The Twin Ventriloquists: or, Nimble Ike and Jack the Juggler
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Jack and Ike left the place. They were delighted with the rebuke they had administered, but the fun was not over. The three dudes were standing at the corner of the street talking over their grievances. They espied Ike and Jack and one of them said:
"There are the fellows who drew us into this trouble."
"Let's hammer them."
Neither Ike nor Jack were formidable-looking chaps, and the dudes sailed for them. Well, a lively scene followed. The two ventriloquists were both lithe, active athletes, and the way they polished off the "chappies" was a sight to behold, and they were having a heap of fun when suddenly both were seized by the collars of their coats and found themselves in the grasp of two stalwart policemen.
Neither lad was scared. They did not mind their arrest on such a trivial charge at all, and they were led off. Ike asked by signal:
"What shall we do?"
"What do you think?" came the answer.
"Shall we be locked up and raise old Cain in the station house, or shall we make these officers dance right here?"
"Let's make them dance," came the answer.
The lads struck a good chance even as the word was passed. They were passing a tenement house and a man had just raised a window to close the shutters or something, when there came as though from the man a mad cry of "fire!" The officers stopped short, and again there came several cries, seemingly from different parts of the house. The officers let go their hold upon their prisoners. A fire in a tenement house was a far more serious matter than the arrest of two youths for fighting in the street. As stated, the lads were released, and they darted away to secure hiding places from which they could witness the fun and excitement, and there was excitement. One of the officers rapped for assistance and the second one ran to the fire-alarm box to give the signal, and officer number one made a rush to the house. He found the door open and he ran up the stairs shouting "fire! fire! fire!" The tenants rushed from their apartments and there followed a scene of wild confusion, and while the yelling and screaming were at their height two engines arrived, also a platoon of police, and the firemen of the engine company entered the house, but still there was no sign of either fire or smoke. A thorough examination followed. No signs of a fire could be discovered. The sergeant in charge of the platoon of police asked the two officers who had given the alarm where they had seen the fire. They protested they had not seen any fire, but that a man had raised the window of one of the front rooms and had shouted "fire!" The firemen meantime were thoroughly convinced that there was no fire, and they were mad at being called out on a fake alarm. They commenced to abuse the police, who protested that the cry had come from the house. The tenants had all returned to their rooms and they also had been loud in their protests and threatened to make a complaint at headquarters.
"From what room did the cry come?" asked the sergeant.
The two policemen pointed out the room.The sergeant, accompanied by the two officers, went up to the room. There were several very respectable men in the room and they all protested that they had given no alarm. All declared that they were prepared to swear that they had not. The sergeant was bothered, and said to the two patrolmen:
"This matter must be explained."
"We did hear a cry of fire."
"No one else appears to have heard it."
"We heard it."
"Where is your proof?"
One of the officers said:
"I wish we could find those two lads. They heard it."
"We can't find them."
The two men were ordered to report at the station house to answer charges for their lark, as the sergeant termed it. Other men were put on the beat and our two ventriloquists crawled forth from their hiding-places and Ike said:
"That was a pretty severe joke."
"Yes, it was very amusing."
"We must do something to save those men or they may be broke."
"How can we do it?"
"We'll rattle the sergeant on the same scheme," came the answer.
The two vocal experts fell to the trail of the sergeant and his platoon, but kept well out of sight. They were determined to set the two patrolmen right after getting them in such a bad scrape. The whole charge against them was having claimed that they had overheard cries of fire. The sergeant was discussing the matter with the roundsman when suddenly from a private house before which at the moment they were passing came a series of wild, frantic screams, and the next instant the screams were followed by cries of "fire! fire!"
"Well," exclaimed the sergeant, "it's a fire this time. Run to the alarm box and summon the engines."
The roundsman dashed off to give the alarm and the sergeant ran up the stoop of the house and commenced to bang on the door with his club, and the two ventriloquists were enjoying the joke. The door of the house was opened by a gentleman enveloped in a dressing-gown, who in great excitement demanded:
"What in thunder do you want?"
With equal excitement the sergeant demanded:
"Where is the fire?"
"The fire in this house."
"There is no fire in this house."
"Then why in thunder did you yell 'fire, fire?'"
