Knowledge Is Power
In which a graduate of jiu jitsu, applied psychology, Diesel engineering and private "detecting" concocts a romantic comedy
JOHN REID BYERS
K-Bar Dude Ranch,
Marmot. Alberta, July 15, 1935.
MR. EDWARD B. WENTWORTH, Pittock Block, Montreal, P.Q.
Dear Mr. Wentworth: After thinking it over on my way here, I have decided that I ought to tell you that I am not really a professional private detective. That is. I’ve never had a chance to work at it before; though as I will explain, my qualifications and equipment for such work are probably a lot better than those of most professional detectives you could have hired. But as a matter of fact I came to your office last week to talk to you about a position in the Diesel engine factory you are starting; Diesel engineering being another of the things for which I am thoroughly qualified. But when you asked me if I was the man from the agency, I thought that the employment agency which had given me your name must have phoned you about me, so I said yes.
And before I had a chance to say anything else you started in, pretty excitedly, to tell me about your daughter, Patricia—only you called her Patsy, which I thought a very cute diminutive—and what a problem she had always been. And it was all so very interesting, especially after you had shown me her picture, that I couldn’t help listening. And I want you to know that I quite approved of your sending her up here to get her away from the man you referred to simply as “that fortune-hunting polo player;” and that I quite shared the concern you felt when you began to get letters from her about an incredibly handsome cowboy named Wally, who seemed to be taking the polo player’s place in her affections and who might be even more undesirable as a son-in-law.
Of course, by the time you started to tell me what you wanted me to do—that is, to come up here, posing as just another dude, and keep your daughter from getting irrevocably entangled with this Wally, and send you frequent reports on the situation—I had realized that you were making just a slight mistake as to my identity. But then 1 remembered that I was really a fully qualified private detective, even having a fingerprint outfit and a pair of handcuffs, and that my many other qualifications would undoubtedly enable me to handle a confidential mission like this more diplomatically than just about anybody else you could have found. So I decided to say nothing about the Diesel engineering for the moment—though when I have brought my present mission to a successful conclusion I would be very grateful for a chance to show you what I can do in that field. And anyway, here I am on the job and already beginning to get the situation in hand; and I am sure that neither of us will ever regret that I decided to come.
I am glad to say that I have already been introduced to your daughter, who is even prettier than her picture led me to expect—though I can readily understand that as a daughter she would be a big problem to almost anyone. I am planning to cultivate her acquaintance all I can. as the friendlier I am with her the easier it will be for me to keep track of the progress of her infatuation for this Wally—if any. For it has just occurred to me that your daughter’s letters may have been written simply in an effort to frighten you into bringing her back to Montreal and the polo player, whose real name you never did mention. But I ought to be able to give you a definite verdict on this angle of the case when I send in my next report.
Yours very truly,
P.S. In reading back over this letter, I notice that I’ve neglected to explain how I happen to be a thoroughly qualified private detective, even if I’ve never worked at it before. But you see, it hasn’t been very easy for even as ambitious and capable a young man as myself to find a permanent job with a good future during the past few
years. Only, instead of letting myself become discouraged by this state of affairs, I have been using my leisure time to improve'myself, on the theory that knowledge is power, and that the more things you know how to do, the more chance there is of finding somebody who’ll want one of them done.
Of course, I never expected to make any money as a result of taking the correspondence course in the Principles of Jtu Jitsu; but the one in the Elements of Applied Personal Psychology is bound to be very useful. I was pretty hopeful about that course in the Art of the Short Story for awhile, and I wrote several short stories which various members of my family thought were very fine. But it seems to be just about impossible to sell short stories, and I have practically given up trying, though I still have the thesaurus which was part of the course, and find it very useful in making such letters as this one both clearer and more entertaining. And then, of course, there was the course in Diesel Engineering, which I confidently hope that you will give me an opportunity to put to practical use at the end of my present mission. Diesel engineering, I might add, is not at all an easy thing to learn by mail; despite which fact I always got the highest possible marks on all my papers.
But it was just last winter that I took the course in How to Become a Private Detective. I did exceptionally well with it, too; and in addition to the handcuffs and the fingerprint outfit I have mentioned, they sent me a diploma which stated that I had graduated with highest honors. But when I wrote to various private detective agencies telling them this and offering them my services, none of them even answered my letter; so I guess the private detective field, like the short story and Diesel engineering ones, is badly overcrowded right now.
