The New Magazine, May 1927



The Opening Chapters.

GEORGE FINCH, immaculate tenant of a small bachelor flat in New York, and madly in love with Molly Waddington, beautiful and unattainable step-daughter of masterful Mrs. Waddington and daughter of Mr. Sigsbee H. Waddington (who tries hard to matter), “insinuates” himself into dinner at Molly’s home among a bevy of millionaires, snatches a tête-à-tête with Molly and finds himself forbidden the house. To his rescue comes his friend, Hamilton Beamish (author of “English Pure and Marriage Sane”) who, with Molly, helps to talk Mrs. W. into reluctant acquiescence in the wedding. Mr. Waddington hires a girl-crook to steal his daughter’s pearls rather than face his wife’s wrath for having substituted faked gems; and the girl succeeds by creating a scene in the room where the wedding-presents are—a scene Hamilton Beamish had hired her to create for quite another purpose, viz., to free George from the menace of May Stubbs, a girl from George’s past. May Stubbs, however, is really Madame Eulalie, the girl Hamilton loves, and his plan merely results in Mrs. W. postponing George’s wedding, and devoting herself, with toady Lord Hunstanton, to proving George a villain. She is discovered in George’s New York flat by a policeman-poet named Garroway (to whom Sigsbee H. has sold some shares he now wants back) and throws pepper in his face to cover her retreat. Here Molly finds him, earns his gratitude by her sympathy and learns that the police are about to raid a restaurant called the Purple Chicken. She then dismissed him and waits for George, whose servant, Mullett, the husband of the girl-crook hired by Sigsbee H. earlier on, happens to be out.




EORGE FINCH stood in the moonlight, staring dumbly. Although what he saw before him had all the appearance of being Molly, and though a rash and irreflective observer would no doubt have said that it was Molly, it was so utterly impossible that she could really be there that he concluded that he was suffering from an hallucination. The nervous strain of the exacting day through which he had passed had reduced him, he perceived, to the condition of those dying travellers in the desert who see mirages. And so he remained where he was, not daring to approach closer; for he knew that if you touch people in dreams they vanish.

But Molly was of a more practical turn of mind. She had come twenty miles to see George. She had waited for George for what seemed several hours. And here George was. She did the sensible thing. Uttering a little squeak of rapture, she ran at him like a rabbit.

“Georgie! My pet!”

One lives and learns. George found that he had been all wrong, and that his preconceived ideas about dreams and what could and could not happen in them must be revised. For, so far from vanishing when touched, this wraith appeared to be growing more substantial every moment.

He shut his eyes and kissed her tentatively. He opened his eyes. She was still there.

“Is it really you?” said George.

“Yes, really me.”

“But how . . . what . . . ?”

It was borne in upon George—for he was a young man of good average intelligence—that he was spoiling a golden moment with unseasonable chatter. This was no time for talk. He talked, accordingly, no more; and there was silence on the roof. The moon looked down, well pleased. There is not much of interest for a moon to look at in a large city, and this was the sort of thing it liked best—the only sort of thing, if you came right down to it, that made it worth a moon’s while to shine at all.

George clung to Molly, and Molly clung to George, like two shipwrecked survivors who have come together on a wave-swept beach. And the world moved on, forgotten.

But the world will never allow itself to be forgotten for long. Suddenly George broke away with an exclamation. He ran to the wall and looked over.

“What’s the matter?”

George returned, reassured. His concern had been groundless.

“I thought I saw someone on the fire-escape, darling.”

“On the fire-escape? Why, who could it be?”

“I thought it might be the man who has the apartment on the floor below. A ghastly, sneaking, snooping fellow named Lancelot Biffen. I’ve known him to climb up before. He’s the editor of Town Gossip, the last person we want to have watching us.”

Molly uttered a cry of alarm.

“You’re sure he wasn’t there?”

“Quite sure.”

“It would be awful if anyone saw me here.”

George silently cursed the too-vivid imagination which had led him to suppose that he had seen a dark form outlined against the summer sky. He had spoiled the golden moment, and it could not be recaptured.

“Don’t be afraid, dear,” he said. “Even if he had seen you he would never have guessed who you were.”

“You mean he would naturally expect to find you up here kissing some girl?”

George was in the state of mind when a man cannot be quite sure what his words mean, if anything, but so positive was he that he did not mean this that he got his tongue tied in a knot trying to say so in three different ways simultaneously.

