Ruggles of Red Gap
Harry Leon Wilson
Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks and Distributed Proofreaders
[Illustration: "I TAKE IT YOU FAILED TO WIN THE HUNDRED POUNDS, SIR?"]
RUGGLES of RED GAP
Harry Leon Wilson
TO HELEN COOKE WILSON
At 6:30 in our Paris apartment I had finished the Honourable George,
performing those final touches that make the difference between a man
well turned out and a man merely dressed. In the main I was not
dissatisfied. His dress waistcoats, it is true, no longer permit the
inhalation of anything like a full breath, and his collars clasp too
closely. (I have always held that a collar may provide quite ample
room for the throat without sacrifice of smartness if the depth be at
least two and one quarter inches.) And it is no secret to either the
Honourable George or our intimates that I have never approved his
fashion of beard, a reddish, enveloping, brushlike affair never nicely
enough trimmed. I prefer, indeed, no beard at all, but he stubbornly
refuses to shave, possessing a difficult chin. Still, I repeat, he was
not nearly impossible as he now left my hands.
"Dining with the Americans," he remarked, as I conveyed the hat,
gloves, and stick to him in their proper order.
"Yes, sir," I replied. "And might I suggest, sir, that your choice be
a grilled undercut or something simple, bearing in mind the undoubted
effects of shell-fish upon one's complexion?" The hard truth is that
after even a very little lobster the Honourable George has a way of
coming out in spots. A single oyster patty, too, will often spot him
quite all over.
"What cheek! Decide that for myself," he retorted with a lame effort
at dignity which he was unable to sustain. His eyes fell from mine.
"Besides, I'm almost quite certain that the last time it was the
melon. Wretched things, melons!"
Then, as if to divert me, he rather fussily refused the correct
evening stick I had chosen for him and seized a knobby bit of
thornwood suitable only for moor and upland work, and brazenly quite
discarded the gloves.
"Feel a silly fool wearing gloves when there's no reason!" he
"Quite so, sir," I replied, freezing instantly.
"Now, don't play the juggins," he retorted. "Let me be comfortable.
And I don't mind telling you I stand to win a hundred quid this very
"I dare say," I replied. The sum was more than needed, but I had cause
to be thus cynical.
"From the American Johnny with the eyebrows," he went on with a quite
pathetic enthusiasm. "We're to play their American game of
poker--drawing poker as they call it. I've watched them play for near
a fortnight. It's beastly simple. One has only to know when to bluff."
"A hundred pounds, yes, sir. And if one loses----"
He flashed me a look so deucedly queer that it fair chilled me.
"I fancy you'll be even more interested than I if I lose," he remarked
in tones of a curious evenness that were somehow rather deadly. The
words seemed pregnant with meaning, but before I could weigh them I
heard him noisily descending the stairs. It was only then I recalled
having noticed that he had not changed to his varnished boots, having
still on his feet the doggish and battered pair he most favoured. It
was a trick of his to evade me with them. I did for them each day all
that human boot-cream could do, but they were things no sensitive
gentleman would endure with evening dress. I was glad to reflect that
doubtless only Americans would observe them.
So began the final hours of a 14th of July in Paris that must ever be
memorable. My own birthday, it is also chosen by the French as one on
which to celebrate with carnival some one of those regrettable events
in their own distressing past.
To begin with, the day was marked first of all by the breezing in of
his lordship the Earl of Brinstead, brother of the Honourable George,
on his way to England from the Engadine. More peppery than usual had
his lordship been, his grayish side-whiskers in angry upheaval and his
inflamed words exploding quite all over the place, so that the
Honourable George and I had both perceived it to be no time for
admitting our recent financial reverse at the gaming tables of Ostend.
On the contrary, we had gamely affirmed the last quarter's allowance
to be practically untouched--a desperate stand, indeed! But there was
that in his lordship's manner to urge us to it, though even so he
appeared to be not more than half deceived.
"No good greening me!" he exploded to both of us. "Tell in a
flash--gambling, or a woman--typing-girl, milliner, dancing person,
what, what! Guilty faces, both of you. Know you too well. My word,
Again we stoutly protested while his lordship on the hearthrug rocked
in his boots and glared. The Honourable George gamely rattled some
loose coin of the baser sort in his pockets and tried in return for a
glare of innocence foully aspersed. I dare say he fell short of it.
His histrionic gifts are but meagre.
"Fools, quite fools, both of you!" exploded his lordship anew. "And,
make it worse, no longer young fools. Young and a fool, people make
excuses. Say, 'Fool? Yes, but so young!' But old and a fool--not a
word to say, what, what! Silly rot at forty." He clutched his
side-whiskers with frenzied hands. He seemed to comb them to a more
"Dare say you'll both come croppers. Not surprise me. Silly old
George, course, course! Hoped better of Ruggles, though. Ruggles
different from old George. Got a brain. But can't use it. Have old
George wed to a charwoman presently. Hope she'll be a worker. Need to
be--support you both, what, what!"
I mean to say, he was coming it pretty thick, since he could not have
forgotten that each time I had warned him so he could hasten to save
his brother from distressing mesalliances. I refer to the affair with
the typing-girl and to the later entanglement with a Brixton milliner
encountered informally under the portico of a theatre in Charing Cross
Road. But he was in no mood to concede that I had thus far shown a
scrupulous care in these emergencies. Peppery he was, indeed. He
gathered hat and stick, glaring indignantly at each of them and then
"Greened me fair, haven't you, about money? Quite so, quite so! Not
hear from you then till next quarter. No telegraphing--no begging
letters. Shouldn't a bit know what to make of them. Plenty you got to
last. Say so yourselves." He laughed villainously here. "Morning,"
said he, and was out.
"Old Nevil been annoyed by something," said the Honourable George
after a long silence. "Know the old boy too well. Always tell when
he's been annoyed. Rather wish he hadn't been."
So we had come to the night of this memorable day, and to the
Honourable George's departure on his mysterious words about the
Left alone, I began to meditate profoundly. It was the closing of a
day I had seen dawn with the keenest misgiving, having had reason to
believe it might be fraught with significance if not disaster to
myself. The year before a gypsy at Epsom had solemnly warned me that a
great change would come into my life on or before my fortieth
birthday. To this I might have paid less heed but for its disquieting
confirmation on a later day at a psychic parlour in Edgware Road.
Proceeding there in company with my eldest brother-in-law, a
plate-layer and surfaceman on the Northern (he being uncertain about
the Derby winner for that year), I was told by the person for a trifle
of two shillings that I was soon to cross water and to meet many
strange adventures. True, later events proved her to have been
psychically unsound as to the Derby winner (so that my brother-in-law,
who was out two pounds ten, thereby threatened to have an action
against her); yet her reference to myself had confirmed the words of
the gypsy; so it will be plain why I had been anxious the whole of
For one thing, I had gone on the streets as little as possible, though
I should naturally have done that, for the behaviour of the French on
this bank holiday of theirs is repugnant in the extreme to the sane
English point of view--I mean their frivolous public dancing and
marked conversational levity. Indeed, in their soberest moments, they
have too little of British weight. Their best-dressed men are
apparently turned out not by menservants but by modistes. I will not
say their women are without a gift for wearing gowns, and their chefs
have unquestionably got at the inner meaning of food, but as a people
at large they would never do with us. Even their language is not based
on reason. I have had occasion, for example, to acquire their word for
bread, which is "pain." As if that were not wild enough, they
mispronounce it atrociously. Yet for years these people have been
separated from us only by a narrow strip of water!
By keeping close to our rooms, then, I had thought to evade what of
evil might have been in store for me on this day. Another evening I
might have ventured abroad to a cinema palace, but this was no time
for daring, and I took a further precaution of locking our doors.
Then, indeed, I had no misgiving save that inspired by the last words
of the Honourable George. In the event of his losing the game of poker
I was to be even more concerned than he. Yet how could evil come to
me, even should the American do him in the eye rather frightfully? In
truth, I had not the faintest belief that the Honourable George would
win the game. He fancies himself a card-player, though why he should,
God knows. At bridge with him every hand is a no-trumper. I need not
say more. Also it occurred to me that the American would be a person
not accustomed to losing. There was that about him.
More than once I had deplored this rather Bohemian taste of the
Honourable George which led him to associate with Americans as readily
as with persons of his own class; and especially had I regretted his
intimacy with the family in question. Several times I had observed
them, on the occasion of bearing messages from the Honourable
George--usually his acceptance of an invitation to dine. Too obviously
they were rather a handful. I mean to say, they were people who could
perhaps matter in their own wilds, but they would never do with us.
Their leader, with whom the Honourable George had consented to game
this evening, was a tall, careless-spoken person, with a narrow, dark
face marked with heavy black brows that were rather tremendous in
their effect when he did not smile. Almost at my first meeting him I
divined something of the public man in his bearing, a suggestion,
perhaps, of the confirmed orator, a notion in which I was somehow
further set by the gesture with which he swept back his carelessly
falling forelock. I was not surprised, then, to hear him referred to
as the "Senator." In some unexplained manner, the Honourable George,
who is never as reserved in public as I could wish him to be, had
chummed up with this person at one of the race-tracks, and had
thereafter been almost quite too pally with him and with the very
curious other members of his family--the name being Floud.
The wife might still be called youngish, a bit florid in type,
plumpish, with yellow hair, though to this a stain had been applied,
leaving it in deficient consonance with her eyebrows; these shading
grayish eyes that crackled with determination. Rather on the large
side she was, forcible of speech and manner, yet curiously eager, I
had at once detected, for the exactly correct thing in dress and
The remaining member of the family was a male cousin of the so-called
Senator, his senior evidently by half a score of years, since I took
him to have reached the late fifties. "Cousin Egbert" he was called,
and it was at once apparent to me that he had been most direly
subjugated by the woman whom he addressed with great respect as "Mrs.
Effie." Rather a seamed and drooping chap he was, with mild,
whitish-blue eyes like a porcelain doll's, a mournfully drooped gray
moustache, and a grayish jumble of hair. I early remarked his hunted
look in the presence of the woman. Timid and soft-stepping he was
Such were the impressions I had been able to glean of these altogether
queer people during the fortnight since the Honourable George had so
lawlessly taken them up. Lodged they were in an hotel among the most
expensive situated near what would have been our Trafalgar Square, and
I later recalled that I had been most interestedly studied by the
so-called "Mrs. Effie" on each of the few occasions I appeared there.
