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Produced by Arthur Robinson and Suzanne L. Shell









[Transcriber's note: _The Gem Collector_ was revised and republished
in 1910 as _The Intrusion of Jimmy_, also known as _A Gentleman of
Leisure_. This version, as published in _Ainslee's_, had two chapters
headed "Chapter XVIII" and ended with "Chapter XIX"; the last two
chapters are now labelled "Chapter XIX" and "Chapter XX." The word
"pubrescent" in Chapter VI has been changed to "putrescent."]





THE GEM COLLECTOR



By P. G. WODEHOUSE

Published in _Ainslee's Magazine_,
December 1909.




CHAPTER I.


The supper room of the Savoy Hotel was all brightness and glitter and
gayety. But Sir James Willoughby Pitt, baronet, of the United Kingdom,
looked round about him through the smoke of his cigarette, and felt
moodily that this was a flat world, despite the geographers, and that
he was very much alone in it.

He felt old.

If it is ever allowable for a young man of twenty-six to give himself
up to melancholy reflections, Jimmy Pitt might have been excused for
doing so, at that moment. Nine years ago he had dropped out, or, to
put it more exactly, had been kicked out, and had ceased to belong to
London. And now he had returned to find himself in a strange city.

Jimmy Pitt's complete history would take long to write, for he had
contrived to crowd much into those nine years. Abridged, it may be
told as follows: There were two brothers, a good brother and a bad
brother. Sir Eustace Pitt, the latter, married money. John, his
younger brother, remained a bachelor. It may be mentioned, to check
needless sympathy, that there was no rivalry between the two. John
Pitt had not the slightest desire to marry the lady of his brother's
choice, or any other lady. He was a self-sufficing man who from an
early age showed signs of becoming some day a financial magnate.

Matters went on much the same after the marriage. John continued to go
to the city, Eustace to the dogs. Neither brother had any money of his
own, the fortune of the Pitts having been squandered to the ultimate
farthing by the sportive gentleman who had held the title in the days
of the regency, when White's and the Cocoa Tree were in their prime,
and fortunes had a habit of disappearing in a single evening. Four
years after the marriage, Lady Pitt died, and the widower, having
spent three years and a half at Monte Carlo, working out an infallible
system for breaking the bank, to the great contentment of Mons. Blanc
and the management in general, proceeded to the gardens, where he shot
himself in the orthodox manner, leaving many liabilities, few assets,
and one son.

The good brother, by this time a man of substance in Lombard Street,
adopted the youthful successor to the title, and sent him to a series
of schools, beginning with a kindergarten and ending with Eton.

Unfortunately Eton demanded from Jimmy a higher standard of conduct
than he was prepared to supply, and a week after his seventeenth
birthday, his career as an Etonian closed prematurely. John Pitt
thereupon delivered an ultimatum. Jimmy could choose between the
smallest of small posts in his uncle's business, and one hundred
pounds in banknotes, coupled with the usual handwashing and disowning.
Jimmy would not have been his father's son if he had not dropped at
the money. The world seemed full to him of possibilities for a young
man of parts with a hundred pounds in his pocket.

He left for Liverpool that day, and for New York on the morrow.

For the next nine years he is off the stage, which is occupied by his
Uncle John, proceeding from strength to strength, now head partner,
next chairman of the company into which the business had been
converted, and finally a member of Parliament, silent as a wax figure,
but a great comfort to the party by virtue of liberal contributions to
its funds.

It may be thought curious that he should make Jimmy his heir after
what had happened; but it is possible that time had softened his
resentment. Or he may have had a dislike for public charities, the
only other claimant for his wealth. At any rate, it came about that
Jimmy, reading in a Chicago paper that if Sir James Willoughby Pitt,
baronet, would call upon Messrs. Snell, Hazlewood, and Delane,
solicitors, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, he would hear of
something to his advantage, had called and heard something very much
to his advantage.

Wherefore we find him, on this night of July, supping in lonely
magnificence at the Savoy, and feeling at the moment far less
conscious of the magnificence than of the loneliness.

Watching the crowd with a jaundiced eye, Jimmy had found his attention
attracted chiefly by a party of three a few tables away. The party
consisted of a pretty girl, a lady of middle age and stately demeanor,
plainly her mother, and a light-haired, weedy young man of about
twenty. It had been the almost incessant prattle of this youth and the
peculiarly high-pitched, gurgling laugh which shot from him at short
intervals which had drawn Jimmy's notice upon them. And it was the
curious cessation of both prattle and laugh which now made him look
again in their direction.

