Liberty, July 14, 1928

Money for Nothing - Episode 5

Part Five

THERE is no anguish like the anguish of the man who is trying to extract cash from a fellow human being and suddenly finds the fellow human being trying to extract it from him. Mr. Carmody laughed a bitter laugh.

“Do you imagine,” he said, “that I have money to spare for speculative investments?”

“Speculative?” Mr. Molloy seemed to suspect his ears of playing tricks. “Silver River spec—?”

“By the time I’ve finished paying the bills for the expenses of this infernal estate I consider myself lucky if I’ve got a few hundred that I can call my own.”

There was a pause.

“Is that so?” said Mr. Molloy in a thin voice.


STRICTLY speaking, it was not. Before succeeding to his present position of head of the family and squire of Rudge Hall, Lester Carmody had contrived to put away in gilt-edged securities a very nice sum indeed, the fruit of his labors in the world of business. But it was his whim to regard himself as a struggling pauper.

“But all this”—Mr. Molloy indicated with a wave of his hand the smiling gardens, the rolling park, and the opulent looking trees reflected in the waters of the moat—“surely this means a barrel of money?”

“Everything that comes in goes out again in expenses. There’s no end to my expenses. Farmers in England today sit up at night trying to think of new claims they can make against a landlord.”

There was another pause.

“That’s bad,” said Mr. Molloy thoughtfully. “Yes, sir, that’s bad.”


HIS commiseration was not all for Mr. Carmody. In fact, very little of it was. Most of it was reserved for himself. It began to look, he realized, as though in coming to this stately home of England he had been simply wasting valuable time.

It was not as if he enjoyed staying at country houses in a purely æsthetic spirit. On the contrary, a place like Rudge Hall afflicted his town-bred nerves. Being in it seemed to him like living in the first-act set of an old-fashioned comic opera. He always felt that at any moment a band of villagers and retainers might dance out and start a drinking chorus.

“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Molloy; “that must grind you a good deal.”

“What must?”

It was not Mr. Carmody who had spoken, but his guest’s attractive young wife, who, having returned from the village, had come up from the direction of the rose garden.

From afar she had observed her husband spreading his hands in broad, persuasive gestures, and from her knowledge of him had gathered that he had embarked on one of those high-pressure sales talks of his which did so much to keep the wolf from the door. Then she had seen a shadow fall athwart his fine face; and, scenting a hitch in the negotiations, had hurried up to lend wifely assistance.

“What must grind him?” she asked.

Mr. Molloy kept nothing from his bride.

“I was offering our host, here, a block of those Silver River shares—”

“Oh, you aren’t going to sell Silver Rivers!” cried Mrs. Molloy in pretty concern. “Why, you’ve always told me they’re the biggest thing you’ve got.”

“So they are. But—”

“Oh, well,” said Dolly, with a charming smile, “seeing it’s Mr. Carmody. I wouldn’t mind Mr. Carmody having them.”

“Nor would I,” said Mr. Molloy sincerely. “But he can’t afford to buy.”


“You tell her,” said Mr. Molloy.

Mr. Carmody told her. He was never averse to speaking of the unfortunate position in which the modern owner of English land found himself.

“Well, I don’t get it,” said Dolly, shaking her head. “You call yourself a poor man. How can you be poor, when that gallery place you showed us round yesterday is jammed full of pictures worth a fortune an inch, and tapestries, and all those gold coins?”


“How’s that?”

“They’re heirlooms,” said Mr. Carmody bitterly.

He always felt bitter when he thought of the Rudge Hall heirlooms. He looked upon them as a mean joke played on him by a gang of sardonic ancestors.

To a man who, lacking both reverence for family traditions and appreciation of the beautiful in art, comes into possession of an ancient house and its contents, there must always be something painfully ironical about heirlooms. To such a man they are simply so much potential wealth which is being allowed to lie idle, doing no good to anybody.

Mr. Carmody had always had that feeling very strongly.

Unlike the majority of heirs, he had not been trained from boyhood to revere the home of his ancestors and to look forward to its possession as a sacred trust. He had been the second son of a second son, and his chance of ever succeeding to the property was at the outset so remote that he had seldom given it a thought.

