In the early days, before Gottlieb and I practised at the criminal bar, a judgment creditor could arrest and lock up his delinquent debtor. This was a most ancient and honorable form of redress; and the reader has undoubtedly read dozens of novels in which some of the scenes are laid in "Fleet Street." This locking up of people who owed other people money but could not meet their just obligations was sanctified by tradition and deeply rooted in our jurisprudence; but the law governing the procedure in such cases was highly technical and the wind of destiny was somewhat tempered to the shorn lamb of the creditor. Thus, a warrant for the arrest of a debtor could not be executed on the Sabbath, and, of course, had no value outside of the State. Accordingly the neighboring cities of New Jersey harbored thousands of bankrupt New Yorkers who could not pay their bills and suffered a voluntary exile until they should be in funds again. Indeed, there were certain hostelries entirely given over to their accommodation. The man who had defied his creditors simply converted his available property into ready cash and slipped across the river to Jersey City or Hoboken, where he remained six days in every week and returned to the bosom of his adoring family on the seventh.
Later on civil orders of arrest were limited by statute to certain classes of cases, such as, for instance, the conversion of money.
Among our clients there was a certain exceedingly attractive young lady of French extraction, named Mademoiselle Valerie Carrell, who was a popular favorite upon the light-opera stage when light opera was in swaddling-clothes. Our fair client, like many another histrionic genius, had more charm than business ability and was persuaded by an unscrupulous manager to intrust to him a large sum of money for investment in his various enterprises. Time went on, and, although he seemed to be successful in his ventures, he insisted that he had no money and was absolutely unable to repay her. In utter desperation she came to Gottlieb and myself for assistance and we speedily secured judgment for the full amount—fifteen thousand dollars—after a hotly contested trial, in which the defendant perjured himself very unlike a gentleman. The only result was that Mr. Brown, the manager, gayly offered to settle for fifteen hundred, and, on receiving a curt refusal, transferred his residence to Hoboken, from which place he managed his business and paid furtive visits to the metropolis in the night-time. On Sundays, however, he always appeared in full regalia on Broadway and could invariably be seen entertaining his friends lavishly in the restaurants.
Gottlieb suffered this course of conduct to become a habit and then informed me that he proposed to collect the full amount of Mademoiselle Carrell's judgment upon the following Monday. I expressed some incredulity at the idea, but later events proved that my partner was well justified in his prophecy. We had long before procured a warrant for Brown's arrest and the only difficulty lay in executing it upon a week-day. Sunday came and as usual Brother Brown, with his customary bravado, made his appearance in the city. That evening Gottlieb invited me to dine with him at the resort ordinarily frequented by our quarry. True to his invariable custom, Brown turned up there with a party of his cronies and spent the evening in merry feasting, presumably upon the money of our client. It was a clear, moonlight night and when the glowworm showed the matin to be near—or, more correctly, when it neared twelve o'clock— Brown beckoned to the waiter, paid his bill out of a fat roll of greenbacks, winked good-naturedly at us, and bade his friends good- night. A moment or two later Gottlieb whispered to me to follow him and we stepped forth upon the street. Brown was strolling quietly down Broadway toward Twenty-third Street. A short distance behind followed a thick-set man with a square-cut jaw whom I had frequently noticed in Gottlieb's office.
On the corner of the cross-town thoroughfare Brown paused, looked first at the moon and then at his watch, and proceeded on his constitutional toward the ferry. The street, save for a distant and presumably somnolent policeman, was deserted. The thick-set man crossed to the other side of the way, quickened his steps, overtook and passed Brown, recrossed and sauntered toward him. A moment later there was a collision between them, voices were raised in angry altercation and presently Brown was rolling undignifiedly on the pavement, his calls for the police rending the stillness of the night. The officer hastily approached, whistling wildly for aid. Gottlieb and I took refuge in an adjacent doorway. Abruptly, however, Brown's outcries ceased. It is probably that a sudden vision of the consequences of an appeal to police protection came to him as he lay like an overturned June-bug upon the sidewalk. But the law had been invoked. The car of Juggernaut had started upon its course.
"What's the trouble here?" cried the policeman, as he arrived panting upon the scene.
"This fellow here assaulted me!" instantly answered the man with the bulldog jaw.
"It's a lie!" bellowed Brown, climbing to his feet.
"Well, what have you got to say?" inquired the officer.
Brown hesitated. If he made a counter charge he realized that he would have to go to the police station to make the complaint. This would keep him in the city until after midnight.
"Well?" continued the policeman.
Still Brown paused, rapidly taking account of stock. If he did not deny the charge in terms he would be locked up, which was just as bad. But the bull-jawed chap spoke first.
"I want this man arrested!" he insisted. "He deliberately attacked me!"
"I did no such thing!" shouted Brown. "He came at me without provocation and knocked me down."
"It took you long enough to say so," commented the officer. "I'll have to take you along to the house. Come on, both of you."
Grasping Brown by the arm, he marched him down the street. Suddenly the unfortunate manager began to pour forth a long explanation, quite incoherent so far as the policeman was concerned. He was the victim of a frame-up—it was a job to get him arrested. The officer remarked unsympathetically that he had heard that sort of thing many times before. Gottlieb and I skulked in the rear. When the police station was at last reached the thick-set man made a charge of assault against the manager and Brown was compelled perforce to make a similar charge against his adversary. Then both were locked up to await a hearing the next morning in the magistrate's court, when, after a prolonged examination, Brown was discharged with an admonition against a too free indulgence in alcoholic liquors.
"Don't be hard on him, judge," said the bull-jawed man. "I had no trouble in defending myself. I think he has had lesson enough."
Much the worse for wear, Mr. Brown passed out of the court-room, only to be confronted on the sidewalk by a marshal with a warrant for his arrest. It was Monday morning. His period of immunity was over. His eye caught Gottlieb and myself standing on the corner.
"Well, boys," he exclaimed ruefully, "I'm caught. How much is it going to cost?"
"Fifteen thousand dollars," answered Gottlieb, adding, after a moment's pause—"and disbursements."
I need hardly add that Mr. Brown lost no time in raising the necessary ransom and within the hour had paid his judgment in full and secured his discharge. The days are long since over, however, when judgment defaulters had anything to fear; and now a beneficent bankruptcy law, merely for the asking, washes all their debts away. But the power to secure another's arrest is even more easily available now than in the days of my early practice owing to the great number of new crimes created by the statutes.
One of the most ingenious devices for extorting money that ever came to my attention was invented by a client of mine named Levine —a poor sort of character, to be sure, but cleverer than many a better man. In detail his method was as follows: He first bought at wholesale a large quantity of cheap watches covered with gold plate. To the inexperienced they looked as if they might possibly be worth forty or fifty dollars apiece. They cost Levine about two dollars and twenty-five cents each. His next step was to select some small shop belonging to a plumber, grocer, or electrician which was ordinarily left in the charge of a clerk while the owner was out attending to his work or securing orders. Levine would find some excuse for entering the shop, engage the clerk in conversation, and having secured his attention would produce one of his watches and extol its merits at length, explaining what a great bargain it was and how—only owing to an exceptional concatenation of circumstances—he was able to offer it for the ridiculously low figure of thirty dollars.
Now it never made any difference to Levine whether the clerk wanted the watch or not. His procedure remained the same in all cases. He would first offer to let the fellow have it by paying one dollar a week on the installment plan. If this did not appeal to the clerk Levine would persuade him to keep it for a short time on approval, paying down a dollar "as security." Almost all of his victims would agree to this if only to be rid of him. In default of aught else he would lay the watch on the counter and run away.
Nothing more would occur for a couple of weeks, during which the clerk would hold the watch pending its owner's return, little suspecting what was going on meantime. Levine, having "landed" his watch, immediately swore to a verified complaint in an action at law for "goods sold and delivered," setting forth on the date in question he had sold—not to the clerk, but to his employer— a gold watch for the sum of fifty dollars, which the latter had then and there promised to pay for at once. The complaint further recited that the money had been duly demanded and payment refused, and asked judgment for fifty dollars and the costs and disbursements of the action. Levine would then procure from some irresponsible person an affidavit that the latter had personally served a copy of the complaint in question, together with a summons, upon the defendant, and place the case on the calendar for trial. Of course no papers were in fact served upon anybody and Levine would in due course secure judgment by default for sixty-odd dollars. Armed with a certified copy of the judgment and a writ of attachment, and accompanied by a burly deputy marshal selected for the ferocity of his appearance, Levine would wait until some opportune time when the owner of the shop was again absent and the shop had been left in charge of the same clerk or a member of the family. Bursting roughly in, he would demand whether or not it was the intention of the owner to pay the judgment, while at the same moment the deputy would levy on the stock in trade.
