JIMMY MAKES A BET.
The main smoking-room of the Strollers’ Club had been filling for the last half-hour and was now nearly full. In many ways the Strollers’, though not the most magnificent, is the pleasantest club in New York. Its ideals are those of the Savage Club—comfort without pomp—and it is given over after eleven o’clock at night mainly to the Stage. Everybody is young, clean-shaven, and full of conversation—and the conversation strikes a purely professional note.
Everybody in the room on this July night had come from the theatre. Most of those present had been acting, but a certain number had been to the opening performance of the latest better-than-“Raffles” play. There had been something of a boom that season in dramas whose heroes appealed to the public more pleasantly across the footlights than they might have done in real life. In the play which had opened to-night, Arthur Mifflin, an exemplary young man off the stage, had been warmly applauded for a series of actions which, performed anywhere except in the theatre, would certainly have debarred him from remaining a member of the Strollers’ or any other club. In faultless evening dress, with a debonair smile on his face, he had broken open a safe, stolen bonds and jewellery to a large amount, and escaped without a blush of shame viâ the window. He had foiled a detective through four acts and held up a band of pursuers with a revolver. A large audience had intimated complete approval throughout.
“It’s a hit all right,” said somebody through the smoke.
“These imitation ‘Raffles’ plays always are,” grumbled Willett, who played bluff fathers in musical comedy. “A few years ago they would have been scared to death of putting on a show with a criminal hero. Now, it seems to me, the public doesn’t want anything else. Not that they know what they do want,” he concluded, mournfully.
“The Belle of Boulogne,” in which Willett sustained the rôle of Cyrus K. Higgs, a Chicago millionaire, was slowly fading away on a diet of free passes, and this possibly prejudiced him.
Raikes, the character-actor, changed the subject. If Willett once got started on the wrongs of the ill-fated “Belle,” general conversation would become impossible. Willett, denouncing the stupidity of the public, was purely a monologue artiste.
“I saw Jimmy Pitt at the show,” said Raikes. Everybody displayed interest.
“Jimmy Pitt? When did he come back? I thought he was in England?”
“He came on the Lusitania, I suppose. She docked this morning.”
“Jimmy Pitt?” said Sutton, of the Majestic Theatre. “How long has he been away? Last I saw of him was at the opening of ‘The Outsider,’ at the Astor. That’s a couple of months ago.”
“He’s been travelling in Europe, I believe,” said Raikes. “Lucky beggar to be able to. I wish I could.”
Sutton knocked the ash off his cigar.
“I envy Jimmy,” he said. “I don’t know anyone I’d rather be. He’s got much more money than any man, except a professional plute, has any right to. He’s as strong as an ox. I shouldn’t say he’d ever had anything worse than measles in his life. He’s got no relations. And he isn’t married.”
Sutton, who had been married three times, spoke with some feeling.
“He’s a good chap, Jimmy,” said Raikes. “Which, considering he’s an Englishman——”
“Thanks,” said Mifflin.
“How’s that? Oh, beg pardon, Arthur; I keep forgetting that you’re one too.”
“I’ll tattoo a Union Jack on my forehead to-morrow.”
“It’ll improve you,” said Raikes. “But about Jimmy. He’s a good chap, which—considering he’s an Englishman—is only what you might have expected. Is that better, Arthur?”
“Much,” said Mifflin. “Yes, Jimmy is a good chap—one of the best. I’ve known him for years. I was at school and Cambridge with him. He was about the most popular man at both. He hasn’t got my brilliance of intellect, but he has some wonderfully fine qualities. For one thing, I should say he had put more dead-beats on their legs again than half the men in New York put together.”
“Well,” growled Willett, whom the misfortunes of “The Belle” had soured, “what’s there in that? It’s mighty easy to do the philanthropist act when you’re next door to a millionaire.”
“Yes,” said Mifflin, warmly; “but it’s not so easy when you’re getting thirty dollars a week on a newspaper. When Jimmy was a reporter on the ‘News’ there used to be a whole crowd of fellows just living on him. Not borrowing an occasional dollar, mind you, but living on him—sleeping on his sofa and staying to breakfast. It made me mad. I used to ask him why he stood it. He said there was nowhere else for them to go, and he thought he could see them through all right. Which he did, though I don’t see how he managed it on thirty a week.”
“If a man’s fool enough to be an easy mark——” began Willett.
“Oh, stop it,” said Raikes. “We don’t want anybody knocking Jimmy here.”
“All the same,” said Sutton, “it seems to me that it was mighty lucky that he came into that money. You can’t keep open house for ever on thirty a week. By the way, Arthur, how was that? I heard it was his uncle.”
“It wasn’t his uncle,” said Mifflin. “It was by way of being a romance of sorts, I believe. Fellow who had been in love with Jimmy’s mother years ago. Went to Australia, made a fortune, and left it to Mrs. Pitt or her children. She had been dead some time when that happened. Jimmy, of course, hadn’t a notion of what was coming to him, when suddenly he got a solicitor’s letter, asking him to call. He rolled round, and found that there was about five hundred thousand dollars waiting for him to spend it.”
Jimmy Pitt had now definitely ousted “Love, the Cracksman,” as a topic of conversation. Everybody present knew him. Most of them had known him in his newspaper days; and though every man there would have perished rather than admit it, they were grateful to Jimmy for being exactly the same to them now that he could sign a cheque for half a million as he had been on the old thirty-a-week basis. Inherited wealth, of course, does not make a young man nobler or more admirable; but the young man does not always know this.
“Jimmy’s had a queer life,” said Mifflin. “He’s been pretty nearly everything in his time. Did you know he was on the stage before he took up newspaper work? Only in touring companies, I believe. He got tired of it, and dropped it. That’s always been his trouble. He wouldn’t settle down to anything. He studied Law at the ’Varsity, but he never kept it up. After he left the stage, he moved all over the States without a cent, picking up any odd job he could get. He was a waiter once for a couple of days, but they sacked him for breaking plates. Then he got a job in a jeweller’s shop. I believe he’s a bit of an expert on jewels. And another time he made a hundred dollars by staying three rounds against Kid Brady, when the Kid was touring the country, after he got the championship away from Jimmy Garwin. The Kid was offering a hundred to anyone who could last three rounds with him. Jimmy did it on his head. He was the best amateur of his weight I ever saw. The Kid wanted him to take up scrapping seriously. But Jimmy wouldn’t have stuck to anything long enough in those days. He’s one of the gipsies of the world. He was never really happy unless he was on the move, and he doesn’t seem to have altered since he came into his money.”
