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McAllister and his Double/The Escape of Wilkins


Contents

I


"PARTY to see you, sir, in the visitors' room. Didn't have a card. Said you would know him, sir."

Although Peter spoke in his customary deferential tones, there was a queer look upon his face that did not escape McAllister as the latter glanced up from the afternoon paper which he had been perusing in the window.

"Hm!" remarked the clubman, gazing out at the rain falling in torrents. Who in thunder could be calling upon him a day like this, when there wasn't even a cab in sight and the policemen had sought sanctuary in convenient vestibules. It was evident that this "party" must want to see him very badly indeed.

"What shall I say, sir?" continued Peter gently.

McAllister glanced sharply at him. Of course it was absurd to suppose that Peter, or anyone else, had heard of the extraordinary events at the Blairs' the night before, yet vaguely McAllister felt that this stranger must in some mysterious way be connected with them. In any case there was no use trying to duck the consequences of the adventure, whatever they might prove to be.

"I'll see him," said the clubman. Maybe it was another detective after additional information, or perhaps a reporter. Without hesitation he crossed the marble hall and parted the portières of the visitors' room. Before him stood the rain-soaked, bedraggled figure of the valet.

"Wilkins!" he gasped.

The burglar raised his head and disclosed a countenance haggard from lack of sleep and the strain of the pursuit. Little rivers of rain streamed from his cuffs, his (McAllister's) coat-tails, and from the brim of his master's hat, which he held deprecatingly before him. There was a look of fear in his eyes, and he trembled like a hare which pauses uncertain in which direction to escape.

"Forgive me, sir! Oh, sir, forgive me! They're right hafter me! Just houtside, sir! It was my honly chance!"

McAllister gazed at him horrified and speechless.

"You see, sir," continued Wilkins in accents of breathless terror, "I caught the train last night and reached the city a'ead of the detective. I knew 'e'd 'ave telegraphed a general halarm, so I 'id in a harea all night. This mornin' I thought I'd given 'im the slip, but I walked square into 'im on Fiftieth Street. I took it on a run hup Sixth Havenue, doubled 'round a truck, an' thought I'd lost 'im, but 'e saw me on Fifty-third Street an' started dead after me. I think 'e saw me stop in 'ere, sir. Wot shall I do, sir? You won't give me hup, will you, sir?"

Before McAllister could reply there was a commotion at the door of the club, and he recognized the clear tones of Barney Conville.

"Who am I? I'm a sergeant of police—Detective Bureau. You've just passed in a burglar. He must be right inside. Let me in, I say!"

Wilkins shrank back toward the curtains.

There was a slight scuffle, but the servant outside placed his foot behind the door in such a position that the detective could not enter. Then Peter came to the rescue.

"What do you mean by trying to force your way into a private club, like this? I'll telephone the Inspector. Get out of here, now! Get away from that door!"

"Inspector nothin'! Let me in!"

"Have you got a warrant?"

The question seemed to stagger the detective for a moment, and his adversary seized the opportunity to close the door. Then Peter knocked politely upon the other side of the curtains.

"I'm afraid, Mr. McAllister, I can't keep the officer out much longer. It's only a question of time. You'll pardon me, sir?"

"Of course, Peter," answered McAllister.

He stepped to the window. Outside he could see Conville stationing two plain-clothes men so as to guard both exits from the club. McAllister's breath came fast. Wilkins crouched in terror by the centre-table. Then a momentary inspiration came to the clubman.

"Er—Peter, this is my friend, Mr. Lloyd-Jones. Take his coat and hat, give me a check for them, and then show him upstairs to a room. He'll be here for an hour or so."

"Very good, sir," replied Peter without emotion, as he removed Wilkins's dripping coat and hat. "This way, sir."

Casting a look of dazed gratitude at his former master, the valet followed Peter toward the elevator.

"Here's a nice mess!" thought McAllister, as he returned to the big room. "How am I ever going to get rid of him? And ain't I liable somehow as an accomplice?"

He wrinkled his brows, lit a Perfecto, and sank again into his accustomed place by the window.

"That policeman wants to see you, sir," said the doorman, suddenly appearing at his elbow. "Says he knows you, and it's somethin' very important."

