Read CHAPTER IX of Her Ladyship's Elephant , free online book, by David Dwight Wells, on


Another day was dawning, a day that was destined to be most arduous, eventful, and important in the lives of all those with whom this narrative has to deal. Yet, at this hour in the morning, Carrington, sitting shivering on his bedside; Lady Melton, listening in her chamber for the departing footsteps of the faithful Bright; Aunt Eliza, drinking an early cup of coffee in preparation for a long day’s work; the Consul and Mrs. Scarsdale, journeying to Southampton; Slippery Dick, pouncing on the sometime owner of elephants at a way-side alehouse; Scarsdale, pacing his prison cell; Mrs. Allingford, waiting, ’twixt hope and fear, for news of her husband; and the elephant, shrieking in his box-stall these, one and all, entered regretfully upon this day fraught with so many complications.

Carrington had decided, as he wended his way home to the hotel after his somewhat startling encounter with the Consul’s unregenerate brother, that he was in no wise bound to report the matter to the authorities. His mission was to extricate Mr. Scarsdale from unjust imprisonment, not to incriminate any one else; and he foresaw that any attempt on his part to interfere, as an avenger of justice, might entail subsequent attendance at the local police court whenever the true culprit fell into the hands of the law.

When Jack had thus determined on his course of action, he resigned himself peacefully to slumber, of which he stood much in need; but no sooner, apparently, had his head touched the pillow than he was awakened by a knocking at his chamber door. In reply to his sleepy inquiries, he was informed that Mrs. Allingford was up and in the ladies’ drawing-room, and would much appreciate it if she could see him as soon as possible.

Carrington replied that he would be happy to wait on her in a few minutes, as soon as he was dressed, in fact, and cursed himself heartily for having been fool enough to be any one’s best man. Half-past six! It was inhuman to call him up at such a time. He had not had three hours’ sleep. He wished himself at Melton Court more than ever. There, at least, they rose at decent hours.

As he entered the hotel drawing-room, a few minutes later, in a somewhat calmer frame of mind, due to a bath and a cup of coffee, Mrs. Allingford rose to meet him, took both his hands in hers, and, holding them tightly, stood for a moment with her upturned eyes looking fixedly into his. He would never have known her for the happy bride of two short days ago; she seemed more like a widow, years older, and with all the joy of her youth crushed out by trouble.

“Words cannot express what your coming means to me. It is the kindest thing you’ve ever done,” she said simply; but her tone and manner told him of her gratitude and relief.

“It is very little to do,” he replied, feeling, all at once, that he had been a brute not to have seen her the night before.

“My husband! Oh, tell me about my husband!” she exclaimed, dropping all restraint.

“What a child she was, in spite of her wedding-ring!” he thought; but he felt very sorry for her, and answered gently:

“I blame myself for not telling you sooner. He is safe and well.’

“Thank God!” she murmured.

“And at present at Melton Court, the country place of Lady Melton, Mr. Scarsdale’s great-aunt.” And then he told her such of her husband’s adventures as he knew.

“When is the first train to Salisbury?” she cried, interrupting the recital.

“I dare say there is an early morning train,” he returned; “but I should suggest your waiting for the one at nine-thirty, as then Mr. Scarsdale can accompany you.”

“But he is in prison.”

“Yes, I know; but he won’t be very long.”

“You are sure they will release him?”

“There’s not a doubt of it. I have arranged all that.”

“Now tell me more about my husband, everything you know. Poor Bob! if he has suffered as I have, he must indeed be wretched.”

Jack was morally sure that the Consul had done nothing of the kind, but he forbore to say so. Not that he doubted for a moment that Allingford loved his wife ardently; but he knew him to be a somewhat easy-going personage, who, when he could not have things as he wanted them, resigned himself to making the best of things as they were. From what he knew of Mrs. Scarsdale, moreover, he thought it safe to conclude that she had resigned herself to the exigencies of the case, and that both of them looked on the whole affair as a practical joke played upon them by Fate, of which they could clearly perceive the humorous side. He therefore turned the conversation by recounting all he knew, even to the minutest circumstance, of her husband’s adventures; and she, in her turn, poured into his ear her tale of woe in Winchester.

“I can’t understand,” he said, at the conclusion of her narrative, “why Allingford did not receive the telegram you sent to Basingstoke yesterday.”

