Monday, 24 August 2015
Coconuts and Cannibals
A Funny Story of A Funny Ship
From Far East Adventure Stories, December 1931
“HOWDY,” RUMBLED the old sailor, as I strolled down the wharf and found him at his favorite spot, gazing fixedly at the sea and dangling a hand-line for cunners.
Then, without turning his head; “See anything out yonder?” he asked,
“Yes,” I replied, glancing across the Sound, “A couple of three-masters and a square-rigger.”
“Square-rigger, eh?” muttered the old man, turning his grizzled head and squinting at the horizon, “Don’t see many of ’em knockin’ about nowadays, Can ye see what she be an’ how she’s standin’? My eyes ain’t what they used to be.”
“She’s a bark,” I told him, "Standing to the eastward under fore and main topsails and to’ gallant sails, spanker, and fore to’ gallant staysail and jib,”
“Hmm,” muttered the old salt, as he knocked the ashes from his cold pipe and expectantly extended his hand, I handed him my pouch and he proceeded to ram a generous load into his pipe, “Speakin’ o’ barks, ’minds me o’ the Harvey Fullerton. Did I ever tell ye o’ my cruise in her?”
“Don’t believe you ever did,” I replied, filling my own pipe, I seated myself on the stringpiece of the wharf beside him and waited for the old fellow to light his pipe with the matches I supplied.
Presently his reeking clay was vomiting smoke like a miniature volcano, and I knew that a salty tale was being hatched in his fertile brain.
“THE FULLERTON,” he began at last, “was a New London ship, leastwise New London was her home port, and a barkentine. ’Tany rate, if she wa’n’t a barkentine I dunno what She was. But the gosh-dingest barkentine what ever me or ye or any other chap ever clapped eyes onto. If ye’d seed her out yonder ye couldn't have told which way she was headin’. Why? Ye’re askin’; ’cause she was built an’ rigged starn-fo’most with a square-rigged mizzen an’ fore-an’-aft fo’-mast an’ mainmast. Crazy idea, ye’ll say, an’ p’rhaps ’twas; an’ so me an’ me mates thought.
“But arter all, I dunno, as ’twas so all-fired crazy at that. The fellow what owned her must have had some sense in his head, even if he did live up to Willimantic an’ hadn’t never seed salt water nor nary craft bigger ’n a canal boat. He’d read a heap o’ books though, an’ he calc’lated that seein’ as a square-rigger was best afore the wind, an’ a fore-an’-aft ship was best on the wind, he could get the good p’ints o’ both by puttin’ of square sails after to catch a star wind, an’ fore-an’-aft sails for’ard to catch a head wind. An’ derned if it didn’t work out!
“But twas a all-fired job to get a crew o’ sailor-men to ship along on her. No sooner would they clap eyes onto that there starn-fust rig than they’d shake their heads an’ walk away, an’ the only ones what would sign on was bums what couldn’t get nothin’ else or greenies what didn’t know a rope-end from a marlin-spike.
“Dunno why I shipped myself. But I cal’clate it was just out o’ cur’osity to see how the consarned old hooker would sail; or mebbe ’cause old man Stebbins was skipper on her an’ I’d been shipmates with him afore.
An’ the cargo what she loaded was just as plumb crazy as the ship. Ye couldn’t never guess what ’twas in a month o’ Sundays, so I might just as well tell ye an’ be done with it. ’Twas skates an’ hatracks an’ sunbonnets an’ aprons! Yes, sir, queerest lot o’ cargo ever I'd seed or heard of. I reckon old man Fullerton just shipped what they made up to his shops. Ye see, ’bout that time, there was a big New England trade on with the West Injies, an’ folks was sendin’ down the most cur’ostest things not known’ nothin’ ’bout the islan’s, and missionaries was just openin’ up the South Seas an’ Christianizin’ o’ the natives.
Well, this Fullerton bird calc’iated as he could ship skates to Newfunlan’ an’ trade ’em for salt codfish, he bein’ a reg’lar Yankee trader an’ not doin’ no cash business on the whole v’age, an’ then send the codfish to the West Injies an’ make a trade with it for rum an’ molasses an’ sugar and sech.
Then we was to sail ’round the Horn an’ trade the aprons an’ sun-bonnets to the naked cannibals—reckon old Fullerton thought mebbe the rum might come in handy for to get the natives too drunk to know what they were trading an’ bring back copra an’ pearl shell.
And where was them hatracks go-in’? You might be askin’. To South Ameriky, to be sure. Fullerton allowed as how them there Dons always wore whoppin’ big hats and spurs an such like, an’ that every man-jack of ’em would need a private an’ personal hatrack for to hang his duds on.
Now I expect ye’re a thinkin’ this here’s just an ord’nary yarn, which it ain’t. No, sir, ’taint one of them there whoppers what some folks I’ve heard of are everlastin’ly tellin’. Nothing like that there story book what ya was readin’ of ’tother day about a cruise o’ a crew o’ city chaps what went to the South Seas an’ found square birds’ eggs an’ such all. There weren’t never no such things as square eggs, an’ ye know it well as me. An’ as for white shadders, who ever heard tell of a white shadder? Though there’s plenty o’ white men knockin’ about out there what ain’t nothin’ more’n shadders at that.
Howsomever, I’m a gettin’ often my couse an’ missin’ stays, so I’d better about ship an’ be a gettin’ on. Wal, as I was sayin’, we had a bum crew. Outside the skipper an’ me there was the first mate—rum short o’ chap named Finny from down the Cape somewheres. Second named Rooney—a crazy Irishman with a peg-leg, an’ every time he got roiled an’ started somethin’ he’d pull off his timber leg to slam some chap an’ forget about it an’ tumble all over his-self an’ the deck, a cussin’ most dref-ful. Bosun, he was a Portugee from New Bedford—an old whale man an’ a mighty good sailor man, even if he was a Dago, an’ the crew was just a paddel of bums.
