The Pandemonium of Animals
The Pandemonium of Animals
MY nephew's parents constitute one of my problems. The father is a successful, well-intentioned, stodgy sort of man who hasn't had a new idea since we left college. Stereotyped. No one would ever take him for a brother of mine. As to the lady the fellow married, she was once a woman in a thousand: under the influence of her husband she is now turning mummy.
These two worthy people are bringing up my nephew the best they know how, I admit, but they are making him stupidly conventional, they are making him prosaic. To prevent this I stand ready to take—yes, and to get into—any amount of trouble. I don't object, mark you, to prosaic folk. I don't object to vegetables, either. I simply do not wish my only nephew to grow up a vegetable.
When I went to the house after lunch to-day, to take him out walking, I found his father preparing to take him out himself. "Don't you bother, Niblo," I urged; "let me have him." (That's my brother's name, Niblo. Niblo Sims. Mine is John Talbot Sims.)
He looked me over doubtfully. "Oh, thank you," he responded, "I may as well attend to it. I'm not sure I care about having you take Matthew out so much. You see, you are one of these erratic chaps, Talbot—nobody would suppose you were my brother—and I'm always afraid you will do something that will get us in a mess."
Poor Niblo calls anything erratic an inch from the rut. "It is no pleasure to me to take a child walking," I reminded him. "My only feeling is that Matthew needs the change from his home life. It's dull for him here. It depresses him. I do not wish my nephew to be as spiritless as a wet piece of toast."
When Matthew's father and I don't agree on some subject—home, for instance—he gets vexed. He got vexed on this occasion, instantly, and we were soon exchanging cold truths, quite like brothers, when a firm, mellow voice over the banisters interrupted us, saying: "Oh, tut-tut-tut, what a babel! Is that you again, Teapot?"
"It is," I owned. Teapot, by the way, is a name of my nephew's for me. Why his mother should feel entitled to use it—
"What is the matter this time?" went on Hattie. We started to tell her.
"I can't hear the words if you both harangue at once," she complained. "It is a pity you two are so alike." We scowled at each other. "One of you please tell me what's the matter, and one of you take Matthew for a walk."
Each of us seized a hat and looked for my nephew. He had disappeared. "Master Matthew went out by himself, sir," the maid whispered to Niblo. The next moment we had struggled, simultaneously but in silence, through the doorway, and bumped hotly down the steps. At the corner we parted. No Matthew was in sight, but we knew where to look. Just a little way from Niblo's is a park, with a lake to sail boats in, a menagerie, and other attractions. The only question was, which attraction?
The luck was with Niblo. After doing the lake and turning southward, I spied his thin figure by the camel's cage, holding my nephew by the hand and chatting with a blue-coated camel-guard or game-keeper—one of those park attendants. Observing that Matthew was wriggling, I hung back out of sight to wait developments. Before long he wriggled loose. He stood quietly near his father for a little—rather crafty of him, that was—then, as the conversation with the camel-guard continued, he slipped noiselessly off toward the lion house. I made for the placed by a detour.
It was a close shave; for as I entered the building at the far side I saw Niblo making for the other.
"Hallo, you here, Matthew?" I called, carelessly; "don't let's stay in the park to-day. Let's go down to Biddulph's and buy a toy. No, not that door—the other way." And I hurried him out at the rear and cut across a lawn.
He had not seemed overpleased to have me join him, but at the word toy he grew more animated, and he was soon pointing out to me, approvingly, one of those imitation tree-stumps that serve as receptacles for rubbish, which I hate. "Do you consider it artistic, sir?" said I. He did. "You have devilish rum ideas of art, then," I ejaculated. He grinned in my face. "And art aside," I continued, "they poison my mind. This park is an artificial place at best; it's improbable-looking; but I try to believe it is genuine—I try hard. I tell myself, 'It's all real. Those objects before me are God's own trees and rocks, and yonder dingy little blotches are God's own grass.' Then I come upon a stump. My heart sinks. I mutter stoutly to myself, 'This is God's own stump.' I strike it with my cane. It is tin. Poof! Presto! All my hard-won beliefs fly away—they evaporate. For all I know, every tree and rock in sight may be tin. See those flowers over there? They're tin, too. And there's a tin attendant with his back to us, standing by that theatric tin bush."
