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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPiccadilly Jim - Chapter XVII - MISS TRIMBLE, DETECTIVE
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Piccadilly Jim - Chapter XVII - MISS TRIMBLE, DETECTIVE Post by :musomax Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2432

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Piccadilly Jim - Chapter XVII - MISS TRIMBLE, DETECTIVE

CHAPTER XVII - MISS TRIMBLE, DETECTIVE


Downstairs, in the dining-room, Jimmy was smoking cigarettes and
reviewing in his mind the peculiarities of the situation, when
Ann came in.

"Oh, there you are," said Ann. "I thought you must have gone
upstairs."

"I have been having a delightful and entertaining conversation
with my old chum, Lord Wisbeach."

"Good gracious! What about?"

"Oh, this and that."

"Not about old times?"

"No, we did not touch upon old times."

"Does he still believe that you are Jimmy Crocker? I'm so
nervous," said Ann, "that I can hardly speak."

"I shouldn't be nervous," said Jimmy encouragingly. "I don't see
how things could be going better."

"That's what makes me nervous. Our luck is too good to last. We
are taking such risks. It would have been bad enough without
Skinner and Lord Wisbeach. At any moment you may make some fatal
slip. Thank goodness, aunt Nesta's suspicions have been squashed
for the time being now that Skinner and Lord Wisbeach have
accepted you as genuine. But then you have only seen them for a
few minutes. When they have been with you a little longer, they
may get suspicious themselves. I can't imagine how you managed to
keep it up with Lord Wisbeach. I should have thought he would be
certain to say something about the time when you were supposed to
be friends in London. We simply mustn't strain our luck. I want
you to go straight to aunt Nesta now and ask her to let Jerry
come back."

"You still refuse to let me take Jerry's place?"

"Of course I do. You'll find aunt Nesta upstairs."

"Very well. But suppose I can't persuade her to forgive Jerry?"

"I think she is certain to do anything you ask. You saw how
friendly she was to you at lunch. I don't see how anything can
have happened since lunch to change her."

"Very well. I'll go to her now."

"And when you have seen her, go to the library and wait for me.
It's the second room along the passage outside here. I have
promised to drive Lord Wisbeach down to his hotel in my car. I
met him outside just now and he tells me aunt Nesta has invited
him to stay here, so he wants to go and get his things ready. I
shan't be twenty minutes. I shall come straight back."

Jimmy found himself vaguely disquieted by this piece of
information.

"Lord Wisbeach is coming to stay here?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Oh, nothing. Well, I'll go and see Mrs. Pett."

No traces of the disturbance which had temporarily ruffled the
peace of the drawing-room were to be observed when Jimmy reached
it. The receiver of the telephone was back on its hook, Mrs. Pett
back in her chair, the dog Aida back in her basket. Mrs. Pett,
her mind at ease now that she had taken the step of summoning Mr.
Sturgis, was reading a book, one of her own, and was absorbed in
it. The dog Aida slumbered noisily.

The sight of Jimmy, however, roused Mrs. Pett from her literary
calm. To her eye, after what Lord Wisbeach had revealed there was
something sinister in the very way in which he walked into the
room. He made her flesh creep. In "A Society Thug" (Mobbs and
Stifien, $1.35 net, all rights of translation reserved, including
the Scandinavian) she had portrayed just such a man--smooth,
specious, and formidable. Instinctively, as she watched Jimmy,
her mind went back to the perfectly rotten behaviour of her own
Marsden Tuke (it was only in the last chapter but one that they
managed to foil his outrageous machinations), and it seemed to
her that here was Tuke in the flesh. She had pictured him, she
remembered, as a man of agreeable exterior, the better calculated
to deceive and undo the virtuous; and the fact that Jimmy was a
presentable-looking young man only made him appear viler in her
eyes. In a word, she could hardly have been in less suitable
frame of mind to receive graciously any kind of a request from
him. She would have suspected ulterior motives if he had asked
her the time.

Jimmy did not know this. He thought that she eyed him a trifle
frostily, but he did not attribute this to any suspicion of him.
He tried to ingratiate himself by smiling pleasantly. He could
not have made a worse move. Marsden Tuke's pleasant smile had
been his deadliest weapon. Under its influence deluded people had
trusted him alone with their jewellery and what not.