O, yes, there was another chap, too, a fellow by name o’ Henry, sort o’ supergargo sent along by old Fullerton to look after the accounts an’ such like the owner not trustin’ skipper to attend to ’em. Wust lan’ lubber ever I see, that there Henry, an’ thought he know a heap about the sea, too. And reckoned he was might funny. Used to crack his sides, tellin’ a yarn about a cruise what he took on a schooner called the Flounder out o’ Gloucester with a cap’m name of Turbot. I knowed a skipper o’ that name once an’ didn’t tumble to the joke ’til Henry told how the schooner was that full that not a soul aboard had a place for to eat.
Howsomever, soon as we was out o’ the Sound, Henry took to his berth an’ never said nothin’ more till we made port again, so he don’t matter none nohow.
Skipper Stebbins was one o’ them cap’ns what had got religion—turned parson once, but he used to forget hisself when he got a preachin’ an’ would swear scandalous in the pulpit if he got a mite excited an’ had to quit. But so long’s we was bound for heathen lands he vowed he’d have to save some souls, so he took ’long enough tracts an’ Bibles to fill a yawl boat. Wal, we got clear at last. Fine summer morning, ’twas, and the tug come alongside an’ towed us down stream’ an’ out past Watch Hill and dropped us outside.
While we’d been towin’ out we’d been makin’ sail, there being a fair wind an’ soon’s ever the tug left us we squared away to the nor’east with our square-rigged mizzen a catchin’ all the wind an’ enough left over for to fill them big fore-an’-aft sails and a shovin’ the old hooker along at a twelve knot clip if she made a foot. ’Cause all hands what was sailors was mighty cur’ous to see bow she’d behave, an’ we was everlastin’ly blowcd to find of her rip-snorin’ along that way. But just the same, twa’nt right to look aft an’ see them there square sails an’ look for’ard an’ see fore-an’-aft canvas, and every time I walked along aft to take my turn to the wheel I had to walk backwards, by gum, or I’d have found myself headin’ for the fo’c’sle instead of the poop!
So it was on thet consarned pipe dream. Thar weren’t nothin’ thet weren’t backards, e’en when yuh went climbin’ up yuh was liable to find yur-self taking a header down below.
ABOUT THE third day arter Nantucket lightship was hull down, the wind hauled round and then our troubles began. Along about the middle o’ the night watch it was, when the wind drawed around to the east’ard an the mate begun bawlin’ out orders to swing yards an trim sail, Wal, sir, ’twas darker ’n a pocket, an’ we just had to find braces and sheets an’ haliards by feelin’, an the first thing we knowed, the old hooker was wallowin’ in the trough o’ the sea all aback, an’ the helsman a-singin’ out that the derned rudder’d went adrift, an’ things was in a holy mess.
First the old ship would come up into the wind for a jiffy an’ then she’d yaw an’ fall off an’, blow me for a sojer, if every time she come up she didn’t sail starn fo’rnost! An’ what do you guess the trouble was? Why, that there consarned mate had clean forgotten how the Fullerton was rigged and had just ordered sail set same as if she was an ord nary barkentine an’ ’course the ol’ hooker was a-dooin’ of her level best for to sail starn fust.
Wal, the rumpus woke up the Old Man an’ he come on deck and seen what the trouble was an’ bawled out to furl all square sails which same was did an’ after a bit we got the old Fullerton headed into the wind an’ on her course again.
But we didn’t never fetch, Newfunlan’. No, sir, just offen Nova Scotia we run into a nasty nor’wester, an’ the consarned old craft had to just turn tail an’ run afore it. Never did see such a gale’ wind lastin so all fired long. For six mortal days and night it blowed a livin’ hur’eane and we scuddin’ afore it under all but bare poles. And then, just as a sort o’ partin’ kiss, so to speak, she let out one big blow an’ takes two o’ the sticks clean outen the old hooker.
“Wal, there we be driftin’ about, south o’ Bermuda, with just a square-rigged mizzen, what wasn’t a mite o’ use, standin’. Wal, to make a long story short, so to say, the Old Man had the yards sent down. He was a proper sailor man for his prayin’ sanctimon’ous ways an’ with them we rigged up a couple o’ jury masts settin’ the mizzen topsails for trysails and as we couldn’t do nothin’ else we set a course for St. Thomas, that bein’ the nearest place where we could refit.
We fetched the island all right and while we was gettin’ new sticks, set up we had to break outa bit o’ the cargo for to work below decks. We was doin’ this one mornin’ when a big mullato Dane comes over the side, chap named Oleson he was, an’ had a big ship chand’lry shop an’ general store in town—and as he comes along the deck one o’ the cases o’ skates busts open.
Ole son stops an’ looks at ’em. “What's ’em?” he says.
“Skates,” says I.
“And what be skates an’ for what?" he asks, him bein’ a Danish nigger an’ not knowin’ about such things.
Wal, I was a bit peeved at havin’ to be workin’ in the sun when there was plenty o’ niggers to do the job an’ good rum shore, an’ I answers kind o’ short an’ impatient like. “Can’t ye see for yerself that they be?” says I. “And they’re mostly used for Christmas presents to home,” says I.
At that Oleson tips his big floppin’ hat for’ard an’ scratches his kinky yaller head for a minute an’ then he slaps his leg an’ says.
“They’re just what I’ve been wantin’,” he says. “Do ye know if they’re for sale or on consignment?”
“Go and see the skipper or the supercargo about ’em,” I tells him, and with that I goes on with my work.
