Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
Part 4 out of 4
"On the bull's-eye, as usual, Comrade Jarvis. Kid Brady, the
coming light-weight champion of the world. Well, he has
unfortunately been compelled to leave us, and the way into the
office is consequently clear to any sand-bag specialist who cares
to wander in. Matters connected with the paper have become so
poignant during the last few days that an inrush of these same
specialists is almost a certainty, unless--and this is where you
"Will you take Comrade Brady's place for a few days?"
"Will you come in and sit in the office for the next day or so and
help hold the fort? I may mention that there is money attached to
the job. We will pay for your services. How do we go, Comrade
Mr. Jarvis reflected but a brief moment.
"Why, sure," he said. "Me fer dat. When do I start?"
"Excellent, Comrade Jarvis. Nothing could be better. I am obliged.
I rather fancy that the gay band of Three Pointers who will
undoubtedly visit the offices of Cosy Moments in the next few days,
probably to-morrow, are due to run up against the surprise of their
lives. Could you be there at ten to-morrow morning?"
"Sure t'ing. I'll bring me canister."
"I should," said Psmith. "In certain circumstances one canister is
worth a flood of rhetoric. Till to-morrow, then, Comrade Jarvis. I
am very much obliged to you."
"Not at all a bad hour's work," said Psmith complacently, as they
turned out of Groome Street. "A vote of thanks to you, Comrade
Jackson, for your invaluable assistance."
"It strikes me I didn't do much," said Mike with a grin.
"Apparently, no. In reality, yes. Your manner was exactly right.
Reserved, yet not haughty. Just what an eminent cat-fancier's
manner should be. I could see that you made a pronounced hit with
Comrade Jarvis. By the way, if you are going to show up at the
office to-morrow, perhaps it would be as well if you were to look
up a few facts bearing on the feline world. There is no knowing
what thirst for information a night's rest may not give Comrade
Jarvis. I do not presume to dictate, but if you were to make
yourself a thorough master of the subject of catnip, for instance,
it might quite possibly come in useful."
Mr. Jarvis was as good as his word. On the following morning, at
ten o'clock to the minute, he made his appearance at the office of
Cosy Moments, his fore-lock more than usually well oiled in honour
of the occasion, and his right coat-pocket bulging in a manner that
betrayed to the initiated eye the presence of the faithful
"canister." With him, in addition to his revolver, he brought a
long, thin young man who wore under his brown tweed coat a
blue-and-red striped jersey. Whether he brought him as an ally in
case of need or merely as a kindred soul with whom he might commune
during his vigil, was not ascertained.
Pugsy, startled out of his wonted calm by the arrival of this
distinguished company, observed the pair, as they passed through
into the inner office, with protruding eyes, and sat speechless for
a full five minutes. Psmith received the new-corners in the
editorial sanctum with courteous warmth. Mr. Jarvis introduced his
"Thought I'd bring him along. Long Otto's his monaker."
"You did very rightly, Comrade Jarvis," Psmith assured him. "Your
unerring instinct did not play you false when it told you that
Comrade Otto would be as welcome as the flowers in May. With
Comrade Otto I fancy we shall make a combination which will require
a certain amount of tackling."
Mr. Jarvis confirmed this view. Long Otto, he affirmed, was no
rube, but a scrapper from Biffville-on-the-Slosh. The hardiest
hooligan would shrink from introducing rough-house proceedings into
a room graced by the combined presence of Long Otto and himself.
"Then," said Psmith, "I can go about my professional duties with a
light heart. I may possibly sing a bar or two. You will find cigars
in that box. If you and Comrade Otto will select one apiece and
group yourselves tastefully about the room in chairs, I will start
in to hit up a slightly spicy editorial on the coming election."
Mr. Jarvis regarded the paraphernalia of literature on the table
with interest. So did Long Otto, who, however, being a man of
silent habit, made no comment. Throughout the seance and the events
which followed it he confined himself to an occasional grunt. He
seemed to lack other modes of expression. A charming chap, however.
"Is dis where youse writes up pieces fer de paper?" inquired Mr.
Jarvis, eyeing the table.
"It is," said Psmith. "In Comrade Windsor's pre-dungeon days he was
wont to sit where I am sitting now, while I bivouacked over there
at the smaller table. On busy mornings you could hear our brains
buzzing in Madison Square Garden. But wait! A thought strikes me."
He called for Pugsy.
"Comrade Maloney," he said, "if the Editorial Staff of this paper
were to give you a day off, could you employ it to profit?"
"Surest t'ing you know," replied Pugsy with some fervour. "I'd take
me goil to de Bronx Zoo."
"Your girl?" said Psmith inquiringly. "I had heard no inkling of
this, Comrade Maloney. I had always imagined you one of those
strong, rugged, blood-and-iron men who were above the softer
emotions. Who is she?"
"Aw, she's a kid," said Pugsy. "Her pa runs a delicatessen shop
down our street. She ain't a bad mutt," added the ardent swain.
"I'm her steady."
"See that I have a card for the wedding, Comrade Maloney," said
Psmith, "and in the meantime take her to the Bronx, as you
"Won't youse be wantin' me to-day."
"Not to-day. You need a holiday. Unflagging toil is sapping your
physique. Go up and watch the animals, and remember me very kindly
to the Peruvian Llama, whom friends have sometimes told me I
resemble in appearance. And if two dollars would in any way add to
the gaiety of the jaunt . . ."
"Sure t'ing. T'anks, boss."
"It occurred to me," said Psmith, when he had gone, "that the
probable first move of any enterprising Three Pointer who invaded
this office would be to knock Comrade Maloney on the head to
prevent his announcing him. Comrade Maloney's services are too
valuable to allow him to be exposed to unnecessary perils. Any
visitors who call must find their way in for themselves. And now to
work. Work, the what's-its-name of the thingummy and the
thing-um-a-bob of the what d'you-call-it."
For about a quarter of an hour the only sound that broke the
silence of the room was the scratching of Psmith's pen and the
musical expectoration of Messrs. Otto and Jarvis. Finally Psmith
leaned back in his chair with a satisfied expression, and spoke.
"While, as of course you know, Comrade Jarvis," he said, "there is
no agony like the agony of literary composition, such toil has its
compensations. The editorial I have just completed contains its
measure of balm. Comrade Otto will bear me out in my statement that
there is a subtle joy in the manufacture of the well-formed phrase.
Am I not right, Comrade Otto?"
The long one gazed appealingly at Mr. Jarvis, who spoke for him.
"He's a bit shy on handin' out woids, is Otto," he said.
"I understand. I am a man of few words myself. All great men are
like that. Von Moltke, Comrade Otto, and myself. But what are
words? Action is the thing. That is the cry. Action. If that is
Comrade Otto's forte, so much the better, for I fancy that action
rather than words is what we may be needing in the space of about a
quarter of a minute. At least, if the footsteps I hear without are,
as I suspect, those of our friends of the Three Points."
Jarvis and Long Otto turned towards the door. Psmith was right.
Some one was moving stealthily in the outer office. Judging from
the sound, more than one person.
"It is just as well," said Psmith softly, "that Comrade Maloney is
not at his customary post. Now, in about a quarter of a minute, as
The handle of the door began to revolve slowly and quietly. The
next moment three figures tumbled into the room. It was evident
that they had not expected to find the door unlocked, and the
absence of resistance when they applied their weight had had
surprising effects. Two of the three did not pause in their career
till they cannoned against the table. The third, who was holding
the handle, was more fortunate.
Psmith rose with a kindly smile to welcome his guests.
"Why, surely!" he said in a pleased voice. "I thought I knew the
face. Comrade Repetto, this is a treat. Have you come bringing me a
The white-haired leader's face, as he spoke, was within a few
inches of his own. Psmith's observant eye noted that the bruise
still lingered on the chin where Kid Brady's upper-cut had landed
at their previous meeting.
