Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: The Amazing Adventure of Marmaduke
Author: Arthur Gask
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202401.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2012
Date most recently updated: June 2012

Produced by: Maurie Mulcahy

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Amazing Adventure of Marmaduke
Author: Arthur Gask

*

Published in The Mail, Adelaide, S.A. Saturday 11 March, 1944.

*


Marmaduke Dangerfield, for all his high sounding names, was a very
ordinary and commonplace looking little man. Of slight physique, he had
light, watery blue eyes and scanty, sandy-colored hair. He did not
smoke, he drank sparingly of alcoholic beverages, and he was not much
interested in pretty girls.

A bachelor, and living all his adult life in lodgings, he had consumed
vast quantities of the indigestible concoctions of bad cooks, with the
result that at 37 years of age he was a confirmed dyspeptic and the
gloomy possessor of many subsidiary ailments which apparently resisted
all attempts to dislodge them.

Flitting from doctor to doctor as a bee flits from flower to flower,
besides what they prescribed for him, he was always taking patent
medicines, and it was really wonderful how his constitution stood up to
everything.

A piano-tuner by occupation, he had literary ambitions and was quite
confident that he would one day write a book--exactly what it was to be
about he was not certain--which would make him famous. His day dreams
were brightest when he was by himself in lonely places, and, in summer,
at fine week-ends he would often ride off on his bicycle, far from the
city, and, provided with food and a few simple cooking utensils, set up
a little camp and sleep under the stars. He always took care, however,
to carry with him adequate supplies of whatever medicines he was
believing at that particular moment to be necessary for the ensuring of
good health.

One evening, upon one of these excursions, he found himself some hundred
and twenty miles north of Adelaide, a long way distant from any
habitation. It was rocky, treeless country, and he had left all roads
behind him, and followed a narrow track leading up to a high range of
hills. He pitched his camp among a small cluster of rocks just off the
track, choosing this site because there was a well-filled dam close
near, and, with the water in it looking clean and clear, he would be
able to have a refreshing swim in the morning.

He was boiling his billy in preparation for the evening meal when
greatly to his surprise, as the place was so very lonely, a man came
into view, bicycling along the track. He stood up to watch him pass by,
but the man, catching sight of him, alighted from his machine and
proceeded to wheel it over the rough ground to the rocks. He asked
Marmaduke if he would let him have a match.

The piano-tuner was only too happy to oblige, and, anxious for a chat,
invited him to have a drink of tea. The man at once sat down and it
ended in his sharing the whole meal, tinned salmon, cucumber, cheese,
and dates, the indigestible things for which, above all others,
Marmaduke's soul always craved.

Always confiding, Marmaduke talked freely about himself, and the
stranger, though more reticently inclined, told something of his own
adventurous life. Only thirty-four, he had been prospector after gold,
boundary rider, drover, rabbit-trapper, and a hunter of wild dogs.
Marmaduke was an eager listener. Here was the very man, he was sure, who
could provide material for a dozen books, and he would have liked to
listen to him for hours. Darkness, however, was not far off, and the
stranger said he must be moving on, as he had a long ride yet before
him.

Disappointed at losing so interesting a companion, Marmaduke asked him
to look him up when he was next in the city, and started to search
hurriedly in his pocketbook for one of his cards. In his fluster he
spilled its contents, and two 5 notes fluttered to the ground. The
stranger picked them up, staring hard at them before he handed them
over.

Finding his card at last, Marmaduke gave it to the stranger, and the
latter put it in his tobacco tin. "Shan't lose it there," he smiled, and
then it seemed, he was no longer in such a hurry to go. He related more
of his adventures, and finally suggested that, as he was feeling so
tired, he should pitch his camp there, too, for the night.

Marmaduke expressed himself as delighted, and added laughingly, "And
I'll be able to give you a nice little night cap to make certain of a
good sleep. I've got some whisky in my flask, and it'll do us both
good."

So, while the stranger was preparing his bed, Marmaduke got the whisky
ready. He always had a tot at night, because in it he nearly always put
a sleeping tablet. His latest doctor had prescribed some, which, he
said, were extra strong, and warned him never to take more than one at a
time. Marmaduke, however, often exceeded the instructions of his medical
advisers and that night, feeling stiff after his riding, was intending
to take a double dose.

Their final preparations for bed ready, they drank the whisky to each
other's healths and a good night's rest. The stranger tossed his down in
one big gulp, and then licked over his lips with a rather frowning face.