"Aunt Nesta," said Jimmy, "I wonder if I might ask you a personal
favour."

Mrs. Pett shuddered at the glibness with which he brought out the
familiar name. This was superTuke. Marsden himself, scoundrel as
he was, could not have called her "Aunt Nesta" as smoothly as
that.

"Yes?" she said at last. She found it difficult to speak.

"I happened to meet an old friend of mine this morning. He was
very sorry for himself. It appears that--for excellent reasons,
of course--you had dismissed him. I mean Jerry Mitchell."

Mrs. Pett was now absolutely appalled. The conspiracy seemed to
grow more complicated every moment. Already its ramifications
embraced this man before her, a trusted butler, and her husband's
late physical instructor. Who could say where it would end? She
had never liked Jerry Mitchell, but she had never suspected him
of being a conspirator. Yet, if this man who called himself Jimmy
Crocker was an old friend of his, how could he be anything else?

"Mitchell," Jimmy went on, unconscious of the emotions which his
every word was arousing in his hearer's bosom, "told me about
what happened yesterday. He is very depressed. He said he could
not think how he happened to behave in such an abominable way. He
entreated me to put in a word for him with you. He begged me to
tell you how he regretted the brutal assault, and asked me to
mention the fact that his record had hitherto been blameless."
Jimmy paused. He was getting no encouragement, and seemed to be
making no impression whatever. Mrs. Pett was sitting bolt upright
in her chair in a stiffly defensive sort of way. She had the
appearance of being absolutely untouched by his eloquence. "In
fact," he concluded lamely, "he is very sorry."

There was silence for a moment.

"How do you come to know Mitchell?" asked Mrs. Pett.

"We knew each other when I was over here working on the
_Chronicle_. I saw him fight once or twice. He is an excellent
fellow, and used to have a right swing that was a pippin--I
should say extremely excellent. Brought it up from the floor, you
know."

"I strongly object to prize-fighters," said Mrs. Pett, "and I was
opposed to Mitchell coming into the house from the first."

"You wouldn't let him come back, I suppose?" queried Jimmy
tentatively.

"I would not. I would not dream of such a thing."

"He's full of remorse, you know."

"If he has a spark of humanity, I have no doubt of it."

Jimmy paused. This thing was not coming out as well as it might
have done. He feared that for once in her life Ann was about to
be denied something on which she had set her heart. The
reflection that this would be extremely good for her competed for
precedence in his mind with the reflection that she would
probably blame him for the failure, which would be unpleasant.

"He is very fond of Ogden really."

"H'm," said Mrs. Pett.

"I think the heat must have made him irritable. In his normal
state he would not strike a lamb. I've known him to do it."

"Do what?"

"Not strike lambs."

"Isch," said Mrs. Pett--the first time Jimmy had ever heard that
remarkable monosyllable proceed from human lips. He took
it--rightly--to be intended to convey disapproval, scepticism,
and annoyance. He was convinced that this mission was going to be
one of his failures.

"Then I may tell him," he said, "that it's all right?"

"That what is all right?"

"That he may come back here?"

"Certainly not."

Mrs. Pett was not a timid woman, but she could not restrain a
shudder as she watched the plot unfold before her eyes. Her
gratitude towards Lord Wisbeach at this point in the proceedings
almost became hero-worship. If it had not been for him and his
revelations concerning this man before her, she would certainly
have yielded to the request that Jerry Mitchell be allowed to
return to the house. Much as she disliked Jerry, she had been
feeling so triumphant at the thought of Jimmy Crocker coming to
her in spite of his step-mother's wishes and so pleased at having
unexpectedly got her own way that she could have denied him
nothing that he might have cared to ask. But now it was as if,
herself unseen, she were looking on at a gang of conspirators
hatching some plot. She was in the strong strategic position of
the person who is apparently deceived, but who in reality knows
all.

For a moment she considered the question of admitting Jerry to
the house. Evidently his presence was necessary to the
consummation of the plot, whatever it might be, and it occurred
to her that it might be as well, on the principle of giving the
schemers enough rope to hang themselves with, to let him come
back and play his part. Then she reflected that, with the
self-styled Jimmy Crocker as well as the fraudulent Skinner in
the house, Lord Wisbeach and the detective would have their hands
quite full enough. It would be foolish to complicate matters.
She glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. Mr. Sturgis would be
arriving soon, if he had really started at once from his office,
as he had promised. She drew comfort from the imminence of his
coming. It would be pleasant to put herself in the hands of an
expert.

