Carleton Barker, First and Second
by John Kendrick Bangs
My first meeting with Carleton Barker was a singular one. A friend
and I, in August, 18?, were doing the English Lake District on
foot, when, on nearing the base of the famous Mount Skiddaw, we
observed on the road, some distance ahead of us, limping along and
apparently in great pain, the man whose subsequent career so sorely
puzzled us. Noting his very evident distress, Parton and I quickened
our pace and soon caught up with the stranger, who, as we reached
his side, fell forward upon his face in a fainting condition?as
well he might, for not only must he have suffered great agony from a
sprained ankle, but inspection of his person disclosed a most
extraordinary gash in his right arm, made apparently with a sharp
knife, and which was bleeding most profusely. To stanch the flow of
blood was our first care, and Parton, having recently been graduated
in medicine, made short work of relieving the sufferer's pain from
his ankle, bandaging it about and applying such soothing properties
as he had in his knapsack?properties, by the way, with which,
knowing the small perils to which pedestrians everywhere are liable,
he was always provided.
Our patient soon recovered his senses and evinced no little
gratitude for the service we had rendered him, insisting upon our
accepting at his hands, merely, he said, as a souvenir of our good
-Samaritanship, and as a token of his appreciation of the same, a
small pocket-flask and an odd diamond-shaped stone pierced in the
centre, which had hung from the end of his watch-chain, held in
place by a minute gold ring. The flask became the property of
Parton, and to me fell the stone, the exact hue of which I was never
able to determine, since it was chameleonic in its properties. When
it was placed in my hands by our "grateful patient" it was blood
-red; when I looked upon it on the following morning it was of a
livid, indescribable hue, yet lustrous as an opal. To-day it is
colorless and dull, as though some animating quality that it had
once possessed had forever passed from it.
"You seem to have met with an accident," said Parton, when the
injured man had recovered sufficiently to speak.
"Yes," he said, wincing with pain, "I have. I set out for Saddleback
this morning?I wished to visit the Scales Tarn and get a glimpse of
those noonday stars that are said to make its waters lustrous, and?"
"And to catch the immortal fish?" I queried.
"No," he replied, with a laugh. "I should have been satisfied to see
the stars?and I did see the stars, but not the ones I set out to
see. I have always been more or less careless of my safety, walking
with my head in the clouds and letting my feet look out for
themselves. The result was that I slipped on a moss-covered stone
and fell over a very picturesque bit of scenery on to some more
stones that, unfortunately, were not moss-covered."
"But the cut in your arm?" said Parton, suspiciously. "That looks as
if somebody else had given it to you."
The stranger's face flushed as red as could be considering the
amount of blood he had lost, and a look of absolute devilishness
that made my flesh creep came into his eyes. For a moment he did not
speak, and then, covering the delay in his answer with a groan of
anguish, he said:
"Oh, that! Yes?I?I did manage to cut myself rather badly and?"
"I don't see how you could, though," insisted Parton. "You couldn't
reach that part of yourself with a knife, if you tried."
"That's just the reason why you should see for yourself that it was
caused by my falling on my knife. I had it grasped in my right hand,
intending to cut myself a stick, when I slipped. As I slipped it
flew from my hand and I landed on it, fortunately on the edge and
not on the point," he explained, his manner far from convincing,
though the explanation seemed so simple that to doubt it were
"Did you recover the knife?" asked Parton. "It must have been a
mighty sharp one, and rather larger than most people carry about
with them on excursions like yours."
"I am not on the witness-stand, sir," returned the other, somewhat
petulantly, "and so I fail to see why you should question me so
closely in regard to so simple a matter?as though you suspected me
of some wrongdoing."
"My friend is a doctor," I explained; for while I was quite as much
interested in the incident, its whys and wherefores, as was Parton,
I had myself noticed that he was suspicious of his chance patient,
and seemingly not so sympathetic as he would otherwise have been.
"He regards you as a case."
"Not at all," returned Parton. "I am simply interested to know how
you hurt yourself?that is all. I mean no offence, I am sure, and if
anything I have said has hurt your feelings I apologize."
