Part 6 out of 6
other's pockets, and almost at once encountered something hard
He shook his head reproachfully.
"You are very loose and inaccurate in your statements," he said.
"Why all these weapons? I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier!
Now you can turn around and put your hands down."
Gentleman Jack's appeared to be a philosophical nature. The
chagrin consequent upon his failure seemed to have left him. He
sat on the arm of a chair and regarded Jimmy without apparent
hostility. He even smiled a faint smile.
"I thought I had fixed you, he said. You must have been smarter
than I took you for. I never supposed you would get on to that
drink and pass it up."
Understanding of an incident which had perplexed him came to
"Was it you who put that high-ball in my room? Was it doped?"
"Didn't you know?"
"Well," said Jimmy, "I never knew before that virtue got its
reward so darned quick in this world. I rejected that high-ball
not because I suspected it but out of pure goodness, because I
had made up my mind that I was through with all that sort of
His companion laughed. If Jimmy had had a more intimate
acquaintance with the resourceful individual whom the "boys"
called Gentleman Jack, he would have been disquieted by that
laugh. It was an axiom among those who knew him well, that when
Gentleman Jack chuckled in the reflective way, he generally had
something unpleasant up his sleeve.
"It's your lucky night," said Gentleman Jack.
"It looks like it."
"Well, it isn't over yet."
"Very nearly. You had better go and put that test-tube back in
what is left of the safe now. Did you think I had forgotten it?"
"Come, come, old friend! The one filled with Partridge's
explosive, which you have in your breast-pocket."
Gentleman Jack laughed again. Then he moved towards the safe.
"Place it gently on the top shelf," said Jimmy.
The next moment every nerve in his body was leaping and
quivering. A great shout split the air. Gentleman Jack,
apparently insane, was giving tongue at the top of his voice.
"Help! Help! Help!"
The conversation having been conducted up to this point in
undertones, the effect of this unexpected uproar was like an
explosion. The cries seemed to echo round the room and shake the
very walls. For a moment Jimmy stood paralysed, staring feebly;
then there was a sudden deafening increase in the din. Something
living seemed to writhe and jump in his hand. He dropped it
incontinently, and found himself gazing in a stupefied way at a
round, smoking hole in the carpet. Such had been the effect of
Gentleman Jack's unforeseen outburst that he had quite forgotten
that he held the revolver, and he had been unfortunate enough at
this juncture to pull the trigger.
There was a sudden rush and a swirl of action. Something hit
Jimmy under the chin. He staggered back, and when he had
recovered himself found himself looking into the muzzle of the
revolver which had nearly blown a hole in his foot a moment back.
The sardonic face of Gentleman Jack smiled grimly over the
"I told you the night wasn't over yet!" he said.
The blow under the chin had temporarily dulled Jimmy's mentality.
He stood, swallowing and endeavouring to pull himself together
and to get rid of a feeling that his head was about to come off.
He backed to the desk and steadied himself against it.
As he did so, a voice from behind him spoke.
He turned his head. A curious procession was filing in through
the open French window. First came Mr. Crocker, still wearing his
hideous mask; then a heavily bearded individual with round
spectacles, who looked like an automobile coming through a
haystack; then Ogden Ford, and finally a sturdy,
determined-looking woman with glittering but poorly co-ordinated
eyes, who held a large revolver in her unshaking right hand and
looked the very embodiment of the modern female who will stand no
nonsense. It was part of the nightmare-like atmosphere which
seemed to brood inexorably over this particular night that this
person looked to Jimmy exactly like the parlour-maid who had come
to him in this room in answer to the bell and who had sent his
father to him. Yet how could it be she? Jimmy knew little of the
habits of parlour-maids, but surely they did not wander about
with revolvers in the small hours?
While he endeavoured feverishly to find reason in this chaos, the
door opened and a motley crowd, roused from sleep by the cries,
poured in. Jimmy, turning his head back again to attend to this
invasion, perceived Mrs. Pett, Ann, two or three of the geniuses,
and Willie Partridge, in various stages of _negligee_ and babbling
The woman with the pistol, assuming instant and unquestioned
domination of the assembly, snapped out an order.
Somebody shut the door.
"Now, whassall this?" she said, turning to Gentleman Jack.
STIRRING TIMES FOR THE PETTS
Gentleman Jack had lowered his revolver, and was standing waiting
to explain all, with the insufferable look of the man who is just
going to say that he has only done his duty and requires no
"Who are you?" he said.
"Nev' min' who I am!" said Miss Trimble curtly. "Siz Pett knows
who I am."
"I hope you won't be offended, Lord Wisbeach," said Mrs. Pett
from the group by the door. "I engaged a detective to help you. I
really thought you could not manage everything by yourself. I
hope you do not mind."
"Not at all, Mrs. Pett. Very wise."
"I'm so glad to hear you say so."
"An excellent move."
Miss Trimble broke in on these amiable exchanges.
"Whassall this? Howjer mean--help me?"
"Lord Wisbeach most kindly offered to do all he could to protect
my nephew's explosive," said Mrs. Pett.
Gentleman Jack smiled modestly.
"I hope I have been of some slight assistance! I think I came
down in the nick of time. Look!" He pointed to the safe. "He had
just got it open! Luckily I had my pistol with me. I covered him,
and called for help. In another moment he would have got away."
Miss Trimble crossed to the safe and inspected it with a frown,
as if she disliked it. She gave a grunt and returned to her place
by the window.
"Made good job 'f it!" was her comment.
