The Admirable Carfew - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Admirable Carfew ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Opis

Carfew was an erratic genius, with a horror of anything that had the appearance of discipline, order, or conventional method. So it was with some luck that there was a train disaster while he was working in the newspaper office of „The Megaphone”. He was dispatched to the scene and came back triumphant: „The Spaniard is a fake! „ shouted Carfew. He had forgotten all about the railway accident. Shortly thereafter, so would his editor. „The Admirable Carfew” is a collection of loosely linked short stories. The slowly developing fortunes of a young entrepreneur, trying his hand at various deals, from stock dealing to theatre ownership and just managing to scrap through.

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Liczba stron: 324

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Contents

TITLE PAGE

I. CARFEW 11

II. CARFEW, WITHINGTON AND CO., INVENTORS

III. THE AGREEABLE COMPANY

IV. CARFEW IS ADVISED

V. A DEAL IN RIFFS

VI. CARFEW ENTERTAINS

VII. THE ECCENTRIC MR. GOBLEHEIM

VIII. PATRIOTS

IX. TOBBINS, LIMITED

X. CARFEW—IMPRESARIO

XI. CARFEW PRODUCES

XII. WHY GELDEN MADE A MILLION

XIII. CARFEW AND THE “MARY Q”

XIV. A MATTER OF BUSINESS

XV. ONE AND SEVENPENCE HA’PENNY

I. CARFEW 11

IT WAS an idea; even Jenkins, the assistant editor, admitted that much, albeit reluctantly. Carfew was an erratic genius, and the job would suit him very well, because he had a horror of anything that had the appearance of discipline, or order, or conventional method. In the office of The Megaphone they have a shuddering recollection of a night in June when the Panmouth Limited Express, moving at the rate of seventy miles an hour, came suddenly upon an excursion train standing in a wayside station beyond Freshcombe.

The news came through on the tape at 5.30, and Carfew was in the office engaged in an unnecessary argument with the chief sub-editor on the literary value of certain news which he had supplied, and which “the exigencies of space”–I quote the chief sub, who was Scotch and given to harmless pedantry–had excluded from the morning’s edition. Carfew had been dragged to the chief’s room, he protesting, and had been dispatched with indecent haste to the scene of the disaster.

“You can write us a story that will thrill Europe,” said the chief, half imploring, half challenging. “Get it on the wire by nine, and, for heaven’s sake, give your mind to the matter!”

Carfew, thinking more of his grievance against an unwholesome tribe of sub-editors, who, as he told himself, suppressed his copy from spite, had only the vaguest idea as to where he was being sent, and why.

The flaming placard of an evening paper caught his eye– “Railway Disaster“–as he flew through the Strand in a taxi-cab, and then a frantically signalling man on the side-walk arrested his attention.

“Hi–stop!” shouted Carfew to the driver, for the signaller was Arthur Syce, that eminent critic.

Now, it was rumoured that there was some grave doubt as to the authenticity of the Riebera Españolito, recently acquired by the National Gallery, and Carfew was hot for information on the subject. Indeed, it was he who had planted the seeds of suspicion concerning this alleged example of the Spaniard’s work.

The great news agencies sent in their disjointed messages of the railway smash–they came by tape-machines, by panting messengers, by telegrams from the local correspondents of the Megaphone at Freshcombe–but there was no news from Carfew. Ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, eleven-thirty–no news from Carfew. Skilful men at the little desks in the sub-editors’ room, working at fever speed, pieced together the story of the accident and sent it whizzing up pneumatic tubes to the printer’s departments.

“If Carfew’s story comes in, use it,” said the despairing chief; but Carfew’s story never came.

Instead came Carfew, with the long hand of the clock one minute before twelve,–Carfew, very red, very jubilant, almost incoherent in his triumph. “Hold half a column for me!” he roared gleefully. “I’ve got it!”

The editor had been leaning over the chief-sub’s desk when Carfew entered. He looked up with an angry frown. “Got it? Half a column? What the devil have you got?”

