Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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Even a Turf Tipster is entitled to enjoy a Merry Christmas, but our old friend Educated Evans, feasting sumptuously on bloaters and whisky, hardly expected a visit from Santa Claus.
THOUGH it was a cold, raw day, with a grey sky and a chill wind sweeping down the length of Great College Street, Mr. Evans was standing at the windiest street corner, gazing pensively at the uninviting façade of the Veterinary College, when The Miller paused in his slow walk and passed, mechanically enough, the compliments of the season.
"And the same to you," said Educated Evans with a shiver. "If anybody wants to give me a Christmas present, he can send me the money instead. Havin' stood the winner of the November Handicap (what a beauty, what a beauty!) an' gen'rally speakin' gettin' my clients one and all their winter keep, it's up to them to act honourable. But have they acted honourable? I ask you!"
Detective-Sergeant Challoner chewed his straw and said nothing. His mind was too busily occupied over the presence of slush, which is the cant name for German-printed one-pound notes. They were kicking at headquarters, and the kick had reached the C.I.D. office in Albany Street.
"A nice Christmas for me!" said Evans bitterly. The church bells a-ringin' 'Peace an' Plenty' an' me with a bob—if I get coals with it I'll starve, an' if I buy food with it I'll freeze to death—why, it's worse than the Spanish Imposition what you read about in Foxe's Book of Martyrs; it was run by the celebrated Judge Jeffries (no relation to Bob, the highly respected bookmaker) an' was finally abolished in 1723 by the Spanish Armada bein' defeated by the well-known Christopher Columbus—him that was executed for givin' lip to B—— Mary."
"Where's Cochlan?" asked The Miller, and Educated Evans drew a long breath.
"He's no client of mine. I sent him Salmon Trout—unbeatable for the Ledger, an' he never asked me if I'd got a mouth. When clients don't act honourable—"
"Somebody was telling me he'd been abroad," suggested The Miller.
"So far as I'm concerned, he's a foreigner," replied Mr. Evans with decision. "We don't talk the same language. If him and other clients had behaved like true British sportsmen I wouldn't be lookin' forward to Christmas Day same as you might be lookin' forward to haven's your appendix bein' taken out by the famous doctor at St. Pancras Infirmary."
The Miller withdrew himself from his unpleasant thoughts and surveyed Mr. Evans with interest.
Educated Evans did not look anything like the world's champion turf prophet. His trousers were frayed, his frayed overcoat had a large rent near the pocket, and this had been unskilfully stitched.
"Why are you standing outside the Veterinary College?" asked The Miller. "Expecting to see that horse you gave me for the Newbury Hurdle come out of hospital?"
"He ought to have won." Said Evans indifferently. "If Frank Wootton had been riding him he'd have come home alone. Jockeyship."
The Miller, turning to go, put his hand in his pocket and produced a green note.
"Your tips have ruined me, Evans," he said. "Camden Town is strewn with the homes you have wrecked, but Christmas is Christmas."
Mr. Evans took the bill with dignity.
"Timmyhawk at Kempton Park on Bank Holiday—help yourself," he said tersely. "He's been tried two stone better than Stuff Gown. I've had it from the boy that does him."
HE made his leisurely way back to Bayham Mews, and had not gone a hundred yards when a sharp-featured young man crossed the road and overtook him.
"What did that busy say?" asked Mr. Cochlan.
Evans favoured him with a gloomy frown.
"He said that people who owe money ought to act honourable," he said pointedly. "He said that when a man gives his clients Salmon Trout—fear nothing—"
"I know all about that," said Mr. Cochlan sourly, "but did he say anything about me?"
Educated Evans closed his eyes wearily.
"If he did, I gave him a civil answer," he said. "I'm no 'nose' to go givin' information. It's Christmas time, when everybody pays their debt. An' as good King Winklecuss says—"
"If you see him again, tell him you heard I was goin' abroad," said Mr. Cochlan earnestly. I'll settle with you, Evans—don't worry."
"I don't," said Evans.