Ann came forward. Her face was glowing and her eyes shone.
"Do you mean to say that you found Jimmy breaking into the safe?
I never heard anything so absurd!"
Mrs. Pett intervened.
"This is not James Crocker, Ann! This man is an impostor, who
came into the house in order to steal Willie's invention." She
looked fondly at Gentleman Jack. "Lord Wisbeach told me so. He
only pretended to recognise him this afternoon."
A low gurgle proceeded from the open mouth of little Ogden. The
proceedings bewildered him. The scene he had overheard in the
library between the two men had made it clear to him that Jimmy
was genuine and Lord Wisbeach a fraud, and he could not
understand why Jimmy did not produce his proofs as before. He was
not aware that Jimmy's head was only just beginning to clear from
the effects of the blow on the chin. Ogden braced himself for
resolute lying in the event of Jimmy calling him as a witness.
But he did not intend to have his little business proposition
dragged into the open.
Ann was looking at Jimmy with horror-struck eyes. For the first
time it came to her how little she knew of him and how very
likely it was--in the face of the evidence it was almost
certain--that he should have come to the house with the intention
of stealing Willie's explosive. She fought against it, but a
voice seemed to remind her that it was he who had suggested the
idea of posing as Jimmy Crocker. She could not help remembering
how smoothly and willingly he had embarked on the mad scheme.
But had it been so mad? Had it not been a mere cloak for this
other venture? If Lord Wisbeach had found him in this room, with
the safe blown open, what other explanation could there be?
And then, simultaneously with her conviction that he was a
criminal, came the certainty that he was the man she loved. It
had only needed the spectacle of him in trouble to make her sure.
She came to his side with the vague idea of doing something to
help him, of giving him her support. Once there, she found that
there was nothing to do and nothing to say. She put her hand on
his, and stood waiting helplessly for she knew not what.
It was the touch of her fingers which woke Jimmy from his stupor.
He came to himself almost with a jerk. He had been mistily aware
of what had been said, but speech had been beyond him. Now, quite
suddenly, he was a whole man once more. He threw himself into the
debate with energy.
"Good Heavens!" he cried. "You're all wrong. I found _him_ blowing
open the safe!"
Gentleman Jack smiled superciliously.
"A likely story, what! I mean to say, it's a bit thin!"
"Ridiculous!" said Mrs. Pett. She turned to Miss Trimble with a
gesture. "Arrest that man!"
"Wait a mom'nt," replied that clear-headed maiden, picking her
teeth thoughtfully with the muzzle of her revolver. "Wait mom'nt.
Gotta look 'nto this. Hear both these guys' st'ries."
"Really," said Gentleman Jack suavely, "it seems somewhat
"Ney' mind how 'bsurd 't sounds," returned the fair Trimble
rebukingly. "You close y'r face 'n lissen t' me. Thass all you've
"I know you didn't do it!" cried Ann, tightening her hold on
"Less 'f it, please. Less 'f it!" Miss Trimble removed the pistol
from her mouth and pointed it at Jimmy. "What've you to say? Talk
"I happened to be down there--"
"Why?" asked Miss Trimble, as if she had touched off a bomb.
Jimmy stopped short. He perceived difficulties in the way of
"I happened to be down there," he resumed stoutly, "and that man
came into the room with an electric torch and a blowpipe and
began working on the safe--"
The polished tones of Gentleman Jack cut in on his story.
"Really now, is it worth while?" He turned to Miss Trimble. "I came
down here, having heard a noise. I did not _happen_ to be here for
some unexplained purpose. I was lying awake and something attracted
my attention. As Mrs. Pett knows, I was suspicious of this worthy
and expected him to make an attempt on the explosive at any moment:
so I took my pistol and crept downstairs. When I got here, the safe
was open and this man making for the window."
Miss Trimble scratched her chin caressingly with the revolver,
and remained for a moment in thought. Then she turned to Jimmy
like a striking rattlesnake.
"Y' gotta pull someth'g better th'n that," she said. "I got y'r
number. Y're caught with th' goods."
"No!" cried Ann.
"Yes!" said Mrs. Pett. "The thing is obvious."
"I think the best thing I can do," said Gentleman Jack smoothly,
"is to go and telephone for the police."
"You think of everything, Lord Wisbeach," said Mrs. Pett.
"Not at all," said his lordship.
Jimmy watched him moving to the door. At the back of his mind
there was a dull feeling that he could solve the whole trouble if
only he could remember one fact which had escaped him. The
effects of the blow he had received still handicapped him. He
struggled to remember, but without result. Gentleman Jack reached
the door and opened it: and as he did so a shrill yapping,
hitherto inaudible because of the intervening oak and the raised
voices within, made itself heard from the passage outside.
Gentleman Jack closed the door with a hasty bang.
"I say that dog's out there!" he said plaintively.
The scratching of Aida's busy feet on the wood bore out his
words. He looked about him, baffled.
"That dog's out there!" he repeated gloomily.
Something seemed to give way in Jimmy's brain. The simple fact
which had eluded him till now sprang into his mind.
"Don't let that man get out!" he cried. "Good Lord! I've only
just remembered. You say you found me breaking into the safe!
You say you heard a noise and came down to investigate! Well,
then, what's that test-tube of the explosive doing in your
breast-pocket?" He swung round to Miss Trimble. "You needn't take
my word or his word. There's a much simpler way of finding out
who's the real crook. Search us both." He began to turn out his
pockets rapidly. "Look here--and here--and here! Now ask him to
do the same!"