“Well, after what happened this afternoon then? . . .” said Molly.

She drew away. She was not normally an unkind girl, but the impulse of the female of the species to torture the man it loves is well known. Woman may be a ministering angel when pain and anguish rack the brow, but if at other times she sees a chance to prod the loved one and watch him squirm, she hates to miss it.

George’s tongue appeared to him to be now in the sort of condition a ball of wool is in after a kitten has been playing with it. With a supreme effort he contrived to straighten out a few of the major kinks, just sufficient to render speech possible.

“I swear to you,” began George, going so far in his emotion as to raise a passionate fist towards the moon.

Molly gurgled delightedly. She loved this young man most when he looked funny, and he had seldom looked funnier than now.

“I swear to you on my solemn oath that I had never seen that infernal girl before in my life.”

“She seemed to know you so well.”

“She was a perfect, complete, total, and absolute stranger.”

“Are you sure? Perhaps you had simply forgotten all about her.”

“I swear it,” said George—and only just stopped himself from adding “by yonder moon.”—“If you want to know what I think . . .”

“Oh, I do.”

“I believe she was mad. Stark, staring mad.”

Molly decided that the anguish had lasted long enough. A girl has to judge these things to a nicety. Sufficient agony is good for a man, stimulating his mind and keeping him bright and alert, but too much is too much.

“Poor old Georgie!” she said soothingly. “You don’t really suppose for a moment that I believed a word of what she said, do you?”

“What! You didn’t?”

“Of course I didn’t.”

“Molly,” said George, weighing his words, “you are without exception the dearest, sweetest, loveliest, most perfect and angelic thing that ever lived.”

“I know. Aren’t you lucky?”

“You saw at once that the girl was mad, didn’t you? You realised immediately that she was suffering from some sort of obsession, poor soul, which made her . . .”

“No, I didn’t. I couldn’t think what it was all about at first, and then father came in and said that my pearl necklace had disappeared, and I understood.”

“Your pearl necklace? Disappeared?”

“She stole it. She was a thief. Don’t you see? It was really awfully clever. She couldn’t have got it any other way. But when she burst in and said all those things about you, naturally she took everybody’s attention off the wedding presents. And then she pretended to faint on the table, and just snapped the necklace up and rushed out, and nobody guessed what had happened.”

George drew in a whistling breath. His fists clenched. He stared coldly at one of the potted shrubs as if it had done him a personal injury.

“If ever I meet that girl . . .”

Molly laughed.

“Mother still insists that you had known her before and that the story she told was true and that she only took the necklace as an afterthought. Isn’t she funny!”

“Funny,” said George heavily, “is not the word. She is one long scream from the rise of the curtain and ought to be beaten over the head with a blackjack. If you want my candid and considered opinion of that zymotic scourge who has contrived to hook herself on to your family in the capacity of stepmother to you and general mischief maker to the rest of the world, let me begin by saying . . . However, there is no time to go into that now.”

“No, there isn’t. I must be getting back.”

“Oh, no!”

“Yes. I must go home and pack.”


“Just a suit-case.”

The universe reeled about George.

“Do you mean you’re going away?” he quavered.

“Yes. To-morrow.”

“Oh, heavens! For long?”

“For ever. With you.”

“With . . . ?”

“Of course. Don’t you understand? I’m going home now to pack a suit-case. Then I’ll drive back to New York and stay the night at a hotel, and to-morrow we’ll be married early in the morning, and in the afternoon we’ll go off together, all alone, miles and miles from everybody.”


“Look at that moon. About now it ought to have been shining into our drawing-room on the train.”


“Well, there will be just as good a moon to-morrow night.”

George moistened his lips. Something seemed to be tickling his nose, and inside his chest a curious growth had begun to swell, rendering breathing difficult.

“And half-an-hour ago,” he said, “I thought I would never see you again.”

“Come down and put me in the car,” said Molly briskly. “I left it at the door.”

They descended the stairs. Owing to the eccentricity of the elevator, George had frequently had to go up and down these stairs before, but it was only now that he noticed for the first time a peculiarity about them that made them different from the stairs of every other apartment-house he had visited. They were, he observed, hedged about with roses and honeysuckle, and many more birds were singing on them than you would expect in an apartment-house. Odd. And yet, as he immediately realised, all perfectly in order.