"I cannot offer you all seats," he went on, "unless you care to
dispose yourselves upon the tables. I wonder if you know my
friend, Mr. Bat Jarvis? And my friend, Mr. L. Otto? Let us all get
acquainted on this merry occasion."
The three invaders had been aware of the presence of the great Bat
and his colleague for some moments, and the meeting seemed to be
causing them embarrassment. This may have been due to the fact that
both Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Otto had produced and were toying
meditatively with distinctly ugly-looking pistols.
Mr. Jarvis spoke.
"Well," he said, "what's doin'?"
Mr. Repetto, to whom the remark was directly addressed, appeared to
have some difficulty in finding a reply. He shuffled his feet, and
looked at the floor. His two companions seemed equally at a loss.
"Goin' to start any rough stuff?" inquired Mr. Jarvis casually.
"The cigars are on the table," said Psmith hospitably. "Draw up
your chairs, and let's all be jolly. I will open the proceedings
with a song."
In a rich baritone, with his eyeglass fixed the while on Mr.
Repetto, he proceeded to relieve himself of the first verse of
"I only know I love thee."
"Chorus, please," he added, as he finished. "Come along, Comrade
Repetto. Why this shrinking coyness? Fling out your chest, and cut
But Mr. Repetto's eye was fastened on Mr. Jarvis's revolver. The
sight apparently had the effect of quenching his desire for song.
"'Lov' muh, ahnd ther world is--ah--mine!'" concluded Psmith.
He looked round the assembled company.
"Comrade Otto," he observed, "will now recite that pathetic little
poem 'Baby's Sock is now a Blue-bag.' Pray, gentlemen, silence for
He looked inquiringly at the long youth, who remained mute. Psmith
clicked his tongue regretfully.
"Comrade Jarvis," he said, "I fear that as a smoking-concert this
is not going to be a success. I understand, however. Comrade
Repetto and his colleagues have come here on business, and nothing
will make them forget it. Typical New York men of affairs, they
close their minds to all influences that might lure them from their
business. Let us get on, then. What did you wish to see me about,
Mr. Repetto's reply was unintelligible.
Mr. Jarvis made a suggestion.
"Youse had better beat it," he said.
Long Otto grunted sympathy with this advice.
"And youse had better go back to Spider Reilly," continued Mr.
Jarvis, "and tell him that there's nothin' doin' in the way of
rough house wit dis gent here." He indicated Psmith, who bowed.
"And you can tell de Spider," went on Bat with growing ferocity,
"dat next time he gits gay and starts in to shoot guys in me
dance-joint I'll bite de head off'n him. See? Does dat go? If he
t'inks his little two-by-four gang can put it across de Groome
Street, he can try. Dat's right. An' don't fergit dis gent here and
me is pals, and any one dat starts anyt'ing wit dis gent is going
to have to git busy wit me. Does dat go!"
Psmith coughed, and shot his cuffs.
"I do not know," he said, in the manner of a chairman addressing a
meeting, "that I have anything to add to the very well-expressed
remarks of my friend, Comrade Jarvis. He has, in my opinion,
covered the ground very thoroughly and satisfactorily. It now only
remains for me to pass a vote of thanks to Comrade Jarvis and to
declare this meeting at an end."
"Beat it," said Mr. Jarvis, pointing to the door.
The delegation then withdrew.
"I am very much obliged," said Psmith, "for your courtly
assistance, Comrade Jarvis. But for you I do not care to think with
what a splash I might not have been immersed in the gumbo. Thank
you, Comrade Jarvis. And you, Comrade Otto."
"Aw chee!" said Mr. Jarvis, handsomely dismissing the matter. Mr.
Otto kicked the leg of the table, and grunted.
For half an hour after the departure of the Three Pointers Psmith
chatted amiably to his two assistants on matters of general
interest. The exchange of ideas was somewhat one-sided, though Mr.
Jarvis had one or two striking items of information to impart,
notably some hints on the treatment of fits in kittens.
At the end of this period the conversation was once more
interrupted by the sound of movements in the outer office.
"If dat's dose stiffs come back--" began Mr. Jarvis, reaching for
"Stay your hand, Comrade Jarvis," said as a sharp knock sounded on
the door. "I do not think it can be our late friends. Comrade
Repetto's knowledge of the usages of polite society is too limited,
I fancy, to prompt him to knock on doors. Come in."
The door opened. It was not Mr. Repetto or his colleagues, but
another old friend. No other, in fact, than Mr. Francis Parker, he
who had come as an embassy from the man up top in the very
beginning of affairs, and had departed, wrathful, mouthing
declarations of war. As on his previous visit, he wore the dude
suit, the shiny shoes, and the tall-shaped hat.
"Welcome, Comrade Parker," said Psmith. "It is too long since we
met. Comrade Jarvis I think you know. If I am right, that is to
say, in supposing that it was you who approached him at an earlier
stage in the proceedings with a view to engaging his sympathetic
aid in the great work of putting Comrade Windsor and myself out of
business. The gentleman on your left is Comrade Otto."
Mr. Parker was looking at Bat in bewilderment. It was plain that
he had not expected to find Psmith entertaining such company.
"Did you come purely for friendly chit-chat, Comrade Parker,"
inquired Psmith, "or was there, woven into the social motives of
your call, a desire to talk business of any kind?"
"My business is private. I didn't expect a crowd."
"Especially of ancient friends such as Comrade Jarvis. Well, well,
you are breaking up a most interesting little symposium. Comrade
Jarvis, I think I shall be forced to postpone our very entertaining
discussion of fits in kittens till a more opportune moment.
Meanwhile, as Comrade Parker wishes to talk over some private
Bat Jarvis rose.
"I'll beat it," he said.
"Reluctantly, I hope, Comrade Jarvis. As reluctantly as I hint that
I would be alone. If I might drop in some time at your private
"Sure," said Mr. Jarvis warmly.
"Excellent. Well, for the present, good-bye. And many thanks for
your invaluable co-operation."
"Aw chee!" said Mr. Jarvis.
"And now, Comrade Parker," said Psmith, when the door had closed,
"let her rip. What can I do for you?"
"You seem to be all to the merry with Bat Jarvis," observed Mr.
"The phrase exactly expresses it, Comrade Parker. I am as a
tortoiseshell kitten to him. But, touching your business?"
Mr. Parker was silent for a moment.
"See here," he said at last, "aren't you going to be good? Say,
what's the use of keeping on at this fool game? Why not quit it
before you get hurt?"
Psmith smoothed his waistcoat reflectively.
"I may be wrong, Comrade Parker," he said, "but it seems to me that
the chances of my getting hurt are not so great as you appear to
imagine. The person who is in danger of getting hurt seems to me
to be the gentleman whose name is on that paper which is now in my
"Where is it?" demanded Mr. Parker quickly.
Psmith eyed him benevolently.
"If you will pardon the expression, Comrade Parker," he said,
"'Aha!' Meaning that I propose to keep that information to myself."
Mr. Parker shrugged his shoulders.
"You know your own business, I guess."
"You are absolutely correct, Comrade Parker. I do. Now that Cosy
Moments has our excellent friend Comrade Jarvis on its side, are
you not to a certain extent among the Blenheim Oranges? I think
so. I think so."
As he spoke there was a rap at the door. A small boy entered. In
his hand was a scrap of paper.
"Guy asks me give dis to gazebo named Smiff" he said.
"There are many gazebos of that name, my lad. One of whom I am
which, as Artemus Ward was wont to observe. Possibly the missive is
He took the paper. It was dated from an address on the East Side.