The young man faced Jimmy; and Jimmy, looking at him, could see that
all was not well with him. He was pale. He talked at random. A slight
perspiration was noticeable on his forehead.

Jimmy caught his eye. There was a hunted look in it.

Given the time and the place, there were only two things which could
have caused that look. Either the light-haired young man had seen a
ghost, or he had suddenly realized that he had not enough money to pay
the check.

Jimmy's heart went out to the sufferer. He took a card from his case,
scribbled the words, "Can I help?" on it, and gave it to a waiter to
take to the young man, who was now in a state bordering on collapse.

The next moment the light-haired one was at his table, talking in a
feverish whisper.

"I say," he said, "it's frightfully good of you, old chap. It's
frightfully awkward. I've come out with too little money. I hardly
like to - What I mean to say is, you've never seen me before, and - - "

"That's all right," said Jimmy. "Only too glad to help. It might have
happened to any one. Will this be enough?"

He placed a five-pound note on the table. The young man grabbed at it
with a rush of thanks.

"I say, thanks fearfully," he said. "I don't know what I'd have done.
I'll let you have it back to-morrow. Here's my card. Blunt's my name.
Spennie Blunt. Is your address on your card? I can't remember. Oh, by
Jove, I've got it in my hand all the time." The gurgling laugh came
into action again, freshened and strengthened by its rest. "Savoy
Mansions, eh? I'll come round to-morrow. Thanks, frightfully, again
old chap. I don't know what I should have done."

He flitted back to his table, bearing the spoil, and Jimmy, having
finished his cigarette, paid his check, and got up to go.

It was a perfect summer night. He looked at his watch. There was time
for a stroll on the Embankment before bed.

He was leaning on the balustrade, looking across the river at the
vague, mysterious mass of buildings on the Surrey side, when a voice
broke in on his thoughts.

"Say, boss. Excuse me."

Jimmy spun round. A ragged man with a crop of fiery red hair was
standing at his side. The light was dim, but Jimmy recognized that
hair.

"Spike!" he cried.

The other gaped, then grinned a vast grin of recognition.

"Mr. Chames! Gee, dis cops de limit!"

Three years had passed since Jimmy had parted from Spike Mullins, Red
Spike to the New York police, but time had not touched him. To Jimmy
he looked precisely the same as in the old New York days.

A policeman sauntered past, and glanced curiously at them. He made as
if to stop, then walked on. A few yards away he halted. Jimmy could
see him watching covertly. He realized that this was not the place for
a prolonged conversation.

"Spike," he said, "do you know Savoy Mansions?"

"Sure. Foist to de left across de way."

"Come on there. I'll meet you at the door. We can't talk here. That
cop's got his eye on us."

He walked away. As he went, he smiled. The policeman's inspection had
made him suddenly alert and on his guard. Yet why? What did it matter
to Sir James Pitt, baronet, if the whole police force of London
stopped and looked at him?

"Queer thing, habit," he said, as he made his way across the road.




CHAPTER II.


A black figure detached itself from the blacker shadows, and shuffled
stealthily to where Jimmy stood on the doorstep.

"That you, Spike?" asked Jimmy, in a low voice.

"Dat's right, Mr. Chames."

"Come on in."

He led the way up to his rooms, switched on the electric light, and
shut the door. Spike stood blinking at the sudden glare. He twirled
his battered hat in his hands. His red hair shone fiercely.

Jimmy inspected him out of the corner of his eye, and came to the
conclusion that the Mullins finances must be at a low ebb. Spike's
costume differed in several important details from that of the
ordinary well-groomed man about town. There was nothing of the
_flaneur_ about the Bowery boy. His hat was of the soft black
felt, fashionable on the East Side of New York. It was in poor
condition, and looked as if it had been up too late the night before.
A black tail coat, burst at the elbows, stained with mud, was tightly
buttoned across his chest. This evidently with the idea of concealing
the fact that he wore no shirt - an attempt which was not wholly
successful. A pair of gray flannel trousers and boots out of which two
toes peeped coyly, completed the picture.

Even Spike himself seemed to be aware that there were points in his
appearance which would have distressed the editor of a men's fashion
paper.

"'Scuse dese duds," he said. "Me man's bin an' mislaid de trunk wit'
me best suit in. Dis is me number two."

