Clarence–Private - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Clarence–Private ebook

Edgar Wallace



Edgar Wallace was an English writer. Born into poverty as an illegitimate London child, joining the army at 21, he was a war correspondent during the Second Boer War for Reuters and The Daily Mail. During the First World War Edgar Wallace wrote a number of morale-boosting tales about the skill and derring-do of the British military and intelligence services, mostly in the form of series published under such titles as „Clarence-Private”. Several series were published in the form of dramatic pseudo-documentary accounts of what he claimed to be true stories. „Clarence-Private” is a fine series of Wallace stories about wartime espionage.

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In this fine series of complete short stories, Mr. Edgar Wallace, the world-famous war correspondent and author, relates the adventures of one, Clarence, who joins the Army as a Private.

FATE played a low trick on a very bright boy when it named the younger son of Colonel Cassidy of the 184th (Winchester Regiment) “Clarence.”

The horrid thing was that he looked “Clarence.” He was a dear little boy whom, in his earlier youth, people persistently called a dear little girl. He had big solemn blue eyes and hair of ruddy gold. It was nevertheless the fact that, for all his angelic attributes, he had, when annoyed, a trick of saying things which made his victims? hair stand on end, though he was seldom rude and never vulgar. For this reason they christened him in the home circle “Clarence-with-the-awful-tongue.”

At school they called him Mary Ann for just as long as it took to lick the school from Branger Major to “Moses” Flackery, for Clarence, despite his outward beauty, was bloody-minded, and had a left hook to the jaw that brought tears to your eyes. But amongst his own ken Mary Ann he remained, and Mary Ann he was to the end of his days.

At twenty he should have been in the Army–his father’s last act in this life was to put the boy’s name down for a regiment of the Guards–but somehow Sandhurst and he did not agree. He could box, run, swim, row and shoot. He played footer excellently and made forty-seven for Harrow one never-to-be-forgotten day at Lords. If proficiency in sport could qualify a man for a commission, Clarence would have had it, but for reasons best known to (a) the authorities, (b) his tutor, (c) Clarence, he was badly ploughed.

“Dear old fellow,” he protested to George, the elder brother, and a major of Rifles, “why the deuce do I want to lumber my head with trigi-thigumy and that sort of rot? I couldn’t do it at Harrow, dear old chap, and I can’t do it at Sandhurst.”

“Mary Ann,” said the Major severely, “you’re an ass.” But for all his severity he said this in some fear, for he shared with the family a wholesome respect for the vocabulary of his youngest brother.

“I dare say, I dare say,” admitted Clarence with his most angelic smile, “the fool of the family, dear sir and brother, somebody’s got to be it. If they want a real dashin’ officer I’m their man, but if they want a beastly brainy professor feller, I’m off the mat. That rotten old examiner had me counted out before half the round was through–knocked me out, sir, and hadn’t the decency to give me a count.”

George, broad-shouldered and red of face, grinned.

“What are you going to do, son?” he asked.

Clarence pushed his top hat to the back of his head and twirled his gold-headed cane. He was a picture of a youth, speckless and immaculate, and innocent, though of late years his jaw had broadened a little and there was, for the patient observer, more evidence of strength than effeminacy in his face.

“I don’t know what I shall do,” he said, and looked round vaguely as though expecting to find some inspiration in the solid furniture of the Junior Officers’ Club. “Of course I’ve an idea that I’m cut out for a soldier. I bet I’d knock spots off that beastly old examining feller if it came to a rough and tumble on the gory field of battle. And as for strategy, believe me, I’m Moltke!” He shook his head wisely. “Wouldn’t catch me doing frontal attacks. What the devil are you laughing at?”

“I wasn’t laughing,” replied Major George Cassidy, “I was crying.”

He got up from his seat.

“You’ll have to pass through, somehow, Mary Ann,” he said seriously, as he grasped the boy’s hand. “No footling!”

“Not a blooming footle!” said the other heartily.

George Cassidy hesitated.

“What are you doing to-night?”



