Clothes Make the Man
“I don’t like it,” Tango complained again, “I won’t feel right, walking up and down in that.”
“Shut up and put it on,” Mireault told him, and so, of course, Tango obeyed. Mireault was half his size but he was clever. If Tango had had a tail, he would have put it between his legs when Mireault spoke.
“Now, see?” Mireault said. “What did I tell you? It looks good, doesn’t it? See, you’ve even got
“Not bad,” Tango had to admit , looking at himself in the mirror. He pushed out his mighty chest and threw back his broad shoulders. Even the Eel ,the quick silent one who was Mireault’s
working partner and who rarely opened his mouth, was stirred to speech. “Boy, ain’t he
handsome!” he said.
There was no doubt about it, Tango was an impressive sight. The policeman’s uniform might
have been cut to his measure by the best tailor in Paris. His little eyes looked brighter beneath the visor of the cap; they almost looked intelligent.
“Stop starting at yourself and wipe that stupid grin off your face.” Mireault said impatiently,
“and listen. This is so simple a half-wit could do it , so maybe if you try hard you can too.”
With regret Tango turned away from the mirror. His broad forehead wrinkled in the painful expression that meant he was concentrating.
“All you do is walk up and down the street,” Mireault said. “Easy and slow, like a real cop on
his beat. Then if anyone hears us working in the house they won’t get suspicious seeing you. Keep
walking until we come out, then hang around a few minutes until we’re out of sight. That’s all
there is to it. We’ll meet back there here. Now do you understand?”
“Sure,” Tango said, his eyes wandering to the mirror.
“Then get going!” Mireault said sharply.
Tango was a little nervous waling to the street that Mireault and the Eel had picked out, but nothing happened. It was a prosperous section and in the dim glow of the street lights Tango could see what handsome houses they were, solemn, solid, well cared for. The house where the job was to be pulled was in the middle of the block, behind a garden wall. Mireault and the Eel had cased it thoroughly; there was an old-fashioned wall safe upstairs with a very comfortable load inside. Apparently the family didn’t believe in banks. Maybe they would, Mireault had said, after tonight.
Tango wondered what it would be like to live in so fine a house, but the efforts of imagination was beyond him. He had seldom seen a street such as this one. He worked in the poor quarters of Paris—a little purse-snatching, a little shoplifting; he even panhandled. Yes, he was good at panhandling. Timid businessmen usually came right across when Tango’s huge shoulders towered
over them; they looked fearfully at the massive hands and reached into their pockets for whatever change they had.
He walked unhurriedly down the sidewalk, turned at the corner and came back. Halfway, he saw the two shadowy figures slip over the garden wall and disappear. Mireault and the Eel were at work.
Tango fell to thinking of how he had looked in the mirror. With the impressive image vivid in his mind he straightened his shoulders and threw out his chest again. Standing erect, he tried a salute. It felt good. He grinned, strangely pleased, and walked on.
It was while he was turning at the other corner that he saw the police lieutenant.
Such a sight was usually enough to send him travelling as rapidly as his feet would move. He stared in horror. He imagined that the lieutenant , approaching, was gazing at him curiously. Tango’s body was rigid; his palms were sweating. With a tremendous effort he restrained the wild impulse to rush away. He trembled. Then, stiffly, with the lieutenant no more than a few feet from him, he raised his arm and saluted.
The lieutenant casually returned the salute and passed by.
Tango stood looking after him. After a moment he felt a strange satisfaction. “Say!” he said to
himself. “Say, did you see that? I salute , and he salutes right back. Say, that—that’s pretty fine!”
It was extraordinary, the pleasure it gave him. He threw back his shoulders straighter than ever and, erect and proud, walked down the sidewalk. At the corner he paused and rocked on his heels a moment as all policemen do.
“I guess I looked good to him,” he told himself. “ I guess he doesn’t see many cops who look so
After a few more trips, he found an old lady hesitating on the corner. He saw her make two or three false starts to get across and each time nervously come back.
Tango did not even notice the fat-looking purse in her hand! He stopped in front of her, saluted, and offered his arm. She looked at him with a sweet smile. “Oh, thank you, officer!” she said.
There was no traffic visible, but Tango held up his other arm majestically, as if he were halting a crowd of roaring trucks. With infinite dignity they crossed to the other side. It was a pretty picture indeed.
“Thank you so much, officer!’ she said.
“Please, madam,” Tango said, “ don’t mention it.” He paused. “That’s what we’re here for, you
know.” He added. And he saluted again.
He stood proudly watching her retreating figure. Before she had quite disappeared, she glanced back to regard him with another smile. Tango stood so straight the cloth strained across his chest. With a flourish, he saluted once more.
He went down the block saluting at intervals. An indefinable emotion was stirring in him. In all Paris there could have been no more perfect example of the calm, strong, resourceful guardian of law and order.
An untidy figure came weaving toward him out of the shadows. It was a man, waving his arms aggressively. His glassy eyes fell upon Tango and he frowned. “Yah!” he cried “ Lousy cop!”
A deep sense of shock ran through Tango. “Here! Here!” he said. “Get along, get along.”
“ Lousy cop!” the drunk shouted. “ Big bag of wind in a uniform! Beat up the little fellow and
let the big crooks go! Thass all y’good for— beat up yhe little fellows and—”
A mixed emotion of indignation and anger grew in Tango. A flush rose to his face.
“I spit on you!” the drunk declared scornfully. “Bah! There!” And he suited the action to the
Something burst in Tango’s head. His face was purple. He seized the other with one mighty
hand, shook him savagely, and, without any clear idea of what he was going to do with him, dragging him off down the street.
Frightened and shaken out of his wits, the drunk was now passive and silent. But Tango was beside himself, and when, halfway down the block, two figures came skimming over the garden wall and landed on the sidewalk near him, he was in no mood to stop.
“You fool, what are you doing!” Mireault said in a furious whisper. “Do you want to ruin the
whole the job? Let go of him, blockhead!” And he struck Tango across the cheek.
Indescribable emotions whirled in Tango’s head. He remembered the lieutenant answering his
salute; he remembered the old lady’s look of gratitude and admiration; he remembered the
splendid figure in the mirror. And he remembered what the drunk had said.
He rose to the full pitch of a mighty fury. While Mireault and the Eel stared at him in paralyzed horror, he stuck the shiny whistle in his mouth and blew a blast loud and long enough to bring all the police in Paris.
“Crooks, robbers!” he shouted. “ I arrest you! I arrest you in the name of the law!”