In a bedroom on the fourth floor of the Hotel Guelph in Piccadilly, the Honorable Frederick Threepwood sat in bed, with his knees drawn up to his chin, and glared at the day with the glare of mental anguish. He had very little mind, but what he had was suffering.

He had just remembered. It is like that in this life. You wake up, feeling as fit as a fiddle; you look at the window and see the sun, and thank heaven for a fine day; you begin to plan a perfectly corking luncheon party with some of the chappies you met last night at the National Sporting Club; and then⁠—you remember.

“Oh, dash it!” said the Honorable Freddie. And after a moment’s pause: “And I was feeling so dashed happy!”

For the space of some minutes he remained plunged in sad meditation; then, picking up the telephone from the table at his side, he asked for a number.


“Hello!” responded a rich voice at the other end of the wire.

“Oh, I say! Is that you, Dickie?”

“Who is that?”

“This is Freddie Threepwood. I say, Dickie, old top, I want to see you about something devilish important. Will you be in at twelve?”

“Certainly. What’s the trouble?”

“I can’t explain over the wire; but it’s deuced serious.”

“Very well. By the way, Freddie, congratulations on the engagement.”

“Thanks, old man. Thanks very much, and so on⁠—but you won’t forget to be in at twelve, will you? Goodbye.”

He replaced the receiver quickly and sprang out of bed, for he had heard the door handle turn. When the door opened he was giving a correct representation of a young man wasting no time in beginning his toilet for the day.

An elderly, thin-faced, bald-headed, amiably vacant man entered. He regarded the Honorable Freddie with a certain disfavor.

“Are you only just getting up, Frederick?”

“Hello, gov’nor. Good morning. I shan’t be two ticks now.”

“You should have been out and about two hours ago. The day is glorious.”

“Shan’t be more than a minute, gov’nor, now. Just got to have a tub and then chuck on a few clothes.”

He disappeared into the bathroom. His father, taking a chair, placed the tips of his fingers together and in this attitude remained motionless, a figure of disapproval and suppressed annoyance.

Like many fathers in his rank of life, the Earl of Emsworth had suffered much through that problem which, with the exception of Mr. Lloyd-George, is practically the only fly in the British aristocratic amber⁠—the problem of what to do with the younger sons.

It is useless to try to gloss over the fact⁠—in the aristocratic families of Great Britain the younger son is not required.

Apart, however, from the fact that he was a younger son, and, as such, a nuisance in any case, the honorable Freddie had always annoyed his father in a variety of ways. The Earl of Emsworth was so constituted that no man or thing really had the power to trouble him deeply; but Freddie had come nearer to doing it than anybody else in the world. There had been a consistency, a perseverance, about his irritating performances that had acted on the placid peer as dripping water on a stone. Isolated acts of annoyance would have been powerless to ruffle his calm; but Freddie had been exploding bombs under his nose since he went to Eton.

He had been expelled from Eton for breaking out at night and roaming the streets of Windsor in a false mustache. He had been sent down from Oxford for pouring ink from a second-story window on the junior dean of his college. He had spent two years at an expensive London crammer’s and failed to pass into the army. He had also accumulated an almost record series of racing debts, besides as shady a gang of friends⁠—for the most part vaguely connected with the turf⁠—as any young man of his age ever contrived to collect.

These things try the most placid of parents; and finally Lord Emsworth had put his foot down. It was the only occasion in his life when he had acted with decision, and he did it with the accumulated energy of years. He stopped his son’s allowance, haled him home to Blandings Castle, and kept him there so relentlessly that until the previous night, when they had come up together by an afternoon train, Freddie had not seen London for nearly a year.

Possibly it was the reflection that, whatever his secret troubles, he was at any rate once more in his beloved metropolis that caused Freddie at this point to burst into discordant song. He splashed and warbled simultaneously.

Lord Emsworth’s frown deepened and he began to tap his fingers together irritably. Then his brow cleared and a pleased smile flickered over his face. He, too, had remembered.

