Sanders - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Sanders ebook

Edgar Wallace



Like most of the later ones even though this one is called „Sanders” it very much stars Lieutenant Augustus „Bones” Tibbetts. Employing his unique style of innocent and endearing humor, Bones has written to the newspapers The Surrey Star and The Middlesex Plain Dealer inviting the Foreign Secretary to pay a visit to the African territories which they administer. It is against the regulations and his boss Hamilton is furious. While world powers vie for colonial honors, Sanders and his assistants attempt to administer an uneasy peace in a climate of ju-ju and witch doctors, and all the while Bosambo, chief of the Ochori, watches closely. „Sanders” should be on the must-read list of every action-adventure junkie.

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Liczba stron: 295

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ALL this happened in the interim between excellencies, or it could hardly have happened at all.

His Excellency, the retiring Administrator of the Reserved Territories, had departed amidst the banging of guns and the playing of the national anthem by a small band of near-white musicians, all of whom, and especially the cornet, had a tendency to play flat. The new Excellency was enduring the agony of gout at his house in Budleigh Salterton in Devon, and his departure from home was indefinitely postponed.

A change of administration made little or no difference to the people of the big river, and Captain Hamilton of the King’s Houssas, for one, was hardly conscious of the lacuna as he strode savagely towards the hut which housed his youthful second in command.

His annoyance was well warranted, for Lieutenant Tibbets had committed the unpardonable crime of writing to the newspapers–a weakness of his. Hamilton was moist and furious, for the afternoon sun blistered the world, and as he crossed the yellow oven-floor called a parade-ground, the heat of it came through the soles of his boots and tortured him.

The barrack hutments which formed one side of the square danced and shimmered in the heat haze; he saw the fronds of the Isisi palms in a blur; even the weaver birds were silent; when it grows too hot for the weavers to talk, it is very hot indeed.

Kicking open the door of Lieutenant Tibbetts’s hut, he stepped in and snorted his disgust. Mr. Tibbetts, whose other name was Bones, lay face upward on the top of his bed; and he was arrayed in a costume beyond forgiveness, for not Solomon in all his glory wore purple pyjamas with alternate green and ochre stripes.

Hamilton flung down upon the table the paper he had been carrying as Bones opened one eye.

‘“Morning, sir,” he said, slightly dazed. “Is it still raining?”

“‘Morning!” snapped Hamilton. “It is within an hour of dinner, and I’ve something to say to you. Bones!”

Bones relapsed into slumber.

“Wake up, and hide your hideous feet!”

The eyelids of the sleeper fluttered; he murmured something about not seeing the point–he had at least seen the newspaper, and recognised the Gothic title-piece.

“The point is. Bones,” said Hamilton awfully, “nobody knows better than you that it is an offence for any officer to write to the newspapers on any subject! This”–he liked the folded newspaper on the table–“this is an outrage!”

“Surrey Star and Middlesex Plain Dealer, sir,” murmured Bones, his eyes closed, a picture of patience, forbearance and resignation, “with which, sir, is incorporated the Sunbury Herald and Molesey Times, sir.”

His long body was stretched luxuriously, his hands were clasped beneath his head, his large red feet overhung the end of the bed. He had the air and manner of one who was deeply wronged but forgave his enemies.

“It doesn’t matter what paper you write to–”

“‘To which you write,’ dear old officer,” murmured Bones. “Let us be jolly old grammarians, sir, an’ superior; don’t let us go around debasin’ the language–”

“Get up, you insubordinate devil, and stand on your big feet!” hissed the Captain of Houssas; but Lieutenant Tibbetts did not so much as open his eyes.

“Is this a friendly discussion, or isn’t it, dear old sir?” he pleaded. “Is it a friendly call or a council of war, dear old Ham?”

Hamilton gripped him by the silk collar of his pyjama coat and jerked him to his feet.

“Assault!” said Bones quietly. “Mad with envy, captain strikes risin’ an’ brilliant young officer. Court-martial finds jolly old captain guilty, and he takes poison!”

“A newspaper man you will never be,” said Hamilton. (Here Bones bowed gravely.) “You can’t spell, for one thing!”

“Neither could dear old Napoleon,” said Bones firmly, “nor dinky old Washington–spellin’ is a sign of a weak mind. You’re a good speller, I admit it, dear old Demosthenes–”

“The point is this–and I’m perfectly serious”–Hamilton pushed his junior on to the bed, and he collapsed obediently–“you really must not write political articles, suggesting that the Secretary of State should come and ‘see with his own eyes’”–Hamilton sought for the offending paragraph and read it–“‘... the work that is being carried out by young officers unknown (except by the indigenous natives, who adore them) and unhonoured...’–of all the rubbish!”

Bones shrugged his narrow shoulders; his silence was offensively respectful.

“You’ll not write any more of these self-advertising letters, Bones –either to the Star, the Comet, the Moon, the Sun, or any other member of the solar system.”

“Let us keep religion out of the discussion, dear old Ham,” said Bones in a hushed voice.

It is doubtful whether Mr. Nickerson Haben had even heard of the existence of that organ of public conscience, the Surrey Star and Middlesex Plain Dealer. He was not the type of man who gave a thought to any newspaper that had a circulation of less than half a million.

