang back, and was off down the
stairs with the agility of a Marathon runner.
"He blows in," said Master Maloney, aggrieved, "and asks is de
editor dere. I tells him no, 'cos youse said youse wasn't, and he
nips me by the ear when I gets busy to stop him gettin' t'roo."
"Comrade Maloney," said Psmith, "you are a martyr. What would
Horatius have done if somebody had nipped him by the ear when he
was holding the bridge? The story does not consider the
possibility. Yet it might have made all the difference. Did the
gentleman state his business?"
"Nope. Just tried to butt t'roo."
"Another of these strong silent men. The world is full of us. These
are the perils of the journalistic life. You will be safer and
happier when you are rounding up cows on your mustang."
"I wonder what he wanted," said Billy, when they were back again in
the inner room.
"Who can say, Comrade Windsor? Possibly our autographs. Possibly
five minutes' chat on general subjects."
"I don't like the look of him," said Billy.
"Whereas what Comrade Maloney objected to was the feel of him. In
what respect did his look jar upon you? His clothes were poorly
cut, but such things, I know, leave you unmoved."
"It seems to me," said Billy thoughtfully, "as if he came just to
get a sight of us."
"And he got it. Ah, Providence is good to the poor."
"Whoever's behind those tenements isn't going to stick at any odd
trifle. We must watch out. That man was probably sent to mark us
down for one of the gangs. Now they'll know what we look like, and
they can get after us."
"These are the drawbacks to being public men, Comrade Windsor. We
must bear them manfully, without wincing."
Billy turned again to his work.
"I'm not going to wince," he said, "so's you could notice it with a
microscope. What I'm going to do is to buy a good big stick. And
I'd advise you to do the same."
* * *
It was by Psmith's suggestion that the editorial staff of Cosy
Moments dined that night in the roof-garden at the top of the Astor
"The tired brain," he said, "needs to recuperate. To feed on such
a night as this in some low-down hostelry on the level of the
street, with German waiters breathing heavily down the back of
one's neck and two fiddles and a piano whacking out 'Beautiful
Eyes' about three feet from one's tympanum, would be false economy.
Here, fanned by cool breezes and surrounded by fair women and brave
men, one may do a bit of tissue-restoring. Moreover, there is
little danger up here of being slugged by our moth-eaten
acquaintance of this morning. A man with trousers like his would
not be allowed in. We shall probably find him waiting for us at the
main entrance with a sand-bag, when we leave, but, till then--"
He turned with gentle grace to his soup.
It was a warm night, and the roof-garden was full. From where they
sat they could see the million twinkling lights of the city.
Towards the end of the meal, Psmith's gaze concentrated itself on
the advertisement of a certain brand of ginger-ale in Times Square.
It is a mass of electric light arranged in the shape of a great
bottle, and at regular intervals there proceed from the bottle's
mouth flashes of flame representing ginger-ale. The thing began to
exercise a hypnotic effect on Psmith. He came to himself with a
start, to find Billy Windsor in conversation with a waiter.
"Yes, my name's Windsor," Billy was saying.
The waiter bowed and retired to one of the tables where a young man
in evening clothes was seated. Psmith recollected having seen this
solitary diner looking in their direction once or twice during
dinner, but the fact had not impressed him.
"What is happening, Comrade Windsor?" he inquired. "I was musing
with a certain tenseness at the moment, and the rush of events has
left me behind."
"Man at that table wanted to know if my name was Windsor," said
"Ah?" said Psmith, interested; "and was it?"
"Here he comes. I wonder what he wants. I don't know the man from
The stranger was threading his way between the tables.
"Can I have a word with you, Mr. Windsor?" he said.
Billy looked at him curiously. Recent events had made him wary of
"Won't you sit down?" he said.
A waiter was bringing a chair. The young man seated himself.
"By the way," added Billy; "my friend, Mr. Smith."
"Pleased to meet you," said the other.
"I don't know your name," Billy hesitated.
"Never mind about my name," said the stranger. "It won't be
needed. Is Mr. Smith on your paper? Excuse my asking."
Psmith bowed. "That's all right, then. I can go ahead." He bent
"Neither of you gentlemen are hard of hearing, eh?"
"In the old prairie days," said Psmith, "Comrade Windsor was known
to the Indians as Boola-Ba-Na-Gosh, which, as you doubtless know,
signifies Big-Chief-Who-Can-Hear-A-Fly-Clear-Its-Throat. I too can
hear as well as the next man. Why?"
"That's all right, then. I don't want to have to shout it. There's
some things it's better not to yell."
He turned to Billy, who had been looking at him all the while with
a combination of interest and suspicion. The man might or might not
be friendly. In the meantime, there was no harm in being on one's
guard. Billy's experience as a cub-reporter had given him the
knowledge that is only given in its entirety to police and
newspaper men: that there are two New Yorks. One is a modern,
well-policed city, through which one may walk from end to end
without encountering adventure. The other is a city as full of
sinister intrigue, of whisperings and conspiracies, of battle,
murder, and sudden death in dark by-ways, as any town of mediaeval
Italy. Given certain conditions, anything may happen to any one in
New York. And Billy realised that these conditions now prevailed in
his own case. He had come into conflict with New York's
underworld. Circumstances had placed him below the surface, where
only his wits could help him.
"It's about that tenement business," said the stranger.
Billy bristled. "Well, what about it?" he demanded truculently.
The stranger raised a long and curiously delicately shaped hand.
"Don't bite at me," he said. "This isn't my funeral. I've no kick
coming. I'm a friend."
"Yet you don't tell us your name."
"Never mind my name. If you were in my line of business, you
wouldn't be so durned stuck on this name thing. Call me Smith, if
"You could select no nobler pseudonym," said Psmith cordially.
"Eh? Oh, I see. Well, make it Brown, then. Anything you please. It
don't signify. See here, let's get back. About this tenement thing.
You understand certain parties have got it in against you?"
"A charming conversationalist, one Comrade Parker, hinted at
something of the sort," said Psmith, "in a recent interview. Cosy
Moments, however, cannot be muzzled."
"Well?" said Billy.
"You're up against a big proposition."
"We can look after ourselves."
"Gum! you'll need to. The man behind is a big bug."
Billy leaned forward eagerly.
"Who is he?"
The other shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know. You wouldn't expect a man like that to give himself
"Then how do you know he's a big bug?"
"Precisely," said Psmith. "On what system have you estimated the
size of the gentleman's bughood?"
The stranger lit a cigar.
"By the number of dollars he was ready to put up to have you done
Billy's eyes snapped.
"Oh?" he said. "And which gang has he given the job to?"
"I wish I could tell you. He--his agent, that is--came to Bat
"The cat-expert?" said Psmith. "A man of singularly winsome
"Bat turned the job down."
"Why was that?" inquired Billy.
"He said he needed the money as much as the next man, but when he
found out who he was supposed to lay for, he gave his job the
frozen face. Said you were a friend of his and none of his fellows
were going to put a finger on you. I don't know what you've been
doing to Bat, but he's certainly Willie the Long-Lost Brother with
"A powerful argument in favour of kindness to animals!" said
Psmith. "Comrade Windsor came into possession of one of Comrade
Jarvis's celebrated stud of cats. What did he do? Instead of having
the animal made into a nourishing soup, he restored it to its
bereaved owner. Observe the sequel. He is now as a prize
tortoiseshell to Comrade Jarvis."
"So Bat wouldn't stand for it?" said Billy.
"Not on his life. Turned it down without a blink. And he sent me
along to find you and tell you so."
"We are much obliged to Comrade Jarvis," said Psmith.
"He told me to tell you to watch out, because another gang is dead
sure to take on the job. But he said you were to know he wasn't
mixed up in it. He also said that any time you were in bad, he'd
do his best for you. You've certainly made the biggest kind of hit
with Bat. I haven't seen him so worked up over a thing in years.
Well, that's all, I reckon. Guess I'll be pushing along. I've a
date to keep. Glad to have met you. Glad to have met you, Mr.