“Well, he can afford to keep on the move now,” said Raikes. “I wish I——”
“Did you ever hear about Jimmy and——” Mifflin was beginning, when the Odyssey of Jimmy Pitt was interrupted by the opening of the door and the entrance of Ulysses in person.
Jimmy Pitt was a young man of medium height, whose great breadth and depth of chest made him look shorter than he really was. His jaw was square and protruded slightly; and this, combined with a certain athletic jauntiness of carriage and a pair of piercing brown eyes very much like those of a bull-terrier, gave him an air of aggressiveness which belied his character. He was not aggressive. He had the good-nature as well as the eyes of a bull-terrier. He also possessed, when stirred, all the bull-terrier’s dogged determination.
There were shouts of welcome.
“When did you get back?”
“Come and sit down. Plenty of room over here.”
“Where is my wandering boy to-night?”
“Waiter! What’s yours, Jimmy?”
Jimmy dropped into a seat and yawned.
“Well,” he said, “how goes it? Halloa, Raikes! Weren’t you at ‘Love, the Cracksman’? I thought I saw you. Halloa, Arthur! Congratulate you. You spoke your piece nicely.”
“Thanks,” said Mifflin. “We were just talking about you, Jimmy. You came on the Lusitania, I suppose?”
“She didn’t break the record this time,” said Sutton.
A somewhat pensive look came into Jimmy’s eyes.
“She came much too quick for me,” he said. “I don’t see why they want to rip along at that pace,” he went on, hurriedly. “I like to have a chance of enjoying the sea air.”
“I know that sea air,” murmured Mifflin.
Jimmy looked up quickly.
“What are you babbling about, Arthur?”
“I said nothing,” replied Mifflin, suavely.
“What did you think of the show to-night, Jimmy?” asked Raikes.
“I liked it. Arthur was fine. I can’t make out, though, why all this incense is being burned at the feet of the cracksman. To judge by some of the plays they produce now, you’d think that a man had only to be a successful burglar to become a national hero. One of these days we shall have Arthur playing Charles Peace to a cheering house.”
“It is the tribute,” said Mifflin, “that bone-headedness pays to brains. It takes brains to be a successful cracksman. Unless the grey matter is surging about in your cerebrum, as in mine, you can’t hope——”
Jimmy leaned back in his chair and spoke calmly, but with decision.
“Any man of ordinary intelligence,” he said, “could break into a house.”
Mifflin jumped up and began to gesticulate. This was heresy.
“My dear old son, what absolute——”
“I could,” said Jimmy, lighting a cigarette.
There was a roar of laughter and approval. For the past few weeks, during the rehearsals of “Love, the Cracksman,” Arthur Mifflin had disturbed the peace at the Strollers’ with his theories on the art of burglary. This was his first really big part, and he had soaked himself in it. He had read up the literature of burglary. He had talked with detectives. He had expounded his views nightly to his brother Strollers, preaching the delicacy and difficulty of cracking a crib till his audience had rebelled. It charmed the Strollers to find Jimmy, obviously of his own initiative, and not to be suspected of having been suborned to the task by themselves, treading with a firm foot on the expert’s favourite corn within five minutes of their meeting.
“You!” said Arthur Mifflin, with scorn.
“Me—or, rather, I!”
“You! Why, you couldn’t break into an egg unless it was a poached one.”
“What’ll you bet?” said Jimmy.
The Strollers began to sit up and take notice. The magic word “bet,” when uttered in that room, had rarely failed to add a zest to life. They looked expectantly at Arthur Mifflin.
“Go to bed, Jimmy,” said the portrayer of cracksmen. “I’ll come with you and tuck you in. A nice, strong cup of tea in the morning, and you won’t know there has ever been anything the matter with you.”
A howl of disapproval rose from the company. Indignant voices accused Arthur Mifflin of having a yellow streak. Encouraging voices urged him not to be a quitter.
“See! They scorn you!” said Jimmy. “And rightly. Be a man, Arthur. What’ll you bet?”
Mr. Mifflin regarded him with pity.
“You don’t know what you’re taking on, Jimmy,” he said. “You’re half a century behind the times. You have an idea that all a burglar needs is a mask, a blue chin, and a dark lantern. I tell you he requires a highly-specialized education. I’ve been talking to these detective fellows, and I know. Now, take your case, you worm. Have you a thorough knowledge of chemistry, physics, toxicology——?”
“Of course I have.”
“Electricity and microscopy?”
“You have discovered my secret.”
“Can you use an oxy-acetylene blow-pipe?”
“I never travel without one.”
“What do you know about the administration of anæsthetics?”
“Practically everything. It is one of my favourite hobbies.”
“Can you make ‘soup’?”
“Soup,” said Mr. Mifflin, firmly.
Jimmy raised his eyebrows.
“Does an architect make bricks?” he said. “I leave the rough, preliminary work to my corps of assistants. They make my soup.”
“You mustn’t think Jimmy’s one of your common cracksmen,” said Sutton. “He’s at the top of his profession. That’s how he made his money. I never did believe that legacy story.”
“Jimmy,” said Mr. Mifflin, “couldn’t crack a child’s money-box. Jimmy couldn’t open a sardine-tin.”
Jimmy shrugged his shoulders.
“What’ll you bet?” he said again. “Come on, Arthur; you’re earning a very good salary. What’ll you bet?”
“Make it a dinner for all present,” suggested Raikes, a canny person who believed in turning the wayside happenings of life, when possible, to his personal profit.
The suggestion was well received.
“All right,” said Mifflin. “How many of us are there? One, two, three, four. Loser buys a dinner for twelve.”
“A good dinner,” interpolated Raikes, softly.
“A good dinner,” said Jimmy. “Very well. How long do you give me, Arthur?”
“How long do you want?”
“There ought to be a time-limit,” said Raikes. “It seems to me that an expert like Jimmy ought to be able to manage it at short notice. Why not to-night? Nice, fine night. If Jimmy doesn’t crack a crib to-night, it’s up to him. That suit you, Jimmy?”
Willett interposed. Willett had been endeavouring to drown his sorrows all the evening, and the fact was a little noticeable in his speech.
“See here,” he said; “how’s J-Jimmy going to prove he’s done it?”
“Personally, I can take his word,” said Mifflin.
“That be h-hanged for a tale. Wha-what’s to prevent him saying he’s done it, whether he has or not?”
The Strollers looked uncomfortable. However, it was Jimmy’s affair.
“Why, you’d get your dinner in any case,” said Jimmy. “A dinner from any host would smell as sweet.”
Willett persisted with muddled obstinacy.
“Thash—thash not point. It’s principle of thing. Have thish thing square and ’bove-board, I say. Thash what I say.”
