As the Maid of Orleans sets sail for Boulogne, two men wave goodbye to their trusting wives, who are unaware the intended golf holiday is a ruse. Bulldog Drummond and his loyal friend, Peter, who narrates this exciting tale, go to assist a man in fear of his life and in need of their help in penetrating the ill-omened Temple Tower.
316 pages, with a reading time of ~5.0 hours (79,061 words), and first published in 1929. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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The Maid of Orleans drew slowly away from the side. Leaning over the rail was the usual row of cross-Channel passengers calling out final good-byes to their friends on the quay. An odd Customs man or two drifted back to their respective offices: the R.A.C. representative raised protesting hands to High Heaven because one of his charges had departed without his triptyque. In fact, the usual scene on the departure of the Boulogne boat, and mentioned only because you must start a story somewhere, and Folkestone harbour is as good a locality as any.
Standing side by side on the quay were two men, who had been waving their hands in that shame-faced manner which immediately descends on the male sex when it indulges in that fatuous pursuit. The targets of their innocent pastime were two women, whose handkerchiefs had fluttered in response from the upper deck. And since these two charming ladies do not come into the matter again it might be as well to dispose of them forthwith. They were, in short, the wives of the two men, departing on their lawful occasions to Le Touquet, there to play a little golf and lose some money in the Casino. Which is really all that needs to be said about them, except possibly their last remark chanted in unison as the ship began to move:
“Now mind you’re both good while we’re away.”
“Of course,” answered the two men, also in unison.
And here and now let us be quite clear about this matter. Before ordering a dinner the average man consults the menu. If his mouth is set for underdone beef with horse-radish sauce it is as gall and wormwood to him to be given mutton and red-currant jelly. Similarly, before reading a book the average reader likes to have a pointer as to what it is about. Does it concern the Sheik of Fiction carrying off a beautiful white woman on his thoroughbred Arab; or does it concern the Sheik of Reality riding a donkey and picking fleas out of his burnous? Does it concern a Bolshevist plot to blow up the policeman on point duty at Dover Street; or does it concern the meditations of an evangelical Bishop on the revised Prayer-Book? And honesty compels me to state that it concerns none of these things, which is just as well for all concerned.
But it occurred to me that the parting admonition of those two charming ladies might possibly be construed to mean that they feared their husbands would not be good during their absence. Far from it: such a thought never even entered their heads. It was just a confirmatory statement of a fact as certain as the presence of Nelson in Trafalgar Square.
“Dear lambs,” they remarked to one another as the boat cleared the harbour, “it will do them good to have a few days’ golf all by themselves.”
However, I still haven’t given this pointer. And with it the last hopes of those who insist on a love story will be dashed to the ground. They must have received a pretty severe jolt when this matter of husband and wife was alluded to, though a few of the more optimistic ones may have had visions of a divorce looming somewhere, or even a bit of slap and tickle. Sorry: nothing doing. So if this is the mutton of my restaurant analogy you know what to do. But don’t forget this book weighs as much as “Pansy, or the Girl who Lost All for Love,” and will do just as much damage to the aspidistra if you hit it. Another thing, too, which it does not concern is golf. On that fact, I must admit with shame and sorrow that these two miserable men had deceived their trusting wives. The larger and more nefarious of the two had actually addressed his partner in crime at breakfast that morning on the subjects of handicaps and niblicks and things, and what they were going to do during their few days at Rye. His eye had not twitched: his hand when he helped himself to marmalade had been steady. And yet he lied—the dirty dog—he lied.
And his companion in vice knew he had lied, though, to his everlasting shame, he said no word. Both of these scoundrels allowed their wives to leave them for a perilous sea voyage with a falsehood ringing in their ears. Which shows you the type of men you’re dealing with. However—that’s that: I’ll get on with it. Still not given the pointer? Oh! read the darned book and find out for yourself.
I will take the larger one first. His height was a shade over six feet in his socks: his breadth and depth were in proportion. Which, in boxing parlance, entitles him to be placed among the big men. And big he was in every sense of the word. His face was nothing to write home about, and even his wife admitted that she only used it to amuse the baby. Anyway, looks don’t matter in a man. What does matter is his condition, and, reverting once more to boxing parlance, this man looked what he was—trained to the last ounce.