window. And if anybody tries to stop me, it will be his - or
her - " he bowed politely to Miss Trimble - "last act in the world.
If any one makes a move to stop me, I shall drop this test-tube
and blow the whole damned place to pieces."
If his first speech had made a marked impression on his audience,
his second paralysed them. A silence followed as of the tomb.
Only the yapping of the dog Aida refused to be stilled.
"Y' stay where y' are!" said Miss Trimble, as the speaker moved
towards the window. She held the revolver poised, but for the
first time that night - possibly for the first time in her
life - she spoke irresolutely. Superbly competent woman though she
was, here was a situation that baffled her.
Gentleman Jack crossed the room slowly, the test-tube held aloft
between fore-finger and thumb. He was level with Miss Trimble,
who had lowered her revolver and had drawn to one side, plainly at
a loss to know how to handle this unprecedented crisis, when the
door flew open. For an instant the face of Howard Bemis, the
poet, was visible.
"Mrs. Pett, I have telephoned - "
Then another voice interrupted him.
"Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!"
Through the opening the dog Aida, rejoicing in the removal of the
obstacle, raced like a fur muff mysteriously endowed with legs
and a tongue. She tore across the room to where Gentleman Jack's
ankles waited invitingly. Ever since their first meeting she had
wanted a fair chance at those ankles, but some one had always
"Damn!" shouted Gentleman Jack.
The word was drowned in one vast cataclysm of noise. From every
throat in the room there proceeded a shout, a shriek, or some
other variety of cry, as the test-tube, slipping from between the
victim's fingers, described a parabola through the air.
Ann flung herself into Jimmy's arms, and he held her tight. He
shut his eyes. Even as he waited for the end the thought flashed
through his mind that, if he must die, this was the manner of
death which he would prefer.
The test-tube crashed on the writing-desk, and burst into a
million pieces. . . .
Jimmy opened his eyes. Things seemed to be much about the same as
before. He was still alive. The room in which he stood was solid
and intact. Nobody was in fragments. There was only one respect
in which the scene differed from what it had been a moment
before. Then, it had contained Gentleman Jack. Now it did not.
A great sigh seemed to sweep through the room. There was a long
silence. Then, from the direction of the street, came the roar of
a starting automobile. And at that sound the bearded man with the
spectacles who had formed part of Miss Trimble's procession
uttered a wailing cry.
"Gee! He's beat it in my bubble! And it was a hired one!"
The words seemed to relieve the tension in the air. One by one
the company became masters of themselves once more. Miss Trimble,
that masterly woman, was the first to recover. She raised herself
from the floor - for with a confused idea that she would be safer
there she had flung herself down - and, having dusted her skirt
with a few decisive dabs of her strong left hand, addressed
herself once more to business.
"I let 'm bluff me with a fake bomb!" she commented bitterly. She
brooded on this for a moment. "Say, shut th't door 'gain, some
one, and t'run this mutt out. I can't think with th't yapping
Mrs. Pett, pale and scared, gathered Aida into her arms. At the
same time Ann removed herself from Jimmy's. She did not look at
him. She was feeling oddly shy. Shyness had never been a failing
of hers, but she would have given much now to have been
Miss Trimble again took charge of the situation. The sound of the
automobile had died away. Gentleman Jack had passed out of their
lives. This fact embittered Miss Trimble. She spoke with
"Well, _he's_ gone!" she said acidly. "Now we can get down t' cases
again. Say!" She addressed Mrs. Pett, who started nervously. The
experience of passing through the shadow of the valley of death and
of finding herself in one piece instead of several thousand had
robbed her of all her wonted masterfulness. "Say, list'n t' me.
There's been a double game on here t'night. That guy that's jus'
gone was th' first part of th' entertainment. Now we c'n start th'
sec'nd part. You see these ducks?" She indicated with a wave of the
revolver Mr. Crocker and his bearded comrade. "They've been trying
t' kidnap y'r son!"
Mrs. Pett uttered a piercing cry.
"Oh, can it!" muttered that youth, uncomfortably. He foresaw
awkward moments ahead, and he wished to concentrate his faculties
entirely on the part he was to play in them. He looked sideways
at Chicago Ed. In a few minutes, he supposed, Ed. would be
attempting to minimise his own crimes, by pretending that he,
Ogden, had invited him to come and kidnap him. Stout denial must
be his weapon.
"I had m' suspicions," resumed Miss Trimble, "that someth'ng was
goin' t' be pulled off to-night, 'nd I was waiting outside f'r it
to break loose. This guy here," she indicated the bearded
plotter, who blinked deprecatingly through his spectacles, "h's
been waiting on the c'rner of th' street for the last hour with
'n automobile. I've b'n watching him right along. I was onto h's
game! Well, just now out came the kid with this plug-ugly here."
