The Intrusion of Jimmy/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII


GETTING ACQUAINTED


A CYCLONE, entering a room, is apt to alter the position of things. This cyclone shifted a foot-stool, a small chair, a rug, and Spike. The chair, struck by a massive boot, whirled against the wall. The foot-stool rolled away. The rug crumpled up and slid. Spike, with a yell, leaped to his feet, slipped again, fell, and finally compromised on an all-fours position, in which attitude he remained, blinking.

While these stirring acts were in progress, there was the sound of a door opening upstairs, followed by a scuttering of feet and an appalling increase in the canine contribution to the current noises. The duet had now taken on quite a Wagnerian effect.

There raced into the room first a white bull-terrier, he of the soprano voice, and—a bad second—his fellow artiste, the baritone, a massive bull-dog, bearing a striking resemblance to the big man with the big lower jaw whose entrance had started the cyclone.

And, then, in theatrical parlance, the entire company "held the picture." Up-stage, with his hand still on the door, stood the man with the jaw; down-stage, Jimmy; center, Spike and the bull-dog, their noses a couple of inches apart, inspected each other with mutual disfavor. On the extreme O. P. side, the bull-terrier, who had fallen foul of a wicker-work table, was crouching with extended tongue and rolling eyes, waiting for the next move.

The householder looked at Jimmy. Jimmy looked at the householder. Spike and the bull-dog looked at each other. The bull-terrier distributed his gaze impartially around the company.

"A typical scene of quiet American home-life," murmured Jimmy.

The householder glowered.

"Hands up, you devils!" he roared, pointing a mammoth revolver.

The two marauders humored his whim.

"Let me explain," said Jimmy pacifically, shuffling warily around in order to face the bull-terrier, who was now strolling in his direction with an ill-assumed carelessness.

"Keep still, you blackguard!" Jimmy kept still. The bull-terrier, with the same abstracted air, was beginning a casual inspection of his right trouser-leg.

Relations between Spike and the bull-dog, meanwhile, had become more strained. The sudden flinging up of the former's arms had had the worst effects on the animal's nerves. Spike, the croucher on all-fours, he might have tolerated; but Spike, the semaphore, inspired him with thoughts of battle. He was growling in a moody, reflective manner. His eye was full of purpose.

It was probably this that caused Spike to look at the householder. Till then, he had been too busy to shift his gaze, but now the bull-dog's eye had become so unpleasing that he cast a pathetic glance up at the man by the door.

"Gee!" he cried. "It's de boss. Say, boss, call off de dawg; It's sure goin' to nip de hull head off'n me."

The other lowered the revolver in surprise.

"So, it's you, you limb of Satan!" he remarked. "I thought I had seen that damned red head of yours before. What are you doing in my house?"

Spike uttered a howl in which indignation and self-pity were nicely blended.

"I'll lay for that Swede!" he cried. "I'll soak it to him good! Boss, I've had a raw deal. On de level, I has. Dey's a feller I know, a fat Swede—Ole Larsen his monaker is—an' dis feller an' me started in scrapping last week, an' I puts it all over him, so he had it in for me. But he comes up to me, like as if he's meanin' to be good, an' he says he's got a soft proposition fer me if I'll give him half. So, I says all right, where is it? An' he gives me de number of dis house, an' says dis is where a widder-lady lives all alone, an' has got silver mugs and t'ings to boin, an' dat she's away down Sout', so dere ain't nobody in de house. Gee! I'll soak it to dat Swede! It was a raw deal, boss. He was just hopin' to put me in bad wit' you. Dat's bow it was, boss. Honest!"

The big man listened to this sad story of Grecian gifts in silence. Not so the bull-dog, which growled from start to finish.

Spike eyed it uneasily.

"Won't you call off de dawg, boss?" he said.

The other stooped, and grasped the animal's collar, jerking him away.

"The same treatment," suggested Jimmy with approval, "would also do a world of good to this playful and affectionate animal—unless he is a vegetarian. In which case, don't bother."

The big man glowered at him.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"My name," began Jimmy, "is—"

"Say," said Spike, "he's a champion burglar, boss—"

The householder shut the door.

"Eh?" he said.

"He's a champion burglar from de odder side. He sure is. From Lunnon. Gee, he's de guy! Tell him about de bank you opened, an' de jools you swiped from de duchess, an' de what-d'ye-call-it blowpipe."

It seemed to Jimmy that Spike was showing a certain want of tact. When you are discovered by a householder—with revolver—in his parlor at half-past three in the morning, it is surely an injudicious move to lay stress on your proficiency as a burglar. The householder may be supposed to take that for granted. The side of your character that should be advertised in such a crisis is the non-burglarious. Allusion should be made to the fact that, as a child, you attended Sunday school regularly, and to what the minister said when you took the divinity prize. The idea should be conveyed to the householder's mind that, if let off with a caution, your innate goodness of heart will lead you to reform and to avoid such scenes in future.

With some astonishment, therefore, Jimmy found that these revelations, so far from prejudicing the man with the revolver against him, had apparently told in his favor. The man behind the gun was regarding him rather with interest than disapproval.

"So, you're a crook from London, are you?"

Jimmy did not hesitate. If being a crook from London was a passport into citizens' parlors in the small hours, and, more particularly, if it carried with it also a safe-conduct out of them, Jimmy was not the man to refuse the rôle. He bowed.

"Well, you'll have to come across, now you're in New York. Understand that! And come across good."