Jimmy had paused, mid-way to the door, and was standing there as
if reluctant to accept her answer to his plea.

"It would never occur again. What happened yesterday, I mean. You
need not be afraid of that."

"I am not afraid of that," responded Mrs. Pett tartly.

"If you had seen him when I did--"

"When did you? You landed from the boat this morning, you went to
Mr. Pett's office, and then came straight up here with him. I am
interested to know when you did see Mitchell?"

She regretted this thrust a little, for she felt it might put the
man on his guard by showing that she suspected something but she
could not resist it, and it pleased her to see that her companion
was momentarily confused.

"I met him when I was going for my luggage," said Jimmy.

It was just the way Marsden Tuke would have got out of it. Tuke
was always wriggling out of corners like that. Mrs. Pett's horror
of Jimmy grew.

"I told him, of course," said Jimmy, "that you had very kindly
invited me to stay with you, and he told me all, about his
trouble and implored me to plead for him. If you had seen him
when I did, all gloom and repentance, you would have been sorry
for him. Your woman's heart--"

Whatever Jimmy was about to say regarding Mrs. Pett's woman's
heart was interrupted by the opening of the door and the deep,
respectful voice of Mr. Crocker.

"Mr. Sturgis."

The detective entered briskly, as if time were money with him--as
indeed it was, for the International Detective Agency, of which
he was the proprietor, did a thriving business. He was a gaunt,
hungry-looking man of about fifty, with sunken eyes and thin
lips. It was his habit to dress in the height of fashion, for one
of his favourite axioms was that a man might be a detective and
still look a gentleman, and his appearance was that of the
individual usually described as a "popular clubman." That is to
say, he looked like a floorwalker taking a Sunday stroll. His
prosperous exterior deceived Jimmy satisfactorily, and the latter
left the room little thinking that the visitor was anything but
an ordinary caller.

The detective glanced keenly at him as he passed. He made a
practice of glancing keenly at nearly everything. It cost nothing
and impressed clients.

"I am so glad you have come, Mr. Sturgis," said Mrs. Pett." Won't
you sit down?"

Mr. Sturgis sat down, pulled up the knees of his trousers that
half-inch which keeps them from bagging and so preserves the
gentlemanliness of the appearance, and glanced keenly at Mrs.
Pett.

"Who was that young man who just went out?"

"It is about him that I wished to consult you, Mr. Sturgis."

Mr. Sturgis leaned back, and placed the tips of his fingers
together.

"Tell me how he comes to be here."

"He pretends that he is my nephew, James Crocker."

"Your nephew? Have you never seen your nephew?"

"Never. I ought to tell you, that a few years ago my sister
married for the second time. I disapproved of the marriage, and
refused to see her husband or his son--he was a widower. A few
weeks ago, for private reasons, I went over to England, where
they are living, and asked my sister to let the boy come here to
work in my husband's office. She refused, and my husband and I
returned to New York. This morning I was astonished to get a
telephone call from Mr. Pett from his office, to say that James
Crocker had unexpectedly arrived after all, and was then at the
office. They came up here, and the young man seemed quite
genuine. Indeed, he had an offensive jocularity which would be
quite in keeping with the character of the real James Crocker,
from what I have heard of him."

Mr. Sturgis nodded.

"Know what you mean. Saw that thing in the paper," he said
briefly. "Yes?"

"Now, it is very curious, but almost from the start I was uneasy.
When I say that the young man seemed genuine, I mean that he
completely deceived my husband and my niece, who lives with us.
But I had reasons, which I need not go into now, for being on my
guard, and I was suspicious. What aroused my suspicion was the
fact that my husband thought that he remembered this young man as
a fellow-traveller of ours on the _Atlantic_, on our return voyage,
while he claimed to have landed that morning on the _Caronia_."

"You are certain of that, Mrs. Pett? He stated positively that he
had landed this morning?"

