FICTION

Hannibal Helps

Adam Harold Brown January 1 1918
FICTION

Hannibal Helps

Adam Harold Brown January 1 1918

Hannibal Helps

Adam Harold Brown

EDITOR’S Note.—This bright love story is the work of a young Canadian writer who happens to be a brother of the famous illustrator, Arthur William Brown. MACLBAN'S is fortunate in being able to present their work together. Mr. Brown, the artist, has caught the spirit of the story and put it in black and white as no other Ulus trator could.

THE evening performance had finished barely ten minutes before, but already the theatre was closed. Hannibal, the world-famed educated bear, nosed aside the asbestos curtain and surveyed the empty auditorium. Dimly lighted, it looked vague, mysterious, unpleasantly suggestive of hidden uncertainties; no place for a high-minded quadruped. Though he craved human company, any kind of intelligent company, in fact, he didn’t care to seek it by the front door.

He returned to his comfortable travelling cage in the wings. H'm. To work the door open had been as easy as rolling off a colored ball. Although it was his patron’s own design, he sneered with contempt. Hard times indeed! To think that this miserable playhouse, in one of these so-called suburban cities, no less, offered no adequate dressing-room for talented animals. He was expected to spend the night on the stage of this wretched place! Hard times forsooth! To think that Professor Lionel Leroy (not to mention the educated Hannibal) must perforce show at a cheap picture theatre in a small bush league town. And booked for a full week! It was enough to make any artistocratic, self-respecting bear chew his paws with shame.

True, the Professor seemed to like the Bayhurst natives—mighty queer, too— but Hannibal, a metropolitan to his toe-, tips, deeply resented the whole affair.

What was the use, he reasoned, of a highly educated and sensitive bear acting like a perfect gentleman, if one wasn’t appreciated? Enough to make a fellow disgusted with life. Suddenly a mild but agreeable aroma jerked his nose upward. There on a shelf stood a bottle, threequarters full of delectable ginger ale. Thanks be to the Great Bear that he was alone! It was a “property,” yes, but it was genuine. In their act the Professor was wont to fill a small bumper, which Hannibal would quaff with a carefully acquired ease. Rearing on his hind legs he gripped and tilted the said beaker; joyously its contents gurgled downwards. Summer rain was never more refreshing to a dry-skinned bullfrog. Hannibal began to feel in better spirits; he patted his stomach cheerfully; he almost laughed at the dim electric light. Then his eyes roved around like a guileless small boy’s seeking a new idea. At one side the door of a dressing-room hung about an inch ajar. It caught Hannibal’s attention. What could be behind?

Pushing open the door, he entered. The room was empty, but a glimmering ra-

diance filtered in the window from across the alley. What caused it? It seemed to come from opposite, and now and then bars of music tickled his attentive ears. There was a table by the window, on which Hannibal, scrambling, pressed his nose against the pane. A window across the ten-foot-wide alleyway emitted a flood of yellow, exquisite gold. Dancing figures —swinging, swaying—crossed and recrossed the bright illumination. The music must be there too! It fascinated the watcher.

THE obstructing pane irritated Hannibal. It was like a bar, preventing a desired delight. He wanted to smash it. In disgusted heat he pushed upward on the middle sash. Great grizzles! It was loose! What sort of carelessness was this? Were thieves unknown in Bayhurst? Such a thing would never happen in New York. There they always locked everything!

Suddenly the window creaked to the top, and the orchestra strains struck him like popping corks. The figures swung to and fro, most alluringly. The lights flamed an invitation across.. By the aid of a gutter-pipe Hannibal gracefully lowered himself to the ground.

Here, however, a dilemma faced him.

A sheer brick wall—and without a handy gutter-pipe—-about six feet up to the window ledge, discouraged ascent. He felt like Sinbad the Sailor in the Valley of Diamonds.

He turned his head down the alley. It was a cul de sac. He looked toward the main street. Ah! Two humans, a man and a girl, in summer attire, hurried past, presumably late arrivals. Hannibal’s logical mind quickly grasped the idea. There must be an entrance at that end !

He trotted to the alley’s end, and peered around cautiously. Across the street was a glass-fronted store, with door wide open and a slumbering automobile in front. It looked interesting. Hannibal loped across the dark street on all fours, took the sidewalk in a shuffling hop and poked his inquisitive nose inside.

PERHAPS this tale should

have started at a point earlier in the evening. It even might have been carried away back many years to the time, when Myrtle Dale and Harry Sims and Jack Hindley went to school together. Myrtle was a

slim little thing in those days with her hair done in long flaxen tails and Harry Sims was her acknowledged beau. Jack Hindley worshipped her from afar. He was too mute and humble to show his devotion by action or word but it is probable that Myrtle sensed it.

