THE LION'S SHARE
THE LION saw Major Poodam at the same moment Major Poodam saw the lion. Major Poodam was outraged. Lions didn’t belong in British Columbia; least of all on beautiful Rebecca Spit, a grassy level stretch, dotted with clumps of firs, reaching out in a mile-long paralleling arm to the North Pacific. The Spit formed a low sandy bulwark, creating behind it a naval harbor; and it overlooked one of the two island-protected waterways of the “Inland-Passage” along which only could move all the naval and supply ships to northern waters in Canada and Alaska.
The Major was a conservative orderly person; thus this sense of outrage at seeing the lion remained his -
chief emotion even after the lion began moving slowly toward him. It came from the seaward side across a strip of open green sward where Rebecca Spit was narrowest, 60 feet only here separating the outer ocean and the harbor behind.
The lion came on very slowly. There was something almost apologetic in its advance, as though' the king of beasts realized how very right was the Major at its impropriety in wandering free on a foreign strand.
As the animal drew nearer, a sudden awareness of danger came to Major Poodam, a consciousness of peril, yet without fear. It had been said by those who knew him as a soldier during 25 years in India and in the first great war: “Poodam is fearless.” And the
Major, at 65, retired on his five acres in this British Columbia spot of beauty at the head of the Spit, had not changed. He remained standing very still, staring at the approaching tawny shape.
“Deuced awkward!” he thought. In the next moment came curious wonder. “Now how the devil did it get here? Funny, I haven’t heard anything about it over the radio; and certainly such a happening would be broadcast.”
The Major subscribed to the Times of London. This from habit. He read the month-old paper when it reached him, in keeping with his custom of 40 years. He also received the Daily Times, published in the city of Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island, by way of keeping up with things of the present. But even the Daily Times of Victoria was a week old when it reached the island. There had been nothing in the last paper about a Hon roaming in his vicinity. Thus, the Major reasoned, the lion’s arrival must be of recent moment.
While t.iese thoughts passed swiftly, the animal continued toward him at grave and sober pace.
The Major continued to stand very erect, his slender cane touching the earth, yet no weight of his bearing
upon it. Despite his years of varied hunting, experience with lions formed no part of it. He sought counsel of memory. “Remain very still, face the lion, look him straight in the eye.” He wondered where he had heard that. And again a sense of outrage, this time at the stupid futility of such advice. “Nonsense!” he snorted. “How would looking a lion in the eye affect its appetite or intentions?”
The Major’s thoughts abruptly turned, racing to the present war: all those brave men, some of the younger officers known to him, who had fought in North Africa, who were now at it in Italy. And he was absolutely out of it! Indignation (seething in him for the past three and a half years) returned at the recollection of the London War Office’s continued refusal of his insistently repeated offers to do something—anything —only to be allowed to be at it. He burned more fiercely at this moment. For, after the London office’s long denial, there had been his direct attempt here in the land of his adoption. Journeying to Victoria, besieging Army headquarters of the local forces. Without avail.
And now, after all this time of trying, of dreadful disappointment at not being permitted to serve his country, now to end up by being eaten by a lion! That was humiliation beyond all thought!
THIS mingling of indignation at recent wrongs and immediately pending possibilities ended abruptly. The lion had halted 10 feet away. It gazed upon the Major with contemplative air. The man was filled with astonishment. Impossible as it must be, there was something about its attitude oddly suggestive of a human being in a strange locality meeting up with the first inhabitant, and a little anxious and uncertain of what the reception is going to be. Indeed, all unknown to the Major, and completely out of keeping with the Major’s sense of outrage at an African lion loose on a British Columbia island, this lion gazing upon him was quite as unfamiliar with Africa as the Major. Born in captivity in a small travelling circus this was the first time in all its existence it had ever wandered free.