The clubman smothered a curse. His first impulse was to tell the impudent fellow to go to the devil, but then he thought better of it. He had beaten Conville once, and he would do so again. When it came to a show-down, he reckoned his brains were about as good as a policeman's.

"All right," he replied. "Tell him to sit down—that I've just come in, and will be with him in a few moments."

"Very good, sir," answered the servant.

McAllister perceived that he must think rapidly. There was no escape from the conclusion that he was certainly assisting in the escape of a felon; that he was an accessory after the fact, as it were. The idea did not increase his happiness at all. His one experience in the Tombs, however adventitious, had been quite sufficient. Nevertheless, he could not go back on Wilkins, particularly now that he had promised to assist him. McAllister rubbed his broad forehead in perplexity.

"The officer says he's in a great hurry, sir, and wants to know can you see him at once, sir," said the doorman, coming back.

"Hang it!" exclaimed our hero. "Yes, I'll see him."

He got up and walked slowly to the visitors' room again, while Peter, with a studiously unconscious expression, held the portières open. He entered, prepared for the worst. As he did so, Conville sprang to his feet, leaving a pool of water in front of the sofa and tossing little drops of rain from the ends of his mustache.

"Look here, Mr. McAllister, there's been enough of this. Where's Welch, the crook, who ran in here a few moments ago? Oh, he's here fast enough! I've got your club covered, front and behind. Don't try to con me!"

McAllister slowly adjusted his monocle, smiled affably, and sank comfortably into an armchair.

"Why, it's you, Baron, isn't it! How are you? Won't you have a little nip of something warm? No? A cigar, then. Here, Peter, bring the gentleman an Obsequio. Well, to what do I owe this honor?"

Conville glared at him enraged. However, he restrained his wrath. A wise detective never puts himself at a disadvantage by giving way to useless emotion. When Peter returned with the cigar, Barney took it mechanically and struck a match, meanwhile keeping one eye upon the door of the club.

"I suppose," he presently remarked, "you think you're smart. Well, you're mistaken. I had you wrong last night, I admit—that is, so far as your identity was concerned. You're a real high-roller, all right, but that ain't the whole thing, by a long shot. How would you like to wander down to Headquarters as an accomplice?"

A few chills played hide-and-seek around the base of the clubman's spine.

"Don't be an ass!" he finally managed to ejaculate.

"Oh, I can't connect you with the necklace! You're safe enough there," Barney continued. "But how about this little game right here in this club? You're aiding in the escape of a felon. That's felony. You know that yourself. Besides, when you locked me in the bath-room last night you assaulted an officer in the performance of his duty. I've got you dead to rights, see?"

McAllister laughed lightly.

"By jiminy!" he exclaimed, "I thought you were crazy all the time, and now I know it. What in thunder are you driving at?"

Conville knocked the ashes off his cigar impatiently.

"Drivin' at? Drivin' at? Where's Welch—Fatty Welch, that ran in here five minutes ago?"

McAllister assumed a puzzled expression.

"Welch? No one ran in here except myself. I came in about that time. Got off the L at Fiftieth Street, footed it pretty fast up Sixth Avenue, and then through Fifty-third Street to the club. I got mighty well wet, too, I tell you!"

"Don't think you can throw that game into me!" shouted Conville. "You can't catch me twice that way. It was Welch I saw, not you."

"You don't believe me?"

McAllister pressed the bell and Peter entered.

"Peter, tell this gentleman how many persons have come into the club within the hour."

"Why, only you, sir," replied Peter, without hesitation. "Your clothes was wringin' wet, sir. No one else has entered the club since twelve o'clock."

"Bah!" exclaimed Conville. "If it was you that came in," he added cunningly, "suppose you show me your check, and let me have a look at your coat!"

"Certainly," responded McAllister, beginning to regain his equanimity, as he drew Wilkins's check from his pocket. "Here it is. You can step over and get the coat for yourself."

Barney seized the small square of brass, crossed to the coat-room, and returned with the dripping garment, which he held up to the light at the window.

"You ought to find Poole's name under the collar, and my own inside the breast-pocket," remarked Chubby encouragingly. "It's there, isn't it?"

Conville threw the soaked object over a chair-back and made a rapid inspection, then turned to McAllister with an expression of bewilderment.

"I—you—how—" he stammered.

"Don't you remember," laughed his tormentor, "that there was a big truck on the corner of Sixth Avenue?"

