Sunday, March 25, 2012

Out Of The Smash-Up, Top Notch Magazine, Feb 1, 1912

Top-Notch Magazine had a fun illustration style -- which combined the illustration with the title typography. Most of the time, the two elements are not so tightly intertwined, and I simply leave out the title so I can make the illustration bigger. But this week's story had them completely intertwined, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for you to see the whole thing.

Also note that the story says "Complete in this issue" at the beginning, even though the story is only a little over 4000 words. (15 pages or so). They often said such things, perhaps partly to aggrandize a story, but mainly because most magazines had a serial in each issue, and the customers wanted to know what they were getting before they started reading. As for the story:

A chance meeting on a train going west is maybe not quite as coincidental as it seems, as a trainwreck messes up the plans of a thief, two young lovers and a detective....

Out Of the Smash-Up
by Phil. Ashford

A girl, two men, a detective and a railroad disaster.
(Complete in this Issue)

Chapter 1
The Hunter and the Game

The calm white desert was slipping away under the stars. Mr. Cole, detective, smiled, and touched the water in a finger bowl which the waiter had just set before him.

"So you'd like to know," he said to the young man opposite, "how it happens that I've been on this train since we left Denver -- a day and a half ago -- and you haven't seen me until now. Well, I think I'll put the answer up to you," he went on, a bantering light in his eye. "Does it occur to you that you've been owning that observation platform ever since we hit the Royal Gorge? Who is she, Maddern?"

Justin Maddern leaned across the little table, and spoke in a low tone: "I was fortunate enough to do her a favor at the station in Denver, and before we'd been three hours out--well, we have been hogging that observation end, I admit. You'll laugh, Cole, but honestly I never had a girl affect me so seriously before."

The detective's glance was of mingled pity and contempt. The words from a man like Maddern did not ring true.

"She is an attractive girl," Cole admitted, "and I was fortunate enough to see your gallant act at the station. It really astonished me. So I watched you two. I'm interested in developments. That's one of my hobbies."

"We sat out on the platform until two this morning," Maddern went on. "I think the mountains and the moonlight had a lot to do with the affair. Anyway, we arrived at the point of exchanging personal history. She's bound for some place in Arizona."

Cole put a bill on the waiter's tray. "This is on me, Maddern. Now, please don't argue. You were saying---"

"Her name's Neva, and she's bound for Arizona."

"What else?"

"That's all. I mean that's all that could possibly interest you!" Maddern suddenly frowned. "I say, Cole, you didn't by any chance get commissioned by my father to shadow me, did you?"

"You admit you need it?" Cole asked, amused.

"I admit I have needed it," Maddern returned, grinning. "And I guess the governor thinks I need a guardian now, too. It's a wonder he'd trust me so far from home alone, isn't it? Gave me a thousand dollars, and said it had to last three months. Said that was every cent he'd allow me. If I spent it in one month, I'd starve for the next two."

"Maybe you'd work," Cole suggested.

Maddern lifted his eyes. "That's his game. Do you know he even gave me the address of a friend of his out in San Pedro. Said the chap would give me a position on the new breakwater. Think of me holding down a real job."

"I'd advise you to keep the address," the detective said. "You'll have to eat in California, and luck plays us some odd pranks."

"Thanks," returned Maddern dryly. "Let's talk of something pleasant. Where are you bound?"

"I don't know." Cole gazed reflectively from the window.

"You mean you won't tell?"

"I mean I don't know. It all depends."

Maddern fixed his eyes on the tablecloth a moment, then said: "I get you, Cole! You're dogging some one on this train."

"I won't deny it."

"Then it's not me."

The detective shook his head.

"But the governor sent you, didn't he?"

"Yes. The firm of Maddern & Miles is rather interestd in a certain bill clerk of theirs who dropped out of sight six months ago, with some money belonging to them."

"Oh, I understand!"

Glad you do."

"He's on the train, and you'll nab him when he leaves. Is that the program?"

"Patience," was all that Cole Replied.

Chapter II
Difference of Opinion

JUSTIN MADDERN, son of John Maddern, head of the banking firm of Maddern & Miles, of Denver, had been shipped to California by his father. Three eyars at an Eastern college had drained the senior's patience and worried his pocketbook.

"Get out!" the elder Maddern had exploded, when Justin blungly admitted being in several scrapes, and also in debt. "Get out to California. I'm disgusted! Get out there among strangers, and maybe you'll get a little sense knocked into your head. I'll start you with a thousand dollars, and it'll have to last you for three months." He said some other things, which you heard Justin tell the detective.

So the young man departed, bag and baggage. At the station he met the girl, and he played an important role in the little scene enacted there--a case of mis-checked baggage. After that they were friends. Many continuous hours alone, on the observation platform, are conducive to "development," as Cole had expressed it.

After the chat at the table the two left the ar, and walked back to the rear buffet and parlor coach. Here Cole excused himself, and stepped into the buffet for a cigar. Justin continued on to find Neva curled up in a big chair, engrossed in a magazine.

"Can't I bring you something to eat?" he asked, sitting beside her.

"Thank you, but I had the porter get me some tea and toast. It was plenty. I'm not the least hungry. I'm--nerous! I'm not used to traveling, and the thought of seeing my brother in a few hours takes away my appetite!"

"Going to live in Arizona?" Justin asked.

"I--I guess so. You see, there's only my brother and myself, and we're more like pals than anything else. We've been that way ever since we were left orphans." He eyes lighted up at the mention of her brother. "Oh, Dick is a wonderful chap. I'm wild with fear that some girl will come along and marry him!"

Justin laughed with her. "Jove, but a man's lucky to have a sister like you," he observed, in a low voice.

"Dick's working on a ranch. Likes it, too. He was always fond of the outdoors and horses. I'm glad he got out of the city."

They went out on the open platform, sank back in chairs, and for the moment gazed upon the vast expanse of sky and desert.

"To-morrow nignt I'll be traveling alone," he said presently. "I'll mis you a lot."

"You've been considerate to me," she returned. "I appreciate it."

"May I write you?" he asked; "or would your brother object?"

"He wouldn't object--if he knew you."

Justin fumbled for a card and pencil. He wrote her name--Miss Neva Douglass. "And the address?"

"Circle City, Arizona," she told him. "In care of Richard Douglass."

He dropped the card into his coat pocket. "When do we arrive there?"

"In about three hours, I think."

"Your brother will be at the station to meet you, I suppose?"

"Of course. Or he might show up at some town before that. I wired him this morning."

At eleven o'clock, when most of the passengers had left the parlor end of the car for their berths, Justin suggested lemonade, and went to the buffet to get it. While the porter was mixing it, Cole sidled in, and touched Justin's shoulder.

"When does your friend leave us?" he asked.

"You mean Miss Douglass? Oh, it depends upon the time the train gets into---"

Justin cut the remark short. A sudden, gripping suspicion entered his mind.

"Depends upon the time the train gets where?" Cole asked again.

Justin closed his fingers. "Great Scott!" he muttered.

"No such town as that," came from the detective.

"Cole!" Justin began. "The man you are after is named Douglass!"

"Yes, Richard Douglass."

"When did he take money from the firm?"

"Last Christmas."

"And the amount?"

"Nine hundred exactly."

"They know he took it?"

"Almost certain!"

Justin set his lips in a straight, hard line. "Pretty mean trick, Cole," he said evenly. "You're following the sister--letting her lead you to the brother."

Cole's shoulders went up. "Since you've guessed it, yes. My profession has its unpleasant duties; but a thief's a thief, and the law must---"

"Hang the law!" Justin burst out. "What's the use of digging into the past? You merely think that man took the money, and you are going to ruin his whole life becasue of that belief. What's nine hundred dollars to my father? Nine hundred dollars against a man's name and a sister's heart! This Douglass has been living a clean life--why don't you let him continue?"

"Sorry I can't accommodate you, Maddern," Cole observed quietly. "But your father's orders were---"

"Yes, I suppose dad is worried about the money. He always did do that. He'd spend a hundred to get fifty back! But just forget what he said, and listen to reason. This girl's a brick, and she's wrapped up in her brother. I'm sure she doesn't know about this affair he's charged with. If she did, it would kill her, that's all. Hang it all, man, haven't you any heart?"

"Hearts are not trumps in my business," the detective responded. "Now, look here," he said seriously. "When that money was missed from Douglass' department, he quietly dropped from view. We couldn't get the least trace of him. Isn't that pretty strone evidence? Finally I got wind of a sister--that girl you've been sitting out on the platform with--so I kept a watch on her. I knew she was in touch with him. When she left town the other day I was positive she would meet him. So I tagged along. Possibly she doesn't know the truth--and I do feel sorry for her; but you can't mix sentiment with law. When she greets her brother, I'll be right on the job with a warrant."

"Well, at least you don't know where she's to get off this train," snapped Justin, "and I'll take pains to see that you don't learn."

"Really?" The detective shook his head in a pitying manner. "I'm afraid you're about five minutes too late. I lifted a card from your pocket--you had her name and address on it. Oh, I wouldn't flare up. Your lemonade is waiting."

Chapter III.
Not Scheduled

WITH a pounding heart, Justin took the two glasses the porter held out, and made his way very carefully back to the rear platform; still, he spilled some of the lemonade. His mind was working in a strange manner. The last five minutes' conversation with Cole had brought a sudden realization hom to him. How peculiarly the once-forgotten affair had returned! How was it to work out? For the first and only time in his life Justin felt burdened with a vital responsibility.

As he stepped out of the rear door and called to the girl, the lights went out like a snuffed candle. A sickening rush of air tore at his lungs. In the inky darkness the hooded roof sank down; he pitched forward, blindly holding to the two glasses, and realizing, foolishly, that he was spilling the contents.

Steel shrieked on steel; the splintering of wood crashed to his ears; he shouted, but was unable to hear his own voice. He felt, in that flash of time, without in the least losing consciousness, as it a might whirlwind had picked him up, twisted him about, top-fashion, and finally hurled him brutally to the ground.

A vague, measureless interval followed. He found himself doubled up, not uncomfortably, under the hood of the observation car. Cautiously he tested each muscle, prodded himself expectantly. Nothing appeared to be wrong.

"Great guns!" he murmured reverently. "A smash-up, and I'm fit as a fiddle! What do you know about that for luck?"

Then he remembered, and his heart skipped a beat or two. Where was Neva? She had been at least within five feet of him the moment the lights went out. With a groan, he groped about in the limited space. Twisted steel, bits of jagged wood, rods, glass, and parts of chairs--everything, it seemed, sprang up under his touch except what he dreaded to feel. The girl was not there. Either she had been thrown away from the wreck, or---

He shuddered, wiped at his moist forehead, and found a match. This he struck, shielding it with a palm. Then he peered fearfully about. Nothing other htan what his fingers had disclosed met his gaze.

The match went out, burning down to his fingers. He lay for a long time, gazing straight into the gloom that enveloped him. At times he heard the distant murmur of voices, the chopping of what might have been axes; once he heard an explosion that jarred the ground. The timbers creaked and settled about him. In the silence that followed he lifted his voice and called. He received no answer.

A tiny point of light first aroused his curiosity. As it grew larger he sat erect, rubbing at his eyes. When understanding finally regained its sway, he was conscious of a peculiar tremor passing up and down his spine; his body suddenly became moist, his pulses fairly jumped into a race.

With a quick intake of breath, he gripped at the nearest steel rod, and pulled at it. It yielded not the slightest part of an inch. Then he gained his knees, and with both hands worked at the tangled wreckage that held him trapped.

He cried aloud, desperately, as the light became brighter. It flared so high now that his surroundings were bathed in a dull, reddish, pulsating glow. Occasionally a heated wave fanned his wet face like the breath from some infuriated animal.

The wreckage was burning!

A puff of smoke, biting like acid to his eyes and lungs alike, serve as a spur. He attacked the immovable timbers with a fury little short of madness. His fingers became bleeding stumps--yet somehow, such was his fear, he felt no pain from them. The sweat poured into his eyes. The smoke increased. His trap was becoming unbearable.

He sank wearily exhausted against the side. This, then, was the end. The fire was gaining, inch by inch. Soon, very soon, it would reach his body.

Staring death in the face, Justin's mind went back to what has passed only a short time ago. The situation gripped his brain, sweeping, for the moment, al before it.

Subconsciously he fumbled, and found his card case. With a stub of a pencil, and by the aid of the glowing flames, he hurriedly wrote across the back, signing his own name. After a second's indecision he took out his cigar case, slipped the card into it, and then, with all his remaining strength, he hurled it through a small opening in the roof above his head. He saw it disappear.

The smoke thickened like a pall. He coughed. Then he lifted his voice for the last time. His reason left him like the breaking of a string.