And I'll be everlastin’ly keelhauled if he didn’t make a dicker an’ take all them consarned skates offen our hands, givin’ us bay rum in trade. What in tarnation he wanted with all them there skates down there in St. Thomas, where it’s hotter’n blazes, an’ the only ice they ever seen was brought down in barr’ls from Maine, I couldn’t figger out. So, bein’ a cur'ous sort o’ cuss, as ye know, I made up my mind for to find out soon as ever I got shore leave, which was next day, But I’ll be blowed if I seen a sign o’ a skate in town. So in I walks to Oleson’s place and asks the clerk about ’em.
“Oh,” says he. “We ain’t showin’ ’em yet, They’re emblems o’ the Christmas season and Mister Oleson calc’late to hang ’em outside his stores for to advertise his stock o’ Christmas good when the time comes,”
And I’ll bet ye, if ye go down to St, Thomas today, you’ll find them there same old skates a-hangin’ in bunches like grapes outside o’ all the shops long towards Christmas. Yes, sir. West Injins is queer guys. Remember that there yarn I telled ye about them warming-pans what was shipped down an’ how the folks used ’em for sugar-ladles?
HOWSOMEVER, that’s nothin’ to do with this here cruise o’ the Fullerton. By an’ by, the old hooker was rigged an’ ready for sea, but ye never would have known her, ’cause why? ’Cause the skipper had rigged her fore-an’-aft on fore an’ mizzenmasts an’ square on the mainmast. Seemed as how him an’ Henry had an argument over it. The Old Man insisted he was goin’ for to rig her ship-shape barkentine style, while Henry swore he was the owner’s agent and if Fullerton wanted his ship rigged starn fo’most, then starn-fo’most she’d stay. Seem’ as neither would give in, an’ as Henry had the money to pay for the refittin’, the Old Man and him finally split the difference an’ shoved the square-rigged stick amidships.
The next port o’ call, accordin’ to orders, was South Ameriky where we was to trade off them hatracks. So we squared away down the islands and I will say as how that new-fangled rig worked mighty pretty an’ I’ve been wonderin’, many’s the time since, why folks didn’t never build ships that way. Ye see, when sailin’ to windward or with a beam wind, everything would draw, and if we was takin’ we just used the fore-an’-aft canvas, while, if we was runnin’ free, we winged out the for-anmizzen and set upper sails on the main, and there we be!
I disremember just where ’twas, but along offen Barbadoes somewhere that we run into the all firedest big school o’ sharks what ever I seen. And then, it bein’ pretty nigh a dead calm, all hands set to, a-tryin’ to catch them critters. But they was so consarned big that no hook nor tackle we had would hold ’em. Wal, sir, the ship now bein’ pretty steady, that Henry fellow—him not feelin’ sick comes up on deck and watches us for a spell. Then he up an’ asks the skipper to open a hatch and he goes down with a couple o’ hands and fetches up one o’ them hatracks. Ye know the kind they was —thing made o’ a lot o’ sticks stand-in’ up from a sort o’ middle spar.
Then Henry makes one end o’ a coil o’ line fast to the hatrack, an’ heaves her over, an’ I’ll be dumb-swizzled if a whoppin’ big shark didn’t grab it soon’s ever it hit the water. And there he was! Them there prongs just stuck in his throat like about a dozen big hooks, an’ reavin’ the line through a tackle, we tailed on an’ had that there shark on deck in less’n no time. Just then the wind come up an’ the mate commenced hollerin’ orders an’ I reckon ’twas lucky at that, or else we’d all been fishin’ for sharks with them there hatracks an’ them South Ameriky chaps wouldn’t never have got ’em.
I don’t rightly know what the name o’ the place was where we put in at, but ’twas some “Santa” or other—don’t, make a mite o’ difference nohow—and Henry had some o’ them hatrack gadjets broken out o’ the hold an’ sends ’em ashore and sets ’em down outside a inn whilst he goes inside for a drink before a startin’ to do business. Just then along comes a couple o’ chaps dashin’ up horse back and all rigged out fit to kill in big hats and jinglin’ spurs an’ sashes an’ cloaks an’ such-like.
Pullin’ up alongside the inn they sees Henry’s hatracks standin’ there convenient-like an’ thinkin’ Mister Innkeeper’d got some new-fangled kind o’ hitchin’ posts they heaves their bridles over them racks and stomps inside. Wal, that was all what was needed. After that, every consarned inn and pub in the place had to have a hatrack hitchin’-post outside to do any business, an’ we was three mortal days stowin’ the hides an’ coffee an’ rubber what we took in trade for them there gadjets. Beats all what fool luck some folks do have.
Now there ain’t a mite o’ use in me a tellin’ ye about the run down the coast an’ round the Horn, ’ceptin’ we all wished we had them there skates for to get about the decks with when we struck cold weather an’ the old hooker iced up. But we was mighty glad we had them two fore-an’-aft sails, ’stead o’ square yards, an’ we just stripped off the mainmast canvas an’ worked round the Horn under fore an’ mizzen, ’cause no mortal man could have handled square sails in the weather what we had. But we got round at last, and mighty thankful at that, an’ stood away for the South Sea Islands.
When we fetched the first one the Old Man was pretty nigh flabbergasted to see all them folks, men an’ wimmen, runnin’ around just as naked as the day they was born. So, without waitin’ to give Henry a chance for to trade, he gets out them aprons an’ sunbonnets an’ passes of ’em around to them heathen savages. An’ what do ye think? Them critters was tickled to death. They grabbed the bonnets an’ tied ’em on for bustles an’ wrapped the aprons ’round their heads for turbans, an’ goes struttin’ up an’ down the decks as proud as peacocks! Wal, sir, skipper wasn’t no better off than before, so, hidin’ his eyes an’ blushin’ somethin’ awful, he shoos ’em off, an’ findin’ they don’t have no shell nor copra he takes on a lot o’ coconuts an’ sets sail for the next island.
