THE MAN ON THE BOX
THE MAN ON THE BOX
The Grey Cloak The Puppet Crown
Illustrated by scenes from Walter N. Lawrence's beautiful production
of the play as seen for 123 nights at the Madison Square Theatre New
To Miss Louise Everts
I Introduces My Hero
II Introduces My Heroine
III The Adventure Begins
IV A Family Reunion
V The Plot Thickens
VI The Man on the Box
VII A Police Affair
VIII Another Salad Idea
IX The Heroine Hires a Groom
XI The First Ride
XII A Ticklish Business
XIII A Runaway
XIV An Ordeal or Two
XVI The Previous Affair
XVII Dinner is Served
XIX "Oh Mister Butler"
XX The Episode of the Stove Pipe
XXI The Rose
XXII The Drama Unrolls
XXIII Something About Heroes
XXIV A Fine Lover
XXV A Fine Heroine Too
XXVI The Castle of Romance
_He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all._
_Colonel George Annesley_ A retired Army Officer
_Miss Betty Annesley_ His daughter
_Lieutenant Robert Warburton_ Lately resigned
_Mr. John Warburton_ His elder brother of the War
_Mrs. John Warburton_ The elder brother's wife
_Miss Nancy Warburton_ The lieutenant's sister
_Mr. Charles Henderson_ Her fiance
_Count Karloff_ An unattached diplomat
_Colonel Frank Raleigh_ The Lieutenant's Regimental
_Mrs. Chadwick_ A product of Washington life
_Monsieur Pierre_ A chef
_Mademoiselle Celeste_ A lady's maid
_Jane_ Mrs. Warburton's maid
_The Hopeful_ A baby
_William_ A stable-boy
_Fashionable People_ Necessary for a dinner party
_Celebrities_ Also necessary for a dinner party
_Unfashionables_ Police cabbies grooms clerks
TIME--Within the past ten years.
SCENE--Washington D.C. and its environs.
INTRODUCES MY HERO
If you will carefully observe any map of the world that is divided
into inches at so many miles to the inch you will be surprised as
you calculate the distance between that enchanting Paris of France
and the third-precinct police-station of Washington D. C which is
not enchanting. It is several thousand miles. Again if you will take
the pains to run your glance no doubt discerning over the police-
blotter at the court (and frankly I refuse to tell you the exact
date of this whimsical adventure) you will note with even greater
surprise that all this hubbub was caused by no crime against the
commonwealth of the Republic or against the person of any of its
conglomerate people. The blotter reads in heavy simple fist
"disorderly conduct" a phrase which is almost as embracing as the
word diplomacy or society or respectability.
So far as my knowledge goes there is no such a person as James
Osborne. If by any unhappy chance he _does_ exist I trust
that he will pardon the civil law of Washington my own measure of
familiarity and the questionable taste on the part of my hero--hero
because from the rise to the fall of the curtain he occupies the
center of the stage in this little comedy-drama and because authors
have yet to find a happy synonym for the word. The name James Osborne
was given for the simple reason that it was the first that occurred
to the culprit's mind so desperate an effort did he make to hide his
identity. Supposing for the sake of an argument in his favor
supposing he had said John Smith or William Jones or John Brown? To
this very day he would have been hiring lawyers to extricate him from
libel and false-representation suits. Besides had he given any of
these names would not that hound-like scent of the ever suspicious
police have been aroused?
To move round and round in the circle of commonplace and then to pop
out of it like a tailed comet! Such is the history of many a man's
life. I have a near friend who went away from town one fall happy
and contented with his lot. And what do you suppose he found when he
returned home? He had been nominated for alderman. It is too early to
predict the fate of this unhappy man. And what tools Fate uses with
which to carve out her devious peculiar patterns! An Apache Indian
besmeared with brilliant greases and smelling of the water that never
freezes an understudy to Cupid? Fudge! you will say or Pshaw! or
whatever slang phrase is handy and prevalent at the moment you read
I personally warn you that this is a really-truly story though I do
not undertake to force you to believe it; neither do I purvey many
grains of salt. If Truth went about her affairs laughing how many
more persons would turn and listen! For my part I believe it all
nonsense the way artists have pictured Truth. The idea is pretty
enough but so far as hitting things it recalls the woman the
stone and the hen. I am convinced that Truth goes about dressed in
the dowdiest of clothes with black-lisle gloves worn at the fingers
and shoes run down in the heels an exact portrait of one of Phil
May's lydies. Thus it is that we pass her by for the artistic sense
in every being is repelled at the sight of a dowdy with weeping eyes
and a nose that has been rubbed till it is as red as a winter apple.
Anyhow if she _does_ go about in beautiful nudity she ought at
least to clothe herself with smiles and laughter. There are sorry
enough things in the world as it is without a lachrymal
hypochondriacal Truth poking her face in everywhere.