Chapter IV
Professional Honor

HE drifted back to the world again with the cold night air on his face, and the white stars twinkling high above him. For the moment he oculd not recollect what had happened; then, with half a frown and an impatient move of his arms, he remembered.

As Justin sat erect, feeling stiff, but otherwise unhurt, he saw the line of wreckage below him, some of it still smoldering. Toward the east the sky was reddening. Dim forms moved back and forth. To the left he saw the glimmer of sickly yellow lights and the outlines of buildings--a station building, a water tank, and the tall, lifted arem of a semaphore. It pounded to his wandering brain that this was a tiny station in the heart of the desert, and that the wreck had taken place just outside the yard limits.

Justin got up and lurched along the embankment. The yellow light beckoned. At the door of the low shed he paused and looked in. It had been hurriedly fitted up as a hospital. Several women, passenters, evidently, flitted back and forth among the makeshifts of beds. A few lanterns offered the only light. As he swayed there, almost drunkenly--for his brain was still dazed, and his limbs weak--some one called his name, and he turned to look into the eager face of Neva Douglass.

"Oh, Mr. Maddern," she cried. "You--and unhurt?"

He wagged his head slowly. "Not the least hurt! Just a trifle dizzy, that's all."

He clung to her arm, conscious and happy for the slender support she made. "I never expected to see you--here," he said again.

"I was flunk clear of the car, and landed in the soft sand. I dind't even lose my senses. I've been helping the others who were not so fortunate."

"Brave girl," Justin said, and pressed her arm.

"There's a friend of yours--on the end cot," she went on. "He's been asking about you--over and over."

The detective, Cole! Justin had forgotten him until this moment.

"Badly hurt?" he asked thickly.

"Not seriously--but his legs are bruised. The doctor has just left him."

Justin swallowed hard. Cole injured. Could it possibly mean that the detective was unable to follow---"

"I'll go to him," he said.

In the faint light of the lantern, he sank down beside the last cot. The girl toptoed away in answer to a cry. Cole, opening his eyes, uttered a sharp exclamation:

"Hello, Maddern! Get out of that hell, did you? Hurt?"

"Not at all."

"Good! I wasn't so lucky. Got my legs bunged up some. Doctor said I'd have to stay in bed for a month. Can you beat that?"

"I'm sorry," Justin replied. But his heard beat just a trifle faster.

"Well, it can't be helped," Cole went on, as if resigned. "Might have been worse. I got bunged up--but I got Douglass!"

Justin jerked himself erect so violently as to jar the cot. He stared dully upon the sufferer for a moment before his lips could frame the two words:

"Got him?"

"Yes; and in a funny way. Part of that buffet car fell across my legs. There I lay like a trussed chicken, watching the fire creep toward me. I was about to give up when a big chap came along, sang out cheerfully, and chopped me free with an ax. When he was lifting me out I happened to get a good look at his face, and under the smut and grease and dirt I saw--Richard Douglass! Guess we both got wise to each other at the same time. He sort of trembled. I said: 'Hello, Douglass! Just been looking for you. Coming back without any fuss?' And he answered: 'Yes, I'll come with you; only let me work here until daylight; there's so much to do. There are dozens under these cars yet. Just let me work until daylight, won't you?'

"So I let him work!" Cole resumed, after a pause. "What else could I do--after the chap begging me with tears in his eyes? He's to come here at dawn and surrender."

"And his sister?" Justin asked. "Does she know?"

"Hardly think so. Thye've been working side by side for hours, I guess. Douglass has brought in a least a dozen men since I've been here. He's been a fiend for work! And the girl--well, I'm not much on sentiment, and I'll always scoff at it, but jingo! she's got the softest hands and the most healing touch Heaven ever gave to a woman!"

"And--and you're going to arrest Douglass--when he comes here?" Maddern exclaimed hoarsely.

Cole nodded. "At dawn!"

"He'll never come," Justin asserted.

"He gave me his word--and I took it," the detective said quietly.

Justin sank back against the wall, but continued to stare straight into the detective's white face. "A man pulls you from certain death--and instead of thinking him you arrest him! I've bene rotten in my time--but---"

"It's the profession, Maddern," Cole interrupted. "Don't forget that!"

Chapter V
A Prisoner Taken

THE dawn broke as swiftly as a stage sunrise. The flat, arid floor of the desert melted into pink and gold, and the skies trembled with their multifarious colors.

"I told you he wouldn't come," Justin said, after the long interval of silence. "Any man would be a fool deliberately to surrender--give up his liberty--especially when he kows you can't get him again."

Cole only looked out of the low door and said: "He's coming now."

The man came in; he seemed fairly to fill the doorway and the very room. He was wide-shouldered, bronzed by the desert su, coatless and hatless. He stood for the moment gazing back toward the wreck, now plainly visible in the dawn; his big hands clenched themselves. He turned and saw the detective.

"I'm here, Cole!" His voice was calm and even. "I said sunrise, didn't I? I'm a minute or two late. There was so much to do--out there."

The detective struggled erect in his cot, and Justin slipped a pillow behind him. "Douglass, shake hands with Mr. Maddern."

Justin gripped the man's hand. "I'm happy to meet you, Mr. Douglass!"

Douglass allowed his eyes to rest upon the other's face for a moment. "I recollect chopping you out of that observation end," he said. "Pretty narrow for you it was, too."

Something choked in Justin's throat. He tried to speak, but before his lips could form the right words, Cole interrupted:

"I guess there are plenty of us who owe our lives to you, Douglass!" The detective bit his lp, then resumed, his voice once more under control: "I guess there's no use in discussing a painful subject any longer. We three at least know the exact situation. Last Christmas a package of currency amounting to nine hundred dollars was missed from your department, Douglass. Evidently you were aware of it before the others, because you suddenly dropped from sight."

Douglass bowed his head. "I've been cowardly. I couldn't help myself. I didn't steal the money, but I knew all the evidence would be against me, and--and I did so want my freedom. So I came here."

"John Maddern put the case into my hands. We located your sister. When she left Denver I followed, confident she was to meet you."

Justin broke into a cry. "Wait--Cole," he stammered. "I want--to say--that---"

"When I've finished you can talk," Cole interrupted. "Meanwhile, it becomes my painful duty to get these bracelets on the guilty man!"

Cole reached for his coat at the head of the cot, and brought out a pair of handcuffs. Douglass paled, but he extended his hands, that the detective might easily adjust the steel loops. Justin in turn started forward. His hands, too, were outstretched, as if to plead for the other.

Cole, with a deft move, reached out and snapped the handcuffs about the nearest wrists--those of Justin Maddern!

Chapter VI
In The Cigar Case

HALF an hour later, when Cole and Justin were alone together, Douglass having left for the ranch with his sister, Maddern turned to the detective.

"When did you first suspect me?" he asked.

"I had my suspicions all along. But I wasn't positive until I found that confession of yours in the cigar case. Douglass picked it up and handed it to me, thinking I had dropped it."

Justin stared across the hot desert. The emergency train had arrived an hour ago, and they were carrying the injured into the special cars. His handcuffs had been removed.

"I've learned a wonderful lesson tonight," he said, after a while. "I think I've been tried by fire--and come out a man. That day I took the package of notes I was desperate--needed the cash to square some pressing debts. I knew my father wouldn't give it to me. I had no idea of any one being accused of the theft--although I might have known had I not been such a fool! And then to-night, when I saw those flames eating toward me, I realized that if I were to die and Douglass still be accused---" He broke off, with a sob.

"I think it best that your father learn nothing of this--he might not understand--the way I do," Cole said quietly. "I shall merely say that Douglass returned the money, and---"

Justin looked into the detective's face. The understanding dawned clear, and he smiled.

"I think it would be the bast way," he answered. He slipped a hand to his inner pocket and drew out an envelope. From it he passed over to Cole nine one-hundred-dollar bills. But on bill remained of the sum his father had given him.

"Sometimes," Cold said, smiling, "sometimes my profession isn't so bad; still, it isn't a game of hearts." He hesitated a moment before resuming. "I--I suppose you'll be returning with me--back to Denver?"

Maddern shook his head. "My ticket is still good--and it reads through to San Pedro. And I still have that card the governor gave me. I think I'm going to have a jolly time working on that new breakwater."


This story is from the February 1, 1912 issue of Top-Notch Magazine. The entire issue is available at the Internet Archive, but only as image files -- that is, a png image of each page. You can find the info page here, and the actual collection of page links here.

* * * * * This story brought to you by * * * * *

Find Have Gun, Will Play at these online ebook stores: (Amazon International Stores: United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), Barnes & Nobel Nook Store, Sony eReader, Apple iBookstore, or get it in all formats at Smashwords.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Girl From Nowhere - Popular Magazine July 1915

Here is a little mystery story from The Popular Magazine, July, 1915. The Popular Magazine did not have illustrations in the stories (at least not at that time), and I feel that a decent pulp story has to have something by way of a dramatic teaser, so the illustration is mine.

The Girl From Nowhere
by George Woodruff Johnston
Author of "the Hidden Clew," Etc.

The clew to the mystery of the missing ruby lay in the answer to the question: Where was the Girl from Nowhere when the lights went out?


A HARD day at the hospital, followed by four acts of a tedious problem play, had made me very drowsy, and under the impression that the meek, white-faced man leaning over me was a patient who had entered my office unannounced, I came within an ace of shaking hands with him and offering him a chair. But luckily at this juncture my wife tapped my foot under the table, and, with a start, I reawoke to the fact that I was one of a large after-theater supper party as Mrs. Cartright's house in Washington Place, and discovered that the man I was preparing to greet so cordially was the butler, about to fill my glass with some of her famous Chambertin. I also became conscious that a woman was talking. It was Mrs. Letterby. I should have recognized that thin, high-pitched voice of hers anywhere--the voice of one who takes life hard and finds no humor in it.

"Yes, that's my daughter; that's Ethel, in blue, at the far end of the table, next to young Hapwood," she was saying proudly to all whom it might concern. "She came home last week--finished school, you know."

"Really! God bless my soul, how the kiddies do grow up!" This in a rumbling bass from John Limpet, a big man with a fat, impressive face, who was Mrs. Cartright's attorney, and, though a lion in the courtroom, was the most amiable of lambs in social life.

"Don't they!" sighed Mrs. Letterby. "I'm glad to have Ethel at home, of course; but"--lowering her tone a trifle--"she's brought a schoolmate with her who, I fear, is going to prove a great responsibility." At this she sighed again and glanced around in search of sympathy.

"Responsibility? Too bad! But none of us can shirk it, can we?" murmured Limpet consolingly, holding his glass of rich, red wine up to the light. "By the way," he added, "is the girl here--the one you speak of? I don't remember meeting her at the theater?"

"Yes," Mrs. Letterby replied: "she's sitting on the other side of young Hapwood--the frail, dreamy-looking girl, with brown hair and eyes, dressed in white. Don't you think her rather pretty, Doctor Dannart?" she asked, turning to me.

"Very!" I was able to answer truthfully.

"Now, the curious thing about the girl is this," continued Mrs. Letterby, in a voice which traveled much farther than she thought it did: "When she was quite a child, a man, supposedly her father, brought her to Miss Ribbon's boarding school and left her there. That was in old Miss Lavinia Ribbon's day; her nieces have the school now. And the girl has been there ever since! She's never had any other home! She doesn't even know who she is or where she comes from!"

"You might call her The Girl from Nowhere, then," said Limpet good-humoredly.

"You might certainly," agreed Mrs. Letterby. "She calls herself Madge Carrick, however."

"What became of the man?" asked Bessington, who had become a father for the first time a month or two before, and was conscious of a rapidly awakening paternal instinct.

"Vanished!" exclaimed Mrs. Letterby melodramatically. "He kissed the child good-by, put on his hat, and walked out of the door into--oblivion!"

A subdued murmur of horror at the thought of such unnatural conduct on the part of a male parent arose from among the mothers at our end of the table, which murmur gave way to lazy laughter when Tony Habersham said a bit too loudly to a neighbor: "What the deuce does a fellow want in oblivion with a hat, I should like to know?"

But Mrs. Letterby had her revenge. She immediately fixed Tony with her compelling eye, and incidentally our hostess, Mrs. Cartright, next to whom he sat.

"It's all Ethel's fault," she told them querulously; "I mean about asking the girl to stay with us and loading me with the responsibility of looking after her. That's the trouble with Ethel-- she's so soft-hearted! It began with stray kittens and things she'd bring home, and now it's this stray girl. Why, I remember a blind beggar--"

But I had heard all this a hundred times before--the history of the plain and futile Ethel as recounted by her loving mother-- and my attention wandered to Mrs. Cartright, who had temporarily detached herself from Mrs. Letterby, and, shivering slightly, was speaking over her shoulder to a footman.