I imagine that this is enough to convince you that I am exceptionally well equipped to cope with the problem of your daughter and this Wally, Mr. Wentworth—as I am sure you will be the first to admit when I have brought my mission to a successful termination.
July 19, 1935.
MR. JAMES HENDRICKS, c /o K-Bar Dude Ranch,
My dear Mr. Hendricks: My first impulse upon learning of your lunatic intrusion of your highly qualified personality into my private affairs was to take some form of drastic legal action. Plowever, in view of the fact that you neither have received nor will receive any money from me, and must therefore be paying for your idiotic presumption out of your own pocket, I have decided to treat the matter with the scorn it merits.
As it chances, your so-called report was the first intimation I had that my secretary had forgotten to notify the Argus Detective Agency that I desired the services of one of its operatives. This oversight has now been corrected, and an Argus man was yesterday dispatched to the K-Bar ranch. I sincerely trust that this fact will remove the last particle of your crack-brained belief that you have been entrusted with a “confidential mission.”
I strongly suggest that your next correspondence course be one in the Art of Minding Your Own Business.
Edward B. Wentworth.
K-Bar Dude Ranch,
Marmot. Alberta, July 26, 1935.
MR. EDWARD B. WENTWORTH,
Dear Mr. Wentworth: In the first place. I don’t want you to think that I was either very much hurt or particularly surprised at the tone of your letter, as with my knowledge of applied personal psychology I had already classified you as being of a hot-headed, impulsive and
irascible nature, prone to do and say things which you regret the next day. And I know you will be glad to learn that I am still very much on the job here. Especially since your Argus operative is not, having left pretty suddenly last night. And I’d like to say that after observing his tactics I am surer than ever that I am much better fitted to handle this case than practically anybody else you could have employed.
I r.m glad to say that I have been moderately successful in cultivating your daughter’s acquaintance, even if only at times when this Wally’s duties keep her separated from him. You see, while there are about tv/enty other guests here right now, most of them are middleaged and somewhat dull, and Patsy seems quite glad to have somebody her own age to ride with when Wally isn’t available. (I hope you won’t mind my referring to your daughter as Patsy from now on. You must remember that a dude ranch is a pretty informal place, and she has been calling me Jimmy ever since our second ride together.) Anyway, we have got to be friendly enough so that I can ask her an occasional diplomatic question now and then. And I am afraid there is no question about the genuineness of her infatuation for this Wally—though I am pretty sure she would forget him without an awful lot of trouble if he weren’t around so constantly. For my mastery of personal psychology (including character analysis) enabled me to classify your daughter almost at first sight as being what my thesaurus would call “changeable, mutable, plastic, capricious and volatile.” But when I asked her if she would be going home soon Patsy looked very startled and said, “Oh, not for months, I hope!” So it is obvious that she has just about forgotten the polo player—though I strongly
suspect that she could remember him just about as easily as she could forget Wally. And for this reason I strongly don’t recommend your bringing her back to Montreal, as I have already worked out a method of getting rid of Wally; and this done, Patsy will be much safer from acquiring an undesirable son-in-law for you here than almost anywhere else.
This Wally himself is extremely good-looking, being lean and brown, with blue eyes, curly black hair and a drawl. He is the best rider on the ranch by very long odds, but his mental processes are decidedly slow; which will, of course, make it that much easier for me to get him out of the picture. I must admit, though, that I am convinced that Wally’s interest in Patsy is not at all mercenary, but simply the attraction which practically any man would feel for a girl as pretty and cute and blonde as Patsy is.
The Argus operative, a red-faced man with large feet who used the name of Reynolds while here, arrived the day before your letter. He made himself conspicuous a thing no good private detective would have done—from the very first moment of his stay here, apparently having no idea how to handle a case like this except by shadowing Patsy constantly. And he was so clumsy at it that she and practically everyone else noticed it, though naturally nobody except me realized that his interest was merely professional ; and I guess he would have got that black eye eventually in any case, though probably from W'ally rather than from another cowboy called Spike.
You see, as part of his amateurish and undiplomatic snooping around, this Reynolds seems to have wanted to peep through Patsy’s window last evening. Only he picked the wrong window—that of a Mrs. Hornblower, who is fat
and fifty or so, and wears high-heeled slippers, silk stockings, rather tight knickers and a large string of pearls constantly. Having once taken a short course in etiquette I am fully aware that pearls are not worn at a dude ranch, and some day when I have the chance to do it diplomatically I am going to tell Mrs. Hornblower so.