He was pleased to observe a spasm pass across Gentleman Jack's
hitherto composed countenance. Miss Trimble was eyeing the latter
with sudden suspicion.
"Thasso!" she said. "Say, Bill, I've f'gott'n y'r name--'sup to
you to show us! Less've a look 't what y' got inside there."
Gentleman Jack drew himself up haughtily.
"I really could not agree to--"
Mrs. Pett interrupted indignantly.
"I never heard of such a thing! Lord Wisbeach is an old friend--"
"Less'f it!" ordered Miss Trimble, whose left eye was now like
the left eye of a basilisk. "Y' _gotta_ show us, Bill, so b'
quick 'bout 't!"
A tired smile played over Gentleman Jack's face. He was the bored
aristocrat, mutely protesting against something that "wasn't
done." He dipped his slender fingers into his pocket. Then,
drawing out the test-tube, and holding it up, he spoke with a
drawling calm for which even Jimmy could not help admiring him.
"All right! If I'm done, I'm done!"
The sensation caused by his action and his words was of the kind
usually described as profound. Mrs. Pett uttered a strangled
shriek. Willie Partridge yelped like a dog. Sharp exclamations
came simultaneously from each of the geniuses.
Gentleman Jack waited for the clamour to subside. Then he resumed
his gentle drawl.
"But I'm not done," he explained. "I'm going out now through that
window. And if anybody tries to stop me, it will be his--or
her--" he bowed politely to Miss Trimble--"last act in the world.
If any one makes a move to stop me, I shall drop this test-tube
and blow the whole damned place to pieces."
If his first speech had made a marked impression on his audience,
his second paralysed them. A silence followed as of the tomb.
Only the yapping of the dog Aida refused to be stilled.
"Y' stay where y' are!" said Miss Trimble, as the speaker moved
towards the window. She held the revolver poised, but for the
first time that night--possibly for the first time in her
life--she spoke irresolutely. Superbly competent woman though she
was, here was a situation that baffled her.
Gentleman Jack crossed the room slowly, the test-tube held aloft
between fore-finger and thumb. He was level with Miss Trimble,
who had lowered her revolver and had drawn to one side, plainly at
a loss to know how to handle this unprecedented crisis, when the
door flew open. For an instant the face of Howard Bemis, the
poet, was visible.
"Mrs. Pett, I have telephoned--"
Then another voice interrupted him.
"Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!"
Through the opening the dog Aida, rejoicing in the removal of the
obstacle, raced like a fur muff mysteriously endowed with legs
and a tongue. She tore across the room to where Gentleman Jack's
ankles waited invitingly. Ever since their first meeting she had
wanted a fair chance at those ankles, but some one had always
"Damn!" shouted Gentleman Jack.
The word was drowned in one vast cataclysm of noise. From every
throat in the room there proceeded a shout, a shriek, or some
other variety of cry, as the test-tube, slipping from between the
victim's fingers, described a parabola through the air.
Ann flung herself into Jimmy's arms, and he held her tight. He
shut his eyes. Even as he waited for the end the thought flashed
through his mind that, if he must die, this was the manner of
death which he would prefer.
The test-tube crashed on the writing-desk, and burst into a
million pieces. . . .
Jimmy opened his eyes. Things seemed to be much about the same as
before. He was still alive. The room in which he stood was solid
and intact. Nobody was in fragments. There was only one respect
in which the scene differed from what it had been a moment
before. Then, it had contained Gentleman Jack. Now it did not.
A great sigh seemed to sweep through the room. There was a long
silence. Then, from the direction of the street, came the roar of
a starting automobile. And at that sound the bearded man with the
spectacles who had formed part of Miss Trimble's procession
uttered a wailing cry.
"Gee! He's beat it in my bubble! And it was a hired one!"
The words seemed to relieve the tension in the air. One by one
the company became masters of themselves once more. Miss Trimble,
that masterly woman, was the first to recover. She raised herself
from the floor--for with a confused idea that she would be safer
there she had flung herself down--and, having dusted her skirt
with a few decisive dabs of her strong left hand, addressed
herself once more to business.
"I let 'm bluff me with a fake bomb!" she commented bitterly. She
brooded on this for a moment. "Say, shut th't door 'gain, some
one, and t'run this mutt out. I can't think with th't yapping
Mrs. Pett, pale and scared, gathered Aida into her arms. At the
same time Ann removed herself from Jimmy's. She did not look at
him. She was feeling oddly shy. Shyness had never been a failing
of hers, but she would have given much now to have been
Miss Trimble again took charge of the situation. The sound of the
automobile had died away. Gentleman Jack had passed out of their
lives. This fact embittered Miss Trimble. She spoke with
"Well, _he's_ gone!" she said acidly. "Now we can get down t' cases
again. Say!" She addressed Mrs. Pett, who started nervously. The
experience of passing through the shadow of the valley of death and
of finding herself in one piece instead of several thousand had
robbed her of all her wonted masterfulness. "Say, list'n t' me.
There's been a double game on here t'night. That guy that's jus'
gone was th' first part of th' entertainment. Now we c'n start th'
sec'nd part. You see these ducks?" She indicated with a wave of the
revolver Mr. Crocker and his bearded comrade. "They've been trying
t' kidnap y'r son!"
Mrs. Pett uttered a piercing cry.
"Oh, can it!" muttered that youth, uncomfortably. He foresaw
awkward moments ahead, and he wished to concentrate his faculties
entirely on the part he was to play in them. He looked sideways
at Chicago Ed. In a few minutes, he supposed, Ed. would be
attempting to minimise his own crimes, by pretending that he,
Ogden, had invited him to come and kidnap him. Stout denial must
be his weapon.
