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Let me say, in pa.s.sing, that as usual she did credit to the Celebrity's exceptional taste.
"Now," said he, "I have something to tell you two."
He asked for another cigarette, and I laid the box beside him.
"I suppose you reached Saville all right," I said, antic.i.p.ating.
"Seven at night," said he, "and so hungry that I ate what they call marble cake for supper, and a great many other things out of little side dishes, and nearly died of indigestion afterward. Then I took a train up to the main line. An express came along. 'Why not go West?' I asked myself, and I jumped aboard. It was another whim--you know I am subject to them. When I got to Victoria I wired for money and sailed to j.a.pan; and then I went on to India and through the Suez, taking things easy.
I fell in with some people I knew who were going where the spirit moved them, and I went along.
"Algiers, for one place, and whom do you think I saw there, in the lobby of a hotel?"
"Charles Wrexell Allen," cried Marian and I together.
The Celebrity looked surprised. "How did you know?" he demanded.
"Go on with your story," said Marian; "what did he do?"
"What did he do?" said the Celebrity; "why, the blackguard stepped up and shook me by the hand, and asked after my health, and wanted to know whether I were married yet. He was so beastly familiar that I took out my gla.s.s, and I got him into a cafe for fear some one would see me with him. 'My dear fellow,' said he, 'you did me the turn of my life.--How can I ever repay you?' 'Hang your impudence,' said I, but I wanted to hear what he had to say. 'Don't lose your temper, old chap,' he laughed; 'you took a few liberties with my name, and there was no good reason why I shouldn't take some with yours. Was there? When I think of it, the thing was most decidedly convenient; it was the hand of Providence.'
'You took liberties with my name,' I cried. With that he coolly called to the waiter to fill our gla.s.ses. 'Now,' said he, 'I've got a story for you. Do you remember the cotillon, or whatever it was, that Cooke gave?
Well, that was all in the Chicago papers, and the "Miles Standish" agent there saw it, and he knew pretty well that I wasn't West. So he sent me the papers, just for fun. You may imagine my surprise when I read that I had been leading a dance out at Mohair, or some such barbarous place in the northwest. I looked it up on the map (Asquith, I mean), and then I began to think. I wondered who in the devil it might be who had taken my name and occupation, and all that. You see, I had just relieved the company of a little money, and it hit me like a clap of thunder one day that the idiot was you. But I couldn't be sure. And as long as I had to get out very soon anyway, I concluded to go to Mohair and make certain, and then pile things off on you if you happened to be the man.'"
At this point Marian and I were seized with laughter, in which the Celebrity himself joined. Presently he continued:
"'So I went,' said Allen. 'I provided myself with two disguises, as a careful man should, but by the time I reached that outlandish hole, Asquith, the little thing I was mixed up in burst prematurely, and the papers were full of it that morning. The whole place was out with sticks, so to speak, hunting for you. They told me the published description hit you to a dot, all except the scar, and they quarrelled about that. I posed as the promoter of resort syndicates, and I hired the Scimitar and sailed over to Bear Island; and I didn't have a bad time that afternoon, only Cooke insisted on making remarks about my whiskers, and I was in mortal fear lest he might accidentally pull one off. He came cursed near it. By the way, he's the very deuce of a man, isn't he? I knew he took me for a detective, so I played the part. And in the night that a.s.s of a state senator nearly gave me pneumonia by getting me out in the air to tell me they had hid you in a cave. So I sat up all night, and followed the relief party in the morning, and you nearly disfigured me for life when you threw that bottle into the woods.
Then I went back to camp, and left so fast that I forgot my extra pair of red whiskers. I had two of each disguise, you know, so I didn't miss them.
"'I guess,' Mr. Allen went on, gleefully, 'that I got off about as cleanly as any criminal ever did, thanks to you. If we'd fixed the thing up between us it couldn't have been any neater, could it? Because I went straight to Far Harbor and got you into a peck of trouble, right away, and then slipped quietly into Canada, and put on the outfit of a travelling salesman. And right here another bright idea struck me. Why not carry the thing farther? I knew that you had advertised a trip to Europe (why, the Lord only knows), so I went East and sailed for England on the Canadian Line. And let me thank you for a little sport I had in a quiet way as the author of The Sybarites. I think I astonished some of your friends, old boy.'"
The Celebrity lighted another cigarette.
"So if it hadn't been for me," he said, "the 'Miles Standish Bicycle Company' wouldn't have gone to the wall. Can they sentence me for a.s.sisting Allen to get away, Crocker? If they can, I believe I shall stay over here."
"I think you are safe," said I. "But didn't Allen tell you any more?"
"No. A man he used to know came into the cafe, and Allen got out of the back door. And I never saw him again."
"I believe I can tell you a little more," said Marian.
The Celebrity is still writing books of a high moral tone and unapproachable principle, and his popularity is undiminished. I have not heard, however, that he has given way to any more whims.
PG EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A man's character often give the lie to his tongue A lie has short legs Appearance of a professional pallbearer Architects should be driven and not followed Consequential or inconsequential irrespective of their size Deal with a fool according to his folly Impervious to hints, and would not take no for an answer Old enough to know better, and too old to be taught That abominable word "like"