Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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This work is in the Australian public domain.
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PETER CHEYNEY

THE PHILOSOPHER

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Published under syndication in, e.g.,
The Telegraph, Brisbane, Australia, 5 May 1936
The World's News, Sydney, Australia, 24 Jun 1936
Reprinted in MacKill's Mystery Magazine
UK Edition: Mar 1953
US Edition: Apr 1953

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-09-05
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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PURE hayseed!

And he certainly looked every grain of it as he stood there, gazing with a sort of rapt curiosity at the stupendous pile of the Dorchester Hotel. Not that he looked—at any rate to the observer who possessed any sense of psychology—in any way foolish. Oh, no! Plainly he was of the village, but he was equally not its idiot!

The tanned face, with its hint of ruddy, healthy color beneath the brown, wore a simple enough expression, but in the grey eyes there was more than a hint of shrewdness, and in the lines that showed in the corners of those eyes, and around the big, good-tempered mouth, a gentle sense of humor was plainly to be observed.

But in the rather aged bowler-hat, with its oval crown, and its wide brim, curled at the sides; in his rather bright blue suit, in the ill-fitting clasp of which he looked definitely uncomfortable; in the stand-up collar, and the big white satin tie, with its silver horseshoe stick-pin; in the big silver Albert watchguard, with its dangling football medals, and in the clumsy, rather over-polished black boots, the whole life and soul of Little Muddlecombe-on-the-Splosh could be seen incarnate.

Indeed, so plainly could it be seen that during his short stay in London the attention of several of the more zealous plain-clothes officers had been definitely attracted. He looked so much too good to be true! Some of these had shadowed him for a bit; others had got into conversation with him. But in every case the result had been the same—they had been reluctantly forced to pass him out as true-blue.

Equally with the police, the gentlemen of the opposite fraternity had been tickled by him. The expert pickpockets had passed him by, knowing that yokels such as this, forewarned to the dangers of London, invariably keep their money in an un-get-at-able place. Of the "conmen" many had taken him (as the police had done) to be a colleague; others had decided that it was too much like robbing a blind man. The findings of the third, and more business-like, contingent may be summed up in the words of "Dutch Sam," one of the cleverest of the fraternity.

He re-joined his two confederates after a short conversation with the intended victim:

"No good to us, boys!" was his curt verdict.

"Why not, Sam? No dough?"

"Oh, yes—he's got a bit of dough, all right!" Sam laughed, and the others looked at him inquiringly. "He told me all about himself—or most things, anyway. Says that twenty years ago 'ole Garge Bassett' paid a visit to London and came back with such a wonderful yarn about all he'd seen here that then and there our friend decided he'd pay a visit, too. He started to save that very week. He was a farm-boy, then, earning four and six a week. He put aside sixpence every week ever since. Sixpence a week for twenty years amounts to 26. His fare and lodgings have cost him four pounds—'and so' says he, slapping himself, 'I got mor'n twenty pound left to spend, like—only' (and he laughs like fun) 'I can't find nothin' to spend it on! Ain't that danged funny?'"

"Well, what's the matter with that?" inquired one of Dutch Sam's confederates. "Reckon we can show him, can't we? And, after all, twenty smackers is better than nothing!"

"Maybe," said Sam. "But it can't be done—he's no good to us!"

"Why not?"

"Because—as his Nibs on the Bench pointed out the last time he sent me down—the confidence-trick only appeals to men who are naturally greedy—who want to get something for nothing. See?"


IT was the following day—his last in London, for the coach that took him home left the Victoria Coach Station at six o'clock—that Garge was caught. His captor was little Jerry Sline, who touted for a number of clubs, gambling hells, and less savory places.

Jerry saw Garge standing in Leicester Square, gazing around him, and Jerry promptly swooped.

"Excuse me, but could you direct me to Green Street?"

"I be sorry, Sir, but ye see I be a stranger here myself, like!" Garge's beaming and childlike smile convinced Jerry he was a winner.

"Indeed? .Well, never mind! Ah, here's a pub—they'll be bound to know in there. Would you care to take a little refreshment with me, Sir?"

The genial eye of Garge gleamed, responsive to the hospitality offered.

"Glad to, Sir—if so be as ye'd take a glass with me after?"

"Sure I will! Come on, let's get to it!" Jerry knew his business! In less than five minutes they were talking like old friends. Over the second glass Jerry remarked:

"Twenty years' savings, eh? My word, that must amount to something useful?"

Garge grinned and blushed a little:

"Tidy bit, Sir—at least, it seems to me. Us doan't earn a mortal lot, though, down country—an' I be a married man, now. Still, I got twenty pound in my pocket, so I 'ave!"

"Have you though?" Jerry hid his disappointment cleverly—he had hoped for more. "And—you're returning this evening, you say?"

"Aye, Sir!"

"Got your ticket, of course?"

"Aye, Sir, surely!"

"Ah! Well, well....!" Jerry seemed to be suddenly smitten by a bright idea. "By the way, doing anything special this afternoon?"

"Why, no, Sir!"

"Good! Then why not come along to my Club, eh? You'll find club life in London quite interesting, if you've never visited one before. Have you?"

"Why, no, Sir. I—I've read about they places, though!" The grin on Garge's face was encouraging.

"Well, you come along, then. You'll find it interesting all right. Plenty of girls—drinks all the afternoon. Have a flutter on the tables, too, if you like!"