"Dear Smith," it ran. "Come here as quick as you can, and bring
some money. Explain when I see you."
It was signed "W. W."
So Billy Windsor had fulfilled his promise. He had escaped.
A feeling of regret for the futility of the thing was Psmith's
first emotion. Billy could be of no possible help in the campaign
at its present point. All the work that remained to be done could
easily be carried through without his assistance. And by breaking
out from the Island he had committed an offence which was bound to
carry with it serious penalties. For the first time since his
connection with Cosy Moments began Psmith was really disturbed.
He turned to Mr. Parker.
"Comrade Parker," he said, "I regret to state that this office is
now closing for the day. But for this, I should be delighted to sit
chatting with you. As it is--"
"Very well," said Mr. Parker. "Then you mean to go on with this
"Though it snows, Comrade Parker."
They went out into the street, Psmith thoughtful and hardly
realising the other's presence. By the side of the pavement a few
yards down the road a taximeter-cab was standing. Psmith hailed it.
Mr. Parker was still beside him. It occurred to Psmith that it
would not do to let him hear the address Billy Windsor had given in
"Turn and go on down the street," he said to the driver.
He had taken his seat and was closing the door, when it was
snatched from his grasp and Mr. Parker darted on to the seat
opposite. The next moment the cab had started up the street instead
of and the hard muzzle of a revolver was pressing against Psmith's
"Now what?" said Mr. Parker smoothly, leaning back with the pistol
resting easily on his knee.
A FRIEND IN NEED
"The point is well taken," said Psmith thoughtfully.
"You think so?" said Mr. Parker.
"I am convinced of it."
"Good. But don't move. Put that hand back where it was."
"You think of everything, Comrade Parker."
He dropped his hand on to the seat, and remained silent for a few
moments. The taxi-cab was buzzing along up Fifth Avenue now.
Looking towards the window, Psmith saw that they were nearing the
park. The great white mass of the Plaza Hotel showed up on the
"Did you ever stop at the Plaza, Comrade Parker?"
"No," said Mr. Parker shortly.
"Don't bite at me, Comrade Parker. Why be brusque on so joyous an
occasion? Better men than us have stopped at the Plaza. Ah, the
Park! How fresh the leaves, Comrade Parker, how green the herbage!
Fling your eye at yonder grassy knoll."
He raised his hand to point. Instantly the revolver was against his
waistcoat, making an unwelcome crease in that immaculate garment.
"I told you to keep that hand where it was."
"You did, Comrade Parker, you did. The fault," said Psmith
handsomely, "was entirely mine. Carried away by my love of nature,
I forgot. It shall not occur again."
"It had better not," said Mr. Parker unpleasantly. "If it does, I'll
blow a hole through you."
Psmith raised his eyebrows.
"That, Comrade Parker," he said, "is where you make your error. You
would no more shoot me in the heart of the metropolis than, I trust
you would wear a made-up tie with evening dress. Your skin,
however unhealthy to the eye of the casual observer, is doubtless
precious to yourself, and you are not the man I take you for if you
would risk it purely for the momentary pleasure of plugging me with
a revolver. The cry goes round criminal circles in New York,
'Comrade Parker is not such a fool as he looks.' Think for a moment
what would happen. The shot would ring out, and instantly
bicycle-policemen would be pursuing this taxi-cab with the
purposeful speed of greyhounds trying to win the Waterloo Cup. You
would be headed off and stopped. Ha! What is this? Psmith, the
People's Pet, weltering in his gore? Death to the assassin! I fear
nothing could save you from the fury of the mob, Comrade Parker. I
seem to see them meditatively plucking you limb from limb. 'She
loves me!' Off comes an arm. 'She loves me not.' A leg joins the
little heap of limbs on the ground. That is how it would be. And
what would you have left out of it? Merely, as I say, the momentary
pleasure of potting me. And it isn't as if such a feat could give
you the thrill of successful marksmanship. Anybody could hit a man
with a pistol at an inch and a quarter. I fear you have not thought
this matter out with sufficient care, Comrade Parker. You said to
yourself, 'Happy thought, I will kidnap Psmith! 'and all your
friends said, 'Parker is the man with the big brain!' But now,
while it is true that I can't get out, you are moaning, 'What on
earth shall I do with him, now that I have got him?'"
"You think so, do you?"
"I am convinced of it. Your face is contorted with the anguish of
mental stress. Let this be a lesson to you, Comrade Parker, never
to embark on any enterprise of which you do not see the end."
"I guess I see the end of this all right."
"You have the advantage of me then, Comrade Parker. It seems to me
that we have nothing before us but to go on riding about New York
till you feel that my society begins to pall."
"You figure you're clever, I guess."
"There are few brighter brains in this city, Comrade Parker. But
why this sudden tribute?"
"You reckon you've thought it all out, eh?"
"There may be a flaw in my reasoning, but I confess I do not at the
moment see where it lies. Have you detected one?"
"I guess so."
"Ah! And what is it?"
"You seem to think New York's the only place on the map."
"Meaning what, Comrade Parker?"
"It might be a fool trick to shoot you in the city as you say, but,
you see, we aren't due to stay in the city. This cab is moving on."
"Like John Brown's soul," said Psmith, nodding. "I see. Then you
propose to make quite a little tour in this cab?"
"You've got it."
"And when we are out in the open country, where there are no
witnesses, things may begin to move."
"Then," said Psmith heartily, "till that moment arrives what we
must do is to entertain each other with conversation. You can take
no step of any sort for a full half-hour, possibly more, so let us
give ourselves up to the merriment of the passing instant. Are you
good at riddles, Comrade Parker? How much wood would a wood-chuck
chuck, assuming for purposes of argument that it was in the power
of a wood-chuck to chuck wood?"
Mr. Parker did not attempt to solve this problem. He was sitting
in the same attitude of watchfulness, the revolver resting on his
knee. He seemed mistrustful of Psmith's right hand, which was
hanging limply at his side. It was from this quarter that he seemed
to expect attack. The cab was bowling easily up the broad street,
past rows on rows of high houses, all looking exactly the same.
Occasionally, to the right, through a break in the line of
buildings, a glimpse of the river could be seen.
Psmith resumed the conversation.
"You are not interested in wood-chucks, Comrade Parker? Well, well,
many people are not. A passion for the flora and fauna of our
forests is innate rather than acquired. Let us talk of something
else. Tell me about your home-life, Comrade Parker. Are you
married? Are there any little Parkers running about the house? When
you return from this very pleasant excursion will baby voices crow
gleefully, 'Fahzer's come home'?"
Mr. Parker said nothing.
"I see," said Psmith with ready sympathy. "I understand. Say no
more. You are unmarried. She wouldn't have you. Alas, Comrade
Parker! However, thus it is! We look around us, and what do we
see? A solid phalanx of the girls we have loved and lost. Tell me
about her, Comrade Parker. Was it your face or your manners at
which she drew the line?"
Mr. Parker leaned forward with a scowl. Psmith did not move, but
his right hand, as it hung, closed. Another moment and Mr. Parker's
chin would be in just the right position for a swift upper-cut. . .
This fact appeared suddenly to dawn on Mr. Parker himself. He drew
back quickly, and half raised the revolver. Psmith's hand resumed
its normal attitude.
"Leaving more painful topics," said Psmith, "let us turn to another
point. That note which the grubby stripling brought to me at the
office purported to come from Comrade Windsor, and stated that he
had escaped from Blackwell's Island, and was awaiting my arrival at
some address in the Bowery. Would you mind telling me, purely to
satisfy my curiosity, if that note was genuine? I have never made
a close study of Comrade Windsor's handwriting, and in an unguarded
moment I may have assumed too much."
Mr. Parker permitted himself a smile.
