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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> The Intrusion of Jimmy -> Chapter 17

The Intrusion of Jimmy - Chapter 17

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

23. Chapter 23

24. Chapter 24

25. Chapter 25

26. Chapter 26

27. Chapter 27

28. Chapter 28

29. Chapter 29

30. Chapter 30



The game between Hargate and Lord Dreever was still in progress when
Jimmy returned to the billiard-room. A glance at the board showed
that the score was seventy--sixty-nine, in favor of spot.

"Good game," said Jimmy. "Who's spot?"

"I am," said his lordship, missing an easy cannon. For some reason,
he appeared in high spirits. "Hargate's been going great guns. I was
eleven ahead a moment ago, but he made a break of twelve."

Lord Dreever belonged to the class of billiard-players to whom a
double-figure break is a thing to be noted and greeted with respect.

"Fluky," muttered the silent Hargate, deprecatingly. This was a long
speech for him. Since their meeting at Paddington station, Jimmy had
seldom heard him utter anything beyond a monosyllable.

"Not a bit of it, dear old son," said Lord Dreever, handsomely.
"You're coming on like a two-year-old. I sha'n't be able to give you
twenty in a hundred much longer."

He went to a side-table, and mixed himself a whiskey-and-soda,
singing a brief extract from musical comedy as he did so. There
could be no shadow of doubt that he was finding life good. For the
past few days, and particularly that afternoon, he had been rather
noticeably ill at ease. Jimmy had seen him hanging about the terrace
at half-past five, and had thought that he looked like a mute at a
funeral. But now, only a few hours later, he was beaming on the
world, and chirping like a bird.

The game moved jerkily along. Jimmy took a seat, and watched. The
score mounted slowly. Lord Dreever was bad, but Hargate was worse.
At length, in the eighties, his lordship struck a brilliant vein.
When he had finished his break, his score was ninety-five. Hargate,
who had profited by a series of misses on his opponent's part, had
reached ninety-six.

"This is shortening my life," said Jimmy, leaning forward.

The balls had been left in an ideal position. Even Hargate could not
fail to make a cannon. He made it.

A close finish to even the worst game is exciting. Jimmy leaned
still further forward to watch the next stroke. It looked as if
Hargate would have to wait for his victory. A good player could have
made a cannon as the balls lay, but not Hargate. They were almost in
a straight line, with, white in the center.

Hargate swore under his breath. There was nothing to be done. He
struck carelessly at white. White rolled against red, seemed to hang
for a moment, and shot straight back against spot. The game was

"Great Scott! What a fluke!" cried the silent one, becoming quite
garrulous at the miracle.

A quiet grin spread itself slowly across Jimmy's face. He had
remembered what he had been trying to remember for over a week.

At this moment, the door opened, and Saunders appeared. "Sir Thomas
would like to see your lordship in his study," he said.

"Eh? What does he want?"

"Sir Thomas did not confide in me, your lordship."

"Eh? What? Oh, no! Well, see you later, you men."

He rested his cue against the table, and put on his coat. Jimmy
followed him out of the door, which he shut behind him.

"One second, Dreever," he said.

"Eh? Hullo! What's up?"

"Any money on that game?" asked Jimmy.

"Why, yes, by Jove, now you mention it, there was. An even fiver.
And--er--by the way, old man--the fact is, just for the moment, I'm
frightfully--You haven't such a thing as a fiver anywhere about,
have you? The fact is--"

"My dear fellow, of course. I'll square up with him now, shall I?"

"Fearfully obliged, if you would. Thanks, old man. Pay it to-

"No hurry," said Jimmy; "plenty more in the old oak chest."

He went back to the room. Hargate was practising cannons. He was on
the point of making a stroke when Jimmy opened the door.

"Care for a game?" said Hargate.

"Not just at present," said Jimmy.

Hargate attempted his cannon, and failed badly. Jimmy smiled.

"Not such a good shot as the last," he said.


"Fine shot, that other."


"I wonder."

Jimmy lighted a cigarette.

"Do you know New York at all?" he asked.

"Been there."

"Ever been in the Strollers' Club?"

Hargate turned his back, but Jimmy had seen his face, and was

"Don't know it," said Hargate.

"Great place," said Jimmy. "Mostly actors and writers, and so on.
The only drawback is that some of them pick up queer friends."

Hargate did not reply. He did not seem interested.

"Yes," went on Jimmy. "For instance, a pal of mine, an actor named
Mifflin, introduced a man a year ago as a member's guest for a
fortnight, and this man rooked the fellows of I don't know how much
at billiards. The old game, you know. Nursing his man right up to
the end, and then finishing with a burst. Of course, when that
happens once or twice, it may be an accident, but, when a man who
poses as a novice always manages by a really brilliant shot--"

Hargate turned round.