"Don't mention it, doctor," replied the other, with an uneasy smile,
holding his left hand out towards Parton as he spoke. "I am in great
pain, as you know, and perhaps I seem irritable. I'm not an amiable
man at best; as for the knife, in my agony I never thought to look
for it again, though I suppose if I had looked I should not have
found it, since it doubtless fell into the underbrush out of sight.
Let it rest there. It has not done me a friendly service to-day and
I shall waste no tears over it."
With which effort at pleasantry he rose with some difficulty to his
feet, and with the assistance of Parton and myself walked on and
into Keswick, where we stopped for the night. The stranger
registered directly ahead of Parton and myself, writing the words,
"Carleton Barker, Calcutta," in the book, and immediately retired to
his room, nor did we see him again that night. After supper we
looked for him, but as he was nowhere to be seen, we concluded that
he had gone to bed to seek the recuperation of rest. Parton and I
lit our cigars and, though somewhat fatigued by our exertions,
strolled quietly about the more or less somnolent burg in which we
were, discussing the events of the day, and chiefly our new
"I don't half like that fellow," said Parton, with a dubious shake
of the head. "If a dead body should turn up near or on Skiddaw
to-morrow morning, I wouldn't like to wager that Mr. Carleton Barker
hadn't put it there. He acted to me like a man who had something to
conceal, and if I could have done it without seeming ungracious, I'd
have flung his old flask as far into the fields as I could. I've
half a mind to show my contempt for it now by filling it with some
of that beastly claret they have at the table d'h?e here, and
chucking the whole thing into the lake. It was an insult to offer
those things to us."
"I think you are unjust, Parton," I said. "He certainly did look as
if he had been in a maul with somebody. There was a nasty scratch on
his face, and that cut on the arm was suspicious; but I can't see
but that his explanation was clear enough. Your manner was too
irritating. I think if I had met with an accident and was assisted
by an utter stranger who, after placing me under obligations to him,
acted towards me as though I were an unconvicted criminal, I'd be as
mad as he was; and as for the insult of his offering, in my eyes
that was the only way he could soothe his injured feelings. He was
angry at your suspicions, and to be entirely your debtor for
services didn't please him. His gift to me was made simply because
he did not wish to pay you in substance and me in thanks."
"I don't go so far as to call him an unconvicted criminal, but I'll
swear his record isn't clear as daylight, and I'm morally convinced
that if men's deeds were written on their foreheads Carleton Barker,
esquire, would wear his hat down over his eyes. I don't like him. I
instinctively dislike him. Did you see the look in his eyes when I
mentioned the knife?"
"I did," I replied. "And it made me shudder."
"It turned every drop of blood in my veins cold," said Parton. "It
made me feel that if he had had that knife within reach he would
have trampled it to powder, even if every stamp of his foot cut his
flesh through to the bone. Malignant is the word to describe that
glance, and I'd rather encounter a rattle-snake than see it again."
Parton spoke with such evident earnestness that I took refuge in
silence. I could see just where a man of Parton's temperament?which
was cold and eminently judicial even when his affections were
concerned?could find that in Barker at which to cavil, but, for all
that, I could not sympathize with the extreme view he took of his
character. I have known many a man upon whose face nature has set
the stamp of the villain much more deeply than it was impressed upon
Barker's countenance, who has lived a life most irreproachable,
whose every act has been one of unselfishness and for the good of
mankind; and I have also seen outward appearing saints whose every
instinct was base; and it seemed to me that the physiognomy of the
unfortunate victim of the moss-covered rock and vindictive knife was
just enough of a medium between that of the irredeemable sinner and
the sterling saint to indicate that its owner was the average man in
the matter of vices and virtues. In fact, the malignancy of his
expression when the knife was mentioned was to me the sole point
against him, and had I been in his position I do not think I should
have acted very differently, though I must add that if I thought
myself capable of freezing any person's blood with an expression of
my eyes I should be strongly tempted to wear blue glasses when in
company or before a mirror.
"I think I'll send my card up to him, Jack," I said to Parton, when
we had returned to the hotel, "just to ask how he is. Wouldn't you?"
