David Gray.

The boomerang : a novel based on the play of the same name online

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A girl, slim and young, was standing timidly before him





Author of "Gallops I," "Gallops
II," "Mr. Carteret," etc.






Copyright, 1918, by

Published, October^ 1918


A girl, slim and young, was standing tim-
idly before him Frontispiece


A slim, ungloved hand was thrust out .... 8

"You've got this pretty bad,'' said Jerry ... 96

Budd's heart beat joyfully 102

"Joy and love," he repeated 174

''Why, Budd," Grace exclaimed, ''you certainly have

changed a lot" 200

The thing that had twice before that evening at-
tacked him came back again 218

"I dare say that was wise," he said dryly . . . 240





AS the crowd streamed from the train to the
Fliielen steamboat landing a voice shouted in
the speech of the Vierwaldstatter and, receiving no
response, shouted again. Now the speech of the
four cantons is said to resemble High German of
the twelfth century, but on that account it is not
more intelligible.

Among those upon whose ears the station offi-
cial's remarks fell were three young men. As to
Mr. Marchbanks and the Hon. Augustus Mildway,
these utterances might as well have been made in
Choctaw. However, they were normally curious
young men.

"Jerry," said Marchbanks, appealing to the third
member of the party, "what is the fellow trying to
say? Is it anything to eat or drink?"

"No," replied Jerry. "Come along."

Now this answer on the part of the third young

man addressed as Jerry was a proper enough an-



swer. It was truthful. It was to the point.
There were a limited number of seats on the boat,
and what seemed the entire floating population of
summer Switzerland aimed to be seated in them.
It was reasonable that if they did not "come along"
they would have to make the voyage to Lucerne
standing. Yet something either in Jerry's tone or
manner stirred a suspicion in the minds of his

The station official's shouting was repeated.
Mildway stopped.

"I 'm going to find out about this," he said.
"We may be missing something." He addressed
the porter who was bearing his kit-bag.

"Somebody is sick," said the porter in English.
"They want a doctor."

Jerry's face showed exasperation. Mildway
grinned and seized one of Jerry's arms.

"So that 'sit!" he said.

"Of course you 've got to take the case," said
Marchbanks, gravely.

"It 's his JEsculapian oath," said Mildway.
"We 're morally responsible."

"Stop your nonsense," said Jerry.

Obviously here was a potential case of "Le
medecin malgre lui." There was no doubt what
Jerry intended to do. .ZEsculapian oath or no


^Esculapian oath, he was going to get a seat on the
boat. On the other hand, to his friends boats and
seats were minor considerations. They were at
the age when the serious things of life have no ap-
peal. They had a chance at Jerry's "goat," as he
would have said, and they meant to take it.

At this juncture the station official came up, still

"Hi!" called Marchbanks. He pointed at
Jerry. "Artz! Doctor!"

"Zo!" said the station official.

"Dr. Sunnier, famous American," explained
Mildway, blandly. "Best shot of the season at
Monte Carlo, very moderate horseman, but excel-
lent golfer."

The station-master gazed blankly. He knew no

"Stop your ragging!" said Jerry, wrathfully.

The official addressed him in Vierwaldstatter
German. Jerry replied in Berlinese. There
seemed to be a deadlock when a middle-aged Swiss
gentleman appeared.

"May I ask which of you is a physician?" he
inquired in correct English.

Simultaneously Marchbanks and Mildway
thrust their companion forward.

"This is Dr. Sumner of the United States of


America and Paris, France," said Mildway, cere-
moniously. "He would have come at once, but
he assumed there were others at hand more mature
in the profession."

"It is nothing serious," said the Swiss. "Any
doctor will do. My wife injured her ankle in
alighting from the train. If you could relieve the
pain " He paused and looked appealingly at

Jerry blushed.

"I 've never practised," he said. "If there 's
no one else, of course I '11 do what I can."

"Go to it," whispered Marchbanks. "They 're
the people who had the girl with them. They got
on two stations back. She was a peach."

Gerald cast dark looks at his friends and fol-
lowed the stranger.

Making his way through the crowd that sur-
rounded the door of the private office of the res-
taurant, the Swiss knocked. A dismal moan fol-

"My wife is very apprehensive of doctors," he
said gloomily. "Be patient with her."

Then a girl's voice called to them in German a
delightful voice, making that guttural tongue soft
and alluring.

"Is that madame?" asked Jerry.


"My niece," whispered the Swiss. "She wishes
to know shall my wife take her shoe and stocking
off. As I said, she is apprehensive."

Jerry addressed himself to the unseen voice.

"She 'd better leave it on," he called in Ger-
man. "The best thing is to get her home or to
some hotel as quickly as possible."

"That 's what I 've told her," the voice answered
from the other side of the door. "Hot water is
what she really needs."

The girl's voice was not only delightful, but her
words indicated common sense and an inspiriting
grasp of the situation. Jerry felt an instant confi-
dence in her.

"That's the thing," he called. "There's no

"No," came the answer. "I 've flexed it. Just
a sprain, but very painful."