He had gone into business at an early age; and when, in middle life, a series of accidents made him squire of Rudge Hall, he had brought with him to the place a practical eye and the commercial outlook. The result was that when he walked in the picture gallery and thought how much solid cash he could get for this Velasquez or that Gainsborough, if only he were given a free hand, the iron entered into Lester Carmody’s soul.

“They’re heirlooms,” he said. “I can’t sell them.”

“How come? They’re yours, aren’t they?”

“No,” said Mr. Carmody. “They belong to the estate.”


ON Mr. Molloy, as he listened to his host’s lengthy exposition of the laws governing heirlooms, there descended a deepening cloud of gloom. You couldn’t, it appeared, dispose of the darned things without the consent of trustees; while, even if the trustees gave their consent, they collared the money and invested it on behalf of the estate.

And Mr. Molloy, though ordinarily a man of sanguine temperament, could not bring himself to believe that a hard-boiled bunch of trustees, most of them probably lawyers with tight lips and suspicious minds, would ever have the sporting spirit to take a flutter in Silver Rivers.

“Hell!” said Mr. Molloy, with a good deal of feeling.

Dolly linked her arm in his with a pretty gesture of affectionate solicitude.

“Poor old pop!” she said. “He’s all broken up about this.”

Mr. Carmody regarded his guest sourly.

“What’s he got to worry about?” he asked with a certain resentment.

“Why, pop was sort of hoping he’d be able to buy all this stuff,” said Dolly. “He was telling me only this morning that, if you felt like selling, he would write you out his check for whatever you wanted without thinking twice.”

Moodily scanning his wife’s face during Mr. Carmody’s lecture on heirloom law, Mr. Molloy had observed it suddenly light up in a manner which suggested that some pleasing thought was passing through her always agile brain. But, presented now in words, this thought left him decidedly cold. He could not see any sense in it.

“For the love of Pete!” began Mr. Molloy.

His bride had promised to love, honor, and obey him, but she had never said anything about taking any notice of him when he tried to butt in on her moments of inspiration. She ignored the interruption.

“You see,” she said, “pop collects old junk—I mean antiques and all like that. Over in America he’s got a great big museum place full of stuff. He’s going to present it to the nation when he hands in his dinner pail. Aren’t you, pop?”

It became apparent to Mr. Molloy that at the back of his wife’s mind there floated some idea at which, handicapped by his masculine slowness of wit, he could not guess. It was plain to him, however, that she expected him to do his bit, so he did it.

“You betcher,” he said.

“How much would you say all that stuff in your museum was worth, pop?”


MR. MOLLOY was still groping in outer darkness, but he persevered.

“Oo,” he said. “Worth? Call it a million—two millions—three, maybe.”

“You see,” explained Dolly, “the place is so full up, he doesn’t really know what he’s got. But Pierpont Morgan offered you a million for the pictures alone, didn’t he?”

Now that figures had crept into the conversation, Mr. Molloy was feeling more at his ease. He liked figures.

“You’re thinking of Jake Shubert, honey,” he said. “It was the tapestries that Pierp wanted. And it wasn’t a million: it was seven hundred thousand. I laughed in his face. I asked him if he thought he was trying to buy cheese sandwiches at the delicatessen store or something. Pierp was sore.”

Mr. Molloy shook his head regretfully, and you could see he was thinking that it was too bad that his little joke should have caused a coolness between himself and an old friend.

“But, great guns!” he went on, in defense of his attitude. “Seven hundred thousand! Did he think I wanted carfare?”

Mr. Carmody’s always rather protuberant eyes had been bulging farther and farther out of their sockets all through this exchange of remarks, and now they reached the farthest point possible and stayed there. His breath was coming in little gasps and his fingers twitched convulsively. He was suffering the extreme of agony.

It was all very well for a man like Mr. Molloy to speak sneeringly of seven hundred thousand dollars.

To most people—and Mr. Carmody was one of them—seven hundred thousand dollars is quite a nice little sum. Mr. Molloy, if he saw seven hundred thousand dollars lying in the gutter, might not think it worth his while to stoop and pick it up; but Mr. Carmody could not imitate that proud detachment.