Barney set his teeth.

"I see you do," continued McAllister. "Well, what more can I do for you? Are you sure you won't have that drink?"

But Conville was in no mood for drinking. Stepping up to the clubman, he looked searchingly down into his face.

"Mr. McAllister," he hissed, "you think you've got me criss-crossed. You think you're a sure winner. But I know you. I know your face. And this time I don't lose you, see? You're in cahoots with Welch. You're his side-partner. You'll see me again. Remember, you're a common felon."

The detective made for the door.

"Don't say 'common,'" murmured McAllister, as Conville disappeared. Then his nonchalant look gave place to one of extreme dejection. "Peter," he gasped, "tell Mr. Lloyd-Jones I must see him at once."

Peter soon returned with the unexpected information that "Mr. Lloyd-Jones" had gone to bed and wouldn't get up.

"Says he's sick, sir," said Peter, trying hard to retain his gravity.

McAllister made one jump for the elevator. Peter followed. Of course, he had known Wilkins when the latter was in McAllister's employ.

"I put him in No. 13, sir," remarked the majordomo.

Sure enough, Wilkins was in bed. His clothes were nowhere visible, and the quilt was pulled well up around his fat neck. He seemed utterly to have lost his nerve.

"Oh, sir!" he cried apologetically, "I was hafraid to come down, sir. Without my clothes they never could hidentify me, sir!"

"What on earth have you done with 'em?" cried his master.

"Oh, Mr. McAllister!" wailed Wilkins, "I couldn't think o' nothin' else, so I just threw 'em hout the window, into the hairshaft."

At this intelligence Peter, who had lingered by the door, choked violently and retired down the hall.

"Wilkins," exclaimed McAllister, "I never took you for a fool before! Pray, what do you propose to do now?"

"I don't know, sir."


McAllister and His Double -p088.jpg

"You think you're a sure winner. But I know you. I know your face."


"Can't you see what an awkward position you've placed me in?" went on McAllister. "I'm liable to arrest for aidin' in your escape. In fact, that detective has just threatened to take me to Headquarters."

"'Oly Moses!" moaned Wilkins. "Oh, wot shall I do? If you honly get me haway, sir, I promise you I'll never return."

McAllister closed the door, sat down by the bed, and puffed hard at his cigar.

"I'll try it!" he muttered at length. "Wilkins, you remember you always wore my clothes."

"Yes, sir," sighed Wilkins.

"Well, to-night you shall leave the club in my dress-suit, tall hat, and Inverness—understand? You'll take a cab from here at eleven-forty. Go to the Grand Central and board the twelve o'clock train for Boston. Here's a ticket, and the check for the drawing-room. You'll be Mr. McAllister of the Colophon Club, if anyone speaks to you. You're going on to Mr. Cabot's wedding to-morrow, to act as best man. Turn in as soon as you go on board, and don't let anyone disturb you. I'll be on the train myself, and after it starts I'll knock three times on the door."

"Very good, sir," murmured Wilkins.

"I'll send to my rooms for the clothes at once. Do you think you can do it?"

"Oh, certainly, sir! Thank you, sir! I'll be there, sir, never fail."

"Well, good luck to you."

McAllister returned to the big room downstairs. The longer he thought of his plan the better he liked it. He was going to the Winthrops' Twelfth Night party that evening as Henry VIII. He would dress at the club and leave it in costume about nine o'clock. Conville would never recognize him in doublet and hose, and, when Wilkins departed at eleven-forty, would in all likelihood take the latter for McAllister. If he could thus get rid of his ex-valet for good and all it would be cheap at twice the trouble. So far as spiriting away Wilkins was concerned the whole thing seemed easy enough, and McAllister, once more in his usual state of genial placidity, ordered as good a dinner as the chef could provide.


