- Author: Ralph Sholto
Read book online «"And That's How It Was, Officer" by Ralph Sholto (reading books for 4 year olds .TXT) 📕». Author - Ralph Sholto
When Uncle Peter decided to clean out the underworld, it was a fine thing for the town, but it was tough on the folks in Tibet."And that's how
it was, officer" By Ralph Sholto
Chief of Police,
Dear Chief Nixon:
No doubt, by this time, you and your boys are a pretty bewildered lot. You have all probably lost weight wondering what has been going on in Morton City; where all the gangsters went, and why the underworld has vanished like a bucket of soap bubbles.
Not being acquainted with my uncle, Peter Nicholas, with Bag Ears Mulligan, with the gorgeous Joy Nicholas, my bride of scarcely twenty-four hours, or with me, Homer Nicholas, you have of course been out of touch with a series of swiftly moving events just culminated.
You, above all others, are entitled to know what has been happening in our fair city. Hence this letter. When you receive it, Joy and I will be on the way to Europe in pursuit of a most elusive honeymoon. Uncle Peter will be headed for Tibet in order to interview certain very important people you and your department never heard of. Bag Ears will probably be off somewhere searching for his bells, and I suggest you let him keep right on searching, because Bag Ears isn't one to answer questions with very much intelligence.
So, because of the fact that a great deal of good has been done at no cost whatever to the taxpayers, I suggest you read this letter and then forget about the whole thing.
It all started when Joy and I finally got an audience with Uncle Peter in his laboratory yesterday morning. Possibly you will think it strange that I should have difficulty in contacting my own close relative. But you don't know Uncle Peter.
He is a strange mixture of the doer and the dreamer—the genius and the child. Parts of his brain never passed third grade while other parts could sit down and tie Einstein in knots during a discussion of nuclear physics, advanced mathematics or what have you. He lives in a small bungalow at the edge of town, in the basement of which is his laboratory. A steel door bars the public from this laboratory and it was upon this door that Joy and I pounded futilely for three days. Finally the door opened and Uncle Peter greeted us.
"Homer—my dear boy! Have you been knocking long?"
"Quite a while, Uncle Peter—off and on that is. I have some news for you. I am going to get married."
My uncle became visibly disturbed. "My boy! That's wonderful—truly wonderful. But I'm certainly surprised at you. Tsk-tsk-tsk!"
"What do you mean by tsk-tsk-tsk?"
"Your moral training has been badly neglected. You plan marriage even while traveling about in the company of this woman you have with you."
Joy is a lady of the finest breeding, but she can be caught off-guard at times. This was one of the times. She said, "Listen here, you bald-headed jerk. Nobody calls me a woman—"
Uncle Peter was mildly interested. "Then if you aren't a woman, what—?"
I hastened to intervene. "You didn't let Joy finish, Uncle Peter. She no doubt would have added—'in that tone of voice.' And I think her attitude is entirely justified. Joy is a fine girl and my intended bride."
"Oh, why didn't you say so?"
"I supposed you would assume as much."
"My boy, I am a scientist. A scientist assumes nothing. But I wish to apologize to the young lady and I hope you two will be very happy."
"That's better," Joy said, with only a shade of truculence.
"And now," Uncle Peter went on. "It would be very thoughtful of you to leave. I am working on a serum which will have a great deal to do with changing the course of civilization. In fact it is already perfected and must be tested. It is a matter of utmost urgency to me that I be left alone to arrange the tests."
"I am afraid," I said, "that you will have to delay your work a few hours. It is not every day that your nephew gets married and in all decency you must attend the wedding and the reception. I don't wish you to be inconvenienced too greatly, but—"
Uncle Peter's mind had gone off on another track. He stopped me with a wave of his hand and said, "Homer, are you still running around with those bums from the wrong side of town?"
These words from anyone but Uncle Peter would have been insulting. But Uncle Peter is the most impersonal man I have known. He never bothers insulting people for any personal satisfaction. When he asks a question, he always has a reason for so doing.