An hour earlier a fine young heifer, belonging to the Major’s nearest neighbor, which found pleasant grazing upon the grassy stretches of the Spit, had been even more surprised than the Major at the lion’s appearance, without, however, being granted the same period of reflection as the old soldier.
For the first time in its life the lion had made a kill. Having eaten more at once than ever previously, and this of fresh, warm meat, this king of the jungle, who had never known a jungle, was in a happy mood.
To the lion there was something vaguely reminiscent of his last trainer in this short, upright figure, dignified and commanding. Here was the same fearless attitude; the same bared head of short dark hair tinged with grey; the same full and round face; the short mustache over the lips ending in sharp points, perfectly waxed. But, above all, the same frosty blue eyes. And there was also the same thin Malacca cane with which the trainer had directed the afternoon and evening performances. Though the music, the crowd in the theatre, the bars of the cage were lacking, the lion for the moment almost imagined he heard again that loved voice, firm but friendly, calling: “Up,
Alexander.” He saw himself moving as of old to his seat upon his tub with the other lions; while the band blared, human eyes stared from the semidarkness beyond the stage.
There came over Alexander—“Amiable Alex,” his trainer always called him—a surge of nostalgia. The hesitancy and question in his manner, which even the inexperienced Major had sensed without comprehending, left Alexander. With quickened step he marched upon the man.
Major George Stedham Poodam, D.S.O., knowing nothing of Alexander’s past and present thoughts, felt for the first time in his life a tingling along his spine. For the first time in his life he was consciously afraid. He stood even more rigidly.
Alexander stopped a pace distant. Still under the spell of the past, he dropped to a crouching position.
Take a lion on the loose, add a retired Major, season with a sinister Colonel. Result: A rib-tickling brew—sure tonic for spring fever
“This is the finish!” Poodam inwardly cried.
Alexander rolled over. He lay on his back, four enormous paws gesticulating ridiculously in the air.
But the man did not raise his cane and run it down along his belly, that thrilling tickling gesture of his trainer. Expectant, Alexander held his pose longer than usual. Disappointed, he completed the roll, rose to finish the old, often repeated little byplay with his trainer by a gentle pull at the Major’s sleeve.
The enormous breath of the animal filled the man’s nostrils with its heat and power.
“By gad, old fellow, and I thought you were going to eat me!”
Overcome by reaction the Major impulsively laid his plump hand upon the animal’s shaggy head and scratched with slightly doubtful fingers behind Alexander’s ear.
Alex growled softly. This at least was something familiar: the caress of his old trainer. The Major, hand still fondling the tawny ear, repeated, but aloud this time: “Deuced awkward to be adopted by a
strange lion.” This was followed by a consoling reminder. He said jocularly to the animal: “Remember, old fellow, you adopted me. I’m not adopting you. A nice technical point, eh, what!” A vast amusement filled the Major. It was an almost hysterical reaction (though he would never have admitted it even to himself) to the recent moment when he felt himself about to serve as a blue-plate special.
He thought of his old cronies; retired Army officers at the New London Club in Victoria, a club referred to by some vulgar and rude persons — nonmembers — as the “WhatWhaters.” The Major chuckled, picturing himself, when next he visited the club, relating his adventure to an astonished and fascinated audience. Abruptly the chuckle subsided.
The adventure wasn’t over. It was only beginning.
“Deuced awkward,” he repeated once more aloud. “Catherine will certainly be disturbed.”
THE MAJOR when troubled on his wife’s account always spoke of her as Catherine. At other times she was Kate, or Kate, my girl.
Yet, the Major reflected, he must return home, and, in fairness to the community, he couldn’t, as an old soldier, a gentleman and a good citizen, do other than put the lion under restraint. He remembered that his near neighbor, Colonel Kingcombe, half a mile farther along the Spit, had a cow and a yearling heifer. The lion at liberty might eat them. His reflections would have been dreadfully upset if destiny a few minutes earlier had allowed him to walk 50 yards farther where the remains of Colonel Kingcombe’s heifer lay.
