THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM
by Irvin S. Cobb
( - )
OLD JUDGE PRIEST,
BACK HOME, ETC.
from The escape of Mr. Trimm: his plight and other plights (1913)
Grosset & Dunlap, publishers, New York.
MR. TRIMM, recently president
of the late Thirteenth National Bank, was taking a
trip which was different in a number of ways from any
he had ever taken. To begin with, he was used to
parlor cars and Pullmans and even luxurious private
cars when he went anywhere; whereas now he rode with a
most mixed company in a dusty, smelly day coach. In
the second place, his traveling companion was not such
a one as Mr. Trimm would have chosen had the choice
been left to him, being a stupid-looking
German-American with a drooping, yellow mustache. And
in the third place, Mr. Trimm's plump white hands were
folded in his lap, held in a close and enforced
companionship by a new and shiny pair of Bean's Latest
Model Little Giant handcuffs. Mr. Trimm was on his way
to the Federal penitentiary to serve twelve years at
hard labor for breaking, one way or another, about all
laws that are presumed to govern national banks.
. . . . . . . . . .
All the time Mr. Trimm was in the
Tombs, fighting for a new trial, a certain question
had lain in his mind unasked and unanswered. Through
the seven months of his stay in the jail that question
had been always at the back part of his head, ticking
away there like a little watch that never needed
winding. A dozen times a day it would pop into his
thoughts and then go away, only to come back again.
When Copley was taken to the
penitentiary, Copley being the cashier who got
off with a lighter sentence because the judge and jury
held him to be no more than a blind accomplice in the
wrecking of the Thirteenth National Mr. Trimm
read closely every line that the papers carried about
Copley's departure. But none of them had seen fit to
give the young cashier more than a short and colorless
paragraph. For Copley was only a small figure in the
big intrigue that had startled the country; Copley
didn't have the money to hire big lawyers to carry his
appeal to the higher courts for him; Copley's wife was
keeping boarders; and as for Copley himself, he had
been wearing stripes several months now.
With Mr. Trimm it had been vastly
different. From the very beginning he had held the
public eye. His bearing in court when the jury came in
with their judgment; his cold defiance when
the judge, in pronouncing sentence, mercilessly
arraigned him and the system of finance for which he
stood; the manner of his life in the Tombs; his
spectacular fight to beat the verdict, had all been
worth columns of newspaper space. If Mr. Trimm had
been a popular poisoner, or a society woman named as
corespondent in a sensational divorce suit, the papers
could not have been more generous in their space
allotments. And Mr. Trimm in his cell had read all of
it with smiling contempt, even to the semi-hysterical
outpourings of the lady special writers who called him
The Iron Man of Wall Street and undertook to analyze
his emotions and missed the mark by a thousand
miles or two.
Things had been smoothed as much as
possible for him in the Tombs, for money and the power
of it will go far toward ironing out even the
corrugated routine of that big jail. He had a large
cell to himself in the airiest, brightest corridor.
His meals were served by a caterer from outside.
Although he ate them without knife or fork, he soon
learned that a Spoon and the fingers can accomplish a
good deal when backed by a good appetite, and Mr.
Trimm's appetite was uniformly good. The warden and
his underlings had been models of official kindliness;
the newspapers had sent their brightest young men to
interview him whenever he felt like talking, which
wasn't often; and surely his lawyers had done all in
his behalf that money a great deal of money
could do. Perhaps it was because of these
things that Mr. Trimm had never been able to bring
himself to realize that he was the Hobart W. Trimm who
had been sentenced to the Federal prison; it seemed to
him, somehow, that he, personally, was merely a
spectator standing to one side watching the fight of
another man to dodge the penitentiary.
However, he didn't fail to give the
other man the advantage of every chance that money
would buy. This sense of aloofness to the whole thing
had persisted even when his personal lawyer came to
him one night in the early fall and told him that the
court of last possible resort had denied the last
possible motion. Mr. Trimm cut the lawyer short with a
shake of his head as the other began saying something
about the chances of a pardon from the President. Mr.
Trimm wasn't in the habit of letting men deceive him
with idle words. No President would pardon him, and he
"Never mind that, Walling," he said
steadily, when the lawyer offered to come to see him
again before he started for prison the next day. "If
you'll see that a drawing-room on the train is
reserved for me for us, I mean and all
that sort of thing, I'll not detain you any further. I
have a good many things to do tonight. Good night."
"Such a man, such a man," said Walling
himself as he climbed into his car; "all chilled steel
and brains. And they are going to lock that brain up
for twelve years. It's a crime," said Walling, and
shook his head. Walling always said it was a crime
when they sent a client of his to prison. To his
credit be it said, though, they sent very few of them
there. Walling made as high as fifty thousand a year
at criminal law. Some of it was very criminal law
indeed. His specialty was picking holes in the
statutes faster than the legislature could make them
and provide them and putty them up with amendments.
This was the first case he had lost in a good long
. . . . . . . . . .
When Jerry, the turnkey, came for him
in the morning Mr. Trimm had made as careful a toilet
as the limited means at his command permitted, and he
had eaten a hearty breakfast and was ready to go, all
but putting on his hat. Looking the picture of
well-groomed, close-buttoned, iron-gray middle age,
Mr. Trimm followed the turnkey through the long
corridor and down the winding iron stairs to the
warden's office. He gave no heed to the curious eyes
that followed him through the barred doors of many
cells; his feet rang briskly on the flags.
The warden, Hallam, was there in the
private office with another man, a tall, raw-boned man
with a drooping, straw-colored mustache and the
unmistakable look about him of the
police officer. Mr. Trimm knew without being told that
this was the man who would take him to prison. The
stranger was standing at a desk, signing some papers.
"Sit down, please, Mr. Trimm," said
the warden with a nervous cordiality. "Be through here
in just one minute. This is Deputy Marshal Meyers," he
Mr. Trimm started to tell this Mr.
Meyers, he was glad to meet him, but caught himself
and merely nodded. The man stared at him with neither
interest nor curiosity in his dull blue eyes. The
warden moved over toward the door.
"Mr. Trimm," he said, clearing his
throat, "I took the liberty of calling a cab to take
you gents up to the Grand Central. It's out front now.
But there's a big crowd of reporters and photographers
and a lot of other people waiting, and if I was you
I'd slip out the back way one of my men will
open the yard gate for you and jump aboard the
subway down at Worth Street. Then you'll miss those
"Thank you, Warden very kind of
you," said Mr. Trimm in that crisp, businesslike way
of his. He had been crisp and businesslike all his
life. He heard a door opening softly behind him, and
when he turned to look he saw the warden slipping out,
furtively, in almost an embarrassed fashion.
"Well," said Meyers, "all ready?"
"Yes," said Mr. Trimm, and he made as
if to rise.
"Wait one minute," said Meyers.
He half turned his back on Mr. Trimm
and fumbled at the side pocket of his ill-hanging
coat. Something inside of Mr. Trimm gave the least
little jump, and the question that had ticked away so
busily all those months began to buzz, buzz in his
ears; but it was only a handkerchief the man was
getting out. Doubtless he was going to mop his face.
He didn't mop his face, though. He
unrolled the handkerchief slowly, as if it contained
something immensely fragile and valuable, and then,
thrusting it back in his pocket, he faced Mr. Trimm.