Smith. Pardon me, you have an insect on your coat."
He flicked at Psmith's coat with a quick movement. Psmith thanked
"Good night," concluded the stranger, moving off. For a few
moments after he had gone, Psmith and Billy sat smoking in silence.
They had plenty to think about.
"How's the time going?" asked Billy at length. Psmith felt for his
watch, and looked at Billy with some sadness.
"I am sorry to say, Comrade Windsor--"
"Hullo," said Billy, "here's that man coming back again."
The stranger came up to their table, wearing a light overcoat over
his dress clothes. From the pocket of this he produced a gold
"Force of habit," he said apologetically, handing it to Psmith.
"You'll pardon me. Good night, gentlemen, again."
A RED TAXIMETER
The Astor Hotel faces on to Times Square. A few paces to the right
of the main entrance the Times Building towers to the sky; and at
the foot of this the stream of traffic breaks, forming two
channels. To the right of the building is Seventh Avenue, quiet,
dark, and dull. To the left is Broadway, the Great White Way, the
longest, straightest, brightest, wickedest street in the world.
Psmith and Billy, having left the Astor, started to walk down
Broadway to Billy's lodgings in Fourteenth Street. The usual crowd
was drifting slowly up and down in the glare of the white lights.
They had reached Herald Square, when a voice behind them exclaimed,
"Why, it's Mr. Windsor!"
They wheeled round. A flashily dressed man was standing with
"I saw you come out of the Astor," he said cheerily. "I said to
myself, 'I know that man.' Darned if I could put a name to you,
though. So I just followed you along, and right here it came to
"It did, did it?" said Billy politely.
"It did, sir. I've never set eyes on you before, but I've seen so
many photographs of you that I reckon we're old friends. I know
your father very well, Mr. Windsor. He showed me the photographs.
You may have heard him speak of me--Jack Lake? How is the old man?
Seen him lately?"
"Not for some time. He was well when he last wrote."
"Good for him. He would be. Tough as a plank, old Joe Windsor. We
always called him Joe."
"You'd have known him down in Missouri, of course?" said Billy.
"That's right. In Missouri. We were side-partners for years. Now,
see here, Mr. Windsor, it's early yet. Won't you and your friend
come along with me and have a smoke and a chat? I live right here
in Thirty-Third Street. I'd be right glad for you to come."
"I don't doubt it," said Billy, "but I'm afraid you'll have to
"In a hurry, are you?"
"Not in the least."
"Then come right along."
"Say, why not? It's only a step."
"Because we don't want to. Good night."
He turned, and started to walk away. The other stood for a moment,
staring; then crossed the road.
Psmith broke the silence.
"Correct me if I am wrong, Comrade Windsor," he said tentatively,
"but were you not a trifle--shall we say abrupt?--with the old
Billy Windsor laughed.
"If my father's name was Joseph," he said, "instead of being
William, the same as mine, and if he'd ever been in Missouri in his
life, which he hasn't, and if I'd been photographed since I was a
kid, which I haven't been, I might have gone along. As it was, I
thought it better not to."
"These are deep waters, Comrade Windsor. Do you mean to intimate--?"
"If they can't do any better than that, we shan't have much to
worry us. What do they take us for, I wonder? Farmers? Playing off
a comic-supplement bluff like that on us!"
There was honest indignation in Billy's voice.
"You think, then, that if we had accepted Comrade Lake's
invitation, and gone along for a smoke and a chat, the chat would
not have been of the pleasantest nature?"
"We should have been put out of business."
"I have heard so much," said Psmith, thoughtfully, "of the lavish
hospitality of the American."
A red taximeter cab was crawling down the road at their side. Billy
shook his head.
"Not that a taxi would be an unsound scheme," said Psmith.
"Not that particular one, if you don't mind."
"Something about it that offends your aesthetic taste?" queried
"Something about it makes my aesthetic taste kick like a mule,"
"Ah, we highly strung literary men do have these curious
prejudices. We cannot help it. We are the slaves of our
temperaments. Let us walk, then. After all, the night is fine, and
we are young and strong."
They had reached Twenty-Third Street when Billy stopped. "I don't
know about walking," he said. "Suppose we take the Elevated?"
"Anything you wish, Comrade Windsor. I am in your hands."
They cut across into Sixth Avenue, and walked up the stairs to the
station of the Elevated Railway. A train was just coming in.
"Has it escaped your notice, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith after a
pause, "that, so far from speeding to your lodgings, we are going
in precisely the opposite direction? We are in an up-town train."
"I noticed it," said Billy briefly.
"Are we going anywhere in particular?"
"This train goes as far as Hundred and Tenth Street. We'll go up to
"And then we'll come back."
"And after that, I suppose, we'll make a trip to Philadelphia, or
Chicago, or somewhere? Well, well, I am in your hands, Comrade
Windsor. The night is yet young. Take me where you will. It is
only five cents a go, and we have money in our purses. We are two
young men out for reckless dissipation. By all means let us have
At Hundred and Tenth Street they left the train, went down the
stairs, and crossed the street. Half-way across Billy stopped.
"What now, Comrade Windsor?" inquired Psmith patiently. "Have you
thought of some new form of entertainment?"
Billy was making for a spot some few yards down the road. Looking
in that direction, Psmith saw his objective. In the shadow of the
Elevated there was standing a taximeter cab.
"Taxi, sir?" said the driver, as they approached.
"We are giving you a great deal of trouble," said Billy. "You must
be losing money over this job. All this while you might be getting
"These meetings, however," urged Psmith, "are very pleasant."
"I can save you worrying," said Billy. "My address is 84 East
Fourteenth Street. We are going back there now."
"Search me," said the driver, "I don't know what you're talking
"I thought perhaps you did," replied Billy. "Good night."
"These things are very disturbing," said Psmith, when they were in
the train. "Dignity is impossible when one is compelled to be the
Hunted Fawn. When did you begin to suspect that yonder merchant was
doing the sleuth-hound act?"
"When I saw him in Broadway having a heart-to-heart talk with our
friend from Missouri."
"He must be something of an expert at the game to have kept on our
"Not on your life. It's as easy as falling off a log. There are
only certain places where you can get off an Elevated train. All
he'd got to do was to get there before the train, and wait. I
didn't expect to dodge him by taking the Elevated. I just wanted to
make certain of his game."
The train pulled up at the Fourteenth Street station. In the
roadway at the foot of the opposite staircase was a red taximeter
REVIEWING THE SITUATION
Arriving at the bed-sitting-room, Billy proceeded to occupy the
rocking-chair, and, as was his wont, began to rock himself
rhythmically to and fro. Psmith seated himself gracefully on the
couch-bed. There was a silence.
The events of the evening had been a revelation to Psmith. He had
not realised before the extent of the ramifications of New York's
underworld. That members of the gangs should crop up in the Astor
roof-garden and in gorgeous raiment in the middle of Broadway was a
surprise. When Billy Windsor had mentioned the gangs, he had formed
a mental picture of low-browed hooligans, keeping carefully to
their own quarter of the town. This picture had been correct, as
far as it went, but it had not gone far enough. The bulk of the
gangs of New York are of the hooligan class, and are rarely met
with outside their natural boundaries. But each gang has its more
prosperous members; gentlemen, who, like the man of the Astor
roof-garden, support life by more delicate and genteel methods than
the rest. The main body rely for their incomes, except at
election-time, on such primitive feats as robbing intoxicated
pedestrians. The aristocracy of the gangs soar higher.
It was a considerable time before Billy spoke.
"Say," he said, "this thing wants talking over."
"By all means, Comrade Windsor."
"It's this way. There's no doubt now that we're up against a mighty
"Something of the sort would seem to be the case."
"It's like this. I'm going to see this through. It isn't only that
I want to do a bit of good to the poor cusses in those tenements,
though I'd do it for that alone. But, as far as I'm concerned,
there's something to it besides that. If we win out, I'm going to
get a job out of one of the big dailies. It'll give me just the
chance I need. See what I mean? Well, it's different with you. I
don't see that it's up to you to run the risk of getting yourself
put out of business with a black-jack, and maybe shot. Once you get
mixed up with the gangs there's no saying what's going to be doing.