II


The revelry was at its height when Henry VIII realized with a start that it was already half after eleven. First there had been a professional presentation of the scene between Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch that had made McAllister shake with merriment. He thought Sir Andrew the drollest fellow that he had seen for many a day. Maria and the clown were both good, too. McAllister had a fleeting wish that he had essayed Sir Toby. The champagne had been excellent and the characters most amusing, and, altogether, McAllister did not blame himself for having overstayed his time—in fact, he didn't care much whether he had or not. He had intended going back to his rooms for the purpose of changing his costume, but he had plenty of clothes on the train, and there really seemed no need of it at all. He bade his hostess good-night in a most optimistic frame of mind and hailed a cab. The long ulster which he wore entirely concealed his costume save for his shoes, strange creations of undressed leather, red on the uppers and white between the toes. As for his cap and feather, he was quite too happy to mind them for an instant. The assembled crowd of lackeys and footmen cheered him mildly as he drove away, but Henry VIII, smoking a large cigar, noticed them not. Neither did he observe a slim young man who darted out from behind a flight of steps and followed the cab, keeping about half a block in the rear. The rain had stopped. The clouds had drawn aside their curtains, and a big friendly moon beamed down on McAllister from an azure sky, bright almost as day.

The cabman hit up his pace as they reached the slope from the Cathedral down Fifth Avenue, and the runner was distanced by several blocks. McAllister, happy and sleepy, was blissfully unconscious of being an actor in a drama of vast import to the New York police, but as they reached Forty-third Street he saw by the illuminated clock upon the Grand Central Station that it was two minutes to twelve. At the same moment a trace broke. The driver sprang from his seat, but before he could reach the ground McAllister had leaped out. Tossing a bill to the perturbed cabby, our hero threw off his ulster and sped with an agility marvellous to behold down Forty-third Street toward the station. As he dashed across Madison Avenue, directly in front of an electric car, the hand on the clock slipped a minute nearer. At that instant the slim man turned the corner from Fifth Avenue and redoubled his speed. Thirty seconds later, McAllister, in sword, doublet, hose, and feathered cap, burst into the waiting-room, carrying an ulster, clearing half its length in six strides, threw himself through the revolving door to the platform, and sprang past the astonished gate-man just as he was sliding-to the gate.

"Hi, there, give us yer ticket!" yelled the man after the retreating form of Henry VIII, but royalty made no response.

The gate closed, a gong rang twice, somewhere up ahead an engine gave half a dozen spasmodic coughs, and the forward section of the train began to pull out. McAllister, gasping for breath, a terrible pain in his side, his ulster seeming to weigh a thousand pounds, stumbled upon the platform of the car next the last. As he did so, the slim young man rushed to the gate and commenced to beat frantically upon it. The gate-man, indignant, approached to make use of severe language.

"Open this gate!" yelled the man. "There's a burglar in disguise on that train. Didn't you see him run through? Open up!"

"Whata yer givin' us?" answered Gate. "Who are yer, anyhow?"

"I'm a detective sergeant!" shrieked the one outside, excitedly exhibiting a shield. "I order you to open this gate and let me through."

Gate looked with exasperating deliberateness after the receding train; its red lights were just passing out of the station.

"Oh, go to—!" said he through the bars.


"Is this car 2241?" inquired the breathless McAllister at the same moment, as he staggered inside.

"Sho, boss," replied the porter, grinning from ear to ear as he received the ticket and its accompanying half-dollar. "Drawin'-room, sah? Yes-sah. Right here, sah! Yo' frien', he arrived some time ago. May Ah enquire what personage yo represent, sah? A most magnificent sword, sah!"

"Where's the smoking compartment?" asked McAllister.

"Udder end, sah!"

Now McAllister had no inclination to feel his way the length of that swaying car. He perceived that the smoking compartment of the car behind would naturally be much more convenient.

"I'm going into the next car to smoke for a while," he informed the darky.

No one was in the smoking compartment of the Benvolio, which was bright and warm, and McAllister, throwing down his ulster, stretched luxuriously across the cushions, lit a cigar, and watched with interest the myriad lights of the Greater City marching past, those near at hand flashing by with the velocity of meteors, and those beyond swinging slowly forward along the outer rim of the circle. And the idea of this huge circle, its circumference ever changing with the forward movement of its pivot, beside which the train was rushing, never passing that mysterious edge which fled before them into infinity, took hold on McAllister's imagination, and he fancied, as he sped onward, that in some mysterious way, if he could only square that circle or calculate its radius, he could solve the problem of existence. What was it he had learned when a boy at St. Andrew's about the circle? Pi R—one—two—two Pi R! That was it! "2 π r." The smoke from his cigar swirled thickly around the Pintsch light in the ceiling, and Henry VIII, oblivious of the anachronism, with his sword and feathered cap upon the sofa beside him, gazed solemnly into space.

