Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
Part 3 out of 4
over, and it seems to me that we are on the wrong track, or rather
we aren't on any track at all; we are simply marking time. What we
want to do is to go out and hustle round till we stir up something.
Our line up to the present has been to sit at home and scream
vigorously in the hope of some stout fellow hearing and rushing to
help. In other words, we've been saying in the paper what an
out-size in scugs the merchant must be who owns those tenements, in
the hope that somebody else will agree with us and be sufficiently
interested to get to work and find out who the blighter is. That's
all wrong. What we must do now, Comrade Windsor, is put on our
hats, such hats as Comrade Repetto has left us, and sally forth as
sleuth-hounds on our own account."
"Yes, but how?" demanded Billy. "That's all right in theory, but
how's it going to work in practice? The only thing that can corner
the man is a commission."
"Far from it, Comrade Windsor. The job may be worked more simply. I
don't know how often the rents are collected in these places, but I
should say at a venture once a week. My idea is to hang negligently
round till the rent-collector arrives, and when he has loomed up on
the horizon, buttonhole him and ask him quite politely, as man to
man, whether he is collecting those rents for himself or for
somebody else, and if somebody else, who that somebody else is.
Simple, I fancy? Yet brainy. Do you take me, Comrade Windsor?"
Billy sat up, excited. "I believe you've hit it."
Psmith shot his cuffs modestly.
AN EPISODE BY THE WAY
It was Pugsy Maloney who, on the following morning, brought to the
office the gist of what is related in this chapter. Pugsy's version
was, however, brief and unadorned, as was the way with his
narratives. Such things as first causes and piquant details he
avoided, as tending to prolong the telling excessively, thus
keeping him from perusal of his cowboy stories. The way Pugsy put
it was as follows. He gave the thing out merely as an item of
general interest, a bubble on the surface of the life of a great
city. He did not know how nearly interested were his employers in
any matter touching that gang which is known as the Three Points.
Pugsy said: "Dere's trouble down where I live. Dude Dawson's mad at
Spider Reilly, an' now de Table Hills are layin' for de T'ree
Points. Sure." He had then retired to his outer fastness, yielding
further details jerkily and with the distrait air of one whose mind
Skilfully extracted and pieced together, these details formed
themselves into the following typical narrative of East Side life
in New York.
The really important gangs of New York are four. There are other
less important institutions, but these are little more than mere
friendly gatherings of old boyhood chums for purposes of mutual
companionship. In time they may grow, as did Bat Jarvis's coterie,
into formidable organisations, for the soil is undoubtedly
propitious to such growth. But at present the amount of ice which
good judges declare them to cut is but small. They "stick up" an
occasional wayfarer for his "cush," and they carry "canisters" and
sometimes fire them off, but these things do not signify the
cutting of ice. In matters political there are only four gangs
which count, the East Side, the Groome Street, the Three Points,
and the Table Hill. Greatest of these by virtue of their numbers
are the East Side and the Groome Street, the latter presided over
at the time of this story by Mr. Bat Jarvis. These two are
colossal, and, though they may fight each other, are immune from
attack at the hands of lesser gangs. But between the other gangs,
and especially between the Table Hill and the Three Points, which
are much of a size, warfare rages as briskly as among the republics
of South America. There has always been bad blood between the Table
Hill and the Three Points, and until they wipe each other out after
the manner of the Kilkenny cats, it is probable that there always
will be. Little events, trifling in themselves, have always
occurred to shatter friendly relations just when there has seemed a
chance of their being formed. Thus, just as the Table Hillites were
beginning to forgive the Three Points for shooting the redoubtable
Paul Horgan down at Coney Island, a Three Pointer injudiciously
wiped out another of the rival gang near Canal Street. He pleaded
self-defence, and in any case it was probably mere thoughtlessness,
but nevertheless the Table Hillites were ruffled.
That had been a month or so back. During that month things had been
simmering down, and peace was just preparing to brood when there
occurred the incident to which Pugsy had alluded, the regrettable
falling out of Dude Dawson and Spider Reilly at Mr. Maginnis's
dancing saloon, Shamrock Hall, the same which Bat Jarvis had been
called in to protect in the days before the Groome Street gang
began to be.
Shamrock Hall, being under the eyes of the great Bat, was, of
course, forbidden ground; and it was with no intention of spoiling
the harmony of the evening that Mr. Dawson had looked in. He was
there in a purely private and peaceful character.
As he sat smoking, sipping, and observing the revels, there settled
at the next table Mr. Robert ("Nigger") Coston, an eminent member
of the Three Points.
There being temporary peace between the two gangs, the great men
exchanged a not unfriendly nod and, after a short pause, a word or
two. Mr. Coston, alluding to an Italian who had just pirouetted
past, remarked that there sure was some class to the way that wop
hit it up. Mr. Dawson said Yup, there sure was. You would have said
that all Nature smiled.
Alas! The next moment the sky was covered with black clouds and the
storm broke. For Mr. Dawson, continuing in this vein of criticism,
rather injudiciously gave it as his opinion that one of the lady
dancers had two left feet.
For a moment Mr. Coston did not see which lady was alluded to,
"De goil in de pink skoit," said Mr. Dawson, facilitating the
other's search by pointing with a much-chewed cigarette. It was at
this moment that Nature's smile was shut off as if by a tap. For
the lady in the pink skirt had been in receipt of Mr. Coston's
respectful devotion for the past eight days.
From this point onwards the march of events was rapid.
Mr. Coston, rising, asked Mr. Dawson who he thought he, Mr. Dawson,
Mr. Dawson, extinguishing his cigarette and placing it behind his
ear, replied that he was the fellow who could bite his, Mr.
Coston's, head off.
Mr. Coston said: "Huh?"
Mr. Dawson said: "Sure."
Mr. Coston called Mr. Dawson a pie-faced rubber-necked
Mr. Dawson called Mr. Coston a coon.
And that was where the trouble really started.
It was secretly a great grief to Mr. Coston that his skin was of so
swarthy a hue. To be permitted to address Mr. Coston face to face
by his nickname was a sign of the closest friendship, to which only
Spider Reilly, Jack Repetto, and one or two more of the gang could
aspire. Others spoke of him as Nigger, or, more briefly,
Nig--strictly behind his back. For Mr. Coston had a wide reputation
as a fighter, and his particular mode of battling was to descend on
his antagonist and bite him. Into this action he flung himself with
the passionate abandonment of the artist. When he bit he bit. He
did not nibble.
If a friend had called Mr. Coston "Nig" he would have been running
grave risks. A stranger, and a leader of a rival gang, who
addressed him as "coon" was more than asking for trouble. He was
pleading for it.
Great men seldom waste time. Mr. Coston, leaning towards Mr.
Dawson, promptly bit him on the cheek. Mr. Dawson bounded from his
seat. Such was the excitement of the moment that, instead of
drawing his "canister," he forgot that he had one on his person,
and, seizing a mug which had held beer, bounced it vigorously on
Mr. Coston's skull, which, being of solid wood, merely gave out a
resonant note and remained unbroken.
So far the honours were comparatively even, with perhaps a slight
balance in favour of Mr. Coston. But now occurred an incident
which turned the scale, and made war between the gangs inevitable.
In the far corner of the room, surrounded by a crowd of admiring
friends, sat Spider Reilly, monarch of the Three Points. He had
noticed that there was a slight disturbance at the other side of
the hall, but had given it little attention till, the dancing
ceasing suddenly and the floor emptying itself of its crowd, he had
a plain view of Mr. Dawson and Mr. Coston squaring up at each
other for the second round. We must assume that Mr. Reilly was not
thinking what he did, for his action was contrary to all rules of
gang-etiquette. In the street it would have been perfectly
legitimate, even praiseworthy, but in a dance-hall belonging to a
neutral power it was unpardonable.
What he did was to produce his "canister" and pick off the
unsuspecting Mr. Dawson just as that exquisite was preparing to get
in some more good work with the beer-mug. The leader of the Table
Hillites fell with a crash, shot through the leg; and Spider
Reilly, together with Mr. Coston and others of the Three Points,
sped through the doorway for safety, fearing the wrath of Bat
Jarvis, who, it was known, would countenance no such episodes at
the dance-hall which he had undertaken to protect.
Mr. Dawson, meanwhile, was attended to and helped home. Willing
informants gave him the name of his aggressor, and before morning
the Table Hill camp was in ferment. Shooting broke out in three
places, though there were no casualties. When the day dawned there
existed between the two gangs a state of war more bitter than any
in their record; for this time it was no question of obscure
nonentities. Chieftain had assaulted chieftain; royal blood had
"Comrade Windsor," said Psmith, when Master Maloney had spoken his
last word, "we must take careful note of this little matter. I
rather fancy that sooner or later we may be able to turn it to our
profit. I am sorry for Dude Dawson, anyhow. Though I have never
met him, I have a sort of instinctive respect for him. A man such
as he would feel a bullet through his trouser-leg more than one of
common clay who cared little how his clothes looked."
IN PLEASANT STREET
Careful inquiries, conducted incognito by Master Maloney among the
denizens of Pleasant Street, brought the information that rents in
the tenements were collected not weekly but monthly, a fact which
must undoubtedly cause a troublesome hitch in the campaign.