Dropping his right hand from the lion’s ear the Major turned. Erect, dignified, he moved briskly homeward. Majestically, Alexander strode beside him, a big brute, his head level with the shoulder of the short and paunchy officer.
As they went the old soldier planned his campaign. The garage would hold the animal until its owner was located. For his garage was none of your flimsy affairs of clapboards such as served most of the islanders as shelters for their cars in this mild climate. It was built of stout fir logs by the first owner as a small barn. Its little windows would not permit Alex’s escape; its mighty swinging door was beyond his strength. There was also a smaller door, now seldom used, but through which the Major could enter or throw in food.
The prospect of his carefully kept “Baby” Austin standing outdoors, now with the rainy season at hand, was not a pleasant one. However, the Major reassured himself, surely only a few days at most would pass before the reclaiming of the lost one. At least it was better to have the automobile safely outside than within; one could not forecast the reactions of a strange lion.
The plan of campaign, moving so splendidly in his head, abruptly halted. “Deuced awkward!” Again the Major voiced concern. What if the lion refused
to enter? Well, well, there wasn’t any point in moving up bridges till he came to them, or, rather, worry about lions and open doorways until the two faced each other.
Reaching the neat front gate, a narrow affair of bars of arbutus between wide cedar pickets, the Major swung it, passed through in the lead, the lion close at his heels. The front door opened. Catherine stood in the portal, a short, stout woman, a pile of white hair somehow giving an added touch to features remarkably tranquil. For a star-falling flash of time the placidity vanished as she turned a frightened cry into words wondering and admonishing: “George Poodam, what in the world! ...” Further speech failing, she waited.
“It’s nothing, my dear, nothing,” with more airiness than he felt. “Just a lion I found wandering on the Spit. He’s quite friendly. Indeed,” this pridefully, “the old fellow seems quite fond of me already. But perhaps it’s best to be on the safe side, for the neighbors’ sake, you know. So if you will just go out the back way, run the car out of the garage, open the door its widest and stand just back of it and not attract his attention, I’ll lead him in. Then shut the door quickly.”
Stalling for time the Major addressed his companion.
“Well, old fellow, we’re home. How do you like it?” He rubbed behind the lion’s ear. The big cat growled softly. Then abruptly jerked up his head, went tense
at the sound of the starting motor. He remained stiffly alert until the car grew silent.
The Major continued his caress. “There, there, my little lion,” his voice attempted a crooning softness, something so utterly foreign to the Major’s matter-offact and forceful tone, it sounded like a muchscratched and very old phonograph record. “Everything’s all right for my little kitten. Come along and see the nice pretty place.”
A narrow pebbled path led around the house to a grassy yard where the open doorway of the garage faced the rear entrance. Moving in front, erect, dignified, with forced assurance, and overwhelming doubt, the Major made the two turns of the house and marched straight toward the doorway. As they stepped upon the grassy sward off the narrow path, Alexander came alongside. Shoulder to shoulder, grand soldiers on parade, in they went.
As they reached a few steps within, to the Major’s extreme astonishment, Alexander quickened his pace, leaving the man behind. He moved with now joyous action to the farther end of the barn. Utterly at a loss the man halted. As he did so the light went down with the closing of the door. To the lion this was as it should be—house lights out. A partial realization deepened in the Major. There at the corner of the barn was an overturned wooden tub. The Major filled this with changes of sea water when fattening clams with oatmeal, a remarkable recipe, learned from old-timers, which gave to the dining-room table a dish which eaters of ordinary clams never know.
But to Alexander the tub was an entirely different symbol; a vivid reminder of stage performances, a part of his past sharply upon him, brought back with nostalgic power when half an hour ago he had looked upon the erect figure of the man and his cane, so
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strongly recalling his former best-loved trainer.
Filled with animation the lion mounted the tub, half-turning, faced the Major.
“Splendid! Splendid! Quite all right, old boy!”
