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Title: Psmith, Journalist
Author: Wodehouse, P. G. (Pelham Grenville), 1881-1975
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Psmith, Journalist

by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse



PREFACE


THE conditions of life in New York are so different from those of
London that a story of this kind calls for a little explanation.
There are several million inhabitants of New York. Not all of them
eke out a precarious livelihood by murdering one another, but there
is a definite section of the population which murders--not
casually, on the spur of the moment, but on definitely commercial
lines at so many dollars per murder. The "gangs" of New York exist
in fact. I have not invented them. Most of the incidents in this
story are based on actual happenings. The Rosenthal case, where
four men, headed by a genial individual calling himself "Gyp the
Blood" shot a fellow-citizen in cold blood in a spot as public and
fashionable as Piccadilly Circus and escaped in a motor-car, made
such a stir a few years ago that the noise of it was heard all over
the world and not, as is generally the case with the doings of the
gangs, in New York only. Rosenthal cases on a smaller and less
sensational scale are frequent occurrences on Manhattan Island. It
was the prominence of the victim rather than the unusual nature of
the occurrence that excited the New York press. Most gang victims
get a quarter of a column in small type.

P. G. WODEHOUSE
New York, 1915



CHAPTER I

"COSY MOMENTS"

The man in the street would not have known it, but a great crisis
was imminent in New York journalism.

Everything seemed much as usual in the city. The cars ran blithely
on Broadway. Newsboys shouted "Wux-try!" into the ears of nervous
pedestrians with their usual Caruso-like vim. Society passed up and
down Fifth Avenue in its automobiles, and was there a furrow of
anxiety upon Society's brow? None. At a thousand street corners a
thousand policemen preserved their air of massive superiority to
the things of this world. Not one of them showed the least sign of
perturbation. Nevertheless, the crisis was at hand. Mr. J. Fillken
Wilberfloss, editor-in-chief of _Cosy Moments_, was about to leave
his post and start on a ten weeks' holiday.

In New York one may find every class of paper which the imagination
can conceive. Every grade of society is catered for. If an Esquimau
came to New York, the first thing he would find on the bookstalls
in all probability would be the _Blubber Magazine_, or some similar
production written by Esquimaux for Esquimaux. Everybody reads in
New York, and reads all the time. The New Yorker peruses his
favourite paper while he is being jammed into a crowded compartment
on the subway or leaping like an antelope into a moving Street car.

There was thus a public for _Cosy Moments_. _Cosy Moments_, as its
name (an inspiration of Mr. Wilberfloss's own) is designed to
imply, is a journal for the home. It is the sort of paper which the
father of the family is expected to take home with him from his
office and read aloud to the chicks before bed-time. It was founded
by its proprietor, Mr. Benjamin White, as an antidote to yellow
journalism. One is forced to admit that up to the present yellow
journalism seems to be competing against it with a certain measure
of success. Headlines are still of as generous a size as
heretofore, and there is no tendency on the part of editors to
scamp the details of the last murder-case.

Nevertheless, _Cosy Moments_ thrives. It has its public.

Its contents are mildly interesting, if you like that sort of
thing. There is a "Moments in the Nursery" page, conducted by
Luella Granville Waterman, to which parents are invited to
contribute the bright speeches of their offspring, and which
bristles with little stories about the nursery canary, by Jane
(aged six), and other works of rising young authors. There is a
"Moments of Meditation" page, conducted by the Reverend Edwin T.
Philpotts; a "Moments Among the Masters" page, consisting of
assorted chunks looted from the literature of the past, when
foreheads were bulgy and thoughts profound, by Mr. Wilberfloss
himself; one or two other pages; a short story; answers to
correspondents on domestic matters; and a "Moments of Mirth" page,
conducted by an alleged humorist of the name of B. Henderson Asher,
which is about the most painful production ever served up to a
confiding public.

The guiding spirit of _Cosy Moments_ was Mr. Wilberfloss.
Circumstances had left the development of the paper mainly to him.
For the past twelve months the proprietor had been away in Europe,
taking the waters at Carlsbad, and the sole control of _Cosy Moments_
had passed into the hands of Mr. Wilberfloss. Nor had he proved
unworthy of the trust or unequal to the duties. In that year _Cosy
Moments_ had reached the highest possible level of domesticity.
Anything not calculated to appeal to the home had been rigidly
excluded. And as a result the circulation had increased steadily.
Two extra pages had been added, "Moments Among the Shoppers" and
"Moments with Society." And the advertisements had grown in volume.
But the work had told upon the Editor. Work of that sort carries
its penalties with it. Success means absorption, and absorption
spells softening of the brain.

Whether it was the strain of digging into the literature of the
past every week, or the effort of reading B. Henderson Asher's
"Moments of Mirth" is uncertain. At any rate, his duties, combined
with the heat of a New York summer, had sapped Mr. Wilberfloss's
health to such an extent that the doctor had ordered him ten weeks'
complete rest in the mountains. This Mr. Wilberfloss could,
perhaps, have endured, if this had been all. There are worse places
than the mountains of America in which to spend ten weeks of the
tail-end of summer, when the sun has ceased to grill and the
mosquitoes have relaxed their exertions. But it was not all. The
doctor, a far-seeing man who went down to first causes, had
absolutely declined to consent to Mr. Wilberfloss's suggestion that
he should keep in touch with the paper during his vacation. He was
adamant. He had seen copies of _Cosy Moments_ once or twice, and he
refused to permit a man in the editor's state of health to come in
contact with Luella Granville Waterman's "Moments in the Nursery"
and B. Henderson Asher's "Moments of Mirth." The medicine-man put
his foot down firmly.

"You must not see so much as the cover of the paper for ten weeks,"
he said. "And I'm not so sure that it shouldn't be longer. You must
forget that such a paper exists. You must dismiss the whole thing
from your mind, live in the open, and develop a little flesh and
muscle."

To Mr. Wilberfloss the sentence was almost equivalent to penal
servitude. It was with tears in his voice that he was giving his
final instructions to his sub-editor, in whose charge the paper
would be left during his absence. He had taken a long time doing
this. For two days he had been fussing in and out of the office, to
the discontent of its inmates, more especially Billy Windsor, the
sub-editor, who was now listening moodily to the last harangue of
the series, with the air of one whose heart is not in the subject.
Billy Windsor was a tall, wiry, loose-jointed young man, with
unkempt hair and the general demeanour of a caged eagle. Looking
at him, one could picture him astride of a bronco, rounding up
cattle, or cooking his dinner at a camp-fire. Somehow he did not
seem to fit into the _Cosy Moments_ atmosphere.

"Well, I think that that is all, Mr. Windsor," chirruped the
editor. He was a little man with a long neck and large _pince-nez_,
and he always chirruped. "You understand the general lines on which
I think the paper should be conducted?" The sub-editor nodded. Mr.
Wilberfloss made him tired. Sometimes he made him more tired than
at other times. At the present moment he filled him with an aching
weariness. The editor meant well, and was full of zeal, but he had
a habit of covering and recovering the ground. He possessed the art
of saying the same obvious thing in a number of different ways to a
degree which is found usually only in politicians. If Mr. Wilberfloss
had been a politician, he would have been one of those dealers in
glittering generalities who used to be fashionable in American
politics.

"There is just one thing," he continued "Mrs. Julia Burdett Parslow
is a little inclined--I may have mentioned this before--"

"You did," said the sub-editor.

Mr. Wilberfloss chirruped on, unchecked.

"A little inclined to be late with her 'Moments with Budding
Girlhood'. If this should happen while I am away, just write her a
letter, quite a pleasant letter, you understand, pointing out the
necessity of being in good time. The machinery of a weekly paper, of
course, cannot run smoothly unless contributors are in good time
with their copy. She is a very sensible woman, and she will
understand, I am sure, if you point it out to her."

The sub-editor nodded.

"And there is just one other thing. I wish you would correct a
slight tendency I have noticed lately in Mr. Asher to be just a
trifle--well, not precisely _risky_, but perhaps a shade _broad_
in his humour."

"His what?" said Billy Windsor.

"Mr. Asher is a very sensible man, and he will be the first to
acknowledge that his sense of humour has led him just a little
beyond the bounds. You understand? Well, that is all, I think. Now
I must really be going, or I shall miss my train. Good-bye, Mr.
Windsor."

"Good-bye," said the sub-editor thankfully.

At the door Mr. Wilberfloss paused with the air of an exile bidding
farewell to his native land, sighed, and trotted out.

Billy Windsor put his feet upon the table, and with a deep scowl
resumed his task of reading the proofs of Luella Granville
Waterman's "Moments in the Nursery."



CHAPTER II

BILLY WINDSOR

Billy Windsor had started life twenty-five years before this story
opens on his father's ranch in Wyoming. From there he had gone to a
local paper of the type whose Society column consists of such items
as "Pawnee Jim Williams was to town yesterday with a bunch of other
cheap skates. We take this opportunity of once more informing Jim
that he is a liar and a skunk," and whose editor works with a
revolver on his desk and another in his hip-pocket. Graduating from
this, he had proceeded to a reporter's post on a daily paper in a
Kentucky town, where there were blood feuds and other Southern
devices for preventing life from becoming dull. All this time New
York, the magnet, had been tugging at him. All reporters dream of
reaching New York. At last, after four years on the Kentucky paper,
he had come East, minus the lobe of one ear and plus a long scar
that ran diagonally across his left shoulder, and had worked
without much success as a free-lance. He was tough and ready for
anything that might come his way, but these things are a great deal
a matter of luck. The cub-reporter cannot make a name for himself
unless he is favoured by fortune. Things had not come Billy
Windsor's way. His work had been confined to turning in reports of
fires and small street accidents, which the various papers to
which he supplied them cut down to a couple of inches.

Billy had been in a bad way when he had happened upon the
sub-editorship of _Cosy Moments_. He despised the work with all his
heart, and the salary was infinitesimal. But it was regular, and
for a while Billy felt that a regular salary was the greatest thing
on earth. But he still dreamed of winning through to a post on one
of the big New York dailies, where there was something doing and a
man would have a chance of showing what was in him.

The unfortunate thing, however, was that _Cosy Moments_ took up his
time so completely. He had no chance of attracting the notice of
big editors by his present work, and he had no leisure for doing
any other.

All of which may go to explain why his normal aspect was that of a
caged eagle.

To him, brooding over the outpourings of Luella Granville Waterman,
there entered Pugsy Maloney, the office-boy, bearing a struggling
cat.

"Say!" said Pugsy.

He was a nonchalant youth, with a freckled, mask-like face, the
expression of which never varied. He appeared unconscious of the
cat. Its existence did not seem to occur to him.

"Well?" said Billy, looking up. "Hello, what have you got there?"

Master Maloney eyed the cat, as if he were seeing it for the first
time.

"It's a kitty what I got in de street," he said.

"Don't hurt the poor brute. Put her down."

Master Maloney obediently dropped the cat, which sprang nimbly on
to an upper shelf of the book-case.

"I wasn't hoitin' her," he said, without emotion. "Dere was two
fellers in de street sickin' a dawg on to her. An' I comes up an'
says, 'G'wan! What do youse t'ink you're doin', fussin' de poor
dumb animal?' An' one of de guys, he says, 'G'wan! Who do youse
t'ink youse is?' An' I says, 'I'm de guy what's goin' to swat youse
one on de coco if youse don't quit fussin' de poor dumb animal.' So
wit dat he makes a break at swattin' me one, but I swats him one,
an' I swats de odder feller one, an' den I swats dem bote some
more, an' I gets de kitty, an' I brings her in here, cos I t'inks
maybe youse'll look after her."

And having finished this Homeric narrative, Master Maloney fixed an
expressionless eye on the ceiling, and was silent.

Billy Windsor, like most men of the plains, combined the toughest
of muscle with the softest of hearts. He was always ready at any
moment to become the champion of the oppressed on the slightest
provocation. His alliance with Pugsy Maloney had begun on the
occasion when he had rescued that youth from the clutches of a
large negro, who, probably from the soundest of motives, was
endeavouring to slay him. Billy had not inquired into the rights
and wrongs of the matter: he had merely sailed in and rescued the
office-boy. And Pugsy, though he had made no verbal comment on the
affair, had shown in many ways that he was not ungrateful.

"Bully for you, Pugsy!" he cried. "You're a little sport. Here"--he
produced a dollar-bill--"go out and get some milk for the
poor brute. She's probably starving. Keep the change."

"Sure thing," assented Master Maloney. He strolled slowly out,
while Billy Windsor, mounting a chair, proceeded to chirrup and
snap his fingers in the effort to establish the foundations of an
_entente cordiale_ with the rescued cat.

By the time that Pugsy returned, carrying a five-cent bottle of
milk, the animal had vacated the book-shelf, and was sitting on the
table, washing her face. The milk having been poured into the lid
of a tobacco-tin, in lieu of a saucer, she suspended her operations
and adjourned for refreshments. Billy, business being business,
turned again to Luella Granville Waterman, but Pugsy, having no
immediate duties on hand, concentrated himself on the cat.

"Say!" he said.

"Well?"

"Dat kitty."

"What about her?"

"Pipe de leather collar she's wearing."

Billy had noticed earlier in the proceedings that a narrow leather
collar encircled the cat's neck. He had not paid any particular
attention to it. "What about it?" he said.

"Guess I know where dat kitty belongs. Dey all have dose collars. I
guess she's one of Bat Jarvis's kitties. He's got a lot of dem for
fair, and every one wit one of dem collars round deir neck."

"Who's Bat Jarvis? Do you mean the gang-leader?"

"Sure. He's a cousin of mine," said Master Maloney with pride.

"Is he?" said Billy. "Nice sort of fellow to have in the family. So
you think that's his cat?"

"Sure. He's got twenty-t'ree of dem, and dey all has dose collars."

"Are you on speaking terms with the gentleman?"

"Huh?"

"Do you know Bat Jarvis to speak to?"

"Sure. He's me cousin."

"Well, tell him I've got the cat, and that if he wants it he'd
better come round to my place. You know where I live?"

"Sure."

"Fancy you being a cousin of Bat's, Pugsy. Why did you never tell
us? Are you going to join the gang some day?"

"Nope. Nothin' doin'. I'm goin' to be a cow-boy."

"Good for you. Well, you tell him when you see him. And now, my
lad, out you get, because if I'm interrupted any more I shan't get
through to-night."

"Sure," said Master Maloney, retiring.

"Oh, and Pugsy . . ."

"Huh?"

"Go out and get a good big basket. I shall want one to carry this
animal home in."

"Sure," said Master Maloney.



CHAPTER III

AT "THE GARDENIA"

"It would ill beseem me, Comrade Jackson," said Psmith,
thoughtfully sipping his coffee, "to run down the metropolis of a
great and friendly nation, but candour compels me to state that New
York is in some respects a singularly blighted town."

"What's the matter with it?" asked Mike.

"Too decorous, Comrade Jackson. I came over here principally, it is
true, to be at your side, should you be in any way persecuted by
scoundrels. But at the same time I confess that at the back of my
mind there lurked a hope that stirring adventures might come my
way. I had heard so much of the place. Report had it that an
earnest seeker after amusement might have a tolerably spacious rag
in this modern Byzantium. I thought that a few weeks here might
restore that keen edge to my nervous system which the languor of
the past term had in a measure blunted. I wished my visit to be a
tonic rather than a sedative. I anticipated that on my return the
cry would go round Cambridge, 'Psmith has been to New York. He is
full of oats. For he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of
Paradise. He is hot stuff. Rah!' But what do we find?"

He paused, and lit a cigarette.

"What do we find?" he asked again.

"I don't know," said Mike. "What?"

"A very judicious query, Comrade Jackson. What, indeed? We find a
town very like London. A quiet, self-respecting town, admirable to
the apostle of social reform, but disappointing to one who, like
myself, arrives with a brush and a little bucket of red paint, all
eager for a treat. I have been here a week, and I have not seen a
single citizen clubbed by a policeman. No negroes dance cake-walks
in the street. No cow-boy has let off his revolver at random in
Broadway. The cables flash the message across the ocean, 'Psmith is
losing his illusions.'"

Mike had come to America with a team of the M.C.C. which was
touring the cricket-playing section of the United States. Psmith
had accompanied him in a private capacity. It was the end of their
first year at Cambridge, and Mike, with a century against Oxford to
his credit, had been one of the first to be invited to join the
tour. Psmith, who had played cricket in a rather desultory way at
the University, had not risen to these heights. He had merely taken
the opportunity of Mike's visit to the other side to accompany him.
Cambridge had proved pleasant to Psmith, but a trifle quiet. He
had welcomed the chance of getting a change of scene.

So far the visit had failed to satisfy him. Mike, whose tastes in
pleasure were simple, was delighted with everything. The cricket so
far had been rather of the picnic order, but it was very pleasant;
and there was no limit to the hospitality with which the visitors
were treated. It was this more than anything which had caused
Psmith's grave disapproval of things American. He was not a member
of the team, so that the advantages of the hospitality did not
reach him. He had all the disadvantages. He saw far too little of
Mike. When he wished to consult his confidential secretary and
adviser on some aspect of Life, that invaluable official was
generally absent at dinner with the rest of the team. To-night was
one of the rare occasions when Mike could get away. Psmith was
becoming bored. New York is a better city than London to be alone
in, but it is never pleasant to be alone in any big city.

As they sat discussing New York's shortcomings over their coffee, a
young man passed them, carrying a basket, and seated himself at the
next table. He was a tall, loose-jointed young man, with unkempt
hair.

A waiter made an ingratiating gesture towards the basket, but the
young man stopped him. "Not on your life, sonny," he said. "This
stays right here." He placed it carefully on the floor beside his
chair, and proceeded to order dinner.

Psmith watched him thoughtfully.

"I have a suspicion, Comrade Jackson," he said, "that this will
prove to be a somewhat stout fellow. If possible, we will engage
him in conversation. I wonder what he's got in the basket. I must
get my Sherlock Holmes system to work. What is the most likely
thing for a man to have in a basket? You would reply, in your
unthinking way, 'sandwiches.' Error. A man with a basketful of
sandwiches does not need to dine at restaurants. We must try
again."

The young man at the next table had ordered a jug of milk to be
accompanied by a saucer. These having arrived, he proceeded to
lift the basket on to his lap, pour the milk into the saucer, and
remove the lid from the basket. Instantly, with a yell which made
the young man's table the centre of interest to all the diners, a
large grey cat shot up like a rocket, and darted across the room.
Psmith watched with silent interest.

It is hard to astonish the waiters at a New York restaurant, but
when the cat performed this feat there was a squeal of surprise all
round the room. Waiters rushed to and fro, futile but energetic.
The cat, having secured a strong strategic position on the top of a
large oil-painting which hung on the far wall, was expressing loud
disapproval of the efforts of one of the waiters to drive it from
its post with a walking-stick. The young man, seeing these
manoeuvres, uttered a wrathful shout, and rushed to the rescue.

"Comrade Jackson," said Psmith, rising, "we must be in this."

When they arrived on the scene of hostilities, the young man had
just possessed himself of the walking-stick, and was deep in a
complex argument with the head-waiter on the ethics of the matter.
The head-waiter, a stout impassive German, had taken his stand on a
point of etiquette. "Id is," he said, "to bring gats into der
grill-room vorbidden. No gendleman would gats into der grill-room
bring. Der gendleman--"

The young man meanwhile was making enticing sounds, to which the
cat was maintaining an attitude of reserved hostility. He turned
furiously on the head-waiter.

"For goodness' sake," he cried, "can't you see the poor brute's
scared stiff? Why don't you clear your gang of German comedians
away, and give her a chance to come down?"

"Der gendleman--" argued the head-waiter.

Psmith stepped forward and touched him on the arm.

"May I have a word with you in private?"

"Zo?"

Psmith drew him away.

"You don't know who that is?" he whispered, nodding towards the
young man.

"No gendleman he is," asserted the head-waiter. "Der gendleman
would not der gat into--"

Psmith shook his head pityingly.

"These petty matters of etiquette are not for his Grace--but, hush,
he wishes to preserve his incognito."

"Ingognito?"

"You understand. You are a man of the world, Comrade--may I call
you Freddie? You understand, Comrade Freddie, that in a man in his
Grace's position a few little eccentricities may be pardoned. You
follow me, Frederick?"

The head-waiter's eye rested upon the young man with a new interest
and respect.

"He is noble?" he inquired with awe.

"He is here strictly incognito, you understand," said Psmith
warningly. The head-waiter nodded.

The young man meanwhile had broken down the cat's reserve, and
was now standing with her in his arms, apparently anxious to
fight all-comers in her defence. The head-waiter approached
deferentially.

"Der gendleman," he said, indicating Psmith, who beamed in a
friendly manner through his eye-glass, "haf everything exblained.
All will now quite satisfactory be."

The young man looked inquiringly at Psmith, who winked
encouragingly. The head-waiter bowed.

"Let me present Comrade Jackson," said Psmith, "the pet of our
English Smart Set. I am Psmith, one of the Shropshire Psmiths. This
is a great moment. Shall we be moving back? We were about to order
a second instalment of coffee, to correct the effects of a
fatiguing day. Perhaps you would care to join us?"

"Sure," said the alleged duke.

"This," said Psmith, when they were seated, and the head-waiter had
ceased to hover, "is a great meeting. I was complaining with some
acerbity to Comrade Jackson, before you introduced your very
interesting performing-animal speciality, that things in New York
were too quiet, too decorous. I have an inkling, Comrade--"

"Windsor's my name."

"I have an inkling, Comrade Windsor, that we see eye to eye on the
subject."

"I guess that's right. I was raised in the plains, and I lived in
Kentucky a while. There's more doing there in a day than there is
here in a month. Say, how did you fix it with the old man?"

"With Comrade Freddie? I have a certain amount of influence with
him. He is content to order his movements in the main by my
judgment. I assured him that all would be well, and he yielded."
Psmith gazed with interest at the cat, which was lapping milk from
the saucer. "Are you training that animal for a show of some kind,
Comrade Windsor, or is it a domestic pet?"

"I've adopted her. The office-boy on our paper got her away from a
dog this morning, and gave her to me."

"Your paper?"

"_Cosy Moments_," said Billy Windsor, with a touch of shame.

"_Cosy Moments_?" said Psmith reflectively. "I regret that the
bright little sheet has not come my way up to the present. I must
seize an early opportunity of perusing it."

"Don't you do it."

"You've no paternal pride in the little journal?"

"It's bad enough to hurt," said Billy Windsor disgustedly. "If you
really want to see it, come along with me to my place, and I'll
show you a copy."

"It will be a pleasure," said Psmith. "Comrade Jackson, have you
any previous engagement for to-night?"

"I'm not doing anything," said Mike.

"Then let us stagger forth with Comrade Windsor. While he is
loading up that basket, we will be collecting our hats. . . . I am
not half sure, Comrade Jackson," he added, as they walked out,
"that Comrade Windsor may not prove to be the genial spirit for
whom I have been searching. If you could give me your undivided
company, I should ask no more. But with you constantly away,
mingling with the gay throng, it is imperative that I have some
solid man to accompany me in my ramblings hither and thither. It is
possible that Comrade Windsor may possess the qualifications
necessary for the post. But here he comes. Let us foregather with
him and observe him in private life before arriving at any
premature decision."



CHAPTER IV

BAT JARVIS

Billy Windsor lived in a single room on East Fourteenth Street.
Space in New York is valuable, and the average bachelor's
apartments consist of one room with a bathroom opening off it.
During the daytime this one room loses all traces of being used for
sleeping purposes at night. Billy Windsor's room was very much like
a public-school study. Along one wall ran a settee. At night this
became a bed; but in the daytime it was a settee and nothing but a
settee. There was no space for a great deal of furniture. There was
one rocking-chair, two ordinary chairs, a table, a book-stand, a
typewriter--nobody uses pens in New York--and on the walls a mixed
collection of photographs, drawings, knives, and skins, relics of
their owner's prairie days. Over the door was the head of a young
bear.

Billy's first act on arriving in this sanctum was to release the
cat, which, having moved restlessly about for some moments, finally
came to the conclusion that there was no means of getting out, and
settled itself on a corner of the settee. Psmith, sinking
gracefully down beside it, stretched out his legs and lit a
cigarette. Mike took one of the ordinary chairs; and Billy Windsor,
planting himself in the rocker, began to rock rhythmically to and
fro, a performance which he kept up untiringly all the time.

"A peaceful scene," observed Psmith. "Three great minds, keen,
alert, restless during business hours, relax. All is calm and
pleasant chit-chat. You have snug quarters up here, Comrade
Windsor. I hold that there is nothing like one's own roof-tree.
It is a great treat to one who, like myself, is located in one of
these vast caravanserai--to be exact, the Astor--to pass a few
moments in the quiet privacy of an apartment such as this."

"It's beastly expensive at the Astor," said Mike.

"The place has that drawback also. Anon, Comrade Jackson, I think
we will hunt around for some such cubby-hole as this, built for
two. Our nervous systems must be conserved."

"On Fourth Avenue," said Billy Windsor, "you can get quite good
flats very cheap. Furnished, too. You should move there. It's not
much of a neighbourhood. I don't know if you mind that?"

"Far from it, Comrade Windsor. It is my aim to see New York in all
its phases. If a certain amount of harmless revelry can be whacked
out of Fourth Avenue, we must dash there with the vim of
highly-trained smell-dogs. Are you with me, Comrade Jackson?"

"All right," said Mike.

"And now, Comrade Windsor, it would be a pleasure to me to peruse
that little journal of which you spoke. I have had so few
opportunities of getting into touch with the literature of this
great country."

Billy Windsor stretched out an arm and pulled a bundle of papers
from the book-stand. He tossed them on to the settee by Psmith's
side.

"There you are," he said, "if you really feel like it. Don't say I
didn't warn you. If you've got the nerve, read on."

Psmith had picked up one of the papers when there came a shuffling
of feet in the passage outside, followed by a knock upon the door.
The next moment there appeared in the doorway a short, stout young
man. There was an indescribable air of toughness about him, partly
due to the fact that he wore his hair in a well-oiled fringe almost
down to his eyebrows, which gave him the appearance of having no
forehead at all. His eyes were small and set close together. His
mouth was wide, his jaw prominent. Not, in short, the sort of man
you would have picked out on sight as a model citizen.

His entrance was marked by a curious sibilant sound, which, on
acquaintance, proved to be a whistled tune. During the interview
which followed, except when he was speaking, the visitor whistled
softly and unceasingly.

"Mr. Windsor?" he said to the company at large.

Psmith waved a hand towards the rocking-chair. "That," he said, "is
Comrade Windsor. To your right is Comrade Jackson, England's
favourite son. I am Psmith."

The visitor blinked furtively, and whistled another tune. As he
looked round the room, his eye fell on the cat. His face lit up.

"Say!" he said, stepping forward, and touching the cat's collar,
"mine, mister."

"Are you Bat Jarvis?" asked Windsor with interest.

"Sure," said the visitor, not without a touch of complacency, as of
a monarch abandoning his incognito.

For Mr. Jarvis was a celebrity.

By profession he was a dealer in animals, birds, and snakes. He had
a fancier's shop in Groome street, in the heart of the Bowery. This
was on the ground-floor. His living abode was in the upper story of
that house, and it was there that he kept the twenty-three cats
whose necks were adorned with leather collars, and whose numbers
had so recently been reduced to twenty-two. But it was not the fact
that he possessed twenty-three cats with leather collars that made
Mr. Jarvis a celebrity.

A man may win a purely local reputation, if only for eccentricity,
by such means. But Mr. Jarvis's reputation was far from being
purely local. Broadway knew him, and the Tenderloin. Tammany Hall
knew him. Long Island City knew him. In the underworld of New York
his name was a by-word. For Bat Jarvis was the leader of the famous
Groome Street Gang, the most noted of all New York's collections of
Apaches. More, he was the founder and originator of it. And,
curiously enough, it had come into being from motives of sheer
benevolence. In Groome Street in those days there had been a
dance-hall, named the Shamrock and presided over by one Maginnis,
an Irishman and a friend of Bat's. At the Shamrock nightly dances
were given and well attended by the youth of the neighbourhood at
ten cents a head. All might have been well, had it not been for
certain other youths of the neighbourhood who did not dance and so
had to seek other means of getting rid of their surplus energy. It
was the practice of these light-hearted sportsmen to pay their ten
cents for admittance, and once in, to make hay. And this habit, Mr.
Maginnis found, was having a marked effect on his earnings. For
genuine lovers of the dance fought shy of a place where at any
moment Philistines might burst in and break heads and furniture. In
this crisis the proprietor thought of his friend Bat Jarvis. Bat at
that time had a solid reputation as a man of his hands. It is true
that, as his detractors pointed out, he had killed no one--a defect
which he had subsequently corrected; but his admirers based his
claim to respect on his many meritorious performances with fists
and with the black-jack. And Mr. Maginnis for one held him in the
very highest esteem. To Bat accordingly he went, and laid his
painful case before him. He offered him a handsome salary to be on
hand at the nightly dances and check undue revelry by his own
robust methods. Bat had accepted the offer. He had gone to Shamrock
Hall; and with him, faithful adherents, had gone such stalwarts as
Long Otto, Red Logan, Tommy Jefferson, and Pete Brodie. Shamrock
Hall became a place of joy and order; and--more important
still--the nucleus of the Groome Street Gang had been formed. The
work progressed. Off-shoots of the main gang sprang up here and
there about the East Side. Small thieves, pickpockets and the
like, flocked to Mr. Jarvis as their tribal leader and protector
and he protected them. For he, with his followers, were of use to
the politicians. The New York gangs, and especially the Groome
Street Gang, have brought to a fine art the gentle practice of
"repeating"; which, broadly speaking, is the art of voting a number
of different times at different polling-stations on election days.
A man who can vote, say, ten times in a single day for you, and who
controls a great number of followers who are also prepared, if they
like you, to vote ten times in a single day for you, is worth
cultivating. So the politicians passed the word to the police, and
the police left the Groome Street Gang unmolested and they waxed
fat and flourished.

Such was Bat Jarvis.

             *    *    *

"Pipe de collar," said Mr. Jarvis, touching the cat's neck. "Mine,
mister."

"Pugsy said it must be," said Billy Windsor. "We found two fellows
setting a dog on to it, so we took it in for safety."

Mr. Jarvis nodded approval.

"There's a basket here, if you want it," said Billy.

"Nope. Here, kit."

Mr. Jarvis stooped, and, still whistling softly, lifted the cat. He
looked round the company, met Psmith's eye-glass, was transfixed by
it for a moment, and finally turned again to Billy Windsor.

"Say!" he said, and paused. "Obliged," he added.

He shifted the cat on to his left arm, and extended his right hand
to Billy.

"Shake!" he said.

Billy did so.

Mr. Jarvis continued to stand and whistle for a few moments more.

"Say!" he said at length, fixing his roving gaze once more upon
Billy. "Obliged. Fond of de kit, I am."

Psmith nodded approvingly.

"And rightly," he said. "Rightly, Comrade Jarvis. She is not
unworthy of your affection. A most companionable animal, full of
the highest spirits. Her knockabout act in the restaurant would
have satisfied the most jaded critic. No diner-out can afford to be
without such a cat. Such a cat spells death to boredom."

Mr. Jarvis eyed him fixedly, as if pondering over his remarks. Then
he turned to Billy again.

"Say!" he said. "Any time you're in bad. Glad to be of service.
You know the address. Groome Street. Bat Jarvis. Good night.
Obliged."

He paused and whistled a few more bars, then nodded to Psmith and
Mike, and left the room. They heard him shuffling downstairs.

"A blithe spirit," said Psmith. "Not garrulous, perhaps, but what of
that? I am a man of few words myself. Comrade Jarvis's massive
silences appeal to me. He seems to have taken a fancy to you,
Comrade Windsor."

Billy Windsor laughed.

"I don't know that he's just the sort of side-partner I'd go out of
my way to choose, from what I've heard about him. Still, if one got
mixed up with any of that East-Side crowd, he would be a mighty
useful friend to have. I guess there's no harm done by getting him
grateful."

"Assuredly not," said Psmith. "We should not despise the humblest.
And now, Comrade Windsor," he said, taking up the paper again, "let
me concentrate myself tensely on this very entertaining little
journal of yours. Comrade Jackson, here is one for you. For sound,
clear-headed criticism," he added to Billy, "Comrade Jackson's name
is a by-word in our English literary salons. His opinion will be
both of interest and of profit to you, Comrade Windsor."



CHAPTER V

PLANNING IMPROVEMENTS

"By the way," said Psmith, "what is your exact position on this
paper? Practically, we know well, you are its back-bone, its
life-blood; but what is your technical position? When your
proprietor is congratulating himself on having secured the ideal
man for your job, what precise job does he congratulate himself on
having secured the ideal man for?"

"I'm sub-editor."

"Merely sub? You deserve a more responsible post than that, Comrade
Windsor. Where is your proprietor? I must buttonhole him and point
out to him what a wealth of talent he is allowing to waste itself.
You must have scope."

"He's in Europe. At Carlsbad, or somewhere. He never comes near
the paper. He just sits tight and draws the profits. He lets the
editor look after things. Just at present I'm acting as editor."

"Ah! then at last you have your big chance. You are free,
untrammelled."

"You bet I'm not," said Billy Windsor. "Guess again. There's no
room for developing free untrammelled ideas on this paper. When
you've looked at it, you'll see that each page is run by some one.
I'm simply the fellow who minds the shop."

Psmith clicked his tongue sympathetically. "It is like setting a
gifted French chef to wash up dishes," he said. "A man of your
undoubted powers, Comrade Windsor, should have more scope. That is
the cry, 'more scope!' I must look into this matter. When I gaze at
your broad, bulging forehead, when I see the clear light of
intelligence in your eyes, and hear the grey matter splashing
restlessly about in your cerebellum, I say to myself without
hesitation, 'Comrade Windsor must have more scope.'" He looked at
Mike, who was turning over the leaves of his copy of _Cosy Moments_
in a sort of dull despair. "Well, Comrade Jackson, and what is your
verdict?"

Mike looked at Billy Windsor. He wished to be polite, yet he could
find nothing polite to say. Billy interpreted the look.

"Go on," he said. "Say it. It can't be worse than what I think."

"I expect some people would like it awfully," said Mike.

"They must, or they wouldn't buy it. I've never met any of them
yet, though."

Psmith was deep in Luella Granville Waterman's "Moments in the
Nursery." He turned to Billy Windsor.

"Luella Granville Waterman," he said, "is not by any chance your
_nom-de-plume_, Comrade Windsor?"

"Not on your life. Don't think it."

"I am glad," said Psmith courteously. "For, speaking as man to man,
I must confess that for sheer, concentrated bilge she gets away
with the biscuit with almost insolent ease. Luella Granville
Waterman must go."

"How do you mean?"

"She must go," repeated Psmith firmly. "Your first act, now that
you have swiped the editorial chair, must be to sack her."

"But, say, I can't. The editor thinks a heap of her stuff."

"We cannot help his troubles. We must act for the good of the
paper. Moreover, you said, I think, that he was away?"

"So he is. But he'll come back."

"Sufficient unto the day, Comrade Windsor. I have a suspicion that
he will be the first to approve your action. His holiday will have
cleared his brain. Make a note of improvement number one--the
sacking of Luella Granville Waterman."

"I guess it'll be followed pretty quick by improvement number
two--the sacking of William Windsor. I can't go monkeying about
with the paper that way."

Psmith reflected for a moment.

"Has this job of yours any special attractions for you, Comrade
Windsor?"

"I guess not."

