Roy would not have known what to do with Pam’s response had he been sober. As he was distinctly not, he brushed it aside and lumbered forward to embrace her. To his surprise, Miss Beesly arose not to throw herself in his arms but to take a step backwards and fix him with a quizzical eye. He stopped short, befuddled.
“Mr. Anderson, am I to understand that you believe yourself to be making me an offer?”
He grinned. This was a question he definitely knew the answer to.
His bleary eyes focused on her face and he saw that somehow that had not been the right answer.
“I’m afraid, Mr. Anderson, that I cannot give you a proper answer in your current state.”
He felt a hand on his shoulder. Jim Halpert, on some signal invisible to Roy, had reached forward and was restraining him gently from moving further towards Pam. His temper, never well controlled under the best of circumstances, flared up. He shrugged Jim’s hand off and turned to face him. In his condition, he missed Jim’s small glance in Pam’s direction, and was working too hard to focus on Jim to notice Phyllis Lapin rush past him to escort Pam out of the room.
“Hey Halpert. Not your business. ‘m talking to Pammy.”
“I’m afraid, Roy, that whether or not this is my business, it is most definitely my home, and I can’t have you harassing Miss Beesly under my roof.”
“’s right, this is your home. How come she’s at your home and not mine? Doesn’t seem right to me, Halpert. Dash…damned unmanly of you, stealing a man’s woman like that.”
“Mr. Anderson, your present circumstances render it as inappropriate for me to acknowledge as you to utter such a remark. I must, however, ask you to leave.”
“Not leaving without Pammy. Not right she should be here. I’ve seen how you look at her. Shouldn’t be surprised if you were making advances...”
“Mr. Anderson, I have made no advances towards Miss Beesly, as I have been aware, as perhaps you have not, that she was your fiancée.”
“’Course Pam’s my fian…Pammy’s mine. So get your damned hands off of her.”
From Jim’s perspective the room had shrunk down to him and Roy. He did not see Pam Beesly turn in Phyllis Lapin’s grasp to stare back at the two of them, or Dwight Schrute and Angela Martin rushing up to his side. He could not, of course, see his own face, and the emotions coursing across it as Roy repeated his accusations. He could only see Roy’s face, mottled with drink and rage. It took all of his composure to avoid landing him a facer, and only the consideration deep in the back of his mind that perhaps Pam would not like that prevented him from using the fists that had involuntarily curled at his sides.
“Mr. Anderson, I must again ask you leave. I have made no inappropriate advances towards Miss Beesly…” not that I haven’t wanted to, he thought “And I assure you that my hands, as you put it, have never been on her.” He almost let himself be distracted by the factual inaccuracy of these words, remembering a few stolen touches in the course of a dance or two, but thrust himself into the truth of the larger statement and the reality in front of him by main effort. “I must warn you that my forebearance with you, even in this condition, must have its end sometime.”
“Think you’re so high and mighty, do you? I think you’re afraid to face me.”
As Jim was in point of fact facing Roy at that moment, and since all and sundry present could see that it was only by a severe force of will that the former had not yet assaulted the latter, this was a patently false statement, but it still stung.
“I am no coward, Mr. Anderson.”
With this Roy appeared to turn away from Jim, only to rear back a first and swing it towards his adversary’s head. Jim’s reflexes would likely have stood up to the challenge, but he was robbed of the opportunity to demonstrate it by Roy’s suddenly falling down on the floor in front of him. He looked up into the eyes of Lieutenant Dwight Schrute sheathing his sword, the pommel of which he had clearly just rapped on Roy’s head. Dwight inclined his head to Jim. Jim returned the gesture.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“You’re welcome, Mr. Halpert. You were in no real danger. I have recently become the fastest draw in my regiment. He could not have attacked you without my stopping him.”
“Well, thank the deuce you did.”
“Indeed. Now I shall see Miss Martin out. I believe this unseemly behaviour has given her a touch of the vapours.”
With that Dwight strode past Jim, took Angela by the arm, and walked out of the room. Jim looked around and found the room had somehow cleared itself while he was staring Roy down. He barely noticed, however, as Pam Beesly was still there, clutching herself to Phyllis Lapin. His eyes narrowed.
“Miss Beesly, are you quite well? I am sorry you had to hear that, and I assure you…”
She broke from Phyllis with a little cry and seized him by the forearms, staring him in the eyes, which had the effect of cutting off whatever it was he had been about to assure her of.
“You’re not hurt?”
“No, thanks to Dwight.”
“I shall have to thank him then. Though I think” and here her eyes lit up “Angela will do quite enough to thank him herself.”
He smiled down at her. “But what about you? You didn’t answer me. Are you quite well?”
“I am.” She smiled shyly up at him. He stared down at her. Neither of them noticed Phyllis slip out the door, and it was quite some time before anyone spoke.