"They fired this fellow out," said Jimmy.

"Look here!"


"What do you mean?"

"It's a dull yarn," said Jimmy, apologetically. "I've been boring
you. By the way, Dreever asked me to square up with you for that
game, in case he shouldn't be back. Here you are."

He held out an empty hand.

"Got it?"

"What are you going to do?" demanded Hargate.

"What am I going to do?" queried Jimmy.

"You know what I mean. If you'll keep your mouth shut, and stand in,
it's halves. Is that what you're after?"

Jimmy was delighted. He knew that by rights the proposal should have
brought him from his seat, with stern, set face, to wreak vengeance
for the insult, but on such occasions he was apt to ignore the
conventions. His impulse, when he met a man whose code of behavior
was not the ordinary code, was to chat with him and extract his
point of view. He felt as little animus against Hargate as he had
felt against Spike on the occasion of their first meeting.

"Do you make much at this sort of game?" he asked.

Hargate was relieved. This was business-like.

"Pots," he said, with some enthusiasm. "Pots. I tell you, if you'll
stand in--"

"Bit risky, isn't it?"

"Not a bit of it. An occasional accident--"

"I suppose you'd call me one?"

Hargate grinned.

"It must be pretty tough work," said Jimmy. "You must have to use a
tremendous lot of self-restraint."

Hargate sighed.

"That's the worst of it," he admitted, "the having to seem a mug at
the game. I've been patronized sometimes by young fools, who thought
they were teaching me, till I nearly forgot myself and showed them
what real billiards was."

"There's always some drawback to the learned professions," said

"But there's a heap to make up for it in this one," said Hargate.
"Well, look here, is it a deal? You'll stand in--"

Jimmy shook his head.

"I guess not," he said. "It's good of you, but commercial
speculation never was in my line. I'm afraid you must count me out
of this."

"What! You're going to tell--?"

"No," said Jimmy, "I'm not. I'm not a vigilance committee. I won't
tell a soul."

'"Why, then--" began Hargate, relieved.

"Unless, of course," Jimmy went on, "you play billiards again while
you're here."

Hargate stared.

"But, damn it, man, if I don't, what's the good--? Look here. What
am I to do if they ask me to play?"

"Give your wrist as an excuse."

"My wrist?"

"Yes. You sprained it to-morrow after breakfast. It was bad luck. I
wonder how you came to do it. You didn't sprain it much, but just
enough to stop you playing billiards."

Hargate reflected.

"Understand?" said Jimmy.

"Oh, very well," said Hargate, sullenly. "But," he burst out, "if I
ever get a chance to get even with you--"

"You won't," said Jimmy. "Dismiss the rosy dream. Get even! You
don't know me. There's not a flaw in my armor. I'm a sort of modern
edition of the stainless knight. Tennyson drew Galahad from me. I
move through life with almost a sickening absence of sin. But hush!
We are observed. At least, we shall be in another minute. Somebody
is coming down the passage. You do understand, don't you? Sprained
wrist is the watchword."

The handle turned. It was Lord Dreever, back again, from his

"Hullo, Dreever," said Jimmy. "We've missed you. Hargate has been
doing his best to amuse me with acrobatic tricks. But you're too
reckless, Hargate, old man. Mark my words, one of these days you'll
be spraining your wrist. You should be more careful. What, going?
Good-night. Pleasant fellow, Hargate," he added, as the footsteps
retreated down, the passage. "Well, my lad, what's the matter with
you? You look depressed."

Lord Dreever flung himself on to the lounge, and groaned hollowly.

"Damn! Damn!! Damn.!!!" he observed.

His glassy eye met Jimmy's, and wandered away again.

"What on earth's the matter?" demanded Jimmy. "You go out of here
caroling like a song-bird, and you come back moaning like a lost
soul. What's happened?"

"Give me a brandy-and-soda, Pitt, old man. There's a good chap. I'm
in a fearful hole."

"Why? What's the matter?"

"I'm engaged," groaned his lordship.

"Engaged! I wish you'd explain. What on earth's wrong with you?
Don't you want to be engaged? What's your--?"

He broke off, as a sudden, awful suspicion dawned upon him. "Who is
she?" he cried.

He gripped the stricken peer's shoulder, and shook it savagely.
Unfortunately, he selected the precise moment when the latter was in
the act of calming his quivering nerve-centers with a gulp of
brandy-and-soda, and for the space of some two minutes it seemed as
if the engagement would be broken off by the premature extinction of
the Dreever line. A long and painful fit of coughing, however, ended
with his lordship still alive and on the road to recovery.

