Fritz to the Front. or The Ventriloquist Scamp-Hunter - Edward Lytton Wheeler - ebook

Fritz to the Front. or The Ventriloquist Scamp-Hunter ebook

Edward Lytton Wheeler



Another amusing tale from American author Edward Lytton Wheeler (1854-1885), this time from the east coast of America, with another hero and another damsel in need of help. A group of European and American tourists is enjoying its trip in Egypt in the year 1895. They are sailing up the River Nile in a „a turtle-bottomed, round-bowed stern-wheeler”, the Korosko. They intend to travel to Abousir at the southern frontier of Egypt, after which the Dervish country starts. They are attacked and abducted by a marauding band of Dervish warriors. The terrorists will either kill them or forcibly convert them to Islam. This „desert drama” is high adventure at its pulpy best, and still surprisingly relevant today. Highly recommended for lovers of adventures!

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One bright, hot August morning a cheap excursion was advertised to leave South Street wharf, Philadelphia, for Atlantic City–that lively little city by the sea, which is so fast growing in size and popularity as to rival the more noted of the Atlantic coast summer resorts. A cheap excursion which is within the means of the working class is ever a success, and this one was no exception; it gave the masses a chance to escape from the overheated city for a small sum, and they grasped at it eagerly.

Bright and early the ferry-boat was crowded and still there was no cessation of the stream of humanity that surged toward the river front. There were representatives of every trade in the city, nearly, and likewise a mixture of several nationalities; there were young folks and old folks and little children; then there were roughs, bruisers, and bummers, an indispensable adjunct to summer excursions; and, all in all, a heterogeneous collection of humanity.

Just as the hot August sun peeped up over Jersey’s sandy horizon, the bell of the boat rung, and the huge ferry-boat began to move out across the Delaware, toward Kaighn’s Point, where connection was to be made with the railway.

It was a noisy crowd aboard the boat, there being a good many roughs among the pleasure-seekers, who were more or less under the effect of Dock Street “soothing syrup,” and who were disposed to have something to say to every one.

Among the passengers was a young lady of eighteen or nineteen years of age, who sat in the stern of the boat, seeming to have no friends or acquaintances.

She was by no means unprepossessing in face, and was trimly built, and dressed rather stylishly, compared to the others of her sex aboard the boat.

It was not long before several of the roughs noted the fact that she was unaccompanied, and determined to know the reason why.

Therefore, one lubberly, raw-boned young bruiser, with a freckled face, blood-shot eyes, and a large, red nose, approached her and tipped his hat with tipsy gallantry:

“‘Scuse me, young lady, but (hic) may I ask ef yer got (hic) company?” he asked.

“Plenty of it, sir,” the young lady replied, her eyes flashing. “I do not know you; you’d confer a favor by not addressing me.”

“I’ll do as I please, my gal; don’t ye sass yer cuzzin. Don’t ye know me? I’m a ‘full moon’ solid Mulligan Muldoon, I am.”

Greatly annoyed, the young woman turned her head away without answering.

This, however, did not abash the “full moon,” for he advanced closer, and laid one burly hand upon the railing beside her.

“Now, (hic) see here, my beloved Miss Moriarty,” he began, but before he could proceed further, a foppishly attired young Jew, with red hair and a hooked nose, stepped forward and slapped the Fourth Ward man on the shoulder.

“Yoost you bounce oud, mine friend,” he said. “Der young lady don’d vas vant some off your attention.”

“Hello! who in blazes are you?” Muldoon demanded, gruffly, not offering to move. “I are Muldoon, ther solid man, I am, an’ I allow I kin lick any man on (hic) ther boat.”

“That don’d make any difference. Dot young lady don’d vant you near her, und uff you don’d vas gone away, right off quick, I’ll throw you oud–dot’s der style off an excursionist I am!” cried the Jew.

“Oho! you wull, wull you? You’ll throw me out, hey?–me Full-moon Muldoon, ther solid man? I’ll hev a kiss from the girl an’ then I’ll heave yer Israelite carcass overboard for the fishes.”

And, making a drunken lunge forward, he threw his arms about the young lady’s neck, amid indignant cries of a crowd of bystanders, and attempted to kiss her.

But he failed in his purpose, for she pluckily threw him off, and the next instant the Jewish-looking young man came to her rescue.