Molly climbed into the two-seater, and George mentioned a point which had presented itself to him.

“I don’t see why you need hurry off like this.”

“I do. I’ve got to pack and get away before mother gets home.”

“Is that blas . . . is your stepmother in New York?”

“Yes. She came in to see the police.”

Until this moment George had been looking on New York as something rather out of the common run of cities—he particularly liked the way those violets were sprouting up through the flagstones, but on receipt of this information he found that it had lost a little of its charm.

“Oh, she’s in New York, is she?”

“Probably on her way home by now.”

“You don’t think there’s time for us to go and have a little dinner somewhere? Just a cosy little dinner at some quiet little restaurant?”

“Good gracious, no! I’m running it very fine as it is.” She looked at him closely. “But, Georgie darling, you’re starving. I can see it. You’re quite pale and worn out. When did you last have anything to eat?”

“Eat? Eat? I don’t remember.”

“What did you do after that business this afternoon?”

“I—well, I walked around for awhile. And then I hung about in the bushes for awhile. Hoping you would come out. And then—I believe I went to the station and took a train or something.”

“You poor darling! Go and eat something at once.”

“Why can’t I come back to Hempstead with you?”

“Because you can’t.”

“What hotel will you go to to-night?”

“I don’t know. But I’ll come and see you for a minute before I go there.”

“What, here? You’ll come here?”


“You’ll come back here?”


“You promise?”

“Yes, if you will go and have some dinner. You look perfectly ghastly.”

“Dinner? All right. I’ll have some.”

“Mind you do. If you haven’t by the time I get back, I’ll go straight home again and never marry you as long as I live. Good-bye, darling. I must be off.”

The two-seater moved away and turned into Washington Square. George stood looking after it long after there was nothing to look at but empty street. Then he started off, like some knight of old on a quest commanded by his lady, to get the dinner on which she had so strongly insisted. She had been wrong, of course, in telling him to go and dine; for what he wanted to do and what any good doctor would have recommended him to do was to return to the roof and gaze at the moon. But her lightest wish was law.

Where could he go most quickly and get the repulsive task done with the minimum waste of time?

The Purple Chicken. It was just round the corner, and a resolute man, if he stuck to their prix fixe table d’hote at one-dollar-fifty, could shovel a meal into himself in about ten minutes—which was not long to ask the moon to wait.

Besides, at the Purple Chicken you could get “it” if they knew you. And George, though an abstemious young man, felt that “it” was just what at the moment he most required. On an occasion like this he ought, of course, to sip golden nectar from rare old crystal, but, failing that, synthetic whisky served in a coffee-pot was perhaps the next best thing.


Chapter XVI


The Purple Chicken seemed to be having a big night. The room opening on to the street, when George reached it, was so crowded that there was no chance of getting a table. He passed through, hoping to find a resting-place in the open-air section which lay beyond, and was struck, as he walked, by the extraordinarily fine physique of many of the diners.

As a rule, the Purple Chicken catered for the intelligentsia of the neighbourhood, and these did not run to thews and sinews. On most nights in the week you would find the tables occupied by wispy poets and slender futurist painters, but now, though these were present in great numbers, they were supplemented by quite a sprinkling of granite-faced men with knobby shoulders and protruding jaws. George came to the conclusion that a convention from one of the outlying states must be in town and that these men were members of it, bent upon seeing Bohemia.

He did not, however, waste a great deal of time in speculation on this matter, for, stirred by the actual presence of food, he had begun now to realise that Molly had been right, as women always are, and that, while his whole higher self cried out for the moon, his lower self was almost equally as insistent on taking in supplies. And at this particular restaurant it was happily possible to satisfy both selves simultaneously, for there, as he stepped into what the management called the garden—a flagged back-yard dotted with tables—was the moon, all present and correct, and there, also, were waiters waiting to supply the prix fixe table-d’hote at one-dollar-fifty.

It seemed to George the neatest possible combination, and his only anxiety now was with regard to the securing of a seat. At first glance it appeared that every table was occupied.

This conjecture was confirmed by a second glance. But, though all the other tables had their full quota, there was one, standing beside the Sheridan’s back wall and within a few feet of its fire-escape, that was in the possession of a single diner. This diner George approached, making his expression as winning as possible. He did not, as a rule, enjoy sharing a table with a stranger, but as an alternative to going away and trudging round in search of another restaurant it seemed a good plan now.