"Br-r-clink!—br-r-clink!" went the track.

"Two Pi R!" murmured McAllister. "Two Pi R!"


III


Under the big moon's yellow disk, beside and past the roaring train, along the silent reaches of the Sound, leaping on its copper thread from pole to pole, jumping from insulator to insulator, from town to town, sped a message concerning Henry VIII. The night operator at New Haven, dozing over a paper in the corner, heard his call four times before he came to his senses. Then he sent the answer rattling back with a simulation of indignation:

"Yes, yes! What's your rush?"


{{smaller block|Special—Police—Headquarters—New Haven. Escaped ex-convict Welch on No. 13 from New York. Notify McGinnis. In complete disguise. Arrest and notify. Particulars long-distance 'phone in morning.

Ebstein.


The operator crossed the room and unhooked the telephone.

"Headquarters, please."

"Yes. Headquarters! Is McGinnis of the New York Detective Bureau there? Tell him he's wanted, to make an important arrest on board No. 13 when she comes through at two-twenty. Sorry. Say, tell him to bring along some cigars. I'll give him the complete message down here."

Then the operator went back to his paper. In a few moments he suddenly sat up.

"By gum!" he ejaculated.


BOLD ATTEMPT AT BURGLARY IN COUNTRY HOUSE


It was learned to-day that a well-known crook had been successful recently in securing a position as a servant at Mr. Gordon Blair's at Scarsdale. Last evening one of the guests missed her valuable pearl necklace. In the excitement which followed the burglar made his escape, leaving the necklace behind him. The perpetrator of this bold attempt is the notorious Fatty Welch, now wanted in several States as a fugitive from justice.


"By gum!" repeated the operator, throwing down the paper. Then he went to the drawer and took out a small bull-dog revolver, which he carefully loaded.

"Br-r-clink!—br-r-clink!" went the track, as the train swung round the curve outside New Haven. The brakes groaned, the porters waked from troubled slumbers in wicker chairs, one or two old women put out their arms and peered through the window-shades, and the train thundered past the depot and slowly came to a full stop. Ahead, the engine panted and steamed. Two gnomes ran, Mimi-like, out of a cavernous darkness behind the station and by the light of flaring torches began to hammer and tap the flanges. The conductor, swinging off the rear car, ran into the embrace of a huge Irishman. At the same moment a squad of policemen separated and scattered to the different platforms.

"Here! Let me go!" gasped the conductor. "What's all this?"

"Say, Cap., I'm McGinnis—Central Office, New York. You've got a burglar on board. They're after wirin' me to make the arrest."

"Burglar be damned!" yelled the conductor. "Do you think you can hold me up and search my train? Why, I'd be two hours late!"

"I won't take more'n fifteen minutes," continued McGinnis, making for the rear car.

"Come back there, you!" shouted the conductor, grasping him firmly by the coat-tails. "You can't wake up all the passengers."

"Look here, Cap.," expostulated the detective, "don't ye see I've got to make this arrest? It won't take a minute. The porters'll know who they've got, and you're runnin' awful light. Have a good cigar?"

The conductor took the weed so designated and swore loudly. It was the biggest piece of gall on record. Well, hang it! he didn't want to take McGinnis all the way to Boston, and even if he did, there would be the same confounded mix-up at the other end. He admitted finally that it was a fine night. Did McGinnis want a nip? He had a bottle in the porter's closet. Yes, call out those niggers and make 'em tell what they knew.

The conductor was now just as insistent that the burglar should be arrested then and there as he had been before that the train should not be held up. He rushed through the cars telling the various porters to go outside. Eight or ten presently assembled upon the platform. They filled McGinnis with unspeakable repulsion.

The conductor began with car No. 2204.

"Now, Deacon, who have you got?"

The Deacon, an enormously fat darky, rolled his eyes and replied that he had "two ole women an' er gen'elman gwine ortermobublin with his cheffonier."

The conductor opined that these would prove unfertile candidates for McGinnis. He therefore turned to Moses, of car No. 2201. Moses, however, had only half a load. There was a fat man, a Mr. Huber, who travelled regularly; two ladies on passes; and a very thin man, with his wife, her sister, a maid, two nurses, and three children.