“And very creditable to you being able to say it,” said Jimmy, cordially. “See if you can manage ‘Truly rural.’ ”
“What I say is this. Jimmy’s a fakir. And what I say is, what’s prevent him saying he’s done it when hasn’t done it?”
“That’ll be all right,” said Jimmy. “I’m going to bury a brass tube with the Stars and Stripes in it under the carpet.”
“Thash quite shfactory,” said Willett, with dignity.
“Or, a better idea,” said Jimmy, “I’ll carve a big J on the inside of the front door. Well, I’m off home. Anybody coming my way?”
“Yes,” said Arthur Mifflin. “We’ll walk. First nights always make me as jumpy as a cat. If I don’t walk my legs off I sha’n’t get to sleep to-night at all.”
“If you think I’m going to help you walk your legs off, my lad, you’re mistaken. I propose to stroll gently home and go to bed.”
“Every little helps,” said Mifflin. “Come along.”
“You want to keep an eye on that man Jimmy, Arthur,” said Sutton. “He’d sand-bag you and lift your watch as soon as look at you. I believe he’s Arsène Lupin in disguise.”
THE NEW PYRAMUS AND THISBE.
The two men turned up the street. They walked in silence. Arthur Mifflin was going over in his mind such outstanding events of the evening as he remembered—the nervousness, the relief of finding that he was gripping his audience, the growing conviction that he had made good—while Jimmy seemed to be thinking his own private thoughts. They had gone some distance before either spoke.
“Who is she, Jimmy?” asked Mifflin.
Jimmy came out of his thoughts with a start.
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do! The sea air. Who is she?”
“I don’t know,” said Jimmy, simply.
“You don’t know? Well, what’s her name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Doesn’t the Lusitania still print a passenger list?”
“And you couldn’t find out her name in five days?”
“And that’s the man who thinks he can burgle a house!” said Mifflin, despairingly.
They had arrived now at the building on the second floor of which was Jimmy’s flat.
“Coming in?” said Jimmy.
“Well, I was rather thinking of pushing on as far as the park. I tell you, I feel all on wires.”
“Come in and smoke a cigar. You’ve got all night before you if you want to do Marathons. I haven’t seen you for a couple of months. I want you to tell me all the news.”
“There isn’t any. Nothing happens in New York. The papers say things do, but they don’t. However, I’ll come in. It seems to me that you’re the man with the news.”
Jimmy fumbled with his latch-key.
“You’re a bright sort of burglar,” said Mifflin, disparagingly. “Why don’t you use your oxy-acetylene blow-pipe? Do you realize, my boy, that you’ve let yourself in for buying a dinner for twelve hungry men next week? In the cold light of the morning, when Reason returns to her throne, that’ll come home to you.”
“I haven’t done anything of the sort,” said Jimmy, unlocking the door.
“Don’t tell me you really mean to try it.”
“What else did you think I was going to do?”
“But you can’t. You would get caught for a certainty. And what are you going to do then? Say it was all a joke? Suppose they fill you full of bullet-holes? Nice sort of fool you’ll look appealing to some outraged householder’s sense of humour, while he pumps you full of lead with a Colt.”
“These are the risks of the profession. You ought to know that, Arthur. Think what you went through to-night.”
Arthur Mifflin looked at his friend with some uneasiness. He knew how entirely reckless he could be when he had set his mind on accomplishing anything. Jimmy, under the stimulus of a challenge, ceased to be a reasoning being, amenable to argument. And in the present case he knew that Willett’s words had driven the challenge home. Jimmy was not the man to sit still under the charge of being a fakir, no matter whether his accuser had been sober or drunk.
Jimmy, meanwhile, had produced whisky and cigars, and was lying on his back on the lounge, blowing smoke rings at the ceiling.
“Well?” said Arthur Mifflin, at length.
“What I meant was, is this silence to be permanent, or are you going to begin shortly to amuse, elevate, and instruct? Something’s happened to you, Jimmy. There was a time when you were a bright little chap, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table in a roar when you were paying for the dinner? You remind me more of a deaf-mute celebrating the Fourth of July with noiseless powder than anything else on earth. Wake up, or I shall go. Jimmy, we were boys together. Tell me about this girl—the girl you loved and were idiot enough to lose.”
Jimmy drew a deep breath.
“Very well,” said Mifflin, complacently; “sigh if you like—it’s better than nothing.”
Jimmy sat up.
“Yes, dozens of times,” said Mifflin.
“What do you mean?”
“You were just going to ask me if I had ever been in love, weren’t you?”
“I wasn’t, because I know you haven’t. You have no soul. You don’t know what love is.”
“Have it your own way,” said Mifflin, resignedly.
Jimmy bumped back on to the sofa.
“I don’t either,” he said. “That’s the trouble.”
Mifflin looked interested.
“I know,” he said. “You’ve got that strange premonitory fluttering, when the heart seems to trill within you like some baby bird singing its first song, when——”
“Oh, shut up!”
“When you ask yourself timidly, ‘Is it? Can it really be?’ and answer, shyly, ‘No. Yes. I believe it is.’ I’ve been through it dozens of times. It is a recognized early symptom. Unless prompt measures are taken it will develop into something acute. In these matters stand on your Uncle Arthur. He knows.”
“You make me tired,” said Jimmy, briefly.
“You have our ear,” said Mifflin, kindly. “Tell me all.”
“There’s nothing to tell.”
“Don’t lie, James.”
“Well, practically nothing.”
“It was like this.”
Jimmy wriggled himself into a more comfortable position and took a sip from his glass.
“I didn’t see her till the second day out.”
“I know that second day out. Well?”
“We didn’t really meet at all.”
“Just happened to be going to the same spot, eh?”
“As a matter of fact, it was like this. Like a fool, I’d bought a second-class ticket.”
“What? Our young Rockerbilt Astergould, the boy millionaire, travelling second-class! Why?”
“I had an idea it would be better fun. Everybody’s so much more cheery in the second cabin. You get to know people so much quicker. Nine trips out of ten I’d much rather go second.”
“And this was the tenth?”
“She was in the first cabin,” said Jimmy.
Mifflin clutched his forehead.
“Wait!” he cried. “This reminds me of something—something in Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet? No. I’ve got it!—Pyramus and Thisbe.”
“I don’t see the slightest resemblance.”
“Read your ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ ‘Pyramus and Thisbe,’ says the story, ‘did talk through the chink of a wall,’ ” quoted Mifflin.
“Don’t be so literal. You talked across a railing.”
“Do you mean to say you didn’t talk at all?”
“We didn’t say a single word.”
Mifflin shook his head sadly.