I mean to say, she would not be above putting to me intimate questions
concerning my term of service with the Honourable George Augustus
Vane-Basingwell, the precise nature of the duties I performed for him,
and even the exact sum of my honourarium. On the last occasion she had
remarked--and too well I recall a strange glitter in her competent
eyes--"You are just the man needed by poor Cousin Egbert there--you
could make something of him. Look at the way he's tied that cravat
after all I've said to him."
The person referred to here shivered noticeably, stroked his chin in a
manner enabling him to conceal the cravat, and affected nervously to
be taken with a sight in the street below. In some embarrassment I
withdrew, conscious of a cold, speculative scrutiny bent upon me by
If I have seemed tedious in my recital of the known facts concerning
these extraordinary North American natives, it will, I am sure, be
forgiven me in the light of those tragic developments about to ensue.
Meantime, let me be pictured as reposing in fancied security from all
evil predictions while I awaited the return of the Honourable George.
I was only too certain he would come suffering from an acute acid
dyspepsia, for I had seen lobster in his shifty eyes as he left me;
but beyond this I apprehended nothing poignant, and I gave myself up
to meditating profoundly upon our situation.
Frankly, it was not good. I had done my best to cheer the Honourable
George, but since our brief sojourn at Ostend, and despite the almost
continuous hospitality of the Americans, he had been having, to put it
bluntly, an awful hump. At Ostend, despite my remonstrance, he had
staked and lost the major portion of his quarter's allowance in
testing a system at the wheel which had been warranted by the person
who sold it to him in London to break any bank in a day's play. He had
meant to pause but briefly at Ostend, for little more than a test of
the system, then proceed to Monte Carlo, where his proposed terrific
winnings would occasion less alarm to the managers. Yet at Ostend the
system developed such grave faults in the first hour of play that we
were forced to lay up in Paris to economize.
For myself I had entertained doubts of the system from the moment of
its purchase, for it seemed awfully certain to me that the vendor
would have used it himself instead of parting with it for a couple of
quid, he being in plain need of fresh linen and smarter boots, to say
nothing of the quite impossible lounge-suit he wore the night we met
him in a cab shelter near Covent Garden. But the Honourable George had
not listened to me. He insisted the chap had made it all enormously
clear; that those mathematical Johnnies never valued money for its own
sake, and that we should presently be as right as two sparrows in a
Fearfully annoyed I was at the denouement. For now we were in Paris,
rather meanly lodged in a dingy hotel on a narrow street leading from
what with us might have been Piccadilly Circus. Our rooms were rather
a good height with a carved cornice and plaster enrichments, but the
furnishings were musty and the general air depressing, notwithstanding
the effect of a few good mantel ornaments which I have long made it a
rule to carry with me.
Then had come the meeting with the Americans. Glad I was to reflect
that this had occurred in Paris instead of London. That sort of thing
gets about so. Even from Paris I was not a little fearful that news of
his mixing with this raffish set might get to the ears of his
lordship either at the town house or at Chaynes-Wotten. True, his
lordship is not over-liberal with his brother, but that is small
reason for affronting the pride of a family that attained its earldom
in the fourteenth century. Indeed the family had become important
quite long before this time, the first Vane-Basingwell having been
beheaded by no less a personage than William the Conqueror, as I
learned in one of the many hours I have been privileged to browse in
the Chaynes-Wotten library.
It need hardly be said that in my long term of service with the
Honourable George, beginning almost from the time my mother nursed
him, I have endeavoured to keep him up to his class, combating a
certain laxness that has hampered him. And most stubborn he is, and
wilful. At games he is almost quite a duffer. I once got him to play
outside left on a hockey eleven and he excited much comment, some of
which was of a favourable nature, but he cares little for hunting or
shooting and, though it is scarce a matter to be gossiped of, he
loathes cricket. Perhaps I have disclosed enough concerning him.
Although the Vane-Basingwells have quite almost always married the
right people, the Honourable George was beyond question born queer.
Again, in the matter of marriage, he was difficult. His lordship,
having married early into a family of poor lifes, was now long a
widower, and meaning to remain so he had been especially concerned
that the Honourable George should contract a proper alliance. Hence
our constant worry lest he prove too susceptible out of his class.
More than once had he shamefully funked his fences. There was the
distressing instance of the Honourable Agatha Cradleigh. Quite all
that could be desired of family and dower she was, thirty-two years
old, a bit faded though still eager, with the rather immensely high
forehead and long, thin, slightly curved Cradleigh nose.
The Honourable George at his lordship's peppery urging had at last
consented to a betrothal, and our troubles for a time promised to be
over, but it came to precisely nothing. I gathered it might have been
because she wore beads on her gown and was interested in uplift work,
or that she bred canaries, these birds being loathed by the Honourable
George with remarkable intensity, though it might equally have been
that she still mourned a deceased fiance of her early girlhood, a
curate, I believe, whose faded letters she had preserved and would
read to the Honourable George at intimate moments, weeping bitterly
the while. Whatever may have been his fancied objection--that is the
time we disappeared and were not heard of for near a twelvemonth.
Wondering now I was how we should last until the next quarter's
allowance. We always had lasted, but each time it was a different way.
The Honourable George at a crisis of this sort invariably spoke of
entering trade, and had actually talked of selling motor-cars,
pointing out to me that even certain rulers of Europe had frankly
entered this trade as agents. It might have proved remunerative had he
known anything of motor-cars, but I was more than glad he did not, for
I have always considered machinery to be unrefined. Much I preferred
that he be a company promoter or something of that sort in the city,
knowing about bonds and debentures, as many of the best of our
families are not above doing. It seemed all he could do with
propriety, having failed in examinations for the army and the church,
and being incurably hostile to politics, which he declared silly rot.
Sharply at midnight I aroused myself from these gloomy thoughts and
breathed a long sigh of relief. Both gipsy and psychic expert had
failed in their prophecies. With a lightened heart I set about the
preparations I knew would be needed against the Honourable George's
return. Strong in my conviction that he would not have been able to
resist lobster, I made ready his hot foot-bath with its solution of
brine-crystals and put the absorbent fruit-lozenges close by, together
with his sleeping-suit, his bed-cap, and his knitted night-socks.
Scarcely was all ready when I heard his step.
He greeted me curtly on entering, swiftly averting his face as I took
his stick, hat, and top-coat. But I had seen the worst at one glance.
The Honourable George was more than spotted--he was splotchy. It was
as bad as that.
"Lobster _and_ oysters," I made bold to remark, but he affected
not to have heard, and proceeded rapidly to disrobe. He accepted the
foot-bath without demur, pulling a blanket well about his shoulders,
complaining of the water's temperature, and demanding three of the
"Not what you think at all," he then said. "It was that cursed
bar-le-duc jelly. Always puts me this way, and you quite well know
"Yes, sir, to be sure," I answered gravely, and had the satisfaction
of noting that he looked quite a little foolish. Too well he knew I
could not be deceived, and even now I could surmise that the lobster
had been supported by sherry. How many times have I not explained to
him that sherry has double the tonic vinosity of any other wine and
may not be tampered with by the sensitive. But he chose at present to
make light of it, almost as if he were chaffing above his knowledge of
"Some book Johnny says a chap is either a fool or a physician at
forty," he remarked, drawing the blanket more closely about him.
"I should hardly rank you as a Harley Street consultant, sir," I
swiftly retorted, which was slanging him enormously because he had
turned forty. I mean to say, there was but one thing he could take me
as meaning him to be, since at forty I considered him no physician.
But at least I had not been too blunt, the touch about the Harley
Street consultant being rather neat, I thought, yet not too subtle for
He now demanded a pipe of tobacco, and for a time smoked in silence. I
could see that his mind worked painfully.
"Stiffish lot, those Americans," he said at last.
"They do so many things one doesn't do," I answered.
"And their brogue is not what one could call top-hole, is it now? How
often they say 'I guess!' I fancy they must say it a score of times in
"I fancy they do, sir," I agreed.
"I fancy that Johnny with the eyebrows will say it even oftener."
"I fancy so, sir. I fancy I've counted it well up to that."
"I fancy you're quite right. And the chap 'guesses' when he awfully
well knows, too. That's the essential rabbit. To-night he said 'I
guess I've got you beaten to a pulp,' when I fancy he wasn't guessing
at all. I mean to say, I swear he knew it perfectly."
"You lost the game of drawing poker?" I asked coldly, though I knew he
had carried little to lose.
"I lost----" he began. I observed he was strangely embarrassed. He
strangled over his pipe and began anew: "I said that to play the game
soundly you've only to know when to bluff. Studied it out myself, and
jolly well right I was, too, as far as I went. But there's further to
go in the silly game. I hadn't observed that to play it greatly one
must also know when one's opponent is bluffing."
"Oh, really; quite important, I assure you. More important than one
would have believed, watching their silly ways. You fancy a chap's
bluffing when he's doing nothing of the sort. I'd enormously have
liked to know it before we played. Things would have been so awfully
different for us"--he broke off curiously, paused, then added--"for
"Different for me, sir?" His words seemed gruesome. They seemed open
to some vaguely sinister interpretation. But I kept myself steady.
"We live and learn, sir," I said, lightly enough.
"Some of us learn too late," he replied, increasingly ominous.
"I take it you failed to win the hundred pounds, sir?"
[Illustration: "I TAKE IT YOU FAILED TO WIN THE HUNDRED POUNDS, SIR?"]
"I have the hundred pounds; I won it--by losing."
Again he evaded my eye.
"Played, indeed, sir," said I.
"You jolly well won't believe that for long."
Now as he had the hundred pounds, I couldn't fancy what the deuce and
all he meant by such prattle. I was half afraid he might be having me
on, as I have known him do now and again when he fancied he could get
me. I fearfully wanted to ask questions. Again I saw the dark,
absorbed face of the gipsy as he studied my future.
"Rotten shift, life is," now murmured the Honourable George quite as
if he had forgotten me. "If I'd have but put through that Monte Carlo
affair I dare say I'd have chucked the whole business--gone to South
Africa, perhaps, and set up a mine or a plantation. Shouldn't have
come back. Just cut off, and good-bye to this mess. But no capital.