"Nothin' doin'!" remarked the captain. "Now, Colonel, what have you got?"

But the Colonel, a middle-aged colored man of aristocratic appearance, had an easy answer. His entire car was full, as he expressed it, "er frogs."

"Frenchmen!" grunted McGinnis.

The conductor remembered. Yes, they were Sanko's Orchestra going on to give a matinée concert in Providence.

The next car had only five drummers, every one of whom was known to the conductor, as taking the trip twice a week. They were therefore counted out. That left only one car, No. 2205.

"Well, William, what have you got?"

William grinned. Though sleepy, he realized the importance of the disclosure he was about to make and was correspondingly dignified and ponderous. There was two trabblin' gen'elmen, Mr. Smith and Mr. Higgins. He'd handled dose gen'elmen fo' several years. There was a very old lady, her daughter and maid. Then there was Mr. Uberheimer, who got off at Middletown. And then—William smiled significantly—there was an awful strange pair in the drawin'-room. They could look for themselves. He didn't know nuff'n 'bout burglars in disguise, but dere was "one of 'em in er mighty curious set er fixtures."

"Huh! Two of 'em!" commented McGinnis.

"That's easy!" remarked the mollified conductor.

The telegraph operator, who read Laura Jean Libbey, now approached with his revolver.

McGinnis, another detective, and the conductor moved toward the car. William preferred the safety of the platform and the temporary distinction of being the discoverer of the fugitive. No light was visible in the drawing-room, and the sounds of heavy slumber were plainly audible. The conductor rapped loudly; there was no response. He rattled the door and turned the handle vigorously, but elicited no sign of recognition. Then McGinnis rapped with his knife on the glass of the door. He happened to hit three times. Immediately there were sounds within. Something very much like "All right, sir," and the door was opened. The conductor and McGinnis saw a fat man, in blue silk pajamas, his face flushed and his eyes heavy with sleep, who looked at them in dazed bewilderment.

"Wot do you want?" drawled the fat man, blinking at the lantern.

"Sorry to disturb you," broke in McGinnis briskly, "but is there any wan else, beside ye, to kape ye company?"

Wilkins shook his head with annoyance and made as if to close the door, but the detective thrust his foot across the threshold.

"Aisy there!" he remarked. "Conductor, just turn on that light, will ye?"

Wilkins scrambled heavily into his berth, and the conductor struck a match and turned on the Pintsch light. Only one bed was occupied, and that by the fat man in the pajamas. On the sofa was an elegant alligator-skin bag disclosing a row of massive silver-topped bottles. A tall silk hat and Inverness coat hung from a hook, and a suit of evening clothes, as well as a business suit of fustian, were neatly folded and lying on the upper berth.

At this vision of respectability both McGinnis and the conductor recoiled, glancing doubtfully at one another. Wilkins saw his advantage.

"May I hinquire," remarked he, with dignity, "wot you mean by these hactions? W'y am I thus disturbed in the middle of the night? It is houtrageous!"

"Very sorry, sir," replied the conductor. "The fact is, we thought two people, suspicious characters, had taken this room together, and this officer here"—pointing to McGinnis—"had orders to arrest one of them."

Wilkins swelled with indignation.

"Suspicious characters! Two people! Look 'ere, conductor, I'll 'ave you to hunderstand that I will not tolerate such a performance. I am Mr. McAllister, of the Colophon Club, New York, and I am hon my way to hattend the wedding of Mr. Frederick Cabot in Boston, to-morrow. I am to be 'is best man. Can I give you any further hinformation?"

The conductor, who had noticed the initials "McA" on the silver bottle heads, and the same stamped upon the bag, stammered something in the nature of an apology.

"Say, Cap.," whispered McGinnis, "we've got him wrong, I guess. This feller ain't no burglar. Anywan can see he's a swell, all right. Leave him alone."

"Very sorry to have disturbed you," apologized the conductor humbly, putting out the light and closing the door.

"That nigger must be nutty," he added to the detective. "By Joshua! Perhaps he's got away with some of my stuff!"


McAllister and His Double -p102.jpg

"Wot do you want?" drawled the fat man, blinking at the lantern.


"Look here, William, what's the matter with you? Have you been swipin' my whisky. There ain't two men in that drawin'-room at all—just one—a swell," hollered the conductor as they reached the platform.