"No!" snapped Parton. "But then I'm not you. You can do as you
please. Don't let me influence you against him?if he's to your
"He isn't at all to my taste," I retorted. "I don't care for him
particularly, but it seems to me courtesy requires that we show a
little interest in his welfare."
"Be courteous, then, and show your interest," said Parton. "I don't
care as long as I am not dragged into it."
I sent my card up by the boy, who, returning in a moment, said that
the door was locked, adding that when he had knocked upon it there
came no answer, from which he presumed that Mr. Barker had gone to
"He seemed all right when you took his supper to his room?" I
"He said he wouldn't have any supper. Just wanted to be left alone,"
said the boy.
"Sulking over the knife still, I imagine," sneered Parton; and then
he and I retired to our room and prepared for bed.
I do not suppose I had slept for more than an hour when I was
awakened by Parton, who was pacing the floor like a caged tiger, his
eyes all ablaze, and laboring under an intense nervous excitement.
"What's the matter, Jack?" I asked, sitting up in bed.
"That d?ned Barker has upset my nerves," he replied. "I can't get
him out of my mind."
"Oh, pshaw!" I replied. "Don't be silly. Forget him."
"Silly?" he retorted, angrily. "Silly? Forget him? Hang it, I would
forget him if he'd let me?but he won't."
"What has he got to do with it?"
"More than is decent," ejaculated Parton. "More than is decent. He
has just been peering in through that window there, and he means no
"Why, you're mad," I remonstrated. "He couldn't peer in at the
window?we are on the fourth floor, and there is no possible way in
which he could reach the window, much less peer in at it."
"Nevertheless," insisted Parton, "Carleton Barker for ten minutes
previous to your waking was peering in at me through that window
there, and in his glance was that same malignant, hateful quality
that so set me against him to-day?and another thing, Bob," added
Parton, stopping his nervous walk for a moment and shaking his
finger impressively at me?"another thing which I did not tell you
before because I thought it would fill you with that same awful
dread that has come to me since meeting Barker?the blood from that
man's arm, the blood that stained his shirt-sleeve crimson, that
besmeared his clothes, spurted out upon my cuff and coat-sleeve when
I strove to stanch its flow!"
"Yes, I remember that," said I.
"And now look at my cuff and sleeve!" whispered Parton, his face
There was no stain of any sort whatsoever upon either!
Certainly there must have been something wrong about Carleton
The mystery of Carleton Barker was by no means lessened when next
morning it was found that his room not only was empty, but that, as
far as one could judge from the aspect of things therein, it had not
been occupied at all. Furthermore, our chance acquaintance had
vanished, leaving no more trace of his whereabouts than if he had
"Good riddance," said Parton. "I am afraid he and I would have come
to blows sooner or later, because the mere thought of him was
beginning to inspire me with a desire to thrash him. I'm sure he
deserves a trouncing, whoever he is."
I, too, was glad the fellow had passed out of our ken, but not for
the reason advanced by Parton. Since the discovery of the stainless
cuff, where marks of blood ought by nature to have been, I goose
-fleshed at the mention of his name. There was something so
inexpressibly uncanny about a creature having a fluid of that sort
in his veins. In fact, so unpleasantly was I impressed by that
episode that I was unwilling even to join in a search for the
mysteriously missing Barker, and by common consent Parton and I
dropped him entirely as a subject for conversation.
We spent the balance of our week at Keswick, using it as our head
-quarters for little trips about the surrounding country, which is
most charmingly adapted to the wants of those inclined to
pedestrianism, and on Sunday evening began preparations for our
departure, discarding our knickerbockers and resuming the
habiliments of urban life, intending on Monday morning to run up to
Edinburgh, there to while away a few days before starting for a
short trip through the Trossachs.
While engaged in packing our portmanteaux there came a sharp knock
at the door, and upon opening it I found upon the hall floor an
envelope addressed to myself. There was no one anywhere in the hall,
and, so quickly had I opened the door after the knock, that fact
mystified me. It would hardly have been possible for any person,
however nimble of foot, to have passed out of sight in the period
which had elapsed between the summons and my response.