The owner of the shop, having been hastily summoned, would return to demand angrily what the rumpus was all about. By this time the clerk would have recovered his wits sufficiently to denounce the proceeding as an outrage and the suit as baseless. But his master, who saw judgment against himself for sixty dollars and his goods actually under attachment, was usually in no mood to listen to, much less believe, his clerk's explanations. At all events, they availed naught, when Levine, with an expression of horror at such deliberate mendacity on the part of the clerk, was wont to say:
"Ask him, pray, whether he has not got the watch in his pocket at this very moment!"
Usually this was indeed the fact, as the clerk had no idea what else to do with it until Levine should return.
"So-ho!" his master would shout wrathfully. "What do you mean by saying that you did not agree to buy the watch? Why, you have kept it all the time! What's more, you've pretended to buy it in my name! And now my shop is turned into a bear garden and there is a judgment against me and my goods are attached! A fine result of your extravagance!"
"But I never agreed to buy it!" insists the clerk. "This man left it here on approval!"
"Pish!" answers the employer. "That is all very well; but what have you to say to the judgment of the court? Now, my fine fellow, you will either pay up this money that you owe or I'll advance it myself and take it out of your wages."
In every case, despite the protests of the clerk, the money would be handed over and the shop released from levy. Unfortunately, after working the game for several years, Levine came a cropper by carelessly trying it on one of the same clerks that he had victimized some time before. The clerk, being of an unusually vindictive disposition, followed the matter up. Having first arrested the man who made the false affidavit of service, he induced him to turn State's evidence against my client and landed the latter in jail. Being a great reader, however, Levine did not find his incarceration particularly unpleasant; and, hearing of the Court of Appeals decision in the McDuff case, he spent his time in devising new schemes to take the place of his now antiquated specialty. On his release he immediately became a famous "sick engineer" and for a long time enjoyed the greatest prosperity, until one of his friends victimized him at his own game by inducing him to bet ten thousand dollars on the outcome of a prize-fight that he was simple-minded enough to believe had already been fought and won.
This was an elaborate variation of the ordinary wire-tapping game, where the sucker or lamb is introduced to a person alleged to be an inside official of a large telegraph company, who is ready to sell advance information of the results of sporting events in return for a share in the profits. The victim is taken to a supposed "branch office" of the company and actually hears the results of the races coming in over the wires and being telephoned to the pool- rooms. Of course the whole place is merely a plant fitted up for his benefit. He is then taken to a supposed pool-room and gives up his money for the purpose of having it placed as a wager on a horse-race already won. Under the McDuff case, it had been held by the courts that he had parted with his money for an illegal and dishonest purpose—to wit, in an attempt to win money from another who was wagering his own money in good faith—and the rogue who had seduced his conscience and slit his purse went free. This was Levine's favorite field of operations.
But his friend went him one better. Knowing that Levine had salted away a lot of money, he organized a gang of "cappers" and boosters, who made a great talk about the relative merits of two well-known pugilists. It was given out that a fight was to be "pulled off" up the Hudson and a party was made up to attend it. A private car was taken by the friend in question and Levine was the guest of honor. Champagne flowed freely. The fight came off in a deserted barn near a siding above Poughkeepsie; and Levine wagered all of his money, with other prosperous-looking guests in the car, under the assumption that a bargain had been made between the "pugs" that his man should win. But the supposed sports were all "boosters" in his friend's pay and the other man won after a spirited exhibition, which, although exciting, hardly consoled Levine for the loss of his money.
It is a curious fact that those of my clients who made great sums from time to time in ways similar to these rarely had any money; most of them died in abject poverty. Sooner or later all ran foul of the law and had to give up to the lawyers all they had managed to lay by.
When at last John Holliday, a dealer in automatic musical instruments, was "trimmed" out of sixty-five thousand dollars by various schemes of this character, the tardy Legislature finally amended the penal code in such a way as to do away with the farcical doctrine of the McDuff case and drove all our erstwhile clients out of business.
"Shake hands with Mr. Dillingham, Quib," said Gottlieb as I one day unexpectedly entered the latter's office. "We have a matter on hand in which he is interested."
"Glad to know you, Mr. Quibble," quoth the client, extending a rather soft hand. "Your name is well known to me, although I have never personally had the pleasure of your acquaintance."
"The future will, I trust, remedy that," I replied, not particularly impressed with the stranger's features or expression, but conscious somehow of the smell of money about him. For he was short and fat and wore a brown surtout and a black stovepipe hat, and his little gray eyes peeped out of full, round, red cheeks. On his lower lip we wore a tiny goatee.
"As I was saying," he continued, turning again to my partner, "we all of us make mistakes and I made the biggest one when I annexed the present Mrs. D. I was a young fool hardly out of my teens, and the sight of a pretty face and a tearful story of woe were too much for me. She was an actress. Comprenez? A sort of Lydia Languish, la-de-da kind of a girl. Oh, she caught me fast enough, and it was only after I had swallowed the hook, sinker and all, that I found out she was married."
"Ho-ho!" remarked Gottlieb. "The old story."
"The same little old story," assented Dillingham. "Take a cigar?" He produced a well-filled case.
I dropped into a chair and hitched it toward them.
"Now, the fact of the matter is," continued he, "she wouldn't look at me as long as she was tied to her husband, miserable rat though he was; and he was and is a rat! I could call and take her out to dinner, and all that, but—pst! nothing more! and she was always telling me how I was her good angel and inspired her to higher things! Gad! even then it bored me! But I could see nothing but her face. You know how it is. I was twenty-six and a clerk in a hardware house."
He laughed grimly.
"Well, as luck would have it, my Uncle John died just about that time and left me ten thousand dollars and I started in to make her my own by getting her a divorce. Now, this husband of hers was a wretched fellow—the son of a neighbor—who never got beyond being a waiter in a railroad station. Say, it is rather rough, eh? To think of me, Dillingham, of Dillingham, Hodges & Flynn, the biggest independent steel man in the State, tied up to a pale-faced woman who can't speak the King's English properly and whose first husband is a waiter—yes, a waiter to-day, understand, in a railroad restaurant at Baltimore! It makes me sick every time I go to Washington. I can't eat—fact! So I hired a lawyer for her—you know him, I guess—Bunce. Oscar Willoughby Bunce! And he prepared divorce papers—Oh, we had cause enough! And the next time Hawkins —that was the husband's name, Arthur P. Hawkins—came over to New York, to borrow some money from his wife, Bunce slapped a summons on him. It makes me squirm to think how delighted I was to know we had actually begun our case. Hawkins hired a lawyer, I believe, and pretended he was going to put up a defence, but I bought him off and we got our decree by default. Then, gentlemen"—Dillingham paused with a wry face—"I had the inestimable privilege of marrying my present wife!"
He sucked meditatively on his cigar for a few moments before resuming his narrative.
"Curious, isn't it—the fascination of the stage? You, gentlemen, probably have observed it even more than I have; but when he sees a slim girl with yellow curls capering around in tights behind the footlights, a young man's imagination runs riot and he fancies her the incarnation of coquetry and the personification of vivacious loveliness. I admit it—the present Mrs. Dillingham was a dancer. On the stage she used to ogle me out of my shoes and off it she'd help me spend my money and drink my wine and jolly me up to beat the cars; but once I'd married her she changed completely. Instead of a dashing, snappy, tantalizing sort of a little Yum-Yum, she turned religious and settled down so you wouldn't have known her. There was nothing in it. Instead of a peach I had acquired a lemon. I expected champagne and found I was drinking buttermilk. Get me? You would never have guessed she'd been inside a theatre in her life. Well, we got along the best we could and she made a hit at the church, as a brand plucked from the burning. Used to tell her experiences Friday nights and have all the parsons up to five- o'clock tea. Meanwhile I forgot my romantic dreams of flashing eyes and twinkling feet and began to get interested in business. To-day I'm worth real money and am on top of the heap downtown; but socially—Good Lord! the woman's a millstone! She's grown fat and talks through her nose, and—"
"You want to get rid of her," finished Gottlieb.
"Exactly!" answered Dillingham. "How much will it cost?"
"I think you had better give me your check for ten thousand dollars to begin with," replied my partner. "Such a case presents great difficulties—almost insuperable without money. I am not even sure that what you want can be accomplished without running grave personal risks—not on your part, but on ours. Such risks must be compensated for. What you desire, I take it, is to have your marriage annulled. To do that it will be necessary to prove that the divorce procured by Mrs. Dillingham from her former husband, Hawkins, was improperly and illegally granted. We must knock out the decree in Hawkins versus Hawkins somehow or other. To be frank with you, it may cost you a large sum."
"It is worth it," answered Dillingham. "Free me from this woman and I'll give you twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Make it thirty-five thousand dollars," coaxed Gottlieb.