"I guess you aren't so clever after all," he said. "The note was a
fake all right."
"And you had this cab waiting for me on the chance?"
Mr. Parker nodded.
"Sherlock Holmes was right," said Psmith regretfully. "You may
remember that he advised Doctor Watson never to take the first cab,
or the second. He should have gone further, and urged him not to
take cabs at all. Walking is far healthier."
"You'll find it so," said Mr. Parker.
Psmith eyed him curiously.
"What are you going to do with me, Comrade Parker?" he asked.
Mr. Parker did not reply. Psmith's eye turned again to the window.
They had covered much ground since last he had looked at the view.
They were off Manhattan Island now, and the houses were beginning
to thin out. Soon, travelling at their present rate, they must come
into the open country. Psmith relapsed into silence. It was
necessary for him to think. He had been talking in the hope of
getting the other off his guard; but Mr. Parker was evidently too
keenly on the look-out. The hand that held the revolver never
wavered. The muzzle, pointing in an upward direction, was aimed at
Psmith's waist. There was no doubt that a move on his part would be
fatal. If the pistol went off, it must hit him. If it had been
pointed at his head in the orthodox way he might have risked a
sudden blow to knock it aside, but in the present circumstances
that would be useless. There was nothing to do but wait.
The cab moved swiftly on. Now they had reached the open country. An
occasional wooden shack was passed, but that was all. At any moment
the climax of the drama might be reached. Psmith's muscles
stiffened for a spring. There was little chance of its being
effective, but at least it would be better to put up some kind of a
fight. And he had a faint hope that the suddenness of his movement
might upset the other's aim. He was bound to be hit somewhere.
That was certain. But quickness might save him to some extent.
He braced his leg against the back of the cab. In another moment
he would have sprung; but just then the smooth speed of the cab
changed to a series of jarring bumps, each more emphatic than the
last. It slowed down, then came to a halt. One of the tyres had
There was a thud, as the chauffeur jumped down. They heard him
fumbling in the tool-box. Presently the body of the machine was
raised slightly as he got to work with the jack.
It was about a minute later that somebody in the road outside
"Had a breakdown?" inquired the voice. Psmith recognised it. It
was the voice of Kid Brady.
PSMITH CONCLUDES HIS RIDE
The Kid, as he had stated to Psmith at their last interview that he
intended to do, had begun his training for his match with Eddie
Wood, at White Plains, a village distant but a few miles from New
York. It was his practice to open a course of training with a
little gentle road-work; and it was while jogging along the highway
a couple of miles from his training-camp, in company with the two
thick-necked gentlemen who acted as his sparring-partners, that he
had come upon the broken-down taxi-cab.
If this had happened after his training had begun in real earnest,
he would have averted his eyes from the spectacle, however
alluring, and continued on his way without a pause. But now, as he
had not yet settled down to genuine hard work, he felt justified in
turning aside and looking into the matter. The fact that the
chauffeur, who seemed to be a taciturn man, lacking the
conversational graces, manifestly objected to an audience, deterred
him not at all. One cannot have everything in this world, and the
Kid and his attendant thick-necks were content to watch the process
of mending the tyre, without demanding the additional joy of
sparkling small-talk from the man in charge of the operations.
"Guy's had a breakdown, sure," said the first of the thick-necks.
"Surest thing you know," agreed his colleague.
"Seems to me the tyre's punctured," said the Kid.
All three concentrated their gaze on the machine
"Kid's right," said thick-neck number one. "Guy's been an' bust a
"Surest thing you know," said thick-neck number two.
They observed the perspiring chauffeur in silence for a while.
"Wonder how he did that, now?" speculated the Kid.
"Guy ran over a nail, I guess," said thick-neck number one.
"Surest thing you know," said the other, who, while perhaps
somewhat lacking in the matter of original thought, was a most
useful fellow to have by one. A sort of Boswell.
"Did you run over a nail?" the Kid inquired of the chauffeur.
The chauffeur ignored the question.
"This is his busy day," said the first thick-neck with satire.
"Guy's too full of work to talk to us."
"Deaf, shouldn't wonder," surmised the Kid.
"Say, wonder what he's doin' with a taxi so far out of the city."
"Some guy tells him to drive him out here, I guess. Say, it'll cost
him something, too. He'll have to strip off a few from his roll to
pay for this."
Psmith, in the interior of the cab, glanced at Mr. Parker.
"You heard, Comrade Parker? He is right, I fancy. The bill--"
Mr. Parker dug viciously at him with the revolver.
"Keep quiet," he whispered, "or you'll get hurt."
Psmith suspended his remarks.
Outside, the conversation had begun again.
"Pretty rich guy inside," said the Kid, following up his
companion's train of thought. "I'm goin' to rubber in at the
Psmith, meeting Mr. Parker's eye, smiled pleasantly. There was no
answering smile on the other's face.
There came the sound of the Kid's feet grating on the road as he
turned; and as he heard it Mr. Parker, that eminent tactician, for
the first time lost his head. With a vague idea of screening Psmith
from the eyes of the man in the road he half rose. For an instant
the muzzle of the pistol ceased to point at Psmith's waistcoat. It
was the very chance Psmith had been waiting for. His left hand shot
out, grasped the other's wrist, and gave it a sharp wrench. The
revolver went off with a deafening report, the bullet passing
through the back of the cab; then fell to the floor, as the fingers
lost their hold. The next moment Psmith's right fist, darting
upwards, took Mr. Parker neatly under the angle of the jaw.
The effect was instantaneous. Psmith had risen from his seat as he
delivered the blow, and it consequently got the full benefit of his
weight, which was not small. Mr. Parker literally crumpled up. His
head jerked back, then fell limply on his chest. He would have
slipped to the floor had not Psmith pushed him on to the seat.
The interested face of the Kid appeared at the window. Behind him
could be seen portions of the faces of the two thick-necks.
"Ah, Comrade Brady!" said Psmith genially. "I heard your voice,
and was hoping you might look in for a chat."
"What's doin', Mr. Smith?" queried the excited Kid.
"Much, Comrade Brady, much. I will tell you all anon. Meanwhile,
however, kindly knock that chauffeur down and sit on his head. He's
a bad person."
"De guy's beat it," volunteered the first thick-neck.
"Surest thing you know," said the other.
"What's been doin', Mr. Smith?" asked the Kid.
"I'll tell you about it as we go, Comrade Brady," said Psmith,
stepping into the road. "Riding in a taxi is pleasant provided it
is not overdone. For the moment I have had sufficient. A bit of
walking will do me good."
"What are you going to do with this guy, Mr. Smith?" asked the
Kid, pointing to Parker, who had begun to stir slightly.
Psmith inspected the stricken one gravely.
"I have no use for him, Comrade Brady," he said. "Our ride together
gave me as much of his society as I desire for to-day. Unless you
or either of your friends are collecting Parkers, I propose that we
leave him where he is. We may as well take the gun, however. In my
opinion, Comrade Parker is not the proper man to have such a
weapon. He is too prone to go firing it off in any direction at a
moment's notice, causing inconvenience to all." He groped on the
floor of the cab for the revolver. "Now, Comrade Brady," he said,
straightening himself up, "I am at your disposal. Shall we be
* * *
It was late in the evening when Psmith returned to the metropolis,
after a pleasant afternoon at the Brady training-camp. The Kid,
having heard the details of the ride, offered once more to abandon
his match with Eddie Wood, but Psmith would not hear of it. He was
fairly satisfied that the opposition had fired their last shot, and
that their next move would be to endeavour to come to terms. They
could not hope to catch him off his guard a second time, and, as
far as hired assault and battery were concerned, he was as safe in
New York, now that Bat Jarvis had declared himself on his side, as
he would have been in the middle of a desert. What Bat said was
law on the East Side. No hooligan, however eager to make money,
would dare to act against a protege of the Groome Street leader.