Can't do things without capital. Where these American Johnnies have
the pull of us. Do anything. Nearly do what they jolly well like to.
No sense to money. Stuff that runs blind. Look at the silly beggars
that have it----" On he went quite alarmingly with his tirade. Almost
as violent he was as an ugly-headed chap I once heard ranting when I
went with my brother-in-law to a meeting of the North Brixton Radical
Club. Quite like an anarchist he was. Presently he quieted. After a
long pull at his pipe he regarded me with an entire change of manner.
Well I knew something was coming; coming swift as a rocketing
woodcock. Word for word I put down our incredible speeches:
"You are going out to America, Ruggles."
"Yes, sir; North or South, sir?"
"North, I fancy; somewhere on the West coast--Ohio, Omaha, one of those
"Perhaps Indiana or the Yellowstone Valley, sir."
"The chap's a sort of millionaire."
"The chap, sir?"
"Eyebrow chap. Money no end--mines, lumber, domestic animals, that
sort of thing."
"Beg pardon, sir! I'm to go----"
"Chap's wife taken a great fancy to you. Would have you to do for the
funny, sad beggar. So he's won you. Won you in a game of drawing
poker. Another man would have done as well, but the creature was keen
for you. Great strength of character. Determined sort. Hope you won't
think I didn't play soundly, but it's not a forthright game. Think
they're bluffing when they aren't. When they are you mayn't think it.
So far as hiding one's intentions, it's a most rottenly immoral game.
Low, animal cunning--that sort of thing."
"Do I understand I was the stake, sir?" I controlled myself to say.
The heavens seemed bursting about my head.
"Ultimately lost you were by the very trifling margin of superiority
that a hand known as a club flush bears over another hand consisting
of three of the eights--not quite all of them, you understand, only
three, and two other quite meaningless cards."
I could but stammer piteously, I fear. I heard myself make a wretched
failure of words that crowded to my lips.
"But it's quite simple, I tell you. I dare say I could show it you in
a moment if you've cards in your box."
"Thank you, sir, I'll not trouble you. I'm certain it was simple. But
would you mind telling me what exactly the game was played for?"
"Knew you'd not understand at once. My word, it was not too bally
simple. If I won I'd a hundred pounds. If I lost I'd to give you up to
them but still to receive a hundred pounds. I suspect the Johnny's
conscience pricked him. Thought you were worth a hundred pounds, and
guessed all the time he could do me awfully in the eye with his poker.
Quite set they were on having you. Eyebrow chap seemed to think it a
jolly good wheeze. She didn't, though. Quite off her head at having
you for that glum one who does himself so badly."
Dazed I was, to be sure, scarce comprehending the calamity that had
"Am I to understand, sir, that I am now in the service of the
"Stupid! Of course, of course! Explained clearly, haven't I, about the
club flush and the three eights. Only three of them, mind you. If the
other one had been in my hand, I'd have done him. As narrow a squeak
as that. But I lost. And you may be certain I lost gamely, as a
gentleman should. No laughing matter, but I laughed with them--except
the funny, sad one. He was worried and made no secret of it. They were
good enough to say I took my loss like a dead sport."
More of it followed, but always the same. Ever he came back to the
sickening, concise point that I was to go out to the American
wilderness with these grotesque folk who had but the most elementary
notions of what one does and what one does not do. Always he concluded
with his boast that he had taken his loss like a dead sport. He became
vexed at last by my painful efforts to understand how, precisely, the
dreadful thing had come about. But neither could I endure more. I fled
to my room. He had tried again to impress upon me that three eights
are but slightly inferior to the flush of clubs.
I faced my glass. My ordinary smooth, full face seemed to have
shrivelled. The marks of my anguish were upon me. Vainly had I locked
myself in. The gipsy's warning had borne its evil fruit. Sold, I'd
been; even as once the poor blackamoors were sold into American
bondage. I recalled one of their pathetic folk-songs in which the
wretches were wont to make light of their lamentable estate; a thing I
had often heard sung by a black with a banjo on the pier at Brighton;
not a genuine black, only dyed for the moment he was, but I had never
lost the plaintive quality of the verses:
"Away down South in Michigan,
Where I was so happy and so gay,
'Twas there I mowed the cotton and the cane----"
How poignantly the simple words came back to me! A slave, day after
day mowing his owner's cotton and cane, plucking the maize from the
savannahs, yet happy and gay! Should I be equal to this spirit? The
Honourable George had lost; so I, his pawn, must also submit like a
How little I then dreamed what adventures, what adversities, what
ignominies--yes, and what triumphs were to be mine in those back
blocks of North America! I saw but a bleak wilderness, a distressing
contact with people who never for a moment would do with us. I
shuddered. I despaired.
And outside the windows gay Paris laughed and sang in the dance, ever
unheeding my plight!
In that first sleep how often do we dream that our calamity has been
only a dream. It was so in my first moments of awakening. Vestiges of
some grotesquely hideous nightmare remained with me. Wearing the
shackles of the slave, I had been mowing the corn under the fierce sun
that beats down upon the American savannahs. Sickeningly, then, a wind
of memory blew upon me and I was alive to my situation.
Nor was I forgetful of the plight in which the Honourable George would
now find himself. He is as good as lost when not properly looked
after. In the ordinary affairs of life he is a simple, trusting,
incompetent duffer, if ever there was one. Even in so rudimentary a
matter as collar-studs he is like a storm-tossed mariner--I mean to
say, like a chap in a boat on the ocean who doesn't know what sails to
pull up nor how to steer the silly rudder.
One rather feels exactly that about him.
And now he was bound to go seedy beyond description--like the time at
Mentone when he dreamed a system for playing the little horses, after
which for a fortnight I was obliged to nurse a well-connected invalid
in order that we might last over till next remittance day. The havoc
he managed to wreak among his belongings in that time would scarce be
believed should I set it down--not even a single boot properly
treed--and his appearance when I was enabled to recover him (my client
having behaved most handsomely on the eve of his departure for Spain)
being such that I passed him in the hotel lounge without even a
nod--climbing-boots, with trousers from his one suit of boating
flannels, a blazered golfing waistcoat, his best morning-coat with the
wide braid, a hunting-stock and a motoring-cap, with his beard more
than discursive, as one might say, than I had ever seen it. If I
disclose this thing it is only that my fears for him may be
comprehended when I pictured him being permanently out of hand.
Meditating thus bitterly, I had but finished dressing when I was
startled by a knock on my door and by the entrance, to my summons, of
the elder and more subdued Floud, he of the drooping mustaches and the
mournful eyes of pale blue. One glance at his attire brought freshly
to my mind the atrocious difficulties of my new situation. I may be
credited or not, but combined with tan boots and wretchedly fitting
trousers of a purple hue he wore a black frock-coat, revealing far,
far too much of a blue satin "made" cravat on which was painted a
cluster of tiny white flowers--lilies of the valley, I should say.
Unbelievably above this monstrous melange was a rather low-crowned
Hardly repressing a shudder, I bowed, whereupon he advanced solemnly
to me and put out his hand. To cover the embarrassing situation
tactfully I extended my own, and we actually shook hands, although the
clasp was limply quite formal.
"How do you do, Mr. Ruggles?" he began.
I bowed again, but speech failed me.
"She sent me over to get you," he went on. He uttered the word "She"
with such profound awe that I knew he could mean none other than Mrs.
Effie. It was most extraordinary, but I dare say only what was to have
been expected from persons of this sort. In any good-class club or
among gentlemen at large it is customary to allow one at least
twenty-four hours for the payment of one's gambling debts. Yet there I
was being collected by the winner at so early an hour as half-after
seven. If I had been a five-pound note instead of myself, I fancy it
would have been quite the same. These Americans would most indecently
have sent for their winnings before the Honourable George had
awakened. One would have thought they had expected him to refuse
payment of me after losing me the night before. How little they seemed
to realize that we were both intending to be dead sportsmen.
"Very good, sir," I said, "but I trust I may be allowed to brew the
Honourable George his tea before leaving? I'd hardly like to trust to
him alone with it, sir."
"Yes, sir," he said, so respectfully that it gave me an odd feeling.
"Take your time, Mr. Ruggles. I don't know as I am in any hurry on my
own account. It's only account of Her."
I trust it will be remembered that in reporting this person's speeches
I am making an earnest effort to set them down word for word in all
their terrific peculiarities. I mean to say, I would not be held
accountable for his phrasing, and if I corrected his speech, as of
course the tendency is, our identities might become confused. I hope
this will be understood when I report him as saying things in ways one
doesn't word them. I mean to say that it should not be thought that I
would say them in this way if it chanced that I were saying the same
things in my proper person. I fancy this should now be plain.
"Very well, sir," I said.
"If it was me," he went on, "I wouldn't want you a little bit. But
it's Her. She's got her mind made up to do the right thing and have us
all be somebody, and when she makes her mind up----" He hesitated and
studied the ceiling for some seconds. "Believe me," he continued,
"Mrs. Effie is some wildcat!"
"Yes, sir--some wildcat," I repeated.
"Believe _me_, Bill," he said again, quaintly addressing me by a
name not my own--"believe me, she'd fight a rattlesnake and give it
the first two bites."
Again let it be recalled that I put down this extraordinary speech
exactly as I heard it. I thought to detect in it that grotesque
exaggeration with which the Americans so distressingly embellish their
humour. I mean to say, it could hardly have been meant in all
seriousness. So far as my researches have extended, the rattlesnake is
an invariably poisonous reptile. Fancy giving one so downright an
advantage as the first two bites, or even one bite, although I believe
the thing does not in fact bite at all, but does one down with its
forked tongue, of which there is an excellent drawing in my little
volume, "Inquire Within; 1,000 Useful Facts."
"Yes, sir," I replied, somewhat at a loss; "quite so, sir!"
"I just thought I'd wise you up beforehand."
"Thank you, sir," I said, for his intention beneath the weird jargon
was somehow benevolent. "And if you'll be good enough to wait until I
have taken tea to the Honourable George----"
"How is the Judge this morning?" he broke in.
"The Judge, sir?" I was at a loss, until he gestured toward the room
of the Honourable George.
"The Judge, yes. Ain't he a justice of the peace or something?"