"What is it?" asked Parton, observing that I was slightly agitated.
"Nothing," I said, desirous of concealing from him the matter that
bothered me, lest I should be laughed at for my pains. "Nothing,
except a letter for me."
"Not by post, is it?" he queried; to which he added, "Can't be.
There is no mail here to-day. Some friend?"
"I don't know," I said, trying, in a somewhat feminine fashion, to
solve the authorship of the letter before opening it by staring at
the superscription. "I don't recognize the handwriting at all."
I then opened the letter, and glancing hastily at the signature was
filled with uneasiness to see who my correspondent was.
"It's from that fellow Barker," I said.
"Barker!" cried Parton. "What on earth has Barker been writing to
"He is in trouble," I replied, as I read the letter.
"Financial, I presume, and wants a lift?" suggested Parton.
"Worse than that," said I, "he is in prison in London."
"Wha-a-at?" ejaculated Parton. "In prison in London? What for?"
"On suspicion of having murdered an innkeeper in the South of
England on Tuesday, August 16th."
"Well, I'm sorry to say that I believe he was guilty," returned
Parton, without reflecting that the 16th day of August was the day
upon which he and I had first encountered Barker.
"That's your prejudice, Jack," said I. "If you'll think a minute
you'll know he was innocent. He was here on August 16th?last
Tuesday. It was then that you and I saw him for the first time
limping along the road and bleeding from a wound in the shoulder."
"Was Tuesday the 16th?" said Parton, counting the days backward on
his fingers. "That's a fact. It was?but it's none of my affair
anyhow. It is too blessed queer for me to mix myself up in it, and I
say let him languish in jail. He deserved it for something, I am
"Well, I'm not so confoundedly heartless," I returned, pounding the
table with my fist, indignant that Parton should allow his
prejudices to run away with his sense of justice. "I'm going to
London to do as he asks."
"What does he want you to do? Prove an alibi?"
"Precisely; and I'm going and you're going, and I shall see if the
landlord here won't let me take one of his boys along to support our
testimony?at my own expense if need be."
"You're right, old chap," returned Parton, after a moment of
internal struggle. "I suppose we really ought to help the fellow out
of his scrape; but I'm decidedly averse to getting mixed up in an
affair of any kind with a man like Carleton Barker, much less in an
affair with murder in it. Is he specific about the murder?"
"No. He refers me to the London papers of the 17th and 18th for
details. He hadn't time to write more, because he comes up for
examination on Tuesday morning, and as our presence is essential to
his case he was necessarily hurried."
"It's deucedly hard luck for us," said Parton, ruefully. "It means
no Scotland this trip."
"How about Barker's luck?" I asked. "He isn't fighting for a
Scottish trip?he's fighting for his life."
And so it happened that on Monday morning, instead of starting for
Edinburgh, we boarded the train for London at Car-lisle. We tried to
get copies of the newspapers containing accounts of the crime that
had been committed, but our efforts were unavailing, and it was not
until we arrived in London and were visited by Barker's attorneys
that we obtained any detailed information whatsoever of the murder;
and when we did get it we were more than ever regretful to be mixed
up in it, for it was an unusually brutal murder. Strange to say, the
evidence against Barker was extraordinarily convincing, considering
that at the time of the commission of the crime he was hundreds of
miles from the scene. There was testimony from railway guards,
neighbors of the murdered innkeeper, and others, that it was Barker
and no one else who committed the crime. His identification was
complete, and the wound in his shoulder was shown almost beyond the
possibility of doubt to have been inflicted by the murdered man in
"Our only hope," said the attorney, gravely, "is in proving an
alibi. I do not know what to believe myself, the chain of evidence
against my client is so complete; and yet he asserts his innocence,
and has stated to me that you two gentlemen could assist in proving
it. If you actually encountered Carleton Barker in the neighborhood
of Keswick on the 16th of this month, the whole case against him
falls to the ground. If not, I fear his outlook has the gallows at
the small end of the perspective."
