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The Intrusion of Jimmy by P. G. Wodehouse

Part 3 out of 5

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"Spike," said Jimmy, "ask me no more. All this is in direct
contravention of our treaty respecting keeping your fingers off the
spoons. You pain me. Desist."

"Sorry, boss. But dey'll be willy-wonders, dem jools. A hundred
t'ousand plunks. Dat's goin' some, ain't it? What's dat dis side?"

"Twenty thousand pounds."

"Gee!...Can I help youse wit' de duds, boss?"

"No, thanks, Spike, I'm through now. You might just give me a brush
down, though. No, not that. That's a hair-brush. Try the big black

"Dis is a boid of a dude suit," observed Spike, pausing in his

"Glad you like it, Spike. Rather chic, I think."

"It's de limit. Excuse me. How much did it set youse back, boss?"

"Something like seven guineas, I believe. I could look up the bill,
and let you know."

"What's dat--guineas? Is dat more dan a pound?"

"A shilling more. Why these higher mathematics?"

Spike resumed his brushing.

"What a lot of dude suits youse could git," he observed
meditatively, "if youse had dem jools!" He became suddenly animated.
He waved the clothes-brush. "Oh, you boss!" he cried. "What's eatin'
youse? Aw, it's a shame not to. Come along, you boss! Say, what's
doin'? Why ain't youse sittin' in at de game? Oh, you boss!"

Whatever reply Jimmy might have made to this impassioned appeal was
checked by a sudden bang on the door. Almost simultaneously, the
handle turned.

"Gee!" cried Spike. "It's de cop!"

Jimmy smiled pleasantly.

"Come in, Mr. McEachern," he said, "come in. Journeys end in lovers
meeting. You know my friend Mr. Mullins, I think? Shut the door, and
sit down, and let's talk of many things."



Mr. McEachern stood in the doorway, breathing heavily. As the result
of a long connection with evil-doers, the ex-policeman was somewhat
prone to harbor suspicions of those round about him, and at the
present moment his mind was aflame. Indeed, a more trusting man
might have been excused for feeling a little doubtful as to the
intentions of Jimmy and Spike. When McEachern had heard that Lord
Dreever had brought home a casual London acquaintance, he had
suspected as a possible drawback to the visit the existence of
hidden motives on the part of the unknown. Lord Dreever, he had
felt, was precisely the sort of youth to whom the professional
bunco-steerer would attach himself with shouts of joy. Never, he had
assured himself, had there been a softer proposition than his
lordship since bunco-steering became a profession. When he found
that the strange visitor was Jimmy Pitt, his suspicions had
increased a thousand-fold.

And when, going to his room to get ready for dinner, he had nearly
run into Spike Mullins in the corridor, his frame of mind had been
that of a man to whom a sudden ray of light reveals the fact that he
is on the brink of a black precipice. Jimmy and Spike had burgled
his house together in New York. And here they were, together again,
at Dreever Castle. To say that the thing struck McEachern as
sinister is to put the matter baldly. There was once a gentleman who
remarked that he smelt a rat, and saw it floating in the air. Ex-
Constable McEachern smelt a regiment of rats, and the air seemed to
him positively congested with them.

His first impulse had been to rush to Jimmy's room there and then;
but he had learned society's lessons well. Though the heavens might
fall, he must not be late for dinner. So, he went and dressed, and
an obstinate tie put the finishing touches to his wrath.

Jimmy regarded him coolly, without moving from, the chair in which
he had seated himself. Spike, on the other hand, seemed embarrassed.
He stood first on one leg, and then on the other, as if he were
testing the respective merits of each, and would make a definite
choice later on.

"You scoundrels!" growled McEachern.

Spike, who had been standing for a few moments on his right leg, and
seemed at last to have come to, a decision, hastily changed to the
left, and grinned feebly.

"Say, youse won't want me any more, boss?" he whispered.

"No, you can go, Spike."

"You stay where you are, you red-headed devil!" said McEachern,

"Run along, Spike," said Jimmy.

The Bowery boy looked doubtfully at the huge form of the ex-
policeman, which blocked access to the door.

"Would you mind letting my man pass?" said Jimmy.

"You stay--" began McEachern.

Jimmy got up and walked round to the door, which he opened. Spike
shot out. He was not lacking in courage, but he disliked
embarrassing interviews, and it struck him that Jimmy was the man to
handle a situation of this kind. He felt that he himself would only
be in the way.

"Now, we can talk comfortably," said Jimmy, going back to his chair.

McEachern's deep-set eyes gleamed, and his forehead grew red, but he
mastered his feelings.

"And now--" said he, then paused.

"Yes?" asked Jimmy.

"What are you doing here?"

"Nothing, at the moment."

"You know what I mean. Why are you here, you and that red-headed
devil, Spike Mullins?" He jerked his head in the direction of the

"I am here because I was very kindly invited to come by Lord

"I know you."

"You have that privilege. Seeing that we only met once, it's very
good of you to remember me."

"What's your game? What do you mean to do?"

"To do? Well, I shall potter about the garden, you know, and shoot a
bit, perhaps, and look at the horses, and think of life, and feed
the chickens--I suppose there are chickens somewhere about--and
possibly go for an occasional row on the lake. Nothing more. Oh,
yes, I believe they want me to act in some theatricals."

"You'll miss those theatricals. You'll leave here to-morrow."

"To-morrow? But I've only just arrived, dear heart."

"I don't care about that. Out you go to-morrow. I'll give you till

"I congratulate you," said Jimmy. "One of the oldest houses in

"What do you mean?"

"I gathered from what you said that you had bought the Castle. Isn't
that so? If it still belongs to Lord Dreever, don't you think you
ought to consult him before revising his list of guests?"

McEachern looked steadily at him. His manner became quieter.

"Oh, you take that tone, do you?"

"I don't know what you mean by 'that tone.' What tone would you take
if a comparative stranger ordered you to leave another man's house?"

McEachern's massive jaw protruded truculently in the manner that had
scared good behavior into brawling East Siders.

"I know your sort," he said. "I'll call your bluff. And you won't
get till to-morrow, either. It'll be now."

"'Why should we wait for the morrow? You are queen of my heart to-
night," murmured Jimmy, encouragingly.

"I'll expose you before them all. I'll tell them everything."

Jimmy shook his head.

"Too melodramatic," he said. "'I call on heaven to judge between
this man and me!' kind of thing. I shouldn't. What do you propose to
tell, anyway?"

"Will you deny that you were a crook in New York?"

"I will. I was nothing of the kind."


"If you'll listen, I can explain--"

"Explain!" The other's voice rose again. "You talk about explaining,
you scum, when I caught you in my own parlor at three in the

The smile faded from Jimmy's face.

"Half a minute," he said. It might be that the ideal course would be
to let the storm expend itself, and then to explain quietly the
whole matter of Arthur Mifflin and the bet that had led to his one
excursion into burglary; but he doubted it. Things--including his
temper--had got beyond the stage of quiet explanations. McEachern
would most certainly disbelieve his story. What would happen after
that he did not know. A scene, probably: a melodramatic
denunciation, at the worst, before the other guests; at the best,
before Sir Thomas alone. He saw nothing but chaos beyond that. His
story was thin to a degree, unless backed by witnesses, and his
witnesses were three thousand miles away. Worse, he had not been
alone in the policeman's parlor. A man who is burgling a house for a
bet does not usually do it in the company of a professional burglar,
well known to the police.

No, quiet explanations must be postponed. They could do no good, and
would probably lead to his spending the night and the next few
nights at the local police-station. And, even if he were spared that
fate, it was certain that he would have to leave the castle--leave
the castle and Molly!

He jumped up. The thought had stung him.

"One moment," he said.

McEachern stopped.


"You're going to tell them that?" asked Jimmy.

"I am."

Jimmy walked up to him.

"Are you also going to tell them why you didn't have me arrested
that night?" he said.

McEachern started. Jimmy planted himself in front of him, and glared
up into his face. It would have been hard to say which of the two
was the angrier. The policeman was flushed, and the veins stood out
on his forehead. Jimmy was in a white heat of rage. He had turned
very pale, and his muscles were quivering. Jimmy in this mood had
once cleared a Los Angeles bar-room with the leg of a chair in the
space of two and a quarter minutes by the clock.

"Are you?" he demanded. "Are you?"

McEachern's hand, hanging at his side, lifted itself hesitatingly.
The fingers brushed against Jimmy's shoulder.

Jimmy's lip twitched.

"Yes," he said, "do it! Do it, and see what happens. By God, if you
put a hand on me, I'll finish you. Do you think you can bully me? Do
you think I care for your size?"

McEachern dropped his hand. For the first time in his life, he had
met a man who, instinct told him, was his match and more. He stepped
back a pace.