"He isn't tin, Teapot," said my nephew.
"A difference of opinion?" I inquired. "Kindly take my cane and hit his legs with it. I predict that the fellow will sound as hollow as a kettle."
My nephew demurred. "Buck up," I said; "I dare you." I didn't really wish him to hit the man, of course—but just to have enough ginger to be ready to. I do like to see a boy show some dash.
Poor Matthew! There was small sign of dash in the way he shambled off with my cane, looking back each few steps. I made mettlesome gestures. I puffed out my chest and cocked my head at him. With one last wan look at me he raised the cane and flapped it weakly against the blue-coated man's legs.
The man turned in some surprise. We were all three surprised, for that matter. He was at first half inclined to smile at his tiny antagonist, but Matthew must needs go and pipe up, "Teapot said you were tin! He said you were tin!" and the smile slowly vanished. My smile vanished, too, as I realized that he was the very game-keeper, the camel-man, that my brother had been talking to.
"A mistake has been made," I explained, giving Matthew a jerk. "Please accept my assurance that we regret it."
His face was unresponsive. "Who said I was tin?" he asked, unpleasantly.
"I. It was I. I was misled by the tree-stump," I replied. "We were speaking of the tin tree-stump—that tree-stump yonder." I repressed a desire to take hold of his head and twist it toward it, and presently he turned and gazed, uncomprehendingly, at the rubbish receptacle.
"What about it?" he croaked.
"Oh, nothing, nothing, only when we found the stump was tin, we thought you were. We thought you were a statue," I continued, grandly; "the work of the same artist."
"That stump ain't tin," he stated.
I shrugged my shoulders. "He tells us that out of loyalty," I remarked to my nephew. "These artificial objects must stand by one another."
"There's not a tin stump in this park," he rumbled on. "All earthenware. They make 'em now in the works by the upper cross-cut." His glance wandered to Matthew. "That boy has the look, of one that was lost here just now. By a party in a high hat, as it might be yourself, only lean where you're fat he was, and a hairier face on him."
I am not fat. A hundred and seventy or eighty pounds for a fellow of my height isn't fat. There was no point, however, in going into this with the keeper. "Very distressing, I am sure," I answered. "If I see a lost boy I'll let you know. Come, Matthew." We walked away.
"That lost boy's name was Matthew," I heard him call.
I looked back at him, nodding brightly. " All right," I promised, "I'll be sure to remember if I see him."
Had he not been the slow-witted kind, he'd have tried to detain us, I saw that. But we didn't give him time.
In less than ten minutes we were well out of the park, entering that narrow, dirty street that leads to the car-line; and in two minutes more we'd found the toy-shop.
Matthew said, unimaginatively, that he wanted a baseball. A young salesman limped forward. "I wish to buy a toy for a commonplace child," I told him; "the son of kind but jog-trot parents. What can you suggest?"
"Oh, yes. Yes, sir. Er—one of these little whips with whistles in 'em?"
"Certainly not. Bah!"
"Not a whip, sir? Yes, sir. Er—a nice rubber ball, perhaps?"
"No! not a ball. You get the wrong idea. I wish to counteract, not cater to, his failings. Take a look at him, please. I want something to wake up the little beast."
"Oh, very true," he rejoined. "Yes, sir." He rubbed the place where his chin would have been if he'd had one, and fixed his watery eyes on my feet, as though he were seeking to read their thoughts. "Yes indeed, sir. A—er—ah—" His voice trailed off into a cough. "A Noah's ark, sir?"
"A Noah's grandmother!" I said, exasperatedly. "Show me your stock. Show me any article you've only one of; that's the best way."
