Presently the door opened again, and Mr. Crocker appeared,
looking like a benevolent priest.
BETWEEN FATHER AND SON
"Well, Skinner, my man," said Jimmy, "how goes it?"
Mr. Crocker looked about him cautiously. Then his priestly manner
fell from him like a robe, and he bounded forward.
"Jimmy!" he exclaimed, seizing his son's hand and shaking it
violently. "Say, it's great seeing you again, Jim!"
Jimmy drew himself up haughtily.
"Skinner, my good menial, you forget yourself strangely! You will
be getting fired if you mitt the handsome guest in this chummy
fashion!" He slapped his father on the back. "Dad, this is great!
How on earth do you come to be here? What's the idea? Why the
buttling? When did you come over? Tell me all!"
Mr. Crocker hoisted himself nimbly onto the writing-desk, and sat
there, beaming, with dangling legs.
"It was your letter that did it, Jimmy. Say, Jim, there wasn't
any need for you to do a thing like that just for me."
"Well, I thought you would have a better chance of being a peer
without me around. By the way, dad, how did my step-mother take
the Lord Percy episode?"
A shadow fell upon Mr. Crocker's happy face.
"I don't like to do much thinking about your step-mother," he
said. "She was pretty sore about Percy. And she was pretty sore
about your lighting out for America. But, gee! what she must be
feeling like now that I've come over, I daren't let myself
"You haven't explained that yet. Why did you come over?"
"Well, I'd been feeling homesick - I always do over there in the
baseball season - and then talking with Pett made it worse - "
"Talking with Pett? Did you see him, then, when he was in
"See him? I let him in!"
"Into the house, I mean. I had just gone to the front door to see
what sort of a day it was - I wanted to know if there had been
enough rain in the night to stop my having to watch that cricket
game - and just as I got there the bell rang. I opened the door."
"A revoltingly plebeian thing to do! I'm ashamed of you, dad!
They won't stand for that sort of thing in the House of Lords!"
"Well, before I knew what was happening they had taken me for the
butler. I didn't want your step-mother to know I'd been opening
doors - you remember how touchy she was always about it so I just
let it go at that and jollied them along. But I just couldn't
help asking the old man how the pennant race was making out, and
that tickled him so much that he offered me a job here as butler
if I ever wanted to make a change. And then your note came saying
that you were going to New York, and - well, I couldn't help
myself. You couldn't have kept me in London with ropes. I sneaked
out next day and bought a passage on the _Carmantic_ - she sailed
the Wednesday after you left - and came straight here. They gave
me this job right away." Mr. Crocker paused, and a holy light of
enthusiasm made his homely features almost beautiful. "Say, Jim,
I've seen a ball-game every darned day since I landed! Say, two
days running Larry Doyle made home-runs! But, gosh! that guy Klem
is one swell robber! See here!" Mr. Crocker sprang down from the
desk, and snatched up a handful of books, which he proceeded to
distribute about the floor. "There were two men on bases in the
sixth and What's-his-name came to bat. He lined one out to
centre-field - where this book is - and - "
"Pull yourself together, Skinner! You can't monkey about with the
employer's library like that." Jimmy restored the books to their
places. "Simmer down and tell me more. Postpone the gossip from
the diamond. What plans have you made? Have you considered the
future at all? You aren't going to hold down this buttling job
forever, are you? When do you go back to London?"
The light died out of Mr. Crocker's face.
"I guess I shall have to go back some time. But how can I yet,
with the Giants leading the league like this?"
"But did you just light out without saying anything?"
"I left a note for your step-mother telling her I had gone to
America for a vacation. Jimmy, I hate to think what she's going
to do to me when she gets me back!"
"Assert yourself, dad! Tell her that woman's place is the home
and man's the ball-park! Be firm!"
Mr. Crocker shook his head dubiously.
"It's all very well to talk that way when you're three thousand
miles from home, but you know as well as I do, Jim, that your
step-mother, though she's a delightful woman, isn't the sort you
can assert yourself with. Look at this sister of hers here. I
guess you haven't been in the house long enough to have noticed,
but she's very like Eugenia in some ways. She's the boss all
right, and old Pett does just what he's told to. I guess it's the
same with me, Jim. There's a certain type of man that's just born
to have it put over on him by a certain type of woman. I'm that
sort of man and your stepmother's that sort of woman. No, I guess
I'm going to get mine all right, and the only thing to do is to
keep it from stopping me having a good time now."