Jimmy put his hands in his pockets, and turned away. He walked to
the mantelpiece, and leaned his back against it.

"You haven't answered my question," he said. "Perhaps, you can't?"

McEachern was wiping his forehead, and breathing quickly.

"If you like," said Jimmy, "we'll go down to the drawing-room now,
and you shall tell your story, and I'll tell mine. I wonder which
they will think the more interesting. Damn you," he went on, his
anger rising once more, "what do you mean by it? You come into my
room, and bluster, and talk big about exposing crooks. What do you
call yourself, I wonder? Do you realize what you are? Why, poor
Spike's an angel compared with you. He did take chances. He wasn't
in a position of trust. You--"

He stopped.

"Hadn't you better get out of here, don't you think?" he said,

Without a word, McEachern walked to the door, and went out.

Jimmy dropped into a chair with a deep breath. He took up his
cigarette-case, but before he could light a match the gong sounded
from the distance.

He rose, and laughed rather shakily. He felt limp. "As an effort at
conciliating papa," he said, "I'm afraid that wasn't much of a

It was not often that McEachern was visited by ideas. He ran rather
to muscle than to brain. But he had one that evening during dinner.
His interview with Jimmy had left him furious, but baffled. He knew
that his hands were tied. Frontal attack was useless. To drive Jimmy
from the castle would be out of the question. All that could be done
was to watch him while he was there. For he had never been more
convinced of anything in his life than that Jimmy had wormed his way
into the house-party with felonious intent. The appearance of Lady
Julia at dinner, wearing the famous rope of diamonds, supplied an
obvious motive. The necklace had an international reputation.
Probably, there was not a prominent thief in England or on the
Continent who had not marked it down as a possible prey. It had
already been tried for, once. It was big game, just the sort of lure
that would draw the type of criminal McEachern imagined Jimmy to be.

From his seat at the far end of the table, Jimmy looked at the
jewels as they gleamed on their wearer's neck. They were almost too
ostentatious for what was, after all, an informal dinner. It was not
a rope of diamonds. It was a collar. There was something Oriental
and barbaric in the overwhelming display of jewelry. It was a prize
for which a thief would risk much.

The conversation, becoming general with the fish, was not of a kind
to remove from his mind the impression made by the sight of the
gems. It turned on burglary.

Lord Dreever began it.

"Oh, I say," he said, "I forgot to tell you, Aunt Julia, Number Six
was burgled the other night."

Number 6a, Eaton Square, was the family's London house.

"Burgled!" cried Sir Thomas.

"Well, broken into," said his lordship, gratified to find that he
had got the ear of his entire audience. Even Lady Julia was silent
and attentive. "Chap got in through the scullery window about one
o'clock in the morning."

"And what did you do?" inquired Sir Thomas.

"Oh, I--er--I was out at the time," said Lord Dreever. "But
something frightened the feller," he went on hurriedly, "and he made
a bolt for it without taking anything."

"Burglary," said a young man, whom Jimmy subsequently discovered to
be the drama-loving Charteris, leaning back and taking advantage of
a pause, "is the hobby of the sportsman and the life work of the
avaricious." He took a little pencil from his waistcoat pocket, and
made a rapid note on his cuff.

Everybody seemed to have something to say on. the subject. One young
lady gave it as her opinion that she would not like to find a
burglar under her bed. Somebody else had heard of a fellow whose
father had fired at the butler, under the impression that he was a
house-breaker, and had broken a valuable bust of Socrates. Lord
Dreever had known a man at college whose brother wrote lyrics for
musical comedy, and had done one about a burglar's best friend being
his mother.

"Life," said Charteris, who had had time for reflection, "is a house
which we all burgle. We enter it uninvited, take all that we can lay
hands on, and go out again." He scribbled, "Life--house--burgle," on
his cuff, and replaced the pencil.

"This man's brother I was telling you about," said Lord Dreever,
"says there's only one rhyme in the English language to 'burglar,'
and that's 'gurgler--' unless you count 'pergola'! He says--"

"Personally," said Jimmy, with a glance at McEachern, "I have rather
a sympathy for burglars. After all, they are one of the hardest-
working classes in existence. They toil while everybody else is
asleep. Besides, a burglar is only a practical socialist. People
talk a lot about the redistribution of wealth. The burglar goes out
and does it. I have found burglars some of the decentest criminals I
have ever met."

"I despise burglars!" ejaculated Lady Julia, with a suddenness that
stopped Jimmy's eloquence as if a tap had been turned off. "If I
found one coming after my jewels, and I had a pistol, I'd shoot

Jimmy met McEachern's eye, and smiled kindly at him. The ex-
policeman was looking at him with the gaze of a baffled, but
malignant basilisk.

"I take very good care no one gets a chance at your diamonds, my
dear," said Sir Thomas, without a blush. "I have had a steel box
made for me," he added to the company in general, "with a special
lock. A very ingenious arrangement. Quite unbreakable, I imagine."

Jimmy, with Molly's story fresh in his mind, could not check a rapid
smile. Mr. McEachern, watching intently, saw it. To him, it was
fresh evidence, if any had been wanted, of Jimmy's intentions and of
his confidence of success. McEachern's brow darkened. During the
rest of the meal, tense thought rendered him even more silent than
was his wont at the dinner-table. The difficulty of his position
was, he saw, great. Jimmy, to be foiled, must be watched, and how
could he watch him?

It was not until the coffee arrived that he found an answer to the
question. With his first cigarette came the idea. That night, in his
room, before going to bed, he wrote a letter. It was an unusual
letter, but, singularly enough, almost identical with one Sir Thomas
Blunt had written that very morning.

It was addressed to the Manager of Dodson's Private Inquiry Agency,
of Bishopsgate Street, E. C., and ran as follows:


On receipt of this, kindly send down one of your smartest men.
Instruct him to stay at the village inn in character of American
seeing sights of England, and anxious to inspect Dreever Castle. I
will meet him in the village and recognize him as old New York
friend, and will then give him further instructions. Yours


P. S. Kindly not send a rube, but a real smart man.

This brief, but pregnant letter cost some pains in its composition.
McEachern was not a ready writer. But he completed it at last to his
satisfaction. There was a crisp purity in the style that pleased
him. He sealed up the envelope, and slipped it into his pocket. He
felt more at ease now. Such was the friendship that had sprung up
between Sir Thomas Blunt and himself as the result of the jewel
episode in Paris that he could count with certainty on the
successful working of his scheme. The grateful knight would not be
likely to allow any old New York friend of his preserver to languish
at the village inn. The sleuth-hound would at once be installed at
the castle, where, unsuspected by Jimmy, he could keep an eye on the
course of events. Any looking after that Mr. James Pitt might
require could safely be left in the hands of this expert.

With considerable fervor, Mr. McEachern congratulated himself on his
astuteness. With Jimmy above stairs and Spike below, the sleuth-
hound would have his hands full.



Life at the castle during the first few days of his visit filled
Jimmy with a curious blend of emotions, mainly unpleasant. Fate, in
its pro-Jimmy capacity, seemed to be taking a rest. In the first
place, the part allotted to him was not that of Lord Herbert, the
character who talked to Molly most of the time. The instant
Charteris learned from Lord Dreever that Jimmy had at one time
actually been on the stage professionally, he decided that Lord
Herbert offered too little scope for the new man's talents.

"Absolutely no good to you, my dear chap," he said. "It's just a
small dude part. He's simply got to be a silly ass."

Jimmy pleaded that he could be a sillier ass than anybody living;
but Charteris was firm.

"No," he said. "You must be Captain Browne. Fine acting part. The
biggest in the piece. Full of fat lines. Spennie was to have played
it, and we were in for the worst frost in the history of the stage.
Now you've come, it's all right. Spennie's the ideal Lord Herbert.
He's simply got to be him-self. We've got a success now, my boy.
Rehearsal after lunch. Don't be late." And he was off to beat up the
rest of the company.

From that moment, Jimmy's troubles began. Charteris was a young man
in whom a passion for the stage was ineradicably implanted. It
mattered nothing to him during these days that the sun shone, that
it was pleasant on the lake, and that Jimmy would have given five
pounds a minute to be allowed to get Molly to himself for half-an-
hour every afternoon. All he knew or cared about was that the local
nobility and gentry were due to arrive at the castle within a week,
and that, as yet, very few of the company even knew their lines.
Having hustled Jimmy into the part of CAPTAIN BROWNE, he gave his
energy free play. He conducted rehearsals with a vigor that
occasionally almost welded the rabble he was coaching into something
approaching coherency. He painted scenery, and left it about--wet,
and people sat on it. He nailed up horseshoes for luck, and they
fell on people. But nothing daunted him. He never rested.