He reflected further. "There's a—there's something in the back room we've only one of," he snuffled, rallying a little. "A Mad Zoo, I think they call it."
"Ha!" I grunted. "That sounds sufficiently atrocious. Wrap it up. I'll take it."
The salesman said that of course I would like to see it first. He also remarked that I'd better let him send it home. Having taken a dislike to the man, I declined both suggestions. How I did wish I hadn't when he brought out the package! It was about the size of a chair, and looked very expensive. I ordered it charged to Niblo, who is better off than I am. He was sorry, they had no charge accounts. I then asked the price. Fifteen dollars. His tone was so fawning, so repulsive, that, although I hate haggling, I put on an appearance of indignation and walked out of the shop.
He reduced it to fourteen dollars. I walked out again. He ran after me, and made it thirteen-fifty.
"Do you think I am going to walk indignantly out of this shop for only fifty cents a time?" I asked, sarcastically. "Just to bring you ill luck, I'll give you thirteen, which is twelve dollars more than I had planned to spend." He accepted it—he would, I felt, have accepted less—and I left the shop for the third time, carrying the Mad Zoo in both arms.
It was a heavy toy, and awkward to carry. If I held it in front of me, I found myself running into people; if I swung it from one arm, people ran into me; and either way the people lost their temper. I tried taking one end of it and letting Matthew take the other. That didn't work either. "The man said it would go on wheels," Matthew panted, "if we took it out of the box." It seemed a good idea. We were at the park entrance again. We sat down and unwrapped it.
It was built like a child's express wagon, only shorter and lower, more like a little platform than a wagon. On this platform, which was gold-and-blue in color, were twelve pink metal animals in distorted attitudes, holding drums and trumpets in their hoofs. "Le Pandémonium des Animaux," said the label, and the directions followed, in three languages, one of which was toy-shop English. "Imbed longue handell AX in riverse of Stage B, and propell attentively in the forwarde direction." As my nephew propelled attentively, music sounded from inside of it, a rudimentary type of music mixed with poundings and hoots, and the animals bobbed back and forth, brandishing their instruments. I began to feel pleased. It was a little barbaric perhaps, but just right for Matthew. "Wheel that around the park once a day," I advised him, "and you'll be a different boy altogether. There's a toy will bring some color into your life."
My nephew, who has a limited taste for color and none for adventure, was looking solemn. People were staring at the toy, boys and idlers were following us. He asked me to hold it a minute while he got out his handkerchief. I took the handle. My nephew slipped behind me and ran off.
Not being able to see what he was up to, through the crowd, I waited, thinking at first he would return. Little by little it came to me that he was not going to return, that he had funked it, and that I should have to wheel that toy home alone. Hoping the spectators would disperse, I sat down on a bench. They did not disperse, they augmented, and so did their disrespectful questions. I marched off, propelling the Pandemonium.
Ahead of me capered half a dozen outcasts who should have been selling papers somewhere and giving the money to their old mothers. Behind me, nurses and children, bundly old women, yapping dogs; all most unpleasant. The situation was intolerable. Suddenly it occurred to me, why keep the imbecile toy? Why, indeed? I offered it immediately to the nearest outcast. Too abruptly, I suppose, for he shrank back. I took it to be his shyness; the crowd, his morals. "That's right, Denny," some one yelled; "don't yer touch it." Suspicions of me awakened. The beggars must have believed it was stolen goods. I was standing there, not taking this in, and angrily presenting the toy to a stupefied old woman, when that same keeper reappeared and clapped his hand on my shoulder.
I cannot remember the exchange of remarks that ensued. All I know is that the keeper began by saying I was creating a disturbance and must move on, and that I, like an ass, attempted to explain the situation. The crowd joined in; the explanation became a chorus; we were soon all shouting at him, he at us; and the feeling grew general that there was crime in the air, and that I was probably the criminal. I found myself sharing this feeling, in my disconcerted state, and when the man spoke of taking me and the Pandemonium to the station-house I was not unprepared for it. I flusteredly handed him a card.