"As I suspected. You yearn for scope. What exactly are your
ambitions?"

"I want to get a job on one of the big dailies. I don't see how
I'm going to fix it, though, at the present rate."

Psmith rose, and tapped him earnestly on the chest.

"Comrade Windsor, you have touched the spot. You are wasting the
golden hours of your youth. You must move. You must hustle. You
must make Windsor of _Cosy Moments_ a name to conjure with. You must
boost this sheet up till New York rings with your exploits. On the
present lines that is impossible. You must strike out a line for
yourself. You must show the world that even _Cosy Moments_ cannot
keep a good man down."

He resumed his seat.

"How do you mean?" said Billy Windsor.

Psmith turned to Mike.

"Comrade Jackson, if you were editing this paper, is there a single
feature you would willingly retain?"

"I don't think there is," said Mike. "It's all pretty bad rot."

"My opinion in a nutshell," said Psmith, approvingly. "Comrade
Jackson," he explained, turning to Billy, "has a secure reputation
on the other side for the keenness and lucidity of his views upon
literature. You may safely build upon him. In England when Comrade
Jackson says 'Turn' we all turn. Now, my views on the matter are as
follows. _Cosy Moments_, in my opinion (worthless, were it not backed
by such a virtuoso as Comrade Jackson), needs more snap, more go.
All these putrid pages must disappear. Letters must be despatched
to-morrow morning, informing Luella Granville Waterman and the
others (and in particular B. Henderson Asher, who from a cursory
glance strikes me as an ideal candidate for a lethal chamber) that,
unless they cease their contributions instantly, you will be
compelled to place yourself under police protection. After that we
can begin to move."

Billy Windsor sat and rocked himself in his chair without replying.
He was trying to assimilate this idea. So far the grandeur of it
had dazed him. It was too spacious, too revolutionary. Could it be
done? It would undoubtedly mean the sack when Mr. J. Fillken
Wilberfloss returned and found the apple of his eye torn asunder
and, so to speak, deprived of its choicest pips. On the other hand
. . . His brow suddenly cleared. After all, what was the sack? One
crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name, and
he would have no name as long as he clung to his present position.
The editor would be away ten weeks. He would have ten weeks in
which to try himself out. Hope leaped within him. In ten weeks he
could change _Cosy Moments_ into a real live paper. He wondered that
the idea had not occurred to him before. The trifling fact that the
despised journal was the property of Mr. Benjamin White, and that
he had no right whatever to tinker with it without that gentleman's
approval, may have occurred to him, but, if it did, it occurred so
momentarily that he did not notice it. In these crises one cannot
think of everything.

"I'm on," he said, briefly.

Psmith smiled approvingly.

"That," he said, "is the right spirit. You will, I fancy, have
little cause to regret your decision. Fortunately, if I may say so,
I happen to have a certain amount of leisure just now. It is at
your disposal. I have had little experience of journalistic work,
but I foresee that I shall be a quick learner. I will become your
sub-editor, without salary."

"Bully for you," said Billy Windsor.

"Comrade Jackson," continued Psmith, "is unhappily more fettered.
The exigencies of his cricket tour will compel him constantly to be
gadding about, now to Philadelphia, now to Saskatchewan, anon to
Onehorseville, Ga. His services, therefore, cannot be relied upon
continuously. From him, accordingly, we shall expect little but
moral support. An occasional congratulatory telegram. Now and then
a bright smile of approval. The bulk of the work will devolve upon
our two selves."

"Let it devolve," said Billy Windsor, enthusiastically.

"Assuredly," said Psmith. "And now to decide upon our main scheme.
You, of course, are the editor, and my suggestions are merely
suggestions, subject to your approval. But, briefly, my idea is
that _Cosy Moments_ should become red-hot stuff. I could wish its
tone to be such that the public will wonder why we do not print it
on asbestos. We must chronicle all the live events of the day,
murders, fires, and the like in a manner which will make our
readers' spines thrill. Above all, we must be the guardians of the
People's rights. We must be a search-light, showing up the dark
spot in the souls of those who would endeavour in any way to do the
PEOPLE in the eye. We must detect the wrong-doer, and deliver him
such a series of resentful buffs that he will abandon his little
games and become a model citizen. The details of the campaign we
must think out after, but I fancy that, if we follow those main
lines, we shall produce a bright, readable little sheet which will
in a measure make this city sit up and take notice. Are you with
me, Comrade Windsor?"

"Surest thing you know," said Billy with fervour.



CHAPTER VI

THE TENEMENTS

To alter the scheme of a weekly from cover to cover is not a task
that is completed without work. The dismissal of _Cosy Moments_'
entire staff of contributors left a gap in the paper which had to be
filled, and owing to the nearness of press day there was no time to
fill it before the issue of the next number. The editorial staff had
to be satisfied with heading every page with the words "Look out!
Look out!! Look out!!! See foot of page!!!!" printing in the space
at the bottom the legend, "Next Week! See Editorial!" and compiling
in conjunction a snappy editorial, setting forth the proposed
changes. This was largely the work of Psmith.

"Comrade Jackson," he said to Mike, as they set forth one evening
in search of their new flat, "I fancy I have found my metier.
Commerce, many considered, was the line I should take; and
doubtless, had I stuck to that walk in life, I should soon have
become a financial magnate. But something seemed to whisper to me,
even in the midst of my triumphs in the New Asiatic Bank, that
there were other fields. For the moment it seems to me that I have
found the job for which nature specially designed me. At last I
have Scope. And without Scope, where are we? Wedged tightly in
among the ribstons. There are some very fine passages in that
editorial. The last paragraph, beginning '_Cosy Moments_ cannot be
muzzled,' in particular. I like it. It strikes the right note. It
should stir the blood of a free and independent people till they
sit in platoons on the doorstep of our office, waiting for the next
number to appear."

"How about that next number?" asked Mike. "Are you and Windsor
going to fill the whole paper yourselves?"

"By no means. It seems that Comrade Windsor knows certain stout
fellows, reporters on other papers, who will be delighted to weigh
in with stuff for a moderate fee."

"How about Luella What's-her-name and the others? How have they
taken it?"

"Up to the present we have no means of ascertaining. The letters
giving them the miss-in-baulk in no uncertain voice were only
despatched yesterday. But it cannot affect us how they writhe
beneath the blow. There is no reprieve."

Mike roared with laughter.

"It's the rummiest business I ever struck," he said. "I'm jolly
glad it's not my paper. It's pretty lucky for you two lunatics that
the proprietor's in Europe."

Psmith regarded him with pained surprise.

"I do not understand you, Comrade Jackson. Do you insinuate that
we are not acting in the proprietor's best interests? When he sees
the receipts, after we have handled the paper for a while, he will
go singing about his hotel. His beaming smile will be a by-word in
Carlsbad. Visitors will be shown it as one of the sights. His only
doubt will be whether to send his money to the bank or keep it in
tubs and roll in it. We are on to a big thing, Comrade Jackson.
Wait till you see our first number."

"And how about the editor? I should think that first number would
bring him back foaming at the mouth."

"I have ascertained from Comrade Windsor that there is nothing to
fear from that quarter. By a singular stroke of good fortune
Comrade Wilberfloss--his name is Wilberfloss--has been ordered
complete rest during his holiday. The kindly medico, realising the
fearful strain inflicted by reading _Cosy Moments_ in its old form,
specifically mentioned that the paper was to be withheld from him
until he returned."

"And when he does return, what are you going to do?"

"By that time, doubtless, the paper will be in so flourishing a
state that he will confess how wrong his own methods were and adopt
ours without a murmur. In the meantime, Comrade Jackson, I would
call your attention to the fact that we seem to have lost our way.
In the exhilaration of this little chat, our footsteps have
wandered. Where we are, goodness only knows. I can only say that I
shouldn't care to have to live here."

"There's a name up on the other side of that lamp-post."

"Let us wend in that direction. Ah, Pleasant Street? I fancy that
the master-mind who chose that name must have had the rudiments of
a sense of humour."

It was indeed a repellent neighbourhood in which they had arrived.
The New York slum stands in a class of its own. It is unique. The
height of the houses and the narrowness of the streets seem to
condense its unpleasantness. All the smells and noises, which are
many and varied, are penned up in a sort of canyon, and gain in
vehemence from the fact. The masses of dirty clothes hanging from
the fire-escapes increase the depression. Nowhere in the city does
one realise so fully the disadvantages of a lack of space. New
York, being an island, has had no room to spread. It is a town of
human sardines. In the poorer quarters the congestion is
unbelievable.

Psmith and Mike picked their way through the groups of ragged
children who covered the roadway. There seemed to be thousands of
them.

"Poor kids!" said Mike. "It must be awful living in a hole like
this."

Psmith said nothing. He was looking thoughtful. He glanced up at
the grimy buildings on each side. On the lower floors one could
see into dark, bare rooms. These were the star apartments of the
tenement-houses, for they opened on to the street, and so got a
little light and air. The imagination jibbed at the thought of the
back rooms.

"I wonder who owns these places," said Psmith. "It seems to me
that there's what you might call room for improvement. It wouldn't
be a scaly idea to turn that _Cosy Moments_ search-light we were
talking about on to them."

They walked on a few steps.

"Look here," said Psmith, stopping. "This place makes me sick. I'm
going in to have a look round. I expect some muscular householder
will resent the intrusion and boot us out, but we'll risk it."

Followed by Mike, he turned in at one of the doors. A group of men
leaning against the opposite wall looked at them without curiosity.
Probably they took them for reporters hunting for a story.
Reporters were the only tolerably well-dressed visitors Pleasant
Street ever entertained.

It was almost pitch dark on the stairs. They had to feel their way
up. Most of the doors were shut but one on the second floor was
ajar. Through the opening they had a glimpse of a number of women
sitting round on boxes. The floor was covered with little heaps of
linen. All the women were sewing. Mike, stumbling in the darkness,
almost fell against the door. None of the women looked up at the
noise. Time was evidently money in Pleasant Street.

On the fourth floor there was an open door. The room was empty. It
was a good representative Pleasant Street back room. The architect
in this case had given rein to a passion for originality. He had
constructed the room without a window of any sort whatsoever. There
was a square opening in the door. Through this, it was to be
presumed, the entire stock of air used by the occupants was
supposed to come.

They stumbled downstairs again and out into the street. By contrast
with the conditions indoors the street seemed spacious and breezy.

"This," said Psmith, as they walked on, "is where _Cosy Moments_ gets
busy at a singularly early date."

"What are you going to do?" asked Mike.

"I propose, Comrade Jackson," said Psmith, "if Comrade Windsor is
agreeable, to make things as warm for the owner of this place as
I jolly well know how. What he wants, of course," he proceeded
in the tone of a family doctor prescribing for a patient, "is
disembowelling. I fancy, however, that a mawkishly sentimental
legislature will prevent our performing that national service. We
must endeavour to do what we can by means of kindly criticism in
the paper. And now, having settled that important point, let us
try and get out of this place of wrath, and find Fourth Avenue."



CHAPTER VII

VISITORS AT THE OFFICE

On the following morning Mike had to leave with the team for
Philadelphia. Psmith came down to the ferry to see him off, and
hung about moodily until the time of departure.

"It is saddening me to a great extent, Comrade Jackson," he said,
"this perpetual parting of the ways. When I think of the happy
moments we have spent hand-in-hand across the seas, it fills me
with a certain melancholy to have you flitting off in this manner
without me. Yet there is another side to the picture. To me there
is something singularly impressive in our unhesitating reply to the
calls of Duty. Your Duty summons you to Philadelphia, to knock the
cover off the local bowling. Mine retains me here, to play my part
in the great work of making New York sit up. By the time you
return, with a century or two, I trust, in your bag, the good work
should, I fancy, be getting something of a move on. I will complete
the arrangements with regard to the flat."

After leaving Pleasant Street they had found Fourth Avenue by a
devious route, and had opened negotiations for a large flat near
Thirtieth Street. It was immediately above a saloon, which was
something of a drawback, but the landlord had assured them that the
voices of the revellers did not penetrate to it.

            *    *    *

When the ferry-boat had borne Mike off across the river, Psmith
turned to stroll to the office of _Cosy Moments_. The day was fine,
and on the whole, despite Mike's desertion, he felt pleased with
life. Psmith's was a nature which required a certain amount of
stimulus in the way of gentle excitement; and it seemed to him that
the conduct of the remodelled _Cosy Moments_ might supply this. He
liked Billy Windsor, and looked forward to a not unenjoyable time
till Mike should return.

The offices of _Cosy Moments_ were in a large building in the street
off Madison Avenue. They consisted of a sort of outer lair, where
Pugsy Maloney spent his time reading tales of life in the prairies
and heading off undesirable visitors; a small room, which would
have belonged to the stenographer if _Cosy Moments_ had possessed
one; and a larger room beyond, which was the editorial sanctum.

As Psmith passed through the front door, Pugsy Maloney rose.

"Say!" said Master Maloney.

"Say on, Comrade Maloney," said Psmith.

"Dey're in dere."

"Who, precisely?"

"A whole bunch of dem."

Psmith inspected Master Maloney through his eye-glass. "Can
you give me any particulars?" he asked patiently. "You are
well-meaning, but vague, Comrade Maloney. Who are in there?"

"De whole bunch of dem. Dere's Mr. Asher and the Rev. Philpotts and
a gazebo what calls himself Waterman and about 'steen more of dem."

A faint smile appeared upon Psmith's face.

"And is Comrade Windsor in there, too, in the middle of them?"

"Nope. Mr. Windsor's out to lunch."

"Comrade Windsor knows his business. Why did you let them in?"

"Sure, dey just butted in," said Master Maloney complainingly. "I
was sittin' here, readin' me book, when de foist of de guys blew
in. 'Boy,' says he, 'is de editor in?' 'Nope,' I says. 'I'll go in
an' wait,' says he. 'Nuttin' doin',' says I. 'Nix on de goin' in
act.' I might as well have saved me breat'. In he butts, and he's
in der now. Well, in about t'ree minutes along comes another
gazebo. 'Boy,' says he, 'is de editor in?' 'Nope,' I says. 'I'll
wait,' says he lightin' out for de door. Wit dat I sees de
proposition's too fierce for muh. I can't keep dese big husky guys
out if dey's for buttin' in. So when de rest of de bunch comes
along, I don't try to give dem de t'run down. I says, 'Well,
gents,' I says, 'it's up to youse. De editor ain't in, but if youse
wants to join de giddy t'rong, push t'roo inter de inner room. I
can't be boddered.'"

"And what more _could_ you have said?" agreed Psmith approvingly.
"Tell me, Comrade Maloney, what was the general average aspect of
these determined spirits?"

"Huh?"

"Did they seem to you to be gay, lighthearted? Did they carol
snatches of song as they went? Or did they appear to be looking
for some one with a hatchet?"

"Dey was hoppin'-mad, de whole bunch of dem."

"As I suspected. But we must not repine, Comrade Maloney. These
trifling contretemps are the penalties we pay for our high
journalistic aims. I will interview these merchants. I fancy that
with the aid of the Diplomatic Smile and the Honeyed Word I may
manage to pull through. It is as well, perhaps, that Comrade
Windsor is out. The situation calls for the handling of a man of
delicate culture and nice tact. Comrade Windsor would probably have
endeavoured to clear the room with a chair. If he should arrive
during the seance, Comrade Maloney, be so good as to inform him of
the state of affairs, and tell him not to come in. Give him my
compliments, and tell him to go out and watch the snowdrops growing
in Madison Square Garden."

"Sure," said Master Maloney.

Then Psmith, having smoothed the nap of his hat and flicked a speck
of dust from his coat-sleeve, walked to the door of the inner room
and went in.



CHAPTER VIII

THE HONEYED WORD

Master Maloney's statement that "about 'steen visitors" had arrived
in addition to Messrs. Asher, Waterman, and the Rev. Philpotts
proved to have been due to a great extent to a somewhat feverish
imagination. There were only five men in the room.

As Psmith entered, every eye was turned upon him. To an outside
spectator he would have seemed rather like a very well-dressed
Daniel introduced into a den of singularly irritable lions. Five
pairs of eyes were smouldering with a long-nursed resentment. Five
brows were corrugated with wrathful lines. Such, however, was the
simple majesty of Psmith's demeanour that for a moment there was
dead silence. Not a word was spoken as he paced, wrapped in
thought, to the editorial chair. Stillness brooded over the room as
he carefully dusted that piece of furniture, and, having done so to
his satisfaction, hitched up the knees of his trousers and sank
gracefully into a sitting position.

This accomplished, he looked up and started. He gazed round the
room.

"Ha! I am observed!" he murmured.

The words broke the spell. Instantly, the five visitors burst
simultaneously into speech.

"Are you the acting editor of this paper?"

"I wish to have a word with you, sir."

"Mr. Windsor, I presume?"

"Pardon me!"

"I should like a few moments' conversation."

The start was good and even; but the gentleman who said "Pardon
me!" necessarily finished first with the rest nowhere.

Psmith turned to him, bowed, and fixed him with a benevolent gaze
through his eye-glass.

"Are you Mr. Windsor, sir, may I ask?" inquired the favoured one.

The others paused for the reply.

"Alas! no," said Psmith with manly regret.

"Then who are you?"

"I am Psmith."

There was a pause.

"Where is Mr. Windsor?"

"He is, I fancy, champing about forty cents' worth of lunch at some
neighbouring hostelry."

"When will he return?"

"Anon. But how much anon I fear I cannot say."

The visitors looked at each other.

"This is exceedingly annoying," said the man who had said "Pardon
me!" "I came for the express purpose of seeing Mr. Windsor."

"So did I," chimed in the rest. "Same here. So did I."

Psmith bowed courteously.

"Comrade Windsor's loss is my gain. Is there anything I can do for
you?"

"Are you on the editorial staff of this paper?"

"I am acting sub-editor. The work is not light," added Psmith
gratuitously. "Sometimes the cry goes round, 'Can Psmith get
through it all? Will his strength support his unquenchable spirit?'
But I stagger on. I do not repine."

"Then maybe you can tell me what all this means?" said a small
round gentleman who so far had done only chorus work.

"If it is in my power to do so, it shall be done, Comrade--I have
not the pleasure of your name."

"My name is Waterman, sir. I am here on behalf of my wife, whose
name you doubtless know."

"Correct me if I am wrong," said Psmith, "but I should say it,
also, was Waterman."

"Luella Granville Waterman, sir," said the little man proudly.
Psmith removed his eye-glass, polished it, and replaced it in his
eye. He felt that he must run no risk of not seeing clearly the
husband of one who, in his opinion, stood alone in literary circles
as a purveyor of sheer bilge.

"My wife," continued the little man, producing an envelope
and handing it to Psmith, "has received this extraordinary
communication from a man signing himself W. Windsor. We are
both at a loss to make head or tail of it."

Psmith was reading the letter.

"It seems reasonably clear to me," he said.

"It is an outrage. My wife has been a contributor to this journal
from its foundation. Her work has given every satisfaction to Mr.
Wilberfloss. And now, without the slightest warning, comes this
peremptory dismissal from W. Windsor. Who is W. Windsor? Where is
Mr. Wilberfloss?"

The chorus burst forth. It seemed that that was what they all
wanted to know: Who was W. Windsor? Where was Mr. Wilberfloss?

"I am the Reverend Edwin T. Philpotts, sir," said a cadaverous-looking
man with pale blue eyes and a melancholy face. "I have
contributed 'Moments of Meditation' to this journal for a very
considerable period of time."

"I have read your page with the keenest interest," said Psmith. "I
may be wrong, but yours seems to me work which the world will not
willingly let die."

The Reverend Edwin's frosty face thawed into a bleak smile.

"And yet," continued Psmith, "I gather that Comrade Windsor, on the
other hand, actually wishes to hurry on its decease. It is these
strange contradictions, these clashings of personal taste, which
make up what we call life. Here we have, on the one hand--"

A man with a face like a walnut, who had hitherto lurked almost
unseen behind a stout person in a serge suit, bobbed into the open,
and spoke his piece.

"Where's this fellow Windsor? W. Windsor. That's the man we want
to see. I've been working for this paper without a break, except
when I had the mumps, for four years, and I've reason to know that
my page was as widely read and appreciated as any in New York. And
now up comes this Windsor fellow, if you please, and tells me in so
many words the paper's got no use for me."

"These are life's tragedies," murmured Psmith.

"What's he mean by it? That's what I want to know. And that's what
these gentlemen want to know--See here--"

"I am addressing--?" said Psmith.

"Asher's my name. B. Henderson Asher. I write 'Moments of Mirth.'"

A look almost of excitement came into Psmith's face, such a look as
a visitor to a foreign land might wear when confronted with some
great national monument. That he should be privileged to look upon
the author of "Moments of Mirth" in the flesh, face to face, was
almost too much.

"Comrade Asher," he said reverently, "may I shake your hand?"

The other extended his hand with some suspicion.

"Your 'Moments of Mirth,'" said Psmith, shaking it, "have
frequently reconciled me to the toothache."

He reseated himself.

"Gentlemen," he said, "this is a painful case. The circumstances,
as you will readily admit when you have heard all, are peculiar.
You have asked me where Mr. Wilberfloss is. I do not know."

"You don't know!" exclaimed Mr. Waterman.

"I don't know. You don't know. They," said Psmith, indicating the
rest with a wave of the hand, "don't know. Nobody knows. His
locality is as hard to ascertain as that of a black cat in a
coal-cellar on a moonless night. Shortly before I joined this
journal, Mr. Wilberfloss, by his doctor's orders, started out on a
holiday, leaving no address. No letters were to be forwarded. He
was to enjoy complete rest. Where is he now? Who shall say?
Possibly legging it down some rugged slope in the Rockies, with two
bears and a wild cat in earnest pursuit. Possibly in the midst of
some Florida everglade, making a noise like a piece of meat in
order to snare crocodiles. Possibly in Canada, baiting moose-traps.
We have no data."

Silent consternation prevailed among the audience. Finally the Rev.
Edwin T. Philpotts was struck with an idea.

"Where is Mr. White?" he asked.

The point was well received.

"Yes, where's Mr. Benjamin White?" chorused the rest.

Psmith shook his head.

"In Europe. I cannot say more."

The audience's consternation deepened.

"Then, do you mean to say," demanded Mr. Asher, "that this fellow
Windsor's the boss here, that what he says goes?"

Psmith bowed.

"With your customary clear-headedness, Comrade Asher, you have got
home on the bull's-eye first pop. Comrade Windsor is indeed the
boss. A man of intensely masterful character, he will brook no
opposition. I am powerless to sway him. Suggestions from myself as
to the conduct of the paper would infuriate him. He believes that
radical changes are necessary in the programme of _Cosy Moments_, and
he means to put them through if it snows. Doubtless he would gladly
consider your work if it fitted in with his ideas. A snappy account
of a glove-fight, a spine-shaking word-picture of a railway smash,
or something on those lines, would be welcomed. But--"

"I have never heard of such a thing," said Mr. Waterman indignantly.

Psmith sighed.

"Some time ago," he said, "--how long it seems!--I remember saying
to a young friend of mine of the name of Spiller, 'Comrade Spiller,
never confuse the unusual with the impossible.' It is my guiding
rule in life. It is unusual for the substitute-editor of a weekly
paper to do a Captain Kidd act and take entire command of the
journal on his own account; but is it impossible? Alas no. Comrade
Windsor has done it. That is where you, Comrade Asher, and you,
gentlemen, have landed yourselves squarely in the broth. You have
confused the unusual with the impossible."

"But what is to be done?" cried Mr. Asher.

"I fear that there is nothing to be done, except wait. The present
_régime_ is but an experiment. It may be that when Comrade
Wilberfloss, having dodged the bears and eluded the wild cat,
returns to his post at the helm of this journal, he may decide not
to continue on the lines at present mapped out. He should be back
in about ten weeks."

"Ten weeks!"

"I fancy that was to be the duration of his holiday. Till then my
advice to you gentlemen is to wait. You may rely on me to keep a
watchful eye upon your interests. When your thoughts tend to take a
gloomy turn, say to yourselves, 'All is well. Psmith is keeping a
watchful eye upon our interests.'"

"All the same, I should like to see this W. Windsor," said Mr.
Asher.

Psmith shook his head.

"I shouldn't," he said. "I speak in your best interests. Comrade
Windsor is a man of the fiercest passions. He cannot brook
interference. Were you to question the wisdom of his plans, there
is no knowing what might not happen. He would be the first to
regret any violent action, when once he had cooled off, but would
that be any consolation to his victim? I think not. Of course, if
you wish it, I could arrange a meeting--"

Mr. Asher said no, he thought it didn't matter.

"I guess I can wait," he said.

"That," said Psmith approvingly, "is the right spirit. Wait. That
is the watch-word. And now," he added, rising, "I wonder if a bit
of lunch somewhere might not be a good thing? We have had an
interesting but fatiguing little chat. Our tissues require
restoring. If you gentlemen would care to join me--"

Ten minutes later the company was seated in complete harmony round
a table at the Knickerbocker. Psmith, with the dignified bonhomie
of a seigneur of the old school, was ordering the wine; while B.
Henderson Asher, brimming over with good-humour, was relating to an
attentive circle an anecdote which should have appeared in his next
instalment of "Moments of Mirth."



CHAPTER IX

FULL STEAM AHEAD

When Psmith returned to the office, he found Billy Windsor in the
doorway, just parting from a thick-set young man, who seemed to be
expressing his gratitude to the editor for some good turn. He was
shaking him warmly by the hand.

Psmith stood aside to let him pass.

"An old college chum, Comrade Windsor?" he asked.

"That was Kid Brady."

"The name is unfamiliar to me. Another contributor?"

"He's from my part of the country--Wyoming. He wants to fight any
one in the world at a hundred and thirty-three pounds."

"We all have our hobbies. Comrade Brady appears to have selected a
somewhat exciting one. He would find stamp-collecting less
exacting."

"It hasn't given him much excitement so far, poor chap," said Billy
Windsor. "He's in the championship class, and here he has been
pottering about New York for a month without being able to get a
fight. It's always the way in this rotten East," continued Billy,
warming up as was his custom when discussing a case of oppression
and injustice. "It's all graft here. You've got to let half a dozen
brutes dip into every dollar you earn, or you don't get a chance.
If the kid had a manager, he'd get all the fights he wanted. And
the manager would get nearly all the money. I've told him that we
will back him up."

"You have hit it, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith with enthusiasm.
"_Cosy Moments_ shall be Comrade Brady's manager. We will give him a
much-needed boost up in our columns. A sporting section is what the
paper requires more than anything."

"If things go on as they've started, what it will require still
more will be a fighting-editor. Pugsy tells me you had visitors
while I was out."

"A few," said Psmith. "One or two very entertaining fellows.
Comrades Asher, Philpotts, and others. I have just been giving them
a bite of lunch at the Knickerbocker."

"Lunch!"

"A most pleasant little lunch. We are now as brothers. I fear I
have made you perhaps a shade unpopular with our late contributors;
but these things must be. We must clench our teeth and face them
manfully. If I were you, I think I should not drop in at the house
of Comrade Asher and the rest to take pot-luck for some little time
to come. In order to soothe the squad I was compelled to curse you
to some extent."

"Don't mind me."

"I think I may say I didn't."

"Say, look here, you must charge up the price of that lunch to the
office. Necessary expenses, you know."

"I could not dream of doing such a thing, Comrade Windsor. The
whole affair was a great treat to me. I have few pleasures. Comrade
Asher alone was worth the money. I found his society intensely
interesting. I have always believed in the Darwinian theory.
Comrade Asher confirmed my views."

They went into the inner office. Psmith removed his hat and coat.

"And now once more to work," he said. "Psmith the _flaneur_ of Fifth
Avenue ceases to exist. In his place we find Psmith the hard-headed
sub-editor. Be so good as to indicate a job of work for me,
Comrade Windsor. I am champing at my bit."

Billy Windsor sat down, and lit his pipe.

"What we want most," he said thoughtfully, "is some big topic.
That's the only way to get a paper going. Look at _Everybody's
Magazine_. They didn't amount to a row of beans till Lawson started
his 'Frenzied Finance' articles. Directly they began, the whole
country was squealing for copies. _Everybody's_ put up their price
from ten to fifteen cents, and now they lead the field."

"The country must squeal for _Cosy Moments_," said Psmith firmly. "I
fancy I have a scheme which may not prove wholly scaly. Wandering
yesterday with Comrade Jackson in a search for Fourth Avenue, I
happened upon a spot called Pleasant Street. Do you know it?"

Billy Windsor nodded.

"I went down there once or twice when I was a reporter. It's a
beastly place."

"It is a singularly beastly place. We went into one of the houses."

"They're pretty bad."

"Who owns them?"

"I don't know. Probably some millionaire. Those tenement houses
are about as paying an investment as you can have."

"Hasn't anybody ever tried to do anything about them?"

"Not so far as I know. It's pretty difficult to get at these
fellows, you see. But they're fierce, aren't they, those houses!"

"What," asked Psmith, "is the precise difficulty of getting at
these merchants?"

"Well, it's this way. There are all sorts of laws about the places,
but any one who wants can get round them as easy as falling off a
log. The law says a tenement house is a building occupied by more
than two families. Well, when there's a fuss, all the man has to do
is to clear out all the families but two. Then, when the inspector
fellow comes along, and says, let's say, 'Where's your running
water on each floor? That's what the law says you've got to have,
and here are these people having to go downstairs and out of doors
to fetch their water supplies,' the landlord simply replies,
'Nothing doing. This isn't a tenement house at all. There are only
two families here.' And when the fuss has blown over, back come the
rest of the crowd, and things go on the same as before."

"I see," said Psmith. "A very cheery scheme."

"Then there's another thing. You can't get hold of the man who's
really responsible, unless you're prepared to spend thousands
ferreting out evidence. The land belongs in the first place to some
corporation or other. They lease it to a lessee. When there's a
fuss, they say they aren't responsible, it's up to the lessee. And
he lies so low that you can't find out who he is. It's all just
like the East. Everything in the East is as crooked as Pearl
Street. If you want a square deal, you've got to come out Wyoming
way."

"The main problem, then," said Psmith, "appears to be the discovery
of the lessee, lad? Surely a powerful organ like _Cosy Moments_, with
its vast ramifications, could bring off a thing like that?"

"I doubt it. We'll try, anyway. There's no knowing but what we may
have luck."

"Precisely," said Psmith. "Full steam ahead, and trust to luck. The
chances are that, if we go on long enough, we shall eventually
arrive somewhere. After all, Columbus didn't know that America
existed when he set out. All he knew was some highly interesting
fact about an egg. What that was, I do not at the moment recall,
but it bucked Columbus up like a tonic. It made him fizz ahead like
a two-year-old. The facts which will nerve us to effort are two. In
the first place, we know that there must be some one at the bottom
of the business. Secondly, as there appears to be no law of libel
whatsoever in this great and free country, we shall be enabled to
haul up our slacks with a considerable absence of restraint."

"Sure," said Billy Windsor. "Which of us is going to write the
first article?"

"You may leave it to me, Comrade Windsor. I am no hardened old
journalist, I fear, but I have certain qualifications for the post.
A young man once called at the office of a certain newspaper, and
asked for a job. 'Have you any special line?' asked the editor.
'Yes,' said the bright lad, 'I am rather good at invective.' 'Any
special kind of invective?' queried the man up top. 'No,' replied
our hero, 'just general invective.' Such is my own case, Comrade
Windsor. I am a very fair purveyor of good, general invective. And
as my visit to Pleasant Street is of such recent date, I am
tolerably full of my subject. Taking full advantage of the
benevolent laws of this country governing libel, I fancy I will
produce a screed which will make this anonymous lessee feel as if
he had inadvertently seated himself upon a tin-tack. Give me pen
and paper, Comrade Windsor, instruct Comrade Maloney to suspend his
whistling till such time as I am better able to listen to it; and I
think we have got a success."



CHAPTER X

GOING SOME

There was once an editor of a paper in the Far West who was sitting
at his desk, musing pleasantly of life, when a bullet crashed
through the window and embedded itself in the wall at the back of
his head. A happy smile lit up the editor's face. "Ah," he said
complacently, "I knew that Personal column of ours was going to be
a success!"

What the bullet was to the Far West editor, the visit of Mr.
Francis Parker to the offices of _Cosy Moments_ was to Billy Windsor.

It occurred in the third week of the new _régime_ of the paper.
_Cosy Moments_, under its new management, had bounded ahead like a
motor-car when the throttle is opened. Incessant work had been the
order of the day. Billy Windsor's hair had become more dishevelled
than ever, and even Psmith had at moments lost a certain amount of
his dignified calm. Sandwiched in between the painful case of Kid
Brady and the matter of the tenements, which formed the star items
of the paper's contents, was a mass of bright reading dealing with
the events of the day. Billy Windsor's newspaper friends had turned
in some fine, snappy stuff in their best Yellow Journal manner,
relating to the more stirring happenings in the city. Psmith, who
had constituted himself guardian of the literary and dramatic
interests of the paper, had employed his gift of general invective
to considerable effect, as was shown by a conversation between
Master Maloney and a visitor one morning, heard through the open
door.

"I wish to see the editor of this paper," said the visitor.

"Editor not in," said Master Maloney, untruthfully.

"Ha! Then when he returns I wish you to give him a message."

"Sure."

"I am Aubrey Bodkin, of the National Theatre. Give him my
compliments, and tell him that Mr. Bodkin does not lightly forget."

An unsolicited testimonial which caused Psmith the keenest
satisfaction.

The section of the paper devoted to Kid Brady was attractive to all
those with sporting blood in them. Each week there appeared in the
same place on the same page a portrait of the Kid, looking moody
and important, in an attitude of self-defence, and under the
portrait the legend, "Jimmy Garvin must meet this boy." Jimmy was
the present holder of the light-weight title. He had won it a year
before, and since then had confined himself to smoking cigars as
long as walking-sticks and appearing nightly as the star in a
music-hall sketch entitled "A Fight for Honour." His reminiscences
were appearing weekly in a Sunday paper. It was this that gave
Psmith the idea of publishing Kid Brady's autobiography in _Cosy
Moments_, an idea which made the Kid his devoted adherent from then
on. Like most pugilists, the Kid had a passion for bursting into
print, and his life had been saddened up to the present by the
refusal of the press to publish his reminiscences. To appear in
print is the fighter's accolade. It signifies that he has arrived.
Psmith extended the hospitality of page four of _Cosy Moments_ to Kid
Brady, and the latter leaped at the chance. He was grateful to
Psmith for not editing his contributions. Other pugilists,
contributing to other papers, groaned under the supervision of a
member of the staff who cut out their best passages and altered the
rest into Addisonian English. The readers of _Cosy Moments_ got Kid
Brady raw.

"Comrade Brady," said Psmith to Billy, "has a singularly pure and
pleasing style. It is bound to appeal powerfully to the
many-headed. Listen to this bit. Our hero is fighting Battling Jack
Benson in that eminent artist's native town of Louisville, and the
citizens have given their native son the Approving Hand, while
receiving Comrade Brady with chilly silence. Here is the Kid on the
subject: 'I looked around that house, and I seen I hadn't a friend
in it. And then the gong goes, and I says to myself how I has one
friend, my poor old mother way out in Wyoming, and I goes in and
mixes it, and then I seen Benson losing his goat, so I ups with an
awful half-scissor hook to the plexus, and in the next round I seen
Benson has a chunk of yellow, and I gets in with a hay-maker and I
picks up another sleep-producer from the floor and hands it him,
and he takes the count all right.' . . Crisp, lucid, and to the
point. That is what the public wants. If this does not bring
Comrade Garvin up to the scratch, nothing will."