"Fo' de Lawd, Cap'n, I ain't teched yo' whisky," cried William in terror. "I swear dey was two of 'em, 'n' de udder was in disguise. It was de fines' disguise I eber saw!" he added reminiscently.

"Aw, what yer givin' us!" exclaimed McGinnis, entirely out of patience. "What kind av a disguise was he in?"

"Dat's what I axed him," explained William, edging toward the rim of the circle. "I done ax him right away what character he done represent. He had on silk stockin's, an' a colored deglishay shirt, an' a belt an' moccasons, an' a sword an'——"

"A sword!" yelled McGinnis, making a jump in William's direction. "I'll break yer black head for ye!"

"Hold on!" cried the conductor, who had disappeared into the car and had emerged again with a bottle in his hand. "The stuff's here."

"I tell ye the coon is drunk!" shouted the detective in angry tones. "He can't make small av me!"

"I done tole you the trufe," continued William from a safe distance, his teeth and eyeballs shining in the moonlight.

"Well, where did he go?" asked the conductor. "Did you put him in the drawin'-room?"

"I seen his ticket," replied William, "an' he said he wanted to smoke, so he went into the Benvolio, the car behin'."

"Car behind!" cried McGinnis. "There ain't no car behind. This here is the last car."

"Sure," said the conductor, with a laugh; "we dropped the Benvolio at Selma Junction for repairs. Say, McGinnis, you better have that drink!"


IV


McAllister was awakened by a sense of chill. The compartment was dark, save for the pale light of the moon hanging low over what seemed to be water and the masts of ships, which stole in and picked out sharply the silver buckles on his shoes and the buttons of his doublet. There was no motion, no sound. The train was apparently waiting somewhere, but McAllister could not hear the engine. He put on his ulster and stepped to the door of the car. All the lights had been extinguished and he could hear neither the sound of heavy breathing nor the other customary evidences of the innocent rest of the human animal. He looked across the platform for his own car and found that the train had totally disappeared. The Benvolio was stationary—side-tracked, evidently, on the outskirts of a town, not far from some wharves.

"Jiminy!" thought McAllister, looking at his uncheerful surroundings and his picturesque, if somewhat cool, costume.

For a moment his mental processes refused to answer the heavy draught upon them. Then he turned up his coat-collar, stepped out upon the platform, and lit a cigar. By the light of the match he looked at his watch and saw that it was four o'clock. Overhead the sky glowed with thousands of twinkling stars, and the moon, just touching the sea, made a limpid path of light across the water. At the docks silent ships lay fast asleep. A mile away a clock struck four, intensifying the stillness. It was very beautiful, but very cold, and McAllister shivered as he thought of Wilkins, and Freddy Cabot, and the wedding at twelve o'clock. So far as he knew he might be just outside of Boston—Quincy, or somewhere—yet, somehow, the moon didn't look as if it were at Quincy.

He jumped down and started along the track. His feet stung as they struck the cinder. His whole body was asleep. It was easy enough to walk in the direction in which the clock had sounded, and this he did. The rails followed the shore for about a hundred yards and then joined the main line. Presently he came in sight of a depot. Every now and then his sword would get between his legs, and this caused him so much annoyance that he took it off and carried it. It was queer how uncomfortable the old style of shoe was when used for walking on a railroad track. His ruffle, too, proved a confounded nuisance, almost preventing a satisfactory adjustment of coat-collar. Finally he untied it and put it in the pocket of his ulster. The cap was not so bad.

The depot had inspired the clubman with distinct hope, but as he approached, it appeared as dark and tenantless as the car behind him. It was impossible to read the name of the station owing to the fact that the sign was too high up for the light of a match to reach it. It was clear that there was nothing to do but to wait for the dawn, and he settled himself in a corner near the express office and tried to forget his discomfort.

He had less time to wait than he had expected. Soon a great clattering of hoofs caused him to climb stiffly to his feet again. Three farmers' wagons, each drawn by a pair of heavy horses, backed in against the platform, and their drivers, throwing down the reins, leaped to the ground. All were smoking pipes and chaffing one another loudly. Then they began to unload huge cans of milk. This looked encouraging. If they were bringing milk at this hour there must be a train—going somewhere. It didn't matter where to McAllister, if only he could get warm. Presently a faint humming came along the rails, which steadily increased in volume until the approaching train could be distinctly heard.