The Major, in natural voice for the first time since their meeting, roared genuine approval. With a reflex action quite unconscious, he slapped the cane upon his open palm, then, waving it gently to and fro, he backed unhurried, erect and dignified, toward the little door on his right.
Alexander remained sitting puzzled. Something wrong here. No brightening lights, no music, no dark expanse dotted by the white of human faces.
The Major reached the door, pulled back the bolt, jerked at the stiffly opening frame, stepped through the portal, shot the bolt home. Halfturning he faced his wife. To hide his hand which was a trifle shaky he hung on a moment, only to start violently as close against the door within came a long whimper. It was so full of reproach and pleading, the man felt an odd wrench at his heart. He called very soothingly: “There, there, it’s all
right, go to sleep.”
Not wishing to be subjected to further appeals to his heart, the Major started rapidly for the house.
For the first time since settling in Restful Haven afternoon tea was not the cosy and restful break in the day it had always been. It was as if the imprisoned lion sat, an uneasy third in the living room, beside the low tea table in front of the fireplace. The flames from the driftwood leaped with entrancingly beautiful flares of purple as on other days. Yet they failed to charm the eyes of the beholders. Even the tea, the Major’s favorite blend for a quarter of a century, lacked flavor.
“The question is,” said the Major as they discussed the disposal of their unexpected responsibility, “how to get in touch with the owner. It surely should not be very difficult. After all, Kate, my girl, people don’t lose valuable beasts like that without quickly setting about recovering them.”
His confidence on this point was such, he regarded the outcome cheerfully.
“I hope you are right,” Catherine replied. Her tone was so dubious and troubled, his satisfied air vanished.
“Why, Kate, my girl, what other answer could there possibly be?”
“The meat scarcity, for one thing. And the fact the lion turns up on this lonely out-of-the-way island in British Columbia. It’s quite different than if the lion had been found wandering on the outskirts of any big city; that would be understandable. The reasonable surmise being it had escaped from some travelling circus or the zoo. If not that, then some eccentric person who kept it as a pet and could no longer support it after meat became scarce, yet had not the heart to do away with it, simply turned it loose under cover of the night at a safe distance from home.”
“Come, come, Kate, my girl, people just don’t drop lions as some heartless people dispose of unwanted kittens.” Yet, despite his emphatic ridicule, a dreadful uncertainty gripped his heart. For, after 30 years of marriage, Poodam had a most profound respect for his wife’s opinion. In the past she had been unerringly right so many times when he had been wrong.
She continued: “I think you should send advertisements at once to the papers in the cities of Victoria, Van-
Maclean's Magazine, May 15, 1944
couver and, yes, perhaps Seattle. Also to the radio stations. They could run it in one of those brief intervals, you know, just like they do when telling you to take Tompkins fizzy water for upset stomach. You remember that announcer who always annoys you by saying stomach; or Pepp pills for vitamin deficiency.”
He nodded. “It will cost quite a bit, my dear,” he added, as an afterthought.
“Not one tenth what it will cost to feed that lion,” she replied grimly. Then, more cheerfully, “Anyway, the owner will certainly repay you your expenses.”
A KNOCK on the door. The Major arose to admit, with some considerable astonishment, Colonel Kingcombe. He was a very tall thin man, dark, sharp-faced, very trim and sardonic. A bachelor of uncertain age he lived with one man servant. Though the Poodams’ nearest neighbor, as nearness went on these island wilderness reaches, they saw him only occasionally. This was the first time he had ever been in their house.
“Come in, Colonel, you’re just in time for a spot of tea.”
Kingcombe came forward stiffly. “No, thank you, I will not sit down. I just came over to tell you of an extraordinary happening. Most extraordinary! I found the remains of my prize heifer, Julia, on the Spit a few moments ago. As you know, Major, or perhaps I’ve never mentioned it to you, I’m an experienced big game hunter. If this wasn’t British Columbia I’d have sworn that heifer was killed and partly eaten by a lion.”