She turned to Mr. Crocker. "Say you! Take off th't mask. Let's
have a l'k at you!"
Mr. Crocker reluctantly drew the cambric from his face.
"Goosh!" exclaimed Miss Trimble in strong distaste. "Say, 've you
got some kind of a plague, or wh't is it? Y'look like a coloured
comic supplement!" She confronted the shrinking Mr. Crocker and
ran a bony finger over his cheek. "Make-up!" she said, eyeing the
stains disgustedly. "Grease paint! Goosh!"
"Skinner!" cried Mrs. Pett.
Miss Trimble scanned her victim more closely.
"So 't is, if y' do a bit 'f excavating." She turned on the
bearded one. "'nd I guess all this shrubbery is fake, 'f you come
down to it!" She wrenched at the unhappy man's beard. It came off
in her hands, leaving a square chin behind it. "If this ain't a
wig, y'll have a headache t'morrow," observed Miss Trimble,
weaving her fingers into his luxuriant head-covering and pulling.
"Wish y' luck! Ah! 'twas a wig. Gimme those spect'cles." She
surveyed the results of her handiwork grimly. "Say, Clarence,"
she remarked, "y're a wise guy. Y' look handsomer with 'em on.
Does any one know _this_ duck?"
"It is Mitchell," said Mrs. Pett. "My husband's physical
Miss Trimble turned, and, walking to Jimmy, tapped him meaningly
on the chest with her revolver.
"Say, this is gett'n interesting! This is where y' 'xplain, y'ng
man, how 'twas you happened to be down in this room when th't
crook who's just gone was monkeyin' with the safe. L'ks t' me as
if you were in with these two."
A feeling of being on the verge of one of those crises which dot
the smooth path of our lives came to Jimmy. To conceal his
identity from Ann any longer seemed impossible. He was about to
speak, when Ann broke in.
"Aunt Nesta," she said, "I can't let this go on any longer. Jerry
Mitchell isn't to blame. I told him to kidnap Ogden!"
There was an awkward silence. Mrs. Pett laughed nervously.
"I think you had better go to bed, my dear child. You have had a
severe shock. You are not yourself."
"But it's true! I did tell him, didn't I, Jerry?"
"Say!" Miss Trimble silenced Jerry with a gesture. "You beat 't
back t' y'r little bed, honey, like y'r aunt says. Y' say y' told
this guy t' steal th' kid. Well, what about this here Skinner? Y'
didn't tell _him_, did y'?"
"I - I - " Ann began confusedly. She was utterly unable to account
for Skinner, and it made her task of explaining difficult.
Jimmy came to the rescue. He did not like to think how Ann would
receive the news, but for her own sake he must speak now. It
would have required a harder-hearted man than himself to resist
the mute pleading of his father's grease-painted face. Mr.
Crocker was a game sport: he would not have said a word without
the sign from Jimmy, even to save himself from a night in prison,
but he hoped that Jimmy would speak.
"It's perfectly simple," said Jimmy, with an attempt at airiness
which broke down miserably under Miss Trimble's eye. "Perfectly
simple. I really am Jimmy Crocker, you know." He avoided Ann's
gaze. "I can't think what you are making all this fuss about."
"Th'n why did y' sit in at a plot to kidnap this boy?"
"That, of course - ha, ha! - might seem at first sight to require a
"Y' admit it, then?"
"Yes. As a matter of fact, I did have the idea of kidnapping
Ogden. Wanted to send him to a dogs' hospital, if you understand
what I mean." He tried to smile a conciliatory smile, but,
encountering Miss Trimble's left eye, abandoned the project. He
removed a bead of perspiration from his forehead with his
handkerchief. It struck him as a very curious thing that the
simplest explanations were so often quite difficult to make.
"Before I go any further, I ought to explain one thing. Skinner
there is my father."
Mrs. Pett gasped.
"Skinner was my sister's butler in London."
"In a way of speaking," said Jimmy, "that is correct. It's rather
a long story. It was this way, you see. . . ."
Miss Trimble uttered an ejaculation of supreme contempt.
"I n'ver saw such a lot of babbl'ng crooks in m' life! 't beats
me what y' hope to get pulling this stuff. Say!" She indicated
Mr. Crocker. "This guy's wanted f'r something over in England.