The only flaw in Psmith's contentment was the absence of Billy
Windsor. On this night of all nights the editorial staff of Cosy
Moments should have been together to celebrate the successful
outcome of their campaign. Psmith dined alone, his enjoyment of the
rather special dinner which he felt justified in ordering in honour
of the occasion somewhat diminished by the thought of Billy's hard
case. He had seen Mr William Collier in The Man from Mexico, and
that had given him an understanding of what a term of imprisonment
on Blackwell's Island meant. Billy, during these lean days, must be
supporting life on bread, bean soup, and water. Psmith, toying with
the hors d'oeuvre, was somewhat saddened by the thought.
* * *
All was quiet at the office on the following day. Bat Jarvis,
again accompanied by the faithful Otto, took up his position in the
inner room, prepared to repel all invaders; but none arrived. No
sounds broke the peace of the outer office except the whistling of
Things were almost dull when the telephone bell rang. Psmith took
down the receiver.
"Hullo?" he said.
"I'm Parker," said a moody voice.
Psmith uttered a cry of welcome.
"Why, Comrade Parker, this is splendid! How goes it? Did you get
back all right yesterday? I was sorry to have to tear myself away,
but I had other engagements. But why use the telephone? Why not
come here in person? You know how welcome you are. Hire a taxi-cab
and come right round."
Mr. Parker made no reply to the invitation.
"Mr. Waring would like to see you."
"Who, Comrade Parker?"
"Mr. Stewart Waring."
"The celebrated tenement house-owner?"
Silence from the other end of the wire. "Well," said Psmith, "what
step does he propose to take towards it?"
"He tells me to say that he will be in his office at twelve o'clock
to-morrow morning. His office is in the Morton Building, Nassau
Psmith clicked his tongue regretfully.
"Then I do not see how we can meet," he said. "I shall be here."
"He wishes to see you at his office."
"I am sorry, Comrade Parker. It is impossible. I am very busy just
now, as you may know, preparing the next number, the one in which we
publish the name of the owner of the Pleasant Street Tenements.
Otherwise, I should be delighted. Perhaps later, when the rush of
work has diminished somewhat."
"Am I to tell Mr. Waring that you refuse?"
"If you are seeing him at any time and feel at a loss for something
to say, perhaps you might mention it. Is there anything else I can
do for you, Comrade Parker?"
"Nothing? Then good-bye. Look in when you're this way."
He hung up the receiver.
As he did so, he was aware of Master Maloney standing beside the
"Yes, Comrade Maloney?"
"Telegram," said Pugsy. "For Mr. Windsor."
Psmith ripped open the envelope.
The message ran:
"Returning to-day. Will be at office to-morrow morning," and it was
"See who's here!" said Psmith softly.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
In the light of subsequent events it was perhaps the least bit
unfortunate that Mr. Jarvis should have seen fit to bring with him
to the office of Cosy Moments on the following morning two of his
celebrated squad of cats, and that Long Otto, who, as usual,
accompanied him, should have been fired by his example to the
extent of introducing a large and rather boisterous yellow dog.
They were not to be blamed, of course. They could not know that
before the morning was over space in the office would be at a
premium. Still, it was unfortunate.
Mr. Jarvis was slightly apologetic.
"T'ought I'd bring de kits along," he said. "Dey started in
scrappin' yesterday when I was here, so to-day I says I'll keep my
eye on dem."
Psmith inspected the menagerie without resentment.
"Assuredly, Comrade Jarvis," he said. "They add a pleasantly cosy
and domestic touch to the scene. The only possible criticism I can
find to make has to do with their probable brawling with the dog."
"Oh, dey won't scrap wit de dawg. Dey knows him."
"But is he aware of that? He looks to me a somewhat impulsive
animal. Well, well, the matter's in your hands. If you will
undertake to look after the refereeing of any pogrom that may
arise, I say no more."
Mr. Jarvis's statement as to the friendly relations between the
animals proved to be correct. The dog made no attempt to annihilate
the cats. After an inquisitive journey round the room he lay down
and went to sleep, and an era of peace set in. The cats had settled
themselves comfortably, one on each of Mr. Jarvis's knees, and Long
Otto, surveying the ceiling with his customary glassy stare,
smoked a long cigar in silence. Bat breathed a tune, and scratched
one of the cats under the ear. It was a soothing scene.
But it did not last. Ten minutes had barely elapsed when the yellow
dog, sitting up with a start, uttered a whine. In the outer office
could be heard a stir and movement. The next moment the door burst
open and a little man dashed in. He had a peeled nose and showed
other evidences of having been living in the open air. Behind him
was a crowd of uncertain numbers. Psmith recognised the leaders of
this crowd. They were the Reverend Edwin T. Philpotts and Mr. B.
"Why, Comrade Asher," he said, "this is indeed a Moment of Mirth. I
have been wondering for weeks where you could have got to. And
Comrade Philpotts! Am I wrong in saying that this is the maddest,
merriest day of all the glad New Year?"
The rest of the crowd had entered the room.
"Comrade Waterman, too!" cried Psmith. "Why we have all met
He glanced inquiringly at the little man with the peeled nose.
"My name is Wilberfloss," said the other with austerity. "Will you
be so good as to tell me where Mr. Windsor is?"
A murmur of approval from his followers.
"In one moment," said Psmith. "First, however, let me introduce two
important members of our staff. On your right, Mr. Bat Jarvis. On
your left, Mr. Long Otto. Both of Groome Street."
The two Bowery boys rose awkwardly. The cats fell in an avalanche
to the floor. Long Otto, in his haste, trod on the dog, which began
barking, a process which it kept up almost without a pause during
the rest of the interview.
"Mr. Wilberfloss," said Psmith in an aside to Bat, "is widely known
as a cat fancier in Brooklyn circles."
"Honest?" said Mr. Jarvis. He tapped Mr. Wilberfloss in friendly
fashion on the chest. "Say," he asked, "did youse ever have a cat
wit one blue and one yellow eye?"
Mr. Wilberfloss side-stepped and turned once more to Psmith, who
was offering B. Henderson Asher a cigarette.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Who am I?" repeated Psmith in an astonished tone.
"Who are you?"
"I am Psmith," said the old Etonian reverently. "There is a
preliminary P before the name. This, however, is silent. Like the
tomb. Compare such words as ptarmigan, psalm, and phthisis."
"These gentlemen tell me you're acting editor. Who appointed you?"
"It is rather a nice point," he said. "It might be claimed that I
appointed myself. You may say, however, that Comrade Windsor
"Ah! And where is Mr. Windsor?"
"In prison," said Psmith sorrowfully.
"It is too true. Such is the generous impulsiveness of Comrade
Windsor's nature that he hit a policeman, was promptly gathered in,
and is now serving a sentence of thirty days on Blackwell's Island."
Mr. Wilberfloss looked at Mr. Philpotts. Mr. Asher looked at Mr.
Wilberfloss. Mr. Waterman started, and stumbled over a cat.
"I never heard of such a thing," said Mr. Wilberfloss.
A faint, sad smile played across Psmith's face.
"Do you remember, Comrade Waterman--I fancy it was to you that I
made the remark--my commenting at our previous interview on the
rashness of confusing the unusual with the improbable? Here we see
Comrade Wilberfloss, big-brained though he is, falling into error."
"I shall dismiss Mr. Windsor immediately," said the big-brained
"From Blackwell's Island?" said Psmith. "I am sure you will earn
his gratitude if you do. They live on bean soup there. Bean soup
and bread, and not much of either."
