JIMMY MAKES A BET
The main smoking-room of the Strollers' Club had been filling for
the last half-hour, and was now nearly full. In many ways, the
Strollers', though not the most magnificent, is the pleasantest club
in New York. Its ideals are comfort without pomp; and it is given
over after eleven o'clock at night mainly to the Stage. Everybody is
young, clean-shaven, and full of conversation: and the conversation
strikes a purely professional note.
Everybody in the room on this July night had come from the theater.
Most of those present had been acting, but a certain number had been
to the opening performance of the latest better-than-Raffles play.
There had been something of a boom that season in dramas whose
heroes appealed to the public more pleasantly across the footlights
than they might have done in real life. In the play that had opened
to-night, Arthur Mifflin, an exemplary young man off the stage, had
been warmly applauded for a series of actions which, performed
anywhere except in the theater, would certainly have debarred him
from remaining a member of the Strollers' or any other club. In
faultless evening dress, with a debonair smile on his face, he had
broken open a safe, stolen bonds and jewelry to a large amount, and
escaped without a blush of shame via the window. He had foiled a
detective through four acts, and held up a band of pursuers with a
revolver. A large audience had intimated complete approval
"It's a hit all right," said somebody through the smoke.
"These near-'Raffles' plays always are," grumbled Willett, who
played bluff fathers in musical comedy. "A few years ago, they would
have been scared to death of putting on a show with a crook as hero.
Now, it seems to me the public doesn't want anything else. Not that
they know what they DO want," he concluded, mournfully.
"The Belle of Boulogne," in which Willett sustained the role of
Cyrus K. Higgs, a Chicago millionaire, was slowly fading away on a
diet of paper, and this possibly prejudiced him.
Raikes, the character actor, changed the subject. If Willett once
got started on the wrongs of the ill-fated "Belle," general
conversation would become impossible. Willett, denouncing the
stupidity of the public, as purely a monologue artiste.
"I saw Jimmy Pitt at the show," said Raikes. Everybody displayed
"Jimmy Pitt? When did he come back? I thought he was in Italy."
"He came on the Lusitania, I suppose. She docked this morning."
"Jimmy Pitt?" said Sutton, of the Majestic Theater. "How long has he
been away? Last I saw of him was at the opening of 'The Outsider' at
the Astor. That's a couple of months ago."
"He's been traveling in Europe, I believe," said Raikes. "Lucky
beggar to be able to. I wish I could."
Sutton knocked the ash off his cigar.
"I envy Jimmy," he said. "I don't know anyone I'd rather be. He's
got much more money than any man except a professional 'plute' has
any right to. He's as strong as an ox. I shouldn't say he'd ever had
anything worse than measles in his life. He's got no relations. And
he isn't married."
Sutton, who had been married three times, spoke with some feeling.
"He's a good chap, Jimmy," said Raikes.
"Yes," said Arthur Mifflin, "yes, Jimmy is a good chap. I've known
him for years. I was at college with him. He hasn't got my
brilliance of intellect; but he has some wonderfully fine qualities.
For one thing, I should say he had put more deadbeats on their legs
again than half the men in New York put together."
"Well," growled Willett, whom the misfortunes of the Belle had
soured, "what's there in that? It's mighty easy to do the
philanthropist act when you're next door to a millionaire."
"Yes," said Mifflin warmly, "but it's not so easy when you're
getting thirty dollars a week on a newspaper. When Jimmy was a
reporter on the News, there used to be a whole crowd of fellows just
living on him. Not borrowing an occasional dollar, mind you, but
living on him--sleeping on his sofa, and staying to breakfast. It
made me mad. I used to ask him why he stood for it. He said there
was nowhere else for them to go, and he thought he could see them
through all right--which he did, though I don't see how he managed
it on thirty a week."
"If a man's fool enough to be an easy mark--" began Willett.
"Oh, cut it out!" said Raikes. "We don't want anybody knocking Jimmy
"All the same," said Sutton, "it seems to me that it was mighty
lucky that he came into that money. You can't keep open house for
ever on thirty a week. By the way, Arthur, how was that? I heard it
was his uncle."
"It wasn't his uncle," said Mifflin. "It was by way of being a
romance of sorts, I believe. Fellow who had been in love with
Jimmy's mother years ago went West, made a pile, and left it to Mrs.
Pitt or her children. She had been dead some time when that
happened. Jimmy, of course, hadn't a notion of what was coming to
him, when suddenly he got a solicitor's letter asking him to call.
He rolled round, and found that there was about five hundred
thousand dollars just waiting for him to spend it."