“As I think I told you,” she replied, “that strange person, Faro Charlie, offered to send it for me, and as I had no change I gave him a five-pound note.”

“Oh!” said Carrington, “perhaps that solves the mystery. Did your friend bring you back the change?”

“N o,” admitted Mrs. Allingford; “that is, not yet.”

“I’m afraid you will never hear from your five-pound note, and that Allingford never received his telegram from Winchester,” commented Carrington; “but it has disposed of Faro Charlie as a witness, and perhaps that was worth the money.”

“Do you really think he meant to take it?” she asked in a shocked tone.

“I’m sure of it,” he replied, “and time will prove the correctness of my theory.” And time did.

They breakfasted together, and, at Carrington’s suggestion, all the baggage was sent to the station, in order that they might have every chance of making the train. Jack’s brother joined them about half-past eight, and the three proceeded to the court, where a few words from that officer to the magistrate, with whom he was personally acquainted, were sufficient to bring Scarsdale’s case first on the docket.

The landlord of the Lion’s Head appeared, a mass of bandages, and groaning dolefully to excite the sympathy of the court; but he testified without hesitation that the prisoner, though somewhat resembling Richard Allingford, was not he; and it did not need Carrington’s identification to make Scarsdale a free man. Then there were mutual congratulations, and a hurried drive to the station, where they just succeeded in catching the train; and, almost before he knew it, Jack was standing alone upon the platform, while his two friends were speeding towards the goal of all their hopes, via Southampton and Salisbury.

“I suppose,” said Mrs. Scarsdale to the Consul, as their train drew out of Salisbury in the first flush of the sunrise on the morning which saw Mr. Scarsdale’s liberation from durance vile “I suppose you realise that you have exiled me from the home of my ancestors.”

“How so?” asked the Consul.

“Why, you don’t imagine that I shall ever dare to show my face at Melton Court again. Just picture to yourself her ladyship and your elephant! She will never forgive us, and will cut poor Harold off with a shilling.”

“That won’t hurt him much, from all I’ve heard of her ladyship’s finances,” he replied.

“I think,” she resumed, “that I ought to be very angry with you; but I can’t help laughing, it is so absurd. A bull in a china-shop would be tame compared with an elephant at Melton Court. What do you think she will do with the beast?”

“Pasture it on the front lawn to keep away objectionable relatives,” retorted the Consul. “But, seriously speaking, have you any definite plan of campaign?”

“Certainly not. What do you suppose I carry you round for, if it is not to plan campaigns?”

“Which you generally alter. You will please remember that the visit to Melton Court was entirely owing to you.”

“Quite, and I shall probably upset this one; but proceed.”

“Well, in the first place, as soon as we reach Southampton I think we had better have a good breakfast.”

“That is no news. You are a man; therefore you eat. Go on.”

“Do you object?”

“Not at all. I expected it; I’ll even eat with you.”

“Well said. After this necessary duty, I propose to go to the station and thoroughly investigate the matter of the arrival and departure of my wife and your husband.”

“If they were at Basingstoke we should have heard from them before this,” she said; “and even if they were not, they should have telegraphed.”

“Very probably they did,” he replied; “but, as you ought to know, there is nothing more obliging and more generally dense than an English minor official. I dare say that the key to the whole mystery is at this moment reposing, neatly done up in red tape, at the office of that disgusting little junction. But here we are at Southampton. Now for breakfast; and then the American Sherlock Holmes will sift this matter to the bottom.” And the Consul, in excellent spirits, assisted her to alight.

Indeed, now that the elephant had been left behind, he felt that, actually as well as metaphorically, a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

“Evidently,” remarked Allingford, as they were finishing a breakfast in one of the cosy principal hotels “evidently the loss of your husband has not included the loss of your appetite.”

“Of course it hasn’t,” replied Mrs. Scarsdale. “Why shouldn’t I eat a good breakfast? I have no use for conventions which make one do disagreeable things just because one happens to feel miserable.”

“Do you feel very miserable? I thought you seemed rather cheerful on the whole,” he commented.

“Well, you are not to think anything so unpleasant or personal. I’m utterly wretched; and if you don’t believe it I won’t eat a mouthful.”

“I’m sure,” he returned, “that your husband would be much put out if he knew you contemplated doing anything so foolish.”

“Do you know,” she said, “that I’m beginning to have serious doubts that I ever had a husband? Do you think he’s a myth, and that you and I will have to go through life together in an endless pursuit of what doesn’t exist?”