"Pretty nigh on time," commented the nearest farmer.

McAllister stepped forward, sword in hand. The farmer involuntarily drew back.

"Wall, I swan!" he remarked, removing his pipe.

"Do you mind telling me," inquired our friend, "what place this is and where this train goes to?"

"I reckon not," replied the other. "This is Selma Junction, and this here train is due in New York at five. Who be you?"

"Well," answered McAllister, "I'm just an humble citizen of New York, forced by circumstances to return to the city as soon as possible."

"Reckon you're one o' them play-actors, bean't ye?"

"You've got it," returned McAllister. "Fact is, I've just been playing Henry VIII—on the road."

"I've heard tell on't," commented the rustic. "But I ain't never seen it. Shakespeare, ain't it?"

"Yes, Shakespeare," admitted the clubman.

At this moment the milk-train roared in and the teamsters began passing up their cans. There were no passenger coaches—nothing but freight-cars and a caboose. Toward this our friend made his way. There did not seem to be any conductor, and, without making inquiries, McAllister climbed upon the platform and pushed open the door. If warmth was what he desired he soon found it. The end of the car was roughly fitted with half a dozen bunks, two boxes which served for chairs, and some spittoons. A small cast-iron stove glowed red-hot, but while the place was odoriferous, its temperature was grateful to the shivering McAllister. The car was empty save for a gigantic Irishman sitting fast asleep in the farther corner.

Our hero laid down his sword, threw off his ulster, and hung his cap upon an adjacent hook. In a moment or two the train started again. Still no one came into the caboose. Now daylight began to filter in through the grimy windows. The sun jumped suddenly from behind a ridge and shot a beam into the face of the sleeper at the other end of the car. Slowly he awoke, yawned, rubbed his eyes, and, catching the glint of silver buttons, gazed stupidly in McAllister's direction. The random glance gradually gave place to a stare of intense amazement. He wrinkled his brows, and leaned forward, scrutinizing with care every detail of McAllister's make-up. The train stopped for an instant and a burly brakeman banged open the door and stepped inside. He, too, hung fire, as it were, at the sight of Henry VIII. Then he broke into a loud laugh.

"Who in thunder are you?"

Before McAllister could reply McGinnis, with a comprehensive smile, made answer:

"Shure, 'tis only a prisoner I'm after takin' back to the city!"


"Mr. McAllister," remarked Conville, two hours later, as the three of them sat in the visitors' room at the club, "I hope you won't say anything about this. You see, I had no business to put a kid like Ebstein on the job, but I was clean knocked out and had to snatch some sleep. I suppose he thought he was doin' a big thing when he nailed you for a burglar. But, after all, the only thing that saved Welch was your fallin' asleep in the Benvolio."

"My dear Baron," sympathetically replied McAllister, who had once more resumed his ordinary attire, "why attribute to chance what is in fact due to intellect? No, I won't mention our adventure, and if our friend McGinnis——"

"Oh, McGinnis'll keep his head shut, all right, you bet!" interrupted Barney. "But say, Mr. McAllister, on the level, you're too good for us. Why don't you chuck this game and come in out of the rain? You'll be up against it in the end. Help us to land this feller!"

McAllister took a long pull at his cigar and half-closed his eyes. There was a quizzical look around his mouth that Conville had never seen there before.

"Perhaps I will," said he softly. "Perhaps I will."

"Good!" shouted the Baron; "put it there! Now, if you get anything, tip us off. You can always catch me at 3100 Spring."

"Well," replied the clubman, "don't forget to drop in here, if you happen to be going by. Some time, on a rainy day perhaps, you might want a nip of something warm."

But to this the Baron did not respond.


McAllister and His Double -p110.jpg

"Who in thunder are you?"


A plunge in the tank and a comfortable smoke almost restored McAllister's customary equanimity. Weddings were a bore, anyway. Then he called for a telegraph blank and sent the following:


Was unavoidably detained. Terribly disappointed. If necessary, use Wilkins. McA.


To which, about noon-time, he received the following reply:


Don't understand. Wilkins arrived, left clothes and departed. You must have mixed your dates. Wedding to-morrow. F. C.



This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1944, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.