"But no, sir; not at all, sir."
"Then what do you call him 'Honourable' for, if he ain't a judge or
"Well, sir, it's done, sir," I explained, but I fear he was unable to
catch my meaning, for a moment later (the Honourable George, hearing
our voices, had thrown a boot smartly against the door) he was
addressing him as "Judge" and thereafter continued to do so, nor did
the Honourable George seem to make any moment of being thus miscalled.
I served the Ceylon tea, together with biscuits and marmalade, the
while our caller chatted nervously. He had, it appeared, procured his
own breakfast while on his way to us.
"I got to have my ham and eggs of a morning," he confided. "But she
won't let me have anything at that hotel but a continental breakfast,
which is nothing but coffee and toast and some of that there sauce
you're eating. She says when I'm on the continent I got to eat a
continental breakfast, because that's the smart thing to do, and not
stuff myself like I was on the ranch; but I got that game beat both
ways from the jack. I duck out every morning before she's up. I found
a place where you can get regular ham and eggs."
"Regular ham and eggs?" murmured the Honourable George.
"French ham and eggs is a joke. They put a slice of boiled ham in a
little dish, slosh a couple of eggs on it, and tuck the dish into the
oven a few minutes. Say, they won't ever believe that back in Red Gap
when I tell it. But I found this here little place where they do it
right, account of Americans having made trouble so much over the other
way. But, mind you, don't let on to her," he warned me suddenly.
"Certainly not, sir," I said. "Trust me to be discreet, sir."
"All right, then. Maybe we'll get on better than what I thought we
would. I was looking for trouble with you, the way she's been talking
about what you'd do for me."
"I trust matters will be pleasant, sir," I replied.
"I can be pushed just so far," he curiously warned me, "and no
farther--not by any man that wears hair."
"Yes, sir," I said again, wondering what the wearing of hair might
mean to this process of pushing him, and feeling rather absurdly glad
that my own face is smoothly shaven.
"You'll find Ruggles fairish enough after you've got used to his
ways," put in the Honourable George.
"All right, Judge; and remember it wasn't my doings," said my new
employer, rising and pulling down to his ears his fearful bowler hat.
"And now we better report to her before she does a hot-foot over here.
You can pack your grip later in the day," he added to me.
"Pack my grip--yes, sir," I said numbly, for I was on the tick of
leaving the Honourable George helpless in bed. In a voice that I fear
was broken I spoke of clothes for the day's wear which I had laid out
for him the night before. He waved a hand bravely at us and sank back
into his pillow as my new employer led me forth. There had been barely
a glance between us to betoken the dreadfulness of the moment.
At our door I was pleased to note that a taximetre cab awaited us. I
had acutely dreaded a walk through the streets, even of Paris, with my
new employer garbed as he was. The blue satin cravat of itself would
have been bound to insure us more attention than one would care for.
I fear we were both somewhat moody during the short ride. Each of us
seemed to have matters of weight to reflect upon. Only upon reaching
our destination did my companion brighten a bit. For a fare of five
francs forty centimes he gave the driver a ten-franc piece and waited
for no change.
"I always get around them that way," he said with an expression of the
brightest cunning. "She used to have the laugh on me because I got so
much counterfeit money handed to me. Now I don't take any change at
"Yes, sir," I said. "Quite right, sir."
"There's more than one way to skin a cat," he added as we ascended to
the Floud's drawing-room, though why his mind should have flown to
this brutal sport, if it be a sport, was quite beyond me. At the door
he paused and hissed at me: "Remember, no matter what she says, if you
treat me white I'll treat you white." And before I could frame any
suitable response to this puzzling announcement he had opened the door
and pushed me in, almost before I could remove my cap.
Seated at the table over coffee and rolls was Mrs. Effie. Her face
brightened as she saw me, then froze to disapproval as her glance
rested upon him I was to know as Cousin Egbert. I saw her capable
mouth set in a straight line of determination.
"You did your very worst, didn't you?" she began. "But sit down and
eat your breakfast. He'll soon change _that_." She turned to me.
"Now, Ruggles, I hope you understand the situation, and I'm sure I can
trust you to take no nonsense from him. You see plainly what you've
got to do. I let him dress to suit himself this morning, so that you
could know the worst at once. Take a good look at him--shoes, coat,
hat--that dreadful cravat!"
"I call this a right pretty necktie," mumbled her victim over a crust
of toast. She had poured coffee for him.
"You hear that?" she asked me. I bowed sympathetically.
"What does he look like?" she insisted. "Just tell him for his own
But this I could not do. True enough, during our short ride he had
been reminding me of one of a pair of cross-talk comedians I had once
seen in a music-hall. This, of course, was not a thing one could say.
"I dare say, Madam, he could be smartened up a bit. If I might take
him to some good-class shop----"
"And burn the things he's got on----" she broke in.
"Not this here necktie," interrupted Cousin Egbert rather stubbornly.
"It was give to me by Jeff Tuttle's littlest girl last Christmas; and
this here Prince Albert coat--what's the matter of it, I'd like to
know? It come right from the One Price Clothing Store at Red Gap, and
it's plenty good to go to funerals in----"
"And then to a barber-shop with him," went on Mrs. Effie, who had paid
no heed to his outburst. "Get him done right for once."
Her relative continued to nibble nervously at a bit of toast.
"I've done something with him myself," she said, watching him
narrowly. "At first he insisted on having the whole bill-of-fare for
breakfast, but I put my foot down, and now he's satisfied with the
continental breakfast. That goes to show he has something in him, if
we can only bring it out."
"Something in him, indeed, yes, Madam!" I assented, and Cousin Egbert,
turning to me, winked heavily.
"I want him to look like some one," she resumed, "and I think you're
the man can make him if you're firm with him; but you'll have to be
firm, because he's full of tricks. And if he starts any rough stuff,
just come to me."
"Quite so, Madam," I said, but I felt I was blushing with shame at
hearing one of my own sex so slanged by a woman. That sort of thing
would never do with us. And yet there was something about this
woman--something weirdly authoritative. She showed rather well in the
morning light, her gray eyes crackling as she talked. She was wearing
a most elaborate peignoir, and of course she should not have worn the
diamonds; it seemed almost too much like the morning hour of a stage
favourite; but still one felt that when she talked one would do well
Hereupon Cousin Egbert startled me once more.
"Won't you set up and have something with us, Mr. Ruggles?" he asked me.
I looked away, affecting not to have heard, and could feel Mrs. Effie
scowling at him. He coughed into his cup and sprayed coffee well over
himself. His intention had been obvious in the main, though exactly
what he had meant by "setting up" I couldn't fancy--as if I had been a
The moment's embarrassment was well covered by Mrs. Effie, who again
renewed her instructions, and from an escritoire brought me a sheaf of
the pretentiously printed sheets which the French use in place of our
"You will spare no expense," she directed, "and don't let me see him
again until he looks like some one. Try to have him back here by five.
Some very smart friends of ours are coming for tea."
"I won't drink tea at that outlandish hour for any one," said Cousin
Egbert rather snappishly.
"You will at least refuse it like a man of the world, I hope," she
replied icily, and he drooped submissive once more. "You see?" she
added to me.
"Quite so, Madam," I said, and resolved to be firm and thorough with
Cousin Egbert. In a way I was put upon my mettle. I swore to make him
look like some one. Moreover, I now saw that his half-veiled threats
of rebellion to me had been pure swank. I had in turn but to threaten
to report him to this woman and he would be as clay in my hands.
I presently had him tucked into a closed taxicab, half-heartedly
muttering expostulations and protests to which I paid not the least
heed. During my strolls I had observed in what would have been Regent
Street at home a rather good-class shop with an English name, and to
this I now proceeded with my charge. I am afraid I rather hustled him
across the pavement and into the shop, not knowing what tricks he
might be up to, and not until he was well to the back did I attempt to
explain myself to the shop-walker who had followed us. To him I then
gave details of my charge's escape from a burning hotel the previous
night, which accounted for his extraordinary garb of the moment, he
having been obliged to accept the loan of garments that neither fitted
him nor harmonized with one another. I mean to say, I did not care to
have the chap suspect we would don tan boots, a frock-coat, and bowler
hat except under the most tremendous compulsion.
Cousin Egbert stared at me open mouthed during this recital, but the
shop-walker was only too readily convinced, as indeed who would not
have been, and called an intelligent assistant to relieve our
distress. With his help I swiftly selected an outfit that was not half
bad for ready-to-wear garments. There was a black morning-coat, snug
at the waist, moderately broad at the shoulders, closing with two
buttons, its skirt sharply cut away from the lower button and reaching
to the bend of the knee. The lapels were, of course, soft-rolled and
joined the collar with a triangular notch. It is a coat of immense
character when properly worn, and I was delighted to observe in the
trying on that Cousin Egbert filled it rather smartly. Moreover, he
submitted more meekly than I had hoped. The trousers I selected were
of gray cloth, faintly striped, the waistcoat being of the same
material as the coat, relieved at the neck-opening by an edging of
With the boots I had rather more trouble, as he refused to wear the
patent leathers that I selected, together with the pearl gray spats,
until I grimly requested the telephone assistant to put me through to
the hotel, desiring to speak to Mrs. Senator Floud. This brought him
around, although muttering, and I had less trouble with shirts,
collars, and cravats. I chose a shirt of white pique, a wing collar
with small, square-cornered tabs, and a pearl ascot.
Then in a cabinet I superintended Cousin Egbert's change of raiment.
We clashed again in the matter of sock-suspenders, which I was
astounded to observe he did not possess. He insisted that he had never
worn them--garters he called them--and never would if he were shot for
it, so I decided to be content with what I had already gained.
By dint of urging and threatening I at length achieved my ground-work
and was more than a little pleased with my effect, as was the
shop-assistant, after I had tied the pearl ascot and adjusted a quiet
tie-pin of my own choosing.
"Now I hope you're satisfied!" growled my charge, seizing his bowler
hat and edging off.
"By no means," I said coldly. "The hat, if you please, sir."
He gave it up rebelliously, and I had again to threaten him with the
telephone before he would submit to a top-hat with a moderate bell and
broad brim. Surveying this in the glass, however, he became
perceptibly reconciled. It was plain that he rather fancied it, though
as yet he wore it consciously and would turn his head slowly and
painfully, as if his neck were stiffened.