"Mr. Charteris," said Lady Julia, rather frigidly, after one
energetic rehearsal, "is indefatigable. He whirled me about!"

It was perhaps his greatest triumph, properly considered, that he
had induced Lady Julia to take a part in his piece; but to the born
organizer of amateur theatricals no miracle of this kind is
impossible, and Charteris was one of the most inveterate organizers
in the country. There had been some talk--late at night, in the
billiard room--of his being about to write in a comic footman role
for Sir Thomas; but it had fallen through, not, it was felt, because
Charteris could not have hypnotized his host into undertaking the
part, but rather because Sir Thomas was histrionically unfit.

Mainly as a result of the producer's energy, Jimmy found himself one
of a crowd, and disliked the sensation. He had not experienced much
difficulty in mastering the scenes in which lie appeared; but
unfortunately those who appeared with him had. It occurred to Jimmy
daily, after he had finished "running through the lines" with a
series of agitated amateurs, male and female, that for all practical
purposes he might just as well have gone to Japan. In this confused
welter of rehearsers, his opportunities of talking with Molly were
infinitesimal. And, worse, she did not appear to mind. She was
cheerful and apparently quite content to be engulfed in a crowd.
Probably, he thought with some melancholy, if she met his eye and
noted in it a distracted gleam, she put it down to the cause that
made other eyes in the company gleam distractedly during this week.

Jimmy began to take a thoroughly jaundiced view of amateur
theatricals, and of these amateur theatricals in particular. He felt
that in the electric flame department of the infernal regions there
should be a special gridiron, reserved exclusively for the man who
invented these performances, so diametrically opposed to the true
spirit of civilization. At the close of each day, he cursed
Charteris with unfailing regularity.

There was another thing that disturbed him. That he should be unable
to talk with Molly was an evil, but a negative evil. It was
supplemented by one that was positive. Even in the midst of the
chaos of rehearsals, he could not help noticing that Molly and Lord
Dreever were very much together. Also--and this was even more
sinister--he observed that both Sir Thomas Blunt and Mr. McEachern
were making determined efforts to foster the state of affairs.

Of this, he had sufficient proof one evening when, after scheming
and plotting in a way that had made the great efforts of Machiavelli
and Eichlieu seem like the work of raw novices, he had cut Molly out
from the throng, and carried her off for the alleged purpose of
helping him feed the chickens. There were, as he had suspected,
chickens attached to the castle. They lived in a little world of
noise and smells at the back of the stables. Bearing an iron pot
full of a poisonous-looking mash, and accompanied by Molly, he had
felt for perhaps a minute and a half like a successful general. It
is difficult to be romantic when you are laden with chicken-feed in
an unwieldy iron pot, but he had resolved that this portion of the
proceedings should be brief. The birds should dine that evening on
the quick-lunch principle. Then--to the more fitting surroundings of
the rose-garden! There was plenty of time before the hour of the
sounding of the dressing-gong. Perhaps, even a row on the lake--

"What ho!" said a voice.

Behind them, with a propitiatory smile on his face, stood his
lordship of Dreever.

"My uncle told me I should find you out here. What have you got in
there, Pitt? Is this what you feed them on? I say, you know, queer
coves, hens! I wouldn't touch that stuff for a fortune, what? Looks
to me poisonous."

He met Jimmy's eye, and stopped. There was that in Jimmy's eye that
would have stopped an avalanche. His lordship twiddled his fingers
in pink embarrassment.

"Oh, look!" said Molly. "There's a poor little chicken out there in
the cold. It hasn't had a morsel. Give me the spoon, Mr. Pitt. Here,
chick, chick! Don't be silly, I'm not going to hurt you. I've
brought you your dinner."

She moved off in pursuit of the solitary fowl, which had edged
nervously away. Lord Dreever bent toward Jimmy.

"Frightfully sorry, Pitt, old man," he whispered, feverishly.
"Didn't want to come. Couldn't help it. He sent me out." He half-
looked over his shoulder. "And," he added rapidly, as Molly came
back, "the old boy's up at his bedroom window now, watching us
through his opera-glasses!"

The return journey to the house was performed in silence--on Jimmy's
part, in thoughtful silence. He thought hard, and he had been
thinking ever since.

He had material for thought. That Lord Dreever was as clay in his
uncle's hands he was aware. He had not known his lordship long, but
he had known him long enough to realize that a backbone had been
carelessly omitted from his composition. What his uncle directed,
that would he do. The situation looked bad to Jimmy. The order, he
knew, had gone out that Lord Dreever was to marry money. And Molly
was an heiress. He did not know how much Mr. McEachern had amassed
in his dealings with New York crime, but it must be something
considerable. Things looked black.

Then, Jimmy had a reaction. He was taking much for granted. Lord
Dreever might be hounded into proposing to Molly, but what earthly
reason was there for supposing that Molly would accept him? He
declined even for an instant to look upon Spennie's title in the
light of a lure. Molly was not the girl to marry for a title. He
endeavored to examine impartially his lordship's other claims. He
was a pleasant fellow, with--to judge on short acquaintanceship--an
undeniably amiable disposition. That much must be conceded. But
against this must be placed the equally undeniable fact that he was
also, as he would have put it himself, a most frightful ass. He was
weak. Pie had no character. Altogether, the examination made Jimmy
more cheerful. He could not see the light-haired one, even with Sir
Thomas Blunt shoving behind, as it were, accomplishing the knight's
ends. Shove he never so wisely, Sir Thomas could never make a Romeo
out of Spennie Dreever.

It was while sitting in the billiard-room one night after dinner,
watching his rival play a hundred up with the silent Hargate, that
Jimmy came definitely to this conclusion. He had stopped there to
watch, more because he wished to study his man at close range than
because the game was anything out of the common as an exposition of
billiards. As a matter of fact, it would have been hard to imagine a
worse game. Lord Dreever, who was conceding twenty, was poor, and
his opponent an obvious beginner. Again, as he looked on, Jimmy was
possessed of an idea that he had met Hargate before. But, once more,
he searched his memory, and drew blank. He did not give the thing
much thought, being intent on his diagnosis of Lord Dreever, who by
a fluky series of cannons had wobbled into the forties, and was now
a few points ahead of his opponent.

Presently, having summed his lordship up to his satisfaction and
grown bored with the game, Jimmy strolled out of the room. He paused
outside the door for a moment, wondering what to do. There was
bridge in the smoking-room, but he did not feel inclined for bridge.
From the drawing-room came sounds of music. He turned in that
direction, then stopped again. He came to the conclusion that he did
not feel sociable. He wanted to think. A cigar on the terrace would
meet his needs.

He went up to his room for his cigar-case. The window was open. He
leaned out. There was almost a full moon, and it was very light out
of doors. His eye was caught by a movement at the further end of the
terrace, where the shadow was. A girl came out of the shadow,
walking slowly.

Not since early boyhood had Jimmy descended stairs with such a rare
burst of speed. He negotiated the nasty turn at the end of the first
flight at quite a suicidal pace. Fate, however, had apparently
wakened again and resumed business, for he did not break his neck. A
few moments later, he was out on the terrace, bearing a cloak which,
he had snatched up en route in the hall.

"I thought you might be cold," he said, breathing quickly.

"Oh, thank you," said Molly. "How kind of you!" He put it round her
shoulders. "Have you. been running?"

"I came downstairs rather fast."

"Were you afraid the boogaboos would get you?" she laughed. "I was
thinking of when I was a small child. I was always afraid of them. I
used, to race downstairs when I had to go to my room in the dark,
unless I could persuade someone to hold my hand all the way there
and back."

Her spirits had risen with Jimmy's arrival. Things had been
happening that worried her. She had gone out on to the terrace to be
alone. When she heard his footsteps, she had dreaded the advent of
some garrulous fellow-guest, full of small talk. Jimmy, somehow, was
a comfort. He did not disturb the atmosphere. Little as they had
seen of each other, something in him--she could not say what--had
drawn her to him. He was a man whom she could trust instinctively.

They walked on in silence. Words were pouring into Jimmy's mind, but
he could not frame them. He seemed to have lost the power of
coherent thought.

Molly said nothing. It was not a night for conversation. The moon
had turned terrace and garden into a fairyland of black and silver.
It was a night to look and listen and think.

They walked slowly up and down. As they turned for the second time,
Molly's thoughts formed themselves into a question. Twice she was on
the point of asking it, but each time she checked herself. It was an
impossible question. She had no right to put it, and he had no right
to answer. Yet, something was driving her on to ask it.

It came out suddenly, without warning.

"Mr. Pitt, what do you think of Lord Dreever?"

Jimmy started. No question could have chimed in more aptly with his
thoughts. Even as she spoke, he was struggling to keep himself from
asking her the same thing.