Rent-day, announced Pugsy, fell on the last day of the month.
"I rubbered around," he said, "and did de sleut' act, and I finds
t'ings out. Dere's a feller comes round 'bout supper time dat day,
an' den it's up to de fam'lies what lives in de tenements to dig
down into deir jeans fer de stuff, or out dey goes dat same night."
"Evidently a hustler, our nameless friend," said Psmith.
"I got dat from a kid what knows anuder kid what lives dere,"
explained Master Maloney. "Say," he proceeded confidentially, "dat
kid's in bad, sure he is. Dat second kid, de one what lives dere.
He's a wop kid, an--"
"A what, Comrade Maloney?"
"A wop. A Dago. Why, don't you get next? Why, an Italian. Sure,
dat's right. Well, dis kid, he is sure to de bad, 'cos his father
come over from Italy to work on de Subway."
"I don't see why that puts him in bad," said Billy Windsor
"Nor I," agreed Psmith. "Your narratives, Comrade Maloney, always
seem to me to suffer from a certain lack of construction. You start
at the end, and then you go back to any portion of the story which
happens to appeal to you at the moment, eventually winding up at
the beginning. Why should the fact that this stripling's father
has come over from Italy to work on the Subway be a misfortune?"
"Why, sure, because he got fired an' went an' swatted de foreman
one on de coco, an' de magistrate gives him t'oity days."
"And then, Comrade Maloney? This thing is beginning to get clearer.
You are like Sherlock Holmes. After you've explained a thing from
start to finish--or, as you prefer to do, from finish to start--it
becomes quite simple."
"Why, den dis kid's in bad for fair, 'cos der ain't nobody to
pungle de bones."
"Pungle de what, Comrade Maloney?"
"De bones. De stuff. Dat's right. De dollars. He's all alone, dis
kid, so when de rent-guy blows in, who's to slip him over de
simoleons? It'll be outside for his, quick."
Billy warmed up at this tale of distress in his usual way.
"Somebody ought to do something. It's a vile shame the kid being
turned out like that."
"We will see to it, Comrade Windsor. Cosy Moments shall step in. We
will combine business with pleasure, paying the stripling's rent
and corralling the rent-collector at the same time. What is today?
How long before the end of the month? Another week! A murrain on
it, Comrade Windsor. Two murrains. This delay may undo us."
But the days went by without any further movement on the part of
the enemy. A strange quiet seemed to be brooding over the other
camp. As a matter of fact, the sudden outbreak of active
hostilities with the Table Hill contingent had had the effect of
taking the minds of Spider Reilly and his warriors off Cosy Moments
and its affairs, much as the unexpected appearance of a mad bull
would make a man forget that he had come out butterfly-hunting.
Psmith and Billy could wait; they were not likely to take the
offensive; but the Table Hillites demanded instant attention.
War had broken out, as was usual between the gangs, in a somewhat
tentative fashion at first sight. There had been sniping and
skirmishes by the wayside, but as yet no pitched battle. The two
armies were sparring for an opening.
* * *
The end of the week arrived, and Psmith and Billy, conducted by
Master Maloney, made their way to Pleasant Street. To get there it
was necessary to pass through a section of the enemy's country; but
the perilous passage was safely negotiated. The expedition reached
its unsavoury goal intact.
The wop kid, whose name, it appeared, was Giuseppe Orloni,
inhabited a small room at the very top of the building next to the
one Psmith and Mike had visited on their first appearance in
Pleasant Street. He was out when the party, led by Pugsy up dark
stairs, arrived; and, on returning, seemed both surprised and
alarmed to see visitors. Pugsy undertook to do the honours. Pugsy
as interpreter was energetic but not wholly successful. He appeared
to have a fixed idea that the Italian language was one easily
mastered by the simple method of saying "da" instead of "the," and
tacking on a final "a" to any word that seemed to him to need one.
"Say, kid," he began, "has da rent-a-man come yet-a?"
The black eyes of the wop kid clouded. He gesticulated, and said
something in his native language.
"He hasn't got next," reported Master Maloney. "He can't git on to
me curves. Dese wop kids is all boneheads. Say, kid, look-a here."
He walked out of the room and closed the door; then, rapping on it
smartly from the outside, re-entered and, assuming a look of
extreme ferocity, stretched out his hand and thundered: "Unbelt-a!
Slip-a me da stuff!"
The wop kid's puzzlement became pathetic.
"This," said Psmith, deeply interested, "is getting about as tense
as anything I ever struck. Don't give in, Comrade Maloney. Who
knows but that you may yet win through? I fancy the trouble is that
your too perfect Italian accent is making the youth home-sick. Once
more to the breach, Comrade Maloney."
Master Maloney made a gesture of disgust. "I'm t'roo. Dese Dagoes
makes me tired. Dey don't know enough to go upstairs to take de
Elevated. Beat it, you mutt," he observed with moody displeasure
to the wop kid, accompanying the words with a gesture which
conveyed its own meaning. The wop kid, plainly glad to get away,
slipped out of the door like a shadow.
Pugsy shrugged his shoulders.
"Gents," he said resignedly, "it's up to youse."
"I fancy," said Psmith, "that this is one of those moments when it
is necessary for me to unlimber my Sherlock Holmes system. As thus.
If the rent collector had been here, it is certain, I think, that
Comrade Spaghetti, or whatever you said his name was, wouldn't have
been. That is to say, if the rent collector had called and found no
money waiting for him, surely Comrade Spaghetti would have been out
in the cold night instead of under his own roof-tree. Do you follow
me, Comrade Maloney?"
"That's right," said Billy Windsor. "Of course."
"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary," murmured Psmith.
"So all we have to do is to sit here and wait."
"All?" said Psmith sadly. "Surely it is enough. For of all the
scaly localities I have struck this seems to me the scaliest. The
architect of this Stately Home of America seems to have had a
positive hatred for windows. His idea of ventilation was to leave
a hole in the wall about the size of a lima bean and let the thing
go at that. If our friend does not arrive shortly, I shall pull
down the roof. Why, gadzooks! Not to mention stap my vitals! Isn't
that a trap-door up there? Make a long-arm, Comrade Windsor."
Billy got on a chair and pulled the bolt. The trap-door opened
downwards. It fell, disclosing a square of deep blue sky.
"Gum!" he said. "Fancy living in this atmosphere when you don't
have to. Fancy these fellows keeping that shut all the time."
"I expect it is an acquired taste," said Psmith, "like Limburger
cheese. They don't begin to appreciate air till it is thick enough
to scoop chunks out of with a spoon. Then they get up on their hind
legs and inflate their chests and say, 'This is fine! This beats
ozone hollow!' Leave it open, Comrade Windsor. And now, as to the
problem of dispensing with Comrade Maloney's services?"
"Sure," said Billy. "Beat it, Pugsy, my lad."
Pugsy looked up, indignant.
"Beat it?" he queried.
"While your shoe leather's good," said Billy. "This is no place
for a minister's son. There may be a rough house in here any
minute, and you would be in the way."
"I want to stop and pipe de fun," objected Master Maloney.
"Never mind. Cut off. We'll tell you all about it to-morrow."
Master Maloney prepared reluctantly to depart. As he did so there
was a sound of a well-shod foot on the stairs, and a man in a
snuff-coloured suit, wearing a brown Homburg hat and carrying a
small notebook in one hand, walked briskly into the room. It was
not necessary for Psmith to get his Sherlock Holmes system to work.
His whole appearance proclaimed the new-comer to be the
long-expected collector of rents.
He stood in the doorway looking with some surprise at the group
inside. He was a smallish, pale-faced man with protruding eyes and
teeth which gave him a certain resemblance to a rabbit.
"Hello," he said.
"Welcome to New York," said Psmith.
Master Maloney, who had taken advantage of the interruption to edge
farther into the room, now appeared to consider the question of his
departure permanently shelved. He sidled to a corner and sat down
on an empty soap-box with the air of a dramatic critic at the
opening night of a new play. The scene looked good to him. It
promised interesting developments. Master Maloney was an earnest
student of the drama, as exhibited in the theatres of the East
Side, and few had ever applauded the hero of "Escaped from
Sing-Sing," or hissed the villain of "Nellie, the Beautiful
Cloak-Model" with more fervour than he. He liked his drama to have
plenty of action, and to his practised eye this one promised well.
Psmith he looked upon as a quite amiable lunatic, from whom little
was to be expected; but there was a set expression on Billy
Windsor's face which suggested great things.
His pleasure was abruptly quenched. Billy Windsor, placing a firm
hand on his collar, led him to the door and pushed him out, closing
the door behind him.
The rent collector watched these things with a puzzled eye. He now
turned to Psmith.
"Say, seen anything of the wops that live here?" he inquired.
"I am addressing--?" said Psmith courteously.
"My name's Gooch."
"Touching these wops, Comrade Gooch," he said, "I fear there is
little chance of your seeing them to-night, unless you wait some
considerable time. With one of them--the son and heir of the
family, I should say--we have just been having a highly interesting
and informative chat. Comrade Maloney, who has just left us, acted
as interpreter. The father, I am told, is in the dungeon below the
castle moat for a brief spell for punching his foreman in the
eye. The result? The rent is not forthcoming."