Well, I don't see why you shouldn't quit. All this has got nothing
to do with you. You're over here on a vacation. You haven't got to
make a living this side. You want to go about and have a good time,
instead of getting mixed up with--"
He broke off.
"Well, that's what I wanted to say, anyway," he concluded.
Psmith looked at him reproachfully.
"Are you trying to sack me, Comrade Windsor?"
"In various treatises on 'How to Succeed in Literature,'" said
Psmith sadly, "which I have read from time to time, I have always
found it stated that what the novice chiefly needed was an editor
who believed in him. In you, Comrade Windsor, I fancied that I had
found such an editor."
"What's all this about?" demanded Billy. "I'm making no kick about
"I gathered from your remarks that you were anxious to receive my
"Well, I told you why. I didn't want you be black-jacked."
"Was that the only reason?"
"Then all is well," said Psmith, relieved. "For the moment I
fancied that my literary talents had been weighed in the balance
and adjudged below par. If that is all--why, these are the mere
everyday risks of the young journalist's life. Without them we
should be dull and dissatisfied. Our work would lose its fire. Men
such as ourselves, Comrade Windsor, need a certain stimulus, a
certain fillip, if they are to keep up their high standards. The
knowledge that a low-browed gentleman is waiting round the corner
with a sand-bag poised in air will just supply that stimulus. Also
that fillip. It will give our output precisely the edge it
"Then you'll stay in this thing? You'll stick to the work?"
"Like a conscientious leech, Comrade Windsor."
"Bully for you," said Billy.
It was not Psmith's habit, when he felt deeply on any subject, to
exhibit his feelings; and this matter of the tenements had hit him
harder than any one who did not know him intimately would have
imagined. Mike would have understood him, but Billy Windsor was too
recent an acquaintance. Psmith was one of those people who are
content to accept most of the happenings of life in an airy spirit
of tolerance. Life had been more or less of a game with him up till
now. In his previous encounters with those with whom fate had
brought him in contact there had been little at stake. The prize of
victory had been merely a comfortable feeling of having had the
best of a battle of wits; the penalty of defeat nothing worse than
the discomfort of having failed to score. But this tenement
business was different. Here he had touched the realities. There
was something worth fighting for. His lot had been cast in pleasant
places, and the sight of actual raw misery had come home to him
with an added force from that circumstance. He was fully aware of
the risks that he must run. The words of the man at the Astor, and
still more the episodes of the family friend from Missouri and the
taximeter cab, had shown him that this thing was on a different
plane from anything that had happened to him before. It was a fight
without the gloves, and to a finish at that. But he meant to see it
through. Somehow or other those tenement houses had got to be
cleaned up. If it meant trouble, as it undoubtedly did, that trouble
would have to be faced.
"Now that Comrade Jarvis," he said, "showing a spirit of
forbearance which, I am bound to say, does him credit, has declined
the congenial task of fracturing our occiputs, who should you say,
Comrade Windsor, would be the chosen substitute?"
Billy shook his head. "Now that Bat has turned up the job, it might
be any one of three gangs. There are four main gangs, you know.
Bat's is the biggest. But the smallest of them's large enough to
put us away, if we give them the chance."
"I don't quite grasp the nice points of this matter. Do you mean
that we have an entire gang on our trail in one solid mass, or will
it be merely a section?"
"Well, a section, I guess, if it comes to that. Parker, or whoever
fixed this thing up, would go to the main boss of the gang. If it
was the Three Points, he'd go to Spider Reilly. If it was the Table
Hill lot, he'd look up Dude Dawson. And so on."
"And what then?"
"And then the boss would talk it over with his own special
partners. Every gang-leader has about a dozen of them. A sort of
Inner Circle. They'd fix it up among themselves. The rest of the
gang wouldn't know anything about it. The fewer in the game, you
see, the fewer to split up the dollars."
"I see. Then things are not so black. All we have to do is to look
out for about a dozen hooligans with a natural dignity in their
bearing, the result of intimacy with the main boss. Carefully
eluding these aristocrats, we shall win through. I fancy, Comrade
Windsor, that all may yet be well. What steps do you propose to
take by way of self-defence?"
"Keep out in the middle of the street, and not go off the Broadway
after dark. You're pretty safe on Broadway. There's too much light
for them there."
"Now that our sleuth-hound friend in the taximeter has ascertained
your address, shall you change it?"
"It wouldn't do any good. They'd soon find where I'd gone to. How
"I fancy I shall be tolerably all right. A particularly massive
policeman is on duty at my very doors. So much for our private
lives. But what of the day-time? Suppose these sandbag-specialists
drop in at the office during business hours. Will Comrade Maloney's
frank and manly statement that we are not in be sufficient to keep
them out? I doubt it. All unused to the nice conventions of polite
society, these rugged persons will charge through. In such
circumstances good work will be hard to achieve. Your literary man
must have complete quiet if he is to give the public of his best.
But stay. An idea!"
"Comrade Brady. The Peerless Kid. The man Cosy Moments is running
for the light-weight championship. We are his pugilistic sponsors.
You may say that it is entirely owing to our efforts that he has
obtained this match with--who exactly is the gentleman Comrade
Brady fights at the Highfield Club on Friday night?"
"Cyclone Al. Wolmann, isn't it?"
"You are right. As I was saying, but for us the privilege of
smiting Comrade Cyclone Al. Wolmann under the fifth rib on Friday
night would almost certainly have been denied to him."
It almost seemed as if he were right. From the moment the paper had
taken up his cause, Kid Brady's star had undoubtedly been in the
ascendant. People began to talk about him as a likely man. Edgren,
in the Evening World, had a paragraph about his chances for the
light-weight title. Tad, in the Journal, drew a picture of him.
Finally, the management of the Highfield Club had signed him for a
ten-round bout with Mr. Wolmann. There were, therefore, reasons
why Cosy Moments should feel a claim on the Kid's services.
"He should," continued Psmith, "if equipped in any degree with
finer feelings, be bubbling over with gratitude towards us. 'But
for Cosy Moments,' he should be saying to himself, 'where should I
be? Among the also-rans.' I imagine that he will do any little
thing we care to ask of him. I suggest that we approach Comrade
Brady, explain the facts of the case, and offer him at a
comfortable salary the post of fighting-editor of Cosy Moments. His
duties will be to sit in the room opening out of ours, girded as to
the loins and full of martial spirit, and apply some of those
half-scissor hooks of his to the persons of any who overcome the
opposition of Comrade Maloney. We, meanwhile, will enjoy that
leisure and freedom from interruption which is so essential to the
"It's not a bad idea," said Billy.
"It is about the soundest idea," said Psmith, "that has ever been
struck. One of your newspaper friends shall supply us with tickets,
and Friday night shall see us at the Highfield."
Far up at the other end of the island, on the banks of the Harlem
River, there stands the old warehouse which modern progress has
converted into the Highfield Athletic and Gymnastic Club. The
imagination, stimulated by the title, conjures up a sort of
National Sporting Club, with pictures on the walls, padding on the
chairs, and a sea of white shirt-fronts from roof to floor. But the
Highfield differs in some respects from this fancy picture.
Indeed, it would be hard to find a respect in which it does not
differ. But these names are so misleading. The title under which
the Highfield used to be known till a few years back was "Swifty
Bob's." It was a good, honest title. You knew what to expect; and
if you attended seances at Swifty Bob's you left your gold watch
and your little savings at home. But a wave of anti-pugilistic
feeling swept over the New York authorities. Promoters of boxing
contests found themselves, to their acute disgust, raided by the
police. The industry began to languish. People avoided places where
at any moment the festivities might be marred by an inrush of large
men in blue uniforms armed with locust-sticks.
