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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Piccadilly Jim -> Chapter 2

Piccadilly Jim - Chapter 2

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

23. Chapter 23

24. Chapter 24

25. Chapter 25

26. Chapter 26


London brooded under a grey sky. There had been rain in the
night, and the trees were still dripping. Presently, however,
there appeared in the laden haze a watery patch of blue: and
through this crevice in the clouds the sun, diffidently at first
but with gradually increasing confidence, peeped down on the
fashionable and exclusive turf of Grosvenor Square. Stealing
across the square, its rays reached the massive stone walls of
Drexdale House, until recently the London residence of the earl
of that name; then, passing through the window of the
breakfast-room, played lightly on the partially bald head of Mr.
Bingley Crocker, late of New York in the United States of
America, as he bent over his morning paper. Mrs. Bingley Crocker,
busy across the table reading her mail, the rays did not touch.
Had they done so, she would have rung for Bayliss, the butler, to
come and lower the shade, for she endured liberties neither from
Man nor from Nature.

Mr. Crocker was about fifty years of age, clean-shaven and of a
comfortable stoutness. He was frowning as he read. His smooth,
good-humoured face wore an expression which might have been
disgust, perplexity, or a blend of both. His wife, on the other
hand, was looking happy. She extracted the substance from her
correspondence with swift glances of her compelling eyes, just as
she would have extracted guilty secrets from Bingley, if he had
had any. This was a woman who, like her sister Nesta, had been
able all her life to accomplish more with a glance than other
women with recrimination and threat. It had been a popular belief
among his friends that her late husband, the well-known Pittsburg
millionaire G. G. van Brunt, had been in the habit of
automatically confessing all if he merely caught the eye of her
photograph on his dressing table.

From the growing pile of opened envelopes Mrs. Crocker looked up,
a smile softening the firm line of her lips.

"A card from Lady Corstorphine, Bingley, for her at-home on the

Mr. Crocker, still absorbed, snorted absently.

"One of the most exclusive hostesses in England. . . . She has
influence with the right sort of people. Her brother, the Duke of
Devizes, is the Premier's oldest friend."


"The Duchess of Axminster has written to ask me to look after a
stall at her bazaar for the Indigent Daughters of the Clergy."


"Bingley! You aren't listening. What is that you are reading?"

Mr. Crocker tore himself from the paper.

"This? Oh, I was looking at a report of that cricket game you
made me go and see yesterday."

"Oh? I am glad you have begun to take an interest in cricket. It
is simply a social necessity in England. Why you ever made such a
fuss about taking it up, I can't think. You used to be so fond of
watching baseball and cricket is just the same thing."

A close observer would have marked a deepening of the look of
pain on Mr. Crocker's face. Women say this sort of thing
carelessly, with no wish to wound: but that makes it none the
less hard to bear.

From the hall outside came faintly the sound of the telephone,
then the measured tones of Bayliss answering it. Mr. Crocker
returned to his paper.

Bayliss entered.

"Lady Corstorphine desires to speak to you on the telephone,

Half-way to the door Mrs. Crocker paused, as if recalling
something that had slipped her memory.

"Is Mr. James getting up, Bayliss?"

"I believe not, madam. I am informed by one of the house-maids
who passed his door a short time back that there were no sounds."

Mrs. Crocker left the room. Bayliss, preparing to follow her
example, was arrested by an exclamation from the table.


His master's voice.

"Say, Bayliss, come here a minute. Want to ask you something."

The butler approached the table. It seemed to him that his
employer was not looking quite himself this morning. There was
something a trifle wild, a little haggard, about his expression.
He had remarked on it earlier in the morning in the Servants'

As a matter of fact, Mr. Crocker's ailment was a perfectly simple
one. He was suffering from one of those acute spasms of
home-sickness, which invariably racked him in the earlier Summer
months. Ever since his marriage five years previously and his
simultaneous removal from his native land he had been a chronic
victim to the complaint. The symptoms grew less acute in Winter
and Spring, but from May onward he suffered severely.

Poets have dealt feelingly with the emotions of practically every
variety except one. They have sung of Ruth, of Israel in bondage,
of slaves pining for their native Africa, and of the miner's
dream of home. But the sorrows of the baseball bug, compelled by
fate to live three thousand miles away from the Polo Grounds,
have been neglected in song. Bingley Crocker was such a one, and
in Summer his agonies were awful. He pined away in a country
where they said "Well played, sir!" when they meant "'at-a-boy!"

