Tit-Bits, July 16, 1910
A MARRIAGE HAS BEEN ARRANGED——.
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; but 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 you 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. He picked her 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 were 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 woman.”
He lowered her to the seat. Molly drew the cloak closer round her and 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, 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 you.”
“With—— Were you angry with Mr. Pitt?”
McEachern saw that he had travelled 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 forward.
“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 farther 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 colour had gone from her face.
McEachern perceived that he had travelled 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 now.
“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 lit up 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. Relief 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 that 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 favour 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 manœuvres 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 calibre 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 dear.”
“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 heartbroken—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 suspected. 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 washed——”
“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. Her father started to speak, but she went on, looking straight before her. Her face was very white in the moonlight.
“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 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 shoulder. 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, with two billiard-balls and a box of matches, he broke off abruptly.
Molly looked at him.
“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 so.
“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 around——”
“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 stride.
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 which had opened between them.
He missed the chance. He had had time to think, and his arguments were ready again. With stolid good humour 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.
“Tell his lordship,” said Sir Thomas, “that I wish to see him a moment. He is in the billiard-room, I think.”
JIMMY REMEMBERS SOMETHING, AND HEARS SOMETHING ELSE.
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 favour 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-player 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 whisky 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 farther 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 centre.
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 over.
“Great Scot! 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? Halloa! 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 you to-morrow.”
“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.”
Jimmy lit a cigarette.
“Do you know New York at all?” he asked.
“Ever been in the Strollers’ Club?”
Hargate turned his back; but Jimmy had seen his face and was satisfied.
“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.
“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.
“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 behaviour 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?”
“It must be pretty tough work,” said Jimmy. “You must have to use a tremendous lot of self-restraint.”
“That’s the worst of it,” he said; “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 Jimmy.
“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.”
“But, hang 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.”
“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.”
“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 armour. 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 interview.
“Halloa, 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.
“Confound the whole lot of them!” 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 carolling 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-centres 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 sombre nod.
“You’re engaged to her?”
Another sombre 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 demeanour of his successful rival.
“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 deuce 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.”
“Didn’t I explain it all to you? About him wanting me to marry? You know. I told you the whole thing.”
Jimmy stared at him 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?”
“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.”
cotillon: Wodehouse uses the original French spelling of this dance (in the American book, here, and in some later British editions); the Anglicized spelling “cotillion” appears in the British first edition. Both spellings are found in British and American dictionaries of the period. It can mean a type of dance for groups of four couples in squares with changing of partners (the source from which American square-dancing was popularized) or, in American usage, a formal ball for the presentation of debutantes to society.
Yegg-man: a burglar or safe-breaker. OED citations (from 1903 onward) of “yegg” and “yeggman” are lowercased and unhyphenated, but the given etymology is “said to be the surname of a certain American burglar and safe-breaker”; Wodehouse’s use of the capital letter and hyphen seems to indicate that he believed that to be the case.
Red Indian instinct: presumably the stoicism stereotypically attributed to Native Americans in popular culture, such as in the works of James Fenimore Cooper, who used forms of “stoic” four times in The Last of the Mohicans.
spot: In English billiards, the game is played with three balls: a red object ball, a white cue ball for one player, and a white cue ball with a black spot (or, now more frequently, a yellow ball) for the second player. It has been difficult to find corroboration that “spot” was generally in use to refer to the second player; searching for “who’s spot” brings up other online versions of this story or misspellings of “whose spot”; the search is complicated by the named spots on the surface of the table itself.
coming on like a two-year-old: the age when a thoroughbred racehorse usually begins training and sometimes participating in races against other young horses, thus a time when improvement is rapid.
Stainless Knight: Interestingly, in Idylls of the King Tennyson uses the adjective “stainless” several times, but never to describe Galahad. It is used four times for King Arthur and once for Sir Sagramore; the other references are to women or to unspotted clothing. But see this 1894 book on Tennyson for a reference to Galahad as an ideal of the concept.
—Notes by Neil Midkiff