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ALBERT DORRINGTON

THE GAY ADVENTURE

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Ex Libris

As published in
The Chronicle, Adelaide, Australia, 14 November 1929

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-05-18
Produced by Terry Walker, Gary Meller and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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THERE wasn't a house near the river that they could afford to live in. Hetty wanted a garden and a boat. And all that Dennis could promise at present was a roof and a gas ring. Leaving out the gas ring and the roof Hetty felt that life could be made endurable in an open hay waggon, provided Dennis was somewhere among the hay.

Dennis was poor and young, and a bit of a dreamer. If only he could have dreamed Hetty and himself into a riverside bungalow, with a garden and income thrown in, he might never have studied the movements of one Captain Giggs, owner of the yellow-painted boathouse, the tennis lawns, and noble Georgian house, half hidden among the towering elms and oak in the distance.

From ten in the morning till noon Captain Giggs fished from a punt or the steps of his boathouse. Never once had he raised his eyes from rod or line to exchange a glance with the young dreamer, watching him closely from the opposite bank of the river. Again and again Dennis Chard had sought to attract the old sea captain's attention in the hope of striking up a conversation. But Giggs had never blinked an eye or bestowed the slightest sign of encouragement on the coughing, gesticulating figure in flannels across the water.

"He's a director in a big shipping firm," Dennis told Hetty, as they sat near Boulter's lock, watching the gay procession of launches and punts passing up river. "If I could only shake him out of his morning trance he might take an interest in me."

"Might find you a stool behind an inch of plate glass window," Hetty sighed, "among those other boys who draw ships on blotting pads until lunch hour. I believe he's stone deaf and hates young men."

Dennis merely smiled at Hetty's lack of understanding. Then an unusual frown darkened his young brow.

"I'll shoot myself with a pound of pepper, Het, if you refuse to concentrate on my plans for making a place for myself in commercial history. Please stop being funny."

Hetty's mouth crinkled strangely. Then her face became grave.

"I'm listening, Dennis, dear. Tell me your plans for making this old seabird take an interest in your future. Couldn't you shoot him out of his trance with a pound of gunpowder tea. You'll never wake him with that gentle cough of yours."

It was some time before Dennis replied. Of course it was foolish taking Hetty too seriously. He managed, however, to say that once he and Captain Giggs became known to each other anything might happen. The difficulty lay in making Giggs aware of the existence of Mr. Dennis Chard, late of Magdalen College, and at present seeking new worlds to conquer. Something would have to be done to distract Gigg's attention from his infernal hooks and fishes. Couldn't Hetty bring her woman's wit to bear?

After much reflection Hetty felt it was in her power to make any porpoise-like gentleman sit up and take notice of them both. If she failed there was always the aforementioned roof and gas ring until Dennis found a directorship within the Bank of England.


CAPTAIN Cornelius Giggs fished a little earlier than usual from the steps of the boat-house. Passing river craft annoyed him at times. Fresh young men in punts cast their advice on the waters concerning the kind of bait in use for kippers and jellyfish. But Giggs merely sighed and continued to fish.

He became suddenly aware of a disreputable-looking skiff which had become entangled in some boat lines attached to his private launch, a biscuit throw from the steps. The skiff was piloted by a pretty girl in striped flannels. At a glance Giggs realised that a dangerous amateur was adrift among his precious house craft.

"Ahoy, there!" he warned. "You're fouling my lines. Back water! Can't you see a rope when it's under your pretty nose?"

The girl in the skiff stood up suddenly as the prow of her frail craft struck the launch amidships. It was a glancing blow that caused her to sway and lose her foothold. In a moment she was in the water, struggling desperately to reach the line attached to the boat-house.

Captain Giggs was heavily built and slow of movement. He rose unsteadily from the steps of the boathouse, beckoning frantically to the splashing, choking girl in the stream.

"Get hold of that line, you little fool!" he roared. "I'll throw you a buoy!"

The lifebuoy bung within the boathouse, twenty feet from where he stood. In a flash he saw that she was in difficulties, having missed the line attached to the bow of the launch. Moisture clung to his brow as he hurled his great bulk in the direction of the buoy. Snapping it from its holding, he turned to cast it near the wildly struggling girl under the bow of the launch.

It was just here that a youth in spotless white serge appeared in midstream, swimming easily but swiftly towards the drowning girl. A dozen powerful strokes carried him alongside the fast weakening girl. In a trice he was supporting her, and without a glance at Giggs on the boat-house steps, turned to a spot down- stream where a landing could be effected.

Giggs beckoned heatedly from the steps.

"Come in here, you simpleton! There's mud and reeds to drown an elephant where you're going. Avast!"

Stooping from the boat-house steps, he assisted the dripping pair to land, glad enough, in his bluff, surly way, that an unlooked for tragedy had been averted.

"You gave me quite a shock," he confided after a breath-giving pause. "Like most sailors, I never learned to swim."