"I had m' suspicions," resumed Miss Trimble, "that someth'ng was
goin' t' be pulled off to-night, 'nd I was waiting outside f'r it
to break loose. This guy here," she indicated the bearded
plotter, who blinked deprecatingly through his spectacles, "h's
been waiting on the c'rner of th' street for the last hour with
'n automobile. I've b'n watching him right along. I was onto h's
game! Well, just now out came the kid with this plug-ugly here."
She turned to Mr. Crocker. "Say you! Take off th't mask. Let's
have a l'k at you!"
Mr. Crocker reluctantly drew the cambric from his face.
"Goosh!" exclaimed Miss Trimble in strong distaste. "Say, 've you
got some kind of a plague, or wh't is it? Y'look like a coloured
comic supplement!" She confronted the shrinking Mr. Crocker and
ran a bony finger over his cheek. "Make-up!" she said, eyeing the
stains disgustedly. "Grease paint! Goosh!"
"Skinner!" cried Mrs. Pett.
Miss Trimble scanned her victim more closely.
"So 't is, if y' do a bit 'f excavating." She turned on the
bearded one. "'nd I guess all this shrubbery is fake, 'f you come
down to it!" She wrenched at the unhappy man's beard. It came off
in her hands, leaving a square chin behind it. "If this ain't a
wig, y'll have a headache t'morrow," observed Miss Trimble,
weaving her fingers into his luxuriant head-covering and pulling.
"Wish y' luck! Ah! 'twas a wig. Gimme those spect'cles." She
surveyed the results of her handiwork grimly. "Say, Clarence,"
she remarked, "y're a wise guy. Y' look handsomer with 'em on.
Does any one know _this_ duck?"
"It is Mitchell," said Mrs. Pett. "My husband's physical
Miss Trimble turned, and, walking to Jimmy, tapped him meaningly
on the chest with her revolver.
"Say, this is gett'n interesting! This is where y' 'xplain, y'ng
man, how 'twas you happened to be down in this room when th't
crook who's just gone was monkeyin' with the safe. L'ks t' me as
if you were in with these two."
A feeling of being on the verge of one of those crises which dot
the smooth path of our lives came to Jimmy. To conceal his
identity from Ann any longer seemed impossible. He was about to
speak, when Ann broke in.
"Aunt Nesta," she said, "I can't let this go on any longer. Jerry
Mitchell isn't to blame. I told him to kidnap Ogden!"
There was an awkward silence. Mrs. Pett laughed nervously.
"I think you had better go to bed, my dear child. You have had a
severe shock. You are not yourself."
"But it's true! I did tell him, didn't I, Jerry?"
"Say!" Miss Trimble silenced Jerry with a gesture. "You beat 't
back t' y'r little bed, honey, like y'r aunt says. Y' say y' told
this guy t' steal th' kid. Well, what about this here Skinner? Y'
didn't tell _him_, did y'?"
"I--I--" Ann began confusedly. She was utterly unable to account
for Skinner, and it made her task of explaining difficult.
Jimmy came to the rescue. He did not like to think how Ann would
receive the news, but for her own sake he must speak now. It
would have required a harder-hearted man than himself to resist
the mute pleading of his father's grease-painted face. Mr.
Crocker was a game sport: he would not have said a word without
the sign from Jimmy, even to save himself from a night in prison,
but he hoped that Jimmy would speak.
"It's perfectly simple," said Jimmy, with an attempt at airiness
which broke down miserably under Miss Trimble's eye. "Perfectly
simple. I really am Jimmy Crocker, you know." He avoided Ann's
gaze. "I can't think what you are making all this fuss about."
"Th'n why did y' sit in at a plot to kidnap this boy?"
"That, of course--ha, ha!--might seem at first sight to require a
"Y' admit it, then?"
"Yes. As a matter of fact, I did have the idea of kidnapping
Ogden. Wanted to send him to a dogs' hospital, if you understand
what I mean." He tried to smile a conciliatory smile, but,
encountering Miss Trimble's left eye, abandoned the project. He
removed a bead of perspiration from his forehead with his
handkerchief. It struck him as a very curious thing that the
simplest explanations were so often quite difficult to make.
"Before I go any further, I ought to explain one thing. Skinner
there is my father."
Mrs. Pett gasped.
"Skinner was my sister's butler in London."
"In a way of speaking," said Jimmy, "that is correct. It's rather
a long story. It was this way, you see. . . ."
Miss Trimble uttered an ejaculation of supreme contempt.
"I n'ver saw such a lot of babbl'ng crooks in m' life! 't beats
me what y' hope to get pulling this stuff. Say!" She indicated
Mr. Crocker. "This guy's wanted f'r something over in England.
We've got h's photographs 'n th' office. If y' ask me, he lit out
with the spoons 'r something. Say!" She fixed one of the geniuses
with her compelling eye. "'Bout time y' made y'rself useful. Go'n
call up th' Astorbilt on th' phone. There's a dame there that's
been making the enquiries f'r this duck. She told Anderson's--and
Anderson's handed it on to us--to call her up any hour of the day
'r night when they found him. You go get her on the wire and t'll
her t' come right up here'n a taxi and identify him."
The genius paused at the door.
"Whom shall I ask for?"
"Mrs. Crocker," snapped Miss Trimble. "Siz Bingley Crocker. Tell
her we've found th' guy she's been looking for!"
