Pam found herself in the small room in which the various politer games of chance had been set up to entertain those whose minds were not apt to whist or piquet but whose hearts likewise did not turn to dancing. Here there was no faro or hazard, only speculation, vingt-et-un, and loo. Pam had always felt a particular pull towards loo ever since she first learnt the peculiar name given the Jack of Clubs in that slightly disreputable game, and found herself soon engrossed in a hand—but not so engrossed that she was unaware of the way heads had turned when she had first thrust herself blindly into the room. She held her head high, however, and gradually the others returned their attentions to their respective entertainments. She played aggressively but not poorly, rarely being forced to ante in and frequently drawing two- if not three-fifths of the pool to herself. This was a relief to her, as having stumbled into a room in which they were playing for stakes up-front she had worried whether she would find herself at a local Point Non Plus too rapidly and be forced back into the main room, where she had at present no great desire to go. But the little pin-money she had invested at the whist tables had become greatly increased by judicious play at loo, so much that a laughing man she vaguely recollected as Mr. Creed Bratton of Schneider Street accused her of monkeying with the cards. She was uncertain how seriously to take this accusation, as Mr. Bratton appeared to her to be sincere in his concern while the remaining players around the table merely laughed at his words. She resolved to continue playing, and while her luck held no further murmur about her legitimacy arose from that or any other quarter. She soon lost herself in her enjoyment of the game, almost forgetting her reason for coming into the room in the first place.
Not losing himself in enjoyment of any kind, and utterly incapable of forgetting Pam’s sudden removal from the main room was Jim Halpert. In most circumstances suddenly finding himself squiring the most beautiful woman in the room would have been a dream come true, but as he was certain in his own breast that he had already been doing so before the sudden arrival of Miss Scott, and that only Miss Beesly’s sudden absence from that room had allowed it to remain true when he was compelled to accompany the other young lady, he was not much mollified by that consideration. Instead, he had it forcibly born in on him just how little he had in common with Katy. She was an amusing companion, certainly, and no trouble to look at, but her interests were, if not shallow, utterly misaligned with his. It was with a certain relief that he found himself drawn away from Miss Scott’s side as she was discussing once again (for the third time since she had entered that ballroom, albeit to a third audience entirely, if one excluded Jim, different from the first two) the circumstances which had led to her being presented at court while still a schoolgirl. While Jim had appreciated the tale the first time, by the third he was beginning to wonder what, if anything, had happened to Miss Scott outside of that particular event.
His reprieve was only momentary—not that he was thrust back into Miss Scott’s company, but that he was immediately beset by what seemed infinitely worse. After his butler once again conjured him by a word in his ear to the entryway, he was confronted once again by a guest he had not invited: not, this time, by an innocent girl flush with the adventure of an almost illicit evening out, but by an unwelcome man flush with too much drink. He no sooner detected Roy Anderson standing fidgeting by the umbrella stand than he strongly considered turning his heel and pretending his butler had been unable to find him after all, while informing that employee that in the future it might be well worth his effort to include the name of the otherwise anonymous gentleman who had arrived “a trifle disguised.” But in that moment of indecision his better angels won out, which was all for the best as Roy happened to turn at just that time and a hasty retreat would have proved out of the question even had he attempted it.
“Halpert!” boomed Roy. “I’m looking for Pammy! Where’s Pammy!”
Though it took no particular work of imagination on Jim’s part to identify this particular epithet with Pam Beesly, he had not heard it before, and he nevertheless stiffened to hear Roy use what (he imagined) must be a pet nickname between the two lovers in even so public a setting as his own downstairs hall. He forced down his annoyance, knowing it sprung not only—or even not primarily—from the impropriety of Roy’s mode of address and rather from the object of it, as he desired no reminder of the degree of familiarity and incipient relation between Pam and Roy. He was struck by a deep sense of desire to refuse Roy admittance and deny Pam’s presence entirely. But as it occurred to him that it was in the highest degree unlikely that Pam had not told Roy of her attendance at this particular function, it seemed both roguish and unlikely to work—not to mention that, as her betrothed, Roy could well be imagined to have the right to see her, and Jim at the very least no right to deny his access without her own express permission.
“If you mean Miss Beesly, as I presume you do, she is most certainly somewhere here, but I am at present unaware of her whereabouts.” He paused, taking in Roy’s flushed face and general manner of dissolution. “If you like, I can have my man find her and inquire if she will come out to you.”
“No need, old boy! Come in and see her myself, that I will.” With this, Roy took two steps towards the door Jim had come through and would have passed through it to the party beyond had he not encountered the unexpected interference of Jim’s body interposed between him and the door.
“Are you saying I can’t see Pammy? I want to see Pammy!”
