Our Lightning Serial.
AUTHOR OF “THE BLOOD THAT DRIPPED ON THE DOORMAT,”
“THE SCREAM IN
BELGRAVE SQUARE,” “THE VAMPIRE OF BODGER’S ALLEY.”
Synopsis of Previous Chapters: Viscount the
Hon. Prince Baldwin Berkeley, a defaulting solicitor with singularly attractive
manners, is travelling to Mortlake, viâ Putney, to marry his fiancée, the
Hon. Lady Marjorie Stagg-Mantle. At the same time His Grace the Marquis the
Senior Subaltern Luke Lockhart has arrived at Putney, where a thick crowd has
gathered to watch the ’Varsity Boat Race. Luke has never forgiven Baldwin for his share
in the Pigmy-Mutiny-at-the-Earl’s-Court-Compound
affairEarls Court is a district
in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and was (still is) a large exhibition venue. In
1899, six native African pygmies had been “coaxed” from the rain forests of the eastern Congo
by big-game hunter Colonel James J. Harrison, where he put them on at the Hippodrome in a show
called Savage South Africa. In 1907, still popular, they were exhibited at an attraction
called The Balkan Village at Earl’s Court. I can’t find a record of a “mutiny,” but here’s
an excerpt from Punch, August 28, 1907:
Inside the building, the double semi-circle of chairs are all occupied by spectators, most of whom are trying to attract some recognition from five Pygmies in the centre. The Pygmy Chief is sitting on a table at the back, gloomily nursing a bow and arrows; the second male Pygmy occasionally condescends to humour a pretty English girl by catching and returning the india-rubber ball she throws him. The youngest male is lying on his back sucking a piece of ice, with his head resting on a native drum, and his legs negligently crossed. The elder of the lady Pygmies, Princess Quauke, is squatting by a kind of brazier, while the younger is spasmodically accepting invitations to shake hands. Both ladies are in dark blue robes, with numerous bangles and bead necklaces.
, and has planned an exposé of Berkeley on Putney Bridge.bridge crossing of the River Thames in west London, linking Putney on the south side with Fulham to the north
Mr. Sir Charles Claridge is a minor character who has laid six to four on Cambridge, and who will be hammered at Lloyd’s unless Cambridge wins.
The Stroke of Fate.
The pride of two Universities were afloat.
Like highly-mettled poodles held in
leash the two crews of the racing boats waited under Putney Bridge for Mr. PitmanFrederick Islay Pitman (1863–1942), British rower and stockbroker; president of the Cambridge University Boat Club in 1886. From 1903 to 1926 he was umpire of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. [NM]
to drop the handkerchief. “Oxford!” yell some of the spectators. “Cambridge!” is the cry of others. While the rest shout “Row up, the Clapham Red!” and “Let her have it, old boys of Clarke’s Tutorial Correspondence College!” at will. On either bank stood rows of gay undergraduates, resplendent in their scarlet mortar-boards and the fashionable green gown with the pink spots. Grave dons in their sombre garb of purple and yellow vestments might here and there be seen, forgetting for the nonce their dignity, and playfully exchanging badinage with the passing lighter-men, or pushing each other into the Thames. Grave and gay, Youth and Age—what a sight for the moralist! But see. What dire confusion is this in the Cantab eight’s flat-bottomed racing shell? The cox has counted the men, and he finds that instead of the usual fifteen rowers, only fourteen form his crew. Who is missing? Can it be? No. It is. Cambridge has been deserted by her stroke. “Who will stroke the Cambridge crew?” bawls Mr. Pitman to the crowd, as Oxford laughs derisively at their rivals’ oversight. The crowd shrink back. The handkerchief drops. Oxford, after two false starts, leap off at three to the minute, while Cambridge rest on their sculls in impotent rage. Without a stroke to set the pace, etiquette forbids the crew to budge.
Meanwhile, let us turn to Lord Berkeley, who, noticing the Marquis lurking in the shadow of the bridge, realises that if he is not to be torn to pieces by the mass below he must act quickly. His eagle glance in a second roves round with a pronounced squint for safety. And the stationary Cambridge boat gives him his chance, although it is a desperate one. Flinging off his red silk spats and his alpaca dustcoat, he crams the one into the Marquis’ mouth and the other over his head. Then he vaults over the parapet.
“Why this intrusion, sir?” says Mr. Pitman, severely, as Baldwin alights on stroke’s thwart.
“I am an old Cantab, old chap,” replies the peer, with easy mien. “And now to victory and Marjorie.”
Berkeley’s débonair demeanour acts like electricity on the fainting men in front of him, and the boat springs forward.
For a moment Claridge’s pale, wan face is seen on the towpath. “Not that way, for Heaven’s sake. You are going backward.”
“Right about turn,” pants Baldwin; “we will beat the Dark Blues yet.”
(To be continued.)
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