And then some big-brained person suggested the club idea, which
stands alone as an example of American dry humour. There are now no
boxing contests in New York. Swifty Bob and his fellows would be
shocked at the idea of such a thing. All that happens now is
exhibition sparring bouts between members of the club. It is true
that next day the papers very tactlessly report the friendly
exhibition spar as if it had been quite a serious affair, but that
is not the fault of Swifty Bob.
Kid Brady, the chosen of Cosy Moments, was billed for a "ten-round
exhibition contest," to be the main event of the evening's
entertainment. No decisions are permitted at these clubs. Unless a
regrettable accident occurs, and one of the sparrers is knocked
out, the verdict is left to the newspapers next day. It is not
uncommon to find a man win easily in the World, draw in the
American, and be badly beaten in the Evening Mail. The system leads
to a certain amount of confusion, but it has the merit of offering
consolation to a much-smitten warrior.
The best method of getting to the Highfield is by the Subway. To
see the Subway in its most characteristic mood one must travel on
it during the rush-hour, when its patrons are packed into the
carriages in one solid jam by muscular guards and policemen,
shoving in a manner reminiscent of a Rugby football scrum. When
Psmith and Billy entered it on the Friday evening, it was
comparatively empty. All the seats were occupied, but only a few of
the straps and hardly any of the space reserved by law for the
Conversation on the Subway is impossible. The ingenious gentlemen
who constructed it started with the object of making it noisy. Not
ordinarily noisy, like a ton of coal falling on to a sheet of tin,
but really noisy. So they fashioned the pillars of thin steel, and
the sleepers of thin wood, and loosened all the nuts, and now a
Subway train in motion suggests a prolonged dynamite explosion
blended with the voice of some great cataract.
Psmith, forced into temporary silence by this combination of
noises, started to make up for lost time on arriving in the street
"A thoroughly unpleasant neighbourhood," he said, critically
surveying the dark streets. "I fear me, Comrade Windsor, that we
have been somewhat rash in venturing as far into the middle west as
this. If ever there was a blighted locality where low-browed
desperadoes might be expected to spring with whoops of joy from
every corner, this blighted locality is that blighted locality.
But we must carry on. In which direction, should you say, does this
It had begun to rain as they left Billy's lodgings. Psmith turned
up the collar of his Burberry.
"We suffer much in the cause of Literature," he said. "Let us
inquire of this genial soul if he knows where the Highfield is."
The pedestrian referred to proved to be going there himself. They
went on together, Psmith courteously offering views on the weather
and forecasts of the success of Kid Brady in the approaching
Rattling on, he was alluding to the prominent part Cosy Moments had
played in the affair, when a rough thrust from Windsor's elbow
brought home to him his indiscretion.
He stopped suddenly, wishing he had not said as much. Their
connection with that militant journal was not a thing even to be
suggested to casual acquaintances, especially in such a
particularly ill-lighted neighbourhood as that through which they
were now passing.
Their companion, however, who seemed to be a man of small speech,
made no comment. Psmith deftly turned the conversation back to the
subject of the weather, and was deep in a comparison of the
respective climates of England and the United States, when they
turned a corner and found themselves opposite a gloomy, barn-like
building, over the door of which it was just possible to decipher
in the darkness the words "Highfield Athletic and Gymnastic Club."
The tickets which Billy Windsor had obtained from his newspaper
friend were for one of the boxes. These proved to be sort of
sheep-pens of unpolished wood, each with four hard chairs in it.
The interior of the Highfield Athletic and Gymnastic Club was
severely free from anything in the shape of luxury and ornament.
Along the four walls were raised benches in tiers. On these were
seated as tough-looking a collection of citizens as one might wish
to see. On chairs at the ring-side were the reporters, with tickers
at their sides, by means of which they tapped details of each round
through to their down-town offices, where write-up reporters were
waiting to read off and elaborate the messages. In the centre of
the room, brilliantly lighted by half a dozen electric chandeliers,
was the ring.
There were preliminary bouts before the main event. A burly
gentleman in shirt-sleeves entered the ring, followed by two slim
youths in fighting costume and a massive person in a red jersey,
blue serge trousers, and yellow braces, who chewed gum with an
abstracted air throughout the proceedings.
The burly gentleman gave tongue in a voice that cleft the air like
"Ex-hib-it-i-on four-round bout between Patsy Milligan and Tommy
Goodley, members of this club. Patsy on my right, Tommy on my left.
Gentlemen will kindly stop smokin'."
The audience did nothing of the sort. Possibly they did not apply
the description to themselves. Possibly they considered the appeal
a mere formula. Somewhere in the background a gong sounded, and
Patsy, from the right, stepped briskly forward to meet Tommy,
approaching from the left.
The contest was short but energetic. At intervals the combatants
would cling affectionately to one another, and on these occasions
the red-jerseyed man, still chewing gum and still wearing the same
air of being lost in abstract thought, would split up the mass by
the simple method of ploughing his way between the pair. Towards
the end of the first round Thomas, eluding a left swing, put
Patrick neatly to the floor, where the latter remained for the
necessary ten seconds.
The remaining preliminaries proved disappointing. So much so that
in the last of the series a soured sportsman on one of the benches
near the roof began in satirical mood to whistle the "Merry Widow
Waltz." It was here that the red-jerseyed thinker for the first and
last time came out of his meditative trance. He leaned over the
ropes, and spoke--without heat, but firmly.
"If that guy whistling back up yonder thinks he can do better than
these boys, he can come right down into the ring."
The whistling ceased.
There was a distinct air of relief when the last preliminary was
finished and preparations for the main bout began. It did not
commence at once. There were formalities to be gone through,
introductions and the like. The burly gentleman reappeared from
nowhere, ushering into the ring a sheepishly-grinning youth in a
"In-ter-doo-cin' Young Leary," he bellowed impressively, "a noo
member of this chub, who will box some good boy here in September."
He walked to the other side of the ring and repeated the remark. A
raucous welcome was accorded to the new member.
Two other notable performers were introduced in a similar manner,
and then the building became suddenly full of noise, for a tall
youth in a bath-robe, attended by a little army of assistants, had
entered the ring. One of the army carried a bright green bucket, on
which were painted in white letters the words "Cyclone Al.
Wolmann." A moment later there was another, though a far lesser,
uproar, as Kid Brady, his pleasant face wearing a self-conscious
smirk, ducked under the ropes and sat down in the opposite corner.
"Ex-hib-it-i-on ten-round bout," thundered the burly gentleman,
"between Cyclone. Al. Wolmann--"
Loud applause. Mr. Wolmann was one of the famous, a fighter with a
reputation from New York to San Francisco. He was generally
considered the most likely man to give the hitherto invincible
Jimmy Garvin a hard battle for the light-weight championship.
"Oh, you Al.!" roared the crowd.
Mr. Wolmann bowed benevolently.
"--and Kid Brady, members of this--"
There was noticeably less applause for the Kid. He was an unknown.
A few of those present had heard of his victories in the West, but
these were but a small section of the crowd. When the faint
applause had ceased, Psmith rose to his feet.
"Oh, you Kid!" he observed encouragingly.
"I should not like Comrade Brady," he said, reseating himself, "to
think that he has no friend but his poor old mother, as, you will
recollect, occurred on a previous occasion."
The burly gentleman, followed by the two armies of assistants,
dropped down from the ring, and the gong sounded.
Mr. Wolmann sprang from his corner as if somebody had touched a
spring. He seemed to be of the opinion that if you are a cyclone, it
is never too soon to begin behaving like one. He danced round the
Kid with an india-rubber agility. The Cosy Moments representative
exhibited more stolidity. Except for the fact that he was in
fighting attitude, with one gloved hand moving slowly in the
neighbourhood of his stocky chest, and the other pawing the air on a
line with his square jaw, one would have said that he did not
realise the position of affairs. He wore the friendly smile of the
good-natured guest who is led forward by his hostess to join in some
Suddenly his opponent's long left shot out. The Kid, who had been
strolling forward, received it under the chin, and continued to
stroll forward as if nothing of note had happened. He gave the
impression of being aware that Mr. Wolmann had committed a breach
of good taste and of being resolved to pass it off with ready tact.