There was truth in what he said, and Jimmy recognised it. He
changed the subject.
"Well, never mind that. There's no sense in worrying oneself
about the future. Tell me, dad, where did you get all the
'dinner-is-served, madam' stuff? How did you ever learn to be a
"Bayliss taught me back in London. And, of course, I've played
butlers when I was on the stage."
Jimmy did not speak for a moment.
"Did you ever play a kidnapper, dad?" he asked at length.
"Sure. I was Chicago Ed. in a crook play called 'This Way Out.'
Why, surely you saw me in that? I got some good notices."
"Of course. I knew I'd seen you play that sort of part some time.
You came on during the dark scene and - "
" - switched on the lights and - "
" - covered the bunch with your gun while they were still
blinking! You were great in that part, dad."
"It was a good part," said Mr. Crocker modestly. "It had fat. I'd
like to have a chance to play a kidnapper again. There's a lot of
pep to kidnappers."
"You _shall_ play one again," said Jimmy. "I am putting on a little
sketch with a kidnapper as the star part."
"Eh? A sketch? You, Jim? Where?"
"Here. In this house. It is entitled 'Kidnapping Ogden' and opens
Mr. Crocker looked at his only son in concern. Jimmy appeared to
him to be rambling.
"Amateur theatricals?" he hazarded.
"In the sense that there is no pay for performing, yes. Dad, you
know that kid Ogden upstairs? Well, it's quite simple. I want you
to kidnap him for me."
Mr. Crocker sat down heavily. He shook his head.
"I don't follow all this."
"Of course not. I haven't begun to explain. Dad, in your rambles
through this joint you've noticed a girl with glorious red-gold
hair, I imagine?"
"Ann Chester. I'm going to marry her."
"But she doesn't know it yet. Now, follow me carefully, dad. Five
years ago Ann Chester wrote a book of poems. It's on that desk
there. You were using it a moment back as second-base or
something. Now, I was working at that time on the _Chronicle_. I
wrote a skit on those poems for the Sunday paper. Do you begin to
follow the plot?"
"She's got it in for you? She's sore?"
"Exactly. Get that firmly fixed in your mind, because it's the
source from which all the rest of the story springs."
Mr. Crocker interrupted.
"But I don't understand. You say she's sore at you. Well, how is
it that you came in together looking as if you were good friends
when I let you in this morning?"
"I was waiting for you to ask that. The explanation is that she
doesn't know that I am Jimmy Crocker."
"But you came here saying that you were Jimmy Crocker."
"Quite right. And that is where the plot thickens. I made Ann's
acquaintance first in London and then on the boat. I had found
out that Jimmy Crocker was the man she hated most in the world,
so I took another name. I called myself Bayliss."
"I had to think of something quick, because the clerk at the
shipping office was waiting to fill in my ticket. I had just been
talking to Bayliss on the phone and his was the only name that
came into my mind. You know how it is when you try to think of a
name suddenly. Now mark the sequel. Old Bayliss came to see me
off at Paddington. Ann was there and saw me. She said 'Good
evening, Mr. Bayliss' or something, and naturally old Bayliss
replied 'What ho!' or words to that effect. The only way to
handle the situation was to introduce him as my father. I did so.
Ann, therefore, thinks that I am a young man named Bayliss who
has come over to America to make his fortune. We now come to the
third reel. I met Ann by chance at the Knickerbocker and took her
to lunch. While we were lunching, that confirmed congenital
idiot, Reggie Bartling, who happened to have come over to America
as well, came up and called me by my name. I knew that, if Ann
discovered who I really was, she would have nothing more to do
with me, so I gave Reggie the haughty stare and told him that he
had made a mistake. He ambled away - and possibly committed
suicide in his anguish at having made such a bloomer - leaving Ann
discussing with me the extraordinary coincidence of my being
Jimmy Crocker's double. Do you follow the story of my life so
Mr. Crocker, who had been listening with wrinkled brow and other
signs of rapt attention, nodded.
"I understand all that. But how did you come to get into this
"That is reel four. I am getting to that. It seems that Ann, who
is the sweetest girl on earth and always on the lookout to do
some one a kindness, had decided, in the interests of the boy's
future, to remove young Ogden Ford from his present sphere, where
he is being spoiled and ruined, and send him down to a man on
Long Island who would keep him for awhile and instil the first
principles of decency into him. Her accomplice in this admirable
scheme was Jerry Mitchell."