"Bayliss, do you play cricket?"

"I am a little past the age, sir. In my younger days . . ."

"Do you understand it?"

"Yes, sir. I frequently spend an afternoon at Lord's or the Oval
when there is a good match."

Many who enjoyed a merely casual acquaintance with the butler
would have looked on this as an astonishingly unexpected
revelation of humanity in Bayliss, but Mr. Crocker was not
surprised. To him, from the very beginning, Bayliss had been a
man and a brother who was always willing to suspend his duties in
order to answer questions dealing with the thousand and one
problems which the social life of England presented. Mr.
Crocker's mind had adjusted itself with difficulty to the
niceties of class distinction: and, while he had cured himself of
his early tendency to address the butler as "Bill," he never
failed to consult him as man to man in his moments of perplexity.
Bayliss was always eager to be of assistance. He liked Mr.
Crocker. True, his manner might have struck a more sensitive man
than his employer as a shade too closely resembling that of an
indulgent father towards a son who was not quite right in the
head: but it had genuine affection in it.

Mr. Crocker picked up his paper and folded it back at the
sporting page, pointing with a stubby forefinger.

"Well, what does all this mean? I've kept out of watching cricket
since I landed in England, but yesterday they got the poison
needle to work and took me off to see Surrey play Kent at that
place Lord's where you say you go sometimes."

"I was there yesterday, sir. A very exciting game."

"Exciting? How do you make that out? I sat in the bleachers all
afternoon, waiting for something to break loose. Doesn't anything
ever happen at cricket?"

The butler winced a little, but managed to smile a tolerant
smile. This man, he reflected, was but an American and as such
more to be pitied than censured. He endeavoured to explain.

"It was a sticky wicket yesterday, sir, owing to the rain."


"The wicket was sticky, sir."

"Come again."

"I mean that the reason why the game yesterday struck you as slow
was that the wicket--I should say the turf--was sticky--that is
to say wet. Sticky is the technical term, sir. When the wicket is
sticky, the batsmen are obliged to exercise a great deal of
caution, as the stickiness of the wicket enables the bowlers to
make the ball turn more sharply in either direction as it strikes
the turf than when the wicket is not sticky."

"That's it, is it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Thanks for telling me."

"Not at all, sir."

Mr. Crocker pointed to the paper.

"Well, now, this seems to be the box-score of the game we saw
yesterday. If you can make sense out of that, go to it."

The passage on which his finger rested was headed "Final Score,"
and ran as follows:


First Innings

Hayward, c Wooley, b Carr ....... 67
Hobbs, run out ................... 0
Hayes, st Huish, b Fielder ...... 12
Ducat, b Fielder ................ 33
Harrison, not out ............... 11
Sandham, not out ................. 6
Extras .......................... 10

Total (for four wickets) ....... 139

Bayliss inspected the cipher gravely.

"What is it you wish me to explain, sir?"

"Why, the whole thing. What's it all about?"

"It's perfectly simple, sir. Surrey won the toss, and took first
knock. Hayward and Hobbs were the opening pair. Hayward called
Hobbs for a short run, but the latter was unable to get across
and was thrown out by mid-on. Hayes was the next man in. He went
out of his ground and was stumped. Ducat and Hayward made a
capital stand considering the stickiness of the wicket, until
Ducat was bowled by a good length off-break and Hayward caught at
second slip off a googly. Then Harrison and Sandham played out

Mr. Crocker breathed heavily through his nose.

"Yes!" he said. "Yes! I had an idea that was it. But I think I'd
like to have it once again, slowly. Start with these figures.
What does that sixty-seven mean, opposite Hayward's name?"

"He made sixty-seven runs, sir."

"Sixty-seven! In one game?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why, Home-Run Baker couldn't do it!"

"I am not familiar with Mr. Baker, sir."

"I suppose you've never seen a ball-game?"

"Ball-game, sir?"

"A baseball game?"

"Never, sir."

"Then, Bill," said Mr. Crocker, reverting in his emotion to the
bad habit of his early London days, "you haven't lived. See

Whatever vestige of respect for class distinctions Mr. Crocker
had managed to preserve during the opening stages of the
interview now definitely disappeared. His eyes shone wildly and
he snorted like a war-horse. He clutched the butler by the sleeve
and drew him closer to the table, then began to move forks,
spoons, cups, and even the contents of his plate about the cloth
with an energy little short of feverish.