Mrs. Cartright was a widow, wonderfully beautiful in an opulent, exotic way. Sleepy-eyed, indolent, and careless, she had a temper, all the same, which would flare up in spite of her at the most inopportune and unexpected moments. But her friends readily pardoned her and forgot; for they knew how kind, how forgiving, how absurdly generous she really was, and how the memory of these tropic outbursts mortified and distressed her.

She had finished with the footman now, and sat there listening indulgently to Mrs. Letterby's rigmarole, a great, pear-shaped ruby--the glorious "Sun of Ceylon"--hanging about her neck by a slender chain and burning on her breast.

"Did you hear, Doctor Dannart?" she asked, catching my eye and smiling slowly. "In a way there is something sad, almost tragic, in Mrs. Letterby's story of this girl."

"I should think so," the latter declared, motioning the butler not to fill her glass again. "The money that's been sent her twice a year from some unknown source answered well enough while she was at boarding school. But here comes the pinch: Madge Carrick has grown up with rich girls; she's learned their ways; but, now that she's done with school, she can't go on with the life they'll lead-- not on the amount she's been getting heretofore. It's impossible!"

"Rather a bad fix Madge is in--not?" exclaimed Tony Habersham ingenuously. "Knew a girl like that once--went to the bowwows."

At this moment, Mrs. Cartright, with a nod, rose from the table. Those who had seen her signal followed her example; others who had not remained seated, and there was a brief period of confusion.

As I pushed back my chair, I observed that a maid had appeared from behind the screen in front of the pantry door, and--probably in response to an order given the footman--was approaching her mistress with the evident intent of laying about her shoulders a silvery wisp of lace she carried in her hand.

And then, without an instant's warning, the lights went out and the room was plunged in total darkness.

"Look out, girls! We are going through a tunnel!" I heard some one say.

At this there was a general laugh, followed immediately by a shrill scream and a heavy fall.


In a twinkling I awoke from the drowsy state in which I had just now found myself, and instinctively leaped to my feet and dragged aside the heavy curtains of the tall French window a few steps back of my place. Thereupon the pallid sheen of the electric lamps in the street flooded the room and dimly illumined it. Turning quickly, I saw a blot of shadow on the floor, my fellow guests--some rising from the table, others clustered about it--and, farther off, a vague figure in rapid motion.

"Stop!" I cried. "Who are you, there? What are you after?"

The form halted, and a voice replied. "I'm the underfootman, sir. I was going to see what ails the lights."

"Stand still! I'll do it," said I. "Where is the switch?"

The lamps in brackets along the walls had not been burning--only the shaded electric candles on the table; but, following the man's directions, I soon found the buttons controlling each, and with two pushes the room was brilliantly illuminated.

"Hello!" ejaculated Bessington, leaning over the back of his chair. "Someone's hurt!"

I glanced down. It was the maid, stretched out flat on the floor and looking rather white. But as I stepped toward her, she sat up, arranged her skirts, and scrambled to her feet. I noticed that she still held the scarf which she had been about to lay on Mrs. Cartright's shoulders when the room went dark.

"Has anything happened, Doctor Dannart?" cried Mrs. Letterby nervously.

For a moment we all gazed searchingly at one another, expecting to find we knew not what. Then some of the women began to chatter.

"Nothing's happened, apparently," I reassured my questioner. "But some one screamed. Who was it?"

There was no reply.

"That's odd! I certainly heard a woman's shriek. Sure it wasn't you?" I asked the maid.

"Yes, sir--no, sir. I mean--I didn't scream," she answered confusedly.

"Not hurt?"

"No, sir."

"Did you trip in the dark? How did you come to be on the floor, anyhow?" I eyed the girl suspiciously.

"I fell, sir. It was like some one threw me down."

"I was probably responsible for that," young Hapwood explained. "When I heard the yell, I jumped up and knocked against somebody."

To me this seemed plausible. Hapwood had been sitting between Ethel Letterby and her friend, Madge Carrick, and when I first saw the maid she was lying directly behind his chair.

"That may be," I conceded. "But how about the lamps? There was nothing wrong with the current. Some one switched them off. Who was it?"

As before, there was no answer to my question.

"Well," said I, annoyed, "it's plain the house is haunted. We hear a scream, but no one gave it; the lights are turned out, but no one did it."

As I finished speaking, I discovered that Mrs. Cartright, unobserved by the others, was beckoning to me. Her sleepy eyes were blazing now, and her indolent body was tense and quivering with excitement as she stood alone by the great mantelpiece at the end of the room, one hand outstretched across her bosom.

"What's wrong?" I asked anxiously.

Without a word, she turned her back on the rest and let fall her hand.

The ruby was gone!

"Not that!" I exclaimed, amazed, horrified.

"Yes--an outrage--in my own house--at my own table!" she stammered, vainly trying to control herself. "None of the servants would have done this--they have been with me too long. And why rob me now by force? I am careless, forgetful; they have had, would have, a thousand better opportunities."

"By force? It was you, then, who screamed?" I queried.

"Yes. See this!"

Thereupon she unclasped her other hand, disclosing the chain by which the gem had hung; and I quickly noted that, fragile as they seemed, the links had held, and that it was the ring to which the ruby had been attached that had parted. Then she pointed to a red line at the back and left side of her neck where the chain, in response to the jerk upon it, had bruised her soft, white skin.

In a flash I turned about.

"Please stay where you are!" I begged. "Everybody, I mean! No one must leave the room! And kindly touch nothing, disturb nothing!" Then I called Limpet, and, while the rest looked on, puzzled, we three hurriedly discussed what was to be done.

At first Mrs. Cartright was wholly unmanageable. Her inflammable temper had got the best of her, and she would hear of nothing but the police. But finally our quieting influence prevailed, and, facing the others, who were still grouped about the table, I said calmly:

"I am sorry to say Mrs. Cartright has lost her ruby--'the Sun of Ceylon.' It disappeared when the lights went out. Now, this sort of thing is horribly awkward. It's embarrassing to her, to all of us. What shall we do about it?"

This statement of mine, as noncommittal as it was, effected an immediate change in the atmosphere of the room, and suspicion, like a blight, fell upon all within it. Mrs. Cartright's guests began to stare blankly about them and to draw ever so little away from one another. Mrs. Letterby sank into her chair, and, calling her daughter to her side, dampened a fine lace handkerchief with a few perfunctory tears. Tony Habersham, who knew--and was aware that everyone else knew--what thin financial ice he was skating on and in what desperate need he stood of money in any form--lost some of his airy manner. Even the servants were influenced by the disclosure that had just been made. The butler, a pallid, middle-aged man, of meek and lowly look, was obviously unstrung, and fussed about, fumbling with wineglasses and rumpled napkins and the other litter of the meal that still remained upon the table. The maid stood folding and unfolding Mrs. Cartright's scarf twenty times a minute as she kept an anxious eye fixed on the younger footman--he who had been so quick about the lights. Only the older of the two footmen retained a measure of his usual stolidity, yet seemed afraid to venture from the safe harbor he had found near the sideboard.

"Well? What's to be done?" I repeated. "It's getting late; or, rather, early, and we've got to clear this thing up somehow. What do you suggest, Bessington?"

"You can search me," replied the latter, with a shrug. "I haven't got the ruby."

"But not me," declared Mrs. Bessington, taking her husband literally. "I'd die before I'd submit to such an indignity!"

Mrs. Cartright frowned angrily and started to speak; but I broke in before she had opportunity to make matters worse.

"Before we talk about searching anybody," I proposed, "let us give the person who took the gem a chance to return it. I'll switch off the lights, and hope, indeed, expect, that when I turn them on again, we'll find the ruby laying on the table. If we don't -- well, it's Mrs. Cartright's property, and this is her house, and each of us, for his own sake and the sake of the rest, will have to do as she wishes -- guests and servants alike."

After a moment's delay, I closed the window curtains, then pressed the two black electric buttons, and again the room was plunged in darkness. I slowly counted ten, and once more switched the current on.

There was no sign of the ruby!

Everybody was now collected about the table, peering down at it as if hypnotized. Only one person was seated--the girl, Madge Carrick. She occupied her former place; and, as my eyes roamed about to make quite sure whether or not the gem had been restored, I was immediately struck by her appearance. She sat leaning forward, staring in front of her, her head in her hands; and, as I watched, she shivered, started to go to Mrs. Letterby, changed her mind, and sank into her chair again, letting her arms fall hopelessly upon the table.

"A little pressure--just a little pressure, my dear young Miss from Nowhere!" I heard in a rumbling whisper over my shoulder; and, without turning around, I knew Limplet, too, had seen the girl's discomfiture, and that with cold, immobile face and half-closed eyes he was regarding her as he did those witnesses whom he purposed presently to flay alive.

"Hold on, man!" I expostulated. "That may be fright, worry--anything on the poor young one's face--but it isn't guilt."

"If not guilt, it's guilty knowledge," he rejoined. "You can't fool me; I've seen too many of 'em. Where was she when the lights went out?"

"I give it up. I was pretty nearly asleep and hardly knew where I was myself."

"Hum! I'll find out, then."

Smiling in friendly fashion, he next spoke loud enough for all to hear.

"Doctor Dannart," said he, in an easy, natural voice, "predicted that this would turn out to be an embarrassing situation for all of us. And it would have proved so had it not been for Mrs. Cartright's good sense and her desire that none of her guests should be in the least annoyed by reason of her loss."

That was not according to the facts, but it got over; for now it was Limpet in his role of jury lawyer who was talking, one who could make you see black and white if he only tried hard enough.

"Happily the mystery of the missing ruby has been solved--or nearly solved," he continued affably. "But before we bid Mrs. Cartright good night, and she thanks you all for the patience and forbearance you have shown, I shall ask you to do one thing for me. Will each of you stand or sit in the pace you occupied at the moment the room went dark? You would oblige me immensely by doing so."


After some confusion and delay, the scene Limpet wished to reenact was set, and I observed that Mrs. Cartright, the central figure, having passed from the head almost to the foot of the table on her way to the door, had, at the moment indicated, reached a point opposite the place occupied by Ethel Letterby. She stood there now, the maid a little behind and a little to the right of her--directly back of young Hapwood's chair, it is true, but so far from it that he could not possibly have knocked against her when she sprang up. Some of the guests had preceded Mrs. Cartright, others followed her, while most of them still hung about the table. Among the last was Mrs. Letterby; and behind her waited the butler, whose proffer of wine she had so recently declined. One footman hovered near the sideboard; his fellow, who had claimed, when I stopped him, to be on his way to the electric switch, could not remember exactly where he was when darkness overtook him.

"Remarkable thing!" said I to Limpet; "everyone except the maid fights shy of the position at Mrs. Cartright's right hand, yet, to judge from the location of the bruises on her neck, the tug on the chain must have come from the right and a little in front of her."

Limpet paid no attention to my remark, and I saw that his eyes were still fixed on Madge Carrick. As I had already noted, whereas guests and servants alike had all shown more or less interest in the reproduction of the scene desired, she had sat there motionless in her place, nervous, brooding, obviously the prey of an ever-increasing distress of mind. Of course, the inevitable happened--her mere attitude made her conspicuous among the rest, and soon not only Limpet but all others were regarding her dubiously. Conscious of this, she flushed, paled, and sprang up as if to rush from the room; but immediately sank back into her chair again.

If at this juncture some one had only moved, had only spoken, there is no telling what next she might have done. But the deadly silence and the spying of all those strange, unsympathetic eyes were too much for her, and she broke down. Limpet was getting help from every side in the "little pressure" he deemed so efficacious.

"Oh, why do you all stare at me like that?" she cried, in futile exasperation. "But I know. You think I took the ruby. I did not! I did not!" And then she covered her eyes and moaned helplessly.

Ethel Letterby pushed aside her mother's detaining hand and ran to the girl and put her arm about her; and this seemed to give her a little courage.

Then Limpet spoke. "My dear," he inquired suavely, "where were you when the lamps went out?"

"I was just getting up--getting up," she stammered, "to thank Mrs. Cartright. I had never been to the theater before. I had never been to a supper party before. I had never been away from school--anywhere! I was going to thank her--she had been so sweet--to ask me."

"That was very nice of you--very nice, indeed, my dear," he continued. "But it isn't too late now to show your appreciation. Just tell Mrs. Cartright where the ruby is. You couldn't thank her in any neater way. And you know where it is; I can read it in your face."

That face was twitching now, and tears filled the girl's eyes; but she neither moved nor spoke.

"Come! Won't you tell her?"

No answer.

"Why will you persist in being unkind to one who has been kind to you?" Limpet asked gently.

"It's because you would then suspect me all the more of having taken it," the tortured girl burst out. "Oh, is there no one who will help me?" she cried, looking wildly about her. "No! No! Except for Ethel, I haven't a friend here. I heard what was said of me just now--no father, no mother, left at a boarding school. 'The Girl from Nowhere,' you called me. Even Mrs. Letterby said I was a stray whom Ethel had picked up and brought into the house!"