"Then it's outside for theirs," said Mr. Gooch definitely.
"It's a big shame," broke in Billy, "turning the kid out. Where's
he to go?"
"That's up to him. Nothing to do with me. I'm only acting under
orders from up top."
"Whose orders, Comrade Gooch?" inquired Psmith.
"The gent who owns this joint."
"Who is he?" said Billy.
Suspicion crept into the protruding eyes of the rent collector. He
waxed wroth. "Say" he demanded. "Who are you two guys, anyway, and
what do you think you're doing here? That's what I'd like to know.
What do you want with the name of the owner of this place? What
business is it of yours?"
"The fact is, Comrade Gooch, we are newspaper men."
"I guessed you were," said Mr. Gooch with triumph. "You can't bluff
me. Well, it's no good, boys. I've nothing for you. You'd better
chase off and try something else."
He became more friendly.
"Say, though," he said, "I just guessed you were from some
paper. I wish I could give you a story, but I can't. I guess
it's this Cosy Moments business that's been and put your editor
on to this joint, ain't it? Say, though, that's a queer thing,
that paper. Why, only a few weeks ago it used to be a sort of
take-home-and-read-to-the-kids affair. A friend of mine used
to buy it regular. And then suddenly it comes out with a
regular whoop, and started knocking these tenements and
boosting Kid Brady, and all that. I can't understand it. All I
know is that it's begun to get this place talked about. Why,
you see for yourselves how it is. Here is your editor sending
you down to get a story about it. But, say, those Cosy Moments
guys are taking big risks. I tell you straight they are, and
that goes. I happen to know a thing or two about what's going
on on the other side, and I tell you there's going to be
something doing if they don't cut it out quick. Mr.--" he
stopped and chuckled, "Mr. Jones isn't the man to sit still and
smile. He's going to get busy. Say, what paper do you boys come
"Cosy Moments, Comrade Gooch," Psmith replied. "Immediately behind
you, between you and the door, is Comrade Windsor, our editor. I am
Psmith. I sub-edit."
For a moment the inwardness of the information did not seem to come
home to Mr. Gooch. Then it hit him. He spun round. Billy Windsor
was standing with his back against the door and a more than nasty
look on his face.
"What's all this?" demanded Mr. Gooch.
"I will explain all," said Psmith soothingly. "In the first place,
however, this matter of Comrade Spaghetti's rent. Sooner than see
that friend of my boyhood slung out to do the wandering-child-
in-the-snow act, I will brass up for him."
"Confound his rent. Let me out."
"Business before pleasure. How much is it? Twelve dollars? For the
privilege of suffocating in this compact little Black Hole? By my
halidom, Comrade Gooch, that gentleman whose name you are so
shortly to tell us has a very fair idea of how to charge! But who
am I that I should criticise? Here are the simoleons, as our young
friend, Comrade Maloney, would call them. Push me over a receipt."
"Let me out."
"Anon, gossip, anon.--Shakespeare. First, the receipt."
Mr. Gooch scribbled a few words in his notebook and tore out the
page. Psmith thanked him.
"I will see that it reaches Comrade Spaghetti," he said. "And now
to a more important matter. Don't put away that notebook. Turn to
a clean page, moisten your pencil, and write as follows. Are you
ready? By the way, what is your Christian name? . . . Gooch, Gooch,
this is no way to speak! Well, if you are sensitive on the point,
we will waive the Christian name. It is my duty to tell you,
however, that I suspect it to be Percy. Let us push on. Are you
ready, once more? Pencil moistened? Very well, then. 'I'--comma--
'being of sound mind and body'--comma--' and a bright little chap
altogether'--comma--Why, you're not writing."
"Let me out," bellowed Mr. Gooch. "I'll summon you for assault and
battery. Playing a fool game like this! Get away from that door."
"There has been no assault and battery yet, Comrade Gooch, but who
shall predict how long so happy a state of things will last? Do not
be deceived by our gay and smiling faces, Comrade Gooch. We mean
business. Let me put the whole position of affairs before you; and
I am sure a man of your perception will see that there is only one
thing to be done."
He dusted the only chair in the room with infinite care and sat
down. Billy Windsor, who had not spoken a word or moved an inch
since the beginning of the interview, continued to stand and be
silent. Mr. Gooch shuffled restlessly in the middle of the room.
"As you justly observed a moment ago," said Psmith, "the staff of
Cosy Moments is taking big risks. We do not rely on your
unsupported word for that. We have had practical demonstration of
the fact from one J. Repetto, who tried some few nights ago to put
us out of business. Well, it struck us both that we had better get
hold of the name of the blighter who runs these tenements as
quickly as possible, before Comrade Repetto's next night out. That
is what we should like you to give us, Comrade Gooch. And we should
like it in writing. And, on second thoughts, in ink. I have one of
those patent non-leakable fountain pens in my pocket. The Old
Journalist's Best Friend. Most of the ink has come out and is
permeating the lining of my coat, but I think there is still
sufficient for our needs. Remind me later, Comrade Gooch, to
continue on the subject of fountain pens. I have much to say on the
theme. Meanwhile, however, business, business. That is the cry."
He produced a pen and an old letter, the last page of which was
blank, and began to write.
"How does this strike you? "he said. "'I'--(I have left a blank
for the Christian name: you can write it in yourself later)--' I,
blank Gooch, being a collector of rents in Pleasant Street, New
York, do hereby swear'--hush, Comrade Gooch, there is no need to do
it yet--'that the name of the owner of the Pleasant Street
tenements, who is responsible for the perfectly foul conditions
there, is--' And that is where you come in, Comrade Gooch. That is
where we need your specialised knowledge. Who is he?"
Billy Windsor reached out and grabbed the rent collector by the
collar. Having done this, he proceeded to shake him.
Billy was muscular, and his heart was so much in the business that
Mr. Gooch behaved as if he had been caught in a high wind. It is
probable that in another moment the desired information might have
been shaken out of him, but before this could happen there was a
banging at the door, followed by the entrance of Master Maloney.
For the first time since Psmith had known him, Pugsy was openly
"Say," he began, "youse had better beat it quick, you had. Dey's
"And now go back to the beginning, Comrade Maloney," said Psmith
patiently, "which in the exuberance of the moment you have skipped.
Who are coming?"
"Why, dem. De guys."
Psmith shook his head.
"Your habit of omitting essentials, Comrade Maloney, is going to
undo you one of these days. When you get to that ranch of yours,
you will probably start out to gallop after the cattle without
remembering to mount your mustang. There are four million guys in
New York. Which section is it that is coming?"
"Gum! I don't know how many dere is ob dem. I seen Spider Reilly
an' Jack Repetto an'-"
"Say no more," said Psmith. "If Comrade Repetto is there, that is
enough for me. I am going to get on the roof and pull it up after
Billy released Mr. Gooch, who fell, puffing, on to the low bed,
which stood in one corner of the room.
"They must have spotted us as we were coming here," he said, "and
followed us. Where did you see them, Pugsy?"
"On de Street just outside. Dere was a bunch of dem talkin'
togedder, and I hears dem say you was in here. One of dem seen you
come in, an dere ain't no ways out but de front, so dey ain't
hurryin'! Dey just reckon to pike along upstairs, lookin' into each
room till dey finds you. An dere's a bunch of dem goin' to wait on
de Street in case youse beat it past down de stairs while de udder
guys is rubberin' for youse. Say, gents, it's pretty fierce, dis
proposition. What are youse goin' to do?"
Mr. Gooch, from the bed, laughed unpleasantly.
"I guess you ain't the only assault-and-battery artists in the
business," he said. "Looks to me as if some one else was going to
get shaken up some."
Billy looked at Psmith.
"Well?" he said. "What shall we do? Go down and try and rush
Psmith shook his head.
"Not so, Comrade Windsor, but about as much otherwise as you can
jolly well imagine."
"Well, what then?"
"We will stay here. Or rather we will hop nimbly up on to the roof
through that skylight. Once there, we may engage these varlets on
fairly equal terms. They can only get through one at a time. And
while they are doing it I will give my celebrated imitation of
Horatius. We had better be moving. Our luggage, fortunately, is
small. Merely Comrade Gooch. If you will get through the skylight,
I will pass him up to you."
Mr. Gooch, with much verbal embroidery, stated that he would not
go. Psmith acted promptly. Gripping the struggling rent collector
round the waist, and ignoring his frantic kicks as mere errors in
taste, he lifted him to the trap-door, whence the head, shoulders
and arms of Billy Windsor protruded into the room. Billy collected
the collector, and then Psmith turned to Pugsy.
"Have I your ear?"
"Are you listening till you feel that your ears are the size of
footballs? Then drink this in. For weeks you have been praying for
a chance to show your devotion to the great cause; or if you
haven't, you ought to have been. That chance has come. You alone
can save us. In a sense, of course, we do not need to be saved.
They will find it hard to get at us, I fancy, on the roof. But it
ill befits the dignity of the editorial staff of a great New York
weekly to roost like pigeons for any length of time; and
consequently it is up to you."
"Shall I go for de cops, Mr. Smith?"