“I give you up,” he said. “I thought you were a man of enterprise. What did you do?”
Jimmy sighed softly.
“I used to stand and smoke against the railing opposite the barber’s shop and she used to walk round the deck.”
“And you used to stare at her?”
“I would look in her direction sometimes,” corrected Jimmy, with dignity.
“Don’t quibble! You stared at her. You behaved like a common rubber-neck, and you know it. I am no prude, James, but I feel compelled to say that I consider your conduct that of a libertine. Used she to walk alone?”
“And now you love her, eh? You went on board that ship happy, careless, heart-free. You came off it grave and saddened. Thenceforth for you the world could contain but one woman, and her you had lost.”
He groaned in a hollow and bereaved manner, and took a sip from his glass to buoy him up.
Jimmy moved restlessly on the sofa.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” he asked, fatuously. He was in the mood when a man says things the memory of which makes him wake up hot all over for nights to come.
“I don’t see what first sight’s got to do with it,” said Mifflin. “According to your own statement, you stood and glared at the girl for five days without stopping for a moment. I can quite imagine that you might glare yourself into love with anyone by the end of that time.”
“I can’t see myself settling down,” said Jimmy, thoughtfully. “And until you feel that you want to settle down, I suppose you can’t be really in love.”
“I was saying practically that about you at the club just before you came in. My somewhat neat expression was that you were one of the gipsies of the world.”
“By George, you’re quite right!”
“I always am.”
“I suppose it’s having nothing to do. When I was on the ‘News’ I was never like this.”
“You weren’t on the ‘News’ long enough to get tired of it.”
“I feel now I can’t stay in a place more than a week. It’s having this money that does it, I suppose.”
“New York,” said Mifflin, “is full of obliging persons who will be delighted to relieve you of the incubus. Well, James, I shall leave you. I feel more like bed now. By the way, I suppose you lost sight of this girl when you landed?”
“Well, there aren’t so many girls in the United States. Only twenty million. Or is it forty million? Something small. All you’ve got to do is to search about a bit. Good night.”
Mr. Mifflin clattered down the stairs. A minute later the sound of his name being called loudly from the street brought Jimmy to the window. Mifflin was standing on the pavement below, looking up.
“What’s the matter now?”
“I forgot to ask. Was she a blonde?”
“Was she a blonde?” yelled Mifflin.
“No,” snapped Jimmy.
“Dark, eh?” bawled Mifflin, making night hideous.
“Yes,” said Jimmy, shutting the window.
“Jimmy! I say, Jimmy!”
The window went up again.
“I prefer blondes myself.”
“Go to bed!”
“Very well. Good night.”
Jimmy withdrew his head, and sat down in the chair Mifflin had vacated. A moment later he rose and switched off the light. It was pleasanter to sit and think in the dark. His thoughts wandered off in many channels, but always came back to the girl on the Lusitania. It was absurd, of course. He didn’t wonder that Arthur Mifflin had treated the thing as a joke. Good old Arthur! Glad he had made a success. But was it a joke? Who was it said that the point of a joke was like the point of a needle—so small that it is apt to disappear entirely when directed straight at oneself? If anybody else had told him such a limping romance he would have laughed himself. Only when you are the centre of a romance, however limping, you see it from a different angle. Of course, told baldly, it was absurd. He could see that. But something right at the back of his mind told him that it was not altogether absurd. And yet—— Love didn’t come like that—in a flash. You might just as well expect a house to spring into being in a moment. Or a ship. Or an automobile. Or a table. Or a—— He sat up with a jerk. In another instant he would have been asleep.
He thought of bed, but bed seemed a long way off—the deuce of a way. Acres of carpet to be crawled over, and then the dickens of a climb at the end of it. Besides undressing. Nuisance—undressing. That was a nice dress that girl had worn on the fourth day out. Tailor-made. He liked tailor-mades. He liked all her dresses. He liked her. Had she liked him? So hard to tell if you don’t get a chance of speaking. She was dark. Arthur liked blondes. Arthur was a fool! Good old Arthur! Glad he had made a success! Now he could marry if he liked. If he wasn’t so restless. If he didn’t feel that he couldn’t stop more than a day in any place. But would the girl have him? If they had never spoken it made it so hard to——
At this point he fell asleep.
At the time when Jimmy slept in his chair, previous to being aroused from his slumbers by the invasion of Spike, a certain Mr. John McEachern, Captain of Police, was seated in the parlour of his up-town villa, reading. He was a man built on a large scale. Everything about him was large—his hands, his feet, his shoulders, his chest, and particularly his jaw—which even in his moments of calm was aggressive, and which stood out, when anything happened to ruffle him, like the ram of a battleship. In his patrolman days, which had been passed mainly on the East Side, this jaw of his had acquired a reputation from Park Row to Fourteenth Street. No gang-fight, however absorbing, could retain the undivided attention of the young blood of the Bowery when Mr. McEachern’s jaw hove in sight, with the rest of his massive person in close attendance. He was a man who knew no fear, and he had gone through disorderly mobs like an east wind.
But there was another side to his character. In fact, that other side was so large that the rest of him, his readiness in combat and his zeal in breaking up public disturbances, might be said to have been only an offshoot. For his ambition was as large as his fist and as aggressive as his jaw. He had entered the force with the single idea of becoming rich, and had set about achieving his object with a strenuous vigour that was as irresistible as his mighty locust-stick. Some policemen are born grafters, some achieve graft, and some have graft thrust upon them. Mr. McEachern had begun by being the first, had risen to the second, and for some years now had been a prominent member of the small and hugely-prosperous third class, the class which does not go out seeking graft, but sits at home and lets graft come to them.
Though neither his name nor his financial methods suggested it, Mr. McEachern was by birth an English gentleman. His complete history would take long to write. Abridged, it may be told as follows. His real name was John Forrest, and he was the only son of one Eustace Forrest, at one time a major in the Guards. His only other relative was Edward, Eustace’s elder brother, a bachelor. When Mrs. Eustace died, four years after the marriage, the widower, having spent eighteen months at Monte Carlo working out an infallible system for breaking the bank, to the great contentment of M. Blanc and the management in general, proceeded to the gardens, where he shot himself in the orthodox way, leaving many liabilities, no assets, and one son.
Edward, by this time a man of substance in Lombard Street, adopted John, and sent him to a series of schools, beginning with a kindergarten and ending with Eton.
Unfortunately, Eton had demanded from John a higher standard of conduct than he was prepared to supply, and a week after his eighteenth birthday his career as an Etonian closed prematurely. Edward Forrest thereupon delivered his ultimatum. John could choose between the smallest of small posts in his uncle’s business and £100 in bank-notes, coupled with the usual hand-washing and disowning. John had reached out for that money almost before the words had left his uncle’s mouth. He left for Liverpool that day and for New York on the morrow.
