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Authors: Russell Thorndike

THE SCARECROW RIDES

BOOK: THE SCARECROW RIDES
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THE SCARECROW RIDES
RUSSELL THORNDYKE

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  • PREFACE.
  • CHAPTER I. Why Two Sour-Faced Men Braved the Storm
  • CHAPTER II. Meg Fears For Her Husband
  • CHAPTER III. The Wreck Of The Brig On Dymchurch
    Wall
  • CHAPTER IV. The Wooden Devil
  • CHAPTER V. The Death Of The Sea-Captain
  • CHAPTER VI. The Survivor Takes The Whip-Hand
  • CHAPTER VII. The Sea-Chest
  • CHAPTER VIII. Doctor Syn Returns
  • CHAPTER IX. Doctor Syn takes Leave of Himself and
    Charlotte Sees a Ghost
  • CHAPTER X. Doctor Syn Makes Preparations
  • CHAPTER XI. The New Doctor Syn Appears At
    Breakfast
  • CHAPTER XII. Doctor Syn Occupies The Pulpit
  • CHAPTER XIII. Doctor Syn Delivers An Ultimatum to
    Mr. Merry
  • CHAPTER XIV. Mr. Merry Confronts Three Merry
    Blades
  • CHAPTER XV. Meg's Tavern Becomes 'The City of
    London'
  • CHAPTER XVI. Doctor Syn Sees Danger in Charlotte
    Cobtree
  • CHAPTER XVII. Mr. Mipps Appears
  • CHAPTER XVIII. The Housekeeper Objects
  • CHAPTER XIX. Dr Syn and Mr. Mipps Come to an
    Understanding
  • CHAPTER XX. The Death of the Riding Officer
  • CHAPTER XXI. Grinsley Posted for Murder
  • CHAPTER XXII. The Secret of the Figure-Head
  • CHAPTER XXIII. The Open Stable Doors
  • CHAPTER XXIV. Doctor Syn's Midnight Visitor
  • CHAPTER XXV. A Deal with Silas Pettigrand
  • CHAPTER XXVI. A Witch Deals with the Devil
  • CHAPTER XXVII. The Scarecrow Rider
  • CHAPTER XXVIII. Doctor Syn Toasts the Demon Rider
  • CHAPTER XXIX. Charlotte's Birthday
  • CHAPTER XXX. Doctor Syn in Danger
  • CHAPTER XXXI. Doctor Syn Shows Fight
  • CHAPTER XXXII. Charlotte Names Her Three Heroes
  • CHAPTER XXXIII. The Grievance of Mr. Jimmie Bone
  • CHAPTER XXXIV. The Red-Bearded Bridegroom
  • CHAPTER XXXV. The Beacon on Aldington Knoll
  • CHAPTER XXXVI. “Death to the Scarecrow”
  •  

     

    This text prepared by Jordanna Morgan
    PREFACE.

      In Which the Visitor Puts back the Clock and Listens In Beneath
    the Rookery

     

    Anyone visiting that thriving holiday resort of Dymchurch Sands
    to-day would be hard put to it to recognize the obscure village that it
    was in the days of Doctor Syn. However, if you will take the trouble,
    the mental trouble only, which will not disturb the peace, obliterate
    the bungalows which spring up like mushrooms in the fertile Romney
    Marsh, remove the obsolete wheel-less railway carriages which give
    camping shelter to so many happy families during the season, and pack
    up the enterprising little railroad whose express engines scream their
    way with such import across the Marsh, although one of them bears the
    name of Doctor Syn. Having done all this, you must then mentally
    demolish telegraph posts, loud speakers, electric lights and
    telephones, motor cars, aeroplanes, 'buses and the 'Bus Station. Then,
    down in your imagination with the teashops innumerable, leaving only
    those houses of call that are licensed to sell Beer, Wine, Spirits and
    Tobacco. Ruthlessly use a spiritual pickaxe upon every building that is
    not fashioned of mellow Queen Anne brick, Kentish rag and ship's
    timber. Rip off the concertina lines of corrugated iron and laboriously
    hang red tiles in its stead. Work your thoughts, and without asking
    permission from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, knock down the modern
    rectory and restore the white-washed, rambling parsonage with its
    red-tiled roof, and in order not to tread upon the corns of sainted
    rectors dead and gone, re-christen it The Vicarage. Having done all
    this, sit down and rest upon the mounting-block at the road entrance of
    Sycamore Gardens, which you have now transformed into a rough meadow, a
    farmstead and barn behind your back, and let your eyes survey the old
    church and the Tudor building of New Hall, then as now, the Court House
    of Dymchurch and headquarters of the Lords of the Level. One thing more
    is left for this your thoughtful restoration. Since you have hypnotised
    yourself back into a period with Trafalgar yet unfought, and Pitt's
    Martello Towers not erected, you must replace the stately Memorial of
    the War in our time with a grim symbol of Justice which preceded it
    upon that very site—a gaunt and creaking gallows, and you may tell
    yourself that the skeleton which swings there in the sea breeze was in
    its living flesh a sheep-stealer; a crime unspeakable and unpardonable
    in the summing-up of Dymchurch magistrates.

