Green Ginger - Arthur Morrison - ebook

Green Ginger ebook

Arthur Morrison



Green Ginger” is one of the humorous story from mixed collection of sixteen short stories by the author of the Martin Hewitt, Investigator series. Collects several mysteries, including a „Cunning Murrell” tale, also „The Seller of Hate”, a deal-with-the-Devil story, and „The Chamber of Light”, a humorous ghost story of psychic investigator driving the poor spectres to distraction. The stories are well written and definitely a product of their time and place. Arthur George Morrison, a famous English writer, journalist and author of mystery genre, is also known for his realistic novels and stories about working-class life in London’s East End, „A Child of the Jago” being the best known.

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Liczba stron: 351

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OF all the afflictions brought on a suffering civilization by the Limited Liability Acts as they stand in the statutes of this commercial country, few can exceed the troubles, pains, and harassments of Mr. Nathaniel Dowdall, consequent on his investment of an odd hundred pounds in Filer’s Royal and Imperial Circus, Limited. It was no matter of a public issue of shares at the hands of a professional promoter, no case of a glowing prospectus with a titled directorate. Filer, of Filer’s Royal and Imperial Circus, indeed, made fresh issues of shares whenever he found the opportunity, and wherever he fell across the confiding investor. He was managing director, and, it is to be presumed, the rest of the board also. He was Filer, and there was the long and short, the thick and thin, the beginning and end of it. From time to time the capital of Filer, Limited, was increased by just as much as some hopeful stranger might be persuaded to entrust to Filer, managing director, in exchange for an elegantly printed certificate constituting him a partner (limited) in the joys and sorrows of Filer. Then Filer’s Royal and Imperial Circus passed on, and, if the new shareholder remained quiescent, there was nobody in the world so ready to let bygones be bygones as the magnanimous Filer.

Mr. Nathaniel Dowdall did not remain quiescent. He followed Filer with letters, monthly, fortnightly, and then weekly. Some came back through the Dead Letter Office, a few vanished wholly into the unknown, but some caught Filer at towns where the circus pitched, and others overtook him, redirected; and that in sufficient numbers to grow, after a year or so, something of a nuisance to the otherwise unruffled Filer. So much so, that he went as far as to answer one or two of the later and more violent, in a tone of flowery affability. And then Mr. Dowdall wrote thus:

Without Prejudice. 613 BRAMBLERURY ROAD, STREATHAM HILL, S. W., May 15th. SIR,–I will have no more of your evasions and promises. You have obtained my money by fraudulent misrepresentation, and I demand its instant return. Unless I receive by Thursday next your cheque for the sum of one hundred pounds, I shall place the whole affair in the hands of my solicitors to deal with as they consider best, with a view not only to the recovery of the money, but to the proper punishment of a disgraceful fraud. This letter is final. Your obedient servant, NATHANIEL DOWDALL

It would be difficult, thought Mr. Dowdall (and Mrs. Dowdall agreed with him), to devise a more peremptory missive than this; though indeed, since each of the last two letters had ended with the declaration that it was final, the concluding clause might be considered by now to have lost some of its force. But on the other hand, “Without Prejudice” was quite new, and very terrible to behold. Filer’s answer, however, came in this form:

FILER’S ROYAL AND IMPERIAL CIRCUS, LIMITED, May 16th. MY DEAR MR. NATHANIEL DOWDALL,–My natural delight at hearing once again from so highly esteemed a friend and partner as yourself was somewhat chastened by a suspicion that the tone of your letter was one of irritation. I need hardly assure you that it would afford me the highest and purest pleasure to comply with your thoughtful suggestion that I should send you my cheque for one hundred pounds, but I have reason to believe that the presentation of that cheque at the bank would result in a pang of disappointment which far be it from me to inflict upon you. The stream of wealth, in fact, which is destined inevitably to overtake our enterprise in time, and which I shall welcome chiefly because it will enable me to direct a large volume of it toward you, is meeting with a temporary obstruction. In the meantime permit me to thank you for the kind thought which prompted your charmingly original heading, and to rejoice to learn that you are still without prejudice against Your devoted, though temporarily embarrassed partner, PLANTAGENET FILER

Mr. Dowdall perused this letter with eyes that emerged steadily till they threatened to overhang his most prominent waistcoat-button. Speechless he passed it across the breakfast-table to Mrs. Dowdall, who, having read it in her turn, barely mustered the words, “Well, I never did!”