“Good Lord, I hope not!” he exclaimed.

“That is very uncomplimentary to me,” she retorted.

“In the face of that remark,” he replied, pushing back his chair, “I am silent.”

“Do you know,” said his companion after a moment, as she folded her napkin, “that the keen sense of humour with which we Americans are endowed saves a large percentage of us from going mad or committing suicide?”

“Are you thinking of doing either?” he asked anxiously.

“I am thinking,” she replied, “that we have had two exceedingly amusing days, and I am almost sorry they are over.”

“Don’t you want to find your husband?” he exclaimed.

“Of course I do; but it has been a sort of breathing-space before settling down to the seriousness of married life, and that elephant episode was funny. I think it was worth two days of any husband; don’t you?”

“I don’t know,” returned the Consul, somewhat ruefully. “I’d just as lief that Scarsdale had had the beast.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t!” she cried. “He would have spoiled all the fun. He’d have done some stupid, rational thing. Donated it to the ‘Zoo’ in London, I should think; wasted the elephant, in fact. It took the spirit of American humour to play your colossal, practical joke. I wonder if it has arrived at the Court yet. I can fancy it sticking its head, trunk and all, through the great window in Lady Melton’s dining-room.”

“She called me a consular person,” remarked that official stiffly.

“Hence the elephant,” laughed his fair companion. “Cause and effect. But, joking apart, there is a pitiful side to our adventure. When I think of those two matter-of-fact, serious British things, your better half and my my husband, and of what a miserable time they have been having, unrelieved by any spark of humour, it almost makes me cry.”

“Hold on!” cried Allingford, “You are just as bad as your great-aunt. She calls me a consular person, and you call my wife a British thing! I wish I had another elephant.”

“I beg your pardon, I do really,” she replied. “I classed my husband in the same category. But don’t you agree with me that it’s sad? I’m sure your poor wife has cried her eyes out; and as for my husband, I doubt if he’s eaten anything, and I’m certain he’s worn his most unbecoming clothes.”

“You are wrong there,” interrupted Allingford; “he packed all the worst specimens, and I rescued them at Salisbury. I tried them on yesterday, and there wasn’t a suit I’d have had the face to wear in public.”

“There, run along and turn the station upside down; you’ve talked enough,” she said, laughing, and drove him playfully out of the room.

It was about half-past nine that the Consul meditatively mopped his head, as he reached the top step of the hotel porch. He was heated by his exertions, but exceedingly complacent. He had interviewed sixteen porters, five guards, the station agent, three char-women, four policemen, and the barmaid the latter twice, once on business and once on pleasure; and he had discovered from the thirtieth individual, and after twenty-nine failures and a drink, the simple fact that those he sought had gone to Winchester. He did not think he could have faced Mrs. Scarsdale if he had failed. As it was, he returned triumphant, and, as he approached their private parlour, he mentally pictured in advance the scene which would await him: her radiant smile, her voluble expression of thanks, their joyful journey to Winchester; in short, success. He pushed open the door, and this is what really happened: an angry woman with a flushed, tear-stained face rushed across the room, shoved a newspaper at him, and cried:

“You brute!”

The Consul dropped into the nearest chair. He looked at the infuriated Mrs. Scarsdale, he looked at the crumpled newspaper, he heard the last echo of that opprobrious monosyllable, and he said:

“Well I’m jiggered!”

Then, recollecting his news, he continued:

“Oh, I forgot. I’ve found out where they have gone; it’s Winchester.”

“Is that all you’ve got to tell me?” she cried. “All, in the face of this?” And she again shoved the newspaper towards him. He looked to where her finger pointed. He was hopelessly bewildered, and wondered if her native humour had inopportunely failed her and she had gone mad.

“Read!” she commanded.

His wandering eye followed the direction of her finger, and he read slowly, with open mouth, a short account of the arrest and partial trial at Winchester of one Richard Allingford, who claimed to be Harold Scarsdale.

“Tell me,” she thundered, “is that my husband?”

“Well,” he said, slowly, “I guess it is,” and he re-read the last sentence of the paragraph in the newspaper:

The prisoner insisted that he was Harold Scarsdale, and could prove his identity. He was accompanied by a woman who claimed to be Mrs. Robert Allingford, wife of the well-known United States Consul at Christchurch. The prisoner was remanded till this morning.