"Oh, I know I ought not to ask," she went on. "He's your host, and
you're his friend. I know. But--"

Her voice trailed off. The muscles of Jimmy's back tightened and
quivered. But he could find no words.

"I wouldn't ask anyone else. But you're--different, somehow. I don't
know what I mean. We hardly know each other. But--"

She stopped again; and still he was dumb.

"I feel so alone," she said very quietly, almost to herself.
Something seemed to break in Jimmy's head. His brain suddenly
cleared. He took a step forward.

A huge shadow blackened the white grass. Jimmy wheeled round. It was

"I have been looking for you, Molly, my dear," he said, heavily. "I
thought you must have gone to bed."

He turned to Jimmy, and addressed him for the first time since their
meeting in the bedroom.

"Will you excuse us, Mr. Pitt?"

Jimmy bowed, and walked rapidly toward the house. At the door, he
stopped and looked back. The two were standing where he had left



Neither Molly nor her father had moved or spoken while Jimmy was
covering the short strip of turf that ended at the stone steps of
the house. McEachern stood looking down at her in grim silence. His
great body against the dark mass of the castle wall seemed larger
than ever in the uncertain light. To Molly, there was something
sinister and menacing in his attitude. She found herself longing
that Jimmy would come back. She was frightened. Why, she could not
have said. It was as if some instinct told her that a crisis in her
affairs had been reached, and that she needed him. For the first
time in her life, she felt nervous in her father's company. Ever
since she was a child, she had been accustomed to look upon him as
her protector; hut, now, she was afraid.

"Father!" she cried.

"What are you doing out here?"

His voice was tense and strained.

"I came out because I wanted to think, father, dear."

She thought she knew his moods, but this was one that she had never
seen. It frightened her.

"Why did he come out here?"

"Mr. Pitt? He brought me a wrap."

"What was he saying to you?"

The rain of questions gave Molly a sensation of being battered. She
felt dazed, and a little mutinous. What had she done that she should
be assailed like this?

"He was saying nothing," she said, rather shortly.

"Nothing? What do you mean? What was he saying? Tell me!"

Molly's voice shook as she replied.

"He was saying nothing," she repeated. "Do you think I'm not telling
the truth, father? He had not spoken a word for ever so long. We
just walked up and down. I was thinking, and I suppose he was, too.
At any rate, he said nothing. I--I think you might believe me."

She began to cry quietly. Her father had never been like this
before. It hurt her.

McEachern's manner changed in a flash. In the shock of finding Jimmy
and Molly together on the terrace, he had forgotten himself. He had
had reason, to be suspicious. Sir Thomas Blunt, from whom he had
just parted, had told him a certain piece of news which had
disturbed him. The discovery of Jimmy with Molly had lent an added
significance to that piece of news. He saw that he had been rough.
In a moment, he was by her side, his great arm round her shoulder,
petting and comforting her as he had done when she was a child. He
believed her word without question; and his relief made him very
tender. Gradually, the sobs ceased. She leaned against his arm.

"I'm tired, father," she whispered.

"Poor little girl. We'll sit down."

There was a seat at the end of the terrace. McEachern picked Molly
up as if she had been a baby, and carried her to it. She gave a
little cry.

"I didn't mean I was too tired to walk," she said, laughing
tremulously. "How strong you are, father! If I was naughty, you
could take me up and shake me till I was good, couldn't you?"

"Of course. And send you to bed, too. So, you, be careful, young

He lowered her to the seat. Molly drew the cloak closer round her,
and shivered.

"Cold, dear?"


"You shivered."

"It was nothing. Yes, it was," she went on quickly; "it was. Father,
will you promise me something?"

"Of course. What?"

"Don't ever be angry with me like that again, will you? I couldn't
bear it. Really, I couldn't. I know it's stupid of me, but it hurt.
You don't know how it hurt."

"But, my dear--"

"Oh, I know it's stupid. But--"

"But, my darling, it wasn't so. I was angry, but it wasn't with

"With--? Were you angry with Mr. Pitt?"

McEachern saw that he had traveled too far. He had intended that
Jimmy's existence should be forgotten for the time being. He had
other things to discuss. But it was too late now. He must go

"I didn't like to see you out here alone with Mr. Pitt, dear," he
said. "I was afraid--"

He saw that he must go still further forward. It was more than,
awkward. He wished to hint at the undesirability of an entanglement
with Jimmy without admitting the possibility of it. Not being a man,
of nimble brain, he found this somewhat beyond his powers.

"I don't like him," he said, briefly. "He's crooked."

Molly's eyes opened wide. The color had gone from her face.

"Crooked, father?"

McEachern perceived that he had traveled very much too far, almost
to disaster. He longed to denounce Jimmy, but he was gagged. If
Molly were to ask the question, that Jimmy had asked in the bedroom-
-that fatal, unanswerable question! The price was too great to pay.

He spoke cautiously, vaguely, feeling his way.

"I couldn't explain to you, my dear. You wouldn't understand. You
must remember, my dear, that out in New York I was in a position to
know a great many queer characters--crooks, Molly. I was working
among them."

"But, father, that night at our house you didn't know Mr. Pitt. He
had to tell you his name."

"I didn't know him--then," said her father slowly, "but--but--" he
paused--"but I made inquiries," he concluded with a rush, "and found
out things."

He permitted himself a long, silent breath of relief. He saw his way

"Inquiries?" said Molly. "Why?"


"Why did you suspect him?"

A moment earlier, the question might have confused McEachern, but
not now. He was equal to it. He took it in his stride.

"It's hard to say. my dear, A man who has had as much to do with
crooks as I have recognizes them when he sees them."

"Did you think Mr. Pitt looked--looked like that?" Her voice was
very small. There was a drawn, pinched expression on her face. She
was paler than ever.

He could not divine her thoughts. He could not know what his words
had done; how they had shown her in a flash what Jimmy was to her,
and lighted her mind like a flame, revealing the secret hidden
there. She knew now. The feeling of comradeship, the instinctive
trust, the sense of dependence--they no longer perplexed her; they
were signs which she could read.

And he was crooked!

McEachern proceeded. Belief made him buoyant.

"I did, my dear. I can read them like a book. I've met scores of his
sort. Broadway is full of them. Good clothes and a pleasant manner
don't make a man honest. I've run up against a mighty high-toned
bunch of crooks in my day. It's a long time since I gave up thinking
that it was only the ones with the low foreheads and the thick ears
that needed watching. It's the innocent Willies who look as if all
they could do was to lead the cotillon. This man Pitt's one of them.
I'm not guessing, mind you. I know. I know his line, and all about
him. I'm watching him. He's here on some game. How did he get here?
Why, he scraped acquaintance with Lord Dreever in a London
restaurant. It's the commonest trick on the list. If I hadn't
happened to be here when he came, I suppose he'd have made his haul
by now. Why, he came all prepared for it! Have you seen an ugly,
grinning, red-headed scoundrel hanging about the place? His valet.
So he says. Valet! Do you know who that is? That's one of the most
notorious yegg-men on the other side. There isn't a policeman in New
York who doesn't know Spike Mullins. Even if I knew nothing of this
Pitt, that would be enough. What's an innocent man going round the
country with Spike Mullins for, unless they are standing in together
at some game? That's who Mr. Pitt is, my dear, and that's why maybe
I seemed a little put out when I came upon you and him out here
alone together. See as little of him as you can. In a large party
like this, it won't be difficult to avoid him."

Molly sat staring out across the garden. At first, every word had
been a stab. Several times, she had been on the point of crying out
that she could bear it no longer. But, gradually, a numbness
succeeded the pain. She found herself listening apathetically.

McEachern talked on. He left the subject of Jimmy, comfortably
conscious that, even if there had ever existed in Molly's heart any
budding feeling of the kind he had suspected, it must now be dead.
He steered the conversation away until it ran easily among
commonplaces. He talked of New York, of the preparations for the
theatricals. Molly answered composedly. She was still pale, and a
certain listlessness in her manner might have been noticed by a more
observant man than Mr. McEachern. Beyond this, there was nothing to
show that her heart had been born and killed but a few minutes
before. Women have the Red Indian instinct; and Molly had grown to
womanhood in those few minutes.

Presently, Lord Dreever's name came up. It caused a momentary pause,
and McEachern took advantage of it. It was the cue for which he had
been waiting. He hesitated for a moment, for the conversation was
about to enter upon a difficult phase, and he was not quite sure of
himself. Then, he took the plunge.

"I have just been talking to Sir Thomas, my dear," he said. He tried
to speak casually, and, as a natural result, infused so much meaning
into his voice that Molly looked at him in surprise. McEachern
coughed confusedly. Diplomacy, he concluded, was not his forte. He
abandoned it in favor of directness. "He was telling me that you had
refused Lord Dreever this evening."