The people, facing Madge Carrick in a wide-flung circle, were now growing restless and whispering together. Mrs. Cartright called Limpet to one side and seemed to remonstrate with him. But he shook his head and returned to the table. It was clear that his fighting blood was up and that nothing could stop him.

"Miss Carrick," said he, "you have just stated that such and such things would happen if you disclosed where the jewel was. That proves my contention; for one cannot disclose what one does not know. And to hide an object that has been stolen is as bad--"

"Hold on, Limpet!" exclaimed young Hapwood, turning very red. "Don't you think you've badgered Miss Carrick enough? I do!"

"I am Mrs. Cartright's attorney, young man, and likewise her friend--the oldest here, perhaps," Limpet flashed back at him. "Just whom to you represent?"

"I don't represent anybody," the latter retorted hotly, squaring his broad shoulders and throwing up his handsome head; "but until Mrs. Cartright puts me out, there'll be no more of this underhand cross-examination!"

An awkward pause followed, and then Mrs. Letterby spoke.

"Oh, Madge," complained she petulantly, "do tell Mr. LImpet what he wants to know. I'm worn out. See, I believe it's daylight!"

Sure enough, when one of the menservants had pulled aside the curtains, dawn entered the room, looking doubly cold and gray against the yellow glow of the electric lights.

I glanced at the windows, and then back toward the girl sitting at the table--and at that instant I saw the ruby!

At first I marveled how the jewel could have so long escaped detection with all those eyes gazing apparently directly at it. But then I realized how cleverly it had been concealed, and that my position in relation to the changed lighting of the room had alone made it visible to me.

At the same instant, also, I appreciated that Madge Carrick was right. In the beginning I had thought her attitude a foolish one; but now I understood that, whether guilty or not, silence was the only weapon she had wherewith to defend herself. For if she had stolen the ruby, to betray its whereabouts would be almost tantamount to a confession of her guilt; whereas, if she were innocent, the act of disclosure would merely serve to increase the suspicion and hostility already manifest toward herself, while it aided the actual thief to keep his or her identity hidden. There was no escape for her. She had been nailed fast to her place by the scrutiny of more than twenty pairs of eyes.

But now I was in a quandary. I alone shared her secret. What use should I make of it? I glanced at the girl, pale, haggard, desperate; at the futile Ethel trying to console her; at Hapwood, flaming, but helpless to aid her, and, last of all, at Limpet, preparing to take another twist with the thumbscrews; and, for good or ill, I set in action a plan which at the moment flashed into my mind.

"Mrs. Cartright," said I, with a decision and harshness which were purposely assumed, "don't you think this has gone far enough? Miss Carrick has had her opportunity and has turned it down. With your permission, I'll telephone for the police. They'll know how to handle her."

I crossed the room in the midst of a deathlike silence and took up the telephone instrument. But before I could unhook the receiver, I heard a voice-- a feeble, shaking voice.

"Stop!" it quavered. "Don't telephone! I did it--I did it!"

I hugged myself at the quick success of my plan. If--as I had argued--Madge Carrick were guilty, my threat would merely end an intolerable situation. If innocent, the real thief would have the horror of her position so sharply brought home to him that should but one spark of decency still burn within him, he would inevitably reveal himself. The last had happened. I dropped the telephone and turned to see who it was who spoke in tones so full of terror and remorse.

It was the butler!

"You!" cried Mrs. Cartright, amazed.

"Yes, madam; it was I, God help me!"

"But why? I don't understand. You have been with me for years. I always trusted you."

"I know, madam; but when I heard the lady and gentleman at the table say--" He stopped and flung out his hands in despair. "No! No! Forget that, please! I shouldn't have said it. I would have bitten out my tongue before I said it."

The man was beside himself. His long, thin face was the color of chalk, and he clung to a chair for support.

"Do you dare tell me that you were led to attack and rob me through any remark made by my guests? That is absurd! It is worse; it is a falsehood!"

"Believe me, Mrs. Cartright, it's true. If you will grant me one last favor before they take me away--if you will only ask the ladies to step into the library--I will prove to you that it is true. I will confess everything--everything!"

But when all the others had gone from the room except Mrs. Cartright, Limpet, Hapwood, and myself, the butler stood there voiceless, a forlorn, dejected figure.

"Now out with your cock-and-bull story," commanded Limpet impatiently, "and let us have done with this thing for good and all!"

"I will--I will, sir!" the man whispered hoarsely, peering anxiously about him. "When I heard her say--when I heard Mrs. Letterby say that now that she had left school she could not keep up; and Mr. Habersham, he said--he told what often happens--what might happen to a young girl--"

"She? Had left school? Of whom are you talking?" demanded Mrs. Cartright.

"Of Madge Carrick, madam."

"Miss Madge Carrick, you mean. But what is she to you?"

"She is my daughter, Mrs. Cartright."

"Your daughter?"

"Yes. And I wanted her to be like her mother was who died when Madge was a little thing, not like me--sunk, sunk in the struggle of life to what I am. You will never believe me, but I was once--- Never mind; it's no odds what I once was. The world has been too much for me--that's all--too much! But for her sake I fought on. I have pinched myself to the bone for her. I hid myself from her, I changed my name that she might have her chance--that she might not be dragged down with me. I would gladly have died for her. And the thought that, after all, I had failed, that now she needed more than I could possibly give her, and the danger Mr. Habersham spoke of--it made me crazy, Mrs. Cartright; the temptation was too much for me, and I turned out the lights and snatched the ruby."

He stopped for a moment to wipe away the beaded sweat on his forehead, and then went on dejectedly:

"And now my hopes, my foolish hopes have all come to nothing. I am done for. But whatever happens, I beg you, Mrs. Cartright, I implore all of you to keep my secret! Do that much, not for me, but for her! That is all I ask--let her have her chance--let her have her chance!"

"But the jewel? Where is it?" inquired Limpet.

With a shudder, the butler went to the table and out of a glass of the ruby colored wine standing at his daughter's place--where the crossing of the lights from the lamps and windows had made it visible to her and to me--he lifted the gem, wiped it patiently upon a napkin, and handed it to his mistress. And then he set about clearing the table, quite automatically, the force of year-long habit surviving even the stunning blow he had received.

"When did you hide it there?" I asked him.

The man gazed at me dully. "When you turned out the lights, sir," said he, "and I suspected that we would all be searched, I was worse frightened than ever. Then suddenly I thought of the wine, and I dropped the ruby into a full glass which stood before my daughter. I had watched her--had seen that she drank nothing--and felt sure it would be safe there until I could take it out later on."

"And it was you who knocked the maid down?"

"Accidentally, sir. The room was dark; she stepped in my way."

"Did you hear that, Hapwood?"

The young man nodded and left the room.

"That'll do!" said Limpet. "Now, Dannart, you can call the police."

"No!" declared Mrs. Cartright impulsively. "This has been enough of a tragedy already!"

"What!" exclaimed Limpet. "You'd let the man off? Impossible!"

Mrs. Cartright flushed and her eyes gleamed.

"Remember," said she, "that I was the person injured, and the only one! My heart tells me to forgive. But if I punish, it shall not be in a way that will affect this man alone. All of us who have heard this pitiful story must do our utmost to forget it. Whatever may have happened--to-night or in the past--the girl shall have her chance!"

And then her expression changed. She smiled gently, and, laying one hand lightly on Limpet's arm and one on mine, she said: "But see! We need not trouble ourselves. It has already come to her."

She was right. In the hall beyond stood The Girl from Nowhere, and helping her into her wrap, was young Hapwood, on whose handsome face there shone that look of youth and hope which laughs at difficulties and conventions--at everything, in fact, but love!


This story is from the July 23, 1915 issue of The Popular Magazine. The entire issue is available at the Internet Archive, but only as image files -- that is, a png image of each page. You can find the info page here, and a zip file with the page images here (it's approximately a Gig of files.)

I typed in the story with my little hands, something which I can do faster than most OCR programs -- which make so many mistakes, it takes longer to correct them than to type them. It's a lot of work, but also fun. However, if you are enjoying this series, consider making a donation in support of this site. See the button at the top of the sidebar for details.

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Find The Man Who Did Too Much, a Starling and Marquette mystery, at these online ebook stores: (Amazon International Stores: United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), Barnes & Nobel Nook Store, Kobo Books, Apple iBookstore, Diesel eBook Store, Sony eReader (coming soon), or get it in all formats at Smashwords.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In The King Row - Top Notch Magazine, March 1, 1913

Top Notch was another of the famous Street and Smith pulp magazines. Unlike The Strand, these really were pulps, and they had fewer illustrations and less well known writers. Like The Popular Magazine, it was published twice a month, and generally included some serials, a number of short stories, and one "Complete Novel" (i.e. a novella) in every issue.

I could tell I was going to like this story just from the illustration: My grandfather was a station operator and telegrapher, and this is exactly the sort of fun adventure tale my dad used to tell -- a robber, his hostage, and tension on both sides as a critical game of checkers is played by wire....

* * *

In The King Row
by Lovell Coombs

IT HAPPENED so suddenly that Finnerty was still dazed. One moment the checkerboard, with its numbered squares and double set of men; the brooding lamplight, the quietly ticking telegraph instruments, the low, night noises from the woods across the track; then the pistol muzzle and the black-masked face at the open window, and the two sharp words that sent his hands ceilingward.

Comprehension came as a stocky figure materialized, scrambled in across the instrument table, and dropped to the floor. Finnerty's eyes flickered anxiously toward the safe in the corner.

"You're on," observed a crisp voice. "Back your chair to the wall! Drop your right hand to the chair arm!"

Five minutes later, following a fruitless "third degree" regarding the combination of the safe--known only to the railway postal clerks--the lone occupant of the junction station found himself found as he sat, while the unknown, on his knees before the safe, turned the knob and listened.

Just prior to the advent of the bandit, the game of over-the-wire checkers had been interrupted for the reporting of a freight up the branch. The ticking instrument ceased its chatter as the man at the safe produced a brace and bit, and fell to drilling. There was an interval of silence, and the sounder clicked:

"You there, Fin? It's your move."

Finnerty turned toward the instruments helplessly. The question was repeated, then the station call. A flicker of hope that followed the repetition of the call quickly faced. There would be no train through for two hours, and his mere absence from the wire would probably not result in any endeavor to reach him before that time.

"You there, Fin?" again clicked the sounder. "What's the matter?"

Catching at the meager possibility of his silence resulting in the discovery of his predicament, Finnerty listened while the operator at Bathton repeated the junction call at short intervals. Then the spark of hope kindled as the instrument began repeating the letter of the dispatcher's call.

The Bathton operator was a rapid sender. At the buzzing succession of dots forming the letter "H," the grinding at the safe abruptly ceased. Turning, Finnerty encountered the gleam of a suspicious eye withing the sinister mask.

"What's coming off there?" demanded the unknown sharply.

"One station calling another," responded Finnerty with frankness.

There was a momentary silence, and the rapid, buzz-bell repetition of H's broke out afresh.

The safebreaker dropped his brace and bit, and rose to his feet. "I didn't see you move," he said grimly, "but if I thought you had been up to anything there---"

He strode toward the table. At once the checkerboard caught his eye. To Finnerty's surprise, the discovery brought forth an exclamation, then a low laugh. The man, bending over the board, half turned.

"No I'm on, my friend. I butted in on a game of checkers by telegraph, and the other man thinks something is wrong."

"Brilliant!" murmured Finnerty, with rash tartness. "Perhaps you would like to finish the game yourself?" he added, when his captor had remained over the board some seconds, as though pondering the problem presented.

"That's just what I was thinking."

Finnerty started. Then he stared while the man in the mask picked up the checkerboard, bore it carefully across the room, and placed it on the floor beside the safe. A remark was lost in further surprise when the man returned to his side, and began loosening the cord about his right wrist.

"Yes; I'm going to finish the game myself--to keep that fool on the wire quiet. You are going to send the moves, very slowly, figure by figure, so I can tell whether you say anything else. I know how the game is played by wire. Between moves you are to hold your hand high in the air. And at the least suspicion that you are saying anything else"--the fumbling at the knot ceased, and the eyes within the mask glared into Finnerty's own--"at the least suspicion--you know what'll happen to you! Understand?"

"I guess so," conceded Finnerty.

"No guessing--you know!"

"Well, then, I know--and something else," Finnerty added mentally, with determination. The inspiration took form as his hand was freed, and ordered held aloft.

"What explanation shall I make for leaving the wire so suddenly?" he asked ingenuously.