The genius backed out. There was a howl of anguish from the
"I _beg_ your pardon!" said the genius.
"Can't you look where you're going!"
"I am exceedingly sorry--"
Mr. Pett entered the room, hopping. He was holding one slippered
foot in his hand and appeared to be submitting it to some form of
massage. It was plain that the usually mild and gentle little man
was in a bad temper. He glowered round him at the company
"What the devil's the matter here?" he demanded. "I stood it as
long as I could, but a man can't get a wink of sleep with this
noise going on!"
"Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!" barked Aida from the shelter of Mrs. Pett's
Mr. Pett started violently.
"Kill that dog! Throw her out! Do _something_ to her!"
Mrs. Pett was staring blankly at her husband. She had never seen
him like this before. It was as if a rabbit had turned and
growled at her. Coming on top of the crowded sensations of the
night, it had the effect of making her feel curiously weak. In
all her married life she had never known what fear was. She had
coped dauntlessly with the late Mr. Ford, a man of a spirited
temperament; and as for the mild Mr. Pett she had trampled on
him. But now she felt afraid. This new Peter intimidated her.
SENSATIONAL TURNING OF A WORM
To this remarkable metamorphosis in Mr. Peter Pett several causes
had contributed. In the first place, the sudden dismissal of
Jerry Mitchell had obliged him to go two days without the
physical exercises to which his system had become accustomed, and
this had produced a heavy, irritable condition of body and mind.
He had brooded on the injustice of his lot until he had almost
worked himself up to rebellion. And then, as sometimes happened
with him when he was out of sorts, a touch of gout came to add to
his troubles. Being a patient man by nature, he might have borne
up against these trials, had he been granted an adequate night's
rest. But, just as he had dropped off after tossing restlessly
for two hours, things had begun to happen noisily in the library.
He awoke to a vague realisation of tumult below.
Such was the morose condition of his mind as the result of his
misfortune that at first not even the cries for help could
interest him sufficiently to induce him to leave his bed. He knew
that walking in his present state would be painful, and he
declined to submit to any more pain just because some party
unknown was apparently being murdered in his library. It was not
until the shrill barking of the dog Aida penetrated right in
among his nerve-centres and began to tie them into knots that he
found himself compelled to descend. Even when he did so, it was
in no spirit of kindness. He did not come to rescue anybody or to
interfere between any murderer and his victim. He came in a fever
of militant wrath to suppress Aida. On the threshold of the
library, however, the genius, by treading on his gouty foot, had
diverted his anger and caused it to become more general. He had
not ceased to concentrate his venom on Aida. He wanted to assail
"What's the matter here?" he demanded, red-eyed. "Isn't somebody
going to tell me? Have I got to stop here all night? Who on earth
is this?" He glared at Miss Trimble. "What's she doing with that
pistol?" He stamped incautiously with his bad foot, and emitted a
dry howl of anguish.
"She is a detective, Peter," said Mrs. Pett timidly.
"A detective? Why? Where did she come from?"
Miss Trimble took it upon herself to explain.
"Mister Pett, siz Pett sent f'r me t' watch out so's nobody
kidnapped her son."
"Oggie," explained Mrs. Pett. "Miss Trimble was guarding darling
"To--to prevent him being kidnapped, Peter."
Mr. Pett glowered at the stout boy. Then his eye was attracted by
the forlorn figure of Jerry Mitchell. He started.
"Was this fellow kidnapping the boy?" he asked.
"Sure," said Miss Trimble. "Caught h'm with th' goods. He w's
waiting outside there with a car. I held h'm and this other guy
up w'th a gun and brought 'em back!"
"Jerry," said Mr. Pett, "it wasn't your fault that you didn't
bring it off, and I'm going to treat you right. You'd have done
it if nobody had butted in to stop you. You'll get the money to
start that health-farm of yours all right. I'll see to that. Now
you run off to bed. There's nothing to keep you here."
"Say!" cried Miss Trimble, outraged. "D'ya mean t' say y' aren't
going t' pros'cute? Why, aren't I tell'ng y' I caught h'm
kidnapping th' boy?"
"I told him to kidnap the boy!" snarled Mr. Pett.
Mr. Pett looked like an under-sized lion as he faced his wife. He
bristled. The recollection of all that he had suffered from Ogden
came to strengthen his determination.
"I've tried for two years to get you to send that boy to a good
boarding-school, and you wouldn't do it. I couldn't stand having
him loafing around the house any longer, so I told Jerry Mitchell
to take him away to a friend of his who keeps a dogs' hospital on
Long Island and to tell his friend to hold him there till he got
some sense into him. Well, you've spoiled that for the moment
with your detectives, but it still looks good to me. I'll give
you a choice. You can either send that boy to a boarding-school
next week, or he goes to Jerry Mitchell's friend. I'm not going
to have him in the house any longer, loafing in my chair and
smoking my cigarettes. Which is it to be?"
"If I send him to a school, he may be kidnapped."
"Kidnapping can't hurt him. It's what he needs. And, anyway, if
he is I'll pay the bill and be glad to do it. Take him off to bed
now. To-morrow you can start looking up schools. Great Godfrey!"
He hopped to the writing-desk and glared disgustedly at the
_debris_ on it. "Who's been making this mess on my desk? It's hard!
It's darned hard! The only room in the house that I ask to have
for my own, where I can get a little peace, and I find it turned
into a beer-garden, and coffee or some damned thing spilled all
over my writing-desk!"
