More Educated Evans - Edgar Wallace - ebook

More Educated Evans ebook

Edgar Wallace



The further escapades of the incorrigible Evans, Edgar Wallace’s? cockney hero of the Turf feature in these twelve tales. The Educated Evans stories combine Wallace’s talent for humor with his hallmark detective story themes. His story of Evans is full of amusing incidents of love and adventure set amidst the bustle and excitement of the racecourse. There are bets, bookmakers, horses, tip-offs, winners, journalists and women. There is banter, humor and much fun to be had along the way. It is not only race-lovers who will love Evans, but lovers of life itself. Experience the stories as only Edgar Wallace could write it!

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IT is an axiom of life that the course of true love never ran smoothly. There were certainly snags in the current of Mr. Cris Holborn’s affair, but the largest and most considerable of these was Florrie Beaches’ mamma, who was stout and snacky. She snacked Mr. Holborn about his profession (she herself being a lady of property and owning the house in Mornington Crescent); she snacked him about his gentlemanliness; she snacked him on the question of stable odours (she invariably held a handkerchief to her bulbous nose when he came into her drawing-room) and she snacked him about his education.

Sometimes, in desperation, Mr. Holborn snacked back. He told her that he was one of the best known trainers of racehorses in England, but he was “Cris” to scores of the gentry and nobility, and that if a farmer’s son was not good enough for the daughter of a retired publican, well, he’d like to know who was?

It may be said in passing that Mr. Beaches had not only retired from The Trade, but he had also retired from earth, and at the moment was resting at Kensal Rise under a huge slab of Aberdeen granite, on which was carved a tissue of falsehoods concerning his virtues as a father and husband and his great loss to the world.

And in a sense Cris Holborn’s retort was justifiable. He was one of the best known trainers in England and one of the cleverest. In the language of the crude men who support the art and practice of horse-racing, he was “hot,” and when his horses won, he won alone: sometimes not even the owner of the horse was aware of the forthcoming jubilations.

On a night in February, Mrs. Beaches snacked to such purpose, and was supported so effectively by her charming daughter, that things happened in Mornington Crescent. Neighbours heard the sound of shrill and angry voices, a door slammed violently, and there was the sound of breaking glass. . . .

*     *


Peace reigned in Selbany Street Police Station. The station sergeant nodded over his book, the policeman on duty at the door yawned frequently and wondered if the clock over Disreili’s, the High Class Jewellers, had stopped.

The hour was 1 a.m., and it was raining greasily as it can only rain in Somers Town. It had been a dull night, being Thursday, when men go soberly to their homes and play draughts with their children and win–if the children have any discretion. A night when the picture houses are half empty, and the bung at the Rose and Cabbage leant his bloated hands on the zinc counter and severely condemned socialism to an empty saloon.

There were only three men and one perfect lady in the cells at the back of the station: crime for the moment was unpopular.

Sergeant Arbuthnot Challoner, whom men called The Miller because he chewed straws, came in hastily out of the darkness, put his reeking umbrella in one corner of the hall and hung his shining mackintosh on a peg.

“Yes,” he said sardonically, in reply to the grey-haired station sergeant, “it is a nice night!”

The clock ticked solemnly and noisily.

“Nothing doing?”

“Nothing,” said The Miller shortly. He had been standing for two hours in the rain waiting for a motor-car thief who was expected to retrieve the car he had garaged.

At that moment, when the night seemed as barren of promise as the pages of Dr. Stott’s sermons, a car drew up opposite the station entrance and there sailed into the charge room Miss Florrie Beaches and her ma. Miss Beaches was golden-haired and blue-eyed. She wore an evening dress of gold and crimson and a theatre wrap of blue and white. She had orchids at her waist and about her neck a choker of imitation pearls the size of pigeons’ eggs. Her ma was more soberly arrayed in black with glittering jet ornaments.

“Is this the police court?” asked Miss Beaches with a certain ferocity.

“It is the police station,” said The Miller. Florrie closed her eyes and nodded.

