The Great Reward - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Great Reward ebook

Edgar Wallace

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The Great Reward” is thirteen quirky short stories from the master of mystery Edgar Wallace. Fast-paced, with good classic twists and turns, an unusual criminal scheme and a little romance. Edgar Wallace was a British novelist, playwright, and journalist who produced popular detective and suspense stories and was in his time „the king” of the modern thriller. Wallace’s literary output – 175 books, 24 plays, and countless articles and review sketches – have undermined his reputation as a fresh and original writer. Moreover, the author was a wholehearted supporter of Victorian and early Edwardian values and mores, which are now considered in some respects politically incorrect. In England, in the 1920s, Wallace was said to be the second biggest seller after the Bible.

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Liczba stron: 93

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Contents

Chapter I. A Masterful Maiden

Chapter II.A Sweet Disposition

Chapter III. Say It With Flowers

Chapter IV. Wanted for Felony

Chapter V. A Big Beam of Sunlight

Chapter VI. Suicide Manor and Dead Man's Pool

Chapter VII. Let Him Perish

Chapter VIII. The Animated Clothes Basket

Chapter IX. The Down, Down, Down Girl

Chapter X. “You Must Return Them”

Chapter XI. Poor Detectives

Chapter XII. Our Mr. Jones

Chapter XIII. A Jones In The Family

I. A MASTERFUL MAIDEN

“WHY is it, Jordan,” asked Josephine, pinching her lips thoughtfully, somewhat to the detriment of articulation, “that so many men desert their wives?”

She frowned at the handbills pinned to the cretonne curtains of the dining-room; the portraits which adorned the majority of the slips frowned back. They were frowning men, foreordained to steal guiltily from their slumbering responsibilities and to invoke the energies of the law.

Jordan said nothing. In the first place, he was not interested in Josephine’s grisly quest, and had long since ceased to protest against her practice of using the dining-room curtains as a rogue’s gallery. Accustomed now to the display of police notices concerning deserters, larcenists, burglars, and house thieves, he could meet even the portrait of an occasional murderer at breakfast without turning a hair. In the second place–

“Jordan, Jordan! You’re asleep!”

Jordan Yeoman rumpled his grey hair, guiltily.

“I wasn’t asleep, Josephine–honestly I heard you–every word. You said something about wives getting their deserts.”

“I said nothing of the kind,” said his daughter, severely. “You were asleep!”

“Perhaps I was,” admitted Mr. Yeoman, and yawned. “Where is Georgina?”

Josephine tilted her chin resolutely. Jordan must be cured of this habit of asking mechanical questions. He was not a bit concerned in the whereabouts of Georgina, or, if he was, he knew that, ink-bespattered and wild of hair, she was sitting in the garret wrestling with her new play. Georgina began writing a new play every week. Sometimes it was completed. More often than not it went the way of other futilities.

“Where is Helen?” asked Jordan, patiently persistent, as he settled himself to a position of greater comfort in the deep chair.

Josephine did not answer. She knew perfectly well that he had been talking with Helen in the garden half an hour before. She had both seen and heard, for Helen, in her prim way, had been instructing the bored Jordan in the chemistry of farming–Helen came out first in the agricultural class at St. Margaret’s.

Josephine gazed absently upon the portrait gallery. Unwillingly she confessed that the collection was neither a thrilling nor a promising one. The rewards offered were fairly paltry, and the men of whom the police sought information were curiously vapid.

Josephine had this weakness; that she believed a day would dawn when there would walk into her ken a greatly desired criminal, for whose arrest a fabulous reward was offered. She pictured him as a small man, her inferior in physical strength. Between other rehearsals she had practiced, with Helen’s aid, the exact procedure she would follow.

Helen, whose sporting instincts had not been developed in the course of her stay at St. Margaret’s, entered a vigorous protest after the third practice.

“Really, father, I should like to oblige Josephine, but do think she is inconsiderate if she expects me to be knelt upon three times a day, and be mauled and gagged with an awful dish-cloth every time I come into the kitchen! Besides, it hurts–kneeling on one, I mean.”

“Where does she kneel, ducky?” asked Jordan, indiscreetly.

“I’d rather not say, father,” said Helen, in a tone which did not encourage further inquiry.

Josephine came to the table, pulled out a rush-seated chair, and with an effort addressed herself to the business of account-keeping.

It was a pleasant room, this in which they were, the prettiest in Crab Apple Farm. Spacious, airy, sweet-smelling, the men and women who had chosen its furnishings had been dead these two hundred years. Through the big open window you saw the corner of a garden, splashes of crimson and claret, dapplings of gold and blue. Beyond were the sloping meadows, and a flash of silver where the river ran.

Josephine was pretty, though nobody had told her so, except Georgina. But she insensibly discounted Georgina’s praise, for Georgie was at heart a poet, and given to extravagance of speech.

Helen, who had “taken” physiognomy as part of her science training at St. Margaret’s, said Josephine’s nose was too short and her chin too square. She did not think, either, that goldy-brown hair “went” with the peculiar shade of grey in Josephine’s eyes.

Helen felt it was her duty to explain these shortcomings to her sister. Josephine laughed, kissed her, called her “a snub-nosed reptile,” and dismissed her with a mince pie. Helen, who had studied hygiene at St. Margaret’s, knew exactly the effect of pastry upon the complexion, and dropped the pie into the pigsty, where it was greatly appreciated by a lady who had heard nothing of hygiene, but who knew that warm mince pie tasted good.

Though it was the month of June, a log fire smouldered in the great open fireplace, before which Jordan Yeoman nodded and dozed, whilst his capable daughter wrestled with corn and hay accounts.

“Jordan, you’re a fug! I wonder you don’t roast. Jordan!”

“What the dickens do you want?” he growled. “I’ve been up half the night with that infernal cow.”

Josephine showed her even white teeth in a smile.

“And the cow is alive to tell the tale,” she said. “Jordan, have you thought any more about letting the two rooms?”

He shifted uncomfortably.

“I hate the idea of a–a boarder, even a summer boarder. It is rather low-down, isn’t it, Jo? Helen says–”

“Blow Helen!” she answered, calmly. “Helen wants a new party dress; we all want clothes badly, and there is no money is the bank.”

He wriggled his shoulders like a man who was taking an unwanted shower.

“Of course, there is really nothing derogatory to one’s dignity in taking a guest,” he admitted. “The Saffords have one every year, and old Safford is rolling in money. I don’t like the idea particularly, but as you say, money is tight.”

“So tight that it can’t walk straight to Crab Apple Farm,” said Josephine, vulgarly. “Do you approve?”

“Well, yes. I’d prefer a maiden lady or a–”

“Never mind about that,” interrupted his daughter. “I’ve already let the rooms.”

Jordan sat up suddenly. “The devil you have? My dear Jo, you’re masterful–that is the only word. Absolutely. Helen thinks–”

“That child is certainly thoughtful,” said Josephine, with a sigh of resignation.

*     *

*

JORDAN YEOMAN was a gentleman farmer. He had not chosen his profession; rather had it chosen him. The farm had come to him from his father, the one possession which had escaped from the ruin which followed the Weatherbee Bank smash in the ’sixties. His affairs had prospered, or declined, in ratio to the intelligence and enterprise of his successive managers. Just now he was his own manager. Life to Jordan was a placid current on which he was content to float.

“Something is pretty sure to turn up.” He reached out for his pipe and filled it.

“Mick!” she retorted.

“Mick who?” he asked, startled.

“Micawber!” she said.

He chuckled softly, and lit his pipe with great care and deliberation.

“Respect for grey hairs was never a weakness of yours, Jo. But, maybe, if I had been a stern father to you I shouldn’t have got half the fun out of life I have. The bishop thinks it is most unusual for a girl to call her father by his Christian name, and Mrs. Bishop is speechless when she hears you.”

“I wish she was,” said Josephine, grimly.

She leant back in her chair, and nibbled the end of her pen, her pained eyes on the sum of her calculations.

“Jordan, my boy,” she said, slowly, “we’re in a hole! The only thing that can save our affairs from everlasting demnition is the Tremendous Jones.”

“Eh?”

“The Tremendous Jones,” she repeated; “the lodger will help, but his assistance is the merest drop in a bucket. The Tremendous Jones or a fine healthy murderer with a whole heap of blood-money on his head.”

Jordan sniffed.

“You’ve been listening to Georgina,” he accused. “I’m not sure that this play-writing of hers has a wholesome effect upon our little household. I suppose the Tremendous Jones is the title of her newest play? And let me tell you this, Josephine,” he struggled up from the depths of his chair to emphasise a solemn warning, “I completely and uncompromisingly refuse to take part in any more of Georgina’s rehearsals!”

“You’ll do whatever is required of you, Jordan,” said Josephine, firmly. Then a thought struck her. “Perhaps the lodger can take a part,” she said, “I must suggest that to Georgina.”

II. A SWEET DISPOSITION

MR. GALLET-MORPETH was a theatrical manager, of considerable wealth and influence, though there was little in his appearance to suggest his unhallowed calling. He was a stout, bald man, mild of face and modest of demeanour, and he smoked a pipe that was black and polished, and of a respectable size.

That pipe lay on his writing table, and he himself was standing before the scene model whistling softly when the telephone bell rang. Since he was quite alone, he had perforce to answer the call.

“Hello? No. I can’t talk to you now, Miss Staverly. I’ve got twenty people in the room. See the stage manager. No, I can’t put your song back, my dear, and if you are doing nothing in the play, why worry? Say, you get your salary, don’t you? It was a good song? Yuh! People are talking about the scandalous way you’ve been treated? Oh, you! They’re talking about it? I saw a crowd on the street as I came along. I wondered what they were mightily interested in. See Mr. Jackson.”

He sighed as he put down the receiver and pressed a bell, which was answered by his capable secretary, book in hand.

“Tell the stage manager that Miss Staverly says she will walk out unless her song is put back. Tell him to encourage her.”

“To do what?”

“To walk out,” said Mr. Morpeth, in his sad, even tones. “She has a six months’ contract, and she draws like a property magnet.” He tossed a letter across.

“This man wants three stalls for Thursday night for ‘Your beautiful drama, Clara Belle’–where are the returns for last night?”

The secretary found a printed form on which some figures were scrawled.

Mr. Morpeth read the amount given at the foot of the blank.

“Yes. Seventy in the house last night. I went in myself, and I thought they’d forgotten to open the doors.”

The girl gathered the hateful returns to the bundle on her knee.

“It is a frost, isn’t it?”

Mr. Morpeth’s laugh was without merriment.

“Frost? That play would give rheumatism to a polar bear!”

Secretaries to theatrical managers are not unused to such tragedies. Yet Gallet-Morpeth made fewer mistakes than any man in the business, and as she had been on her holidays when the play had been accepted . . .

“Did Mr. Jones read it before it was produced?” she asked, interested.

Morpeth shook his head.

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