"Watch!" said Mr. Crocker, with the air of an excitable high
priest about to initiate a novice into the Mysteries.

He removed a roll from the basket.

"You see this roll? That's the home plate. This spoon is first
base. Where I'm putting this cup is second. This piece of bacon
is third. There's your diamond for you. Very well, then. These
lumps of sugar are the infielders and the outfielders. Now we're
ready. Batter up? He stands here. Catcher behind him. Umps behind

"Umps, I take it, sir, is what we would call the umpire?"

"Call him anything you like. It's part of the game. Now here's
the box, where I've put this dab of marmalade, and here's the
pitcher, winding up."

"The pitcher would be equivalent to our bowler?"

"I guess so, though why you should call him a bowler gets past

"The box, then, is the bowler's wicket?"

"Have it your own way. Now pay attention. Play ball! Pitcher's
winding up. Put it over, Mike, put it over! Some speed, kid! Here
it comes, right in the groove. Bing! Batter slams it and streaks
for first. Outfielder--this lump of sugar--boots it. Bonehead!
Batter touches second. Third? No! Get back! Can't be done. Play
it safe. Stick around the sack, old pal. Second batter up.
Pitcher getting something on the ball now besides the cover.
Whiffs him. Back to the bench, Cyril! Third batter up. See him
rub his hands in the dirt. Watch this kid. He's good! He lets
two alone, then slams the next right on the nose. Whizzes around
to second. First guy, the one we left on second, comes home for
one run. That's a game! Take it from me, Bill, that's a _game!_"

Somewhat overcome with the energy with which he had flung himself
into his lecture, Mr. Crocker sat down and refreshed himself with
cold coffee.

"Quite an interesting game," said Bayliss. "But I find, now that
you have explained it, sir, that it is familiar to me, though I
have always known it under another name. It is played a great
deal in this country."

Mr. Crocker started to his feet.

"It is? And I've been five years here without finding it out!
When's the next game scheduled?"

"It is known in England as Rounders, sir. Children play it with a
soft ball and a racquet, and derive considerable enjoyment from
it. I had never heard of it before as a pastime for adults."

Two shocked eyes stared into the butler's face.

"Children?" The word came in a whisper.

"A racquet?"

"Yes, sir."

"You--you didn't say a soft ball?"

"Yes, sir."

A sort of spasm seemed to convulse Mr. Crocker. He had lived five
years in England, but not till this moment had he realised to the
full how utterly alone he was in an alien land. Fate had placed
him, bound and helpless, in a country where they called baseball
Rounders and played it with a soft ball.

He sank back into his chair, staring before him. And as he sat
the wall seemed to melt and he was gazing upon a green field, in
the centre of which a man in a grey uniform was beginning a
Salome dance. Watching this person with a cold and suspicious
eye, stood another uniformed man, holding poised above his
shoulder a sturdy club. Two Masked Marvels crouched behind him in
attitudes of watchful waiting. On wooden seats all around sat a
vast multitude of shirt-sleeved spectators, and the air was full
of voices.

One voice detached itself from the din.

"Pea-nuts! Get y'r pea-nuts!"

Something that was almost a sob shook Bingley Crocker's ample
frame. Bayliss the butler gazed down upon him with concern. He
was sure the master was unwell.

The case of Mr. Bingley Crocker was one that would have provided
an admirable "instance" for a preacher seeking to instil into an
impecunious and sceptical flock the lesson that money does not of
necessity bring with it happiness. And poetry has crystallised
his position in the following stanza.

An exile from home splendour dazzles in vain.
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that came at my call,
Give me them, and that peace of mind dearer than all.

Mr. Crocker had never lived in a thatched cottage, nor had his
relations with the birds of his native land ever reached the
stage of intimacy indicated by the poet; but substitute "Lambs
Club" for the former and "members" for the latter, and the
parallel becomes complete.

Until the time of his second marriage Bingley Crocker had been an
actor, a snapper-up of whatever small character-parts the gods
provided. He had an excellent disposition, no money, and one son,
a young man of twenty-one. For forty-five years he had lived a
hand-to-mouth existence in which his next meal had generally come
as a pleasant surprise: and then, on an Atlantic liner, he met
the widow of G. G. van Brunt, the sole heiress to that magnate's
immense fortune.