The thought that he had as his guest at Rudge a man who combined with a bottomless purse a taste for antiquities, and that only the imbecile laws relating to heirlooms prevented them consummating a deal, racked him from head to foot.

“How much would you have given Mr. Carmody for all those pictures and things he showed us yesterday?” asked Dolly, twisting the knife in the wound.

Mr. Molloy spread his hands carelessly.

“Two hundred thousand—three—we wouldn’t have quarreled about the price. But what’s the use of talking? He can’t sell ’em.”

“Why can’t he?”

“Well, how can he?”

“I’ll tell you how. Fake a burglary.”


“Sure. Have the things stolen and slipped over to you without anybody knowing, and then you hand him your check for two hundred thousand or whatever it is, and you’re happy and he’s happy and everybody’s happy. And, what’s more, I guess all this stuff is insured, isn’t it? Well, then, Mr. Carmody can stick to the insurance money, and he’s that much up, besides whatever he gets from you.”


THERE was a silence. Dolly had said her say, and Mr. Molloy felt for the moment incapable of speech. That he had not been mistaken in supposing that his wife had a scheme at the back of her head was now plain; but, as outlined, it took his breath away.

Considered purely as a scheme, he had not a word to say against it. It was commercially sound and did credit to the ingenuity of one whom he had always regarded as the slickest thinker of her sex. But it was not the sort of scheme, he considered, which ought to have emanated from the presumably innocent and unspotted daughter of a substantial oil millionaire. It was calculated, he felt, to create in their host’s mind doubts and misgivings as to the sort of people he was entertaining.

He need have had no such apprehension. It was not righteous disapproval that was holding Mr. Carmody dumb.

It has been laid down by an acute thinker that there is a subtle connection between felony and fat. Almost all embezzlers, for instance, says this authority, are fat men. Whether this is or is not true, the fact remains that the sensational criminality of the suggestion just made to him awoke no horror in Mr. Carmody’s ample bosom. He was startled, as any man might be who had this sort of idea sprung suddenly on him in his own garden; but he was not shocked.

A youth and middle age spent on the London Stock Exchange had left Lester Carmody singularly broad-minded. He had to a remarkable degree that spacious charity which allows a man to look indulgently on any financial project, however fishy, provided he can see a bit in it for himself.


“IT’S money for nothing,” urged Dolly, misinterpreting his silence. “The stuff isn’t doing any good just lying around the way it is now. And it isn’t as if it didn’t really belong to you. All what you were saying awhile back about the law is simple mashed potatoes. The things belong to the house, and the house belongs to you—so where’s the harm in your selling them? Who’s supposed to get them after you?”

Mr. Carmody withdrew his gaze from the middle distance.

“Eh? Oh. My nephew Hugo.”

“Well, you aren’t worrying about him?”

Mr. Carmody was not. What he was worrying about was the practicability of the thing. Could it, he was asking himself, be put safely through without the risk, so distasteful to a man of sensibility, of landing him for a lengthy term of years in a prison cell? It was on this aspect of the matter that he now touched.

“It wouldn’t be safe,” he said, and few men since the world began have ever spoken more wistfully. “We would be found out.”

“Not a chance. Who would find out? Who’s going to say anything? You’re not. I’m not. Pop’s not.”

“You bet your life pop’s not,” assented Mr. Molloy.

Mr. Carmody gazed out over the waters of the moat. His brain, quickened by the stimulating prospect of money for nothing, detected another doubtful point.

“Who would take the things?”

“You mean get them out of the house?”

“Exactly. Somebody would have to take them. It would be necessary to create the appearance of an actual burglary.”

“Well, there’ll be an actual burglary.”

“But whom could we trust in such a vital matter?”

“That’s all right. Pop’s got a friend, another millionaire like himself, who would put this thing through just for the fun of it, to oblige pop. You could trust him.”

“Who?” asked Mr. Molloy, plainly surprised that any friend of his could be trusted.

“Chimp,” said Dolly briefly.

“Oh, Chimp,” said Mr. Molloy, his face clearing. “Yes, Chimp would do it.”

“Who,” asked Mr. Carmody, “is Chimp?”