He was carrying in his hands a pair of handcuffs that
hung open-jawed. The jaws had little notches in them,
like teeth that could bite. The question that had
ticked in Mr. Trimm's head was answered at last
in the sight of these steel things with their notched
Mr. Trimm stood up and, with a
movement as near to hesitation as he had ever been
guilty of in his life, held out his hands, backs
"I guess you're new at this kind of
thing," said Meyers, grinning. "This here way
one at a time."
He took hold of Mr. Trimm's right
hand, turned it sideways and settled one of the steel
cuffs over the top of the wrist, flipping the notched
jaw up from beneath and pressing it in so that it locked automatically with a brisk
little click. Slipping the locked cuff back and forth
on Mr. Trimm's lower arm like a man adjusting a part
of machinery, and then bringing the left hand up to
meet the right, he treated it the same way. Then he
Mr. Trimm hadn't meant to protest. The
word came unbidden.
"This this isn't necessary, is
it?" he asked in a voice that was husky and didn't
seem to belong to him.
"Yep," said Meyers. "Standin' orders
is play no favorites and take no chances. But you
won't find them things uncomfortable. Lightest pair
there was in the office, and I fixed 'em plenty
For half a minute Mr. Trimm stood like
a rooster hypnotized by a chalkmark, his arms
extended, his eyes set on his bonds. His hands had
fallen perhaps four inches apart, and in the space
between his wrists a little chain was stretched taut.
In the mounting tumult that filled his brain there
sprang before Mr. Trimm's consciousness a phrase he
had heard or read somewhere, the title of a story or,
perhaps, it was a headline The Grips of the
Law. The Grips of the Law were upon Mr. Trimm
he felt them now for the first time in these shiny
wristlets and this bit of chain that bound his wrists
and filled his whole body with a strange, sinking
feeling that made
him physically sick. A sudden sweat beaded out on Mr.
Trimm's face, turning it slick and wet.
He had a handkerchief, a fine linen
handkerchief with a hemstitched border and a monogram
on it, in the upper breast pocket of his buttoned
coat. He tried to reach it. His hands went up,
twisting awkwardly like crab claws. The fingers of
both plucked out the handkerchief. Holding it so, Mr.
Trimm mopped the sweat away. The links of the
handcuffs fell in upon one another and lengthened out
again at each movement, filling the room with a smart
He got the handkerchief stowed away
with the same clumsiness. He raised the manacled hands
to his hat brim, gave it a downward pull that brought
it over his face and then, letting his short arms
slide down upon his plump stomach, he faced the man
who had put the fetters upon him, squaring his
shoulders back. But it was hard, somehow, for him to
square his shoulders perhaps because of his
hands being drawn so closely together. And his eyes
would waver and fall upon his wrists. Mr. Trimm had a
feeling that the skin must be stretched very tight on
his jawbones and his forehead.
"Isn't there some way to hide these
He began by blurting and ended by
faltering it. His hands shuffled together, one over,
then under the other.
"Here's a way," said Meyers. "This'll
He bestirred himself, folding one of
the chained hands upon the other, tugging at the white
linen cuffs and drawing the coat sleeves of his
prisoner down over the bonds as far as the chain would
let them come.
"There's the notion," he said. "Just
do that-a-way and them bracelets won't hardly show
a-tall. Ready? Let's be movin', then."
But handcuffs were never meant to be
hidden. Merely a pair of steel rings clamped to one's
wrists and coupled together with a scrap of chain, but
they'll twist your arms and hamper the movements of
your body in a way to constantly catch the eye of the
passer-by. When a man is coming toward you you can
tell that he is handcuffed before you see the cuffs.
Mr. Trimm was never able to recall
afterward exactly how he got out of the Tombs. He had
a confused memory of a gate that was swung open by
some one whom Mr. Trimm saw only from the feet to the
waist; then he and his companion were out on Lafayette
Street, speeding south toward the subway entrance at
Worth Street, two blocks below, with the marshal's
hand cupped under Mr. Trimm's right elbow and Mr.
Trimm's plump legs almost trotting in their haste. For
a moment it looked as if the warden's well-meant
artifice would serve them.
But New York reporters are up to the
of people who want to evade them. At the sight of them
a sentry reporter on the corner shouted a warning
which was instantly caught up, and passed on by
another picket stationed half-way down the block; and
around the wall of the Tombs came pelting a flying mob
of newspaper photographers and reporters, with a
choice rabble behind them. Foot passengers took up the
chase, not knowing what it was about, but sensing a
free show. Truckmen halted their teams, jumped down
from their wagon seats and joined in. A man-chase is
one of the pleasantest outdoor sports that a big city
like New York can offer its people.
Fairly running now, the manacled
banker and the deputy marshal shot down the winding
steps into the subway a good ten yards ahead of the
foremost pursuers. But there was one delay, while
Meyers skirmished with his free hand in his trousers'
pocket for a dime for the tickets, and another before
a northbound local rolled into the station. Shouted
at, jeered at, shoved this way and that, panting in
gulping breaths, for he was stout by nature and staled
by lack of exercise, Mr. Trimm, with Meyers clutching
him by the arm, was fairly shot aboard one of the
cars, at the apex of a human wedge. The astonished
guard sensed the situation as the scrooging, shoving,
noisy wave rolled across the platform toward the doors
which he had opened and, thrusting the officer and his
prisoner into the narrow platform space
behind him, he tried to form with his body a barrier
against those who came jamming in.
It didn't do any good. He was brushed
away, protesting and blustering. The excitement spread
through the train, and men, and even women, left their
seats, overflowing the aisles.
There is no crueler thing than a city
crowd, all eyes and morbid curiosity. But Mr. Trimm
didn't see the staring eyes on that ride to the Grand
Central. What he saw was many shifting feet and a
hedge of legs shutting him in closely those and
the things on his wrists. What the eyes of the crowd
saw was a small, stout man who, for all his bulk,
seemed to have dried up inside his clothes so that
they bagged on him some places and bulged others, with
his head tucked on his chest, his hat over his face
and his fingers straining to hold his coat sleeves
down over a pair of steel bracelets.
Mr. Trimm gave mental thanks to a
Deity whose existence he thought he had forgotten when
the gate of the train-shed clanged behind him,
shutting out the mob that had come with them all the
way. Cameras had been shoved in his face like gun
muzzles, reporters had scuttled alongside him, dodging
under Meyers' fending arm to shout questions in his
ears. He had neither spoken nor looked at them. The
sweat still ran down his face, so that when finally he
raised his head in the comparative quiet of the
train-shed his skin was a curious
gray under the jail paleness like the color of wet
"My lawyer promised to arrange for a
compartment for some private place on the
train," he said to Meyers. "The conductor ought to
They were the first words he had
uttered since he left the Tombs. Meyers spoke to a
jaunty Pullman conductor who stood alongside the car
where they had halted.
"No such reservation," said the
conductor, running through his sheaf of slips, with
his eyes shifting from Mr. Trimm's face to Mr. Trimm's
hands and back again, as though he couldn't decide
which was the more interesting part of him; "must be
some mistake. Or else it was for some other train. Too
late to change now we pull out in three
"I reckon we better git on the
smoker," said Meyers, "if there's room there."
Mr. Trimm was steered back again the
length of the train through a double row of pop-eyed
porters and staring trainmen. At the steps where they
stopped the instinct to stretch out one hand and swing
himself up by the rail operated automatically and his
wrists got a nasty twist. Meyers and a brakeman
practically lifted him up the steps and Meyers headed
him into a car that was hazy with blue tobacco smoke.