HERE THE folks wears clothes in the shape o’ grass petticoats, an’ they also got plenty o’ copra an’ shell, so the Old Man opens up the hatches an’ rigs hoistin’ tackle an’ slings to the mainyard an’ gets ready for to trade. Seein’ as how the skipper’d given away all them aprons and bonnets at t’other island, we didn’t have nothin’ to trade, ’ceptin’ the bay rum what we got to St. Thomas and the coffee and hides an’ rubber what we took on over to South Ameriky.
’Course the islanders didn’t have no use for hides or coffee or rubber, but the cap’n an’ Henry figured as how the bay rum might have taken— seem’ as how ’twas mostly made o’ good Santa Cruz rum an’ smelled mighty nice. And I’ll be bilged if it didn’t take too consarned well at that. Gosh A’mighty! The old chief just took one sniff o’ that there stuff an’ poured a bit down his scuppers an’ he was ready for to trade everythin’ he had. And right then and there that dumb-swizzled fool Henry made a big mistake. Thinkin’ to get the copra and shell aboard faster, he gives out a dozen cases o’ bay rum before more’n half a ton o’ shell an’ a couple o’ canoe loads o’ copra was alongside and then, o’ course them consarned savages just sot down an’ got themselves plumb fightin’ drunk.
We could hear of ’em a-yellin' and squealin’ over to the village and when no more stuff comes off the skipper sends a boat ashore for to see what was the trouble. But that boat never touched the beach, I tell ye. Soon’s ever they seen us comin’ they grabs up spears and clubs an’ such an’ comes tearin’ an’ yellin’ for us and we just turns tail an’ pulls like blue blazes for the ship. Lucky thing they was too drunk to handle canoes or I wouldn’t be here tellin’ ye about it.
And we was in a pretty fix. There we be, anchored inside the lagoon and not a breath o’ wind stirrin’ the palm trees and with a passel o’ cannibals carousin’ ashore an’ us with no way o’ gettin’ clear. We knowed, soon’s ever them blacks had guzzled all the bay rum they had, that they’d be comin’ out to stick us up and gather in the rest o’ the stuff and skipper—him bein’ such a sanctimonious chap, and a man o’ peace—we didn’t have no guns aboard. Wal, there we be, settin’ an’ waitin’ for to have our throats slit—an’ like as not et arterwards—and not knowin’ what to do, when Rooney gives a yell an’ bangs his peg-leg on the deck.
“B’gorra I have it!” says he. “B’ys, break out that there rubber an’ be lively about it!”
Not knowin’ nor carin’ what the idea was, but willin’ for to do most anythin’ just to keep our minds offen them wild cannibals ashore, we falls to and gets them bales o’ rubber on deck. It had been tarnation hot weather for weeks past and the rubber’d got soft and sticky-like, and Rooney sets us all to work pullin’ of it out and twistin’ of it into cables. Then he fetches up a barrel o’ sulphur, what we had for fumigatin’ the ship in case o’ fever and we rubbed the brimstone over the rubber cables an’ lays ’em out in the sun. Next, Rooney orders us to get a hide outen the hold, and he fastens one end o’ the rubber cables to this and t’other ends to a couple o’ sheer-poles rigged up alongside o’ the rail, and then we begins for to see what he’s doin'.
Gosh all hemlock! There he had the aimightiest big slungshot what ever was, and we hadn’t no more’n finished it when about fifty canoes came a skyhootin’ from shore filled chock-o-block with savages. Soon’s they come about two cables’ lengths off, Rooney clapped a tackle onto the hide with a lashing to a snatch-block —an’ drawin’ the things-mabob clean back to t’other rail he dumps a sack o’ coconuts into the hide an’ cuts the lashin’s with his knife.
Holy mackerel! Ye’d oughta seed them nuts go shootin’ when them big rubber cables go! Talk about bombshells. Some o’ them there nuts struck the canoes an’ busted and knocked the niggers all about.
’Tothers plumped into the water alongside, while them cannibals what was hit fair might just as well been struck by a six-inch shell. But they was game all right. Some on ’em got nigh enough the ship to heave a few spears and arrers, but a couple o’ more loads o' nuts finished ’em.
An’ just then a breeze comes up, an’ slippin’ our cable we got clear o’ the lagoon. But the last shot was too consarned much for them sheerpoles, and rubbers an’ hide an’ poles an’ all went flyin’ off together. Seem’ as the sheerpoles was made outen the main torpsail yards we couldn’t use the mainmast for square canvas, so we put into Samoa and rigged the old Fullerton as a three-masted schooner afore we sailed home, and there was one square-rigger less.”
The old sailor stopped and refilled his pipe.
“That’s a corker of a yarn,” I chuckled, “Beats any you’ve told me yet.” Slowly he rose to his feet and looked down at me with a hurt expression on his weather-beaten face.
“Meanin’ you don’t believe it,” he said in injured tones. “Wal, o’ course folks what ain’t never been to sea don’t know what almighty queer things does happen. Howsomever, if ye’ll come up to my place 1 can prove it’s true, I got one o’ the pearl shells an’ a arrer up there.”
Tuesday, 30 June 2015
The Mystery of the Locked Door
I cribbed this from the Yahoo group 'fictionmags' chums. It's a cute short mystery./drf
Lord Allerfield, as the bulletins in the leading morning papers told their readers, having been dangerously ill, and literally at death’s door for days, had suddenly taken a turn for the better.
For the last week, he had been allowed to sit up for a few hours each day, and even to receive short visits from is intimate friends A man of great vitality and recuperative powers—though well past his prime—his complete recovery was confidently expected.