“A good friend of mine. You wouldn’t know him.”


MR. CARMODY scratched at the gravel with his shoe, and for a long minute there was silence in the garden. Mr. Molloy looked at Mrs. Molloy. Mrs. Molloy looked at Mr. Molloy. Mr. Molloy closed his left eye for a fractional instant, and in response Mrs. Molloy permitted her right eyelid to quiver.

But, perceiving that this was one of the occasions on which a strong man wishes to be left alone to commune with his soul, they forbore to break in upon Mr. Carmody’s reverie with jarring speech.

“Well, I’ll think it over,” said Mr. Carmody.

“At-a-boy!” said Mr. Molloy.

“Sure. You take a nice walk around the block all by yourself,” advised Mrs. Molloy, “and then come back and issue a bulletin.”

Mr. Carmody moved away, pondering deeply, and Mr. Molloy turned to his wife.

“What made you think of Chimp?” he asked doubtfully.

“Well, he’s the only guy on this side that we really know. We can’t pick and choose same as if we were in New York.”

Mr. Molloy eyed the moat with a thoughtful frown.

“Well, I’ll tell you, honey. I’m not so darned sure that I sort of kind of like bringing Chimp into a thing like this. You know what he is—as slippery as an eel that’s been rubbed all over with axle grease. He might double-cross us.”

“Not if we double-crossed him first.”

“But could we?”

“Sure we could. And, anyway, it’s Chimp or no one. This isn’t the sort of affair you can just go out into the street and pick up the first man you run into. It’s a job where you’ve got to have somebody you’ve worked with before.”

“All right, baby, if you say so. You always were the brains of the firm. If you think it’s kayo, then it’s all right by me and no more to be said. Cheese it! Here’s his nibs back again.”

Mr. Carmody was coming up the gravel path, his air that of a man who has made a great decision.

He had evidently been following a train of thought, for he began abruptly at the point to which it had led him.

“There’s only one thing,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of bringing in this friend of yours. He may be all right or he may not. You say you can trust him; but it seems to me the fewer people who know about this business, the better.”

These were Mr. Molloy’s sentiments also. He would vastly have preferred to keep it a nice, cozy affair among the three of them. But it was no part of his policy to ignore obvious difficulties.

“I’d like that, too,” he said. “I don’t want to call in Chimp any more than you do. But there’s this thing of getting the stuff out of the house.”

“What you were saying just now,” Mrs. Molloy reminded Mr. Carmody. “It’s got to look like an outside job, what I mean.”

“As it’s called,” said Mr. Molloy hastily. “She’s always reading these detective stories,” he explained. “That’s where she picks up these expressions. Outside job, ha, ha! But she’s dead right, at that. You said yourself it would be necessary to create the appearance of an actual burglary. If we don’t get Chimp, who is going to take the stuff?”

“I am.”


“I am,” repeated Mr. Carmody stoutly. “I have been thinking the whole matter out, and it will be perfectly simple. I shall get up very early tomorrow morning, and enter the picture gallery through the window by means of a ladder. This will deceive the police into supposing the theft to have been the work of a professional burglar.”

Mr. Molloy was regarding him with affectionate admiration.

“I never knew you were such a hot sketch!” said Mr. Molloy. “You certainly are one smooth citizen. Looks to me as if you’d done this sort of thing before.”

“Wear gloves,” advised Mrs. Molloy.

“What she means,” said Mr. Molloy, again speaking with a certain nervous haste, “is that the first thing the bulls—as the expression is—they always call the police bulls in these detective stories—the first thing the police look for is finger prints. The fellows in the book always wear gloves.”

“A very sensible precaution,” said Mr. Carmody, now thoroughly in the spirit of the thing. “I am glad you mentioned it. I shall make a point of doing so.”



THE picture gallery of Rudge Hall, the receptacle of what Mrs. Soapy Molloy had called “the antiques and all like that,” was situated on the second floor of that historic edifice. To Mr. Carmody, at 5:30 on the following morning, as he propped against the broad sill of the window facing the moat a ladder which he had discovered in one of the barns, it looked much higher. He felt, as he gazed upward, like an inexpert Jack about to mount the longest bean stalk on record.