"Yes. I did," said Molly. "How did Sir Thomas know?"

"Lord Dreever told him."

Molly raised her eyebrows.

"I shouldn't have thought it was the sort of thing he would talk
about," she said.

"Sir Thomas is his uncle."

"Of course, so he is," said Molly, dryly. "I forgot. That would
account for it, wouldn't it?"

Mr. McEachern looked at her with some concern. There was a hard ring
in her voice which he did not altogether like. His greatest admirer
had never called him an intuitive man, and he was quite at a loss to
see what was wrong. As a schemer, he was perhaps a little naive. He
had taken it for granted that Molly was ignorant of the maneuvers
which had been going on, and which had culminated that afternoon in
a stammering proposal of marriage from Lord Dreever in the rose-
garden. This, however, was not the case. The woman incapable of
seeing through the machinations of two men of the mental caliber of
Sir Thomas Blunt and Mr. McEachern has yet to be born. For some
considerable time, Molly had been alive to the well-meant plottings
of that worthy pair, and had derived little pleasure from the fact.
It may be that woman loves to be pursued; but she does not love to
be pursued by a crowd.

Mr. McEachern cleared his throat, and began again.

"You shouldn't decide a question like that too hastily, my dear."

"I didn't--not too hastily for Lord Dreever, at any rate, poor

"It was in your power," said Mr. McEachern portentously, "to make a
man happy--"

"I did," said Molly, bitterly. "You should have seen his face light
up. He could hardly believe it was true for a moment, and then it
came home to him, and I thought he would have fallen on my neck. He
did his very best to look heart-broken--out of politeness--but it
was no good. He whistled most of the way back to the house--all
flat, but very cheerfully."

"My dear! What do you mean?"

Molly had made the discovery earlier in their conversation that her
father had moods whose existence she had not expected. It was his
turn now to make a similar discovery regarding herself.

"I mean nothing, father," she said. "I'm just telling you what
happened. He came to me looking like a dog that's going to be

"Why, of course, he was nervous, my dear."

"Of course. He couldn't know that I was going to refuse him."

She was breathing quickly. He started to speak, but she went on,
looking straight before her. Her face was very white in the moon-

"He took me into the rose-garden. Was that Sir Thomas's idea? There
couldn't have been a better setting, I'm sure. The roses looked
lovely. Presently, I heard him gulp, and I was so sorry for him I I
would have refused him then, and put him out of his misery, only I
couldn't very well till he had proposed, could I? So, I turned my
back, and sniffed at a rose. And, then, he shut his eyes--I couldn't
see him, but I know he shut his eyes--and began to say his lesson."


She laughed, hysterically.

"He did. He said his lesson. He gabbled it. When he had got as far
as, 'Well, don't you know, what I mean is, that's what I wanted to
say, you know,' I turned round and soothed him. I said I didn't love
him. He said, 'No, no, of course not.' I said he had paid me a great
compliment. He said, 'Not at all,' looking very anxious, poor
darling, as if even then he was afraid of what might come next. But
I reassured him, and he cheered up, and we walked back to the house
together, as happy as could be."

McEachern put his hand round her shoulders. She winced, but let it
stay. He attempted gruff conciliation.

"My dear, you've been imagining things. Of course, he isn't happy.
Why, I saw the young fellow--"

Recollecting that the last time he had seen the young fellow--
shortly after dinner--the young fellow had been occupied in
juggling, with every appearance of mental peace, two billiard-balls
and a box of matches, he broke off abruptly.

Molly looked at him.


"My dear?"

"Why do you want me to marry Lord Dreever?"

He met the attack stoutly.

"I think he's a fine young fellow," he said, avoiding her eyes.

"He's quite nice," said Molly, quietly.

McEachern had been trying not to say it. He did not wish to say it.
If it could have been hinted at, he would have done it. But he was
not good at hinting. A lifetime passed in surroundings where the
subtlest hint is a drive in the ribs with a truncheon does not leave
a man an adept at the art. He had to be blunt or silent.

"He's the Earl of Dreever, my dear."

He rushed on, desperately anxious to cover the nakedness of the
statement in a comfortable garment of words.

"Why, you see, you're young, Molly. It's only natural you shouldn't
look on these things sensibly. You expect too much of a man. You
expect this young fellow to be like the heroes of the novels you
read. When you've lived a little longer, my dear, you'll see that
there's nothing in it. It isn't the hero of the novel you want to
marry. It's the man who'll make you a good husband."

This remark struck Mr. McEachern as so pithy and profound that he
repeated it.

He went on. Molly was sitting quite still, looking into the
shrubbery. He assumed she was listening; but whether she was or not,
he must go on talking. The situation was difficult. Silence would
make it more difficult.

"Now, look at Lord Dreever," he said. "There's a young man with one
of the oldest titles in England. He could go anywhere and do what he
liked, and be excused for whatever he did because of his name. But
he doesn't. He's got the right stuff in him. He doesn't go racketing

"His uncle doesn't allow him enough pocket-money," said Molly, with
a jarring little laugh. "Perhaps, that's why."

There was a pause. McEachern required a few moments in which to
marshal his arguments once more. He had been thrown out of his

Molly turned to him. The hardness had gone from her face. She looked
up at him wistfully.

"Father, dear, listen," she said. "We always used to understand each
other so well!" He patted her shoulder affectionately. "You can't
mean what you say? You know I don't love Lord Dreever. You know he's
only a boy. Don't you want me to marry a man? I love this old place,
but surely you can't think that it can really matter in a thing like
this? You don't really mean, that about the hero of the novel? I'm
not stupid, like that. I only want--oh, I can't put it into words,
but don't you see?"

Her eyes were fixed appealingly on him. It only needed a word from
him--perhaps not even a word--to close the gulf that had opened
between them.

He missed the chance. He had had time to think, and his arguments
were ready again. With stolid good-humor, he marched along the line
he had mapped out. He was kindly and shrewd and practical; and the
gulf gaped wider with every word.

"You mustn't be rash, my dear. You mustn't act without thinking in
these things. Lord Dreever is only a boy, as you say, but he will
grow. You say you don't love him. Nonsense! You like him. You would
go on liking him more and more. And why? Because you could make what
you pleased of him. You've got character, my dear. With a girl like
you to look after him, he would go a long way, a very long way. It's
all there. It only wants bringing out. And think of it, Molly!
Countess of Dreever! There's hardly a better title in England. It
would make me very happy, my dear. It's been my one hope all these
years to see you in the place where you ought to be. And now the
chance has come. Molly, dear, don't throw it away."

She had leaned back with closed eyes. A wave of exhaustion had swept
over her. She listened in a dull dream. She felt beaten. They were
too strong for her. There were too many of them. What did it matter?
Why not give in, and end it all and win peace? That was all she
wanted--peace now. What did it all matter?

"Very well, father," she said, listlessly.

McEachern stopped short.

"You'll do it, dear?" he cried. "You will?"

"Very well, father."

He stooped and kissed her.

"My own dear little girl," he said.

She got up.

"I'm rather tired, father," she said. "I think I'll go in."

Two minutes later, Mr. McEachern was in Sir Thomas Blunt's study.
Five minutes later, Sir Thomas pressed the bell.

Saunders appeared.

"Tell his lordship," said Sir Thomas, "that I wish to see him a
moment. He is in the billiard-room, I think."



The game between Hargate and Lord Dreever was still in progress when
Jimmy returned to the billiard-room. A glance at the board showed
that the score was seventy--sixty-nine, in favor of spot.

"Good game," said Jimmy. "Who's spot?"

"I am," said his lordship, missing an easy cannon. For some reason,
he appeared in high spirits. "Hargate's been going great guns. I was
eleven ahead a moment ago, but he made a break of twelve."

Lord Dreever belonged to the class of billiard-players to whom a
double-figure break is a thing to be noted and greeted with respect.

"Fluky," muttered the silent Hargate, deprecatingly. This was a long
speech for him. Since their meeting at Paddington station, Jimmy had
seldom heard him utter anything beyond a monosyllable.

"Not a bit of it, dear old son," said Lord Dreever, handsomely.
"You're coming on like a two-year-old. I sha'n't be able to give you
twenty in a hundred much longer."

He went to a side-table, and mixed himself a whiskey-and-soda,
singing a brief extract from musical comedy as he did so. There
could be no shadow of doubt that he was finding life good. For the
past few days, and particularly that afternoon, he had been rather
noticeably ill at ease. Jimmy had seen him hanging about the terrace
at half-past five, and had thought that he looked like a mute at a
funeral. But now, only a few hours later, he was beaming on the
world, and chirping like a bird.

