On the Trail of a Serpent
Sidney C. Kendall
How a Serpent May Beat the Custom-House
This is not nearly so exciting a story as it would have been had not all parties concerned enjoyed a surprising run of good luck and come out of the affair much better than might have been expected; this statement includes the snake.
Mr. Thomas John was on the Continent partly on pleasure and partly on business. On the pleasure side he was escorting a company of lady friends who had been sojourning in the South of France, and on the business side he "traveled in wild beasts." That is to say that he was buyer for "Jamrach's" the famous wholesale house in menagerie supplies. So, between Beauty and the Beast, Mr. Thomas John was in a fair way of prosperity. He had shipped from Algiers an assortment of zoological abominations, and he was now meandering leisurely from city to city so as to time his arrival in London about the middle of May. At last there remained only the channel to be traversed, and in the seaport whence they proposed to embark he made a surprising and valuable discovery. A homeward bound Dutch vessel from Java had landed on the quay, among other things, a large wicker hamper which bore neither mark nor sign to indicate whence it came nor whither it should go. The hamper was opened in the presence of the Bureau du Fisc and was found to contain a large snake. The hamper was promptly reclosed and buried beneath a pyramid of assorted freight. The Bureau du Fisc telegraphed to the Prefect of Police for instructions; the Prefect of Police, unable to act without a warrant, applied in due course to the Hotel de Ville; the Hotel de Ville, having looked into the matter and found nothing, passed it on to the Department of the Interior, the Department of the Interior very properly submitted the case to the Bureau of Foreign Affairs, the Bureau of Foreign Affairs referred it to the Chief Executive, and the Chief Executive was away up the Seine shooting ducks and would not be back for a month. That was five years ago, and if it has been decided what is the proper thing to do when snakes come ashore irregularly, the case has not yet retraced its way along its tortuous career to the point of departure. In the meantime it would have gone hard with the snake; but, as was said in our opening passage, this is a story of good luck.
On the very day when the serpent was landed at the port there alighted at the Depot du Chemin du Fer a representative of "Jamrach," the celebrated reptile and wild beast man. Mr. Thomas John had heard at his hotel that the customs authorities had a big snake on their hands, and he very promptly appeared upon the scene. The pile of assorted freight was cautiously taken down and the hamper opened. Whereupon the awestruck spectators recoiled an ample space while Mr. Thomas John thrust his arm into the hamper and drew out coil after coil of snake. There seemed to be no end to the thing one way, or another. At last the head appeared, and, after giving it a careful scrutiny, he made a cautious offer which was promptly accepted, for the Bureau du Fisc was not up on the price of snakes; besides, this snake was dead or thereabout. But Mr. Thomas John knew better. He traveled in wild beasts generally, but snakes were his specialty; in fact, he doted on snakes. The snake was not dead, but lethargic from exhaustion, and there are means of resuscitating unconscious reptiles known only to ophidian experts. These means were practised, and the mottled coils soon began to glide and writhe with a sluggish movement, and the growing crowd of spectators drew farther away. Mr. Thomas John, agent for Jamrach & Co., had acquired a full-grown female python for a song, a mere song, even a song without words, so eager was the Bureau du Fisc to get the creature off his hands. Seeing that the animal, although revived, was under good control, the spectators ventured to draw near and watch the daring man caress the serpent as it glided slowly back and forth across his knees. He held her head at arm's length for a critical inspection and swore by Gog and Magog that she was a beauty. The snake appeared to entertain the same opinion respecting Mr. Thomas John, for she fairly devoured him with serpentine caresses. She went over one shoulder and under the other, round his neck, round his waist, between his legs and turned him into a veritable Laocoon. It was a genuine case of love at first sight on both sides, and love, as everyone knows, is a matter of taste.
The python was then fed in some manner best understood by the man who had served as professional dry-nurse to reptiles in all stages of convalescence. It is written in books of Natural History that when pythons have eaten they go to sleep. This statement, if true, illustrates the wisdom of the serpent; and so the sleeping beauty was replaced, coil upon coil, in the original package, and Mr. Thomas John returned to his hotel, after warning the crowd not to meddle with that hamper; which was entirely unnecessary, for not a man in all France could have been hired to meddle with it for any money. As there exists in the minds of most people an unreasonable objection to traveling in the society of snakes, he said nothing to his lady friends about his acquisition, as he wished to practise a little craft with a view to transferring it from France to England without any further trouble with custom-houses. Accordingly, he distributed his effects among the other members of his party and so emptied his trunk. It was a large and substantial trunk and it just held the snake snugly packed with her head against half a dozen gimlet holes bored in the lid. Mr. Thomas John did not propose to trust his beloved to the chances of slow freight trains; she was to accompany her owner as personal luggage, and he relied upon his acquaintance with a certain customs official to pass his trunk without inspection.