“Have you a brother?”


“Has he ever been arrested?”

“Arrested! Why, I’ve spent most of my time for the past twenty years in bailing him out.”

“But why has my husband taken his name?” she demanded.

“That is a matter you’ll have to settle with Scarsdale; and if you look as you do now, I’m real sorry for him,” he replied.

“You don’t care a bit!” she cried.

“Oh, yes I do; but I want you to see it from its humorous side,” he answered.

At this remark Mrs. Scarsdale burst into a flood of tears, and Allingford gave a sigh of relief, and, strolling to the window, was soon lost in admiration of the view.

Suddenly a voice said, in the sweetness of its accustomed tones:

“Why were you so pleased when I began to cry?” And Mrs. Scarsdale, calm and composed, stood beside him.

“Hard storm is a good thing to clear the atmosphere after a thunder-shower,” replied the Consul laconically.

“I was real mad with you,” she admitted.

“Great Scott! don’t you suppose I knew that?” he cried.

They both laughed, and peace was restored.

“Do you really think it is poor Harold?”

“I suppose he doesn’t get called St. Hubart when he’s in ’quod’?”

“Be sensible and answer my question. Is it my husband or your brother who is on trial at Winchester?”

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“What are you going to do about it?” she asked.

“Go and see.”

“When is the next train?”

The Consul pulled out his watch.

“In twelve and a half minutes,” he said. “I’ve paid the hotel bill.
Here, hold on! You turn to the left for the elevator!” But Mrs.
Scarsdale was half-way downstairs on her way to the station.

An hour later, as the Consul and his fair companion emerged at the station at Winchester, the first person they saw was Carrington.

“We’ve been found at last!” cried the Consul, advancing towards Jack with outstretched hand, exclaiming: “Well, Columbus Carrington, if ever I get lost again, I’ll telegraph you first thing.”

In a minute questions and answers were flying between them. Where had they been? Where had they come from? Why was Carrington here? Why had Scarsdale been arrested?

Jack bore up manfully, answering as best he could.

“Perhaps you can tell me the whereabouts of my wife and this lady’s husband?” said the Consul.

“They have been staying here,” he replied, “but they have gone.”

“Gone!” cried Allingford in blank amazement. “Gone! Where? When?”

“Why, to Salisbury,” replied Jack. “I sent them over there early this morning.”

“You did, did you?” spluttered the Consul. “What right had you to send them anywhere?”

“Why, to join you at Lady Diana’s.”

“Join us!” screamed Allingford. “Why, we left Melton Court at half-past four this morning, and have been on the road ever since trying to join them.”

“It seems to be a typical example of cross-purposes,” replied Carrington.

“It’s pure cussedness!” said the Consul.

“But I thought my husband was in prison,” chimed in Mrs. Scarsdale; “the paper said so.”

“Merely a case of mistaken identity,” Jack hastened to assure her. “I had him set free in no time. And that reminds me: I ran across your brother here last evening, Allingford. It is he who has caused all the trouble. Frankly, I am almost sorry I did not give him over to the police.”

“I wish you had,” replied the Consul; “I wouldn’t have bailed him out till my honeymoon was over. Where is he now?”

“I’m inclined to believe,” replied Carrington, “that he has gone to Melton Court in search of you, in company with a man who talked some nonsense about your having stolen an elephant from him.”

Allingford and Mrs. Scarsdale both began to laugh.

“I don’t see anything funny about that,” said Jack.

“Oh, don’t you?” returned the Consul. “Well, you would if you knew the rest of the story.” And in a few brief words he explained about the elephant’s arrival and their subsequent flight.

“Heavens, man!” cried Carrington, “you don’t seem to realise what you have let Scarsdale and your wife in for!”

“Great Scott!” exclaimed the Consul, “I never thought of that. Why, I reckon it’s rampaging all over the place by this time, and the old lady must be in a perfect fury. When’s the next train back? We can’t get there too quickly.”

“One goes in five minutes,” said Jack.

“If I’d ever suspected,” gasped Mrs. Scarsdale to Allingford as they rushed down the platform, “that you were laying such a trap for my poor husband

“I’m sure I didn’t do it on purpose,” he replied; “but if they happen to meet the catawampus after she’s met the elephant, they’ll be in for a pretty hot time.”

“Your brother was bad enough,” she groaned as the train pulled out; “but as for your elephant! It’s worse than being arrested!”