But the feature of the paper was the "Tenement" series. It was late
summer now, and there was nothing much going on in New York. The
public was consequently free to take notice. The sale of _Cosy
Moments_ proceeded briskly. As Psmith had predicted, the change of
policy had the effect of improving the sales to a marked extent.
Letters of complaint from old subscribers poured into the office
daily. But, as Billy Windsor complacently remarked, they had paid
their subscriptions, so that the money was safe whether they read
the paper or not. And, meanwhile, a large new public had sprung up
and was growing every week. Advertisements came trooping in. _Cosy
Moments_, in short, was passing through an era of prosperity
undreamed of in its history.

"Young blood," said Psmith nonchalantly, "young blood. That is the
secret. A paper must keep up to date, or it falls behind its
competitors in the race. Comrade Wilberfloss's methods were
possibly sound, but too limited and archaic. They lacked ginger. We
of the younger generation have our fingers more firmly on the
public pulse. We read off the public's unspoken wishes as if by
intuition. We know the game from A to Z."

At this moment Master Maloney entered, bearing in his hand a card.

"'Francis Parker'?" said Billy, taking it. "Don't know him."

"Nor I," said Psmith. "We make new friends daily."

"He's a guy with a tall-shaped hat," volunteered Master Maloney,
"an' he's wearin' a dude suit an' shiny shoes."

"Comrade Parker," said Psmith approvingly, "has evidently not been
blind to the importance of a visit to _Cosy Moments_. He has dressed
himself in his best. He has felt, rightly, that this is no occasion
for the old straw hat and the baggy flannels. I would not have it
otherwise. It is the right spirit. Shall we give him audience,
Comrade Windsor?"

"I wonder what he wants."

"That," said Psmith, "we shall ascertain more clearly after a
personal interview. Comrade Maloney, show the gentleman in. We can
give him three and a quarter minutes."

Pugsy withdrew.

Mr. Francis Parker proved to be a man who might have been any age
between twenty-five and thirty-five. He had a smooth, clean-shaven
face, and a cat-like way of moving. As Pugsy had stated in effect,
he wore a tail-coat, trousers with a crease which brought a smile
of kindly approval to Psmith's face, and patent-leather boots of
pronounced shininess. Gloves and a tall hat, which he carried,
completed an impressive picture.

He moved softly into the room.

"I wished to see the editor."

Psmith waved a hand towards Billy.

"The treat has not been denied you," he said. "Before you is
Comrade Windsor, the Wyoming cracker-jack. He is our editor. I
myself--I am Psmith--though but a subordinate, may also claim the
title in a measure. Technically, I am but a sub-editor; but such is
the mutual esteem in which Comrade Windsor and I hold each other
that we may practically be said to be inseparable. We have no
secrets from each other. You may address us both impartially. Will
you sit for a space?"

He pushed a chair towards the visitor, who seated himself with the
care inspired by a perfect trouser-crease. There was a momentary
silence while he selected a spot on the table on which to place his
hat.

"The style of the paper has changed greatly, has it not, during the
past few weeks?" he said. "I have never been, shall I say, a
constant reader of _Cosy Moments_, and I may be wrong. But is not its
interest in current affairs a recent development?"

"You are very right," responded Psmith. "Comrade Windsor, a man of
alert and restless temperament, felt that a change was essential if
_Cosy Moments_ was to lead public thought. Comrade Wilberfloss's
methods were good in their way. I have no quarrel with Comrade
Wilberfloss. But he did not lead public thought. He catered
exclusively for children with water on the brain, and men and women
with solid ivory skulls. Comrade Windsor, with a broader view,
feels that there are other and larger publics. He refuses to
content himself with ladling out a weekly dole of mental
predigested breakfast food. He provides meat. He--"

"Then--excuse me--" said Mr. Parker, turning to Billy, "You, I take
it, are responsible for this very vigorous attack on the
tenement-house owners?"

"You can take it I am," said Billy.

Psmith interposed.

"We are both responsible, Comrade Parker. If any husky guy, as I
fancy Master Maloney would phrase it, is anxious to aim a swift
kick at the man behind those articles, he must distribute it evenly
between Comrade Windsor and myself."

"I see." Mr. Parker paused. "They are--er--very outspoken
articles," he added.

"Warm stuff," agreed Psmith. "Distinctly warm stuff."

"May I speak frankly?" said Mr. Parker.

"Assuredly, Comrade Parker. There must be no secrets, no restraint
between us. We would not have you go away and say to yourself, 'Did
I make my meaning clear? Was I too elusive?' Say on."

"I am speaking in your best interests."

"Who would doubt it, Comrade Parker. Nothing has buoyed us up more
strongly during the hours of doubt through which we have passed
than the knowledge that you wish us well."

Billy Windsor suddenly became militant. There was a feline
smoothness about the visitor which had been jarring upon him ever
since he first spoke. Billy was of the plains, the home of blunt
speech, where you looked your man in the eye and said it quick. Mr.
Parker was too bland for human consumption. He offended Billy's
honest soul.

"See here," cried he, leaning forward, "what's it all about? Let's
have it. If you've anything to say about those articles, say it
right out. Never mind our best interests. We can look after them.
Let's have what's worrying you."

Psmith waved a deprecating hand.

"Do not let us be abrupt on this happy occasion. To me it is
enough simply to sit and chat with Comrade Parker, irrespective of
the trend of his conversation. Still, as time is money, and this is
our busy day, possibly it might be as well, sir, if you unburdened
yourself as soon as convenient. Have you come to point out some
flaw in those articles? Do they fall short in any way of your
standard for such work?"

Mr. Parker's smooth face did not change its expression, but he came
to the point.

"I should not go on with them if I were you," he said.

"Why?" demanded Billy.

"There are reasons why you should not," said Mr. Parker.

"And there are reasons why we should."

"Less powerful ones."

There proceeded from Billy a noise not describable in words. It was
partly a snort, partly a growl. It resembled more than anything
else the preliminary sniffing snarl a bull-dog emits before he
joins battle. Billy's cow-boy blood was up. He was rapidly
approaching the state of mind in which the men of the plains,
finding speech unequal to the expression of their thoughts, reach
for their guns.

Psmith intervened.

"We do not completely gather your meaning, Comrade Parker. I fear
we must ask you to hand it to us with still more breezy frankness.
Do you speak from purely friendly motives? Are you advising us to
discontinue the articles merely because you fear that they will
damage our literary reputation? Or are there other reasons why you
feel that they should cease? Do you speak solely as a literary
connoisseur? Is it the style or the subject-matter of which you
disapprove?"

Mr. Parker leaned forward.

"The gentleman whom I represent--"

"Then this is no matter of your own personal taste? You are an
emissary?"

"These articles are causing a certain inconvenience to the
gentleman whom I represent. Or, rather, he feels that, if
continued, they may do so."

"You mean," broke in Billy explosively, "that if we kick up enough
fuss to make somebody start a commission to inquire into this
rotten business, your friend who owns the private Hades we're
trying to get improved, will have to get busy and lose some of his
money by making the houses fit to live in? Is that it?"

"It is not so much the money, Mr. Windsor, though, of course, the
expense would be considerable. My employer is a wealthy man."

"I bet he is," said Billy disgustedly. "I've no doubt he makes a
mighty good pile out of Pleasant Street."

"It is not so much the money," repeated Mr. Parker, "as the
publicity involved. I speak quite frankly. There are reasons why my
employer would prefer not to come before the public just now as the
owner of the Pleasant Street property. I need not go into those
reasons. It is sufficient to say that they are strong ones."

"Well, he knows what to do, I guess. The moment he starts in to
make those houses decent, the articles stop. It's up to him."

Psmith nodded.

"Comrade Windsor is correct. He has hit the mark and rung the bell.
No conscientious judge would withhold from Comrade Windsor a cigar
or a cocoanut, according as his private preference might dictate.
That is the matter in a nutshell. Remove the reason for those very
scholarly articles, and they cease."

Mr. Parker shook his head.

"I fear that is not feasible. The expense of reconstructing the
houses makes that impossible."

"Then there's no use in talking," said Billy. "The articles will
go on."

Mr. Parker coughed. A tentative cough, suggesting that the
situation was now about to enter upon a more delicate phase. Billy
and Psmith waited for him to begin. From their point of view the
discussion was over. If it was to be reopened on fresh lines, it
was for their visitor to effect that reopening.

"Now, I'm going to be frank, gentlemen," said he, as who should
say, "We are all friends here. Let us be hearty." "I'm going to put
my cards on the table, and see if we can't fix something up. Now,
see here: We don't want unpleasantness. You aren't in this business
for your healths, eh? You've got your living to make, just like
everybody else, I guess. Well, see here. This is how it stands. To
a certain extant, I don't mind admitting, seeing that we're being
frank with one another, you two gentlemen have got us--that's to
say, my employer--in a cleft stick. Frankly, those articles are
beginning to attract attention, and if they go on there's going to
be a lot of inconvenience for my employer. That's clear, I reckon.
Well, now, here's a square proposition. How much do you want to
stop those articles? That's straight. I've been frank with you,
and I want you to be frank with me. What's your figure? Name it,
and, if it's not too high, I guess we needn't quarrel."

He looked expectantly at Billy. Billy's eyes were bulging. He
struggled for speech. He had got as far as "Say!" when Psmith
interrupted him. Psmith, gazing sadly at Mr. Parker through his
monocle, spoke quietly, with the restrained dignity of some old
Roman senator dealing with the enemies of the Republic.

"Comrade Parker," he said, "I fear that you have allowed constant
communication with the conscienceless commercialism of this worldly
city to undermine your moral sense. It is useless to dangle rich
bribes before our eyes. _Cosy Moments_ cannot be muzzled. You
doubtless mean well, according to your--if I may say so--somewhat
murky lights, but we are not for sale, except at ten cents weekly.
From the hills of Maine to the Everglades of Florida, from Sandy
Hook to San Francisco, from Portland, Oregon, to Melonsquashville,
Tennessee, one sentence is in every man's mouth. And what is that
sentence? I give you three guesses. You give it up? It is this:
'_Cosy Moments_ cannot be muzzled!'"

Mr. Parker rose.

"There's nothing more to be done then," he said.

"Nothing," agreed Psmith, "except to make a noise like a hoop and
roll away."

"And do it quick," yelled Billy, exploding like a fire-cracker.

Psmith bowed.

"Speed," he admitted, "would be no bad thing. Frankly--if I may
borrow the expression--your square proposition has wounded us. I am
a man of powerful self-restraint, one of those strong, silent men,
and I can curb my emotions. But I fear that Comrade Windsor's
generous temperament may at any moment prompt him to start throwing
ink-pots. And in Wyoming his deadly aim with the ink-pot won him
among the admiring cowboys the sobriquet of Crack-Shot Cuthbert. As
man to man, Comrade Parker, I should advise you to bound swiftly
away."

"I'm going," said Mr. Parker, picking up his hat. "And I'll give
you a piece of advice, too. Those articles are going to be stopped,
and if you've any sense between you, you'll stop them yourselves
before you get hurt. That's all I've got to say, and that goes."

He went out, closing the door behind him with a bang that added
emphasis to his words.

"To men of nicely poised nervous organisation such as ourselves,
Comrade Windsor," said Psmith, smoothing his waistcoat thoughtfully,
"these scenes are acutely painful. We wince before them. Our
ganglions quiver like cinematographs. Gradually recovering command
of ourselves, we review the situation. Did our visitor's final
remarks convey anything definite to you? Were they the mere casual
badinage of a parting guest, or was there something solid behind
them?"

Billy Windsor was looking serious.

"I guess he meant it all right. He's evidently working for somebody
pretty big, and that sort of man would have a pull with all kinds
of Thugs. We shall have to watch out. Now that they find we can't
be bought, they'll try the other way. They mean business sure
enough. But, by George, let 'em! We're up against a big thing, and
I'm going to see it through if they put every gang in New York on
to us."

"Precisely, Comrade Windsor. _Cosy Moments_, as I have had occasion
to observe before, cannot be muzzled."

"That's right," said Billy Windsor. "And," he added, with the
contented look the Far West editor must have worn as the bullet
came through the window, "we must have got them scared, or they
wouldn't have shown their hand that way. I guess we're making a
hit. _Cosy Moments_ is going some now."



CHAPTER XI

THE MAN AT THE ASTOR

The duties of Master Pugsy Maloney at the offices of _Cosy Moments_
were not heavy; and he was accustomed to occupy his large store of
leisure by reading narratives dealing with life in the prairies,
which he acquired at a neighbouring shop at cut rates in
consideration of their being shop-soiled. It was while he was
engrossed in one of these, on the morning following the visit of
Mr. Parker, that the seedy-looking man made his appearance. He
walked in from the street, and stood before Master Maloney.

"Hey, kid," he said.

Pugsy looked up with some hauteur. He resented being addressed as
"kid" by perfect strangers.

"Editor in, Tommy?" inquired the man.

Pugsy by this time had taken a thorough dislike to him. To be
called "kid" was bad. The subtle insult of "Tommy" was still worse.

"Nope," he said curtly, fixing his eyes again on his book. A
movement on the part of the visitor attracted his attention. The
seedy man was making for the door of the inner room. Pugsy
instantly ceased to be the student and became the man of action. He
sprang from his seat and wriggled in between the man and the door.

"Youse can't butt in dere," he said authoritatively. "Chase
yerself."

The man eyed him with displeasure.

"Fresh kid!" he observed disapprovingly.

"Fade away," urged Master Maloney.

The visitor's reply was to extend a hand and grasp Pugsy's left ear
between a long finger and thumb. Since time began, small boys in
every country have had but one answer for this action. Pugsy made
it. He emitted a piercing squeal in which pain, fear, and
resentment strove for supremacy.

The noise penetrated into the editorial sanctum, losing only a
small part of its strength on the way. Psmith, who was at work on
a review of a book of poetry, looked up with patient sadness.

"If Comrade Maloney," he said, "is going to take to singing as well
as whistling, I fear this journal must put up its shutters.
Concentrated thought will be out of the question."

A second squeal rent the air. Billy Windsor jumped up.

"Somebody must be hurting the kid," he exclaimed.

He hurried to the door and flung it open. Psmith followed at a more
leisurely pace. The seedy man, caught in the act, released Master
Maloney, who stood rubbing his ear with resentment written on every
feature.

On such occasions as this Billy was a man of few words. He made a
dive for the seedy man; but the latter, who during the preceding
moment had been eyeing the two editors as if he were committing
their appearance to memory, sprang back, and was off down the
stairs with the agility of a Marathon runner.

"He blows in," said Master Maloney, aggrieved, "and asks is de
editor dere. I tells him no, 'cos youse said youse wasn't, and he
nips me by the ear when I gets busy to stop him gettin' t'roo."

"Comrade Maloney," said Psmith, "you are a martyr. What would
Horatius have done if somebody had nipped him by the ear when he
was holding the bridge? The story does not consider the
possibility. Yet it might have made all the difference. Did the
gentleman state his business?"

"Nope. Just tried to butt t'roo."

"Another of these strong silent men. The world is full of us. These
are the perils of the journalistic life. You will be safer and
happier when you are rounding up cows on your mustang."

"I wonder what he wanted," said Billy, when they were back again in
the inner room.

"Who can say, Comrade Windsor? Possibly our autographs. Possibly
five minutes' chat on general subjects."

"I don't like the look of him," said Billy.

"Whereas what Comrade Maloney objected to was the feel of him. In
what respect did his look jar upon you? His clothes were poorly
cut, but such things, I know, leave you unmoved."

"It seems to me," said Billy thoughtfully, "as if he came just to
get a sight of us."

"And he got it. Ah, Providence is good to the poor."

"Whoever's behind those tenements isn't going to stick at any odd
trifle. We must watch out. That man was probably sent to mark us
down for one of the gangs. Now they'll know what we look like, and
they can get after us."

"These are the drawbacks to being public men, Comrade Windsor. We
must bear them manfully, without wincing."

Billy turned again to his work.

"I'm not going to wince," he said, "so's you could notice it with a
microscope. What I'm going to do is to buy a good big stick. And
I'd advise you to do the same."

            *    *    *

It was by Psmith's suggestion that the editorial staff of _Cosy
Moments_ dined that night in the roof-garden at the top of the
Astor Hotel.

"The tired brain," he said, "needs to recuperate. To feed on such
a night as this in some low-down hostelry on the level of the
street, with German waiters breathing heavily down the back of
one's neck and two fiddles and a piano whacking out 'Beautiful
Eyes' about three feet from one's tympanum, would be false economy.
Here, fanned by cool breezes and surrounded by fair women and brave
men, one may do a bit of tissue-restoring. Moreover, there is
little danger up here of being slugged by our moth-eaten
acquaintance of this morning. A man with trousers like his would
not be allowed in. We shall probably find him waiting for us at the
main entrance with a sand-bag, when we leave, but, till then--"

He turned with gentle grace to his soup.

It was a warm night, and the roof-garden was full. From where they
sat they could see the million twinkling lights of the city.
Towards the end of the meal, Psmith's gaze concentrated itself on
the advertisement of a certain brand of ginger-ale in Times Square.
It is a mass of electric light arranged in the shape of a great
bottle, and at regular intervals there proceed from the bottle's
mouth flashes of flame representing ginger-ale. The thing began to
exercise a hypnotic effect on Psmith. He came to himself with a
start, to find Billy Windsor in conversation with a waiter.

"Yes, my name's Windsor," Billy was saying.

The waiter bowed and retired to one of the tables where a young man
in evening clothes was seated. Psmith recollected having seen this
solitary diner looking in their direction once or twice during
dinner, but the fact had not impressed him.

"What is happening, Comrade Windsor?" he inquired. "I was musing
with a certain tenseness at the moment, and the rush of events has
left me behind."

"Man at that table wanted to know if my name was Windsor," said
Billy.

"Ah?" said Psmith, interested; "and was it?"

"Here he comes. I wonder what he wants. I don't know the man from
Adam."

The stranger was threading his way between the tables.

"Can I have a word with you, Mr. Windsor?" he said.

Billy looked at him curiously. Recent events had made him wary of
strangers.

"Won't you sit down?" he said.

A waiter was bringing a chair. The young man seated himself.

"By the way," added Billy; "my friend, Mr. Smith."

"Pleased to meet you," said the other.

"I don't know your name," Billy hesitated.

"Never mind about my name," said the stranger. "It won't be
needed. Is Mr. Smith on your paper? Excuse my asking."

Psmith bowed. "That's all right, then. I can go ahead." He bent
forward.

"Neither of you gentlemen are hard of hearing, eh?"

"In the old prairie days," said Psmith, "Comrade Windsor was known
to the Indians as Boola-Ba-Na-Gosh, which, as you doubtless know,
signifies Big-Chief-Who-Can-Hear-A-Fly-Clear-Its-Throat. I too can
hear as well as the next man. Why?"

"That's all right, then. I don't want to have to shout it. There's
some things it's better not to yell."

He turned to Billy, who had been looking at him all the while with
a combination of interest and suspicion. The man might or might not
be friendly. In the meantime, there was no harm in being on one's
guard. Billy's experience as a cub-reporter had given him the
knowledge that is only given in its entirety to police and
newspaper men: that there are two New Yorks. One is a modern,
well-policed city, through which one may walk from end to end
without encountering adventure. The other is a city as full of
sinister intrigue, of whisperings and conspiracies, of battle,
murder, and sudden death in dark by-ways, as any town of mediaeval
Italy. Given certain conditions, anything may happen to any one in
New York. And Billy realised that these conditions now prevailed in
his own case. He had come into conflict with New York's
underworld. Circumstances had placed him below the surface, where
only his wits could help him.

"It's about that tenement business," said the stranger.

Billy bristled. "Well, what about it?" he demanded truculently.

The stranger raised a long and curiously delicately shaped hand.
"Don't bite at me," he said. "This isn't my funeral. I've no kick
coming. I'm a friend."

"Yet you don't tell us your name."

"Never mind my name. If you were in my line of business, you
wouldn't be so durned stuck on this name thing. Call me Smith, if
you like."

"You could select no nobler pseudonym," said Psmith cordially.

"Eh? Oh, I see. Well, make it Brown, then. Anything you please. It
don't signify. See here, let's get back. About this tenement thing.
You understand certain parties have got it in against you?"

"A charming conversationalist, one Comrade Parker, hinted at
something of the sort," said Psmith, "in a recent interview. _Cosy
Moments_, however, cannot be muzzled."

"Well?" said Billy.

"You're up against a big proposition."

"We can look after ourselves."

"Gum! you'll need to. The man behind is a big bug."

Billy leaned forward eagerly.

"Who is he?"

The other shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know. You wouldn't expect a man like that to give himself
away."

"Then how do you know he's a big bug?"

"Precisely," said Psmith. "On what system have you estimated the
size of the gentleman's bughood?"

The stranger lit a cigar.

"By the number of dollars he was ready to put up to have you done
in."

Billy's eyes snapped.

"Oh?" he said. "And which gang has he given the job to?"

"I wish I could tell you. He--his agent, that is--came to Bat
Jarvis."

"The cat-expert?" said Psmith. "A man of singularly winsome
personality."

"Bat turned the job down."

"Why was that?" inquired Billy.

"He said he needed the money as much as the next man, but when he
found out who he was supposed to lay for, he gave his job the
frozen face. Said you were a friend of his and none of his fellows
were going to put a finger on you. I don't know what you've been
doing to Bat, but he's certainly Willie the Long-Lost Brother with
you."

"A powerful argument in favour of kindness to animals!" said
Psmith. "Comrade Windsor came into possession of one of Comrade
Jarvis's celebrated stud of cats. What did he do? Instead of having
the animal made into a nourishing soup, he restored it to its
bereaved owner. Observe the sequel. He is now as a prize
tortoiseshell to Comrade Jarvis."

"So Bat wouldn't stand for it?" said Billy.

"Not on his life. Turned it down without a blink. And he sent me
along to find you and tell you so."

"We are much obliged to Comrade Jarvis," said Psmith.

"He told me to tell you to watch out, because another gang is dead
sure to take on the job. But he said you were to know he wasn't
mixed up in it. He also said that any time you were in bad, he'd
do his best for you. You've certainly made the biggest kind of hit
with Bat. I haven't seen him so worked up over a thing in years.
Well, that's all, I reckon. Guess I'll be pushing along. I've a
date to keep. Glad to have met you. Glad to have met you, Mr.
Smith. Pardon me, you have an insect on your coat."

He flicked at Psmith's coat with a quick movement. Psmith thanked
him gravely.

"Good night," concluded the stranger, moving off. For a few
moments after he had gone, Psmith and Billy sat smoking in silence.
They had plenty to think about.

"How's the time going?" asked Billy at length. Psmith felt for his
watch, and looked at Billy with some sadness.

"I am sorry to say, Comrade Windsor--"

"Hullo," said Billy, "here's that man coming back again."

The stranger came up to their table, wearing a light overcoat over
his dress clothes. From the pocket of this he produced a gold
watch.

"Force of habit," he said apologetically, handing it to Psmith.
"You'll pardon me. Good night, gentlemen, again."



CHAPTER XII

A RED TAXIMETER

The Astor Hotel faces on to Times Square. A few paces to the right
of the main entrance the Times Building towers to the sky; and at
the foot of this the stream of traffic breaks, forming two
channels. To the right of the building is Seventh Avenue, quiet,
dark, and dull. To the left is Broadway, the Great White Way, the
longest, straightest, brightest, wickedest street in the world.

Psmith and Billy, having left the Astor, started to walk down
Broadway to Billy's lodgings in Fourteenth Street. The usual crowd
was drifting slowly up and down in the glare of the white lights.

They had reached Herald Square, when a voice behind them exclaimed,
"Why, it's Mr. Windsor!"

They wheeled round. A flashily dressed man was standing with
outstetched hand.

"I saw you come out of the Astor," he said cheerily. "I said to
myself, 'I know that man.' Darned if I could put a name to you,
though. So I just followed you along, and right here it came to
me."

"It did, did it?" said Billy politely.

"It did, sir. I've never set eyes on you before, but I've seen so
many photographs of you that I reckon we're old friends. I know
your father very well, Mr. Windsor. He showed me the photographs.
You may have heard him speak of me--Jack Lake? How is the old man?
Seen him lately?"

"Not for some time. He was well when he last wrote."

"Good for him. He would be. Tough as a plank, old Joe Windsor. We
always called him Joe."

"You'd have known him down in Missouri, of course?" said Billy.

"That's right. In Missouri. We were side-partners for years. Now,
see here, Mr. Windsor, it's early yet. Won't you and your friend
come along with me and have a smoke and a chat? I live right here
in Thirty-Third Street. I'd be right glad for you to come."

"I don't doubt it," said Billy, "but I'm afraid you'll have to
excuse us."

"In a hurry, are you?"

"Not in the least."

"Then come right along."

"No, thanks."

"Say, why not? It's only a step."

"Because we don't want to. Good night."

He turned, and started to walk away. The other stood for a moment,
staring; then crossed the road.

Psmith broke the silence.

"Correct me if I am wrong, Comrade Windsor," he said tentatively,
"but were you not a trifle--shall we say abrupt?--with the old
family friend?"

Billy Windsor laughed.

"If my father's name was Joseph," he said, "instead of being
William, the same as mine, and if he'd ever been in Missouri in his
life, which he hasn't, and if I'd been photographed since I was a
kid, which I haven't been, I might have gone along. As it was, I
thought it better not to."

"These are deep waters, Comrade Windsor. Do you mean to intimate--?"

"If they can't do any better than that, we shan't have much to
worry us. What do they take us for, I wonder? Farmers? Playing off
a comic-supplement bluff like that on us!"

There was honest indignation in Billy's voice.

"You think, then, that if we had accepted Comrade Lake's
invitation, and gone along for a smoke and a chat, the chat would
not have been of the pleasantest nature?"

"We should have been put out of business."

"I have heard so much," said Psmith, thoughtfully, "of the lavish
hospitality of the American."

"Taxi, sir?"

A red taximeter cab was crawling down the road at their side. Billy
shook his head.

"Not that a taxi would be an unsound scheme," said Psmith.

"Not that particular one, if you don't mind."

"Something about it that offends your aesthetic taste?" queried
Psmith sympathetically.

"Something about it makes my aesthetic taste kick like a mule,"
said Billy.

"Ah, we highly strung literary men do have these curious
prejudices. We cannot help it. We are the slaves of our
temperaments. Let us walk, then. After all, the night is fine, and
we are young and strong."

They had reached Twenty-Third Street when Billy stopped. "I don't
know about walking," he said. "Suppose we take the Elevated?"

"Anything you wish, Comrade Windsor. I am in your hands."

They cut across into Sixth Avenue, and walked up the stairs to the
station of the Elevated Railway. A train was just coming in.

"Has it escaped your notice, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith after a
pause, "that, so far from speeding to your lodgings, we are going
in precisely the opposite direction? We are in an up-town train."

"I noticed it," said Billy briefly.

"Are we going anywhere in particular?"

"This train goes as far as Hundred and Tenth Street. We'll go up to
there."

"And then?"

"And then we'll come back."

"And after that, I suppose, we'll make a trip to Philadelphia, or
Chicago, or somewhere? Well, well, I am in your hands, Comrade
Windsor. The night is yet young. Take me where you will. It is
only five cents a go, and we have money in our purses. We are two
young men out for reckless dissipation. By all means let us have
it."

At Hundred and Tenth Street they left the train, went down the
stairs, and crossed the street. Half-way across Billy stopped.

"What now, Comrade Windsor?" inquired Psmith patiently. "Have you
thought of some new form of entertainment?"

Billy was making for a spot some few yards down the road. Looking
in that direction, Psmith saw his objective. In the shadow of the
Elevated there was standing a taximeter cab.

"Taxi, sir?" said the driver, as they approached.

"We are giving you a great deal of trouble," said Billy. "You must
be losing money over this job. All this while you might be getting
fares down-town."

"These meetings, however," urged Psmith, "are very pleasant."

"I can save you worrying," said Billy. "My address is 84 East
Fourteenth Street. We are going back there now."

"Search me," said the driver, "I don't know what you're talking
about."

"I thought perhaps you did," replied Billy. "Good night."

"These things are very disturbing," said Psmith, when they were in
the train. "Dignity is impossible when one is compelled to be the
Hunted Fawn. When did you begin to suspect that yonder merchant was
doing the sleuth-hound act?"

"When I saw him in Broadway having a heart-to-heart talk with our
friend from Missouri."

"He must be something of an expert at the game to have kept on our
track."

"Not on your life. It's as easy as falling off a log. There are
only certain places where you can get off an Elevated train. All
he'd got to do was to get there before the train, and wait. I
didn't expect to dodge him by taking the Elevated. I just wanted to
make certain of his game."

The train pulled up at the Fourteenth Street station. In the
roadway at the foot of the opposite staircase was a red taximeter
cab.



CHAPTER XIII

REVIEWING THE SITUATION


Arriving at the bed-sitting-room, Billy proceeded to occupy the
rocking-chair, and, as was his wont, began to rock himself
rhythmically to and fro. Psmith seated himself gracefully on the
couch-bed. There was a silence.

The events of the evening had been a revelation to Psmith. He had
not realised before the extent of the ramifications of New York's
underworld. That members of the gangs should crop up in the Astor
roof-garden and in gorgeous raiment in the middle of Broadway was a
surprise. When Billy Windsor had mentioned the gangs, he had formed
a mental picture of low-browed hooligans, keeping carefully to
their own quarter of the town. This picture had been correct, as
far as it went, but it had not gone far enough. The bulk of the
gangs of New York are of the hooligan class, and are rarely met
with outside their natural boundaries. But each gang has its more
prosperous members; gentlemen, who, like the man of the Astor
roof-garden, support life by more delicate and genteel methods than
the rest. The main body rely for their incomes, except at
election-time, on such primitive feats as robbing intoxicated
pedestrians. The aristocracy of the gangs soar higher.

It was a considerable time before Billy spoke.

"Say," he said, "this thing wants talking over."

"By all means, Comrade Windsor."

"It's this way. There's no doubt now that we're up against a mighty
big proposition."

"Something of the sort would seem to be the case."

"It's like this. I'm going to see this through. It isn't only that
I want to do a bit of good to the poor cusses in those tenements,
though I'd do it for that alone. But, as far as I'm concerned,
there's something to it besides that. If we win out, I'm going to
get a job out of one of the big dailies. It'll give me just the
chance I need. See what I mean? Well, it's different with you. I
don't see that it's up to you to run the risk of getting yourself
put out of business with a black-jack, and maybe shot. Once you get
mixed up with the gangs there's no saying what's going to be doing.
Well, I don't see why you shouldn't quit. All this has got nothing
to do with you. You're over here on a vacation. You haven't got to
make a living this side. You want to go about and have a good time,
instead of getting mixed up with--"

He broke off.

"Well, that's what I wanted to say, anyway," he concluded.

Psmith looked at him reproachfully.

"Are you trying to _sack_ me, Comrade Windsor?"

"How's that?"

"In various treatises on 'How to Succeed in Literature,'" said
Psmith sadly, "which I have read from time to time, I have always
found it stated that what the novice chiefly needed was an editor
who believed in him. In you, Comrade Windsor, I fancied that I had
found such an editor."

"What's all this about?" demanded Billy. "I'm making no kick about
your work."

"I gathered from your remarks that you were anxious to receive my
resignation."

"Well, I told you why. I didn't want you be black-jacked."

"Was that the only reason?"

"Sure."

"Then all is well," said Psmith, relieved. "For the moment I
fancied that my literary talents had been weighed in the balance
and adjudged below par. If that is all--why, these are the mere
everyday risks of the young journalist's life. Without them we
should be dull and dissatisfied. Our work would lose its fire. Men
such as ourselves, Comrade Windsor, need a certain stimulus, a
certain fillip, if they are to keep up their high standards. The
knowledge that a low-browed gentleman is waiting round the corner
with a sand-bag poised in air will just supply that stimulus. Also
that fillip. It will give our output precisely the edge it
requires."

"Then you'll stay in this thing? You'll stick to the work?"

"Like a conscientious leech, Comrade Windsor."

"Bully for you," said Billy.

It was not Psmith's habit, when he felt deeply on any subject, to
exhibit his feelings; and this matter of the tenements had hit him
harder than any one who did not know him intimately would have
imagined. Mike would have understood him, but Billy Windsor was too
recent an acquaintance. Psmith was one of those people who are
content to accept most of the happenings of life in an airy spirit
of tolerance. Life had been more or less of a game with him up till
now. In his previous encounters with those with whom fate had
brought him in contact there had been little at stake. The prize of
victory had been merely a comfortable feeling of having had the
best of a battle of wits; the penalty of defeat nothing worse than
the discomfort of having failed to score. But this tenement
business was different. Here he had touched the realities. There
was something worth fighting for. His lot had been cast in pleasant
places, and the sight of actual raw misery had come home to him
with an added force from that circumstance. He was fully aware of
the risks that he must run. The words of the man at the Astor, and
still more the episodes of the family friend from Missouri and the
taximeter cab, had shown him that this thing was on a different
plane from anything that had happened to him before. It was a fight
without the gloves, and to a finish at that. But he meant to see it
through. Somehow or other those tenement houses had got to be
cleaned up. If it meant trouble, as it undoubtedly did, that trouble
would have to be faced.

"Now that Comrade Jarvis," he said, "showing a spirit of
forbearance which, I am bound to say, does him credit, has declined
the congenial task of fracturing our occiputs, who should you say,
Comrade Windsor, would be the chosen substitute?"

Billy shook his head. "Now that Bat has turned up the job, it might
be any one of three gangs. There are four main gangs, you know.
Bat's is the biggest. But the smallest of them's large enough to
put us away, if we give them the chance."

"I don't quite grasp the nice points of this matter. Do you mean
that we have an entire gang on our trail in one solid mass, or will
it be merely a section?"

"Well, a section, I guess, if it comes to that. Parker, or whoever
fixed this thing up, would go to the main boss of the gang. If it
was the Three Points, he'd go to Spider Reilly. If it was the Table
Hill lot, he'd look up Dude Dawson. And so on."

"And what then?"

"And then the boss would talk it over with his own special
partners. Every gang-leader has about a dozen of them. A sort of
Inner Circle. They'd fix it up among themselves. The rest of the
gang wouldn't know anything about it. The fewer in the game, you
see, the fewer to split up the dollars."

"I see. Then things are not so black. All we have to do is to look
out for about a dozen hooligans with a natural dignity in their
bearing, the result of intimacy with the main boss. Carefully
eluding these aristocrats, we shall win through. I fancy, Comrade
Windsor, that all may yet be well. What steps do you propose to
take by way of self-defence?"

"Keep out in the middle of the street, and not go off the Broadway
after dark. You're pretty safe on Broadway. There's too much light
for them there."

"Now that our sleuth-hound friend in the taximeter has ascertained
your address, shall you change it?"

"It wouldn't do any good. They'd soon find where I'd gone to. How
about yours?"

"I fancy I shall be tolerably all right. A particularly massive
policeman is on duty at my very doors. So much for our private
lives. But what of the day-time? Suppose these sandbag-specialists
drop in at the office during business hours. Will Comrade Maloney's
frank and manly statement that we are not in be sufficient to keep
them out? I doubt it. All unused to the nice conventions of polite
society, these rugged persons will charge through. In such
circumstances good work will be hard to achieve. Your literary man
must have complete quiet if he is to give the public of his best.
But stay. An idea!"

"Well?"