"Well, then, thirty-five thousand dollars," said Dillingham after a pause.
"But you must promise to do exactly what we tell you!" continued my partner.
"I expect to," replied the other.
"Very good, then," said Gottlieb. "In the first place, the original decree is no good unless the summons actually was served on Hawkins and the suit properly commenced. Now, perhaps Bunce served the wrong man. He didn't know Hawkins. The latter was merely pointed out to him. Already I begin to feel that there is grave doubt as to whether the proceedings in Hawkins versus Hawkins were ever legally initiated."
"Hold on, Mr. Gottlieb!" remonstrated Dillingham. "You want to go easy there. After Hawkins was served he retained a lawyer. I know that, dammit, because it cost me twenty-five hundred dollars to get rid of him."
"What was his name?" asked Gottlieb sharply.
"Crookshank—Walter E. Crookshank—down on Nassau Street."
Gottlieb gave a short, dry laugh.
"Luck's with you, Dillingham. Crookshank died three years ago."
None of us broke silence for the space of about two minutes.
"You see now why this sort of thing costs money?" finally remarked my partner.
Dillingham wiped his forehead with his handkerchief nervously.
"Say," he began, "isn't that taking a pretty long chance? I—"
"It is taking no chance at all," retorted Gottlieb, his little eyes glistening like a snake's. "You have simply retained us to see if your wife's original divorce was regular—not to see if it was irregular—catch on? You tell us nothing. We ask you nothing. We make our investigation. Much to our surprise and horror, we discover that the defendant never was served—perhaps that he never even knew of the proceeding until years afterward. We don't know what you know. We simply advise you the divorce is N. G. and you ask no questions. We'll attend to all that—for our thirty-five thousand dollars."
"Well, you know your business," responded Dillingham hesitantly, "and I leave the matter in your hands. How long will it take?"
"Everything now depends on our friend Hawkins," replied Gottlieb. "We may be able to hand you your manumission papers in three months."
When Dillingham had written out his check and bade us good day I no longer made any pretence of concealing from my partner my perturbation. I had, of course, known that from time to time we had skated on thin ice; but this was the first occasion upon which Gottlieb had deliberately acknowledged to a client that he would resort to perjury to accomplish his ends.
"Don't you think we're running entirely too close to the wind?" I asked, pacing up and down the office.
"My dear Quib," answered Gottlieb soothingly, "don't agitate yourself over so trifling a matter. The only living man who can prove that Hawkins was served is Bunce—and Bunce is a fool. At best it would simply be one swearing against the other. We have a perfect right to believe Hawkins in preference to Bunce if we choose. Anyhow, we're not the judge. All we have to do is to present the evidence at our command—if we can get it. And, by God! we will get it if it costs us ten thousand dollars! Why, Quib, the thing is a windfall. Thirty-five thousand! Why, thirty-five hundred for such a case would be a big fee!"
"I don't know!" I answered, for I felt a curious premonition in the matter. "Something tells me that we ought to take no chances."
"Come, come!" quoth Gottlieb, with a light show of irritation. "Don't lose your nerve. You've done many a worse thing than this, to my own knowledge!"
I do not pretend to any virtue in the matter and yet I must admit to some feelings of compunction about Mrs. Dillingham. Truth to tell, I had taken a strong dislike to her husband, with his sleek confidence and cold-blooded selfishness. In addition, I was quite sure that there was some other fell reason why he wished to divorce her—probably he had another marriage in contemplation, even if he had not admitted it.
"I wish we could make the beggar do his own dirty work," I exclaimed.
"But what does he pay us for?" inquired Gottlieb innocently. "Quib, just think of the money!"
I had, in fact, been thinking of the money, and it looked very good to me. Since my days in Haight & Foster's law office, a great, great change had come in my manner of life; and, though my friends to a great extent remained among the theatrical and sporting class to which I had received my first introduction on coming to New York, I now occupied a large brick house with stone trimmings in Washington Square, where I entertained in truly luxurious fashion. I had a French cook and an English butler, and drove a pair of trotters that were second to none except those of William H. Vanderbilt, with whom I had many a fast brush on the speedways.
Though I had never allowed myself to be caught in the net of matrimony, I had many friends among the fair sex, particularly among those who graced the footlights; and some of my evening parties did not break up until dawn was glinting over the roofs of the respectable mansions round about me. It was a gay life, but it cost money—almost more money than I could make; and my share in the thirty-five thousand dollars offered by our friend Dillingham would go a long way to keeping up my establishment for another year. So I allowed my qualms to give me no further uneasiness and told myself that Gottlieb was clever enough to manage the business in such a fashion that there would be no "come-back."
A week or so later I encountered in our office a narrow-shouldered, watery-eyed, reddish-nosed party that I instantly recognized for Hawkins. There could be no doubt about the matter, for he had a way of standing at attention and thrusting his head forward when addressed that were unmistakable. He was waiting, it turned out, for Gottlieb, who had sent for him to come on from Baltimore; and the readiness with which he had responded could be better accounted for by the five hundred dollars which he had received at the hands of our emissary for travelling expenses than by any desire on his part to regain the society of the present Mrs. Dillingham.
"I suppose," began Gottlieb when he had retired to the seclusion of his inner office, "that you fully understand that the divorce secured by your wife is inoperative—Tut! Tut! Don't interrupt me!"—for Hawkins had opened his mouth in protest—"for the reason —for the very good reason, I repeat—that you were never served with any summons or notified that the proceeding had been commenced. Am I correct?"
Hawkins grinned and turned his watery eyes from one of us to the other.
"Quite so, sir!" he stuttered. "Exactly, sir!"
"Now, on the contrary, if any one says you were served with such a paper, it was quite impossible for the reason—by the way, what was the reason?"
Hawkins dropped one eyelid to a narrow slit and pursed his lips.
"Quite impossible, sir! The fact is, sir, I was waitin' on a dinin'- car that ran at the time between San Antonio and New Orleans, sir."
"You see, Quib?" exclaimed Gottlieb. "My suspicions in the matter were quite correct. This gentleman has been most outrageously treated! If you will kindly retire for a moment—as I have a matter which I wish to discuss with him privately—I will turn him over to you for the purpose of taking his affidavit."
A few moments thereafter Hawkins appeared in my office, apparently in the act of stuffing something into his pocket, and announced that he was ready to sign his "davy." Although I had no taste for the business, there was nothing for it but to do my part; so I called in a stenographer and dictated the following:
"SUPREME COURT—COUNTY OF NEW YORK
"RUFUS P. DILLINGHAM, Plaintiff ) against ) Action for Annulment of Marriage LILIAN DILLINGHAM, Defendant )
"CITY AND COUNTY OF NEW YORK, ss.:
"ARTHUR P. HAWKINS, being duly sworn, deposes and says: That he is forty-three years old, a waiter by occupation, and resides in the city of Baltimore, Maryland; that he was married to the defendant herein on the eighteenth day of June, 187-, and thereafter lived with her as man and wife until the month of December, 1882, when for some reason unknown to deponent the defendant left his house and did not thereafter return; that he has recently learned that said defendant, in July, 1887, procured a decree of divorce against him in the county and State of New York, upon grounds of which deponent is totally ignorant, and that thereafter said defendant contracted a marriage with one Rufus P. Dillingham, the plaintiff therein; that deponent was never served with any summons or complaint in said action of divorce and had no knowledge or information that any such proceeding was pending against him; that he never appeared in such proceeding and until recently always supposed that the defendant was his lawful wife.
"Sworn to before me this fourteenth ) day of September, 1894 ) ARTHUR P. HAWKINS "ISAAC M. COHEN, "Notary Public, New York County."
There was something about this seedy rascal that filled me with disgust and suspicion, and he looked at me out of the corners of his evil eyes as if he knew that by some trick of fate he had me in his power and was gloating over it. Even while he was swearing to the paper he had a sickly sneer on his pimply face that sickened me, and when Cohen, my clerk, administered the oath to him he had the audacity to wink in his face and answer:
"It's the truth—not!"
Cohen, who knew a thing or two and had taken affidavits before, merely laughed, but the words sent a shiver down my spine and I snarled out:
"Be careful what you're saying! Do you swear that this affidavit of yours is true?"
"Yes, sir! Yes, sir!" he hastened to answer, somewhat chagrined at my not taking as a joke what he had intended for one.
"Very well," I said to Cohen. "Show the gentleman out. I'm very busy. Good-day."
Afterward I would have given all the money I possessed to undo what I had done.