"No, Comrade Maloney, I thank you. I have seen the cops in action,
and they did not impress me. We do not want allies who will merely
shake their heads at Comrade Repetto and the others, however
sternly. We want some one who will swoop down upon these merry
roisterers, and, as it were, soak to them good. Do you know where
Dude Dawson lives?"
The light of intelligence began to shine in Master Maloney's face.
His eye glistened with respectful approval. This was strategy of
the right sort.
"Dude Dawson? Nope. But I can ask around."
"Do so, Comrade Maloney. And when found, tell him that his old
college chum, Spider Reilly, is here. He will not be able to come
himself, I fear, but he can send representatives."
"That's all, then. Go downstairs with a gay and jaunty air, as if
you had no connection with the old firm at all. Whistle a few
lively bars. Make careless gestures. Thus shall you win through.
And now it would be no bad idea, I fancy, for me to join the rest
of the brains of the paper up aloft. Off you go, Comrade Maloney.
And, in passing, don't take a week about it. Leg it with all the
speed you possess."
Pugsy vanished, and Psmith closed the door behind him. Inspection
revealed the fact that it possessed no lock. As a barrier it was
useless. He left it ajar, and, jumping up, gripped the edge of the
opening in the roof and pulled himself through.
Billy Windsor was seated comfortably on Mr. Gooch's chest a few
feet away. By his side was his big stick. Psmith possessed himself
of this, and looked about him. The examination was satisfactory.
The trap-door appeared to be the only means of access to the roof,
and between their roof and that of the next house there was a broad
"Practically impregnable," he murmured. "Only one thing can dish
us, Comrade Windsor; and that is if they have the sense to get on
to the roof next door and start shooting. Even in that case,
however, we have cover in the shape of the chimneys. I think we
may fairly say that all is well. How are you getting along? Has the
patient responded at all?"
"Not yet," said Billy. "But he's going to."
"He will be in your charge. I must devote myself exclusively to
guarding the bridge. It is a pity that the trap has not got a bolt
this side. If it had, the thing would be a perfect picnic. As it
is, we must leave it open. But we mustn't expect everything."
Billy was about to speak, but Psmith suddenly held up his hand
warningly. From the room below came a sound of feet.
For a moment the silence was tense. Then from Mr. Gooch's lips
there escaped a screech.
"This way! They're up--"
The words were cut short as Billy banged his hand over the
speaker's mouth. But the thing was done.
"On top de roof," cried a voice. "Dey've beaten it for de roof."
The chair rasped over the floor. Feet shuffled. And then, like a
jack-in-the-box, there popped through the opening a head and
THE BATTLE OF PLEASANT STREET
The new arrival was a young man with a shock of red hair, an
ingrowing Roman nose, and a mouth from which force or the passage
of time had removed three front teeth. He held on to the edges of
the trap with his hands, and stared in a glassy manner into
Psmith's face, which was within a foot of his own.
There was a momentary pause, broken by an oath from Mr. Gooch, who
was still undergoing treatment in the background.
"Aha!" said Psmith genially. "Historic picture. 'Doctor Cook
discovers the North Pole.'"
The red-headed young man blinked. The strong light of the open air
was trying to his eyes.
"Youse had better come down," he observed coldly. "We've got
"And," continued Psmith, unmoved, "is instantly handed a gum-drop
by his faithful Esquimaux."
As he spoke, he brought the stick down on the knuckles which
disfigured the edges of the trap. The intruder uttered a howl and
dropped out of sight. In the room below there were whisperings and
mutterings, growing gradually louder till something resembling
coherent conversation came to Psmith's ears, as he knelt by the
trap making meditative billiard-shots with the stick at a small
"Aw g'wan! Don't be a quitter!"
"Who's a quitter?"
"Youse is a quitter. Get on top de roof. He can't hoit youse."
"De guy's gotten a big stick." Psmith nodded appreciatively. "I
and Roosevelt," he murmured.
A somewhat baffled silence on the part of the attacking force was
followed by further conversation.
"Gum! some guy's got to go up." Murmur of assent from the audience.
A voice, in inspired tones: "Let Sam do it!"
This suggestion made a hit. There was no doubt about that. It was a
success from the start. Quite a little chorus of voices expressed
sincere approval of the very happy solution to what had seemed an
insoluble problem. Psmith, listening from above, failed to detect
in the choir of glad voices one that might belong to Sam himself.
Probably gratification had rendered the chosen one dumb.
"Yes, let Sam do it!" cried the unseen chorus. The first speaker,
unnecessarily, perhaps--for the motion had been carried almost
unanimously--but possibly with the idea of convincing the one
member of the party in whose bosom doubts might conceivably be
harboured, went on to adduce reasons.
"Sam bein' a coon," he argued, "ain't goin' to git hoit by no
stick. Youse can't hoit a coon by soakin' him on de coco, can you,
Psmith waited with some interest for the reply, but it did not
come. Possibly Sam did not wish to generalise on insufficient
"Solvitur ambulando," said Psmith softly, turning the stick round in
his fingers. "Comrade Windsor!"
"Is it possible to hurt a coloured gentleman by hitting him on the
head with a stick?"
"If you hit him hard enough."
"I knew there was some way out of the difficulty," said Psmith with
satisfaction. "How are you getting on up at your end of the table,
"Any result yet?"
"Not at present."
"Don't give up."
"The right spirit, Comrade Win--"
A report like a cannon in the room below interrupted him. It was
merely a revolver shot, but in the confined space it was deafening.
The bullet sang up into the sky.
"Never hit me!" said Psmith with dignified triumph.
The noise was succeeded by a shuffling of feet. Psmith grasped his
stick more firmly. This was evidently the real attack. The revolver
shot had been a mere demonstration of artillery to cover the
Sure enough, the next moment a woolly head popped through the
opening, and a pair of rolling eyes gleamed up at the old Etonian.
"Why, Sam!" said Psmith cordially, "this is well met! I remember
you. Yes, indeed, I do. Wasn't you the feller with the open
umbereller that I met one rainy morning on the Av-en-ue? What, are
you coming up? Sam, I hate to do it, but--"
A yell rang out.
"What was that?" asked Billy Windsor over his shoulder.
"Your statement, Comrade Windsor, has been tested and proved
By this time the affair had begun to draw a "gate." The noise of
the revolver had proved a fine advertisement. The roof of the house
next door began to fill up. Only a few of the occupants could get a
clear view of the proceedings, for a large chimney-stack
intervened. There was considerable speculation as to what was
passing between Billy Windsor and Mr. Gooch. Psmith's share in the
entertainment was more obvious. The early comers had seen his
interview with Sam, and were relating it with gusto to their
friends. Their attitude towards Psmith was that of a group of men
watching a terrier at a rat-hole. They looked to him to provide
entertainment for them, but they realised that the first move must
be with the attackers. They were fair-minded men, and they did not
expect Psmith to make any aggressive move.
Their indignation, when the proceedings began to grow slow, was
directed entirely at the dilatory Three Pointers. With an aggrieved
air, akin to that of a crowd at a cricket match when batsmen are
playing for a draw, they began to "barrack." They hooted the Three
Pointers. They begged them to go home and tuck themselves up in
bed. The men on the roof were mostly Irishmen, and it offended them
to see what should have been a spirited fight so grossly bungled.
"G'wan away home, ye quitters!" roared one.
"Call yersilves the Three Points, do ye? An' would ye know what I
call ye? The Young Ladies' Seminary!" bellowed another with
A third member of the audience alluded to them as "stiffs."
"I fear, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith, "that our blithe friends
below are beginning to grow a little unpopular with the
many-headed. They must be up and doing if they wish to retain the
esteem of Pleasant Street. Aha!"
Another and a longer explosion from below, and more bullets wasted
themselves on air. Psmith sighed.
"They make me tired," he said. "This is no time for a feu de joie.
Action! That is the cry. Action! Get busy, you blighters!"
The Irish neighbours expressed the same sentiment in different and
more forcible words. There was no doubt about it--as warriors, the
Three Pointers had failed to give satisfaction.
A voice from the room called up to Psmith.
"You have our ear," said Psmith.
"I said you had our ear."
"Are youse stiffs comin' down off out of dat roof?"
"Would you mind repeating that remark?"
"Are youse guys goin' to quit off out of dat roof?"
"Your grammar is perfectly beastly," said Psmith severely.
"Are youse guys--?"
"No, my lad," said Psmith, "since you ask, we are not. And why?
Because the air up here is refreshing, the view pleasant, and we
are expecting at any moment an important communication from Comrade
"We're goin' to wait here till youse come down."
"If you wish it," said Psmith courteously, "by all means do. Who am
I that I should dictate your movements? The most I aspire to is to
check them when they take an upward direction."
There was silence below. The time began to pass slowly. The
Irishmen on the other roof, now definitely abandoning hope of
further entertainment, proceeded with hoots of scorn to climb down
one by one into the recesses of their own house.
Suddenly from the street far below there came a fusillade of shots
and a babel of shouts and counter-shouts. The roof of the house
next door, which had been emptying itself slowly and reluctantly,
filled again with a magical swiftness. and the low wall facing into
the street became black with the backs of those craning over.
"What's that?" inquired Billy.