The Cyclone, having executed a backward leap, a forward leap, and a
feint, landed heavily with both hands. The Kid's genial smile did
not even quiver, but he continued to move forward. His opponent's
left flashed out again, but this time, instead of ignoring the
matter, the Kid replied with a heavy right swing; and Mr. Wolmann,
leaping back, found himself against the ropes. By the time he had
got out of that uncongenial position, two more of the Kid's swings
had found their mark. Mr. Wolmann, somewhat perturbed, scuttered
out into the middle of the ring, the Kid following in his
self-contained, solid way.
The Cyclone now became still more cyclonic. He had a left arm
which seemed to open out in joints like a telescope. Several times
when the Kid appeared well out of distance there was a thud as a
brown glove ripped in over his guard and jerked his head back. But
always he kept boring in, delivering an occasional right to the
body with the pleased smile of an infant destroying a Noah's Ark
with a tack-hammer. Despite these efforts, however, he was plainly
getting all the worst of it. Energetic Mr. Wolmann, relying on his
long left, was putting in three blows to his one. When the gong
sounded, ending the first round, the house was practically solid
for the Cyclone. Whoops and yells rose from everywhere. The
building rang with shouts of, "Oh, you Al.!"
Psmith turned sadly to Billy.
"It seems to me, Comrade Windsor," he said, "that this merry
meeting looks like doing Comrade Brady no good. I should not be
surprised at any moment to see his head bounce off on to the
"Wait," said Billy. "He'll win yet."
"You think so?"
"Sure. He comes from Wyoming," said Billy with simple confidence.
Rounds two and three were a repetition of round one. The Cyclone
raged almost unchecked about the ring. In one lightning rally in
the third he brought his right across squarely on to the Kid's jaw.
It was a blow which should have knocked any boxer out. The Kid
merely staggered slightly and returned to business, still smiling.
"See!" roared Billy enthusiastically in Psmith's ear, above the
uproar. "He doesn't mind it! He likes it! He comes from Wyoming!"
With the opening of round four there came a subtle change. The
Cyclone's fury was expending itself. That long left shot out less
sharply. Instead of being knocked back by it, the Cosy Moments
champion now took the hits in his stride, and came shuffling in
with his damaging body-blows. There were cheers and "Oh, you
Al.'s!" at the sound of the gong, but there was an appealing note
in them this time. The gallant sportsmen whose connection with
boxing was confined to watching other men fight, and betting on
what they considered a certainty, and who would have expired
promptly if any one had tapped them sharply on their well-filled
waistcoats, were beginning to fear that they might lose their money
In the fifth round the thing became a certainty. Like the month of
March, the Cyclone, who had come in like a lion, was going out like
a lamb. A slight decrease in the pleasantness of the Kid's smile
was noticeable. His expression began to resemble more nearly the
gloomy importance of the Cosy Moments photographs. Yells of agony
from panic-stricken speculators around the ring began to smite the
rafters. The Cyclone, now but a gentle breeze, clutched repeatedly,
hanging on like a leech till removed by the red-jerseyed referee.
Suddenly a grisly silence fell upon the house. It was broken by a
cow-boy yell from Billy Windsor. For the Kid, battered, but
obviously content, was standing in the middle of the ring, while on
the ropes the Cyclone, drooping like a wet sock, was sliding slowly
to the floor.
"Cosy Moments wins," said Psmith. "An omen, I fancy, Comrade
AN ADDITION TO THE STAFP
Penetrating into the Kid's dressing-room some moments later, the
editorial staff found the winner of the ten-round exhibition bout
between members of the club seated on a chair, having his right leg
rubbed by a shock-headed man in a sweater, who had been one of his
seconds during the conflict. The Kid beamed as they entered.
"Gents," he said, "come right in. Mighty glad to see you."
"It is a relief to me, Comrade Brady," said Psmith, "to find that
you can see us. I had expected to find that Comrade Wolmann's
purposeful buffs had completely closed your star-likes."
"Sure, I never felt them. He's a good quick boy, is Al., but,"
continued the Kid with powerful imagery, "he couldn't hit a hole in
a block of ice-cream, not if he was to use a hammer."
"And yet at one period in the proceedings, Comrade Brady," said
Psmith, "I fancied that your head would come unglued at the neck.
But the fear was merely transient. When you began to administer
those--am I correct in saying?--half-scissor hooks to the body,
why, then I felt like some watcher of the skies when a new planet
swims into his ken; or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes he
stared at the Pacific."
The Kid blinked.
"How's that?" he inquired.
"And why did I feel like that, Comrade Brady? I will tell you.
Because my faith in you was justified. Because there before me
stood the ideal fighting-editor of Cosy Moments. It is not a post
that any weakling can fill. There charm of manner cannot qualify a
man for the position. No one can hold down the job simply by having
a kind heart or being good at farmyard imitations. No. We want a
man of thews and sinews, a man who would rather be hit on the head
with a half-brick than not. And you, Comrade Brady, are such a
The Kid turned appealingly to Billy.
"Say, this gets past me, Mr. Windsor. Put me wise."
"Can we have a couple of words with you alone, Kid?" said Billy.
"We want to talk over something with you."
"Sure. Sit down, gents. Jack'll be through in a minute."
Jack, who during this conversation had been concentrating himself
on his subject's left leg, now announced that he guessed that would
about do, and having advised the Kid not to stop and pick daisies,
but to get into his clothes at once before he caught a chill, bade
the company good night and retired.
Billy shut the door.
"Kid," he said, "you know those articles about the tenements we've
been having in the paper?"
"Sure. I read 'em. They're to the good."
"You stimulate us, Comrade Brady. This is praise from Sir Hubert
"It was about time some strong josher came and put it across to
'em," added the Kid.
"So we thought. Comrade Parker, however, totally disagreed with
"That's what I'm coming to," said Billy. "The day before yesterday
a man named Parker called at the office and tried to buy us off."
Billy's voice grew indignant at the recollection.
"You gave him the hook, I guess?" queried the interested Kid.
"To such an extent, Comrade Brady," said Psmith, "that he left
breathing threatenings and slaughter. And it is for that reason
that we have ventured to call upon you."
"It's this way," said Billy. "We're pretty sure by this time that
whoever the man is this fellow Parker's working for has put one of
the gangs on to us."
"You don't say!" exclaimed the Kid. "Gum! Mr. Windsor, they're
tough propositions, those gangs."
"We've been followed in the streets, and once they put up a bluff
to get us where they could do us in. So we've come along to you. We
can look after ourselves out of the office, you see, but what we
want is some one to help in case they try to rush us there."
"In brief, a fighting-editor," said Psmith. "At all costs we must
have privacy. No writer can prune and polish his sentences to his
satisfaction if he is compelled constantly to break off in order to
eject boisterous hooligans. We therefore offer you the job of
sitting in the outer room and intercepting these bravoes before
they can reach us. The salary we leave to you. There are doubloons
and to spare in the old oak chest. Take what you need and put the
rest--if any--back. How does the offer strike you, Comrade Brady?"
"We don't want to get you in under false pretences, Kid," said
Billy. "Of course, they may not come anywhere near the office. But
still, if they did, there would be something doing. What do you
feel about it?"
"Gents," said the Kid, "it's this way."
He stepped into his coat, and resumed.
"Now that I've made good by getting the decision over Al., they'll
be giving me a chance of a big fight. Maybe with Jimmy Garvin.
Well, if that happens, see what I mean? I'll have to be going away
somewhere and getting into training. I shouldn't be able to come
and sit with you. But, if you gents feel like it, I'd be mighty
glad to come in till I'm wanted to go into training-camp."
"Great," said Billy; "that would suit us all the way up. If you'd
do that, Kid, we'd be tickled to death."
"And touching salary--" put in Psmith.