Having chosen the proper gloves, I was, I repeat, more than pleased
with this severely simple scheme of black, white, and gray. I felt I
had been wise to resist any tendency to colour, even to the most
delicate of pastel tints. My last selection was a smartish Malacca
stick, the ideal stick for town wear, which I thrust into the
defenceless hands of my client.
"And now, sir," I said firmly, "it is but a step to a barber's stop
where English is spoken." And ruefully he accompanied me. I dare say
that by that time he had discovered that I was not to be trifled with,
for during his hour in the barber's chair he did not once rebel
openly. Only at times would he roll his eyes to mine in dumb appeal.
There was in them something of the utter confiding helplessness I had
noted in the eyes of an old setter at Chaynes-Wotten when I had been
called upon to assist the undergardener in chloroforming him. I mean
to say, the dog had jolly well known something terrible was being done
to him, yet his eyes seemed to say he knew it must be all for the best
and that he trusted us. It was this look I caught as I gave directions
about the trimming of the hair, and especially when I directed that
something radical should be done to the long, grayish moustache that
fell to either side of his chin in the form of a horseshoe. I myself
was puzzled by this difficulty, but the barber solved it rather
neatly, I thought, after a whispered consultation with me. He snipped
a bit off each end and then stoutly waxed the whole affair until the
ends stood stiffly out with distinct military implications. I shall
never forget, and indeed I was not a little touched by the look of
quivering anguish in the eyes of my client when he first beheld this
novel effect. And yet when we were once more in the street I could not
but admit that the change was worth all that it had cost him in
suffering. Strangely, he now looked like some one, especially after I
had persuaded him to a carnation for his buttonhole. I cannot say that
his carriage was all that it should have been, and he was still
conscious of his smart attire, but I nevertheless felt a distinct
thrill of pride in my own work, and was eager to reveal him to Mrs.
Effie in his new guise.
But first he would have luncheon--dinner he called it--and I was not
averse to this, for I had put in a long and trying morning. I went
with him to the little restaurant where Americans had made so much
trouble about ham and eggs, and there he insisted that I should join
him in chops and potatoes and ale. I thought it only proper then to
point out to him that there was certain differences in our walks of
life which should be more or less denoted by his manner of addressing
me. Among other things he should not address me as Mr. Ruggles, nor
was it customary for a valet to eat at the same table with his master.
He seemed much interested in these distinctions and thereupon
addressed me as "Colonel," which was of course quite absurd, but this
I could not make him see. Thereafter, I may say, that he called me
impartially either "Colonel" or "Bill." It was a situation that I had
never before been obliged to meet, and I found it trying in the
extreme. He was a chap who seemed ready to pal up with any one, and I
could not but recall the strange assertion I had so often heard that
in America one never knows who is one's superior. Fancy that! It would
never do with us. I could only determine to be on my guard.
Our luncheon done, he consented to accompany me to the hotel of the
Honourable George, whence I wished to remove my belongings. I should
have preferred to go alone, but I was too fearful of what he might do
to himself or his clothes in my absence.
We found the Honourable George still in bed, as I had feared. He had,
it seemed, been unable to discover his collar studs, which, though I
had placed them in a fresh shirt for him, he had carelessly covered
with a blanket. Begging Cousin Egbert to be seated in my room, I did a
few of the more obvious things required by my late master.
"You'd leave me here like a rat in a trap," he said reproachfully,
which I thought almost quite a little unjust. I mean to say, it had
all been his own doing, he having lost me in the game of drawing
poker, so why should he row me about it now? I silently laid out the
shirt once more.
"You might have told me where I'm to find my brown tweeds and the body
Again he was addressing me as if I had voluntarily left him without
notice, but I observed that he was still mildly speckled from the
night before, so I handed him the fruit-lozenges, and went to pack my
own box. Cousin Egbert I found sitting as I had left him, on the edge
of a chair, carefully holding his hat, stick, and gloves, and staring
into the wall. He had promised me faithfully not to fumble with his
cravat, and evidently he had not once stirred. I packed my box
swiftly--my "grip," as he called it--and we were presently off once
more, without another sight of the Honourable George, who was to join
us at tea. I could hear him moving about, using rather ultra-frightful
language, but I lacked heart for further speech with him at the
An hour later, in the Floud drawing-room, I had the supreme
satisfaction of displaying to Mrs. Effie the happy changes I had been
able to effect in my charge. Posing him, I knocked at the door of her
chamber. She came at once and drew a long breath as she surveyed him,
from varnished boots, spats, and coat to top-hat, which he still wore.
He leaned rather well on his stick, the hand to his hip, the elbow
out, while the other hand lightly held his gloves. A moment she
looked, then gave a low cry of wonder and delight, so that I felt
repaid for my trouble. Indeed, as she faced me to thank me I could see
that her eyes were dimmed.
"Wonderful!" she exclaimed. "Now he looks like some one!" And I
distinctly perceived that only just in time did she repress an impulse
to grasp me by the hand. Under the circumstances I am not sure that I
wouldn't have overlooked the lapse had she yielded to it. "Wonderful!"
she said again.
[Illustration: "WONDERFUL! NOW HE LOOKS LIKE SOME ONE"]
Hereupon Cousin Egbert, much embarrassed, leaned his stick against the
wall; the stick fell, and in reaching down for it his hat fell, and in
reaching for that he dropped his gloves; but I soon restored him to
order and he was safely seated where he might be studied in further
detail, especially as to his moustaches, which I had considered rather
the supreme touch.
"He looks exactly like some well-known clubman," exclaimed Mrs. Effie.
Her relative growled as if he were quite ready to savage her.
"Like a man about town," she murmured. "Who would have thought he had
it in him until you brought it out?" I knew then that we two should
understand each other.
The slight tension was here relieved by two of the hotel servants who
brought tea things. At a nod from Mrs. Effie I directed the laying out
At that moment came the other Floud, he of the eyebrows, and a cousin
cub called Elmer, who, I understood, studied art. I became aware that
they were both suddenly engaged and silenced by the sight of Cousin
Egbert. I caught their amazed stares, and then terrifically they broke
into gales of laughter. The cub threw himself on a couch, waving his
feet in the air, and holding his middle as if he'd suffered a sudden
acute dyspepsia, while the elder threw his head back and shrieked
hysterically. Cousin Egbert merely glared at them and, endeavouring
to stroke his moustache, succeeded in unwaxing one side of it so that
it once more hung limply down his chin, whereat they renewed their
boorishness. The elder Floud was now quite dangerously purple, and the
cub on the couch was shrieking: "No matter how dark the clouds, remember
she is still your stepmother," or words to some such silly effect as
that. How it might have ended I hardly dare conjecture--perhaps Cousin
Egbert would presently have roughed them--but a knock sounded, and it
became my duty to open our door upon other guests, women mostly;
Americans in Paris; that sort of thing.
I served the tea amid their babble. The Honourable George was shown up
a bit later, having done to himself quite all I thought he might in
the matter of dress. In spite of serious discrepancies in his attire,
however, I saw that Mrs. Effie meant to lionize him tremendously. With
vast ceremony he was presented to her guests--the Honourable George
Augustus Vane-Basingwell, brother of his lordship the Earl of
Brinstead. The women fluttered about him rather, though he behaved
moodily, and at the first opportunity fell to the tea and cakes quite
In spite of my aversion to the American wilderness, I felt a bit of
professional pride in reflecting that my first day in this new service
was about to end so auspiciously. Yet even in that moment, being as
yet unfamiliar with the room's lesser furniture, I stumbled slightly
against a hassock hid from me by the tray I carried. A cup of tea was
lost, though my recovery was quick. Too late I observed that the
hitherto self-effacing Cousin Egbert was in range of my clumsiness.
"There goes tea all over my new pants!" he said in a high, pained
"Sorry, indeed, sir," said I, a ready napkin in hand. "Let me dry it,
"Yes, sir, I fancy quite so, sir," said he.
I most truly would have liked to shake him smartly for this. I saw
that my work was cut out for me among these Americans, from whom at
their best one expects so little.
As I brisked out of bed the following morning at half-after six, I
could not but wonder rather nervously what the day might have in store
for me. I was obliged to admit that what I was in for looked a bit
thick. As I opened my door I heard stealthy footsteps down the hall
and looked out in time to observe Cousin Egbert entering his own room.
It was not this that startled me. He would have been abroad, I knew,
for the ham and eggs that were forbidden him. Yet I stood aghast, for
with the lounge-suit of tweeds I had selected the day before he had
worn his top-hat! I am aware that these things I relate of him may not
be credited. I can only put them down in all sincerity.
I hastened to him and removed the thing from his head. I fear it was
not with the utmost deference, for I have my human moments.
"It's not done, sir," I protested. He saw that I was offended.
"All right, sir," he replied meekly. "But how was I to know? I thought
it kind of set me off." He referred to it as a "stove-pipe" hat. I
knew then that I should find myself overlooking many things in him. He
was not a person one could be stern with, and I even promised that
Mrs. Effie should not be told of his offence, he promising in turn
never again to stir abroad without first submitting himself to me and
agreeing also to wear sock-suspenders from that day forth. I saw,
indeed, that diplomacy might work wonders with him.
At breakfast in the drawing-room, during which Cousin Egbert earned
warm praise from Mrs. Effie for his lack of appetite (he winking
violently at me during this), I learned that I should be expected to
accompany him to a certain art gallery which corresponds to our
British Museum. I was a bit surprised, indeed, to learn that he
largely spent his days there, and was accustomed to make notes of the
various objects of interest.
"I insisted," explained Mrs. Effie, "that he should absorb all the
culture he could on his trip abroad, so I got him a notebook in which
he puts down his impressions, and I must say he's done fine. Some of
his remarks are so good that when he gets home I may have him read a
paper before our Onwards and Upwards Club."
Cousin Egbert wriggled modestly at this and said: "Shucks!" which I
took to be a term of deprecation.