He spent his hundred pounds, tried his hand without success at one or two odd jobs, and finally fell in with a friendly policeman, who, observing the young man’s physique, which even then was impressive, suggested that he should join the Force. The policeman, whose name was O’Flaherty, having talked the matter over with two other policemen whose names were O’Rourke and Muldoon, strongly recommended that he should change his name to something Irish, the better to equip him for his new profession. Accordingly John Forrest ceased to be and Patrolman J. McEachern was born.
In his search for wealth he had been content to abide his time. He did not want the trifling sum which every New York policeman acquires. His object was something bigger, and he was prepared to wait for it. He knew that small beginnings were an annoying but unavoidable preliminary to all great fortunes. Probably Captain Kidd had started in a small way. Certainly Mr. Rockefeller had. He was content to follow in the footsteps of the masters.
A patrolman’s opportunities of amassing wealth are not great. Mr. McEachern had made the best of a bad job. He had not disdained the dollars which came as single spies rather than in battalions. Until the time should arrive when he might angle for whales he was prepared to catch sprats.
Much may be done, even on a small scale, by perseverance. In those early days Mr. McEachern’s observant eye had not failed to notice certain pedlars who obstructed the traffic, divers tradesmen who did the same by the pavement, and restaurant keepers not a few with a distaste for closing at one o’clock in the morning. His researches in this field were not unprofitable. In a reasonably short space of time he had put by the 3,000dols. which were the price of his promotion to detective-sergeant. He did not like paying 3,000dols. for promotion, but there must be sinking of capital if an investment is to prosper. Mr. McEachern “came across,” and climbed one more step up the ladder.
As detective-sergeant he found his horizon enlarged. There was more scope for a man of parts. Things moved more rapidly. The world seemed full of philanthropists anxious to “dress his front” and do him other little kindnesses. Mr. McEachern was no churl. He let them dress his front; he accepted the little kindnesses. Presently he found that he had 15,000dols. to spare for any small flutter that might take his fancy. Singularly enough, this was the precise sum necessary to make him a captain.
He became a captain. And it was then that he discovered that El Dorado was no mere poet’s dream and that Tom Tiddler’s Ground, where one might stand picking up gold and silver, was as definite a locality as Brooklyn or the Bronx. At last, after years of patient waiting, he stood like Moses on the mountain, looking down into the Promised Land. He had come to where the big money was.
The book he was reading now was the little note-book in which he kept a record of his investments, which were numerous and varied. That the contents were satisfactory was obvious at a glance. The smile on his face and the reposeful position of his jaw were proof enough of that. There were notes relating to house property, railroad shares, and a dozen other profitable things. He was a rich man.
This was a fact which was entirely unsuspected by his neighbours, with whom he maintained somewhat distant relations, accepting no invitations and giving none. For Mr. McEachern was playing a big game. Other eminent buccaneers in his walk of life had been content to be rich men in a community where moderate means were the rule. But about Mr. McEachern there was a touch of the Napoleonic. He meant to get back into society—the society of England. Other people have noted the fact—which had impressed itself very firmly on the policeman’s mind—that between England and the United States there are 3,000 miles of deep water. In the United States he would be a retired police-captain; in England an American gentleman of large and independent means with a beautiful daughter.
That was the ruling impulse in his life—his daughter Molly. Though, if he had been a bachelor, he would certainly not have been satisfied to pursue a humble career aloof from graft; on the other hand, if it had not been for Molly he would not have felt, as he gathered in his dishonest wealth, that he was conducting a sort of Holy War. Ever since his wife had died, in his detective-sergeant days, leaving him with a year-old daughter, his ambitions had been inseparably connected with Molly.
All his thoughts were on the future. This New York life was only a preparation for the splendours to come. He spent not a dollar unnecessarily. When Molly was home from school they lived together simply and quietly in the small house which Molly’s taste made so comfortable. The neighbours, knowing his profession and seeing the modest scale on which he lived, told each other that here, at any rate, was a policeman whose hands were clean of graft. They did not know of the stream that poured in week by week and year by year into his bank, to be diverted at intervals into the most profitable channels. Until the time should come for the great change, economy was his motto. The expenses of his home were kept within the bounds of his official salary. All extras went to swell his savings.
He closed his book with a contented sigh and lit another cigar. Cigars were his only personal luxury. He drank nothing, ate the simplest food, and made a suit of clothes last for quite an unusual length of time; but no passion for economy could make him deny himself smoke.
He sat on, thinking. It was very late, but he did not feel ready for bed. A great moment had arrived in his affairs. For days Wall Street had been undergoing one of its periodical fits of jumpiness. There had been rumours and counter-rumours, until finally from the confusion there had soared up like a rocket the one particular stock in which he was most largely interested. He had unloaded that morning, and the result had left him slightly dizzy. The main point to which his mind clung was that the time had come at last. He could make the great change now at any moment that suited him.
He was blowing clouds of smoke and gloating over this fact when the door opened, admitting a bull-terrier, a bulldog, and in the wake of the procession a girl in a kimono and red slippers.
“Why, Molly,” said the policeman, “what are you doing out of bed? I thought you were asleep.”
He placed a huge arm round her and drew her on to his lap. As she sat there his great bulk made her seem smaller than she really was. With her hair down, and her little red slippers dangling half a yard from the floor, she seemed a child. McEachern, looking at her, found it hard to realize that nineteen years had passed since the moment when the doctor’s raised eyebrows had reproved him for his monosyllabic reception of the news that the baby was a girl.
“Do you know what the time is?” he said. “Two o’clock.”
“Much too late for you to be sitting here smoking,” said Molly, severely. “How many cigars do you smoke a day? Suppose you had married someone who wouldn’t let you smoke!”
“Never stop your husband smoking, my dear. That’s a bit of advice for you when you’re married.”
“I’m never going to marry. I’m going to stop at home and darn your socks.”
“I wish you could,” he said, drawing her closer to him. “But one of these days you’re going to marry a prince. And now run back to bed. It’s much too late——”
“It’s no good, father, dear. I couldn’t get to sleep. I’ve been trying hard for hours. I’ve counted sheep till I nearly screamed. It’s Rastus’s fault. He snores so.”
Mr. McEachern regarded the erring bulldog sternly.
“Why do you have the brutes in your room?”
