Educated Evans - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Educated Evans ebook

Edgar Wallace



Educated Evans” is the first novel in the ’Evans’ series. These stories combine Wallace’s talent for humor with his hallmark detective story themes. The eponymous principal character is a London racing tipster. Garrulous and delightfully ignorant of most of the subjects about which he professes to have knowledge, Evans provides the comic foil for the towering figure of „The Miller”, a formidable police detective named for his perpetual habit of chewing upon a length of straw. Together the pair form an uneasy partnership as they undertake various adventures in the worlds of racing and petty criminality.

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Liczba stron: 215

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INSPECTOR PINE was something more than an Inspector of Police. He was what is known in certain circles as a Christian man. He was a lay preacher, a temperance orator, a social reformer. And if any man had worked hard to bring Educated Evans to a sense of his errors, that man was Inspector Pine. He had wrestled with the devil in Mr. Evans’ spiritual make-up, he had prayed for Mr. Evans, and once, when things were going very badly, he had induced Mr. Evans to attend what was described as “a meeting of song and praise.”

Educated Evans respected the sincerity of one whom he regarded as his natural enemy, but discovering, as he did, that a “meeting of praise and song” brought him no financial advancement, he declined any further invitations and devoted his energies and excursions to picking up information about a certain horse that was running in a steeplechase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

Nevertheless, Inspector Pine did not despair. He believed in restoring a man’s self-respect and in re-establishing his confidence; but here he might have saved himself a lot of trouble, for the self-respect of Educated Evans was enormous, and he was never so confident as when, after joining in a hymn, two lines of which ran:

The powers of darkness put to flight, The day’s dawn triumphs over night,

he accepted the omen and sent out to all his punters “Daydawn–inspired information–help yourself.” For, amongst other occupations, Educated Evans was a tipster, and had a clientèle that included many publicans and the personnel of the Midland Railway Goods Yard.

One day in April, Educated Evans leant moodily over the broad parapet and examined the river with a vague interest. His melancholy face wore an expression of pain and disappointment, his under-lip was out-thrust in a pout, his round eyes stared with a certain urgent agony, as though he had given them the last chance of seeing what he wanted to see, and if they failed him now they would never again serve him.

So intent was he that one who, although a worker in another and, to Evans, a hateful sphere, bore many affectionate nicknames, was able to come alongside of him and share his contemplation without the sad man observing the fact.

Fussing little tugs, lethargic strings of barges, a police-boat slick and fast–all these came under the purview of Educated Evans, but apparently he saw nothing of what he wanted to see, and drew back with an impatient sigh.

Then it was that he saw his companion and realised that here, on the drab Embankment, was one whom he had imagined to be many miles away.

The new-comer was a tall man of thirty, broad-shouldered, power in every line of him. He was dressed in black, and a broad-rimmed felt hat was pulled over his eyes. He was chewing a straw, and even if Mr. Evans had failed to identify him by another means, he would have known “The Miller”–whose other name was William Arbuthnot Challoner –by this sign.

“Why, ‘Miller,’ I thought you was dead! And here was I speculatin’ upon the one hundred and ninety million cubic yards of water that passes under that bridge every day, and meditatin’ upon the remarkable changes that have happened since dear old Christopher Columbus sailed from that very pier, him and the Pilgrim Fathers that discovered America in Fifteen Seven Nine–”

“The Miller” listened and yet did not listen. The straw twirled between his strong teeth; his long, saturnine face was turned to the river; his thoughts were far away.

“A lovely scene,” said Mr. Evans ecstatically, indicating the smoky skyline; “the same as dear old Turner used to paint, and Fluter–”

“Whistler,” said his companion absently

“Whistler, of course–dear me, where’s my education!” Mr. Evans rolled his head in self-impatience. “Whistler. What a artist. ‘Miller’–if you’ll excuse the familiarity. I’ll call you Challoner if you’re in any way offended. What–a–artist! There is a bit of painting of his in the National Gall’ry. And another one in the–the Praydo in Madrid. Art’s a perfect weakness with me–always has been since a boy. Do you know Sergeant? Great American painter. One of the greatest artists in the world. An’ do you know the celebrated French artist, Carrot?

“Do you know,” began “The Miller,” speaking deliberately, and looking at the river all the time, “do you know where you were between 7.30 p.m. and 9.15 p.m. on the night of the eighth of this month?”

“I do,” said Educated Evans promptly.

“Does anybody else know–anybody whose word would be accepted by a police magistrate gifted with imagination and a profound distrust of the criminal classes?”

“My friend, Mr. Harry Sefferal,” began Evans, and “The Miller” laughed hollowly and with an appearance of pain.

“You have only to put your friend in the witness-box,” he said, “you have only to let the magistrate see his sinister countenance to be instantly remitted to Dartmoor for the remainder of your life. Harry Sefferal could only save you from imprisonment if you happened to be charged with murder. Reading his evidence, the hangman would pack his bag without waiting for the verdict. Harry Sefferal!”

Mr. Evans shrugged.

“On the evening in question it so happened that I was playing a quiet game of solo in the company of a well-known and respected tradesman, Mr. Julius Levy–”

“You’re a dead man!” groaned “Miller.” “Julius Levy is the man who put the “u” into ‘guilty.’ Know Karbolt Manor?”