"Comrade Brady. The Peerless Kid. The man _Cosy Moments_ is running
for the light-weight championship. We are his pugilistic sponsors.
You may say that it is entirely owing to our efforts that he has
obtained this match with--who exactly is the gentleman Comrade
Brady fights at the Highfield Club on Friday night?"

"Cyclone Al. Wolmann, isn't it?"

"You are right. As I was saying, but for us the privilege of
smiting Comrade Cyclone Al. Wolmann under the fifth rib on Friday
night would almost certainly have been denied to him."

It almost seemed as if he were right. From the moment the paper had
taken up his cause, Kid Brady's star had undoubtedly been in the
ascendant. People began to talk about him as a likely man. Edgren,
in the _Evening World_, had a paragraph about his chances for the
light-weight title. Tad, in the _Journal_, drew a picture of him.
Finally, the management of the Highfield Club had signed him for a
ten-round bout with Mr. Wolmann. There were, therefore, reasons
why _Cosy Moments_ should feel a claim on the Kid's services.

"He should," continued Psmith, "if equipped in any degree with
finer feelings, be bubbling over with gratitude towards us. 'But
for _Cosy Moments_,' he should be saying to himself, 'where should I
be? Among the also-rans.' I imagine that he will do any little
thing we care to ask of him. I suggest that we approach Comrade
Brady, explain the facts of the case, and offer him at a
comfortable salary the post of fighting-editor of _Cosy Moments_. His
duties will be to sit in the room opening out of ours, girded as to
the loins and full of martial spirit, and apply some of those
half-scissor hooks of his to the persons of any who overcome the
opposition of Comrade Maloney. We, meanwhile, will enjoy that
leisure and freedom from interruption which is so essential to the
artist."

"It's not a bad idea," said Billy.

"It is about the soundest idea," said Psmith, "that has ever been
struck. One of your newspaper friends shall supply us with tickets,
and Friday night shall see us at the Highfield."



CHAPTER XIV

THE HIGHFIELD

Far up at the other end of the island, on the banks of the Harlem
River, there stands the old warehouse which modern progress has
converted into the Highfield Athletic and Gymnastic Club. The
imagination, stimulated by the title, conjures up a sort of
National Sporting Club, with pictures on the walls, padding on the
chairs, and a sea of white shirt-fronts from roof to floor. But the
Highfield differs in some respects from this fancy picture.
Indeed, it would be hard to find a respect in which it does not
differ. But these names are so misleading. The title under which
the Highfield used to be known till a few years back was "Swifty
Bob's." It was a good, honest title. You knew what to expect; and
if you attended _séances_ at Swifty Bob's you left your gold watch
and your little savings at home. But a wave of anti-pugilistic
feeling swept over the New York authorities. Promoters of boxing
contests found themselves, to their acute disgust, raided by the
police. The industry began to languish. People avoided places where
at any moment the festivities might be marred by an inrush of large
men in blue uniforms armed with locust-sticks.

And then some big-brained person suggested the club idea, which
stands alone as an example of American dry humour. There are now no
boxing contests in New York. Swifty Bob and his fellows would be
shocked at the idea of such a thing. All that happens now is
exhibition sparring bouts between members of the club. It is true
that next day the papers very tactlessly report the friendly
exhibition spar as if it had been quite a serious affair, but that
is not the fault of Swifty Bob.

Kid Brady, the chosen of _Cosy Moments_, was billed for a "ten-round
exhibition contest," to be the main event of the evening's
entertainment. No decisions are permitted at these clubs. Unless a
regrettable accident occurs, and one of the sparrers is knocked
out, the verdict is left to the newspapers next day. It is not
uncommon to find a man win easily in the _World_, draw in the
_American_, and be badly beaten in the _Evening Mail_. The system
leads to a certain amount of confusion, but it has the merit of
offering consolation to a much-smitten warrior.

The best method of getting to the Highfield is by the Subway. To
see the Subway in its most characteristic mood one must travel on
it during the rush-hour, when its patrons are packed into the
carriages in one solid jam by muscular guards and policemen,
shoving in a manner reminiscent of a Rugby football scrum. When
Psmith and Billy entered it on the Friday evening, it was
comparatively empty. All the seats were occupied, but only a few of
the straps and hardly any of the space reserved by law for the
conductor alone.

Conversation on the Subway is impossible. The ingenious gentlemen
who constructed it started with the object of making it noisy. Not
ordinarily noisy, like a ton of coal falling on to a sheet of tin,
but really noisy. So they fashioned the pillars of thin steel, and
the sleepers of thin wood, and loosened all the nuts, and now a
Subway train in motion suggests a prolonged dynamite explosion
blended with the voice of some great cataract.

Psmith, forced into temporary silence by this combination of
noises, started to make up for lost time on arriving in the street
once more.

"A thoroughly unpleasant neighbourhood," he said, critically
surveying the dark streets. "I fear me, Comrade Windsor, that we
have been somewhat rash in venturing as far into the middle west as
this. If ever there was a blighted locality where low-browed
desperadoes might be expected to spring with whoops of joy from
every corner, this blighted locality is that blighted locality.
But we must carry on. In which direction, should you say, does this
arena lie?"

It had begun to rain as they left Billy's lodgings. Psmith turned
up the collar of his Burberry.

"We suffer much in the cause of Literature," he said. "Let us
inquire of this genial soul if he knows where the Highfield is."

The pedestrian referred to proved to be going there himself. They
went on together, Psmith courteously offering views on the weather
and forecasts of the success of Kid Brady in the approaching
contest.

Rattling on, he was alluding to the prominent part _Cosy Moments_ had
played in the affair, when a rough thrust from Windsor's elbow
brought home to him his indiscretion.

He stopped suddenly, wishing he had not said as much. Their
connection with that militant journal was not a thing even to be
suggested to casual acquaintances, especially in such a
particularly ill-lighted neighbourhood as that through which they
were now passing.

Their companion, however, who seemed to be a man of small speech,
made no comment. Psmith deftly turned the conversation back to the
subject of the weather, and was deep in a comparison of the
respective climates of England and the United States, when they
turned a corner and found themselves opposite a gloomy, barn-like
building, over the door of which it was just possible to decipher
in the darkness the words "Highfield Athletic and Gymnastic Club."

The tickets which Billy Windsor had obtained from his newspaper
friend were for one of the boxes. These proved to be sort of
sheep-pens of unpolished wood, each with four hard chairs in it.
The interior of the Highfield Athletic and Gymnastic Club was
severely free from anything in the shape of luxury and ornament.
Along the four walls were raised benches in tiers. On these were
seated as tough-looking a collection of citizens as one might wish
to see. On chairs at the ring-side were the reporters, with tickers
at their sides, by means of which they tapped details of each round
through to their down-town offices, where write-up reporters were
waiting to read off and elaborate the messages. In the centre of
the room, brilliantly lighted by half a dozen electric chandeliers,
was the ring.

There were preliminary bouts before the main event. A burly
gentleman in shirt-sleeves entered the ring, followed by two slim
youths in fighting costume and a massive person in a red jersey,
blue serge trousers, and yellow braces, who chewed gum with an
abstracted air throughout the proceedings.

The burly gentleman gave tongue in a voice that cleft the air like
a cannon-ball.

"Ex-hib-it-i-on four-round bout between Patsy Milligan and Tommy
Goodley, members of this club. Patsy on my right, Tommy on my left.
Gentlemen will kindly stop smokin'."

The audience did nothing of the sort. Possibly they did not apply
the description to themselves. Possibly they considered the appeal
a mere formula. Somewhere in the background a gong sounded, and
Patsy, from the right, stepped briskly forward to meet Tommy,
approaching from the left.

The contest was short but energetic. At intervals the combatants
would cling affectionately to one another, and on these occasions
the red-jerseyed man, still chewing gum and still wearing the same
air of being lost in abstract thought, would split up the mass by
the simple method of ploughing his way between the pair. Towards
the end of the first round Thomas, eluding a left swing, put
Patrick neatly to the floor, where the latter remained for the
necessary ten seconds.

The remaining preliminaries proved disappointing. So much so that
in the last of the series a soured sportsman on one of the benches
near the roof began in satirical mood to whistle the "Merry Widow
Waltz." It was here that the red-jerseyed thinker for the first and
last time came out of his meditative trance. He leaned over the
ropes, and spoke--without heat, but firmly.

"If that guy whistling back up yonder thinks he can do better than
these boys, he can come right down into the ring."

The whistling ceased.

There was a distinct air of relief when the last preliminary was
finished and preparations for the main bout began. It did not
commence at once. There were formalities to be gone through,
introductions and the like. The burly gentleman reappeared from
nowhere, ushering into the ring a sheepishly-grinning youth in a
flannel suit.

"In-ter-_doo_-cin' Young Leary," he bellowed impressively, "a noo
member of this chub, who will box some good boy here in September."

He walked to the other side of the ring and repeated the remark. A
raucous welcome was accorded to the new member.

Two other notable performers were introduced in a similar manner,
and then the building became suddenly full of noise, for a tall
youth in a bath-robe, attended by a little army of assistants, had
entered the ring. One of the army carried a bright green bucket, on
which were painted in white letters the words "Cyclone Al.
Wolmann." A moment later there was another, though a far lesser,
uproar, as Kid Brady, his pleasant face wearing a self-conscious
smirk, ducked under the ropes and sat down in the opposite corner.

"Ex-hib-it-i-on ten-round bout," thundered the burly gentleman,
"between Cyclone. Al. Wolmann--"

Loud applause. Mr. Wolmann was one of the famous, a fighter with a
reputation from New York to San Francisco. He was generally
considered the most likely man to give the hitherto invincible
Jimmy Garvin a hard battle for the light-weight championship.

"Oh, you Al.!" roared the crowd.

Mr. Wolmann bowed benevolently.

"--and Kid Brady, members of this--"

There was noticeably less applause for the Kid. He was an unknown.
A few of those present had heard of his victories in the West, but
these were but a small section of the crowd. When the faint
applause had ceased, Psmith rose to his feet.

"Oh, you Kid!" he observed encouragingly.

"I should not like Comrade Brady," he said, reseating himself, "to
think that he has no friend but his poor old mother, as, you will
recollect, occurred on a previous occasion."

The burly gentleman, followed by the two armies of assistants,
dropped down from the ring, and the gong sounded.

Mr. Wolmann sprang from his corner as if somebody had touched a
spring. He seemed to be of the opinion that if you are a cyclone, it
is never too soon to begin behaving like one. He danced round the
Kid with an india-rubber agility. The _Cosy Moments_ representative
exhibited more stolidity. Except for the fact that he was in
fighting attitude, with one gloved hand moving slowly in the
neighbourhood of his stocky chest, and the other pawing the air on a
line with his square jaw, one would have said that he did not
realise the position of affairs. He wore the friendly smile of the
good-natured guest who is led forward by his hostess to join in some
round game.

Suddenly his opponent's long left shot out. The Kid, who had been
strolling forward, received it under the chin, and continued to
stroll forward as if nothing of note had happened. He gave the
impression of being aware that Mr. Wolmann had committed a breach
of good taste and of being resolved to pass it off with ready tact.

The Cyclone, having executed a backward leap, a forward leap, and a
feint, landed heavily with both hands. The Kid's genial smile did
not even quiver, but he continued to move forward. His opponent's
left flashed out again, but this time, instead of ignoring the
matter, the Kid replied with a heavy right swing; and Mr. Wolmann,
leaping back, found himself against the ropes. By the time he had
got out of that uncongenial position, two more of the Kid's swings
had found their mark. Mr. Wolmann, somewhat perturbed, scuttered
out into the middle of the ring, the Kid following in his
self-contained, solid way.

The Cyclone now became still more cyclonic. He had a left arm
which seemed to open out in joints like a telescope. Several times
when the Kid appeared well out of distance there was a thud as a
brown glove ripped in over his guard and jerked his head back. But
always he kept boring in, delivering an occasional right to the
body with the pleased smile of an infant destroying a Noah's Ark
with a tack-hammer. Despite these efforts, however, he was plainly
getting all the worst of it. Energetic Mr. Wolmann, relying on his
long left, was putting in three blows to his one. When the gong
sounded, ending the first round, the house was practically solid
for the Cyclone. Whoops and yells rose from everywhere. The
building rang with shouts of, "Oh, you Al.!"

Psmith turned sadly to Billy.

"It seems to me, Comrade Windsor," he said, "that this merry
meeting looks like doing Comrade Brady no good. I should not be
surprised at any moment to see his head bounce off on to the
floor."

"Wait," said Billy. "He'll win yet."

"You think so?"

"Sure. He comes from Wyoming," said Billy with simple confidence.

Rounds two and three were a repetition of round one. The Cyclone
raged almost unchecked about the ring. In one lightning rally in
the third he brought his right across squarely on to the Kid's jaw.
It was a blow which should have knocked any boxer out. The Kid
merely staggered slightly and returned to business, still smiling.

"See!" roared Billy enthusiastically in Psmith's ear, above the
uproar. "He doesn't mind it! He likes it! He comes from Wyoming!"

With the opening of round four there came a subtle change. The
Cyclone's fury was expending itself. That long left shot out less
sharply. Instead of being knocked back by it, the _Cosy Moments_
champion now took the hits in his stride, and came shuffling in
with his damaging body-blows. There were cheers and "Oh, you
Al.'s!" at the sound of the gong, but there was an appealing note
in them this time. The gallant sportsmen whose connection with
boxing was confined to watching other men fight, and betting on
what they considered a certainty, and who would have expired
promptly if any one had tapped them sharply on their well-filled
waistcoats, were beginning to fear that they might lose their money
after all.

In the fifth round the thing became a certainty. Like the month of
March, the Cyclone, who had come in like a lion, was going out like
a lamb. A slight decrease in the pleasantness of the Kid's smile
was noticeable. His expression began to resemble more nearly the
gloomy importance of the _Cosy Moments_ photographs. Yells of agony
from panic-stricken speculators around the ring began to smite the
rafters. The Cyclone, now but a gentle breeze, clutched repeatedly,
hanging on like a leech till removed by the red-jerseyed referee.

Suddenly a grisly silence fell upon the house. It was broken by a
cow-boy yell from Billy Windsor. For the Kid, battered, but
obviously content, was standing in the middle of the ring, while on
the ropes the Cyclone, drooping like a wet sock, was sliding slowly
to the floor.

"_Cosy Moments_ wins," said Psmith. "An omen, I fancy, Comrade
Windsor."



CHAPTER XV

AN ADDITION TO THE STAFF

Penetrating into the Kid's dressing-room some moments later, the
editorial staff found the winner of the ten-round exhibition bout
between members of the club seated on a chair, having his right leg
rubbed by a shock-headed man in a sweater, who had been one of his
seconds during the conflict. The Kid beamed as they entered.

"Gents," he said, "come right in. Mighty glad to see you."

"It is a relief to me, Comrade Brady," said Psmith, "to find that
you can see us. I had expected to find that Comrade Wolmann's
purposeful buffs had completely closed your star-likes."

"Sure, I never felt them. He's a good quick boy, is Al., but,"
continued the Kid with powerful imagery, "he couldn't hit a hole in
a block of ice-cream, not if he was to use a hammer."

"And yet at one period in the proceedings, Comrade Brady," said
Psmith, "I fancied that your head would come unglued at the neck.
But the fear was merely transient. When you began to administer
those--am I correct in saying?--half-scissor hooks to the body,
why, then I felt like some watcher of the skies when a new planet
swims into his ken; or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes he
stared at the Pacific."

The Kid blinked.

"How's that?" he inquired.

"And why did I feel like that, Comrade Brady? I will tell you.
Because my faith in you was justified. Because there before me
stood the ideal fighting-editor of _Cosy Moments_. It is not a post
that any weakling can fill. There charm of manner cannot qualify a
man for the position. No one can hold down the job simply by having
a kind heart or being good at farmyard imitations. No. We want a
man of thews and sinews, a man who would rather be hit on the head
with a half-brick than not. And you, Comrade Brady, are such a
man."

The Kid turned appealingly to Billy.

"Say, this gets past me, Mr. Windsor. Put me wise."

"Can we have a couple of words with you alone, Kid?" said Billy.
"We want to talk over something with you."

"Sure. Sit down, gents. Jack'll be through in a minute."

Jack, who during this conversation had been concentrating himself
on his subject's left leg, now announced that he guessed that would
about do, and having advised the Kid not to stop and pick daisies,
but to get into his clothes at once before he caught a chill, bade
the company good night and retired.

Billy shut the door.

"Kid," he said, "you know those articles about the tenements we've
been having in the paper?"

"Sure. I read 'em. They're to the good."

Psmith bowed.

"You stimulate us, Comrade Brady. This is praise from Sir Hubert
Stanley."

"It was about time some strong josher came and put it across to
'em," added the Kid.

"So we thought. Comrade Parker, however, totally disagreed with
us."

"Parker?"

"That's what I'm coming to," said Billy. "The day before yesterday
a man named Parker called at the office and tried to buy us off."

Billy's voice grew indignant at the recollection.

"You gave him the hook, I guess?" queried the interested Kid.

"To such an extent, Comrade Brady," said Psmith, "that he left
breathing threatenings and slaughter. And it is for that reason
that we have ventured to call upon you."

"It's this way," said Billy. "We're pretty sure by this time that
whoever the man is this fellow Parker's working for has put one of
the gangs on to us."

"You don't say!" exclaimed the Kid. "Gum! Mr. Windsor, they're
tough propositions, those gangs."

"We've been followed in the streets, and once they put up a bluff
to get us where they could do us in. So we've come along to you. We
can look after ourselves out of the office, you see, but what we
want is some one to help in case they try to rush us there."

"In brief, a fighting-editor," said Psmith. "At all costs we must
have privacy. No writer can prune and polish his sentences to his
satisfaction if he is compelled constantly to break off in order to
eject boisterous hooligans. We therefore offer you the job of
sitting in the outer room and intercepting these bravoes before
they can reach us. The salary we leave to you. There are doubloons
and to spare in the old oak chest. Take what you need and put the
rest--if any--back. How does the offer strike you, Comrade Brady?"

"We don't want to get you in under false pretences, Kid," said
Billy. "Of course, they may not come anywhere near the office. But
still, if they did, there would be something doing. What do you
feel about it?"

"Gents," said the Kid, "it's this way."

He stepped into his coat, and resumed.

"Now that I've made good by getting the decision over Al., they'll
be giving me a chance of a big fight. Maybe with Jimmy Garvin.
Well, if that happens, see what I mean? I'll have to be going away
somewhere and getting into training. I shouldn't be able to come
and sit with you. But, if you gents feel like it, I'd be mighty
glad to come in till I'm wanted to go into training-camp."

"Great," said Billy; "that would suit us all the way up. If you'd
do that, Kid, we'd be tickled to death."

"And touching salary--" put in Psmith.

"Shucks!" said the Kid with emphasis. "Nix on the salary thing. I
wouldn't take a dime. If it hadn't a-been for you gents, I'd have
been waiting still for a chance of lining up in the championship
class. That's good enough for me. Any old thing you gents want me
to do, I'll do it. And glad, too."

"Comrade Brady," said Psmith warmly, "you are, if I may say so, the
goods. You are, beyond a doubt, supremely the stuff. We three,
then, hand-in-hand, will face the foe; and if the foe has good,
sound sense, he will keep right away. You appear to be ready. Shall
we meander forth?"

The building was empty and the lights were out when they emerged
from the dressing-room. They had to grope their way in darkness. It
was still raining when they reached the street, and the only signs
of life were a moist policeman and the distant glare of
public-house lights down the road.

They turned off to the left, and, after walking some hundred yards,
found themselves in a blind alley.

"Hullo!" said Billy. "Where have we come to?"

Psmith sighed.

"In my trusting way," he said, "I had imagined that either you or
Comrade Brady was in charge of this expedition and taking me by a
known route to the nearest Subway station. I did not think to ask.
I placed myself, without hesitation, wholly in your hands."

"I thought the Kid knew the way," said Billy.

"I was just taggin' along with you gents," protested the
light-weight, "I thought you was taking me right. This is the first
time I been up here."

"Next time we three go on a little jaunt anywhere," said Psmith
resignedly, "it would be as well to take a map and a corps of
guides with us. Otherwise we shall start for Broadway and finish
up at Minneapolis."

They emerged from the blind alley and stood in the dark street,
looking doubtfully up and down it.

"Aha!" said Psmith suddenly, "I perceive a native. Several natives,
in fact. Quite a little covey of them. We will put our case before
them, concealing nothing, and rely on their advice to take us to
our goal."

A little knot of men was approaching from the left. In the darkness
it was impossible to say how many of them there were. Psmith
stepped forward, the Kid at his side.

"Excuse me, sir," he said to the leader, "but if you can spare me a
moment of your valuable time--"

There was a sudden shuffle of feet on the pavement, a quick
movement on the part of the Kid, a chunky sound as of wood striking
wood, and the man Psmith had been addressing fell to the ground in
a heap.

As he fell, something dropped from his hand on to the pavement with
a bump and a rattle. Stooping swiftly, the Kid picked it up, and
handed it to Psmith. His fingers closed upon it. It was a short,
wicked-looking little bludgeon, the black-jack of the New York
tough.

"Get busy," advised the Kid briefly.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FIRST BATTLE

The promptitude and despatch with which the Kid had attended to the
gentleman with the black-jack had not been without its effect on
the followers of the stricken one. Physical courage is not an
outstanding quality of the New York hooligan. His personal
preference is for retreat when it is a question of unpleasantness
with a stranger. And, in any case, even when warring among
themselves, the gangs exhibit a lively distaste for the hard knocks
of hand-to-hand fighting. Their chosen method of battling is to lie
down on the ground and shoot. This is more suited to their
physique, which is rarely great. The gangsman, as a rule, is
stunted and slight of build.

The Kid's rapid work on the present occasion created a good deal of
confusion. There was no doubt that much had been hoped for from
speedy attack. Also, the generalship of the expedition had been in
the hands of the fallen warrior. His removal from the sphere of
active influence had left the party without a head. And, to add to
their discomfiture, they could not account for the Kid. Psmith they
knew, and Billy Windsor they knew, but who was this stranger with
the square shoulders and the upper-cut that landed like a
cannon-ball? Something approaching a panic prevailed among the
gang.

It was not lessened by the behaviour of the intended victims. Billy
Windsor, armed with the big stick which he had bought after the
visit of Mr. Parker, was the first to join issue. He had been a few
paces behind the others during the black-jack incident; but, dark
as it was, he had seen enough to show him that the occasion was, as
Psmith would have said, one for the Shrewd Blow rather than the
Prolonged Parley. With a whoop of the purest Wyoming brand, he
sprang forward into the confused mass of the enemy. A moment later
Psmith and the Kid followed, and there raged over the body of the
fallen leader a battle of Homeric type.

It was not a long affair. The rules and conditions governing the
encounter offended the delicate sensibilities of the gang. Like
artists who feel themselves trammelled by distasteful conventions,
they were damped and could not do themselves justice. Their forte
was long-range fighting with pistols. With that they felt _en
rapport_. But this vulgar brawling in the darkness with muscular
opponents who hit hard and often with sticks and hands was
distasteful to them. They could not develop any enthusiasm for it.
They carried pistols, but it was too dark and the combatants were
too entangled to allow them to use these. Besides, this was not the
dear, homely old Bowery, where a gentleman may fire a pistol
without exciting vulgar comment. It was up-town, where curious
crowds might collect at the first shot.

There was but one thing to be done. Reluctant as they might be to
abandon their fallen leader, they must tear themselves away.
Already they were suffering grievously from the stick, the
black-jack, and the lightning blows of the Kid. For a moment they
hung, wavering; then stampeded in half a dozen different
directions, melting into the night whence they had come.

Billy, full of zeal, pursued one fugitive some fifty yards down the
street, but his quarry, exhibiting a rare turn of speed, easily
outstripped him.

He came back, panting, to find Psmith and the Kid examining the
fallen leader of the departed ones with the aid of a match, which
went out just as Billy arrived.

"It is our friend of the earlier part of the evening, Comrade
Windsor," said Psmith. "The merchant with whom we hob-nobbed on our
way to the Highfield. In a moment of imprudence I mentioned _Cosy
Moments_. I fancy that this was his first intimation that we were in
the offing. His visit to the Highfield was paid, I think, purely
from sport-loving motives. He was not on our trail. He came merely
to see if Comrade Brady was proficient with his hands. Subsequent
events must have justified our fighting editor in his eyes. It seems
to be a moot point whether he will ever recover consciousness."

"Mighty good thing if he doesn't," said Billy uncharitably.

"From one point of view, Comrade Windsor, yes. Such an event would
undoubtedly be an excellent thing for the public good. But from our
point of view, it would be as well if he were to sit up and take
notice. We could ascertain from him who he is and which particular
collection of horny-handeds he represents. Light another match,
Comrade Brady."

The Kid did so. The head of it fell off and dropped upon the
up-turned face. The hooligan stirred, shook himself, sat up, and
began to mutter something in a foggy voice.

"He's still woozy," said the Kid.

"Still--what exactly, Comrade Brady?"

"In the air," explained the Kid. "Bats in the belfry. Dizzy. See
what I mean? It's often like that when a feller puts one in with a
bit of weight behind it just where that one landed. Gum! I
remember when I fought Martin Kelly; I was only starting to learn
the game then. Martin and me was mixing it good and hard all over
the ring, when suddenly he puts over a stiff one right on the
point. What do you think I done? Fall down and take the count? Not
on your life. I just turns round and walks straight out of the
ring to my dressing-room. Willie Harvey, who was seconding me,
comes tearing in after me, and finds me getting into my clothes.
'What's doing, Kid?' he asks. 'I'm going fishin', Willie,' I says.
'It's a lovely day.' 'You've lost the fight,' he says. 'Fight?'
says I. 'What fight?' See what I mean? I hadn't a notion of what
had happened. It was a half an hour and more before I could
remember a thing."

During this reminiscence, the man on the ground had contrived to
clear his mind of the mistiness induced by the Kid's upper-cut. The
first sign he showed of returning intelligence was a sudden dash
for safety up the road. But he had not gone five yards when he sat
down limply.

The Kid was inspired to further reminiscence. "Guess he's feeling
pretty poor," he said. "It's no good him trying to run for a while
after he's put his chin in the way of a real live one. I remember
when Joe Peterson put me out, way back when I was new to the
game--it was the same year I fought Martin Kelly. He had an awful
punch, had old Joe, and he put me down and out in the eighth round.
After the fight they found me on the fire-escape outside my
dressing-room. 'Come in, Kid,' says they. 'It's all right, chaps,'
I says, 'I'm dying.' Like that. 'It's all right, chaps, I'm dying.'
Same with this guy. See what I mean?"

They formed a group about the fallen black-jack expert.

"Pardon us," said Psmith courteously, "for breaking in upon your
reverie; but, if you could spare us a moment of your valuable time,
there are one or two things which we should like to know."

"Sure thing," agreed the Kid.

"In the first place," continued Psmith, "would it be betraying
professional secrets if you told us which particular bevy of
energetic sandbaggers it is to which you are attached?"

"Gent," explained the Kid, "wants to know what's your gang."

The man on the ground muttered something that to Psmith and Billy
was unintelligible.

"It would be a charity," said the former, "if some philanthropist
would give this blighter elocution lessons. Can you interpret,
Comrade Brady?"

"Says it's the Three Points," said the Kid.

"The Three Points? Let me see, is that Dude Dawson, Comrade
Windsor, or the other gentleman?"

"It's Spider Reilly. Dude Dawson runs the Table Hill crowd."

"Perhaps this _is_ Spider Reilly?"

"Nope," said the Kid. "I know the Spider. This ain't him. This is
some other mutt."

"Which other mutt in particular?" asked Psmith. "Try and find out,
Comrade Brady. You seem to be able to understand what he says. To
me, personally, his remarks sound like the output of a gramophone
with a hot potato in its mouth."

"Says he's Jack Repetto," announced the interpreter.

There was another interruption at this moment. The bashful Mr.
Repetto, plainly a man who was not happy in the society of
strangers, made another attempt to withdraw. Reaching out a pair of
lean hands, he pulled the Kid's legs from under him with a swift
jerk, and, wriggling to his feet, started off again down the road.
Once more, however, desire outran performance. He got as far as the
nearest street-lamp, but no farther. The giddiness seemed to
overcome him again, for he grasped the lamp-post, and, sliding
slowly to the ground, sat there motionless.

The Kid, whose fall had jolted and bruised him, was inclined to be
wrathful and vindictive. He was the first of the three to reach
the elusive Mr. Repetto, and if that worthy had happened to be
standing instead of sitting it might have gone hard with him. But
the Kid was not the man to attack a fallen foe. He contented
himself with brushing the dust off his person and addressing a
richly abusive flow of remarks to Mr. Repetto.

Under the rays of the lamp it was possible to discern more closely
the features of the black-jack exponent. There was a subtle but
noticeable resemblance to those of Mr. Bat Jarvis. Apparently the
latter's oiled forelock, worn low over the forehead, was more a
concession to the general fashion prevailing in gang circles than
an expression of personal taste. Mr. Repetto had it, too. In his
case it was almost white, for the fallen warrior was an albino. His
eyes, which were closed, had white lashes and were set as near
together as Nature had been able to manage without actually running
them into one another. His under-lip protruded and drooped. Looking
at him, one felt instinctively that no judging committee of a
beauty contest would hesitate a moment before him.

It soon became apparent that the light of the lamp, though
bestowing the doubtful privilege of a clearer view of Mr. Repetto's
face, held certain disadvantages. Scarcely had the staff of _Cosy
Moments_ reached the faint yellow pool of light, in the centre of
which Mr. Repetto reclined, than, with a suddenness which caused
them to leap into the air, there sounded from the darkness down the
road the _crack-crack-crack_ of a revolver. Instantly from the
opposite direction came other shots. Three bullets flicked grooves
in the roadway almost at Billy's feet. The Kid gave a sudden howl.
Psmith's hat, suddenly imbued with life, sprang into the air and
vanished, whirling into the night.

The thought did not come to them consciously at the moment, there
being little time to think, but it was evident as soon as, diving
out of the circle of light into the sheltering darkness, they
crouched down and waited for the next move, that a somewhat skilful
ambush had been effected. The other members of the gang, who had
fled with such remarkable speed, had by no means been eliminated
altogether from the game. While the questioning of Mr. Repetto had
been in progress, they had crept back, unperceived except by Mr.
Repetto himself. It being too dark for successful shooting, it had
become Mr. Repetto's task to lure his captors into the light, which
he had accomplished with considerable skill.

For some minutes the battle halted. There was dead silence. The
circle of light was empty now. Mr. Repetto had vanished. A
tentative shot from nowhere ripped through the air close to where
Psmith lay flattened on the pavement. And then the pavement began
to vibrate and give out a curious resonant sound. To Psmith it
conveyed nothing, but to the opposing army it meant much. They knew
it for what it was. Somewhere--it might be near or far--a policeman
had heard the shots, and was signalling for help to other policemen
along the line by beating on the flag-stones with his night-stick,
the New York constable's substitute for the London police-whistle.

The noise grew, filling the still air. From somewhere down the road
sounded the ring of running feet.

"De cops!" cried a voice. "Beat it!"

Next moment the night was full of clatter. The gang was "beating
it."

Psmith rose to his feet and dusted his clothes ruefully. For the
first time he realised the horrors of war. His hat had gone for
ever. His trousers could never be the same again after their close
acquaintance with the pavement.

The rescue party was coming up at the gallop.

The New York policeman may lack the quiet dignity of his London
rival, but he is a hustler.

"What's doing?"

"Nothing now," said the disgusted voice of Billy Windsor from the
shadows. "They've beaten it."

The circle of lamplight became as if by mutual consent a general
rendezvous. Three grey-clad policemen, tough, clean-shaven men with
keen eyes and square jaws, stood there, revolver in one hand,
night-stick in the other. Psmith, hatless and dusty, joined them.
Billy Windsor and the Kid, the latter bleeding freely from his left
ear, the lobe of which had been chipped by a bullet, were the last
to arrive.

"What's bin the rough house?" inquired one of the policemen, mildly
interested.

"Do you know a sportsman of the name of Repetto?" inquired Psmith.

"Jack Repetto! Sure."

"He belongs to the Three Points," said another intelligent officer,
as one naming some fashionable club.

"When next you see him," said Psmith, "I should be obliged if you
would use your authority to make him buy me a new hat. I could do
with another pair of trousers, too; but I will not press the
trousers. A new hat, is, however, essential. Mine has a six-inch
hole in it."

"Shot at you, did they?" said one of the policemen, as who should
say, "Dash the lads, they're always up to some of their larks."

"Shot at us!" burst out the ruffled Kid. "What do you think's bin
happening? Think an aeroplane ran into my ear and took half of it
off? Think the noise was somebody opening bottles of pop? Think
those guys that sneaked off down the road was just training for a
Marathon?"

"Comrade Brady," said Psmith, "touches the spot. He--"

"Say, are you Kid Brady?" inquired one of the officers. For the
first time the constabulary had begun to display any real
animation.

"Reckoned I'd seen you somewhere!" said another. "You licked
Cyclone Al. all right, Kid, I hear."

"And who but a bone-head thought he wouldn't?" demanded the third
warmly. "He could whip a dozen Cyclone Al.'s in the same evening
with his eyes shut."

"He's the next champeen," admitted the first speaker.

"If he puts it over Jimmy Garvin," argued the second.

"Jimmy Garvin!" cried the third. "He can whip twenty Jimmy Garvins
with his feet tied. I tell you--"

"I am loath," observed Psmith, "to interrupt this very impressive
brain-barbecue, but, trivial as it may seem to you, to me there is
a certain interest in this other little matter of my ruined hat. I
know that it may strike you as hypersensitive of us to protest
against being riddled with bullets, but--"

"Well, what's bin doin'?" inquired the Force. It was a nuisance,
this perpetual harping on trifles when the deep question of the
light-weight Championship of the World was under discussion, but
the sooner it was attended to, the sooner it would be over.

Billy Windsor undertook to explain.

"The Three Points laid for us," he said. "Jack Repetto was bossing
the crowd. I don't know who the rest were. The Kid put one over on
to Jack Repetto's chin, and we were asking him a few questions when
the rest came back, and started into shooting. Then we got to cover
quick, and you came up and they beat it."

"That," said Psmith, nodding, "is a very fair _précis_ of the
evening's events. We should like you, if you will be so good, to
corral this Comrade Repetto, and see that he buys me a new hat."

"We'll round Jack up," said one of the policemen indulgently.

"Do it nicely," urged Psmith. "Don't go hurting his feelings."

The second policeman gave it as his opinion that Jack was getting
too gay. The third policeman conceded this. Jack, he said, had
shown signs for some time past of asking for it in the neck. It was
an error on Jack's part, he gave his hearers to understand, to
assume that the lid was completely off the great city of New York.

"Too blamed fresh he's gettin'," the trio agreed. They could not
have been more disapproving if they had been prefects at Haileybury
and Mr. Repetto a first-termer who had been detected in the act of
wearing his cap on the back of his head.

They seemed to think it was too bad of Jack.

"The wrath of the Law," said Psmith, "is very terrible. We will
leave the matter, then, in your hands. In the meantime, we should
be glad if you would direct us to the nearest Subway station. Just
at the moment, the cheerful lights of the Great White Way are what
I seem to chiefly need."



CHAPTER XVII

GUERILLA WARFARE

Thus ended the opening engagement of the campaign, seemingly in a
victory for the _Cosy Moments_ army. Billy Windsor, however, shook
his head.