Jimmy Pitt had now definitely ousted "Love, the Cracksman" as a
topic of conversation. Everybody present knew him. Most of them had
known him in his newspaper days; and, though every man there would
have perished rather than admit it, they were grateful to Jimmy for
being exactly the same to them now that he could sign a check for
half a million as he had been on the old thirty-a-week basis.
Inherited wealth, of course, does not make a young man nobler or
more admirable; but the young man does not always know this.
"Jimmy's had a queer life," said Mifflin. "He's been pretty much
everything in his time. Did you know he was on the stage before he
took up newspaper-work? Only on the road, I believe. He got tired of
it, and cut it out. That's always been his trouble. He wouldn't
settle down to anything. He studied law at Yale, but he never kept
it up. After he left the stage, he moved all over the States,
without a cent, picking up any odd job he could get. He was a waiter
once for a couple of days, but they fired him for breaking plates.
Then, he got a job in a jeweler's shop. I believe he's a bit of an
expert on jewels. And, another time, he made a hundred dollars by
staying three rounds against Kid Brady when the Kid was touring the
country after he got the championship away from Jimmy Garwin. The
Kid was offering a hundred to anyone who could last three rounds
with him. Jimmy did it on his head. He was the best amateur of his
weight I ever saw. The Kid wanted him to take up scrapping
seriously. But Jimmy wouldn't have stuck to anything long enough in
those days. He's one of the gypsies of the world. He was never
really happy unless he was on the move, and he doesn't seem to have
altered since he came into his money."
"Well, he can afford to keep on the move now," said Raikes. "I wish
"Did you ever hear about Jimmy and--" Mifflin was beginning, when
the Odyssey of Jimmy Pitt was interrupted by the opening of the door
and the entrance of Ulysses in person.
Jimmy Pitt was a young man of medium height, whose great breadth and
depth of chest made him look shorter than he really was. His jaw was
square, and protruded slightly; and this, combined with a certain
athletic jauntiness of carriage and a pair of piercing brown eyes
very much like those of a bull-terrier, gave him an air of
aggressiveness, which belied his character. He was not aggressive.
He had the good-nature as well as the eyes of a bull-terrier. Also,
he possessed, when stirred, all the bull-terrier's dogged
There were shouts of welcome.
"When did you get back?"
"Come and sit down. Plenty of room over here."
"Where is my wandering boy tonight?"
"Waiter! What's yours, Jimmy?"
Jimmy dropped into a seat, and yawned.
"Well," he said, "how goes it? Hullo, Raikes! Weren't you at 'Love,
the Cracksman'? I thought I saw you. Hullo, Arthur! Congratulate
you. You spoke your piece nicely."
"Thanks," said Mifflin. "We were just talking about you, Jimmy. You
came on the Lusitania, I suppose?"
"She didn't break the record this time," said Sutton.
A somewhat pensive look came into Jimmy's eyes.
"She came much too quick for me," he said. "I don't see why they
want to rip along at that pace," he went on, hurriedly. "I like to
have a chance of enjoying the sea-air."
"I know that sea-air," murmured Mifflin.
Jimmy looked up quickly.
"What are you babbling about, Arthur?"
"I said nothing," replied Mifflin, suavely.
"What did you think of the show tonight, Jimmy?" asked Raikes.
"I liked it. Arthur was fine. I can't make out, though, why all this
incense is being burned at the feet of the cracksman. To judge by
some of the plays they produce now, you'd think that a man had only
to be a successful burglar to become a national hero. One of these
days, we shall have Arthur playing Charles Peace to a cheering
"It is the tribute," said Mifflin, "that bone-headedness pays to
brains. It takes brains to be a successful cracksman. Unless the
gray matter is surging about in your cerebrum, as in mine, you can't
Jimmy leaned back in his chair, and spoke calmly but with decision.
"Any man of ordinary intelligence," he said, "could break into a
Mifflin jumped up and began to gesticulate. This was heresy.
"My good man, what absolute--"
"_I_ could," said Jimmy, lighting a cigarette.
There was a roar of laughter and approval. For the past few weeks,
during the rehearsals of "Love, the Cracksman," Arthur Mifflin had
disturbed the peace at the Strollers' with his theories on the art
of burglary. This was his first really big part, and he had soaked
himself in it. He had read up the literature of burglary. He had
talked with men from Pinkerton's. He had expounded his views nightly
to his brother Strollers, preaching the delicacy and difficulty of
cracking a crib till his audience had rebelled. It charmed the
Strollers to find Jimmy, obviously of his own initiative and not to
be suspected of having been suborned to the task by themselves,
treading with a firm foot on the expert's favorite corn within five
minutes of their meeting.