"I rather fancy," said Psmith, "that our allies of the Table Hill
contingent must have arrived. I sent Comrade Maloney to explain
matters to Dude Dawson, and it seems as if that golden-hearted
sportsman had responded. There appear to be great doings in the
In the room below confusion had arisen. A scout, clattering
upstairs, had brought the news of the Table Hillites' advent, and
there was doubt as to the proper course to pursue. Certain voices
urged going down to help the main body. Others pointed out that
that would mean abandoning the siege of the roof. The scout who had
brought the news was eloquent in favour of the first course.
"Gum!" he cried, "don't I keep tellin' youse dat de Table Hills is
here? Sure, dere's a whole bunch of dem, and unless youse come on
down dey'll bite de hull head off of us lot. Leave those stiffs on
de roof. Let Sam wait here with his canister, and den dey can't get
down, 'cos Sam'll pump dem full of lead while dey're beatin' it
t'roo de trap-door. Sure."
Psmith nodded reflectively.
"There is certainly something in what the bright boy says," he
murmured. "It seems to me the grand rescue scene in the third act
has sprung a leak. This will want thinking over."
In the street the disturbance had now become terrific. Both sides
were hard at it, and the Irishmen on the roof, rewarded at last for
their long vigil, were yelling encouragement promiscuously and
whooping with the unfettered ecstasy of men who are getting the
treat of their lives without having paid a penny for it.
The behaviour of the New York policeman in affairs of this kind is
based on principles of the soundest practical wisdom. The
unthinking man would rush in and attempt to crush the combat in its
earliest and fiercest stages. The New York policeman, knowing the
importance of his own safety, and the insignificance of the
gangsman's, permits the opposing forces to hammer each other into a
certain distaste for battle, and then, when both sides have begun
to have enough of it, rushes in himself and clubs everything in
sight. It is an admirable process in its results, but it is sure
rather than swift.
Proceedings in the affair below had not yet reached the police
interference stage. The noise, what with the shots and yells from
the street and the ear-piercing approval of the roof-audience, was
just working up to a climax.
Psmith rose. He was tired of kneeling by the trap, and there was no
likelihood of Sam making another attempt to climb through. He
walked towards Billy.
As he did so, Billy got up and turned to him. His eyes were
gleaming with excitement. His whole attitude was triumphant. In his
hand he waved a strip of paper.
"I've got it," he cried.
"Excellent, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith. "Surely we must win
through now. All we have to do is to get off this roof, and fate
cannot touch us. Are two mammoth minds such as ours unequal to such
a feat? It can hardly be. Let us ponder."
"Why not go down through the trap? They've all gone to the street."
Psmith shook his head.
"All," he replied, "save Sam. Sam was the subject of my late
successful experiment, when I proved that coloured gentlemen's
heads could be hurt with a stick. He is now waiting below, armed
with a pistol, ready--even anxious--to pick us off as we climb
through the trap. How would it be to drop Comrade Gooch through
first, and so draw his fire? Comrade Gooch, I am sure, would be
delighted to do a little thing like that for old friends of our
standing or--but what's that!"
"What's the matter?"
"Is that a ladder that I see before me, its handle to my hand? It
is! Comrade Windsor, we win through. Cosy Moments' editorial staff
may be tree'd, but it cannot be put out of business. Comrade
Windsor, take the other end of that ladder and follow me."
The ladder was lying against the farther wall. It was long, more
than long enough for the purpose for which it was needed. Psmith
and Billy rested it on the coping, and pushed it till the other end
reached across the gulf to the roof of the house next door, Mr.
Gooch eyeing them in silence the while.
Psmith turned to him.
"Comrade Gooch," he said, "do nothing to apprise our friend Sam of
these proceedings. I speak in your best interests. Sam is in no
mood to make nice distinctions between friend and foe. If you
bring him up here, he will probably mistake you for a member of the
staff of Cosy Moments, and loose off in your direction without
waiting for explanations. I think you had better come with us. I
will go first, Comrade Windsor, so that if the ladder breaks, the
paper will lose merely a sub-editor, not an editor."
He went down on all-fours, and in this attitude wormed his way
across to the opposite roof, whose occupants, engrossed in the
fight in the street, in which the police had now joined, had their
backs turned and did not observe him. Mr. Gooch, pallid and
obviously ill-attuned to such feats, followed him; and finally
Billy Windsor reached the other side.
"Neat," said Psmith complacently. "Uncommonly neat. Comrade Gooch
reminded me of the untamed chamois of the Alps, leaping from crag
In the street there was now comparative silence. The police, with
their clubs, had knocked the last remnant of fight out of the
combatants. Shooting had definitely ceased.
"I think," said Psmith, "that we might now descend. If you have no
other engagements, Comrade Windsor, I will take you to the
Knickerbocker, and buy you a square meal. I would ask for the
pleasure of your company also, Comrade Gooch, were it not that
matters of private moment, relating to the policy of the paper,
must be discussed at the table. Some other day, perhaps. We are
infinitely obliged to you for your sympathetic co-operation in this
little matter. And now good-bye. Comrade Windsor, let us debouch."
CONCERNING MR. WARING
Psmith pushed back his chair slightly, stretched out his legs, and
lit a cigarette. The resources of the Knickerbocker Hotel had
proved equal to supplying the fatigued staff of Cosy Moments with
an excellent dinner, and Psmith had stoutly declined to talk
business until the coffee arrived. This had been hard on Billy,
who was bursting with his news. Beyond a hint that it was
sensational he had not been permitted to go.
"More bright young careers than I care to think of," said Psmith,
"have been ruined by the fatal practice of talking shop at dinner.
But now that we are through, Comrade Windsor, by all means let us
have it. What's the name which Comrade Gooch so eagerly divulged?"
Billy leaned forward excitedly.
"Stewart Waring," he whispered.
"Stewart who?" asked Psmith.
"Great Scott, man!" he said, "haven't you heard of Stewart Waring?"
"The name seems vaguely familiar, like isinglass or Post-toasties.
I seem to know it, but it conveys nothing to me."
"Don't you ever read the papers?"
"I toy with my American of a morning, but my interest is confined
mainly to the sporting page which reminds me that Comrade Brady has
been matched against one Eddie Wood a month from to-day. Gratifying
as it is to find one of the staff getting on in life, I fear this
will cause us a certain amount of inconvenience. Comrade Brady
will have to leave the office temporarily in order to go into
training, and what shall we do then for a fighting editor? However,
possibly we may not need one now. Cosy Moments should be able
shortly to give its message to the world and ease up for a while.
Which brings us back to the point. Who is Stewart Waring?"
"Stewart Waring is running for City Alderman. He's one of the
biggest men in New York!"
"Do you mean in girth? If so, he seems to have selected the right
career for himself."
"He's one of the bosses. He used to be Commissioner of Buildings
for the city."
"Commissioner of Buildings? What exactly did that let him in for?"
"It let him in for a lot of graft."
"How was that?"
"Oh, he took it off the contractors. Shut his eyes and held out his
hands when they ran up rotten buildings that a strong breeze would
have knocked down, and places like that Pleasant Street hole
without any ventilation."
"Why did he throw up the job?" inquired Psmith. "it seems to me
that it was among the World's Softest. Certain drawbacks to it,
perhaps, to the man with the Hair-Trigger Conscience; but I gather
that Comrade Waring did not line up in that class. What was his
"His trouble," said Billy, "was that he stood in with a contractor
who was putting up a music-hall, and the contractor put it up with
material about as strong as a heap of meringues, and it collapsed
on the third night and killed half the audience."
"The papers raised a howl, and they got after the contractor, and
the contractor gave Waring away. It killed him for the time being."
"I should have thought it would have had that excellent result
permanently," said Psmith thoughtfully. "Do you mean to say he got
back again after that?"
"He had to quit being Commissioner, of course, and leave the town
for a time; but affairs move so fast here that a thing like that
blows over. He made a bit of a pile out of the job, and could
afford to lie low for a year or two."
"How long ago was that?"
"Five years. People don't remember a thing here that happened five
years back unless they're reminded of it."
Psmith lit another cigarette.
"We will remind them," he said.
"Of course," he said, "one or two of the papers against him in this
Aldermanic Election business tried to bring the thing up, but they
didn't cut any ice. The other papers said it was a shame, hounding
a man who was sorry for the past and who was trying to make good
now; so they dropped it. Everybody thought that Waring was on the
level now. He's been shooting off a lot of hot air lately about
philanthropy and so on. Not that he has actually done a thing--not
so much as given a supper to a dozen news-boys; but he's talked,
and talk gets over if you keep it up long enough."
Psmith nodded adhesion to this dictum.
"So that naturally he wants to keep it dark about these tenements.
It'll smash him at the election when it gets known."
"Why is he so set on becoming an Alderman," inquired Psmith.
"There's a lot of graft to being an Alderman," explained Billy.
"I see. No wonder the poor gentleman was so energetic in his
methods. What is our move now, Comrade Windsor?"
"Why, publish the name, of course."
"But before then? How are we going to ensure the safety of our
evidence? We stand or fall entirely by that slip of paper, because
we've got the beggar's name in the writing of his own collector,
and that's proof positive."
"That's all right," said Billy, patting his breast-pocket.