"Sure, he will," said Spike, charmed that the tension had been relieved, and matters placed upon a pleasant and business-like footing. "He'll be good. He's next to de game, sure."

"Sure," echoed Jimmy, courteously. He did not understand; but things seemed to be taking a turn for the better, so why disturb the harmony?

"Dis gent," said Spike respectfully, "is boss of de cops. A police-captain," he corrected himself.

A light broke upon Jimmy's darkness. He wondered he had not understood before. He had not been a newspaper-man in New York for a year without finding out something of the inner workings of the police force. He saw now why the other's manner had changed.

"Pleased to meet you," he said. "We must have a talk together one of these days."

"We must," said the police-captain, significantly. He was rich, richer than he had ever hoped to be; but he was still on Tom Tiddler's ground, and meant to make the most of it.

"Of course, I don't know your methods on this side, but anything that's usual—"

"I'll see you at my office. Spike Mullins will show you where it is."

"Very well. You must forgive this preliminary informal call. We came in more to shelter from the rain than anything."

"You did, did you?"

Jimmy felt that it behooved him to stand on his dignity. The situation demanded it.

"Why," he said with some hauteur, "in the ordinary course of business I should hardly waste time over a small crib like—"

"It's banks fer his," murmured Spike, rapturously. "He eats dem alive. An' jools from duchesses."

"I admit a partiality for jewels and duchesses," said Jimmy. "And, now, as it's a little late, perhaps we had better— Ready, Spike? Good-night, then. Pleased to have met you."

"I'll see you at my office."

"I may possibly look in. I shall be doing very little work in New York, I fancy. I am here merely on a vacation."

"If you do any work at all," said the policeman coldly, "you'll look in at my office, or you'll wish you had when it's too late."

"Of course, of course. I shouldn't dream of omitting any formality that may be usual. But I don't fancy I shall break my vacation. By the way, one little thing. Have you any objections to my carving a J on your front-door?"

The policeman stared.

"On the inside. It won't show. It's just a whim of mine. If you have no objection?"

"I don't want any of your—" began the policeman.

"You misunderstand me. It's only that it means paying for a dinner. I wouldn't for the world—"

The policeman pointed to the window.

"Out you get," he said, abruptly. "I've had enough of you. And don't you forget to come to my office."

Spike, still deeply mistrustful of the bull-dog
Intrusion of Jimmy p073.jpg

He had gone to sleep thinking of this girl, and here she was. Page 61

Rastus, jumped at the invitation. He was through the window and out of sight in the friendly darkness almost before the policeman had finished speaking. Jimmy remained.

"I shall be delighted—" he had begun. Then, he stopped. In the doorway was standing a girl—a girl whom he recognized. Her startled look told him that she, too, had recognized him.

Not for the first time since he had set out from his flat that night in Spike's company, Jimmy was conscious of a sense of the unreality of things. It was all so exactly as it would have happened in a dream! He had gone to sleep thinking of this girl, and here she was. But a glance at the man with the revolver brought him back to earth. There was nothing of the dream-world about the police-captain.

That gentleman, whose back was toward the door, had not observed the addition to the company. Molly had turned the handle quietly, and her slippered feet made no sound. It was the amazed expression on Jimmy's face that caused the captain to look toward the door.

"Molly!"

The girl smiled, though her face was white. Jimmy's evening clothes had reassured her. She did not understand how he came to be there, but evidently there was nothing wrong. She had interrupted a conversation, not a conflict.

"I heard the noise and you going downstairs, and I sent the dogs down to help you, father," she said. "And, then, after a little, I came down to see if you were all right."

Mr. McEachern was perplexed. Molly's arrival had put him in an awkward position. To denounce the visitor as a cracksman was now impossible, for he knew too much. The only real fear of the policeman's life was lest some word of his money-making methods might come to his daughter's ears.

Quite a brilliant idea came to him.

"A man broke in, my dear," he said. "This gentleman was passing, and saw him."

"Distinctly," said Jimmy. "An ugly-looking customer!"

"But he slipped out of the window, and got away." concluded the policeman.

"He was very quick," said Jimmy. "I think he may have been a professional acrobat."

"He didn't hurt you, father?"

"No, no, my dear."

"Perhaps I frightened him," said Jimmy, airily.

Mr. McEachern scowled furtively at him.

"We mustn't detain you, Mr.—"

"Pitt," said Jimmy. "My name is Pitt." He turned to Molly. "I hope you enjoyed the voyage."

The policeman started.

"You know my daughter?"

"By sight only, I'm afraid. We were fellow-passengers on the Lusitania. Unfortunately, I was in the second-cabin. I used to see your daughter walking the deck sometimes."

Molly smiled.

"I remember seeing you—sometimes."

McEachern burst out.

"Then, you—!"

He stopped, and looked at Molly. The girl was bending over Rastus, tickling him under the ear.

"Let me show you the way out, Mr. Pitt," said the policeman, shortly. His manner was abrupt, but when one is speaking to a man whom one would dearly love to throw out of the window, abruptness is almost unavoidable.

"Perhaps I should be going," said Jimmy.

"Good-night, Mr. Pitt," said Molly.

"I hope we shall meet again," said Jimmy.

"This way, Mr. Pitt," growled McEachern, holding the door.

"Please don't trouble," said Jimmy. He went to the window, and, flinging his leg over the sill, dropped noiselessly to the ground.

He turned and put his head in at the window again.

"I did that rather well," he said, pleasantly. "I think I must take up this sort of thing as a profession. Good-night."