"You!" said Arthur Mifflin, with scorn.
"You! Why, you couldn't break into an egg unless it was a poached
"What'll you bet?" said Jimmy.
The Strollers began to sit up and take notice. The magic word "bet,"
when uttered in that room, had rarely failed to add a zest to life.
They looked expectantly at Arthur Mifflin.
"Go to bed, Jimmy," said the portrayer of cracksmen. "I'll come with
you and tuck you in. A nice, strong cup of tea in the morning, and
you won't know there has ever been anything the matter with you."
A howl of disapproval rose from the company. Indignant voices
accused Arthur Mifflin of having a yellow streak. Encouraging voices
urged him not to be a quitter.
"See! They scorn you," said Jimmy. "And rightly. Be a man, Arthur.
What'll you bet?"
Mr. Mifflin regarded him with pity.
"You don't know what you're up against, Jimmy," he said. "You're
half a century behind the times. You have an idea that all a burglar
needs is a mask, a blue chin, and a dark lantern. I tell you he
requires a highly specialized education. I've been talking to these
detective fellows, and I know. Now, take your case, you worm. Have
you a thorough knowledge of chemistry, physics, toxicology--"
"--electricity and microscopy?"
"You have discovered my secret."
"Can you use an oxy-acetylene blow-pipe?"
"I never travel without one."
"What do you know about the administration of anaesthetics?"
"Practically everything. It is one of my favorite hobbies."
"Can you make 'soup'?"
"Soup," said Mr. Mifflin, firmly.
Jimmy raised his eyebrows.
"Does an architect make bricks?" he said. "I leave the rough
preliminary work to my corps of assistants. They make my soup."
"You mustn't think Jimmy's one of your common yeggs," said Sutton.
"He's at the top of his profession. That's how he made his money. I
never did believe that legacy story."
"Jimmy," said Mr. Mifflin, "couldn't crack a child's money-box.
Jimmy couldn't open a sardine-tin."
Jimmy shrugged his shoulders.
"What'll you bet?" he said again. "Come on, Arthur; you're earning a
very good salary. What'll you bet?"
"Make it a dinner for all present," suggested Raikes, a canny person
who believed in turning the wayside happenings of life, when
possible, to his personal profit.
The suggestion was well received.
"All right," said Mifflin. "How many of us are there? One, two,
three, four--Loser buys a dinner for twelve."
"A good dinner," interpolated Raikes, softly.
"A good dinner," said Jimmy. "Very well. How long do you give me,
"How long do you want?"
"There ought to be a time-limit," said Raikes. "It seems to me that
a flyer like Jimmy ought to be able to manage it at short notice.
Why not tonight? Nice, fine night. If Jimmy doesn't crack a crib
tonight, it's up to him. That suit you, Jimmy?"
Willett interposed. Willett had been endeavoring to drown his
sorrows all the evening, and the fact was a little noticeable in his
"See here," he said, "how's J-Jimmy going to prove he's done it?"
"Personally, I can take his word," said Mifflin.
"That be h-hanged for a tale. Wha-what's to prevent him saying he's
done it, whether he has or not?"
The Strollers looked uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it was Jimmy's
"Why, you'd get your dinner in any case," said Jimmy. "A dinner from
any host would smell as sweet."
Willett persisted with muddled obstinacy.
"Thash--thash not point. It's principle of thing. Have thish thing
square and 'bove board, _I_ say. Thash what _I_ say."
"And very creditable to you being able to say it," said Jimmy,
cordially. "See if you can manage 'Truly rural'."
"What _I_ say is--this! Jimmy's a fakir. And what I say is what's
prevent him saying he's done it when hasn't done it?"
"That'll be all right," said Jimmy. "I'm going to bury a brass tube
with the Stars and Stripes in it under the carpet."
Willett waved his hand.
"Thash quite sh'factory," he said, with dignity. "Nothing more to
"Or a better idea," said Jimmy. "I'll carve a big J on the inside of
the front door. Then, anybody who likes can make inquiries next day.
Well, I'm off home. Glad it's all settled. Anybody coming my way?"
"Yes," said Arthur Mifflin. "We'll walk. First nights always make me
as jumpy as a cat. If I don't walk my legs off, I shan't get to
sleep tonight at all."
"If you think I'm going to help you walk your legs off, my lad,
you're mistaken. I propose to stroll gently home, and go to bed."
"Every little helps," said Mifflin. "Come along."
"You want to keep an eye on Jimmy, Arthur," said Sutton. "He'll
sand-bag you, and lift your watch as soon as look at you. I believe
he's Arsene Lupin in disguise."