The game moved jerkily along. Jimmy took a seat, and watched. The
score mounted slowly. Lord Dreever was bad, but Hargate was worse.
At length, in the eighties, his lordship struck a brilliant vein.
When he had finished his break, his score was ninety-five. Hargate,
who had profited by a series of misses on his opponent's part, had
reached ninety-six.

"This is shortening my life," said Jimmy, leaning forward.

The balls had been left in an ideal position. Even Hargate could not
fail to make a cannon. He made it.

A close finish to even the worst game is exciting. Jimmy leaned
still further forward to watch the next stroke. It looked as if
Hargate would have to wait for his victory. A good player could have
made a cannon as the balls lay, but not Hargate. They were almost in
a straight line, with, white in the center.

Hargate swore under his breath. There was nothing to be done. He
struck carelessly at white. White rolled against red, seemed to hang
for a moment, and shot straight back against spot. The game was

"Great Scott! What a fluke!" cried the silent one, becoming quite
garrulous at the miracle.

A quiet grin spread itself slowly across Jimmy's face. He had
remembered what he had been trying to remember for over a week.

At this moment, the door opened, and Saunders appeared. "Sir Thomas
would like to see your lordship in his study," he said.

"Eh? What does he want?"

"Sir Thomas did not confide in me, your lordship."

"Eh? What? Oh, no! Well, see you later, you men."

He rested his cue against the table, and put on his coat. Jimmy
followed him out of the door, which he shut behind him.

"One second, Dreever," he said.

"Eh? Hullo! What's up?"

"Any money on that game?" asked Jimmy.

"Why, yes, by Jove, now you mention it, there was. An even fiver.
And--er--by the way, old man--the fact is, just for the moment, I'm
frightfully--You haven't such a thing as a fiver anywhere about,
have you? The fact is--"

"My dear fellow, of course. I'll square up with him now, shall I?"

"Fearfully obliged, if you would. Thanks, old man. Pay it to-

"No hurry," said Jimmy; "plenty more in the old oak chest."

He went back to the room. Hargate was practising cannons. He was on
the point of making a stroke when Jimmy opened the door.

"Care for a game?" said Hargate.

"Not just at present," said Jimmy.

Hargate attempted his cannon, and failed badly. Jimmy smiled.

"Not such a good shot as the last," he said.


"Fine shot, that other."


"I wonder."

Jimmy lighted a cigarette.

"Do you know New York at all?" he asked.

"Been there."

"Ever been in the Strollers' Club?"

Hargate turned his back, but Jimmy had seen his face, and was

"Don't know it," said Hargate.

"Great place," said Jimmy. "Mostly actors and writers, and so on.
The only drawback is that some of them pick up queer friends."

Hargate did not reply. He did not seem interested.

"Yes," went on Jimmy. "For instance, a pal of mine, an actor named
Mifflin, introduced a man a year ago as a member's guest for a
fortnight, and this man rooked the fellows of I don't know how much
at billiards. The old game, you know. Nursing his man right up to
the end, and then finishing with a burst. Of course, when that
happens once or twice, it may be an accident, but, when a man who
poses as a novice always manages by a really brilliant shot--"

Hargate turned round.

"They fired this fellow out," said Jimmy.

"Look here!"


"What do you mean?"

"It's a dull yarn," said Jimmy, apologetically. "I've been boring
you. By the way, Dreever asked me to square up with you for that
game, in case he shouldn't be back. Here you are."

He held out an empty hand.

"Got it?"

"What are you going to do?" demanded Hargate.

"What am I going to do?" queried Jimmy.

"You know what I mean. If you'll keep your mouth shut, and stand in,
it's halves. Is that what you're after?"

Jimmy was delighted. He knew that by rights the proposal should have
brought him from his seat, with stern, set face, to wreak vengeance
for the insult, but on such occasions he was apt to ignore the
conventions. His impulse, when he met a man whose code of behavior
was not the ordinary code, was to chat with him and extract his
point of view. He felt as little animus against Hargate as he had
felt against Spike on the occasion of their first meeting.

"Do you make much at this sort of game?" he asked.

Hargate was relieved. This was business-like.

"Pots," he said, with some enthusiasm. "Pots. I tell you, if you'll
stand in--"

"Bit risky, isn't it?"

"Not a bit of it. An occasional accident--"

"I suppose you'd call me one?"

Hargate grinned.

"It must be pretty tough work," said Jimmy. "You must have to use a
tremendous lot of self-restraint."

Hargate sighed.

"That's the worst of it," he admitted, "the having to seem a mug at
the game. I've been patronized sometimes by young fools, who thought
they were teaching me, till I nearly forgot myself and showed them
what real billiards was."

"There's always some drawback to the learned professions," said

"But there's a heap to make up for it in this one," said Hargate.
"Well, look here, is it a deal? You'll stand in--"

Jimmy shook his head.

"I guess not," he said. "It's good of you, but commercial
speculation never was in my line. I'm afraid you must count me out
of this."

"What! You're going to tell--?"

"No," said Jimmy, "I'm not. I'm not a vigilance committee. I won't
tell a soul."

'"Why, then--" began Hargate, relieved.

"Unless, of course," Jimmy went on, "you play billiards again while
you're here."

Hargate stared.

"But, damn it, man, if I don't, what's the good--? Look here. What
am I to do if they ask me to play?"

"Give your wrist as an excuse."

"My wrist?"

"Yes. You sprained it to-morrow after breakfast. It was bad luck. I
wonder how you came to do it. You didn't sprain it much, but just
enough to stop you playing billiards."

Hargate reflected.

"Understand?" said Jimmy.

"Oh, very well," said Hargate, sullenly. "But," he burst out, "if I
ever get a chance to get even with you--"

"You won't," said Jimmy. "Dismiss the rosy dream. Get even! You
don't know me. There's not a flaw in my armor. I'm a sort of modern
edition of the stainless knight. Tennyson drew Galahad from me. I
move through life with almost a sickening absence of sin. But hush!
We are observed. At least, we shall be in another minute. Somebody
is coming down the passage. You do understand, don't you? Sprained
wrist is the watchword."

The handle turned. It was Lord Dreever, back again, from his

"Hullo, Dreever," said Jimmy. "We've missed you. Hargate has been
doing his best to amuse me with acrobatic tricks. But you're too
reckless, Hargate, old man. Mark my words, one of these days you'll
be spraining your wrist. You should be more careful. What, going?
Good-night. Pleasant fellow, Hargate," he added, as the footsteps
retreated down, the passage. "Well, my lad, what's the matter with
you? You look depressed."

Lord Dreever flung himself on to the lounge, and groaned hollowly.

"Damn! Damn!! Damn.!!!" he observed.

His glassy eye met Jimmy's, and wandered away again.

"What on earth's the matter?" demanded Jimmy. "You go out of here
caroling like a song-bird, and you come back moaning like a lost
soul. What's happened?"

"Give me a brandy-and-soda, Pitt, old man. There's a good chap. I'm
in a fearful hole."

"Why? What's the matter?"

"I'm engaged," groaned his lordship.

"Engaged! I wish you'd explain. What on earth's wrong with you?
Don't you want to be engaged? What's your--?"

He broke off, as a sudden, awful suspicion dawned upon him. "Who is
she?" he cried.

He gripped the stricken peer's shoulder, and shook it savagely.
Unfortunately, he selected the precise moment when the latter was in
the act of calming his quivering nerve-centers with a gulp of
brandy-and-soda, and for the space of some two minutes it seemed as
if the engagement would be broken off by the premature extinction of
the Dreever line. A long and painful fit of coughing, however, ended
with his lordship still alive and on the road to recovery.

He eyed Jimmy reproachfully, but Jimmy was in no mood for apologies.

"Who is she?" he kept demanding. "What's her name?"

"Might have killed me!" grumbled the convalescent.

"Who is she?"

"What? Why, Miss McEachern."

Jimmy had known what the answer would be, but it was scarcely less
of a shock for that reason.

"Miss McEachern?" he echoed.

Lord Dreever nodded a somber nod.

"You're engaged to her?"

Another somber nod.

"I don't believe it," said Jimmy.

"I wish I didn't," said his lordship wistfully, ignoring the slight
rudeness of the remark. "But, worse luck, it's true."

For the first time since the disclosure of the name, Jimmy's
attention was directed to the remarkable demeanor of his successful

"You don't seem over-pleased," he said.

"Pleased! Have a fiver each way on 'pleased'! No, I'm not exactly
leaping with joy."

"Then, what the devil is it all about? What do you mean? What's the
idea? If you don't want to marry Miss McEachern, why did you propose
to her?"

Lord Dreever closed his eyes.

"Dear old boy, don't! It's my uncle."

"Your uncle?"