This was Mr. Dowdall’s rejoinder, written after an hour’s interval of simmering wrath:

STREATHAM HILL, S. W., May 17th. MR. FILER, I am not to be turned aside by impudent flippancy. I may remind you that, even though you may have made away with my money, you have goods which may be seized in satisfaction of my claim, and unless I receive the sum of which you have defrauded me before the end of the week I shall take steps to secure it by the means provided by law. This letter is final. NATHANIEL DOWDALL

As Mr. Dowdall anticipated, this produced a change in Filer’s attitude. His answer, still amiable in tone, indicated surrender:

FILER’S ROYAL AND IMPERIAL CIRCUS, LIMITED, May 18th. MY DEAR MR. DOWDALL,–It grieves me to perceive, from your last letter, that my fear of a certain irritation on your part of late was well-founded, and I hasten to remove all occasion for an asperity which I feel sure you have already regretted. My sorrow is chiefly that you should cut yourself off from participation in the noble revenues which are shortly to accrue to this enterprise; but, rather than my honor should be in any way called in question, I will even encounter the bitterness of this disappointment. It would increase my distress, if, in addition to your sacrifice of the golden opportunity, you were to incur legal expense; and therefore I am now freely handing over to you a valuable part of the property of this company, more than equivalent to the sum you have invested. It should arrive in the course of a day or so, by rail, in a large case, carriage forward. I am now leaving England, with the enterprise, for an extended Continental tour, and take the opportunity of tendering you my heartiest farewells, and expressing my pleasure that our business connection terminates in friendly concord. Your late partner, but eternal well-wisher, PLANTAGENET FILER P.S.–The case should be handled with care. It is not a new one, and in some places it is not altogether what one might wish.–P. F.

This was far more satisfactory, and Mr. Dowdall beamed as he passed the letter to his wife, who beamed again as she handed it back. Plainly he had gone the right way to work to bring such a fellow as Filer to his senses. Clearly Filer had realized at last that Nathaniel Dowdall was not to be trifled with, and had offered the best composition in his power without waiting for a legal seizure. Perhaps, also, there was a little in Mrs. Dowdall’s suggestion that some traces of honesty lingered in Filer’s system yet; for, in truth, he might have left the country without notice, and so have removed his goods beyond the reach of bailiffs.

There were possible awkwardnesses to be considered, of course. Showmen’s accessories were of little use to Mr. Dowdall, and might prove difficult to dispose of. But that was a matter best left till the goods came to hand. For the rest of that day and for some part of the next Mr. Dowdall was patient and hopeful. And then the case arrived.

Mr. Dowdall was sitting in the inconvenient little back room which the household was taught to call his study, and Mrs. Dowdall was consulting him on the eternal domestic question, beef or mutton; when the blank and bewildered face of Selina the housemaid appeared at the door, and the hand of Selina extended towards Mr. Dowdall a large biscuit-colored delivery sheet.

“It’s the railway van, sir,” announced Selina; “and they’ve brought a tiger.”

“A tiger!” gasped Mr. Dowdall, quite forgetting to shut his mouth after the utterance.

And “A tiger!” echoed Mrs. Dowdall, faintly, opening her mouth wider still.

“Yes, m’m,” replied the housemaid. “It’s in a big wooden cage, a-howlin’ an’ stampin’ an’ goin’ on dreadful. And there’s six pound four and eightpence to pay.”

In the blank pause that followed, vague rumblings, shouts, and yelps from the direction of the street reached the ears of Mr. Dowdall, like the ancestral voices that prophesied war to Kubla Khan. He rose, murmuring helplessly; his murmurs increased as he reached the study door, and the burden of their plaint was, “Six pound four and eightpence!”

Then he turned suddenly on Selina. “I won’t have it!” he exclaimed. “Send it away.”

And Mrs. Dowdall, awakened to a sudden sense of danger, caught his arm, pushed Selina into the passage, and shut the door after her in one complicated spasm of presence of mind.

The noises from the street grew in volume, and it was clear that a public attraction had been scented, and the inevitable torrent of shouting boys had set in. Presently Selina returned with the report that, whether Mr. Dowdall paid the railway charges or waited to be sued for them, the tiger addressed to him would be delivered there and then. The men, it seemed, had given her to understand that the tiger’s society was no longer desired, either by themselves or by any other person connected with the railway.

“Nonsense!” exclaimed Mr. Dowdall, recovering something of his natural sense of civic propriety. “People can’t be expected to take in any tigers anybody likes to address to them! It would undermine the whole fabric of society. I–I won’t be bullied. Is the front door shut?”

The front door was shut, and with so much of assured security Mr. Dowdall betook himself to the drawing-room, the window whereof commanded the nearest view of the street and the area railings. Boys were competing for seats on those same railings, and the standing-room in the street was growing rapidly less. From the tail of a large van stout planks sloped, and down these planks slid a huge wooden, iron-bound case, lowered by many ropes in the hands of several excited men. From within the case came angry growls, and as it reached the pavement, Mr. Dowdall observed that its front was a sort of door of stout iron-clamped planks, with narrow intervals between them, through which intervals came glimpses of restless fiery yellow fur.