What Lord Emsworth remembered was this: Late in the previous autumn the next estate to Blandings had been rented by an American, a Mr. Peters⁠—a man with many millions, chronic dyspepsia, and one fair daughter⁠—Aline. The two families had met. Freddie and Aline had been thrown together; and, only a few days before, the engagement had been announced. And for Lord Emsworth the only flaw in this best of all possible worlds had been removed.

Yes, he was glad Freddie was engaged to be married to Aline Peters. He liked Aline. He liked Mr. Peters. Such was the relief he experienced that he found himself feeling almost affectionate toward Freddie, who emerged from the bathroom at this moment, clad in a pink bathrobe, to find the paternal wrath evaporated, and all, so to speak, right with the world.

Nevertheless, he wasted no time about his dressing. He was always ill at ease in his father’s presence and he wished to be elsewhere with all possible speed. He sprang into his trousers with such energy that he nearly tripped himself up. As he disentangled himself he recollected something that had slipped his memory.

“By the way, gov’nor, I met an old pal of mine last night and asked him down to Blandings this week. That’s all right, isn’t it? He’s a man named Emerson, an American. He knows Aline quite well, he says⁠—has known her since she was a kid.”

“I do not remember any friend of yours named Emerson.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I met him last night for the first time. But it’s all right. He’s a good chap, don’t you know!⁠—and all that sort of rot.”

Lord Emsworth was feeling too benevolent to raise the objections he certainly would have raised had his mood been less sunny.

“Certainly; let him come if he wishes.”

“Thanks, gov’nor.”

Freddie completed his toilet.

“Doing anything special this morning, gov’nor? I rather thought of getting a bit of breakfast and then strolling round a bit. Have you had breakfast?”

“Two hours ago. I trust that in the course of your strolling you will find time to call at Mr. Peters’ and see Aline. I shall be going there directly after lunch. Mr. Peters wishes to show me his collection of⁠—I think ‘scarabs’ was the word he used.”

“Oh, I’ll look in all right! Don’t you worry! Or if I don’t I’ll call the old boy up on the phone and pass the time of day. Well, I rather think I’ll be popping off and getting that bit of breakfast⁠—what?”

Several comments on this speech suggested themselves to Lord Emsworth. In the first place, he did not approve of Freddie’s allusion to one of America’s merchant princes as “the old boy.” Second, his son’s attitude did not strike him as the ideal attitude of a young man toward his betrothed. There seemed to be a lack of warmth. But, he reflected, possibly this was simply another manifestation of the modern spirit; and in any case it was not worth bothering about; so he offered no criticism.

Presently, Freddie having given his shoes a flick with a silk handkerchief and thrust the latter carefully up his sleeve, they passed out and down into the main lobby of the hotel, where they parted⁠—Freddie to his bit of breakfast; his father to potter about the streets and kill time until luncheon. London was always a trial to the Earl of Emsworth. His heart was in the country and the city held no fascinations for him.

On one of the floors in one of the buildings in one of the streets that slope precipitously from the Strand to the Thames Embankment, there is a door that would be all the better for a lick of paint, which bears what is perhaps the most modest and unostentatious announcement of its kind in London. The grimy ground-glass displays the words:

R. Jones

Simply that and nothing more. It is rugged in its simplicity. You wonder, as you look at it⁠—if you have time to look at and wonder about these things⁠—who this Jones may be; and what is the business he conducts with such coy reticence.

As a matter of fact, these speculations had passed through suspicious minds at Scotland Yard, which had for some time taken not a little interest in R. Jones. But beyond ascertaining that he bought and sold curios, did a certain amount of bookmaking during the flat-racing season, and had been known to lend money, Scotland Yard did not find out much about Mr. Jones and presently dismissed him from its thoughts.

On the theory, given to the world by William Shakespeare, that it is the lean and hungry-looking men who are dangerous, and that the “fat, sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights,” are harmless, R. Jones should have been above suspicion. He was infinitely the fattest man in the west-central postal district of London. He was a round ball of a man, who wheezed when he walked upstairs, which was seldom, and shook like jelly if some tactless friend, wishing to attract his attention, tapped him unexpectedly on the shoulder. But this occurred still less frequently than his walking upstairs; for in R. Jones’ circle it was recognized that nothing is a greater breach of etiquette and worse form than to tap people unexpectedly on the shoulder. That, it was felt, should be left to those who are paid by the government to do it.