Then, as the young girl shivered slightly in her wet flannels, "Come up to the house, both of you. We'll have you dry as a couple of sun-birds in half a jiffey!"

A gravel path led from the boat-shed to the old Georgian mansion among the elms. A number of people were seated in deck chairs on the wide lawn facing the house entrance. At sight of Giggs and the dripping pair beside him they rose in a body, uttering strange, half-audible comments. Several men in rough tweed suits hovered near.

"Never mind what those people say," Giggs whispered, leading the young couple towards a side entrance. "We'll get your clothes, dry and then have a bit of lunch."

The kitchen range did the drying, Giggs hovering near the young pair in genuine paternal solicitude. He explained that the strange looking people on the lawn were guests of the establishment over which he presided.

"Don't be annoyed if they shout funny things after you when you pass out!" he told the now smiling young girl in the hall doorway. "I'm sorry you'll have to leave alone because I'm anxious to have a word or two with your gallant rescuer!"

She laughed merrily, thanking Giggs and the tall, quiet-voiced youth who had come to her assistance. A lucky thing for her, she confessed, that strong, brave swimmers were available on the river.

The young man merely blushed, his face to the window overlooking the lawn.

Cries and shouts followed the young girl as she made her way to the big iron gate leading to the road. In spite of the efforts of the men in the rough tweed suits, several of the strange looking guests ran after the departing girl, calling on her to stay with them.

"A mermaid from the river!" one screamed in her wake. "Where is your comb and glass?"

"Stay, stay, stay with us!" a woman with black streaming hair called shrilly. "We are tired of this desert island. Send a ship to carry us off!"

An attendant slammed the iron gate on the heels of the disappearing girl, waved his arms gently and sorrowfully at the woman with the streaming hair.

"She'll come back to the island after a bit," he soothed. "She's just run home to tell her mother."

Captain Giggs studied the young man with the shining eyes and the dry serge suit as they passed to his study at the end of the oak-panelled hall. He had been singularly impressed by his smart handling of the recent boating mishap. Seated at his writing table he addressed his young guest in a kindly, appreciative manner.

"There's a vacancy in this establishment for a clever lad of your type. I've a lot of correspondence that needs attention. If you'll promise to stay on I'll make the salary worth while. My guests," he paused to meet the young man's shining eyes, "will like you in no time. They've taken to you already."

The young man with the shining eyes decided at once to accept the post.

Giggs grasped his hand feelingly.

"I'd like to mention a particular guest of the establishment," he said, after a moment's reflection. "You'll meet him shortly. He's the Sultan of Sarawani. He is docile and sweet-tempered; quite different from the Princess of Patagonia. She throws hair brushes around, and writes letters to the Emperor of Japan. You mustn't mind her."

"I won't," the young man answered cheerfully, as he prepared to undertake his new duties.


A BELL in the turret struck six as, Dennis crossed the lawn for a breath of air, after five hours of letter writing in Giggs's office. The grounds were deserted, except for a sleek- haired, middle-aged man, wearing a silk hat and immaculate frock coat. He twirled a gold-headed walking stick as he paced the lawn. At the sight of Chard his eyes brightened unexpectedly. He beckoned, holding out a platinum cigarette case invitingly. Smiling Chard advanced as one approached royalty.

"Good evening, Highness," he greeted, accepting a fat Aleppo cigarette from the platinum case. "The air agrees with you, I trust?"

There was no doubt in Chard's mind concerning the identity of the man before him. The Sultan of Sarawani leaned on his gold- mounted cane, exploring Chard with restless brown eyes. It was some time before he spoke; and then his voice was low-pitched, almost a whisper.

"Nothing agrees with me while I am being hunted to death, young man. I dare not show myself in the town. The moment I venture from this house I should get it here!"

The Sultan pointed to a spot an inch below his heart, his face betraying unusual mental agony.

"Poison darts!"

Dennis nodded in swift understanding.

"Spies from Borneo and the Malay Peninsula?"

"Rebels of the Kawara dynasty," the Sultan explained gravely. "To-morrow I will tell you the reason of my flight from Borneo. In the meanwhile." he added, pausing to study Chard's handsome young face thoughtfully, "in the meanwhile you may tell me something of your own troubles. You are poor and need help. I am all powerful and wealthy. It is possible we may be of use to each other. I could make you rich. Go on with your duties and see me again!"

That night Dennis wrote Hetty concerning his new post: —


At last I have arrived! I sat at the typewriter to-day while the Princess of Patagonia dictated four offers of marriage to various celebrities, including the Mayor of Chicago, and the champion heavyweight boxer of the world. Also I am on friendly terms with His Highness the Sultan of Sarawani, owner of vast sapphire mines within the Landang peninsula. See where our little adventure has led! I fully expect Sarawani will make me his prime minister when he returns to Borneo. In the meantime keep smiling. I feel that a palace of ivory is growing about us, a palace with peacocks in the front garden!