"Didn't I explain it all to you--about him wanting me to marry? You
know! I told you the whole thing."

Jimmy stared in silence.

"Do you mean to say--?" he said, slowly.

He stopped. It was a profanation to put the thing into words.

"What, old man?"

Jimmy gulped.

"Do you mean to say you want to marry Miss McEachern simply because
she has money?" he said.

It was not the first time that he had heard of a case of a British
peer marrying for such a reason, but it was the first time that the
thing had filled him with horror. In some circumstances, things come
home more forcibly to us.

"It's not me, old man," murmured his lordship; "it's my uncle."

"Your uncle! Good God!" Jimmy clenched his hands, despairingly. "Do
you mean to say that you let your uncle order you about in a thing
like this? Do you mean to say you're such a--such a--such a
gelatine--backboneless worm--"

"Old man! I say!" protested his lordship, wounded.

"I'd call you a wretched knock-kneed skunk, only I don't want to be
fulsome. I hate flattering a man to his face."

Lord Dreever, deeply pained, half-rose from his seat.

"Don't get up," urged Jimmy, smoothly. "I couldn't trust myself."
His lordship subsided hastily. He was feeling alarmed. He had never
seen this side of Jimmy's character. At first, he had been merely
aggrieved and disappointed. He had expected sympathy. How, the
matter had become more serious. Jimmy was pacing the room like a
young and hungry tiger. At present, it was true, there was a
billiard-table between them; but his lordship felt that he could
have done with good, stout bars. He nestled in his seat with the
earnest concentration of a limpet on a rock. It would be deuced bad
form, of course, for Jimmy to assault his host, but could Jimmy be
trusted to remember the niceties of etiquette?

"Why the devil she accepted you, I can't think," said Jimmy half to
himself, stopping suddenly, and glaring across the table.

Lord Dreever felt relieved. This was not polite, perhaps, but at
least it was not violent.

"That's what beats me, too, old man," he said.

"Between you and me, it's a jolly rum business. This afternoon--"

"What about this afternoon?"

"Why, she wouldn't have me at any price."

"You asked her this afternoon?"

"Yes, and it was all right then. She refused me like a bird.
Wouldn't hear of it. Came damn near laughing in my face. And then,
to-night," he went on, his voice squeaky at the thought of his
wrongs, "my uncle sends for me, and says she's changed her mind and
is waiting for me in the morning-room. I go there, and she tells me
in about three words that she's been thinking it over and that the
whole fearful thing is on again. I call it jolly rough on a chap. I
felt such a frightful ass, you know. I didn't know what to do,
whether to kiss her, I mean--"

Jimmy snorted violently.

"Eh?" said his lordship, blankly.

"Go on," said Jimmy, between his teeth.

"I felt a fearful fool, you know. I just said 'Right ho!' or
something--dashed if I know now what I did say--and legged it. It's
a jolly rum business, the whole thing. It isn't as if she wanted me.
I could see that with half an eye. She doesn't care a hang for me.
It's my belief, old man," he said solemnly, "that she's been
badgered into it, I believe my uncle's been at her."

Jimmy laughed shortly.

"My dear man, you seem to think your uncle's persuasive influence is
universal. I guess it's confined to you."

"Well, anyhow, I believe that's what's happened. What do you say?"

"Why say anything? There doesn't seem to be much need."

He poured some brandy into a glass, and added a little soda.

"You take it pretty stiff," observed his lordship, with a touch of

"On occasion," said Jimmy, emptying the glass.



As Jimmy sat smoking a last cigarette in his bedroom before going to
bed that night, Spike Mullins came in. Jimmy had been thinking
things over. He was one of those men who are at their best in a
losing game. Imminent disaster always had the effect of keying him
up and putting an edge on his mind. The news he had heard that night
had left him with undiminished determination, but conscious that a
change of method would be needed. He must stake all on a single
throw now. Young Lochinvar rather than Romeo must be his model. He
declined to believe himself incapable of getting anything that he
wanted as badly as he wanted Molly. He also declined to believe that
she was really attached to Lord Dreever. He suspected the hand of
McEachern in the affair, though the suspicion did not clear up the
mystery by any means. Molly was a girl of character, not a feminine
counterpart of his lordship, content meekly to do what she was told
in a matter of this kind. The whole thing puzzled him.

"Well, Spike?" he said.

He was not too pleased at the interruption. He was thinking, and he
wanted to be alone.

Something appeared to have disturbed Spike. His bearing was excited.

"Say, boss! Guess what. You know dat guy dat come dis afternoon--de
guy from de village, dat came wit' old man McEachern?"

"Galer?" said Jimmy. "What about him?"

There had been an addition to the guests at the castle that
afternoon. Mr. McEachern, walking in the village, had happened upon
an old New York acquaintance of his, who, touring England, had
reached Dreever and was anxious to see the historic castle. Mr.
McEachern had brought him thither, introduced him to Sir Thomas, and
now Mr. Samuel Galer was occupying a room on the same floor as
Jimmy's. He had appeared at dinner that night, a short, wooden-faced
man, with no more conversation than Hargate. Jimmy had paid little
attention to the newcomer.

"What about him?" he said.

"He's a sleut', boss."

"A what?"

"A sleut'."

"A detective?"

"Dat's right. A fly cop."

"What makes you think that?"

"T'ink! Why, I can tell dem by deir eyes an' deir feet, an' de whole
of dem. I could pick out a fly cop from a bunch of a t'ousand. He's
a sure 'nough sleut' all right, all right. I seen him rubber in' at
youse, boss."

"At me! Why at me? Why, of course. I see now. Our friend McEachern
has got him in to spy on us."

"Dat's right, boss."

"Of course, you may be mistaken."

"Not me, boss. An', say, he ain't de only one."

"What, more detectives? They'll have to put up 'House Full' boards,
at this rate. Who's the other?"

"A mug what's down in de soivants' hall. I wasn't so sure of him at
foist, but now I'm onto his curves. He's a sleut' all right. He's
vally to Sir Tummas, dis second mug is. But he ain't no vally. He's
come to see no one don't get busy wit' de jools. Say, what do youse
t'ink of dem jools, boss?"

"Finest I ever saw."

"Yes, dat's right. A hundred t'ousand plunks dey set him back.
Dey're de limit, ain't dey? Say, won't youse really--?"

"Spike! I'm surprised at you! Do you know, you're getting a regular
Mephistopheles, Spike? Suppose I hadn't an iron will, what would
happen? You really must select your subjects of conversation more
carefully. You're bad company for the likes of me."

Spike shuffled despondently.

"But, boss--!"

Jimmy shook his head.

"It can't be done, my lad."

"But it can, boss," protested Spike. "It's dead easy. I've been up
to de room, an' I seen de box what de jools is kept in. Why, it's de
softest ever! We could get dem as easy as pullin' de plug out of a
bottle. Why, say, dere's never been such a peach of a place for
gittin' hold of de stuff as dis house. Dat's right, boss. Why, look
what I got dis afternoon, just snoopin' around an' not really tryin'
to git busy at all. It was just lyin' about."

He plunged his hand into his pocket, and drew it out again. As he
unclosed his fingers, Jimmy caught the gleam of precious stones.

"What the--!" he gasped.

Spike was looking at his treasure-trove with an air of affectionate

"Where on earth did you get those?" asked Jimmy.

"Out of one of de rooms. Dey belonged to one of de loidies. It was
de easiest old t'ing ever, boss. I just went in when dere was nobody
around, an' dere dey was on de toible. I never butted into anyt'in'
so soft."


"Yes, boss?"

"Do you remember the room you took them from?"

"Sure. It was de foist on de--"

"Then, just listen to me for a moment, my bright boy. When we're at
breakfast to-morrow, you want to go to that room and put those
things back--all of them, mind you--just where you found them. Do
you understand?"

Spike's jaw had fallen.

"Put dem back, boss!" he faltered.

"Every single one of them."

"Boss!" said Spike, plaintively.

"Remember. Every single one of them, just where it belongs. See?"

"Very well, boss."

The dejection in his voice would have moved the sternest to pity.
Gloom had enveloped Spike's spirit. The sunlight had gone out of his

It had also gone out of the lives of a good many other people at the
castle. This was mainly due to the growing shadow of the day of the

For pure discomfort, there are few things in the world that can
compete with the final rehearsals of an amateur theatrical
performance at a country-house. Every day, the atmosphere becomes
more heavily charged with restlessness and depression. The producer
of the piece, especially if he be also the author of it, develops a
sort of intermittent insanity. He plucks at his mustache, if he has
one: at his hair, if he has not. He mutters to himself. He gives
vent to occasional despairing cries. The soothing suavity that
marked his demeanor in the earlier rehearsals disappears. He no
longer says with a winning smile, "Splendid, old man, splendid.
Couldn't be better. But I think we'll take that over just once more,
if you don't mind." Instead, he rolls his eyes, and snaps out, "Once
more, please. This'll never do. At this rate, we might just as well
cut out the show altogether. What's that? No, it won't be all right
on the night! Now, then, once more; and do pull yourselves together
this time." After this, the scene is sulkily resumed; and
conversation, when the parties concerned meet subsequently, is cold
and strained.

