By Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.
TO ANYONE WHO SUPPOSES THAT HE HAS A WORSE ENEMY THAN HIMSELF.
NIGHT THE FIRST--John Foe.
NIGHT THE SECOND--The Meeting at the Baths.
NIGHT THE THIRD--The Grand research.
NIGHT THE FOURTH--Adventure of the Police Station.
NIGHT THE FIFTH--Adventure of the "Catalafina".
NIGHT THE SIXTH--Adventure of the Picturedrome.
NIGHT THE SEVENTH--The Outrage.
BOOK II--THE CHASE.
NIGHT THE EIGHTH--Vendetta.
NIGHT THE NINTH--The Hunt is Up.
NIGHT THE TENTH--Pilgrimage of Hate.
NIGHT THE ELEVENTH--Science of the Chase.
NIGHT THE TWELFTH--The _Emania_.
NIGHT THE THIRTEENTH--Escape.
BOOK III--THE RETRIEVE.
NIGHT THE FOURTEENTH--San Ramon
NIGHT THE FIFTEENTH--Redivivus.
NIGHT THE SIXTEENTH--Captain Macnaughten.
NIGHT THE SEVENTEENTH--No. 2 Boat.
NIGHT THE EIGHTEENTH--"And so they came to the Island . . ."
NIGHT THE NINETEENTH--The Castaways.
NIGHT THE TWENTIETH--One Man Escapes.
BOOK IV--THE COUNTERCHASE.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-FIRST--The Yellow Dog.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-SECOND--The Second Man escapes.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-THIRD--Counterchase.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-FOURTH--Constantia.
NIGHT THE TWENTY-FIFTH--The Paying of the Score.
If the red slayer thinks he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
The best kind of revenge
is not to become like him.
MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS.
Otway told this story in a dug-out which served for officers' mess of
a field-battery somewhere near the Aisne: but it has nothing to do
with the War. He told it in snatches, night by night, after the
manner of Scheherazade in the _Arabian Nights Entertainments_, and as
a rule to an auditory of two. Here is a full list of:
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE
Major Sir Roderick Otway, Bart., M.C., R.F.A.
AUDIENCE AND INTERLOCUTORS.
Lieut. John Polkinghorne. R.F.A., of the Battery.
Sec. Lieut. Samuel Barham, M.C. R.F.A., of the Battery.
Sec. Lieut. Percy Yarrell-Smith. R.F.A., of the Battery
Sec Lieut. Noel Williams, R.F.A., attached for instruction.
But military duties usually restricted the audience
to two at a time,
though there were three on the night when Barham (Sammy) set his C.O.
going with a paragraph
from an old newspaper. The captain--one
McInnes, promoted from the ranks--attended one stance only. He dwelt
down at the wagon-lines along with the Veterinary Officer, and
brought up the ammunition
most nights, vanishing back in the small
hours like a ghost before cock-crow.
lay somewhat wide to the right of its fellows in the
brigade; in a saucer-shaped hollow on the hill-side, well screened
with scrub. Roughly it curved back from the straight lip overlooking
the slope, in a three-fifths segment
of a circle; and the officers'
mess made a short arc in it, some way in rear of the guns.
You descended, by steps, cut in the soil and well pounded, into a
dwelling rather commodious than large: for Otway--who knew about
yachts--had taken a fancy to construct
it nautical-wise, with lockers
that served for seats at a narrow saloon
excavated along the sides, and air-holes like cabin top-lights,
cunningly curtained by night, under the shell-proof cover.
"It cost us a week," he wrote home to his sister, "to get the place
to my mind. Since then we have been adding fancy touches almost
daily, and now the other batteries froth with envy. You see, it had
to be contrived, like the poet's chest of drawers."
A double debt to pay:
Doss-house by night and bag-of-tricks by day.
And here we have lived now, shooting and sleeping
sleeping) for five solid weeks. All leave being off, I have fallen
into this way of life, almost without a thought that there ever had
been, or could be, another, and feel as if my destiny
were to go on
at it for ever and ever. And this at thirty-five, Sally!
"It must be ever so much worse for the youngsters, one would say.