But anyway, she saw the Argus man and screamed very exuberantly, and a couple of the cowboys bounced out of the bunkhouse near by, and the one called Spike jerked the Argus operative away from the window and hit him twice in the left eye, just—as he told me later—“on general principles.” And then the manager of the ranch came out of the ranchhouse, and Mrs. Hornblower came to her window in her kimono, and there was a lot of rather angry talk. And of course the Argus man couldn’t very well offer any explanations; so it ended up by their bundling this Reynolds and his baggage into a car and sending him off to Marmot and the railroad station right then and there.
Of course it was really rather silly for you to have sent this Reynolds out here; but I am just a little glad to have had the chance to watch him, as it greatly strengthens my opinion of my own superior qualifications for this sort of work. But I must admit that I am very much surprised that a man of your business and financial standing is not a better judge of character than your selection of this Reynolds for a confidential mission would indicate. And if you’d like to improve your ability to judge men, I will be only too glad to loan you the book on character analysis which was a part of my course in applied personal psychology. Yours very truly,
Continued on page 57
Knowledge Is Power
Continued prom page 13—Starts on page 12
K-Bar Dude Ranch,
Marmot, Alta., August 5, 1935.
MR. EDWARD B. WENTWORTH, Pittock Block,
Dear Mr. Wentworth: If I had written you as lately as just two or three days ago, I would undoubtedly have reported that my mission had been brought to a highly successful conclusion. So perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t write and rouse any false hopes on your part. Because right now I would say that the danger of your finding yourself with an undesirable son-in-law on your hands is even greater than when I first arrived here. In fact, there are times when I almost wonder if it wasn’t a mistake to get rid of Wally—though I am rather proud of the diplomatic manner in which I accomplished this.
You see, I had had my plan worked out for some time, and was just waiting for a good psychological moment to put it into effect. And an ideal one occurred a little
more than a week ago, when I learned that Mr. Blake, the ranch manager, had been trying to get Wally to take charge of a party of dudes who were starting early the next morning on a horseback trip that would last for more than a month, but that Wally had been objecting, obviously because he didn’t want to be separated from Patsy. So that afternoon I hung around the4 corral until Wally came down to put up the horses after a ride he had taken with Patsy.
“Hello, Wally,” I said in a friendly voice. “I just noticed you riding in with little Miss Wentworth. A beautiful girl, isn’t she?”
“She certainly is, Mr. Hendricks,” Wally replied, with a very dreamy look coming into his blue eyes.
I shook my head and gave a pretty mournful sigh. “And I suppose that makes it all just that much harder for her family,” I went on in a low-, thoughtful voice, pretty much as if I were just talking to myself.
“Makes what, Mr. Hendricks?” Wally asked, just as I had expected him to.
I gave a kind of a start, as if I had suddenly realized that I was talking too much. “Nothing, Wally,” I said hurriedly. “I shouldn’t have said anything about it.” But then I stopped and looked at him very thoughtfully. “And yet, Wally, you’re alone with her quite often, aren’t you?” I murmured. “You really should know, so you can be on your guard. You see, I come from Miss Wentworth’s home town, Wally; I even know her father. And she ...” And'then I hesitated for a minute, while I gave Wally a very searching look—and hoped he was really as slow-witted and gullible as I had sized him up to be. “Wally, if I tell you why Miss Wentworth is here, will you give me your sacred word that you’ll never mention it to a living soul?” I asked him.
He was practically gaping at me now, but he nodded his head. “You see, Wally,” I proceeded in a very impressive whisper, “there’s a streak of insanity in the poor child’s family. And in her case—well, it’s pretty bad. She attacks people with a knife, Wally. Men, usually; just any man who happens to be with her when one of her attacks come on. And she had one at a polo game just before she came up here. The man wasn’t awfully badly hurt, and her family could hush things up; but they had to get her out of town. You see, Wally, she never remembers what she’s done at such times. And so far her family have managed to protect her. But some day ...” And I shook my head again. “And yet, between these seizures you couldn’t find a sweeter young girl,” I finished sadly.