By way of explaining Uncle Peter's question, let me say that I am a firm believer in democracy and I demonstrate this belief in my daily life. More than once I have had to apologize for the definitely unsocial attitude of my family. They have a tendency to look down on those less fortunate in environment and financial stability than we Nicholases.
I, however, do not approve of this snobbishness. I cannot forget that a great-uncle, Phinias Nicholas, laid the foundations of our fortune by stealing cattle in the days of the Early West and selling them at an amazing profit.
I personally am a believer in the precept that all men are created equal. I'll admit they don't remain equal very long, but that is beside the point.
In defense of my convictions, I have always sought friends among the underprivileged brotherhood sometimes scathingly referred to as bums, tramps, screwballs, and I've found them, on the whole, to be pretty swell people.
But to get back—I answered Uncle Peter rather stiffly. "My friends are my own affair and are not to be discussed."
"No offense. My question had to do with an idea I got rather suddenly. Will any of these—ah, friends, be present at the reception?"
"It is entirely possible."
"Then I could easily infiltrate—"
"You could what?"
"Never mind, my boy. It is not important. I'll be indeed honored to attend your wedding."
At that moment there was a muffled commotion from beyond a closed door to our left; the sound of heels kicking on the panel and an irate female voice:
"They gone yet? There's cobwebs in this damn closet—and it's dark!"
Uncle Peter had the grace to blush. In fact he could do little else as the closet door opened and a young lady stepped forth.
In the vulgar parlance of the day, this girl could be described only as a dream-boat. This beyond all doubt, because the trim hull, from stem to stern, was bared to the gaze of all who cared to observe and admire. She was a blonde dream-boat—and most of her present apparel had come from lying under a sun lamp.
Uncle Peter gasped. "Cora! In the name of all decency—"
Joy, with admirable aplomb, laughed gayly. "Why, Uncle Peter! So it's that kind of research! And no wonder it's top-secret!"
Uncle Peter's frantic attention was upon the girl. "I was never so mortified—"
She raised her hair-line eyebrows. "Why the beef, Winky? Aren't we among friends?"
"Never mind! Never mind!" Uncle Peter fell back upon his dignity—having nothing else to fall back on—and said, "Homer—Joy—this is Cora, my ah—assistant. She was ah—in the process of taking a shower, and—"
Joy reached forth and pinched Uncle Peter's flaming cheek. "It's all right, uncle dear. Perfectly all right. And I'll bet this chick can give a terrific assist, too."
I felt the scene should be broken up at the earliest possible moment. I steered Joy toward the door. I said, "We'll see you later, then, Uncle Peter."
"And you too, Miss Courtney," Joy cut in. "Make Winky bring you and don't bother to dress. The reception is informal."
I got Joy out the door but I couldn't suppress her laughter. "Winky," she gasped. "Oh, my orange and purple garter-belt!"
We will proceed now, to the reception, which was given by my Aunt Gretchen in the big house on Shore Drive. We were married at City Hall and—after a delicious interlude while the cab was carrying us cross-town—we arrived there, a happy bride and groom.
I am indeed fortunate to have wooed and won such a talented and beautiful girl as Joy. A graduate of Vassar, she is an accomplished pianist, a brilliant conversationalist, and is supercharged with a vitality and effervescence which—while they sometimes manifest in disturbing ways—are wonderful to behold. But more of that later.
The reception began smoothly enough. The press was satisfactorily represented, much to Aunt Gretchen's gratification. Joy and I stood at the door for a time, receiving. Then, tiring of handshakes and congratulations, we retired to the conservatory to be alone for a few minutes.
Or so we thought.
Almost immediately, Aunt Gretchen ferreted us out. Aunt Gretchen has long-since lost the smooth silhouette for which the Nicholas women are noted. She has broadened in all departments and she came waddling along between banks of yellow roses in a manner suggesting an outraged circus tent.
"Homer," she called. "Homer!"
I reluctantly took my hands away and answered her.
"Oh, there you are! Homer—I want an explanation."
"An explanation of what?"
"There is a person at the door who calls himself Bag Ears Mulligan. He has the audacity to claim you invited him to—to this brawl as he terms it."