He eyed Jimmy reproachfully, but Jimmy was in no mood for apologies.

"Who is she?" he kept demanding. "What's her name?"

"Might have killed me!" grumbled the convalescent.

"Who is she?"

"What? Why, Miss McEachern."

Jimmy had known what the answer would be, but it was scarcely less
of a shock for that reason.

"Miss McEachern?" he echoed.

Lord Dreever nodded a somber nod.

"You're engaged to her?"

Another somber nod.

"I don't believe it," said Jimmy.

"I wish I didn't," said his lordship wistfully, ignoring the slight
rudeness of the remark. "But, worse luck, it's true."

For the first time since the disclosure of the name, Jimmy's
attention was directed to the remarkable demeanor of his successful

"You don't seem over-pleased," he said.

"Pleased! Have a fiver each way on 'pleased'! No, I'm not exactly
leaping with joy."

"Then, what the devil is it all about? What do you mean? What's the
idea? If you don't want to marry Miss McEachern, why did you propose
to her?"

Lord Dreever closed his eyes.

"Dear old boy, don't! It's my uncle."

"Your uncle?"

"Didn't I explain it all to you--about him wanting me to marry? You
know! I told you the whole thing."

Jimmy stared in silence.

"Do you mean to say--?" he said, slowly.

He stopped. It was a profanation to put the thing into words.

"What, old man?"

Jimmy gulped.

"Do you mean to say you want to marry Miss McEachern simply because
she has money?" he said.

It was not the first time that he had heard of a case of a British
peer marrying for such a reason, but it was the first time that the
thing had filled him with horror. In some circumstances, things come
home more forcibly to us.

"It's not me, old man," murmured his lordship; "it's my uncle."

"Your uncle! Good God!" Jimmy clenched his hands, despairingly. "Do
you mean to say that you let your uncle order you about in a thing
like this? Do you mean to say you're such a--such a--such a
gelatine--backboneless worm--"

"Old man! I say!" protested his lordship, wounded.

"I'd call you a wretched knock-kneed skunk, only I don't want to be
fulsome. I hate flattering a man to his face."

Lord Dreever, deeply pained, half-rose from his seat.

"Don't get up," urged Jimmy, smoothly. "I couldn't trust myself."
His lordship subsided hastily. He was feeling alarmed. He had never
seen this side of Jimmy's character. At first, he had been merely
aggrieved and disappointed. He had expected sympathy. How, the
matter had become more serious. Jimmy was pacing the room like a
young and hungry tiger. At present, it was true, there was a
billiard-table between them; but his lordship felt that he could
have done with good, stout bars. He nestled in his seat with the
earnest concentration of a limpet on a rock. It would be deuced bad
form, of course, for Jimmy to assault his host, but could Jimmy be
trusted to remember the niceties of etiquette?

"Why the devil she accepted you, I can't think," said Jimmy half to
himself, stopping suddenly, and glaring across the table.

Lord Dreever felt relieved. This was not polite, perhaps, but at
least it was not violent.

"That's what beats me, too, old man," he said.

"Between you and me, it's a jolly rum business. This afternoon--"

"What about this afternoon?"

"Why, she wouldn't have me at any price."

"You asked her this afternoon?"

"Yes, and it was all right then. She refused me like a bird.
Wouldn't hear of it. Came damn near laughing in my face. And then,
to-night," he went on, his voice squeaky at the thought of his
wrongs, "my uncle sends for me, and says she's changed her mind and
is waiting for me in the morning-room. I go there, and she tells me
in about three words that she's been thinking it over and that the
whole fearful thing is on again. I call it jolly rough on a chap. I
felt such a frightful ass, you know. I didn't know what to do,
whether to kiss her, I mean--"

Jimmy snorted violently.

"Eh?" said his lordship, blankly.

"Go on," said Jimmy, between his teeth.

"I felt a fearful fool, you know. I just said 'Right ho!' or
something--dashed if I know now what I did say--and legged it. It's
a jolly rum business, the whole thing. It isn't as if she wanted me.
I could see that with half an eye. She doesn't care a hang for me.
It's my belief, old man," he said solemnly, "that she's been
badgered into it, I believe my uncle's been at her."

Jimmy laughed shortly.

"My dear man, you seem to think your uncle's persuasive influence is
universal. I guess it's confined to you."

"Well, anyhow, I believe that's what's happened. What do you say?"

"Why say anything? There doesn't seem to be much need."

He poured some brandy into a glass, and added a little soda.

"You take it pretty stiff," observed his lordship, with a touch of

"On occasion," said Jimmy, emptying the glass.

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