Wally’s mouth was all the way open now. “A knife!” he said. “I can stand most anything except knives. A Mexican girl chased me around the room with one. I—I wouldn’t go through that again for anything, Mr. Hendricks . . . But—I was getting mighty sweet on that little girl,” he ended up in a pretty sick voice.
I patted his shoulder very sympathetically. (There are times, Mr. Wentworth, when I think I should have been an actor. This was one of the times.) “I think I understand, Wally,” I told him gently.
“What—what would you do if you was me, Mr. Hendricks?” he asked me, just as I had rather hoped he would.
“I’d go away, Wally,” I advised him in the same gentle voice. “Far, far away. And try to forget.”
I had been hoping that I wouldn’t have to remind him of the party starting the next morning, though I was prepared to if necessary. But I didn’t have to. “I reckon you’re right, Mr. Hendricks,” he told me. “And—and if you’ll excuse me, I reckon I’d better go see Mr. Blake right away.” And the next morning Wally was gone, without even leaving a note for Patsy..
Of course I really regarded my mission as over then and there; but after thinking it over I decided that it would be no more than simple chivalry, and something you would be sure to appreciate, if I stayed over for a few days longer and tried to keep Patsy from brooding too much about Wally’s disappearance. And I know you will be glad to hear that I was quite successful in this. She was pretty mournful and hurt the first day or two after Wally vanished, though she didn’t talk about it much; but then she began to brighten up and take quite a little pleasure in our daily rides. And last Saturday night we borrowed a car and went into Marmot to the dance and didn’t get back until three in the morning, and I don’t believe that Patsy thought about Wally once that evening.
So everything was all right, Mr. Wentworth, and still would be, if it weren’t for the new guest who arrived Sunday afternoon. His name is George Smith, and he came in his own car, and Patsy took one look at him and made up her mind that he combined all the best qualities of Clark Gable and Ronald Colman. “Only he’s really much, much handsomer than either of them, Jimmy,” she told me that night, with a blissful smile that made me fear for
the worst. And the next day she made what Mrs. Homblower—rather sniffishly, but not at all unjustifiably—described as “a dead set” at this George Smith, who certainly made no effort to avoid her. And now they are riding together every day; and while Patsy is still very friendly toward me, I hardly see her long enough to say “hello” any more.
Naturally I at once realized that I couldn’t regard my mission as over now until I had managed to eliminate this George Smith, as he didn’t look to me like a desirable husband for Patsy or a son-inlaw for you. And I could tell at a glance that he would be much harder to eliminate than poor Wally, being obviously much more acute and hard-boiled mentally than Wally. I knew that there wasn’t the faintest chance of getting him to believe that story about the insanity in your family; but after studying him rather closely, I came to the conclusion that he was much more likely to be influenced by mercenary motives than Wally would have been, and I went to work on that angle. I managed to get into conversation with him the other evening, and after working the conversation around to Patsy very adroitly I mentioned coming from her home town, and then remarked that it was too bad that her future social career would probably be pretty well blighted by the fact that her father was on the verge of bankruptcy. “As a matter of fact, I imagine she’s been sent up here so she’d be out of it when the news breaks,” I told him.
But I am sorry to say that it didn’t work. George Smith merely laughed, rather nastily. “Not missing your rides with little Miss Wentworth, are you, Hendricks?” he asked. Then he laughed again and got up and walked away. And since then he and Patsy have been together about eighteen hours out of every day.
I’ll have to admit that I am just a little bit baffled right now; but I am still on the job, and I haven’t given up hope of bringing the case to a favorable conclusion yet.
Yours very truly,
P.S. I have been rather expecting to hear from you about the book on character analysis which I offered to loan you. This is a subject which you very obviously need to study, and I will be glad to mail you the book at any time.
August 8, 1935.
MR. JAMES HENDRICKS, c /o K-Bar Dude Ranch,
Sir: My attorney informs me that your demented slanders concerning my daughter’s sanity and my own financial standing form an entirely sufficient ground for civil action against you, if not for a sanity hearing.
However, if you do not withdraw yourself from my affairs and from my daughter’s vicinity, at once and permanently, I am not going to resort to legal action to compel you to do so. What I will do, if I hear from or about you, directly or indirectly, is to let my business here slide and come to Alberta to interview you in person. If I can find a horsewhip I’ll bring it with me; if not I’ll cut a club. With either of these implements I am confident that I can convince you of the advantages of confining your attention to your own private affairs in one short, painful lesson —not given by correspondence !