"That isn't coffee, Peter," said Mrs. Pett mildly. This cave-man
whom she had married under the impression that he was a gentle
domestic pet had taken all the spirit out of her. "It's Willie's
"Lord Wisbeach--I mean the man who pretended to be Lord
Wisbeach--dropped it there."
"Dropped it there? Well, why didn't it explode and blow the place
to Hoboken, then?"
Mrs. Pett looked helplessly at Willie, who thrust his fingers
into his mop of hair and rolled his eyes.
"There was fortunately some slight miscalculation in my formula,
uncle Peter," he said. "I shall have to look into it to-morrow.
Whether the trinitrotoluol--"
Mr. Pett uttered a sharp howl. He beat the air with his clenched
fists. He seemed to be having a brain-storm.
"Has this--this _fish_ been living on me all this time--have I been
supporting this--this _buzzard_ in luxury all these years while he
fooled about with an explosive that won't explode! He pointed an
accusing finger at the inventor. Look into it tomorrow, will you?
Yes, you can look into it to-morrow after six o'clock! Until then
you'll be working--for the first time in your life--working in my
office, where you ought to have been all along." He surveyed the
crowded room belligerently. "Now perhaps you will all go back to
bed and let people get a little sleep. Go home!" he said to the
Miss Trimble stood her ground. She watched Mrs. Pett pass away
with Ogden, and Willie Partridge head a stampede of geniuses, but
she declined to move.
"Y' gotta cut th' rough stuff, 'ster Pett," she said calmly. "I
need my sleep, j'st 's much 's everyb'dy else, but I gotta stay
here. There's a lady c'ming right up in a taxi fr'm th' Astorbilt
to identify this gook. She's after'm f'r something."
"'s what he calls h'mself."
"What's he done?"
"I d'no. Th' lady'll tell us that."
There was a violent ringing at the front door bell.
"I guess that's her," said Miss Trimble. "Who's going to let 'r
in? I can't go."
"I will," said Ann.
Mr. Pett regarded Mr. Crocker with affectionate encouragement.
"I don't know what you've done, Skinner," he said, "but I'll
stand by you. You're the best fan I ever met, and if I can keep
you out of the penitentiary, I will."
"It isn't the penitentiary!" said Mr. Crocker unhappily.
A tall, handsome, and determined-looking woman came into the
room. She stood in the doorway, looking about her. Then her eyes
rested on Mr. Crocker. For a moment she gazed incredulously at
his discoloured face. She drew a little nearer, peering.
"D'yo 'dentify 'm, ma'am?" said Miss Trimble.
"Is 't th' guy y' wanted?"
"It's my husband!" said Mrs. Crocker.
"Y' can't arrest 'm f'r _that!_" said Miss Trimble disgustedly.
She thrust her revolver back into the hinterland of her costume.
"Guess I'll be beatin' it," she said with a sombre frown. She was
plainly in no sunny mood. "'f all th' hunk jobs I was ever on,
this is th' hunkest. I'm told off 't watch a gang of crooks, and
after I've lost a night's sleep doing it, it turns out 't's a
nice, jolly fam'ly party!" She jerked her thumb towards Jimmy.
"Say, this guy says he's that guy's son. I s'pose it's all
"That is my step-son, James Crocker."
Ann uttered a little cry, but it was lost in Miss Trimble's
stupendous snort. The detective turned to the window.
"I guess I'll beat 't," she observed caustically, "before it
turns out that I'm y'r l'il daughter Genevieve."
NEARLY EVERYBODY HAPPY
Mrs. Crocker turned to her husband.
"Well, Bingley?" she said, a steely tinkle in her voice.
"Well, Eugenia?" said Mr. Crocker.
A strange light was shining in Mr. Crocker's mild eyes. He had
seen a miracle happen that night. He had seen an even more
formidable woman than his wife dominated by an even meeker man
than himself, and he had been amazed and impressed by the
spectacle. It had never even started to occur to him before, but
apparently it could be done. A little resolution, a little
determination . . . nothing more was needed. He looked at Mr.
Pett. And yet Mr. Pett had crumpled up Eugenia's sister with
about three firm speeches. It could be done. . . .
"What have you to say, Bingley?"
Mr. Crocker drew himself up.
"Just this!" he said. "I'm an American citizen, and the way I've
figured it out is that my place is in America. It's no good
talking about it, Eugenia. I'm sorry if it upsets your plans, but
I--am--not--going--back--to--London!" He eyed his speechless wife
unflatteringly. "I'm going to stick on here and see the pennant
race out. And after that I'm going to take in the World's
Mrs. Crocker opened her mouth to speak, closed it, re-opened it.
Then she found that she had nothing to say.
"I hope you'll be sensible, Eugenia, and stay on this side, and
we can all be happy. I'm sorry to have to take this stand, but
you tried me too high. You're a woman, and you don't know what it
is to go five years without seeing a ball game; but take it from
me it's more than any real fan can stand. It nearly killed me,
and I'm not going to risk it again. If Mr. Pett will keep me on
as his butler, I'll stay here in this house. If he won't, I'll
get another job somewhere. But, whatever happens, I stick to this
Mr. Pett uttered a whoop of approval.
"There's always been a place for you in my house, old man!" he
cried. "When I get a butler who--"
"But, Bingley! How can you be a butler?"
"You ought to watch him!" said Mr. Pett enthusiastically. "He's a
wonder! He can pull all the starchy stuff as if he'd lived with
the Duke of Whoosis for the last forty years, and then go right
off and fling a pop-bottle at an umpire! He's all right!"