He was confused in his gait, almost as if his lower
limbs had been fettered, too.
The car was full of shirt-sleeved men
who stood up, craning their necks and stumbling over
each other in their desire to see him. These men came
out into the aisle, so that Meyers had to shove
"This here'll do as well as any, I
guess," said Meyers. He drew Mr. Trimm past him into
the seat nearer the window and sat down alongside him
on the side next the aisle, settling himself on the
stuffy plush seat and breathing deeply, like a man who
had got through the hardest part of a not easy job.
"Smoke?" he asked.
Mr. Trimm shook his head without
"Them cuffs feel plenty easy?" was the
deputy's next question. He lifted Mr. Trimm's hands as
casually as if they had been his hands and not Mr.
Trimm's, and looked at them.
"Seem to be all right," he said as he
let them fall back. "Don't pinch none, I reckon?"
There was no answer.
The deputy tugged a minute at his
mustache, searching his arid mind. An idea came to
him. He drew a newspaper from his pocket, opened it
out flat and spread it over Mr. Trimm's lap so that it
covered the chained wrists. Almost instantly the train
was in motion, moving through the yards.
. . . . . . . . . .
"Be there in two hours more,"
volunteered Meyers. It was late afternoon. They were
sliding through woodlands with occasional openings
which showed meadows melting into wide, flat lands.
"Want a drink?" said the deputy, next.
"No? Well, I guess I'll have a drop myself. Travelin'
fills a feller's throat full of dust." He got up,
lurching to the motion of the flying train, and
started forward to the water cooler behind the car
door. He had gone perhaps two-thirds of the way when
Mr. Trimm felt a queer, grinding sensation beneath his
feet; it was exactly as though the train were trying
to go forward and back at the same time. Almost
slowly, it seemed to him, the forward end of the car
slued out of its straight course, at the same time
tilting up. There was a grinding, roaring, grating
sound, and before Mr. Trimm's eyes Meyers vanished,
tumbling forward out of sight as the car floor buckled
under his feet. Then, as everything the train, the
earth, the sky all fused together in a great spatter
of white and black, Mr. Trimm, plucked from his seat
as though a giant hand had him by the collar, shot
forward through the air over the seatbacks, his
chained hands aloft, clutching wildly. He rolled out
of a ragged opening where the smoker had broken in
two, Hopped gently on the sloping side of the
right-of-way and slid easily to the bottom, where he
lay quiet and still on his back in a bed of weeds and
wild grass, staring straight up.
How many minutes he lay there Mr.
Trimm didn't know. It may have been the shrieks of the
victims or the glare from the fire that brought him
out of the daze. He wriggled his body to a sitting
posture, got on his feet, holding his head between his
coupled hands, and gazed full-face into the crowning
railroad, horror of the year.
There were numbers of the passengers
who had escaped serious hurt, but for the most part
these persons seemed to have gone daft from terror and
shock. Some were running aimlessly up and down and
some, a few, were pecking feebly with improvised tools
at the wreck, an indescribable jumble of ruin, from
which there issued cries of mortal agony, and from
which, at a point where two locomotives were lying on
their sides, jammed together like fighting bucks that
had died with locked horns, a tall flame already
rippled and spread, sending up a pillar of black smoke
that rose straight, poisoning the clear blue of the
sky. Nobody paid any attention to Mr. Trimm as he
stood swaying upon his feet. There wasn't a scratch on
him. His clothes were hardly rumpled, his hat was
still on his head. He stood a minute and then, moved
by a sudden impulse, he turned round and went running
straight away from the railroad at the best speed his
pudgy legs could accomplish, with his arms pumping up
and down in front of him and his fingers interlaced.
It was a grotesque
gait, almost like a rabbit hopping on its hindlegs.
Instantly, almost, the friendly woods
growing down to the edge of the fill swallowed him up.
He dodged and doubled back and forth among the tree
trunks, his small, patent-leathered feet skipping
nimbly over the irregular turf, until he stopped for
lack of wind in his lungs to carry him another rod.
When he had got his breath back Mr. Trimm leaned
against a tree and bent his head this way and that,
listening. No sound came to his ears except the sleepy
calls of birds. As well as Mr. Trimm might judge he
had come far into the depths of a considerable
woodland. Already the shadows under the low limbs were
growing thick and confused as the hurried twilight of
early September came on.
Mr. Trimm sat down on a natural
cushion of thick green moss between two roots of an
oak. The place was clean and soft and sweet-scented.
For some little time he sat there motionless, in a
sort of mental haze. Then his round body slowly slid
down flat upon the moss, his head lolled to one side
and, the reaction having come, Mr. Trimm's limbs all
relaxed and he went to sleep straightway.
After a while, when the woods were
black and still, the half-grown moon came up and,
sifting through a chink in the canopy of leaves above,
shone down full on Mr. Trimm as he lay snoring gently
with his mouth open and
his hands rising and falling on his
breast. The moonlight struck upon the Little Giant
handcuffs, making them look like quicksilver.
Toward daylight it turned off sharp
and cool. The dogwoods which had been a solid color at
nightfall now showed pink in one light and green in
another, like changeable silk, as the first level rays
of the sun came up over" the rim of the earth and made
long, golden lanes between the tree trunks. Mr. Trimm
opened his eyes slowly, hardly sensing for the first
moment or two how he came to be lying under
a canopy of leaves, and gaped, seeking
to stretch his arms. At that he remembered everything;
he haunched his shoulders against the tree roots and
wriggled himself up to a sitting position where he
stayed for a while, letting his mind run over the
sequence of events that had brought him where he was
and taking inventory of the situation.
Of escape he had no thought. The hue
and cry must be out for him before now; doubtless men
were already searching for him. It would be better for
him to walk in and surrender than to betaken in the
woods like an animal escaped from a traveling
menagerie. But the mere thought of enduring again what
he had already gone through the thought of
being tagged by crowds and stared at, with his fetters
on filled him with a nausea. Nothing that the
Federal penitentiary Might hold in store for him could
equal the black,
blind shamefulness of yesterday; he
knew that. The thought of the new ignominy that faced
him made Mr. Trimm desperate. He had a desire to
burrow into the thicket yonder and hide his face and
his chained hands.
But perhaps he could get the handcuffs
off and so go to meet his captors in some manner of
dignity. Strange that the idea hadn't occurred to him
before! It seemed to Mr. Trimm that he desired to get
his two hands apart more than he had ever desired
anything in his whole life before.
The hands had begun naturally to
adjust themselves to their enforced companionship, and
it wasn't such a very hard matter, though it cost him
some painful wrenches and much twisting of the
fingers, for Mr. Trimm to get his coat unbuttoned and
his eyeglasses in their small leather case out of his
upper waistcoat pocket. With the glasses on his nose
he subjected his bonds to a critical examination. Each
rounded steel band ran unbroken except for the smooth,
almost jointless hinge and the small lock which sat
perched on the back of the wrist in a little rounded
excrescence like a steel wart. In the flat center of
each lock was a small keyhole and alongside of it a
notched nub, the nub being sunk in a minute
depression. On the inner side, underneath,' the cuffs
slid into themselves two notches on each
showing where the jaws might be tightened to fit a
smaller hand than his-and right over the
large blue veins in the middle of the wrists were
swivel links, shackle-bolted to the cuffs and
connected by a flat, slightly larger middle link,
giving the hands a palm-to-palm play of not more than
four or five inches. The cuffs did not hurt
even after so many hours there was no actual
discomfort from them and the flesh beneath them was
But it didn't take Mr. Trimm long to
find out that they were not to be got off. He tugged
and pulled, trying his fingers for a purchase. All he
did was to chafe his skin and make his wrists throb
with pain. The cuffs would go forward just so far,
then the little bumps of bone above the hands would
catch and hold them.