The Major’s heart dropped heavily. Before he could speak, the calm of the mellow afternoon was shattered by a roar from Alexander, resentful at the Major’s failure to return.
“By Jove, that is a lion’s roar!” Colonel Kingcombe’s contemplated dash toward the door was halted by his host’s almost agonized reply.
“Yes. It is a lion, Colonel—in my garage.” Though there was absolutely no reason for it the Major’s voice was humble, actually apologetic.
Colonel Kingcombe fixed the unhappy man with baleful eyes, into which quickly grew a light of crafty triumph. “What is this, Major? You keep a pet lion unknown to your neighbors?”
“Heavens! No!” The Major started back aghast at this unexpected implication. His pride at his own coolness that morning, his satisfaction with his success in handling the great beast, the feeling of actual liking awakened in his breast for the lost and homeless animal, all these emotions gave place to momentary panic as arose dreadful vision of the hideous possibilities threatening from the unfortunate meeting of the morning.
“Please sit down, Colonel.” Major Poodam caught the amazed wonder in his wife’s eyes at her husband’s unusual display of agitation. A little calmed by her telepathed influence, and despite the Colonel’s antagonistic and questioning manner, the Major began the story of his morning. As he did his apologetic manner of the previous moment faded. The Major became himself again: calm, cool, collected, dignified. As he progressed a faint sneer grew upon the Colonel’s naturally sardonic features. This gave way to a glare of angry incredulity as his brother soldier concluded.
Kingcombe arose stiffly. “Come, come, Major, you don’t expect me to believe such a cock-and-bull yarn. You find a savage lion on the Spit. He follows you home like a lamb, lets you lock him up in your garage. All this
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wild tale to get out of paying me for my heifer you found your blasted pet had eaten. You’ve no business to keep a lion in the first place, let alone allow it loose, even for a moment.”
Colonel Kingcombe towered in derisive fury over the now stunned Major. And in this, the most bewildered moment he had ever undergone, George Stedham Poodam, D.S.O., as fine souls sometimes do in baffling situations, blurted out inconsequentially, “But he isn’t a savage lion.”
“Of course not.” Kingcombe’s derision was a whiplash. Suddenly he was conciliatory. Even while failing to hide the veiled threat behind his words, he said: “Come now, Major, let’s settle this thing reasonably. Give me your check for $125. Though the heifer’s worth more I don’t want to be hard on a neighbor, and I’ll forget all about it. If you like adopting or keeping lions that’s no business of mine.”
THESE concluding words sent a cold chill to Poodam’s heart. His own jocular words to the lion that morning came back with the damning force of doubtful prophecy. “He hadn’t adopted a lion—the lion had adopted him!” But who would believe it! His heart tunnelled deeper toward his shoes as his own common sense told him most people would be in complete agreement with the Colonel.
Then anger filled him. That a fellow officer should stoop to blackmail! For there was no other word for it. Kingcombe believed he was keeping a lion to the public danger. Yet if paid for his heifer he would forget the matter. And to ask $125, claiming a prize animal for a scrub offspring of his milk cow, and this in the name of good neighbor policy. That was intolerable. And from a brother officer; that was unbelievable.
In the wake of these thoughts came an amazing explosion in Poodam’s mind, slow-working at the best of times. Returned vividly something which for several years had vaguely lain at the back of his mind; one of those incidents which awake slight wonder at the moment, only to slip back into the subconscious.
Kingcombe had taken up his place, an old abandoned farm, shortly before the outbreak of war. The house stood right above the sea, secluded among tall firs, his nearest and only neighbor, the Major, half a mile away. Kingcombe never once had invited the Major to visit him, nor accepted his own neighborly offer of hospitality shortly after Kingcombe’s arrival. It came to the Major, as a minor explosion in the wake of the more devastating first idea, that no one had ever been invited to Kingcombe’s. He recalled this being commented upon by some of the neighbors one day at the village store. And then the incident about the resident missionary, which had caused some little talk.