R. Jones was about fifty years old, gray-haired, of a mauve complexion, jovial among his friends, and perhaps even more jovial with chance acquaintances. It was estimated by envious intimates that his joviality with chance acquaintances, specially with young men of the upper classes, with large purses and small foreheads⁠—was worth hundreds of pounds a year to him. There was something about his comfortable appearance and his jolly manner that irresistibly attracted a certain type of young man. It was his good fortune that this type of young man should be the type financially most worth attracting.

Freddie Threepwood had fallen under his spell during his short but crowded life in London. They had met for the first time at the Derby; and ever since then R. Jones had held in Freddie’s estimation that position of guide, philosopher and friend which he held in the estimation of so many young men of Freddie’s stamp.

That was why, at twelve o’clock punctually on this spring day, he tapped with his cane on R. Jones’ ground glass, and showed such satisfaction and relief when the door was opened by the proprietor in person.

“Well, well, well!” said R. Jones rollickingly. “Whom have we here? The dashing bridegroom-to-be, and no other!”

R. Jones, like Lord Emsworth, was delighted that Freddie was about to marry a nice girl with plenty of money. The sudden turning off of the tap from which Freddie’s allowance had flowed had hit him hard. He had other sources of income, of course; but few so easy and unfailing as Freddie had been in the days of his prosperity.

“The prodigal son, by George! Creeping back into the fold after all this weary time! It seems years since I saw you, Freddie. The old gov’nor put his foot down⁠—didn’t he?⁠—and stopped the funds. Damned shame! I take it that things have loosened up a bit since the engagement was announced⁠—eh?”

Freddie sat down and chewed the knob of his cane unhappily.

“Well, as a matter of fact, Dickie, old top,” he said, “not so that you could notice it, don’t you know! Things are still pretty much the same. I managed to get away from Blandings for a night, because the gov’nor had to come to London; but I’ve got to go back with him on the three-o’clock train. And, as for money, I can’t get a quid out of him. As a matter of fact, I’m in the deuce of a hole; and that’s why I’ve come to you.”

Even fat, jovial men have their moments of depression. R. Jones’ face clouded, and jerky remarks about hardness of times and losses on the Stock Exchange began to proceed from him. As Scotland Yard had discovered, he lent money on occasion; but he did not lend it to youths in Freddie’s unfortunate position.

“Oh, I don’t want to make a touch, you know,” Freddie hastened to explain. “It isn’t that. As a matter of fact, I managed to raise five hundred of the best this morning. That ought to be enough.”

“Depends on what you want it for,” said R. Jones, magically genial once more.

The thought entered his mind, as it had so often, that the world was full of easy marks. He wished he could meet the moneylender who had been rash enough to advance the Honorable Freddie five hundred pounds. Those philanthropists cross our path too seldom.

Freddie felt in his pocket, produced a cigarette case, and from it extracted a newspaper clipping.

“Did you read about poor old Percy in the papers? The case, you know?”


“Lord Stockheath, you know.”

“Oh, the Stockheath breach-of-promise case? I did more than that. I was in court all three days.” R. Jones emitted a cozy chuckle. “Is he a pal of yours? A cousin, eh? I wish you had seen him in the witness box, with Jellicoe-Smith cross-examining him! The funniest thing I ever heard! And his letters to the girl! They read them out in court; and of all⁠—”

“Don’t, old man! Dickie, old top⁠—please! I know all about it. I read the reports. They made poor old Percy look like an absolute ass.”

“Well, Nature had done that already; but I’m bound to say they improved on Nature’s work. I should think your Cousin Percy must have felt like a plucked chicken.”

A spasm of pain passed over the Honorable Freddie’s vacant face. He wriggled in his chair.