"Nobody's going to get it from me."
Psmith dipped his hand into his trouser-pocket.
"Comrade Windsor," he said, producing a piece of paper, "how do we
He leaned back in his chair, surveying Billy blandly through his
eye-glass. Billy's eyes were goggling. He looked from Psmith to the
paper and from the paper to Psmith.
"What--what the--?" he stammered. "Why, it's it!"
"How on earth did you get it?"
Psmith knocked the ash off his cigarette.
"Comrade Windsor," he said, "I do not wish to cavil or carp or rub
it in in any way. I will merely remark that you pretty nearly
landed us in the soup, and pass on to more congenial topics.
Didn't you know we were followed to this place?"
"By a merchant in what Comrade Maloney would call a tall-shaped hat.
I spotted him at an early date, somewhere down by Twenty-ninth
Street. When we dived into Sixth Avenue for a space at Thirty-third
Street, did he dive, too? He did. And when we turned into
Forty-second Street, there he was. I tell you, Comrade Windsor,
leeches were aloof, and burrs non-adhesive compared with that
"Do you remember, as you came to the entrance of this place,
somebody knocking against you?"
"Yes, there was a pretty big crush in the entrance."
"There was; but not so big as all that. There was plenty of room
for this merchant to pass if he had wished. Instead of which he
butted into you. I happened to be waiting for just that, so I
managed to attach myself to his wrist with some vim and give it a
fairly hefty wrench. The paper was inside his hand."
Billy was leaning forward with a pale face.
"Jove!" he muttered.
"That about sums it up," said Psmith.
Billy snatched the paper from the table and extended it towards
"Here," he said feverishly, "you take it. Gum, I never thought I
was such a mutt! I'm not fit to take charge of a toothpick. Fancy
me not being on the watch for something of that sort. I guess I was
so tickled with myself at the thought of having got the thing, that
it never struck me they might try for it. But I'm through. No more
for me. You're the man in charge now."
Psmith shook his head.
"These stately compliments," he said, "do my old heart good, but I
fancy I know a better plan. It happened that I chanced to have my
eye on the blighter in the tall-shaped hat, and so was enabled to
land him among the ribstones; but who knows but that in the crowd
on Broadway there may not lurk other, unidentified blighters in
equally tall-shaped hats, one of whom may work the same
sleight-of-hand speciality on me? It was not that you were not
capable of taking care of that paper: it was simply that you didn't
happen to spot the man. Now observe me closely, for what follows is
an exhibition of Brain."
He paid the bill, and they went out into the entrance-hall of the
hotel. Psmith, sitting down at a table, placed the paper in an
envelope and addressed it to himself at the address of Cosy
Moments. After which, he stamped the envelope and dropped it into
the letter-box at the back of the hall.
"And now, Comrade Windsor," he said, "let us stroll gently
homewards down the Great White Way. What matter though it be fairly
stiff with low-browed bravoes in tall-shaped hats? They cannot harm
us. From me, if they search me thoroughly, they may scoop a matter
of eleven dollars, a watch, two stamps, and a packet of
chewing-gum. Whether they would do any better with you I do not
know. At any rate, they wouldn't get that paper; and that's the
"You're a genius," said Billy Windsor.
"You think so?" said Psmith diffidently. "Well, well, perhaps you
are right, perhaps you are right. Did you notice the hired ruffian
in the flannel suit who just passed? He wore a baffled look, I
fancy. And hark! Wasn't that a muttered 'Failed!' I heard? Or was
it the breeze moaning in the tree-tops? To-night is a cold,
disappointing night for Hired Ruffians, Comrade Windsor."
REDUCTIONS IN THE STAFF
The first member of the staff of Cosy Moments to arrive at the
office on the following morning was Master Maloney. This sounds
like the beginning of a "Plod and Punctuality," or "How Great
Fortunes have been Made" story; but, as a matter of fact, Master
Maloney was no early bird. Larks who rose in his neighbourhood,
rose alone. He did not get up with them. He was supposed to be at
the office at nine o'clock. It was a point of honour with him, a
sort of daily declaration of independence, never to put in an
appearance before nine-thirty. On this particular morning he was
punctual to the minute, or half an hour late, whichever way you
choose to look at it.
He had only whistled a few bars of "My Little Irish Rose," and had
barely got into the first page of his story of life on the prairie
when Kid Brady appeared. The Kid, as was his habit when not in
training, was smoking a big black cigar. Master Maloney eyed him
admiringly. The Kid, unknown to that gentleman himself, was Pugsy's
ideal. He came from the Plains; and had, indeed, once actually been
a cowboy; he was a coming champion; and he could smoke black
cigars. It was, therefore, without his usual well-what-is-it-now?
air that Pugsy laid down his book, and prepared to converse.
"Say, Mr. Smith or Mr. Windsor about, Pugsy?" asked the Kid.
"Naw, Mr. Brady, they ain't came yet," replied Master Maloney
"Late, ain't they?"
"Sure. Mr. Windsor generally blows in before I do."
"Wonder what's keepin' them."
"P'raps, dey've bin put out of business," suggested Pugsy
Pugsy related the events of the previous day, relaxing something of
his austere calm as he did so. When he came to the part where the
Table Hill allies swooped down on the unsuspecting Three Pointers,
he was almost animated.
"Say," said the Kid approvingly, "that Smith guy's got more grey
matter under his thatch than you'd think to look at him. I--"
"Comrade Brady," said a voice in the doorway, "you do me proud."
"Why, say," said the Kid, turning, "I guess the laugh's on me. I
didn't see you, Mr. Smith. Pugsy's been tellin' me how you sent him
for the Table Hills yesterday. That was cute. It was mighty smart.
But say, those guys are goin' some, ain't they now! Seems as if
they was dead set on puttin' you out of business."
"Their manner yesterday, Comrade Brady, certainly suggested the
presence of some sketchy outline of such an ideal in their minds.
One Sam, in particular, an ebony-hued sportsman, threw himself into
the task with great vim. I rather fancy he is waiting for us with
his revolver to this moment. But why worry? Here we are, safe and
sound, and Comrade Windsor may be expected to arrive at any moment.
I see, Comrade Brady, that you have been matched against one Eddie
"It's about that I wanted to see you, Mr. Smith. Say, now that
things have been and brushed up so, what with these gang guys
layin' for you the way they're doin', I guess you'll be needin' me
around here. Isn't that right? Say the word and I'll call off this
Eddie Wood fight."
"Comrade Brady," said Psmith with some enthusiasm, "I call that a
sporting offer. I'm very much obliged. But we mustn't stand in your
way. If you eliminate this Comrade Wood, they will have to give you
a chance against Jimmy Garvin, won't they?"
"I guess that's right, sir," said the Kid. "Eddie stayed nineteen
rounds against Jimmy, and if I can put him away, it gets me into
line with Jimmy, and he can't side-step me."
"Then go in and win, Comrade Brady. We shall miss you. It will be
as if a ray of sunshine had been removed from the office. But you
mustn't throw a chance away. We shall be all right, I think."
"I'll train at White Plains," said the Kid. "That ain't far from
here, so I'll be pretty near in case I'm wanted. Hullo, who's
He pointed to the door. A small boy was standing there, holding a
"Sir to you," said Psmith courteously.
"The same. This is your lucky day."
"Cop at Jefferson Market give me dis to take to youse."
"A cop in Jefferson Market?" repeated Psmith. "I did not know I
had friends among the constabulary there. Why, it's from Comrade
Windsor." He opened the envelope and read the letter. "Thanks," he
said, giving the boy a quarter-dollar.
It was apparent the Kid was politely endeavouring to veil his
curiosity. Master Maloney had no such scruples.
"What's in de letter, boss?" he inquired.
"The letter, Comrade Maloney, is from our Mr. Windsor, and relates
in terse language the following facts, that our editor last night
hit a policeman in the eye, and that he was sentenced this morning
to thirty days on Blackwell's Island."
"He's de guy!" admitted Master Maloney approvingly.
"What's that?" said the Kid. "Mr. Windsor bin punchin' cops! What's
he bin doin' that for?"
"He gives no clue. I must go and find out. Could you help Comrade
Maloney mind the shop for a few moments while I push round to
Jefferson Market and make inquiries?"
"Sure. But say, fancy Mr. Windsor cuttin' loose that way!" said the
The Jefferson Market Police Court is a little way down town, near
Washington Square. It did not take Psmith long to reach it, and by
the judicious expenditure of a few dollars he was enabled to obtain
an interview with Billy in a back room.
The chief editor of Cosy Moments was seated on a bench, looking
upon the world through a pair of much blackened eyes. His general
appearance was dishevelled. He had the air of a man who has been
caught in the machinery.
"Hullo, Smith," he said. "You got my note all right then?"
Psmith looked at him, concerned.
"Comrade Windsor," he said, "what on earth has been happening to
"Oh, that's all right," said Billy. "That's nothing."
"Nothing! You look as if you had been run over by a motor-car."
"The cops did that," said Billy, without any apparent resentment.
"They always turn nasty if you put up a fight. I was a fool to do
it, I suppose, but I got so mad. They knew perfectly well that I
had nothing to do with any pool-room downstairs."