"Shucks!" said the Kid with emphasis. "Nix on the salary thing. I
wouldn't take a dime. If it hadn't a-been for you gents, I'd have
been waiting still for a chance of lining up in the championship
class. That's good enough for me. Any old thing you gents want me
to do, I'll do it. And glad, too."
"Comrade Brady," said Psmith warmly, "you are, if I may say so, the
goods. You are, beyond a doubt, supremely the stuff. We three,
then, hand-in-hand, will face the foe; and if the foe has good,
sound sense, he will keep right away. You appear to be ready. Shall
we meander forth?"
The building was empty and the lights were out when they emerged
from the dressing-room. They had to grope their way in darkness. It
was still raining when they reached the street, and the only signs
of life were a moist policeman and the distant glare of
public-house lights down the road.
They turned off to the left, and, after walking some hundred yards,
found themselves in a blind alley.
"Hullo!" said Billy. "Where have we come to?"
"In my trusting way," he said, "I had imagined that either you or
Comrade Brady was in charge of this expedition and taking me by a
known route to the nearest Subway station. I did not think to ask.
I placed myself, without hesitation, wholly in your hands."
"I thought the Kid knew the way," said Billy.
"I was just taggin' along with you gents," protested the
light-weight, "I thought you was taking me right. This is the first
time I been up here."
"Next time we three go on a little jaunt anywhere," said Psmith
resignedly, "it would be as well to take a map and a corps of
guides with us. Otherwise we shall start for Broadway and finish
up at Minneapolis."
They emerged from the blind alley and stood in the dark street,
looking doubtfully up and down it.
"Aha!" said Psmith suddenly, "I perceive a native. Several natives,
in fact. Quite a little covey of them. We will put our case before
them, concealing nothing, and rely on their advice to take us to
A little knot of men was approaching from the left. In the darkness
it was impossible to say how many of them there were. Psmith
stepped forward, the Kid at his side.
"Excuse me, sir," he said to the leader, "but if you can spare me a
moment of your valuable time--"
There was a sudden shuffle of feet on the pavement, a quick
movement on the part of the Kid, a chunky sound as of wood striking
wood, and the man Psmith had been addressing fell to the ground in
As he fell, something dropped from his hand on to the pavement with
a bump and a rattle. Stooping swiftly, the Kid picked it up, and
handed it to Psmith. His fingers closed upon it. It was a short,
wicked-looking little bludgeon, the black-jack of the New York
"Get busy," advised the Kid briefly.
THE FIRST BATTLE
The promptitude and despatch with which the Kid had attended to the
gentleman with the black-jack had not been without its effect on
the followers of the stricken one. Physical courage is not an
outstanding quality of the New York hooligan. His personal
preference is for retreat when it is a question of unpleasantness
with a stranger. And, in any case, even when warring among
themselves, the gangs exhibit a lively distaste for the hard knocks
of hand-to-hand fighting. Their chosen method of battling is to lie
down on the ground and shoot. This is more suited to their
physique, which is rarely great. The gangsman, as a rule, is
stunted and slight of build.
The Kid's rapid work on the present occasion created a good deal of
confusion. There was no doubt that much had been hoped for from
speedy attack. Also, the generalship of the expedition had been in
the hands of the fallen warrior. His removal from the sphere of
active influence had left the party without a head. And, to add to
their discomfiture, they could not account for the Kid. Psmith they
knew, and Billy Windsor they knew, but who was this stranger with
the square shoulders and the upper-cut that landed like a
cannon-ball? Something approaching a panic prevailed among the
It was not lessened by the behaviour of the intended victims. Billy
Windsor, armed with the big stick which he had bought after the
visit of Mr. Parker, was the first to join issue. He had been a few
paces behind the others during the black-jack incident; but, dark
as it was, he had seen enough to show him that the occasion was, as
Psmith would have said, one for the Shrewd Blow rather than the
Prolonged Parley. With a whoop of the purest Wyoming brand, he
sprang forward into the confused mass of the enemy. A moment later
Psmith and the Kid followed, and there raged over the body of the
fallen leader a battle of Homeric type.
It was not a long affair. The rules and conditions governing the
encounter offended the delicate sensibilities of the gang. Like
artists who feel themselves trammelled by distasteful conventions,
they were damped and could not do themselves justice. Their forte
was long-range fighting with pistols. With that they felt en
rapport. But this vulgar brawling in the darkness with muscular
opponents who hit hard and often with sticks and hands was
distasteful to them. They could not develop any enthusiasm for it.
They carried pistols, but it was too dark and the combatants were
too entangled to allow them to use these. Besides, this was not the
dear, homely old Bowery, where a gentleman may fire a pistol
without exciting vulgar comment. It was up-town, where curious
crowds might collect at the first shot.
There was but one thing to be done. Reluctant as they might be to
abandon their fallen leader, they must tear themselves away.
Already they were suffering grievously from the stick, the
black-jack, and the lightning blows of the Kid. For a moment they
hung, wavering; then stampeded in half a dozen different
directions, melting into the night whence they had come.
Billy, full of zeal, pursued one fugitive some fifty yards down the
street, but his quarry, exhibiting a rare turn of speed, easily
He came back, panting, to find Psmith and the Kid examining the
fallen leader of the departed ones with the aid of a match, which
went out just as Billy arrived.
"It is our friend of the earlier part of the evening, Comrade
Windsor," said Psmith. "The merchant with whom we hob-nobbed on our
way to the Highfield. In a moment of imprudence I mentioned Cosy
Moments. I fancy that this was his first intimation that we were in
the offing. His visit to the Highfield was paid, I think, purely
from sport-loving motives. He was not on our trail. He came merely
to see if Comrade Brady was proficient with his hands. Subsequent
events must have justified our fighting editor in his eyes. It seems
to be a moot point whether he will ever recover consciousness."
"Mighty good thing if he doesn't," said Billy uncharitably.
"From one point of view, Comrade Windsor, yes. Such an event would
undoubtedly be an excellent thing for the public good. But from our
point of view, it would be as well if he were to sit up and take
notice. We could ascertain from him who he is and which particular
collection of horny-handeds he represents. Light another match,
The Kid did so. The head of it fell off and dropped upon the
up-turned face. The hooligan stirred, shook himself, sat up, and
began to mutter something in a foggy voice.
"He's still woozy," said the Kid.
"Still--what exactly, Comrade Brady?"
"In the air," explained the Kid. "Bats in the belfry. Dizzy. See
what I mean? It's often like that when a feller puts one in with a
bit of weight behind it just where that one landed. Gum! I
remember when I fought Martin Kelly; I was only starting to learn
the game then. Martin and me was mixing it good and hard all over
the ring, when suddenly he puts over a stiff one right on the
point. What do you think I done? Fall down and take the count? Not
on your life. I just turns round and walks straight out of the
ring to my dressing-room. Willie Harvey, who was seconding me,
comes tearing in after me, and finds me getting into my clothes.
'What's doing, Kid?' he asks. 'I'm going fishin', Willie,' I says.
'It's a lovely day.' 'You've lost the fight,' he says. 'Fight?'
says I. 'What fight?' See what I mean? I hadn't a notion of what
had happened. It was a half an hour and more before I could
remember a thing."
During this reminiscence, the man on the ground had contrived to
clear his mind of the mistiness induced by the Kid's upper-cut. The
first sign he showed of returning intelligence was a sudden dash
for safety up the road. But he had not gone five yards when he sat
The Kid was inspired to further reminiscence. "Guess he's feeling
pretty poor," he said. "It's no good him trying to run for a while
after he's put his chin in the way of a real live one. I remember
when Joe Peterson put me out, way back when I was new to the
game--it was the same year I fought Martin Kelly. He had an awful
punch, had old Joe, and he put me down and out in the eighth round.
After the fight they found me on the fire-escape outside my
dressing-room. 'Come in, Kid,' says they. 'It's all right, chaps,'
I says, 'I'm dying.' Like that. 'It's all right, chaps, I'm dying.'
Same with this guy. See what I mean?"
They formed a group about the fallen black-jack expert.