“Dickie, old man, I wish you wouldn’t talk like that. It makes me feel ill.”

“Why, is he such a pal of yours as all that?”

“It’s not that. It’s⁠—the fact is, Dickie, old top, I’m in exactly the same bally hole as poor old Percy was, myself!”

“What! You have been sued for breach of promise?”

“Not absolutely that⁠—yet. Look here; I’ll tell you the whole thing. Do you remember a show at the Piccadilly about a year ago called The Baby Doll? There was a girl in the chorus.”

“Several⁠—I remember noticing.”

“No; I mean one particular girl⁠—a girl called Joan Valentine. The rotten part is that I never met her.”

“Pull yourself together, Freddie. What exactly is the trouble?”

“Well⁠—don’t you see?⁠—I used to go to the show every other night, and I fell frightfully in love with this girl⁠—”

“Without having met her?”

“Yes. You see, I was rather an ass in those days.”

“No, no!” said R. Jones handsomely.

“I must have been or I shouldn’t have been such an ass, don’t you know! Well, as I was saying, I used to write this girl letters, saying how much I was in love with her; and⁠—and⁠—”

“Specifically proposing marriage?”

“I can’t remember. I expect I did. I was awfully in love.”

“How was that if you never met her?”

“She wouldn’t meet me. She wouldn’t even come out to luncheon. She didn’t even answer my letters⁠—just sent word down by the Johnny at the stage door. And then⁠—”

Freddie’s voice died away. He thrust the knob of his cane into his mouth in a sort of frenzy.

“What then?” inquired R. Jones.

A scarlet blush manifested itself on Freddie’s young face. His eyes wandered sidewise. After a long pause a single word escaped him, almost inaudible:


R. Jones trembled as though an electric current had been passed through his plump frame. His little eyes sparkled with merriment.

“You wrote her poetry!”

“Yards of it, old boy⁠—yards of it!” groaned Freddie. Panic filled him with speech. “You see the frightful hole I’m in? This girl is bound to have kept the letters. I don’t remember whether I actually proposed to her or not; but anyway she’s got enough material to make it worth while to have a dash at an action⁠—especially after poor old Percy has just got soaked for such a pile of money and made breach-of-promise cases the fashion, so to speak.

“And now that the announcement of my engagement is out she’s certain to get busy. Probably she has been waiting for something of the sort. Don’t you see that all the cards are in her hands? We couldn’t afford to let the thing come into court. That poetry would dish my marriage for a certainty. I’d have to emigrate or something! Goodness knows what would happen at home! My old gov’nor would murder me! So you see what a frightful hole I’m in, don’t you, Dickie, old man?”

“And what do you want me to do?”

“Why, to get hold of this girl and get back the letters⁠—don’t you see? I can’t do it myself, cooped up miles away in the country. And besides, I shouldn’t know how to handle a thing like that. It needs a chappie with a lot of sense and a persuasive sort of way with him.”

“Thanks for the compliment, Freddie; but I should imagine that something a little more solid than a persuasive way would be required in a case like this. You said something a while ago about five hundred pounds?”

“Here it is, old man⁠—in notes. I brought it on purpose. Will you really take the thing on? Do you think you can work it for five hundred?”

“I can have a try.”

Freddie rose, with an expression approximating to happiness on his face. Some men have the power of inspiring confidence in some of their fellows, though they fill others with distrust. Scotland Yard might look askance at R. Jones, but to Freddie he was all that was helpful and reliable. He shook R. Jones’ hand several times in his emotion.

“That’s absolutely topping of you, old man!” he said. “Then I’ll leave the whole thing to you. Write me the moment you have done anything, won’t you? Goodbye, old top, and thanks ever so much!”

The door closed. R. Jones remained where he sat, his fingers straying luxuriously among the crackling paper. A feeling of complete happiness warmed R. Jones’ bosom. He was uncertain whether or not his mission would be successful; and to be truthful he was not letting that worry him much. What he was certain of was the fact that the heavens had opened unexpectedly and dropped five hundred pounds into his lap.