“That will do,” she said quietly. “I wish to have a summons against Mr. Cris Holborn for insulting my dear mother and breach of promise, though I wouldn’t marry the dirty dog not if he went down on his bare knees to me! He’s a low type and if my poor dear father had been alive he’d have bashed his face in!”

“He would indeed,” murmured Mrs. Beaches.

The Miller would have explained, but–

“When a lady lowers herself to be seen out with a common horse trainer,” Miss

Beaches went on rapidly, “when she does everything for a man as I’ve done, introducing him into society so to speak, and when he didn’t know what a fish knife was till me dear mother taught him, it’s hard to hear your dear mother called an interfering hag.”

“Old hag,” murmured Mrs. Beaches. “Don’t forget the winder glass, Flo.”

“I’m coming to that, ma. Also I wish to charge him with breaking two panes of glass in our front door by his violent temper. I’m going to show this man up! Him and his lords that he knows!”

“Which we don’t believe,” prompted Mrs. Beaches.

“And the words he said about publicans is a disgrace,” Florrie went on, “him and his horse that’s going to win at Lincoln–”

“With twenty-one pound in hand,” added the other under her breath.

“With twenty-one pounds in hand?” repeated The Miller thoughtfully.

“That’s what he says,” said Miss Florrie, “though I know nothing about horse-racing, my dear papa having brought me up very strict. Now I want to know if I can’t have a summons–”

“Excuse me, miss,” said The Miller gently, almost benevolently, what was the name of this horse?

“I can’t think of it for the moment,” said Miss Florrie, to whom the identity of the animal was much less important than the exposition of her grievances “but if I did know I should tell that common man that always used to be hanging about Camden Town–Elevated Evans.”

“Educated Evans,” corrected The Miller.

“He is not living here just now, but if I can do anything in the way of spreading the good news–”

“That’s neither here nor there,” said Miss Florrie tartly. “Can I have a summons “

And The Miller explained that summonses were never granted at a police station, and certainly never granted at one o’clock in the morning. He also expressed his doubt as to whether the offence of Mr. Holborn had been as heinous as she imagined. To the best of his ability he gave her the law on the subject. It is not unlawful to refer to a future mother-in-law in terms of opprobrium, and he also explained that the word “hag,” whilst it might mean a vicious old lady, might also describe one who could bewitch.

“At the same time,” he said sympathetically, “I feel that I would like to help you get your own back, Miss Beaches, and if you would mention the name of this horse I’d see–”

At this point the silent mother became voluble.

“It’s no good your wasting your time here, my dear. They can’t do anything, and if they could they wouldn’t. All these men stick together. The best thing to do is to see your dear father’s solicitors in the morning. If I don’t have the law on Cris Holborn...”

They made a noisy exeunt.

It was rather strange, as they say in Somers Town when they mean to imply coincidence, that this reference to Educated Evans should have been followed up that very morning by the appearance in court of a local larcenist who in the old days invariably traced his downfall to the fact that he was a subscriber to Educated Evans’ £5 specials; for Mr. Evans had been the World’s Champion Prophet and Turf Adviser.

Miss Beaches had gone home with her mother, some of her ardour for vengeance a little cooled. She awoke at nine o’clock to find her mother with a letter in her hand. It had come by hand from her outrageous lover–she recognised his novel spelling.

“Ah, well, ma!” she said. “Perhaps I was hard on him: I knew he’d send me an humble apology first thing in the morning.”

“It’s got to be humble,” said her ma ominously. “ ‘Ag I may be, but old I’m not!”

“You’ve got to allow something for youth,” said Florrie romantically as she tore open the envelope. “The poor boy wasn’t himself–”

She read the letter: it was very short.

I’m done with you and that old nagger your ma. I’m lowering myself to associate with a lot of bung’s relations. Farewell. Never cross my parth again. CRIS.

P.S.–Send back the ring I gave you, I may want it.

Florrie didn’t scream, she did not faint. She jerked her hair savagely into a ball and jabbed a hairpin into the confusion.