Seizing the rough by the coat and trousers he jerked him away; then with the strength of a Hercules, raised him from the floor and hurled him forward down the cabin stairway to the lower deck.

A cheer of approval at once went up from the larger share of the spectators, and the Dutchman became the hero of the hour.

Some of Muldoon’s companions rushed to his rescue and found him doubled up like a jack-knife, and groaning over severe bumps.

His rough usage, however, had evidently cowed him, for he made no attempt to show fight or create further disturbance.

The young lady thanked the Jew, but that was all, until the boat grated up alongside Kaighn’s Point wharf, when she caught his eye and motioned for him to approach.

“If you will be so kind as to assist me in finding a seat in the train,” she said, modestly, “I would esteem it a great favor.”

“Vel, you bet I vil! Id is a purdy rough crowd for a young lady withoud some company. My name ish Fritz Snyder; vot ish yours?”

“You may call me Madge,” was the quiet reply.

Then Fritz took her little traveling-bag, and they left the boat with the crowd, and boarded the excursion-train which was close at hand.

Being among the first to reach it, they had no difficulty in finding a seat, and made haste to occupy it, as the cars were fast filling.

“I reckon ash how you vas goin’ to der sea-shore?” Fritz asked, having some curiosity to know.

“I presume so, if the cars take me there,” the young lady replied, with a faint smile. “Is it a nice place?”

“Vel, I don’d know. I vas neffer there, but I hear id vas a nice place. You see, I vas goin’ there on pizness–I–I–don’d know off I stay long or not.”

Little more was said during the overland trip to the ocean.

The young woman did not appear inclined to talk, and Fritz finally excused himself, and moved to another seat.

“Der ish somedings vot don’d vas right apoud dot vimmens,” he soliloquized. “She ish not goin’ to der sea-shore for vone object alone, I’ll bet a half-dollar.”

Just ahead of him, in the next seat, sat two old ladies, who were discussing that topic uppermost in their minds–spiritualism. One was a believer–the other an unbeliever.

“Pooh! you can’t stuff such nonsense into my head, Marier,” the unbeliever declared, taking a pinch of snuff. “Speerits don’t trouble me.”

“But, that is because you have no faith, Mehitable. Now, my Sammy’s speerit converses with me, every day and night, and keeps me posted about the realms of eternal bliss, and when I ax him to appear, he comes before me as natural as life.”

“Has he got that wart behind his left ear yet?” apparently asked a man in front of the ladies, though Ventriloquist Fritz was of course the author of the question.

“Sir-r-rh!” the spiritualist cried, indignantly, “I’ll have you know my Samuel had no wart upon his person!”

“But he had bunions, though!” a portly old gent across the aisle seemed to declare.

“It’s a lie–a shameful lie! I’d like to know how you dare cast your insinuations about one you never knew, sir?” and Mrs. Marier arose in her seat, excitedly. “My husband was a good moral gentleman.”

“For the land’s sake, Marier, do set down,” the other woman cried, feeling embarrassed.

“No I won’t set down!” Marier declared. “That old bald-headed, pussy fabricator said my Sammy had bunions!”

“My good woman, I never said anything of the kind,” the portly party declared, getting red in the face.

“The old woman’s crazy!” another man seemed to cry.

“Crazy, am I?” Mrs. Marier cried, snatching up a freshly baked pumpkin pie from the seat beside her, and holding it ready to hurl at the offenders. “I’ll show you if I’m crazy. Jest ye open yer mouths, ary one of ye, an’ I’ll show ye how crazy I am! Oh! I’ll learn ye to insult a respectable woman, who minds her own business!”

And the woman came off victor, for Fritz ventriloquized no further, and the passengers had nothing to say, having no desire to get plastered up with freshly prepared pumpkin pie.

In the course of three hours the train arrived at Atlantic City, and before the ocean’s blue expanse, as it billowed away to meet the horizon.

The grand stretch of level beach was thronged with people, despite the pouring heat of the midday sun, and many queerly costumed pleasure-seekers were buffeting about in the water for recreation and health.

Fritz was among the first to leave the cars, and he stationed himself where he could watch the movements of the girl, Madge.

Some subtle instinct prompted him to do this, with the impression that she was–what?

