Page:The Intrusion of Jimmy.djvu/262

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receiving his guests. The coast would be clear. Why, it was like finding the money.

Besides, he reflected, as he worked his way through the bottle of Mumm's which he had had the forethought to abstract from the supper-table as a nerve-steadier, it wasn't really stealing. Dash it all, the man had given him the money! It was his own! He had half a mind—he poured himself out another glass of the elixir—to give Sir Thomas a jolly good talking-to into the bargain. Yes, dash it all!

He shot his cuffs fiercely. The British Lion was roused.

A man's first crime is, as a rule, a shockingly amateurish affair. Now and then, it is true, we find beginners forging with the accuracy of old hands, or breaking into houses with the finish of experts. But these are isolated cases. The average tyro lacks generalship altogether. Spennie Dreever may be cited as a typical novice. It did not strike him that inquiries might be instituted by Sir Thomas, when he found the money gone, and that suspicion might conceivably fall upon himself. Courage may be born of champagne, but rarely prudence.

The theatricals began at half-past eight with a duologue. The audience had been hustled into their seats, happier than is usual in such circumstances, owing to the rumor which had been circulated that the proceedings were to terminate with an informal dance. The castle was singularly well constructed for such a purpose. There was plenty of room, and a