"No one yelled fire. What is the matter with you?"
The owner of the house discerned that it was a sergeant of police to whom he was talking. "Have you gone crazy?" he asked.
"Gone crazy! No; but what did you mean by yelling fire?"
"I did not yell fire. Every one in this house has been in bed a long time."
"Who was it screamed?"
"No one screamed."
"Do you mean to tell me you did not yell fire?"
"No one yelled fire."
"And no one screamed in this house?"
"No one screamed."
At that moment the engines reappeared and the owner of the house said:
"I'll have this matter inquired into. If this is a joke you will find it an expensive one."
The foreman of the engine company approached and demanded:
"Where is the fire?"
"There is no fire," said the owner of the house.
"No fire, and I don't know what the officer means by banging on my door and arousing my family at this hour of the night."
"And I can't understand," said the foreman, "what he means by calling out the engines every five minutes on a false alarm."
"There is my platoon of men, there is my roundsman. They will all testify they heard a cry of fire, followed by screams, coming from this house."
"Then your platoon of men and your roundsman will testify to a falsehood," said the house owner.
"Is there a fire in your house?" demanded the foreman of the engine company.
"Is there a fire anywhere around here?"
"No, sir, not that I know of, unless it's in the upper story of these policemen."
"Say, sergeant, let me ask you one question: Have you received orders to test our department by these false alarms?"
"No, sir, I'll swear and prove that there came an alarm of fire from this house."
"That's what your men said down at the tenement house. I reckon it's a night off for the police department, or else they all want a night off. But let me tell you, if you didn't receive orders to give these fake alarms I'll know the reason why you did give them; that's all."
The sergeant was clear beat out. He apologized to the owner of the house, went down among his men and asked:
"Did you men hear those screams?"
"We did," came the answer.
"Did you hear the cries of 'fire, fire?'"
"We did," came the answer.
"All right; we'll find out about this."
"How are you going to find out all about it, sergeant?" popped in the roundsman.
"I don't know."
The roundsman was a friend of the two men who had been sent to the station house in disgrace, and he again asked:
"How about Jones and O'Brien?"
"I've been thinking about them."
"We heard it; they claim they heard the cries. I don't see how they can be held responsible."
"I don't know what to think of it."
"Can I advise?"
"Send the two men back on post and say nothing about the whole affair. That's my advice."
"Roundsman, it's all very strange."
"It's one of the mysteries of the century."
"I am not crazy. I'd think so, only we could not all go crazy."
"I'll swear I heard the cries."
The platoon started for the station house. The men were all greatly mystified, but a greater mystery was yet to confront them. The ventriloquists had been witnesses of the result of their pranks and determined to press the matter along. They followed the platoon at a safe distance, one of them going around the square so that they approached the station from opposite quarters. The men were just in the station; the last man was passing the door when right at his ears sounded a wild, unearthly yell, followed by the cry of "Fire! fire! fire!" The man stood like one paralyzed, then the sergeant rushed into the street. Not a soul was near, and yet even while he stood there again right at his ear sounded the weird cry, "Fire! fire! fire!" The man was dumfounded. He stood and gazed in wild dismay. The sergeant at the desk came rushing forth, demanding:
"What's the matter? Where's the fire? What are you all standing here for?"
"Do you think there is a fire?"
"Didn't you hear the cry?"
"Yes; did you?"
"Then go find the fire. We've heard cries of fire all the night, but devil a fire can we find."
Jack and Ike had had fun enough in that one direction and they started off toward Ike's home. They had not gone far, however, when they struck another little adventure – a very peculiar one. Indeed, possessing their singular talents they were continually running into adventures, as their gifts gave them great powers in every direction. A little girl had stopped a crabbed, sleek-looking old gentleman and had asked him for alms. The man had said:
"Go to the station house," and he spoke in cruel, hard tones. The girl with a sigh turned away, and Ike said:
"Let's give that old skinflint a dose."
"Agreed," came the response.
Ike ran forward and dropped a silver dollar in the girl's hand and then slid along and joined Jack. The two secured advantage ground, for the old gentleman had stopped to gaze in the windows of one of the great hotel restaurants. Suddenly there sounded in his ears:
"Cruel, cruel old man!"