We've got h's photographs 'n th' office. If y' ask me, he lit out
with the spoons 'r something. Say!" She fixed one of the geniuses
with her compelling eye. "'Bout time y' made y'rself useful. Go'n
call up th' Astorbilt on th' phone. There's a dame there that's
been making the enquiries f'r this duck. She told Anderson's - and
Anderson's handed it on to us - to call her up any hour of the day
'r night when they found him. You go get her on the wire and t'll
her t' come right up here'n a taxi and identify him."
The genius paused at the door.
"Whom shall I ask for?"
"Mrs. Crocker," snapped Miss Trimble. "Siz Bingley Crocker. Tell
her we've found th' guy she's been looking for!"
The genius backed out. There was a howl of anguish from the
"I _beg_ your pardon!" said the genius.
"Can't you look where you're going!"
"I am exceedingly sorry - "
Mr. Pett entered the room, hopping. He was holding one slippered
foot in his hand and appeared to be submitting it to some form of
massage. It was plain that the usually mild and gentle little man
was in a bad temper. He glowered round him at the company
"What the devil's the matter here?" he demanded. "I stood it as
long as I could, but a man can't get a wink of sleep with this
noise going on!"
"Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!" barked Aida from the shelter of Mrs. Pett's
Mr. Pett started violently.
"Kill that dog! Throw her out! Do _something_ to her!"
Mrs. Pett was staring blankly at her husband. She had never seen
him like this before. It was as if a rabbit had turned and
growled at her. Coming on top of the crowded sensations of the
night, it had the effect of making her feel curiously weak. In
all her married life she had never known what fear was. She had
coped dauntlessly with the late Mr. Ford, a man of a spirited
temperament; and as for the mild Mr. Pett she had trampled on
him. But now she felt afraid. This new Peter intimidated her.
SENSATIONAL TURNING OF A WORM
To this remarkable metamorphosis in Mr. Peter Pett several causes
had contributed. In the first place, the sudden dismissal of
Jerry Mitchell had obliged him to go two days without the
physical exercises to which his system had become accustomed, and
this had produced a heavy, irritable condition of body and mind.
He had brooded on the injustice of his lot until he had almost
worked himself up to rebellion. And then, as sometimes happened
with him when he was out of sorts, a touch of gout came to add to
his troubles. Being a patient man by nature, he might have borne
up against these trials, had he been granted an adequate night's
rest. But, just as he had dropped off after tossing restlessly
for two hours, things had begun to happen noisily in the library.
He awoke to a vague realisation of tumult below.
Such was the morose condition of his mind as the result of his
misfortune that at first not even the cries for help could
interest him sufficiently to induce him to leave his bed. He knew
that walking in his present state would be painful, and he
declined to submit to any more pain just because some party
unknown was apparently being murdered in his library. It was not
until the shrill barking of the dog Aida penetrated right in
among his nerve-centres and began to tie them into knots that he
found himself compelled to descend. Even when he did so, it was
in no spirit of kindness. He did not come to rescue anybody or to
interfere between any murderer and his victim. He came in a fever
of militant wrath to suppress Aida. On the threshold of the
library, however, the genius, by treading on his gouty foot, had
diverted his anger and caused it to become more general. He had
not ceased to concentrate his venom on Aida. He wanted to assail
"What's the matter here?" he demanded, red-eyed. "Isn't somebody
going to tell me? Have I got to stop here all night? Who on earth
is this?" He glared at Miss Trimble. "What's she doing with that
pistol?" He stamped incautiously with his bad foot, and emitted a
dry howl of anguish.
"She is a detective, Peter," said Mrs. Pett timidly.
"A detective? Why? Where did she come from?"
Miss Trimble took it upon herself to explain.
"Mister Pett, siz Pett sent f'r me t' watch out so's nobody
kidnapped her son."
"Oggie," explained Mrs. Pett. "Miss Trimble was guarding darling
"To - to prevent him being kidnapped, Peter."
Mr. Pett glowered at the stout boy. Then his eye was attracted by
the forlorn figure of Jerry Mitchell. He started.
"Was this fellow kidnapping the boy?" he asked.
"Sure," said Miss Trimble. "Caught h'm with th' goods. He w's
waiting outside there with a car. I held h'm and this other guy
up w'th a gun and brought 'em back!"
"Jerry," said Mr. Pett, "it wasn't your fault that you didn't
bring it off, and I'm going to treat you right. You'd have done
it if nobody had butted in to stop you. You'll get the money to
start that health-farm of yours all right. I'll see to that. Now
you run off to bed. There's nothing to keep you here."
"Say!" cried Miss Trimble, outraged. "D'ya mean t' say y' aren't
going t' pros'cute? Why, aren't I tell'ng y' I caught h'm
kidnapping th' boy?"