" 'Acme Toy Shop,'" he read. "'Imbed longue handell AX in riverse of Stage B.' What's this for? It's a mighty queer feller you are, with your cards and your disturbances, and your telling an honest man he's made of tin. Where's that boy you had with you?"
I didn't know.
"Oh, you don't, don't yer? Don't tell that to me, and you a kidnapper."
"See here," I exclaimed, "you be careful what you say. You are not a policeman, remember; you're a common, ordinary citizen, like anybody else."
"I am not, then. I am no citizen at all, but a keeper, a regular keeper; it's a park official I am—"
"An official? You're a camel-nursemaid, man—you herd apes, valet parrots—" It was loutish of me to bandy epithets, but that is what I did.
"And what are you?" he retorted, pointing to the toy. "Ain't it you who are the zoo-man of us all with a menagerie like that?"
Some one laughed. The situation grew less tense, the crowd less hostile. I had time to look about me. In the driveway stood a motor, chug-chugging, with a begoggled face in the tonneau surveying the scene we presented with quiet pleasure. A red beard—I knew that red beard! Kitteridge! "Here!" I cried, joyfully—" here's a friend of mine. He'll vouch for me. Ask him whether I'm a kidnapper." I shoved the keeper forward.
He began putting one or two questions. The red beard grew serious. "Who? I?" came the relentless answer. "Oh, no; he's made a mistake. Never saw him in my life." I tasted the bitterness of being a club joker's victim. My world grew dark again—darker than before.
The crowd had surged toward the car to hear this colloquy, leaving me on the edge of it, at the entrance of a winding arbor that opened on the drive. It spelled freedom! Escape! On the impulse of the moment, I suddenly dropped the toy and ran off through the arbor.
There was a momentary pause—cries of "Hey!"—then a tumult. What with the confusion and jostling, I must have had quite a lead before they started. But I am not the runner I was a few years ago: I knew they would overtake me. Rounding a turn that concealed me a moment from the mob, I saw a break in the railing, squeezed through, pushed between some rustling bushes, and sprinted back to the drive. Kitteridge's car was just starting. I grabbed and kneeled upon the step, and we were off.
A whistle blew faintly from the arbor, now a quarter-mile behind us. I raised myself a little and leaned forward.
"Hurry up!" I called to the chauffeur.
"Stop!" bawled Kitteridge, seeing me for the first time apparently. "Stop the car!"
"Oh, don't be an ass, Ned," I remonstrated. "You carry it too far."
The car slowed down. "Put him off," commanded Kitteridge. I noticed that he said it without stuttering. Kitteridge always stutters. Inspecting him more closely, I realized that this wasn't Kitteridge at all, despite the red beard and glasses. My luck.
"We have made a mistake, I see, sir," I wearily began. He paid no attention.
"Now, William," he said to the chauffeur, who was undulating out of his seat.
"Yessir," answered William, laid his hands against my chest, and shot me off backward, sprawling flat in the roadway.
Aside from the sense of concussion, I really almost welcomed the experience. It felt restful, that I was tempted to lie where I had fallen, so slack and exhausted did I feel with my unusual exertions. It was with a merely conventional ferocity that I shook my fist at the car as it moved away. Then, in the distance, I heard again the keeper's whistle.
Instantly I struggled to my feet, sharp-eyed and taut. Other whistles sounded down the road the motor had gone. My knees were trembling. "How ridiculous!" I told myself. "All this is nothing"; only I couldn't feel as though it were nothing. I made swiftly for the park gate nearest Niblo's, rehearsing what I meant to say—and do—to that nephew.
Cries sounded behind me. My pursuers! Through the gate and up the avenue I shot. The keeper was well to the rear, but two accursed ragamuffins he had with him were overhauling me fast. I flung silver on the sidewalk to delay them, turned my corner, and sprang dizzily at Niblo's front door. As luck would have it, my nephew was just coming out. As luck would also have it, being terrified at my appearance, he decided to jump back in and shut the door in my face.
