Rogues company

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ROGUES&COMPANY BY IDAA R WYLIE AUTHOROF “CHILDRENOFSTORM,”“TOWARDSMORNING,”ETC NEWYORK JOHNLANECOMPANY MCMXXI COPYRIGHT,1921,BYINTERNATIONALMAGAZINECOMPANY COPYRIGHT,1921,BYJOHNLANECOMPANY PressofJ J Little&IvesCompanyNewYork,U S A ROGUES&COMPANY CHAPTERI ITwasaverycuriousanddecidedlyuncomfortablefeeling,andthoughhehada dimideathathehadfeltitsomewherebefore,hecouldremembernothingmore definiteaboutit Asamatteroffactitwasinitselfnothingsoveryunusualmost peopleexperiencethesamesensationsonwakingupatdeadofnightinstrange quarters Onsuchoccasionsthevictimgrowshotandfeverishintheendeavour tolocatethedoorandwindow;hecannotrememberwhoheis,whereheisor howhegotthere;hefeelspainfullylostandhelpless Then,gradually,his facultiesrubtheireyesandarrangethemselves,andthefactthatheisJones,that heisspendingtheweek-endwiththeSmiths,andthattheuncannyapartmentis nothingmoreterriblethantheirbestsparebed-room,dawnsonhimwith comfortingcompleteness,andheturnsoverandresumeshisinterrupted slumbers Butinthiscasetheexperiencewaslesspleasantinitsdevelopmentand considerablymoreoriginal Themorewide-awakehegrewthelessheknew abouthimself Themorehesaidtohimself,“Mydearfellow,pullyourself togetherit’sonlyadream,”themoreobviousdiditbecomethathewassitting onthedoorstepofanunknownhouseinanunknownstreet,withachinglimbs andanachinghead Nowsuchacombinationofcircumstancesisnotaltogether unusualeveninthebestsociety,andhesatandpatientlywaitedforan illuminatingmemory Butnonecame Ifhehad,asheatfirstsupposed,supped notwiselybuttoowell,wherehadhesuppedandwithwhom?Therewasno answertothisnaturalquestion Heshookhimself “Oh,comenow!”hesaidaloud “Surelyyouknowyourownname?” Againnoanswer Evidentlyithadbeenabigbusiness Whenamanhastoresort tohisownvisitingcardtofindoutwhoheisonemaybeforgivenforsupposing thatthisself-forgetfulnessissomethinglessthanpurealtruism Themanonthe doorstepresignedhimselftonecessityandputhishandinhistrouserpocket Nothing Theothertrouserpocketwasalsoemptylikewisethewaistcoatpocket Thiswasdisconcerting Whatwasstillmoredisconcertingwastheholeinthe kneeofhistrousersasrevealedbythelightofastreet-lamp,andhethereupon madethediscoverythatfarfrombeingin evening-dress,ashiscondition suggested,heworeachecksuitofvulgartypeandancientlineage,andthathe wascufflessandcollarless Allthiswasverysurprisingandpainful He addressedhimselfwithseverity “Really,mydearfellow,thiswon’tdocan’tsitouthereallnight,youknownot done—” AtthisjunctureConstableX oftheD Divisionloomeduponthehorizon ConstableX carriedalanternandwasevidentlyonthelookoutforburglarsand othermiscreants,forhedidnotnoticethemanonthedoorstepuntilhehad stumbledoverhislegs WhattheConstablesaidisirrelevant Themanonthe doorstepapologisedprofusely “I’msureI’mextremelysorry,”hesaid Hisownpromptpolitenessledhimat oncetotheconclusionthathisstation’inlifemustbesomethingbetweenashopwalkerandagentleman,butthisopinionwasapparentlynotsharedbyhis victim ConstableX flashedhislanternontothedoorstepandgaveventtoa snortofmingledtriumphandindignation “Atitagain!Eh?”hesaid “Gotyouthistime,haveI?” “Itlookslikeit,”hisprisoneradmitted “Wereyoulookingforme?” “Nowthen,noneofyourtongue,youngfellow!Wotd’yermean?” “Imean,”saidthemanonthedoorstepcourteously,“thatitwouldbeagreat relieftometoknowthatsomeonewaslookingforme—evenapoliceman The factis,youknowI’mlost.” “Oh,soyou’relost,areyou?”TheConstablelaughedwiththerudenesswhichis bornofashatteredtrustinhumannature “Sortoflostdog,eh?” “ThedesignationwilldountilIfindabetterone,”returnedtheother,wearily “ButIdoubtifeventheDog’sHomewilltakemein WhatamItodo?” “Moveon!”saidtheConstable,fromsheerforceofhabit “ButIcan’tkeepon‘movingon’indefinitely.” TheConstablescratchedhishead “You’dbettercomealongwithme,”hesaid “MightIaskwhither?” “Lock-up,”wasthelaconicanswer “ButIhaven’tdoneanything.” “Can’tbesosureofthatandanyhow,you’resittingonsomeoneelse’s doorstep.” “Youdon’tknowthatitissomeoneelse’sdoorstep Itmightbemine.” “Itmightbutitdon’tlooklikeit.” “Youinfer,”hiscaptivesuggested,“thatIdonotgiveyoutheimpressionof beingalandedproprietor?” “Can’tsayasyoudo,”ConstableX admittedfrankly “Yougivesmethe impressionofbeingaverycommonsortofnight-bird.” Themanonthedoorstepshookhishead “Youjudgetoohastily,”heprotested “IfIam,asyousuggest,anight-bird,I havenonethelessthefeelingthatImayturnouttobeoneofnature’s gentlemen Now,lookhere!”Herosestifflyandpainfullyandconductedthe doubtingConstabletothelamp “Whatdoyoumakeofthat!”heenquired triumphantly Heextendedhistwohands ConstableX consideredthemwithhis headcockedastutelyononeside “Cleanish,”hesaid “Uncommoncleanish.” “Sergeant,youareamanofperception Now,glanceoverme Donotlet yourselfbeledastraybythevulgarityofmycostume Considermyface,my mannerandmyspeech Whatdoyouthinkofme?” “Well,youmightbeasortofgent,”ConstableX admitted “Inspector—”theyoungmanbegan “Notyet,sir—”ConstableX protestedwithatouchofcoyness “Nevermind,yououghttobeaninspector,evenifyouaren’t Iwasjudgingyou asyoujudgedmebydeserts IfeelthatIoughttobeagentleman,I’msureyou oughttobeaninspector ButthetroublewithmeisthatIdon’tknowwhoor whatIam.” “Drunk,”suggestedtheinspectorinembryo,consolingly “ImayhavebeeninthepastbutIamcertainlysobernow.” “Yes,youtalksclearenough Gotawishingcardonyou?” “IfIhad,thematterwouldbesimplified Mypocketsareasemptyasmyhead.” TheConstable’ssmilewasunflattering “Can’tyourememberanythink?”heappealed “Notathing I’vebeentryingforthelasthalf-hour What’stobedone?Ican’t stayonthestreetsallnightandasfarasIknowIhaven’tanyclaimonany charitableinstitution.” ConstableX rubbedhischin “It’sacaseoflostmemory,”heannouncedsolemnly “I’ve‘eardofitbefore I knewofanoldladywhowanderedover‘alfLondonbeforetheyfoundoutthat shewasaduchess’Itwasabigthingforthemanwhofound‘er.” “NothinglikesobigasitwouldbeforyouifyoufoundIwasaduke,” interposedthelostonegenerously “IfIamadukesolventofcourseIshallraise youtoapositionofaffluency IswearitbymyancestorssupposingIhaveany.” ConstableX touchedhishelmet “Thankyou,sir,”hesaidwithconsiderablymorerespect “It’sacaseforthe doctorsthat’swotitis,”hewentonthoughtfully,“wottheycallsaspecialist The duchesswasqueerinherupperstorey—seniledecay,astheycalledit.” “Goodheavens,I’mnotasoldasthat,amI?” ”‘Tain’talwaysagethatdoesit,”ConstableX returned,withagraveand significantshakeofthehead “There’sdecaysanddecays You’vegot‘emyoung that’sall.” “Supposewefindthedoctor?”suggestedtheyoungmanhastily “You’resittingon‘isdoorstep.” Theprospectivepatientexaminedthedoorplate “Mr Smedley,”hereadaloud,“veterinarysurgeon Lookhere,Inspector,that won’tdo I’mnotananimal.” “Yousaidyouwasalostdog,”retortedtheConstable,withgrimdelightinhis ownjest “Well,anyhow,there’saDoctorThingummyroundthecorner Icalls ‘imThingummybecause‘e‘asaforeignname,andIdon’t‘oldwithforeign names Notsincethattherewar Iup’oldstheLawmyself,butwotIsaysis, ‘WhenanEnglishmanseesaforeignerheortterbash‘imintheeye,’Idon’t carewhoheis–” “Well,perhapsDr Thingumityonlysoundsforeign,”theyoungmansuggested “Anyhow,we’llgivehimacall Whattimeisit?” “Aboutmidnight.” “Inthatcase,”theyoungmanreflected,“Ifancythatweshallbethebashedones bashedandabashed,youknow.”Hechuckledencouragingly,buthiscompanion remainedunmoved “However,anythingisbetterthanthelock-upandthecold stoneofMr Smedley’ssteps Leadon,Macduff.” “Lookhere,youngfeller,ifyoustartcallingnames—” “I’mnot I’mquoting Ican’trememberwhatfromBibleprobably Anyhow, absolutelyrespectable Wouldn’tinsultyoufortheworld