The old gentleman looked around in every direction and saw no one near him, yet the words had sounded, as stated, close beside his ear. While he was still gazing again there came a voice, saying:
The old gentleman looked around in an amazed manner, and with anger in his heart, but he saw no one. He became a little bewildered, when again there came a voice saying:
"Go to the station house! Go to the station house!"
The old man turned pale. It was the most mysterious incident of his whole life, and again came the words:
"Go to the station house!"
The admonition sounded close in his ears, and yet there was not a living soul near him that he could see. He began to tremble, and again, even while he glanced around, the voice repeated:
"Please give me money for bread," and there came the response in exact imitation of the old man's tones:
"Go to the station."
"Great Mercury!" ejaculated the man. "I am pursued by a phantom."
"Yes, you are pursued by a phantom, you who refused to give a poor child money for bread."
"I'll give the next child I meet a dollar," murmured the old man in trembling tones.
"All right; I'll leave you until my presence is required again. Good-night."
The old gentleman moved toward his home, and it is to be hoped he became a more charitable man.
The two lads started on their way and were moving on up Fifth Avenue when Ike, who was quick-eyed and observant, saw a man rush out of a hallway. The fellow's actions were suspicious and our hero remarked to his companion:
"Hello! Jack, there is something going on here."
The two lads determined to trail the man. They saw him go up the street, where he joined a second man. The ventriloquists stole up close, and both being lithe and active they were able to secure a position very near where the two men stood, and they heard one of them ask:
"Are you sure it's dead easy?"
"Are you sure you have the right house?"
"That woman is very smart."
"How do you know?"
"I've been watching her for weeks. There is something strange about her and her movements, but she's got the stuff; of that I am sure. She lives alone in that big house with only one servant – an old man – whom we can silence in about two minutes. She is a stranger in New York, and does not appear to have any friends. If we can get in there and away again we can make a big haul, and all in good movable swag. I'll bet she's got twenty thousand dollars' worth of diamonds alone, and where there are so many sparks there are other fireworks, you bet."
Ike and Jack appreciated that, indeed, they had "tumbled on to a big thing." The men did not talk in particularly low tones; no one appeared to be near them.
"We need a big haul."
"I am run way down."
"I am also."
"We struck a big thing when we followed that woman from Boston."
"We are not known in New York and the scent will be on natives."
"That's it exactly. We can get away with our haul, return to Boston and read the papers and learn how these smart New York officers are closing in on the robbers."
Both men laughed in a very complaisant manner, and one of them said:
"It will prove the softest trick we ever played. We are in luck to strike a neat, clean affair like this."
"We are, you bet. When will you work the racket?"
"I've got all the points down. We'll jump in and do the job to-morrow night."
"At what hour?"
"Well, about two o'clock is a good time."
"Where will we meet?"
The man named a meeting-place.
"I will be on deck."
"We will have this all to ourselves."
"And I tell you it's the easiest job we ever struck, and we'll make a big pull."
"That will suit me to a dot."
"The police here are on the watch, for crooks are running riot in New York just about these days."
"So I see by the papers."
"They are all too noisy about their jobs. We'll go it slow, easy and sure."
The two men sauntered away and the two ventriloquists followed them. Ike expressed a desire to learn where they "hung out," as he put it.
The men went down to a small hotel on a side street and then the shadowers once more started for their home.
On the way Ike said:
"Jack, it's a great thing to possess our power."
"Yes, but it does not require our power to capture those fellows. All we have to do is notify the detectives and those men will be gobbled. Any one could do that."
"Yes, but we can have some fun. You must learn that I like to do these things my own way and give those rascals a lesson beyond the mere punishment they will get for their crimes. Do you know, I take a very serious view of housebreaking."
"Yes, I do."
"I am with you there."
"It's something terrible to be securely sleeping, as one feels, and to have one or two of these devils steal into one's house to rob, and if need be do murder. Robbers are a mean class, and I could never understand the sentiment of romance that is thrown about them. I look upon it as the most cruel and cold-blooded method adopted by any class of criminals."
"I am with you, but you said you proposed to adopt a peculiar method in capturing these fellows."
"You may lose them."