The eyes within the mask again glared within and inch of his own. "Young man, you begin a word of explanation, and you'll finish it in the next world! No, sir! You'll start right in where you left off, and the man at the other end can think what he pleases."

The cracksman returned to the safe. Kneeling in his former position, he recovered the drill, then paused to study the checkerboard. During the silence which followed, the operator in the chair fancied that there was a puzzled expression on the mask-concealed face. The impression brought a new hope. Perhaps the man could not play, or could not play but a poor game. In that case, with his own strange actions on the wire, suspicion might yet be aroused.

"Whose move?" asked the mask.


"Huh! You're not great noise as a checker player. You'll lose out in the third move."

Another hope had fled.

Surprise and half-conscious anger at the disparagement of his playing ability were still struggling in Finnerty's mind with plans for circumventing the safebreaker, when the latter looked up and ordered:

"Drop your hand to the key. Now, send slowly, figure by figure: Twenty one, twenty-three."

Finnerty pushed open the key lever, interrupting a renewal of his own call by the man at Bathton, and while the cracksman listened intently, ticked off the figures as directed:

"Two-one, two-three."

"Hand up again!" directed the mask.

The silence which followed on the part of the instrument seemed aptly to express the Bathton operator's surprise at this abrupt reappearance of his checker opponent.

"Was that you, Fin?" he clicked at last. "Where have you been?"

Finnerty took quick advantage of the opening.

"You see," he said, nodding toward the sounder, "he doesn't believe it is I. He wants to know. I'll have to make some sort of explanation."

"You'll just repeat the move!" growled the safecracker. "Let him think what he pleases! He'll probably imagine you're drunk," he added sardonically.

With compressed lips Finnerty complied. And this time, to his disappointment, the Bathton operator accepted the situation with a tart "O. K.," immediately followed by a return move. The strange game was under way.


WATCHED sharply by the bandit, Finnerty went and called off move after move, the man in the mask continuing his drilling operations uninterruptedly, save for the brief pauses required to make the moves, and to listen to the operator's sending.

After the first few moves Finnerty scarcely noted the progress of the game. Performing his part almost mechanically, he was searching every crevice of mind and memory for a means of securing the upper hand of the situation. Think as he could, there seemed but one outlet--the wire; and but the one way of utilizing it--the sending of something in addition to the moves of the game.

At first sight this might seem a simple problem, the bandit not being a telegrapher. But the brevity of the "move" messages--four figures--and the deliberate transmission required, made the addition of the shortest useful word practically and impossibility.

For a space Finnerty considered the substitution of two short words for a move; but this would have aroused suspicion by muddling the positions on the board. For similar reasons he abandoned a briefly entertained idea of playing the game himself, and sending out a call for help in lieu of the supposed moves. He doubted his ability to remember the positions of the dimly seen checker men.

Finally, however, dogged persistence produced one possibility. It did not look easy, but catching at it with desperation, Finnerty determined to risk it.

As the first step, on transmitting the next move in the game, he did not raise his hand to its full stretch. Three minutes later, without comment from the man at the safe, he raised it no higher than his head. Cautiously feeling with his fingers, he found, as he had hoped, that he could reach the wall, and the two descending wires of the station "loop."

The next step was securing of an open pocketknife lying on the table.

Occasionally, convinced seemingly that the prisoner had learned his lesson, the safebreaker did not turn from his work when ordering a move. Watching for a recurrence of this relaxation, Finnerty, while withdrawing his hand from the key, made a furtive lunge, and secured the knife. The action passed unnoticed.

Carefully, then, and praying that the man at Bathton would take his time for the next move, he pressed the blade across the two wires behind his head, and cut firmly downward through the insulation. From the instruments came a jangle, as the steel reached and bared the copper strands, and a "cut-off" connection was made.

The bandit looked up. Finnerty bit his lips to steady them. If the man ordered him to hold his hand higher, and saw the knife---

"Wasn't that a move?"

"A 'bug' on the wire," said Finnerty.

A breathless moment the mask eyed him. Then the hum of the drill resumed.


OPERATOR BATES, at Bathton, was mystified by the actions of his checker opponent at the junction as Finnerty has suggested to his captor.

"If it wasn't for the game he is playing," Bates observed to the night baggageman, lolling over the table beside him, "I'd swear Fin had some fire water in his battery. He never played a better game.

"There!" he exclaimed, "just listen to that ham stuff!" Driving his chair back, Bates motioned disgustedly toward the heavily clicking sounder. "If Father Morse heard that, he'd turn in his grave. It sounds as though the beggar was sitting on the key, sending by bumping up and down on it. I can't make head or---"

Sharply Bates broke off. He sat erect. With a crash his chair rocked forward, his eyes fixed to the wagging sounder.

"What is it?" demanded the baggageman.

"I believe something's wrong! I caught the words, 'post-office safe.'"

The signals began to come more distinctly. "Listen!" cried Bates.


Both men were hanging over in the instrument breathlessly, the baggageman's eyes on the operator, the operator's eyes glued to the sounder.

"I'm--tied--chair," he read on. "He's--playing-the-checkers. Making--me--send--moves. I'm--sending--this--by--pressing--wires--together--behind--head--with--key--open. Ask--H--send--down--engine--of--thirty-four--with--help. If--hurry--can--get--him. Keep--on--playing."

The wire closed, and in the former manner of sending came a move in the game: "Three-o, two-six."

The baggageman sprang for the door. "I'll get out the train crew," he yelled. "They'll be in the lunchroom."

"And call for volunteers among the passengers!" Bates shouted after him.

To Finnerty, at the junction, Bates shot back: "I'm on, old boy! Keep it up! Keep your nerve!" and whirled off into the dispatcher's call.

Three minutes later Bates was racing down the station platform, shouting the engineer's name, a scrap of fluttering "flimsy" in his hand. Five minutes more, and the engine of the opportunely waiting "accommodation" was snorting hysterically from the yards, bristling with trainmen and an eager contingent of excursioning stockmen.

Meanwhile, returning to his wire, Bates confronted a new situation. Two additional moves brought abrupt conclusion to the game of checkers, in favor of his safebreaking opponent, and Finnerty reported:

"He doesn't intend playing another game. He has the hole farther into the safe door than I thought. If he's not delayed he'll be ready to blow it in a few minutes. What shall I do? I'm at the end of my string."

Bates indulged in a clicking succession of exclamation marks, expressive of confusion, while thinking deeply. His face brightened, and he sent back rapidly:

"Tell him I say he--that is, you--only won the game by a fluke. Say I was talking to another chap here, and made two blind moves, or he wouldn't have had a look-in. Tell him I'll beat him--you, of course! I'll beat him this time without breaking my king row."

"I," responded the instrument, in acquiescence.

During the momentous silence that followed, Bates gripped the key rigidly, and watched the sounder, straining forward. Undoubtedly his robber opponent was a checker enthusiast, a "fan," odd as it seemed. But would vanity and his love for the game be strong enough to trick him in such a situation? Would---"

The sounder clicked upward. "H--i!" it rattled, in the telegrapher's wire laugh. And with a sigh and a smile Bates relaxed.

"He bit," the instrument clattered on. "He'll play. Says go ahead, and he'll beat you so badly you'll never come back. Is fixing his board. It's your move."

"And now, B," the instrument clicked more readily, as Finnerty mastered his novel key, "it's up to you to keep the game going until the engine gets here. Play all you know. Get him guessing. That stops him in his work for a few minutes. And it won't be safe simply to delay the moves, unless you follow with a good one. He's too wide awake. So play the game of your life!"

"I will," tapped Bates in reply. Setting himself in his chair, he bent over his board with serious face, pondering the opening move.

Suddenly Bates sat erect. "By Jove, that's it!" Kicking the chair from under him, he sprang to the telephone.

"Police station, please! Hello! Sergeant Baker? Bate, at the station. Say, Baker, can you come down here right away, and help me out in a game of checkers? It's a matter of catching a safecracker down at the junction! I'll explain when you get here. And say! Drop in at the fire hall and bring Billy Delaney with you. Good! Hurry!"

Within a few minutes Operator Bates was explaining the extraordinary situation to the two local checker champions. "So you see," he concluded, "it's up to us, by hook or crook, to keep the game going as long as possible, without taking the slightest chance of arousing the man's suspicions."

"Can he play?" asked the fireman.

"He's a crackajack--a regular checker fan, I take it."

With heads together over the numbered squares, policeman, fireman, and operator studied and debated the problem.

"Of course, the most natural thing to play for, under the circumstances, would be a tie," observed the sergeant. "But then, if he is a real player, he would see it as soon as it was in sight, and stop right there."

"How would it do, then," suggested the fireman, "to play for a two-king, three-king and wind-up--ours the two kings, with one in either double corner? That would give him the advantage, yet, if the three of us watch ourselves, we could be able to stand him off indefinitely. I've spent half the night working for the move in the same fix."

"That's the game!" agreed the others.


AT the junction matters had fallen into routine, with the resumption of play. Stolidly, to all appearances resignedly, the bound operator sent and called off return moves. Steadily and calmly, as though engaged in an accustomed and enjoyable dual task, the masked figure at the safe moved the men on the checkerboard, and spun the handle of his drill.

The opening half of the game, at least, he had played steadily, with the evident intention of speedily concluding it. Now, with the contest narrowing, he was beginning to pause occasionally to consider a move.

With rising hope Finnerty saw the pauses increase in frequency, and at last unconsciously the "checker enthusiast" rose above the "robber of safes," and with rising anxiety saw the number of men on the board steadily decreasing.

Chuckling, the safe cracker sacrificed on checker man, and took two. With despair Finnerty noted that there were now but five men on the board, three of them the blacks of the robber.

But on the next move coming over the wire, the man uttered a smothered imprecation. While Finnerty leaned forward, tense with revived hope, he turned more fully toward the checker-board. The plaint of the spinning drill subsided in pitch.

It had stopped. As one beside a somnambulist, Finnerty watched, and held his breath, and listened.

Lower the cracksman sank on his knees, regarding the board. He started to move, paused, settled back. Now the drill was withdrawn, and placed slowly, unconsciously, on the floor. The relieved hand wandered to the drooping chin.

At the moment, faintly through the open window, came an engine's "crossing" whistle. Finnerty caught his breath with a gasp, the sibilant hiss of which drove the blood back to his heart. The masked figure at the save moved, raised his head. Finnerty clutched the chair arms in an agony of anxiety.

"Now I think I have him. Forteen-ten, please," came Bates' message.

Unconsciously Finnerty dashed the perspiration from his brow before reaching for the key. Then he found he had forgotten the move. He glanced about.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Fourteen, ten, please."

A moment's nervous inclination to laughter, as the subconscious mind noted the exchange of courteous address, again delayed the transmitting of the move.

It was sent. Finnerty, recovering his former position in the chair, braced himself for the final five minutes of the ordeal. Would the engineer be unwise enough to whistle another crossing? Would he stop far enough away to avoid the telltale hum of the rails reaching the station? Would he come close enough to enable the posse to make the depot speedily? Could Bates prolong the game?

In anxious repetition the questions raced through Finnerty's mind as he followed every move on the board, and listened with straining ears.

A low rumble, half heard, half felt, reached him. The engine was over the bridge, a half mile distant! Would the engineer whistle the crossing this side? No, thank the heavens!

The game was now moving more rapidly on the cracksman's part. Evidently he had a plan in mind, and was shifting his men in order to "get the move." Breathlessly Finnerty watched.

Following a move from Bates, the player started half erect, as with elation. Finnerty clutched the chair arm. A move was sent, and one was received. With a low growl the bandit again drooped over the board. Again Finnerty breathed.

Then suddenly the player in the mask sat erect, with an "Ah!" that brought Finnerty forward in his chair.

"Now I've got him! Ten--six."

In despair Finnerty glanced toward the window. His lips closed convulsively over a cry.

With difficulty he clutched the key, and clicked off the move. The return move came. "Five--one," he translated.

"Ah! My game! My game!" In his glee the checker-playing robber of safes sprang erect on his knees--to sink back slowly, with twitching lips.

Framed in the window were a dozen grimly grinning faces; in front of them showed a battery of pistol muzzles.

"Yes, your game," observed Finnerty, not without a touch of sympathy for a fallen fellow enthusiast; "Your game on the board--but my game for the safe. I got in your king row there, all right."


This story is from the March 1, 1913 issue of Top-Notch Magazine. The entire issue is available at the Internet Archive, but only as image files -- that is, a png image of each page. You can find the info page here, and the actual collection of page links here.

I typed in the story with my little hands, something which I can do faster than most OCR programs -- which make so many mistakes, it takes longer to correct them than to type them. It's a lot of work, but also fun. However, if you are enjoying this series, consider making a donation in support of this site. See the button at the top of the sidebar for details.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

The Tramp And The Tiger

This short story is from the great fiction magazine The Strand, July 1915. It does not include all of the illustrations, and I do not guarantee it is perfectly cleaned up from the raw OCR text I used as a source. (You can find the originals, along with all of the public domain copies of The Strand, at the Internet Archive.)