“Excuse me, sir,” said George, “would you mind if I came to this table?”

The other looked up from the poulet rôti aux pommes de terre and salade Bruxelloise which had been engaging his attention. He was plainly one of the convention from the outlying state, if physique could be taken as a guide. He spread upwards from the table like a circus giant and the hands which gripped the knife and fork had that same spaciousness which George had noted in the diners in the other room. Only as to the eyes did this man differ from his fellows. They had had eyes of a peculiarly steely and unfriendly type, the sort of eyes which a motorist instinctively associates with traffic-policemen and a professional thief with professional detectives. This man’s gaze was mild and friendly, and his eyes would have been attractive but for the redness of their rims and the generally inflamed look which they had.

“By no means, sir,” he replied to George’s polite query.

“Place very crowded to-night.”


“Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll sit here.”

“Delighted,” said the other.

George looked round for a waiter and found one at his elbow. However crowded the Purple Chicken might be, its staff never neglected the old habitué, and it had had the benefit of George’s regular custom for many months.

“Good evening, sare,” said the waiter, smiling the smile which had once broken hearts in Assisi.

“Good evening, Guiseppe,” said George. “I’ll take the dinner.”

“Yes, sare. Sick or glear zoop?”

“Sick. Crowded to-night, Guiseppe.”

“Yes, sare. Lots of guys here to-night. Big business.”

“The waiter appears to know you,” said George’s companion.

“Oh, yes,” said George. “I’m in here all the time.”

“Ah,” said the other, thoughtfully.

The soup arrived, and George set about it with a willing spoon. His companion became hideously involved with spaghetti.

“This your first visit to New York?” asked George, after an interval.

“No, indeed, sir. I live in New York.”

“Oh, I thought you were up from the country.”

“No, sir. I live right here in New York.”

A curious idea that he had seen this fellow before somewhere came over George. Yes, at some time and in some place he could have sworn that he had gazed upon that long body, that prominent Adam’s apple, and that gentle expanse of face. He searched his memory. Nothing stirred.

“I have an odd feeling that we have met before,” he said.

“I was thinking just the same myself,” replied the other.

“My name is Finch.”

“Mine is Cabot. Delancy Cabot.”

George shook his head.

“I don’t remember the name.”

“Yours is curiously familiar. I have heard it before, but cannot think when.”

“Do you live in Greenwich Village?”

“Somewhat further up-town. And you?”

“I live in the apartment on top of this building here at the back of us.”

A sudden light that seemed that of recognition came into the other’s face. George observed it.

“Have you remembered where we met?”

“No, sir. No, indeed,” said the other hastily. “It has entirely escaped me.” He took a sip of ice-water. “I recall, however, that you are an artist.”

“That’s right. You are not one, by any chance?”

“I am a poet.”

“A poet?” George tried to conceal his somewhat natural surprise. “Where does your stuff appear mostly?”

“I have published nothing as yet, Mr. Finch,” replied the other sadly.

“Tough luck. I have never sold a picture.”

“Too bad.”

They gazed at one another with kindly eyes, two fellow-sufferers from the public’s lack of taste. Guiseppe appeared, bearing deep-dish apple-pie in one hand, poulet rôti in the other.

“Guiseppe,” said George.


George bent his lips towards the waiter’s attentive ear.

“Bzz . . . Bzz . . . Bzz . . .” said George.

“Yes, sare. Very good, sare. In one moment, sare.”

George leaned back contentedly. Then it occurred to him that he had been a little remiss. He was not actually this red-eyed man’s host; but they had fraternised and they both knew what it was to toil at their respective arts without encouragement or appreciation.

“Perhaps you will join me?” he said.

“Join you, sir?”

“In a high-ball. Guiseppe has gone to get me one.”

“Indeed? Is it possible to obtain alcoholic refreshment in this restaurant?”

“You can always get it if they know you.”

“But surely it is against the law?”

“Ha, ha!” laughed George. He liked this pleasant, whimsical fellow. “Ha, ha! Deuced good!”

He looked at him with that genial bonhomie with which one looks at a stranger in whom one has discovered a sly sense of humour. And, looking, he suddenly congealed.


“Great Scott!” ejaculated George.


“Nothing, nothing.”