Matters had reached this stage at the castle. Everybody was
thoroughly tired of the piece, and, but for the thought of the
disappointment which (presumably) would rack the neighboring
nobility and gentry if it were not to be produced, would have
resigned their places without a twinge of regret. People who had
schemed to get the best and longest parts were wishing now that they
had been content with "First Footman," or "Giles, a villager."

"I'll never run an amateur show again as long as I live," confided
Charteris to Jimmy almost tearfully. "It's not good enough. Most of
them aren't word-perfect yet."

"It'll be all right--"

"Oh, don't say it'll be all right on the night."

"I wasn't going to," said Jimmy. "I was going to say it'll be all
right after the night. People will soon forget how badly the thing

"You're a nice, comforting sort of man, aren't you?" said Charteris.

"Why worry?" said Jimmy. "If you go on like this, it'll be
Westminster Abbey for you in your prime. You'll be getting brain-

Jimmy himself was one of the few who were feeling reasonably
cheerful. He was deriving a keen amusement at present from the
maneuvers of Mr. Samuel Galer, of New York. This lynx-eyed man;
having been instructed by Mr. McEachern to watch Jimmy, was doing so
with a thoroughness that would have roused the suspicions of a babe.
If Jimmy went to the billiard-room after dinner, Mr. Galer was there
to keep him company. If, during the course of the day, he had
occasion to fetch a handkerchief or a cigarette-case from his
bedroom, he was sure, on emerging, to stumble upon Mr. Galer in the
corridor. The employees of Dodson's Private Inquiry Agency believed
in earning their salaries.

Occasionally, after these encounters, Jimmy would come upon Sir
Thomas Blunt's valet, the other man in whom Spike's trained eye had
discerned the distinguishing marks of the sleuth. He was usually
somewhere round the corner at these moments, and, when collided
with, apologized with great politeness. Jimmy decided that he must
have come under suspicion in this case vicariously, through Spike.
Spike in the servants' hall would, of course, stand out
conspicuously enough to catch the eye of a detective on the look out
for sin among the servants; and he himself, as Spike's employer, had
been marked down as a possible confederate.

It tickled him to think that both these giant brains should be so
greatly exercised on his account.

He had been watching Molly closely during these days. So far, no
announcement of the engagement had been made. It struck him that
possibly it was being reserved for public mention on the night of
the theatricals. The whole county would be at the castle then. There
could be no more fitting moment. He sounded Lord Dreever, and the
latter said moodily that he was probably right.

"There's going to be a dance of sorts after the show," he said, "and
it'll be done then, I suppose. No getting out of it after that.
It'll be all over the county. Trust my uncle for that. He'll get on
a table, and shout it, shouldn't wonder. And it'll be in the Morning
Post next day, and Katie'll see it! Only two days more, oh, lord!"

Jimmy deduced that Katie was the Savoy girl, concerning whom his
lordship had vouchsafed no particulars save that she was a ripper
and hadn't a penny.

Only two days! Like the battle of Waterloo, it was going to be a
close-run affair. More than ever now, he realized how much Molly
meant to him; and there were moments when it seemed to him that she,
too, had begun to understand. That night on the terrace seemed
somehow to have changed their relationship. He thought he had got
closer to her. They were in touch. Before, she had been frank,
cheerful, unembarrassed. Now, he noticed a constraint in her manner,
a curious shyness. There was a barrier between them, but it was not
the old barrier. He had ceased to be one of a crowd.

But it was a race against time. The first day slipped by, a blank,
and the second; till, now, it was but a matter of hours. The last
afternoon had come.

Not even Mr. Samuel Galer, of Dodson's Private Inquiry Agency, could
have kept a more unflagging watch than did Jimmy during those hours.
There was no rehearsal that afternoon, and the members of the
company, in various stages of nervous collapse, strayed distractedly
about the grounds. First one, then another, would seize upon Molly,
while Jimmy, watching from afar, cursed their pertinacity.

At last, she wondered off alone, and Jimmy, quitting his ambush,

She walked in the direction of the lake. It had been a terribly hot,
oppressive afternoon. There was thunder in the air. Through the
trees, the lake glittered invitingly.

She was standing at the water's edge when Jimmy came up. Her back
was turned. She was rocking with her foot a Canadian canoe that lay
alongside the bank. She started as he spoke. His feet on the soft
turf had made no sound.

"Can I take you out on the lake?" he said.

She did not answer for a moment. She was plainly confused.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I--I'm waiting for lord Dreever."

Jimmy saw that she was nervous. There was tension in the air. She
was looking away from him, out across the lake, and her face was

"Won't you?" he said.

"I'm sorry," she said again.

Jimmy looked over his shoulder. Down the lower terrace was
approaching the long form of his lordship. He walked with pensive
jerkiness, not as one hurrying to a welcome tryst. As Jimmy looked,
he vanished behind the great clump of laurels that stood on the
lowest terrace. In another minute, he would reappear round them.

Gently, but with extreme dispatch, Jimmy placed a hand on either
side of Molly's waist. The next moment, he had swung her off her
feet, and lowered her carefully to the cushions in the bow of the

Then, jumping in himself with a force that made the boat rock, he
loosened the mooring-rope, seized the paddle, and pushed off.



In making love, as in every other branch of life, consistency is the
quality most to be aimed at. To hedge is fatal. A man must choose
the line of action that he judges to be best suited to his
temperament, and hold to it without deviation. If Lochinvar snatches
the maiden up on his saddle-bow, he must continue in that vein. He
must not fancy that, having accomplished the feat, he can resume the
episode on lines of devotional humility. Prehistoric man, who
conducted his courtship with a club, never fell into the error of
apologizing when his bride complained of headache.

Jimmy did not apologize. The idea did not enter his mind. He was
feeling prehistoric. His heart was beating fast, and his mind was in
a whirl, but the one definite thought that came to him during the
first few seconds of the journey was that he ought to have done this
earlier. This was the right way. Pick her up and carry her off, and
leave uncles and fathers and butter-haired peers of the realm to
look after themselves. This was the way. Alone together in their own
little world of water, with nobody to interrupt and nobody to
overhear! He should have done it before. He had wasted precious,
golden time, hanging about while futile men chattered to her of
things that could not possibly be of interest. But he had done the
right thing at last. He had got her. She must listen to him now. She
could not help listening. They were the only inhabitants of this new

He looked back over his shoulder at the world they had left. The
last of the Dreevers had rounded the clump of laurels, and was
standing at the edge of the water, gazing perplexedly after the
retreating canoe.

"These poets put a thing very neatly sometimes," said Jimmy
reflectively, as he dug the paddle into the water. "The man who
said, 'Distance lends enchantment to the view,' for instance.
Dreever looks quite nice when you see him as far away as this, with
a good strip of water in between."

Molly, gazing over the side of the boat into the lake, abstained
from feasting her eyes on the picturesque spectacle.

"Why did you do it?" she said, in a low voice.

Jimmy shipped the paddle, and allowed the canoe to drift. The ripple
of the water against the prow sounded clear and thin in the
stillness. The world seemed asleep. The sun blazed down, turning the
water to flame. The air was hot, with the damp electrical heat that
heralds a thunderstorm. Molly's face looked small and cool in the
shade of her big hat. Jimmy, as he watched her, felt that he had
done well. This was, indeed, the way.

"Why did you do it?" she said again.

"I had to."

"Take me back."


He took up the paddle, and placed a broader strip of water between
the two worlds; then paused once more.

"I have something to say to you first," he said.

She did not answer. He looked over his shoulder again. His lordship
had disappeared.

"Do you mind if I smoke?"

She nodded. He filled his pipe carefully, and lighted it. The smoke
moved sluggishly up through the still air. There was a long silence.
A fish jumped close by, falling back in a shower of silver drops.
Molly started at the sound, and half-turned.

"That was a fish," she said, as a child might have done.

Jimmy knocked the ashes out of his pipe.

"What made you do it?" he asked abruptly, echoing her own question.

She drew her fingers slowly through the water without speaking.

"You know what I mean. Dreever told me."

She looked up with a flash of spirit, which died away as she spoke.

"What right?" She stopped, and looked away again.

"None," said Jimmy. "But I wish you would tell me."

She hung her head. Jimmy bent forward, and touched her hand.

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