"We certainly did meet a Carleton Barker at Keswick on Tuesday,
August 16th," returned Parton; "and he was wounded in the shoulder,
and his appearance was what might have been expected of one who had
been through just such a frightful murder as we understand this to
have been; but this was explained to us as due to a fall over rocks
in the vicinity of the Scales Tarn?which was plausible enough to
satisfy my friend here."
"And not yourself?" queried the attorney.
"Well, I don't see what that has to do with it," returned Parton.
"As to the locality there is no question. He was there. We saw him,
and others saw him, and we have taken the trouble to come down here
to state the fact, and have brought with us the call-boy from the
hotel, who can support our testimony if it is not regarded as
sufficient. I advise you, however, as attorney for Barker, not to
inquire too deeply into that matter, because I am convinced that if
he isn't guilty of this crime?as of course he is not?he hasn't the
cleanest record in the world. He has bad written on every line of
his face, and there were one or two things connected with our
meeting with him that mightn't be to his taste to have mentioned in
"I don't need advice, thank you," said the attorney, dryly. "I wish
simply to establish the fact of his presence at Keswick at the hour
of 5 P.M. on Tuesday, August 16th. That was the hour at which the
murder is supposed?in fact, is proved?to have been committed. At
5.30, according to witnesses, my client was seen in the
neighborhood, faint with loss of blood from a knife-wound in the
shoulder. Barker has the knife-wound, but he might have a dozen of
them and be acquitted if he wasn't in Frewenton on the day in
"You may rely upon us to prove that," said I. "We will swear to it.
We can produce tangible objects presented to us on that afternoon by
"I can't produce mine," said Parton. "I threw it into the lake."
"Well, I can produce the stone he gave me," said I, "and I'll do it
if you wish."
"That will be sufficient, I think," returned the attorney. "Barker
spoke especially about that stone, for it was a half of an odd
souvenir of the East, where he was born, and he fortunately has the
other half. The two will fit together at the point where the break
was made, and our case will be complete."
The attorney then left us. The following day we appeared at the
preliminary examination, which proved to be the whole examination as
well, since, despite the damning circumstantial evidence against
Barker, evidence which shook my belief almost in the veracity of my
own eyes, our plain statements, substantiated by the evidence of the
call-boy and the two halves of the oriental pebble, one in my
possession and the other in Barker's, brought about the discharge of
the prisoner from custody; and the "Frewenton Atrocity" became one
of many horrible murders, the mystery of which time alone, if
anything, could unravel.
After Barker was released he came to me and thanked me most
effusively for the service rendered him, and in many ways made
himself agreeable during the balance of our stay in London. Parton,
however, would have nothing to do with him, and to me most of his
attentions were paid. He always had a singularly uneasy way about
him, as though he were afraid of some impending trouble, and finally
after a day spent with him slumming about London?and a more perfect
slummer no one ever saw, for he was apparently familiar with every
one of the worst and lowest resorts in all of London as well as on
intimate terms with leaders in the criminal world?I put a few
questions to him impertinently pertinent to himself. He was
surprisingly frank in his answers. I was quite prepared for a more
or less indignant refusal when I asked him to account for his
intimacy with these dregs of civilization.
"It's a long story," he said, "but I'll tell it to you. Let us run
in here and have a chop, and I'll give you some account of myself
over a mug of ale."
We entered one of the numerous small eating-houses that make London
a delight to the lover of the chop in the fulness of its glory. When
we were seated and the luncheon ordered Barker began.
"I have led a very unhappy life. I was born in India thirty-nine
years ago, and while my every act has been as open and as free of
wrong as are those of an infant, I have constantly been beset by
such untoward affairs as this in which you have rendered such
inestimable service. At the age of five, in Calcutta, I was in peril
of my liberty on the score of depravity, although I never committed
any act that could in any sense be called depraved. The main cause
of my trouble at that time was a small girl of ten whose sight was
partially destroyed by the fiendish act of some one who, according
to her statement, wantonly hurled a piece of broken glass into one
of her eyes. The girl said it was I who did it, although at the time
it was done, according to my mother's testimony, I was playing in
her room and in her plain view. That alone would not have been a
very serious matter for me, because the injured child might have
been herself responsible for her injury, but in a childish spirit of
fear, afraid to say so, and, not realizing the enormity of the
charge, have laid it at the door of any one of her playmates she saw
fit. She stuck to her story, however, and there were many who
believed that she spoke the truth and that my mother, in an endeavor
to keep me out of trouble, had stated what was not true."