Memory, though loitering by the way, had reached its goal at last. This man was no stranger. George recollected now where he had seen him before—on the roof of the Sheridan, when the other, clad in policeman’s uniform, had warned him of the deplorable past of Frederick Mullett. The man was a cop, and under his very eyes, red rims and all, he had just ordered a high-ball.

George gave a feverish laugh.

“I was only kidding, of course,” he said.

“Kidding, Mr. Finch?”

“When I said that you could get it here. You can’t, of course. What Guiseppe is bringing me is a ginger-ale.”


“And my name isn’t Finch,” babbled George. “It—it is—er—Briskett. And I don’t live in that apartment up there, I live in . . .”

He was aware of Guiseppe at his side. And Guiseppe was being unspeakably furtive and conspiratorial with a long glass and a coffee-pot. He looked like one of the executive staff of the Black Hand plotting against the public weal.

“Is that my ginger-ale?” twittered George. “My ginger-ale, is that what you’ve got there?”

“Yes, sare. Your ginger-ale. Your ginger-ale, Mr. Feench, ha, ha, ha! You are vairy fonny gentleman,” said Guiseppe approvingly.

George could have kicked the man. If this was what the modern Italian was like, no wonder the country had had to have a dictatorship.

“Take it away,” he said, quivering. “I don’t want it in a coffee-pot.”

“We always sairve the whisky in the coffee-pot, Mr. Feench. You know that.”

Across the table George was appalled by a sinister sight. The man opposite was rising. Yards and yards of him were beginning to uncoil, and on his face there was a strange look of determination and menace.

“You’re . . .”

George knew what the next word would have been. It would have been the verb “pinched.” But it was never uttered. With a sudden frenzy, George Finch acted. He was not normally a man of violence, but there are occasions when violence and nothing but violence will meet the case. There flashed through his mind a vision of what would be, did he not act with promptitude and despatch. He would be arrested, haled to gaol, immured in a dungeon-cell. And Molly would come back and find no one there to welcome her and—what was even worse—no one to marry her on the morrow.

George did not hesitate. Seizing the table-cloth, he swept it off in a hideous whirl of apple-pie, iced water, bread, potatoes, salad and poulet rôti. He raised it on high, like a retarius in the arena, and brought it down in an enveloping mass on the policeman’s head. Interested cries arose on all sides. The Purple Chicken was one of those jolly, informal restaurants in which a spirit of clean Bohemian fun is the prevailing note, but even in the Purple Chicken occurrences like this were unusual and calculated to excite remark. Four diners laughed happily, a fifth exclaimed “Hot pazazas!” and a sixth said in a loud voice “Well, would you look at that!”

The New York police are not quitters. They may be down, but they are never out. A clutching hand emerged from the table-cloth and gripped George’s shoulder. Another clutching hand was groping about not far from his collar. The fingers of the first hand fastened their hold.

George was not in the frame of mind to be tolerant of this sort of thing. He hit out and smote something solid.

Casta dimura salve e pura!   ’At-a-boy! Soak him again!” said Guiseppe, the waiter, convinced now that the man caught in the toils of the table-cloth was one who had not the best interests of the Purple Chicken at heart.

George did so. The table-cloth became still more agitated. The hand fell from his shoulder.

At this moment there was a confused noise of shouting from the inner room, and all the lights went out.

George would not have had it otherwise. Darkness just suited him. He leaped for the fire-escape and climbed up it with as great a celerity as Mrs. Waddington, some little time before, had used in climbing down. He reached the roof and paused for an instant, listening to the tumult below. Then, hearing through the din the sound of somebody climbing, he ran to the sleeping-porch and dived beneath the bed. To seek refuge in his apartment was, he realised, useless. That would be the first place the pursuer would draw.

He lay there, breathless. Footsteps came to the door. The door opened, and the light was switched on.



In supposing that the person or persons whom he had heard climbing up the fire-escape were in pursuit of himself, George Finch had made a pardonable error. Various circumstances had combined to render his departure from the Purple Chicken unobserved.

In the first place, just as Officer Garroway was on the point of releasing his head from the folds of the table-cloth, Guiseppe, with a loyalty to his employers which it would be difficult to over-praise, hit him in the eye with the coffee-pot. This had once more confused the policeman’s outlook, and by the time he was able to think clearly again the lights went out.

Simultaneously, the moon, naturally on George’s side and anxious to do all that it could to help, went behind a thick cloud and stayed there. No human eye, therefore, had witnessed the young man’s climb for life.