“That settles him!” she hissed.

Her ma was making savage noises. Florrie ran to the door and pulled it open. “Em-ma!” she screamed.

Her maid, who was also housemaid, parlourmaid and errand girl, flew up the stairs.

“Go and find that tipping man you was–were talking about yesterday–go and bring him here at once!”

She returned, rolling up the sleeves of her kimono pugilistically.

“Nagger... !” moaned her ma.

“Goin’ to make thousands of pounds, is he!” said Florrie fiendishly. “I mustn’t tell anybody, mustn’t I? I’ll show him... Digger Boy! That’s the name of the horse, ma! Digger Boy–I’ll Digger Boy him.”

She said other things–such as may be pardonable in a lady under the sad circumstances.

In the meantime Emma was searching Camden Town for a local prophet who was not without honour in his own district.

A day or two later Camden Town was startled by the most stupendous item of intelligence that had been dropped in years. Educated Evans was back!

The news ran like a prairie fire from the Midland Goods Yard to the Holloway Road–from Great College Street to the Nag’s head. Men heard and halted their pewter pots between counter and lip and said “Go on!” Some confessed that they thought he was dead; others corrected this impression regretfully. Down at the “White Hart” an old man stirred and glanced uneasily at the door. Miss Pluter, the new barmaid at the “Stag and Crown” (she who wore “Gertrude” in diamonds across her blouse) expressed a desire to see the man about whom she had heard so much, and a dozen knights and squires of the saloon bar offered eagerly to fetch Evans the very next night.

Mr. Evans had returned to the scenes of his vicissitudes and triumphs! He had once gone through the card at Kempton one remarkable day and had made two, three, five, ten thousand pounds according to the source of report. He had retired; he was an owner of houses; he had an estate in the country and occasionally wrote to former clients on note-paper headed “Haddon Hall, Pilberry Road, Bromley,” and that in printed characters.

It was believed that he had a servant of his own and was so rich that he wore a clean collar every day of his life. Further, it was alleged by one who had visited him that he had his dinner at the hour when most respectable people have finished their tea and are having a sluice in the kitchen preparatory to a visit to the pictures. This story, however, was not credited.

Nor did the news of his return find general acceptance. Camden Town had been an uneducated place since Mr. Evans drove away in a taxi- cab smoking a Masa cigar (“all the fragrance of Havana for 6d.”), waving his hand graciously from the window. Many a man who could not afford a mouthpiece regretted his going, for Evans was as good as a lawyer, and many an address, calculated to move the stoniest-hearted magistrate, had he composed. It was Evans who got Bill Barrett off a lagging by a defence (read by Bill in the dock) showing that he had suffered from loss of memory and sleep-walking since a child. Bill certainly boggled some of the words (his pronunciation of “somnambulism” was wonderful to hear), but there were tears in his eyes as he read things about himself that he had never known till that moment.

In the days of his activities Educated Evans had had one faithful servant. His name was Samuel Toggs, he having been so christened in the dim and glorious ages when hansom cabs were a novelty and malefactors were publicly executed before Horsemonger Lane Gaol. He was called “Old Sam,” partly because Sam was his name and partly because of his many years. His occupation in life, in those days, was the support of the “White Hart,” a noble hostelry. He supported this palace of sin by keeping his back against it from 10 a.m. to chucking-out time. In olden days he drew water for thirsty cab-horses and received a penny for each draw, but horses belonged to the past and he knew not petrol. A strange, burly old gentleman, with tender feet and an opalescent beard that might have been white with care, he wore, summer and winter, two overcoats and a pair of black woollen mittens, a woollen scarf and a bowler hat that he had found in the roadway after a fight on Christmas Day, 1891.

Mr. Evans had been a force in Camden Town, being an educated man and one learned in the ways of thoroughbred racehorses. So, if you believed him, no horse won unless he had received Mr. Evans’ express permission to do so, and that in writing. Sometimes he gave them permission and they didn’t win, but, as he said, horses are not machines. He asked his clients (for he supplied information for a trifle to all who acted honourable) to remember that he gave Braxted (What a beauty! What a beauty!) at 20-1. He made a lot of money and retired to the country: what was more natural than that, when he lost a lot of money, he should come back to town?