"Don't mention it, Spike," said Jimmy. "You look like a matinee idol.
Have a drink?"

Spike's eye gleamed as he reached for the decanter. He took a seat.

"Cigar, Spike?"

"Sure. T'anks, Mr. Chames."

Jimmy lit his pipe. Spike, after a few genteel sips, threw off his
restraint and finished the rest of his glass at a gulp.

"Try another," suggested Jimmy.

Spike's grin showed that the idea had been well received.

Jimmy sat and smoked in silence for a while. He was thinking the thing
over. He had met Spike Mullins for the first time in rather curious
circumstances in New York, and for four years the other had followed
him with a fidelity which no dangers or hardships could affect.
Whatever "Mr. Chames" did, said, or thought was to Spike the best
possible act, speech, or reflection of which man was capable. For four
years their partnership had continued, and then, conducting a little
adventure on his own account in Jimmy's absence, Spike had met with
one of those accidents which may happen to any one. The police had
gathered him in, and he had passed out of Jimmy's life.

What was puzzling Jimmy was the problem of what to do with him now
that he had reëntered it. Mr. Chames was one man. Sir James Willoughby
Pitt, baronet, another. On the other hand, Spike was plainly in low
water, and must be lent a helping hand.

Spike was looking at him over his glass with respectful admiration.
Jimmy caught his eye, and spoke.

"Well, Spike," he said. "Curious, us meeting like this."

"De limit," agreed Spike.

"I can't imagine you three thousand miles away from New York. How do
you know the cars still run both ways on Broadway?"

A wistful look came into Spike's eye.

"I t'ought it was time I give old Lunnon a call. De cops seemed like
as if they didn't have no use for me in New York. Dey don't give de
glad smile to a boy out of prison."

"Poor old Spike," said Jimmy, "you've had bad luck, haven't you?"

"Fierce," agreed the other.

"But whatever induced you to try for that safe without me? They were
bound to get you. You should have waited."

"Dat's right, boss, if I never says anudder word. I was a farmer for
fair at de game wit'out youse. But I t'ought I'd try to do somet'ing
so dat I'd have somet'ing to show youse when you come back. So I says
here's dis safe and here's me, and I'll get busy wit' it, and den Mr.
Chames will be pleased for fair when he gets back. So I has a try, and
dey gets me while I'm at it. We'll cut out dat part."

"Well, it's over now, at any rate. What have you been doing since you
came to England?"

"Gettin' moved on by de cops, mostly. An' sleepin' in de park."

"Well, you needn't sleep in the park any more, Spike. You can pitch
your moving tent with me. And you'll want some clothes. We'll get
those to-morrow. You're the sort of figure they can fit off the peg.
You're not too tall, which is a good thing."

"Bad t'ing for me, Mr. Chames. If I'd bin taller I'd have stood for
being a New York cop, and bin buying a brownstone house on Fifth
Avenue by this. It's de cops makes de big money in old Manhattan,
dat's who it is."

"You're right there," said Jimmy. "At least, partly. I suppose half
the New York force does get rich by graft. There are honest men among
them, but we didn't happen to meet them."

"That's right, we didn't. Dere was old man McEachern."

"McEachern! Yes. If any of them got rich, he would be the man. He was
the worst grafter of the entire bunch. I could tell you some stories
about old Pat McEachern, Spike. If half those yarns were true he must
be a wealthy man by now. We shall hear of him running for mayor one of
these days."

"Say, Mr. Chames, wasn't youse struck on de goil?"

"What girl?" said Jimmy quietly.

"Old man McEachern's goil, Molly. Dey used to say dat youse was her
steady."

"If you don't mind, Spike, friend of my youth, we'll cut out that,"
said Jimmy. "When I want my affairs discussed I'll mention it. Till
then - See?"

"Sure," said Spike, who saw nothing beyond the fact, dimly realized,
that he had said something which had been better left unsaid.