Not many months ago while seated on the stone veranda in the rear of
the Metropolitan Club in Washington (I believe we were discussing the
merits of some very old product) I recounted some of the lighter
chapters of this adventure.
_"Eempossible!"_ murmured the Russian attache just as if the
matter had not come under his notice semi-officially.
I presume that this exclamation disclosed another side to diplomacy
which stripped of its fine clothes means dexterity in hiding
secrets and in negotiating lies. When one diplomat believes what
another says it is time for the former's government to send him
packing. However the Englishman at my right gazed smiling into his
partly emptied glass and gently stirred the ice. I admire the English
diplomat; he never wastes a lie. He is frugal and saving.
"But the newspapers!" cried the journalist. "They never ran a line;
and an exploit like this would scarce have escaped them."
"If I remember rightly it was reported in the regular police items
of the day" said I.
"Strange that the boys didn't look behind the scenes."
"Oh I don't know" remarked the congressman; "lots of things happen
of which you are all ignorant. The public mustn't know everything."
"But what's the hero's name?" asked the journalist.
"That's a secret" I answered. "Besides when it comes to the bottom
of the matter I had something to do with the suppressing of the
police news. In a case like this suppression becomes a law not
excelled by that which governs self-preservation. My friend has a
brother in the War Department; and together we worked wonders."
"It's a jolly droll story however you look at it" the Englishman
"Nevertheless it had its tragic side; but that is even more than
ever a secret."
The Englishman looked at me sharply even gravely; but the veranda is
only dimly illuminated at night and his scrutiny went unrewarded.
"Eh well!" said the Russian; "your philosopher has observed that all
mankind loves a lover."
"As all womankind loves a love-story" the Englishman added. "You
ought to be very successful with the ladies"--turning to me.
"Not inordinately; but I shall not fail to repeat your epigram"--and
My watch told me that it was half after eight; and one does not
receive every day an invitation to a dinner-dance at the Chevy Chase
I dislike exceedingly to intrude my own personality into this
narrative but as I was passively concerned I do not see how I can
avoid it. Besides being a public man I am not wholly averse to
publicity; first person singular perpendicular as Thackeray had
it in type looks rather agreeable to the eye. And I rather believe
that I have a moral to point out and a parable to expound.
My appointment in Washington at that time was extraordinary; that is
to say I was a member of one of those committees that are born
frequently and suddenly in Washington and which almost immediately
after registration in the vital statistics of national politics. I
had been sent to Congress a dazzling halo over my head the pride
and hope of my little country town; I had been defeated for second
term; had been recommended to serve on the committee aforesaid;
served with honor got my name in the great newspapers and was sent
back to Congress where I am still to-day waiting patiently for a
discerning president and a vacancy in the legal department of the
cabinet. That's about all I am willing to say about myself.
As for this hero of mine he was the handsomest liveliest rascal you
would expect to meet in a day's ride. By handsome I do not mean
perfect features red cheeks Byronic eyes and so forth. That style
of beauty belongs to the department of lady novelists. I mean that
peculiar manly beauty which attracts men almost as powerfully as it
does women. For the sake of a name I shall call him Warburton. His
given name in actual life is Robert. But I am afraid that nobody but
his mother and one other woman ever called him Robert. The world at
large dubbed him Bob and such he will remain up to that day (and may
it be many years hence!) when recourse will be had to Robert because
"Bob" would certainly look very silly on a marble shaft.
What a friendly sign is a nickname! It is always a good fellow who is
called Bob or Bill Jack or Jim Tom Dick or Harry. Even out of
Theodore there comes a Teddy. I know in my own case the boys used to
call me Chuck simply because I was named Charles. (I haven't the
slightest doubt that I was named Charles because my good mother
thought I looked something like Vandyke's _Charles I_ though at
the time of my baptism I wore no beard whatever.) And how I hated a
boy with a high-sounding unnicknamable given name!--with his round
white collar and his long glossy curls! I dare say he hated the name
the collar and the curls even more than I did. Whenever you run
across a name carded in this stilted fashion "A. Thingumy Soandso"
you may make up your mind at once that the owner is ashamed of his
first name and is trying manfully to live it down and eventually
forgive his parents.
Warburton was graduated from West Point ticketed to a desolate
frontier post and would have worn out his existence there but for
his guiding star which was always making frantic efforts to bolt its
established orbit. One day he was doing scout duty perhaps half a
mile in advance of the pay-train as they called the picturesque
caravan which consisting of a canopied wagon and a small troop of
cavalry in dingy blue made progress across the desert-like plains of
Arizona. The troop was some ten miles from the post and as there had
been no sign of Red Eagle all that day they concluded that the rumor
of his being on a drunken rampage with half a dozen braves was only a
rumor. Warburton had just passed over a roll of earth and for a
moment the pay-train had dropped out of sight. It was twilight;
opalescent waves of heat rolled above the blistered sands. A pale
yellow sky like an inverted bowl rimmed with delicate blue and
crimson hues encompassed the world. The bliss of solitude fell on
him and being something of a poet he rose to the stars. The smoke
of his corncob pipe trailed lazily behind him. The horse under him
was loping along easily. Suddenly the animal lifted his head and his
brown ears went forward.