I beat passionately upon the panels.
"Obliteration!" I shouted, through the keyhole.
"B. F.? B. F.?" came his treble.
"Yes, yes, yes," I puffed, wildly, and the rascal let me in.
With my nephew and myself, I should explain, emergency conversations are in code: "B. F.," of course, is "bona fides," and "obliteration" means "let bygones be bygones"; it meant in this case I was debarred from complaining about the toy.
I peered cautiously through the front window. There was the keeper, with one ragamuffin—apparently they had but just come around the corner. So! They would guess I was somewhere in the block, but they hadn't seen which house. I mopped my forehead.
"Are your father and mother in?" I asked. They were not. "Tell the maid I'm not, either," I directed, shoving him out in the hall. "On second thoughts," I added, dragging him back, "don't tell her anything. Take a chair."
"Shall we prep a lesson, Teapot?" he proposed, not daring to ask about the toy. There was a map of Australia, it seemed, and the two sums in arithmetic.
"'A grocer who sold 19 apples at 2¾ cents an apple,'" I read. "I will do these. I'll do them while you're up-stairs. Don't interrupt, sir. You remember that keeper we saw in the park this afternoon? Well, he is waiting in the street, keeping an eye on all the houses. The man's dangerous. Hide up-stairs; watch him; don't let him see you. He'll get tired soon and go. When he does, come and tell me."
"Oh, jiminy! Would he 'rest you if he found you, Teapot?"
"Arrest me? Was it I who beat him?"
Matthew turned a sort of pasty color. "You told me to," he wailed.
"Hush! he will hear you," I said. "'Obliteration,' remember. Run, run."
Matthew fled. I took up the telephone. It had occurred to me that even if the keeper didn't go, I had better decamp: Niblo might come home and get talking with him. In order to run the blockade, though, I needed a motor. A taxi wouldn't do—the driver might be stupid or get frightened. I called up the club. E. K. White? He was out. Mr. Levellier? Out, too. Mr. Goadby? Goadby was there, but, after being waked up and brought to the instrument, said no, he hadn't his motor with him. He further said, rather crossly, no, he could not go and get it, adding (and I think he lied) that it was being repaired. "I must find some one with a motor," I explained. Well, Kitteridge was there. And presently Kitteridge's voice was stammering, why yes, indeed, old m-man, he would be gug-gug-glad to call and g-get me; yes, he'd come at once.
Somewhat relieved in mind, I stole back to the library. There were cigarettes on the mantel. I lit one and sat down with Matthew's sums and a large sheet of blank paper that he had labeled Australia. Australia, I seemed to remember, was a chunky continent, with a solid, indigestible-looking outline. I began to sketch something indigestible.
The door-bell rang. Now what? I slid nervously behind the sofa and crouched on the rug. Was it the keeper? No, women were entering: my nephew's mother and some stranger. I started to rise but it was too late. However, they could hardly be meaning to stay long in the library. They sat down—Hattie on the sofa, the visitor in a chair opposite—continuing a conversation about somebody's children. The visitor's name was Angelica. Where had I heard—oh, yes, Niblo and Hattie had been speaking of her only a few days before, and when Hattie had said, "Do you think she and Teapot would enjoy each other?" my brother had rejoined, "Indeed, she wouldn't." She had an exquisite voice. I peered around the corner—by George, a dazzler! I ducked back. "Oh, Hattie," she gasped, "I think I saw something moving over there on the rug."
Hattie got up, replying, "I certainly smell something, my dear, and I'm afraid it's a cigarette. Oh! Oh, my heavens! There's a man here! Who—why, it's you again, Teapot. What are you doing behind the sofa?"
With the simple dignity of truth I replied I was doing two sums in arithmetic and a map of Australia.