Psmith's eye-glass dropped from his eye.
"Pool-room, Comrade Windsor?"
"Yes. The house where I live was raided late last night. It seems
that some gamblers have been running a pool-room on the ground
floor. Why the cops should have thought I had anything to do with
it, when I was sleeping peacefully upstairs, is more than I can
understand. Anyway, at about three in the morning there was the
dickens of a banging at my door. I got up to see what was doing,
and found a couple of Policemen there. They told me to come along
with them to the station. I asked what on earth for. I might have
known it was no use arguing with a New York cop. They said they had
been tipped off that there was a pool-room being run in the house,
and that they were cleaning up the house, and if I wanted to say
anything I'd better say it to the magistrate. I said, all right,
I'd put on some clothes and come with them. They said they couldn't
wait about while I put on clothes. I said I wasn't going to travel
about New York in pyjamas, and started to get into my shirt. One of
them gave me a shove in the ribs with his night-stick, and told me
to come along quick. And that made me so mad I hit out." A chuckle
escaped Billy. "He wasn't expecting it, and I got him fair. He went
down over the bookcase. The other cop took a swipe at me with his
club, but by that time I was so mad I'd have taken on Jim Jeffries,
if he had shown up and got in my way. I just sailed in, and was
beginning to make the man think that he had stumbled on Stanley
Ketchel or Kid Brady or a dynamite explosion by mistake, when the
other fellow loosed himself from the bookcase, and they started in
on me together, and there was a general rough house, in the middle
of which somebody seemed to let off about fifty thousand dollars'
worth of fireworks all in a bunch; and I didn't remember anything
more till I found myself in a cell, pretty nearly knocked to
pieces. That's my little life-history. I guess I was a fool to cut
loose that way, but I was so mad I didn't stop to think."
"You have told me your painful story," he said. "Now hear mine.
After parting with you last night, I went meditatively back to my
Fourth Avenue address, and, with a courtly good night to the large
policeman who, as I have mentioned in previous conversations, is
stationed almost at my very door, I passed on into my room, and had
soon sunk into a dreamless slumber. At about three o'clock in the
morning I was aroused by a somewhat hefty banging on the door."
"A banging at the door," repeated Psmith. "There, standing on the
mat, were three policemen. From their remarks I gathered that
certain bright spirits had been running a gambling establishment in
the lower regions of the building--where, I think I told you, there
is a saloon--and the Law was now about to clean up the place. Very
cordially the honest fellows invited me to go with them. A
conveyance, it seemed, waited in the street without. I pointed out,
even as you appear to have done, that sea-green pyjamas with old
rose frogs were not the costume in which a Shropshire Psmith should
be seen abroad in one of the world's greatest cities; but they
assured me--more by their manner than their words--that my
misgivings were out of place, so I yielded. These men, I told
myself, have lived longer in New York than I. They know what is
done and what is not done. I will bow to their views. So I went
with them, and after a very pleasant and cosy little ride in the
patrol waggon, arrived at the police station. This morning I
chatted a while with the courteous magistrate, convinced him by
means of arguments and by silent evidence of my open, honest face
and unwavering eye that I was not a professional gambler, and came
away without a stain on my character."
Billy Windsor listened to this narrative with growing interest.
"Gum! it's them!" he cried.
"As Comrade Maloney would say," said Psmith, "meaning what,
Why, the fellows who are after that paper. They tipped the police
off about the pool-rooms, knowing that we should be hauled off
without having time to take anything with us. I'll bet anything you
like they have been in and searched our rooms by now."
"As regards yours, Comrade Windsor, I cannot say. But it is an
undoubted fact that mine, which I revisited before going to the
office, in order to correct what seemed to me even on reflection
certain drawbacks to my costume, looks as if two cyclones and a
threshing machine had passed through it."
"They've searched it?"
"With a fine-toothed comb. Not one of my objects of vertu but has
Billy Windsor slapped his knee.
"It was lucky you thought of sending that paper by post," he said.
"We should have been done if you hadn't. But, say," he went on
miserably, "this is awful. Things are just warming up for the final
burst, and I'm out of it all."
"For thirty days," sighed Psmith. "What Cosy Moments really needs
is a sitz-redacteur."
"A sitz-redacteur, Comrade Windsor, is a gentleman employed by
German newspapers with a taste for lese majeste to go to prison
whenever required in place of the real editor. The real editor
hints in his bright and snappy editorial, for instance, that the
Kaiser's moustache reminds him of a bad dream. The police force
swoops down en masse on the office of the journal, and are met by
the sitz-redacteur, who goes with them peaceably, allowing the
editor to remain and sketch out plans for his next week's article
on the Crown Prince. We need a sitz-redacteur on Cosy Moments
almost as much as a fighting editor; and we have neither."
"The Kid has had to leave then?"
"He wants to go into training at once. He very sportingly offered
to cancel his match, but of course that would never do. Unless you
consider Comrade Maloney equal to the job, I must look around me
for some one else. I shall be too fully occupied with purely
literary matters to be able to deal with chance callers. But I have
"It seems to me that we are allowing much excellent material to lie
unused in the shape of Comrade Jarvis."
"The same. The cat-specialist to whom you endeared yourself
somewhat earlier in the proceedings by befriending one of his
wandering animals. Little deeds of kindness, little acts of love,
as you have doubtless heard, help, etc. Should we not give Comrade
Jarvis an opportunity of proving the correctness of this statement?
I think so. Shortly after you--if you will forgive me for touching
on painful subject--have been haled to your dungeon, I will push
round to Comrade Jarvis's address, and sound him on the subject.
Unfortunately, his affection is confined, I fancy, to you. Whether
he will consent to put himself out on my behalf remains to be seen.
However, there is no harm in trying. If nothing else comes of the
visit, I shall at least have had the opportunity of chatting with
one of our most prominent citizens."
A policeman appeared at the door.
"Say, pal," he remarked to Psmith, "you'll have to be fading away
soon, I guess. Give you three minutes more. Say it quick."
He retired. Billy leaned forward to Psmith.
"I guess they won't give me much chance," he whispered, "but if you
see me around in the next day or two, don't be surprised."
"I fail to follow you, Comrade Windsor."
"Men have escaped from Blackwell's Island before now. Not many,
it's true; but it has been done."
Psmith shook his head.
"I shouldn't," he said. "They're bound to catch you, and then you
will be immersed in the soup beyond hope of recovery. I shouldn't
wonder if they put you in your little cell for a year or so."
"I don't care," said Billy stoutly. "I'd give a year later on to be
round and about now."
"I shouldn't," urged Psmith. "All will be well with the paper. You
have left a good man at the helm."
"I guess I shan't get a chance, but I'll try it if I do."
The door opened and the policeman reappeared.
"Time's up, I reckon."
"Well, good-bye, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith regretfully.
"Abstain from undue worrying. It's a walk-over from now on, and
there's no earthly need for you to be around the office. Once, I
admit, this could not have been said. But now things have
simplified themselves. Have no fear. This act is going to be a
scream from start to finish."
A GATHERING OF CAT-SPECIALISTS
Master Maloney raised his eyes for a moment from his book as Psmith
re-entered the office.
"Dere's a guy in dere waitin' ter see youse," he said briefly,
jerking his head in the direction of the inner room.
"A guy waiting to see me, Comrade Maloney? With or without a
"Says his name's Jackson," said Master Maloney, turning a page.
Psmith moved quickly to the door of the inner room.
"Why, Comrade Jackson," he said, with the air of a father welcoming
home the prodigal son, "this is the maddest, merriest day of all
the glad New Year. Where did you come from?"
Mike, looking very brown and in excellent condition, put down the
paper he was reading.
"Hullo, Psmith," he said. "I got back this morning. We're playing a
game over in Brooklyn to-morrow."
"No engagements of any importance to-day?"
"Not a thing. Why?"
"Because I propose to take you to visit Comrade Jarvis, whom you
will doubtless remember."
"Jarvis?" said Mike, puzzled. "I don't remember any Jarvis."
"Let your mind wander back a little through the jungle of the past.
Do you recollect paying a visit to Comrade Windsor's room--"
"By the way, where is Windsor?"
"In prison. Well, on that evening--"
"For thirty days. For slugging a policeman. More of this, however,
anon. Let us return to that evening. Don't you remember a certain
gentleman with just about enough forehead to keep his front hair
from getting all tangled up with his eye-brows?"
"Oh, the cat chap? I know."
"As you very justly observe, Comrade Jackson, the cat chap. For
going straight to the mark and seizing on the salient point of a
situation, I know of no one who can last two minutes against you.
Comrade Jarvis may have other sides to his character--possibly
many--but it is as a cat chap that I wish to approach him to-day."
"What's the idea? What are you going to see him for?"
"We," corrected Psmith. "I will explain all at a little luncheon at
which I trust that you will be my guest. Already, such is the
stress of this journalistic life, I hear my tissues crying out
imperatively to be restored. An oyster and a glass of milk
somewhere round the corner, Comrade Jackson? I think so, I think
* * *
"I was reading Cosy Moments in there," said Mike, as they lunched.
"You certainly seem to have bucked it up rather. Kid Brady's
reminiscences are hot stuff."