Mr. Trimm was not a man to waste time
in the pursuit of the obviously hopeless. Presently he
stood up, shook himself and started off at a fair gait
through the woods. The sun was up now and the turf
was all dappled with lights and shadows, and about him
much small, furtive wild life was stirring. He
stepped along briskly, a strange figure for that green
solitude. With his correct city garb and the glint of
the steel at his sleeve ends.
Presently he heard the long-drawn,
quavering, banshee wail of a locomotive. The sound
came from almost behind him, in an opposite direction
from where he supposed the track to be. So he turned
around and went back the other way. He crossed a
runlet and climbed a small hill, neither of which he
remembered having met in his flight from the wreck,
and in a little while he came out upon the railroad.
To the north a little distance the rails ran round a
curve. To the south, where the diminishing rails
running through the unbroken woodland met in a long,
shiny V, he could see a big smoke smudge against the
horizon. This smoke Mr. Trimm knew must come from the
wreck which was still burning, evidently. As
nearly as he could judge he had come out of cover at
least two miles above it. After a moment's
consideration he decided to go south toward the wreck.
Soon he could distinguish small dots like ants moving
in and out about the black spot and he knew these dots
must be men.
A whining, whirring sound came along
the rails to him from behind. He faced about just as a
handcar shot out around the curve from the north,
moving with amazing rapidity under the strokes of four
men at the pumps. Other men, laborers to judge by
their blue overalls, were sitting on the edges of the
car with their feet dangling. For the second time
within twelve hours impulse ruled Mr. Trimm, who
wasn't given to impulses normally. He made a jump off
the right-of-way, and as the handcar flashed by he
watched its flight from the covert of a weed tangle.
But even as the handcar was passing
him Mr. Trimm regretted his hastiness. He must
surrender himself sooner or later; why
not to these overalled laborers, since it was a thing
that had to be done? He slid out of hiding and came
trotting back to the tracks. Already the handcar was a
hundred yards away, flitting into distance like some
big, wonderfully fast bug, the figures of the men at
the pumps rising and falling with a walking-beam
regularity. As he stood watching them fade away and
minded to try hailing them, yet still hesitating
against his judgment, Mr. Trimm saw something white
drop from the hands of one of the blue-clad figures on
the handcar, unfold into a newspaper and come
fluttering back along the tracks toward him. Just as
he, starting doggedly ahead, met it, the little ground
breeze that had carried it along died out and the
paper dropped and flattened right in front of him. The
front page was uppermost and he knew it must be of
that morning's issue, for across the column tops ran
the flaring headline: "Twenty Dead in Frightful
Squatting on the cindered track, Mr.
Trimm patted the crumpled sheet flat with his hands.
His eyes dropped from the first of the glaring
captions to the second, to the next and then
his heart gave a great bound inside of him and,
clutching up the newspaper to his breast, he bounded
off the tracks back into another thicket and huddled
there with the paper spread on the earth in front of
him, reading by gulps while the chain that linked
wrist to wrist
tinkled to the tremors running through him. What he
had seen first, in staring black-face type, was his
own name leading the list of known dead, and what he
saw now, broken up into choppy paragraphs and done in
the nervous English of a trained reporter throwing a
great news story together to catch an edition, but
telling a clear enough story nevertheless, was a
narrative in which his name recurred again and again.
The body of the United States deputy marshal, Meyers,
frightfully crushed, had been taken from the wreckage
of the smoker so the double-leaded story ran
and near to Meyers another body, with features
burned beyond recognition, yet still retaining certain
distinguishing marks of measurement and contour, had
been found and identified as that of Hobart W. Trimm,
the convicted banker. The bodies of these two, with
eighteen other mangled dead, had been removed to a
town called Westfield, from which town of Westfield
the account of the disaster had teen telegraphed to
the New York paper. In another column farther along
was more about Banker Trimm; facts about his soiled,
selfish, greedy, successful life, his great fortune,
his trial, and a statement that, lacking any close kin
to claim his body, his lawyers had been notified.
Mr. Trimm read the account through to
the end, and as he read the sense of dominant,
masterful self-control came back to him in
waves. He got up, talking the paper with him, and went
back into the deeper woods, moving warily and
watchfully. As he went his mind, trained to take hold
of problems and wring the essence out of them, was
busy. Of the charred, grisly thing in the improvised
morgue at Westfield, wherever that might be, Mr. Trimm
took no heed nor wasted any pity. All his life he had
used live men to work his will, with no thought of
what might come to them afterward. The living had
served him, why not the dead?
He had other things to think of than
this dead proxy of his. He was as good as free! There
would be no hunt for him now; no alarm out, no posses
combing every scrap of cover for a famous criminal
turned fugitive. He had only to lie quiet a few days,
somewhere, then get in secret touch with Walling.
Walling would do anything for money. And he had the
money four millions and more, cannily saved
from the crash that had ruined so many others.
He would alter his personal
appearance, change his name he thought of
Duvall, which was his mother's name and with
Walling's aid he would get out of the country and into
some other country where a man might live like a
prince on four millions or the fractional part of it.
He thought of South America, of South Africa, of a
private yacht swinging through the little frequented
of the South Seas. All that the law had tried to take
from him would be given back. Walling would work out
the details of the escape and make it safe and
sure trust Walling for those things. On one
side was the prison, with its promise of twelve
grinding years sliced out of the very heart of his
life; on the other, freedom, ease, security, even
power. Through Mr. Trimm's mind tumbled thoughts Of
concessions, enterprises, privileges the back
corners of the globe were full of possibilities for
the right man. And between this prospect and Mr. Trimm
there stood nothing in the way, nothing but
Mr. Trimm's eyes fell upon his bound
hands. Snug-fitting, shiny steel bands irked his
wrists. The Grips of the Law were still upon him.
But only in a way of speaking. It was
preposterous, unbelievable, altogether out of the
question that a man with four millions salted down and
stored away, a man who all his life had been used to
grappling with the big things and wrestling them down
into submission, a man whose luck had come to be a
byword and had not it held good even in this
last emergency? would be balked by puny scraps
of forged steel and a trumpery lock or two. Why, these
cuffs were no thicker than the gold bands that Mr.
Trimm had seen on the arms of overdressed women at the
opera. The chain that joined them was no larger and,
Probably, no stronger than the chains which
Mr. Trimm's chauffeur wrapped around the tires of the
touring car in winter to keep the wheels from skidding
on the slush. There would be a way, surely, for Mr.
Trimm to free himself from these things. There must be
that was all there was to it.
Mr. Trimm looked himself over. His
clothes were not badly rumpled; his patent-leather
boots were scarcely scratched. Without the handcuffs
he could pass unnoticed anywhere. By night then he
must be free of them and on his way to some small
inland city, to stay quiet there until the guarded
telegram that he would send in cipher had reached
Walling. There in the woods by himself Mr. Trimm no
longer felt the ignominy of his bonds; he felt only
the temporary embarrassment of them and the need of
added precaution until he should have mastered them.