"Behind the sofa?"
"It's as quiet a place as any."
"Well, do get up now, please." I rose. "Whom are you doing these things for?"
She knew perfectly well, naturally, and she meant to score me for it. She wants nobody but herself to help my nephew.
"I am doing the two sums for a Burmese geologist," I ventured. "A charming and intelligent man I met at the club who takes a great interest in"—(I consulted the paper)—"the cost of apples. And the map of Australia," I proceeded, seeing that she didn't mean to introduce me to her guest, "I am doing for Angelica." I held it out to her with a bow.
The lovely stranger's smile of amusement stiffened for an instant, then returned. "Thank you so much," she replied, collectedly.
"Upon my word," began Hattie, becoming confused; "I didn't know you took an interest in Angelica,—Australia. I mean," she continued, getting back to the point, "I didn't know that you two ever knew each other."
"Don't be prosy, dear Hattie," I begged; "do rise to—"
"Why, Teapot! What is the matter with your coat?" she questioned. It hadn't been brushed, I reflected, since I'd lain in the roadway. I blamed the rug, thus unintentionally outraging Hattie's instincts as a housewife.
Seeing me in deep water, the Angelica person came to my rescue. "Hattie," she petitioned, "do tell me why you call the odd creature Teapot."
"I prefer to explain that," I said, hastily. "In early youth little Matthew could not quite catch my real name, owing doubtless to the hoarse and indistinct utterance of it by his parents, and consequently—"
"And consequently," broke in Hattie, "noting that your shape in those days was as round as—"
The door flew open with a bang and Matthew himself entered. "He's gone, Teapot!" he cried. "A man with a red beard came here in a motor, and the keeper, he looked at him and said, 'Oh, here you are, are you?' and then he 'rested him, and they fought and fought, and now they've gone."
"What is the boy talking about?" asked Hattie.
I perceived all too clearly he was talking about good old Kitteridge. Good old Kitteridge had come to get me, and the keeper had taken him to be the motorist I had gone off with in the park. I had forgotten the resemblance.
"One of our little make-believes," I grimaced to Hattie, and, lifting Matthew in my arms, I ran out in the hall. "Tell me that again," I whispered; "you say they fought?"
"The man with the red beard, he couldn't seem to speak," explained my nephew. Naturally Kitteridge couldn't speak: he stutters badly enough when he's perfectly calm. "And he tried to ring our door-bell, and the keeper he seized him, and pretty soon they was pounding each other hard's they could. And finally the man with the beard said the keeper was a maniac and he would take him to the police-station, and the keeper he said, 'Come on, that's where I'm taking you'; and so they went, very fast, and I followed them for two blocks, and they were hanging on to each other tight as wax, and taking up all the street."
Ned Kitteridge arrested! That did make the situation difficult. Naturally I couldn't leave him in the lurch, yet if I went to the station to get him off I'd be arrested too. We'd have no great trouble being released, of course, only the whole thing might get into the papers, and that would prejudice Niblo more than ever. Perhaps I could telephone about it. In real perturbation of mind I went back to the library, took the dictionary, and, carefully looking up 'police-station,' I read the definition twice over before realizing that the dictionary was not the place to find a telephone number. Hattie and Angelica were watching me. "Hum—well, well, well," I muttered, vaguely, with the air of one who had unearthed weighty facts, and was about to ask for the directory when the telephone rang. I retired to answer it.
"Oh, is that you, Talbot?" said Niblo's voice. "I have some very bad news; you must break it to Hattie. You have brought serious trouble on us by interfering with me this afternoon, Talbot. Hallo? Do you hear me? I say I discovered Matthew in the park, soon after I left you, but he slipped away from me again, and now I can't find him. I can't find him anywhere. I fear he has been kidnapped."
"Nonsense," I began, "he—"
"Oh, of course, you take that attitude, knowing it is all your fault," he spluttered.