The case of Dillingham versus Dillingham duly came on for trial, with Oscar Willoughby Bunce as the chief witness for defendant. He had visited our office several times in an attempt to convince us that we were entirely misinformed in regard to the service of the papers in the original action and had insisted vehemently that he had personally delivered them to Hawkins in the office of the Astor House. Gottlieb had gently assured him that he must be mistaken and bowed him out, but Bunce for once in his little toy career was "all up in the air." He felt that his own integrity was, in some mysterious way, at stake, since it was upon his own testimony to the effect that he had made the service of the papers in question that the original decree had in part been granted. The case was sent to a referee for hearing, and on the morning of the day set Gottlieb called me into his office and said:
"Harkee, Quib! I've a plan that will put our little friend Bunce's nose out of joint for good. It is nearly seven years now since he has seen Hawkins and it was then only for a moment."
"Well," said I, "what is your game?"
"Come along to the hearing and you'll find out, my lad," answered Gottlieb. "Don't fail if you want to see some fun."
Curious to discover what trick Gottlieb would be able to play, I accordingly arranged my work so as to attend the hearing, which was to be held in the referee's office in an old wooden building on Broadway. As I climbed the stairs I caught sight of Hawkins skulking on one of the landings, but he laid a finger on his lips and I passed on and up to the attorney's office. The room, like most old-fashioned lawyers' offices, was but dimly lighted, and on entering I found the other side, with the exception of Mrs. Dillingham, already there. The referee sat at one end of a large table, surrounded by his books, with his stenographer beside him; and to his left sat Bunce and a lawyer named Stires, the present "attorney of record" for the defendant. I took my seat opposite them, introduced myself to the referee and waited. In a few moments the door opened noisily and Gottlieb entered with much bustle, accompanied by a clerk carrying books and papers and by a perfectly strange man, arrayed in very new clothes, who seemed much embarrassed and doubtful as to what he should do.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen!" exclaimed Gottlieb breezily. "I regret to have kept you waiting, but I was unavoidably detained. Shall I sit down here? Yes? Very good. Please take your seat beside me, Mr. Hawkins."
The stranger blushed, fumbled his hat, and sat down bashfully in the place designated.
"Are you ready to proceed, gentlemen?" inquired the referee over his spectacles. "Call your first witness."
Bunce, who had been fidgeting in his eagerness to tell what he knew, instantly bobbed up and asked to be sworn.
After giving his name, age, and profession, he detailed how he had prepared the papers in the original case of Hawkins versus Hawkins and served them upon the defendant personally at the Astor House.
"I handed them to Mr. Hawkins myself and explained them to him. He was dressed very much as he is now," cried Bunce.
"Do you positively identify this gentleman on your oath as the person you served with the summons and complaint?" inquired Gottlieb as if the matter were merely one of routine.
"Absolutely!" retorted Bunce hotly. "I could identify him anywhere by the shape of his nose. I took especial pains to remark his appearance in case the service should ever be disputed."
"Thank you. That is all," said Gottlieb. Then turning to the stranger he directed him to take the stand.
"What is your name?" he asked sternly.
"Aaron Finkelstein—as you know very well, Mr. Gottlieb," answered the stranger.
"Do you recognize this gentleman who has just testified?" indicating Bunce.
"As far as I know I never saw him in my life," answered Finkelstein.
"Did he ever serve you with any papers—in the Astor House or anywhere else?"
"What is your business?"
"I am an undertaker."
In an instant the room was in a turmoil, Bunce screaming out that he had been tricked by a parcel of shysters, Gottlieb indignantly defending his ruse as a perfectly proper method of discrediting Bunce, and the referee vainly endeavoring to restore order. As for myself, in spite of my anxiety over the whole affair, I could not do otherwise than laugh heartily over Bunce's ludicrous mistake. When Hawkins was brought in from outside, and, after proclaiming his identity, denied ever being served in the original action, the referee was but little inclined to listen to Lawyer Bunce, who now corrected his testimony and swore just as insistently that the real Hawkins was the person to whom he had given the papers in the case.
Here, then, was as pretty a trick as had ever been played upon an unsuspecting and well-meaning lawyer; and by it Gottlieb had so strengthened our position that, very likely, the referee would have found for our side even had not Hawkins taken it upon himself to swear the matter through. Moreover, the only person who could have disproved the latter's testimony or given evidence that might have militated against its probability—to wit, Crookshank, his former attorney—was dead and buried, and it seemed as if truth were buried with him. On the way back to our office I congratulated my partner on the Napoleonic strategy which he had displayed and a few days later a more substantial compliment followed, in the shape of an unqualified finding in our favor on the part of the referee.
"Was ever thirty-five thousand dollars earned so easily!" laughed Gottlieb over his cigar as we were dining at Delmonico's.
"So long as Hawkins stays bought—yes," I answered.
"Don't be a death's head, Quib!" he retorted. "Why, even if he turned State's evidence, no one would believe him! Have another glass of this vintage—we can drink it every night now for a year at Dillingham's expense!"
"Well, here's to you, Gottlieb!" I answered, filling my goblet with creaming wine; "and here's to crime—whereby we live and move and have our being!"
And we clinked our glasses and drained them with a laugh.
I had now been a resident of New York for upward of twenty years and had acquired, as the junior member of the firm of Gottlieb & Quibble, an international reputation. It is true that my partner and I felt it to be beneath our dignity to advertise in the newspapers —and, indeed, advertising in New York City was for us entirely unnecessary—but we carried a card regularly in the English journals and received many retainers from across the water; in fact, we controlled practically all the theatrical business in the city, drawing the contracts for the managers and being constantly engaged in litigations on their behalf. We had long since abandoned as trivial all my various profit-sharing schemes, and, with the exception of carrying on our pay-rolls many of the attendants attached to the police and other criminal courts, had practically no "runners." We did not need any. There was no big criminal case in which we were not retained for the defence and rarely a divorce action of any notoriety where we did not appear for one of the parties.
This matter of Hawkins's was the first in twenty years in which he had ever deliberately faked an entire case! Yet, if ever there was a safe opportunity to do so, this seemed the one, and I cannot even now charge Gottlieb with recklessness in taking the chances that he did; but, as luck would have it, there were two facts connected with the Dillingham annulment the significance of which we totally overlooked—one, that Bunce was not so much of a fool as he looked, and the other, that Mrs. Dillingham was a mother.
Once, however, judgment had been entered to the effect that Mrs. Dillingham had never lawfully ceased to be Mrs. Hawkins, then the real reason of our client's anxiety to be rid of his wife and her child, a girl of six years, became apparent; for he instantly announced his engagement to a fashionable widow, who lacked money if not experience, and who needed the one as much as he had a super- abundance of the other. He made a fairly liberal allowance for his child and its mother, and since this was paid monthly through our office, I had an opportunity of making their acquaintance; and I confess that I had no sooner done so than I began to have a sort of regret for my own part in the transaction. For Mrs. Dillingham —Hawkins, or whatever she was—proved to be a rather sweet-faced young woman, with great, sad blue eyes and a winsomely childish innocence of expression that concealed, as I afterward found out, a will of iron and a heart full of courage.
She used to come and wait for Gottlieb or me to pay over her money, and while she waited she would sit there so helplessly, looking withal so lovely, that the clerks cannot be blamed for having talked to her. Incidentally she extracted from the susceptible Cohen various trifles in the way of information which later proved highly inconvenient. Yet she never asked me or my partner any questions or showed the slightest resentment at the part we had played as her husband's attorneys in ruining her life. Sometimes she brought the little girl with her and I marvelled that Dillingham could have sacrificed such a charming little daughter so easily.
Six months passed and the Dillingham scandal ceased to be a matter of public or even of private interest. Other affairs, equally profitable, engaged our attention, and the waiter, Hawkins, having received a substantial honorarium from the firm's bank account, had passed completely out of our minds. I had that winter been giving a series of dinners at my house to actor clients and their managers, and these had proved conspicuously successful for the reason that my guests were of the sort who, after the wine had begun to flow, had no hesitation in entertaining the rest of the company by an exhibition of their talents. Occasionally, as part of the fun, I would do a bit of a turn myself by way of reviving old memories of the Cock and Spur and my Athenaeum days in Boston.
It was on one of these festive occasions—not unlike, my readers may recall, my famous translation from college during my banquet at the Cambridge Tavern—that Fate struck me my first severe blow. My guests were still sitting at table while one of the ladies executed a fantastic dance amid the wine-glasses, when my butler touched me upon the arm and whispered that Mr. Gottlieb was outside and desired to see me on urgent business. Excusing myself, I hurried out, greeting my partner rather impatiently, as I disliked to be interrupted by business details in my hours of relaxation; but one sight of his weazened little hawk face sufficed to tell me that no trifling matter was at stake. He was in his day clothes, which were even more than ordinarily dishevelled, and his face, usually pale, was chalklike.