The eulogy was wasted on Mrs. Crocker. She burst into tears. It
was a new experience for her husband, and he watched her
awkwardly, his resolute demeanour crumbling under this unexpected
Mrs. Crocker wiped her eyes.
"I can't stand it!" she sobbed. "I've worked and worked all these
years, and now, just as success has nearly come--Bingley, _do_
come back! It will only be for a little longer."
Mr. Crocker stared.
"A little longer? Why, that Lord Percy Whipple business--I know
you must have had excellent reasons for soaking him, Jimmy, but
it did put the lid on it--surely, after that Lord Percy affair
there's no chance--?"
"There is! There is! It has made no difference at all! Lord Percy
came to call next day with a black eye, poor boy!--and said that
James was a sportsman and that he wanted to know him better! He
said he had never felt so drawn towards any one in his life and
he wanted him to show him how he made some blow which he called a
right hook. The whole affair has simply endeared James to him,
and Lady Corstorphine says that the Duke of Devizes read the
account of the fight to the Premier that very evening and they
both laughed till they nearly got apoplexy."
Jimmy was deeply touched. He had not suspected such a sporting
spirit in his antagonist.
"Percy's all right." he said enthusiastically. "Dad, you ought to
go back. It's only fair."
"But, Jimmy! Surely _you_ can understand? There's only a game
separating the Giants and the Phillies, with the Braves coming
along just behind. And the season only half over!"
Mrs. Crocker looked imploringly at him.
"It will only be for a little while, Bingley. Lady Corstorphine,
who has means of knowing, says that your name is certain to be in
the next Honours List. After that you can come back as often as
you like. We could spend the summer here and the winter in
England, or whatever you pleased."
Mr. Crocker capitulated.
"All right, Eugenia. I'll come."
"Bingley! We shall have to go back by the next boat, dear. People
are beginning to wonder where you are. I've told them that you
are taking a rest in the country. But they will suspect something
if you don't come back at once."
Mr. Crocker's face wore a drawn look. He had never felt so
attached to his wife as now, when she wept these unexpected tears
and begged favours of him with that unfamiliar catch in her
voice. On the other hand . . . A vision rose before him of the
Polo Grounds on a warm afternoon. . . . He crushed it down.
"Very well," he said.
Mr. Pett offered a word of consolation.
"Maybe you'll be able to run over for the World's Series?"
Mr. Crocker's face cleared.
"And I'll cable you the scores every day, dad," said Jimmy.
Mrs. Crocker looked at him with a touch of disapproval clouding
the happiness of her face.
"Are you staying over here, James? There is no reason why you
should not come back, too. If you make up your mind to change
"I have made up my mind to change them. But I'm going to do it in
New York. Mr. Pett is going to give me a job in his office. I am
going to start at the bottom and work my way still further down."
Mr. Pett yapped with rapture. He was experiencing something of
the emotion of the preacher at the camp-meeting who sees the
Sinners' Bench filling up. To have secured Willie Partridge, whom
he intended to lead gradually into the realms of high finance by
way of envelope-addressing, was much. But that Jimmy, with a
choice in the matter, should have chosen the office filled him
with such content that he only just stopped himself from dancing
on his bad foot.
"Don't worry about me, dad. I shall do wonders. It's quite easy
to make a large fortune. I watched uncle Pete in his office this
morning, and all he does is sit at a mahogany table and tell the
office-boy to tell callers that he has gone away for the day. I
think I ought to rise to great heights in that branch of
industry. From the little I have seen of it, it seems to have
been made for me!"
Jimmy looked at Ann. They were alone. Mr. Pett had gone back to
bed, Mrs. Crocker to her hotel. Mr. Crocker was removing his
make-up in his room. A silence had followed their departure.
"This is the end of a perfect day!" said Jimmy.
Ann took a step towards the door.
"Mr. Crocker!" she said.
"Jimmy," he corrected.
"Mr. Crocker!" repeated Ann firmly.
"Or Algernon, if you prefer it."
"May I ask--" Ann regarded him steadily. "May I ask."
"Nearly always," said Jimmy, "when people begin with that, they
are going to say something unpleasant."
"May I ask why you went to all this trouble to make a fool of me?
Why could you not have told me who you were from the start?"
"Have you forgotten all the harsh things you said to me from time
to time about Jimmy Crocker? I thought that, if you knew who I
was, you would have nothing more to do with me."
"You were quite right."
"Surely, though, you won't let a thing that happened five years
ago make so much difference?"
"I shall never forgive you!"
"And yet, a little while ago, when Willie's bomb was about to go
off, you flung yourself into my arms!"
Ann's face flamed.
"I lost my balance."
"Why try to recover it?"
Ann bit her lip.
"You did a cruel, heartless thing. What does it matter how long
ago it was? If you were capable of it then--"
"Be reasonable. Don't you admit the possibility of reformation?
Take your own case. Five years ago you were a minor poetess. Now
you are an amateur kidnapper--a bright, lovable girl at whose
approach people lock up their children and sit on the key. As for
me, five years ago I was a heartless brute. Now I am a sober
serious business-man, specially called in by your uncle to help
jack up his tottering firm. Why not bury the dead past?
Besides--I don't want to praise myself, I just want to call your
attention to it--think what I have done for you. You admitted
yourself that it was my influence that had revolutionised your
character. But for me, you would now be doing worse than write
poetry. You would be writing _vers libre_. I saved you from that.
And you spurn me!"
"I hate you!" said Ann.