In due time the party arrived at London Bridge station. Here their ways parted, and several minutes were spent in leave-taking. Having seen the ladies off in their cab, Mr. Thomas John returned to the platform. His trunk was the only one that still lay before the luggage van. A watchful porter shouldered it to his cab, and he was whirled away to the headquarters of Jamrach's, the wholesale house in menagerie supplies. The precious trunk was carried to his own private room, as he wished to assure himself by a careful examination that the python was in a healthy state before delivering her to the firm. Having had a comfortable cage prepared for the reception of his beauteous prize, he went to his room and got down on his knees before his trunk. For some reason the key would not work.
He tried others, and at last one was found to which the lock responded. As the lid was lifted, a dainty fragrance issued forth, and there appeared a layer of delicate feminine lingerie. What did this mean? He raised a handful of the contents and revealed further mysteries of feminine attire, rustling silks, foamy laces, and snowy embroideries. The trunk w as closely packed with elegant ladies' wearing apparel. He slammed the lid and eagerly examined the exterior of the trunk. If not his own, it was exactly like it, and, moreover, it was plastered with the labels of half the stations in Europe. He scanned the lid; the holes he had bored were not there. All was explained; he had got the wrong trunk.
Mr. Thomas John was no fool; he knew that his ophidian affinity was not shared by the public. The full significance of the situation flashed upon him at once. He rose slowly to his feet with his hands clenched and his eyes wild with alarm. The thought that struck his brain issued through his white lips, "Who has the other trunk?" He knew that for a lady to open his trunk in the privacy of her chamber would mean, in all probability, a most hideous tragedy. His only hope was that, having the wrong key, she might be unable to open the trunk before he had time to make the exchange. Back to London Bridge station with the trunk he went as fast as horses were permitted to travel in London's crowded streets. The porters were interviewed. One of them remembered carrying up a trunk "as like that as two peas. It belonged to a young lidy as was travelin' with an old lidy which was very good-lookin', the young lidy, that was." He had put it on their cab, and had not heard where they were going; some of the cabmen might know. So he sped to the adjacent cab-stand. No cabman could be found who had that day conveyed to parts unknown a young lady and an old lady, "which was very good-lookin', the young lidy, that was." What on earth was to be done? In all the annals of fact or fiction was there ever so dreadful a dilemma! Some men see snakes where snakes are not, and their experiences are horrible beyond language. What, then, will happen when that trunk is opened by a lady, a young lady, and very good-looking? Nothing he could do would prevent it, and it appeared the part of wisdom for him to be silent and not make the world aware who was responsible for this horror.
Mr. Thomas John passed a sleepless night, and the next morning he tremblingly read the papers in search of what he dreaded to find. But there was no report of a serpent at large in the jungles of London, nor had any one heard of a lady being scared into insanity by finding one in her trunk.
Ditto the next morning et seq.
Weeks passed away, and Mr. Thomas John still remained minus a full-grown female python and plus a trunk full of society garments which he could not wear.
How a Serpent May Go Astray
The London and Dover Mail, by which Mr. Thomas John had traveled, conveyed in another compartment the Dowager Mrs. William Henry of Fulham and Miss Alice Maud of Hackney. There are no surnames in this story. On arriving at London Bridge the maid stepped aside to secure their luggage, which, in the absence of a checking system, passengers in England must look after themselves. Her mistress's trunks, which were large and numerous, were sent on by a special truck; but her own trunk, as she was to spend a few days at her home, would go on the cab. From London Bridge to Fulham is a long drive, and from Fulham to Hackney is still further; so it was after dark when the young lady reached her home on Mare Street. Her people lived over a haberdasher's, and their home was reached by a long stairway up which the cabman toiled with her trunk on his shoulder. "By Josh, that's 'eavy!" said he, as he lowered it carefully upon the carpet of the spare-room. There was no one in but the house-maid, and she was just going out, so the young lady had the house to herself. She lighted the gas and proceeded to refresh her toilette after traveling. Her trunk must be opened. She kneeled before it. The key for some reason refused to turn. Her bunch contained many others, and she tried several until at last the lock clicked and the lid started by the pressure of the contents.