"Quibble," he cried in a rasping voice as soon as my man had gone, "our luck's turned! That woman has tricked us. She and Bunce went down to Crookshank's office and, under the pretext of looking for some deed or release, went through his papers and turned up some letters from Hawkins in regard to the original divorce proceedings. They've got one in which he admits being served by Bunce in the Astor House and asks Crookshank to appear for him. They've got another, written after Dillingham had fixed him, telling Crookshank to put in no defence. Yesterday she and Bunce went before the grand jury, who returned an indictment against Hawkins for perjury. Then she telegraphed him to come on to New York and meet her to arrange some money matters; and when he stepped off the train this afternoon he was arrested and taken to police head-quarters."
"My God!" I cried, turning quite faint. "What's to be done?"
"Get him out of the way as soon as possible!" answered Gottlieb, his lips trembling. "To-morrow morning he will be arraigned in the General Sessions. They are going to ask for fifty thousand dollars bail. We've got to have it. It's the only thing that stands between us and State prison, for they've got the goods on Hawkins and unless we see him safe he'll turn on us and help them send us up!"
"Have you seen him?" I gasped.
"I've just come from head-quarters," he answered. "The fool had been drinking and had given up a lot of information already. So I frightened him until he agreed to shut up. They trouble is we gave him too much money. He says now that unless we protect him and keep him out of State prison he will give up the whole game to the district attorney. That would be fun, wouldn't it? The district attorney wouldn't waste much time on Arthur P. Hawkins if he could land Gottlieb & Quibble in jail for subornation of perjury, would he—eh? We've got to scratch gravel—and quick too!"
"But where can we raise fifty thousand dollars?" I groaned helplessly.
"Dillingham," he retorted without hesitation. "He's our only hope. He's in as bad as the rest of us. If we go we can pull him along too. I understand that the woman is prepared to swear not only that Hawkins admitted to her that he was properly served, but that she told this to Dillingham, and that he and Hawkins talked the thing over in her presence. Besides, Cohen confessed to me to-day that she had pumped him all about Hawkins's coming over to New York and signing papers; and, although he swears he didn't tell her anything in particular, yet I don't trust the idiot. No, Quib; it's bad business and we've got to get Hawkins out of the way at any cost."
It was not until nearly three o'clock in the morning that I discovered Dillingham's whereabouts, which happened to be at the Fifth Avenue house of a fashionable friend, where he was playing draw poker. He greeted me in much the same inhospitable fashion that I had accorded to Gottlieb, but only a few words were needed to convince him of the gravity of the case. I had never loathed the man more than I did at that instant when, with a cigar stuffed in his fat face, he came out of the card-room, dressed in his white waistcoat and pearl studs, and with a half-drunken leer asked what I wanted.
"I want fifty thousand dollars to keep you and me out of State prison!" I cried.
He turned a sickly yellow and gave a sort of choking gasp.
"Hawkins!" he muttered. "Damn him!"
Then Dillingham had a sort of fit, due no doubt partly to the fact that he had drunk more champagne than was good for him; for he trembled with a kind of ague and then broke out in a sweat and blubbered, and uttered incoherent oaths, until I was half beside myself lest he should keep it up all night and I should not get the money from him. But at last he regained control of himself and promised to borrow the fifty thousand dollars the first thing in the morning and to have it at my office at ten o'clock. Yet, as I bade him good night, he had another turn of terror and his teeth chattered in his head as he stammered out that he was a ruined man, that he had cast off a good wife for a deceitful hussy who only wanted his money, that he had lost his child, that now his career was over, and that, unless I stood by him, he would end his days in prison. This was hardly the sort of encouragement I wanted; and though his words brought the cold sweat out upon my back, I told him pretty sharply that he had better pull himself together and not be any more of a fool than he could help, that all we needed was enough money to whip Hawkins out of the way, and that if he would "come up" with the needful we would look out for him. I left him a disgusting sight, sitting in a red plush armchair, with his face in his hands, his hair streaking down across his forehead, moaning and mumbling to himself.
Outside, the city slept the prenatal sleep of dawn. A pale greenish veil hung over the roofs, through which day must peer before awakening those who slept beneath. I had often noticed this greenish color in the sky, made doubtless by the flare of gas and electricity against the blue-black zenith, yet never before had I felt its depressing character. It was the green of jealousy, of disappointment, of envy, hatred, and malice and all uncharitableness! The city trembled in its sleep and the throbbing of its mighty pulse beat evilly upon my ears with distant hostile rumblings. I was alone in it and in danger. Disaster and ruin were looking for me around the corner. I was like a child, helpless and homeless. I could not call upon God, for I did not believe in Him.
It came home to me, as I stood there in the night upon the open street, that there was not one soul among all the city's sleeping millions who owed me aught but harm, and that even those who had drunk the wine of my hospitality had done so more in fear than in friendship. I had no friends but those who were bound to me in some devil's bargain—no kith, no kin, nor the memory of a mother's love. As I lingered there, like some outcast beast waiting for day to drive me to my lair, I envied, with a fierce hatred and with a bitter and passionate pity for myself, those to whom Fate had been more kind and given home and wife and children, or at least the affection of their fellow men, and I envied the lads I had known in college who led clean lives and who had shunned me—they knew not why—and the happy-go-lucky Quirk and his busy wife; and even old Tuckerman Toddleham, in his dingy office in Barristers' Hall.
Daybreak found me still wandering in the streets, haunted by the fear that the police might already be upon my track and furious at the thought that one foolish step should have changed me from a prosperous and powerful member of the bar into a fugitive. Often in earlier days I had pitied the wretches who would come slinking into our office after nightfall, empty their pockets of gold and notes—taken often, no doubt, by force or fraud from others—and pour it out before us, begging for our aid to save them from punishment. It seemed incredible to me that human beings should have staked their liberty and often their lives for a few wretched dollars. Outcasts, they skulked through existence, forced, once they had begun, to go on and on committing crimes—on the one hand to live, and on the other to pay tribute to Gottlieb and myself, who alone stood between them and jail. How they had cringed to us. We were their masters, cracking the lash of blackmail across their shoulders and sharing equally, if invisibly, in their crimes! And how I had scorned them—fools, as they seemed to me, to take such desperate chances! Yet, as the sun rose, I now saw myself as one of the beings whom I had so despised. We were no longer their masters—they were our masters! Hawkins had us in his power. He alone could prevent us from donning prison stripes.
Already the streets were beginning to stir. Wagons rumbled along the pavements. Streams of people emerged from the caverns of the east and trudged westward across the city. I circled the square and entered it from the lower side. My big brick mansion, with its stone trimmings—the home where I had held my revels and entertained my friends, where I had worked and slept—was but a stone's throw away. I strained my eyes to detect any signs of the police; but the street was empty. Then, pulling my hat down upon my head, I turned up my coat-collar and, glancing from side to side, hurried across the square and let myself in.
The household still slept. The air was close and heavy with the perfume of roses and the reek of dead cigars. On the floor of the entrance hall lay a pair of woman's white gloves, palms upward. Beyond, through the open doors of the dining-room, I could see the uncleared table, littered over with half-empty bottles and glasses. An upset chair reclined as it had fallen. Last night I had been an envied host; to-day I was an outcast.
As I stood there, a shadow darkened the doorway and with a leap of the heart I jumped behind a portiere. Then, as the shadow remained and knowing that in any event I was trapped, I threw open the door. Gottlieb, with wild eyes peering out of a haggard face, stood before me. Without a moment's hesitation, he dodged inside.
"Did you get it?" he almost shrieked.
"Yes," I answered faintly. "What are we to do?"
"For God's sake give me something to drink!" he cried. "I need it!"
I led him to the sideboard and filled two glasses with whiskey.
"Here's to crime!" I muttered, with a bitter laugh.
Gottlieb shot a fierce look at me and his hand shook so that I thought he would drop the tumbler; but he poured the liquor down his throat and threw himself into a chair.
"That fellow has us by the throat!" he groaned.
"We should have thought of that—" I began.
"Stop!" he gasped. "You can hold a post-mortem later on. They haven't got us yet—and, by God! we've a long start. Once let us whip Hawkins out of the way and they're helpless! I must stay here to fight the case, but you, Quib, must take this fellow where they'll never find him—Africa, Alaska, Europe—anywhere! If you could drop him over a precipice or off an ocean liner—so much the better!"
For an instant we eyed each other keenly. Then I shook my head.
"No," said I. "If it came to that I'd rather go to jail."
