Tam o' the Scoots by Edgar Wallace

Tam o' the Scoots

subjects: First World War Fiction

Description

Action-adventure fans, you’ve come to the right place. In ten pulse-pounding episodes, intrepid pilot Tam manages to find his way into a series of increasingly high-stakes scrapes. In the figure of the hard-living but honorable Tam, author Edgar Wallace has created one of the most realistic and endearing protagonists in classic action-adventure fiction. Despite his copious vices and weaknesses, Tam usually manages to save his own hide just in the nick of time. Will his incredible luck hold out forever?

Excerpt

Lieutenant Bridgeman went out over the German line and “strafed” a depot. He stayed a while to locate a new gun position and was caught between three strong batteries of Archies.

“Reports?” said the wing commander. “Well, Bridgeman isn’t back and Tam said he saw him nose-dive behind the German trenches.”

So the report was made to Headquarters and Headquarters sent forward a long account of air flights for publication in the day’s communique, adding, “One of our machines did not return.”

“But, A’ doot if he’s killit,” said Tam; “he flattened oot before he reached airth an’ flew aroond a bit. Wi’ ye no ask Mr. Lasky, sir-r, he’s just in?”

Mr. Lasky was a bright-faced lad who, in ordinary circumstances, might have been looking forward to his leaving-book from Eton, but now had to his credit divers bombed dumps and three enemy airmen.

He met the brown-faced, red-haired, awkwardly built youth whom all the Flying Corps called “Tam.”

“Ah, Tam,” said Lasky reproachfully, “I was looking for you–I wanted you badly.”

Tam chuckled.

“A’ thocht so,” he said, “but A’ wis not so far frae the aerodrome when yon feller chased you–”

“I was chasing him!” said the indignant Lasky.

“Oh, ay?” replied the other skeptically. “An’ was ye wantin’ the Scoot to help ye chase ain puir wee Hoon? Sir-r, A’ think shame on ye for misusin’ the puir laddie.”

“There were four,” protested Lasky.

“And yeer gun jammed, A’m thinkin’, so wi’ rair presence o’ mind, ye stood oop in the fuselage an’ hit the nairest representative of the Imperial Gairman Air Sairvice a crack over the heid wi’ a spanner.”

A little group began to form at the door of the mess-room, for the news that Tam the Scoot was “up” was always sufficient to attract an audience. As for the victim of Tam’s irony, his eyes were dancing with glee.

“Dismayed or frichtened by this apparition of the supermon i’ the air-r,” continued Tam in the monotonous tone he adopted when he was evolving one of his romances, “the enemy fled, emittin’ spairks an’ vapair to hide them from the veegilant ee o’ young Mr. Lasky, the Boy Avenger, oor the Terror o’ the Fairmament. They darted heether and theether wi’ their remorseless pairsuer on their heels an’ the seenister sound of his bullets whistlin’ in their lugs. Ain by ain the enemy is defeated, fa’ing like Lucifer in a flamin’ shrood. Soodenly Mr. Lasky turns verra pale. Heavens! A thocht has strook him. Where is Tam the Scoot? The horror o’ the thocht leaves him braithless; an’ back he tairns an’ like a hawk deeps sweeftly but gracefully into the aerodrome–saved!”

“Bravo, Tam!” They gave him his due reward with great handclapping and Tam bowed left and right, his forage cap in his hand.

“Folks,” he said, “ma next pairformance will be duly annoonced.”

Tam came from the Clyde. He was not a ship-builder, but was the assistant of a man who ran a garage and did small repairs. Nor was he, in the accepted sense of the word, a patriot, because he did not enlist at the beginning of the war. His boss suggested he should, but Tam apparently held other views, went into a shipyard and was “badged and reserved.”

They combed him out of that, and he went to another factory, making a false statement to secure the substitution of the badge he had lost. He was unmarried and had none dependent on him, and his landlord, who had two sons fighting, suggested to Tam that though he’d hate to lose a good lodger, he didn’t think the country ought to lose a good soldier.

Tam changed his lodgings.

He moved to Glasgow and was insulted by a fellow workman with the name of coward. Tam hammered his fellow workman insensible and was fired forthwith from his job.

Every subterfuge, every trick, every evasion and excuse he could invent to avoid service in the army, he invented. He simply did not want to be a soldier. He believed most passionately that the war had been started with the sole object of affording his enemies opportunities for annoying him.

Then one day he was sent on a job to an aerodrome workshop. He was a clever mechanic and he had mastered the intricacies of the engine which he was to repair, in less than a day.

He went back to his work very thoughtfully, and the next Sunday he bicycled to the aerodrome in his best clothes and renewed his acquaintance with the mechanics.

Within a week, he was wearing the double-breasted tunic of the Higher Life. He was not a good or a tractable recruit. He hated discipline and regarded his superiors as less than equals–but he was an enthusiast.

When Pangate, which is in the south of England, sent for pilots and mechanics, he accompanied his officer and flew for the first time in his life.