"You needn't pretend," said Mrs. Effie. "Just let Ruggles here look
over some of the notes you have made," and she handed me a notebook of
ruled paper in which there was a deal of writing. I glanced, as
bidden, at one or two of the paragraphs, and confess that I, too, was
amazed at the fluency and insight displayed along lines in which I
should have thought the man entirely uninformed. "This choice work
represents the first or formative period of the Master," began one
note, "but distinctly foreshadows that later method which made him at
once the hope and despair of his contemporaries. In the 'Portrait of
the Artist by Himself' we have a canvas that well repays patient
study, since here is displayed in its full flower that ruthless
realism, happily attenuated by a superbly subtle delicacy of brush
work----" It was really quite amazing, and I perceived for the first
time that Cousin Egbert must be "a diamond in the rough," as the
well-known saying has it. I felt, indeed, that I would be very pleased
to accompany him on one of his instructive strolls through this
gallery, for I have always been of a studious habit and anxious to
improve myself in the fine arts.
"You see?" asked Mrs. Effie, when I had perused this fragment. "And
yet folks back home would tell you that he's just a----" Cousin Egbert
here coughed alarmingly. "No matter," she continued. "He'll show them
that he's got something in him, mark my words."
"Quite so, Madam," I said, "and I shall consider it a privilege to be
present when he further prosecutes his art studies."
"You may keep him out till dinner-time," she continued. "I'm shopping
this morning, and in the afternoon I shall motor to have tea in the
Boy with the Senator and Mr. Nevil Vane-Basingwell."
Presently, then, my charge and I set out for what I hoped was to be a
peaceful and instructive day among objects of art, though first I was
obliged to escort him to a hatter's and glover's to remedy some minor
discrepancies in his attire. He was very pleased when I permitted him
to select his own hat. I was safe in this, as the shop was really
artists in gentlemen's headwear, and carried only shapes, I observed,
that were confined to exclusive firms so as to insure their being worn
by the right set. As to gloves and a stick, he was again rather
pettish and had to be set right with some firmness. He declared he had
lost his stick and gloves of the previous day. I discovered later that
he had presented them to the lift attendant. But I soon convinced him
that he would not be let to appear without these adjuncts to a
Then, having once more stood by at the barber's while he was shaved
and his moustaches firmly waxed anew, I saw that he was fit at last
for his art studies. The barber this day suggested curling the
moustaches with a heated iron, but at this my charge fell into so
unseemly a rage that I deemed it wise not to insist. He, indeed,
bluntly threatened a nameless violence to the barber if he were so
much as touched with the iron, and revealed an altogether shocking
gift for profanity, saying loudly: "I'll be--dashed--if you will!" I
mean to say, I have written "dashed" for what he actually said. But at
length I had him once more quieted.
"Now, sir," I said, when I had got him from the barber's shop, to the
barber's manifest relief: "I fancy we've time to do a few objects of
art before luncheon. I've the book here for your comments," I added.
"Quite so," he replied, and led me at a rapid pace along the street in
what I presumed was the direction of the art museum. At the end of a
few blocks he paused at one of those open-air public houses that
disgracefully line the streets of the French capital. I mean to say
that chairs and tables are set out upon the pavement in the most
brazen manner and occupied by the populace, who there drink their
silly beverages and idle away their time. After scanning the score or
so of persons present, even at so early an hour as ten of the morning,
he fell into one of the iron chairs at one of the iron tables and
motioned me to another at his side.
When I had seated myself he said "Beer" to the waiter who appeared,
and held up two fingers.
"Now, look at here," he resumed to me, "this is a good place to do
about four pages of art, and then we can go out and have some
recreation somewhere." Seeing that I was puzzled, he added: "This
way--you take that notebook and write in it out of this here other
book till I think you've done enough, then I'll tell you to stop." And
while I was still bewildered, he drew from an inner pocket a small,
well-thumbed volume which I took from him and saw to be entitled "One
Hundred Masterpieces of the Louvre."
"Open her about the middle," he directed, "and pick out something that
begins good, like 'Here the true art-lover will stand entranced----'
You got to write it, because I guess you can write faster than what I
can. I'll tell her I dictated to you. Get a hustle on now, so's we can
get through. Write down about four pages of that stuff."
Stunned I was for a moment at his audacity. Too plainly I saw through
his deception. Each day, doubtless, he had come to a low place of this
sort and copied into the notebook from the printed volume.
"But, sir," I protested, "why not at least go to the gallery where
these art objects are stored? Copy the notes there if that must be
"I don't know where the darned place is," he confessed. "I did start
for it the first day, but I run into a Punch and Judy show in a little
park, and I just couldn't get away from it, it was so comical, with
all the French kids hollering their heads off at it. Anyway, what's
the use? I'd rather set here in front of this saloon, where everything
"It's very extraordinary, sir," I said, wondering if I oughtn't to cut
off to the hotel and warn Mrs. Effie so that she might do a heated
foot to him, as he had once expressed it.
"Well, I guess I've got my rights as well as anybody," he insisted.
"I'll be pushed just so far and no farther, not if I never get any
more cultured than a jack-rabbit. And now you better go on and write
or I'll be--dashed--if I'll ever wear another thing you tell me to."
He had a most bitter and dangerous expression on his face, so I
thought best to humour him once more. Accordingly I set about writing
in his notebook from the volume of criticism he had supplied.
"Change a word now and then and skip around here and there," he
suggested as I wrote, "so's it'll sound more like me."
"Quite so, sir," I said, and continued to transcribe from the printed
page. I was beginning the fifth page in the notebook, being in the
midst of an enthusiastic description of the bit of statuary entitled
"The Winged Victory," when I was startled by a wild yell in my ear.
Cousin Egbert had leaped to his feet and now danced in the middle of
the pavement, waving his stick and hat high in the air and shouting
incoherently. At once we attracted the most undesirable attention from
the loungers about us, the waiters and the passers-by in the street,
many of whom stopped at once to survey my charge with the liveliest
interest. It was then I saw that he had merely wished to attract the
attention of some one passing in a cab. Half a block down the
boulevard I saw a man likewise waving excitedly, standing erect in the
cab to do so. The cab thereupon turned sharply, came back on the
opposite side of the street, crossed over to us, and the occupant
He was an American, as one might have fancied from his behaviour, a
tall, dark-skinned person, wearing a drooping moustache after the
former style of Cousin Egbert, supplemented by an imperial. He wore a
loose-fitting suit of black which had evidently received no proper
attention from the day he purchased it. Under a folded collar he wore
a narrow cravat tied in a bowknot, and in the bosom of his white shirt
there sparkled a diamond such as might have come from a collection of
crown-jewels. This much I had time to notice as he neared us. Cousin
Egbert had not ceased to shout, nor had he paid the least attention to
my tugs at his coat. When the cab's occupant descended to the pavement
they fell upon each other and did for some moments a wild dance such
as I imagine they might have seen the red Indians of western America
perform. Most savagely they punched each other, calling out in the
meantime: "Well, old horse!" and "Who'd ever expected to see you here,
darn your old skin!" (Their actual phrases, be it remembered.)
The crowd, I was glad to note, fell rapidly away, many of them
shrugging their shoulders in a way the French have, and even the
waiters about us quickly lost interest in the pair, as if they were
hardened to the sight of Americans greeting one another. The two were
still saying: "Well! well!" rather breathlessly, but had become a bit
"Jeff Tuttle, you--dashed--old long-horn!" exclaimed Cousin Egbert.
"Good old Sour-dough!" exploded the other. "Ain't this just like old
"I thought mebbe you wouldn't know me with all my beadwork and my new
war-bonnet on," continued Cousin Egbert.
"Know you, why, you knock-kneed old Siwash, I could pick out your hide
in a tanyard!"
"Well, well, well!" replied Cousin Egbert.
"Well, well, well!" said the other, and again they dealt each other
"Where'd you turn up from?" demanded Cousin Egbert.
"Europe," said the other. "We been all over Europe and Italy--just
come from some place up over the divide where they talk Dutch, the
Madam and the two girls and me, with the Reverend Timmins and his wife
riding line on us. Say, he's an out-and-out devil for cathedrals--it's
just one church after another with him--Baptist, Methodist,
Presbyterian, Lutheran, takes 'em all in--never overlooks a bet. He's
got Addie and the girls out now. My gosh! it's solemn work! Me? I
ducked out this morning."
"How'd you do it?"
"Told the little woman I had to have a tooth pulled--I was working it
up on the train all day yesterday. Say, what you all rigged out like
that for, Sour-dough, and what you done to your face?"
Cousin Egbert here turned to me in some embarrassment. "Colonel
Ruggles, shake hands with my friend Jeff Tuttle from the State of
"Pleased to meet you, Colonel," said the other before I could explain
that I had no military title whatever, never having, in fact, served
our King, even in the ranks. He shook my hand warmly.
"Any friend of Sour-dough Floud's is all right with me," he assured
me. "What's the matter with having a drink?"
"Say, listen here! I wouldn't have to be blinded and backed into it,"
said Cousin Egbert, enigmatically, I thought, but as they sat down I,
too, seated myself. Something within me had sounded a warning. As well
as I know it now I knew then in my inmost soul that I should summon
Mrs. Effie before matters went farther.
"Beer is all I know how to say," suggested Cousin Egbert.
"Leave that to me," said his new friend masterfully. "Where's the boy?
Here, boy! Veesky-soda! That's French for high-ball," he explained.
"I've had to pick up a lot of their lingo."
Cousin Egbert looked at him admiringly. "Good old Jeff!" he said
simply. He glanced aside to me for a second with downright hostility,
then turned back to his friend. "Something tells me, Jeff, that this
is going to be the first happy day I've had since I crossed the state
line. I've been pestered to death, Jeff--what with Mrs. Effie after me
to improve myself so's I can be a social credit to her back in Red
Gap, and learn to wear clothes and go without my breakfast and attend
art galleries. If you'd stand by me I'd throw her down good and hard
right now, but you know what she is----"
"I sure do," put in Mr. Tuttle so fervently that I knew he spoke the
truth. "That woman can bite through nails. But here's your drink,
Sour-dough. Maybe it will cheer you up."
Extraordinary! I mean to say, biting through nails.
"Three rousing cheers!" exclaimed Cousin Egbert with more animation
than I had ever known him display.
"Here's looking at you, Colonel," said his friend to me, whereupon I
partook of the drink, not wishing to offend him. Decidedly he was not
vogue. His hat was remarkable, being of a black felt with high crown
and a wide and flopping brim. Across his waistcoat was a watch-chain
of heavy links, with a weighty charm consisting of a sculptured gold
horse in full gallop. That sort of thing would never do with us.