It was now nearly seven o'clock and I felt faint for something to eat; so I stumbled upstairs and awakened my butler, who stared at me stupidly when he saw me beside his bed in evening dress. When I rejoined Gottlieb I found him examining the morning paper, which a boy had just brought to the front door. Across the front page in double-leaded type was printed:
THE DILLINGHAM DIVORCE AGAIN
Arthur P. Hawkins Indicted for Perjury
Extraordinary Disclosures Expected
Two Prominent Criminal Attorneys Said to be Involved
"They've raised the hue and cry already!" muttered my partner, pointing to the paper. "Damn them! How ready they are to turn on a man! Think of all the stories I've given to these very papers! Stories worth thousands of dollars to 'em! And now—they're after our hearts' blood!"
While we were waiting for our breakfast he outlined his plan. We were to get Hawkins out of town as soon as we had given bail for him. Of course the railroads and ferries would be watched, but we could manage somehow. I must take the fellow where nobody would find him and keep him there. If he ever were brought back and convicted he would turn on us like a snake. Only while he still hoped to escape prison could we count on his co-operation. Meanwhile my partner would remain in the city and try to upset the indictment. Anyhow, some one must stand guard over Dillingham; for, if he lost his nerve and endeavored to save himself by confessing his part in the affair, we would be lost!
Gloomily we ate a few pieces of toast and swallowed our coffee. Then I hastily changed my clothes and accompanied Gottlieb to the Tombs, to which Hawkins had been transferred the night before. He was brought down to us in the counsel-room, looking like a scared and sickly ghost. What little spirit he had before had already vanished. I have never seen a more wretched human creature. His one dread was of going to prison; and together we hastened to convince him that his only avenue of escape lay through us. We pointed out to him that so long as he stuck to the story we should prepare for him he had nothing to fear; and, as evidence of our power to protect him, we instanced the fact that we had already secured fifty thousand dollars' cash bail for him. At this he took much heart, and even whistled a bit and begged us for a drink, but we slapped him on the back and told him that he could have anything he wanted once he was outside the Tombs—not before; so he gave us a cold, slimy hand and promised to do precisely as we wished.
Ten-thirty came and we both walked across to Part One of the General Sessions, where for so many years we had been monarchs of all we surveyed. A great throng filled the room and many reporters clustered around the tables by the rail, while at the head of a long line of waiting prisoners stood the bedraggled Hawkins. Presently the judge came in and took his seat and the spectators surged forward so that the officers had difficulty in preserving order. Somehow, it seemed almost as if we were being arraigned ourselves—not appearing as counsel for another; but Gottlieb preserved his composure admirably and, when Hawkins's name was called, stepped forward, entered a plea of not guilty for him and gave bail. We had already deposited the money with the city chamberlain and Hawkins was immediately discharged, pending his trial for perjury; but the tremendous sum demanded as security and the fact that it was immediately forthcoming for a prisoner who looked as if he had not a cent in the world of his own, and who was known to be a mere waiter in a restaurant, caused a sensation throughout the court-room; and as we forced our way to the street we were accompanied by a multitude, who jeered at the defendant and occasionally took a fling at Gottlieb and myself. We still, however, were persons to be feared, and few dared venture beyond making suggestive allusions to our obvious desire to secure the immediate liberty of our client.
So far we had no reason to believe that the district attorney—a man of high integrity and unrelenting zeal in the discharge of his official duties—had sought to tamper with Hawkins; but I instinctively felt that, once he had an opportunity to offer the latter personal immunity in return for a confession which would implicate Gottlieb and myself all would be over. As my partner had said, there was only one thing to do—and that was to put it out of our client's power to do us harm. The first step in this direction was to get him hopelessly drunk, and this we successfully did in a back room of our office.
Both of us knew that a dozen pairs of eyes were watching the entrance of the old-fashioned building in which our rooms were located, and that any attempt on our part to get Hawkins out of the city would result in his immediate arrest. Once he were sent back to the Tombs he would be out of our control. So, for three days, we kept him—a foul, unwashed, maudlin thing—a practical prisoner, although from his condition quite unconscious of it. Day and night, turn and turn about, Gottlieb and I watched while he snored and gibbered, cursed and giggled; but the strain was getting too much for both of us and we set ourselves at work to devise a way to spirit him away.
Our offices were situated in a block the other side of which consisted of tenement-houses. Investigation showed that it would be possible to get over the roofs, walk nearly the length of the block and gain access to one of the more distant tenements through a skylight. For the sum of fifty dollars we found an Italian fruit- dealer who was willing to hire himself, his rickety wagon, and his spavined horse for our enterprise; and he agreed to carry Hawkins concealed under piles of produce to a point on Long Island, where we could take a ferry across to one of the Connecticut towns.
The following night we arranged that a hack should be drawn up early in the evening in front of the entrance to the office, and bags and boxes were brought out and piled upon the seat beside the driver. We then half dragged, half lifted Hawkins up the stairs and on the roof by means of a shaky ladder and conducted him across the leads to the scuttle of the tenement-house. At this juncture, by prearrangement, three of our clerks, one of whom somewhat resembled Hawkins in size and who was arrayed in the latter's coat and hat, rushed out of the office and climbed into the hack, which at once set off at a furious gallop up Centre Street. Coincidentally Gottlieb and I escorted our still maudlin prisoner down the narrow stairs at the other end of the block and cajoled him into getting into a sack, which the Italian placed in the bottom of the cart and covered with greens. I now put on a disguise, consisting of a laborer's overalls and tattered cap, while Gottlieb wheeled out a safety bicycle which had been carefully concealed in the basement.
I had ten thousand dollars in the pocket of my ragged trousers and a forty-four-calibre revolver at my hip. Gottlieb drew me back into the shadow and whispered harshly in my ear.
"Quib," said he, "this fellow must never come back!—do you understand? Once the district attorney gets hold of him, it's all up with us! It's Sing Sing for each of us—ten years of it! For God's sake, hire somebody to put him out of the way!—quietly. Many a man would take him off our hands for a thousand or so."
I shuddered at the cold-blooded suggestion, yet I did not utter one word of refusal, and must have led Gottlieb to believe that I was of a mind with him, for he slapped me on the shoulder and bade me good luck. Good luck! Was ever a man of decent birth and education forced upon such an errand? The convoying of a drunken criminal to—where? I knew not—somewhere whence he could not return.
Thus I set forth into the night upon my bicycle, my money bulging in my pocket, my pistol knocking against the seat at every turn of the wheel, my trousers catching and tearing in the pedals. At last I crossed the bridge and turned into the wastes of Queens. Gas- houses, factories, and rotting buildings loomed black and weird against the sky. I pedaled on and at last found myself upon a country road. I dared not ask my way, but luckily I had stumbled upon the highway to Port Washington, whence there was a ferry to the Connecticut shore. As I stole along in the darkness, my ear caught far ahead a voice roaring out a ribald song—and I knew that the time had come to take personal charge of my wretched client— the "old man of the sea" that my own stupidity had seated upon my shoulders. Soon I overtook them, the Italian stolidly driving his weary horse and Hawkins sitting beside him with the sack wrapped around his shoulders. I halted them, threw my bicycle in among the vegetables, and climbed up to where they sat. Hawkins gave a great shout of laughter when he saw who it was and threw his arm around my neck, but I pushed him away and he nearly fell under the wheels. My gorge rose at him! Yet to him I was shackled as tightly as ever a criminal was to his keeper!
The thought of the remainder of that night and of the ensuing three days and nights sickens me even now. In the early dawn we crossed the ferry with dozens of other produce-laden wagons and landed on the opposite side of the Sound, where we caught a local train for Hartford. I had made no arrangements for communicating with Gottlieb, and was in utter ignorance of whether or not our escape had been discovered. We sat in the smoking-car, Hawkins by this time ill and peevish. The air was stifling, yet I could not, arrayed as I was or in the company of my client, go into the regular passenger coach. At Hartford we changed for Springfield and I purchased a New York paper. There was nothing in it relating to the case and I breathed more easily; but, once in Springfield, I knew not which way to turn, and Hawkins by this time was crazy for drink and refusing to go farther. I gave him enough liquor to keep him quiet and thrust him on a way train for Worcester. Already I had exhausted my small bills and when I tried to cash one for a hundred dollars the ticket agent in the station eyed me with suspicion.
That night we slept in a single bed, Hawkins and I, in a cheap lodging-house—that is, he slept a sordid, drunken sleep, while I lay tossing and cursing my fate until, burning with fever, I rose and drained part of the water in the pitcher. Yet, in the early morning hours there came to me the first ray of hope throughout that dreary space since I had left New York—the Quirks! The Quirks! Twenty years had passed since I had heard from them. They might be dead and gone long ago without my knowing it; yet, were they alive, I felt that one or other of them would hold out a friendly hand for auld lang syne. Before daybreak, I stole forth, hired a horse and buggy, asked the way to Methuen and, rousing Hawkins, bundled him, whining and fretting, into it.