"I told him to kidnap the boy!" snarled Mr. Pett.
Mr. Pett looked like an under-sized lion as he faced his wife. He
bristled. The recollection of all that he had suffered from Ogden
came to strengthen his determination.
"I've tried for two years to get you to send that boy to a good
boarding-school, and you wouldn't do it. I couldn't stand having
him loafing around the house any longer, so I told Jerry Mitchell
to take him away to a friend of his who keeps a dogs' hospital on
Long Island and to tell his friend to hold him there till he got
some sense into him. Well, you've spoiled that for the moment
with your detectives, but it still looks good to me. I'll give
you a choice. You can either send that boy to a boarding-school
next week, or he goes to Jerry Mitchell's friend. I'm not going
to have him in the house any longer, loafing in my chair and
smoking my cigarettes. Which is it to be?"
"If I send him to a school, he may be kidnapped."
"Kidnapping can't hurt him. It's what he needs. And, anyway, if
he is I'll pay the bill and be glad to do it. Take him off to bed
now. To-morrow you can start looking up schools. Great Godfrey!"
He hopped to the writing-desk and glared disgustedly at the
_debris_ on it. "Who's been making this mess on my desk? It's hard!
It's darned hard! The only room in the house that I ask to have
for my own, where I can get a little peace, and I find it turned
into a beer-garden, and coffee or some damned thing spilled all
over my writing-desk!"
"That isn't coffee, Peter," said Mrs. Pett mildly. This cave-man
whom she had married under the impression that he was a gentle
domestic pet had taken all the spirit out of her. "It's Willie's
"Lord Wisbeach - I mean the man who pretended to be Lord
Wisbeach - dropped it there."
"Dropped it there? Well, why didn't it explode and blow the place
to Hoboken, then?"
Mrs. Pett looked helplessly at Willie, who thrust his fingers
into his mop of hair and rolled his eyes.
"There was fortunately some slight miscalculation in my formula,
uncle Peter," he said. "I shall have to look into it to-morrow.
Whether the trinitrotoluol - "
Mr. Pett uttered a sharp howl. He beat the air with his clenched
fists. He seemed to be having a brain-storm.
"Has this - this _fish_ been living on me all this time - have I been
supporting this - this _buzzard_ in luxury all these years while he
fooled about with an explosive that won't explode! He pointed an
accusing finger at the inventor. Look into it tomorrow, will you?
Yes, you can look into it to-morrow after six o'clock! Until then
you'll be working - for the first time in your life - working in my
office, where you ought to have been all along." He surveyed the
crowded room belligerently. "Now perhaps you will all go back to
bed and let people get a little sleep. Go home!" he said to the
Miss Trimble stood her ground. She watched Mrs. Pett pass away
with Ogden, and Willie Partridge head a stampede of geniuses, but
she declined to move.
"Y' gotta cut th' rough stuff, 'ster Pett," she said calmly. "I
need my sleep, j'st 's much 's everyb'dy else, but I gotta stay
here. There's a lady c'ming right up in a taxi fr'm th' Astorbilt
to identify this gook. She's after'm f'r something."
"'s what he calls h'mself."
"What's he done?"
"I d'no. Th' lady'll tell us that."
There was a violent ringing at the front door bell.
"I guess that's her," said Miss Trimble. "Who's going to let 'r
in? I can't go."
"I will," said Ann.
Mr. Pett regarded Mr. Crocker with affectionate encouragement.
"I don't know what you've done, Skinner," he said, "but I'll
stand by you. You're the best fan I ever met, and if I can keep
you out of the penitentiary, I will."
"It isn't the penitentiary!" said Mr. Crocker unhappily.
A tall, handsome, and determined-looking woman came into the
room. She stood in the doorway, looking about her. Then her eyes
rested on Mr. Crocker. For a moment she gazed incredulously at
his discoloured face. She drew a little nearer, peering.
"D'yo 'dentify 'm, ma'am?" said Miss Trimble.
"Is 't th' guy y' wanted?"
"It's my husband!" said Mrs. Crocker.
"Y' can't arrest 'm f'r _that!_" said Miss Trimble disgustedly.
She thrust her revolver back into the hinterland of her costume.
"Guess I'll be beatin' it," she said with a sombre frown. She was
plainly in no sunny mood. "'f all th' hunk jobs I was ever on,
this is th' hunkest. I'm told off 't watch a gang of crooks, and
after I've lost a night's sleep doing it, it turns out 't's a
nice, jolly fam'ly party!" She jerked her thumb towards Jimmy.
"Say, this guy says he's that guy's son. I s'pose it's all
"That is my step-son, James Crocker."