"Here, George," he immediately called to the waiter, for they had
quickly drained their glasses, "tell the bartender three more. By
gosh! but that's good, after the way I've been held down."
"Me, too," said Cousin Egbert. "I didn't know how to say it in
"The Reverend held me down," continued the Tuttle person. "'A glass of
native wine,' he says, 'may perhaps be taken now and then without
harm.' 'Well,' I says, 'leave us have ales, wines, liquors, and
cigars,' I says, but not him. I'd get a thimbleful of elderberry wine
or something about every second Friday, except when I'd duck out the
side door of a church and find some caffy. Here, George, foomer,
foomer--bring us some seegars, and then stay on that spot--I may want
"Well, well!" said Cousin Egbert again, as if the meeting were still
"You old stinging-lizard!" responded the other affectionately. The
cigars were brought and I felt constrained to light one.
"The State of Washington needn't ever get nervous over the prospect of
losing me," said the Tuttle person, biting off the end of his cigar.
I gathered at once that the Americans have actually named one of our
colonies "Washington" after the rebel George Washington, though one
would have thought that the indelicacy of this would have been only
too apparent. But, then, I recalled, as well, the city where their
so-called parliament assembles, Washington, D. C. Doubtless the
initials indicate that it was named in "honour" of another member of
this notorious family. I could not but reflect how shocked our King
would be to learn of this effrontery.
Cousin Egbert, who had been for some moments moving his lips without
sound, here spoke:
"I'm going to try it myself," he said. "Here, Charley, veesky-soda! He
made me right off," he continued as the waiter disappeared. "Say,
Jeff, I bet I could have learned a lot of this language if I'd had
some one like you around."
"Well, it took me some time to get the accent," replied the other with
a modesty which I could detect was assumed. More acutely than ever was
I conscious of a psychic warning to separate these two, and I resolved
to act upon it with the utmost diplomacy. The third whiskey and soda
was served us.
"Three rousing cheers!" said Cousin Egbert.
"Here's looking at you!" said the other, and I drank. When my glass was
drained I arose briskly and said:
"I think we should be getting along now, sir, if Mr. Tuttle will be
good enough to excuse us." They both stared at me.
"Yes, sir--I fancy not, sir," said Cousin Egbert.
"Stop your kidding, you fat rascal!" said the other.
"Old Bill means all right," said Cousin Egbert, "so don't let him
irritate you. Bill's our new hired man. He's all right--just let him
"Can't he talk setting down?" asked the other. "Does he have to stand
up every time he talks? Ain't that a good chair?" he demanded of me.
"Here, take mine," and to my great embarrassment he arose and offered
me his chair in such a manner that I felt moved to accept it.
Thereupon he took the chair I had vacated and beamed upon us, "Now
that we're all home-folks, together once more, I would suggest a bit
of refreshment. Boy, veesky-soda!"
"I fancy so, sir," said Cousin Egbert, dreamily contemplating me as
the order was served. I was conscious even then that he seemed to be
studying my attire with a critical eye, and indeed he remarked as if
to himself: "What a coat!" I was rather shocked by this, for my suit
was quite a decent lounge-suit that had become too snug for the
Honourable George some two years before. Yet something warned me to
ignore the comment.
"Three rousing cheers!" he said as the drink was served.
"Here's looking at you!" said the Tuttle person.
And again I drank with them, against my better judgment, wondering if
I might escape long enough to be put through to Mrs. Floud on the
telephone. Too plainly the situation was rapidly getting out of hand,
and yet I hesitated. The Tuttle person under an exterior geniality was
rather abrupt. And, moreover, I now recalled having observed a person
much like him in manner and attire in a certain cinema drama of the
far Wild West. He had been a constable or sheriff in the piece and had
subdued a band of armed border ruffians with only a small pocket
pistol. I thought it as well not to cross him.
When they had drunk, each one again said, "Well! well!"
"You old maverick!" said Cousin Egbert.
"You--dashed--old horned toad!" responded his friend.
"What's the matter with a little snack?"
"Not a thing on earth. My appetite ain't been so powerful craving
since Heck was a pup."
These were their actual words, though it may not be believed. The
Tuttle person now approached his cabman, who had waited beside the
"Say, Frank," he began, "Ally restorong," and this he supplemented
with a crude but informing pantomime of one eating. Cousin Egbert was
already seated in the cab, and I could do nothing but follow. "Ally
restorong!" commanded our new friend in a louder tone, and the cabman
with an explosion of understanding drove rapidly off.
"It's a genuine wonder to me how you learned the language so quick,"
said Cousin Egbert.
"It's all in the accent," protested the other. I occupied a narrow
seat in the front. Facing me in the back seat, they lolled easily and
smoked their cigars. Down the thronged boulevard we proceeded at a
rapid pace and were passing presently before an immense gray edifice
which I recognized as the so-called Louvre from its illustration on
the cover of Cousin Egbert's art book. He himself regarded it with
interest, though I fancy he did not recognize it, for, waving his
cigar toward it, he announced to his friend:
"The Public Library." His friend surveyed the building with every sign
"That Carnegie is a hot sport, all right," he declared warmly. "I'll
bet that shack set him back some."
"Three rousing cheers!" said Cousin Egbert, without point that I could
We now crossed their Thames over what would have been Westminster
Bridge, I fancy, and were presently bowling through a sort of
Battersea part of the city. The streets grew quite narrow and the
shops smaller, and I found myself wondering not without alarm what
sort of restaurant our abrupt friend had chosen.
"Three rousing cheers!" said Cousin Egbert from time to time, with
almost childish delight.
Debouching from a narrow street again into what the French term a
boulevard, we halted before what was indeed a restaurant, for several
tables were laid on the pavement before the door, but I saw at once
that it was anything but a nice place. "Au Rendezvous des Cochers
Fideles," read the announcement on the flap of the awning, and truly
enough it was a low resort frequented by cabbies--"The meeting-place
of faithful coachmen." Along the curb half a score of horses were
eating from their bags, while their drivers lounged before the place,
eating, drinking, and conversing excitedly in their grotesque jargon.
We descended, in spite of the repellent aspect of the place, and our
driver went to the foot of the line, where he fed his own horse.
Cousin Egbert, already at one of the open-air tables, was rapping
smartly for a waiter.
"What's the matter with having just one little one before grub?" asked
the Tuttle person as we joined him. He had a most curious fashion of
speech. I mean to say, when he suggested anything whatsoever he
invariably wished to know what might be the matter with it.
"Veesky-soda!" demanded Cousin Egbert of the serving person who now
appeared, "and ask your driver to have one," he then urged his friend.
The latter hereupon addressed the cabman who had now come up.
"Vooley-voos take something!" he demanded, and the cabman appeared to
"Vooley-voos your friends take something, too?" he demanded further,
with a gesture that embraced all the cabmen present, and these, too,
appeared to accept with the utmost cordiality.
"You're a wonder, Jeff," said Cousin Egbert. "You talk it like a
"It come natural to me," said the fellow, "and it's a good thing, too.
If you know a little French you can go all over Europe without a bit
Inside the place was all activity, for many cabmen were now accepting
the proffered hospitality, and calling "votry santy!" to their host,
who seemed much pleased. Then to my amazement Cousin Egbert insisted
that our cabman should sit at table with us. I trust I have as little
foolish pride as most people, but this did seem like crowding it on a
bit thick. In fact, it looked rather dicky. I was glad to remember
that we were in what seemed to be the foreign quarter of the town,
where it was probable that no one would recognize us. The drink came,
though our cabman refused the whiskey and secured a bottle of native
"Three rousing cheers!" said Cousin Egbert as we drank once more, and
added as an afterthought, "What a beautiful world we live in!"
"Vooley-voos make-um bring dinner!" said the Tuttle person to the
cabman, who thereupon spoke at length in his native tongue to the
waiter. By this means we secured a soup that was not half bad and
presently a stew of mutton which Cousin Egbert declared was "some
goo." To my astonishment I ate heartily, even in such raffish
surroundings. In fact, I found myself pigging it with the rest of
them. With coffee, cigars were brought from the tobacconist's
next-door, each cabman present accepting one. Our own man was plainly
feeling a vast pride in his party, and now circulated among his
fellows with an account of our merits.
"This is what I call life," said the Tuttle person, leaning back in
"I'm coming right back here every day," declared Cousin Egbert
"What's the matter with a little drive to see some well-known objects
of interest?" inquired his friend.
"Not art galleries," insisted Cousin Egbert.
"And not churches," said his friend. "Every day's been Sunday with me
"And not clothing stores," said Cousin Egbert firmly. "The Colonel
here is awful fussy about my clothes," he added.
"Is, heh?" inquired his friend. "How do you like this hat of mine?" he
asked, turning to me. It was that sudden I nearly fluffed the catch,
but recovered myself in time.
"I should consider it a hat of sound wearing properties, sir," I said.
He took it off, examined it carefully, and replaced it.
"So far, so good," he said gravely. "But why be fussy about clothes
when God has given you only one life to live?"
"Don't argue about religion," warned Cousin Egbert.
"I always like to see people well dressed, sir," I said, "because it
makes such a difference in their appearance."
He slapped his thigh fiercely. "My gosh! that's true. He's got you
there, Sour-dough. I never thought of that."
"He makes me wear these chest-protectors on my ankles," said Cousin
Egbert bitterly, extending one foot.
"What's the matter of taking a little drive to see some well-known
objects of interest?" said his friend.
"Not art galleries," said Cousin Egbert firmly.
"We said that before--and not churches."
"And not gents' furnishing goods."
"You said that before."
"Well, you said not churches before."
"Well, what's the matter with taking a little drive?"
"Not art galleries," insisted Cousin Egbert. The thing seemed
interminable. I mean to say, they went about the circle as before. It
looked to me as if they were having a bit of a spree.
"We'll have one last drink," said the Tuttle person.
"No," said Cousin Egbert firmly, "not another drop. Don't you see the
condition poor Bill here is in?" To my amazement he was referring to
me. Candidly, he was attempting to convey the impression that I had
taken a drop too much. The other regarded me intently.