"Yes. Quite positively. Unfortunately I myself had no chance of
judging the truth of what he said, as I am such a bad sailor that
I was seldom out of my stateroom from beginning to end of the
voyage. However, as I say, I was suspicious. I did not see how I
could confirm my suspicions, until I remembered that my new
butler, Skinner, had come straight from my sister's house."

"That is the man who just admitted me?"

"Exactly. He entered my employment only a few days ago, having
come direct from London. I decided to wait until Skinner should
meet this young man. Of course, when he first came into the
house, he was with my husband, who opened the door with his key,
so that they did not meet then."

"I understand," said Mr. Sturgis, glancing keenly at the dog
Aida, who had risen and was sniffing at his ankles. "You thought
that if Skinner recognised this young man, it would be proof of
his identity?"

"Exactly."

"Did he recognise him?"

"Yes. But wait. I have not finished. He recognised him, and for
the moment I was satisfied. But I had had my suspicions of
Skinner, too. I ought to tell you that I had been warned against
him by a great friend of mine, Lord Wisbeach, an English peer
whom we have known intimately for a very long time. He is one of
the Shropshire Wisbeaches, you know."

"No doubt," said Mr. Sturgis.

"Lord Wisbeach used to be intimate with the real Jimmy Crocker.
He came to lunch to-day and met this impostor. He pretended to
recognise him, in order to put him off his guard, but after lunch
he came to me here and told me that in reality he had never seen
him before in his life, and that, whoever else he might be, he
was certainly not James Crocker, my nephew."

She broke off and looked at Mr. Sturgis expectantly. The
detective smiled a quiet smile.

"And even that is not all. There is another thing. Mr. Pett used
to employ as a physical instructor a man named Jerry Mitchell.
Yesterday I dismissed him for reasons it is not necessary to go
into. To-day--just as you arrived in fact--the man who calls
himself Jimmy Crocker was begging me to allow Mitchell to return
to the house and resume his work here. Does that not strike you
as suspicious, Mr. Sturgis?"

The detective closed his eyes, and smiled his quiet smile again.
He opened his eyes, and fixed them on Mrs. Pett.

"As pretty a case as I have come across in years," he said. "Mrs.
Pett, let me tell you something. It is one of my peculiarities
that I never forget a face. You say that this young man pretends
to have landed this morning from the _Caronia_? Well, I saw him
myself more than a week ago in a Broadway _cafe_."

"You did?"

"Talking to--Jerry Mitchell. I know Mitchell well by sight."

Mrs. Pett uttered an exclamation.

"And this butler of yours--Skinner. Shall I tell you something
about him? You perhaps know that when the big detective agencies,
Anderson's and the others, are approached in the matter of
tracing a man who is wanted for anything they sometimes ask the
smaller agencies like my own to work in with them. It saves time
and widens the field of operations. We are very glad to do
Anderson's service, and Anderson's are big enough to be able to
afford to let us do it. Now, a few days ago, a friend of mine in
Anderson's came to me with a sheaf of photographs, which had been
sent to them from London. Whether some private client in London
or from Scotland Yard I do not know. Nor do I know why the
original of the photograph was wanted. But Anderson's had been
asked to trace him and make a report. My peculiar gift for
remembering faces has enabled me to oblige the Anderson people
once or twice before in this way. I studied the photographs very
carefully, and kept two of them for reference. I have one with me
now." He felt in his pockets. "Do you recognise it?"

Mrs. Pett stared at the photograph. It was the presentment of a
stout, good-humoured man of middle-age, whose solemn gaze dwelt
on the middle distance in that fixed way which a man achieves
only in photographs.

"Skinner!"

"Exactly," said Mr. Sturgis, taking the photograph from her and
putting it back in his pocket. "I recognised him directly he
opened the door to me."

"But--but I am almost certain that Skinner is the man who let me
in when I called on my sister in London."

"_Almost_," repeated the detective. "Did you observe him very
closely?"

"No. I suppose I did not."

"The type is a very common one. It would be very easy indeed for
a clever crook to make himself up as your sister's butler closely
enough to deceive any one who had only seen the original once and
for a short time then. What their game is I could not say at
present, but, taking everything into consideration, there can be
no doubt whatever that the man who calls himself your nephew and
the man who calls himself your sister's butler are working
together, and that Jerry Mitchell is working in with them. As I
say, I cannot tell you what they are after at present, but there
is no doubt that your unexpected dismissal of Mitchell must have
upset their plans. That would account for the eagerness to get
him back into the house again."