"Not if the court knows itself. They feel dead sure. They think they have everything dead to rights. They will move with less caution than usual. It appears there is a lady living in that house practically alone; from what we overheard she has many valuables. The chances are that if discovered there would follow a cruel murder. I tell you, my experience here in New York has been a strange one. Just watch the daily papers and learn the number and variety of crimes that are committed. Already there has been a call for an increase of the detective force, and it's needed; but in our humble way we'll do a neat job in the line of justice; yes, just once at least."
"What is your plan?"
"I'll think it out and reveal the whole business to you; but besides arresting these fellows and saving the lady, I want to give them the surprise of their life."
"It's easy for us to surprise people. We are doing that all the time."
"We'll give these fellows a big surprise – a stunner."
"Then you have decided on a plan?"
The two lads arrived at their home and were soon resting from their singular labors. On the following day Ike revealed his plan and Jack heartily fell into the whole scheme. Jack loved surprises and enjoyed a good joke equally with the inimitable Ike.
Ike owned a variety of animals, all of which were well trained. Had he concluded to appear as a professional performer he would have astonished his audiences beyond all belief. Among other possessions was an immense Siberian bloodhound. He had owned the animal from its puppy days and it was one of the most remarkably trained dogs on earth. Some men possess a peculiar talent for the training of animals. It is a special profession. Ike possessed this special talent to a great degree. He and Jack went forth. They had their breakfast at a near-by restaurant and played no pranks. Both the ventriloquists were very particular; they only played their tricks and exercised their powers where there was a purpose to be gained. After their meal they proceeded down to a point where they met Ike's new friend, the young detective whom our hero was anxious to serve. To him he said:
"Du Flore, we've got a great catch for you."
Ike proceeded and related all that had occurred, and when he had concluded, Du Flore remarked:
"This is very strange."
"I am already on that case."
"Well, that is strange."
"It is wonderful," said Du Flore.
The latter was a rising man in the profession. He was a powerful young officer, and, as we have intimated, very brave and ambitious.
"I've a strange story to tell you, Ike," he said.
"We are listeners."
"It is a very strange story."
"So you said, and repeating that fact is not opening up your story."
"Well, you see, in these prosaic days we seldom strike a romance just like the one I am about to relate. You remember a great wedding we had in New York about ten years ago?"
"I don't," answered Ike bluntly.
"Well, the daughter of a very rich man married a German nobleman, and a few years after their marriage they separated. She ran away from him. It is the old story: he and all his relatives felt themselves so much better than the young American girl. They insulted her in the grossest manner – and made her life miserable. She bore it for a long time, but being a full-blooded Yankee woman, beautiful and spirited, she determined to stand it no longer. Her father had been smart enough to secure all her fortune to herself during her life, and one bright morning she just dusted and left the count and his high-bred relatives to pay their own bills. She had done so for years and only received insults and snubs in return."
"It's the fate, I reckon, of most of these rich American girls who are marrying foreigners," suggested Ike.
"Yes, I reckon they could all tell sad tales a year after their marriage. This case, however, is a refreshing one, for in the end the Yankee girl recovered from her blind adoration of rank and came down to a good common-sense view of the full value of money."
"Go on and tell the tale."
"That is the story. She just skipped, and, as I said, left her high-born relatives by marriage to pay their own bills; and now I come to the American end of the strange romance."
Du Flore, continuing his narrative, said:
"The lady has a son who some day will be a count if he lives, and she stole her own boy when she ran away, and she has put that lad up in New England with her Yankee relatives, determined that if he lives there will be one count who has had a proper bringing up. She has just returned from a visit to her son. He is thriving finely, but one day while in Boston she saw her husband and believes he saw her, and she fears he means her some harm. She left Boston immediately, and on the train and boat became conscious that a man was dogging her steps. She believes the man to be a confederate of the count, but the story you tell me leads me to determine that the man was merely a common thief, attracted by her jewels and the prospect of a robbery. It was probably his intention to rob her on the road, but she, thinking her husband was on her track, was very careful and cautious. It appears, however, from what you tell me that the men have shadowed her down to her home and have made plans to rob and possibly murder her."
"I reckon," said Ike, "that this is the true solution. The count may show up later on."
"I hope he does," said Jack.
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