"Pardon us," said Psmith courteously, "for breaking in upon your
reverie; but, if you could spare us a moment of your valuable time,
there are one or two things which we should like to know."
"Sure thing," agreed the Kid.
"In the first place," continued Psmith, "would it be betraying
professional secrets if you told us which particular bevy of
energetic sandbaggers it is to which you are attached?"
"Gent," explained the Kid, "wants to know what's your gang."
The man on the ground muttered something that to Psmith and Billy
"It would be a charity," said the former, "if some philanthropist
would give this blighter elocution lessons. Can you interpret,
"Says it's the Three Points," said the Kid.
"The Three Points? Let me see, is that Dude Dawson, Comrade
Windsor, or the other gentleman?"
"It's Spider Reilly. Dude Dawson runs the Table Hill crowd."
"Perhaps this is Spider Reilly?"
"Nope," said the Kid. "I know the Spider. This ain't him. This is
some other mutt."
"Which other mutt in particular?" asked Psmith. "Try and find out,
Comrade Brady. You seem to be able to understand what he says. To
me, personally, his remarks sound like the output of a gramophone
with a hot potato in its mouth."
"Says he's Jack Repetto," announced the interpreter.
There was another interruption at this moment. The bashful Mr.
Repetto, plainly a man who was not happy in the society of
strangers, made another attempt to withdraw. Reaching out a pair of
lean hands, he pulled the Kid's legs from under him with a swift
jerk, and, wriggling to his feet, started off again down the road.
Once more, however, desire outran performance. He got as far as the
nearest street-lamp, but no farther. The giddiness seemed to
overcome him again, for he grasped the lamp-post, and, sliding
slowly to the ground, sat there motionless.
The Kid, whose fall had jolted and bruised him, was inclined to be
wrathful and vindictive. He was the first of the three to reach
the elusive Mr. Repetto, and if that worthy had happened to be
standing instead of sitting it might have gone hard with him. But
the Kid was not the man to attack a fallen foe. He contented
himself with brushing the dust off his person and addressing a
richly abusive flow of remarks to Mr. Repetto.
Under the rays of the lamp it was possible to discern more closely
the features of the black-jack exponent. There was a subtle but
noticeable resemblance to those of Mr. Bat Jarvis. Apparently the
latter's oiled forelock, worn low over the forehead, was more a
concession to the general fashion prevailing in gang circles than
an expression of personal taste. Mr. Repetto had it, too. In his
case it was almost white, for the fallen warrior was an albino. His
eyes, which were closed, had white lashes and were set as near
together as Nature had been able to manage without actually running
them into one another. His under-lip protruded and drooped. Looking
at him, one felt instinctively that no judging committee of a
beauty contest would hesitate a moment before him.
It soon became apparent that the light of the lamp, though
bestowing the doubtful privilege of a clearer view of Mr. Repetto's
face, held certain disadvantages. Scarcely had the staff of Cosy
Moments reached the faint yellow pool of light, in the centre of
which Mr. Repetto reclined, than, with a suddenness which caused
them to leap into the air, there sounded from the darkness down the
road the crack-crack-crack of a revolver. Instantly from the
opposite direction came other shots. Three bullets flicked grooves
in the roadway almost at Billy's feet. The Kid gave a sudden howl.
Psmith's hat, suddenly imbued with life, sprang into the air and
vanished, whirling into the night.
The thought did not come to them consciously at the moment, there
being little time to think, but it was evident as soon as, diving
out of the circle of light into the sheltering darkness, they
crouched down and waited for the next move, that a somewhat skilful
ambush had been effected. The other members of the gang, who had
fled with such remarkable speed, had by no means been eliminated
altogether from the game. While the questioning of Mr. Repetto had
been in progress, they had crept back, unperceived except by Mr.
Repetto himself. It being too dark for successful shooting, it had
become Mr. Repetto's task to lure his captors into the light, which
he had accomplished with considerable skill.
For some minutes the battle halted. There was dead silence. The
circle of light was empty now. Mr. Repetto had vanished. A
tentative shot from nowhere ripped through the air close to where
Psmith lay flattened on the pavement. And then the pavement began
to vibrate and give out a curious resonant sound. To Psmith it
conveyed nothing, but to the opposing army it meant much. They knew
it for what it was. Somewhere--it might be near or far--a policeman
had heard the shots, and was signalling for help to other policemen
along the line by beating on the flag-stones with his night-stick,
the New York constable's substitute for the London police-whistle.
The noise grew, filling the still air. From somewhere down the road
sounded the ring of running feet.
"De cops!" cried a voice. "Beat it!"
Next moment the night was full of clatter. The gang was "beating
Psmith rose to his feet and dusted his clothes ruefully. For the
first time he realised the horrors of war. His hat had gone for
ever. His trousers could never be the same again after their close
acquaintance with the pavement.
The rescue party was coming up at the gallop.
The New York policeman may lack the quiet dignity of his London
rival, but he is a hustler.
"Nothing now," said the disgusted voice of Billy Windsor from the
shadows. "They've beaten it."
The circle of lamplight became as if by mutual consent a general
rendezvous. Three grey-clad policemen, tough, clean-shaven men with
keen eyes and square jaws, stood there, revolver in one hand,
night-stick in the other. Psmith, hatless and dusty, joined them.
Billy Windsor and the Kid, the latter bleeding freely from his left
ear, the lobe of which had been chipped by a bullet, were the last
"What's bin the rough house?" inquired one of the policemen, mildly
"Do you know a sportsman of the name of Repetto?" inquired Psmith.
"Jack Repetto! Sure."
"He belongs to the Three Points," said another intelligent officer,
as one naming some fashionable club.
"When next you see him," said Psmith, "I should be obliged if you
would use your authority to make him buy me a new hat. I could do
with another pair of trousers, too; but I will not press the
trousers. A new hat, is, however, essential. Mine has a six-inch
hole in it."
"Shot at you, did they?" said one of the policemen, as who should
say, "Dash the lads, they're always up to some of their larks."
"Shot at us!" burst out the ruffled Kid. "What do you think's bin
happening? Think an aeroplane ran into my ear and took half of it
off? Think the noise was somebody opening bottles of pop? Think
those guys that sneaked off down the road was just training for a
"Comrade Brady," said Psmith, "touches the spot. He--"
"Say, are you Kid Brady?" inquired one of the officers. For the
first time the constabulary had begun to display any real
"Reckoned I'd seen you somewhere!" said another. "You licked
Cyclone Al. all right, Kid, I hear."
"And who but a bone-head thought he wouldn't?" demanded the third
warmly. "He could whip a dozen Cyclone Al.'s in the same evening
with his eyes shut."
"He's the next champeen," admitted the first speaker.
"If he puts it over Jimmy Garvin," argued the second.
"Jimmy Garvin!" cried the third. "He can whip twenty Jimmy Garvins
with his feet tied. I tell you--"
"I am loath," observed Psmith, "to interrupt this very impressive
brain-barbecue, but, trivial as it may seem to you, to me there is
a certain interest in this other little matter of my ruined hat. I
know that it may strike you as hypersensitive of us to protest
against being riddled with bullets, but--"
"Well, what's bin doin'?" inquired the Force. It was a nuisance,
this perpetual harping on trifles when the deep question of the
light-weight Championship of the World was under discussion, but
the sooner it was attended to, the sooner it would be over.
Billy Windsor undertook to explain.
"The Three Points laid for us," he said. "Jack Repetto was bossing
the crowd. I don't know who the rest were. The Kid put one over on
to Jack Repetto's chin, and we were asking him a few questions when
the rest came back, and started into shooting. Then we got to cover
quick, and you came up and they beat it."
"That," said Psmith, nodding, "is a very fair precis of the
evening's events. We should like you, if you will be so good, to
corral this Comrade Repetto, and see that he buys me a new hat."
"We'll round Jack up," said one of the policemen indulgently.
"Do it nicely," urged Psmith. "Don't go hurting his feelings."