Hetty read the letter carefully, a tiny frown on her brow. Sultan of Sarawani! The Princess of Patagonia! She recalled instantly the crowd of more or less bedevilled people she had seen on the lawn of the old Georgian house.

A rather tired smile broke over her pretty face as she put away the letter.


"THE Sultan is one of my best paying guests!" Giggs told Chard. "Try and amuse him. He's beginning to like you."

Dennis was sure he could manage the Sultan. That evening he sat beside him in a quiet part of the grounds listening to his story of his desperate escape from his implacable enemies. His fat, dimpled hand rested on Chard's knee, his dark eyes unusually animated as he spoke.

"I was hunted for my jewels, my priceless collection of sapphires and rubies from the Min Moung mines at Mandalay. There seemed no place where I could hide them in safety."

"You hid them, Highness?" Dennis ventured with a show of interest.

The Sultan of Sarawani turned his head to make sure they were quite alone. Then in a whisper.

"They are worth a quarter of a million sterling; tiers and tiers of water blue sapphires from my estates at Landang. There are rubies and emeralds with the warm blood of the East in their veins. Matchless!"

Dennis regarded the Sultan thoughtfully. "Why didn't you go to the police?" he questioned, stifling a yawn.

"I could not trust my priceless collection of jewels with any police." Again his voice fell. "I hid them in an old garden hose!"

Chard sat up in his deck chair, and stared at the wind-stirred elm branches above their heads. For a moment he was too startled to speak. Something in the Sultan's voice blazed a thought in his brain.

"Listen," the Sultan went on. "I feel you are to be trusted with the fortune of a poor hunted rajah. The garden hose belongs to Captain Giggs. It was put aside, last year, as useless. It hangs in the loft above the old stables, over there!"

He indicated a low-roofed building, some distance from the house, a place almost overgrown with laurel and creepers.

"Splendid!" Dennis applauded in a whisper. "No one would dream of going there."

The Sultan's answer startled him.

"I want you to go there. There is no one else to trust. Go to the stables to-night and get the collection. You will then take them to an address in Charing Cross, where my sister, the Maharanee Kalaja, lives."

Chard nodded approvingly and waited.

"The Maharanee will pay you the sum of three thousand pounds for your trouble. You will do this for me?"

Chard pressed his hand.

"Trust me, Highness," he answered steadily. "I'll shake out that hose the moment it's dark!"


IT WAS quite dark when Dennis entered the old stables, a candle and matches in his pocket. At the top of some creaky, dust-blackened stairs was the loft. Lighting the candle he saw a weather-rotted coil of hose hanging from a peg in the wall. Lowering it, he cut it in several places with his knife, and then shook the pieces violently to and fro. There followed a shower of small bright stones to the floor of the loft. In the dull glow of the candle light he beheld a stream of greenish white sapphires fall about him, a patter of softly iridescent rubies and emeralds until the small heap at his feet scintillated like the jewels in the stable of the Magi.

Five minutes later he had left the old Georgian house, the collection of gems in his breast pocket. At Henley a taxi took him to Scotland Yard. To Chief Inspector Crowley, Dennis revealed the hoard of sapphires and emeralds he had taken from the garden hose.

The inspector examined them critically.

"Stolen from the mail bags of a Hatton Garden dealer," he announced tersely. "They were consigned to him by his agent in Batavia. We suspected a notorious mail robber named Briggs; a sleek chap, with fat baby hands; always smartly dressed, frock coat and all that. We scoured the country for him; we even searched our jails, knowing we'd find him in a most unlikely place."

"You might have tried some of our private lunatic asylums!" Dennis laughed. The inspector stared in amaze.

"By Jove; that's a corker. Is that where you found him?"

Chard shook his head. He was far too young and sentimental to play sleuth against a man whose fate was already sealed. The inspector was too much a tactician to press his question immediately. He informed Chard, however, that a reward of 5,000 would be paid him by the Hatton Garden dealer for the safe recovery of the jewels.


IN a West-End telephone booth Chard rang up the Sultan of Sarawani, at Gigg's.

It was some time before the well-known voice reached him. It was full of anxiety.

"My precious stones, Chard?"

"Gone to their owners, Highness. Tomorrow the Flying Squad will be here. And I've decided to give you a flying chance."

"Thanks for that, Chard. The trouble with me was I couldn't pass the stuff to one of my pals. And the Yard was after me day and night. So I chanced sending the stones with you. How did you know I was here?"

"Saw you accidentally from the river one day, after I'd been studying your picture in a newspaper, after the famous mail robbery. Good-bye, Highness!"

"Good-bye, Chard! Thanks for giving me a chance."

"I'd give a cat a chance, Highness, if it covered up as you did. Kind regards to the Maharanee!"

Dennis's second call was to Hetty to say that he would meet her the following day with a view to acquiring a bungalow on the river.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
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.