Major Derwent Duff was an intimate friend of the Allerfields of many years standing so, after a late lunch on a sunny spring afternoon, he looked in at Melford House, in Kensington Gore, to pay a visit of congratulations.
He was shown up to the rooms Lord Allerfield had been moved into for the sake of quietness during his illness.
They were at the end of a long corridor and consisted of a large outer room, half sitting room half library, which connected directly with the passage, with windows facing west and south , and to the left of this, and accessible only by a door in the dividing wall, an almost equally large bed-room, with two windows facing south, and overlooking the garden.
Lord Allerfield, tall and gaunt, was seated in a deep armchair in front of a log fire in this inner room in his dressing-gown and slippers, and the two windows were wide open, admitting a flood of sunshine.
His wife and two other visitors were there when Duff was show in, and his confidential secretary Viner, was busy with some papers at a big writing-table.
Lord Allerfield, though drawn and wasted by his illness, was much stronger than Duff had expected to find him. At times there was quite a gleam of the old humour in the sunken eyes; though every now and again the light faded, and he seemed drowsy and lethargic, and his head would nod a little.
Duff had scarcely been in the room ten minutes when a pretty-faced nurse slipped quietly in from her own room, which was just across the corridor, and, after a quick glance at her patient, drove them all out.
‘It’s high time for his afternoon’s nap,’ she said in an undertone to Lady Allerfield, ‘so you must all run away, please. He is to have his beef-tea at five, and until them he mustn’t be disturbed.’
Lady Allerfield nodded, patted her husband’s sleeve, and led the way out.
Viner gathered up his papers, pausing for a moment to speak to the nurse in the corridor, and then they all trooped downstairs to the drawing-room, with the exception of the nurse, who returned to her own room, which was opposite those occupied by the invalid.
When they were downstairs, a couple more visitors came in to make inquiries, and close on their heels came tea.
Duff, happening to glance at the clock, realised with something of a start that it was already ten minutes past five, and was rising to go when he saw the nurse open the door at the far end of the room and beckon to Viner, who had just been handing round some cakes. Something in her face made Duff suddenly change his mind and stay. She was evidently both startled and scared, and after exchanging a few whispered sentences with Viner, the latter nodded and followed her out.
From where he sat, Duff had had a clear view of her face, and also of Viner’s, as they spoke together, and he felt a conviction that something had happened. No one else in the room, however, seemed to have noticed the incident.
He sat on, paying little heed to the flow of general conversation going on round about him—and he had not long to wait.
In less than ten minutes Viner, obviously terribly upset, and with a face nearly as white as his collar, burst into the room.
‘Lord Allerfield—’ he said shrilly. And then stopped.
All in the room sprang to their feet.
‘What?’ demanded someone sharply.
‘He’s dead!’ said Viner hoarsely. ‘The nurse came for me here a few minutes ago and beckoned me out. She was taking him his beef-tea at five, as ordered, and, to her amazement, found the sitting-room door locked. She knocked and knocked and, getting no answer, she became alarmed. The door had never been locked before during the whole time of his illness; so, feeling sure there was something amiss, she ran down here for me. We ran up together, and being unable to get in any other way, I broke a panel in the door, through which I was able to reach my arm. The key was there right enough on the inside, and the door was locked. I unlocked it, and went in. Feeling certain there must be something seriously wrong, I told the nurse—she’s only a girl after all—to wait on the threshold of the sitting-room whilst I went into the bed-room beyond. I was afraid that Lord Allerfield might have had a fit or a collapse of some sort. But—but it was worse than that. He was lying huddled up in the chair before the fire, and when I tried to rouse him I saw.
‘He had an old Indian knife which he used as a paper-cutter. He always kept it lying about somewhere handy—generally on the writing-table or the table by his bedside. It was buried to the hilt in his chest, and beside him, on the table, was a piece of paper with some scribbled words on it: “I can’t stand this any longer,” or “I can’t bear it.” I was too horrorstruck to read clearly. I gave the nurse the key as I came out and told her to stay on guard outside the door in case of the servants or anyone, and came—’ His voice broke suddenly and he stopped.
Lady Allerfield had mercifully fainted quietly away before he finished. Duff had seen her sway, and caught her in the nick of time. After laying her gently on a sofa in charge of two of the other women, he nodded grimly to the two men in the room he knew well, and they filed quietly out after him in silence, together with Viner.
‘Good Heavens!’ said one of the men, in an awed whisper as the door closed behind them. ‘Allerfield of all people! The last man I should have expected it of! Fine sportsman and all that. But I believe he suffered terrible pain during the first few days of his illness. He must have felt—or fancied—that he had a relapse coming on or another attack.’
‘Someone must telephone to the doctor at once. Viner, you do it,’ said Duff. ‘Tell him it’s urgent. And then, if you take my advice, you’ll have a stiff drink, or something, before you come upstairs; but be as quick as you can.’
‘I’ll telephone to Sir James McAskie at once, and take your advice. I’m sorry I made such a fool of myself by blurting out the news like that in front of everyone, but it was all so sudden and so ghastly.’
The three others went upstairs in silence, and found the nurse waiting outside. She was very pale, but quite self-possessed, and handed Duff the key even before he asked for it. The four of them went in and through to the bed-room.
It was just as Viner had said. The fire was still burning in the grate, and the sunshine and the twittering of birds came through the open window. But the owner of the room, lying huddled up in his chair, would never be conscious of either again.
The knife had been driven in with a firm, upward thrust below the breastbone into the heart, and only the dulled brass hilt of it was visible protruding from the bright-coloured silk pyjama-jacket. The right hand, thin and sinewy, lay limply on the dead man’s lap, curved palm uppermost directly beneath the knife-hilt. The wound had bled a little—not much—but a few splashes of blood had trickled down and stained the curved palm.