Why—”heexclaimed witharushofpathos“youmaybemyonlyfriend,Constable.” “Well,mindout It’saslikelyasnotyou’reunderarrest,inwhichcaseanything yousaywillbetakendownagainstyou.” “ButI’mnotacriminal.” “Can’tbesure Youcouldn’tsweartoityourself.” “Well,Idon’tlooklikeoneatleastIdon’tfeellikeone.” ConstableX shookhisheadgloomily “Can’tgobythat IfyouknewwotIknewaboutcriminals,you’dbesurprised Therewasafelleraniceupstandingchap,aspleasantspokenasyouplease murderedhiswife,hedid ‘Why,Constable,’hesaidtomegoinguptothedock, ‘Iwouldn’t‘urtakitten.’AndIbelieved‘im But‘iswifeshegoton‘isnerves shewasalwaysahummin’tunesto‘erself,andthemoreheasked‘ernotthe moreshedidit Andoneday,rightinthemiddleof‘AnnieLaurie,’heupsand ‘its‘eroverthe‘eadwith‘isbeer-mug Must‘avecaught‘eron‘ersoftspot,for shenever‘ummedagain But‘eswungforit,poorchap,thoughthejurydidput inextenuatingcircumstances No,sir,youbelieveme,youcan’tbesureof anyoneinthislife—leastofallyourself.” Theyoungmanputhishandtohisforehead “Constable,I’masickman Youdon’twantmetofaint,doyou?” “I’monlydoingmydooty,sir Boundtowarnyou—” “Iknowyoumeanitkindly,”theyoungmanadmittedhumbly “Butit’sallvery uncomfortable.” Thatmuch,atanyrate,wasbecomingcertain Forthefirstfewminuteshis positionhadstruckhimasentirelyhumorous Hehadexpectedeachminuteto bringthedesiredflashofillumination,buthismindhadremainedblank,andthe painatthebackofhisheadwasbecomingtroublesomelyinsistent Whoand whatwashe?Hedecidedthatitwasagreatdealworsethanbeingbornagain, becauseoftheadditionalunpleasantnessofknowingbeforehandalltheawful conditionsintowhichonemightbeflungbyarecklessandindiscriminating Fate HemightbeaDukehehopedhewasbuthefelthisappearancewas againsthim Hemightbewhathisclothessuggested,whichwasintolerable He mightbemarried,andhiswifemightbeAtthispointthepossibilitiesnearly overcamehim,andhewasthankfulforthetoniceffectoftheConstable’sgrip uponhisarm “Hearthat,sir?” “Soundslikesomeonerunning,”thederelictadmitted “Someonelookingfor me,nodoubt—” Thenextinstantanextraordinaryapparitiontoreroundthecornerofthestreet andwasreceivedfullinConstableX.‘sgeniallyoutstretchedarms The constablerosetothesituationwiththesamesangfroidthathehaddisplayed earlierintheevening “Sothereyouare!”hesaid “Gotyou,‘avel?” HiscaptureshowednointelligentappreciationoftheConstable’ssmartness He brokeintoanincoherenttorrentofbadlanguageand,disengaginghimselfwitha dexteroustwist,revealedhimselfasonementIcan offer “Yourdevotedandunhappyhusband, “TheRogue.” “Areyouready,oldbird?” WilliamBrown,ashewastobefromhenceforth,startedtohisfeet,andthen,as hesawthegrinningfaceinthedoorway,noddedacurtassent “Yes.” “Coastclear?” “YeswaitamomentthoughtillIhaveaddressedthisenvelope.” “Partinglove-letter,eh?” “Holdyourtongue!” Georgegrimacedrudely WilliamBrownfinishedhistaskinsternsilence Then, ashethrewthependownwithasighofbittersatisfaction,hecaughtsightofa secondenvelopeaddressedtohim,proppedupagainstavase,withthe injunction“nottobeopenedtilltomorrowmorning.”Thisletterhethrustinto hispocket “AreyoucomingorareyouwaitingforyourescorttotakeyoutoBuckingham Palace?” “I’mcomingI’mcoming!” Amomentlaterbothmenstoodtogetherinthequietpassage Downstairsthey heardthesubduedstrainsofmusicandthehumofvoices Georgeputhisfinger tohisnose “Granddoings,”hesaidbriefly “Theroadisasclearasitcouldbe Tryandlook innocent,dearboy,andcomealong MylittlefriendSusanhasgivenmethekey toNo 36itwillbeaseasyasflying—” “—andaboutassafe,”commentedtheRoguegloomily Georgechuckledbutmadenoanswer,andinsilencetheyproceededdownthe corridor Theirprogresswasopenandevenostentatious Thechamber-maidwho badethemgood-nightdidnoteventroubletolookafterthemandyawnedher waybacktoherownquarters
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