“A lady,” said Clarence mysteriously, “a lady in high society.”

George stared.

“How the dickens do you come to know her?” he asked coarsely.

“You’ll discover one of these days,” was the prophetic reply.

“Take my tip,” said George at parting, “enlist. Go through the ranks. You’ll get a commission all right–only––”

“Only what?”

“Don’t join the 12th Rifles. You see, it would be jolly awkward–”

“Very,” Clarence stopped his brother with a lofty wave of his hand. “Though you might be sure I shouldn’t boast about it. Even a private soldier doesn’t want to own up to some of his relations.”

Manfred Cassidy, a lieutenant of the Irish Light Infantry, a rough edition of Clarence, came over to see him. He burst into the Jermyn Street flat one morning and found his brother in a flowered silk dressing-gown nibbling dry toast.

“Mary Ann,” said he without any of the affectionate preliminaries which preface brotherly utterances in fiction, “George says they’ve chucked you out at Sandhurst.”

“Neatly put,” murmured Clarence. “Have some breakfast?”

“Horrible luck, old man.” Manfred slapped him on the shoulder. “But I’ve got a jolly good idea.”

“I’ll have it framed,” said Clarence, hugging himself tighter in his dressing-gown and gazing benevolently at the other.

“This is the idea,” said Manfred, speaking rapidly and with great heartiness, “enlist as a private.”

“Ah!” said Clarence politely.

“Only,” Manfred hesitated, “perhaps it would be best not to join the Irish Light Infantry. You see, old chap, I’m getting my company next month, and it would be awfully awkward. I hope you understand?”

“Perfectly.” Clarence spread a piece of toast with an immense quantity of butter. “But why should you imagine that I’d waste my young life on a third-rate line regiment?”

Manfred winced.

“You see, my son,” Clarence went on deliberately, “as an officer I’d have to take any jolly old regiment that was chucked at me–just as you did.” Manfred winced again. “But as a private, dear boy, I have the whole blooming Army to choose from.”

“You understand?” pleaded Manfred before he made his departure. “You’ve got such an awful tongue that I’d be scared of you–”

“Hence!” said his brother sternly, and pointed to the door.

He chuckled all that day good-naturedly, for they were nice brothers, especially William Orlando, who wrote him from Guernsey where he was stationed. The note paper was headed “3rd Doncaster Regiment.” and after opening formalities went on:

“I am awfully sick about your being ploughed at Sandhurst. Why not enlist in a good line regiment? You would be pretty sure to get a commission. Perhaps you would do better if you didn’t join my regiment because it would be jolly embarrassing if you started cheeking me–”

Clarence put the letter down and laughed, for he had a very keen sense of humour. He laughed for a long time till the louder note sank into a low soft chuckle of sheer enjoyment.

Then he stopped suddenly and sat up thinking hard. He reached out his hand and took a pad of paper and a pencil from his desk, and in his round schoolboy hand he wrote:

“Major George Cassidy, 18th Rifles.

“Captain Manfred Cassidy, Royal Irish Light Infantry.

“Lieutenant William Orlando Cassidy, 3rd Doncaster.”

He looked long and thoughtfully at his effort, then he rang the bell for his valet.

“Gathercole,” said Clarence to the solemn-faced servitor, “we are on the verge of war.”

“Indeed, sir?” said Gathercole, polite, but not greatly interested.

“Indeed,” Clarence assured him. “As you know, Gathercole, I am an authority on such matters.”

“Yes, sir, I am aware,” responded Gathercole, with a little inclination.

“War with Germany,” added Clarence unnecessarily. “In which event, the Government will need my services.”

“Very naturally, sir,” said the agreeable Gathercole, in a tone which implied the absurdity of conducting any war without consulting his employer.

“I shall join the Army,” Clarence went on, and Gathercole nodded again. “Other men might join the Navy, but the traditions of my family demand that I should identify myself with the military organisation of the country. I shall join,” he added, “as a private.”

“A what, sir?” gasped Gathercole, startled out of his reserve.