For her part, Pam was still in shock. She had been incredibly embarrassed when Roy had burst in—drunk, as she suspected he usually was when out with Mr. Philbin—and that embarrassment had turned to anger when he seemed under the impression that she would be happy to have him act as if his first proposal had not counted. To be sure, her first instinct had been relief that he still wanted to marry her, but something inside her had twisted at the sight of Jim Halpert hanging over Roy’s shoulder, and it had occurred to her that this was wrong. Not wrong in a moral way, but wrong in a fundamental way: that her fiancée shouldn’t have to be reminded or browbeaten or even encouraged (let alone drunk) to want to marry her. If they were betrothed it should be because they both wanted to be married—and that should come before gaming, or racing, or any of the other pursuits to which she knew Roy had thrown good money after bad despite his constant insistence to her that he did not have enough of a living to marry her. And yet here he was telling her that the last ten years of waiting—of smiling at Miss Martin when she made another snide comment about Pam’s unmarried status, of insisting to her parents that yes, she was sure Roy would follow through and they would not be obliged to take her back in, of earning her keep as Michael Scott’s secretary and saving up for a wedding her intended spouse had saved nothing for—meant nothing. It was bad enough when he said the first time didn’t count; she was willing to accept with annoyance that he was drunk. But when she gave him another opportunity at the question, asking if he was offering for her—her, whom he had been engaged to this decade!—he smiled that dimwitted smile of his and acted like she should be happy and grateful that he had deigned to notice after ten years that he might actually like to be her husband.
She could not tell how much of this newfound confidence came from seeing Jim Halpert’s reaction to Roy’s words play out across his face. She knew, somewhere in the back of her mind, that Jim’s response would not have been legible to anyone else—that his famously mobile face had in fact been as tightly masked as it was possible for it to be—but to her it was somehow an open book. She had seen the apology in his eyes when Roy first burst in, and the offense on her behalf when he had said that the first time didn’t count, mounting to a smouldering rage that matched her own. But more than that, she had seen a kind of pain flicker in something—the set of his mouth, maybe, or the shrug of his shoulders—when he heard Roy say he wanted to marry her, and again when he said he would offer for her. And it was that pain she had responded to just now, not the worry that Roy’s abortive punch might have landed on Jim’s face. She had seen (to her surprise) Dwight’s quick action; she had no worries on that score. But the pain was not gone entirely from Jim’s eyes, and the motherly way Phyllis had tried to hustle her away had not gone unnoticed either. She had a sneaking suspicion there was rather more to Jim’s insistence on Roy leaving than the embarrassment of a good host, and she had no intention of letting him off the hook now, especially not after she had come so close to saying herself what she suddenly realized she should have said: that if Roy wanted to ignore his first proposal, that was quite acceptable to her, but if he wished to make a second he was unlikely to find the same answer as before.
For Jim, the silence was not nearly so introspective. He simply stared at Pam entranced. There had been something in the way she spoke to Roy—some greater strength or increased will—that did not quite take him by surprise, for he had always had an inkling in the back of his mind that it must be there, but that did surprise and gratify him by the intensity with which it suddenly emerged. He had always thought her beautiful inside and out, but something about the calm decisiveness with which she responded to the drunken Roy had kindled a further glow about her that entranced him. He had a strange feeling that although his eyes were fixed on her face what he was seeing was somehow the reflection of her soul, and it was wonderful. He was terrified that she would reconsider her behaviour and kneel down to help Roy or laugh the whole thing off, but he was at the same time conscious that he was doing her an injustice. So while he inquired about her wellbeing—for nothing could be as important as whether Pam was well—he could not bring himself to either speak to her of the thoughts whirling through his head or to, as he usually did when those thoughts consumed him, change the subject to any other. So instead he stood and stared into her eyes as she stared back, and neither of them moved until another voice broke in.
“I say, old fellow, mind if I cut in? Only I think someone should see to it that this gentleman gets home.”
Mark’s arm fell on Jim’s shoulder and startled both him and Pam out of their daze. Jim helped Mark raise Roy from his prone position and then, seeing as Roy was still out, to the hall by a side door, where one of the stable-boys and the Viscount’s valet came up to relieve them of the burden. He glanced back and saw Pam rubbing her arms and staring into the fireplace. He made a quick head gesture to Mark, who looked back, winked at him, and slipped into the back way. Jim turned fully and walked back to Pam, who looked up at him as he approached.
He smiled down at her and gestured towards the table in front of the fire. She smiled back and took a seat, and he picked up the pack of cards left on the table by the hasty retreat of the Loo-players.
“Name your stakes.”
He briefly considered saying “my heart,” but discarded that as unlikely to produce the effects he might desire from it. Instead he simply widened his smile slightly into a grin while shuffling. “Just a friendly game.” She returned his expression.
“Then be quiet and deal.”