He was once more the unemotional man
of affairs who had stood Wall Street on its esteemed
head and caught the golden streams that trickled from
its pockets. First making sure that he was in a
well-screened covert of the woods he set about
exploring all his pockets. The coat pockets were
comparatively easy, now that he had got used to using
two hands where one had always served, but it cost him
a lot of twisting of his body and some pain to his
mistreated wrist bones to bring forth the contents of
his trousers' pockets. The chain kinked time and again
as he groped with the
undermost hand for the openings; his dumpy, pudgy form
writhed grotesquely. But finally he finished. The
search produced four cigars somewhat crumpled and
frayed; some matches m a gun-metal case, a silver
cigar cutter, two five-dollar bills, a handful of
silver chicken feed, the leather case of the
eyeglasses, a couple of quill toothpicks, a gold watch
with a dangling fob, a notebook and some papers. Mr.
Trimm ranged these things in a neat row upon a log,
like a watchmaker setting out his kit, and took swift
inventory of them. Some he eliminated from his design,
stowing them back in the pockets easiest to reach. He
kept for present employment the match safe, the cigar
cutter and the watch.
This place where he had halted would
suit his present purpose well, he decided. It was
where an uprooted tree, fallen across an incurving
bank, made a snug little recess that was closed in on
three sides. Spreading the newspaper on the turf to
save his knees from soiling, he knelt and set to his
task. For the time he felt neither hunger nor thirst.
He had found out during his earlier experiments that
the nails of his little fingers, which were trimmed to
a point, could invade the keyholes in the little steel
warts on the backs of his wrists and touch the locks.
The mechanism had even twitched a little bit under the
tickle of the nail ends. So, having already smashed
the gunmetal match safe under his heel, Mr. Trimm
selected a slender-pointed bit from among its
fragments and got to work, the left hand drawn up
under the right, the fingers of the right busy with
the lock of the left, the chain tightening and
slackening with subdued clinking sounds at each
Mr. Trimm didn't know much about
picking a lock. He had got his money by a higher form
of burglary that did not require a knowledge of lock
picking. Nor as a boy had he been one to play at
mechanics. He had let other boys make the toy
fluttermills and the wooden traps and the like, and
then he had traded for them. He was sorry now that he
hadn't given more heed to the mechanical side of
things when he was growing up.
He worked with a deliberate slowness,
steadily. Nevertheless, it was hot work. The sun rose
over the bank and shone on him through the limbs of
the uprooted tree. His hat was on the ground alongside
of him. The sweat ran down his face, streaking it and
wilting his collar flat. The scrap of gun metal kept
slipping out of his wet fingers. Down would go the
chained hands to scrabble in the grass for it, and
then the picking would go on again. This happened a
good many times. Birds, nervous with the spirit that
presages the fall migration, flew back and forth along
the creek, almost grazing Mr. Trimm sometimes. A rain
crow wove a brown thread in the green warp of the
bushes above his head.
A chattering red squirrel sat up on a tree limb to
scold him. At intervals, distantly, came the cough of
laboring trains, showing that the track must have been
cleared. There were times when Mr. Trimm thought he
felt the lock giving. These times he would work
. . . . . . . . . .
Late in the afternoon Mr. Trimm lay
back against the bank, panting. His face was splotched
with red, and the little hollows at the sides of his
forehead pulsed rapidly up and down like the bellies
of seared tree frogs. The bent outer case of the watch
littered a bare patch on the log; its mainspring had
gone the way of the fragments of the gun-metal match
safe which were lying all about, each a worn-down,
twisted wisp of metal. The spring of the eyeglasses
had been confiscated long ago and the broken crystals
powdered the earth where Mr. Trimm's toes had scraped
a smooth patch. The nails of the two little fingers
were worn to the quick and splintered down into the
raw flesh. There were countless tiny scratches and
mars on the locks of the handcuffs, and the steel
wristbands were dulled with blood smears and pale-red
tarnishes of new rust; but otherwise they were as
stanch and strong a pair of Bean's Latest Model Little
Giant handcuffs as you'd find in any hardware store
The devilish, stupid malignity of the
things! With an acid oath Mr. Trimm raised his hands
and brought them down on the log violently. There was
a double click and the bonds tightened painfully,
pressing the chafed red skin white. Mr. Trimm.
snatched up his hands close to his near-sighted eyes
and looked. One of the little notches on the under
side of each cuff had disappeared. It was as if they
were living things that had turned and bitten him for
the blow he gave them.
. . . . . . . . . .
From the time the sun went down there
was a tingle of frost in the air. Mr. Trimm didn't
sleep much. Under the squeeze of the tightened fetters
his wrists throbbed steadily and racking cramps ran
through his arms. His stomach felt as though it were
tied into knots. The water that he drank from the
branch only made his hunger sickness worse. His
undergarments, that had been wet with perspiration,
clung to him clammily. His middle-aged,
tenderly-cared-for body called through every pore for
clean linen and soap and water and rest, as his empty
insides called for food.
After a while he became so chilled
that the demand for warmth conquered his instinct for
caution. He felt about him in the darkness, gathering
scraps of dead wood, and, after breaking several of
the matches that had been in the gun-metal match safe,
he managed to strike one and with its tiny flame
started a fire. He
huddled almost over the fire, coughing when the smoke
blew into his face and twisting and pulling at his
arms in an effort to get relief from the everlasting
cramps. It seemed to him that if he could only get an
inch or two more of play for his hands he would be
ever so much more comfortable. But he couldn't, of
He dozed, finally, sitting crosslegged
with his head sunk between his hunched shoulders. A
pain in a new place woke him. The fire had burned
almost through the thin sole of his right shoe, and as
he scrambled to his feet and stamped, the clap of the
hot leather flat against his blistered foot almost
made him cry out.
Soon after sunrise a boy came riding a
horse down a faintly traced footpath along the creek,
driving a cow with a bell on her neck ahead of him.
Mr. Trimm's ears caught the sound of the clanking bell
before either the cow or her herder was in sight, and
he limped away, running, skulking through the thick
cover. A pendent loop of a wild grapevine, swinging
low, caught his hat and flipped it off his head; but
Mr. Trimm, imagining pursuit, did not stop to pick it
up and went on bareheaded until he had to stop from
exhaustion. He saw some dark-red berries on a shrub
upon which he had trod, and, stooping, he plucked some
of them with his two hands and put three or four in
his mouth experimentally.
Warned instantly by the acrid, burning taste, he spat
the crushed berries out and went on doggedly,
following, according to his best judgment, a course
parallel to the railroad. It was characteristic of
him, a city-raised man, that he took no heed of
distances nor of the distinguishing marks of the
Behind a log at the edge of a small
clearing in the woods he halted some little time,
watching and listening. The clearing had grown up in
sumacs and weeds and small saplings and it seemed
deserted; certainly it was still. Near the center of
it rose the sagging roof of what had been a shack or a
shed of some sort. Stooping, cautiously, to keep his
bare head below the tops of the sumacs, Mr. Trimm made
for the ruined shanty and gained it safely. In the
midst of the rotted, punky logs that had once formed
the walls he began scraping with his feet. Presently
he uncovered something. It was a broken-off harrow
tooth, scaled like a long, red fish with the crusted
rust of years.