"Who, as you know, got fired yesterday. Jerry was to have done
the rough work of the job. But, being fired, he was no longer
available. I, therefore, offered to take his place. So here I
"You're going to kidnap that boy?"
"No. You are."
"Precisely. You are going to play a benefit performance of your
world-famed success, Chicago Ed. Let me explain further. Owing to
circumstances which I need not go into, Ogden has found out that
I am really Jimmy Crocker, so he refuses to have anything more to
do with me. I had deceived him into believing that I was a
professional kidnapper, and he came to me and offered to let me
kidnap him if I would go fifty-fifty with him in the ransom!"
"Yes, he's an intelligent child, full of that sort of bright
ideas. Well, now he has found that I am not all his fancy painted
me, he wouldn't come away with me; and I want you to understudy
me while the going is good. In the fifth reel, which will be
released to-night after the household has retired to rest, you
will be featured. It's got to be tonight, because it has just
occurred to me that Ogden, knowing that Lord Wisbeach is a crook,
may go to him with the same proposal that he made to me."
"Lord Wisbeach a crook!"
"Of the worst description. He is here to steal that explosive
stuff of Willie Partridge's. But as I have blocked that play, he
may turn his attention to Ogden."
"But, Jimmy, if that fellow is a crook - how do you know he is?"
"He told me so himself."
"Well, then, why don't you expose him?"
"Because in order to do so, Skinner my man, I should have to
explain that I was really Jimmy Crocker, and the time is not yet
ripe for that. To my thinking, the time will not be ripe till you
have got safely away with Ogden Ford. I can then go to Ann and
say 'I may have played you a rotten trick in the past, but I have
done you a good turn now, so let's forget the past!' So you see
that everything now depends on you, dad. I'm not asking you to do
anything difficult. I'll go round to the boarding-house now and
tell Jerry Mitchell about what we have arranged, and have him
waiting outside here in a car. Then all you will have to do is to
go to Ogden, play a short scene as Chicago Ed., escort him to the
car, and then go back to bed and have a good sleep. Once Ogden
thinks you are a professional kidnapper, you won't have any
difficulty at all. Get it into your head that he wants to be
kidnapped. Surely you can tackle this light and attractive job?
Why, it will be a treat for you to do a bit of character acting
Jimmy had struck the right note. His father's eyes began to gleam
with excitement. The scent of the footlights seemed to dilate his
"I was always good at that rough-neck stuff," he murmured
meditatively. "I used to eat it!"
"Exactly," said Jimmy. "Look at it in the right way, and I am
doing you a kindness in giving you this chance."
Mr. Crocker rubbed his cheek with his forefinger.
"You'd want me to make up for the part?" he asked wistfully.
"You want me to do it to-night?"
"At about two in the morning, I thought."
"I'll do it, Jim!"
Jimmy grasped his hand.
"I knew I could rely on you, dad."
Mr. Crocker was following a train of thought.
"Dark wig . . . blue chin . . . heavy eyebrows . . . I guess I
can't do better than my old Chicago Ed. make-up. Say, Jimmy, how
am I to get to the kid?"
"That'll be all right. You can stay in my room till the time
comes to go to him. Use it as a dressing-room."
"How am I to get him out of the house?"
"Through this room. I'll tell Jerry to wait out on the
side-street with the car from two o'clock on."
Mr. Crocker considered these arrangements.
"That seems to be about all," he said.
"I don't think there's anything else."
"I'll slip downtown and buy the props."
"I'll go and tell Jerry."
A thought struck Mr. Crocker.
"You'd better tell Jerry to make up, too. He doesn't want the kid
recognising him and squealing on him later."
Jimmy was lost in admiration of his father's resource.
"You think of everything, dad! That wouldn't have occurred to me.
You certainly do take to Crime in the most wonderful way. It
seems to come naturally to you!"
Mr. Crocker smirked modestly.
CELESTINE IMPARTS INFORMATION
Plit is only as strong as its weakest link. The best-laid schemes
of mice and men gang agley if one of the mice is a mental
defective or if one of the men is a Jerry Mitchell. . . .
