Tit-Bits, July 9, 1910
 

 

CHAPTER XIV.

CHECK, AND A COUNTER-MOVE.

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 harbour 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 thousandfold.

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, tartly.

“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 him to the door, which he opened. Spike shot out like a rabbit released from a trap. 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.

He stopped.

“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 door.

“I am here because I was very kindly invited to come by Lord Dreever.”

“I know you.”

“You have that privilege. Seeing 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 to-morrow.”

“I congratulate you,” said Jimmy. “One of the oldest houses in England.”

“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 which had scared good behaviour 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. “Sort of ‘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.”

“What?”

“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 parlour at three in the morning, you——”

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 which 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 parlour. 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.

“Well?”

“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 ex-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 Heaven! 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?” Then 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, curtly.

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 success.”

It was not often that Mr. 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 which would draw the type of criminal he imagined Jimmy to be.

From his seat at the farther end of the table he 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 jewellery. 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; No. 6 was burgled the other night.”

No. 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 which 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 him.”

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 him 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 more silent even 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:—

Sir,On receipt of this, kindly send down one of your smartest men. Instruct him to stay at the village inn in the 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 faithfully, J. McEachern.
   P.S.—Kindly not send a rube, but a real smart man.

This brief but pregnant letter cost him some pains in its composition. He was not a ready writer, but he completed it at last to his satisfaction. There was a crisp purity in the style which 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.

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


CHAPTER XV.

MR. MCEACHERN INTERVENES.

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. True 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 himself. We’ve got a success now, my boy. Rehearsal after lunch. Don’t be late.”

And he had gone 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 a week from that day, and that 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 vigour which 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 rôle for Sir Thomas, but it had fallen through; not, it was felt, because Charteris could not have hypnotized him into undertaking it, 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 he 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 same cause which made other eyes in the company gleam distractedly during that 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 reviled 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 this 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 Richelieu 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 that 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 the 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 towards 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 had been thinking for some minutes.

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 he had a reaction. He was taking too 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 endeavoured 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. He 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 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 farther 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 up 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 had 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 she felt instinctively she could trust.

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 McEachern.

“I have been looking for you, Molly, my dear. 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 towards the house. At the door he stopped and looked back. The two were standing where he had left them.

(To be continued.)

 


Editor’s notes:

Chapter XIV:
smelt a rat . . . saw it floating: The exact wording of the mixed metaphor is disputed, but all sources attribute this to Sir Boyle Roche (1736–1807), Member (1775–1801) of the Irish House of Commons. One 1887 compilation of sayings records it as “Mr. Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him floating in the air; but mark me, sir, I will nip him in the bud.”
queen of my heart: “Then why should we wait till tomorrow? You are queen of my heart tonight” is the close of the refrain of a famous baritone love song from the comic opera Dorothy (1886), by Alfred Cellier and B. C. Stephenson. Here is a PDF of the sheet music.
I call on Heaven to judge between this man and me: Similar phrases are found in multiple sources; perhaps they are echoing I Samuel 24:12 (KJV): “The Lord judge between me and thee.”
practical Socialist: Compare Psmith’s views in “The Lost Lambs”: “I’ve just become a Socialist. It’s a great scheme. You ought to be one. You work for the equal distribution of property, and start by collaring all you can and sitting on it” and, later, in collaring a study: “We must stake out our claims. This is practical Socialism.” And the present passage is echoed even more closely later, in Leave It to Psmith (1923): “Merely practical Socialism. Other people are content to talk about the Redistribution of Property. I go out and do it.”

Chapter XV:
Shove he never so wisely: An echo of Psalm 58:4–5 (Book of Common Prayer) “. . . even like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears;
    Which refuseth to hear the voice of the charmer: charm he never so wisely.”

Printer’s errors (and apparent editorial goofs) corrected above:
Ch. XIV: Magazine had “Somebody also had heard of a fellow”; American book has “Somebody else” which is the usual way Wodehouse phrases this, so I’ve adopted that reading.

—Notes by Neil Midkiff