Jimmy chewed the stem of his pipe savagely. Spike's words seemed to
have touched a spring and let loose feelings which he had kept down
for three years. Molly McEachern! So "they" used to say that he was
engaged to Molly. He cursed Spike Mullins in his heart, well-meaning,
blundering Spike, who was now sitting on the edge of his chair drawing
sorrowfully at his cigar and wondering what he had done to give
offense. The years fell away from Jimmy, and he was back in New York,
standing at the corner of Forty-second Street with half an hour to
wait because the fear of missing her had sent him there too early;
sitting in Central Park with her while the squirrels came down and
begged for nuts; walking - Damn Spike! They had been friends. Nothing
more. He had never said a word. Her father had warned her against him.
Old Pat McEachern knew how he got his living, and could have put his
hand on the author of half a dozen burglaries by which the police had
been officially "baffled". That had been his strong point. He had
never left tracks. There was never any evidence. But McEachern knew,
and he had intervened stormily when he came upon them together. And
Molly had stood up for him, till her father had apologized confusedly,
raging inwardly the while at his helplessness. It was after that - -

"Mr. Chames," said Spike.

Jimmy's wits returned.

"Hullo?" he said.

"Mr. Chames, what's doing here? Put me next to de game. Is it de old
lay? You'll want me wit' youse, I guess?"

Jimmy laughed, and shut the door on his dreams.

"I'd quite forgotten I hadn't told you about myself, Spike. Do you
know what a baronet is?"

"Search me. What's de answer?"

"A baronet's the noblest work of man, Spike. I am one. Let wealth and
commerce, laws and learning - or is it art and learning? - die, but
leave us still our old nobility. I'm a big man now, Spike, I can tell
you."

"Gee!"

"My position has also the advantage of carrying a good deal of money
with it."

"Plunks!"

"You have grasped it. Plunks. Dollars. Doubloons. I line up with the
thickwads now, Spike. I don't have to work to turn a dishonest penny
any longer."

The horrid truth sank slowly into the other's mind.

"Say! What, Mr. Chames? Youse don't need to go on de old lay no more?
You're cutting it out for fair?"

"That's the idea."

Spike gasped. His world was falling about his ears. Now that he had
met Mr. Chames again he had looked forward to a long and prosperous
partnership in crime, with always the master mind behind him to direct
his movements and check him if he went wrong. He had looked out upon
the richness of London, and he had said with Blücher: "What a city to
loot!"

And here was his leader shattering his visions with a word.

"Have another drink, Spike," said the lost leader sympathetically.
"It's a shock to you, I guess."

"I t'ought, Mr. Chames - - "

"I know you did, and I'm very sorry for you. But it can't be helped.
_Noblesse oblige_, Spike. We of the old aristocracy mustn't do these
things. We should get ourselves talked about."

Spike sat silent, with a long face. Jimmy slapped him on the shoulder.

"After all," he said, "living honestly may be the limit, for all we
know. Numbers of people do it, I've heard, and enjoy themselves
tremendously. We must give it a trial, Spike. We'll go out together
and see life. Pull yourself together and be cheerful, Spike."

After a moment's reflection the other grinned, howbeit faintly.

"That's right," said Jimmy Pitt. "You'll be the greatest success ever
in society. All you have to do is to brush your hair, look cheerful,
and keep your hands off the spoons. For in society, Spike, they
invariably count them after the departure of the last guest."

"Sure," said Spike, as one who thoroughly understood this sensible
precaution.

"And now," said Jimmy, "we'll be turning in. Can you manage sleeping
on the sofa for one night?"

"Gee, I've bin sleepin' on de Embankment all de last week. Dis is to
de good, Mister Chames."




CHAPTER III.


In the days before the Welshman began to expend his surplus energy in
playing football, he was accustomed, whenever the monotony of his
everyday life began to oppress him, to collect a few friends and make
raids across the border into England, to the huge discomfort of the
dwellers on the other side. It was to cope with this habit that Corven
Abbey, in Shropshire, came into existence. It met a long-felt want.
Ministering to the spiritual needs of the neighborhood in times of
peace, it became a haven of refuge when trouble began. From all sides
people poured into it, emerging cautiously when the marauders had
disappeared.

In the whole history of the abbey there is but one instance recorded
of a bandit attempting to take the place by storm, and the attack was
an emphatic failure. On receipt of one ladle full of molten lead,
aimed to a nicety by John the Novice, who seems to have been anything
but a novice at marksmanship, this warrior retired, done to a turn, to
his mountain fastnesses, and is never heard of again. He would seem,
however, to have passed the word round among his friends, for
subsequent raiding parties studiously avoided the abbey, and a peasant
who had succeeded in crossing its threshold was for the future
considered to be "home" and out of the game. Corven Abbey, as a
result, grew in power and popularity. Abbot succeeded abbot, the lake
at the foot of the hill was restocked at intervals, the lichen grew on
the walls; and still the abbey endured.