What Mrs. van Brunt could have seen in Bingley Crocker to cause
her to single him out from all the world passes comprehension:
but the eccentricities of Cupid are commonplace. It were best to
shun examination into first causes and stick to results. The
swift romance began and reached its climax in the ten days which
it took one of the smaller Atlantic liners to sail from Liverpool
to New York. Mr. Crocker was on board because he was returning
with a theatrical company from a failure in London, Mrs. van
Brunt because she had been told that the slow boats were the
steadiest. They began the voyage as strangers and ended it as an
engaged couple--the affair being expedited, no doubt, by the fact
that, even if it ever occurred to Bingley to resist the onslaught
on his bachelor peace, he soon realised the futility of doing so,
for the cramped conditions of ship-board intensified the always
overwhelming effects of his future bride's determined nature.

The engagement was received in a widely differing spirit by the
only surviving blood-relations of the two principals. Jimmy, Mr.
Crocker's son, on being informed that his father had plighted his
troth to the widow of a prominent millionaire, displayed the
utmost gratification and enthusiasm, and at a little supper which
he gave by way of farewell to a few of his newspaper comrades and
which lasted till six in the morning, when it was broken up by
the flying wedge of waiters for which the selected restaurant is
justly famous, joyfully announced that work and he would from
then on be total strangers. He alluded in feeling terms to the
Providence which watches over good young men and saves them from
the blighting necessity of offering themselves in the flower of
their golden youth as human sacrifices to the Moloch of
capitalistic greed: and, having commiserated with his guests in
that a similar stroke of luck had not happened to each of them,
advised them to drown their sorrows in drink. Which they did.

Far different was the attitude of Mrs. Crocker's sister, Nesta
Pett. She entirely disapproved of the proposed match. At least,
the fact that in her final interview with her sister she
described the bridegroom-to-be as a wretched mummer, a despicable
fortune-hunter, a broken-down tramp, and a sneaking, grafting
confidence-trickster lends colour to the supposition that she was
not a warm supporter of it. She agreed wholeheartedly with Mrs.
Crocker's suggestion that they should never speak to each other
again as long as they lived: and it was immediately after this
that the latter removed husband Bingley, step-son Jimmy, and all
her other goods and chattels to London, where they had remained
ever since. Whenever Mrs. Crocker spoke of America now, it was in
tones of the deepest dislike and contempt. Her friends were
English, and every year more exclusively of England's
aristocracy. She intended to become a leading figure in London
Society, and already her progress had been astonishing. She knew
the right people, lived in the right square, said the right
things, and thought the right thoughts: and in the Spring of her
third year had succeeded in curing Bingley of his habit of
beginning his remarks with the words "Say, lemme tell ya
something." Her progress, in short, was beginning to assume the
aspect of a walk-over.

Against her complete contentment and satisfaction only one thing
militated. That was the behaviour of her step-son, Jimmy.

It was of Jimmy that she spoke when, having hung the receiver on
its hook, she returned to the breakfast-room. Bayliss had
silently withdrawn, and Mr. Crocker was sitting in sombre silence
at the table.

"A most fortunate thing has happened, Bingley," she said. "It was
most kind of dear Lady Corstorphine to ring me up. It seems that
her nephew, Lord Percy Whipple, is back in England. He has been
in Ireland for the past three years, on the staff of the Lord
Lieutenant, and only arrived in London yesterday afternoon. Lady
Corstorphine has promised to arrange a meeting between him and
James. I particularly want them to be friends."

"Eugenia," said Mr. Crocker in a hollow voice, "do you know they
call baseball Rounders over here, and children play it with a
soft ball?"

"James is becoming a serious problem. It is absolutely necessary
that he should make friends with the right kind of young men."

"And a racquet," said Mr. Crocker.

"Please listen to what I am saying, Bingley. I am talking about
James. There is a crude American strain in him which seems to
grow worse instead of better. I was lunching with the Delafields
at the Carlton yesterday, and there, only a few tables away, was
James with an impossible young man in appalling clothes. It was
outrageous that James should have been seen in public at all with
such a person. The man had a broken nose and talked through it.
He was saying in a loud voice that made everybody turn round
something about his left-scissors hook--whatever that may have
been. I discovered later that he was a low professional pugilist
from New York--a man named Spike Dillon, I think Captain Wroxton
said. And Jimmy was giving him lunch--at the _Carlton!_"

Mr. Crocker said nothing. Constant practice had made him an adept
at saying nothing when his wife was talking.