Even as a boy, Lester Carmody had never been a great climber.

While his young companions, reckless of risk to life and limb, had swarmed to the top of apple trees, Mr. Carmody had preferred to roam about on solid ground, hunting in the grass for windfalls. He had always hated heights, and this morning found him more prejudiced against them than ever.

It says much for crime as a wholesome influence in a man’s life that the lure of the nefarious job which he had undertaken should have induced him eventually, after much hesitation, to set foot on the ladder’s lowest rung. Nothing but a single-minded desire to do down an innocent insurance company could have lent him the necessary courage.

Mind having triumphed over matter to this extent, Mr. Carmody found the going easier. Carefully refraining from looking down, he went doggedly upward. Only the sound of his somewhat stertorous breathing broke the hushed stillness of the summer morning.


AS far as the weather was concerned, it was the start of a perfect day. But Mr. Carmody paid no attention to the sunbeams creeping over the dewy grass; nor, when the quiet was broken by the first piping of birds, did he pause to listen. He had not, he considered, time for that sort of thing.

He was to have ample leisure later; but of this he was not aware.

He continued to climb, using the extreme of caution—a method which, while it helped to ease his mind, necessarily rendered progress slow.

Before long he was suffering from a feeling that he had been climbing this ladder all his life. The thing seemed to have no end. He was now, he felt, at such a distance from the earth that he wondered the air was not more rarefied, and it appeared incredible to him that he should not long since have reached the window sill.

Looking up at this point—a thing he had not dared to do before—he found that steady perseverance had brought about its usual result. The sill was only a few inches above his head, and with the realization of this fact there came to him something that was almost a careless jauntiness.

He quickened his pace and, treading heavily on an upper rung, snapped it in two as if it had been matchwood.

When this accident occurred, he had been on a level with the sill and just about to step warily on to it. The effect of the breaking of the rung was to make him execute this movement at about fifteen times the speed which he had contemplated.

There was a moment in which the whole universe seemed to dissolve, and then he was on the sill, his fingers clinging with a passionate grip to a small piece of lead piping that protruded from the wall, and his legs swinging dizzily over the abyss. The ladder, urged outward by his last frenzied kick, tottered for an instant, then fell to the ground.

The events just described, though it seemed longer to the principal actor in them, had occupied perhaps six seconds. They left Mr. Carmody in a world that jumped and swam before his eyes, feeling as though somebody had extracted his heart and replaced it with some kind of lively firework.

This substitute, whatever it was, appeared to be fizzing and leaping inside his chest, and its gyrations interfered with his breathing.

For some minutes his only conscious thought was that he felt extremely ill. Then, becoming by slow degrees more composed, he was enabled to examine the situation.

It was not a pleasant one. At first it had been agreeable enough simply to allow his mind to dwell on the fact that he was alive and in one piece. But now, probing beneath this mere surface aspect of the matter, he perceived that, taking the most conservative estimate, he must acknowledge himself to be in a peculiarly awkward position.

The hour was about a quarter to six. He was thirty feet or so above the ground. And, though reason told him that the window sill on which he sat was thoroughly solid and quite capable of bearing a much heavier weight, he could not rid himself of the feeling that at any moment it might give way and precipitate him into the depths.


OF course, looked at in the proper spirit, his predicament had all sorts of compensations. The medical profession is agreed that there is nothing better for the health than the fresh air of the early morning, and this he was in a position to drink into his lungs in unlimited quantities. Furthermore, nobody could have been more admirably situated than he to compile notes for one of those country life articles which are so popular with the readers of daily papers.

“As I sit on my second-floor window sill and gaze about me,” Mr. Carmody ought to have been saying to himself, “I see Dame Nature busy about her morning tasks. Everything in my peaceful garden is growing and blowing.

“Here I note that most gemlike of all annuals, the African nemesia, with its brilliant ruby and turquoise tints; there the lovely tangle of blue, purple, and red formed by the blending shades of delphiniums, Canterbury bells, and the popular geum. Birds, too, are chanting everywhere their morning anthems. I see the jay (Garrulus glandarius rufitergum), the Corvus monedula spermologus, or jackdaw, the sparrow (better known, perhaps, to some of my readers as Prunella modularis occidentalis), and many others.”