HE was in his happiest mood when he turned into his shabby rooms in Bayham Street. In the basket he carried were three fat bloaters, a loaf of bread, half a pound of "Likebut" (which truly looks like butter but isn't) and a pound of pieces—this being the technical name for those odds and ends of beef that butchers slice in their carving. These and two pounds of floury potatoes and a quartern bottle of whisky promised well for the morrow. In addition, Mr. Evans had purchased from a bookstall a slim volume entitled The Christmas Carol by a man called Dickens—who must not be confused with the gentleman young Tom Leader used to train for.
The bloaters were lovely; the Likebut was delicious. Mr. Evans drained a steaming glass of hot toddy, and felt happy as he turned again to the exciting adventures of Scrooge....
Outside the wind was howling; rain pattered against the unwashed windows as the loud clang of a bell came down the chill mews. Educated Evans listened gravely. It was the clock of St. Pancras Church striking the midnight hour.
"A Merry Christmas!" Educated Evans raised his glass and murmured: "Happy days to everybody except Old Sam, the perishin' brain-sucker!"
The stealthy knock on the door made Evans jump.
"Who's there?" he asked huskily.
It was not the rain. Reluctantly, he rose and opened the door—and gasped.
On the wooden landing a slim figure stood revealed in an unearthly light. He wore a crimson jacket and a white cap—his legs were neatly breeched and booted.
"Good Gawd!" gasped Evans.
The curious thing was that the face might have been that of Fred Archer, and it might have been Carslake, or it might have been Donoghue.
"Come in, sir," said Evans trembling, and the apparition glided into the room.
"I am the ghost of Christmas to come," said the strange jocket. "What a beauty—what a beauty!"
"My very words," murmured the numb Evans. "Sit down, Mister—"
"I have come to tell you the winner of the Lincoln," said the spirit. Xnghroz will win."
"What name?" asked Evans agitatedly.
"Jzmnpl," said the apparition. (Evans could never remember the name, though it seemed familiar enough at the time). "An Vrxlgrq will win the National—farwell!"
"Here, hold hard!" squeaked Evans, but his hands caught the air.
HE was standing, dazed and trembling, in the middle of the dark room. The fire was out—the door was open, and a sombre figure was silhouetted against the lesser dark outside.
"Evans!" it hissed.
"Hullo—I've been dreaming," said Evans sleepily.
"Here—shove that in your bed—if you squeak on me I'll have your liver out of you!"
Evans grasped the bundle that was thrust into his hand.
"They're waitin' for me at the end of the mews," said Cochlan. "I'm goin' to get up on your roof and hop round into Bayham Street."
"What's this?" wailed Evans, holding out the package in his hand.
"A present from Father Christmas!" chuckled Cochlan.
"Bad money!" Evans almost howled.
"There ain't such a thing. Now hide it—if they find it here you'll be pinched."
In another second he was gone.
EVANS stood grasping the money, perspiration streaming down his forehead. Creeping to the door, he looked down the mews. There was nobody in sight. There was only one thing to be done, and that was to burn the stuff. But a fire would attract attention at this hour. All night long he paced the room in an agony of apprehension, leaping at every sound. But no detectives came.
He looked at the bundle of money. They were beautifully forged—sixty one-pound notes, and all were artistically soiled and crumpled. His respect for the law made him hesitate about burning them. Suppose they were wanted for evidence? Putting on his hat, he went down to the station, and the first person he saw was The Miller.
"Merry Christmas!" said Sergeant Challoner. "What do you want?"
Evans tried to speak, but his throat was dry.
"About Cochlan," he croaked.
"Oh, we took him last night—and if he doesn't go down for life, I'm a Dutchman."
He chuckled as if at a good joke.
"Caught him twice," he said. "He had the forged notes on him, Evans, and the joke is that he thought they were good money. My theory is that he either gave them away or planted the real money by error and kept the 'duds.'"
EVANS swallowed hard, his hand gripping the sixty perfectly good pounds that reposed in his trousers pocket.
"Well, what do you want, Evans?" asked the Miller again.
"Just come to—to wish you a Merry Christmas," said Educated Evans.