"But you were innocent, of course?" I said.
"I am sorry you think it necessary to ask that," he replied, his
pallid face flushing with a not unnatural indignation; "and I
decline to answer it," he added. "I have made a practice of late,
when I am in trouble or in any way under suspicion, to let others do
my pleading and prove my innocence. But you didn't mean to be like
your friend Parton, I know, and I cannot be angry with a man who has
done so much for me as you have?so let it pass. I was saying that
standing alone the accusation of that young girl would not have been
serious in its effects in view of my mother's testimony, had not a
seeming corroboration come three days later, when another child was
reported to have been pushed over an embankment and maimed for life
by no less a person than my poor innocent self. This time I was
again, on my mother's testimony, at her side; but there were
witnesses of the crime, and they every one of them swore to my
guilt, and as a consequence we found it advisable to leave the home
that had been ours since my birth, and to come to England. My father
had contemplated returning to his own country for some time, and the
reputation that I had managed unwittingly to build up for myself in
Calcutta was of a sort that made it easier for him to make up his
mind. He at first swore that he would ferret out the mystery in the
matter, and would go through Calcutta with a drag-net if necessary
to find the possible other boy who so resembled me that his
outrageous acts were put upon my shoulders; but people had be-gun to
make up their minds that there was not only something wrong about
me, but that my mother knew it and had tried to get me out of my
scrapes by lying?so there was nothing for us to do but leave."
"And you never solved the mystery?" I queried.
"Well, not exactly," returned Barker, gazing abstractedly before
him. "Not exactly; but I have a theory, based upon the bitterest
kind of experience, that I know what the trouble is."
"You have a double?" I asked.
"You are a good guesser," he replied; "and of all unhanged criminals
he is the very worst."
There was a strange smile on his lips as Carleton Barker said this.
His tone was almost that of one who was boasting?in fact, so
strongly was I impressed with his appearance of conceit when he
estimated the character of his double, that I felt bold enough to
"You seem to be a little proud of it, in spite of all."
"I can't help it, though he has kept me on tenter-hooks for a
lifetime," he said. "We all feel a certain amount of pride in the
success of those to whom we are related, either by family ties or
other shackles like those with which I am bound to my murderous
alter ego. I knew an Englishman once who was so impressed with the
notion that he resembled the great Napoleon that he conceived the
most ardent hatred for his own country for having sent the
illustrious Frenchman to St. Helena. The same influence?a very
subtle one?I feel. Here is a man who has maimed and robbed and
murdered for years, and has never yet been apprehended. In his
chosen calling he has been successful, and though I have been put to
my trumps many a time to save my neck from the retribution that
should have been his, I can't help admiring the fellow, though I'd
kill him if he stood before me!"
"And are you making any effort to find him?"
"I am, of course," said Barker; "that has been my life-work. I am
fortunately possessed of means enough to live on, so that I can
devote all my time to unravelling the mystery. It is for this reason
that I have acquainted myself with the element of London with which,
as you have noticed, I am very familiar. The life these criminals
are leading is quite as revolting to me as it is to you, and the
scenes you and I have witnessed together are no more unpleasant to
you than they are to me; but what can I do? The man lives and must
be run down. He is in England, I am certain. This latest diversion
of his has convinced me of that."
"Well," said I, rising, "you certainly have my sympathy, Mr. Barker,
and I hope your efforts will meet with success. I trust you will
have the pleasure of seeing the other gentleman hanged."
"Thank you," he said, with a queer look in his eyes, which, as I
thought it over afterwards, did not seem to be quite as appropriate
to his expression of gratitude as it might have been.
When Barker and I parted that day it was for a longer period than
either of us dreamed, for upon my arrival at my lodgings I found
there a cable message from New York, calling me back to my labors.
Three days later I sailed for home, and five years elapsed before I
was so fortunate as to renew my acquaintance with foreign climes.