In this 8500 word comedy from Morley Roberts, it's the crew of a tramp steamer vs. a three-fourths grown clouded Manchurian tiger whose tail is in doubt....

The Tramp And The Tiger
by Morley Roberts
(Illustrated by Harry Roundtree)

WHEN the Star of the East had taken her lumber aboard at Vladivostock, she hauled out from her berth and anchored in the bay. She was an old-fashioned three-masted ocean tramp, and belonged to an owner who did not believe a ship could be a ship unless she could sail when she couldn't steam. But otherwise she was built for business and not for pleasure. Mr. Sadler, her chief mate, and Mr. Quin, her second mate, were agreed upon this point, though they were of extremely different dispositions. The only person on board entirely satisfied with the tramp and himself was Captain Cradgett. He was still ashore in Vladivostock when the sun went down, and the two mates sat and smoked in the chart-house.

"What I want to do is to get into the passenger trade, sir, just as soon as I can," said Mr. Quin, as he lighted another cigarette. "As you so frequently say, it's not excitin' in this kind of trade, and there's nobody to speak to."

Mr. Sadler nodded, and then shook his head in the most melancholy manner.

"Ah," he said, "I thought I was goin' to have an excitin' time, too, when I went to sea. Once when I was in Liverpool a very nice young woman said to me, 'How excitin' it must be to go to sea, Mr. Sadler.' And what I said to her was, 'Excitin'! Oh, miss, you think it's excitin', do you ? Why my dear, it's dull--dull to a degree. Drivin' a bus in the Whitechapel Road is far more excitin' and joyous.' She couldn't understand that."

"Why, yes, sir," said the second mate, eagerly; "but somethin' always may happen, you know. Sometimes I wish I hadn't been a sailor at all, but a traveller."

"What would you have travelled in?" asked Mr. Sadler.

"I don't mean that sort of traveller," said the second mate. "I mean wanderin' about on land, with real adventures."

"They don't happen so thick even on land," said the melancholy chief mate. "Don't you rely on books, Mr. Quin, to tell the truth about land any more than about the sea."

"Well, but there's big-game huntin'," said the second mate. "Surely that's excitin'."

"Is it?" asked the incredulous mate. "As far as I've read it amounts to hidin' up a tree all night and catchin' colds and cramps. And how would you like to face a tiger? Oh, a tiger would disgruntle you. It's a very awkward animal, a tiger."

"I don't know that I ever actually saw one," said Mr. Quin. "But with a good gun--"

"Did you say you never saw a tiger?" interrupted Mr. Sadler, with peculiar earnestness.

"Well, no, I never actually did," said Quin.

"Ah," said the first mate, with an air of the deepest thought, "but you can see number two hatch, Mr. Quin can't you?"

"Well, I can if I get up," replied the second mate.

"And it's all clear of lumber, ain't it?" asked Mr. Sadler.

"Yes, sir," said the second mate. "Wasn't I wonderin' why Captain Cradgett insisted on keepin' number two clear? There might have been a deck load there as well as anywhere else."

Mr. Sadler looked at him with a very strange expression and shook his head.

"Oh, no, there mightn't," he said, firmly. "That's where you're off it, Mr. Quin."

"Off it--why, sir?" asked the second mate.

"Yes, off it--a long way off it," repealed Mr, Sadler. "Number two hatch is bein' kept clear for a cage, Mr. Quin."

"A what?" asked the astonished second mate.

"I said a cage," repeated the melancholy mate. "The captain would do it, though I urged him not to with tears in my eyes."

"Not to what, sir?" asked Quin, inharmoniously.

"Why, just what I said," repeated Mr. Sadler, out of an even thicker gloom.

"Oh, no; you haven't said yet what the cage is for," said the second mate.

"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Sadler. "Don't I keep tellin' you it's for a tiger?"

"For a tiger?" asked the second mate, in great astonishment.

"Why, yes, Mr, Quin, a three parts grown tiger; a clouded Manchurian tiger they call it," said the chief mate, rubbing his forehead thoughtfully. "Were takin' it to Calcutta for the Rajah of Jugpore. I do hope it won't get out. If that tiger did get out, Mr. Quin, you could have all the huntin' for me. I'd be up aloft as far as I could get. But I suppose it'd tickle you to death to hunt a tiger with a hand-spike in the middle of the Indian Ocean."

"Yes, it'd he awkward if he did get out," said Quin, cheerfully. "At least, I suppose so."

The next morning a lighter was towed by a tug alongside the tramp. On board the lighter was a big cage, and in the tug was Captain Cradgett. When he had got on board the tramp he climbed up to the bridge and, rubbing his hands cheerfully, said: --

"Well, there you are, Mr, Sadler. This finishes us at this forsaken place. You can sign for one three-parts-grown clouded Manchurian tiger, shipped in good condition, with the end of his tail in doubt."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Mr. Sadler, as if he hadn't quite understood what was said to him; "but why's the end of his tail in doubt?"

"Because he got it nipped puttin' it out when he was bein' lowered into the lighter," said Captain Cradgett. "He made a deal of fuss about it, and kept on turnin' round to look at it in the most surprisin' way. So make out the receipt as I'm tellin' you."

The cage looked a good strong cage. It was made of hard wood, clamped here and there with iron.

"He'll never get out of that," said Captain Cradgett, joyously, when the tiger stood on his hind legs and clawed at his bars. "But he looks awfully as if he'd like to eat a sailor-man, don't he? What do you think of him, Mr.Quin?"

"Oh, he's splendid," said the second mate, with enthusiasm.

"He's all right as long as he's inside that cage," said Mr. Sadler, doubtfully.

"It'll be your business and Mr. Macintosh's to see he stays inside," said the skipper. "I'm to get a premium on him if I deliver him safe. They offered him to Captain Parker, of the Rising Sun, and to Watts, of the Tower of London, and they wouldn't have him."

And half an hour later the Star of the East was on her way to Calcutta, with sawed lumber, some soya beans, a few bales of silk, and one tiger in good condition, though one of the joints of his tail was still in doubt.

The crowd took a mighty interest in the tiger, and spent most of the second dog watch every evening sitting round him romancing. A tough from Liverpool, called Ryan, said he'd rather face that tiger than the mate of the Wanderer. He said that facing that tiger would be a joyous picnic after sailing in a Cape Horner with a mate whose only exercise was knocking sailormen down and kicking them up.

As a ship must have a subject to talk about, the tiger was their chief joy all the way down the China coast and through the Straits of Malacca into the Indian Ocean, and even till they were close up with the Nicobars. And if they talked about it in the fo'c'sle it was equally talked of by the skipper and his mates. Captain Cradgett said he was beginning to get very fond of it. But Mr. Sadler was nervous when he saw the tiger sharpening his claws.

"He'll be out of it one of these days," said Mr. Sadler. "I see it in his hopeful eye."

"You're takin' a sad view of things, sir," said the optimistic Quin.

"I never was a hopeful man," replied the miserable Mr. Sadler. "I made a mistake comin' to sea. Oh, it is that dull."

"But you take a kind of pleasure in thinkin' about him gettin' out," said Quin. "If he did we'd catch him again."

"Ah," said the chief mate, "and what's your plan for dealin' with a large tiger loose on a deck load, and him hungry enough to scoff a ring-bolt?"

"What's my plan, sir?" asked the second mate. "Why, I'd skin up aloft and think about it," said Mr. Quin, lightly.

But the chief mate shook his head.

"It's a very good plan, too, only it ain't exactly genius," he grunted. "I could have thought of that myself. But supposin' the tiger climbed the ratlines, what would your plan be then?"

"I'd go up aloft higher still, of course," said the second mate.

"But supposin' he followed you?" urged Mr. Sadler.

"When I couldn't go any farther I should jump overboard, I suppose," said Quin.

The chief mate shook his head again.

"I think nothin' whatever of that part of your plan," he retorted. "I can't swim. Now, I've got a much better plan than that, Mr. Quin, for my notion is to get the cage strengthened. Well see what Macintosh has got to say about it to-morrow. If I had my way I'd rouse up a cable and pass it round and round and round and round that cage until the tiger got perfectly hopeless. I hate to see a tiger in a cage so full of hope as that tiger is."

It certainly seemed, when Great Nicobar was close aboard on the port bow, and the captain was telling the mates of the adventures he had had there in a sailing ship in the early days, that it was time to take precautions. But Captain Cradgett was an optimist, and so was Mr. Quin. Mr. Sadler's pessimism, although far-reaching and very thorough, did not save him. Indeed, as he once remarked blackly to Captain Cradgett, there is nothing like being too thorough for making a man late for his market. Just as Captain Cradgett was enlarging upon the miserable appearance and character of the inhabitants of the Great Nicobar, there was an awful squeal and uproar in the tiger's cage, and when the "old man" and his mates looked down on number two hatch they saw the clouded Manchurian three-parts through the bars.

Though he was momentarily detained by them closing on his hindquarters, there was every sign that he would be out in two shakes of a lamb's tail. It was quite easy to understand what the tiger was saying without an interpreter, and Captain Cradgett, although he was so stout, translated his message into motion before either of his mates. Although he had rarely been aloft since he was a second mate, he made a run and jump for the fore-rigging, and skipped up it as fast as if he were a boy with a bo'sun behind him. Inside fifteen seconds the distribution of the crew was as follows. The captain and both his mates were on the foreyard, Ryan and Jim Cook, the Cockney, were on the main cross-trees, while the greater number of the crew were shut up in the fo'c'sle. The cook was in his galley, armed with an ineffective saucepan; the steward was trembling in the saloon, and the whole engine-room outfit, not having been able to shut the deck door, were hastily heating slice-bars in the furnace with a view to keeping the narrow iron stairs if the tiger came that way. For now the tiger was free, after one final struggle which had the result of putting some of his fur in doubt. But at first he showed no anger, only a great curiosity.

"Walks gracefully , don't he?" said Mr. Quin, eagerly.

"I ain't admirin' his walk any," said the captain, angrily. "Didn't you tell me, Mr. Quin, that Mr. Macintosh was goin' to reinforce that cage with iron bars? Why didn't he do it? Why didn't you see that he did it? And, Mr. Sadler, why d'dn't you liste to me when I was always tellin' you that he might get out?"

Mr. Sadler said nothing. He thought all this was most unjust on the part of the skipper. But he was always prepared for injustice.

"The thing is," he said, presently, "to know what we're goin' to do."

"Well, and what are we goin' to do? " asked the skipper.

"Ask me another, sir," said the mate, bitterly. "You can't expect me to deal with him. But I dare say Mr. Quin's got a plan; he always lets on he has one."

"Oh, no," said Quin, modestly, "oh, no. My plan went no farther than what I said yesterday, Mr. Sadler."

"And how far was that?" asked the captain, showing some hope.

"All I said was I'd skin up aloft and think," said Quin.

"Well, didn't I do as much as that before you?" asked the skipper, angrily, "and without takin' any time to consider it either. And now you're up here, can you think?"

"I can't think if I'm hurried, sir," urged Mr. Quin. "But I think we ought to be able to lure him back somehow. We might lure him back with some meat if we had it."

"Yes, if we had it," said the captain, savagely.

"Yes, it's a very good idea," said the second mate.

And then he rubbed his chin.

"Oh, if we only had a cowboy with a lariat that he could put over him!"

"Yes, that's a very useful plan," snorted the skipper. "But where's the cowboy and his outfit?"

"I believe I've almost got the idea," said Sadler, brightening up just a little for the first time for days, "but I own it comes out of what Mr. Quin says. Suppose we roped him, sir?"

"Yes, and what with?" asked the skipper, who grew more and more nervous.

The mate turned to Mr. Quin.

"You understand me, Mr. Quin?"

"Of course, sir," said Quin. "Suppose we try and catch him in a runnin' bowline? What do you think of that?"

"That's what I meant," said Mr. Sadler, looking as unhappy as if he was going to hang with it.

"Yes, and that's what I meant," said Quin, "when I talked about a cowboy and a lariat. I was comin' to it."

"Talk, talk, talk," said the skipper, contemptuously. "Who's goin' to put it over him? Here you talk and talk, and nothin' doin'."

By this time the tiger, having sniffed every hole and corner for'ard, made a couple of bounds and began to investigate the bridge and the chart-house. He displayed all the characteristics of the cat tribe when in new surroundings. Presently he looked up and saw the three men overhead, and deliberately spat at them and said something that sounded like "Hrrrrhh!"

"He seems angry," said the skipper. "Do you think he'll come up?"