At Warburton's left some hundred yards distant was a clump of osage
brush. Even as he looked there came a puff of smoke followed by the
evil song of a bullet. My hero's hat was carried away. He wheeled
dug his heels into his horse and cut back over the trail. There came
a second flash a shock and then a terrible pain in the calf of his
left leg. He fell over the neck of his horse to escape the third
bullet. He could see the Apache as he stood out from behind the bush.
Warburton yanked out his Colt and let fly. He heard a yell. It was
very comforting. That was all he remembered of the skirmish.
For five weeks he languished in the hospital. During that time he
came to the conclusion that he had had enough of military life in the
West. He applied for his discharge as the compulsory term of service
was at an end. When his papers came he was able to get about with the
aid of a crutch. One morning his colonel entered his subaltern's
"Wouldn't you rather have a year's leave of absence than quit
"A year's leave of absence?" cried the
invalid "I am likely to get that I am."
"If you held a responsible position I dare say it would be difficult.
As it is I may say that I can obtain it for you. It will be months
before you can ride a horse with that leg."
"I thank you Colonel Raleigh but I think I'll resign. In fact I
"We can withdraw that if you but say the word. I don't want to lose
you lad. You're the only man around here who likes a joke as well as
I do. And you will have a company if you'll only stick to it a little
"I have decided Colonel. I'm sorry you feel like this about it. You
see I have something like twenty-five thousand laid away. I want to
see at least five thousand dollars' worth of new scenery before I
shuffle off this mortal coil. The scenery around here palls on me. My
throat and eyes are always full of sand. I am off to Europe. Some
day perhaps the bee will buzz again; and when it does I'll have
you go personally to the president."
"As you please Warburton."
"Besides Colonel I have been reading Treasure Island again and
I've got the fever in my veins to hunt for adventure even a
treasure. It's in my blood to wander and do strange things and here
I've been hampered all these years with routine. I shouldn't care if
we had a good fight once in a while. My poor old dad traveled around
the world three times and I haven't seen anything of it but the
"Go ahead then. Only talking about Treasure Island don't you and
your twenty-five thousand run into some old Long John Silver."
"I'll take care."
And Mr. Robert packed up his kit and sailed away. Not many months
passed ere he met his colonel again and under rather embarrassing
INTRODUCES MY HEROINE
Let me begin at the beginning. The boat had been two days out of
Southampton before the fog cleared away. On the afternoon of the
third day Warburton curled up in his steamer-chair and lazily viewed
the blue October seas as they met and merged with the blue October
skies. I do not recollect the popular novel of that summer but at
any rate it lay flapping at the side of his chair forgotten. It
never entered my hero's mind that some poor devil of an author had
sweated and labored with infinite pains over every line and
paragraph and page-labored with all the care and love his heart and
mind were capable of to produce this finished child of fancy; or
that this same author even at this very moment might be seated on
the veranda of his beautiful summer villa figuring out royalties on
the backs of stray envelopes. No he never thought of these things.
What with the wind and the soft ceaseless jar of the throbbing
engines half a dream hovered above his head and touched him with a
gentle insistent caress. If you had passed by him this afternoon
and had been anything of a mathematician who could straighten out
geometrical angles you would have come close to his height had you
stopped at five feet nine. Indeed had you clipped off the heels of
his low shoes you would have been exact. But all your nice
calculations would not have solved his weight. He was slender but he
was hard and compact. These hard slender fellows sometimes weigh
more than your men of greater bulk. He tipped the scales at one
hundred sixty-two and he looked twenty pounds less. He was twenty-
eight; a casual glance at him and you would have been willing to
wager that the joy of casting his first vote was yet to be his.
The princess commands that I describe in detail the charms of this
Army Adonis. Far be it that I should disobey so august a command
being as I am the prime minister in this her principality of
Domestic Felicity. Her brother has never ceased to be among the first
in her dear regard. He possessed the merriest black eyes: his
mother's eyes as I a boy remember them. No matter how immobile his
features might be these eyes of his were ever ready for laughter.
His nose was clean-cut and shapely. A phrenologist would have said
that his head did not lack the bump of caution; but I know better. At
present he wore a beard; so this is as large an inventory of his
personal attractions as I am able to give. When he shaves off his
beard I shall be pleased to add further particulars. I often marvel
that the women did not turn his head. They were always sending him
notes and invitations and cutting dances for him. Perhaps his devil-
may-care air had something to do with the enchantment. I have yet to
see his equal as a horseman. He would have made it interesting for
that pair of milk-whites which our old friend Ulysses (or was it
Diomedes?) had such ado about.
Every man has some vice or other even if it is only being good.
Warburton had perhaps two: poker and tobacco. He would get out of bed