But Mr. Carmody’s reflections did not run on these lines. It was with a gloomy and hostile eye that he regarded the grass, the trees, the flowers, the birds, and the dew that lay like snow upon the turf. And, of all these, it was possibly the birds that he disliked most.

They were an appalling crowd—noisy, fussy, and bustling about with a sort of overdone heartiness that seemed to Mr. Carmody affected and offensive. They got on his nerves and stayed there.

And outstanding among the rest in general lack of charm was a certain Dartford warbler (Melizophilus undatus dartfordiensis) which, instead of staying in Dartford, where it belonged, had come all the way up to Worcestershire simply, it appeared, for the purpose of adding to his discomfort.

This creature, flaunting a red waistcoat which might have been all right for a frosty day in winter, but on a summer morning seemed intolerably loud, and struck the jarring note of a Fair Isle sweater in the Royal Inclosure at Ascot, arrived at five minutes past 6, and, sitting down on the edge of Mr. Carmody’s window sill, looked long and earnestly at that unfortunate man, with its head cocked on one side.

“This can’t be real,” said the Dartford warbler in a low voice.

It then flew away and did some rough work among the insects under a bush. At 6:10 it returned.

“It is real,” it soliloquized. “But, if real, what is it?”

Pondering this problem, it returned to its meal, and Mr. Carmody was left for some considerable time to his meditations. It may have been about twenty-five minutes to 7 when a voice at his elbow aroused him once more. The Dartford warbler was back again, its eye now a little glazed and wearing the replete look of the bird that has done itself well at the breakfast table.

“And why?” mused the Dartford warbler, resuming at the point where he had left off.

To Mr. Carmody, conscious now of a devouring hunger, the spectacle of this bloated bird was the last straw. He struck out at it in a spasm of irritation and nearly overbalanced.

The warbler uttered a shrill exclamation of terror and disappeared, looking like an absconding bookmaker. Mr. Carmody huddled back against the window, palpitating. And more time passed.

It was at half-past 7, when he was beginning to feel that he had not tasted food since boyhood, that there sounded from somewhere below on his right a shrill whistling.

He looked cautiously down. It gave him acute vertigo to do so, but he braved this in his desire to see.

Since his vigil began he had heard much whistling. In addition to the Garrulus glandarius rufitergum and the Corvus monedula spermologus, he had been privileged for the last hour or so to listen to a never ceasing concert featuring such artists as the Dryobates major anglicus, the Sturnus vulgaris, the Emberiza cirlus, and the Muscicapa striata, or spotted flycatcher; and, a moment before, he would have said that in the matter of whistling he had had all he wanted.

But this latest outburst sounded human. It stirred in his bosom something approaching hope.


SO Mr. Carmody, craning his neck, waited; and presently round the corner of the house, a towel about his shoulders suggesting that he was on his way to take an early morning dip in the moat, came his nephew Hugo.

Mr. Carmody, as this chronicle has shown, had never entertained for Hugo quite that warmth of affection which one likes to see in an uncle toward his nearest of kin. But at the present moment he could not have appreciated him more if he had been a millionaire anxious to put up capital for a new golf course in the park.

“Hoy!” he cried, much as the beleaguered garrison of Lucknow must have done to the advance guard of the relieving Highlanders. “Hoy!”

Hugo stopped. He looked to his right, then to his left, then in front of him, and then, turning, behind him. It was a spectacle that chilled in an instant the new sensation of kindliness which his uncle had been feeling toward him.

“Hoy!” cried Mr. Carmody. “Hugo! Confound the boy! Hugo!”

For the first time, the other looked up. Perceiving Mr. Carmody in his aerie, he stood rigid, gazing with opened mouth. He might have been posing for a statue of Young Man Startled by Snake in Path While About to Bathe.

“Great Scott!” said Hugo, looking to his uncle’s prejudiced eye exactly like the Dartford warbler. “What on earth are you doing up there?”



Watch Mr. Carmody try to hit on an explanation that explains! But the episode of the window sill was nothing to the burglarious plot that followed. You’ll find it in next week’s installment.