Anyway I have had ten good years that they are missing
. . .
Cambridge, Henley, Lord's; Ascot, and home-to-tidy, and afterwards
the little Mercedes, and you and I rolling in to Prince's and the
good old Bob is for the House, to take _his_
exercises walking the lobbies; clean linen after the bath, and my own
sister beside me--she that always knew how to dress--and the summer
evening over Hyde Park Corner and the Green Park. . . . No, I mustn't
go on. It is _verboten_ even to think of a white shirt until the
Bosch hangs out the tail of _his_.
"My youngsters are missing
all this, I tell myself. Yet they are a
cheerful crowd, and keep smiling on their Papa. The worst is, a kind
seems to have smitten
our home mails and general
transport for close upon a fortnight. No letters, no parcels--but
one case of wine, six weeks overdue, with half the bottles in shards:
no newspapers. This last specially
afflicts young Sammy Barham, who
is a glutton for the halfpenny press: which again is odd, because his
comments on it are vitriolic.
"No books--that's the very worst. Our mess library went astray
the last move: no great loss perhaps except for the _Irish R.M._,
which I was reading
for the nth time. The only relic that survives,
and follows us everywhere like an intelligent
hound, is a novel of
Scottish sentiment, entitled _But and Ben_. The heroine
(p. 2) a dress of 'some soft white clinging material'--which may
account for it. Young Y.-Smith, who professes to have read the work
from cover to cover, asserts that this material clings to her
throughout: but I doubt the thoroughness of his perusal since he
explained to us that 'Ben' and 'But' were the play-names of the lad
and his lassie. . . . For our personal libraries we possess:
"_R.O._--A hulking big copy of the _International Code of
Signals_: a putrid bad book, of which I am preparing, in odd
moments, a recension, to submit
to the Board of Trade. Y.-Smith
borrows this off me now and then, to learn up the flags at the
beginning. He gloats on crude colours.
"_Polkinghorne_--A Bible, which I borrow, sometimes for private
study, sometimes (you understand?) for professional
It contains a Book of Common Prayer as well as the Apocrypha.
P. (a Cornishman, something of a mystic, two years my senior
full of mining
experiences in Nevada and S. America) always
finds a difficulty in parting
with this, his one book. He is
deep in it, this moment, at the far end of the table.
"_Sammy Barham_, so far as anyone can discover, has never read a
book in his life nor wanted to. He was educated at Harrow.
Lacking the _Daily Mail_, he is miserable
just now, poor boy!
I almost forgave the Code upon discovering that his initials,
S.B., spell, for a distress
signal, 'Can you lend (or give) me a
"_Yarrell-Smith_ reads Penny Dreadfuls. He owns four, and was
kind enough, the other day, to lend me one: but it's a trifle
too artless even for my artless mind.
"Young _Williams_--a promising
puppy sent up to me to be
walked--reads nothing at all. He brought two packs of Patience
cards and a Todhunter's _Euclid_; the one to rest, the other to
stimulate, his mind; and I've commandeered the _Euclid_.
A great writer, Sally! He's not juicy, and he don't palpitate,
but he's an angel for style. 'Therefore the triangle
equal to the triangle
ABC--pause and count three--'the less to
the greater'--pause--'which is absurd.' Neat and demure: and
coming on little things like that.
'Two straight lines cannot enclose
a space'--so broad and
convincing, when once pointed
out!--and why is it not in
_The Soldiers' Pocket-Book_ under 'Staff Axioms'?
"When you make up the next parcel, stick in a few of the unlikeliest
books. I don't want Paley's _Evidences of Christianity_: I have
tackled that for my Little-Go, and, besides, we have plenty of 'em
out here: but books about Ireland, and the Near East, and local
government, and farm-labourers' wages, and the future life, and all
that sort of thing.
"Two nights ago, Polkinghorne got going on our chances in another
world. Polkinghorne is a thoughtful
man in his way, rising
forty--don't know his religion. I had an idea somehow that he was
interested in such things. But to my astonishment
the boys took him
up and were off in full cry. It appeared that each one had been
nursing his own thoughts on the subject. The trouble was, none of us
knew very much about it--"
beneath the hurricane-lamp, had reached this point in
his letter when young Barham exclaimed to the world at large:
"Hallo! here's a tall story!"