This relationship had been maintained between the three right through school days and up to the time this story begins; except that, when Harry Sims left town for a few years in search of a fortune in the busy world that lay beyond Bayhurst, Jack had come forward as a hesitant and rather self-effacing successor. When Harry returned, without the fortune of course but with a veneer of manner that slow-going Bayhurst mistook for polish, Jack hastily effaced himself

Soon after his return Harry Sims became a dancing teacher at the local academy.

He lived at home and his fees at the academy enabled him to dress well. This filled Harry’s philosophy of life to a complete degree, especially as Myrtle had come back to her old allegiance. Some day something would turn up and they would be married. That satisfied Harry.

In the meantime Jack Hindley had been going about his business quietly, but. with a degree of determination that set his jaw in grim lines. On leaving school he had begun as junior in the office of Bayhurst’s biggest industry. Now he was head accountant and drawing a salary that enabled him to lay aside fifty dollars every month. He had ^invested his savings so well that a neat two-story brick house up on Princess Street, with an acre of ground .around it and a tidy little rose arbor in the front garden, belonged to him without a cent of encumbrance. Jack was counted among the solid business men of the town.

THIS brings the whole story up to date. Except that earlier in this momentous evening, slow-going Jack Hindley had reached a sudden and rather terrifying decision. As a result of it he had called on Myrtle Dale.

Myrtle came tripping down to the front parlor in a most dazzling “party” dress, so pink and shimmery and altogether beautiful that it took poor Jack’s breath away. She had never looked more beau-

tiful or desirable. “I’m very sorry, Jack,” she _ said, “but I’m going to a dance to-night. Harry will be around for me any time now.”

Jack gulped and plunged ahead with a speech that he had been silently rehearsing.

“Before you go, Myrtle,” he said, looking intently out of the window and speaking very fast, "I want to ask you something. I guess you’ve known that I’ve been in love with you for years. I’ve realized, of course,.that 1 had no right to expect that you would think of me and, of course, it’s been easy to see that you’ve preferred Harry but then of course— Look here, Myrtle, I’m going to ask you anyway. Will you, would you marry me?”

Myrtle had subsided into a big plush chair and was regarding him with a look that might have been deemed encouraging by a more observant suitor.

“I'm going to talk straight, Myrtle,” went on Jack, bringing his gaze around Ur her face at last. “Harry is a line fellow and 1 can understand why you prefer him to a slow, ordinary sort of fellow like me—and I am not trying to criticize him—but you know that he isn’t —well, getting anywhere Now 1 have a house and a pretty fair position and money in the bank and I could make things pretty comfortable for you and I’d—you don’t know how hard I’d try to make you happy! So I just thought I would—er, tell you about it anyway.”

HK ended rather lamely, and his gaze wandered off again into space. Myrtle, woman-like, took the situation into her own hands.

“You know, I’ve always liked you a lot, Jack," she said. “You are not slow or ordinary but I believe I like you to say that you think you are. You would make a better husband than I deserve and what you say about Harry is perhaps right. I’ve been rather thinking

myself that he hasn't been -getting any where. But, Jack--”

She paused and her gaze in turn wandered off to the window.

“1 can't make up my mind. I've always felt that my husband has to be kind of — romantic! You read about those young millionaires who run mines and build railroads and make corners on Wall Street and about soldiers who go down to Central America and do such wonderful things. You know what 1 mean. And so 1 just can't make up my mind to so,ttl¡ng down in Bayhurst even in that lovely house of yours, Jack. And then, you know, Harry has seen and done such wonderful things. You remember when he was on that big ship and it struck an iceberg and he saven lots of women and children after swimming for hours in the freezing water ”

At this moment a ring at the door bell announced the arrival of the hero of the iceberg episode in person. So Myrtle gave Jack’s hand a quick and sympathetic squeeze and he edged past Harry in the hall and stumbled out into the dark. He had taken his chance and lost.

For an hour or so Jack Hindlev tramped the streets in a lit of savage dejection. He heartily and unreservedly damned Harry Sims and his glib stories of heroic rescues. No one in town believed him, at least none of the men. He was a poor, light-headed fop without the sand to perform any of the exploits that luso avidly retailed to the girls of colloquial Bayhurst. And yet his lies stood between Jack ifnd the fulfillment of the great ambition of his life, the winning of Myrtle

Suddenly, Jack’s determination came to life. He was going to fight ! He would

start right in that very night. He would go to that dance himself!