“Why, to keep the boogaboos from getting me, of course. Aren’t you afraid of the boogaboos getting you? But you’re so big, you wouldn’t mind. You’d just hit them. And they’re not brutes—are you, darlings? You’re angels, and you nearly burst yourselves with joy because auntie had come back from England, didn’t you? Father, did they miss me when I was gone? Did they pine away?”
“They got like skeletons. We all did.”
“I should say so.”
“Then why did you send me away?”
“I wanted you to see the country. Did you like it?”
“I hated being away from you.”
“But you liked the country?”
“I loved it.”
McEachern drew a breath of relief. The only possible obstacle to the great change did not exist.
“How would you like to go back to England, Molly?”
“To England! When I’ve just come home?”
“If I went too?”
Molly twisted round so that she could see his face better.
“There’s something the matter with you, father. You’re trying to say something, and I want to know what it is. Tell me quick, or I’ll make Rastus bite you!”
“It won’t take long, dear. I’ve been lucky in some investments while you were away, and I’m going to leave the Force, and take you over to England and find a prince for you to marry. If you think you would like it.”
“Father! It’ll be perfectly splendid!”
She kissed him.
“What are you looking so thoughtful about, father?”
“Molly, I want to tell you something I have never told you before. I am English. I only took the name McEachern because they thought it would help me in the Force. Our real name is Forrest.”
“Father! But why haven’t you ever told me before?”
“I was afraid you might ask questions and find out things.”
She looked quickly at him.
“I was sent to America,” he went on, “because I was expelled from school for stealing.”
There was a silence. She caught the arm that was round her waist and gave it a little squeeze.
“What does it matter what you did when you were only a boy?” she said.
He did not look at her. There was a dull flush on his cheeks.
“We’ll go home, Molly,” he said. “I had a place in society over there till I threw it away, and, by Heaven, I’m going to get it back for you. You shall have a fair show, whatever I may have done. We shall not take the old name again. None of the return of the black sheep for me! I won’t have people looking down on you because your father——”
“But, father, dear, it was so long ago. What does it matter? Who would remember?”
“Never mind. I couldn’t risk it. They might say what they pleased about me, but you’re going to start fair. Who's to recognize me after all these years? I’m just John McEachern from America, and if anybody wants to know anything about me, I’m a man who has made money on Wall Street—and that’s no lie—and has come over to England to spend it.”
Molly gave his arm another squeeze. Her eyes were wet.
“Father, dear,” she whispered, “I believe you’ve been doing it all for me. You’ve been slaving away for me ever since I was born, stinting yourself and saving money just so that I could have a good time later on.”
“It’s true,” she said. She turned on him with a tremulous laugh. “I don’t believe you’ve had enough to eat for years. I believe you’re all skin and bone. Never mind. To-morrow I’ll take you out and buy you the best dinner you’ve ever had out of my own money. We’ll go to Sherry’s, and you shall start at the top of the menu and go straight down it till you’ve had enough.”
“That will make up for everything. And now don’t you think you ought to be going to bed? You’ll be losing all that colour you got on the ship.”
“Soon. Not just yet. I haven’t seen you for such ages.” She pointed at the bull-terrier. “Look at Tommy, standing there and staring. He can’t believe I’ve really come back. Father, there was a man on the Lusitania with eyes exactly like Tommy’s—all brown and bright—and he used to stand and stare just like Tommy’s doing.”
“If I had been there,” said her father, wrathfully, “I’d have knocked his head off.”
“No, you wouldn’t, because I’m sure he was really a very nice young man. He had a chin rather like yours, father. Besides, you couldn’t have got at him to knock his head off, because he was travelling second-class.”
“Second-class? Then you didn’t talk with him.”
“We couldn’t. You wouldn’t expect him to shout at me across the railing! Only whenever I walked round the deck he seemed to be there.”
“He may not have been staring at me. Probably he was just looking the way the ship was going, and thinking of some girl in New York. I don’t think you can make much of a romance out of it, father.”
“I don’t want to, my dear. Princes don’t travel in the second cabin.”
“He may have been a prince in disguise.”
“More likely a commercial traveller,” grunted Mr. McEachern.
“Commercial travellers are often quite nice.”
“Princes are nicer.”
“Well, I’ll go to bed and dream of the nicest one I can think of. Come along, dogs. Stop biting my slipper, Tommy. Why can’t you behave like Rastus? Still, you don’t snore, do you? Aren’t you going to bed soon, father? I believe you’ve been sitting up late and getting into all sorts of bad habits while I’ve been away. I’m sure you have been smoking too much. When you’ve finished that cigar you’re not even to think of another till to-morrow. Promise!”
“Not one. I’m not going to have my father getting like the people you read about in the magazine advertisements. You don’t want to feel sudden shooting pains, do you?”
“No, my dear.”
“And have to take some awful medicine?”
“Very well, my dear. I promise.”
As the door closed he threw away the stump he was smoking, and remained for a few moments in thought.
Then he drew another cigar from his case, lit it, and resumed the study of the little note-book.
It was past three o’clock when he went to his bedroom.
A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.
How long the light had been darting about the room like a very much enlarged firefly Jimmy did not know. It seemed to him like hours, for it had woven itself into an incoherent waking dream of his; and for a moment, as the mists of sleep passed away from his brain, he fancied that he was dreaming still. Then sleep left him, and he realized that the light, which was now moving slowly across the bookcase, was a real light.
That the man behind it could not have been there long was plain, or he would have seen the chair and its occupant. He seemed to be taking the room step by step. As Jimmy sat up noiselessly, and gripped the arms of the chair in readiness for a spring, the light passed from the bookcase to the table. Another foot or so to the left, and it would have fallen on Jimmy.
On it came. From the position of the ray Jimmy could see that the burglar was approaching on his side of the table. Though, until that day, he had not been in the room for two months, its geography was clearly stamped on his mind’s eye. He knew almost to a foot where his visitor was standing. Consequently when, rising swiftly from the chair, he made a football dive into the darkness, it was no speculative dive. It had a conscious aim, and it was not restrained by any uncertainty as to whether the road to the burglar’s knees was clear or not.
His shoulder bumped into a human leg. His arms closed instantaneously on it and pulled. There was a yelp of dismay and a crash. The lantern bounced away across the room and wrecked itself on the roof of the steam-heater. Its owner collapsed in a heap on top of Jimmy.
Jimmy, underneath at the fall, speedily put himself uppermost with a twist of his body. He had every advantage. The burglar was a small man, and had been taken very much by surprise, and any fight there might have been in him in normal circumstances had been shaken out of him by the fall. He lay still, not attempting to struggle.
Jimmy half rose and, pulling his prisoner by inches to the door, felt up the wall till he found the electric-light button.