As he spoke he prepared, if necessary, to ascend to the topsail yard. But Mr. Quin thought it was unlikely the tiger would try to climb up aloft while he smelt so many men down below. At that Mr. Sadler nodded as many times as a Chinese mandarin.

"Didn't I say at Vladivostock, sir, that I wouldn't take one if I was you?" he asked. "I'm not like Mr. Quin here, who brags he wants to go big game huntin'."

"Oh, does he?" asked the skipper. "Then here's his chance. You can have it all for me, Mr. Quin."

And Quin felt it was up to him to deal with the tiger or perish.

"Come, Quin, we rely on you, so think--just think," said the chief mate.

"Well," said Quin, rather unhappily, "I am thinkin', thinkin' hard, Mr. Sadler."

"Don't forget," said Mr. Sadler, "that all hands are relyin' on us, lookin' to us, and mainly to Captain Cradgett, for help and assistance in distress."

"Yes, here we are up aloft, and I don't like bein' up aloft," said the unhappy skipper. "It doesn't suit me. Though now I'm glad she's got good sticks in her, and no mistake about that."

He sat on the yard, facing aft, with his arm about the mast. On the other side sat Mr. Sadler. Mr. Quin, with his feet jammed in the narrow upper ratlines of the rigging, did his best to think. Presently he looked up.

"I want a cigarette, Mr. Sadler," he said. "I can't ever think without one."

"But do you think you can think if you do get one?" asked the "old man."

"Oh, yes, I'm sure of it, sir," said Mr. Quin.

"Then here you are," said the skipper, reluctantly producing his case. "And I hope they'll work."

The first one didn't, and the second didn't. And in the meantime the tiger didn't seem to care two straws for the way the plan-making Mr. Quin fixed him with his eye. Quin seemed to feel that he couldn't make a plan about the tiger without the tiger being in sight. He explained that to the skipper and Mr. Sadler when they groused about his slowness.

"And have you got another cigarette, sir?" he asked, presently.

"Well, take a few more," said the skipper, ungraciously, "and heave ahead. And if you do make a plan, I'll give you fifty."

And presently the second mate looked up at them with a strange expression on his face. It was rather like the breaking dawn in summer. He had a heavenly smile, or so he sometimes told Mr. Sadler. He knew it, because the girls said so.

"Have you got it, Mr. Quin?" asked Mr. Sadler, with a pessimistic sniff.

"Oh, Mr. Quin, have you pot it?" asked the skipper, brightening with hope.

And suddenly the second mate's face clouded over again.

"I thought I had--I thought I very nearly had," he said, lamely.

"Come, light another cigarette," said the skipper, feeling he might as well go all in.

And this time it seemed as if the cigarette worked. Dawn broke in glory on Quin's face. It was just as if the sun had lifted its upper limb out of the darkness and shot gleaming spokes into the zenith flecked here and there with faint fleeces of shining rose, the harbingers of glorious day.

"Yes, I've got it, I've got it!" said the enthusiastic second mate. "Oh, it's a heavenly plan, sir, and it's the only plan! I see that now. There isn't any other way to do it--oh, there isn't any other way to do it!"

"Well, what is it?" asked the skipper. "Come, out with it! Don't keep us up here, you know."

"Yes, what is it?" said Mr. Sadler. "Let's hear it."

"Oh, it's a most gorgeous plan," said Quin, with an air of self-gratulation, which almost shone like a halo.

And then again the sun's upper limb seemed a little clouded. A flicker of doubt passed across Mr. Quin's boyish and charming face. He said: --

"Yes, it's all right--if it works."

"Oh, if it works?" said the skipper. "After all my cigarettes you tell me you've got a gorgeous plan if it works! If I had a pinch of salt I suppose I might drop it on the tiger's tail and see if that worked. Oh, you do disappoint me."

And once again the second mate's face lighted up. The sun seemed to rise clear of all obstacles. He opened his eyes wide, and said:--

"Yes, sir; with a spreader it would work."

"With a what?" asked the sceptical skipper.

"Why, with a spreader, of course , sir," said the second mate.

"And what would work with a spreader?" asked the captain.

"Why, what I've been tellin' you, sir," said Quin, who had really been thinking so hard that he had come to the conclusion that they had heard the wheels working. But the skipper retorted on him:--

"Well, I ain't able to look into your dark mind, Mr. Quin. All that you've let on is that it would work with a spreader. What would work with a spreader?"

"Why, a runnin' bowline, sir," said Mr. Quin, "stopped with yarn and opened out with a sheer-pole, say."

"And are you goin' on deck with that fakement to put it over the tiger's neck?" roared Captain Cradgett. "Oh, do go! You and your plan and your spreader!"

"I don't mean to go down with it, sir," said Quin. "You quite mistake me. What I'm goin' to do is to fake up this gadgett and lower it down on deck, and wait till he walks through it."

The skipper rubbed his nose, and looked down at his subordinate as if he were a promising candidate for an idiot asylum.

"Ah," said Captain Cradgett, "I see. And we're to wait up here on this fore-yard till he walks through it! Well, Mr. Sadler, what do you think of Mr. Quin's plan?"

"I think it's dull," said Mr. Sadler, gloomily, "and not at all excitin'."

And he turned to the second mate.

"Besides, Mr. Quin, suppose he does walk through it; what are we to do then?"

"Why," said Mr. Quin, "don't you see? As soon as he steps inside we must haul it as hard as we can, break away the stop, and the bowline will catch him round the middle, and we shall have him right and tight and handy."

But the skipper shook his head. So did Mr. Sadler, And a deep silence fell on them for quite a little while. Then Captain Cradgett spoke.

"Well, I suppose it's better than nothin'," he said, grudgingly, "but we'll look pretty fools all the same up aloft here holdin' on to a large and powerful tiger middled, so to speak, by a runnin* bowline. Why, he'll fairly scoot away with us."

"Oh. no, he won't," said Mr. Quin; "I've thought of all that. If we catch a turn or a couple of turns round the mast we'll hold him, and every time he jumps we'll haul in some of the slack."

"By Jove!" said the skipper. "I begin to think, if he only walks through it, the thing might work."

"I'm sure of it," said Quin, joyfully. "And you'll see, sir, when we have hold of him he'll be very angry and jump and jump, and every time he does we'll haul in a bit more of the slack. And presently he'll be hoisted up in the middle, standing on his toes, and any of us can go down and do just what we like with him."

"Yes, you can go down and do what you like with him," said the skipper, with bitter generosity.

"Yes, and so you can for me," said Mr. Sadler, darkly.

"He'll be quite safe," said Mr. Quin; "perfectly safe!"

"I'm glad of that, on your account," said the skipper. "But what'll you do when you do go down?"

"Well, sir, we'll hoist him up, and some of us could just entice him, so to speak, towards his cage," said Quin.

"Yes, yes, you can entice him," said the skipper; "or Mr. Sadler can entice him."

"Don't ask me to," said the chief mate, firmly, "because I won't, I wouldn't for an admiral."

"And if that doesn't work," said the second mate, "we could turn the cage on its side and hoist him up and lower him into it."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Sadler, in a deep tone of despair; "and I see you gettin' him into the cage somewhere about this time two months. And I see the crowd comin' out to help you do it! Oh, no, I don't think anythin' of your plan, Mr. Quin."

Mr. Quin then alleged that he had a subsidiary plan, which was to drop a piece of beef into the cage. Then the tiger would follow the beef.

"Well, well," said the skipper, impatiently, "we can't stay here for a month of Sundays lookin' like three joskins! Now, now, come now, Mr. Quin, what are you goin' to do all this with?"

"I think that topsail brace will do the trick all right," said Quin.

"Very well, try it," said the skipper.

And Quin called to Ryan, up aloft in the main cross-trees.

"Here, Ryan, just cut adrift both parts of the port topsail brace under your foot."

And Ryan cut it adrift. Quin went up aloft on the fore-topsail yard and, hauling up the brace pendant, laid hold of the brace and unrove it. And presently, with it coiled over his shoulder, he came down on the fore-yard. He also brought the brace block and pendant which he had cut away at the yard-arm.

"Here we are," said Mr. Quin, proudly. "I really do believe it'll work."

And then he looked at the derrick triced to the mast and sighed.

"I wish somebody was down there to lower away on the span," he said.

The skipper sniffed.

"Why don't you ask the tiger?" he asked, satirically. "He looks an awful obligin' beast."

But Quin had his own methods. He and Mr. Sadler cut off a fathom of the brace and unlaid it. With the block and brace pendant Quin climbed out on the gaff of the boom-foresail. When he was up at the peak, with his arm round the halliards, he lashed the brace block there, having wound the pendant round and round and made it thoroughly fast. Then he took a couple of turns and a half hitch with the end of the brace round the peak and, having stopped it there, Mr. Sadler hauled it in, cut it, and made it fast as preventer halliards. He then slung the fresh end out to Quin, who caught it, rove it through his block, and, sliding down the gaff, brought it in with him. Once or twice while these manoeuvres were going on, the tiger, still as lively as a parched pea on a hot shovel, came and looked eagerly at the second mate. But now Quin made a big running bowline at the end of the brace. Then the skipper interfered.

"Look here, Mr. Quin, don't forget we mustn't cut the tiger in two. Just you put a knot in that contraption of yours where you think it'd prevent it running right home about his middle. Don't forget my premium at Calcutta,"

And Quin did as the skipper suggested. When he had got it arranged he used a sheer-pole as a spreader and stopped the whole fakement lightly with yarns from a footrope seizing,

"There we are, sir," said Mr. Quin, joyously. "When he gets inside it we mustn't let him have time to jump through. So let's take a couple of turns round the mast. Here you are, Mr. Sadler."

"Ah, the more I think of it the more hopeless I feel," said Mr. Sadler, in the deepest depression. "To sit up here on this yard fishin' for a tiger is dull to a degree."

But the skipper rebuked him.

"Do try and be more hopeful, Mr. Sadler; sometimes you quite depress me."

Quin paid no attention to this bickering. He lowered his ingenious contrivance down on the deck and prepared to wait with the patience of a pier fisherman.

"Yes, it looks pretty," said the unhopeful Mr. Sadler. "But why an intelligent tiger should take an interest in it fairly beats me."

"Oh, I'm not sayin' he will, sir," said Quin. "That's not the point. But just look at the way he goes about. If you didn't know better, what with the quickness of him you'd think there were several tigers. Now, accordin' to the doctrine of chances, it's long odds that inside of a day or two he'll be sure to walk through that bow- line."

"What, in a day or two?" asked the skipper, his jaw falling.

"Oh. yes, sir," said Quin, firmly and cheerfully. "Accordin' to the doctrine of chances, he must do it in the end, sir."

"I think very little of you and your doctrine of chances," said the skipper, for the first time showing real depression,

But just then the tiger brushed the noose as he went for'ard again. He sniffed the galley, inside of which was the trembling cook, and presently bounded on the fo'c'sle head, where he inspected the anchors with much more than the interest of a Lloyd's surveyor. Then once more he returned to the bridge-house. He looked long and eagerly at the three men on the fore-yard, and then, going on the fidley, burnt his nose against the funnel, and spat like an outraged cat.

"I didn't like the way he looked at us," said the skipper. "I didn't like it at all."

"Yes, but he must come here, sir, if we're to catch him," said Mr. Quin. "I've a good mind to go a little farther down, just to entice him. Or perhaps Mr. Sadler would."

"You're quite wrong, Mr. Quin," grunted the chief mate. " The Mr. Sadler you refer to wouldn't go down a foot farther for five pounds. So there you have it."

"Well, I've got another plan," continued the ingenious second mate. " I was thinkin' of gettin' another line and heavin' it down to Mr. Macintosh for him to put a piece of beef on it out of the store, and then we could haul it up and dangle it round about the noose. That'd fetch him, sir; don't you think so?"

But the skipper shook his head.

"You are an ingenious young man," said Captain Cradgett, "but you don't see the bearin's of all your infernal notions. Just suppose you held a piece of beef down there, and just suppose he got it, what do you suppose he'd do?"

"Well, I suppose he'd eat it, sir," said the second mate,

"Well, yes," said the skipper, tartly, "that's what I suppose, and then I suppose he'd be quite happy; and I suppose he'd go to sleep for twenty-four hours; and I also suppose, Mr. Quin, that we'd be up here all the time, I don't like all these suppositions; I don't like 'em in the least."

But just at that moment Mr. Sadler gave a terrific yell, and bellowed:--

"Haul away! Haul away! Haul away!" "My gosh, we've got him!" roared the skipper.

"Oh, my plan's a wonder," said Mr. Quin, as he hauled with the others, find very nearly fell from aloft.