“The Spaniard is a fake!” shouted Carfew.

He had forgotten all about the railway accident.

If he had not been a genius, a beautiful writer, a perfect and unparalleled master of descriptive, he would have been fired that night; but there was only one Carfew–or, at least, there was only one known Carfew at that time–and he stayed on, under a cloud, it is true, but he stayed on.

Newspaper memory is short-lived. Last week’s news is older than the chronicles of the Chaldeans, and in a week Carfew’s misdeed was only food for banter and good-humoured chaff, and he himself was sufficiently magnanimous to laugh with the rest.

When the dead season came, with Parliament up and all the world out of town, somebody suggested a scheme after Carfew’s own heart. He was away, loafing at Blankenberghe at the time, but a wire recalled him: “Be at office Tuesday night, and follow instructions contained in letter.”

“To this he replied with a cheery “Right O!” Which the Blankenberghe telegraphist, unused to the idioms of the English, mutilated to “Righ loh.” But that by the way.

“Do you think he will understand this?” asked the editor of his assistant, and read: “You will leave London by the earliest possible train for anywhere. Go where you like, write what you like, but send along your stuff as soon as you write it. We shall call the series ‘The Diary of an Irresponsible Wanderer.’ Enclosed find two hundred pounds to cover all expenses. If you want more, wire. Good luck!”

The assistant nodded his head. “He’ll understand that all right,” he said grimly.

The chief stuffed four crinkling bank-notes into the envelope and licked down the flap.

Then came a knock at the door, and a boy entered with a scrap of paper. The editor glanced at it carelessly. “Writes a vile hand,” he said, and read: “‘Business–re engagement.’ Will you see him, Jenkins?”

His second shook his head. “I can’t see anybody till seven,” he said.

The editor fingered the paper. “Tell him–oh, send him up!”–impatiently.

In the waiting-room below was a young man. He sat on the edge of the plain deal table and whistled a music-hall tune cheerfully, though he had no particular reason for feeling cheerful having spent the two previous nights on the Thames Embankment. But he was blessed with a rare fund of optimism. Optimism had brought him to London from the little newspaper of which he was part-proprietor, chief reporter, editor, and advertisement canvasser. His part-proprietorship was only a small part; he disposed of it for his railway fare and a suit of clothing. His optimism, plus a Rowton House, had sustained him in a two months’ search for work and a weary circulation of newspaper offices which did not seem to be in any urgent need of an editor and part-proprietor. More than this, optimism had justified his going without breakfast on this particular morning that he might acquire a clean collar for the last and most tremendous of his ventures–the storming of The Megaphone editorial. He had tossed up whether it should be The Times or The Megaphone and The Megaphone had won. He had a sense of humour, this young man with the strong, clean-shaven face and the serene eyes. He was whistling when the small boy beckoned him.

“Editor’ll see you,” said the youth.

“That’s something, anyway, Mike.”

“My name’s not Mike,” said the youth reprovingly. “Then you be jolly careful,” said the aspirant for editorial honours as he stepped into the lift, “or it will be.”

The chief glanced at his visitor, noted the shining glory of the new collar and the antiquity of the shirt beneath, also some fraying about the cuff, and a hungry look that all the optimism in the world could not disguise in the face of a healthy young man who had not broken his fast.

“Sit down, won’t you?” he said. “Well?”

“Well,” said the young man, drawing a long breath, “I want a job.”

This was not exactly what he had intended saying, though in substance it did not differ materially. The chief shook his head with a smile and reached for a fat memorandum-book.

“Here,” he said, running the edge of the pages through his fingers, “is a list of three hundred men who want jobs; you will be number three hundred and one.”

“Work backwards and get a good man,” said, the applicant easily. “There are not many men like me going.” He saw the chief smile kindly.

“I’m like one of those famous authors’ first manuscripts you read about, going the rounds of the publishing offices and nobody realising what a treasure he’s rejecting till it’s snapped up by a keen business, man. Snap me up.”