"We've got mighty little out of it," he said.

"The victory," said Psmith, "was not bloodless. Comrade Brady's ear,
my hat--these are not slight casualties. On the other hand, surely
we are one up? Surely we have gained ground? The elimination of
Comrade Repetto from the scheme of things in itself is something. I
know few men I would not rather meet in a lonely road than Comrade
Repetto. He is one of Nature's sand-baggers. Probably the thing
crept upon him slowly. He started, possibly, in a merely tentative
way by slugging one of the family circle. His nurse, let us say, or
his young brother. But, once started, he is unable to resist the
craving. The thing grips him like dram-drinking. He sandbags now not
because he really wants to, but because he cannot help himself. To
me there is something consoling in the thought that Comrade Repetto
will no longer be among those present."

"What makes you think that?"

"I should imagine that a benevolent Law will put him away in his
little cell for at least a brief spell."

"Not on your life," said Billy. "He'll prove an alibi."

Psmith's eyeglass dropped out of his eye. He replaced it, and
gazed, astonished, at Billy.

"An alibi? When three keen-eyed men actually caught him at it?"

"He can find thirty toughs to swear he was five miles away."

"And get the court to believe it?" said Psmith.

"Sure," said Billy disgustedly. "You don't catch them hurting a
gangsman unless they're pushed against the wall. The politicians
don't want the gangs in gaol, especially as the Aldermanic
elections will be on in a few weeks. Did you ever hear of Monk
Eastman?"

"I fancy not, Comrade Windsor. If I did, the name has escaped me.
Who was this cleric?"

"He was the first boss of the East Side gang, before Kid Twist took
it on."

"Yes?"

"He was arrested dozens of times, but he always got off. Do you
know what he said once, when they pulled him for thugging a fellow
out in New Jersey?"

"I fear not, Comrade Windsor. Tell me all."

"He said, 'You're arresting me, huh? Say, you want to look where
you're goin'; I cut some ice in this town. I made half the big
politicians in New York!' That was what he said."

"His small-talk," said Psmith, "seems to have been bright and
well-expressed. What happened then? Was he restored to his friends
and his relations?"

"Sure, he was. What do you think? Well, Jack Repetto isn't Monk
Eastman, but he's in with Spider Reilly, and the Spider's in with
the men behind. Jack'll get off."

"It looks to me, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith thoughtfully, "as if
my stay in this great city were going to cost me a small fortune in
hats."

Billy's prophecy proved absolutely correct. The police were as good
as their word. In due season they rounded up the impulsive Mr.
Repetto, and he was haled before a magistrate. And then, what a
beautiful exhibition of brotherly love and auld-lang-syne
camaraderie was witnessed! One by one, smirking sheepishly, but
giving out their evidence with unshaken earnestness, eleven greasy,
wandering-eyed youths mounted the witness-stand and affirmed on
oath that at the time mentioned dear old Jack had been making
merry in their company in a genial and law-abiding fashion, many,
many blocks below the scene of the regrettable assault. The
magistrate discharged the prisoner, and the prisoner, meeting Billy
and Psmith in the street outside, leered triumphantly at them.

Billy stepped up to him. "You may have wriggled out of this," he
said furiously, "but if you don't get a move on and quit looking at
me like that, I'll knock you over the Singer Building. Hump
yourself."

Mr. Repetto humped himself.

So was victory turned into defeat, and Billy's jaw became squarer
and his eye more full of the light of battle than ever. And there
was need of a square jaw and a battle-lit eye, for now began a
period of guerilla warfare such as no New York paper had ever had
to fight against.

It was Wheeler, the gaunt manager of the business side of the
journal, who first brought it to the notice of the editorial staff.
Wheeler was a man for whom in business hours nothing existed but
his job; and his job was to look after the distribution of the
paper. As to the contents of the paper he was absolutely ignorant.
He had been with _Cosy Moments_ from its start, but he had never read
a line of it. He handled it as if it were so much soap. The
scholarly writings of Mr. Wilberfloss, the mirth-provoking sallies
of Mr. B. Henderson Asher, the tender outpourings of Louella
Granville Waterman--all these were things outside his ken. He was a
distributor, and he distributed.

A few days after the restoration of Mr. Repetto to East Side
Society, Mr. Wheeler came into the editorial room with information
and desire for information.

He endeavoured to satisfy the latter first.

"What's doing, anyway?" he asked. He then proceeded to his
information. "Some one's got it in against the paper, sure," he
said. "I don't know what it's all about. I ha'n't never read the
thing. Don't see what any one could have against a paper with a
name like _Cosy Moments_, anyway. The way things have been going
last few days, seems it might be the organ of a blamed mining-camp
what the boys have took a dislike to."

"What's been happening?" asked Billy with gleaming eyes.

"Why, nothing in the world to fuss about, only our carriers can't
go out without being beaten up by gangs of toughs. Pat Harrigan's
in the hospital now. Just been looking in on him. Pat's a feller
who likes to fight. Rather fight he would than see a ball-game. But
this was too much for him. Know what happened? Why, see here, just
like this it was. Pat goes out with his cart. Passing through a
low-down street on his way up-town he's held up by a bunch of
toughs. He shows fight. Half a dozen of them attend to him, while
the rest gets clean away with every copy of the paper there was in
the cart. When the cop comes along, there's Pat in pieces on the
ground and nobody in sight but a Dago chewing gum. Cop asks the
Dago what's been doing, and the Dago says he's only just come round
the corner and ha'n't seen nothing of anybody. What I want to know
is, what's it all about? Who's got it in for us and why?"

Mr. Wheeler leaned back in his chair, while Billy, his hair rumpled
more than ever and his eyes glowing, explained the situation. Mr.
Wheeler listened absolutely unmoved, and, when the narrative had
come to an end, gave it as his opinion that the editorial staff had
sand. That was his sole comment. "It's up to you," he said,
rising. "You know your business. Say, though, some one had better
get busy right quick and do something to stop these guys
rough-housing like this. If we get a few more carriers beat up the
way Pat was, there'll be a strike. It's not as if they were all
Irishmen. The most of them are Dagoes and such, and they don't
want any more fight than they can get by beating their wives and
kicking kids off the sidewalk. I'll do my best to get this paper
distributed right and it's a shame if it ain't, because it's going
big just now--but it's up to you. Good day, gents."

He went out. Psmith looked at Billy.

"As Comrade Wheeler remarks," he said, "it is up to us. What do you
propose to do about it? This is a move of the enemy which I have
not anticipated. I had fancied that their operations would be
confined exclusively to our two selves. If they are going to strew
the street with our carriers, we are somewhat in the soup."

Billy said nothing. He was chewing the stem of an unlighted pipe.
Psmith went on.

"It means, of course, that we must buck up to a certain extent. If
the campaign is to be a long one, they have us where the hair is
crisp. We cannot stand the strain. _Cosy Moments_ cannot be muzzled,
but it can undoubtedly be choked. What we want to do is to find
out the name of the man behind the tenements as soon as ever we can
and publish it; and, then, if we perish, fall yelling the name."

Billy admitted the soundness of this scheme, but wished to know how
it was to be done.

"Comrade Windsor," said Psmith. "I have been thinking this thing
over, and it seems to me that we are on the wrong track, or rather
we aren't on any track at all; we are simply marking time. What we
want to do is to go out and hustle round till we stir up something.
Our line up to the present has been to sit at home and scream
vigorously in the hope of some stout fellow hearing and rushing to
help. In other words, we've been saying in the paper what an
out-size in scugs the merchant must be who owns those tenements, in
the hope that somebody else will agree with us and be sufficiently
interested to get to work and find out who the blighter is. That's
all wrong. What we must do now, Comrade Windsor, is put on our
hats, such hats as Comrade Repetto has left us, and sally forth as
sleuth-hounds on our own account."

"Yes, but how?" demanded Billy. "That's all right in theory, but
how's it going to work in practice? The only thing that can corner
the man is a commission."

"Far from it, Comrade Windsor. The job may be worked more simply. I
don't know how often the rents are collected in these places, but I
should say at a venture once a week. My idea is to hang negligently
round till the rent-collector arrives, and when he has loomed up on
the horizon, buttonhole him and ask him quite politely, as man to
man, whether he is collecting those rents for himself or for
somebody else, and if somebody else, who that somebody else is.
Simple, I fancy? Yet brainy. Do you take me, Comrade Windsor?"

Billy sat up, excited. "I believe you've hit it."

Psmith shot his cuffs modestly.



CHAPTER XVIII

AN EPISODE BY THE WAY

It was Pugsy Maloney who, on the following morning, brought to the
office the gist of what is related in this chapter. Pugsy's version
was, however, brief and unadorned, as was the way with his
narratives. Such things as first causes and piquant details he
avoided, as tending to prolong the telling excessively, thus
keeping him from perusal of his cowboy stories. The way Pugsy put
it was as follows. He gave the thing out merely as an item of
general interest, a bubble on the surface of the life of a great
city. He did not know how nearly interested were his employers in
any matter touching that gang which is known as the Three Points.
Pugsy said: "Dere's trouble down where I live. Dude Dawson's mad at
Spider Reilly, an' now de Table Hills are layin' for de T'ree
Points. Sure." He had then retired to his outer fastness, yielding
further details jerkily and with the distrait air of one whose mind
is elsewhere.

Skilfully extracted and pieced together, these details formed
themselves into the following typical narrative of East Side life
in New York.

The really important gangs of New York are four. There are other
less important institutions, but these are little more than mere
friendly gatherings of old boyhood chums for purposes of mutual
companionship. In time they may grow, as did Bat Jarvis's coterie,
into formidable organisations, for the soil is undoubtedly
propitious to such growth. But at present the amount of ice which
good judges declare them to cut is but small. They "stick up" an
occasional wayfarer for his "cush," and they carry "canisters" and
sometimes fire them off, but these things do not signify the
cutting of ice. In matters political there are only four gangs
which count, the East Side, the Groome Street, the Three Points,
and the Table Hill. Greatest of these by virtue of their numbers
are the East Side and the Groome Street, the latter presided over
at the time of this story by Mr. Bat Jarvis. These two are
colossal, and, though they may fight each other, are immune from
attack at the hands of lesser gangs. But between the other gangs,
and especially between the Table Hill and the Three Points, which
are much of a size, warfare rages as briskly as among the republics
of South America. There has always been bad blood between the Table
Hill and the Three Points, and until they wipe each other out after
the manner of the Kilkenny cats, it is probable that there always
will be. Little events, trifling in themselves, have always
occurred to shatter friendly relations just when there has seemed a
chance of their being formed. Thus, just as the Table Hillites were
beginning to forgive the Three Points for shooting the redoubtable
Paul Horgan down at Coney Island, a Three Pointer injudiciously
wiped out another of the rival gang near Canal Street. He pleaded
self-defence, and in any case it was probably mere thoughtlessness,
but nevertheless the Table Hillites were ruffled.

That had been a month or so back. During that month things had been
simmering down, and peace was just preparing to brood when there
occurred the incident to which Pugsy had alluded, the regrettable
falling out of Dude Dawson and Spider Reilly at Mr. Maginnis's
dancing saloon, Shamrock Hall, the same which Bat Jarvis had been
called in to protect in the days before the Groome Street gang
began to be.

Shamrock Hall, being under the eyes of the great Bat, was, of
course, forbidden ground; and it was with no intention of spoiling
the harmony of the evening that Mr. Dawson had looked in. He was
there in a purely private and peaceful character.

As he sat smoking, sipping, and observing the revels, there settled
at the next table Mr. Robert ("Nigger") Coston, an eminent member
of the Three Points.

There being temporary peace between the two gangs, the great men
exchanged a not unfriendly nod and, after a short pause, a word or
two. Mr. Coston, alluding to an Italian who had just pirouetted
past, remarked that there sure was some class to the way that wop
hit it up. Mr. Dawson said Yup, there sure was. You would have said
that all Nature smiled.

Alas! The next moment the sky was covered with black clouds and the
storm broke. For Mr. Dawson, continuing in this vein of criticism,
rather injudiciously gave it as his opinion that one of the lady
dancers had two left feet.

For a moment Mr. Coston did not see which lady was alluded to.

"De goil in de pink skoit," said Mr. Dawson, facilitating the
other's search by pointing with a much-chewed cigarette. It was at
this moment that Nature's smile was shut off as if by a tap. For
the lady in the pink skirt had been in receipt of Mr. Coston's
respectful devotion for the past eight days.

From this point onwards the march of events was rapid.

Mr. Coston, rising, asked Mr. Dawson who he thought he, Mr. Dawson,
was.

Mr. Dawson, extinguishing his cigarette and placing it behind his
ear, replied that he was the fellow who could bite his, Mr.
Coston's, head off.

Mr. Coston said: "Huh?"

Mr. Dawson said: "Sure."

Mr. Coston called Mr. Dawson a pie-faced rubber-necked
four-flusher.

Mr. Dawson called Mr. Coston a coon.

And that was where the trouble really started.

It was secretly a great grief to Mr. Coston that his skin was of so
swarthy a hue. To be permitted to address Mr. Coston face to face
by his nickname was a sign of the closest friendship, to which only
Spider Reilly, Jack Repetto, and one or two more of the gang could
aspire. Others spoke of him as Nigger, or, more briefly,
Nig--strictly behind his back. For Mr. Coston had a wide reputation
as a fighter, and his particular mode of battling was to descend on
his antagonist and bite him. Into this action he flung himself with
the passionate abandonment of the artist. When he bit he bit. He
did not nibble.

If a friend had called Mr. Coston "Nig" he would have been running
grave risks. A stranger, and a leader of a rival gang, who
addressed him as "coon" was more than asking for trouble. He was
pleading for it.

Great men seldom waste time. Mr. Coston, leaning towards Mr.
Dawson, promptly bit him on the cheek. Mr. Dawson bounded from his
seat. Such was the excitement of the moment that, instead of
drawing his "canister," he forgot that he had one on his person,
and, seizing a mug which had held beer, bounced it vigorously on
Mr. Coston's skull, which, being of solid wood, merely gave out a
resonant note and remained unbroken.

So far the honours were comparatively even, with perhaps a slight
balance in favour of Mr. Coston. But now occurred an incident
which turned the scale, and made war between the gangs inevitable.
In the far corner of the room, surrounded by a crowd of admiring
friends, sat Spider Reilly, monarch of the Three Points. He had
noticed that there was a slight disturbance at the other side of
the hall, but had given it little attention till, the dancing
ceasing suddenly and the floor emptying itself of its crowd, he had
a plain view of Mr. Dawson and Mr. Coston squaring up at each
other for the second round. We must assume that Mr. Reilly was not
thinking what he did, for his action was contrary to all rules of
gang-etiquette. In the street it would have been perfectly
legitimate, even praiseworthy, but in a dance-hall belonging to a
neutral power it was unpardonable.

What he did was to produce his "canister" and pick off the
unsuspecting Mr. Dawson just as that exquisite was preparing to get
in some more good work with the beer-mug. The leader of the Table
Hillites fell with a crash, shot through the leg; and Spider
Reilly, together with Mr. Coston and others of the Three Points,
sped through the doorway for safety, fearing the wrath of Bat
Jarvis, who, it was known, would countenance no such episodes at
the dance-hall which he had undertaken to protect.

Mr. Dawson, meanwhile, was attended to and helped home. Willing
informants gave him the name of his aggressor, and before morning
the Table Hill camp was in ferment. Shooting broke out in three
places, though there were no casualties. When the day dawned there
existed between the two gangs a state of war more bitter than any
in their record; for this time it was no question of obscure
nonentities. Chieftain had assaulted chieftain; royal blood had
been spilt.

            *    *    *

"Comrade Windsor," said Psmith, when Master Maloney had spoken his
last word, "we must take careful note of this little matter. I
rather fancy that sooner or later we may be able to turn it to our
profit. I am sorry for Dude Dawson, anyhow. Though I have never
met him, I have a sort of instinctive respect for him. A man such
as he would feel a bullet through his trouser-leg more than one of
common clay who cared little how his clothes looked."



CHAPTER XIX

IN PLEASANT STREET

Careful inquiries, conducted incognito by Master Maloney among the
denizens of Pleasant Street, brought the information that rents in
the tenements were collected not weekly but monthly, a fact which
must undoubtedly cause a troublesome hitch in the campaign.
Rent-day, announced Pugsy, fell on the last day of the month.

"I rubbered around," he said, "and did de sleut' act, and I finds
t'ings out. Dere's a feller comes round 'bout supper time dat day,
an' den it's up to de fam'lies what lives in de tenements to dig
down into deir jeans fer de stuff, or out dey goes dat same night."

"Evidently a hustler, our nameless friend," said Psmith.

"I got dat from a kid what knows anuder kid what lives dere,"
explained Master Maloney. "Say," he proceeded confidentially, "dat
kid's in bad, sure he is. Dat second kid, de one what lives dere.
He's a wop kid, an--"

"A what, Comrade Maloney?"

"A wop. A Dago. Why, don't you get next? Why, an Italian. Sure,
dat's right. Well, dis kid, he is sure to de bad, 'cos his father
come over from Italy to work on de Subway."

"I don't see why that puts him in bad," said Billy Windsor
wonderingly.

"Nor I," agreed Psmith. "Your narratives, Comrade Maloney, always
seem to me to suffer from a certain lack of construction. You start
at the end, and then you go back to any portion of the story which
happens to appeal to you at the moment, eventually winding up at
the beginning. Why should the fact that this stripling's father
has come over from Italy to work on the Subway be a misfortune?"

"Why, sure, because he got fired an' went an' swatted de foreman
one on de coco, an' de magistrate gives him t'oity days."

"And then, Comrade Maloney? This thing is beginning to get clearer.
You are like Sherlock Holmes. After you've explained a thing from
start to finish--or, as you prefer to do, from finish to start--it
becomes quite simple."

"Why, den dis kid's in bad for fair, 'cos der ain't nobody to
pungle de bones."

"Pungle de what, Comrade Maloney?"

"De bones. De stuff. Dat's right. De dollars. He's all alone, dis
kid, so when de rent-guy blows in, who's to slip him over de
simoleons? It'll be outside for his, quick."

Billy warmed up at this tale of distress in his usual way.
"Somebody ought to do something. It's a vile shame the kid being
turned out like that."

"We will see to it, Comrade Windsor. _Cosy Moments_ shall step in. We
will combine business with pleasure, paying the stripling's rent
and corralling the rent-collector at the same time. What is today?
How long before the end of the month? Another week! A murrain on
it, Comrade Windsor. Two murrains. This delay may undo us."

But the days went by without any further movement on the part of
the enemy. A strange quiet seemed to be brooding over the other
camp. As a matter of fact, the sudden outbreak of active
hostilities with the Table Hill contingent had had the effect of
taking the minds of Spider Reilly and his warriors off _Cosy Moments_
and its affairs, much as the unexpected appearance of a mad bull
would make a man forget that he had come out butterfly-hunting.
Psmith and Billy could wait; they were not likely to take the
offensive; but the Table Hillites demanded instant attention.

War had broken out, as was usual between the gangs, in a somewhat
tentative fashion at first sight. There had been sniping and
skirmishes by the wayside, but as yet no pitched battle. The two
armies were sparring for an opening.

             *    *    *

The end of the week arrived, and Psmith and Billy, conducted by
Master Maloney, made their way to Pleasant Street. To get there it
was necessary to pass through a section of the enemy's country; but
the perilous passage was safely negotiated. The expedition reached
its unsavoury goal intact.

The wop kid, whose name, it appeared, was Giuseppe Orloni,
inhabited a small room at the very top of the building next to the
one Psmith and Mike had visited on their first appearance in
Pleasant Street. He was out when the party, led by Pugsy up dark
stairs, arrived; and, on returning, seemed both surprised and
alarmed to see visitors. Pugsy undertook to do the honours. Pugsy
as interpreter was energetic but not wholly successful. He appeared
to have a fixed idea that the Italian language was one easily
mastered by the simple method of saying "da" instead of "the," and
tacking on a final "a" to any word that seemed to him to need one.

"Say, kid," he began, "has da rent-a-man come yet-a?"

The black eyes of the wop kid clouded. He gesticulated, and said
something in his native language.

"He hasn't got next," reported Master Maloney. "He can't git on to
me curves. Dese wop kids is all boneheads. Say, kid, look-a here."
He walked out of the room and closed the door; then, rapping on it
smartly from the outside, re-entered and, assuming a look of
extreme ferocity, stretched out his hand and thundered: "Unbelt-a!
Slip-a me da stuff!"

The wop kid's puzzlement became pathetic.

"This," said Psmith, deeply interested, "is getting about as tense
as anything I ever struck. Don't give in, Comrade Maloney. Who
knows but that you may yet win through? I fancy the trouble is that
your too perfect Italian accent is making the youth home-sick. Once
more to the breach, Comrade Maloney."

Master Maloney made a gesture of disgust. "I'm t'roo. Dese Dagoes
makes me tired. Dey don't know enough to go upstairs to take de
Elevated. Beat it, you mutt," he observed with moody displeasure
to the wop kid, accompanying the words with a gesture which
conveyed its own meaning. The wop kid, plainly glad to get away,
slipped out of the door like a shadow.

Pugsy shrugged his shoulders.

"Gents," he said resignedly, "it's up to youse."

"I fancy," said Psmith, "that this is one of those moments when it
is necessary for me to unlimber my Sherlock Holmes system. As thus.
If the rent collector _had_ been here, it is certain, I think, that
Comrade Spaghetti, or whatever you said his name was, wouldn't have
been. That is to say, if the rent collector had called and found no
money waiting for him, surely Comrade Spaghetti would have been out
in the cold night instead of under his own roof-tree. Do you follow
me, Comrade Maloney?"

"That's right," said Billy Windsor. "Of course."

"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary," murmured Psmith.

"So all we have to do is to sit here and wait."

"All?" said Psmith sadly. "Surely it is enough. For of all the
scaly localities I have struck this seems to me the scaliest. The
architect of this Stately Home of America seems to have had a
positive hatred for windows. His idea of ventilation was to leave
a hole in the wall about the size of a lima bean and let the thing
go at that. If our friend does not arrive shortly, I shall pull
down the roof. Why, gadzooks! Not to mention stap my vitals! Isn't
that a trap-door up there? Make a long-arm, Comrade Windsor."

Billy got on a chair and pulled the bolt. The trap-door opened
downwards. It fell, disclosing a square of deep blue sky.

"Gum!" he said. "Fancy living in this atmosphere when you don't
have to. Fancy these fellows keeping that shut all the time."

"I expect it is an acquired taste," said Psmith, "like Limburger
cheese. They don't begin to appreciate air till it is thick enough
to scoop chunks out of with a spoon. Then they get up on their hind
legs and inflate their chests and say, 'This is fine! This beats
ozone hollow!' Leave it open, Comrade Windsor. And now, as to the
problem of dispensing with Comrade Maloney's services?"

"Sure," said Billy. "Beat it, Pugsy, my lad."

Pugsy looked up, indignant.

"Beat it?" he queried.

"While your shoe leather's good," said Billy. "This is no place
for a minister's son. There may be a rough house in here any
minute, and you would be in the way."

"I want to stop and pipe de fun," objected Master Maloney.

"Never mind. Cut off. We'll tell you all about it to-morrow."

Master Maloney prepared reluctantly to depart. As he did so there
was a sound of a well-shod foot on the stairs, and a man in a
snuff-coloured suit, wearing a brown Homburg hat and carrying a
small notebook in one hand, walked briskly into the room. It was
not necessary for Psmith to get his Sherlock Holmes system to work.
His whole appearance proclaimed the new-comer to be the
long-expected collector of rents.



CHAPTER XX

CORNERED

He stood in the doorway looking with some surprise at the group
inside. He was a smallish, pale-faced man with protruding eyes and
teeth which gave him a certain resemblance to a rabbit.

"Hello," he said.

"Welcome to New York," said Psmith.

Master Maloney, who had taken advantage of the interruption to edge
farther into the room, now appeared to consider the question of his
departure permanently shelved. He sidled to a corner and sat down
on an empty soap-box with the air of a dramatic critic at the
opening night of a new play. The scene looked good to him. It
promised interesting developments. Master Maloney was an earnest
student of the drama, as exhibited in the theatres of the East
Side, and few had ever applauded the hero of "Escaped from
Sing-Sing," or hissed the villain of "Nellie, the Beautiful
Cloak-Model" with more fervour than he. He liked his drama to have
plenty of action, and to his practised eye this one promised well.
Psmith he looked upon as a quite amiable lunatic, from whom little
was to be expected; but there was a set expression on Billy
Windsor's face which suggested great things.

His pleasure was abruptly quenched. Billy Windsor, placing a firm
hand on his collar, led him to the door and pushed him out, closing
the door behind him.

The rent collector watched these things with a puzzled eye. He now
turned to Psmith.

"Say, seen anything of the wops that live here?" he inquired.

"I am addressing--?" said Psmith courteously.

"My name's Gooch."

Psmith bowed.

"Touching these wops, Comrade Gooch," he said, "I fear there is
little chance of your seeing them to-night, unless you wait some
considerable time. With one of them--the son and heir of the
family, I should say--we have just been having a highly interesting
and informative chat. Comrade Maloney, who has just left us, acted
as interpreter. The father, I am told, is in the dungeon below the
castle moat for a brief spell for punching his foreman in the
eye. The result? The rent is not forthcoming."

"Then it's outside for theirs," said Mr. Gooch definitely.

"It's a big shame," broke in Billy, "turning the kid out. Where's
he to go?"

"That's up to him. Nothing to do with me. I'm only acting under
orders from up top."

"Whose orders, Comrade Gooch?" inquired Psmith.

"The gent who owns this joint."

"Who is he?" said Billy.

Suspicion crept into the protruding eyes of the rent collector. He
waxed wroth. "Say!" he demanded. "Who are you two guys, anyway, and
what do you think you're doing here? That's what I'd like to know.
What do you want with the name of the owner of this place? What
business is it of yours?"

"The fact is, Comrade Gooch, we are newspaper men."

"I guessed you were," said Mr. Gooch with triumph. "You can't bluff
me. Well, it's no good, boys. I've nothing for you. You'd better
chase off and try something else."

He became more friendly.

"Say, though," he said, "I just guessed you were from some
paper. I wish I could give you a story, but I can't. I guess
it's this _Cosy Moments_ business that's been and put your editor
on to this joint, ain't it? Say, though, that's a queer thing,
that paper. Why, only a few weeks ago it used to be a sort of
take-home-and-read-to-the-kids affair. A friend of mine used
to buy it regular. And then suddenly it comes out with a
regular whoop, and started knocking these tenements and
boosting Kid Brady, and all that. I can't understand it. All I
know is that it's begun to get this place talked about. Why,
you see for yourselves how it is. Here is your editor sending
you down to get a story about it. But, say, those _Cosy Moments_
guys are taking big risks. I tell you straight they are, and
that goes. I happen to know a thing or two about what's going
on on the other side, and I tell you there's going to be
something doing if they don't cut it out quick. Mr.--" he
stopped and chuckled, "Mr. Jones isn't the man to sit still and
smile. He's going to get busy. Say, what paper do you boys come
from?"

"_Cosy Moments_, Comrade Gooch," Psmith replied. "Immediately behind
you, between you and the door, is Comrade Windsor, our editor. I am
Psmith. I sub-edit."

For a moment the inwardness of the information did not seem to come
home to Mr. Gooch. Then it hit him. He spun round. Billy Windsor
was standing with his back against the door and a more than nasty
look on his face.

"What's all this?" demanded Mr. Gooch.

"I will explain all," said Psmith soothingly. "In the first place,
however, this matter of Comrade Spaghetti's rent. Sooner than see
that friend of my boyhood slung out to do the
wandering-child-in-the-snow act, I will brass up for him."

"Confound his rent. Let me out."

"Business before pleasure. How much is it? Twelve dollars? For the
privilege of suffocating in this compact little Black Hole? By my
halidom, Comrade Gooch, that gentleman whose name you are so
shortly to tell us has a very fair idea of how to charge! But who
am I that I should criticise? Here are the simoleons, as our young
friend, Comrade Maloney, would call them. Push me over a receipt."

"Let me out."

"Anon, gossip, anon.--Shakespeare. First, the receipt."

Mr. Gooch scribbled a few words in his notebook and tore out the
page. Psmith thanked him.

"I will see that it reaches Comrade Spaghetti," he said. "And now
to a more important matter. Don't put away that notebook. Turn to
a clean page, moisten your pencil, and write as follows. Are you
ready? By the way, what is your Christian name? . . . Gooch, Gooch,
this is no way to speak! Well, if you are sensitive on the point,
we will waive the Christian name. It is my duty to tell you,
however, that I suspect it to be Percy. Let us push on. Are you
ready, once more? Pencil moistened? Very well, then. 'I'--comma--'being
of sound mind and body'--comma--'and a bright little chap
altogether'--comma--Why, you're not writing."

"Let me out," bellowed Mr. Gooch. "I'll summon you for assault and
battery. Playing a fool game like this! Get away from that door."

"There has been no assault and battery yet, Comrade Gooch, but who
shall predict how long so happy a state of things will last? Do not
be deceived by our gay and smiling faces, Comrade Gooch. We mean
business. Let me put the whole position of affairs before you; and
I am sure a man of your perception will see that there is only one
thing to be done."

He dusted the only chair in the room with infinite care and sat
down. Billy Windsor, who had not spoken a word or moved an inch
since the beginning of the interview, continued to stand and be
silent. Mr. Gooch shuffled restlessly in the middle of the room.

"As you justly observed a moment ago," said Psmith, "the staff of
_Cosy Moments_ is taking big risks. We do not rely on your
unsupported word for that. We have had practical demonstration of
the fact from one J. Repetto, who tried some few nights ago to put
us out of business. Well, it struck us both that we had better get
hold of the name of the blighter who runs these tenements as
quickly as possible, before Comrade Repetto's next night out. That
is what we should like you to give us, Comrade Gooch. And we should
like it in writing. And, on second thoughts, in ink. I have one of
those patent non-leakable fountain pens in my pocket. The Old
Journalist's Best Friend. Most of the ink has come out and is
permeating the lining of my coat, but I think there is still
sufficient for our needs. Remind me later, Comrade Gooch, to
continue on the subject of fountain pens. I have much to say on the
theme. Meanwhile, however, business, business. That is the cry."

He produced a pen and an old letter, the last page of which was
blank, and began to write.

"How does this strike you?" he said. "'I'--(I have left a blank
for the Christian name: you can write it in yourself later)--'I,
blank Gooch, being a collector of rents in Pleasant Street, New
York, do hereby swear'--hush, Comrade Gooch, there is no need to do
it yet--'that the name of the owner of the Pleasant Street
tenements, who is responsible for the perfectly foul conditions
there, is--' And that is where you come in, Comrade Gooch. That is
where we need your specialised knowledge. Who is he?"

Billy Windsor reached out and grabbed the rent collector by the
collar. Having done this, he proceeded to shake him.

Billy was muscular, and his heart was so much in the business that
Mr. Gooch behaved as if he had been caught in a high wind. It is
probable that in another moment the desired information might have
been shaken out of him, but before this could happen there was a
banging at the door, followed by the entrance of Master Maloney.
For the first time since Psmith had known him, Pugsy was openly
excited.

"Say," he began, "youse had better beat it quick, you had. Dey's
coming!"

"And now go back to the beginning, Comrade Maloney," said Psmith
patiently, "which in the exuberance of the moment you have skipped.
Who are coming?"

"Why, dem. De guys."

Psmith shook his head.

"Your habit of omitting essentials, Comrade Maloney, is going to
undo you one of these days. When you get to that ranch of yours,
you will probably start out to gallop after the cattle without
remembering to mount your mustang. There are four million guys in
New York. Which section is it that is coming?"

"Gum! I don't know how many dere is ob dem. I seen Spider Reilly
an' Jack Repetto an'--"

"Say no more," said Psmith. "If Comrade Repetto is there, that is
enough for me. I am going to get on the roof and pull it up after
me."

Billy released Mr. Gooch, who fell, puffing, on to the low bed,
which stood in one corner of the room.

"They must have spotted us as we were coming here," he said, "and
followed us. Where did you see them, Pugsy?"

"On de Street just outside. Dere was a bunch of dem talkin'
togedder, and I hears dem say you was in here. One of dem seen you
come in, an dere ain't no ways out but de front, so dey ain't
hurryin'! Dey just reckon to pike along upstairs, lookin' into each
room till dey finds you. An dere's a bunch of dem goin' to wait on
de Street in case youse beat it past down de stairs while de udder
guys is rubberin' for youse. Say, gents, it's pretty fierce, dis
proposition. What are youse goin' to do?"

Mr. Gooch, from the bed, laughed unpleasantly.

"I guess you ain't the only assault-and-battery artists in the
business," he said. "Looks to me as if some one else was going to
get shaken up some."

Billy looked at Psmith.

"Well?" he said. "What shall we do? Go down and try and rush
through?"

Psmith shook his head.

"Not so, Comrade Windsor, but about as much otherwise as you can
jolly well imagine."

"Well, what then?"

"We will stay here. Or rather we will hop nimbly up on to the roof
through that skylight. Once there, we may engage these varlets on
fairly equal terms. They can only get through one at a time. And
while they are doing it I will give my celebrated imitation of
Horatius. We had better be moving. Our luggage, fortunately, is
small. Merely Comrade Gooch. If you will get through the skylight,
I will pass him up to you."

Mr. Gooch, with much verbal embroidery, stated that he would not
go. Psmith acted promptly. Gripping the struggling rent collector
round the waist, and ignoring his frantic kicks as mere errors in
taste, he lifted him to the trap-door, whence the head, shoulders
and arms of Billy Windsor protruded into the room. Billy collected
the collector, and then Psmith turned to Pugsy.

"Comrade Maloney."

"Huh?"

"Have I your ear?"

"Huh?"

"Are you listening till you feel that your ears are the size of
footballs? Then drink this in. For weeks you have been praying for
a chance to show your devotion to the great cause; or if you
haven't, you ought to have been. That chance has come. You alone
can save us. In a sense, of course, we do not need to be saved.
They will find it hard to get at us, I fancy, on the roof. But it
ill befits the dignity of the editorial staff of a great New York
weekly to roost like pigeons for any length of time; and
consequently it is up to you."

"Shall I go for de cops, Mr. Smith?"

"No, Comrade Maloney, I thank you. I have seen the cops in action,
and they did not impress me. We do not want allies who will merely
shake their heads at Comrade Repetto and the others, however
sternly. We want some one who will swoop down upon these merry
roisterers, and, as it were, soak to them good. Do you know where
Dude Dawson lives?"

The light of intelligence began to shine in Master Maloney's face.
His eye glistened with respectful approval. This was strategy of
the right sort.

"Dude Dawson? Nope. But I can ask around."

"Do so, Comrade Maloney. And when found, tell him that his old
college chum, Spider Reilly, is here. He will not be able to come
himself, I fear, but he can send representatives."

"Sure."

"That's all, then. Go downstairs with a gay and jaunty air, as if
you had no connection with the old firm at all. Whistle a few
lively bars. Make careless gestures. Thus shall you win through.
And now it would be no bad idea, I fancy, for me to join the rest
of the brains of the paper up aloft. Off you go, Comrade Maloney.
And, in passing, don't take a week about it. Leg it with all the
speed you possess."

Pugsy vanished, and Psmith closed the door behind him. Inspection
revealed the fact that it possessed no lock. As a barrier it was
useless. He left it ajar, and, jumping up, gripped the edge of the
opening in the roof and pulled himself through.

Billy Windsor was seated comfortably on Mr. Gooch's chest a few
feet away. By his side was his big stick. Psmith possessed himself
of this, and looked about him. The examination was satisfactory.
The trap-door appeared to be the only means of access to the roof,
and between their roof and that of the next house there was a broad
gulf.

"Practically impregnable," he murmured. "Only one thing can dish
us, Comrade Windsor; and that is if they have the sense to get on
to the roof next door and start shooting. Even in that case,
however, we have cover in the shape of the chimneys. I think we
may fairly say that all is well. How are you getting along? Has the
patient responded at all?"

"Not yet," said Billy. "But he's going to."

"He will be in your charge. I must devote myself exclusively to
guarding the bridge. It is a pity that the trap has not got a bolt
this side. If it had, the thing would be a perfect picnic. As it
is, we must leave it open. But we mustn't expect everything."

Billy was about to speak, but Psmith suddenly held up his hand
warningly. From the room below came a sound of feet.

For a moment the silence was tense. Then from Mr. Gooch's lips
there escaped a screech.

"This way! They're up--"

The words were cut short as Billy banged his hand over the
speaker's mouth. But the thing was done.

"On top de roof," cried a voice. "Dey've beaten it for de roof."

The chair rasped over the floor. Feet shuffled. And then, like a
jack-in-the-box, there popped through the opening a head and
shoulders.



CHAPTER XXI

THE BATTLE OF PLEASANT STREET

The new arrival was a young man with a shock of red hair, an
ingrowing Roman nose, and a mouth from which force or the passage
of time had removed three front teeth. He held on to the edges of
the trap with his hands, and stared in a glassy manner into
Psmith's face, which was within a foot of his own.

There was a momentary pause, broken by an oath from Mr. Gooch, who
was still undergoing treatment in the background.

"Aha!" said Psmith genially. "Historic picture. 'Doctor Cook
discovers the North Pole.'"

The red-headed young man blinked. The strong light of the open air
was trying to his eyes.

"Youse had better come down," he observed coldly. "We've got
youse."

"And," continued Psmith, unmoved, "is instantly handed a gum-drop
by his faithful Esquimaux."

As he spoke, he brought the stick down on the knuckles which
disfigured the edges of the trap. The intruder uttered a howl and
dropped out of sight. In the room below there were whisperings and
mutterings, growing gradually louder till something resembling
coherent conversation came to Psmith's ears, as he knelt by the
trap making meditative billiard-shots with the stick at a small
pebble.

"Aw g'wan! Don't be a quitter!"

"Who's a quitter?"

"Youse is a quitter. Get on top de roof. He can't hoit youse."

"De guy's gotten a big stick." Psmith nodded appreciatively. "I
and Roosevelt," he murmured.

A somewhat baffled silence on the part of the attacking force was
followed by further conversation.

"Gum! some guy's got to go up." Murmur of assent from the audience.
A voice, in inspired tones: "Let Sam do it!"

This suggestion made a hit. There was no doubt about that. It was a
success from the start. Quite a little chorus of voices expressed
sincere approval of the very happy solution to what had seemed an
insoluble problem. Psmith, listening from above, failed to detect
in the choir of glad voices one that might belong to Sam himself.
Probably gratification had rendered the chosen one dumb.

"Yes, let Sam do it!" cried the unseen chorus. The first speaker,
unnecessarily, perhaps--for the motion had been carried almost
unanimously--but possibly with the idea of convincing the one
member of the party in whose bosom doubts might conceivably be
harboured, went on to adduce reasons.

"Sam bein' a coon," he argued, "ain't goin' to git hoit by no
stick. Youse can't hoit a coon by soakin' him on de coco, can you,
Sam?"

Psmith waited with some interest for the reply, but it did not
come. Possibly Sam did not wish to generalise on insufficient
experience.

"_Solvitur ambulando_," said Psmith softly, turning the stick round
in his fingers. "Comrade Windsor!"

"Hullo?"

"Is it possible to hurt a coloured gentleman by hitting him on the
head with a stick?"

"If you hit him hard enough."

"I knew there was some way out of the difficulty," said Psmith with
satisfaction. "How are you getting on up at your end of the table,
Comrade Windsor?"

"Fine."

"Any result yet?"

"Not at present."

"Don't give up."

"Not me."

"The right spirit, Comrade Win--"

A report like a cannon in the room below interrupted him. It was
merely a revolver shot, but in the confined space it was deafening.
The bullet sang up into the sky.

"Never hit me!" said Psmith with dignified triumph.

The noise was succeeded by a shuffling of feet. Psmith grasped his
stick more firmly. This was evidently the real attack. The revolver
shot had been a mere demonstration of artillery to cover the
infantry's advance.

Sure enough, the next moment a woolly head popped through the
opening, and a pair of rolling eyes gleamed up at the old Etonian.

"Why, Sam!" said Psmith cordially, "this is well met! I remember
_you_. Yes, indeed, I do. Wasn't you the feller with the open
umbereller that I met one rainy morning on the Av-en-ue? What, are
you coming up? Sam, I hate to do it, but--"

A yell rang out.

"What was that?" asked Billy Windsor over his shoulder.

"Your statement, Comrade Windsor, has been tested and proved
correct."

By this time the affair had begun to draw a "gate." The noise of
the revolver had proved a fine advertisement. The roof of the house
next door began to fill up. Only a few of the occupants could get a
clear view of the proceedings, for a large chimney-stack
intervened. There was considerable speculation as to what was
passing between Billy Windsor and Mr. Gooch. Psmith's share in the
entertainment was more obvious. The early comers had seen his
interview with Sam, and were relating it with gusto to their
friends. Their attitude towards Psmith was that of a group of men
watching a terrier at a rat-hole. They looked to him to provide
entertainment for them, but they realised that the first move must
be with the attackers. They were fair-minded men, and they did not
expect Psmith to make any aggressive move.

Their indignation, when the proceedings began to grow slow, was
directed entirely at the dilatory Three Pointers. With an aggrieved
air, akin to that of a crowd at a cricket match when batsmen are
playing for a draw, they began to "barrack." They hooted the Three
Pointers. They begged them to go home and tuck themselves up in
bed. The men on the roof were mostly Irishmen, and it offended them
to see what should have been a spirited fight so grossly bungled.

"G'wan away home, ye quitters!" roared one.

"Call yersilves the Three Points, do ye? An' would ye know what
_I_ call ye? The Young Ladies' Seminary!" bellowed another with
withering scorn.

A third member of the audience alluded to them as "stiffs."

"I fear, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith, "that our blithe friends
below are beginning to grow a little unpopular with the
many-headed. They must be up and doing if they wish to retain the
esteem of Pleasant Street. Aha!"

Another and a longer explosion from below, and more bullets wasted
themselves on air. Psmith sighed.

"They make me tired," he said. "This is no time for a _feu de joie_.
Action! That is the cry. Action! Get busy, you blighters!"

The Irish neighbours expressed the same sentiment in different and
more forcible words. There was no doubt about it--as warriors, the
Three Pointers had failed to give satisfaction.

A voice from the room called up to Psmith.

"Say!"

"You have our ear," said Psmith.

"What's that?"

"I said you had our ear."

"Are youse stiffs comin' down off out of dat roof?"

"Would you mind repeating that remark?"

"Are youse guys goin' to quit off out of dat roof?"

"Your grammar is perfectly beastly," said Psmith severely.

"Hey!"

"Well?"

"Are youse guys--?"

"No, my lad," said Psmith, "since you ask, we are not. And why?
Because the air up here is refreshing, the view pleasant, and we
are expecting at any moment an important communication from Comrade
Gooch."

"We're goin' to wait here till youse come down."

"If you wish it," said Psmith courteously, "by all means do. Who am
I that I should dictate your movements? The most I aspire to is to
check them when they take an upward direction."

There was silence below. The time began to pass slowly. The
Irishmen on the other roof, now definitely abandoning hope of
further entertainment, proceeded with hoots of scorn to climb down
one by one into the recesses of their own house.

Suddenly from the street far below there came a fusillade of shots
and a babel of shouts and counter-shouts. The roof of the house
next door, which had been emptying itself slowly and reluctantly,
filled again with a magical swiftness, and the low wall facing into
the street became black with the backs of those craning over.

"What's that?" inquired Billy.

"I rather fancy," said Psmith, "that our allies of the Table Hill
contingent must have arrived. I sent Comrade Maloney to explain
matters to Dude Dawson, and it seems as if that golden-hearted
sportsman had responded. There appear to be great doings in the
street."

In the room below confusion had arisen. A scout, clattering
upstairs, had brought the news of the Table Hillites' advent, and
there was doubt as to the proper course to pursue. Certain voices
urged going down to help the main body. Others pointed out that
that would mean abandoning the siege of the roof. The scout who had
brought the news was eloquent in favour of the first course.

"Gum!" he cried, "don't I keep tellin' youse dat de Table Hills is
here? Sure, dere's a whole bunch of dem, and unless youse come on
down dey'll bite de hull head off of us lot. Leave those stiffs on
de roof. Let Sam wait here with his canister, and den dey can't get
down, 'cos Sam'll pump dem full of lead while dey're beatin' it
t'roo de trap-door. Sure."

Psmith nodded reflectively.

"There is certainly something in what the bright boy says," he
murmured. "It seems to me the grand rescue scene in the third act
has sprung a leak. This will want thinking over."

In the street the disturbance had now become terrific. Both sides
were hard at it, and the Irishmen on the roof, rewarded at last for
their long vigil, were yelling encouragement promiscuously and
whooping with the unfettered ecstasy of men who are getting the
treat of their lives without having paid a penny for it.

The behaviour of the New York policeman in affairs of this kind is
based on principles of the soundest practical wisdom. The
unthinking man would rush in and attempt to crush the combat in its
earliest and fiercest stages. The New York policeman, knowing the
importance of his own safety, and the insignificance of the
gangsman's, permits the opposing forces to hammer each other into a
certain distaste for battle, and then, when both sides have begun
to have enough of it, rushes in himself and clubs everything in
sight. It is an admirable process in its results, but it is sure
rather than swift.

Proceedings in the affair below had not yet reached the police
interference stage. The noise, what with the shots and yells from
the street and the ear-piercing approval of the roof-audience, was
just working up to a climax.

Psmith rose. He was tired of kneeling by the trap, and there was no
likelihood of Sam making another attempt to climb through. He
walked towards Billy.

As he did so, Billy got up and turned to him. His eyes were
gleaming with excitement. His whole attitude was triumphant. In his
hand he waved a strip of paper.

"I've got it," he cried.

"Excellent, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith. "Surely we must win
through now. All we have to do is to get off this roof, and fate
cannot touch us. Are two mammoth minds such as ours unequal to such
a feat? It can hardly be. Let us ponder."

"Why not go down through the trap? They've all gone to the street."

Psmith shook his head.

"All," he replied, "save Sam. Sam was the subject of my late
successful experiment, when I proved that coloured gentlemen's
heads could be hurt with a stick. He is now waiting below, armed
with a pistol, ready--even anxious--to pick us off as we climb
through the trap. How would it be to drop Comrade Gooch through
first, and so draw his fire? Comrade Gooch, I am sure, would be
delighted to do a little thing like that for old friends of our
standing or--but what's that!"

"What's the matter?"

"Is that a ladder that I see before me, its handle to my hand? It
is! Comrade Windsor, we win through. _Cosy Moments_' editorial staff
may be tree'd, but it cannot be put out of business. Comrade
Windsor, take the other end of that ladder and follow me."

The ladder was lying against the farther wall. It was long, more
than long enough for the purpose for which it was needed. Psmith
and Billy rested it on the coping, and pushed it till the other end
reached across the gulf to the roof of the house next door, Mr.
Gooch eyeing them in silence the while.

Psmith turned to him.

"Comrade Gooch," he said, "do nothing to apprise our friend Sam of
these proceedings. I speak in your best interests. Sam is in no
mood to make nice distinctions between friend and foe. If you
bring him up here, he will probably mistake you for a member of the
staff of _Cosy Moments_, and loose off in your direction without
waiting for explanations. I think you had better come with us. I
will go first, Comrade Windsor, so that if the ladder breaks, the
paper will lose merely a sub-editor, not an editor."

He went down on all-fours, and in this attitude wormed his way
across to the opposite roof, whose occupants, engrossed in the
fight in the street, in which the police had now joined, had their
backs turned and did not observe him. Mr. Gooch, pallid and
obviously ill-attuned to such feats, followed him; and finally
Billy Windsor reached the other side.

"Neat," said Psmith complacently. "Uncommonly neat. Comrade Gooch
reminded me of the untamed chamois of the Alps, leaping from crag
to crag."

In the street there was now comparative silence. The police, with
their clubs, had knocked the last remnant of fight out of the
combatants. Shooting had definitely ceased.

"I think," said Psmith, "that we might now descend. If you have no
other engagements, Comrade Windsor, I will take you to the
Knickerbocker, and buy you a square meal. I would ask for the
pleasure of your company also, Comrade Gooch, were it not that
matters of private moment, relating to the policy of the paper,
must be discussed at the table. Some other day, perhaps. We are
infinitely obliged to you for your sympathetic co-operation in this
little matter. And now good-bye. Comrade Windsor, let us debouch."



CHAPTER XXII

CONCERNING MR. WARING

Psmith pushed back his chair slightly, stretched out his legs, and
lit a cigarette. The resources of the Knickerbocker Hotel had
proved equal to supplying the fatigued staff of _Cosy Moments_ with
an excellent dinner, and Psmith had stoutly declined to talk
business until the coffee arrived. This had been hard on Billy,
who was bursting with his news. Beyond a hint that it was
sensational he had not been permitted to go.

"More bright young careers than I care to think of," said Psmith,
"have been ruined by the fatal practice of talking shop at dinner.
But now that we are through, Comrade Windsor, by all means let us
have it. What's the name which Comrade Gooch so eagerly divulged?"

Billy leaned forward excitedly.

"Stewart Waring," he whispered.

"Stewart who?" asked Psmith.

Billy stared.

"Great Scott, man!" he said, "haven't you heard of Stewart Waring?"

"The name seems vaguely familiar, like Isinglass or Post-toasties.
I seem to know it, but it conveys nothing to me."

"Don't you ever read the papers?"

"I toy with my _American_ of a morning, but my interest is confined
mainly to the sporting page which reminds me that Comrade Brady has
been matched against one Eddie Wood a month from to-day. Gratifying
as it is to find one of the staff getting on in life, I fear this
will cause us a certain amount of inconvenience. Comrade Brady
will have to leave the office temporarily in order to go into
training, and what shall we do then for a fighting editor? However,
possibly we may not need one now. _Cosy Moments_ should be able
shortly to give its message to the world and ease up for a while.
Which brings us back to the point. Who is Stewart Waring?"

"Stewart Waring is running for City Alderman. He's one of the
biggest men in New York!"

"Do you mean in girth? If so, he seems to have selected the right
career for himself."

"He's one of the bosses. He used to be Commissioner of Buildings
for the city."

"Commissioner of Buildings? What exactly did that let him in for?"

"It let him in for a lot of graft."

"How was that?"

"Oh, he took it off the contractors. Shut his eyes and held out his
hands when they ran up rotten buildings that a strong breeze would
have knocked down, and places like that Pleasant Street hole
without any ventilation."

"Why did he throw up the job?" inquired Psmith. "It seems to me
that it was among the World's Softest. Certain drawbacks to it,
perhaps, to the man with the Hair-Trigger Conscience; but I gather
that Comrade Waring did not line up in that class. What was his
trouble?"

"His trouble," said Billy, "was that he stood in with a contractor
who was putting up a music-hall, and the contractor put it up with
material about as strong as a heap of meringues, and it collapsed
on the third night and killed half the audience."

"And then?"

"The papers raised a howl, and they got after the contractor, and
the contractor gave Waring away. It killed him for the time being."

"I should have thought it would have had that excellent result
permanently," said Psmith thoughtfully. "Do you mean to say he got
back again after that?"

"He had to quit being Commissioner, of course, and leave the town
for a time; but affairs move so fast here that a thing like that
blows over. He made a bit of a pile out of the job, and could
afford to lie low for a year or two."

"How long ago was that?"

"Five years. People don't remember a thing here that happened five
years back unless they're reminded of it."

Psmith lit another cigarette.

"We will remind them," he said.

Billy nodded.

"Of course," he said, "one or two of the papers against him in this
Aldermanic Election business tried to bring the thing up, but they
didn't cut any ice. The other papers said it was a shame, hounding
a man who was sorry for the past and who was trying to make good
now; so they dropped it. Everybody thought that Waring was on the
level now. He's been shooting off a lot of hot air lately about
philanthropy and so on. Not that he has actually done a thing--not
so much as given a supper to a dozen news-boys; but he's talked,
and talk gets over if you keep it up long enough."

Psmith nodded adhesion to this dictum.

"So that naturally he wants to keep it dark about these tenements.
It'll smash him at the election when it gets known."

"Why is he so set on becoming an Alderman," inquired Psmith.

"There's a lot of graft to being an Alderman," explained Billy.

"I see. No wonder the poor gentleman was so energetic in his
methods. What is our move now, Comrade Windsor?"

Billy stared.

"Why, publish the name, of course."

"But before then? How are we going to ensure the safety of our
evidence? We stand or fall entirely by that slip of paper, because
we've got the beggar's name in the writing of his own collector,
and that's proof positive."

"That's all right," said Billy, patting his breast-pocket.
"Nobody's going to get it from me."

Psmith dipped his hand into his trouser-pocket.

"Comrade Windsor," he said, producing a piece of paper, "how do we
go?"

He leaned back in his chair, surveying Billy blandly through his
eye-glass. Billy's eyes were goggling. He looked from Psmith to the
paper and from the paper to Psmith.

"What--what the--?" he stammered. "Why, it's it!"

Psmith nodded.

"How on earth did you get it?"

Psmith knocked the ash off his cigarette.

"Comrade Windsor," he said, "I do not wish to cavil or carp or rub
it in in any way. I will merely remark that you pretty nearly
landed us in the soup, and pass on to more congenial topics.
Didn't you know we were followed to this place?"

"Followed!"

"By a merchant in what Comrade Maloney would call a tall-shaped hat.
I spotted him at an early date, somewhere down by Twenty-ninth
Street. When we dived into Sixth Avenue for a space at Thirty-third
Street, did he dive, too? He did. And when we turned into
Forty-second Street, there he was. I tell you, Comrade Windsor,
leeches were aloof, and burrs non-adhesive compared with that
tall-shaped-hatted blighter."

"Yes?"

"Do you remember, as you came to the entrance of this place,
somebody knocking against you?"

"Yes, there was a pretty big crush in the entrance."

"There was; but not so big as all that. There was plenty of room
for this merchant to pass if he had wished. Instead of which he
butted into you. I happened to be waiting for just that, so I
managed to attach myself to his wrist with some vim and give it a
fairly hefty wrench. The paper was inside his hand."

Billy was leaning forward with a pale face.

"Jove!" he muttered.

"That about sums it up," said Psmith.

Billy snatched the paper from the table and extended it towards
him.

"Here," he said feverishly, "you take it. Gum, I never thought I
was such a mutt! I'm not fit to take charge of a toothpick. Fancy
me not being on the watch for something of that sort. I guess I was
so tickled with myself at the thought of having got the thing, that
it never struck me they might try for it. But I'm through. No more
for me. You're the man in charge now."

Psmith shook his head.

"These stately compliments," he said, "do my old heart good, but I
fancy I know a better plan. It happened that I chanced to have my
eye on the blighter in the tall-shaped hat, and so was enabled to
land him among the ribstones; but who knows but that in the crowd
on Broadway there may not lurk other, unidentified blighters in
equally tall-shaped hats, one of whom may work the same
sleight-of-hand speciality on me? It was not that you were not
capable of taking care of that paper: it was simply that you didn't
happen to spot the man. Now observe me closely, for what follows is
an exhibition of Brain."

He paid the bill, and they went out into the entrance-hall of the
hotel. Psmith, sitting down at a table, placed the paper in an
envelope and addressed it to himself at the address of _Cosy
Moments_. After which, he stamped the envelope and dropped it into
the letter-box at the back of the hall.

"And now, Comrade Windsor," he said, "let us stroll gently
homewards down the Great White Way. What matter though it be fairly
stiff with low-browed bravoes in tall-shaped hats? They cannot harm
us. From me, if they search me thoroughly, they may scoop a matter
of eleven dollars, a watch, two stamps, and a packet of
chewing-gum. Whether they would do any better with you I do not
know. At any rate, they wouldn't get that paper; and that's the
main thing."

"You're a genius," said Billy Windsor.

"You think so?" said Psmith diffidently. "Well, well, perhaps you
are right, perhaps you are right. Did you notice the hired ruffian
in the flannel suit who just passed? He wore a baffled look, I
fancy. And hark! Wasn't that a muttered 'Failed!' I heard? Or was
it the breeze moaning in the tree-tops? To-night is a cold,
disappointing night for Hired Ruffians, Comrade Windsor."



CHAPTER XXIII

REDUCTIONS IN THE STAFF

The first member of the staff of _Cosy Moments_ to arrive at the
office on the following morning was Master Maloney. This sounds
like the beginning of a "Plod and Punctuality," or "How Great
Fortunes have been Made" story; but, as a matter of fact, Master
Maloney was no early bird. Larks who rose in his neighbourhood,
rose alone. He did not get up with them. He was supposed to be at
the office at nine o'clock. It was a point of honour with him, a
sort of daily declaration of independence, never to put in an
appearance before nine-thirty. On this particular morning he was
punctual to the minute, or half an hour late, whichever way you
choose to look at it.

He had only whistled a few bars of "My Little Irish Rose," and had
barely got into the first page of his story of life on the prairie
when Kid Brady appeared. The Kid, as was his habit when not in
training, was smoking a big black cigar. Master Maloney eyed him
admiringly. The Kid, unknown to that gentleman himself, was Pugsy's
ideal. He came from the Plains; and had, indeed, once actually been
a cowboy; he was a coming champion; and he could smoke black
cigars. It was, therefore, without his usual well-what-is-it-now?
air that Pugsy laid down his book, and prepared to converse.

"Say, Mr. Smith or Mr. Windsor about, Pugsy?" asked the Kid.

"Naw, Mr. Brady, they ain't came yet," replied Master Maloney
respectfully.

"Late, ain't they?"

"Sure. Mr. Windsor generally blows in before I do."

"Wonder what's keepin' them."

"P'raps, dey've bin put out of business," suggested Pugsy
nonchalantly.

"How's that?"

Pugsy related the events of the previous day, relaxing something of
his austere calm as he did so. When he came to the part where the
Table Hill allies swooped down on the unsuspecting Three Pointers,
he was almost animated.

"Say," said the Kid approvingly, "that Smith guy's got more grey
matter under his thatch than you'd think to look at him. I--"

"Comrade Brady," said a voice in the doorway, "you do me proud."

"Why, say," said the Kid, turning, "I guess the laugh's on me. I
didn't see you, Mr. Smith. Pugsy's been tellin' me how you sent him
for the Table Hills yesterday. That was cute. It was mighty smart.
But say, those guys are goin' some, ain't they now! Seems as if
they was dead set on puttin' you out of business."

"Their manner yesterday, Comrade Brady, certainly suggested the
presence of some sketchy outline of such an ideal in their minds.
One Sam, in particular, an ebony-hued sportsman, threw himself into
the task with great vim. I rather fancy he is waiting for us with
his revolver to this moment. But why worry? Here we are, safe and
sound, and Comrade Windsor may be expected to arrive at any moment.
I see, Comrade Brady, that you have been matched against one Eddie
Wood."

"It's about that I wanted to see you, Mr. Smith. Say, now that
things have been and brushed up so, what with these gang guys
layin' for you the way they're doin', I guess you'll be needin' me
around here. Isn't that right? Say the word and I'll call off this
Eddie Wood fight."

"Comrade Brady," said Psmith with some enthusiasm, "I call that a
sporting offer. I'm very much obliged. But we mustn't stand in your
way. If you eliminate this Comrade Wood, they will have to give you
a chance against Jimmy Garvin, won't they?"

"I guess that's right, sir," said the Kid. "Eddie stayed nineteen
rounds against Jimmy, and if I can put him away, it gets me into
line with Jimmy, and he can't side-step me."

"Then go in and win, Comrade Brady. We shall miss you. It will be
as if a ray of sunshine had been removed from the office. But you
mustn't throw a chance away. We shall be all right, I think."

"I'll train at White Plains," said the Kid. "That ain't far from
here, so I'll be pretty near in case I'm wanted. Hullo, who's
here?"

He pointed to the door. A small boy was standing there, holding a
note.

"Mr. Smith?"

"Sir to you," said Psmith courteously.

"P. Smith?"

"The same. This is your lucky day."

"Cop at Jefferson Market give me dis to take to youse."

"A cop in Jefferson Market?" repeated Psmith. "I did not know I
had friends among the constabulary there. Why, it's from Comrade
Windsor." He opened the envelope and read the letter. "Thanks," he
said, giving the boy a quarter-dollar.

It was apparent the Kid was politely endeavouring to veil his
curiosity. Master Maloney had no such scruples.

"What's in de letter, boss?" he inquired.

"The letter, Comrade Maloney, is from our Mr. Windsor, and relates
in terse language the following facts, that our editor last night
hit a policeman in the eye, and that he was sentenced this morning
to thirty days on Blackwell's Island."

"He's de guy!" admitted Master Maloney approvingly.

"What's that?" said the Kid. "Mr. Windsor bin punchin' cops! What's
he bin doin' that for?"

"He gives no clue. I must go and find out. Could you help Comrade
Maloney mind the shop for a few moments while I push round to
Jefferson Market and make inquiries?"

"Sure. But say, fancy Mr. Windsor cuttin' loose that way!" said the
Kid admiringly.

The Jefferson Market Police Court is a little way down town, near
Washington Square. It did not take Psmith long to reach it, and by
the judicious expenditure of a few dollars he was enabled to obtain
an interview with Billy in a back room.

The chief editor of _Cosy Moments_ was seated on a bench, looking
upon the world through a pair of much blackened eyes. His general
appearance was dishevelled. He had the air of a man who has been
caught in the machinery.

"Hullo, Smith," he said. "You got my note all right then?"

Psmith looked at him, concerned.

"Comrade Windsor," he said, "what on earth has been happening to
you?"

"Oh, that's all right," said Billy. "That's nothing."

"Nothing! You look as if you had been run over by a motor-car."

"The cops did that," said Billy, without any apparent resentment.
"They always turn nasty if you put up a fight. I was a fool to do
it, I suppose, but I got so mad. They knew perfectly well that I
had nothing to do with any pool-room downstairs."

Psmith's eye-glass dropped from his eye.

"Pool-room, Comrade Windsor?"

"Yes. The house where I live was raided late last night. It seems
that some gamblers have been running a pool-room on the ground
floor. Why the cops should have thought I had anything to do with
it, when I was sleeping peacefully upstairs, is more than I can
understand. Anyway, at about three in the morning there was the
dickens of a banging at my door. I got up to see what was doing,
and found a couple of Policemen there. They told me to come along
with them to the station. I asked what on earth for. I might have
known it was no use arguing with a New York cop. They said they had
been tipped off that there was a pool-room being run in the house,
and that they were cleaning up the house, and if I wanted to say
anything I'd better say it to the magistrate. I said, all right,
I'd put on some clothes and come with them. They said they couldn't
wait about while I put on clothes. I said I wasn't going to travel
about New York in pyjamas, and started to get into my shirt. One of
them gave me a shove in the ribs with his night-stick, and told me
to come along quick. And that made me so mad I hit out." A chuckle
escaped Billy. "He wasn't expecting it, and I got him fair. He went
down over the bookcase. The other cop took a swipe at me with his
club, but by that time I was so mad I'd have taken on Jim Jeffries,
if he had shown up and got in my way. I just sailed in, and was
beginning to make the man think that he had stumbled on Stanley
Ketchel or Kid Brady or a dynamite explosion by mistake, when the
other fellow loosed himself from the bookcase, and they started in
on me together, and there was a general rough house, in the middle
of which somebody seemed to let off about fifty thousand dollars'
worth of fireworks all in a bunch; and I didn't remember anything
more till I found myself in a cell, pretty nearly knocked to
pieces. That's my little life-history. I guess I was a fool to cut
loose that way, but I was so mad I didn't stop to think."

Psmith sighed.

"You have told me your painful story," he said. "Now hear mine.
After parting with you last night, I went meditatively back to my
Fourth Avenue address, and, with a courtly good night to the large
policeman who, as I have mentioned in previous conversations, is
stationed almost at my very door, I passed on into my room, and had
soon sunk into a dreamless slumber. At about three o'clock in the
morning I was aroused by a somewhat hefty banging on the door."

"What!"

"A banging at the door," repeated Psmith. "There, standing on the
mat, were three policemen. From their remarks I gathered that
certain bright spirits had been running a gambling establishment in
the lower regions of the building--where, I think I told you, there
is a saloon--and the Law was now about to clean up the place. Very
cordially the honest fellows invited me to go with them. A
conveyance, it seemed, waited in the street without. I pointed out,
even as you appear to have done, that sea-green pyjamas with old
rose frogs were not the costume in which a Shropshire Psmith should
be seen abroad in one of the world's greatest cities; but they
assured me--more by their manner than their words--that my
misgivings were out of place, so I yielded. These men, I told
myself, have lived longer in New York than I. They know what is
done and what is not done. I will bow to their views. So I went
with them, and after a very pleasant and cosy little ride in the
patrol waggon, arrived at the police station. This morning I
chatted a while with the courteous magistrate, convinced him by
means of arguments and by silent evidence of my open, honest face
and unwavering eye that I was not a professional gambler, and came
away without a stain on my character."

Billy Windsor listened to this narrative with growing interest.

"Gum! it's them!" he cried.

"As Comrade Maloney would say," said Psmith, "meaning what,
Comrade Windsor?"

"Why, the fellows who are after that paper. They tipped the police
off about the pool-rooms, knowing that we should be hauled off
without having time to take anything with us. I'll bet anything you
like they have been in and searched our rooms by now."

"As regards yours, Comrade Windsor, I cannot say. But it is an
undoubted fact that mine, which I revisited before going to the
office, in order to correct what seemed to me even on reflection
certain drawbacks to my costume, looks as if two cyclones and a
threshing machine had passed through it."

"They've searched it?"

"With a fine-toothed comb. Not one of my objects of vertu but has
been displaced."

Billy Windsor slapped his knee.

"It was lucky you thought of sending that paper by post," he said.
"We should have been done if you hadn't. But, say," he went on
miserably, "this is awful. Things are just warming up for the final
burst, and I'm out of it all."

"For thirty days," sighed Psmith. "What _Cosy Moments_ really needs
is a _sitz-redacteur_."

"A what?"

"A _sitz-redacteur_, Comrade Windsor, is a gentleman employed by
German newspapers with a taste for _lèse majesté_ to go to prison
whenever required in place of the real editor. The real editor
hints in his bright and snappy editorial, for instance, that the
Kaiser's moustache reminds him of a bad dream. The police force
swoops down en masse on the office of the journal, and are met by
the _sitz-redacteur_, who goes with them peaceably, allowing the
editor to remain and sketch out plans for his next week's article
on the Crown Prince. We need a _sitz-redacteur_ on _Cosy Moments_
almost as much as a fighting editor; and we have neither."

"The Kid has had to leave then?"

"He wants to go into training at once. He very sportingly offered
to cancel his match, but of course that would never do. Unless you
consider Comrade Maloney equal to the job, I must look around me
for some one else. I shall be too fully occupied with purely
literary matters to be able to deal with chance callers. But I have
a scheme."

"What's that?"

"It seems to me that we are allowing much excellent material to lie
unused in the shape of Comrade Jarvis."

"Bat Jarvis."

"The same. The cat-specialist to whom you endeared yourself
somewhat earlier in the proceedings by befriending one of his
wandering animals. Little deeds of kindness, little acts of love,
as you have doubtless heard, help, etc. Should we not give Comrade
Jarvis an opportunity of proving the correctness of this statement?
I think so. Shortly after you--if you will forgive me for touching
on a painful subject--have been haled to your dungeon, I will push
round to Comrade Jarvis's address, and sound him on the subject.
Unfortunately, his affection is confined, I fancy, to you. Whether
he will consent to put himself out on my behalf remains to be seen.
However, there is no harm in trying. If nothing else comes of the
visit, I shall at least have had the opportunity of chatting with
one of our most prominent citizens."

A policeman appeared at the door.

"Say, pal," he remarked to Psmith, "you'll have to be fading away
soon, I guess. Give you three minutes more. Say it quick."

He retired. Billy leaned forward to Psmith.

"I guess they won't give me much chance," he whispered, "but if you
see me around in the next day or two, don't be surprised."

"I fail to follow you, Comrade Windsor."

"Men have escaped from Blackwell's Island before now. Not many,
it's true; but it has been done."

Psmith shook his head.

"I shouldn't," he said. "They're bound to catch you, and then you
will be immersed in the soup beyond hope of recovery. I shouldn't
wonder if they put you in your little cell for a year or so."

"I don't care," said Billy stoutly. "I'd give a year later on to be
round and about now."

"I shouldn't," urged Psmith. "All will be well with the paper. You
have left a good man at the helm."

"I guess I shan't get a chance, but I'll try it if I do."

The door opened and the policeman reappeared.

"Time's up, I reckon."

"Well, good-bye, Comrade Windsor," said Psmith regretfully.
"Abstain from undue worrying. It's a walk-over from now on, and
there's no earthly need for you to be around the office. Once, I
admit, this could not have been said. But now things have
simplified themselves. Have no fear. This act is going to be a
scream from start to finish."



CHAPTER XXIV

A GATHERING OF CAT-SPECIALISTS

Master Maloney raised his eyes for a moment from his book as Psmith
re-entered the office.

"Dere's a guy in dere waitin' ter see youse," he said briefly,
jerking his head in the direction of the inner room.

"A guy waiting to see me, Comrade Maloney? With or without a
sand-bag?"

"Says his name's Jackson," said Master Maloney, turning a page.

Psmith moved quickly to the door of the inner room.

"Why, Comrade Jackson," he said, with the air of a father welcoming
home the prodigal son, "this is the maddest, merriest day of all
the glad New Year. Where did you come from?"

Mike, looking very brown and in excellent condition, put down the
paper he was reading.

"Hullo, Psmith," he said. "I got back this morning. We're playing a
game over in Brooklyn to-morrow."

"No engagements of any importance to-day?"

"Not a thing. Why?"

"Because I propose to take you to visit Comrade Jarvis, whom you
will doubtless remember."

"Jarvis?" said Mike, puzzled. "I don't remember any Jarvis."

"Let your mind wander back a little through the jungle of the past.
Do you recollect paying a visit to Comrade Windsor's room--"

"By the way, where is Windsor?"

"In prison. Well, on that evening--"

"In prison?"

"For thirty days. For slugging a policeman. More of this, however,
anon. Let us return to that evening. Don't you remember a certain
gentleman with just about enough forehead to keep his front hair
from getting all tangled up with his eye-brows?"

"Oh, the cat chap? _I_ know."

"As you very justly observe, Comrade Jackson, the cat chap. For
going straight to the mark and seizing on the salient point of a
situation, I know of no one who can last two minutes against you.
Comrade Jarvis may have other sides to his character--possibly
many--but it is as a cat chap that I wish to approach him to-day."

"What's the idea? What are you going to see him for?"

"We," corrected Psmith. "I will explain all at a little luncheon at
which I trust that you will be my guest. Already, such is the
stress of this journalistic life, I hear my tissues crying out
imperatively to be restored. An oyster and a glass of milk
somewhere round the corner, Comrade Jackson? I think so, I think
so."

            *    *    *

"I was reading _Cosy Moments_ in there," said Mike, as they lunched.
"You certainly seem to have bucked it up rather. Kid Brady's
reminiscences are hot stuff."

"Somewhat sizzling, Comrade Jackson," admitted Psmith. "They have,
however, unfortunately cost us a fighting editor."

"How's that?"

"Such is the boost we have given Comrade Brady, that he is now
never without a match. He has had to leave us to-day to go to White
Plains to train for an encounter with a certain Mr. Wood, a
four-ounce-glove juggler of established fame."

"I expect you need a fighting editor, don't you?"

"He is indispensable, Comrade Jackson, indispensable."

"No rotting. Has anybody cut up rough about the stuff you've
printed?"

"Cut up rough? Gadzooks! I need merely say that one critical reader
put a bullet through my hat--"

"Rot! Not really?"

"While others kept me tree'd on top of a roof for the space of
nearly an hour. Assuredly they have cut up rough, Comrade Jackson."

"Great Scott! Tell us."

Psmith briefly recounted the adventures of the past few weeks.

"But, man," said Mike, when he had finished "why on earth don't you
call in the police?"

"We have mentioned the matter to certain of the force. They
appeared tolerably interested, but showed no tendency to leap
excitedly to our assistance. The New York policeman, Comrade
Jackson, like all great men, is somewhat peculiar. If you go to a
New York policeman and exhibit a black eye, he will examine it and
express some admiration for the abilities of the citizen
responsible for the same. If you press the matter, he becomes
bored, and says, 'Ain't youse satisfied with what youse got?
G'wan!' His advice in such cases is good, and should be followed.
No; since coming to this city I have developed a habit of taking
care of myself, or employing private help. That is why I should
like you, if you will, to come with me to call upon Comrade Jarvis.
He is a person of considerable influence among that section of the
populace which is endeavouring to smash in our occiputs. Indeed, I
know of nobody who cuts a greater quantity of ice. If I can only
enlist Comrade Jarvis's assistance, all will be well. If you are
through with your refreshment, shall we be moving in his direction?
By the way, it will probably be necessary in the course of our
interview to allude to you as one of our most eminent living
cat-fanciers. You do not object? Remember that you have in your
English home seventy-four fine cats, mostly Angoras. Are you on to
that? Then let us be going. Comrade Maloney has given me the
address. It is a goodish step down on the East side. I should like
to take a taxi, but it might seem ostentatious. Let us walk."

            *    *    *

They found Mr. Jarvis in his Groome Street fancier's shop, engaged
in the intellectual occupation of greasing a cat's paws with butter.
He looked up as they entered, and began to breathe a melody with a
certain coyness.

"Comrade Jarvis," said Psmith, "we meet again. You remember me?"

"Nope," said Mr. Jarvis, pausing for a moment in the middle of a
bar, and then taking up the air where he had left off. Psmith was
not discouraged.

"Ah," he said tolerantly, "the fierce rush of New York life. How it
wipes from the retina of to-day the image impressed on it but
yesterday. Are you with me, Comrade Jarvis?"

The cat-expert concentrated himself on the cat's paws without
replying.

"A fine animal," said Psmith, adjusting his eyeglass. "To which
particular family of the Felis Domestica does that belong? In
colour it resembles a Neapolitan ice more than anything."

Mr. Jarvis's manner became unfriendly.

"Say, what do youse want? That's straight ain't it? If youse want
to buy a boid or a snake why don't youse say so?"

"I stand corrected," said Psmith. "I should have remembered that
time is money. I called in here partly on the strength of being a
colleague and side-partner of Comrade Windsor--"

"Mr. Windsor! De gent what caught my cat?"

"The same--and partly in order that I might make two very eminent
cat-fanciers acquainted. This," he said, with a wave of his hand
in the direction of the silently protesting Mike, "is Comrade
Jackson, possibly the best known of our English cat-fanciers.
Comrade Jackson's stud of Angoras is celebrated wherever the King's
English is spoken, and in Hoxton."

Mr. Jarvis rose, and, having inspected Mike with silent admiration
for a while, extended a well-buttered hand towards him. Psmith
looked on benevolently.

"What Comrade Jackson does not know about cats," he said, "is not
knowledge. His information on Angoras alone would fill a volume."

"Say,"--Mr. Jarvis was evidently touching on a point which had
weighed deeply upon him--"why's catnip called catnip?"

Mike looked at Psmith helplessly. It sounded like a riddle, but it
was obvious that Mr. Jarvis's motive in putting the question was
not frivolous. He really wished to know.

"The word, as Comrade Jackson was just about to observe," said
Psmith, "is a corruption of cat-mint. Why it should be so corrupted
I do not know. But what of that? The subject is too deep to be gone
fully into at the moment. I should recommend you to read Comrade
Jackson's little brochure on the matter. Passing lightly on from
that--"

"Did youse ever have a cat dat ate beetles?" inquired Mr. Jarvis.

"There was a time when many of Comrade Jackson's felidae supported
life almost entirely on beetles."

"Did they git thin?"

Mike felt that it was time, if he was to preserve his reputation,
to assert himself.

"No," he replied firmly.

Mr. Jarvis looked astonished.

"English beetles," said Psmith, "don't make cats thin. Passing
lightly--"

"I had a cat oncest," said Mr. Jarvis, ignoring the remark and
sticking to his point, "dat ate beetles and got thin and used to
tie itself into knots."

"A versatile animal," agreed Psmith.

"Say," Mr. Jarvis went on, now plainly on a subject near to his
heart, "dem beetles is fierce. Sure. Can't keep de cats off of
eatin' dem, I can't. First t'ing you know dey've swallowed dem, and
den dey gits thin and ties theirselves into knots."

"You should put them into strait-waistcoats," said Psmith.
"Passing, however, lightly--"

"Say, ever have a cross-eyed cat?"

"Comrade Jackson's cats," said Psmith, "have happily been almost
free from strabismus."

"Dey's lucky, cross-eyed cats is. You has a cross-eyed cat, and
not'in' don't never go wrong. But, say, was dere ever a cat wit
one blue eye and one yaller one in your bunch? Gum, it's fierce
when it's like dat. It's a real skiddoo, is a cat wit one blue eye
and one yaller one. Puts you in bad, surest t'ing you know. Oncest
a guy give me a cat like dat, and first t'ing you know I'm in bad
all round. It wasn't till I give him away to de cop on de corner
and gets me one dat's cross-eyed dat I lifts de skiddoo off of me."

"And what happened to the cop?" inquired Psmith, interested.

"Oh, he got in bad, sure enough," said Mr. Jarvis without emotion.
"One of de boys what he'd pinched and had sent to de Island once
lays for him and puts one over him wit a black-jack. Sure. Dat's
what comes of havin' a cat wit one blue eye and one yaller one."

Mr. Jarvis relapsed into silence. He seemed to be meditating on the
inscrutable workings of Fate. Psmith took advantage of the pause
to leave the cat topic and touch on matter of more vital import.

"Tense and exhilarating as is this discussion of the optical
peculiarities of cats," he said, "there is another matter on which,
if you will permit me, I should like to touch. I would hesitate to
bore you with my own private troubles, but this is a matter which
concerns Comrade Windsor as well as myself, and I know that your
regard for Comrade Windsor is almost an obsession."

"How's that?"

"I should say," said Psmith, "that Comrade Windsor is a man to whom
you give the glad hand."

"Sure. He's to the good, Mr. Windsor is. He caught me cat."

"He did. By the way, was that the one that used to tie itself into
knots?"

"Nope. Dat was anudder."

"Ah! However, to resume. The fact is, Comrade Jarvis, we are much
persecuted by scoundrels. How sad it is in this world! We look to
every side. We look north, east, south, and west, and what do we
see? Mainly scoundrels. I fancy you have heard a little about our
troubles before this. In fact, I gather that the same scoundrels
actually approached you with a view to engaging your services to
do us in, but that you very handsomely refused the contract."

"Sure," said Mr. Jarvis, dimly comprehending.

"A guy comes to me and says he wants you and Mr. Windsor put
through it, but I gives him de t'run down. 'Nuttin' done,' I says.
'Mr. Windsor caught me cat.'"

"So I was informed," said Psmith. "Well, failing you, they went to
a gentleman of the name of Reilly."

"Spider Reilly?"

"You have hit it, Comrade Jarvis. Spider Reilly, the lessee and
manager of the Three Points gang."

"Dose T'ree Points, dey're to de bad. Dey're fresh."

"It is too true, Comrade Jarvis."

"Say," went on Mr. Jarvis, waxing wrathful at the recollection,
"what do youse t'ink dem fresh stiffs done de udder night. Started
some rough woik in me own dance-joint."

"Shamrock Hall?" said Psmith.

"Dat's right. Shamrock Hall. Got gay, dey did, wit some of de Table
Hillers. Say, I got it in for dem gazebos, sure I have. Surest
t'ing you know."

Psmith beamed approval.

"That," he said, "is the right spirit. Nothing could be more
admirable. We are bound together by our common desire to check the
ever-growing spirit of freshness among the members of the Three
Points. Add to that the fact that we are united by a sympathetic
knowledge of the manners and customs of cats, and especially that
Comrade Jackson, England's greatest fancier, is our mutual friend,
and what more do we want? Nothing."

"Mr. Jackson's to de good," assented Mr. Jarvis, eyeing Mike in
friendly fashion.

"We are all to de good," said Psmith. "Now the thing I wished to
ask you is this. The office of the paper on which I work was until
this morning securely guarded by Comrade Brady, whose name will be
familiar to you."

"De Kid?"

"On the bull's-eye, as usual, Comrade Jarvis. Kid Brady, the
coming light-weight champion of the world. Well, he has
unfortunately been compelled to leave us, and the way into the
office is consequently clear to any sand-bag specialist who cares
to wander in. Matters connected with the paper have become so
poignant during the last few days that an inrush of these same
specialists is almost a certainty, unless--and this is where you
come in."

"Me?"

"Will you take Comrade Brady's place for a few days?"

"How's that?"

"Will you come in and sit in the office for the next day or so and
help hold the fort? I may mention that there is money attached to
the job. We will pay for your services. How do we go, Comrade
Jarvis?"

Mr. Jarvis reflected but a brief moment.

"Why, sure," he said. "Me fer dat. When do I start?"

"Excellent, Comrade Jarvis. Nothing could be better. I am obliged.
I rather fancy that the gay band of Three Pointers who will
undoubtedly visit the offices of _Cosy Moments_ in the next few days,
probably to-morrow, are due to run up against the surprise of their
lives. Could you be there at ten to-morrow morning?"

"Sure t'ing. I'll bring me canister."

"I should," said Psmith. "In certain circumstances one canister is
worth a flood of rhetoric. Till to-morrow, then, Comrade Jarvis. I
am very much obliged to you."

            *    *    *

"Not at all a bad hour's work," said Psmith complacently, as they
turned out of Groome Street. "A vote of thanks to you, Comrade
Jackson, for your invaluable assistance."

"It strikes me I didn't do much," said Mike with a grin.

"Apparently, no. In reality, yes. Your manner was exactly right.
Reserved, yet not haughty. Just what an eminent cat-fancier's
manner should be. I could see that you made a pronounced hit with
Comrade Jarvis. By the way, if you are going to show up at the
office to-morrow, perhaps it would be as well if you were to look
up a few facts bearing on the feline world. There is no knowing
what thirst for information a night's rest may not give Comrade
Jarvis. I do not presume to dictate, but if you were to make
yourself a thorough master of the subject of catnip, for instance,
it might quite possibly come in useful."



CHAPTER XXV

TRAPPED

Mr. Jarvis was as good as his word. On the following morning, at
ten o'clock to the minute, he made his appearance at the office of
_Cosy Moments_, his fore-lock more than usually well oiled in honour
of the occasion, and his right coat-pocket bulging in a manner that
betrayed to the initiated eye the presence of the faithful
"canister." With him, in addition to his revolver, he brought a
long, thin young man who wore under his brown tweed coat a
blue-and-red striped jersey. Whether he brought him as an ally in
case of need or merely as a kindred soul with whom he might commune
during his vigil, was not ascertained.

Pugsy, startled out of his wonted calm by the arrival of this
distinguished company, observed the pair, as they passed through
into the inner office, with protruding eyes, and sat speechless for
a full five minutes. Psmith received the new-corners in the
editorial sanctum with courteous warmth. Mr. Jarvis introduced his
colleague.

"Thought I'd bring him along. Long Otto's his monaker."

"You did very rightly, Comrade Jarvis," Psmith assured him. "Your
unerring instinct did not play you false when it told you that
Comrade Otto would be as welcome as the flowers in May. With
Comrade Otto I fancy we shall make a combination which will require
a certain amount of tackling."

Mr. Jarvis confirmed this view. Long Otto, he affirmed, was no
rube, but a scrapper from Biffville-on-the-Slosh. The hardiest
hooligan would shrink from introducing rough-house proceedings into
a room graced by the combined presence of Long Otto and himself.

"Then," said Psmith, "I can go about my professional duties with a
light heart. I may possibly sing a bar or two. You will find cigars
in that box. If you and Comrade Otto will select one apiece and
group yourselves tastefully about the room in chairs, I will start
in to hit up a slightly spicy editorial on the coming election."

Mr. Jarvis regarded the paraphernalia of literature on the table
with interest. So did Long Otto, who, however, being a man of
silent habit, made no comment. Throughout the seance and the events
which followed it he confined himself to an occasional grunt. He
seemed to lack other modes of expression. A charming chap, however.

"Is dis where youse writes up pieces fer de paper?" inquired Mr.
Jarvis, eyeing the table.

"It is," said Psmith. "In Comrade Windsor's pre-dungeon days he was
wont to sit where I am sitting now, while I bivouacked over there
at the smaller table. On busy mornings you could hear our brains
buzzing in Madison Square Garden. But wait! A thought strikes me."
He called for Pugsy.

"Comrade Maloney," he said, "if the Editorial Staff of this paper
were to give you a day off, could you employ it to profit?"

"Surest t'ing you know," replied Pugsy with some fervour. "I'd take
me goil to de Bronx Zoo."

"Your girl?" said Psmith inquiringly. "I had heard no inkling of
this, Comrade Maloney. I had always imagined you one of those
strong, rugged, blood-and-iron men who were above the softer
emotions. Who is she?"

"Aw, she's a kid," said Pugsy. "Her pa runs a delicatessen shop
down our street. She ain't a bad mutt," added the ardent swain.
"I'm her steady."

"See that I have a card for the wedding, Comrade Maloney," said
Psmith, "and in the meantime take her to the Bronx, as you
suggest."

"Won't youse be wantin' me to-day."

"Not to-day. You need a holiday. Unflagging toil is sapping your
physique. Go up and watch the animals, and remember me very kindly
to the Peruvian Llama, whom friends have sometimes told me I
resemble in appearance. And if two dollars would in any way add to
the gaiety of the jaunt . . ."

"Sure t'ing. T'anks, boss."

"It occurred to me," said Psmith, when he had gone, "that the
probable first move of any enterprising Three Pointer who invaded
this office would be to knock Comrade Maloney on the head to
prevent his announcing him. Comrade Maloney's services are too
valuable to allow him to be exposed to unnecessary perils. Any
visitors who call must find their way in for themselves. And now to
work. Work, the what's-its-name of the thingummy and the
thing-um-a-bob of the what d'you-call-it."

For about a quarter of an hour the only sound that broke the
silence of the room was the scratching of Psmith's pen and the
musical expectoration of Messrs. Otto and Jarvis. Finally Psmith
leaned back in his chair with a satisfied expression, and spoke.

"While, as of course you know, Comrade Jarvis," he said, "there is
no agony like the agony of literary composition, such toil has its
compensations. The editorial I have just completed contains its
measure of balm. Comrade Otto will bear me out in my statement that
there is a subtle joy in the manufacture of the well-formed phrase.
Am I not right, Comrade Otto?"

The long one gazed appealingly at Mr. Jarvis, who spoke for him.

"He's a bit shy on handin' out woids, is Otto," he said.

Psmith nodded.

"I understand. I am a man of few words myself. All great men are
like that. Von Moltke, Comrade Otto, and myself. But what are
words? Action is the thing. That is the cry. Action. If that is
Comrade Otto's forte, so much the better, for I fancy that action
rather than words is what we may be needing in the space of about a
quarter of a minute. At least, if the footsteps I hear without are,
as I suspect, those of our friends of the Three Points."

Jarvis and Long Otto turned towards the door. Psmith was right.
Some one was moving stealthily in the outer office. Judging from
the sound, more than one person.

"It is just as well," said Psmith softly, "that Comrade Maloney is
not at his customary post. Now, in about a quarter of a minute, as
I said--Aha!"

The handle of the door began to revolve slowly and quietly. The
next moment three figures tumbled into the room. It was evident
that they had not expected to find the door unlocked, and the
absence of resistance when they applied their weight had had
surprising effects. Two of the three did not pause in their career
till they cannoned against the table. The third, who was holding
the handle, was more fortunate.

Psmith rose with a kindly smile to welcome his guests.

"Why, surely!" he said in a pleased voice. "I thought I knew the
face. Comrade Repetto, this is a treat. Have you come bringing me a
new hat?"

The white-haired leader's face, as he spoke, was within a few
inches of his own. Psmith's observant eye noted that the bruise
still lingered on the chin where Kid Brady's upper-cut had landed
at their previous meeting.

"I cannot offer you all seats," he went on, "unless you care to
dispose yourselves upon the tables. I wonder if you know my
friend, Mr. Bat Jarvis? And my friend, Mr. L. Otto? Let us all get
acquainted on this merry occasion."

The three invaders had been aware of the presence of the great Bat
and his colleague for some moments, and the meeting seemed to be
causing them embarrassment. This may have been due to the fact that
both Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Otto had produced and were toying
meditatively with distinctly ugly-looking pistols.

Mr. Jarvis spoke.

"Well," he said, "what's doin'?"

Mr. Repetto, to whom the remark was directly addressed, appeared to
have some difficulty in finding a reply. He shuffled his feet, and
looked at the floor. His two companions seemed equally at a loss.

"Goin' to start any rough stuff?" inquired Mr. Jarvis casually.

"The cigars are on the table," said Psmith hospitably. "Draw up
your chairs, and let's all be jolly. I will open the proceedings
with a song."

In a rich baritone, with his eyeglass fixed the while on Mr.
Repetto, he proceeded to relieve himself of the first verse of
"I only know I love thee."

"Chorus, please," he added, as he finished. "Come along, Comrade
Repetto. Why this shrinking coyness? Fling out your chest, and cut
loose."

But Mr. Repetto's eye was fastened on Mr. Jarvis's revolver. The
sight apparently had the effect of quenching his desire for song.

"'Lov' muh, ahnd ther world is--ah--mine!'" concluded Psmith.

He looked round the assembled company.

"Comrade Otto," he observed, "will now recite that pathetic little
poem 'Baby's Sock is now a Blue-bag.' Pray, gentlemen, silence for
Comrade Otto."

He looked inquiringly at the long youth, who remained mute. Psmith
clicked his tongue regretfully.

"Comrade Jarvis," he said, "I fear that as a smoking-concert this
is not going to be a success. I understand, however. Comrade
Repetto and his colleagues have come here on business, and nothing
will make them forget it. Typical New York men of affairs, they
close their minds to all influences that might lure them from their
business. Let us get on, then. What did you wish to see me about,
Comrade Repetto?"

Mr. Repetto's reply was unintelligible.

Mr. Jarvis made a suggestion.

"Youse had better beat it," he said.

Long Otto grunted sympathy with this advice.

"And youse had better go back to Spider Reilly," continued Mr.
Jarvis, "and tell him that there's nothin' doin' in the way of
rough house wit dis gent here." He indicated Psmith, who bowed.
"And you can tell de Spider," went on Bat with growing ferocity,
"dat next time he gits gay and starts in to shoot guys in me
dance-joint I'll bite de head off'n him. See? Does dat go? If he
t'inks his little two-by-four gang can put it across de Groome
Street, he can try. Dat's right. An' don't fergit dis gent here and
me is pals, and any one dat starts anyt'ing wit dis gent is going
to have to git busy wit me. Does dat go?"

Psmith coughed, and shot his cuffs.

"I do not know," he said, in the manner of a chairman addressing a
meeting, "that I have anything to add to the very well-expressed
remarks of my friend, Comrade Jarvis. He has, in my opinion,
covered the ground very thoroughly and satisfactorily. It now only
remains for me to pass a vote of thanks to Comrade Jarvis and to
declare this meeting at an end."

"Beat it," said Mr. Jarvis, pointing to the door.

The delegation then withdrew.

"I am very much obliged," said Psmith, "for your courtly
assistance, Comrade Jarvis. But for you I do not care to think with
what a splash I might not have been immersed in the gumbo. Thank
you, Comrade Jarvis. And you, Comrade Otto."

"Aw chee!" said Mr. Jarvis, handsomely dismissing the matter. Mr.
Otto kicked the leg of the table, and grunted.

            *    *    *

For half an hour after the departure of the Three Pointers Psmith
chatted amiably to his two assistants on matters of general
interest. The exchange of ideas was somewhat one-sided, though Mr.
Jarvis had one or two striking items of information to impart,
notably some hints on the treatment of fits in kittens.

At the end of this period the conversation was once more
interrupted by the sound of movements in the outer office.

"If dat's dose stiffs come back--" began Mr. Jarvis, reaching for
his revolver.

"Stay your hand, Comrade Jarvis," said as a sharp knock sounded on
the door. "I do not think it can be our late friends. Comrade
Repetto's knowledge of the usages of polite society is too limited,
I fancy, to prompt him to knock on doors. Come in."

The door opened. It was not Mr. Repetto or his colleagues, but
another old friend. No other, in fact, than Mr. Francis Parker, he
who had come as an embassy from the man up top in the very
beginning of affairs, and had departed, wrathful, mouthing
declarations of war. As on his previous visit, he wore the dude
suit, the shiny shoes, and the tall-shaped hat.

"Welcome, Comrade Parker," said Psmith. "It is too long since we
met. Comrade Jarvis I think you know. If I am right, that is to
say, in supposing that it was you who approached him at an earlier
stage in the proceedings with a view to engaging his sympathetic
aid in the great work of putting Comrade Windsor and myself out of
business. The gentleman on your left is Comrade Otto."

Mr. Parker was looking at Bat in bewilderment. It was plain that
he had not expected to find Psmith entertaining such company.

"Did you come purely for friendly chit-chat, Comrade Parker,"
inquired Psmith, "or was there, woven into the social motives of
your call, a desire to talk business of any kind?"

"My business is private. I didn't expect a crowd."

"Especially of ancient friends such as Comrade Jarvis. Well, well,
you are breaking up a most interesting little symposium. Comrade
Jarvis, I think I shall be forced to postpone our very entertaining
discussion of fits in kittens till a more opportune moment.
Meanwhile, as Comrade Parker wishes to talk over some private
business--"

Bat Jarvis rose.

"I'll beat it," he said.

"Reluctantly, I hope, Comrade Jarvis. As reluctantly as I hint that
I would be alone. If I might drop in some time at your private
residence?"

"Sure," said Mr. Jarvis warmly.

"Excellent. Well, for the present, good-bye. And many thanks for
your invaluable co-operation."

"Aw chee!" said Mr. Jarvis.

"And now, Comrade Parker," said Psmith, when the door had closed,
"let her rip. What can I do for you?"

"You seem to be all to the merry with Bat Jarvis," observed Mr.
Parker.

"The phrase exactly expresses it, Comrade Parker. I am as a
tortoiseshell kitten to him. But, touching your business?"

Mr. Parker was silent for a moment.

"See here," he said at last, "aren't you going to be good? Say,
what's the use of keeping on at this fool game? Why not quit it
before you get hurt?"

Psmith smoothed his waistcoat reflectively.

"I may be wrong, Comrade Parker," he said, "but it seems to me that
the chances of my getting hurt are not so great as you appear to
imagine. The person who is in danger of getting hurt seems to me
to be the gentleman whose name is on that paper which is now in my
possession."

"Where is it?" demanded Mr. Parker quickly.

Psmith eyed him benevolently.

"If you will pardon the expression, Comrade Parker," he said,
"'Aha!' Meaning that I propose to keep that information to myself."

Mr. Parker shrugged his shoulders.

"You know your own business, I guess."

Psmith nodded.

"You are absolutely correct, Comrade Parker. I do. Now that _Cosy
Moments_ has our excellent friend Comrade Jarvis on its side, are
you not to a certain extent among the Blenheim Oranges? I think
so. I think so."

As he spoke there was a rap at the door. A small boy entered. In
his hand was a scrap of paper.

"Guy asks me give dis to gazebo named Smiff," he said.

"There are many gazebos of that name, my lad. One of whom I am
which, as Artemus Ward was wont to observe. Possibly the missive is
for me."

He took the paper. It was dated from an address on the East Side.

"Dear Smith," it ran. "Come here as quick as you can, and bring
some money. Explain when I see you."

It was signed "W. W."

So Billy Windsor had fulfilled his promise. He had escaped.

A feeling of regret for the futility of the thing was Psmith's
first emotion. Billy could be of no possible help in the campaign
at its present point. All the work that remained to be done could
easily be carried through without his assistance. And by breaking
out from the Island he had committed an offence which was bound to
carry with it serious penalties. For the first time since his
connection with _Cosy Moments_ began Psmith was really disturbed.

He turned to Mr. Parker.

"Comrade Parker," he said, "I regret to state that this office is
now closing for the day. But for this, I should be delighted to sit
chatting with you. As it is--"

"Very well," said Mr. Parker. "Then you mean to go on with this
business?"

"Though it snows, Comrade Parker."

They went out into the street, Psmith thoughtful and hardly
realising the other's presence. By the side of the pavement a few
yards down the road a taximeter-cab was standing. Psmith hailed it.

Mr. Parker was still beside him. It occurred to Psmith that it
would not do to let him hear the address Billy Windsor had given in
his note.

"Turn and go on down the street," he said to the driver.

He had taken his seat and was closing the door, when it was
snatched from his grasp and Mr. Parker darted on to the seat
opposite. The next moment the cab had started up the street
instead of down and the hard muzzle of a revolver was pressing
against Psmith's waistcoat.

"Now what?" said Mr. Parker smoothly, leaning back with the pistol
resting easily on his knee.



CHAPTER XXVI

A FRIEND IN NEED

"The point is well taken," said Psmith thoughtfully.

"You think so?" said Mr. Parker.

"I am convinced of it."

"Good. But don't move. Put that hand back where it was."

"You think of everything, Comrade Parker."

He dropped his hand on to the seat, and remained silent for a few
moments. The taxi-cab was buzzing along up Fifth Avenue now.
Looking towards the window, Psmith saw that they were nearing the
park. The great white mass of the Plaza Hotel showed up on the
left.

"Did you ever stop at the Plaza, Comrade Parker?"

"No," said Mr. Parker shortly.

"Don't bite at me, Comrade Parker. Why be brusque on so joyous an
occasion? Better men than us have stopped at the Plaza. Ah, the
Park! How fresh the leaves, Comrade Parker, how green the herbage!
Fling your eye at yonder grassy knoll."

He raised his hand to point. Instantly the revolver was against his
waistcoat, making an unwelcome crease in that immaculate garment.

"I told you to keep that hand where it was."

"You did, Comrade Parker, you did. The fault," said Psmith
handsomely, "was entirely mine. Carried away by my love of nature,
I forgot. It shall not occur again."

"It had better not," said Mr. Parker unpleasantly. "If it does, I'll
blow a hole through you."

Psmith raised his eyebrows.

"That, Comrade Parker," he said, "is where you make your error. You
would no more shoot me in the heart of the metropolis than, I trust,
you would wear a made-up tie with evening dress. Your skin,
however unhealthy to the eye of the casual observer, is doubtless
precious to yourself, and you are not the man I take you for if you
would risk it purely for the momentary pleasure of plugging me with
a revolver. The cry goes round criminal circles in New York,
'Comrade Parker is not such a fool as he looks.' Think for a moment
what would happen. The shot would ring out, and instantly
bicycle-policemen would be pursuing this taxi-cab with the
purposeful speed of greyhounds trying to win the Waterloo Cup. You
would be headed off and stopped. Ha! What is this? Psmith, the
People's Pet, weltering in his gore? Death to the assassin! I fear
nothing could save you from the fury of the mob, Comrade Parker. I
seem to see them meditatively plucking you limb from limb. 'She
loves me!' Off comes an arm. 'She loves me not.' A leg joins the
little heap of limbs on the ground. That is how it would be. And
what would you have left out of it? Merely, as I say, the momentary
pleasure of potting me. And it isn't as if such a feat could give
you the thrill of successful marksmanship. Anybody could hit a man
with a pistol at an inch and a quarter. I fear you have not thought
this matter out with sufficient care, Comrade Parker. You said to
yourself, 'Happy thought, I will kidnap Psmith!' and all your
friends said, 'Parker is the man with the big brain!' But now,
while it is true that I can't get out, you are moaning, 'What on
earth shall I do with him, now that I have got him?'"

"You think so, do you?"

"I am convinced of it. Your face is contorted with the anguish of
mental stress. Let this be a lesson to you, Comrade Parker, never
to embark on any enterprise of which you do not see the end."

"I guess I see the end of this all right."

"You have the advantage of me then, Comrade Parker. It seems to me
that we have nothing before us but to go on riding about New York
till you feel that my society begins to pall."

"You figure you're clever, I guess."

"There are few brighter brains in this city, Comrade Parker. But
why this sudden tribute?"

"You reckon you've thought it all out, eh?"

"There may be a flaw in my reasoning, but I confess I do not at the
moment see where it lies. Have you detected one?"

"I guess so."

"Ah! And what is it?"

"You seem to think New York's the only place on the map."

"Meaning what, Comrade Parker?"

"It might be a fool trick to shoot you in the city as you say, but,
you see, we aren't due to stay in the city. This cab is moving on."

"Like John Brown's soul," said Psmith, nodding. "I see. Then you
propose to make quite a little tour in this cab?"

"You've got it."

"And when we are out in the open country, where there are no
witnesses, things may begin to move."

"That's it."

"Then," said Psmith heartily, "till that moment arrives what we
must do is to entertain each other with conversation. You can take
no step of any sort for a full half-hour, possibly more, so let us
give ourselves up to the merriment of the passing instant. Are you
good at riddles, Comrade Parker? How much wood would a wood-chuck
chuck, assuming for purposes of argument that it was in the power
of a wood-chuck to chuck wood?"

Mr. Parker did not attempt to solve this problem. He was sitting
in the same attitude of watchfulness, the revolver resting on his
knee. He seemed mistrustful of Psmith's right hand, which was
hanging limply at his side. It was from this quarter that he seemed
to expect attack. The cab was bowling easily up the broad street,
past rows on rows of high houses, all looking exactly the same.
Occasionally, to the right, through a break in the line of
buildings, a glimpse of the river could be seen.

Psmith resumed the conversation.

"You are not interested in wood-chucks, Comrade Parker? Well, well,
many people are not. A passion for the flora and fauna of our
forests is innate rather than acquired. Let us talk of something
else. Tell me about your home-life, Comrade Parker. Are you
married? Are there any little Parkers running about the house? When
you return from this very pleasant excursion will baby voices crow
gleefully, 'Fahzer's come home'?"

Mr. Parker said nothing.

"I see," said Psmith with ready sympathy. "I understand. Say no
more. You are unmarried. She wouldn't have you. Alas, Comrade
Parker! However, thus it is! We look around us, and what do we
see? A solid phalanx of the girls we have loved and lost. Tell me
about her, Comrade Parker. Was it your face or your manners at
which she drew the line?"

Mr. Parker leaned forward with a scowl. Psmith did not move, but
his right hand, as it hung, closed. Another moment and Mr. Parker's
chin would be in just the right position for a swift upper-cut. . .

This fact appeared suddenly to dawn on Mr. Parker himself. He drew
back quickly, and half raised the revolver. Psmith's hand resumed
its normal attitude.

"Leaving more painful topics," said Psmith, "let us turn to another
point. That note which the grubby stripling brought to me at the
office purported to come from Comrade Windsor, and stated that he
had escaped from Blackwell's Island, and was awaiting my arrival at
some address in the Bowery. Would you mind telling me, purely to
satisfy my curiosity, if that note was genuine? I have never made
a close study of Comrade Windsor's handwriting, and in an unguarded
moment I may have assumed too much."

Mr. Parker permitted himself a smile.

"I guess you aren't so clever after all," he said. "The note was a
fake all right."

"And you had this cab waiting for me on the chance?"

Mr. Parker nodded.

"Sherlock Holmes was right," said Psmith regretfully. "You may
remember that he advised Doctor Watson never to take the first cab,
or the second. He should have gone further, and urged him not to
take cabs at all. Walking is far healthier."

"You'll find it so," said Mr. Parker.

Psmith eyed him curiously.

"What _are_ you going to do with me, Comrade Parker?" he asked.

Mr. Parker did not reply. Psmith's eye turned again to the window.
They had covered much ground since last he had looked at the view.
They were off Manhattan Island now, and the houses were beginning
to thin out. Soon, travelling at their present rate, they must come
into the open country. Psmith relapsed into silence. It was
necessary for him to think. He had been talking in the hope of
getting the other off his guard; but Mr. Parker was evidently too
keenly on the look-out. The hand that held the revolver never
wavered. The muzzle, pointing in an upward direction, was aimed at
Psmith's waist. There was no doubt that a move on his part would be
fatal. If the pistol went off, it must hit him. If it had been
pointed at his head in the orthodox way he might have risked a
sudden blow to knock it aside, but in the present circumstances
that would be useless. There was nothing to do but wait.

The cab moved swiftly on. Now they had reached the open country. An
occasional wooden shack was passed, but that was all. At any moment
the climax of the drama might be reached. Psmith's muscles
stiffened for a spring. There was little chance of its being
effective, but at least it would be better to put up some kind of a
fight. And he had a faint hope that the suddenness of his movement
might upset the other's aim. He was bound to be hit somewhere.
That was certain. But quickness might save him to some extent.

He braced his leg against the back of the cab. In another moment
he would have sprung; but just then the smooth speed of the cab
changed to a series of jarring bumps, each more emphatic than the
last. It slowed down, then came to a halt. One of the tyres had
burst.

There was a thud, as the chauffeur jumped down. They heard him
fumbling in the tool-box. Presently the body of the machine was
raised slightly as he got to work with the jack.

It was about a minute later that somebody in the road outside
spoke.

"Had a breakdown?" inquired the voice. Psmith recognised it. It
was the voice of Kid Brady.



CHAPTER XXVII

PSMITH CONCLUDES HIS RIDE

The Kid, as he had stated to Psmith at their last interview that he
intended to do, had begun his training for his match with Eddie
Wood, at White Plains, a village distant but a few miles from New
York. It was his practice to open a course of training with a
little gentle road-work; and it was while jogging along the highway
a couple of miles from his training-camp, in company with the two
thick-necked gentlemen who acted as his sparring-partners, that he
had come upon the broken-down taxi-cab.