If the reader has divined that Miss Alice Maud is the young lady "which" as the porter said was very good-looking, and that the trunk she has just unlocked is the trunk whose loss is giving Mr. Thomas John a sleepless night, it will be understood that we are on the verge of a horror that we shudder to contemplate. But, as was remarked at the outset, this is a tale of good luck, and the nerves of our readers may be protected in advance by the assurance that the good luck of this story endures to the end and the expected never happens. The young lady is alone in this great house, all other rooms are dark, the shop below is closed, the street is comparatively deserted, if she should need assistance no cry of hers could reach a human ear. She kneels before the trunk, her hands are upon it, she has commenced to raise the lid, whenthe front door opens, and voices are heard upon the stairs.
She rose to her feet, her cheeks flushing and her eyes sparkling with pleasure. The parties approaching, on reaching the landing, naturally turned aside to ascertain wherefor the spare-room was lighted. A young lady entered. There was a scream of delight and the two girls were in each other's arms. Then the old people entered and there was great hugging and kissing as they welcomed their daughter after six months' absence on the Continent. We observe with some relief that Pater, who weighs two hundred and forty, and who, moreover, is winded by the ascent, has seated himself on the trunk. So it is well for the present. After a few minutes of incoherent conversation the entire family withdraw to the dining-room; the door of the spare-room is closed and we can breathe freely for a little while. Francis George, who lives from home, was sent for and arrived in time to join them in a late English supper. After supper Alice Maud reentered the spare-room, apparently to retire. The other young lady burst impetuously into the room exclaiming:
"Oh! sister mine, you must sleep with me; it will take half the night to answer all my questions. And, besides, Frank will stay till morning, and he must sleep here." However, they sat on the bed with their arms about each other, conversing for several minutes.
"And there is your trunk, Maud, covered all over with labels; just see where you have been. I suppose it is crammed with good things. Really, dear, you must show me your gowns." She rose and went to the trunk.
"Wait till morning, Fannie," said Alice. "The trunk is very full and I would not like to litter up Frank's room to-night." So the trunk was not yet opened.
"Well," said Fannie, "let's go to bed. Come, sister."
"I must get my night-gown," said Alice, going to the trunk.
"Is it on top?" inquired Fannie.
"No, it is near the bottom."
"Then leave it and I will lend you one of mine."
How many times they have been on the verge of opening that trunk and we, who know its hideous contents, have been kept in suspense! The two sisters left the room not one moment too soon. A crisis had arrived. Scarcely had the door closed when the lid of the trunk was pushed up by a scaly, bulging fold, and the reptile emerged, fresh and alert. The room was still lighted, the only shadow was beneath the bed, and thither the snake betook herself, drawing in her long body as a hawser glides through a hawse pipe. The lid of the trunk sank down and all remained as before. At that moment the young man entered and prepared to retire. One moment sooner andbut we shudder! Even now the situation is appalling. He turns out the light and gets into bed. When the room is in darkness the python has no need of close quarters, and so it cautiously creeps out from under the bed and makes a silent circuit of the room. For a young man of steady habits and a total abstainer to boot, Mr. Francis George is dangerously near to an attack of delirium tremens. As it happens, he has left the door open just a few inches, and at length the head of the snake emerges three feet into the hall. Here it pauses, at the bottom of one flight of stairs and the top of another. Shall it go up or down? If it goes up, the young ladies' room is on the next landing, and the door is open. But inasmuch as it is easier to go down-stairs than up, the snake makes a wise choice and starts in the direction of the front door. By the rapidity of its descent it is dragged rather violently out of Francis George's room, and as it passes under a what-not with a low bottom shelf it makes considerable noise, and, moreover, it thrusts the door wide open. By the noise the young man is aroused from his first slumber, and. under the impression that someone is in the room, he inquires "Who's there?" Receiving no reply, he turns around and perceives that his door is wide open. This surprises him and he gets out of bed to close it. Fortunately he does so at the right moment. Two seconds earlier and he would have stepped upon the python; one second earlier and he would have jammed its tail in the door. As it was, he closed the door just as the scaly tip glided over the edge of the top stair. The house is dark and silent and the snake has gone down the stairs into the front hall. What will it do next? Will it remain at the bottom of that cul-de-sac and furnish a sensation for the unfortunate who is the first to descend in the morning? Or will it ascend that steep path, and, passing the closed doors, on the first landing, will it enter the chamber where the sisters lie in each other's arms! What a night of terror! And all in the house are slumbering in sweet unconsciousness.