He broke off, to turn his attention to Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Waterman,
between whom bad blood seemed to have arisen. Mr. Jarvis, holding a
cat in his arms, was glowering at Mr. Waterman, who had backed away
and seemed nervous.
"What is the trouble, Comrade Jarvis?"
"Dat guy dere wit two left feet," said Bat querulously, "goes and
treads on de kit. I--"
"I assure you it was a pure accident. The animal--"
Mr. Wilberfloss, eyeing Bat and the silent Otto with disgust,
"Who are these persons, Mr. Smith?" he inquired.
"Poisson yourself," rejoined Bat, justly incensed. "Who's de
little guy wit de peeled breezer, Mr. Smith?"
Psmith waved his hands.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," he said, "let us not descend to mere
personalities. I thought I had introduced you. This, Comrade
Jarvis, is Mr. Wilberfloss, the editor of this journal. These,
Comrade Wilberfloss--Zam-buk would put your nose right in a
day--are, respectively, Bat Jarvis and Long Otto, our acting
fighting-editors, vice Kid Brady, absent on unavoidable business."
"Kid Brady !" shrilled Mr. Wilberfloss. "I insist that you give me
a full explanation of this matter. I go away by my doctor's orders
for ten weeks, leaving Mr. Windsor to conduct the paper on certain
well-defined lines. I return yesterday, and, getting into
communication with Mr. Philpotts, what do I find? Why, that in my
absence the paper has been ruined."
"Ruined?" said Psmith. "On the contrary. Examine the returns, and
you will see that the circulation has gone up every week. Cosy
Moments was never so prosperous and flourishing. Comrade Otto, do
you think you could use your personal influence with that dog to
induce it to suspend its barking for a while? It is musical, but
renders conversation difficult."
Long Otto raised a massive boot and aimed it at the animal, which,
dodging with a yelp, cannoned against the second cat and had its
nose scratched. Piercing shrieks cleft the air.
"I demand an explanation," roared Mr. Wilberfloss above the din.
"I think, Comrade Otto," said Psmith, "it would make things a little
easier if you removed that dog."
He opened the door. The dog shot out. They could hear it being
ejected from the outer office by Master Maloney. When there was
silence, Psmith turned courteously to the editor.
"You were saying, Comrade Wilberfloss?"
"Who is this person Brady? With Mr. Philpotts I have been going
carefully over the numbers which have been issued since my
"An intellectual treat," murmured Psmith.
"--and in each there is a picture of this young man in a costume
which I will not particularise--"
"There is hardly enough of it to particularise."
"--together with a page of disgusting autobiographical matter."
Psmith held up his hand.
"I protest," he said. "We court criticism, but this is mere abuse.
I appeal to these gentlemen to say whether this, for instance, is
not bright and interesting."
He picked up the current number of Cosy Moments, and turned to the
"This," he said. "Describing a certain ten-round unpleasantness with
one Mexican Joe. 'Joe comes up for the second round and he gives me
a nasty look, but I thinks of my mother and swats him one in the
lower ribs. He hollers foul, but nix on that. Referee says, "Fight
on." Joe gives me another nasty look. "All right, Kid," he says;
"now I'll knock you up into the gallery." And with that he cuts
loose with a right swing, but I falls into the clinch, and
"Bah!" exclaimed Mr. Wilberfloss.
"Go on, boss," urged Mr. Jarvis approvingly. "It's to de good, dat
"There!" said Psmith triumphantly. "You heard? Comrade Jarvis, one
of the most firmly established critics east of Fifth Avenue, stamps
Kid Brady's reminiscences with the hall-mark of his approval."
"I falls fer de Kid every time," assented Mr. Jarvis.
"Assuredly, Comrade Jarvis. You know a good thing when you see one.
Why," he went on warmly, "there is stuff in these reminiscences
which would stir the blood of a jelly-fish. Let me quote you
another passage to show that they are not only enthralling, but
helpful as well. Let me see, where is it? Ah, I have it. 'A bully
good way of putting a guy out of business is this. You don't want
to use it in the ring, because by Queensberry Rules it's a foul;
but you will find it mighty useful if any thick-neck comes up to
you in the street and tries to start anything. It's this way. While
he's setting himself for a punch, just place the tips of the
fingers of your left hand on the right side of his chest. Then
bring down the heel of your left hand. There isn't a guy living
that could stand up against that. The fingers give you a leverage
to beat the band. The guy doubles up, and you upper-cut him with
your right, and out he goes.' Now, I bet you never knew that
before, Comrade Philpotts. Try it on your parishioners."
"Cosy Moments," said Mr. Wilberfloss irately, "is no medium for
exploiting low prize-fighters."
"Low prize-fighters! Comrade Wilberfloss, you have been
misinformed. The Kid is as decent a little chap as you'd meet
anywhere. You do not seem to appreciate the philanthropic motives
of the paper in adopting Comrade Brady's cause. Think of it,
Comrade Wilberfloss. There was that unfortunate stripling with only
two pleasures in life, to love his mother and to knock the heads
off other youths whose weight coincided with his own; and
misfortune, until we took him up, had barred him almost completely
from the second pastime. Our editorial heart was melted. We
adopted Comrade Brady. And look at him now! Matched against Eddie
Wood! And Comrade Waterman will support me in my statement that a
victory over Eddie Wood means that he gets a legitimate claim to
meet Jimmy Garvin for the championship."
"It is abominable," burst forth Mr. Wilberfloss. "It is
disgraceful. I never heard of such a thing. The paper is ruined."
"You keep reverting to that statement, Comrade Wilberfloss. Can
nothing reassure you? The returns are excellent. Prosperity beams
on us like a sun. The proprietor is more than satisfied."
"The proprietor?" gasped Mr. Wilberfloss. "Does he know how you
have treated the paper?"
"He is cognisant of our every move."
"And he approves?"
"He more than approves."
Mr. Wilberfloss snorted.
"I don't believe it," he said.
The assembled ex-contributors backed up this statement with a
united murmur. B. Henderson Asher snorted satirically.
"They don't believe it," sighed Psmith. "Nevertheless, it is
"It is not true," thundered Mr. Wilberfloss, hopping to avoid a
perambulating cat. "Nothing will convince me of it. Mr. Benjamin
White is not a maniac."
"I trust not," said Psmith. "I sincerely trust not. I have every
reason to believe in his complete sanity. What makes you fancy that
there is even a possibility of his being--er--?"
"Nobody but a lunatic would approve of seeing his paper ruined."
"Again!" said Psmith. "I fear that the notion that this journal is
ruined has become an obsession with you, Comrade Wilberfloss. Once
again I assure you that it is more than prosperous."
"If," said Mr. Wilberfloss, "you imagine that I intend to take your
word in this matter, you are mistaken. I shall cable Mr. White
to-day, and inquire whether these alterations in the paper meet
with his approval."
"I shouldn't, Comrade Wilberfloss. Cables are expensive, and in
these hard times a penny saved is a penny earned. Why worry Comrade
White? He is so far away, so out of touch with our New York
literary life. I think it is practically a certainty that he has not
the slightest inkling of any changes in the paper."
Mr. Wilberfloss uttered a cry of triumph.
"I knew it," he said, "I knew it. I knew you would give up when it
came to the point, and you were driven into a corner. Now, perhaps,
you will admit that Mr. White has given no sanction for the
alterations in the paper?"
A puzzled look crept into Psmith's face.
"I think, Comrade Wilberfloss," he said, "we are talking at
cross-purposes. You keep harping on Comrade White and his views and
tastes. One would almost imagine that you fancied that Comrade
White was the proprietor of this paper."