    Now listen to the swaying rookery above your head, for these
    black-feathered carrion have inherited their lofty homes from ancestors
    who actually picked the flesh from the bones upon the gibbet, saw the
    black-coated figure of Doctor Syn and heard his resonant voice
    exhorting the congregation from the top deck of the great pulpit in the
    little church beneath them. And you can hear his story also from the
    gulls, for every day he would walk along the sea-wall, having discarded
    his clasped Bible for a brass telescope, and as the salt tang filled
    his lungs he would change his tune from hymns to capstan songs,
    especially one old shanty that he was for ever singing when his mind
    floated off across the ocean wastes:

     

    “Oh, here's to the feet that have walked the plank—

    Yo ho! For the dead man's throttle;

    And here's to the corpses afloat in the tank,

    And the dead man's teeth in the bottle.”

     

    But never mind the screaming gulls as you sit beneath the rookery,
    for those birds are going to re-tell the story as their ancestors have
    cawed it down to them, repeating it caw for caw to their
    adventure-loving children and recapturing, like you, the 'good old days
    of smuggling'. They are beginning with the wreck of the good ship
    City of London
    that was driven ashore in Dymchurch Bay and, as you
    will hear, heralded, with thunder, lightning and mountainous waves,
    Doctor Syn's remarkable and uncanny return to Dymchurch-under-the-Wall.

    “Caw, Caw, CAW”—which is, being interpreted—

     

     

     

     

    CHAPTER I. Why Two Sour-Faced Men
    Braved the Storm

     

    Never in the history of Dymchurch Rookery that sways above the
    church and court house had the black-robed inmates such cause to fear
    the snapping of their fighting tops as during the soul-shaking tempest
    that swept the English Channel on the night of November 13th, 1775. The
    giant elms creaked and groaned as the racing wind shrieked in their
    bent riggings. Far beneath on the flat grass of the low-lying
    churchyard the headstones of the graves were torn from their sockets
    and in some cases hurled and splintered against the church. The roof of
    the old Manor Farm house opposite through the weakening of a beam
    rained tiles upon the road, while all along the straggling village
    street chimney tops crashed down. It was braving death to pass the
    strongest buildings on that ghastly night. And yet two men were daring
    enough to attempt it, and that when the storm was at its height.

    With their scarves drawn tightly round their jaws, the collars of
    their sea-coats up and their three-cornered hats pulled down to their
    eyes, they leaned their bodies forward at such an angle that if it had
    not been for the wind they must have fallen on their faces. Thus did
    they endeavor to keep their footage against the pressure, fighting
    their way step by step past the low churchyard wall towards the tall
    black looming sea-wall over whose top the surf was driving in sheets of
    foam water.

    Two more opposite reasons for these two men thus braving the
    stinging spray could hardly have been found. In one, it was a dogged
    sense of duty—in the other a sordid greed.

    They had been regaling their spirits in the company of Mr. And Mrs.
    Waggetts, the proprietors of the 'Ship Inn' and consuming a vast
    quantity of excellent French brandy which was cheap enough since no
    duty had been charged upon it. Then they had heard the gun. It echoed
    above the storm from the desolate pebble nose of Dungeness. A ship was
    in distress. Simultaneously both men had risen and buttoned their
    coats.

    “You're never going out in this,” protested Mrs. Waggetts.

    “There's no call for Merry to, but I must,” answered the shorter of
    the two. “If a ship's coming ashore, it's my duty to see what manner o'
    ship she be.”

    He was the Preventive Officer. A dogged, bitter man, and most
    unpopular in the village by reason of his trade. Unlike his companion
    he possessed at least one virtue. His duty was his god, and it was his
    dangerous boast that when he was called to discharge it, he had never
    run away or shirked the worst consequences, although he knew that no
    throat in Dymchurch was in such constant danger of being cut. He also
    knew that no one was more likely to cut it than his drinking companion
    who was, like him, buttoning up his coat.

    This Merry belied his name. He was sullen, intractable and
    cross-grained. So much so that he was known in the village as
    'miserable Merry'. But he had his use in the community, for he was a
    jack-of-all-trades. Tall and cadaverously thin, he was strong, and
    could pick up a living at most things that came his way. But he didn't
    say much, as the Preventive Officer found to his cost. He was never
    talkative in his cups. The Preventive Officer had never got any
    information out of him. An account of how he had been helping old
    So-and-so to patch up a boat, or mend a net, uninteresting adventures
    of fishing, or an opinion of the various harvests he had given a hand
    at bringing in, but never so much as a hint of the many landings of
    contraband that the Preventive man had found out about too late, and
    knew by instinct that miserable Merry had received good hush money.

    “Why was he leaving the snugness of the 'Ship' parlour to court
    disaster outside?” the Preventive Officer asked himself.

    A terrific crash near at hand.

    “There goes our chimney stack,” whined Mr. Waggetts, who sat propped
    up with pillows in a wheel-backed armchair by the fire. The blanket
    round his knees corroborated the fact which his pasty, melancholy face,
    sunken, the unnatural bright colour on his cheeks, and the large
    weakened eyes with hanging pouches proclaimed that Waggetts was a sick
    man.

    His wife was the reverse. Large, ugly, vain, but capable. She it was
    who steered the 'Ship Inn' and made it the profitable concern it was.
    Her husband's terror lest the chimney would come toppling down upon him
    resulted in his trying to get out of the chair, but Mrs. Waggetts
    pushed him gently back as she thrust her head, regardless of the smoke,
    under the mantle-beam and up the chimney. When it reappeared, she
    nodded reassuringly to her husband. “Not ours, my love. Must have been
    one at Sycamore Farm.”

    There was another crash from the other side of the house.

    “And that'll be something off of the old Manor,” she said
    cheerfully.

    “You won't be so happy when ours goes,” whined her husband.

    “Well, I says, it's one of them nights when one must take the
    crashes as they come and act according.”

    Such philosophy was beyond her husband's grasp. His answer was a
    violent fit of wheezing. Mrs. Waggetts pulled his head forward, pushed
    it down onto his lap with one hand and gave him several clumps on the
    back with the other.

    Meanwhile the Preventive Officer continued to lash himself taut
    against the driving wind and spray outside, and as he watched the
    miserable Merry following his example he cudgelled his slow but sure
    brain to discover a motive. 'Why should Merry want to come with him?'

    “But you ain't never going out, not really?” again protested the
    landlady.

    “I've told Merry there's no reason he should, but if he will, he
    will,” replied the officer.

    “May as well go along and have a look as stay here,” said Merry. A
    terrific gust of wind shook the old inn and blew the wood smoke into
    the room. “If the old place is coming down, I'd as lief be crushed
    under it outside as in here.”

    “The inn ain't going to come down,” snapped Mrs. Waggetts. “Ain't it
    stood all these years? Well then. For shame, trying to scare a sick
    man.”

    “It ain't stood many storms like this one,” argued the pessimist.
    “You weren't up on the sea-wall p'raps this evening? No. Well, I were.
    And I notices something that was queer. It's November, ain't it? And
    there ain't a weather prophet on the Marsh wot hasn't said we're in for
    a cold snap this winter. 'Severe', they all says. As I saw them
    copper-coloured clouds piling up beyond Dungeness to-night, I found I
    was sweatin' hot. And there was a hush all about one that by right you
    only get about midsummer. It ain't natural, not this heat in November.
    And there—”

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