It is strange that, as Educated Evans had journeyed towards the metropolis, he should think kindly, almost tenderly, of Old Sam. That beer- soddened ancient was in a sense a protégé of Evans’. Though from morning until night he propped up the walls of the “White Hart,” standing with his back firmly fixed to the wall, and refusing to be enticed away by any save the potman, he had made an exception in the case of Mr. Evans, for whom he ran errands, hobbled about with messages to clients, and sometimes collected money on behalf of his patron. Old Sam had touched his cap to the educated man and had once called him “sir,” but this was on the night that Sam had paid for his own drink twice.

It was not until two mornings after his return that stress of business permitted the educated man to look up his old acquaintances, and it was by a pure accident that the first of these should be The Miller–a lover of racing and no bad friend to Evans.

Mr. Challoner was standing opposite the Cobden statue, doing nothing, when his absent gaze rested on a man who was walking up Bayham Street. He was not tall, he was not broad. He was to an extent well-dressed. In one corner of his mouth was a large cigar; he swung a nearly-gold-headed cane as he strutted towards High Street, and if his bowler hat and brown boots did not accord with his morning coat, he had the air of a nobleman.

The Miller’s jaw dropped as the man came nearer, for he recognised instantly the World’s Premier Prophet and Turf Adviser.

“Well, well!” said The Miller, when the first greetings were over. “So you’re back, and Camden Town has one more mug.”

“It’s all very well for you to go passing personal remarks,” said Educated Evans, with a touch of asperity in his voice, “but what’s the good of locking the stable door after the horse has ate his wild oats, I ask you, Mr. Challoner?”

Sergeant Challoner did not take offence at the brusqueness, even rudeness, of the reply, but continued to nibble his straw reflectively, his grave eyes fixed upon the Prophet.

“You had a fortune,” he said slowly. “You won it by being clever enough not to back your own tips, and by reducing yourself to a condition of beastly intoxication before you went racing. When you handed up your money and told the bookmakers what horse was going to win, you happened to speak the truth–in vino veritas.”

“I know Veritas–he’s a two-year-old in Persse’s stable–but Vino is an animal I don’t remember.”

“Having accumulated this wealth, you took your ill-gotten gains, purchased a farm, and not only committed the unspeakable folly of owning racehorses, but added the general lunacy of attempting to train them.”

Educated Evans shook his head sorrowfully.

“It was the feeding that done it,” he said. “Was I to know that horses didn’t eat bones and birdseed? Is there a book published on the subject? Did Mr. Gilpings when he wrote his highly clarsical articles in the weekly newspapers, mention anything about feeding animals? Anyway,” he added hopefully, “I’ll get it all back over the Lincoln. There’s a horse in that race that hasn’t been tryin’ for four years. There’s a big stable commission, and he’s loose! This horse could hop home on his fetlocks. I’m sending it out on my Five-Pound Owner’s Special Wire, so don’t put it about, Miller.”

The detective sighed.

“Camden Town has been a dull and truthful place without you,” he said. “What’s the name of this horse?”

“Otono,” said Educated Evans. “I’ve got a thousand pounds to twenty about it from Izzy Isaacsheim.”

The Miller rubbed his nose thoughtfully.

“He was scratched this morning,” he said gently, and Mr. Evans made a clucking noise with his mouth.

“Thank Gawd I didn’t back him!” he said, and did not even attempt to excuse his perjury. “With that animal out of the way, it’s a stone certainty for Cold Meat. That horse has been specially kep’ for this race. I’ve had it from the boy who does him.”

“When you get anything good, you might come and see me,” said The Miller, preparing to mount his bicycle. Cold Meat’s been sold to go to Belgium. I thought you might have seen it in the papers yesterday–the way they send these worn-out old horses to Belgium is a scandal.”

He waited, and then:

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