The resident missionary lived on the other side of the rocky island. He was a very old man, filling in for a younger gone as an Army padre. However, the old man took the young man’s duties seriously. The most difficult of these: pastoral calls. In spite of his age he called on all the islanders regardless of their denomination. That the old man had to walk and row many miles in order to carry out this duty touched the hearts of the islanders. He was always welcome. When he had called upon Colonel Kingcombe the gate was locked. In answer to a bell the Colonel, himself, after some little time, showed up, only to rudely tell him to go away; that he was an atheist, and put up with no visits from missionaries.
However, it was none of these facts
which now stirred Poodam. Yet they served as an ominous background to that larger something seething now within the Major’s mind.
The occasions when he had chanced to meet the Colonel had been rare ones. On mail days, as their road was the same for some little distance, they had walked part of the way homeward several times. Naturally, Poodam spoke of Army life. This without the slightest intention of wishing to draw out any particulars about the Colonel’s past; they were both old soldiers, and to talk shop was second nature with the Major. At the recollection of this now came sharp wonder, where previously had been mere vague surprise, that always the Colonel had avoided the subject. After repeated silence on the part of the Colonel, Poodam had, with the discretion of an officer and a gentleman, in future avoided touching upon the subject.
Poodam was snapped back to the present by Kingcombe’s voice. An odd note of indulgence was in his grating tone, as one might address a not overly bright child.
“Come, come, Major. Surely you can make up your mind. After all, if you want to protect your pet, $125 isn’t such a high price. And, I would have you know, I was very fond of my heifer.”
Poodam gazed at this tall thin, too trim man. Something about his wasp waist awoke another vision; it suggested something else along the line and in keeping with the main idea convulsing him. Yet, though he strove fiercely to grasp it, the thing eluded. It was as exasperating as a word one wanted to utter; a word on the tip of the tongue, yet refusing to contact the mind. Rising anger banished perplexity momentarily. He said, with such sudden ferocity Kingcombe took a backward step, “Blast you, Kingcombe. I’ll give you nothing. The lion doesn’t belong to me, even if I now have it in my care. If it killed your heifer that happened before I met it, and you can’t hold me responsible. And now will you get out of my house.”
Kingcombe, his face convulsed, faced him silently. Poodam felt the same sensation of repulsion experienced long ago when confronted with a cobra poised to strike. Kingcombe said: “Very well, my freend, I’ll report you to the Provincial Police for harboring a dangerous animal. That’ll cost you more than if you’d paid me for my heifer.”
Poodam, never a quick thinker, was prompted again by an unknown something. He shot back: “Don’t waste
your time. I’ve already done it.”
FOR a moment after the door banged the Major and his wife remained gazing at each other.
“Trying to blackmail me!” The enormity of the attempt roused him to speech.
Kate replied, almost dazedly: “It’s so unlike a British officer. I can hardly believe it yet.”
“Eh, what,” Poodam said eagerly. “That’s what’s been bothering at the back of my head. By Gad, Kate, my girl, you’ve helped me. Kingcombe isn't a British officer. Somehow vaguely I’ve always felt it. There’s something foreign about him. I think I must have always unconsciously felt it, but never heeded. But never with full consciousness until just now when he said: ‘My freend, I’ll report you.’ Did you notice it? How queerly he said ‘freend,’ a sort of a slip of a carefully trained tongue, caused by anger. And the way he stood and looked. Blast it, what is it he reminds me of?” There was agony
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in the intensity with which the Major strove to capture the lurking impression avoiding him just on the edge of his conscious mind.
After a minute Kate, returning to the practical, suggested: “Hadn’t you better walk to the village and phone the Provincial Police about the lion? Now you’ve told the Colonel you did it, you can’t let him lay his information ahead of you.”