Jimmy went to the writing-desk and took up a small book.
"Put that down!"
"I just wanted to read you 'Love's Funeral!' It illustrates my
point. Think of yourself as you are now, and remember that it is
I who am responsible for the improvement. Here we are. 'Love's
Funeral.' 'My heart is dead. . . .' "
Ann snatched the book from his hands and flung it away. It soared
up, clearing the gallery rails, and fell with a thud on the
gallery floor. She stood facing him with sparkling eyes. Then she
"I beg your pardon," she said stiffly. "I lost my temper."
"It's your hair," said Jimmy soothingly. "You're bound to be
quick-tempered with hair of that glorious red shade. You must
marry some nice, determined fellow, blue-eyed, dark-haired,
clean-shaven, about five foot eleven, with a future in business.
He will keep you in order."
"Gently, of course. Kindly-lovingly. The velvet thingummy rather
than the iron what's-its-name. But nevertheless firmly."
Ann was at the door.
"To a girl with your ardent nature some one with whom you can
quarrel is an absolute necessity of life. You and I are
affinities. Ours will be an ideally happy marriage. You would be
miserable if you had to go through life with a human doormat with
'Welcome' written on him. You want some one made of sterner
stuff. You want, as it were, a sparring-partner, some one with
whom you can quarrel happily with the certain knowledge that he
will not curl up in a ball for you to kick, but will be there
with the return wallop. I may have my faults--" He paused
expectantly. Ann remained silent. "No, no!" he went on. "But I am
such a man. Brisk give-and-take is the foundation of the happy
marriage. Do you remember that beautiful line of Tennyson's--'We
fell out, my wife and I'? It always conjures up for me a vision
of wonderful domestic happiness. I seem to see us in our old age,
you on one side of the radiator, I on the other, warming our old
limbs and thinking up snappy stuff to hand to each
other--sweethearts still! If I were to go out of your life now,
you would be miserable. You would have nobody to quarrel with.
You would be in the position of the female jaguar of the Indian
jungle, who, as you doubtless know, expresses her affection for
her mate by biting him shrewdly in the fleshy part of the leg, if
she should snap sideways one day and find nothing there."
Of all the things which Ann had been trying to say during this
discourse, only one succeeded in finding expression. To her
mortification, it was the only weak one in the collection.
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
"You think so now, because I am not appearing at my best. You see
me nervous, diffident, tongue-tied. All this will wear off,
however, and you will be surprised and delighted as you begin to
understand my true self. Beneath the surface--I speak
conservatively--I am a corker!"
The door banged behind Ann. Jimmy found himself alone. He walked
thoughtfully to Mr. Pett's armchair and sat down. There was a
feeling of desolation upon him. He lit a cigarette and began to
smoke pensively. What a fool he had been to talk like that! What
girl of spirit could possibly stand it? If ever there had been a
time for being soothing and serious and pleading, it had been
these last few minutes. And he talked like that!
Ten minutes passed. Jimmy sprang from his chair. He thought he
had heard a footstep. He flung the door open. The passage was
empty. He returned miserably to his chair. Of course she had not
come back. Why should she?
A voice spoke.
He leaped up again, and looked wildly round. Then he looked up.
Ann was leaning over the gallery rail.
"Jimmy, I've been thinking it over. There's something I want to
ask you. Do you admit that you behaved abominably five years
"Yes!" shouted Jimmy.
"And that you've been behaving just as badly ever since?"
"And that you are really a pretty awful sort of person?"
"Then it's all right. You deserve it!"
"Deserve to marry a girl like me. I was worried about it, but now
I see that it's the only punishment bad enough for you!" She
raised her arm.
"Here's the dead past, Jimmy! Go and bury it! Good-night!"
A small book fell squashily at Jimmy's feet. He regarded it dully
for a moment. Then, with a wild yell which penetrated even to Mr.
Pett's bedroom and woke that sufferer just as he was dropping off
to sleep for the third time that night he bounded for the gallery
At the further end of the gallery a musical laugh sounded, and a
door closed. Ann had gone.
Transcriber's Notes for edition 11:
I am greatly indebted to the Wodehouse readers from the BLANDINGS
e-mail group who did such detailed research on this text, not only
on simple typos but on the differences between the 1916 Saturday
Evening Post serialization and the US and UK early printings.
I have made use, in this new PG edition, of the 1918 UK first edition
references provided by these helpful savants, to correct misprints or
other publisher's errors in the US edition, but I have otherwise
followed the US edition.
The punctuation is somewhat different from the UK versions, notably in
its use of colons. The words "Uncle" and "Aunt", where used with a name
("Uncle Peter", "Aunt Nesta"), were capitalized in the original
serialized and UK editions, but lower-cased in the US edition, so I have
retained the lower-case.
I have also restored some _italics_ omitted in the previous PG edition.
I note below some significant differences between the early printings:
""Well played, sir!" when they meant "'at-a-boy!""
"mean" is in the US edition; other editions have "meant".
"Regent's bill-of-fare" has been corrected from "Regent's bill-of-fair"
in the US edition.
"pull some boner" has been corrected from "pull some bone"
in the US edition.
"Before his stony eye the immaculate Bartling wilted.
It was a perfectly astounding likeness, but it was
apparent to him when what he had ever heard and read
about doubles came to him."
This is a somewhat clumsy construction, and quite un-Wodehousian.
The original passage in the serialization read:
"Before his stony eye the immaculate Bartling wilted. All that
he had ever heard and read about doubles came to him."