Accordingly he hurried otr in the direction of the public ball where the dance was being held. Across the street from the ball was a candy store and Jack decided to go well armed for the fray. He stepped in and purchased the most expensive box of chocolates in the place. With this under his arm be turned to leave the store -and then the strange adventure -tailed!

A HUGH, hairy shape stood in the open doorway, a black-nosed, aweinspiring specimen that his frightened wits recognized as a bear—a grizzly!

Now Hannibal, for Hannibal it was, had always been a friendly bear. Ihren red up on his hind legs to the full of his six feet of ponderous stature and advanced m an attitude of greeting. But Jack did not observe the friendliness in old Hannibal’s eye. All he saw was two powerful paws extended toward him and ita flurry of fear he stepped back against a showcase. There was a crash of glass and his left arm plunged through the case to the shoulder. IIis hand, instinctively grasping for a weapon, closed on a box of chocolates. Then he had a lucid spell for long enough to remember that bears are fond of sweets. Withdrawing bis arm he hastily tore off the cover of the box and showered the advancing bear with candy.

Hannibal stopped, sniffed at one of the missiles, tried it and then settled down on bis haunches. His paws scooped up the candies from the floor almost as fast as Jack could throw them to him and his jaws worked with ecstatic speed. This was real enjoyment; and Hannibal’s

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Hannibal Helps

Continued from page 31

eyes gleamed with affection as they rested on the generous and busy dispenser . But Jack read anything but affection

m the sharp eyes of the bear. Besides he was trapped in a corner of the store and his only possible means of escape lay over the top of the showcase. In view of the proximity of the bear, he deemed any attempt at escape that way inadvisable. So he stood his ground and Kept his enemy busy.

P ROFESSOR Lionel Leroy saved the situation by apeparing in the door-

way. He had left his hotel for a short walk before turning in and happened to glance into the candy store as he passed.

“You old rascal!” he exclaimed, taking Hannibal by the ear. “Has he done any damage here?”

j “Isn’t—isn’t he dangerous?” asked “Who, Hannibal? Naw! Old Han. has

been a coward since the day he was born. He runs from dogs and wouldn’t even bother a mouse. The friendliest bear that ever lived is old Hannibal.”

And then the Big Idea occurred to Jack Hindley.

“You are quite sure that he wouldn’t hurt anyone?” he asked. “Will you guarantee that? If he’s as harmless as you say, I’d like to hire him for a while.”

“What seems to be the idea?” asked the Professor. He was never adverse to turning an honest penny.

Jack explained after making sure that the proprietor of the store was not within hearing. All he wanted to do was to take the bear across the road and shove him through the door of the dance hall. He would follow personally—the Professor was sure about Hannibal’s harmlessness, absolutely?—and see that no one was hurt. The Professor thought he had met the prince of practical jokers. But Jack’s mind was running along strictly practical lines. ' He saw a chance to shatter his rival’s reputation for bravery. Perhaps also he could manage to appear himself in a creditable, not to say romantic, light.

“Look here,” he said, “how can I manage to get the bear out of there once he has got in? Without your help, I

“Hannibal is well trained,” said the Professor in an off-hand way. “See, take this cane. Two sharp taps on the floor and old Han. will stop still and get up on his hind legs. Three taps and he’ll follow you anywhere. Get it?”

A ten-dollar bill changed hands and the protesting Hannibal was forced from his delectable feast and urged across the street.

ONCE within the lobby the bear’s curiosity got the better of him. He pushed open a music-wafting green baize door and squinted within. Shades of the immortal Bruin! The sight was most awe-inspiring. The moving figures, the laughing lights, the blare of the orchestra! He hesitated a moment. He didn’t know exactly whether to advance or re-

But it was too fascinating. He thrust in his head.

At that instant an extremely thin young man, with carefully slicked back hair and a Palm Beach suit extremely pinch-backed, paused in a difficult gyration and advanced toward the door.

“Pretty good little bear make-up, old top,” he remarked to Hannibal’s head. “You’d take the blue ribbon at a fancy dress, all right; but you can’t fool your uncle Simsey!”

His manner was most inviting. Hannibal stepped inside.

Almost at once Harry Sims’ ingenious features became painfully mobile. His first impulse was to utter a loud yell and engage in wild flight. Then for half a second he endeavored to get a grip on himself. He must not give way to fear. He must maintain his pose. Everyone knew he was a brave man. And there was a reason!