The case came to rest before the railings, and the carman, perceiving Mr. Dowdall at the window, waved the biscuit-colored delivery sheet and hailed him. Mr. Dowdall raised the sash and parleyed.

“Are you goin’ to pay this ‘ere money now, sir?” demanded the carman.

“Certainly not,” retorted Mr. Dowdall. “I don’t want a tiger–I didn’t order one–the whole thing’s a–a clerical error. Mark it ‘Dead Parcels Office’ and take it back!”

“Dead parcels!” repeated the carman, with withering scorn. “It about the livest parcel I ever see, an’ it’s pretty near marked some of us gettin’ it ‘ere. Dead parcels! It’s my orders to leave it ‘ere, pay or not, sign or not; an’ the comp’ny’ll see you about the charges afterwards. Dead parcels! ‘Ere, git up!”

And with that the carman sought his perch, and the van clattered away with its retinue of ropes, planks, and wholly untipped porters.

The crowd was bigger and noisier every minute, and the bolder among the boys were already tentatively pushing sticks between the planks, to the manifest disapproval of the tiger; and as he watched, Mr. Dowdall recalled the warning that the case was “not altogether what one might wish.” He broke into a sweat of apprehension, wildly wondering what would be the legal charge for an ordinary street boy devoured by a tiger. And as he wondered there appeared, towering above the heads by the street corner, a policeman’s helmet.

The policeman elbowed steadily through the crowd, sternly ordering it to “pass along there,” without any particular result. He walked cautiously round the case and observed the direction on the label. Then he ascended Mr. Dowdall’s front steps and was about to ring the bell; when Mr. Dowdall, with diplomatic resource, addressed him first from the window.

“Good morning, constable,” he said. “There’s a tiger down there I want cleared away from my doorstep.”

This would not seem to have been a request for which the policeman was prepared. He paused, looked back at the case, and then again at Mr. Dowdall.

“It’s your tiger, sir,” he said at length.

“Oh, no,” replied Mr. Dowdall, airily; “not at all. Somebody seems to have dropped it–out of a cart, I fancy.” He inwardly congratulated himself on the conscientious accuracy of this conjecture. “Yes,” he added, “I am pretty sure it was dropped out of a cart.”

“It’s got your name and address on it, anyhow,” retorted the policeman.

“Ah, yes, yes; that’s merely a–a coincidence. A tiger might have anybody’s name on it, you know; not at all uncommon. Done to throw you off the scent. I should think there’d be quite a handsome reward for finding a thing like that, if you took it to the station.”

The policeman, sternly contemptuous, disregarded the suggestion. “That tiger’s causin’ an obstruction,” he said severely.

“Yes,” assented Mr. Dowdall. “Shocking! I give it in charge.”

The constable, with rising wrath, surveyed the crowd that now filled the street, and turned once more to Mr. Dowdall. “That tiger’s your property,” he said, “and if you don’t take it indoors it’ll be my dooty to summons you.” And with that he produced a notebook and wrote laboriously.

And now as he wrote, a sergeant arrived, who positively ordered Mr. Dowdall to take his tiger indoors instantly. Mr. Dowdall desperately contemplated the prospect of standing a siege of public, police, and tiger combined; when there arrived on the heels of the others an inspector, a far better diplomatist than either of his inferior officers. He first carefully examined the case and its inscriptions, and then politely inquired if Mr. Dowdall were in any way connected with Filer’s Circus. Mr. Dowdall was cornered. To deny Filer’s Circus to a responsible police-officer meant to renounce the hope of redress from Filer. Mr. Dowdall first hesitated and then admitted his partnership; and straightway was deprived of all defence.

“Ah, just so,” said the diplomatic inspector. “I see you’ve a nice wide stable entrance in the side road–we’ll see about getting him in there. Three or four men with rollers and crowbars can do it in no time. I should think you could get the men and the tackle too from Brady’s in five minutes; I’ll send a man to see about it for you.”

Now, perhaps partly because of the soothing manner of the inspector, Mr. Dowdall was beginning to feel a little less alarmed at the state of affairs. The tiger had not killed anybody yet, and seemed to have grown a good deal quieter now that his not very roomy habitation had come to rest; and that same habitation had as yet shown no signs of giving way anywhere. The front planks were so strong, the padlock was so very large, and the air-spaces were so very narrow that the creature could scarcely see, let alone get out. And indeed a tiger was no doubt rather a valuable possession, if you could find a buyer. There would be no great risk in allowing the case and its prisoner to stand in the back garden, with all doors locked, for a little while–an hour or so–till he could get an offer for it. For by now Mr. Dowdall’s natural business instincts were beginning to assert themselves, and he had formed a plan.

He calmed the natural agitation of Mrs. Dowdall, and dispatched an urgent telegram to Padgebury, the eminent wild beast dealer of Shadwell, thus:


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