Major Duff, after one quick, comprehensive glance at the body of his friend, turned to the pathetic note on the table near by. It was written in the dead man’s handwriting, a little shaky from illness:
‘I can bear this no longer. Good-bye. --
Lord Allerfield’s fountain-pen lay near it, and the words had been carefully blotted. That was all.
With a pensive frown, Duff regarded the piece of paper, the pen, and the blotting-pad on the table. Then he turned to the nurse, who was leaning against the foot of the bed, and looking rather faint. He led her out into the sitting-room beyond.
‘I want you to tell me in your own way exactly what happened when you were up here alone?’ he said, having settled her in an armchair. ‘Don’t hurry yourself,’ he added kindly. ‘I just want you to try and remember, that’s all.’
‘You remember when I came into the room there and asked you all to leave earlier this afternoon?’ she said, a little wearily. ‘Well, I stood for a moment or two after that in the passage, talking to Mr. Viner about some business trifle—the payment of a chemist’s account, I think it was. Then he went away and joined the rest of you, and I went to my room, which is just opposite here, and sat down to read. There was nothing for me to do until five, when I was to take in the beef-tea, but I kept my sitting-room door open, as I always do, in case Lord Allerfield should need me. There is a bell always left on the table just beside him, or within reach, and if he presses that I can hear him at once with my door open.
‘At five one of the servants came up with the beef-tea on a salver, brought it into my room, and took away the tray that had been used at luncheon-time, and which I had brought in here. The servants were not allowed n the sick-room; they were apt to irritate the patient.
‘I took up the salver and went to the door over there with it. To my astonishment, it was locked. I have been nursing here ever since the illness started, and neither I, nor, as I feel sure, the night nurse either, has ever known that door locked. Certianly neither of us has ever locked it.
‘I was puzzled at first. Then I became alarmed, especially when, after knocking loudly and repeatedly, I got no answer. Lord Allerfield might have had sufficient strength to move slowly across to the door and lock it; but why should he have done so, unless—. It was that thought which frightened me and sent me hurrying downstairs for Mr. Viner.
‘He came back with me and tried the door himself, and finally he put his shoulder against it, and managed to splinter a panel; but there was no sound from inside. I think we were both thoroughly scared by that time; at any rate, I know I was, for there were several bottles of dangerous drugs in the room—sleeping draughts and so forth, and veronal tabloids—made up in accordance with Sir James McKascie’s special prescriptions. By themselves, properly administered, of course, they were harmless enough, but a large overdose, taken accidentally or deliberately, might have easily produced coma, and then proved fatal.’
‘Quite so,’ said Duff thoughtfully. ‘And then?’
‘Mr. Viner managed to make a hole in the panel big enough to get his arm through, and unlocked the door from the inside. He opened it and told me to wait where I was, whilst he went into the bed-room. He saw I was very frightened, of course. In about a couple of minutes he came out again looking as white as a ghost and shaking. He locked the door of the sitting-room behind him, and gave me the key.
‘“Don’t go in,” he told me. “It’s worse even than we feared. Stay therefore a few moments. I must go and tell the others; and don’t let anyone in on nay excuse until we come back.” So I stayed there until you came,’ she added lamely.
Duff nodded gravely.
‘You behaved very well, nurse,’ he said. ‘Now, go and have a bit of rest in your own room. I’ll see to everything here.’
He helped her to her own door, and then, returning to that of the sitting-room, he stood on the threshold, staring vacantly about him.
He had been there a very short time when the sound of hurried footsteps mad him turn sharply. Two men were coming towards him—Viner and the doctor, Sir James McKaskie.
‘I missed Sir James on the telephone,’ explained Viner, ‘but learnt that he was already on his way here, so I waited to bring him up.’
Sir James, a small, wiry man with very shaggy eyebrows, nodded to Duff, whom he knew, and the three passed into the inner room.
Sir James, after a single exclamation of alarm and dismay, immediately set about his gruesome task. Viner, looking dazed, stared out of the window, while Derwent Duff fiddled about with things on the table, even examining the medicine-bottles, smelling the contents of some, and tasting others by moistening the tip of his finger with the liquid inside.
At last, as Sir James rose from making his preliminary examination, Duff said tentatively:
‘The police ought to be informed as soon as possible. There’s bound to be an inquiry, and if things could be kept as quiet as possible, for Lady Allerfield’s sake—.’
‘Sir James nodded briskly.
‘Of course!’ he said. 'The sooner it’s done the better. Viner, you are an intimate member of the household. You’d better go. Mention my name if you like, and try and persuade them to hush things up as much as possible.’
‘Very well,’ said Viner tonelessly, and he and Duff left the room.
In a few minutes Duff came back and faced Sir James.
‘McKaskie,’ he said, ‘I want a word or two with you. You see that medicine-bottle there? It contains a sleeping draught of some sort, presumably of your prescribing. The date on the label shows it was only made up and delivered by the chemist yesterday. Yet I notice that there are seven doses missing. Is that in accordance with your orders?’
Sir James glanced at the bottle and raised his eyebrows.
‘Certainly not! I prescribed one dose at bedtime, to be repeated in an hour if the patient seemed restless. It is a powerful narcotic and sedative, but it is quite harmless. Even if Allerfield had swallowed the whole lot by mistake, it would only have sent him into a deep sleep for a certain number of hours.’
‘Quite so,’ said Duff. ‘Supposing, then, that he had two doses—the maximum prescribed by you last night. This graduated bottle shows that there are five doses unaccounted for, which have evidently been given to him, or taken by him, today.’
‘He would never have taken them!’ said Sir James sharply. ‘He had an old-fashioned loathing of drugs, a sort of morbid horror. It was most difficult to induce him to take even his ordinary dose.’
‘It is colourless and practically tasteless, quite unnoticeable in, say, a cup of beef-tea.’