The good luck we have so repeatedly mentioned is about to operate once more. Betsy Ann, the young housemaid, who was about to leave the house when Miss Alice Maud arrived, has spent the evening with her young man at the band-playing in Victoria Park and has returned about the time when the family were retiring. From her window on the fourth or fifth floor, Betsy Ann has witnessed the home-coming of Susan Jane, a housemaid three doors removed. Now Betsy Ann and Susan Jane being bosom friends, it is their custom on their evening out to meet on the stairs and compare notes of their respective young men. So Betsy Ann descends and makes her way to Susan Jane's front door, and the two housemaids sit on the steps and mutually report the progress of their respective courtships. But how does this accommodate the snake?
In the following manner: The front door closed with a spring lock and, once closed, it could not be opened from the outside without a special night-key. This key, in her haste, Betsy Ann had left on her bureau in the tray that held her hair-pins. So, to prevent locking herself out, she had not closed the door, but had left it like the famous door in Bardell and Pickwick, "on the jar." So when the snake came gliding down there was an aperture sufficient to let her out. And there was a full-grown female python on Mare Street, Hackney, in the middle of the night.
How a Serpent May Live in London
As soon as breakfast was over the next morning the two young ladies went into the spare-room to inspect the trunk. It was still closed, but when the lid was lifted, to their amazement, it was empty. But in what a condition after being occupied by a slimy reptile! Here is a misapprehension to be removed. Snakes are not slimy, their scaly skins are dry and clean. And so the trunk was as immaculate as when it was new; there was nothing to suggest the use to which it had been put. But how came it empty? Mr. Francis George recalled the fact that he had been awakened by a noise in the room and had found his door wide open. Forthwith, it also appeared that Betsy Jane was honest and truthful, and she confessed with many tears that she had been absent from the house at midnight for the space of an hour, during which time the front door had been open.
Mr. Thomas John, in his anxious scrutiny of the morning paper, did read that a house on Mare Street had been entered by burglars and a lady's trunk rifled of its contents. But not until later did he connect this with the affair in which he was so warmly interested. But; in the meantime, what became of the snake?
There are indications that it enjoyed a nocturnal promenade on Mare Street. It appears to have been seen by a hilarious individual whom the closing of the public-houses had ejected upon the sidewalk, but who, nevertheless, defiantly proclaimed to the universe that he wouldn't "go home till morning, till (hic) daylight doth appear." This gentleman had "'ad 'em once," and what he saw in the dim light as he turned the corner upon Mare Street convinced him that he "'ad 'em again." So he embraced a friendly lamp-post and sent forth into the night a long quavering howl which brought Policeman X40 upon the scene, by whom he was arrested and conveyed to the station. Events like these occurred several nights in succession. Delirium tremens became epidemic upon Mare Street. The neighborhood became unpopular among gentlemen of bibulous habits.
But what became of the snake in the glaring day when the streets of London roar with pounding hoofs and grinding wheels?
Midway on Mare Street stands old Hackney church with its closely packed graveyard raised several feet above the pavement, separated from the crowded sidewalk only by a low stone wall, so that the dead are cheek-by-jowl with the living. At the end of the graveyard furthest from the church was a large triangular patch of nettles with one angle resting on the low stone wall above the Mare Street sidewalk. This was the only spot in Hackney which presented conditions anything approaching its natural habitat. Here, subsequent investigations showed, the python took up her abode for several days, perhaps for several weeks. Here was the circular spot where she lay coiled when nights were chilly. Here, between the nettles and the wall of the building at the end of the graveyard, was the place where she lay stretched out in the warm sunlight, peering out through the nettles almost into the faces of the passing throng. How did she manage to live?
That question is easily answered. Hackney churchyard is an aristocratic feline rendezvous. Here assembles nightly a numerous philharmonic association. Besides vocal entertainment there were other attractions which drew together a concourse of cats. The love-making of the parish was transacted here. All local feline disputes were brought hither and settled, some by arbitration and some by war. In fact our python had but to uncoil half her length to help herself to live cat-meat, which is Belgian hare to a snake. She had bass, alto, tenor, and soprano on her bill of fare. Before her depredations had reduced the choral society to such a degree as to excite suspicion an end came to this security and plenty.