Occasionally through these years Parton and I discussed Barker, and
at no time did my companion show anything but an increased animosity
towards our strange Keswick acquaintance. The mention of his name
was sufficient to drive Parton from the height of exuberance to a
state of abject depression.
"I shall not feel easy while that man lives," he said. "I think he
is a minion of Satan. There is nothing earthly about him."
"Nonsense," said I. "Just because a man has a bad face is no reason
for supposing him a villain or a supernatural creature."
"No," Parton answered; "but when a man's veins hold blood that
saturates and leaves no stain, what are we to think?"
I confessed that this was a point beyond me, and, by mutual consent,
we dropped the subject.
One night Parton came to my rooms white as a sheet, and so agitated
that for a few minutes he could not speak. He dropped, shaking like
a leaf, into my reading-chair and buried his face in his hands. His
attitude was that of one frightened to the very core of his being.
When I questioned him first he did not respond. He simply groaned. I
resumed my reading for a few moments, and then looking up observed
that Parton had recovered somewhat and was now gazing abstractedly
into the fire.
"Well," I said, "feeling better?"
"Yes," he answered, slowly. "But it was a shock."
"What was?" I asked. "You've told me nothing as yet."
"I've seen Barker."
"No!" I cried. "Where?"
"In a back alley down-town, where I had to go on a hospital call.
There was a row in a gambling-hell in Hester Street. Two men were
cut and I had to go with the ambulance. Both men will probably die,
and no one can find any trace of the murderer; but I know who he is.
He was Carleton Barker and no one else. I passed him in the alley on
the way in, and I saw him in the crowd when I came out."
"Was he alone in the alley?" I asked. Parton groaned again.
"That's the worst of it," said he. "He was not alone. He was with
"You speak in riddles," said I.
"I saw in riddles," said Parton; "for as truly as I sit here there
were two of them, and they stood side by side as I passed through,
alike as two peas, and crime written on the pallid face of each."
"Did Barker recognize you?"
"I think so, for as I passed he gasped?both of them gasped, and as
I stopped to speak to the one I had first recognized he had vanished
as completely as though he had never been, and as I turned to
address the other he was shambling off into the darkness as fast as
his legs could carry him."
I was stunned. Barker had been mysterious enough in London. In New
York with his double, and again connected with an atrocity, he
became even more so, and I began to feel somewhat towards him as had
Parton from the first. The papers next morning were not very
explicit on the subject of the Hester Street trouble, but they
confirmed Parton's suspicions in his and my own mind as to whom the
assassins were. The accounts published simply stated that the
wounded men, one of whom had died in the night and the other of whom
would doubtless not live through the day, had been set upon and
stabbed by two unknown Englishmen who had charged them with cheating
at cards; that the assailants had disappeared, and that the police
had no clew as to their whereabouts.
Time passed and nothing further came to light concerning the
Barkers, and gradually Parton and I came to forget them. The
following summer I went abroad again, and then came the climax to
the Barker episode, as we called it. I can best tell the story of
that climax by printing here a letter written by myself to Parton.
It was penned within an hour of the supreme moment, and while it
evidences my own mental perturbation in its lack of coherence, it is
none the less an absolutely truthful account of what happened. The
letter is as follows:
"LONDON, July 18, 18?.
"My Dear Parton,?You once said to me that you could not breathe
easily while this world held Carleton Barker living. You may now
draw an easy breath, and many of them, for the Barker episode is
over. Barker is dead, and I flatter myself that I am doing very well
myself to live sanely after the experiences of this morning.
"About a week after my arrival in England a horrible tragedy was
enacted in the Seven Dials district. A woman was the victim, and a
devil in human form the perpetrator of the crime. The poor creature
was literally hacked to pieces in a manner suggesting the hand of
Jack the Ripper, but in this instance the murderer, unlike Jack, was
caught red-handed, and turned out to be no less a person than
Carleton Barker. He was tried and convicted, and sentenced to be
hanged at twelve o'clock to-day.