“I shall join as a private,” repeated Clarence firmly.

“But, you will pardon me, sir,” protested Gathercole, “isn’t that rather low?”

“Very,” said Clarence. “It is a painful subject, Gathercole, and we will not discuss it. Is the manicurist person below? If he is, let him come up.”

An hour later, Clarence Cassidy, beautiful to behold, stepped from the portals of Jermyn House into his stunningly lacquered little two-seater. His spruce chauffeur swung himself into the dicky seat and Clarence headed for the War Office.

Now the War Office, as everybody knows, is the most jealously guarded public building in London. It is as though heads of departments imagine themselves the subject of some deadly vendetta, and that it is “in the public interest” (to employ a curious figure of speech in vogue in that circle) that any request to see one man should be artfully met by producing another.

Clarence asked to see Lord Vanniker because he knew the Under Secretary of State for War slightly.

“Lord Vanniker, sir?” demanded the dumbfounded messenger. “Have you an appointment?”

“No,” said Clarence, “but I hope to have.”

True to its traditions, the War Office sent first a junior clerk, then a D.A.A.-G. (which means Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General). But at length Clarence, rejecting all substitutes, was ushered into the office of a real general, and finally came to the presence of his lordship, who scowled at him through a black-rimmed monocle, and asked him as plainly as it was possible to ask a man, what the devil he meant by pushing his way into the Holy of Holies of the Public Services.

“Cassidy?” The Under Secretary read the card. “I think I remember. Your father was the late Colonel Cassidy, was he not? What can I do for you, Mr. Cassidy?”

Clarence, sitting easily in the padded chair by the side of the great man’s desk, pushed aside a heap of highly important documents with his elbow, and crossed his legs.

“The fact is, sir,” he said, speaking slowly and deliberately, “I saw you less on my own behalf than on behalf of my brothers. Many years ago my father spoke to me of you and told me that if I was ever in a hole to go to you.”

“Your father?” said the other quickly. “Not Tynemouth Cassidy?”

Clarence nodded, and the hard face of Lord Vanniker relaxed.

“Your father was one of my dearest friends,” he said. “Anything I can do for you, providing of course that it is not contrary to the public interest––”

Thereafter Clarence sat and argued and pleaded for the greater part of half-an-hour.

That night he dressed himself with unusual care, rejecting waistcoat after waistcoat until, a quietly radiant being, he stepped into his car and was whirled off to Hereford Square Gardens.

“She” was a beautiful lady. Dark and clean-featured. A little imperious was she, with a trick of raising her perfect eyebrows in such a way that you might not tell where contempt and amusement began and finished.

She looked approvingly at Clarence as he came into the tiny drawing-room.

“To the minute,” she drawled, with a glance at a little French clock. “You are really a very nice boy.”

“Something like that has been said about me before,” murmured Clarence.

“And how are all your brethren?” she smiled.

“They are pursuing their military avocations with that curious disregard for externals which is the characteristic of my house.”

She laughed, and just then her serving-maid announced dinner. Over that meal he spoke of his visit to the War Office, and she was interested.

Lady Sybil Vanniker held a unique position in London Society. She knew people and, she did things. She knew, for instance, that her father, as Under Secretary of State for War, liked to be regarded as a martinet, whereas he was only a fussy old gentleman who hated anybody else to be fussy, and lived in terror lest his daughter communicated to the public press–as she had threatened to do–the fact that he smoked shag in a clay pipe–a vulgar practice carried on behind the locked door of his study.

She listened attentively whilst he described his interview with her father.

“A regiment of sharpshooters?” she repeated, and he nodded.

“A ripping idea,” said he firmly, “to have nothing but the very best shots from every regiment–all jolly fine marksmen. It would be invaluable. It doesn’t matter whether you take ‘em from the regular army or from the territorials so long as you get ‘em. See what a wonderful asset it would be to a General to have a regiment which he could use in any old place with the certainty that they could pot off any of the poor dears who stuck their silly noddles up to see what was happening.”

She looked at him through her long lashes.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.