The yellow glow which flooded the room disclosed a short, stocky youth of obviously Bowery extraction. A shock of vivid red hair was the first thing about him that caught the eye. A poet would have described it as Titian. Its proprietor’s friends and acquaintances probably called it “carrots.” Looking up at Jimmy from under this wealth of crimson was a not unpleasing face. It was not handsome, certainly, but there were suggestions of a latent good-humour. The nose had been broken at one period of its career, and one of the ears was undeniably of the cauliflower type; but these are little accidents which may happen to any high-spirited young gentleman. In costume the visitor had evidently been guided rather by individual taste than by the dictates of fashion. His coat was of rusty black, his trousers of grey, picked out with stains of various colours. Beneath the coat was a faded red-and-white sweater. A hat of soft felt lay on the floor by the table.
The cut of the coat was poor, and the sit of it spoiled by a bulge in one of the pockets. Diagnosing this bulge correctly, Jimmy inserted his hand and drew out a dingy revolver.
“Well?” he said, rising.
Like most people, he had often wondered what he should do if he were to meet a burglar; and he had always come to the conclusion that curiosity would be his chief emotion. His anticipations had proved perfectly correct. Now that he had abstracted his visitor’s gun he had no wish to do anything but engage him in conversation. A burglar’s life was something so entirely outside his experience. He wanted to learn the burglar’s point of view. Incidentally, he reflected with amusement, as he recalled his wager, he might pick up a few useful hints.
The man on the floor sat up and rubbed the back of his head ruefully.
“Gee!” he muttered. “I t’ought some guy had t’rown de building at me.”
“It was only little me,” said Jimmy. “Sorry if I hurt you at all. You really want a mat for that sort of thing.”
The man’s hand went furtively to his pocket. Then his eye caught sight of the revolver, which Jimmy had placed on the table. With a sudden dash he seized it.
“Now den, boss!” he said, between his teeth.
Jimmy extended his hand towards him and unclasped it. Six shells lay in the palm.
“Why worry?” he said. “Sit down and let us talk of life.”
“It’s a fair cop, boss,” said the man, resignedly.
“Away with melancholy,” said Jimmy. “I’m not going to call the police. You can go whenever you like.”
The man stared.
“I mean it,” said Jimmy. “What’s the trouble? I’ve no grievance. I wish, though, if you haven’t any important engagement, you would stop and talk awhile first.”
A broad grin spread itself across the other’s face. There was something singularly engaging about him when he grinned.
“Gee! If youse ain’t goin’ to call da cops, I’ll talk till de chickens roost again.”
“Talking, however,” said Jimmy, “is dry work. Are you a teetotaller?”
“What’s dat? Me? On your way, boss!”
“Then you’ll find a pretty decent whisky in that decanter. Help yourself. I think you’ll like it.”
A musical gurgling, followed by a contented sigh, showed that the statement had been tested and proved correct.
“Cigar?” asked Jimmy.
“Me fer dat,” assented his visitor.
“Take a handful.”
“I eats dem alive,” said the marauder, jovially, gathering in the spoils.
Jimmy crossed his legs.
“By the way,” he said, “let there be no secrets between us. What’s your name? Mine is Pitt. James Willoughby Pitt.”
“Mullins is my monaker, boss. Spike, dey calls me.”
“And you make a living at this sort of thing?”
“Not so bad.”
“How did you get in here?”
Spike Mullins grinned.
“Gee! Ain’t de window open?”
“If it hadn’t been?”
“I’d a’ busted it.”
Jimmy eyed him fixedly.
“Can you use an oxy-acetylene blow-pipe?” he demanded.
Spike was on the point of drinking. He lowered his glass and gaped.
“What’s dat?” he said.
“An oxy-acetylene blow-pipe.”
“Search me,” said Spike, blankly. “Dat gets past me.”
Jimmy’s manner grew more severe.
“Can you make soup?”
“He doesn’t know what soup is,” said Jimmy, despairingly. “My good man, I’m afraid you have missed your vocation. You have no business to be trying to burgle. You don’t know the first thing about the game.”
Spike was regarding him with furtive disquiet over his glass. Till now the red-haired one had been very well satisfied with his methods, but criticism was beginning to sap his nerve. He had heard tales of masters of his craft who made use of fearsome implements such as Jimmy had mentioned; burglars who had an airy acquaintanceship, bordering on insolent familiarity, with the marvels of science; men to whom the latest inventions were as familiar as his own jemmy was to himself. Could this be one of that select band? Jimmy began to take on a new aspect in his eyes.
“Spike,” said Jimmy.
“Have you a thorough knowledge of chemistry, physics——”
“On your way, boss!”
“Electricity and microscopy?”
“Nine, ten. Dat’s de finish. I’m down and out.”
Jimmy shook his head sadly.
“Give up burglary,” he said. “It’s not in your line. Better try poultry-farming.”
Spike twiddled his glass, abashed.
“Now I,” said Jimmy, airily, “am thinking of breaking into a house to-night.”
“Gee!” exclaimed Spike, his suspicions confirmed at last. “I t’ought youse was in de game, boss. Sure, you’re de guy dat’s onto all de curves. I t’ought so all along.”
“I should like to hear,” said Jimmy, amusedly, as one who draws out an intelligent child, “how you would set about burgling one of those up-town villas. My own work has been on a somewhat larger scale and on the other side of the Atlantic.”
“De odder side?”
“I have done as much in London as anywhere else,” said Jimmy. “A great town, London. Full of opportunities for the fine worker. Did you hear of the cracking of the New Asiatic Bank in Lombard Street?”
“No, boss,” whispered Spike. “Was dat you?”
“The police would like an answer to the same question,” he said, self-consciously. “Perhaps you heard nothing of the disappearance of the Duchess of Havant’s diamonds?”
“The thief,” said Jimmy, flicking a speck of dust from his coat-sleeve, “was discovered to have used an oxy-acetylene blow-pipe.”
The rapturous intake of Spike’s breath was the only sound that broke the silence. Through the smoke his eyes could be seen slowly widening.
“But about this villa,” said Jimmy. “I am always interested even in the humblest sides of the profession. Now, tell me, supposing you were going to break into a villa, what time of night would you do it?”
“I always t’inks it’s best either late like dis or when de folks is in at supper,” said Spike, respectfully.
Jimmy smiled a faint, patronizing smile, and nodded.
“Well, and what would you do?”
“I’d rubber around some to see isn’t dere a window open somewheres,” said Spike, diffidently.
“And if there wasn’t?”