Mr. Trimm rested the lower rims of his
handcuffs on the edge of an old, broken watering
trough, worked the pointed end of the rust-crusted
harrow tooth into the flat middle link of the chain as
far as it would go, and then with one hand on top of
the other he pressed downward with all his might. The
pain in his wrists made him stop this at once. The
link had not sprung or given in the least, but the
twisting pressure had almost broken his wrist bones.
He let the harrow tooth fall, knowing that it would
never serve as a lever to free him which,
indeed, he had known all along and sat on the
side of the trough, rubbing his wrists and thinking.
He had another idea. It came into his
mind as a vague suggestion that fire had certain
effects upon certain metals. He kindled a fire of bits
of the rotted wood, and when the flames ran together
and rose slender and straight in a single red thread
he thrust the chain into it, holding his hands as far
apart as possible in the attitude of a player about to
catch a bounced ball. But immediately the pain of that
grew unendurable too, and he leaped back, jerking his
hands away. He had succeeded only in blackening the
steel and putting a big water blister on one of his
wrists right where the shackle bolt would press upon
Where he huddled down in the shelter
of one of the fallen walls he noticed, presently, a
strand of rusted fence wire still held to
half-tottering posts by a pair of blackened staples;
it was part of a pen that had been used once for
chickens or swine. Mr. Trimm tried the wire with his
fingers. It was firm and springy. Rocking and groaning
with the pain of it, he nevertheless began sliding the
chain back and forth, back and forth along the strand
Eventually the wire, weakened by age,
snapped in two. A tiny shined spot, hardly
deep enough to be called a nick, in its tarnished,
smudged surface was all the mark that the chain
Staggering a little and putting his
feet down unsteadily, Mr. Trimm left the clearing,
heading as well as he could tell eastward, away from
the railroad. After a mile or two he came to a dusty
wood road winding downhill.
To the north of the clearing where Mr.
Trimm had halted were a farm and a group of farm
buildings. To the southward a mile or so was a
cluster of dwellings set in the midst of more farm
lands, with a shop or tow and a small white church
with a green spire in the center. Along a road that
ran northward from the hamlet to the solitary farm a
ten-year-old boy came, carrying a covered tin pail. A
young gray squirrel flirted across the wagon ruts
ahead of him and darted up a chestnut sapling. The
boy put the pail down at the side of the road and
began looking for a stone to throw at the squirrel.
Mr. Trimm slid out from behind a tree.
A hemstitched handkerchief, grimed and stained, was
loosely twisted around his wrists, partly hiding the
handcuffs. He moved along with a queer, sliding gait,
keeping as much of his body as he could turned from
the youngster. The ears of the little chap caught the
faint scuffle of feet and he spun around on his bare
"My boy, would you " Mr.
The boy's round eyes widened at the
apparition that was sidling toward him in so strange a
fashion, and then taking fright, he dodged past Mr.
Trimm and ran back the way he had come, as fast as his
slim brown legs could take him. In half a minute he
was out of sight round a bend.
Had the boy looked back he would have
seen a still more curious spectacle than the one that
had frightened him. He would have seen a man worth
four million dollars down on his knees in the yellow
dust, pawing with chained hands at the tight-fitting
lid of the tin pail, and then, when he had got the lid
off, drinking the fresh, warm milk which the pail held
with great, choking gulps, uttering little mewing,
animal sounds as he drank, while the white, creamy
milk ran over his chin and splashed down his breast in
little, spurting streams.
But the boy didn't look back. He ran
all the way home and told his mother he had seen a
wild man on the road to the village; and later, when
his father came in from the fields, he was soundly
thrashed for letting the sight of a tramp make him
lose a good tin bucket and half a gallon of milk worth
six cents a quart.
. . . . . . . . . .
The rich, fresh milk put life into Mr.
Trimm. He rested the better for it during the early
part of the night in a haw thicket. Only
the sharp, darting pains in his wrists kept rousing
him to temporary wakefulness. In one of those
intervals of waking the plan that had been sketchily
forming in his mind from the time he had quit the
clearing in the woods took on a definite, fixed shape.
But how was he with safety to get the sort of aid he
needed, and where?
Canvassing tentative plans in his
head, he dozed off again.
. . . . . . . . . .
On a smooth patch of turf behind the
blacksmith shop three yokels were languidly pitching
horseshoes "quaits" they called them at
a stake driven in the earth. Just beyond, the woods
shredded out into a long, yellow and green peninsula
which stretched up almost to the back door of the
smithy, so that late of afternoons the slanting
shadows of the nearmost trees fell on its roof of warped shingles. At the
extreme end of this point of woods Mr. Trimm was
squatted behind a big boulder, squinting warily
through a thick-fringed curtain of ripened goldenrod
tops and sumacs, heavy-headed with their dark-red
tapers. He had been there more than an hour,
cautiously waiting his chance to hail the blacksmith,
whose figure he could make out in the smoky interior
of his shop, passing back and forth in front of a
smudgy forge fire and rattling metal against metal in
intermittent fits of professional activity.
From where Mr. Trimm watched to where
the horseshoe-pitching game went on was not more than
sixty feet. He could hear what the players said and
even see the little puffs of dust rise when one of
them clapped his hands together after a pitch. He
judged by the signs of slackening interest that they
would be stopping soon and, he hoped, going clear
But the smith loafed out of his shop
and, after an exchange of bucolic banter with the
three of them, he took a hand in their game himself.
He wore no coat or waistcoat and, as he poised a
horseshoe for his first cast at the stake, Mr. Trimm
saw, pinned flat against the broad strap of his
suspenders, a shiny, silvery-looking disk. Having
pitched the shoe, the smith moved over into the shade,
so that he almost touched the clump of undergrowth
that half buried Mr. Trimm's protecting boulder. The
near-sighted eyes of the fugitive banker could make
out then what the flat, silvery disk was, and Mr.
Trimm cowered low in his covert behind the rock,
holding his hands down between his knees, fearful that
a gleam from his burnished wristlets might strike
through the screen of weed growth and catch the
inquiring eye of the smith. So he stayed, not daring
to move, until a dinner horn sounded somewhere in the
cluster of cottages beyond, and the smith, closing the
doors of his shop, went away with the three yokels.
Then Mr. Trimm, stooping low, stole
back into the deep woods again. In his extremity he
was ready to risk making a bid for the hire of a
blacksmith's aid to rid himself of his bonds, but not
a blacksmith who wore a deputy sherrif's badge pinned
to his suspenders.
. . . . . . . . . .
He caught himself scraping his wrists
up and down again against the rough, scrofulous trunk
of a shellback hickory. The irritation was comforting
to the swollen skin. The cuffs, which kept catching on
the bark and snagging small fragments of it loose,
seemed to Mr. Trimm to have been a part and parcel of
him for a long time almost as long a time as he
could remember. But the hands which they clasped so
close seemed like the hands of somebody else. There
was a numbness about them that made them feel as
though they were a stranger's hands which never had
belonged to him. As he looked at them with a sort of
vague curiosity they seemed to swell and grow, these
two strange, fettered hands, until they measured yards
across, while the steel bands shrunk to the thinness
of piano wire, cutting deeper and deeper in the flesh.
Then the hands in turn began to shrink down and the
cuffs to grow up into great, thick things as
cumbersome as the couplings of a freight car. A voice
that Mr. Trimm dimly recognized as his own was saying
something about four million dollar over and over
Mr. Trimm roused up and shook his head
angrily to clear it. He rubbed his eyes free of the
clouding delusion. It wouldn't do for him to be
. . . . . . . . . .