Slowly we drove in the growing light through the country lanes I had known and loved so well as a lad—the farmland which was the only friendly thing in my disconsolate boyhood. It was in the early spring and the apple-trees along the stone walls by the roadside were showered with clustering blossoms. Dandelions sprinkled the fields. The cloud shadows slowly moved across rich pastures of delicate green. A sun-warmed, perfume-laden breeze blew from the east, tinged with a keen edge that sent the blood leaping in my temples. Tiny pools stood in the ruts glinting blue toward the sky. The old horse plodded slowly on and the robins called among the elms that stood arching over white farm-houses with blinds, some blue, some green.
With a harrowing sense of helplessness, the realization of what I had thrown away of life swept over me. I turned from the sodden creature beside me in disgust. Hawkins had slumped back in his seat, so that his head rested upon the hood, and had fallen sound asleep, with his mouth wide open. How I wished that I had the courage to strangle him—and then it came to me that, after all, it was not he who had ruined me, but I who had ruined him!
About noontime we came to a landscape that seemed familiar to me, although more heavily wooded and with many more farms than I remembered; and at a turn in the road I recognized a couple of huge elms that marked the site of the homestead occupied in my boyhood by the Quirks. There was the brook, the maple grove upon the hill, the old stile by the pasture, and the long stone wall beside the apple orchard, radiant with white. Yet the house seemed to have vanished. My heart sank, for somehow I had assumed that the Quirks must still be living, just as they had always lived. And now, as we drew near the turn, I saw that the place where the homestead had stood was empty, and all that remained was a heap of blackened stone and brick thickly overgrown with brambles.
Fifty yards farther down the road we came upon an old man sitting on the fence, smoking a pipe. He wore a tattered old brown felt hat and overalls, and his long gray hair and beard were tangled and unkempt. I passed the time of day and he answered me civilly enough, although vacantly; and I saw that his eye had the red film of the drunkard. When I asked him for Quirk, the schoolmaster, who used to live thereabout he gave a mirthless chuckle.
"My name's Quirk," said he; "but it's fifteen years since I taught school. How did you come to know of me?"
Could this be Quirk—this aged and decrepit old man! Somewhere beneath that mat of hair and beard, did there remain traces of those good-natured lineaments that were wont to set the boys in a roar? I scanned his face closely. The man was a stranger to my recollection.
"Do you remember me, Mr. Quirk?" I asked.
He peered out at me under his bushy brows and slowly removed his pipe.
"Not to my knowledge," he answered. "What might be your name?"
"Quibble," I returned—"Artemas Quibble."
"Artemas Quibble!" he exclaimed in a faltering voice and feebly crawled over to the buggy.
I climbed down to meet him and extended my hand.
"What has happened to you?" he stammered. "I thought you were a great lawyer in New York."
"I'm in a peck of trouble," I answered. "I need all the friends I've got. I hope you're still one of them?"
"Well, well!" he muttered. "And to think that you're Artie Quibble! And who may this be?" pointing to Hawkins.
"I'll tell you all," said I, "later on. For the present, he's a friend of mine who's travelling with me—more on business than on pleasure."
Quirk's story was soon told. As I already expected, drink had become his master. The school had fallen away, his wife had died, and in a fit of despondency he had—he said accidentally, but I believe intentionally—overturned a lamp and set fire to the house. Now he lodged in a small hotel farther down the road, living from hand to mouth, and doing a day's work here and there when chance offered. I gave him fifty dollars and bade him good-bye, for he had no accommodations to offer us even had I been able to induce Hawkins to remain there. Thus I realized that the only refuge I ever had from the outside world, the only real home I had ever known, was gone. I had nowhere to go, nowhere to deposit my evil load.
We drove on for a space, and now Hawkins awoke and began to clamor for food. Where was I taking him? he demanded to know. And why was I togged out like a bricklayer? He announced that he had had enough of this kind of travelling and insisted on going to a hotel and having a decent meal. I tried to reason with him and explained that it was only for a day or so, and that presumably we would go to Boston or some other city, where he should have everything that money could buy. But he leered at me and said he had plenty of promises already; that we had promised him that he would get into no trouble if he signed his original affidavit, and that, unless he were treated like a gentleman, he would go back to New York and get other lawyers. He must have seen me turn white at his threat, for from that moment he held it over me, constantly repeating it and insinuating that I was not so anxious to save him as to save myself, which, alas! I could not gainsay.
Soon we came to a small town and here Hawkins flatly refused to go any farther. There was a hotel on the main street, and the fellow clambered out of the buggy and staggered into the bar and called loudly for whiskey. There was nothing for it but to put up the horse in the stable and do as my prisoner demanded. So we had dinner together, Hawkins talking in a loud, thick voice that made the waitresses and other guests stare at him and me as if we were some sort of outlandish folk; and after the meal was over he dragged me to the nearest clothier and ordered new ready-made suits for both of us. He had now imbibed much more than was good for him; and when I took out my roll of bills to pay for what we had bought he snatched it out of my hand and refused to give it back. For a moment I almost surrendered myself to despair. I had had no sleep for two nights, I was overwhelmed with mortification and disgust, and here I was in a country store pranked out like a popinjay, the keeper of a half-crazy wretch who made me dance to any tune he chose to pipe; but I pulled myself together and cajoled Hawkins into leaving the place and giving me back a small part of the money.
There was a train just leaving for Boston and my companion insisted upon taking it, saying that he proposed to spend the money that Dillingham had so kindly furnished him with. I never knew how he discovered the part Dillingham was playing in this strange drama; but if no one told him, he at any rate divined it somehow, and from this moment he assumed the lead and directed all our movements. It is true that I persuaded him to go to one of the smaller and less conspicuous hotels, but he at once sent for another tailor, ordered an elaborate meal for supper, with champagne, and procured a box at one of the theatres, whither I was obliged to escort him. Neither would he longer permit me to occupy the same room with him —precious privilege!—but engaged a palatial suite for himself, with a parlor, while I had a small and modest room farther down the hall. In some respects this suited me well, however, since I was now able to induce him to have his meals served upstairs. Yet I began to see the foolishness of thinking that we could elude the police should they set out to seek seriously for us, since, apart from changing our names, we were making no effort at disguising ourselves.
The day after our arrival, Hawkins slept late and I slipped out about ten o'clock and wandering aimlessly came to Barristers' Hall, where twenty years before old Tuckerman Toddleham had his office. The day was warm and humid, like that upon which so long ago I had visited the old lawyer when a student at Harvard and had received from him my sentence. Even as then, some birds were twittering around the stone window-ledges. An impulse that at the moment was beyond my control led me up the narrow, dingy stairs to the landing where the lawyer's office had been. A green-baize door, likely enough the same one, still hung there—where the lawyer's office had been. Naught about the room was altered. There were the bookcases, with their glass doors and green-silk curtains; the threadbare carpet, the portrait of the Honorable Jeremiah Mason over the fireplace; the old mahogany desk; the little bronze paper- weight in the shape of a horse; the books, brown and faded with years; and at the desk—I brushed my hand across my eyes—at the desk sat old Tuckerman Toddleham himself!
For the first time in my entire existence, so far as I can now remember, I was totally nonplussed and abashed. I could not have been more astonished had I walked into the family lot in the Salem cemetery and found my grandfather sitting on his own tombstone; but there the old lawyer surely was, as certainly as he had been there twenty years before; and the same sensations that I had always experienced as a child while in his presence now swept over me and made me feel like a whipped school-boy. Not for the world would I have had him see me and be forced to answer his questions as to my business in the city of Boston; so, holding my breath, I tiptoed out of the door, and the last vision I ever had of him was as he sat there absorbed in some legal problem, bending over his books, the sunlight flooding the mote-filled air of the dusty office, the little bronze horse standing before him on the desk and the branches of the trees outside casting flickering shadows upon the walls and bookcases. Canny old man! He had never put his neck in a noose! I envied him his quiet life among his books and the well-deserved respect and honor that the world accorded him.
Ruminating in this strain, I threaded my way through the crowd in Court Street, and was about to return to my hotel, when to my utter horror I beheld Hawkins, in all his regalia, being marched down the hill between two business-like-looking persons, who were unmistakably officers of police. He walked dejectedly and had lost all his bravado. There was no blinking the fact that in my absence he had managed somehow to stumble into the hands of the guardians of the law and was now in process of being transported back to New York.