An officious church-warden took it into his head that a thicket of nettles in a graveyard is unsightly, so he ordered the sexton to cut them down. Swish, swish, swish; nearer and nearer came the scythe. The snake glided silently away to a temporary shelter at the other side of the church, and Old Giles was spared the fright of his life. That night she issued forth in search of a more secure abode. Along the hard paved streets of the city she went at a time of' night when only tavern outcasts were abroad. Midnight roisterers are a very susceptible class of people, and that is why it is that the python's course can be traced by a trail of delirium tremens. At last she felt beneath her scales the soft dewy grass of Victoria Park. She crossed a narrow arm of one of the lakes and made her home amid the flags and sedges of a small island. Here she remained secure from molestation for the rest of the summer. Her food was water-fowl and she helped herself promiscuously. But those water-fowl were the special charge of one of the under park keepers, "which his name it were Joseph James." Joseph James was not long in detecting a diminution in the number of his charges. In a short time the Chief Warden observed the same phenomenon and he bestowed upon his underling a severe reprimand.
The diminution went on perceptibly. Ducks and other fowl which Joseph James knew by sight were missing from time to time and seen no more. Joseph James was threatened with the loss of his position, which imperilled not only his bread and butter, but also his enjoyment of the seat by the fireside in the tap-room of the "Pig and Whistle," to which he was entitled by virtue of being a regular customer and steady pay. A man out of work, Joseph James very well knew, would not be welcome at the "Pig and Whistle," or anywhere else. One afternoon, as he was dejectedly brooding over the problem, a duck which he was watching gave a loud quack, threw up its wings, and sank beneath the water. "Swap me bob!" said Joseph James. "That's the first time I ever see a duck take a cramp and git drownded." Upon second thought he concluded that the duck had been drawn under by some animal below the surface. He took his punt and poled out to inspect a small island in that vicinity. At the farther side he received quite a shock. Between the reeds and the water extended the body of a serpent. It was in motion, and his eyes distended as yard after yard glided upward until the tapering tail disappeared in the thicket and all was still. He returned to the shore in great excitement and reported thus to the Park Warden: "I found out wot's 'ookin' of them ducks, sir. There's a bloomin' big snyke on that there hisland."
The Park Warden seemed to think this quite probable until Joseph James proceeded to give his estimate of the reptile's proportions, then he became incredulous and dismissed him with advice to attend to his work and drink less.
"Did ever you hear the like?" demanded Joseph James of a sympathetic audience to whom he had delivered an eloquent recital of his peculiar grievances. "Ere 'e's ear-wiggin' of me every dy 'cos them ducks and mud'ens is goin' off, an' w'en I finds a blahsted big snyke'e sez I got the jim-jams."
"M'ybe you 'as," was the facetious reply. To be sure the jim-jams were getting to be a very common complaint in that particular part of London. Men were having attacks in broad daylight and in Victoria Park. The police were becoming so sensitive on the subject that whoever reported having "seen a snyke" was summarily hauled away to the station and treated to the Keeley cure.
"Look 'ere, Myte," said a good-natured bystander, "if I was you I wouldn't sy too much abart that there snyke, or m'ybe you'll lose yer job."
Joseph James, not being by any means a total abstainer, actually began to have his doubts and boldly announced his intention to revisit the island and settle the matter. This was heroic, and the crowd gathered on the shore to watch. He landed and strode about among the rushes prodding here and there with his pole. Suddenly there rose up before him the head of a great serpent and looked him steadily in the face. A most precipitate retreat would have been quite excusable. But Joseph James had a problem to solve. He winked hard several times, but could not eliminate the serpent from his vision. He unlimbered his pole for action, shouting, "Snyke or jim-jams, 'ere's at you!" The snake took the hint and got herself into marching order. None too soon, for as she swept aside in her undulating movement the pole came down with a blow that would have smashed her flat. The snake took to the water, fortunately on the side nearest the mainland, in full view of the crowd. Whereat there were cries of horror, panic, and stampede. Joseph James took to the water at the same moment but on the other side of the island. A few bold spirits in the crowd stood their ground and with shouts and stones turned the reptile back to the island, which it regained about the same instant that Joseph James stepped ashore. The news spread and the crowd grew every moment. The Park Warden appeared. "There's yer snyke, Mr. Warden," said Joseph James; "'e ayn't no jim-jams; 'e's gone back on 'is hisland." Taking the collective testimony of the crowd the snake appeared to be about the size of the flag-pole on the green yonder. That is to say, about two feet in diameter and something over a hundred feet long.