Celestine, Mrs. Pett's maid - she who was really Maggie O'Toole
and whom Jerry loved with a strength which deprived him of even
that small amount of intelligence which had been bestowed upon
him by Nature - came into the house-keeper's room at about ten
o'clock that night. The domestic staff had gone in a body to the
moving-pictures, and the only occupant of the room was the new
parlourmaid, who was sitting in a hard chair, reading
Celestine's face was flushed, her dark hair was ruffled, and her
eyes were shining. She breathed a little quickly, and her left
hand was out of sight behind her back. She eyed the new
parlour-maid doubtfully for a moment. The latter was a woman of
somewhat unencouraging exterior, not the kind that invites
confidences. But Celestine had confidences to bestow, and the
exodus to the movies had left her in a position where she could
not pick and choose. She was faced with the alternative of
locking her secret in her palpitating bosom or of revealing it to
this one auditor. The choice was one which no impulsive damsel in
like circumstances would have hesitated to make.
"Say!" said Celestine.
A face rose reluctantly from behind Schopenhauer. A gleaming eye
met Celestine's. A second eye no less gleaming glared at the
"Say, I just been talking to my feller outside," said Celestine
with a coy simper. "Say, he's a grand man!"
A snort of uncompromising disapproval proceeded from the
thin-lipped mouth beneath the eyes. But Celestine was too full of
her news to be discouraged.
"I'm strong fer Jer!" she said.
"Huh?" said the student of Schopenhauer.
"Jerry Mitchell, you know. You ain't never met him, have you?
Say, he's a grand man!"
For the first time she had the other's undivided attention. The
new parlour-maid placed her book upon the table.
"Uh?" she said.
Celestine could hold back her dramatic surprise no longer. Her
concealed left hand flashed into view. On the third finger
glittered a ring. She gazed at it with awed affection.
"Ain't it a beaut!"
She contemplated its sparkling perfection for a moment in
"Say, you could have knocked me down with a feather!" she
resumed. "He telephones me awhile ago and says to be outside the
back door at ten to-night, because he'd something he wanted to
tell me. Of course he couldn't come in and tell it me here,
because he'd been fired and everything. So I goes out, and there
he is. 'Hello, kid!' he says to me. 'Fresh!' I says to him.
'Say, I got something to be fresh about!' he says to me. And then
he reaches into his jeans and hauls out the sparkler. 'What's
that?' I says to him. 'It's an engagement ring,' he says to me.
'For you, if you'll wear it!' I came over so weak, I could have
fell! And the next thing I know he's got it on my finger and - "
Celestine broke off modestly. "Say, ain't it a beaut, honest!"
She gave herself over to contemplation once more. "He says to me
how he's on Easy Street now, or will be pretty soon. I says to
him 'Have you got a job, then?' He says to me 'Now, I ain't got a
job, but I'm going to pull off a stunt to-night that's going to
mean enough to me to start that health-farm I've told you about.'
Say, he's always had a line of talk about starting a health-farm
down on Long Island, he knowing all about training and health and
everything through having been one of them fighters. I asks him
what the stunt is, but he won't tell me yet. He says he'll tell
me after we're married, but he says it's sure-fire and he's going
to buy the license tomorrow."
She paused for comment and congratulations, eyeing her companion
"Huh!" said the new parlour-maid briefly, and resumed her
Schopenhauer. Decidedly hers was not a winning personality.
"Ain't it a beaut?" demanded Celestine, damped.
The new parlour-maid uttered a curious sound at the back of her
"He's a beaut!" she said cryptically.
She added another remark in a lower tone, too low for Celestine's
ears. It could hardly have been that, but it sounded to Celestine
"I'll fix 'm!"
Riverside Drive slept. The moon shone on darkened windows and
deserted sidewalks. It was past one o'clock in the morning. The
wicked Forties were still ablaze with light and noisy foxtrots;
but in the virtuous Hundreds, where Mr. Pett's house stood,
respectable slumber reigned. Only the occasional drone of a
passing automobile broke the silence, or the love-sick cry of
some feline Romeo patrolling a wall-top.
Jimmy was awake. He was sitting on the edge of his bed watching
his father put the finishing touches to his make-up, which was of
a shaggy and intimidating nature. The elder Crocker had conceived
the outward aspect of Chicago Ed., King of the Kidnappers, on
broad and impressive lines, and one glance would have been enough
to tell the sagacious observer that here was no white-souled
comrade for a nocturnal saunter down lonely lanes and
Mr. Crocker seemed to feel this himself.