At Roy’s belligerent repetition of his demand Jim decided a clearer nudge might be necessary than his gentle hints that it might be better if Pam were brought to Roy rather than the reverse. At this point his motivations were a confused tangle even to himself: desire to spare Pam embarrassment mingled with the same childish insistence that Roy should not enter his house to be intimate with Pam that had motivated his earlier wish to expel the uninvited guest, alongside a surprising (to him) degree of sympathy with Roy’s desire to see Pam that prompted him to act in Roy’s best interest by reducing the number of people who would see him in this dissolute state, or even to help him sober up before seeing their mutual desiderata, all layered with a desire to protect Pam from seeing Roy in this state given their impending marriage (no matter when it might finally decide to descend like Nemesis and consume them all). He therefore said merely “I’m not saying that at all, Anderson, but you have to consider the circumstances. Would you want Miss Beesly to see you in this condition? Would she…”
But he was unable to ask what she might want as Roy stomped across his sentence with one of his own. “Pammy’s seen me lots of times! In all circumstances!”
“But nothing. Pammy’s mine, and I want to see her, and you’re not going to stop me.”
With that Roy muscled his way past Jim and into the main room.
Jim took a deep breath and considered issuing Mr. Anderson a leveller then and there, but on the balance considered it the better part of valor not to bring scandal upon the party by coming to blows—much less to give any wags who might be present the opportunity to speak wisely of the real reason Mr. Halpert had given Mr. Anderson what-for. Instead he simply followed the other man into the ballroom, seeing him deflate as he scanned the dancers and whist-players in vain and turned back to him with almost a hang-dog expression, which would have excited more sympathy in Mr. Halpert’s breast had it been addressed to him before Roy had shouldered by him in the hall.
“She’s not here. You said she was here, Halpert.”
Jim swallowed a retort, seeing a great number of eyes in the room turn towards the entrance as Roy spoke. He wordlessly clapped Roy on the shoulder and directed his attention to the door on the far wall, slightly ajar. He then kept the hand there and guided Roy around the edge of the room, redirecting an energy that he had correctly intuited would have otherwise led his drunken guest to make the most direct path between the two points his own, thus upsetting both dancers and card-players alike. He saw out of the corner of his eye a number of people get up and almost-but-not-quite discreetly follow him, most of whom he did not regret the presence of: Phyllis Lapin, of course, and Mark, but also, to his surprise, Miss Martin and Lieutenant Schrute. He kept Roy moving so that he did not notice the little party forming around him—no difficult task given his condition—and finally reached the far door, through which Roy pushed (or possibly Jim pushed him) with a drunken energy that caused all the heads in the room to whip round, including one piled high with loose curls.
Pam’s emotions were running very high just at that moment—and not because she had just managed to take all five tricks of the most recent pot. Her eyes took in details that no other eye than hers—armed as it was with a deep knowledge of both the gentlemen now entering the room and with an artist’s attention to detail and nuance—could have seen, and she was utterly uncertain how to react. Her first impression was simple shock that Roy was here; her second dismay and deep embarrassment that he was clearly at least two if not a full three sheets to the wind; her third a great welling up of gladness that Jim was here, looking at her, and not staring at Miss Scott somewhere private and romantic, as a certain part of her had worried he would be as soon as might be arranged. This was followed by a great deal of guilt for being glad of it, and of being gladder to see Jim Halpert than her own fiancée, and then a realization that Jim looked angry, as she had only seen him once before on the cricket pitch during that final turn at bat—though it escaped her exactly what might link the two occasions. She took all this in in a flash, and accompanying it a great surge of annoyance that Roy was using in public that childish name that he had first used towards her when they were very young and never put aside no matter how often she had asked him to refer to her in private as Pam, and in public as Miss Beesly. She was conscious of a great deal of eyes upon her, but her world had somehow shrunk down to only four: the two somewhat watery and red eyes beaming out at her from Roy’s face, and Jim’s softer ones.
Those last two were trying their best not to stare at her, for Jim was struck in the moment of his entrance to the room by just how beautiful she looked. He had always been conscious of it, but something he could not define had heightened it at just this moment, as she turned to look at the two of them while scooping forward her winnings at the loo-table. He was embarrassed to think that as he brought her her fiancée he was simultaneously thinking of how much he wished to be in that place himself, and he was trying his hardest to look anywhere but at her shining, lovely face—and utterly failing.
Roy broke into the moment by exclaiming further.
“Pammy! I want to marry you.”
She somehow found her voice through the mingled amusement and chagrin that accompanied these words in her heart—and where had joy gone? She was sure she had felt joy the first time he had said that to her, but years of hearing it without the concomitant action that should have accompanied it had dulled it to her senses. She felt amusement at his need to tell her this, and at the obvious drunkenness with which it was associated, but also a great sense of chagrin at his choice of timing, audience, and behaviour in this moment. This came out in what she said next, though it was said in a most calming, soft tone.
“I know Roy. We’re already engaged.”
“Oh, that first time didn’t count! I really want to now.”
The words hit her hard, like the time she had fallen off her father’s horse when he had first taught her to ride. Something about her seat had been wrong and she’d taken a tumble on a perfectly flat section of ground: the pain had been immense but distant, and she’d felt most of all a deep sense of shame that she had contrived to fail at something everyone else could do so easily. Then she had cried. Now she felt the same inclination coming on, but she looked over from Roy’s drunk face with its puppy-dog expression, utterly unaware of what he had just said, and caught the dismay and disgust in Jim Halpert’s eyes, and it strengthened her. She found herself speaking again, surprising herself and everyone else.
“Oh, it didn’t count? How kind of you to inform me so, Mr. Anderson.”