The matter was so serious that the Warden telegraphed to Mr. Thomas John, of Jamrach & Co.'s, with whom he had had dealings in the wild beast way. That telegram furnished a clue for the solution of a problem over which Mr. Thomas John had been worrying all summer. He arrived within an hour, and, after looking carefully over the island, he pronounced the reptile a full-grown female python, probably the one that had escaped from him early in the summer. A large hamper and several men were landed upon the island. By whatever arts the reptile was captured, the hunt was concealed from the spectators by the thick rushes. But certain it is that the hamper was much heavier when it came back. As it was hoisted into a cart and driven away someone in the crowd shouted, "Now, there won't be no more jim-jams!" The remark was so significant that Mr. Thomas John inquired its meaning and was informed that there had been an unusual number of cases of delirium tremens in that locality and the peculiar thing about them was that the victims had invariably been seized with their attacks in the streets. Mr. Thomas John saw a great light. He spent several days in the neighborhood looking up the exact localities where these attacks had been experienced. He found that they extended over an irregular course reaching from Victoria Park to Mare Street and terminated in the vicinity of Hackney church. The churchyard was the only piece of unoccupied land in the vicinity and he subjected it to a rigid scrutiny. In the soil that had been soft in the early summer he observed indications that meant so much to his practised eye. In fact he was able to read the whole history of the python's sojourn there of several weeks. Evidently, then, it was somewhere in this neighborhood that it had first succeeded in escaping from the trunk. But how had it done so without discovery, that was the mystery. He went to the nearest police station and asked permission to look over their calendar. Being taken for a detective, permission was easily obtained. He found that about the middle of May a house on Mare. Street had been burglariously entered and a lady's trunk rifled of its contents. The trunk, it seemed, had not been taken away. Very good; he would call and see that trunk. He was received by the two young ladies, Miss Alice Maud, as it happened, being home for the day. They readily gave him all needed information and showed him the trunk, still in the spare-room. How his pulse quickened! It was his own trunk; there were the gimlet holes he had bored, so small that they had escaped notice. He ran over all the facts: The trunk had been unlocked, but not opened. The bedroom door and the hall door had both been open; a young man sleeping in the room had been awakened by a noise. He could see it all. He looked at the two beautiful girls who had been exposed to such a frightful peril, and such a wave of thankfulness came over him that his eyes filled with tears. One more question remained: How could he return these ladies their property without letting them know the dreadful truth? "You had just returned from the Continent, young lady," said he. "Would you mind giving me a list of the places you visited?" The list was furnished and he compared it with the labels pasted on the trunk. It was then seen that they were not identical. No one had thought of making this comparison before. "Just as I supposed, Miss," said he. "This is not your trunk." The young ladies exchanged looks of dismay. "The parties who took your trunk," he continued, "evidently took trunk and all and substituted another just like it."
"But how do you know that?" she asked.
"Because I have your trunk and its contents in my possession, and you shall receive it to-morrow morning."
The ladies were surprised and delighted. But Alice inquired: "But if you have recovered the trunk did you not also capture the thieves?"
Mr. Thomas John, not being a detective in reality, found himself becoming very hot, and he replied seriously: "Well, young ladies, I see that I shall have to explain the whole matter. Your trunk was not stolen at all. The fact is that you brought up my trunk from London Bridge station and left yours behind."
"The idea," said Alice Maud, "and the men who handled that trunk complained that it was heavy and made me pay extra."
"Oh, they will always do that!" said Mr. Thomas John as he prepared to leave. He was anxious to get away. What if they should ask him how it happened that his trunk was empty, just back from the Continent! Once on the street and out of danger he experienced a revulsion of feeling and hailed a passing cab. It was a needless expense, but he wanted to laugh for about an hour, and this was the only available privacy.
The next morning Miss Alice Maud received her trunk and the empty one was sent away. Not a thing was missing, and a delightful day was spent by the girls in the examination of continental souvenirs. Mr. Francis George arrived that evening. He listened incredulously to the story of the trunks. "So," said he, "you brought up an empty trunk from the station and didn't know it. And there was no burglary at all."
"So it appears."
"Very well, then; now tell me what it was that woke me up that night and who threw my bedroom door wide open."
No one could answer these questions, and Mr. Francis George was invited to state his opinion.
"My opinion," said he, "is this. The trunk was stolen and an empty one left in its place, which was probably done to keep us quiet while they got away with the swag. The thief then found that he could not get the trunk off his hands without detection. Or it may be that he became conscience-stricken and wished to return to an honest life. So he trumped up this story as a means of restoring stolen property. However, you have your trunk and he has his. So all's well that ends well!" With which appropriate sentiment we terminate our tale of a snake.