"Eh? Flutter on the tables...?"

"Little gamble, you know! Roulette—chemie, if you care for it?"

Garge's honest grey eyes were sparkling, and there was a sudden eagerness in his tone:

"What, like they do at Monte Carlo? I've always wanted to have a look at that there Cas-i-no...?"

"My boy," quoth Jerry, clapping him on the back, "you won't know you're not at Monte itself, once you're inside there! You come right along-now!"


GARGE—having reluctantly allowed his hat to be taken from him by a uniformed attendant (who had some difficulty in hiding his grin at that wonderful piece of headgear) stared around him in gentle amazement.

Certainly, it was a wonderful place, all right! Just like the real Monte Carlo, he thought. Smartly-dressed men, who carelessly produced great wads of notes when they paid for drinks. And the women! Slim, satin-clad forms—hair of lustrous black, gleaming gold and flaring red—wonderful jewellery—neat, silken ankles—marvellous high heeled shoes! Just like the pictures, so it was!

His friend—who seemed to know everybody there, and was cheerily hailed as "Jerry-old-boy!" by the men, and "Jerry-darling!" by the women—took him to the bar and bought him a bottled beer. Then Jerry whispered to the waiter, and the waiter hurried off and whispered to a wonderful creature with almost silver-colored hair.

Presently the wonderful creature rose, and walked towards the bar. Garge watched her approach with something like awe. She was sheathed in blue silk that shimmered as she glided across the floor. She was slim as a young reed, with a marvellous complexion and a cupid-bow mouth of deepest scarlet. Her arms were bare, and as white marble, and her frock—an afternoon one actually—seemed to Garge to be an infinitely daring evening one. Jewels flashed on her hands, around her neck, and dangled daringly from her ears.

"Hey, Eve...!" called Jerry.

She gave a little start, and then came towards them, smiling. By gum, Eve was the right name for her, too—a pretty one, she was.

"Lo, Eve!" quoth Jerry. "What's the poison? Say, meet my friend, Mr George Dimmock, will you? I want you to look after him for a bit—I got to see a feller about something!"

Her hand was marvellously soft and cool; her smile radiant; her eyes blue pools of invitation.

"Mr. Dimmock might like a little flutter!" said Jerry, as he hurried off.

"Shall we?" murmured Eve, slipping a bare arm through George's. As in a dream he allowed her to lead him to the tables. On the way he giggled once.

"What's the joke?" asked Eve.

"If Mary Ellen could see me now!" grinned George.

"Who's Mary Ellen?"

"My Missus!"

"Oh!" said Eve, and pouted adorably. At the tables she made him sit on a chair, and then she sat, bold as brass, on his lap. Garge was near amazed—just like on the pictures, it was. He'd never thought he'd ever be like this...!

She initiated him into the mysteries of roulette—still sitting on his knee, with one bare, cool arm around his shoulders—touching his brown, sun-roughened neck.

Garge decided that this must be a dream—rather a nice one, though.

"By gum," said Garge, as he put another pound note in her hand. "That be the last on 'em!"

"Mean you're broke?" asked Eve, sharply.

"Aye, for sure!" grinned Garge.

Five minutes later that had gone, too. "Really broke, are you?" queried Eve.

"Surely!" agreed Garge.

"Hard luck, chummy!" said Eve, and, bending, she actually kissed him—lightly, like the touch of a butterfly. Garge gasped, then grinned again.

Eve rose, and glanced up the room meaningly. The manager made a sign to a couple of big husky looking fellows with hard faces, and they followed him unobtrusively to the table. Garge was still sitting there.

"Finished playing, Sir?" asked the manager in his ear.

"Aye!" said Garge, and then grinned: "I be broke!"

"If you don't mind, then—somebody else will need your chair...?"

"Surely!" said Garge, and rose.

"Any drinks, Sir?"

"I can't!" said Garge. "I jest told 'ee—I be clean broke!"

The manager had heard all about this strange country cousin, and had thought him rather pathetic. Also, he wasn't a bad sort of chap in this way.

"If a loan's any use...?" he pulled a couple of pound notes from his pocket. Garge reddened:

"Why, thank'ee kindly, Sir, but I ain't never 'ad no need to take charity yet, an' I bean't thinking of starting now. If you'll pardon me, Sir!"

"That's all right! But—I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave the premises, now, Sir!" He glanced at the two big men, who closed in a little.

"Surely!" said Garge. "If I could have me hat...?"

Almost magically the weird contraption was in his hands. At the door, he hesitated, then thrust out a horny, work-worn hand to the manager.

"Well, thank 'ee kindly, Sir, fur a very nice afternoon. Maybe I'll be seeing 'ee again, Sir—in about ten years' time. I reckon. Ye see, I be earning' bit more now, an' I reckon I can save a bob a week, maybe!"

"That'll be fine!" smiled the manager.

"Now I'll be gettin' home, an' tell my missus. She will laugh!"

"Will she, though!" said the manager. "Well, I'm sorry you had such bad luck," he was quite sincere, for once—"twenty years' savings, eh?"

"Ah well, Sir," grinned Garge, from the doorway. "'Tweren't so bad, Sir, not really! 'Twill be something to tell the boys in the 'Plough'—and no doubt ye know the old saying, Sir—easy come, easy go! Good arternoon to ye, Sir!"

And the door swung to, blotting out Garge's good-humored smile from beneath the quaint old bowler hat.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.