Edward B. Wentwortfy.
Marmot, Alta., August 16, 1935.
MR. EDWARD B. WENTWORTH, Pittock Block,
Dear Mr. Wentworth: I guess I should have answered your last letter more promptly, Mr. Wentworth; but to tell the truth I was just a little bit hurt at some of the things you said, even though I realized that you were just over-excited and didn’t really mean them. However, it is going to take them an hour or so to service the new car I have just bought for the trip I am
taking, and I wall use that time to write you a final report on my mission here. I say a final report, for I am very glad to be able to say that I have brought my mission to an exceedingly satisfactory conclusion, and that you need have no further fear of acquiring an undesirable son-in-law. But I am afraid that I must add that after last night my opinion of your ability to judge men has just reached a new low; and I am mailing you that book on character.analysis today, with the friendly suggestion that you read it at once and begin to put its precepts into use.
But to keep my report in chronological order, I should say that for several days after I last wrote you there was no real change in the situation at the K-Bar ranch. Patsy and this Smith person were together constantly, and try as hard as I might— and I want to assure you that your interests were never out of my mind—I couldn’t seem to devise any method of eliminating him. So that was the state of affairs last night, when Mrs. Homblower accused me of stealing her pearls.
You see, I had finally found a chance to tell Mrs. Hornblower, diplomatically and in a nice way, that pearls shouldn’t be worn with an outing costume. And I think it is quite a tribute to the finesse I used that she took my remarks without growing offended, and was even grateful for them; admitting that she had never had any jewellery until her husband died six months ago, and so had never had an opportunity to learn just when pearls should and should not be worn. And when I had explained the etiquette of the matter to her, she said she would take them off right away. “I suppose they’ll be safe locked up in my dresser, won’t they?” she asked me.
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Homblower, I’m sure they will be, in a place like this,” I told her. Which, as I later found out, was neither a correct statement of fact nor a very safe thing for me to say.
But Mrs. Hornblower put the pearls away, and while her knickers were still much too tight and I thought I’d try to drop her a hint about them when I had another good chance, she really fitted into the background a lot better without them. But last night, about an hour after dinner, she looked in her dresser and discovered that her pearls were gone. And the way she had screamed when she caught your man Reynolds peeping through her window was a mere nothing compared with the performance she put on now. In about ten seconds Mr. Blake and I and the cowboy called Spike and all the guests who were within earshot were in her room. And no sooner had she told us what was wrong than she gave me a very nasty shock. “He’s the man who stole them !” she cried, pointing directly at me. “He persuaded me to stop wearing them. -He knew where they were.” And then she went on to say several other rather uncomplimentary things about me. Mrs. Hornblower is very much like you in character, Mr. Wentworth. She is excitable, and often says things which she later regrets.
Mr. Blake looked at me and said something about phoning for the police, and the cowboy called Spike got between me and the door, with his right fist swinging rather restlessly, and I could see that I was in a pretty tough spot. But fortunately my presence of mind did not desert me.
“Mr. Blake,” I said firmly, “I realize that appearances may be a little against me. But if you’ll give me a chance to—”
“They cost me twenty thousand dollars,” Mrs. Hornblower interjected passionately. “And they weren’t insured. I’ll give a thousand-dollar reward for their return. And, of course,” she added, with a distinctly vindictive glance at me, “for the arrest of the thief.”
“Mrs. Homblower,” I said, turning toward her and making my voice reprovingly cold, “when I have recovered your pearls I will claim that thousand dollars. You see,” I went on to explain to Mr. Blake, “I am in reality an expert private detective, and much better qualified to
handle a case like this than any constable could possibly be. And if you’ll give me an hour or two to work on the problem before calling him in, I’m sure I’ll be able to turn the criminal over to him.” (I might add, Mr. Wentworth, that I was very far from being sure on this point. But one of the first things I learned from my course in applied personal psychology is that nothing succeeds like confidence, and that people tend to take you at your own valuation.)
Mr. Blake looked both doubtful and impressed. “I don’t suppose that an hour or two can make any real difference,” he said slowly. “And I’ll admit that Constable Twombley isn’t any Sherlock Holmes. And if you’ve had experience handling cases like this ...” And he looked enquiringly at Mrs. Homblower.