Mr. Wilberfloss stared. B. Henderson Asher stared. Every one
stared, except Mr. Jarvis, who, since the readings from the Kid's
reminiscences had ceased, had lost interest in the discussion, and
was now entertaining the cats with a ball of paper tied to a
"Fancied that Mr. White . . .?" repeated Mr. Wilberfloss. "I don't
follow you. Who is, if he isn't?"
Psmith removed his monocle, polished it thoughtfully, and put it
back in its place.
"I am," he said.
THE KNOCK-OUT FOR MR. WARING
"You!" cried Mr. Wilberfloss.
"The same," said Psmith.
"You!" exclaimed Messrs. Waterman, Asher, and the Reverend Edwin
"On the spot!" said Psmith.
Mr. Wilberfloss groped for a chair and sat down.
"Am I going mad?" he demanded feebly.
"Not so, Comrade Wilberfloss," said Psmith encouragingly. "All is
well. The cry goes round New York, 'Comrade Wilberfloss is to the
good. He does not gibber.'"
"Do I understand you to say that you own this paper?"
"Roughly speaking, about a month."
Among his audience (still excepting Mr. Jarvis, who was tickling
one of the cats and whistling a plaintive melody) there was a
tendency toward awkward silence. To start bally-ragging a seeming
nonentity and then to discover he is the proprietor of the paper to
which you wish to contribute is like kicking an apparently empty
hat and finding your rich uncle inside it. Mr. Wilberfloss in
particular was disturbed. Editorships of the kind which he aspired
to are not easy to get. If he were to be removed from Cosy Moments
he would find it hard to place himself anywhere else. Editors, like
manuscripts, are rejected from want of space.
"Very early in my connection with this journal," said Psmith, "I
saw that I was on to a good thing. I had long been convinced that
about the nearest approach to the perfect job in this world, where
good jobs are so hard to acquire, was to own a paper. All you had
to do, once you had secured your paper, was to sit back and watch
the other fellows work, and from time to time forward big cheques
to the bank. Nothing could be more nicely attuned to the tastes of
a Shropshire Psmith. The glimpses I was enabled to get of the
workings of this little journal gave me the impression that Comrade
White was not attached with any paternal fervour to Cosy Moments.
He regarded It, I deduced, not so much as a life-work as in the
light of an investment. I assumed that Comrade White had his price,
and wrote to my father, who was visiting Carlsbad at the moment, to
ascertain what that price might be. He cabled it to me. It was
reasonable. Now it so happens that an uncle of mine some years ago
left me a considerable number of simoleons, and though I shall not
be legally entitled actually to close in on the opulence for a
matter of nine months or so, I anticipated that my father would
have no objection to staking me to the necessary amount on the
security of my little bit of money. My father has spent some time
of late hurling me at various professions, and we had agreed some
time ago that the Law was to be my long suit. Paper-owning,
however, may be combined with being Lord Chancellor, and I knew he
would have no objection to my being a Napoleon of the Press on this
side. So we closed with Comrade White, and--"
There was a knock at the door, and Master Maloney entered with a
"Guy's waiting outside," he said.
"Mr. Stewart Waring," read Psmith. "Comrade Maloney, do you know
what Mahomet did when the mountain would not come to him?"
"Search me," said the office-boy indifferently.
"He went to the mountain. It was a wise thing to do. As a general
rule in life you can't beat it. Remember that, Comrade Maloney."
"Sure," said Pugsy. "Shall I send the guy in?"
"Surest thing you know, Comrade Maloney."
He turned to the assembled company.
"Gentlemen," he said, "you know how I hate to have to send you
away, but would you mind withdrawing in good order? A somewhat
delicate and private interview is in the offing. Comrade Jarvis,
we will meet anon. Your services to the paper have been greatly
appreciated. If I might drop in some afternoon and inspect the
remainder of your zoo--?"
"Any time you're down Groome Street way. Glad."
"I will make a point of it. Comrade Wilberfloss, would you mind
remaining? As editor of this journal, you should be present. If
the rest of you would look in about this time to-morrow--Show
Mr. Waring in, Comrade Maloney."
He took a seat.
"We are now, Comrade Wilberfloss," he said, "at a crisis in the
affairs of this journal, but I fancy we shall win through."
The door opened, and Pugsy announced Mr. Waring.
The owner of the Pleasant Street Tenements was of what is usually
called commanding presence. He was tall and broad, and more than a
little stout. His face was clean-shaven and curiously expressionless.
Bushy eyebrows topped a pair of cold grey eyes. He walked into the
room with the air of one who is not wont to apologise for existing.
There are some men who seem to fill any room in which they may be.
Mr. Waring was one of these.
He set his hat down on the table without speaking. After which he
looked at Mr. Wilberfloss, who shrank a little beneath his gaze.
Psmith had risen to greet him.
"Won't you sit down?" he said.
"I prefer to stand."
"Just as you wish. This is Liberty Hall."
Mr. Waring again glanced at Mr. Wilberfloss.
"What I have to say is private," he said.
"All is well," said Psmith reassuringly. "It is no stranger that
you see before you, no mere irresponsible lounger who has butted in
by chance. That is Comrade J. Fillken Wilberfloss, the editor of
"The editor? I understood--"
"I know what you would say. You have Comrade Windsor in your mind.
He was merely acting as editor while the chief was away hunting
sand-eels in the jungles of Texas. In his absence Comrade Windsor
and I did our best to keep the old journal booming along, but it
lacked the master-hand. But now all is well: Comrade Wilberfloss
is once more doing stunts at the old stand. You may speak as freely
before him as you would before well, let us say Comrade Parker."
"Who are you, then, if this gentleman is the editor?"
"I am the proprietor."
"I understood that a Mr. White was the proprietor."
"Not so," said Psmith. "There was a time when that was the case,
but not now. Things move so swiftly in New York journalistic
matters that a man may well be excused for not keeping abreast of
the times, especially one who, like yourself, is interested in
politics and house-ownership rather than in literature. Are you
sure you won't sit down?"
Mr. Waring brought his hand down with a bang on the table, causing
Mr. Wilberfloss to leap a clear two inches from his chair.
"What are you doing it for?" he demanded explosively. "I tell you,
you had better quit it. It isn't healthy."
Psmith shook his head.
"You are merely stating in other--and, if I may say so,
inferior--words what Comrade Parker said to us. I did not object to
giving up valuable time to listen to Comrade Parker. He is a
fascinating conversationalist, and it was a privilege to hob-nob
with him. But if you are merely intending to cover the ground
covered by him, I fear I must remind you that this is one of our
busy days. Have you no new light to fling upon the subject?"
Mr. Waring wiped his forehead. He was playing a lost game, and he
was not the sort of man who plays lost games well. The Waring type
is dangerous when it is winning, but it is apt to crumple up
against strong defence.
His next words proved his demoralisation.
"I'll sue you for libel," said he.
Psmith looked at him admiringly.
"Say no more," he said, "for you will never beat that. For pure
richness and whimsical humour it stands alone. During the past
seven weeks you have been endeavouring in your cheery fashion to
blot the editorial staff of this paper off the face of the earth in
a variety of ingenious and entertaining ways; and now you propose
to sue us for libel! I wish Comrade Windsor could have heard you
say that. It would have hit him right."
Mr. Waring accepted the invitation he had refused before. He sat
"What are you going to do?" he said.
It was the white flag. The fight had gone out of him.
Psmith leaned back in his chair.
"I'll tell you," he said. "I've thought the whole thing out. The
right plan would be to put the complete kybosh (if I may use the
expression) on your chances of becoming an alderman. On the other
hand, I have been studying the papers of late, and it seems to me
that it doesn't much matter who gets elected. Of course the
opposition papers may have allowed their zeal to run away with
them, but even assuming that to be the case, the other candidates
appear to be a pretty fair contingent of blighters. If I were a
native of New York, perhaps I might take a more fervid interest in
the matter, but as I am merely passing through your beautiful
little city, it doesn't seem to me to make any very substantial
difference who gets in. To be absolutely candid, my view of the
thing is this. If the People are chumps enough to elect you, then
they deserve you. I hope I don't hurt your feelings in any way. I
am merely stating my own individual opinion."