The persons whom he had heard on the fire-escape were a couple who, like himself, had no object in mind other than a swift removal of themselves from the danger-zone. And so far were they from being hostile to George that each, had they seen him, would have urged him on and wished him luck. For one of them was Madame Eulalie and the other no less a man than J. Hamilton Beamish in person.

Hamilton Beamish, escorting his bride-to-be, had arrived at the Purple Chicken a few minutes after George, and, like George, had found the place crowded to its last table. But, unlike George, he had not meekly accepted this situation as unalterable. Exerting the full force of his majestic personality, he had caused an extra table to appear, to be set, and to be placed in the fairway at the spot where the indoor restaurant joined the outdoor annex.

It was a position which at first had seemed to have drawbacks. The waiters who passed at frequent intervals were compelled to bump into Mr. Beamish’s chair, which is always unpleasant when one is trying to talk to the girl one loves. But the time was to arrive when its drawbacks were lost sight of in this contemplation of its strategic advantages.

At the moment when the raid may be said to have formally opened, Hamilton Beamish was helping the girl of his heart to what the management had assured him was champagne. He was interrupted in this kindly action by a large hand placed heavily on his shoulder and a gruff voice which informed him that he was under arrest.

Whether Hamilton Beamish would have pursued George Finch’s spirited policy of enveloping the man in the table-cloth and thereafter plugging him in the eye, will never be known, for the necessity for such a procedure was removed by the sudden extinction of the lights, and it was at this point that the advantage of being in that particular spot became apparent.

From the table to the fire-escape was but a few steps, and Hamilton Beamish, seizing his fiancée by the hand, dragged her thither and, placing her foot on the lowest step, gave her an upward boost which left no room for misapprehension. A moment later, Madame Eulalie was hurrying roofwards, with Hamilton Beamish in close attendance.

They stood together at the end of their journey, looking down. The lights of the Purple Chicken were still out, and from the darkness there rose a confused noise indicative of certain persons unknown being rather rough with certain other persons unknown. It seemed to Madame Eulalie that she and her mate were well out of it, and she said so.

“I never realised before what a splendid man you were to have by one in an emergency, Jimmy dear,” she said. “Anything slicker than the way you scooped us out of that place I never saw. You must have had lots and lots of practice.”

Hamilton Beamish was passing a handkerchief over his dome-like forehead. The night was warm, and the going had been fast.

“I shall never forgive myself,” he said, “for exposing you to such an experience.”

“Oh, but I enjoyed it.”

“Well, all has ended well, thank goodness . . .”

“But has it?” interrupted Madame Eulalie.

“What do you mean?”

She pointed downwards.

“There’s somebody coming up!”

“You’re right.”

“What shall we do? Go out by the stairs?”

Hamilton Beamish shook his head.

“In all probability they will be guarding the entrance.”

“Then what?”

It is at moments like these that the big brain really tells. An ordinary man might have been nonplussed. Certainly, he would have had to waste priceless moments in thought. Hamilton Beamish, with one flash of his giant mind, had the problem neatly solved in four and a quarter seconds.

He took his bride-to-be by the arm and turned her round.






“What?” Bewilderment was limned upon the girl’s fair face. “I don’t understand. What do you want me to specially look at?”

“At what do you want me specially to look,” corrected Hamilton Beamish mechanically. He drew her across the roof. “You see that summer-house thing? It is George Finch’s open-air sleeping porch. Go in, shut the door, switch on the light . . .”

“But . . .”

“. . . and remove a portion of your clothes.”


“And if anybody comes tell him that George Finch rented you the apartment and that you are dressing to go out to dinner. I, meanwhile, will go down to my apartment and will come up in a few minutes to see if you are ready to be taken out to dine.” Pardonable pride so overcame Hamilton Beamish that he discarded the English Pure and relapsed into the argot of the proletariat. “Is that a cracker-jack?” he demanded with gleaming eyes. “Is that a wam? Am I the bozo with the big bean or am I not?”

The girl eyed him worshippingly. One of the consolations which we men of intellect have is that, when things come to a crisis, what captures the female heart is brains. Women may permit themselves in time of peace to stray after Sheiks and look languishingly at lizards whose only claim to admiration is that they can do the first three steps of the Charleston; but let matters go wrong; let some sudden peril threaten; and who then is the king pippin, who the main Squeeze? The man with the eight and a quarter hat.

