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The Edge Of The Evening
by [?]

(1913)

Ah! What avails the classic bent,
And what the chosen word,
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?

And what is Art whereto we press
Through paint and prose and rhyme–
When Nature in her nakedness
Defeats us every time?

‘Hi! Hi! Hold your horses! Stop!… Well! Well!’ A lean man in a sable-lined overcoat leaped from a private car and barred my way up Pall Mall. ‘You don’t know me? You’re excusable. I wasn’t wearing much of anything last time we met–in South Africa.’

The scales fell from my eyes, and I saw him once more in a sky-blue army shirt, behind barbed wire, among Dutch prisoners bathing at Simonstown, more than a dozen years ago[3]. ‘Why, it’s Zigler–Laughton O. Zigler!’ I cried. ‘Well, I am glad to see you.’

[Footnote 3: ‘The Captive’: Traffics and Discoveries.]

‘Oh no! You don’t work any of your English on me. “So glad to see you, doncher know–an’ ta-ta!” Do you reside in this village?’

‘No. I’m up here buying stores.’

‘Then you take my automobile. Where to?… Oh, I know them! My Lord Marshalton is one of the Directors. Pigott, drive to the Army and Navy Cooperative Supply Association Limited, Victoria Street, Westminister.’

He settled himself on the deep dove-colour pneumatic cushions, and his smile was like the turning on of all the electrics. His teeth were whiter than the ivory fittings. He smelt of rare soap and cigarettes–such cigarettes as he handed me from a golden box with an automatic lighter. On my side of the car was a gold-mounted mirror, card and toilette case. I looked at him inquiringly.

‘Yes,’ he nodded, ‘two years after I quit the Cape. She’s not an Ohio girl, though. She’s in the country now. Is that right? She’s at our little place in the country. We’ll go there as soon as you’re through with your grocery-list. Engagements? The only engagement you’ve got is to grab your grip–get your bag from your hotel, I mean–and come right along and meet her. You are the captive of my bow and spear now.’

‘I surrender,’ I said meekly. ‘Did the Zigler automatic gun do all this?’ I pointed to the car fittings.

‘Psha! Think of your rememberin’ that! Well, no. The Zigler is a great gun–the greatest ever–but life’s too short, an’ too interestin’, to squander on pushing her in military society. I’ve leased my rights in her to a Pennsylvanian-Transylvanian citizen full of mentality and moral uplift. If those things weigh with the Chancelleries of Europe, he will make good and–I shall be surprised. Excuse me!’

He bared his head as we passed the statue of the Great Queen outside Buckingham Palace.

‘A very great lady!’ said he. ‘I have enjoyed her hospitality. She represents one of the most wonderful institutions in the world. The next is the one we are going to. Mrs. Zigler uses ’em, and they break her up every week on returned empties.’

‘Oh, you mean the Stores?’ I said.

‘Mrs. Zigler means it more. They are quite ambassadorial in their outlook. I guess I’ll wait outside and pray while you wrestle with ’em.’

My business at the Stores finished, and my bag retrieved from the hotel, his moving palace slid us into the country.

‘I owe it to you,’ Zigler began as smoothly as the car, ‘to tell you what I am now. I represent the business end of the American Invasion. Not the blame cars themselves–I wouldn’t be found dead in one–but the tools that make ’em. I am the Zigler Higher-Speed Tool and Lathe Trust. The Trust, sir, is entirely my own–in my own inventions. I am the Renzalaer ten-cylinder aerial–the lightest aeroplane-engine on the market–one price, one power, one guarantee. I am the Orlebar Paper-welt, Pulp-panel Company for aeroplane bodies; and I am the Rush Silencer for military aeroplanes–absolutely silent–which the Continent leases under royalty. With three exceptions, the British aren’t wise to it yet. That’s all I represent at present. You saw me take off my hat to your late Queen? I owe every cent I have to that great an’ good Lady. Yes, sir, I came out of Africa, after my eighteen months’ rest-cure and open-air treatment and sea-bathing, as her prisoner of war, like a giant refreshed. There wasn’t anything could hold me, when I’d got my hooks into it, after that experience. And to you as a representative British citizen, I say here and now that I regard you as the founder of the family fortune–Tommy’s and mine.’