I must here explain—with sorrow—that my Aunt Gretchen is a snob. There is no other term for it. It has gotten to be such a habit with her that any friend of mine is automatically a person to be looked down on.
And Bag Ears Mulligan is one of my dearest friends. Of course I had invited him to my wedding, and felt honored by his attendance. Bag Ears is a habitue of one of the less glittering places I frequent in search of lasting fellowship—Red Nose Tessie's Bar, to be exact. A place of dirty beer glasses but of warm hearts and sincere people.
"I'll see this man, Aunt Gretchen," I said with calm dignity. "He is to be an honored guest. While somewhat rugged in appearance, Bag Ears has a sensitive nature and must be treated with understanding."
Aunt Gretchen's lips quivered. "Homer—I'm through—absolutely and finally through! You can get someone else to handle your next wedding reception. Hold it in a barn or a stable. Never again in my house."
After this tactless outburst, Aunt Gretchen came about and sailed out of the conservatory. Joy and I followed wordlessly.
Upon arriving at the front door, we found Aunt Gretchen had spoken the truth. Bag Ears was waiting there. He had been herded into a corner by Johnson, Aunt Gretchen's stuffed shirt of a butler, who was standing guard over him.
Bag Ears grinned happily when he caught sight of me and I smiled reassuringly. While Bag Ears is not too richly endowed with good looks, he has a great heart and at one time was possessed of a lightning-fast brain. However, he took a great deal of punishment during his unsuccessful climb toward the lightweight title, and his brain has been slowed down to the point where it sometimes comes to a complete halt. His features reflect the fury of a hundred battles in the squared ring. They are in a sad state, his ears particularly. They hang wearily downward like the leaves of a dying cabbage plant.
Also, Bag Ears has fallen into the misfortune of hearing bells at various times—bells that exist only in his poor, bewildered mind. But he is cheerful and warm-hearted nonetheless.
He said, "Homer, this character says I should o' brung along my invite. But I don't remember you givin' me one. You just ast me to come."
"That is true," I returned, "and you are most welcome. You may go, Johnson." I gave the butler a cold look and he stalked away.
I then introduced Bag Ears to my new bride. "This is Joy. I am certainly a lucky man, Bag Ears. Isn't she the most beautiful thing you ever saw?"
Bag Ears was of course impressed. "Golly, what gams!" he breathed. His eyes traveled upward and he said, "Golly, what—what things and stuff." He came finally to her face. "Baby, you got it!"
Joy was rocked back on her heels. Caught unawares by the open admiration in his eyes, she whispered, "Oh, my ancient step-ins!"
But she rallied like a thoroughbred and gave Bag Ears a dazzling smile. "I'm delighted, Mr. Mulligan. Homer's friends are my friends—I think—and I'm sure everything will turn out all right."
Bag Ears said, "Lady—leave us not be formal. Just call me Bag Ears."
"Of course—Bag Ears—leave us be chummy."
He now turned his remarks to me and evinced even more intense admiration for my bride. "She reminds me of a fast lightweight—the most beautiful sight in the world."
"Let us repair to the conservatory," I said, "where we can have a quiet chat." I said this because I felt that some of the other guests might not be as tactful as Joy and might make Bag Ears feel uncomfortable. Aunt Gretchen had rudely vanished without waiting for an introduction and the actions of the hostess often set the pattern for those of the guests.
As we moved toward the rear of the house, Joy took my arm and said, "Speaking of being stripped down for action—what do you suppose happened to Uncle Peter? I haven't seen him around anywhere."
"He gave his word, so I'm sure he'll come."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"I don't understand."
"I don't quite understand myself, but I feel uneasy. I remember the calculating look in his eye when he suddenly agreed to honor us with his presence. There was something too eager about that look. And his asking whether any of your friends would be here."
"Uncle Peter is basically a good follow. I think he envies me my wide contacts."
"If he seemed a trifle peculiar, you must remember that he is a scientist. Even now he is engaged in some important project—some experiment—"
"I know—we met her."
"—but I wouldn't think he'd have to experiment at