"What whisky is that?" he asked curiously. "Got a bit of a rum taste,
hasn't it?"

"No, I don't think so," replied Marmaduke, drinking his more slowly.
"It's good Scotch," and then, all in a flash, to his consternation, he
realised what had happened. It was in the stranger's mug he had put the
two sleeping tablets!

For the moment he was on the point of blurting out the unfortunate
mistake he had made. Instantly, however, he thought better of it. It
might, perhaps, frighten his new-found friend, and, if he kept silent,
no harm would be done. So he said nothing, and, lying back comfortably,
the two talked on for another hour or so. Presently the conversation
lapsed, and, after a few moments, with some amusement Marmaduke heard
loud snores.

"He's settled now," he grinned, "and I hope I go off soon, too."

But it was a long while before he dropped off, and then his sleep was
broken. The night had turned chilly and he cuddled into his blankets,
afraid that he would be catching cold. Many times he woke up and every
time he heard his companion's loud snores. Towards morning, however, his
sleep became deeper, and it was broad daylight when he finally woke up
for good. Indeed, even then he might not have awakened if it had not
been for the barking of a dog and the loud baaing of sheep. He sprang to
his feet to see a man driving a mob to the dam.

He moved over to waken the stranger. In his sleep the latter had thrown
off the upper part of his blanket, and there was a big, hefty-looking
knife which must have fallen out of his pocket by his side. At the sound
of Marmaduke's voice he sat up with a jerk, and from his startled
appearance evidently could not take in where he was. He scowled--and
then his eyes fell upon the man with the sheep, who was coming up to
speak to them.

"Here, you!" called out the man angrily. "You've no business to have lit
a fire there. One spark and you would have had all this paddock alight.
It's folk like you who bring all these bushfires on us. You value your
miserable cup of tea more than the lives of hundreds of sheep and
thousands of pounds' damage to other people's property. Now you just
clear off. You're not to light another fire."

The stranger said nothing, but Marmaduke was full of protestations and
assurances of the care he always took. The man, however, ignored
everything he said, and then without another word just stood watching
them until they had collected their things together and ridden off on
their bicycles. The two went different ways, and Marmaduke was annoyed
at the curt, unfriendly nod the stranger gave him in parting. The
weather looked as if it was going to break, and, fearful of catching
cold, Marmaduke rode the whole way home that day.

A week passed, and one Monday evening Marmaduke returned home to his
lodgings to find two stern-faced men waiting to speak to him. "We're
police," said one of them nastily. "We want to know where you were on
Saturday afternoon."

Marmaduke was frightened at his menacing tone and looked as guilty as
anyone could be of anything he was going to be accused of. "Why, at home
here," he stammered. "I was working in the garden."

"Can you bring anyone to prove it?" asked the detective, and Marmaduke's
landlady was at once called in to verify the truth of what he had said.
She was dismissed with a nod, and the detective produced an old tobacco
tin. "This yours?" he asked, a little bit less roughly. "No! You don't
smoke? Well, ever seen this before?"

The trembling Marmaduke shook his head. "No, I haven't," he replied.

"Then how does this card of yours happen to be in it?" snapped the
detective. "Did you give it to anyone?"

Marmaduke's eyes opened very wide. "Yes, yes. I do remember that tin
now," he exclaimed excitedly. "It belonged to a man whom I met when on a
holiday the week before last. I gave him that card of mine to call upon
me when he was next in the city, and I recollect him putting it inside
to be sure he should not lose it."

"Where did you meet him?" snapped the detective.

"When I was camping on the range between Burra and Clare."

"Not near Gladstone?"

"No, a good fifty miles from there, but why do you ask?"

"Because we want that man very badly. Good heavens! Don't you read the
newspapers? Didn't you see about the farmer near Gladstone being
murdered?"

Marmaduke went as white as a sheet. Of course he had read about the
murder, and it was the main topic on everybody's lips. It had been a
dreadful crime in a lonely farmhouse. An elderly farmer had happened to
be alone that afternoon, and his wife had returned home to find him
lying dead in a pool of blood with his head terribly battered in. The
house had been ransacked and more than 300 in notes and some jewellery
stolen. So far as the public had heard, there was no trace of the
murderer.

"Oh, yes!" he answered shakily. "Of course I've heard about it." His
knees shook under him. "But do you think, it was the man I met who did
it?"

"Pretty certain," nodded the detective. "This tin was picked up near the
house and it must have dropped out of his pocket, as the farmer's wife
said she had never seen it before." He put his hand on Marmaduke's arm.
"Here, you must come up to the Watchhouse with us and tell your story
there."