However at this moment Hannibal opened wide his arms for a friendly embrace. Harry Sims, losing all control, gave an inarticulate yelp and wheeling, dashed in the opposite direction. He gave no heed to Myrtle whom he had deserted in the middle of the floor. '

Rather puzzled, the newcomer strode onto the floor. . . .

THERE was a swift indrawing of breath, a stiffening of startled muscles, and then—well—some people would have said pandemonium reigned. It not only rained, it hailed and poured. Harry Sims, who had never seen the Alps, started up the narrow balcony stairs with all the agility, and none of the grace of a Swiss mountaineer. He finally found himself jammed in a throng of screaming girls and brave men, all going upward and wishing they had wings. Others of both sexes were leaving by the rear exit with the quiet calm of people in a theatre fire.

Georgie Ball, the fattest young man in Bayhurst, was politely informed that the stairway was in no respect his special property. He therefore started up one of the balcony posts faster than a fireman in a climbing contest.

The hall by this time was a lonely, desolate, barren spot, but the music went on. The leader, true to tradition, was going to do his duty and go down with the band stand. His eye, however, being on the lumbering dark mass on the floor, his baton moved up and down spasmodically. Fancy dancing had always appealed to Hannibal who accordingly executed a few intricate steps and, with the inborn modesty of a vaudevillian, looked around for applause. None came.

HE next observed that the drummer was above him. He knew perfectly well that something was wrong! On the stage he always looked down on this genius who drew such strange noises from nowhere. This drummer ought to be put in his place. In some psychic way the drummer anticipated Hannibal’s intention and, with a wail that no sandpiper, cymbals or woods could make, dashed for cover. “Such fun,” mused Hannibal; “I’ve been missing a lot that goes on while I’m asleep in my cage.”

Above the other noises of the room came a loud roar followed by a scraping sound, ending in a thud that shook the building like an exploding mine. Hannibal, turning quickly, saw a mass somewhat similar to himself arise from the floor as if jerked by a derrick and with the speed of an aeroplane disappear rearwards. It was none other than Georgie Ball who had fallen from his post. Under the mental stress of the moment he had become a sylph.

The frenzied Juliets in the balcony gasped, and the Romeos who should have been on the ground but were up in the air groaned. Hannibal, cocking his hat on one side, with something resembling a wink, seemed to say, “I’m going to join you and stir things up. It’s getting awfully quiet and slow!” Crossing the slippery floor, sliding like a drunken man, he commenced to shin up one of the supporting posts. Fresh screams arose, disconcerted faces peered over the rail.

Thoughts were flashing through Harry Sims’ mind with machine-gun rapidity. He knew that Myrtle must be among the frightened group of girls who had taken refuge at one end of the balcony. The bear was headed for them. Now was the time to make good on the reputation he had built up for himself. But after all —safety first!

“Say, fellows,” he whispered, “we can slip down and make the door.”

“It’s only the trick bear from the show,” said one of the young men sheepishly.

“He's only having a bit o’ fun; he won't ¡ hurt anybody.”

“Y’ can’t tell,” said another, “what ¡ they’ll do when they get loose.”

“We better go get help," declared the ! unhappy teacher of new steps. “Get a 1 policeman with a gun. I b’n thinking—” j His thinking stopped abruptly however.

A hairy paw shot over the rail, and, like | the bullet from an air-gun. Harry was on his way down the stairs, followed by as many braves as could navigate the narrow passage. Hannibal, about to boost himself over, saw the downward flash and wondered why these strange playfellows were always changing their positions. Then he saw the girls on the balcony and decided to continue his climb.

AT this stage Jack Hindley made his appearance. He struggled through the stream of fugitives in the lobby and gained the floor of the dance hall just as Hannibal was preparing to scramble over "the balcony rail. Shrill screams from the girls rang in his ears.

Jack went up the stairs three at a time, calling encouragement to the imprisoned fair ones as he went. Hannibal recognized his former benefactor out of the corner of his eye and turned to welcome him. Tap, tap went the cane in Jack’s hand and the bear, true to his training, reared himself up on his hind legs.

“Don’t be afraid,” called Hindley. Among the girls he recognized Myrtle. She was watching him with something akin to amazement and—yes, there could be no doubt—a look of pride and exultation. “I’ll get this bear out. He’s harmless. Come along, sir, and stop frightening the ladies!”

Tap, tap, tap went his cane—and then another for good measure. As the fourth tap came, a look of surprise might have been seen stealing over the physiognomy of the bear. But a trained bear knows nothing but obedience so—out shot his furry paw. And darkness suddenly descended upon Jack Hindley.