“Jimmy,” she cried, “it’s the goods!”


“It’s a life-saver.”

“Precisely. Be quick then. There is no time to waste.”

And so it came about that George Finch, nestling beneath the bed, received a shock which, inured though he should have been to shocks by now, seemed to him to turn every hair on his head instantaneously grey.



The first thing that impressed itself on George Finch’s consciousness, after his eyes had grown accustomed to the light, was an ankle. It was clad in a stocking of diaphanous silk, and was joined almost immediately by another ankle, similarly clad. For an appreciable time these ankles, though slender, bulked so large in George’s world that they may be said to have filled his whole horizon. Then they disappeared.

A moment before this happened, George, shrinking modestly against the wall, would have said that nothing could have pleased him better than to have these ankles disappear. Nevertheless when they did so, it was all he could do to keep himself from uttering a stricken cry. For the reason they disappeared was that at this moment a dress of some filmy material fell over them, hiding them from view.

It was a dress that had the appearance of having been cut by fairy scissors out of moon-beams and star-dust, and in a shop window George would have admired it. But seeing it in a shop window and seeing it bunched like prismatic foam on the floor of this bedroom were two separate and distinct things, and so warmly did George Finch blush that he felt as if his face must be singeing the carpet. He shut his eyes and clenched his teeth. Was this, he asked himself, the end or but a beginning?

“Yes?” said a voice suddenly. And George’s head, jerking convulsively, seemed for an instant to have parted company with a loosely-attached neck.

The voice had spoken, he divined as soon as the power of thought returned to him, in response to a sharp and authoritative knock on the door, delivered by some hard instrument which sounded like a policeman’s night-stick, and there followed immediately upon this knock sharp and authoritative words.

“Open up there!”

The possessor of the ankles was plainly a girl of spirit.

“I won’t,” she said. “I’m dressing.”

“Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

“Never mind who I am.”

“Well, never mind who I am, then!”

There was a pause. It seemed to George, judging the matter dispassionately, that the ankles had had slightly the better of the exchanges to date.

“What are you doing in there?” asked the male duettist, approaching the thing from another angle.

“I’m dressing, I keep telling you.”

There was another pause. And then into this tense debate there entered a third party.

“What’s all this?” said the newcomer sharply.

George recognised the voice of his old friend Hamilton Beamish.

“Garroway,” said Hamilton Beamish, with an annoyed severity, “what the devil are you doing, hanging about outside this lady’s door? Upon my soul,” proceeded Mr. Beamish warmly, “I’m beginning to wonder what the duties of the New York constabulary are. Their life seems to consist of an endless leisure, which they employ in roaming about and annoying women. Are you aware that the lady inside there is my fiancée and that she is dressing in order to dine with me at a restaurant?”

Officer Garroway, as always, cringed before the superior intelligence.

“I am extremely sorry, Mr. Beamish.”

“So you ought to be. What are you doing here anyway?”

“There has been some little trouble down below on the premises of the Purple Chicken, and I was violently assaulted by Mr. Finch. I followed him up here in the fire-escape . . .”

“Mr. Finch? You are drivelling, Garroway. Mr. Finch is on his wedding trip. He very kindly lent this lady his apartment during his absence.”

“But, Mr. Beamish, I was talking to him only just now. We sat at the same table.”


The dress had disappeared from George’s range of vision now, and he heard the door open.

“What does this man want, Jimmy?”

“A doctor, apparently,” said Hamilton Beamish. “He says he met George Finch just now.”

“But George is miles away.”

“Precisely. Are you ready, darling? Then we will go off and have some dinner. What you need, Garroway, is a bromo-seltzer. Come down to my apartment and I will mix you one. Having taken it, I would recommend you to lie down quietly on the sofa and rest awhile. I think you must have been over-exercising your brain, writing that poem of yours. Who blacked your eye?”

“I wish I knew,” said Officer Garroway wistfully. “I received the injury during the fracas at the Purple Chicken. There was a table-cloth over my head at the moment, and I was unable to ascertain the identity of my assailant. If, and when, I find him I shall soak him so hard it’ll jar his grandchildren.”

“A table-cloth?”

“Yes, Mr. Beamish. And while I was endeavouring to extricate myself from its folds, somebody hit me in the eye with a coffee-pot.”

“How do you know it was a coffee-pot?”