If this had happened after his training had begun in real earnest,
he would have averted his eyes from the spectacle, however
alluring, and continued on his way without a pause. But now, as he
had not yet settled down to genuine hard work, he felt justified in
turning aside and looking into the matter. The fact that the
chauffeur, who seemed to be a taciturn man, lacking the
conversational graces, manifestly objected to an audience, deterred
him not at all. One cannot have everything in this world, and the
Kid and his attendant thick-necks were content to watch the process
of mending the tyre, without demanding the additional joy of
sparkling small-talk from the man in charge of the operations.

"Guy's had a breakdown, sure," said the first of the thick-necks.

"Surest thing you know," agreed his colleague.

"Seems to me the tyre's punctured," said the Kid.

All three concentrated their gaze on the machine

"Kid's right," said thick-neck number one. "Guy's been an' bust a
tyre."

"Surest thing you know," said thick-neck number two.

They observed the perspiring chauffeur in silence for a while.

"Wonder how he did that, now?" speculated the Kid.

"Guy ran over a nail, I guess," said thick-neck number one.

"Surest thing you know," said the other, who, while perhaps
somewhat lacking in the matter of original thought, was a most
useful fellow to have by one. A sort of Boswell.

"Did you run over a nail?" the Kid inquired of the chauffeur.

The chauffeur ignored the question.

"This is his busy day," said the first thick-neck with satire.
"Guy's too full of work to talk to us."

"Deaf, shouldn't wonder," surmised the Kid.

"Say, wonder what he's doin' with a taxi so far out of the city."

"Some guy tells him to drive him out here, I guess. Say, it'll cost
him something, too. He'll have to strip off a few from his roll to
pay for this."

Psmith, in the interior of the cab, glanced at Mr. Parker.

"You heard, Comrade Parker? He is right, I fancy. The bill--"

Mr. Parker dug viciously at him with the revolver.

"Keep quiet," he whispered, "or you'll get hurt."

Psmith suspended his remarks.

Outside, the conversation had begun again.

"Pretty rich guy inside," said the Kid, following up his
companion's train of thought. "I'm goin' to rubber in at the
window."

Psmith, meeting Mr. Parker's eye, smiled pleasantly. There was no
answering smile on the other's face.

There came the sound of the Kid's feet grating on the road as he
turned; and as he heard it Mr. Parker, that eminent tactician, for
the first time lost his head. With a vague idea of screening Psmith
from the eyes of the man in the road he half rose. For an instant
the muzzle of the pistol ceased to point at Psmith's waistcoat. It
was the very chance Psmith had been waiting for. His left hand shot
out, grasped the other's wrist, and gave it a sharp wrench. The
revolver went off with a deafening report, the bullet passing
through the back of the cab; then fell to the floor, as the fingers
lost their hold. The next moment Psmith's right fist, darting
upwards, took Mr. Parker neatly under the angle of the jaw.

The effect was instantaneous. Psmith had risen from his seat as he
delivered the blow, and it consequently got the full benefit of his
weight, which was not small. Mr. Parker literally crumpled up. His
head jerked back, then fell limply on his chest. He would have
slipped to the floor had not Psmith pushed him on to the seat.

The interested face of the Kid appeared at the window. Behind him
could be seen portions of the faces of the two thick-necks.

"Ah, Comrade Brady!" said Psmith genially. "I heard your voice,
and was hoping you might look in for a chat."

"What's doin', Mr. Smith?" queried the excited Kid.

"Much, Comrade Brady, much. I will tell you all anon. Meanwhile,
however, kindly knock that chauffeur down and sit on his head. He's
a bad person."

"De guy's beat it," volunteered the first thick-neck.

"Surest thing you know," said the other.

"What's been doin', Mr. Smith?" asked the Kid.

"I'll tell you about it as we go, Comrade Brady," said Psmith,
stepping into the road. "Riding in a taxi is pleasant provided it
is not overdone. For the moment I have had sufficient. A bit of
walking will do me good."

"What are you going to do with this guy, Mr. Smith?" asked the
Kid, pointing to Parker, who had begun to stir slightly.

Psmith inspected the stricken one gravely.

"I have no use for him, Comrade Brady," he said. "Our ride together
gave me as much of his society as I desire for to-day. Unless you
or either of your friends are collecting Parkers, I propose that we
leave him where he is. We may as well take the gun, however. In my
opinion, Comrade Parker is not the proper man to have such a
weapon. He is too prone to go firing it off in any direction at a
moment's notice, causing inconvenience to all." He groped on the
floor of the cab for the revolver. "Now, Comrade Brady," he said,
straightening himself up, "I am at your disposal. Shall we be
pushing on?"

            *    *    *

It was late in the evening when Psmith returned to the metropolis,
after a pleasant afternoon at the Brady training-camp. The Kid,
having heard the details of the ride, offered once more to abandon
his match with Eddie Wood, but Psmith would not hear of it. He was
fairly satisfied that the opposition had fired their last shot, and
that their next move would be to endeavour to come to terms. They
could not hope to catch him off his guard a second time, and, as
far as hired assault and battery were concerned, he was as safe in
New York, now that Bat Jarvis had declared himself on his side, as
he would have been in the middle of a desert. What Bat said was
law on the East Side. No hooligan, however eager to make money,
would dare to act against a _protégé_ of the Groome Street leader.

The only flaw in Psmith's contentment was the absence of Billy
Windsor. On this night of all nights the editorial staff of _Cosy
Moments_ should have been together to celebrate the successful
outcome of their campaign. Psmith dined alone, his enjoyment of the
rather special dinner which he felt justified in ordering in honour
of the occasion somewhat diminished by the thought of Billy's hard
case. He had seen Mr William Collier in _The Man from Mexico_, and
that had given him an understanding of what a term of imprisonment
on Blackwell's Island meant. Billy, during these lean days, must be
supporting life on bread, bean soup, and water. Psmith, toying with
the hors d'oeuvre, was somewhat saddened by the thought.

            *    *    *

All was quiet at the office on the following day. Bat Jarvis,
again accompanied by the faithful Otto, took up his position in the
inner room, prepared to repel all invaders; but none arrived. No
sounds broke the peace of the outer office except the whistling of
Master Maloney.

Things were almost dull when the telephone bell rang. Psmith took
down the receiver.

"Hullo?" he said.

"I'm Parker," said a moody voice.

Psmith uttered a cry of welcome.

"Why, Comrade Parker, this is splendid! How goes it? Did you get
back all right yesterday? I was sorry to have to tear myself away,
but I had other engagements. But why use the telephone? Why not
come here in person? You know how welcome you are. Hire a taxi-cab
and come right round."

Mr. Parker made no reply to the invitation.

"Mr. Waring would like to see you."

"Who, Comrade Parker?"

"Mr. Stewart Waring."

"The celebrated tenement house-owner?"

Silence from the other end of the wire. "Well," said Psmith, "what
step does he propose to take towards it?"

"He tells me to say that he will be in his office at twelve o'clock
to-morrow morning. His office is in the Morton Building, Nassau
Street."

Psmith clicked his tongue regretfully.

"Then I do not see how we can meet," he said. "I shall be here."

"He wishes to see you at his office."

"I am sorry, Comrade Parker. It is impossible. I am very busy just
now, as you may know, preparing the next number, the one in which we
publish the name of the owner of the Pleasant Street Tenements.
Otherwise, I should be delighted. Perhaps later, when the rush of
work has diminished somewhat."

"Am I to tell Mr. Waring that you refuse?"

"If you are seeing him at any time and feel at a loss for something
to say, perhaps you might mention it. Is there anything else I can
do for you, Comrade Parker?"

"See here--"

"Nothing? Then good-bye. Look in when you're this way."

He hung up the receiver.

As he did so, he was aware of Master Maloney standing beside the
table.

"Yes, Comrade Maloney?"

"Telegram," said Pugsy. "For Mr. Windsor."

Psmith ripped open the envelope.

The message ran:

"Returning to-day. Will be at office to-morrow morning," and it was
signed "Wilberfloss."

"See who's here!" said Psmith softly.



CHAPTER XXVIII

STANDING ROOM ONLY

In the light of subsequent events it was perhaps the least bit
unfortunate that Mr. Jarvis should have seen fit to bring with him
to the office of _Cosy Moments_ on the following morning two of his
celebrated squad of cats, and that Long Otto, who, as usual,
accompanied him, should have been fired by his example to the
extent of introducing a large and rather boisterous yellow dog.
They were not to be blamed, of course. They could not know that
before the morning was over space in the office would be at a
premium. Still, it was unfortunate.

Mr. Jarvis was slightly apologetic.

"T'ought I'd bring de kits along," he said. "Dey started in
scrappin' yesterday when I was here, so to-day I says I'll keep my
eye on dem."

Psmith inspected the menagerie without resentment.

"Assuredly, Comrade Jarvis," he said. "They add a pleasantly cosy
and domestic touch to the scene. The only possible criticism I can
find to make has to do with their probable brawling with the dog."

"Oh, dey won't scrap wit de dawg. Dey knows him."

"But is he aware of that? He looks to me a somewhat impulsive
animal. Well, well, the matter's in your hands. If you will
undertake to look after the refereeing of any pogrom that may
arise, I say no more."

Mr. Jarvis's statement as to the friendly relations between the
animals proved to be correct. The dog made no attempt to annihilate
the cats. After an inquisitive journey round the room he lay down
and went to sleep, and an era of peace set in. The cats had settled
themselves comfortably, one on each of Mr. Jarvis's knees, and Long
Otto, surveying the ceiling with his customary glassy stare,
smoked a long cigar in silence. Bat breathed a tune, and scratched
one of the cats under the ear. It was a soothing scene.

But it did not last. Ten minutes had barely elapsed when the yellow
dog, sitting up with a start, uttered a whine. In the outer office
could be heard a stir and movement. The next moment the door burst
open and a little man dashed in. He had a peeled nose and showed
other evidences of having been living in the open air. Behind him
was a crowd of uncertain numbers. Psmith recognised the leaders of
this crowd. They were the Reverend Edwin T. Philpotts and Mr. B.
Henderson Asher.

"Why, Comrade Asher," he said, "this is indeed a Moment of Mirth. I
have been wondering for weeks where you could have got to. And
Comrade Philpotts! Am I wrong in saying that this is the maddest,
merriest day of all the glad New Year?"

The rest of the crowd had entered the room.

"Comrade Waterman, too!" cried Psmith. "Why we have all met
before. Except--"

He glanced inquiringly at the little man with the peeled nose.

"My name is Wilberfloss," said the other with austerity. "Will you
be so good as to tell me where Mr. Windsor is?"

A murmur of approval from his followers.

"In one moment," said Psmith. "First, however, let me introduce two
important members of our staff. On your right, Mr. Bat Jarvis. On
your left, Mr. Long Otto. Both of Groome Street."

The two Bowery boys rose awkwardly. The cats fell in an avalanche
to the floor. Long Otto, in his haste, trod on the dog, which began
barking, a process which it kept up almost without a pause during
the rest of the interview.

"Mr. Wilberfloss," said Psmith in an aside to Bat, "is widely known
as a cat fancier in Brooklyn circles."

"Honest?" said Mr. Jarvis. He tapped Mr. Wilberfloss in friendly
fashion on the chest. "Say," he asked, "did youse ever have a cat
wit one blue and one yellow eye?"

Mr. Wilberfloss side-stepped and turned once more to Psmith, who
was offering B. Henderson Asher a cigarette.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"Who am _I_?" repeated Psmith in an astonished tone.

"Who are you?"

"I am Psmith," said the old Etonian reverently. "There is a
preliminary P before the name. This, however, is silent. Like the
tomb. Compare such words as ptarmigan, psalm, and phthisis."

"These gentlemen tell me you're acting editor. Who appointed you?"

Psmith reflected.

"It is rather a nice point," he said. "It might be claimed that I
appointed myself. You may say, however, that Comrade Windsor
appointed me."

"Ah! And where is Mr. Windsor?"

"In prison," said Psmith sorrowfully.

"In prison!"

Psmith nodded.

"It is too true. Such is the generous impulsiveness of Comrade
Windsor's nature that he hit a policeman, was promptly gathered in,
and is now serving a sentence of thirty days on Blackwell's Island."

Mr. Wilberfloss looked at Mr. Philpotts. Mr. Asher looked at Mr.
Wilberfloss. Mr. Waterman started, and stumbled over a cat.

"I never heard of such a thing," said Mr. Wilberfloss.

A faint, sad smile played across Psmith's face.

"Do you remember, Comrade Waterman--I fancy it was to you that I
made the remark--my commenting at our previous interview on the
rashness of confusing the unusual with the improbable? Here we see
Comrade Wilberfloss, big-brained though he is, falling into error."

"I shall dismiss Mr. Windsor immediately," said the big-brained
one.

"From Blackwell's Island?" said Psmith. "I am sure you will earn
his gratitude if you do. They live on bean soup there. Bean soup
and bread, and not much of either."

He broke off, to turn his attention to Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Waterman,
between whom bad blood seemed to have arisen. Mr. Jarvis, holding a
cat in his arms, was glowering at Mr. Waterman, who had backed away
and seemed nervous.

"What is the trouble, Comrade Jarvis?"

"Dat guy dere wit two left feet," said Bat querulously, "goes and
treads on de kit. I--"

"I assure you it was a pure accident. The animal--"

Mr. Wilberfloss, eyeing Bat and the silent Otto with disgust,
intervened.

"Who are these persons, Mr. Smith?" he inquired.

"Poisson yourself," rejoined Bat, justly incensed. "Who's de
little guy wit de peeled breezer, Mr. Smith?"

Psmith waved his hands.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," he said, "let us not descend to mere
personalities. I thought I had introduced you. This, Comrade
Jarvis, is Mr. Wilberfloss, the editor of this journal. These,
Comrade Wilberfloss--Zam-buk would put your nose right in a
day--are, respectively, Bat Jarvis and Long Otto, our acting
fighting-editors, vice Kid Brady, absent on unavoidable business."

"Kid Brady!" shrilled Mr. Wilberfloss. "I insist that you give me
a full explanation of this matter. I go away by my doctor's orders
for ten weeks, leaving Mr. Windsor to conduct the paper on certain
well-defined lines. I return yesterday, and, getting into
communication with Mr. Philpotts, what do I find? Why, that in my
absence the paper has been ruined."

"Ruined?" said Psmith. "On the contrary. Examine the returns, and
you will see that the circulation has gone up every week. _Cosy
Moments_ was never so prosperous and flourishing. Comrade Otto, do
you think you could use your personal influence with that dog to
induce it to suspend its barking for a while? It is musical, but
renders conversation difficult."

Long Otto raised a massive boot and aimed it at the animal, which,
dodging with a yelp, cannoned against the second cat and had its
nose scratched. Piercing shrieks cleft the air.

"I demand an explanation," roared Mr. Wilberfloss above the din.

"I think, Comrade Otto," said Psmith, "it would make things a little
easier if you removed that dog."

He opened the door. The dog shot out. They could hear it being
ejected from the outer office by Master Maloney. When there was
silence, Psmith turned courteously to the editor.

"You were saying, Comrade Wilberfloss?"

"Who is this person Brady? With Mr. Philpotts I have been going
carefully over the numbers which have been issued since my
departure--"

"An intellectual treat," murmured Psmith.

"--and in each there is a picture of this young man in a costume
which I will not particularise--"

"There is hardly enough of it to particularise."

"--together with a page of disgusting autobiographical matter."

Psmith held up his hand.

"I protest," he said. "We court criticism, but this is mere abuse.
I appeal to these gentlemen to say whether this, for instance, is
not bright and interesting."

He picked up the current number of _Cosy Moments_, and turned to the
Kid's page.

"This," he said. "Describing a certain ten-round unpleasantness with
one Mexican Joe. 'Joe comes up for the second round and he gives me
a nasty look, but I thinks of my mother and swats him one in the
lower ribs. He hollers foul, but nix on that. Referee says, "Fight
on." Joe gives me another nasty look. "All right, Kid," he says;
"now I'll knock you up into the gallery." And with that he cuts
loose with a right swing, but I falls into the clinch, and
then---!'"

"Bah!" exclaimed Mr. Wilberfloss.

"Go on, boss," urged Mr. Jarvis approvingly. "It's to de good, dat
stuff."

"There!" said Psmith triumphantly. "You heard? Comrade Jarvis, one
of the most firmly established critics east of Fifth Avenue, stamps
Kid Brady's reminiscences with the hall-mark of his approval."

"I falls fer de Kid every time," assented Mr. Jarvis.

"Assuredly, Comrade Jarvis. You know a good thing when you see one.
Why," he went on warmly, "there is stuff in these reminiscences
which would stir the blood of a jelly-fish. Let me quote you
another passage to show that they are not only enthralling, but
helpful as well. Let me see, where is it? Ah, I have it. 'A bully
good way of putting a guy out of business is this. You don't want
to use it in the ring, because by Queensberry Rules it's a foul;
but you will find it mighty useful if any thick-neck comes up to
you in the street and tries to start anything. It's this way. While
he's setting himself for a punch, just place the tips of the
fingers of your left hand on the right side of his chest. Then
bring down the heel of your left hand. There isn't a guy living
that could stand up against that. The fingers give you a leverage
to beat the band. The guy doubles up, and you upper-cut him with
your right, and out he goes.' Now, I bet you never knew that
before, Comrade Philpotts. Try it on your parishioners."

"_Cosy Moments_," said Mr. Wilberfloss irately, "is no medium for
exploiting low prize-fighters."

"Low prize-fighters! Comrade Wilberfloss, you have been
misinformed. The Kid is as decent a little chap as you'd meet
anywhere. You do not seem to appreciate the philanthropic motives
of the paper in adopting Comrade Brady's cause. Think of it,
Comrade Wilberfloss. There was that unfortunate stripling with only
two pleasures in life, to love his mother and to knock the heads
off other youths whose weight coincided with his own; and
misfortune, until we took him up, had barred him almost completely
from the second pastime. Our editorial heart was melted. We
adopted Comrade Brady. And look at him now! Matched against Eddie
Wood! And Comrade Waterman will support me in my statement that a
victory over Eddie Wood means that he gets a legitimate claim to
meet Jimmy Garvin for the championship."

"It is abominable," burst forth Mr. Wilberfloss. "It is
disgraceful. I never heard of such a thing. The paper is ruined."

"You keep reverting to that statement, Comrade Wilberfloss. Can
nothing reassure you? The returns are excellent. Prosperity beams
on us like a sun. The proprietor is more than satisfied."

"The proprietor?" gasped Mr. Wilberfloss. "Does _he_ know how you
have treated the paper?"

"He is cognisant of our every move."

"And he approves?"

"He more than approves."

Mr. Wilberfloss snorted.

"I don't believe it," he said.

The assembled ex-contributors backed up this statement with a
united murmur. B. Henderson Asher snorted satirically.

"They don't believe it," sighed Psmith. "Nevertheless, it is
true."

"It is not true," thundered Mr. Wilberfloss, hopping to avoid a
perambulating cat. "Nothing will convince me of it. Mr. Benjamin
White is not a maniac."

"I trust not," said Psmith. "I sincerely trust not. I have every
reason to believe in his complete sanity. What makes you fancy that
there is even a possibility of his being--er--?"

"Nobody but a lunatic would approve of seeing his paper ruined."

"Again!" said Psmith. "I fear that the notion that this journal is
ruined has become an obsession with you, Comrade Wilberfloss. Once
again I assure you that it is more than prosperous."

"If," said Mr. Wilberfloss, "you imagine that I intend to take your
word in this matter, you are mistaken. I shall cable Mr. White
to-day, and inquire whether these alterations in the paper meet
with his approval."

"I shouldn't, Comrade Wilberfloss. Cables are expensive, and in
these hard times a penny saved is a penny earned. Why worry Comrade
White? He is so far away, so out of touch with our New York
literary life. I think it is practically a certainty that he has not
the slightest inkling of any changes in the paper."

Mr. Wilberfloss uttered a cry of triumph.

"I knew it," he said, "I knew it. I knew you would give up when it
came to the point, and you were driven into a corner. Now, perhaps,
you will admit that Mr. White has given no sanction for the
alterations in the paper?"

A puzzled look crept into Psmith's face.

"I think, Comrade Wilberfloss," he said, "we are talking at
cross-purposes. You keep harping on Comrade White and his views and
tastes. One would almost imagine that you fancied that Comrade
White was the proprietor of this paper."

Mr. Wilberfloss stared. B. Henderson Asher stared. Every one
stared, except Mr. Jarvis, who, since the readings from the Kid's
reminiscences had ceased, had lost interest in the discussion, and
was now entertaining the cats with a ball of paper tied to a
string.

"Fancied that Mr. White . . .?" repeated Mr. Wilberfloss. "I don't
follow you. Who is, if he isn't?"

Psmith removed his monocle, polished it thoughtfully, and put it
back in its place.

"I am," he said.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE KNOCK-OUT FOR MR. WARING

"You!" cried Mr. Wilberfloss.

"The same," said Psmith.

"You!" exclaimed Messrs. Waterman, Asher, and the Reverend Edwin
Philpotts.

"On the spot!" said Psmith.

Mr. Wilberfloss groped for a chair and sat down.

"Am I going mad?" he demanded feebly.

"Not so, Comrade Wilberfloss," said Psmith encouragingly. "All is
well. The cry goes round New York, 'Comrade Wilberfloss is to the
good. He does not gibber.'"

"Do I understand you to say that you own this paper?"

"I do."

"Since when?"

"Roughly speaking, about a month."

Among his audience (still excepting Mr. Jarvis, who was tickling
one of the cats and whistling a plaintive melody) there was a
tendency toward awkward silence. To start bally-ragging a seeming
nonentity and then to discover he is the proprietor of the paper to
which you wish to contribute is like kicking an apparently empty
hat and finding your rich uncle inside it. Mr. Wilberfloss in
particular was disturbed. Editorships of the kind which he aspired
to are not easy to get. If he were to be removed from _Cosy Moments_
he would find it hard to place himself anywhere else. Editors, like
manuscripts, are rejected from want of space.

"Very early in my connection with this journal," said Psmith, "I
saw that I was on to a good thing. I had long been convinced that
about the nearest approach to the perfect job in this world, where
good jobs are so hard to acquire, was to own a paper. All you had
to do, once you had secured your paper, was to sit back and watch
the other fellows work, and from time to time forward big cheques
to the bank. Nothing could be more nicely attuned to the tastes of
a Shropshire Psmith. The glimpses I was enabled to get of the
workings of this little journal gave me the impression that Comrade
White was not attached with any paternal fervour to _Cosy Moments_.
He regarded it, I deduced, not so much as a life-work as in the
light of an investment. I assumed that Comrade White had his price,
and wrote to my father, who was visiting Carlsbad at the moment, to
ascertain what that price might be. He cabled it to me. It was
reasonable. Now it so happens that an uncle of mine some years ago
left me a considerable number of simoleons, and though I shall not
be legally entitled actually to close in on the opulence for a
matter of nine months or so, I anticipated that my father would
have no objection to staking me to the necessary amount on the
security of my little bit of money. My father has spent some time
of late hurling me at various professions, and we had agreed some
time ago that the Law was to be my long suit. Paper-owning,
however, may be combined with being Lord Chancellor, and I knew he
would have no objection to my being a Napoleon of the Press on this
side. So we closed with Comrade White, and--"

There was a knock at the door, and Master Maloney entered with a
card.

"Guy's waiting outside," he said.

"Mr. Stewart Waring," read Psmith. "Comrade Maloney, do you know
what Mahomet did when the mountain would not come to him?"

"Search me," said the office-boy indifferently.

"He went to the mountain. It was a wise thing to do. As a general
rule in life you can't beat it. Remember that, Comrade Maloney."

"Sure," said Pugsy. "Shall I send the guy in?"

"Surest thing you know, Comrade Maloney."

He turned to the assembled company.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you know how I hate to have to send you
away, but would you mind withdrawing in good order? A somewhat
delicate and private interview is in the offing. Comrade Jarvis,
we will meet anon. Your services to the paper have been greatly
appreciated. If I might drop in some afternoon and inspect the
remainder of your zoo--?"

"Any time you're down Groome Street way. Glad."

"I will make a point of it. Comrade Wilberfloss, would you mind
remaining? As editor of this journal, you should be present. If
the rest of you would look in about this time to-morrow--Show
Mr. Waring in, Comrade Maloney."

He took a seat.

"We are now, Comrade Wilberfloss," he said, "at a crisis in the
affairs of this journal, but I fancy we shall win through."

The door opened, and Pugsy announced Mr. Waring.

The owner of the Pleasant Street Tenements was of what is usually
called commanding presence. He was tall and broad, and more than a
little stout. His face was clean-shaven and curiously expressionless.
Bushy eyebrows topped a pair of cold grey eyes. He walked into the
room with the air of one who is not wont to apologise for existing.
There are some men who seem to fill any room in which they may be.
Mr. Waring was one of these.

He set his hat down on the table without speaking. After which he
looked at Mr. Wilberfloss, who shrank a little beneath his gaze.

Psmith had risen to greet him.

"Won't you sit down?" he said.

"I prefer to stand."

"Just as you wish. This is Liberty Hall."

Mr. Waring again glanced at Mr. Wilberfloss.

"What I have to say is private," he said.

"All is well," said Psmith reassuringly. "It is no stranger that
you see before you, no mere irresponsible lounger who has butted in
by chance. That is Comrade J. Fillken Wilberfloss, the editor of
this journal."

"The editor? I understood--"

"I know what you would say. You have Comrade Windsor in your mind.
He was merely acting as editor while the chief was away hunting
sand-eels in the jungles of Texas. In his absence Comrade Windsor
and I did our best to keep the old journal booming along, but it
lacked the master-hand. But now all is well: Comrade Wilberfloss
is once more doing stunts at the old stand. You may speak as freely
before him as you would before well, let us say Comrade Parker."

"Who are you, then, if this gentleman is the editor?"

"I am the proprietor."

"I understood that a Mr. White was the proprietor."

"Not so," said Psmith. "There was a time when that was the case,
but not now. Things move so swiftly in New York journalistic
matters that a man may well be excused for not keeping abreast of
the times, especially one who, like yourself, is interested in
politics and house-ownership rather than in literature. Are you
sure you won't sit down?"

Mr. Waring brought his hand down with a bang on the table, causing
Mr. Wilberfloss to leap a clear two inches from his chair.

"What are you doing it for?" he demanded explosively. "I tell you,
you had better quit it. It isn't healthy."

Psmith shook his head.

"You are merely stating in other--and, if I may say so,
inferior--words what Comrade Parker said to us. I did not object to
giving up valuable time to listen to Comrade Parker. He is a
fascinating conversationalist, and it was a privilege to hob-nob
with him. But if you are merely intending to cover the ground
covered by him, I fear I must remind you that this is one of our
busy days. Have you no new light to fling upon the subject?"

Mr. Waring wiped his forehead. He was playing a lost game, and he
was not the sort of man who plays lost games well. The Waring type
is dangerous when it is winning, but it is apt to crumple up
against strong defence.

His next words proved his demoralisation.

"I'll sue you for libel," said he.

Psmith looked at him admiringly.

"Say no more," he said, "for you will never beat that. For pure
richness and whimsical humour it stands alone. During the past
seven weeks you have been endeavouring in your cheery fashion to
blot the editorial staff of this paper off the face of the earth in
a variety of ingenious and entertaining ways; and now you propose
to sue us for libel! I wish Comrade Windsor could have heard you
say that. It would have hit him right."

Mr. Waring accepted the invitation he had refused before. He sat
down.

"What are you going to do?" he said.

It was the white flag. The fight had gone out of him.

Psmith leaned back in his chair.

"I'll tell you," he said. "I've thought the whole thing out. The
right plan would be to put the complete kybosh (if I may use the
expression) on your chances of becoming an alderman. On the other
hand, I have been studying the papers of late, and it seems to me
that it doesn't much matter who gets elected. Of course the
opposition papers may have allowed their zeal to run away with
them, but even assuming that to be the case, the other candidates
appear to be a pretty fair contingent of blighters. If I were a
native of New York, perhaps I might take a more fervid interest in
the matter, but as I am merely passing through your beautiful
little city, it doesn't seem to me to make any very substantial
difference who gets in. To be absolutely candid, my view of the
thing is this. If the People are chumps enough to elect you, then
they deserve you. I hope I don't hurt your feelings in any way. I
am merely stating my own individual opinion."

Mr. Waring made no remark.

"The only thing that really interests me," resumed Psmith, "is the
matter of these tenements. I shall shortly be leaving this country
to resume the strangle-hold on Learning which I relinquished at the
beginning of the Long Vacation. If I were to depart without
bringing off improvements down Pleasant Street way, I shouldn't be
able to enjoy my meals. The startled cry would go round Cambridge:
'Something is the matter with Psmith. He is off his feed. He
should try Blenkinsop's Balm for the Bilious.' But no balm would do
me any good. I should simply droop and fade slowly away like a
neglected lily. And you wouldn't like that, Comrade Wilberfloss,
would you?"

Mr. Wilberfloss, thus suddenly pulled into the conversation, again
leaped in his seat.

"What I propose to do," continued Psmith, without waiting for an
answer, "is to touch you for the good round sum of five thousand
and three dollars."

Mr. Waring half rose.

"Five thousand dollars!"

"Five thousand and three dollars," said Psmith. "It may possibly
have escaped your memory, but a certain minion of yours, one J.
Repetto, utterly ruined a practically new hat of mine. If you think
that I can afford to come to New York and scatter hats about as if
they were mere dross, you are making the culminating error of a
misspent life. Three dollars are what I need for a new one. The
balance of your cheque, the five thousand, I propose to apply to
making those tenements fit for a tolerably fastidious pig to live
in."

"Five thousand!" cried Mr. Waring. "It's monstrous."

"It isn't," said Psmith. "It's more or less of a minimum. I have
made inquiries. So out with the good old cheque-book, and let's all
be jolly."

"I have no cheque-book with me."

"_I_ have," said Psmith, producing one from a drawer. "Cross out
the name of my bank, substitute yours, and fate cannot touch us."

Mr. Waring hesitated for a moment, then capitulated. Psmith
watched, as he wrote, with an indulgent and fatherly eye.

"Finished?" he said. "Comrade Maloney."

"Youse hollering fer me?" asked that youth, appearing at the door.

"Bet your life I am, Comrade Maloney. Have you ever seen an untamed
mustang of the prairie?"

"Nope. But I've read about dem."

"Well, run like one down to Wall Street with this cheque, and pay
it in to my account at the International Bank."

Pugsy disappeared.

"Cheques," said Psmith, "have been known to be stopped. Who knows
but what, on reflection, you might not have changed your mind?"

"What guarantee have I," asked Mr. Waring, "that these attacks on
me in your paper will stop?"

"If you like," said Psmith, "I will write you a note to that
effect. But it will not be necessary. I propose, with Comrade
Wilberfloss's assistance, to restore _Cosy Moments_ to its old style.
Some days ago the editor of Comrade Windsor's late daily paper
called up on the telephone and asked to speak to him. I explained
the painful circumstances, and, later, went round and hob-nobbed
with the great man. A very pleasant fellow. He asks to re-engage
Comrade Windsor's services at a pretty sizeable salary, so, as far
as our prison expert is concerned, all may be said to be well. He
has got where he wanted. _Cosy Moments_ may therefore ease up a bit.
If, at about the beginning of next month, you should hear a
deafening squeal of joy ring through this city, it will be the
infants of New York and their parents receiving the news that _Cosy
Moments_ stands where it did. May I count on your services, Comrade
Wilberfloss? Excellent. I see I may. Then perhaps you would not
mind passing the word round among Comrades Asher, Waterman, and the
rest of the squad, and telling them to burnish their brains and be
ready to wade in at a moment's notice. I fear you will have a
pretty tough job roping in the old subscribers again, but it can be
done. I look to you, Comrade Wilberfloss. Are you on?"

Mr. Wilberfloss, wriggling in his chair, intimated that he was.



CONCLUSION

IT was a drizzly November evening. The streets of Cambridge were a
compound of mud, mist, and melancholy. But in Psmith's rooms the
fire burned brightly, the kettle droned, and all, as the proprietor
had just observed, was joy, jollity, and song. Psmith, in pyjamas
and a college blazer, was lying on the sofa. Mike, who had been
playing football, was reclining in a comatose state in an arm-chair
by the fire.

"How pleasant it would be," said Psmith dreamily, "if all our
friends on the other side of the Atlantic could share this very
peaceful moment with us! Or perhaps not quite all. Let us say,
Comrade Windsor in the chair over there, Comrades Brady and Maloney
on the table, and our old pal Wilberfloss sharing the floor with B.
Henderson Asher, Bat Jarvis, and the cats. By the way, I think it
would be a graceful act if you were to write to Comrade Jarvis from
time to time telling him how your Angoras are getting on. He
regards you as the World's Most Prominent Citizen. A line from you
every now and then would sweeten the lad's existence."

Mike stirred sleepily in his chair.

"What?" he said drowsily.

"Never mind, Comrade Jackson. Let us pass lightly on. I am filled
with a strange content to-night. I may be wrong, but it seems to me
that all is singularly to de good, as Comrade Maloney would put it.
Advices from Comrade Windsor inform me that that prince of
blighters, Waring, was rejected by an intelligent electorate. Those
keen, clear-sighted citizens refused to vote for him to an extent
that you could notice without a microscope. Still, he has one
consolation. He owns what, when the improvements are completed,
will be the finest and most commodious tenement houses in New York.
Millionaires will stop at them instead of going to the Plaza. Are
you asleep, Comrade Jackson?"

"Um-m," said Mike.

"That is excellent. You could not be better employed. Keep
listening. Comrade Windsor also stated--as indeed did the sporting
papers--that Comrade Brady put it all over friend Eddie Wood,
administering the sleep-producer in the eighth round. My
authorities are silent as to whether or not the lethal blow was a
half-scissor hook, but I presume such to have been the case. The
Kid is now definitely matched against Comrade Garvin for the
championship, and the experts seem to think that he should win. He
is a stout fellow, is Comrade Brady, and I hope he wins through. He
will probably come to England later on. When he does, we must show
him round. I don't think you ever met him, did you, Comrade
Jackson?"

"Ur-r," said Mike.

"Say no more," said Psmith. "I take you."

He reached out for a cigarette.

"These," he said, comfortably, "are the moments in life to which we
look back with that wistful pleasure. What of my boyhood at Eton?
Do I remember with the keenest joy the brain-tourneys in the old
form-room, and the bally rot which used to take place on the Fourth
of June? No. Burned deeply into my memory is a certain hot bath I
took after one of the foulest cross-country runs that ever occurred
outside Dante's Inferno. So with the present moment. This peaceful
scene, Comrade Jackson, will remain with me when I have forgotten
that such a person as Comrade Repetto ever existed. These are the
real _Cosy Moments_. And while on that subject you will be glad to
hear that the little sheet is going strong. The man Wilberfloss is
a marvel in his way. He appears to have gathered in the majority of
the old subscribers again. Hopping mad but a brief while ago, they
now eat out of his hand. You've really no notion what a feeling of
quiet pride it gives you owning a paper. I try not to show it, but
I seem to myself to be looking down on the world from some lofty
peak. Yesterday night, when I was looking down from the peak
without a cap and gown, a proctor slid up. To-day I had to dig down
into my jeans for a matter of two plunks. But what of it? Life
must inevitably be dotted with these minor tragedies. I do not
repine. The whisper goes round, 'Psmith bites the bullet, and
wears a brave smile.' Comrade Jackson--"

A snore came from the chair.

Psmith sighed. But he did not repine. He bit the bullet. His eyes
closed.

Five minutes later a slight snore came from the sofa, too.
The man behind _Cosy Moments_ slept.





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