But time, assisted by his majesty, King Henry the Eighth, had done its
work. The monks had fled. The walls had crumbled, and in the twentieth
century, the abbey was a modern country house, and the owner a rich
American.

Of this gentleman the world knew but little. That he had made money,
and a good deal of it, was certain. His name, Patrick McEachern,
suggested Irish parentage, and a slight brogue, noticeable, however,
only in moments of excitement, supported this theory. He had arrived
in London some four years back, taken rooms at the Albany, and gone
into society.

England still firmly believes that wealth accrues to every resident of
New York by some mysterious process not understandable of the Briton.
McEachern and his money were accepted by society without question. His
solecisms, which at first were numerous, were passed over as so quaint
and refreshing. People liked his rugged good humor. He speedily made
friends, among them Lady Jane Blunt, the still youthful widow of a man
about town, who, after trying for several years to live at the rate of
ten thousand per annum with an income of two and a half, had finally
given up the struggle and drank himself peacefully into the tomb,
leaving her in sole charge of their one son, Spencer Archbald.

Possibly because he was the exact antithesis of the late lamented,
Lady Jane found herself drawn to Mr. McEachern. Whatever his faults,
he had strength; and after her experience of married life with a weak
man, Lady Jane had come to the conclusion that strength was the only
male quality worth consideration. When a year later, McEachern's
daughter, Molly, had come over, it was Lady Jane who took her under
her wing and introduced her everywhere.

In the fifth month of the second year of their acquaintance, Mr.
McEachern proposed and was accepted. "The bridegroom," said a society
paper, "is one of those typical captains of industry of whom our
cousins 'across the streak' can boast so many. Tall, muscular,
square-shouldered, with the bulldog jaw and twinkling gray eye of the
born leader. You look at him and turn away satisfied. You have seen a
man!"

Lady Jane, who had fallen in love with the abbey some years before,
during a visit to the neighborhood, had prevailed upon her
square-shouldered lord to turn his twinkling gray eye in that
direction, and the captain of industry, with the remark that here, at
last, was a real bully old sure-fire English stately home, had sent
down builders and their like, not in single spies, but in battalions,
with instructions to get busy.

The results were excellent. A happy combination of deep purse on the
part of the employer and excellent taste on the part of the architect
had led to the erection of one of the handsomest buildings in
Shropshire. To stand on the hill at the back of the house was to see a
view worth remembering. The lower portion of the hill, between the
house and the lake, had been cut into broad terraces. The lake itself,
with its island with the little boathouse in the centre, was a glimpse
of fairyland. Mr. McEachern was not poetical, but he had secured as
his private sanctum a room which commanded this view.

He was sitting in this room one evening, about a week after the
meeting between Spennie and Jimmy Pitt at the Savoy.

"See, here, Jane," he was saying, "this is my point. I've been fixing
up things in my mind, and this is the way I make it out. I reckon
there's no sense in taking risks when you needn't. You've a mighty
high-toned bunch of guests here. I'm not saying you haven't. What I
say is, it would make us all feel more comfortable if we knew there
was a detective in the house keeping his eye skinned. I'm not alluding
to any of them in particular, but how are we to know that all these
social headliners are on the level?"

"If you mean our guests, Pat, I can assure you that they are all
perfectly honest."

Lady Jane looked out of the window, as she spoke, at a group of those
under discussion. Certainly at the moment the sternest censor could
have found nothing to cavil at in their movements. Some were playing
tennis, some clock golf, and the rest were smoking. She had frequently
complained, in her gentle, languid way, of her husband's unhappily
suspicious nature. She could never understand it. For her part she
suspected no one. She liked and trusted everybody, which was the
reason why she was so popular, and so often taken in.

Mr. McEachern looked bovine, as was his habit when he was endeavoring
to gain a point against opposition.

"They may be on the level," he said. "I'm not saying anything against
any one. But I've seen a lot of crooks in my time, and it's not the
ones with the low brows and the cauliflower ears that you want to
watch for. It's the innocent Willies who look as if all they could do
was to lead the cotillon and wear bangles on their ankles. I've had a
lot to do with them, and it's up to a man that don't want to be stung
not to go by what a fellow looks like."

"Really, Pat, dear, I sometimes think you ought to have been a
policeman. What _is_ the matter?"


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