Sir James darted a sharp look at him from under his shaggy eyebrows, and his face grew hard about the jaw.’
‘That is so,’ he replied curtly.
‘Its effect would not be immediate?’ persisted Duff.
‘No. Under normal circumstances, and in complete quiet, sleep would be induced in about an hour. With any disturbing elements in the room—such as people moving about and talking—sleep, even with such a dose, might be delayed for a couple of hours, possibly a little longer. But it would come in the end, and then it would be both deep and heavy.’
Major Duff drummed thoughtfully on the table with his fingers.
‘Allerfield had his last cup of beef-tea at two o’clock,’ he said quietly. I learnt that from his nurse. At a quarter past three his wife, myself, and a couple of other people were in the room talking to him. He was quite sensible, but then he grew drowsy and began to nod. The nurse came in and turned us out as it was time for his afternoon sleep. He was practically asleep as we left the room.
‘At five she returned, found the door locked on the inside, and was unable to make him hear or rouse him, so she went for help. He had had five doses of that sleeping draught, remember. At half past three he was virtually asleep under the influence of the draught. Yet apparently between that time and the time the door was forced—shortly after five—he roused himself sufficiently to write that note on the table there, replace that cap neatly on the pen, having previously locked the door in the outer room, mark you—blot his farewell message carefully, and then thrust that knife upwards into his heart, an action requiring a man’s utmost determination and considerable physical strength. Strange, isn’t it?’
Sir James sprang to his feet.
‘In Heaven’s name, what do you mean?’ he said hoarsely.
‘Wait a moment,’ said Duff, and, selecting a clean sheet of writing-paper, he laid it on the table.
‘Please take that fountain-pen there and write something—your signature—anything will do.’
The doctor took up the pen, pulled off the cap, and then put it down again with a gesture of disgust. The thing was leaking badly, the nib-point was corroded, and his own fingers were smeared with ink.
‘I knew that would happen,’ said Duff. ‘I tried it myself a little while ago, with the same result. That pen hasn’t been used for days. It leaks when you try to use it, and the ink has clotted round the point. Yet there are no blots or smears on this note, nor is there any other pen of any description in the room.
‘Now look at the blotting pad. There are the impressions of a few addresses of envelopes in Viner’s handwriting. Any letters he takes down he takes in a notebook is in pencil shorthand and transcribes in his own room. The pad is otherwise clean.
‘This brief farewell note was never written with that pen. With a similar one—yes; but not with that. It was never blotted on this pad—the only one in the room—and there isn’t a trace of an ink-smear on Allerfield’s fingers, because I looked for one. That note was written and prepared elsewhere beforehand, and is a passable forgery, neither more nor less. You see it has been folded in two. What on earth for? There are plenty of envelopes in the rack there. Allerfield could have used one of those, or left the note lying open on the table. It was folded for one reason only—to go into a man’s pocket or pocket-book.’
Sir James’ grim face hardened even more.
‘You mean murder?’ he said harshly.
‘But the door was locked on the inside!’
‘Come with me,’ said Duff shortly. ‘Viner will be back soon with the police.’
He led the way out, locked the sitting-room door carefully behind him, and pocketed the key. They went down the long corridor, and stopped at the third door on the right, which appeared to be a small study.
Duff switched on the light, for it was getting dark, and closed the door.
‘You remember I was some little time on returning, after sending Viner off for the police? Well, I was here and this is what I found.’
He took from beneath a diary a sheet of blotting-paper which had once been crumpled up, but since then carefully smoothed out.
‘That was in the wastepaper-basket,’ he said. I flattened it out as best I could. Hold it up to the mirror there under the light, and tell me what you see.’
Sir James did so, and saw a criss-cross impression of neat, slanting handwriting—Viner’s; and then a few words in a crabbed handwriting stood out.
‘“Bear—bear this no longer,” repeated several times, and in another place “I—I—I” followed by a succession of “
Duff, stretching out a finger over Sir James’ shoulder, pointed to one particular part of the reflection, showing an almost complete silence.
‘“… bear this no longer. Goodbye.—
‘There are many repetitions of that sort of thing,’ said Duff quietly. ‘The man had been practising, you see. And that left-hand corner of the blotting-paper which is torn has an edge corresponding exactly to the edge of the portion left in the corner-piece of the blotters on the desk there. Also, it is evident that there has been no fire in the room for days, yet the grate has a dozen or more charred wisps of paper in it, crumpled up and burnt most carefully with matches—the results of the previous trials. The pen with which they were written is presumably in its owner’s pocket—similar to that one you picked up just now; and filled with the same kind of ink. So now you know where that farewell message was really written.’
‘But where are—’
‘We’re in Viner’s private work-room.’
Sir James started and Duff lit a cigarette
‘You can see what happened,’ he said. ‘Just about two o’clock the nurse brought Allerfield’s soup. Viner was busy at work in the room. She put the soup down on the tray and went out. A moment or so later Viner got up to go down to luncheon. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, and where that bottle of sleeping-mixture was. It would be the work of seconds to slip, say, four or five doses into the soup, and replace the bottle unobserved.
‘After luncheon he returned to his work. Possibly Lady Allerfield and the others went up with him. I was shown in later, and left at three-thirty with the rest. Allerfield, having drunk his soup and a large dose of the draught and hour and a half earlier, was already sleepy.
‘Viner made an excuse to speak to the nurse in the passage on some trivial matter, and whilst doing so he held the key behind him, with his back to the door, which he locked and then took away the key. No one, humanly speaking, would attempt to go near that room again till five. Then the nurse would go, in the ordinary course of her duties, find the door fastened, and naturally come to him before anyone else, as he was Allerfield’s confidential secretary. Even if she hadn’t, there would have been no danger. There would have been a hunt for the key. It would have been found under the mat, placed there by Viner in helping to search, and the patient would have been found sleeping comfortably.