On a flat, shelving bluff, forty feet
above a cut through which the railroad ran at a point
about five miles north of where the collision had
occurred, a tramp was busy, just before sundown,
cooking something in an old washboiler that perched
precariously on a fire of wood coals. This tramp was
tall and spindle-legged, with reddish hair and a pale,
beardless, freckled face with no chin to it and not
much forehead, so that it ran out to a peak like the
profile of some featherless, unpleasant sort of fowl.
The skirts of an old, ragged overcoat dangled
grotesquely about his spare shanks.
Desperate as his plight had become,
Mr. Trimm felt the old sick shame at the prospect of
exposing himself to this knavish-looking vagabond
whose help he meant to buy with a bribe. It was the
sight of a dainty wisp of smoke from the wood fire
curling upward through the cloudy, damp air that had
brought him limping cautiously across the
right-of-way, to climb the rocky shelf along the cut;
but now he hesitated, shielded in the shadows twenty
yards away. It was a whiff of something savory in the
washboiler, borne to him on the still air and almost
making him cry out with eagerness, that drew him forth
the sound of the halting footsteps the tramp stopped
stirring the mess in the washboiler and glanced up
apprehensively. As he took in the figure of the
newcomer his eyes narrowed and his pasty, nasty face
spread in a grin of comprehension.
"Well, well, well," he said, leering
offensively, "welcome to our city, little stranger."
Mr. Trimm came nearer, dragging his
feet, for they were almost out of the wrecks of his
patent-leather shoes. His gaze shifted from the
tramp's face to the stuff on the fire, his nostrils
wrinkling. Then slowly: "I'm in trouble," he said, and
held out his hands.
"Wot I'd call a mild way o' puttin'
it," said the tramp coolly. "That purticular kind o'
joolry ain't gen'lly wore for pleasure."
His eyes took on a nervous squint and
roved past Mr. Trimm's stooped figure down the slope
of the hillock.
"Say, pal, how fur ahead are you of
yore keeper?" he demanded, his manner changing.
"There is no one after me no
one that I know of," explained Mr. Trimm. "I am quite
alone I am certain of it."
"Sure there ain't nobody lookin' fur
you?" the other persisted suspiciously.
"I tell you I am all alone," protested
Mr. Trimm. "I want your help in getting these
these things off and sending a message to a friend.
You'll be well paid, very well paid. I can pay you
more money than you ever
had in your life, probably, for your help. I can
He broke off, for the tramp, as if
reassured by his words, had stooped again to his
cooking and was stirring the bubbling contents of the
washboiler with a peeled stick. The smell of the stew,
rising strongly, filled Mr. Trimm with such a sharp
and an aching hunger that he could not speak for a
moment. He mastered himself, but the effort left him
shaking and gulping.
"Go on, then, an' tell us somethin'
about yourself," said the freckled man. "Wot brings
you roamin' round this here railroad cut with them
"I was in the wreck," obeyed Mr.
Trimm. "The man with me the officer was
killed. I wasn't hurt and I got away into these woods.
But they think I'm dead too my name was among
the list of dead."
The other's peaky face lengthened in
"Why, say," he began, "I read all
about that there wreck seen the list myself
say, you can't be Trimm, the New York banker?
Yes, you are! Wot a streak of luck! Lemme look at you!
Trimm, the swell financeer, sportin' 'round with the
darbies on him all nice an' snug an' reg'lar! Mister
Trimm well, if this ain't rich!"
"My name is Trimm," said the starving
banker miserably. "I've been wandering
about here a great many hours several days, I
think it must be and I need rest and food very
much indeed. I don't don't feel very well," he
added, his voice trailing off.
At this his self-control gave way
again and he began to quake violently as if with an
ague. The smell of the cooking overcame him.
"You don't look so well an' that's a
fact, Trimm," sneered the tramp, resuming his
malicious, mocking air. "But set down an' make
yourself at home, an' after a while, when this is
done, we'll have a bite together you an' me.
It'll be a reg'lar tea party fur jest us two."
He broke off to chuckle. His mirth
made him appear even more repulsive than before.
"But looky here, you wus sayin'
somethin' about money," he said suddenly. "Le's take a
look at all this here money."
He came over to him and went through
Mr. Trimm's pockets. Mr. Trimm said nothing and stood
quietly, making no resistance. The tramp finished, a
workmanlike search of the banker's pockets. He looked
at the result as it lay in his grimy palm a
moist little wad of bills and some chicken-feed change
and spat disgustedly with a nasty oath.
"Well, Trimm," he said, "fur a Wall
Street guy seems to me you travel purty light. About
how much did you think you'd get done for all this
pile of wealth?"
&nbps; "You will be well paid," said Mr.
arguing hard; "my friend will see to that. What I want
you to do is to take the money you have there in your
hand and buy a cold chisel or a file any tools
that will cut these things off me. And then you will
send a telegram to a certain gentleman in New York.
And let me stay with you until we get an answer
until he comes here. He will pay you well; I promise
He halted, his eyes and his mind again
on the bubbling stuff in the rusted washboiler. The
freckled vagrant studied him through his red-lidded
eyes, kicking some loose embers back into the fire
with his toe.
"I've heard a lot about you one way
and another, Trimm," he said. "'Tain't as if you wuz
some pore down-an'-out devil tryin' to beat the cops
out of doin' his bit in stir. You're the way-up,
high-an'-mighty kind of crook. An' from wot I've read
an' heard about you you never toted fair with nobody
yet. There wuz that young feller, wot's his name?
the cashier him that wuz tried with you.
He went along with you in yore games an' done yore
work fur you an' you let him go over the road to the
same place you're tryin' to dodge now. Besides," he
added cunningly, "you come here talkin' might big
about money, yet I notice you ain't carryin' much of
it in yore clothes. All I've had to go by is yore
word. An' yore word ain't worth much, by all
"I tell you, man, that you'll profit
richly," burst out Mr. Trimm, the words falling over
each other in his new panic. "You must help me; I've
endured too much I've gone through too much to
give up now." He pleaded fast, his hands shaking in a
quiver of fear and eagerness as he stretched them out
in entreaty and his linked chain shaking with them.
Promises, pledges, commands, orders, arguments poured
from him. His tormentor checked him with a gesture.
"You're wot I'd call a bird in the
hand," he chuckled, hugging his slack frame, "an" it
ain't fur you to be givin' orders it's fur me.
An', anyway, I guess we ain't a-goin' to be able to
make a trade leastwise not on yore terms. But
we'll do business all right, all right anyhow,
"What do you mean?" panted Mr. Trimm,
full of terror. "You'll help me?"
"I mean this," said the tramp slowly.
He put his hands under his loose-hanging overcoat and
began to fumble at a leather strap about his waist.
"If I turn you over to the Government I know wot
you'll be worth, purty near, by guessin' at the
reward; an' besides, it'll maybe help to square me up
fur one or two little matters. If I turn you loose I
ain't got nothin' only your word an' I've got
an idea how much faith I kin put in that."
Mr. Trimm glanced about him wildly.
was no escape. He was fast in a trap which he himself
had sprung. The thought of being led to jail, all foul
of body and fettered as he was, by this filthy,
smirking wretch made him crazy. He stumbled backward
with some insane idea of running away.