"James must be made to realise his responsibilities. I shall have
to speak to him. I was hearing only the other day of a most
deserving man, extremely rich and lavishly generous in his
contributions to the party funds, who was only given a
knighthood, simply because he had a son who had behaved in a
manner that could not possibly be overlooked. The present Court
is extraordinarily strict in its views. James cannot be too
careful. A certain amount of wildness in a young man is quite
proper in the best set, provided that he is wild in the right
company. Every one knows that young Lord Datchet was ejected from
the Empire Music-Hall on Boat-Race night every year during his
residence at Oxford University, but nobody minds. The family
treats it as a joke. But James has such low tastes. Professional
pugilists! I believe that many years ago it was not unfashionable
for young men in Society to be seen about with such persons, but
those days are over. I shall certainly speak to James. He cannot
afford to call attention to himself in any way. That
breach-of-promise case of his three years ago, is, I hope and
trust, forgotten, but the slightest slip on his part might start
the papers talking about it again, and that would be fatal. The
eventual successor to a title must be quite as careful as--"

It was not, as has been hinted above, the usual practice of Mr.
Crocker to interrupt his wife when she was speaking, but he did
it now.


Mrs. Crocker frowned.

"I wish, Bingley--and I have told you so often--that you would
not begin your sentences with the word 'Say'! It is such a
revolting Americanism. Suppose some day when you are addressing
the House of Lords you should make a slip like that! The papers
would never let you hear the end of it."

Mr. Crocker was swallowing convulsively, as if testing his larynx
with a view to speech. Like Saul of Tarsus, he had been stricken
dumb by the sudden bright light which his wife's words had caused
to flash upon him. Frequently during his sojourn in London he had
wondered just why Eugenia had settled there in preference to her
own country. It was not her wont to do things without an object,
yet until this moment he had been unable to fathom her motives.
Even now it seemed almost incredible. And yet what meaning would
her words have other than the monstrous one which had smitten him
as a blackjack?

"Say--I mean, Eugenia--you don't want--you aren't trying--you
aren't working to--you haven't any idea of trying to get them to
make me a Lord, have you?"

"It is what I have been working for all these years!"

"But--but why? Why? That's what I want to know. Why?"

Mrs. Crocker's fine eyes glittered.

"I will tell you why, Bingley. Just before we were married I had
a talk with my sister Nesta. She was insufferably offensive. She
referred to you in terms which I shall never forgive. She affected
to look down on you, to think that I was marrying beneath me. So
I am going to make you an English peer and send Nesta a newspaper
clipping of the Birthday Honours with your name in it, if I have
to keep working till I die! Now you know!"

Silence fell. Mr. Crocker drank cold coffee. His wife stared with
gleaming eyes into the glorious future.

"Do you mean that I shall have to stop on here till they make me
a lord?" said Mr. Crocker limply.


"Never go back to America?"

"Not till we have succeeded."

"Oh Gee! Oh Gosh! Oh Hell!" said Mr. Crocker, bursting the bonds
of years.

Mrs. Crocker though resolute, was not unkindly. She made
allowances for her husband's state of mind. She was willing to
permit even American expletives during the sinking-in process of
her great idea, much as a broad-minded cowboy might listen
indulgently to the squealing of a mustang during the branding
process. Docility and obedience would be demanded of him later,
but not till the first agony had abated. She spoke soothingly to

"I am glad we have had this talk, Bingley. It is best that you
should know. It will help you to realise your responsibilities.
And that brings me back to James. Thank goodness Lord Percy
Whipple is in town. He is about James' age, and from what Lady
Corstorphine tells me will be an ideal friend for him. You
understand who he is, of course? The second son of the Duke of
Devizes, the Premier's closest friend, the man who can
practically dictate the Birthday Honours. If James and Lord Percy
can only form a close friendship, our battle will be as good as
won. It will mean everything. Lady Corstorphine has promised to
arrange a meeting. In the meantime, I will speak to James and
warn him to be more careful."

Mr. Crocker had produced a stump of pencil from his pocket and
was writing on the table-cloth.

Lord Crocker
Lord Bingley Crocker
Lord Crocker of Crocker
The Marquis of Crocker
Baron Crocker
Bingley, first Viscount Crocker

He blanched as he read the frightful words. A sudden thought stung



"What will the boys at the Lambs say?"

"I am not interested," replied his wife, "in the boys at the

"I thought you wouldn't be," said the future baron gloomily.

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