"Pickled," he said.
"Always affects him that way," said Cousin Egbert. "He's got no head
"Beg pardon, sir," I said, wishing to explain, but this I was not let
"Don't start anything like that here," broke in the Tuttle person,
"the police wouldn't stand for it. Just keep quiet and remember you're
"Yes, sir; quite so, sir," said I, being somewhat puzzled by these
strange words. "I was merely----"
"Look out, Jeff," warned Cousin Egbert, interrupting me; "he's a devil
when he starts."
"Have you got a knife?" demanded the other suddenly.
"I fancy so, sir," I answered, and produced from my waistcoat pocket
the small metal-handled affair I have long carried. This he quickly
seized from me.
"You can keep your gun," he remarked, "but you can't be trusted with
this in your condition. I ain't afraid of a gun, but I am afraid of a
knife. You could have backed me off the board any time with this
"Didn't I tell you?" asked Cousin Egbert.
"Beg pardon, sir," I began, for this was drawing it quite too thick,
but again he interrupted me.
"We'd better get him away from this place right off," he said.
"A drive in the fresh air might fix him," suggested Cousin Egbert.
"He's as good a scout as you want to know when he's himself."
Hereupon, calling our waiting cabman, they both, to my embarrassment,
assisted me to the vehicle.
"Ally caffy!" directed the Tuttle person, and we were driven off, to
the raised hats of the remaining cabmen, through many long, quiet
"I wouldn't have had this happen for anything," said Cousin Egbert,
"Lucky I got that knife away from him," said the other.
To this I thought it best to remain silent, it being plain that the
men were both well along, so to say.
The cab now approached an open square from which issued discordant
blasts of music. One glance showed it to be a street fair. I prayed
that we might pass it, but my companions hailed it with delight and at
once halted the cabby.
"Ally caffy on the corner," directed the Tuttle person, and once more
we were seated at an iron table with whiskey and soda ordered. Before
us was the street fair in all its silly activity. There were many
tinselled booths at which games of chance or marksmanship were played,
or at which articles of ornament or household decoration were
displayed for sale, and about these were throngs of low-class French
idling away their afternoon in that mad pursuit of pleasure which is
so characteristic of this race. In the centre of the place was a
carrousel from which came the blare of a steam orchestrion playing the
"Marseillaise," one of their popular songs. From where I sat I could
perceive the circle of gaudily painted beasts that revolved about this
musical atrocity. A fashion of horses seemed to predominate, but there
was also an ostrich (a bearded Frenchman being astride this bird for
the moment), a zebra, a lion, and a gaudily emblazoned giraffe. I
shuddered as I thought of the evil possibilities that might be
suggested to my two companions by this affair. For the moment I was
pleased to note that they had forgotten my supposed indisposition, yet
another equally absurd complication ensued when the drink arrived.
"Say, don't your friend ever loosen up?" asked the Tuttle person of
"Tighter than Dick's hatband," replied the latter.
"And then some! He ain't bought once. Say, Bo," he continued to me as
I was striving to divine the drift of these comments, "have I got my
fingers crossed or not?"
Seeing that he held one hand behind him I thought to humour him by
saying, "I fancy so, sir."
"He means 'yes,'" said Cousin Egbert.
The other held his hand before me with the first two fingers spread
wide apart. "You lost," he said. "How's that, Sour-dough? We stuck him
the first rattle out of the box."
"Good work," said Cousin Egbert. "You're stuck for this round," he
added to me. "Three rousing cheers!"
I readily perceived that they meant me to pay the score, which I
accordingly did, though I at once suspected the fairness of the game.
I mean to say, if my opponent had been a trickster he could easily
have rearranged his fingers to defeat me before displaying them. I do
not say it was done in this instance. I am merely pointing out that it
left open a way to trickery. I mean to say, one would wish to be
assured of his opponent's social standing before playing this game
No sooner had we finished the drink than the Tuttle person said to me:
"I'll give you one chance to get even. I'll guess your fingers this
time." Accordingly I put one hand behind me and firmly crossed the
fingers, fancying that he would guess them to be uncrossed. Instead of
which he called out "Crossed," and I was obliged to show them in that
wise, though, as before pointed out, I could easily have defeated him
by uncrossing them before revealing my hand. I mean to say, it is not
on the face of it a game one would care to play with casual
acquaintances, and I questioned even then in my own mind its
prevalence in the States. (As a matter of fact, I may say that in my
later life in the States I could find no trace of it, and now believe
it to have been a pure invention on the part of the Tuttle person. I
mean to say, I later became convinced that it was, properly speaking,
not a game at all.)
Again they were hugely delighted at my loss and rapped smartly on the
table for more drink, and now to my embarrassment I discovered that I
lacked the money to pay for this "round" as they would call it.
"Beg pardon, sir," said I discreetly to Cousin Egbert, "but if you
could let me have a bit of change, a half-crown or so----" To my
surprise he regarded me coldly and shook his head emphatically in the
"Not me," he said; "I've been had too often. You're a good smooth
talker and you may be all right, but I can't take a chance at my time
"What's he want now?" asked the other.
"The old story," said Cousin Egbert: "come off and left his purse on
the hatrack or out in the woodshed some place." This was the height of
absurdity, for I had said nothing of the sort.
"I was looking for something like that," said the other "I never make
a mistake in faces. You got a watch there haven't you?"
"Yes, sir," I said, and laid on the table my silver English
half-hunter with Albert. They both fell to examining this with
interest, and presently the Tuttle person spoke up excitedly:
"Well, darn my skin if he ain't got a genuine double Gazottz. How did
you come by this, my man?" he demanded sharply.
"It came from my brother-in-law, sir," I explained, "six years ago as
security for a trifling loan."
"He sounds honest enough," said the Tuttle person to Cousin Egbert.
"Yes, but maybe it ain't a regular double Gazottz," said the latter.
"The market is flooded with imitations."
"No, sir, I can't be fooled on them boys," insisted the other.
"Blindfold me and I could pick a double Gazottz out every time. I'm
going to take a chance on it, anyway." Whereupon the fellow pocketed
my watch and from his wallet passed me a note of the so-called French
money which I was astounded to observe was for the equivalent of four
pounds, or one hundred francs, as the French will have it. "I'll
advance that much on it," he said, "but don't ask for another cent
until I've had it thoroughly gone over by a plumber. It may have moths
It seemed to me that the chap was quite off his head, for the watch
was worth not more than ten shillings at the most, though what a
double Gazottz might be I could not guess. However, I saw it would be
wise to appear to accept the loan, and tendered the note in payment of
When I had secured the change I sought to intimate that we should be
leaving. I thought even the street fair would be better for us than
this rapid consumption of stimulants.
"I bet he'd go without buying," said Cousin Egbert.
"No, he wouldn't," said the other. "He knows what's customary in a
case like this. He's just a little embarrassed. Wait and see if I
ain't right." At which they both sat and stared at me in silence for
some moments until at last I ordered more drink, as I saw was expected
"He wants the cabman to have one with him," said Cousin Egbert,
whereat the other not only beckoned our cabby to join us, but called
to two labourers who were passing, and also induced the waiter who
served us to join in the "round."
"He seems to have a lot of tough friends," said Cousin Egbert as we
all drank, though he well knew I had extended none of these
"Acts like a drunken sailor soon as he gets a little money," said the
"Three rousing cheers!" replied Cousin Egbert, and to my great chagrin
he leaped to his feet, seized one of the navvies about the waist, and
there on the public pavement did a crude dance with him to the strain
of the "Marseillaise" from the steam orchestrion. Not only this, but
when the music had ceased he traded hats with the navvy, securing a
most shocking affair in place of the new one, and as they parted he
presented the fellow with the gloves and stick I had purchased for him
that very morning. As I stared aghast at this _faux pas_ the navvy,
with his new hat at an angle and twirling the stick, proceeded down the
street with mincing steps and exaggerated airs of gentility, to the
applause of the entire crowd, including Cousin Egbert.
"This ain't quite the hat I want," he said as he returned to us, "but
the day is young. I'll have other chances," and with the help of the
public-house window as a mirror he adjusted the unmentionable thing
with affectations of great nicety.
"He always was a dressy old scoundrel," remarked the Tuttle person.
And then, as the music came to us once more, he continued: "Say,
Sour-dough, let's go over to the rodeo--they got some likely looking
broncs over there."
Arm in arm, accordingly, they crossed the street and proceeded to the
carrousel, first warning the cabby and myself to stay by them lest
harm should come to us. What now ensued was perhaps their most
remarkable behaviour at the day. At the time I could account for it
only by the liquor they had consumed, but later experience in the
States convinced me that they were at times consciously spoofing. I
mean to say, it was quite too absurd--their seriously believing what
they seemed to believe.
The carrousel being at rest when we approached, they gravely examined
each one of the painted wooden effigies, looking into such of the
mouths as were open, and cautiously feeling the forelegs of the
different mounts, keeping up an elaborate pretence the while that the
beasts were real and that they were in danger of being kicked. One
absurdly painted horse they agreed would be the most difficult to
ride. Examining his mouth, they disputed as to his age, and called the
cabby to have his opinion of the thing's fetlocks, warning each other
to beware of his rearing. The cabby, who was doubtless also
intoxicated, made an equal pretence of the beast's realness, and
indulged, I gathered, in various criticisms of its legs at great
"I think he's right," remarked the Tuttle person when the cabby had
finished. "It's a bad case of splints. The leg would be blistered if I
"I wouldn't give him corral room," said Cousin Egbert. "He's a bad
actor. Look at his eye! Whoa! there--you would, would you!" Here he
made a pretence that the beast had seized him by the shoulder. "He's a
man-eater! What did I tell you? Keep him away!"
"I'll take that out of him," said the Tuttle person. "I'll show him
who's his master."
"You ain't never going to try to ride him, Jeff? Think of the wife and
"You know me, Sour-dough. No horse never stepped out from under me
yet. I'll not only ride him, but I'll put a silver dollar in each
stirrup and give you a thousand for each one I lose and a thousand for
every time I touch leather."
Cousin Egbert here began to plead tearfully:
"Don't do it, Jeff--come on around here. There's a big five-year-old
roan around here that will be safe as a church for you. Let that pinto
alone. They ought to be arrested for having him here."
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