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Authors: Leslie Charteris

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Saint's Getaway

BOOK: Saint's Getaway
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By Leslie Charteris

 

 

 

FICTION PUBLISHING COMPANY
• NEW YORK

 

 

Copyright 1932, 1933 by Leslie Charteris. Published by arrangement

with Doubleday
& Company, Inc. Printed in U.S.A.

 

AUTHOR’S FOREWORD

 

This story is virtually the third volume of a trilogy
begun by
The Saint Closes the Case
and
The Avenging Saint.
Although it was
written a few years after them

with, in
fact, four
or five other books in between

it
was still first
published as
far back as 1933. I was a lot busier in those
days.

In it, the Saint concludes his personal feud
with Prince
Rudolf, his most interesting opponent in the first two
rounds.
His other arch enemy, Rayt Marius, does not appear in this one, and actually
is only heard of again, post
humously, in
The Saint
in London.
As I have had to
explain in other prefaces, these were
villains out of a
mythology which today seems almost as dated as the
Ruritanias from which they came. But this book,
although the title may seem less appropriate now than the first one,
in retrospect, actually winds up a sequence as
well as an
era.

Some of the more dated notions which motivated the first two
books, the themes of mercenary war-makers
putting
strings behind the international scene, to activate
the puppet but
ambitious rulers of minor countries such
as
Prince Rudolfs, play an almost casual part in this story,
and do not
need elaborate explanation here. This book
can
stand, better than the first two, purely on its merits
as an adventure and a chase.

Needless to say, however, because of its
period, it con
tains anomalies which may have to be pointed
out to some
readers who have met the Saint only in his latest
environments.

The Austria in which it begins, and the
Germany in
which
it ends, were not only pre-NATO but pre-Hitler.
(Although Adolf was busily on his way at the time, he had
still not attained any great power, and was
largely written
off as a minor
crackpot who would never really amount to anything.
)
The
kind of mythical principality ruled by
Prince Rudolf was
still loosely acceptable to the popular imagination, at least as a nostalgic
tradition, even though
in fact there were precious few left which
anyone could
actually name.

It is, perhaps, a timely consolation to the
writers of high
adventure who would try to survive the present trend
towards sordid back-street “realism”
that although those
fascinating
plot-fertile Balkans have long since disap
peared behind the gray shadows of the Iron Curtain, the
surge of anti-colonialism and indiscriminate
independence elsewhere has led to a proliferation of even more
pint-sized and retrograde republics and
dictatorships, all
over the globe, than anyone but the United Nations
secretariat and the most studious amateur
geographers
can keep track of.
Perhaps, after all, these themes may yet
have a romantic renaissance, in some new-born African
or Asian Graustark.

Meanwhile, this book is offered simply as an
adventure.
It never aspired to be anything more.

 

I. HOW
 
SIMON TEMPLAR
 
FELL
 
FROM
 
GRACE

AND
 
STANISLAUS
 
WAS
 
UNFORTUNATE

 

IT all began to happen with a ruthlessly irresistible kind of suddenness
that was as unanswerable as an avalanche. It was
like the venomously
accurate little explosion that wrecks a
dyke and overwhelms a
country. The Saint has sworn that he did his level best to get from under—that
he communed with
his soul and struggled manfully against temptation. But
he
never had a chance.

On the bridge, scarcely a dozen yards away,
the four men
swayed and fought; and the Saint stood still and stared
at
them. He stood with one hand on Monty Hayward’s arm and
the other
on Patricia Holm’s, exactly as he had been walking
when the astonishing
beginning of the fight had halted him in his tracks like the bursting of a
bomb, and surveyed the scene
in silence. And it was during this silence (if
the Saint can be
believed) that he held the aforesaid converse with his
soul.

The change that had taken place so abruptly in
the land
scape and general atmosphere of that particular piece of
Innsbruck was certainly a trifle startling. Just one split second ago,
it seemed,
the harmless-looking little man who was now the
focal point of the
excitement had been the only specimen of
humanity in sight.
The deserted calm of the Herzog Otto
Strasse ahead had been equalled only
by the vacuous repose of
the Rennweg behind, or the void tranquillity
of the Hofgarten
on the port side; and the harmless-looking little man was
pad
dling innocently across the bridge on their right front with
his
innocuous little attach
é
case in his
hand. And then, all at
once, without the slightest warning or
interval for parley, the
three other combatants had materialized out
of the shadows
and launched themselves in a flying wedge upon him.
Largely, solidly, and purposefully, they jammed him up against the par
apet and
proceeded to slug the life out of him.

The Saint’s weight shifted gently on his
toes, and he whis
tled a vague, soft sort of tune between his teeth. And
then
Monty Hayward detached his arm from the Saint’s light grip,
and the
eyes of the two men met.

“I don’t know,” said Monty
tentatively, “whether we can
stand for this.”

And Simon Templar nodded.

“I also,” he murmured, “had my
doubts.”

He hitched himself thoughtfully forward. Over
on the
bridge, the chaotic welter of men heaved and writhed convulsively to a
syncopated accompaniment of laboured breathing
and irregularly
thudding blows, varied from time to time by a
guttural gasp of effort
or a muffled yelp of pain… . And the
Saint became dimly
conscious that Patricia was holding his
arm.

“Boy, listen—weren’t you going to be good?”

He paused in his stride and turned. He smiled
dreamily
upon her. In his ears the scuffling undertones of the
battle
were ringing like celestial music. He was lost.

“Why—yes, old dear,” he answered
vaguely. “Sure, I’m go
ing to be good. I just want to sort of look
things over. See they
don’t get too rough.” The idea took
firmer shape in his mind.
“I—I might argue gently with them, or
something like that.”

Certainly he was being good. His mind was as
barren of all evil as a new-born babe’s. Gentle but firm remonstrance—that
was the
scheme. Appeal to the nobler instincts. The coal-black
mammy touch.

He approached the battle thoughtfully and
circumspectly,
like an entomologist scraping acquaintance with a new
species
of scorpion. Monty Hayward seemed to have disappeared com
pletely
into the deeper intestines of the potpourri, into which his advent had enthused
a new and even more violent tempo.
In that murderous jumble it was
practically impossible to dis
tinguish one party from another; but Simon
reached down a
thoughtfully probing hand into the tangle, felt the
scruff of a thick neck, and yanked forth a man. For one soul-shaking instant
they glared at each other in the dim light; and it became
regrettably
obvious to the Saint that the face he was regarding must have been without
exception the most depraved and villainous specimen of its kind south of
Munich. And therefore, with what he would always hold to be the most profound
and irrefragably philosophic justification in the world, he hit it,
thoughtfully
and experimentally, upon the nose.

It was from that moment, probably, that the
ruin of all his
resolutions could be dated.

Psychologists, from whom no secrets are
hidden, tell us that
certain stimuli may possess such ancient and
ineradicable asso
ciations that the reactions which they arouse are as
automatic and inevitable as the yap of a trampled Peke. A bugle sounds,
and the old
war horse snorts with yearning. A gramophone
record is played, and
the septuagenarian burbles wheezily of
an old love. A cork
pops, and the mouths of the thirsty water.
Such is life.

BOOK: Saint's Getaway
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