"Lord Wisbeach thought that they were trying to steal my nephew's
explosive. Perhaps you have read in the papers that my nephew,
Willie Partridge, has completed an explosive which is more
powerful than any at present known. His father--you have heard of
him, of course--Dwight Partridge."

Mr. Sturgis nodded.

"His father was working on it at the time of his death, and
Willie has gone on with his experiments where he left off. To-day
at lunch he showed us a test-tube full of the explosive. He put
it in my husband's safe in the library. Lord Wisbeach is
convinced that these scoundrels are trying to steal this, but I
cannot help feeling that this is another of those attempts to
kidnap my son Ogden. What do you think?"

"It is impossible to say at this stage of the proceedings. All we
can tell is that there is some plot going on. You refused, of
course, to allow Mitchell to come back to the house?"

"Yes. You think that was wise?"

"Undoubtedly. If his absence did not handicap them, they would
not be so anxious to have him on the spot."

"What shall we do?"

"You wish me to undertake the case?"

"Of course."

Mr. Sturgis frowned thoughtfully.

"It would be useless for me to come here myself. By bad luck the
man who pretends to be your nephew has seen me. If I were to come
to stay here, he would suspect something. He would be on his
guard." He pondered with closed eyes. "Miss Trimble," he
exclaimed.

"I beg your pardon."

"You want Miss Trimble. She is the smartest worker in my office.
This is precisely the type of case she could handle to
perfection."

"A woman?" said Mrs. Pett doubtfully.

"A woman in a thousand," said Mr. Sturgis. "A woman in a
million."

"But physically would a woman be--?"

"Miss Trimble knows more about jiu-jitsu than the Japanese
professor who taught her. At one time she was a Strong Woman in
small-time vaudeville. She is an expert revolver-shot. I am not
worrying about Miss Trimble's capacity to do the work. I am only
wondering in what capacity it would be best for her to enter the
house. Have you a vacancy for a parlour-maid?"

"I could make one."

"Do so at once. Miss Trimble is at her best as a parlour-maid.
She handled the Marling divorce case in that capacity. Have you a
telephone in the room?"

Mrs. Pett opened the stuffed owl. The detective got in touch with
his office.

"Mr. Sturgis speaking. Tell Miss Trimble to come to the phone.
. . . Miss Trimble? I am speaking from Mrs. Pett's on Riverside
Drive. You know the house? I want you to come up at once. Take a
taxi. Go to the back-door and ask to see Mrs. Pett. Say you have
come about getting a place here as a maid. Understand? Right.
Say, listen, Miss Trimble. Hello? Yes, don't hang up for a
moment. Do you remember those photographs I showed you yesterday?
Yes, the photographs from Anderson's. I've found the man. He's
the butler here. Take a look at him when you get to the house.
Now go and get a taxi. Mrs. Pett will explain everything when you
arrive." He hung up the receiver. "I think I had better go now,
Mrs. Pett. It would not do for me to be here while these fellows
are on their guard. I can safely leave the matter to Miss
Trimble. I wish you good afternoon."

After he had gone, Mrs. Pett vainly endeavoured to interest
herself again in her book, but in competition with the sensations
of life, fiction, even though she had written it herself, had
lost its power and grip. It seemed to her that Miss Trimble must
be walking to the house instead of journeying thither in a
taxi-cab. But a glance at the clock assured her that only five
minutes had elapsed since the detective's departure. She went to
the window and looked out. She was hopelessly restless.

At last a taxi-cab stopped at the corner, and a young woman got
out and walked towards the house. If this were Miss Trimble, she
certainly looked capable. She was a stumpy, square-shouldered
person, and even at that distance it was possible to perceive
that she had a face of no common shrewdness and determination.
The next moment she had turned down the side-street in the
direction of the back-premises of Mrs. Pett's house: and a few
minutes later Mr. Crocker presented himself.

"A young person wishes to see you, madam. A young person of the
name of Trimble." A pang passed through Mrs. Pett as she listened
to his measured tones. It was tragic that so perfect a butler
should be a scoundrel. "She says that you desired her to call in
connection with a situation."

"Show her up here, Skinner. She is the new parlour-maid. I will
send her down to you when I have finished speaking to her."