"No hurry, no hurry a-tall, " gloated
the tramp, enjoying the torture of this helpless
captive who had walked into his hands. "I ain't goin'
to hurt you none only make sure that you don't
wander off an' hurt yourself while I'm gone. Won't do
to let you be damagin' yoreself; you're valuable
property. Trimm, now, I'll tell you wot we'll do!
We'll just back you up agin one of these trees an'
then we'll jest slip this here belt through yore
elbows an' buckle it around behind at the back; an' I
kinder guess you'll stay right there till I go down
yonder to that station that I passed comin' up here
an' see wot kind of a bargain I kin strike up with the
marshal. Come on, now," he threatened with a show of
bluster, reading the resolution that was mounting in
Mr. Trimm's face. "Come on peaceable, if you don't
want to git hurt."
Of a sudden Mr. Trimm became the
primitive man. He was filled with those elemental
emotions that make a man see in spatters of crimson.
Gathering strength from passion out of an exhausted
frame, he sprang forward at the tramp. He struck at
him with his head, his shoulders, his knees, his
all at once. Not really hurt by the puny assault, but
caught by surprise, the freckled man staggered back,
clawing at the air, tripped on the washboiler in the
fire, and with a yell vanished below the smooth edge
of the cut.
Mr. Trimm stole forward -and looked
over the bluff. Half-way down the cliff on an
outcropping shelf of rock the man lay, face downward,
motionless. He seemed to have grown smaller and to
have shrunk into his clothes. One long, thin leg was
bent up under the skirts of the overcoat in a queer,
twisted way, and the cloth of the trouser leg looked
flattened and empty. As Mr. Trimm peered down at him
he saw a red stain spreading on the rock under the
still, silent figure's head.
Mr. Trimm turned to the washboiler. It
lay on its side, empty, the last of its recent
contents sputtering out into the half-drowned fire. He
stared at this ruin a minute. Then without another
look over the cliff edge he stumbled slowly down the
hill, muttering to himself as he went. Just as he
struck the level it began to rain, gently at first,
then hard, and despite the shelter of the full-leaved
forest trees, he was soon wet through to his skin and
dripped water as he lurched along without sense of
direction or, indeed, without, any active realization
of what he was doing.
. . . . . . . . . .
Late that night it was still raining
a cold, steady, autumnal downpour. A huddled
slowly climbed upon a low fence running about the
house-yard of the little farm where the boy lived who
got thrashed for losing a milkpail. On the wet top
rail, precariously perching, the figure slipped and
sprawled forward in the miry yard. It got up,
painfully swaying on its feet. It was Mr. Trimm,
looking for food. He moved slowly toward the house,
tottering with weakness and because of the slick mud
underfoot; peering near-sightedly this way and that
through the murk; starting at every sound and stopping
often to listen.
The outlines of a lean-to kitchen at
the back of the house were looming dead ahead of him
when from the corner of the cottage sprang a small
terrier. It made for Mr. Trimm, barking shrilly. He
retreated backward, kicking at the little dog and, to
hold his balance, striking out with short, dabby jerks
of his fettered hands they were such motions as
the terrier itself might make trying to walk on its
hindlegs. Still backing away, expecting every instant
to feel the terrier's teeth in his flesh, Mr. Trimm
put one foot into a hotbed with a great clatter of the
breaking glass. He felt the sharp ends of shattered
glass tearing and cutting his shin as he jerked free.
Recovering himself, he dealt the terrier a lucky kick
under the throat that sent it back, yowling, to where
it had come from, and then, as a door jerked open and
a half-dressed man jumped out into the darkness, Mr.
half hobbled, half fell out of sight behind the
Back and forth along the lower edge of
his yard the farmer hunted, with the whimpering, cowed
terrier to guide him, poking in dark corners with the
muzzle of his shotgun for the unseen intruder whose
coming had aroused the household. In a brushpile just
over the fence to the east Mr. Trimm lay on his face
upon the wet earth, with the rain beating down on him,
sobbing with choking gulps that wrenched him cruelly,
biting at the bonds on his wrists until the sound of
breaking teeth gritted in the air. Finally, in the
hopeless, helpless frenzy of his agony he beat his
arms up and down until the bracelets struck squarely
on a flat stone and the force of the blow sent the
cuffs home to the last notch so that they pressed
harder and faster than ever upon the tortured wrist
When he had wasted ten or fifteen
minutes in a vain search the farmer went shivering
back indoors to dry out his wet shirt. But the
groveling figure in the brushpile lay for a long time
where it was, only stirring a little while the rain
dripped steadily down on everything.
. . . . . . . . . .
The wreck was on a Tuesday evening.
Early on the Saturday morning following the chief of
police, who was likewise the whole of the day police
force in the town of Westfield, nine miles from the
place where the collision occurred,
heard a peculiar, strangely weak knocking at the front
door of his cottage, where he also had his office. The
door was a Dutch door, sawed through the middle, so
that the top half might be opened independently,
leaving the lower panel fast. He swung this top half
A face was framed in the opening
an indescribably dirty, unutterably weary face,
with matted white hair and a rime of whitish beard
stubble on the jaws. It was fallen in and sunken and
it drooped on the chest of its owner. The mouth,
swollen and pulpy, as if from repeated hard blows,
hung agape, and between the purplish parted lips
showed the stumps of broken teeth. The eyes blinked
weakly at the chief from under lids as colorless as
the eyelids of a corpse. The bare white head was
filthy with plastered mud and twigs, and dripping wet.
"Hello, there!" said the chief,
startled at this apparition. "What do you want?"
With a movement that told of straining
effort the lolled head came up off the chest. The
thin, corded neck stiffened back, rising from a dirty,
collarless neckband. The Adam's apple bulged out
prominently, as big as a pigeon's egg.
"I have come," said the specter in a
wheezing rasp of a voice which the chief could hardly
hear "I have come to surrender myself. I am
Hobart W. Trimm."
"I guess you got another think
said the chief, who was by way of being a neighborhood
wag. "When last seen Hobart W. Trimm was only
fifty-two years old. Besides which, he's dead and
buried. I guess maybe you'd better think agin,
grandpap, and see if you ain't Methus'lah or the
"I am Hobart W. Trimm, the banker,"
whispered the stranger with a sort of wan
"Go on and prove it," suggested the
chief, more than willing to prolong the enjoyment of
the sensation. It wasn't often in Westfield that
wandering lunatics came a-calling.
"Got any way to prove it?" he repeated
as the visitor stared at him.
"Yes," came the creaking, rusted hinge
of a voice, "I have."
Slowly, with struggling attempts, he
raised his hands into the chief's sight. They were
horribly swollen hands, red with the dried blood where
they were not black with the dried dirt; the fingers
puffed up out of shape; the nails broken; they were
like the skinned paws of a bear. And at the wrists,
almost buried in the bloated folds of flesh,
blackened, rusted, battered, yet still strong and
whole, was a tightly, locked pair of Bean's Latest
Model Little Giant handcuffs.
"Great God!" cried the chief,
transfixed at the sight. He drew the bolt and jerked
open the lower half of the door.
"Come in," he said, "and lemme get
them irons off of you they must hurt something
"They can wait," said Mr. Trimm very
feebly, very slowly and very humbly. "I have worn them
a long, long while I am used to them. Wouldn't
you please get me some food first?"