Ann uttered a little cry, but it was lost in Miss Trimble's
stupendous snort. The detective turned to the window.
"I guess I'll beat 't," she observed caustically, "before it
turns out that I'm y'r l'il daughter Genevieve."
NEARLY EVERYBODY HAPPY
Mrs. Crocker turned to her husband.
"Well, Bingley?" she said, a steely tinkle in her voice.
"Well, Eugenia?" said Mr. Crocker.
A strange light was shining in Mr. Crocker's mild eyes. He had
seen a miracle happen that night. He had seen an even more
formidable woman than his wife dominated by an even meeker man
than himself, and he had been amazed and impressed by the
spectacle. It had never even started to occur to him before, but
apparently it could be done. A little resolution, a little
determination . . . nothing more was needed. He looked at Mr.
Pett. And yet Mr. Pett had crumpled up Eugenia's sister with
about three firm speeches. It could be done. . . .
"What have you to say, Bingley?"
Mr. Crocker drew himself up.
"Just this!" he said. "I'm an American citizen, and the way I've
figured it out is that my place is in America. It's no good
talking about it, Eugenia. I'm sorry if it upsets your plans, but
I - am - not - going - back - to - London!" He eyed his speechless wife
unflatteringly. "I'm going to stick on here and see the pennant
race out. And after that I'm going to take in the World's
Mrs. Crocker opened her mouth to speak, closed it, re-opened it.
Then she found that she had nothing to say.
"I hope you'll be sensible, Eugenia, and stay on this side, and
we can all be happy. I'm sorry to have to take this stand, but
you tried me too high. You're a woman, and you don't know what it
is to go five years without seeing a ball game; but take it from
me it's more than any real fan can stand. It nearly killed me,
and I'm not going to risk it again. If Mr. Pett will keep me on
as his butler, I'll stay here in this house. If he won't, I'll
get another job somewhere. But, whatever happens, I stick to this
Mr. Pett uttered a whoop of approval.
"There's always been a place for you in my house, old man!" he
cried. "When I get a butler who - "
"But, Bingley! How can you be a butler?"
"You ought to watch him!" said Mr. Pett enthusiastically. "He's a
wonder! He can pull all the starchy stuff as if he'd lived with
the Duke of Whoosis for the last forty years, and then go right
off and fling a pop-bottle at an umpire! He's all right!"
The eulogy was wasted on Mrs. Crocker. She burst into tears. It
was a new experience for her husband, and he watched her
awkwardly, his resolute demeanour crumbling under this unexpected
Mrs. Crocker wiped her eyes.
"I can't stand it!" she sobbed. "I've worked and worked all these
years, and now, just as success has nearly come - Bingley, _do_
come back! It will only be for a little longer."
Mr. Crocker stared.
"A little longer? Why, that Lord Percy Whipple business - I know
you must have had excellent reasons for soaking him, Jimmy, but
it did put the lid on it - surely, after that Lord Percy affair
there's no chance - ?"
"There is! There is! It has made no difference at all! Lord Percy
came to call next day with a black eye, poor boy! - and said that
James was a sportsman and that he wanted to know him better! He
said he had never felt so drawn towards any one in his life and
he wanted him to show him how he made some blow which he called a
right hook. The whole affair has simply endeared James to him,
and Lady Corstorphine says that the Duke of Devizes read the
account of the fight to the Premier that very evening and they
both laughed till they nearly got apoplexy."
Jimmy was deeply touched. He had not suspected such a sporting
spirit in his antagonist.
"Percy's all right." he said enthusiastically. "Dad, you ought to
go back. It's only fair."
"But, Jimmy! Surely _you_ can understand? There's only a game
separating the Giants and the Phillies, with the Braves coming
along just behind. And the season only half over!"
Mrs. Crocker looked imploringly at him.
"It will only be for a little while, Bingley. Lady Corstorphine,
who has means of knowing, says that your name is certain to be in
the next Honours List. After that you can come back as often as
you like. We could spend the summer here and the winter in
England, or whatever you pleased."
Mr. Crocker capitulated.
"All right, Eugenia. I'll come."
"Bingley! We shall have to go back by the next boat, dear. People
are beginning to wonder where you are. I've told them that you
are taking a rest in the country. But they will suspect something
if you don't come back at once."
Mr. Crocker's face wore a drawn look. He had never felt so
attached to his wife as now, when she wept these unexpected tears
and begged favours of him with that unfamiliar catch in her
voice. On the other hand . . . A vision rose before him of the
Polo Grounds on a warm afternoon. . . . He crushed it down.