His plan had been successful. Down below the tiger now went through a series of gymnastic evolutions which were most surprising. But every time he uttered a roar of rage or spat like a cat or gave a jump and tried to tie a knot in himself, the joyful skipper, the cheerless Mr. Sadler, and the proud second mate hauled him up tighter. Presently his back assumed the form of a Norman arch, while he scratched viciously at the deck with what the skipper called his fore-and-aft claws. Each time he turned round to lay hold of the rope that had him in a clinch he was hoisted a little higher.

"Handsomely! We mustn't hoist him up too much," said the skipper, "I think the brace is all right, but you never know. We don't want to put too much strain on it. But he looks pretty helpless now, Mr. Quin, don't he? Oh, he's losin' ground every jump."

"Yes, sir, so he is," said Mr. Quin. "My plan just works like machinery."

"Yes, it's almost excitin'," said Mr. Sadler, slowly. "Oh, it's really almost excitin'. But what are we goin' to do now?"

"Ah," said the skipper, "the thing now is to get him back into the cage."

"Well, it ain't far from him," said Mr. Sadler. "It's fairly handy. Gettin' him in will be quite another matter. We may be here for months with him dancin' about there and us tryin' to get him in, and all, all in vain."

"Come, do dry up, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, with sudden wrath. "You can't keep cheerful for a minute. I never met such a man. What shall we do now, Mr. Quin?"

"Well, sir, what I was thinkin' of," replied Mr. Quin, "was that one of us could get a piece of beef and put it in the cage. And we could rig up a fakement so that when the tiger got into the cage we could close the door from up aloft and shoot the bolts again."

"Yes," said Mr. Sadler, "that sounds all right. But it won't work--I know it won't."

"I don't see why not," said the skipper. "Now, Mr. Sadler, Mr. Quin's done a whole lot. Don't you think you could go down and get the beef and fix things up?"

Mr. Sadler shook his head.

"No, Captain Cradgett, I don't think I could. I don't in the least think I could. And what's more, I don't mind sayin' that I won't."

"Oh, but you've got to if I tell you to," said the skipper.

"Not at all sir," said Mr. Sadler. "I always try to do my duty, but I never shipped to go halves in the deck with a tiger, and I can't do it, sir. Why don't you try somebody else? There's Ryan up there; let him do it."

"Very well, well try it on Ryan," said the skipper. "Here, Ryan," he called out, "now the tiger's quite safe we want you, or one of you, to go with the cook and get out a quarter of beef and put it in the cage."

"Oh, do you, sir?" said Ryan, sitting very tight on the main cross-trees. "But beggin' your pardon, sir, I wouldn't go down there with a tiger tied up with a piece of string for the whole vally of the ship and the cargo. Nor my mate 'ere wouldn't, neither. Not 'im!"

And the skipper turned to Mr. Sadler and Mr. Quin.

"You see, if those curs won't do it," he said, "I don't see how I'm to make 'em. So it's up to one of you two to do it."

"Why, yes," said Mr. Sadler, who seemed to be thinking hard. "If Mr. Quin won't I suppose it's up to me."

"Yes, I think it's up to you now," said Quin. "I've done almost enough."

"There, you see, it's up to you, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, with a certain uneasiness which both Quin and Sadler understood.

"Yes," said Sadler, very thoughtfully, "accordin' to sea custom, if the second mate won't do a thing the mate's got to. Such as goin' aloft in bad weather and the like, doin' desperate things and the like. But what's the sea custom, Captain Cradgett, if the mate won't go aloft or the crowd won't follow him if he does? What's the custom then? Why, the captain has to go, to be sure."

And the skipper visibly altered colour,

"Come, you mustn't talk like that," he said, hastily; "it's ridiculous. Remember the difference in our positions. I'm gettin' an old mam and besides, Mr. Sadler, I'm fat. As you know, the tiger never saw me without gettin' excited. But I've seen you, Mr. Sadler, stand by his cage for half an hour without him as much as lookin' at you. Why, you might have been a bone a month old for all the interest he took in you."

It is quite true that the chief mate was rather thin and bony.

"Well, I may be thin," he said, almost through his teeth, "but I'm not goin' to rely on him takin' no interest in me. I do wish you'd never brought him, sir."

"So do I," said the skipper. "But what's the good of talkin' about that now? We've got him, haven't we?"

"I think he's still got us," sighed Mr. Sadler. "I vote we put him overboard without projectin' with him any more. Look there, there's Great Nicohar. We've got no use for it, but he has. What's the good of land if it isn't for him to swim to? That's my plan. You saw just now how he stood up, put his paws on the rail and looked at it, and sniffed and sniffed and sniffed as if he smelt home. Yes, I vote we sling him overboard. What do you say, Mr. Quin?"

"It isn't at all such a had idea," said the second mate. "We could hoist him up, and I could rig a whip out to the yard-arm there and make it fast on that tigers tackle and swing him outboard, and then we could cut him adrift."

"Well, I really do think it's best to put him overboard," said the skipper, reluctantly.

If Quin had suggested that they should not do this Mr. Sadler would have probably urged it as the only resource left to them. But now he was once more full of the mournfullest doubts.

"It's all very well," he said; "but suppose we swing him up and suppose the rope parts, we'll all be in the same old trouble."

"Yes, yes , but somethin' must be done," said the skipper, desperately. "I'm gettin' that hungry and thirsty and stiff I don't know what to do. And losin' my premium too! But we must run some risk; what do you say, Mr. Quin?"

"Yes, sir, I suppose we must," said the second mate, who thought he had run about as much risk as anybody.

"Well, then, get to work and rig that whip," said the skipper, crossly. "Here, Mr. Sadler, that's somethin' you can do."

And presently they got the whip rigged at the yard-arm, and Quin swarmed out again to the peak of the gaff and took a rolling hitch with the hauling part round the brace as far down as he could reach. Then he clapped a stopper on the peak tackle, cleared the fall, and sent the end of it down on deck. Then once more it was a question as to who should go down and take the other fall to the winch.

"Come, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, "I maintain it's your turn now."

"Oh, no," said Mr. Sadler, "not at all. Don't you worry about me."

"You're a coward, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, angrily.

"Yes," said Mr. Sadler, very firmly, "where there's a tiger about I am a coward. I own it freely, and I don't care who knows it--man, woman, or child."

"Mr. Quin, I suppose we mustn't ask him," said the captain. "Poor Mr. Sadler's tremblin' like a leaf. I suppose you, and perhaps Ryan, might go down on deck, now he's quite safe, and take the end to the winch."

"Yes, but supposin' the rope breaks while we're hoistin' him," said Mr. Quin. "Where'll I and Ryan be then?"

Ryan interfered from the main cross-trees.

"Don't you trouble about me, Mr. Quin," said that able-bodied seaman; "I sha'n't be there."

"Oh, very well, you're a coward too, are you?" said the skipper. "But I've got a plan. We must have you safe, Mr. Quin, whatever happens. Look here, let's have another line up here and send us up a single block. We'll rig a whip to put round your waist, and Mr. Sadler and I will stand by it. If the rope breaks before he's over the side we'll run you up out of his way quick, d'ye see?"

"Yes, that's a very good notion," said Mr. Sadler; "a very good notion. I wouldn't like you to he hurt, Quin, I really wouldn't. It would make me very much depressed."

"Then I sincerely hope nothin' will happen to Mr. Quin," said the skipper; "for If you're more depressed than usual, Mr. Sadler, the only way to save me from cuttin' my throat will be for you to cut yours."

And when this plan was all arranged and the skipper and mate stood by the fall, the second mate went down to the winch.

"Mind you don't lose any time hoistin' me," said Quin, as he went down.

"You rely on us," said the skipper, cheerfully. "Well do our very best for you."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Sadler, sombrely, "we'll do our best, Quin; but in case of accidents, have you any message s for home?"

"Dry up, Mr. Sadler, do dry up," said the skipper. "I never saw such a man as you, Mr. Sadler. Come now, lay hold there, and the moment there's the faintest sign of the yard-arm whip partin' hoist away quick."

And presently Mr. Quin had the winch going with plenty of turns round the barrel. He worked it very slowly, and gradually made a Gothic arch of the tiger, who uttered the most extraordinary noises and clawed the air viciously. The skipper was most excited and Mr. Sadler sighed audibly.

"Oh, by thunder, it works!" said the skipper. "My plan works!"

"Yes, it does almost seem to work," said Mr. Sadler, lugubriously.

"Heave away handsomely, very slow," said the skipper. "Don't take any risks, Mr. Quin."

Quin felt he was taking a great many, and thought it was about time somebody helped him. He stopped the winch and called to Ryan.

"Look here, Ryan, I wish you'd come down here. Don't be a coward, man; I want you to slack away on the main purchase as I heave in on the yard-arm whip."

And to this appeal Ryan succumbed.

"I never shipped to do it, sir, and I don't like to," said Ryan; "but you bein' there, I'll come if I perish, for I feels I must."

So presently, as Quin went slow with his winch, Ryan slacked away on the barrel of the other, after the mate aloft had cast off the stopper on the peak purchase.

"Oh, things are goin' splendidly," said the skipper, " splendidly."

And just at that moment Sadler, who was above him, slipped and knocked the skipper off his perch. The two of them having hold of the fall of the whip attached to Mr. Quin, completely overbalanced the whole arrangement. With the rope running easy in the block they hoisted Quin nearly up to the foreyard, while they went down on deck quite close to the furious and enraged tiger. As they descended the noise the tiger made was more than equalled by the roars of the skipper and his mate. As Quin had been forcibly hauled from the winch, Ryan made a dash and saw to it that the tiger was still held taut. He got hold of the whip-fall while he still held on to his own. But that, of course, the skipper and Mr. Sadler could not know in the hurry of their descent. No sooner had they reached the deck load than they both let go of the fall and bolted for the fore rigging, while poor Quin came down with a crash on top of Ryan, and knocked him as flat as a jib-down-haul. In the meantime an extraordinarily active skipper and a still more active mate were struggling wildly for precedence on the starboard fore-shrouds, a precedence which was gained in the most insubordinate manner by the chief mate. And now Quin, rendered desperate by this emergency, reckoned he'd chance things and work more quickly. He set the winch going, and the tiger rose smartly, as Ryan slacked away on the old fore-topsail brace. The animal made one desperate attempt to claw the rail, but was finally swung over the side, and no sooner was he above the Indian Ocean than the rope of the yard-arm tackle parted, and he went into the water with a terrific roar. The mate, the skipper, Quin, and the courageous Ryan uttered yells of triumph, and no sooner had they shouted, "He's overboard, he's overboard!" than the rest of the crew emerged cautiously from their quarters and presently lined the port side of the Star of the Last. Then the captain and Mr. Sadler came down from aloft slowly.

"Can I help you at all, sir? I should be glad to help you if I could, sir," said the chief mate, anxiously, to his superior.

"Not the way you did just now, by climbing over me," said the skipper, angrily, "puttin' those boots of yours in my neck. I never believed you were such an active man, Mr. Sadler, and I hope I'll never have the chance to prove it again. And you that knocked me over, too!"

It was certain now that the tiger not only smelt land but saw it. By the way he swam towards Great Nicobar it looked as if he was glad to get rid of the Star of the East.

"Ah!" said the skipper, thoughtfully; "a tiger in the Nicobar Islands, especially a clouded Manchurian tiger, will be a great surprise to the naturalists, and also to the natives. They're a measly lot, a very measly lot. Twenty-five years ago I was in Nancowry Harbour in an old wind-jammer. It's a fine harbour, Mr. Sadler, but I have a very poor opinion of the inhabitants, and a few of them will never be missed. Nor would most of the crowd here but Mr. Quin and Ryan."

And then he turned viciously to the chief engineer.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Macintosh, that you were in a safe place," said the skipper, "and if I could I'd dock the premium I've lost out of your money. It was up to you to look after that cage, and you didn t do it. I've a very poor opinion of you, Mr. Macintosh; but there, get her goin' again. We don't want to be lolloppin' round Great Nicobar all day."

Having freed his mind, he retired with dignity. Sadler turned to the second mate, and said, darkly:--

"You mark me, Mr. Quin, if you want those cigarettes you'd better go and ask for 'em, and wait till he hands 'em out. I oughtn't to say it, but he's mean to a degree. Did you notice up aloft how he kept on sayin', 'My plan, my plan, my plan'?"

"Yes, sir, I noticed it," said Mr. Quin

"When it was mostly mine," said Mr. Sadler, with an air of depression that might have sent the glass down an inch. "But there, you never get credit for anythin' at sea. And, oh, it's mostly so very dull!"

"But surely it hasn't been dull to-day. sir?" asked Mr. Quin, as he wiped his heated brow.

The chief mate rubbed his chin.

"Well, no," he said, sadly, "I suppose you couldn't call it exactly dull. But it's mostly dull, very dull indeed. I'd much rather drive a bus up and down the Whitechapel Road."

The End

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