"When I heard of Barker's trouble I went, as a matter of curiosity
solely, to the trial, and discovered in the dock the man you and I
had encountered at Keswick. That is to say, he resembled our friend
in every possible respect. If he were not Barker he was the most
perfect imitation of Barker conceivable. Not a feature of our Barker
but was reproduced in this one, even to the name. But he failed to
recognize me. He saw me, I know, because I felt his eyes upon me,
but in trying to return his gaze I quailed utterly before him. I
could not look him in the eye without a feeling of the most deadly
horror, but I did see enough of him to note that he regarded me only
as one of a thousand spectators who had flocked into the court-room
during the progress of the trial. If it were our Barker who sat
there his dissemblance was remarkable. So coldly did he look at me
that I began to doubt if he really were the man we had met; but the
events of this morning have changed my mind utterly on that point.
He was the one we had met, and I am now convinced that his story to
me of his double was purely fictitious, and that from beginning to
end there has been but one Barker.
"The trial was a speedy one. There was nothing to be said in behalf
of the prisoner, and within five days of his arraignment he was
convicted and sentenced to the extreme penalty?that of hanging?and
noon to-day was the hour appointed for the execution. I was to have
gone to Richmond to-day by coach, but since Barker's trial I have
been in a measure depressed. I have grown to dislike the man as
thoroughly as did you, and yet I was very much affected by the
thought that he was finally to meet death upon the scaffold. I could
not bring myself to participate in any pleasures on the day of his
execution, and in consequence I gave up my Richmond journey and
remained all morning in my lodgings trying to read. It was a
miserable effort. I could not concentrate my mind upon my book?no
book could have held the slightest part of my attention at that
time. My thoughts were all for Carleton Barker, and I doubt if, when
the clock hands pointed to half after eleven, Barker himself was
more apprehensive over what was to come than I. I found myself
holding my watch in my hand, gazing at the dial and counting the
seconds which must intervene before the last dreadful scene of a
life of crime. I would rise from my chair and pace my room nervously
for a few minutes; then I would throw myself into my chair again and
stare at my watch. This went on nearly all the morning?in fact,
until ten minutes before twelve, when there came a slight knock at
my door. I put aside my nervousness as well as I could, and, walking
to the door, opened it.
"I wonder that I have nerve to write of it, Parton, but there upon
the threshold, clad in the deepest black, his face pallid as the
head of death itself and his hands shaking like those of a palsied
man, stood no less a person than Carleton Barker!
"I staggered back in amazement and he followed me, closing the door
and locking it behind him.
"'What would you do?' I cried, regarding his act with alarm, for,
candidly, I was almost abject with fear.
"'Nothing?to you!' he said. 'You have been as far as you could be
my friend. The other, your companion of Keswick'?meaning you, of
course?'was my enemy.'
"I was glad you were not with us, my dear Parton. I should have
trembled for your safety.
"'How have you managed to escape?' I asked.
"'I have not escaped,' returned Barker. 'But I soon shall be free
from my accursed double.'
"Here he gave an unearthly laugh and pointed to the clock.
"'Ha, ha!' he cried. 'Five minutes more?five minutes more and I
shall be free.'
"'Then the man in the dock was not you?' I asked.
"'The man in the dock,' he answered, slowly, 'is even now mounting
the gallows, whilst I stand here.'
"He trembled a little as he spoke, and lurched forward like a
drunken man; but he soon recovered himself, grasping the back of my
chair convulsively with his long white fingers.
"'In two minutes more,' he whispered, 'the rope will be adjusted
about his neck; the black cap is even now being drawn over his
cursed features, and?'
"Here he shrieked with laughter, and, rushing to the window, thrust
his head out and literally sucked the air into his lungs, as a man
with a parched throat would have drank water. Then he turned and,
tottering back to my side, hoarsely demanded some brandy.
"It was fortunately at hand, and precisely as the big bells in
Westminster began to sound the hour of noon, he caught up the goblet
and held it aloft.
"'To him!' he cried.
"And then, Parton, standing before me in my lodgings, as truly as I
write, he remained fixed and rigid until the twelfth stroke of the
bells sounded, when he literally faded from my sight, and the
goblet, falling to the floor, was shattered into countless atoms!"