For a moment my circulation stopped abruptly and a clammy moisture broke out upon my back and forehead. Unostentatiously I slipped into a cigar store and allowed the trio to pass me by. So the jig was up! Back I must go, after my fruitless nightmare with the wretch, to consult with my partner as to what was now to be done. I reached the city late that evening, but not before I had read in the evening papers a full account of the apprehension of the fugitive, including my own part in the escape; and it now appeared that the police had been fully cognizant of all our doings, including the manner of our abduction of Hawkins from our office. They had, under the instructions of the district attorney, simply permitted us to carry out our plan in order to use the same as evidence against us at the proper time, and had followed us every step of the way to Worcester and on our drive to Methuen.
My heart almost failed me as I thought of how foolish I had been to undertake this desperate journey myself, instead of sending some one in my place for by so doing I had stamped myself as vitally interested in my client's escape. Fearful to go to my own home, lest I should find myself in the hands of the police, I spent the night in a lodging-house on the water-front, wondering whether Hawkins had already made his confession to the district attorney in return for a promise of immunity; for I well knew that such a promise would be forthcoming and that Hawkins was the last man in the world to neglect the opportunity to save himself at our expense.
Next morning I telephoned Gottlieb and met him by appointment at a hotel, where we had a heated colloquy, in which he seemed to think that I was totally to blame for the failure of our attempt. He was hardly himself, so worn out was he with anxiety, not having heard from me until he had read of Hawkins's apprehension in Boston; but, now that I was able to talk things over with him, we agreed that any effort to spirit our client away would have been equally unsuccessful, and that the one course remaining for us to pursue was to put on as bold a front as possible and let the law take its course. It was equally useless for us to try to conceal our own whereabouts, for all our movements were undoubtedly watched; and the best thing to do, it seemed to us, was to go as usual to our office and to act as nearly as possible as if nothing had happened.
We were not mistaken as to the intended course of the district attorney; for, when we visited the Tombs for the purpose of interviewing Hawkins, we were informed by the warden that he had obtained other counsel and that our services were no longer required. This was an indisputable indication that he had gone over to the enemy; and we at once began to take such steps as lay in our power to prepare for our defence in case an indictment was found against us. And now we were treated to a dose of the medicine we had customarily administered to our own clients; for, when we tried to secure counsel, we found that one and all insisted upon our paying over in advance even greater fees as retainers than those which we had demanded in like cases. I had never taken the trouble to lay by anything, since I had always had all the ready cash I needed. Gottlieb was in the same predicament, and in our distress we called upon Dillingham to furnish us with the necessary amount; but, to our amazement and horror, our erstwhile client refused to see us or come to our office, and we definitely realized that he, too, had sought safety in confession and would be used by the prosecution in its effort to place the crime of perjury at our door.
From the moment of Hawkins's arrest the tide turned against us. There seemed to be a general understanding throughout the city that the district attorney intended to make an example in our case, and to show that it was quite as possible to convict a member of the bar as any one else. He certainly gave us no loophole of escape, for he secured every witness that by any possibility we might have called to our aid, and even descended upon our office with a search- warrant in his effort to secure evidence against us. Luckily, however, Gottlieb and I had made a practice of keeping no papers and had carefully burned everything relating to the Dillingham case before I had left the city.
The press preserved a singular and ominous silence in regard to us, which lasted until one morning when a couple of officers appeared with bench-warrants for our arrest. We had already made arrangements for bail in the largest amount and had secured the services of the ablest criminal attorneys we knew, so that we were speedily released; but, with the return of our indictments charging us with suborning the testimony of Hawkins, the papers began a regular crusade against us. The evening edition carried spectacular front-page stories recounting my flight to Boston, the entire history of the Dillingham divorce, biographies of both Gottlieb and myself, and anecdotes of cases in which we had appeared and notorious criminals whom we had defended. And in all this storm of abuse and incrimination which now burst over our heads not a single world appeared in mitigation of our alleged offence.
It seemed as if the entire city had determined to wreak vengeance upon us for all the misdeeds of the entire criminal bar. Even our old clients, and the police and court officers who had drawn pay from us, seemed to rejoice in our downfall. Every man's hand was against us. The hue and cry had been raised and we were to be harried out of town and into prison. At every turn we were forced to pay out large sums to secure the slightest assistance; our clerks and employees refused longer to work for us, and groups of loiterers gathered about the office and pointed to the windows. Our lives became a veritable hell, and I longed for the time when the anxiety should be over and I should know whether the public clamor for a victim were to be satisfied.
Gottlieb and the lawyers fought stubbornly every inch of the defence. First, they attacked the validity of the proceedings, entered demurrers, and made motions to dismiss the indictments. These matters took a month or two to decide. Then came motions for a change of venue, appeals from the decisions against us to the Appellate Division, and other technical delays; so that four months passed before, at last, we were forced to go to trial. By this time my health had suffered; and when I looked at myself in the glass I was shocked to find how gaunt and hollow-cheeked I had grown. My hair, which had up to this time been dark brown, had in a brief space turned quite gray over my ears, and whatever of good looks I had ever possessed had vanished utterly. Gottlieb, too, had altered from a jovial, sleek-looking fellow into a nervous, worried, ratlike little man. My creditors pressed me for their money and I was forced to close my house and live at a small hotel. The misery of those days is something I do not care to recall. We were both of us stripped, as it were, of everything at once—money, friends, health, and position; for we were the jest and laughing- stock of the very criminals who had before our downfall been our clients and crowded our office in their eagerness to secure our erstwhile powerful assistance. Our day was over!
It was useless to try to escape from the meshes of the net drawn so tightly around us. Even if we could have forfeited our heavy bail—which would have been an impossibility, owing to the watchfulness of our bondsman—we could never have eluded the detectives who now dogged our footsteps. We were marked men. Everywhere we were pointed out and made the objects of comment and half-concealed abuse. The final straw was when the district attorney, in his anxiety lest we should slip through his fingers, caused our re- arrest on a trumped-up charge that we were planning to leave the city, and we were thrown into the Tombs, being unable to secure the increased bail which he demanded. Here we had the pleasure of having Hawkins leer down at us from the tier of cells above, and here we suffered the torments of the damned at the hands of our fellow prisoners, who, to a man, made it their daily business and pleasure to render our lives miserable. Gottlieb wasted away to a mere shadow and I became seriously ill from the suffocating heat and loathsome food, for it was now midsummer and the Tombs was crowded with prisoners waiting until the courts should open in the autumn to be tried.
We were called to the bar together—Gottlieb and I—to answer to the charge against us in the very court-room where my partner had won so many forensic victories and secured the acquittal of so many clients more fortunate than he. From the outset of the case everything went against us; and it seemed as if judge, prosecutor, and jury were united in a conspiracy to deprive us of our rights and to railroad us to prison. Even when impaneling the jury, I was amazed to find the prejudice against criminal lawyers in general and ourselves in particular; for almost every other talesman swore that he was so fixed in his opinion as to our guilt that it would be impossible to give us a fair trial.
At last, however, after several days a jury of twelve hard-faced citizens was sworn who asserted that they had no bias against us and could give us a fair trial and the benefit of every reasonable doubt. Fair trial, indeed! We were convicted before the first witness was sworn! Convicted by the press, the public, and the atmosphere that had been stirred up against us during the preceding months. And yet, one satisfaction remained to me, and that was the sight of Hawkins and Dillingham on the grill under the cross- examination of our attorneys. Dillingham particularly was a pitiable object, shaking and sweating upon the witness chair, and forced to admit that he had paid Gottlieb and me thirty-five thousand dollars to get him an annulment so that he could marry the woman with whom he was now living. The court-room was jammed to the doors with a curious crowd, anxious to see Gottlieb and me on trial and to learn the nature of the evidence against us; and when our client left the stand—a pitiful, wilted human creature—and crawled out of the room, a jeering throng followed him downstairs and out into the street.
The actual giving of evidence occupied but two days, the chief witness next to Hawkins being the clerk who swore the latter to his affidavit in my office. This treacherous rascal not only testified that Hawkins took his oath to the contents of the paper, but at the same time had told me that it was false. The farce went on, a mere formal giving of testimony, until at length the district attorney announced that he had no more evidence to offer.
"You may proceed with the defence," said the judge, turning to our counsel.
I looked at Gottlieb and Gottlieb looked at me. The trial had closed so suddenly that we were taken quite unawares and left wholly undetermined what to do. We had practically no evidence to offer on our behalf except our own denials of the testimony against us; and if once either of us took the stand we should open the door to a cross-examination at the hands of the district attorney of our entire lives. For this cross-examination he had been preparing for months; and I well knew that there was not a single shady transaction in which we had participated, not one attempt at blackmail, not a crooked defence that we had interposed that he had not investigated and stood prepared to question us about in detail.
"What shall we do?" whispered Gottlieb nervously. "Do you want to take the stand?"
"How can we?" I asked petulantly. "If we did we should be convicted —not for this but for every other thing we ever did in our lives. Let's take a chance and go to the jury on the case as it stands."