"Very good, madam."

There seemed to Mrs. Pett to be a faint touch of defiance in Miss
Trimble's manner as she entered the room. The fact was that Miss
Trimble held strong views on the equal distribution of property,
and rich people's houses always affected her adversely. Mr.
Crocker retired, closing the door gently behind him.

A meaning sniff proceeded from Mrs. Pett's visitor as she looked
round at the achievements of the interior decorator, who had
lavished his art unsparingly in this particular room. At this
close range she more than fulfilled the promise of that distant
view which Mrs. Pett had had of her from the window. Her face was
not only shrewd and determined: it was menacing. She had thick
eyebrows, from beneath which small, glittering eyes looked out
like dangerous beasts in undergrowth: and the impressive effect
of these was accentuated by the fact that, while the left eye
looked straight out at its object, the right eye had a sort of
roving commission and was now, while its colleague fixed Mrs.
Pett with a gimlet stare, examining the ceiling. As to the rest
of the appearance of this remarkable woman, her nose was stubby
and aggressive, and her mouth had the coldly forbidding look of
the closed door of a subway express when you have just missed the
train. It bade you keep your distance on pain of injury. Mrs.
Pett, though herself a strong woman, was conscious of a curious
weakness as she looked at a female of the species so much
deadlier than any male whom she had ever encountered: and came
near feeling a half-pity for the unhappy wretches on whom this
dynamic maiden was to be unleashed. She hardly knew how to open
the conversation.

Miss Trimble, however, was equal to the occasion. She always
preferred to open conversations herself. Her lips parted, and
words flew out as if shot from a machine-gun. As far as Mrs.
Pett could observe, she considered it unnecessary to part her
teeth, preferring to speak with them clenched. This gave an
additional touch of menace to her speech.

"Dafternoon," said Miss Trimble, and Mrs. Pett backed
convulsively into the padded recesses of her chair, feeling as if
somebody had thrown a brick at her.

"Good afternoon," she said faintly.

"Gladda meecher, siz Pett. Mr. Sturge semme up. Said y'ad job f'r
me. Came here squick scould."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Squick scould. Got slow taxi."

"Oh, yes."

Miss Trimble's right eye flashed about the room like a
searchlight, but she kept the other hypnotically on her
companion's face.

"Whass trouble?" The right eye rested for a moment on a
magnificent Corot over the mantelpiece, and she snifted again.
"Not s'prised y'have trouble. All rich people 've trouble. Noth'
t'do with their time 'cept get 'nto trouble."

She frowned disapprovingly at a Canaletto.

"You--ah--appear to dislike the rich," said Mrs. Pett, as nearly
in her grand manner as she could contrive.

Miss Trimble bowled over the grand manner as if it had been a
small fowl and she an automobile. She rolled over it and squashed
it flat.

"Hate 'em! Sogelist!"

"I beg your pardon," said Mrs. Pett humbly. This woman was
beginning to oppress her to an almost unbelievable extent.

"Sogelist! No use f'r idle rich. Ev' read B'nard Shaw? Huh? Or
Upton Sinclair? Uh? Read'm. Make y'think a bit. Well, y'haven't
told me whasser trouble."

Mrs. Pett was by this time heartily regretting the impulse which
had caused her to telephone to Mr. Sturgis. In a career which had
had more than its share of detectives, both real and fictitious,
she had never been confronted with a detective like this. The
galling thing was that she was helpless. After all, one engaged a
detective for his or her shrewdness and efficiency, not for
suavity and polish. A detective who hurls speech at you through
clenched teeth and yet detects is better value for the money than
one who, though an ideal companion for the drawing-room, is
incompetent: and Mrs. Pett, like most other people,
subconsciously held the view that the ruder a person is the more
efficient he must be. It is but rarely that any one is found who
is not dazzled by the glamour of incivility. She crushed down her
resentment at her visitor's tone, and tried to concentrate her
mind on the fact that this was a business matter and that what
she wanted was results rather than fair words. She found it
easier to do this when looking at the other's face. It was a
capable face. Not beautiful, perhaps, but full of promise of
action. Miss Trimble having ceased temporarily to speak, her
mouth was in repose, and when her mouth was in repose it looked
more efficient than anything else of its size in existence.