“Walk! This is no time to consider rations. I’ll take the car.”
“Excellent. Then you can go on as far as the fox farm. They get a supply of horse meat, I understand. Perhaps they can spare you some.”
“Kate, my girl, what would I do without you?”
The little car sped along the seldomtravelled road. With half the distance covered the Major abruptly stopped the car.
“By Gad, that’s it!” He remained in ecstatic silence a flash of time, only to grow grave at the widening import of the astonishing detonation in his mind regarding Kingcombe.
On his return from telephoning the police at the village store, and with 30 pounds of horse meat from the fox farm, the Major was strangely silent and preoccupied.
Entering the garage through the little door he found the lion asleep. It wasn’t often Alexander had fed as heavily. Drowsiness overcame loneliness. The Major closed the door. Tomorrow would be time enough to feed him. The horse meat supply, he had been warned, was limited.
AT A few minutes past 11 the next . morning Officer Cameron, the sixfoot constable from the nearest Provincial Police headquarters, was shown in by Kate to the living room where a much perturbed Major Poodam sat waiting. The two men talked for nearly an hour, or rather the Major talked most of the time.
When Cameron finally rose, he said, very gravely, “This is a very serious matter, Major. If I undertake it on my own responsibility and you are wrong, it might bring my dismissal and a damage suit against the Government.”
Major Poodam, erect, dignified, but not quite calm under the pressure of his terrible earnestness, nodded.
“We are at war, Cameron. We both fought in the last one. Y ou have known me some time, ever since I came here. I never was so certain of a thing in my life. But why all these things never occurred to me before makes me feel like a blundering fool. You must act. I, as a British officer, will assume full responsibility.”
“Very well, Major, I’m with you.”
The grimness on Officer Cameron’s face while listening to the Major’s talk now momentarily lifted. He smiled: “Your serious information made me nearly forget the lion that’s on the loose around here. He’s badly wanted. He’s a Canadian regiment’s mascot; belongs to the Rangers from Vancouver. They got him from a travelling showman just before they took a transport for the North. Just where the beast jumped overboard nobody knew, but all the Provincial Police stations were wirelessed. Well, Major, things sure do come all in a heap, don’t they?”
The Major almost smiled. “Let’s take care of the Colonel first, Cameron, and then perhaps I can help you find that lion.”
The surprise raid on Colonel Kingcombe’s home late that afternoon by five Provincial officers and Major Poodam made the headlines across the continent, and even half a column in the Times of London.
A powerful short-wave set had been conveying to Berlin since the outbreak of war, and to Tokyo, after Pearl Harbor, a vast amount of varied information from the isolated home of Colonel Kingcombe, overlooking the so important sea lane to Alaska.
IT FINALLY came to me, Kate, my girl, as I drove to the store,” Poodam explained exultantly the evening after the raid as, weary but triumphant, he sat in the living room of Restful Haven. “Kingcombe looked like an officer, but not a Britisher. But what kind of an officer? The answer was at the back of my head all the time, all mixed up with different things I was putting together while he was trying to hold me up for that scrub of a heifer. That too trim figure of his; that wasp waist. What did it remind me of? Then, in the car, I remembered one time in the last war when we took a lot of German prisoners, among them a Prussian officer. That was Kingcombe —a Prussian officer right in our midst. And, Kate, my girl, will you believe it, when we searched the fellow this afternoon—blast me, if he wasn’t wearing a corset! But after 28 years one’s mind slows up a bit.”
“It was brilliant of you.” Kate’s admiration was too much even for her usual placidity.
“Ah, now, I say, Kate, my girl,” the Major deprecated, “really, you know, really the lion’s share of the credit goes to the lion. If he hadn’t adopted me, why this German spy might have gone on here. They’ve identified him. He’s famous.” He added regretfully: “If
my pension was larger, and if there was enough meat, dashed if I wouldn’t like to keep the beast. I’ve grown quite fond of him, you know.”