Mrs. Homblower was looking just a little impressed by my confidence, too. “Well, as long as you watch him to see that he doesn’t escape ...” she said dubiously. And after a little more talk it vras agreed that Mr. Blake wouldn’t call the constable for two hours, and that I was to work on the case under the supervision of himself and the cowboy called Spike.
rT'HE FIRST THING I did was to go to my room, closely followed by Spike and Mr. Blake, and procure my fingerprint outfit, consisting of powder, sufflator, ink pad, classification cards, etc; And just to have them in readiness for any emergency, I slipped my handcuffs into my pocket, and was glad to observe that my possession of them impressed Mr. Blake a little more. Then we went back to Mrs. Homblower’s room, and I started to work on her dresser with the fingerprint powder and the sufflator. And greatly to my delight I was soon successful in producing a very nice collection of fingerprints, both on the top of the dresser and on the front of the drawer in which the pearls had been kept. Most of them seemed to be Mrs. Homblower’s own; but there were a number of others, several of them quite clear, which obviously had been made by a man.
Having called these to the attention of Mr. Blake and Mrs. Homblower, I then proceeded to ink my own fingers and make a complete set of prints on one of the cards. And even Mr. Blake and Mrs. Homblower could see at once that there was no resemblance between my prints and those of the thief. And Mr. Blake shook hands with me—getting his fingers pretty well smeared with ink in the process—and congratulated me, while Mrs. Hornblower apologized quite humbly.
“And now,” I told them, just a little bit triumphantly, “all we have to do is to take the fingerprints of everybody on the ranch and we can’t fail to find the thief.”
So that is what we started in to do; Mr. Blake, after his own prints had been taken, rounding up the guests, the cowboys and the kitchen help and sending them in for me to take their fingerprints and compare them with those on Mrs. Homblower’s dresser. But at the end of an hour of pretty intensive work on my part I still hadn’t found the thief, and we had temporarily run out of people to fingerprint. Half a dozen of the guests, who frequently go for strolls in the moonlight on nights like this, had not yet come in ; and there was nothing to do but wait for them.
It was then that it occurred to me that in the excitement of clearing myself from Mrs. Homblower’s accusation I had been momentarily neglecting my duty to you. Because while much less clumsy about it than your man Reynolds had been, I had been making it my practice to keep Patsy and this George Smith under observation in an unobtrusive manner. And not having seen them since dinner—or supper, as they call it here—I decided to take advantage of the lull in the finger-printing to look them up. From previous experience I had a pretty good notion that they would be sitting in this Smith’s car, which he keeps parked in the big grove of cottonwoods behind and at some little distance from the ranch house. So I walked down that
way, keeping in the shadows of the trees and moving practically noiselessly in the rubber-soled shoes which I had bought when I first started to take my course in private detective work. And I succeeded in taking up my post behind a tree less than twenty feet from this Smith’s car without either he or Patsy realizing that they were under observation.
This George Smith was urging something upon Patsy with a good deal of vehemence. “But Patsy, darling, I have to leave tonight,” he was saying. “Pvc had a telegram. As a matter of fact, my baggage is in the car right now. But if you’ll just go with me— Go back to the house and throw something in a bag and meet me at the gate. We’ll get the minister in Marmot out of bed, and then—”
I am very glad to be able to report that Patsy’s voice was both tremulous and uncertain when she replied. “But—but George,” she said softly. “I’m not sure that I—I mean, we haven’t known each other very long yet. Do—do you really think that we—”
“Yes, darling Patsy,” George Smith’s voice answered. “I’m sure we should.”
I really thought, Mr. Wentworth, that it would be less embarrassing if I intervened then than later on. So I stepped out of the shelter of my tree and walked up to the car.
“I am sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Smith,” I said to him in a courteous, casual voice. “But I’d like to have you come back to the ranch house with me. You see, Mrs. Homblower’s pearls have been stolen, and the thief has been clumsy enough to leave some fingerprints, and the only honorable thing for any of us to do is to show his fingerprints in order to prove that he didn’t steal them.”
I was at this Smith’s side of his car, and he looked at me very fixedly for a minute. “Oh, is that so !” he said finally. And then he opened the door and stepped out, with one hand in the right-hand pocket of his coat. “Well!” he said. “Well, well, well!” Which would have been just ordinary conversational comment except for the fact that his hand had come out of his pocket and that at each “well” he slapped at me with what I later found out to be a blackjack.