HE came to some time later to find himself propped up against the balcony railing. His head, which was supported by a cushion, felt very dizzy and queer. Sharp pains starting somewhere in the vicinity of his jaw, went all through him like sharp needles. But Jack heeded this not at all for, sitting on the floor beside him, with a wealth of tender^ ness and solicitude in her round blue eye^ was Myrtle Dale. As he sat up, she quite unabashedly took possession of his hand.

“Jack, you were so brave!” she whispered. “You’re a real hero, Jack. You do brave things instead of talking about

“Where’s the bear?” he asked, faintly. “The Professor took him,” answered Myrtle. “But never mind the bear now.” Harry was quite willing to forget the bear. They had more interesting things to talk about.

'Tp HE next morning, with a joyous song A of spring in his heart and an enormous bandage around his face, Hindley strolled down the front street. As he passed the moving picture palace in front of which a flaming poster still announced that Hannibal, the wonderful trained bear, would perform within. Professor Lionel Leroy came rushing out to intercept him. From across the street Hardy, the proprietor of the candy store,

converged on him also with purpose in his glance.

“I w’anna see you, Hindley,” called Hardy. “There’s the matter of that broken showcase in my store. Damages will be four dollars on that.”

“Oh, well, I’ll pay it!” laughed Jack. Naturally he was inclined to check outgoings of cash with an accountant’s acuteness but this morning he was too happy to dispute an item.

“Then there’s the matter of the candy,” went on Hardy. “I watched you from behind the other counter. I was good and scared myself but I kept track of your disbursements just the same. It’s funny how you seemed to grab just the expensive kinds—two pounds chocolate creams, pound and a half of candied marsheeny cherries, two pounds chocolate nuts—” “How much?” demanded Jack. “Three-seventy in all,” replied Hardy. Jack counted out the money and handed it over. Hardy recrossed the road, contented.

“It was queer how old Hannibal came to swat you like that,” said Professor Leroy, breaking in at this point. “He’s never done such a thing before. Perhaps you got mixed on your signals. I forgot to explain that he was once a boxing bear. Used to put on the gloves with anyone that would get into the ring with him. I had signals to tell him what to do.”

“I think,” said Jack, striving to remember, “that I tapped four times.” “Then that explains the whole thing!” explained Leroy, triumphantly. “Four taps was the signal for an undercut. You asked for it, you see. Old Han., he couldn’t naturally do anything else but hand it to you!”

Well, I got it!” said Jack, shortly, preparing to go on.

tt MBut hold on,” said Leroy, hurriedly. “There’s some items of business to settle up, arising out of this here little affair. There’s the matter of damage to the hall. Hannibal’s paws kind of scratched the paint off the pillars. The manager’s been after me about it. Eight dollars, he claims.”

a well,” agreed Hindley, grimly.

111 pay you and you can settle with him. Here’s the money. Good day.” H “WAIT! That’s not all,” said Leroy. “The people at the dance were so scared they complained to the police and I’ve been told to get Hannibal out of town on the next train. That loses us two days’ engagement here. That comes to

twenty dollars. I can’t stand to lose that y’ know. Then there’s the bear. You stuffed him so full of candy and led him into so much excitement that he’s clean off his form. I may have to see a vet. about him. Wear and tear on the bear is an item that can’t be overlooked in a deal of this kind. Suppose we put down ten dollars for that?”

Jack was not accustomed to use strong language but he looked Leroy in the eye and told the bear man some straight things about himself with a vigor that was surprising. But he paid the full amount. Nothing must be allowed to get out that might tarnish his glorious record of the night before.

BEING of a methodical turn, Hindley always entered up such expenditures as he was called to make in a book kept for the purpose. Accordingly an account was opened for the evening’s proceedings and the debit items duly entered as fol-

ACCOUNT OF HANNIBAL

(Trained Bear)

To rent of bear............... $10.00

To box of candy (1) ........... .75

To candy for bear ............ 3.70

To broken glass .............. 4.00

To two days’ theatrical engagement ....................... 20.00

To damages to hall............ 8.00

To wear and tear on the bear. . 10.00

To doctor’s bill (estimated).... 15.00

Total.................... $71.45

It was rather a staggering total. Nearly a month’s salary, in fact. For a few moments Hindley studied over the figures with a frown. Then, however, the necessity of posting the other side of the transaction occurred to him. His mind went back to that wonderful moment when Myrtle had snuggled into his arms and laid her golden head against his bandaged face—and, with the greatest satisfaction, he entered on the credit side:—

To Myrtle................$5,000,000.00

71.45

Balance .............$4,999,928.55

“A pretty fair balance for one night’s work,” he said to himself.