‘But she did come to him, as it was a hundred to one she would, and beckoned him out of the room. I remember now that I was sitting, close to him, and noticed a curious, fidgety, expectant look on his face before her arrival at the drawing-room door, but that the moment she began speaking to him he became as expressionless and impassive as a Red Indian. He went upstairs with her, and splintered a panel of the door. Having got his arm through, he found that it was locked on the inside. As the key was in his hand when it passed through that hole in the panel, it is not surprising. He opened the door and made her wait on the threshold. From there it is quite impossible to see into the inner room. He went swiftly in. Allerfield was in state of stupor.
‘Viner pulled that note out of his pocket—he shouldn’t have folded it—laid it on the table with the pen handy. The knife was in readiness. He had seen to that. One swift blow, and everything was done in a matter of seconds. He placed the dead man’s hand beneath the knife and rushed out. Even a stray blood-splash on his own cuff or hand could have been easily explained away.’
‘But the motive?’ said Sir James.
‘Allerfield was a very rich man,’ said Duff. ‘he had many secret enterprises in which he probably held shares in a name not his own. Viner’s, as his confidential man, seems a likely one. Also, I expect Viner had been speculating on his own account with money certainly not his own, especially during Allerfield’s illness. He was empowered to sign cheques, and it was a golden opportunity for him. Had Allerfield’s illness carried him off, a whole staff of accountant’s and family solicitors couldn’t have found out a thing.
‘But when you got him on the road to health again Viner saw his danger. Allerfield was an uncommonly shrewd man and he knew, as no one else did, how affairs should stand. With the recovery of his health, Viner’s discovery was inevitable, and Viner most effectually prevented that recovery.’
Duff paused and stood listening.
‘I think I hear him coming up the stairs with the police,’ he said quietly. They will be most useful. Shall we go and meet them, Sir James?’
Sunday, 3 May 2015
Where God’s great gift was sent to men.
'T was many, many years ago
A babe was born midst skies aglow
And from the heaven’s angelic throng
Proclaimed His birth with holy song
And in the fields the shepherds lay
Until they heard the angel say
"Fear not, great tidings, I bring this morn
For unto you a saviour's born."
And in the manger, the baby lay
Upon a humble bed of hay
And from the East the wise men came
To worship His most holy name.
For they had seen His star by night
And followed its abiding light
Until they came to
Where God’s great gift was sent to men.
For Christ was come that He might die
To save the world from sin and lies
He gave His life on
That some day we may be set free
So let us all with one accord
Fall down and worship our dear Lord
Whose precious love for you and me
Will warm our hearts eternally.
(An original song from about 1993 by Katie den Admirant.)
I just found this song in my papers and I thought I should share it. Katie has not been well for a number of years./drf
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Rising and Falling with the Sun
For most of my adult life I have been an early riser. The sun is our internal clock so why would we not honour that even in these artificial days of television and other distractions. The province of Saskatchewan never alters the clock with daylight saving time—it's a unnecessary artefact that does little.
(Website is https://ptaff.ca/soleil/?lang=en_CA) a great website!!!
I see from this graph that our maximum daylight occurs June 21 with 15:35 of daylight starting at 5:29 and setting at 21:03. That gives us 15.5 hours of daylight and 8.5 hours of night, of rest. That should be appropriate to us.
We were always also taught that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours afterward. Yes it is an old fable but there is probably many grains of truth in the saying.
With the availability for most of us to record as much TV as we want, we should be able to follow this principle. Why not give it a try?
(I do like a good nap too!)
Sunday, 19 April 2015
Bannerman, Lieut.-Colonel W. B. (maybe William Bruce see below)
Bannerman's published works include Smoky Range, Murder in the Legion (with Ian
Cameron), Santos, Border Detective, and Down the Texas Trail" from http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=943482920&searchurl=an%3DW.+B.+Bannerman
Report of the
Plague Research Laboratory for the Official Year Ending 31st March 1905
Published by Government Central Press, India,
Scientific Memoirs by Officers of the
Medical and Sanitary Departments of the Government of India. No 33. The
Production of Alkali in liquid media by the Bacillus Pestis.
by Office of the Superintendent of Goverment Printing, India, Calcutta,, 1908
Concering Animals And Other Matters
J. Murray, ©1914.
The registers of marriages of St. Mary
le Bone, Middlesex, 1668-1812 : and of Oxford chapel, Vere street, St. Mary le
St. Marylebone (Parish : London, England),Bannerman, W. Bruce (William Bruce),
1862-1933,Bannerman, Ronald, b. 1888,St. Peter's Chapel, Vere Street (London,
Parish registers of Lullingstone, co.
W. Bruce Bannerman; Lullingstone, England (Parish). Publisher: London 
Parish registers of Horton Kirbie, Co.
W. Bruce Bannerman; Horton Kirby, England (Parish). Publisher: London 
Murder in the Legion
Ian & W. B. Bannerman. Published by Sampson Low, Marston, GB
Down the Texas Trail
Bad End Valley
The Whispering Riders
by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd., 246 pages, 1937.
Dead March in the Desert; the story of Mervyn Pellew (ex-légionnaire 8901) as
told to W.B. Bannerman. Also known as The
Mervyn Pellew; W B Bannerman. Publisher: London, S. Low, Marston & Co.
. This story refers to Niagra Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.
Accursed Of Allah : A Novel
Published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co, UK, First Edition Dated 1938.
Légionnaire Spy. A novel.
Publisher: London, 
SANTOS. Border Detective
by Sydney: F.J. Thwaites (1940) First Australian edition., 1940
Smoky Range (Sombrero Western series)
by Frederick Muller 1952
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.