That was an enigma. He could not, for the life of him, have told why, but he was impressed with an idea that there was some strange romance connected with her visit to the sea-shore–that she did not come alone for pleasure, but for an object that might be worth investigating.

She left the cars, and at once took a carriage for the principal hotel.

Not to be balked, Fritz jumped into another carriage, and directed the driver to take him to the same hotel.

His conveyance arrived first, and he was standing on the veranda, when the carriage drove up with Madge, and she got out.

She scarcely noticed him as she came up the steps and passed into the hotel; but, after she had registered, she came out, and touched him on the arm.

“You are watching me–what for?” she asked, when he turned around facing her. “Am I an object of suspicion to you, sir?”

Fritz flushed uncomfortably, and hardly knew how to answer.

“Vel, I–I–”

“There! don’t make any apologies or excuses; I know you are, and shall look out for you. Please understand I am no criminal!”

Then she turned around again, and swept haughtily into the hotel, while Fritz walked away toward the beach in meditation.

“She vas sharper ash lightning,” he mused, “und dot makes me t’ink some more dot for some reason or odder she vil bear watching.”

He took a bath in the ocean, and then went back to the hotel. He was not quite satisfied to drop the matter where it was. Something urged him to pry further into the affairs of this young lady, whose case had struck him as being singular.

On examining the register, he found that she was registered as Miss Madge Thurston, and assigned room 43.

As nothing more offered, he sat down on the veranda, and watched the stream of people that surged in and out of the hotel, and to and from the beach–men, women, and children by the hundred, and yet there were scarcely two faces alike.

During the afternoon an elegant close carriage, drawn by a superbly harnessed pair of high-stepping bays, which were in turn driven by a liveried negro, came dashing down the avenue, and drew up before the Brighton.

A man of some thirty-five years of age leaped from the carriage, and entered the hotel–a man with a sinister yet handsome face, ornamented with a sweeping mustache, and a pair of sharp, black eyes. He was attired in spotless white duck, with patent-leather boots, and a white “plug” hat, and was evidently a person of some importance!

He soon came out of the hotel, accompanied by the young woman Fritz had defended, and entering the carriage, they were whirled away down the avenue out of sight.

“Dot settles dot! My game’s gone und I don’d got some professional detective gase, there,” Fritz growled, as he watched the receding carriage. “I’ll bet a half-dollar I neffer see dem again.”

But he was mistaken.

That evening when the moon was sending a flood of brilliant light down upon the long level beach, he was one of a thousand who took a stroll along the water’s edge, over the damp sands of the sea.

He was thus engaged, and watching the great luminous moon which seemed to have risen out of the distant watery waste, when a man touched him upon the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” he said, respectfully, “but are you Fritz, the young man who took a young lady’s part, on a ferry-boat near Philadelphia, to-day?”

“Vel, I dink I am, uff I recomember right. Vot of it?” Fritz replied.

“Well, sir, you are wanted to bear witness to a marriage ceremony, to-night, up the coast, and I was sent for you. Step this way, to the carriage, sir.”

Scarcely knowing what was best to do, Fritz followed, got into an open carriage, and was driven rapidly north along the beach, through the romantic moonshine.

But, how romantic was his little adventure destined to turn out? That was what he asked himself, as he gazed doubtfully out upon the greenish blue of mother ocean.



In the course of little over an hour, the carriage stopped at the inlet, where Fritz was told to get out and take a small boat and row across the water to the other shore, where he would find another carriage to complete his journey in.

He accordingly did as directed, and had soon crossed the inlet, found the second carriage, and was once more rolling northward, along the sandy beach.

It seemed hours to him ere his conductor drew rein in front of a jutting bluff which interrupted their further progress along the beach, from the fact that it reached to the water’s edge; for another hour he followed the driver, a grim, uncommunicative fisherman, on foot up a jagged path, which finally led into a lonely ocean cave which the high tides of many centuries had washed out to about the size of an ordinary room. A torch thrust in a crevice in the rocky wall, lit up the scene in rather a ghostly way.

About in the center of the cave stood three parties–Madge, a clerical-looking party, and another well-dressed man, with black hair and full beard.

He stepped forward as Fritz and the fisherman entered the cave, and said:

“Ah! I am glad you have come. Was fearing that you would not accommodate us, sir.”

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