"Somewhat sizzling, Comrade Jackson," admitted Psmith. "They have,
however, unfortunately cost us a fighting editor."
"Such is the boost we have given Comrade Brady, that he is now
never without a match. He has had to leave us to-day to go to White
Plains to train for an encounter with a certain Mr. Wood, a
four-ounce-glove juggler of established fame."
"I expect you need a fighting editor, don't you?"
"He is indispensable, Comrade Jackson, indispensable."
"No rotting. Has anybody cut up rough about the stuff you've
"Cut up rough? Gadzooks! I need merely say that one critical reader
put a bullet through my hat--"
"Rot! Not really?"
"While others kept me tree'd on top of a roof for the space of
nearly an hour. Assuredly they have cut up rough, Comrade Jackson."
"Great Scott! Tell us."
Psmith briefly recounted the adventures of the past few weeks.
"But, man," said Mike, when he had finished "why on earth don't you
call in the police?"
"We have mentioned the matter to certain of the force. They
appeared tolerably interested, but showed no tendency to leap
excitedly to our assistance. The New York policeman, Comrade
Jackson, like all great men, is somewhat peculiar. If you go to a
New York policeman and exhibit a black eye, he will examine it and
express some admiration for the abilities of the citizen
responsible for the same. If you press the matter, he becomes
bored, and says, 'Ain't youse satisfied with what youse got?
G'wan!' His advice in such cases is good, and should be followed.
No; since coming to this city I have developed a habit of taking
care of myself, or employing private help. That is why I should
like you, if you will, to come with me to call upon Comrade Jarvis.
He is a person of considerable influence among that section of the
populace which is endeavouring to smash in our occiputs. Indeed, I
know of nobody who cuts a greater quantity of ice. If I can only
enlist Comrade Jarvis's assistance, all will be well. If you are
through with your refreshment, shall we be moving in his direction?
By the way, it will probably be necessary in the course of our
interview to allude to you as one of our most eminent living
cat-fanciers. You do not object? Remember that you have in your
English home seventy-four fine cats, mostly Angoras. Are you on to
that? Then let us be going. Comrade Maloney has given me the
address. It is a goodish step down on the East side. I should like
to take a taxi, but it might seem ostentatious. Let us walk."
* * *
They found Mr. Jarvis in his Groome Street fancier's shop, engaged
in the intellectual occupation of greasing a cat's paws with butter.
He looked up as they entered, and began to breathe a melody with a
"Comrade Jarvis," said Psmith, "we meet again. You remember me?"
"Nope," said Mr. Jarvis, pausing for a moment in the middle of a
bar, and then taking up the air where he had left off. Psmith was
"Ah," he said tolerantly, "the fierce rush of New York life. How it
wipes from the retina of to-day the image impressed on it but
yesterday. Are you with me, Comrade Jarvis?"
The cat-expert concentrated himself on the cat's paws without
"A fine animal," said Psmith, adjusting his eyeglass. "To which
particular family of the Felis Domestica does that belong? In
colour it resembles a Neapolitan ice more than anything."
Mr. Jarvis's manner became unfriendly.
"Say, what do youse want? That's straight ain't it? If youse want
to buy a boid or a snake why don't youse say so?"
"I stand corrected," said Psmith. "I should have remembered that
time is money. I called in here partly on the strength of being a
colleague and side-partner of Comrade Windsor--"
"Mr. Windsor! De gent what caught my cat?"
"The same--and partly in order that I might make two very eminent
cat-fanciers acquainted. This," he said, with a wave of his hand
in the direction of the silently protesting Mike, "is Comrade
Jackson, possibly the best known of our English cat-fanciers.
Comrade Jackson's stud of Angoras is celebrated wherever the King's
English is spoken, and in Hoxton."
Mr. Jarvis rose, and, having inspected Mike with silent admiration
for a while, extended a well-buttered hand towards him. Psmith
looked on benevolently.
"What Comrade Jackson does not know about cats," he said, "is not
knowledge. His information on Angoras alone would fill a volume."
"Say,"--Mr. Jarvis was evidently touching on a point which had
weighed deeply upon him--"why's catnip called catnip?"
Mike looked at Psmith helplessly. It sounded like a riddle, but it
was obvious that Mr. Jarvis's motive in putting the question was
not frivolous. He really wished to know.
"The word, as Comrade Jackson was just about to observe," said
Psmith, "is a corruption of cat-mint. Why it should be so corrupted
I do not know. But what of that? The subject is too deep to be gone
fully into at the moment. I should recommend you to read Comrade
Jackson's little brochure on the matter. Passing lightly on from
"Did youse ever have a cat dat ate beetles?" inquired Mr. Jarvis.
"There was a time when many of Comrade Jackson's felidae supported
life almost entirely on beetles."
"Did they git thin?"
Mike felt that it was time, if he was to preserve his reputation,
to assert himself.
"No," he replied firmly.
Mr. Jarvis looked astonished.
"English beetles," said Psmith, "don't make cats thin. Passing
"I had a cat oncest," said Mr. Jarvis, ignoring the remark and
sticking to his point, "dat ate beetles and got thin and used to
tie itself into knots."
"A versatile animal," agreed Psmith.
"Say," Mr. Jarvis went on, now plainly on a subject near to his
heart, "dem beetles is fierce. Sure. Can't keep de cats off of
eatin' dem, I can't. First t'ing you know dey've swallowed dem, and
den dey gits thin and ties theirselves into knots."
"You should put them into strait-waistcoats," said Psmith.
"Passing, however, lightly--"
"Say, ever have a cross-eyed cat?"
"Comrade Jackson's cats," said Psmith, "have happily been almost
free from strabismus."
"Dey's lucky, cross-eyed cats is. You has a cross-eyed cat, and
not'in' don't never go wrong. But, say, was dere ever a cat wit
one blue eye and one yaller one in your bunch? Gum, it's fierce
when it's like dat. It's a real skiddoo, is a cat wit one blue eye
and one yaller one. Puts you in bad, surest t'ing you know. Oncest
a guy give me a cat like dat, and first t'ing you know I'm in bad
all round. It wasn't till I give him away to de cop on de corner
and gets me one dat's cross-eyed dat I lifts de skiddoo off of me."
"And what happened to the cop?" inquired Psmith, interested.
"Oh, he got in bad, sure enough," said Mr. Jarvis without emotion.
"One of de boys what he'd pinched and had sent to de Island once
lays for him and puts one over him wit a black-jack. Sure. Dat's
what comes of havin' a cat wit one blue eye and one yaller one."
Mr. Jarvis relapsed into silence. He seemed to be meditating on the
inscrutable workings of Fate. Psmith took advantage of the pause
to leave the cat topic and touch on matter of more vital import.
"Tense and exhilarating as is this discussion of the optical
peculiarities of cats," he said, "there is another matter on which,
if you will permit me, I should like to touch. I would hesitate to
bore you with my own private troubles, but this is a matter which
concerns Comrade Windsor as well as myself, and I know that your
regard for Comrade Windsor is almost an obsession."
"I should say," said Psmith, "that Comrade Windsor is a man to whom
you give the glad hand."
"Sure. He's to the good, Mr. Windsor is. He caught me cat."
"He did. By the way, was that the one that used to tie itself into
"Nope. Dat was anudder."
"Ah! However, to resume. The fact is, Comrade Jarvis, we are much
persecuted by scoundrels. How sad it is in this world! We look to
every side. We look north, east, south, and west, and what do we
see? Mainly scoundrels. I fancy you have heard a little about our
troubles before this. In fact, I gather that the same scoundrels
actually approached you with a view to engaging your services to
do us in, but that you very handsomely refused the contract."
"Sure," said Mr. Jarvis, dimly comprehending.
"A guy comes to me and says he wants you and Mr. Windsor put
through it, but I gives him de t'run down. 'Nuttin' done,' I says.
'Mr. Windsor caught me cat.'"
"So I was informed," said Psmith. "Well, failing you, they went to
a gentleman of the name of Reilly."
"You have hit it, Comrade Jarvis. Spider Reilly, the lessee and
manager of the Three Points gang."
"Dose T'ree Points, dey're to de bad. Dey're fresh."
"It is too true, Comrade Jarvis."
"Say," went on Mr. Jarvis, waxing wrathful at the recollection,
"what do youse t'ink dem fresh stiffs done de udder night. Started
some rough woik in me own dance-joint."
"Shamrock Hall?" said Psmith.
"Dat's right. Shamrock Hall. Got gay, dey did, wit some of de Table
Hillers. Say, I got it in for dem gazebos, sure I have. Surest
t'ing you know."
Psmith beamed approval.
"That," he said, "is the right spirit. Nothing could be more
admirable. We are bound together by our common desire to check the
ever-growing spirit of freshness among the members of the Three
Points. Add to that the fact that we are united by a sympathetic
knowledge of the manners and customs of cats, and especially that
Comrade Jackson, England's greatest fancier, is our mutual friend,
and what more do we want? Nothing."
"Mr. Jackson's to de good," assented Mr. Jarvis, eyeing Mike in
"We are all to de good," said Psmith. "Now the thing I wished to
ask you is this. The office of the paper on which I work was until
this morning securely guarded by Comrade Brady, whose name will be
familiar to you."
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