The chief’s smile broadened. “You’ve certainly got a point of view,” he said. “What can you do?”

The young man reached for the cigarette that the other offered. “Edit,” he said, knocking the end of the cigarette on the desk “partly propriate, report, take a note of a parish council, or write a leader.”

“We aren’t wanting an editor just now,” said the chief carefully, “not even a sub-editor, but–” He had taken a sudden liking for the brazen youth. “Look here, Mr.–I forget your name–come along and see me at eleven to-night. I shall have more time to talk then.”

The other rose, his heart beating rapidly, for he detected hope in this promise of an interview.

“I shall be able to give you a little work,” said the chief, and walked to the safe at the far end of the office, unlocked it, and took from the till a sovereign. “This is on account of work you might do for us. You can give me a receipt for it.” He laid the coin on the edge of his desk. “I’ve an idea that you’ll find it useful.”

“I’m jolly certain I shall,” breathed the young man as he scrawled the IOU.

He went down the stairs two at a time. He was a leader writer at the second landing, managing editor by the time he reached the ground floor, and had a substantial interest in the paper before the swing doors of the big building had ceased to oscillate behind him. He was immensely optimistic.

He engaged a room in the Blackfriars Road, paying a week’s rent in advance, and breakfasted, lunched and dined in one grand, comprehensive meal.

The greater part of the evening he spent walking up and down the Embankment, watching the lights, that had a cheerier aspect than ever they had possessed before. Some of his dreams were coming true. He had never doubted for a moment but that they would; it had been only a question of time.

Eleven o’clock was striking when he stepped into the lobby of Megaphone House. There was a new boy on duty, and, in default of a card, the visitor wrote his name on a slip of paper.

“Who is it you wish to see, sir?” asked the boy.

“The editor.”

The boy looked at the slip.

“The editor has been gone half an hour,” he said, and the young man’s heart sank momentarily.

“Perhaps he left a message?” he suggested.

“I’ll see, sir.”

Anyway, he thought, as he paced the narrow vestibule, to-morrow is also a day. Perhaps the chief had forgotten him in the stress of his work, or had been called away. Cabinet Ministers, it was reported, sent for the editor of The Megaphone when they were undecided as to what they should do for the country’s good.

There was a clatter of feet on the marble stairs, and a man came hurrying down, holding his slip of paper in his hand.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he began breathlessly, “but the editor has asked me to say that he has been summoned home unexpectedly. I should have come to meet you, but I have only recently been appointed night secretary, and I have not had the pleasure of meeting you”–he smiled apologetically–“so I should not have recognised you.” He handed an envelope to the young man. “The editor said I was to place this in your hands, and that you’ll find all instructions within.”

“Thank you!” said the youth, breathing a sigh of relief. It was pleasant to know he had not been overlooked. He had left the building, when the secretary came running after him.

“I didn’t make a mistake in your name, did I?” he asked a little anxiously.

“Carfew,” said the youth–” Felix Carfew is my name.”

“Thank you, sir, that is right,” responded the secretary, and turned back.

MR. FELIX Carfew–not to be confused with the great Gregory Carfew, special correspondent to The Megaphone–made his way to a little restaurant opposite the Houses of Parliament with his precious package at the very bottom of the inner-most pocket of his aged jacket. (Gregory Carfew had light-heartedly missed the boat connection at Ostend, and at the moment was playing baccarat in the guarded rooms of the Circle Privée.)

“Now,” said Felix, having ordered coffee, “let me see what my job of work is to be.”

He opened the envelope and, making involuntary little noises of astonishment, took out four pieces of white paper, whereon the admirable Mr. Nairne promised to pay fifty pounds to bearer; then he opened the letter and read it. He read it three times slowly before he grasped its meaning.

“‘Go anywhere!… Write about anything!…’” he repeated, and drew a long breath. “‘Earliest possible train!’… You maybe certain of that, O heavenly editor!” he said, and paid his bill without touching the coffee he had ordered.

Earliest train–earliest train!

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