So for two hours and longer Marmaduke was the centre of interest at the
police headquarters. A little shaky, he yet told his story well,
bringing in quite dramatically the man being about to ride off until the
incident of the dropped 5 notes. He told, too, of his mistake with the
sleeping tablets and his seeing the knife by the stranger's side when he
woke him up in the morning.

"Gad! But you were lucky," exclaimed the Chief Inspector. "You'd have
been cold meat right enough if you hadn't doped him off. Now you just
give us a good description, of what he was like."

Here, however, Marmaduke was a rotten reed to rely upon, and the police
were most disgusted when they found he could give them no adequate
description at all. He said the man was neither dark nor fair and just
ordinary looking. He didn't know what color his hair was, as he had kept
his cap on all the time, even when he had gone off to sleep. Also, he
wasn't certain if he were either tall or short and he couldn't remember
the exact color of his eyes. Of only one thing was he sure, and that was
that he would be certain to recognise him again if he saw him.

The following day he was taken up in a police car to where his camp had
been and the man with the sheep run to earth. With the latter the police
had another disappointment, as the man had no recollection of what
Marmaduke's companion had been like. Certainly, he stated, he remembered
Marmaduke, but only because the piano tuner had excused himself so
volubly and, he added rudely, had looked such a fool.

Weeks went by and the murderer was no nearer being caught. A reward of
500 was offered, and it became the obsession of Marmaduke's life to
earn the money. Every day, all day long, he was on the look-out.
Morning, noon, and night, whenever his work permitted, he promenaded up
and down the main streets of the city. He stood outside cinemas, he
loitered by tobacco shops, and he frequented bars. Many times he thought
he saw the stranger at a distance, but a closer inspection always
disappointed him. Often his hard staring annoyed people and more than
once he was threatened with unpleasant consequences.

Longer than two months had passed, and then one afternoon he almost
jumped out of his skin. He saw the stranger passing just by the town
hall.

He was sure of it! He was certain it was he! But he hesitated, with his
heart beating like a piston. No, he wasn't quite so sure! This man was
well dressed and looked spic and span. In a way he was quite different,
and yet----

The man was smoking a cigarette and walking towards Victoria square. In
a perfect agony of doubt Marmaduke followed him. The man turned into
Flinders street and made straight up to a car parked by the kerb. He
opened the door, and then--something happened and Marmaduke leapt upon
his back and clasped him tightly in his arms.

"Help! Help!" he shrieked to a passer-by. "This man has picked my
pocket! He's got my wallet on him! I felt him take it!"

With an oath the man tried to fling Marmaduke off, but Marmaduke clung
tightly until a little crowd was gathered. "Don't let him get away!" he
panted. "Don't let him get into his car!"

A policeman came running up, and Marmaduke again shrieked his
accusation. The man shook with rage and denied everything, but the
policeman ordered sternly they should both come with him to the
Watchhouse.

It was close, and Marmaduke thrilled to see in the charge-room a
detective to whom he was well known.

"This man," began the policeman, indicating Marmaduke, "charges this
gentleman with picking his pocket. He says----"

But the excited Marmaduke had now recovered his breath and interrupted
shrilly: "No, I don't say that now. I only said it to get him brought
here." His voice choked again, so that he could only speak with
difficulty. "He's the----!" He almost shrieked. "He's the Gladstone
murderer. He's the man I gave my card to."

A few brief seconds of stunned silence followed, and it was seen the
well-dressed man had gone as white as a sheet. Suddenly he sprang over
to Marmaduke and lunged him a fearful blow, but the policeman knocked
his arm up just in time and seized hold of him as he made a dash for the
door.

"I followed him up King William street," cried the exultant Marmaduke,
"but I wasn't sure till I saw him spit, and then I knew. He was spitting
a lot that night when he was talking to me."

The man's guilt was obvious straight away, as the murdered farmer's
watch was actually found on him. Also, his fingermarks were identical
with those on the chopper with which the farmer had been killed.

In due time he was hanged, and when all the facts became known Marmaduke
was the hero of the hour. His photograph was in all the newspapers and
everybody wanted to talk to him. He got the 500 reward, and on the
strength of it married a pretty young lady reporter who had come to
interview him. A bouncing, sandy-haired boy quickly eventuated, and
Marmaduke's supply of patent medicines was at once cut off. The wife
insisted that the baby and the dopes were too expensive luxuries to be
allowed together.



THE END


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia