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- Castle Craneycrow - 1/48 -


CASTLE CRANEYCROW

BY

George Barr McCutcheon

NEW YORK

1902

CASTLE CRANEYCROW

THE TAKING OF TURK

It was characteristic of Mr. Philip Quentin that he first lectured his servant on the superiority of mind over matter and then took him cheerfully by the throat and threw him into a far corner of the room. As the servant was not more than half the size of the master, his opposition was merely vocal, but it was nevertheless unmistakable. His early career had increased his vocabulary and his language was more picturesque than pretty. Yet of his loyalty and faithfulness, there could be no doubt. During the seven years of his service, he had been obliged to forget that he possessed such a name as Turkington or even James. He had been Turk from the beginning, and Turk he remained--and, in spite of occasional out breaks, he had proved his devotion to the young gentleman whose goods and chattels he guarded with more assiduity than he did his own soul or--what meant more to him--his personal comfort. His employment came about in an unusual way. Mr. Quentin had an apartment in a smart building uptown. One night he was awakened by a noise in his room. In the darkness he saw a man fumbling among his things, and in an instant he had seized his revolver from the stand at his bedside and covered the intruder. Then he calmly demanded: "Now, what are you doing here?"

"I'm lookin' for a boardin' house," replied the other, sullenly.

"You're just a plain thief--that's all."

"Well, it won't do me no good to say I'm a sleepwalker, will it?--er a missionary, er a dream? But, on d' dead, sport, I'm hungry, an' I wuz tryin' to git enough to buy a meal an' a bed. On d' dead, I wuz."

"And a suit of clothes, and an overcoat, and a house and lot, I suppose, and please don't call me 'sport' again. Sit down--not oh the floor; on that chair over there. I'm going to search you. Maybe you've got something I need." Mr. Quentin turned on the light and proceeded to disarm the man, piling his miserable effects on a chair. "Take off that mask. Lord! put it on again; you look much better. So, you're hungry, are you?"

"As a bear."

Quentin never tried to explain his subsequent actions; perhaps he had had a stupid evening. He merely yawned and addressed the burglar with all possible respect. "Do you imagine I'll permit any guest of mine to go away hungry? If you'll wait till I dress, we'll stroll over to a restaurant in the next street and get some supper.

"Police station, you mean."

"Now, don't be unkind, Mr. Burglar. I mean supper for two. I'm hungry myself, but not a bit sleepy. Will you wait?"

"Oh, I'm in no particular hurry."

Quentin dressed calmly. The burglar began whistling softly.

"Are you ready?" asked Philip, putting on his overcoat and hat.

"I haven't got me overcoat on yet," replied the burglar, suggestively. Quentin saw he was dressed in the chilliest of rags. He opened a closet door and threw him a long coat.

"Ah, here is your coat. I must have taken it from the club by mistake. Pardon me."

"T'anks; I never expected to git it back," coolly replied the burglar, donning the best coat that had ever touched his person. "You didn't see anything of my gloves and hat in there, did you?" A hat and a pair of gloves were produced, not perfect in fit, but quite respectable.

Soberly they walked out into the street and off through the two-o'clock stillness. The mystified burglar was losing his equanimity. He could not understand the captor's motive, nor could he much longer curb his curiosity. In his mind he was fully satisfied that he was walking straight to the portals of the nearest station. In all his career as a housebreaker, he had never before been caught, and now to be captured in such a way and treated in such a way was far past comprehension. Ten minutes before he was looking at a stalwart figure with a leveled revolver, confidently expecting to drop with the bullet in his body from an agitated weapon. Indeed, he encountered conditions so strange that he felt a doubt of their reality. He had, for some peculiar and amazing reason, no desire to escape. There was something in the oddness of the proceeding that made him wish to see it to an end. Besides, he was quite sure the strapping young fellow would shoot if he attempted to bolt.

"This is a fairly good eating house," observed the would-be victim as they came to an "all-nighter." They entered and deliberately removed their coats, the thief watching his host with shifty, even twinkling eyes. "What shall it be, Mr. Robber? You are hungry, and you may order the entire bill, from soup to the date line, if you like. Pitch in."

"Say, boss, what's your game?" demanded the crook, suddenly. His sharp, pinched face, with its week's growth of beard, wore a new expression--that of admiration. "I ain't such a rube that I don't like a good t'ing even w'en it ain't comin' my way. You'se a dandy, dat's right, an' I t'ink we'd do well in de business togedder. Put me nex' to yer game,"

"Game? The bill of fare tells you all about that. Here's quail, squab, duck--see? That's the only game I'm interested in. Go on, and order."

"S' 'elp me Gawd if you ain't a peach."

For half an hour Mr. Burglar ate ravenously, Quentin watching him through half-closed, amused eyes. He had had a dull, monotonous week, and this was the novelty that lifted life out of the torpidity into which it had fallen.

The host at this queer feast was at that time little more than twenty-five years of age, a year out of Yale, and just back from a second tour of South America. He was an orphan, coming into a big fortune with his majority, and he had satiated an old desire to travel in lands not visited by all the world. Now he was back in New York to look after the investments his guardian had made, and he found them so ridiculously satisfactory that they cast a shadow of dullness across his mind, always hungry for activity.

"Have you a place to sleep?" he asked, at length.

"I live in Jersey City, but I suppose I can find a cheap lodgin' house down by d' river. Trouble is, I ain't got d' price."

"Then come back home with me. You may sleep in Jackson's room. Jackson was my man till yesterday, when I dismissed him for stealing my cigars and drinking my drinks. I won't have anybody about me who steals. Come along."

Then they walked swiftly back to Quentin's flat. The owner of the apartment directed his puzzled guest to a small room off his own, and told him to go to bed.

"By the way, what's your name?" he asked, before he closed the door.

"Turkington--James Turkington, sir," answered the now respectful robber. And he wanted to say more, but the other interrupted.

"Well, Turk, when you get up in the morning, polish those shoes of mine over there. We'll talk it over after I've had my breakfast. Good-night."

And that is how Turk, most faithful and loyal of servants, began his apparently endless employment with Mr. Philip Quentin, dabbler in stocks, bonds and hearts. Whatever his ugly past may have been, whatever his future may have promised, he was honest to a painful degree in these days with Quentin. Quick-witted, fiery, willful and as ugly as a little demon, Turk knew no law, no integrity except that which benefitted his employer. Beyond a doubt, if Quentin had instructed him to butcher a score of men, Turk would have proceeded to do so and without argument. But Quentin instructed him to be honest, law-abiding and cautious. It would be perfectly safe to guess his age between forty and sixty, but it would not be wise to measure his strength by the size of his body. The little ex-burglar was like a piece of steel.

II

SOME RAIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

New York had never been so nasty and cold and disagreeable. For three weeks it had rained--a steady, chilling drizzle. Quentin stood it as long as he could, but the weather is a large factor in the life of a gentleman of leisure. He couldn't play Squash the entire


Castle Craneycrow - 1/48

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