"Don't let us quarrel over the telephone," he said, recovering himself. "Even if he hasn't been kidnapped, there's the devil to pay here. You see, after searching everywhere, and going to four of his friends' homes, I came here to report the case again, and—"
"Here to the police-station. And I find they have already made two arrests. One is Ned Ktteridge—he has just been brought in—all mussed up; the other man—hallo?—I say, the other man looks something like him, only more battered. They are each charged with what's-its-name—assault—and resisting arrest, and they're supposed to be accomplices of the kidnapper. I knew Kitteridge drank, but I little thought he could descend to this."
"But poor Ned's as innocent as a babe, Niblo. Let me speak, let me speak!"
"What do you say? I can't hear you very well. They are taking the man who looks like Ned to a cell and he is yelling about it quite a lot. And Ned is stuttering like everything to the lieutenant. He keeps writing the words 'Not guilty' on a pad he's got, and sticking it under people's noses."
"Of course he's not guilty," I expostulated.
"That remains to be seen, Talbot. He was very much upset to find me acting as the complainant—that looks suspicious, doesn't it? He's really a pitiful sight, he seems so dazed and sick. Just now they—hallo?—they are confronting him with a toy they've got here—a horrible thing on wheels—a regular monstrosity. Kitteridge seems to be getting pretty frantic about it."
"Niblo, will you listen to me?" I roared. "Matthew's here, he's in the next room. Understand? Matthew's—here—in—the—sitting-room. R, double O, M, room, house, residence, domicile, home, your own home, can't you hear? I don't care what the maid told you! No, of course there's been no kidnapping. Yes, come on up. Only straighten things out down there first."
I rang off, and found Matthew at my elbow. "Your father is coming home," I said. "You ran away from him, you know. I shall say nothing to him about the toy; I sha'n't even say we met each other," I added, generously;" but I strongly advise you to be ill until he feels better." He hurried off to be ill.
Now for Hattie. She was waiting for me, alone, in the library. "Ah, dear me, dear me," I sighed; "poor Niblo. That call was from Niblo, Hattie. As a direct result of his interfering with me and trying to take Matthew out himself to-day he has thrown the whole park into confusion, and caused the arrest of two men. I hope this will be a lesson to you, Hattie. I am the only fit person to go out with my nephew."
"But, good gracious, why did he have two men arrested?"
"Because he lost Matthew—lost my nephew—mislaid him as he would an old umbrella—and, after losing Matthew, he lost his head. The men were innocent. One of them actually a friend of mine." My voice shook a little. I turned away.
"Oh, Teapot, I am so sorry! I know Niblo gets excited, sometimes—"
"Too much so, Hattie. He needs to be protected from himself. For his own sake," I added, darkly.
She grew alarmed. "Why, what do you mean? Where is he, Teapot?"
"I had hoped you wouldn't ask me that," I moaned, with relish. "I don't know what explanation he'll invent, my dear, but he's in the police-station."
"Now, now, now, don't be frightened. I have straightened things out. Never mind how, but everything's all right now, Hattie. He'll be home before long, safe and sound, and if you can keep him from talking I am sure there'll be no scandal."
"But I don't understand!" she cried, and began pouring out questions.
There was some one at the door. It was the lovely stranger again; she had forgotten her purse.
"Hattie, I really must go," I said; "and while I'm about it, I should like to see Angelica home."
The stranger reddened, but was game. "How nice of you, Mr. Teapot," I heard her flutter—and it gave me a flush of pleasure, that "Mr. Teapot."
Hattie was in rather a flutter, too. Flutters make her affectionate. "I am hoping this will draw you and Niblo closer together, dear," she whispered; "won't you stay and let him thank you?"
"Oh no, no," I protested. "I don't wish any thanks."
"You never do," she said, her eyes swimming; "but, at least, you must let me say how grateful I am. You dear old Teapot! I don't know what we should ever do without you."
I waved my hand to her, and walked off down the street with Angelica. "I don't know what they'd do, either," I told her, confidentially.