"The only trouble is, Jim," he said, peering at himself in the
glass, "shan't I scare the boy to death directly he sees me?
Oughtn't I to give him some sort of warning?"
"How? Do you suggest sending him a formal note?"
Mr. Crocker surveyed his repellent features doubtfully.
"It's a good deal to spring on a kid at one in the morning," he
said. "Suppose he has a fit!"
"He's far more likely to give you one. Don't you worry about
Ogden, dad. I shouldn't think there was a child alive more equal
to handling such a situation."
There was an empty glass standing on a tray on the
dressing-table. Mr. Crocker eyed this sadly.
"I wish you hadn't thrown that stuff away, Jim. I could have done
with it. I'm feeling nervous."
"Nonsense, dad! You're all right! I had to throw it away. I'm on
the wagon now, but how long I should have stayed on with that
smiling up at me I don't know. I've made up my mind never to
lower myself to the level of the beasts that perish with the
demon Rum again, because my future wife has strong views on the
subject: but there's no sense in taking chances. Temptation is
all very well, but you don't need it on your dressing-table. It
was a kindly thought of yours to place it there, dad, but - "
"Eh? I didn't put it there."
"I thought that sort of thing came in your department. Isn't it
the butler's job to supply drinks to the nobility and gentry?
Well, it doesn't matter. It is now distributed over the
neighbouring soil, thus removing a powerful temptation from your
path. You're better without it." He looked at his watch. "Well,
it ought to be all right now." He went to the window. "There's an
automobile down there. I suppose it's Jerry. I told him to be
outside at one sharp and it's nearly half-past. I think you might
be starting, dad. Oh, by the way, you had better tell Ogden that
you represent a gentleman of the name of Buck Maginnis. It was
Buck who got away with him last time, and a firm friendship seems
to-have sprung up between them. There's nothing like coming with
a good introduction."
Mr. Crocker took a final survey of himself in the mirror.
"Gee I I'd hate to meet myself on a lonely road!"
He opened the door, and stood for a moment listening.
From somewhere down the passage came the murmur of a muffled
"Third door on the left," said Jimmy. "Three - count 'em! - three.
Don't go getting mixed."
Mr. Crocker slid into the outer darkness like a stout ghost, and
Jimmy closed the door gently behind him.
Having launched his indulgent parent safely on a career of crime,
Jimmy switched off the light and returned to the window. Leaning
out, he gave himself up for a moment to sentimental musings. The
night was very still. Through the trees which flanked the house
the dimmed headlights of what was presumably Jerry Mitchell's
hired car shone faintly like enlarged fire-flies. A boat of some
description was tooting reflectively far down the river. Such was
the seductive influence of the time and the scene that Jimmy
might have remained there indefinitely, weaving dreams, had he
not been under the necessity of making his way down to the
library. It was his task to close the French windows after his
father and Ogden had passed through, and he proposed to remain
hid in the gallery there until the time came for him to do this.
It was imperative that he avoid being seen by Ogden.
Locking his door behind him, he went downstairs. There were no
signs of life in the house. Everything was still. He found the
staircase leading to the gallery without having to switch on the
It was dusty in the gallery, and a smell of old leather enveloped
him. He hoped his father would not be long. He lowered himself
cautiously to the floor, and, resting his head against a
convenient shelf, began to wonder how the interview between
Chicago Ed. and his prey was progressing.
* * * * *
Mr. Crocker, meanwhile, masked to the eyes, had crept in fearful
silence to the door which Jimmy had indicated. A good deal of the
gay enthusiasm with which he had embarked on this enterprise had
ebbed away from him. Now that he had become accustomed to the
novelty of finding himself once more playing a character part,
his intimate respectability began to assert itself. It was one
thing to play Chicago Ed. at a Broadway theatre, but quite another
to give a benefit performance like this. As he tip-toed along the
passage, the one thing that presented itself most clearly to him
was the appalling outcome of this act of his, should anything go
wrong. He would have turned back, but for the thought that Jimmy
was depending on him and that success would mean Jimmy's
happiness. Stimulated by this reflection, he opened Ogden's door
inch by inch and went in. He stole softly across the room.
He had almost reached the bed, and had just begun to wonder how
on earth, now that he was there, he could open the proceedings
tactfully and without alarming the boy, when he was saved the
trouble of pondering further on this problem. A light flashed out