Mr. Waring made no remark.
"The only thing that really interests me," resumed Psmith, "is the
matter of these tenements. I shall shortly be leaving this country
to resume the strangle-hold on Learning which I relinquished at the
beginning of the Long Vacation. If I were to depart without
bringing off improvements down Pleasant Street way, I shouldn't be
able to enjoy my meals. The startled cry would go round Cambridge:
'Something is the matter with Psmith. He is off his feed. He
should try Blenkinsop's Balm for the Bilious.' But no balm would do
me any good. I should simply droop and fade slowly away like a
neglected lily. And you wouldn't like that, Comrade Wilberfloss,
Mr. Wilberfloss, thus suddenly pulled into the conversation, again
leaped in his seat.
"What I propose to do," continued Psmith, without waiting for an
answer, "is to touch you for the good round sum of five thousand
and three dollars."
Mr. Waring half rose.
"Five thousand dollars!"
"Five thousand and three dollars," said Psmith. "It may possibly
have escaped your memory, but a certain minion of yours, one J.
Repetto, utterly ruined a practically new hat of mine. If you think
that I can afford to come to New York and scatter hats about as if
they were mere dross, you are making the culminating error of a
misspent life. Three dollars are what I need for a new one. The
balance of your cheque, the five thousand, I propose to apply to
making those tenements fit for a tolerably fastidious pig to live
"Five thousand!" cried Mr. Waring. "It's monstrous."
"It isn't," said Psmith. "It's more or less of a minimum. I have
made inquiries. So out with the good old cheque-book, and let's all
"I have no cheque-book with me."
"_I_ have," said Psmith, producing one from a drawer. "Cross out
the name of my bank, substitute yours, and fate cannot touch us."
Mr. Waring hesitated for a moment, then capitulated. Psmith
watched, as he wrote, with an indulgent and fatherly eye.
"Finished?" he said. "Comrade Maloney."
"Youse hollering fer me?" asked that youth, appearing at the door.
"Bet your life I am, Comrade Maloney. Have you ever seen an untamed
mustang of the prairie?"
"Nope. But I've read about dem."
"Well, run like one down to Wall Street with this cheque, and pay
it in to my account at the International Bank."
"Cheques," said Psmith, "have been known to be stopped. Who knows
but what, on reflection, you might not have changed your mind?"
"What guarantee have I," asked Mr. Waring, "that these attacks on
me in your paper will stop?"
"If you like," said Psmith, "I will write you a note to that
effect. But it will not be necessary. I propose, with Comrade
Wilberfloss's assistance, to restore Cosy Moments to its old style.
Some days ago the editor of Comrade Windsor's late daily paper
called up on the telephone and asked to speak to him. I explained
the painful circumstances, and, later, went round and hob-nobbed
with the great man. A very pleasant fellow. He asks to re-engage
Comrade Windsor's services at a pretty sizeable salary, so, as far
as our prison expert is concerned, all may be said to be well. He
has got where he wanted. Cosy Moments may therefore ease up a bit.
If, at about the beginning of next month, you should hear a
deafening squeal of joy ring through this city, it will be the
infants of New York and their parents receiving the news that Cosy
Moments stands where it did. May I count on your services, Comrade
Wilberfloss? Excellent. I see I may. Then perhaps you would not
mind passing the word round among Comrades Asher, Waterman, and the
rest of the squad, and telling them to burnish their brains and be
ready to wade in at a moment's notice. I fear you will have a
pretty tough job roping in the old subscribers again, but it can be
done. I look to you, Comrade Wilberfloss. Are you on?"
Mr. Wilberfloss, wriggling in his chair, intimated that he was.
IT was a drizzly November evening. The streets of Cambridge were a
compound of mud, mist, and melancholy. But in Psmith's rooms the
fire burned brightly, the kettle droned, and all, as the proprietor
had just observed, was joy, jollity, and song. Psmith, in pyjamas
and a college blazer, was lying on the sofa. Mike, who had been
playing football, was reclining in a comatose state in an arm-chair
by the fire.
"How pleasant it would be," said Psmith dreamily, "if all our
friends on the other side of the Atlantic could share this very
peaceful moment with us! Or perhaps not quite all. Let us say,
Comrade Windsor in the chair over there, Comrades Brady and Maloney
on the table, and our old pal Wilberfloss sharing the floor with B.
Henderson Asher, Bat Jarvis, and the cats. By the way, I think it
would be a graceful act if you were to write to Comrade Jarvis from
time to time telling him how your Angoras are getting on. He
regards you as the World's Most Prominent Citizen. A line from you
every now and then would sweeten the lad's existence."
Mike stirred sleepily in his chair.
"What?" he said drowsily.
"Never mind, Comrade Jackson. Let us pass lightly on. I am filled
with a strange content to-night. I may be wrong, but it seems to me
that all is singularly to de good, as Comrade Maloney would put it.
Advices from Comrade Windsor inform me that that prince of
blighters, Waring, was rejected by an intelligent electorate. Those
keen, clear-sighted citizens refused to vote for him to an extent
that you could notice without a microscope. Still, he has one
consolation. He owns what, when the improvements are completed,
will be the finest and most commodious tenement houses in New York.
Millionaires will stop at them instead of going to the Plaza. Are
you asleep, Comrade Jackson?"
"Um-m," said Mike.
"That is excellent. You could not be better employed. Keep
listening. Comrade Windsor also stated--as indeed did the sporting
papers--that Comrade Brady put it all over friend Eddie Wood,
administering the sleep-producer in the eighth round. My
authorities are silent as to whether or not the lethal blow was a
half-scissor hook, but I presume such to have been the case. The
Kid is now definitely matched against Comrade Garvin for the
championship, and the experts seem to think that he should win. He
is a stout fellow, is Comrade Brady, and I hope he wins through. He
will probably come to England later on. When he does, we must show
him round. I don't think you ever met him, did you, Comrade
"Ur-r," said Mike.
"Say no more," said Psmith. "I take you."
He reached out for a cigarette.
"These," he said, comfortably, "are the moments in life to which we
look back with that wistful pleasure. What of my boyhood at Eton?
Do I remember with the keenest joy the brain-tourneys in the old
form-room, and the bally rot which used to take place on the Fourth
of June? No. Burned deeply into my memory is a certain hot bath I
took after one of the foulest cross-country runs that ever occurred
outside Dante's Inferno. So with the present moment. This peaceful
scene, Comrade Jackson, will remain with me when I have forgotten
that such a person as Comrade Repetto ever existed. These are the
real Cosy Moments. And while on that subject you will be glad to
hear that the little sheet is going strong. The man Wilberfloss is
a marvel in his way. He appears to have gathered in the majority of
the old subscribers again. Hopping mad but a brief while ago, they
now eat out of his hand. You've really no notion what a feeling of
quiet pride it gives you owning a paper. I try not to show it, but
I seem to myself to be looking down on the world from some lofty
peak. Yesterday night, when I was looking down from the peak
without a cap and gown, a proctor slid up. To-day I had to dig down
into my jeans for a matter of two plunks. But what of it? Life
must inevitably be dotted with these minor tragedies. I do not
repine. The whisper goes round, 'Psmith bites the bullet, and
wears a brave smile.' Comrade Jackson--"
A snore came from the chair.
Psmith sighed. But he did not repine. He bit the bullet. His eyes
Five minutes later a slight snore came from the sofa, too. The man
behind Cosy Moments slept.
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