“I found it lying beside me when I emerged.”

“Ah! Well,” said Hamilton Beamish, summing up, “I hope that this will be a lesson to you not to go into places like the Purple Chicken. You are lucky to have escaped so lightly. You might have had to eat their cheese. Well, come along, Garroway, and we will see what we can do for you.”



George stayed where he was. If he had known of a better ’ole, he would have gone to it, but he did not. He would have been the last person to pretend that it was comfortable lying underneath this bed with fluff tickling his nose and a draught playing about his left ear, but there seemed in the circumstances nothing else to do. To a man unable to fly there were only two modes of exit from this roof—he could climb down the fire-escape, probably into the very arms of the constabulary, or he could try to sneak down the stairs, and most likely run straight into the vengeful Garroway. True, Hamilton Beamish had recommended the policeman after drinking his bromo-seltzer to lie down on the sofa, but who knew if he would follow the advice? Possibly he was even now patrolling the staircase, and George, recalling the man’s physique and remembering the bitterness with which he had spoken of his late assailant, decided that the risk was too great to be taken. Numerous as were the defects of his little niche beneath the bed, considered as a spot to spend a happy evening, it was a good place to be for a man in his delicate position. So he dug himself in and tried to while away the time by thinking.

He thought of many things. He thought of his youth in East Gilead, of his manhood in New York. He thought of Molly and how much he loved her; of Mrs. Waddington and what a blot she was on the great scheme of things; of Hamilton Beamish and his off-hand way of dealing with policemen. He thought of Officer Garroway and his night-stick; of Guiseppe and his coffee-pot; of the Reverend Gideon Voules and his white socks. He even thought of Sigsbee H. Waddington.

Now, when a man is so hard put to it for mental occupation that he has to fall back on Sigsbee H. Waddington as a topic of thought, he is nearing the end of his resources, and it was possibly with a kindly appreciation of this fact that Fate now supplied something else to occupy George’s mind. Musing idly on Sigsbee H. and wondering how he got that way, George became suddenly aware of approaching footsteps.

He curled himself up into a ball: his ears stood straight up like a greyhound’s. Yes, footsteps. And, what was more, they seemed to be making straight for the sleeping-porch.

A wave of self-pity flooded over George Finch. Why should he be so ill-used? He asked so little of Life—merely to be allowed to lie quietly under a bed and inhale fluff: and what happened? Nothing but interruptions. Nothing but boots, boots, boots, boots, marching up and down again, as Kipling has so well put it. Ever since he had found his present hiding-place, the world had seemed to become one grey inferno of footsteps. It was wrong and unjust.

The only thing that could possibly be said in extenuation of the present footsteps was that they sounded too light to be those of any New York policeman. They had approached now to the very door. Indeed, they seemed to him to have stopped actually inside the room.

He was right in this conjecture. The switch clicked. Light jumped at him like a living thing. And when he opened his eyes he found himself looking at a pair of ankles clad in stockings of diaphanous silk.

The door closed. And Mrs. Waddington, who had just reached the top of the fire-escape, charged across the roof and, putting her ear to the keyhole, stood listening intently. Things, felt Mrs. Waddington, were beginning to move.

(To be continued).



Printer’s errors corrected above:

In XVI, i, magazine had “adam’s apple”; capitalized as in other sources and in an earlier part.

In XVI, i, magazine had “arrested, hailed to gaol”; corrected to “haled” as in US and UK books.

In XVI, i, magazine omitted comma after “Four diners laughed happily”.

In XVI, i, magazine had “Casta dimura salve epura!”; corrected to “e pura” as in all other sources.

In XVI, iii, magazine had “There is another pause”; corrected to ‘was’ as in all other sources.

In XVI, iv, magazine omitted a hyphen where “night-stick” was divided at a line break.


Errors not corrected above:

Wodehouse apparently made the common error in spelling the Italian equivalent of Joseph, as it appears here and in both US and UK books as Guiseppe (the first syllable of which would be sounded as "gwee-" in Italian phonetics). The correct Italian spelling is Giuseppe, in which the ‘i’ is silent and only serves to soften the G, so that the first syllable is pronounced as “joo-”. The Liberty editor corrected the spelling in the US magazine serial.

Wodehouse apparently was responsible for the spelling of retarius, as it appears thus in all original editions and in several of his other books. The correct term for the Roman gladiator who fought with a net is retiarius.