'"THE FIRST couple of times he hit me
made me just a little bit dizzy; but I managed to grapple with him, and the next thing I knew we were down on the ground, with him on top and still slapping at my head with this blackjack. And I imagine that my confidential mission would have gone all to pieces right then and there if it hadn’t been for that course in jiu jitsu which I once took. But I managed to get hold of his wrist, and then all at once I remembered what the course in the principles of jiu jitsu had said to do under just such circumstances, and which I had practised several times with my younger brother. I couldn’t very well explain just what it was to anybody who hadn’t ever studied jiu jitsu, because it was a pretty complicated manoeuvre. But the next thing this George Smith knew, he was lying with his nose buried in the ground and completely unable to move without breaking something; and about ten seconds after that I was snapping my handcuffs on his wrists. Just, as the cowboy called Spike once said, “on general principles.” But the real surprise came when I grabbed him by the shoulders to roll him over on his back—and Mrs. Homblower’s pearls slithered out of his breast pocket !
Patsy had got out of the car by this time, and was standing staring at me with exceptionally wide eyes in a very white face. “Jimmy,” she whispered, “what— what’s it all about?”
“Patsy,” I told her, “I’ll explain everything later. But you mustn’t get mixed up in it. Go back to the ranch house and sit on the porch and wait for me, and pretend you’ve just come in from an extremely
solitary stroll. And go right now !” And I regard it as something of a tribute to my personality that, after just a moment of indecision, Patsy turned and went quite meekly and without argument.
Well, Mr. Wentworth, the man from the garage has just come to tell me that my car is ready, so I shall have to finish this report in something of a hurry. And to make a long story short, I marched the handcuffed George Smith back to the ranch house, where—just to make assurance doubly sure, as it says in my thesaurus—we took his fingerprints and discovered, not at all to my surprise, that they checked absolutely with those on Mrs. Homblower’s dresser. And then, while Spike guarded this George Smith, Mr. Blake telephoned the constable and I returned Mrs. Homblower’s pearls to her and received her cheque for a thousand dollars—most of which I have used to buy that new car for my trip—together with more apologies and some very effusive expressions of gratitude.
But it was when we searched this Smith that, as I have already said, my opinion of your ability to judge men reached that new low. Because when we went through his pockets we found a card stating that he was an accredited operative of the Argus Detective Agency and a half-finished report to you! And not only was it extremely silly of you to send out another Argus man when you knew that I was here and on the job, but you selected a man not only dishonorable enough to try to elope with the girl he was supposed to protect from fortune-hunters, but stupid enough not to wear gloves when he set out to steal a string of pearls. And so I certainly hope that you will read the book on character analysis I am sending you, and take its precepts to heart.
It wasn’t until after the sheriff had come and removed this George Smith to the Marmot jail that I was able to get away from the admiring and congratulatory throng of guests and cowboys and join Patsy on the porch. She was sitting in one of the big chairs, looking pretty subdued but extremely cute. And I sat down beside her and kind of explained exactly what had been going on, and she gave a frightened little shiver.
“Oh, Jimmy !” she whispered. “Suppose I’d really gone off with him !”
I patted her on the shoulder, very sympathetically—though without any necessity for acting this time—and told her that it was just one of those things, and to try to forget it. And after that we just sat there for quite a while, looking at the moon and not saying anything. It must have been nearly half an hour later when Patsy moved in her chair and I turned to look at her.
“Jimmy, did you notice Spike tonight?” she asked me. “When he was guarding that terrible Smith person, I mean? I’d never noticed it before, but he has the most determined, attractive chin.”
It was then, Mr. Wentworth, that I suddenly realized that there was only one sure method of protecting you from acquiring an undesirable son-in-law. And I pulled my chair a little closer to Patsy’s and reached over and took her hand and started in to protect you. I won’t bore you with a detailed account of what we said and did; but we sat on the porch until an extremely late hour, and we were married in Marmot this morning. So you can see that I have brought my mission to a conclusion very satisfactory to all concerned, and especially to me; and Patsy and I are starting on our honeymoon just as soon as I mail this letter.
Yours very truly,
P.S. I know it will interest you to learn that Patsy and I have been talking over my future. And we both agree that I should be just the assistant manager of your Diesel engine factory for at least a year before taking full charge of it.