Mr. Evans considered.

“I can’t say that I do,” he said at last.

“Near Sevenoaks–the big house that Binny Lester burgled five years ago and got away with it.”

Educated Evans nodded.

“Now that you mention the baronial ‘all, ‘Miller,’ it flashes across my mind–like a dream, as it were, or a memory of happier days.”

“Is there a ladder in your dream? A ladder put up to Lady Cadrington’s bedroom window when the family was at dinner? Dream carefully, Evans.”

Mr. Evans wrinkled a forehead usually smooth and unlined.

“No,” he said; “I know the place, but I haven’t been near there. I can take the most sacred oath–”

“Don’t,” begged “The Miller.” “I would rather have your word of honour. It means more.”

“On my word of honour as a gentleman,” said Evans solemnly, “I have not been to, frequented, been in the vicinity of, or otherwise approached this here manor. And if I am not telling the truth may Heaven smite me to the earth this very minute!”

He struck an attitude, and “The Miller” waited, looking up at the skies.

“Heaven didn’t hear you,” he said, and took the arm of Evans. “Pine wants to see you.”

Educated Evans shrugged his resignation.

“You are taking an innocent man,” he said with dignity. “The Miller” bore the blow bravely.

“The Miller” was always “The Miller” to a certain class. He was taxed in the style and title of Detective-Sergeant W. Arbuthnot Challoner, Criminal Investigation Department. He was an authority upon ladder larceny, safe-blowing, murder, gangery, artfulness and horses. Round Camden Town, where many of his most ardent admirers had their dwelling-places, he was called “The Miller” because of this queer straw-nibbling practice of his.

He was respected; he was not liked, not even by Educated Evans, that large-minded and tolerant man. Evans was both liked and respected. In North London, as distinct from South London, erudition has a value. Men less favoured look up to those proficient in the gentle art of learning. Educated Evans was one of whom the most violent and the least amiable spoke with respect.

Apart from his erudition (he had written more speeches for the defence than any other amateur lawyer), he was undoubtedly in the confidence of owners, trainers, jockeys and head lads. He admitted it. He was the man who gave Braxted for the Steward’s Cup and Eton Boy for the Royal Hunt Cup. There are men holding affluent positions in Camden Town who might trace their prosperity to the advice of Educated Evans. It was said, by the jealous and the evil-minded, that St. Pancras Workhouse has never been so full as it was after that educated man had had a bad season.

“It was a matter for regret to me,” said Evans as he shuffled along by his captor’s side, “that the law, invented by Moses and Lord What’s-his-name, should be employed to crush, so to speak, the weak. And on the eve, as it were, of the Newbury Spring Handicap, when I did hope to pack a parcel over Solway.”

“The Miller” stopped and surveyed his prisoner with curiosity and disapproval.

“Solway,” he said deliberately, “is not on the map. St. Albyn could give Solway two stone and lose him”

The lip of Educated Evans curled in a sneer

“Solway could fall dead and get up and then win,” he said extravagantly. “St Albyn ain’t a horse, he’s a hair trunk. The man who backs St. Albyn–”

“I’ve backed St. Albyn,” said “The Miller” coldly. “I’ve had it from the owner’s cousin, who is Lord Herprest, that, barring accidents, St. Albyn is a stone certainty.”

Educated Evans laughed; it was the laugh of a man who watches his enemy perish.

“And they hung poor old Crippen,” he said.

There was this bond of sympathy between “The Miller” and his lawful prey–that they were passionate devotees of the sport of kings. When “The Miller” was not engaged in the pursuit of social pests (among whom he awarded Educated Evans very nearly top weight) he was as earnestly pursuing his studies into the vagarious running of the thoroughbred racehorse.

“What about Blue Chuck?” he asked. “There’s been a sort of tip about for him.”

Evans pulled at his long nose.

“That’s one that might do it,” he admitted. “Canfyn’s told his pals that it won’t be ready till Goodwood, but that feller would shop his own doctor. I wouldn’t believe Canfyn if he was standin’ on the scaffold and took an oath on Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”

Passers-by, seeing them, the shabby man in the long and untidy coat and the tall man in black, would never have dreamt that they were overlooking a respected officer of Scotland Yard and his proper prey.

“What makes you think that St. Albyn hasn’t a chance, Evans?” asked “The Miller” anxiously.

“Because he ain’t trying,” said Evans with emphasis. “I’ve got it straight from the boy who does him. He’s not having a go till Ascot, an’ they think they can get him in the Hunt Cup with seven-five.”

“The Miller” blew heavily. That very morning Teddie Isaacheim, a street bookmaker who possessed great wealth and singular immunity from police interference, had laid him fifty pounds to five and a half (ready) about this same St. Albyn. And five and a half pounds was a lot of money to lose.

“If you’d asked me I’d have told you,” said Educated Evans gently. “If you’d come to me as man to man an’ as a sportsman to a sportsman, instead of all this ridiculous an’ childish nonsense about me actin’ in a thievous and illegal manner, I’d have give you the strength of St. Albyn. And I’d have put you on to the winner of the one o’clock race to-morrow–saved specially... not a yard at Kempton.... not busy at Birmingham–havin’ a look on at Manchester, but loose to-morrer!”

“What’s that, Evans?”

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