The C.O. looked up. So did Polkinghorne, from his Bible. Sammy held
a torn sheet of newspaper.
"Don't keep it to yourself, my son," said Otway, laying down his pen
and leaning back, so that his face passed out of the inner circle
Sammy bent forward, pushed the paper nearer to this pool of light,
smoothed it and read:
"'A Coroner's jury at C--, a 'village' on the south bank of the
Thames, not a hundred miles below Gravesend--'"
"Seems a lot of mystery
about it already," observed Polkinghorne.
"Don't they give the name of the village?"
"No; they just call it 'C--,' and, what's more, they put 'village'
into inverted commas. Don't know why: but there's a hint at the
"'--Was engaged yesterday
an inquest on the body of an
unknown man, found lying at highwater mark in a creek some way
below the village. A local constable
had discovered the body:
but neither the officer who attended nor the river police could
afford any clue to the deceased's identity. Medical evidence
proved that death was due to drowning, although the corpse
not been long immersed: but a sensation
was caused when the
evidence further disclosed that it bore an incised wound over
the left breast, in itself sufficient to cause death had not
suffocation quickly supervened.
"'The body was further described, in the police evidence, as that
of a middle-aged
a gentleman. It was clad in a
black 'evening-dress' suit, and two pearl studs of some value
remained in the limp shirt-front; from which, however, a third
and fellow stud was missing. The Police Inspector--who asked
for an open verdict, pending
further inquiry--added that the
linen, and the clothing generally, bore no mark leading to
identification. Further, if a crime had been committed, the
motive had not been robbery. The trousers-pockets contained a
sovereign, and eighteen shillings in silver. In the waistcoat
was a gold watch (which had stopped at 10.55), with a chain and
a sovereign-purse containing two sovereigns and a
half-sovereign: in the left-hand breast pocket of the
dinner-jacket a handkerchief, unmarked: in the right-hand
of notes and a worn bean-shaped case for a pair of
eyeglasses. The glasses were missing. The Police had carefully
dried the notes and separated them. They were nine one pound
notes; all numbered, of course. Beyond this and the number on
the watch there was nothing to afford a clue.'--"
Here Barham paused for a glance up at the roof of the dug-out, as two
explosions sounded pretty near at hand. "Huns saying
interpolated. "Can't have spotted us. Nothing doing aloft these
Polkinghorne looked across the light at the C.O., who sat
unaccountably silent, his face inscrutable in the penumbra.
Taking silence for "yes," Polkinghorne arose and put his head outside
for a look around.
"Queer story, you'll admit, sir?" put in Sammy Barham during this
pause. "Shall I go on, or wait for the rollicking Polly to hear it
out?--for the queerest part is to come."
"I know," said Otway, after some two or three seconds' silence.
"Eh? . . . But it's just here, sir, the thing of a sudden gets
mysteriouser and mysteriouser--"
Polkinghorne came back. "Nerves," he reported. "They're potting all
over the place. . . . Here, Sammy, pass over that scrap of paper if
you've finished reading. I want to hear the end."
"It hasn't any," said Otway from the shadow.
"But, sir, when I was just warning
"Dashed good beginning, anyway," said Polkinghorne; "something like
_Our Mutual Friend_."
"Who's he?" asked Sammy.
"Ingenuous youth, continue," Otway commanded. "Polky wants to hear
the rest of the paragraph, and so do I."
"It goes on just like a detective
story," promised Sammy. "Just you
listen to this:--
which may eventually
throw some light on the
mystery interrupted the Coroner's summing up and caused
something of a sensation. This was the appearance of an
labouring under strong excitement, who,
his way past the police, advanced
to the Coroner's
table and demanded to have sight of the body. The man's
gestures were wild, and on being asked his name he answered
incoherently. His manner seriouslyaffected
one of the jury,
who swooned and had to be removed from Court.
"'While restoratives were being applied
at the 'Plume and
Feathers' Inn (adjacent to the building in which the inquest was
held), the Coroner held consultation
with Police and Foreman of