“I’d climb up de porch and into one of de bedrooms,” said Spike, almost blushing. He felt like a boy reading his first attempts at original poetry to an established critic. What would this master cracksman, this polished wielder of the oxy-acetylene blow-pipe, this expert in toxicology, microscopy, and physics, think of his callow outpourings?
“How would you get into the bedroom?”
Spike hung his head.
“Bust de catch wit me jemmy,” he whispered, shamefacedly.
“Burst the catch with your jemmy?”
“It’s de only way I ever learned,” pleaded Spike.
The expert was silent. He seemed to be thinking. The other watched his face humbly.
“How would youse do it, boss?” he ventured, timidly, at last.
“How would youse do it?”
“Why, I’m not sure,” said the master, graciously, “whether your way might not do in a case like that. It’s crude, of course, but with a few changes it would do.”
“Gee, boss! Is dat right?” queried the astonished disciple.
“It would do,” said the master, frowning thoughtfully. “It would do quite well—quite well.”
Spike drew a deep breath of joy and astonishment. That his methods should meet with approval from such a mind!
“Gee!” he whispered. As who should say, “I and Napoleon.”
An earlier version of this story appeared as a complete-in-one-issue American magazine novella under the title The Gem Collector (Ainslee’s, December 1909), with a much simplified plot and substantial differences in the histories, motivations, and interactions of the characters. The full-length novel was first published by W. J. Watt as The Intrusion of Jimmy in New York on 11 May 1910, with many minor variations from the British version given here; in the American version, Jimmy Pitt, Arthur Mifflin, and John McEachern are apparently American-born, all references to their British origins having been omitted. The American text is slightly more consistent in the spelling of Spike’s Bowery dialect and has other piquant Americanisms which must be original with Wodehouse, though watered down for British readers or, in some cases, omitted. There are several extended passages in the British text not present in the Watt edition. The British book was first published as A Gentleman of Leisure by Alston Rivers Ltd. on 15 November 1910; its text seems at an initial scan to be substantially similar to this Tit-Bits serialization. Later book reissues by George Newnes (publisher of Tit-Bits as well as The Strand) and Herbert Jenkins (Wodehouse’s most frequent British publisher) seem to have been slightly abridged at some point; the 1978 Barrie & Jenkins edition and the 1991 Penguin paperback edition each bear a 1921 copyright date and have the shortened text. Thanks to Karen Shotting for pointing out that the later British versions are abridged, and to Arthur Robinson for finding at least some of the same edits in the ca. 1912 Newnes paperback and a 1940s Jenkins reprint. More research on this issue remains to be done.
Savage Club: Founded in 1857 as a Bohemian club for journalists, artists, writers, and other creative souls. Wodehouse himself was a member for a time of this “cheerful, sociable establishment” (per Norman Murphy).
Raffles: “The Amateur Cracksman,” gentleman, cricketer, and burglar in a series of stories by E. W. Hornung, who (together with his brother-in-law Arthur Conan Doyle) was on the Authors cricket team along with Wodehouse.
Lusitania: Cunard ocean liner, in service from 1907 until sunk by a German submarine in 1915. (Later editions of this novel replace the name with that of her sister ship, the Mauretania.) Four-time winner (1907–09) of the Blue Riband for fastest average speed in Atlantic crossings; briefly the largest liner in the world.
Charles Peace: notorious English burglar and murderer from Sheffield (1832–1879).
The use of “grey matter” referring to problem-solving skills is interesting this early in fiction. Not for another ten years would Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot popularize his “little grey cells”.
‘soup’: a liquid explosive used in safe-cracking, a preparation of nitroglycerin extracted from the stabilizing solids of dynamite using hot water or alcohol.
brass tube: Probably a reference to Arctic explorer Dr. Frederick A. Cook, who on April 21, 1908, buried a brass tube containing a record of his explorations in the ice at what he claimed to be the North Pole, and planted the Stars and Stripes above it.
carve a big J: I had thought this to be a Zorro reference, but found that that character first appeared in 1919 in Johnston McCulley’s story “The Curse of Capistrano.” Let me know if you find any earlier appearances of the bandit-carving-initials-in-doors theme.
Arsène Lupin: gentleman thief in French short stories and novels by Maurice Leblanc (1864–1941); first appearance in 1905.
a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: Hamlet’s tribute to Yorick (V, i).
heart seems to trill within you: First American book editions have “thrill” here instead.
making night hideous: Hamlet, I, iv.
the point of a joke . . . like the point of a needle: W. S. Gilbert, in the libretto for the comic opera His Excellency (1894), Act I:
Harold: “The fact is, the point of a joke is like the point of a needle — hold the needle sideways and it’s plain enough, but when it is directed straight at you — well, it's not always very easy to see the point of it.”
Some policemen are born grafters . . . : A takeoff on the letter which Malvolio reads aloud in Twelfth Night (II, v): “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
M. Blanc: French casino entrepreneur (1806–77), emulated by Wodehouse’s Benjamin Scobell in The Prince and Betty.
Lombard Street: characterizes the financial district of the City of London just as Wall Street refers to that of New York.
single spies . . . battalions: Hamlet (IV, v):
Claudius: When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions.
like Moses on the mountain, looking down into the Promised Land: The reference is to Deuteronomy 34:1–4; the parallel is not exact, however, since Moses was denied the opportunity to enter the land, but Mr. McEachern took advantage of his chances.
Sherry’s: Louis Sherry (1855–1926) launched his first restaurant in 1880 in New York City, deliberately appealing to an upper-class clientele with “dainty decorations” and “novelties of service.” By 1898 he had moved and expanded twice; at the time of this story his restaurant and Delmonico’s were competing for business across the street from each other at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street. The 1921 Herbert Jenkins edition substitutes “the Ritz” here.
It was past three o’clock…: This sentence is present in the 1910 Alston Rivers first British edition and in original American editions, but omitted in the 1921 Herbert Jenkins and subsequent British texts.
wrecked itself on the roof of the steam-heater: First American edition has “reef” here.
New Asiatic Bank: also the site of Mike and Psmith’s employment in Psmith in the City, which had been serialized as “The New Fold” in 1908–09 in The Captain; clearly modeled after Wodehouse’s own first employer, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.
Duchess of Havant: Wodehouse often used real place names for his fictional aristocratic titles; here, as in “The Matrimonial Sweepstakes,” he uses the name of a town just a couple of miles west of Emsworth in Hampshire, where Wodehouse often stayed when he needed a break from London, first renting in 1904 then later buying a house called Threepwood.
Printer’s errors corrected above:
Ch. II: Magazine had “In these maters stand on your Uncle Arthur”; corrected to “matters”
Magazine omitted question mark after “What did you do ”
—Notes by Neil Midkiff