And yet, the appearance of this literary effort of Bones coincided with a peculiar moment of crisis in his life, and the sequel almost excused the subsequent jubilation of the Surrey Star and went far to consolidate the editor’s claim that “What the Sun thinks today, the Government does tomorrow!”

For Nickerson Haben went almost at once to examine the Territories with his own eyes. He was in the middle thirties and had the globe at his feet. How this came to be the case, nobody troubled to consider.

A narrow-chested and pallid man with heavy raven hair, one lock of which hung over his forehead in moments of oratorical excess, he was deep-eyed, thin-lipped, hollow-faced, and had hands white and long. Nickerson was swept into the House of Commons in a whirlwind of oratory that blew down a phalanx of sober men and conservative citizens which stood between. Silver-tongued, or glib, according to your political prejudices, he carried his powers of suasion and criticism into the chaste and unemotional atmosphere of Parliament. So that Ministers squirmed uneasily under the razor-edge of his gibes; and the Whips, foregathering in the lobby, grew pettish at the mention of his name. A party man, he never fell into the error of wounding the susceptibilities of his own keaders; if he criticised them at all, he merely repeated, in tones of finality, the half-confessions of fallacies they had already made.

When a Government fell, Mr. Haben, deserting a safe seat, fought West Monrouth County, turned out the sitting member and returned to Westminster in triumph.

The new Government made him an Under-Secretary, first of Agriculture, then of Foreign Affairs. He had married the widow of Cornelius Beit, an American lady, fifteen years his senior–a clever woman with a violent temper and a complete knowledge of men. Their home life, though it was lived at Carlton House Terrace, was not happy. She knew him rather too well; his own temper was none of the sweetest. He had all the arrogance of a self-made man who had completed the process just a little too young. She once told a near friend that Nickerson had a streak of commonness which she found it difficult to endure, and there was even talk of a divorce.

That was just before her operation for appendicitis. The best surgeon in England performed; her recovery was never in doubt. Nickerson, under the spell of her recovery, went down to the House and delivered the best speech of his life on the subject of Baluchistan.

Three days later she was dead–there had occurred one of those curious relapses which are so inexplicable to the layman, so dreaded by the medical profession. Haben was like a man stunned. Those who hated him–many–wondered what he would do now, with the principal source of income departed. They had time for no further than a brief speculation, the matter being decided when the will was read, leaving him everything–except for a legacy to a maid.

This tragedy occurred between excellencies, an opportunity seized upon by a sympathetic chief. Nickerson Haben went out on the first African mail-boat, to combine business with recreation; to find flaws and forgetfulness.

Lieutenant Tibbetts, of the King’s Houssas, was the newsman of headquarters. The lank legs of this thin, monocled lad had brought many tidings of joy and calamity, mostly exaggerated.

Now he came flying across the lemon sands of the beach, a mail-bag in his hand, his helmet at the back of his head, surprising truth in his mouth.

He took the five steps of the stoep in one stride, dashed into the big, cool dining-room where Hamilton sat at breakfast, and dropped the bag into his superior’s lap at the precise moment when Captain Hamilton’s coffee-cup was delicately poised.

“Bones! You long-legged beach-hound!” snarled Hamilton, fishing for his handkerchief to mop the hot Mocha from his white duck trousers.

“He’s coming. Ham!” gasped Bones. “Saw my letter, dear old sir, packed his jolly old grip, took the first train!...”

Hamilton looked up sharply for symptoms of sunstroke.

“Who is coming, you left-handed oaf?” he asked, between wrath and curiosity.

“Haben, old sir... Under-Secretary, dear old Ham!” Bones was a little incoherent. “Saw my letter in the jolly old Star... he’s at Administration now! This means a C.B. for me. Ham, old boy; but I’m not goin’ to take anything unless they give old Ham the same–”

Hamilton pointed sternly to a chair.

“Sit down and finish your hysteria. Who has been stuffing you with this yarn?”

It was the second officer of the Bassam, he who had brought ashore the mails. Haben was already at Administrative Headquarters, having travelled on the same ship. For the moment Hamilton forgot his coffee-stained ducks.

“This is darned awkward,” he said, troubled. “With Sanders up-country... what is he like, this Haben man?”

Bones, for his own purpose, desired to give a flattering account of the visitor; he felt that a man who could respond so instantly to a newspaper invitation appearing over his name must have some good in him. He had asked same question of the second officer, and the second officer, with all a seaman’s bluntness, had answered in two words, one of which was Rabelaisian and the other unprintable. For Mr. Haben did not shine in the eyes of his social inferiors. Servants hated him; his private secretaries came and went monthly. A horsey member of the Upper House summed him up when he said that “Haben can’t carry corn.”

“Not so bad,” said Bones mendaciously.

Early the next morning Sergeant Ahmet Mahmed brought a grey pigeon to Hamilton, and the captain of Houssas wrote a message on a cigarette paper:

Haben, Foreign Office tourist, en route. He is at A.H.Q. raising hell. Think you had better come back and deal with him.

Hamilton had gone out in a surf-boat to interview the captain, and the character of Mr. Nickerson Haben was no longer a mystery to him.

He fastened up the paper to the red leg of the pigeon and flung it up into the hot air.

“‘Ware hawks, little friend of soldiers,” he said conventionally.

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