The second policeman gave it as his opinion that Jack was getting
too gay. The third policeman conceded this. Jack, he said, had
shown signs for some time past of asking for it in the neck. It was
an error on Jack's part, he gave his hearers to understand, to
assume that the lid was completely off the great city of New York.
"Too blamed fresh he's gettin'," the trio agreed. They could not
have been more disapproving if they had been prefects at Haileybury
and Mr. Repetto a first-termer who had been detected in the act of
wearing his cap on the back of his head.
They seemed to think it was too bad of Jack.
"The wrath of the Law," said Psmith, "is very terrible. We will
leave the matter, then, in your hands. In the meantime, we should
be glad if you would direct us to the nearest Subway station. Just
at the moment, the cheerful lights of the Great White Way are what
I seem to chiefly need."
Thus ended the opening engagement of the campaign, seemingly in a
victory for the Cosy Moments army. Billy Windsor, however, shook
"We've got mighty little out of it," he said.
"The victory," said Psmith, "was not bloodless. Comrade Brady's ear,
my hat--these are not slight casualties. On the other hand, surely
we are one up? Surely we have gained ground? The elimination of
Comrade Repetto from the scheme of things in itself is something. I
know few men I would not rather meet in a lonely road than Comrade
Repetto. He is one of Nature's sand-baggers. Probably the thing
crept upon him slowly. He started, possibly, in a merely tentative
way by slugging one of the family circle. His nurse, let us say, or
his young brother. But, once started, he is unable to resist the
craving. The thing grips him like dram-drinking. He sandbags now not
because he really wants to, but because he cannot help himself. To
me there is something consoling in the thought that Comrade Repetto
will no longer be among those present."
"What makes you think that?"
"I should imagine that a benevolent Law will put away in his little
cell for at least a brief spell."
"Not on your life," said Billy. "He'll prove an alibi."
Psmith's eyeglass dropped out of his eye. He replaced it, and
gazed, astonished, at Billy.
"An alibi? When three keen-eyed men actually caught him at it?"
"He can find thirty toughs to swear he was five miles away."
"And get the court to believe it?" said Psmith.
"Sure," said Billy disgustedly. "You don't catch them hurting a
gangsman unless they're pushed against the wall. The politicians
don't want the gangs in gaol, especially as the Aldermanic
elections will be on in a few weeks. Did you ever hear of Monk
"I fancy not, Comrade Windsor. If I did, the name has escaped me.
Who was this cleric?"
"He was the first boss of the East Side gang, before Kid Twist took
"He was arrested dozens of times, but he always got off. Do you
know what he said once, when they pulled him for thugging a fellow
out in New Jersey?"
"I fear not, Comrade Windsor. Tell me all."
"He said, 'You're arresting me, huh? Say, you want to look where
you're goin'; I cut some ice in this town. I made half the big
politicians in New York!' That was what he said."
"His small-talk," said Psmith, "seems to have been bright and
well-expressed. What happened then? Was he restored to his friends
and his relations?"
"Sure, he was. What do you think? Well, Jack Repetto isn't Monk
Eastman, but he's in with Spider Reilly, and the Spider's in with
the men behind. Jack'll get off."
"It looks to me, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith thoughtfully, "as if
my stay in this great city were going to cost me a small fortune in
Billy's prophecy proved absolutely correct. The police were as good
as their word. In due season they rounded up the impulsive Mr.
Repetto, and he was haled before a magistrate. And then, what a
beautiful exhibition of brotherly love and auld-lang-syne
camaraderie was witnessed! One by one, smirking sheepishly, but
giving out their evidence with unshaken earnestness, eleven greasy,
wandering-eyed youths mounted the witness-stand and affirmed on
oath that at the time mentioned dear old Jack had been making
merry in their company in a genial and law-abiding fashion, many,
many blocks below the scene of the regrettable assault. The
magistrate discharged the prisoner, and the prisoner, meeting Billy
and Psmith in the street outside, leered triumphantly at them.
Billy stepped up to him. "You may have wriggled out of this," he
said furiously, "but if you don't get a move on and quit looking at
me like that, I'll knock you over the Singer Building. Hump
Mr. Repetto humped himself.
So was victory turned into defeat, and Billy's jaw became squarer
and his eye more full of the light of battle than ever. And there
was need of a square jaw and a battle-lit eye, for now began a
period of guerilla warfare such as no New York paper had ever had
to fight against.
It was Wheeler, the gaunt manager of the business side of the
journal, who first brought it to the notice of the editorial staff.
Wheeler was a man for whom in business hours nothing existed but
his job; and his job was to look after the distribution of the
paper. As to the contents of the paper he was absolutely ignorant.
He had been with Cosy Moments from its start, but he had never read
a line of it. He handled it as if it were so much soap. The
scholarly writings of Mr. Wilberfloss, the mirth-provoking sallies
of Mr. B. Henderson Asher, the tender outpourings of Louella
Granville Waterman--all these were things outside his ken. He was a
distributor, and he distributed.
A few days after the restoration of Mr. Repetto to East Side
Society, Mr. Wheeler came into the editorial room with information
and desire for information.
He endeavoured to satisfy the latter first.
"What's doing, anyway?" he asked. He then proceeded to his
information. "Some one's got it in against the paper, sure," he
said. "I don't know what it's all about. I ha'n't never read the
thing. Don't see what any one could have against a paper with a
name like Cosy Moments, anyway. The way things have been going
last few days, seems it might be the organ of a blamed mining-camp
what the boys have took a dislike to."
"What's been happening?" asked Billy with gleaming eyes.
"Why, nothing in the world to fuss about, only our carriers can't
go out without being beaten up by gangs of toughs. Pat Harrigan's
in the hospital now. Just been looking in on him. Pat's a feller
who likes to fight. Rather fight he would than see a ball-game. But
this was too much for him. Know what happened? Why, see here, just
like this it was. Pat goes out with his cart. Passing through a
low-down street on his way up-town he's held up by a bunch of
toughs. He shows fight. Half a dozen of them attend to him, while
the rest gets clean away with every copy of the paper there was in
the cart. When the cop comes along, there's Pat in pieces on the
ground and nobody in sight but a Dago chewing gum. Cop asks the
Dago what's been doing, and the Dago says he's only just come round
the corner and ha'n't seen nothing of anybody. What I want to know
is, what's it all about? Who's got it in for us and why?"
Mr. Wheeler leaned back in his chair, while Billy, his hair rumpled
more than ever and his eyes glowing, explained the situation. Mr.
Wheeler listened absolutely unmoved, and, when the narrative had
come to an end, gave it as his opinion that the editorial staff had
sand. That was his sole comment. "It's up to you," he said,
rising. "You know your business. Say, though, some one had better
get busy right quick and do something to stop these guys
rough-housing like this. If we get a few more carriers beat up the
way Pat was, there'll be a strike. It's not as if they were all
Irishmen. The most of them are Dagoes and such, and they don't
want any more fight than they can get by beating their wives and
kicking kids off the sidewalk. I'll do my best to get this paper
distributed right and it's a shame if it ain't, because it's going
big just now--but it's up to you. Good day, gents."
He went out. Psmith looked at Billy.
"As Comrade Wheeler remarks," he said, "it is up to us. What do you
propose to do about it? This is a move of the enemy which I have
not anticipated. I had fancied that their operations would be
confined exclusively to our two selves. If they are going to strew
the street with our carriers, we are somewhat in the soup."
Billy said nothing. He was chewing the stem of an unlighted pipe.
Psmith went on.
"It means, of course, that we must buck up to a certain extent. If
the campaign is to be a long one, they have us where the hair is
crisp. We cannot stand the strain. Cosy Moments cannot be muzzled,
but it can undoubtedly be choked. What we want to do is to find
out the name of the man behind the tenements as soon as ever we can
and publish it; and, then, if we perish, fall yelling the name."
Billy admitted the soundness of this scheme, but wished to know how
it was to be done.
"Comrade Windsor," said Psmith. "I have been thinking this thing
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