"I want you," said Mrs. Pett, "to come here and watch some men--"

"Men! Thought so! Wh' there's trouble, always men't bottom'f it!"

"You do not like men?"

"Hate 'em! Suff-gist!" She looked penetratingly at Mrs. Pett.
Her left eye seemed to pounce out from under its tangled brow.
"You S'porter of th' Cause?"

Mrs. Pett was an anti-Suffragist, but, though she held strong
opinions, nothing would have induced her to air them at that
moment. Her whole being quailed at the prospect of arguing with
this woman. She returned hurriedly to the main theme.

"A young man arrived here this morning, pretending to be my
nephew, James Crocker. He is an impostor. I want you to watch him
very carefully."

"Whassiz game?"

"I do not know. Personally I think he is here to kidnap my son
Ogden."

"I'll fix'm," said the fair Trimble confidently. "Say, that
butler 'f yours. He's a crook!"

Mrs. Pett opened her eyes. This woman was manifestly competent at
her work.

"Have you found that out already?"

"D'rectly saw him." Miss Trimble opened her purse." Go' one 'f
his photographs here. Brought it from office. He's th' man that's
wanted 'll right."

"Mr. Sturgis and I both think he is working with the other man,
the one who pretends to be my nephew."

"Sure. I'll fix 'm."

She returned the photograph to her purse and snapped the catch
with vicious emphasis.

"There is another possibility," said Mrs. Pett. "My nephew, Mr.
William Partridge, had invented a wonderful explosive, and it is
quite likely that these men are here to try to steal it."

"Sure. Men'll do anything. If y' put all the men in th' world in
th' cooler, wouldn't be 'ny more crime."

She glowered at the dog Aida, who had risen from the basket and
removing the last remains of sleep from her system by a series of
calisthenics of her own invention, as if she suspected her of
masculinity. Mrs. Pett could not help wondering what tragedy in
the dim past had caused this hatred of males on the part of her
visitor. Miss Trimble had not the appearance of one who would
lightly be deceived by Man; still less the appearance of one whom
Man, unless short-sighted and extraordinarily susceptible, would
go out of his way to deceive. She was still turning this mystery
over in her mind, when her visitor spoke.

"Well, gimme th' rest of th' dope," said Miss Trimble.

"I beg your pardon?"

"More facts. Spill 'm!"

"Oh, I understand," said Mrs. Pett hastily, and embarked on a
brief narrative of the suspicious circumstances which had caused
her to desire skilled assistance.

"Lor' W'sbeach?" said Miss Trimble, breaking the story. "Who's
he?"

"A very great friend of ours."

"You vouch f'r him pers'n'lly? He's all right, uh? Not a crook,
huh?"

"Of course he is not!" said Mrs. Pett indignantly. "He's a great
friend of mine."

"All right. Well, I guess thass 'bout all, huh? I'll be going
downstairs 'an starting in."

"You can come here immediately?"

"Sure. Got parlour-maid rig round at m' boarding-house round
corner. Come back with it 'n ten minutes. Same dress I used when
I w's working on th' Marling D'vorce case. D'jer know th'
Marlings? Idle rich! Bound t' get 'nto trouble. I fixed 'm. Well,
g'bye. Mus' be going. No time t' waste."

Mrs. Pett leaned back faintly in her chair. She felt overcome.

Downstairs, on her way out, Miss Trimble had paused in the hall
to inspect a fine statue which stood at the foot of the stairs.
It was a noble work of art, but it seemed to displease her. She
snorted.

"Idle rich!" she muttered scornfully. "Brrh!"

The portly form of Mr. Crocker loomed up from the direction of
the back stairs. She fixed her left eye on him piercingly. Mr.
Crocker met it, and quailed. He had that consciousness of guilt
which philosophers tell is the worst drawback to crime. Why this
woman's gaze should disturb him so thoroughly, he could not have
said. She was a perfect stranger to him. She could know nothing
about him. Yet he quailed.

"Say," said Miss Trimble. "I'm c'ming here 's parlour-maid."

"Oh, ah?" said Mr. Crocker, feebly.

"Grrrh!" observed Miss Trimble, and departed.

Content of CHAPTER XVII - MISS TRIMBLE, DETECTIVE (P G Wodehouse's novel: Piccadilly Jim)

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