The wife moaned confirmingly. Jerry thrust
his hand into his pocket and brought out a little
bottle of tablets. "Here 's some codeine," he
called. "They 're two-grain tablets. Give her
two, and if the pain does n't stop in twenty minutes,
give her two more."

The apprehensive, unseen wife moaned again.
A soft "Danke schon" followed; the door opened
slightly, and a slim, ungloved hand was thrust out.


Jerry deposited the bottle in it. For an instant his
fingers touched it. To the sense of touch the hand
proved as smooth and delightful as the voice, also
as sensible and efficient as its directing intelligence.
The door closed again.

"I think that will be all right," Jerry said to the
husband. "Get a doctor as soon as you can."
Then he beat his retreat. On the platform beside
the boat he rejoined his companions.

"Did you operate?" inquired Marchbanks.

He answered with a dark look which suggested
that he would like to operate on Marchbanks with
some blunt and deadly instrument.

"I 've lost my toothache pills," he said.

"And that is human gratitude," said Mildway.
"I start him upon his chosen profession and give
him a chance to cultivate a most delightful-looking

"How about the lady?" Marchbanks broke in.

"I did n't see her," said Jerry and followed the
porters aboard the boat.

"Jerry," said Marchbanks, when they were
settled on the steamer deck, "you say you did n't
see the girl?"

Jerry nodded.

"And you did n't notice her when she got on the
train?" '

A slim, ungloved hand was thrust out



"Well, all I can say, is that it was n't like you.
She was a good deal out of the common a very
spiritual type."

Mildway burst into a roar of laughter.

"We '11 draw Lucerne for her, Marchy. We '11
find her for him. After his service to the family
it ought to be. It must be. Like you, I 'm strong
for romance."

"What makes you think we '11 find her in Lu-
cerne?" asked Jerry.

"They had Lucerne railway tickets," said Mild-
way. "I got that from the station officer through
the bilingual porter."

As they steamed down the Lake of Uri the sub-
ject was dropped. Mildway became absorbed in
sight-seeing. He announced that he was a better
patient after beholding the Rutli. Then they
passed Brunnen and turned into the main lake with
the prospect of Pilatus and Rigi before them.
Toward sunset they reached Lucerne.

At a quarter of eight that evening Marchbanks
knocked at Jerry's door. An absent-minded
"Herein" bade him enter.

"We 've found your girl," Marchbanks said ex-
citedly. "Mildway and I were strolling about, and
blessed if we did n't run into them coming up the


hill in a motor-car. They live in a big house with
a wall around the garden in what you 'd call the
Mayfair district."

Jerry tossed the letter that he had been reading
on to the table.

"Sit down," he said.

Marchbanks shot him a look.

"I say," he exclaimed, "no bad news nor any-
thing like that?" His banter had gone.

"No," said Jerry. "No one ill or dead. It 's a
letter from my governor. He wants me to come

Marchbanks appeared relieved.

"But if he 's all right, why go home?" he ob-
served. "Home is a good place to have measles."

"He wants me to come home," said Jerry in a
queer voice, "and start my practice of medicine."

Marchbanks gazed at him blankly.

"Your practice of medicine?" he exclaimed.
"Good heavens, man, you don't expect to practice

"Marchy," said Jerry, "I don't know what I ex-
pect to do. I 've never thought about it. Of
course I came over with that as a purpose and I 've
knocked about year after year with that as an ex-
cuse. I know as well as you do that it would be


criminal for me to prescribe for a valuable dog,
but I can't write that to the governor."

Marchbanks considered the situation thought-
fully. Jerry's attitude of mind perplexed him.
He failed to see why Jerry could n't write it to his

"He 's never been short with you about money
or anything?" he asked.

Jerry shook his head.

"That 's the trouble. He 's been too decent."

"Well," said Marchbanks, triumphantly, "he '11
be decent when you tell him the pill business is a
mistake. If you don't want to write him, take a
run over next winter and have a talk. Tell him
you 've changed your mind about medicine and
think of studying art."

Jerry gazed at him hopelessly.

"You don't get the idea," he said. "He expects
me to come home and stay there."

"Oh, no; not as bad as that!" said Marchbanks,
earnestly. "It can't be anything like that, or he 'd
never have given you such a free hand. You don't
understand parents. Now listen! What happens
is this: first, a joyless reception. Then the ex-
plosion in the library, with passionate word pictures
of the family plate sold and the girls going out as


housemaids. Then two days of unpleasantness
after which they 're jolly glad to have you get away
again. The thing to do is to shoot out the whole
horrible truth the first thing. It gets it off your
mind and makes the unpleasantness so violent that
it can't last."

Jerry shook his head. Somehow he could n't
picture himself telling the whole horrible truth.

"You don't understand the situation, Marchy,"
he said. "The governor has been so good to me
that it makes me ashamed. I could n't tell him.
I almost wish I 'd worked."

"But you don't have to earn your living."

Jerry shook his head.

"No," he said: "but, you see with us every man
that 's worth the powder to blow him up does some-

"Same with us," said Marchbanks. "Only we
prefer huntin' and polo to pills and law. Person-
ally, I favor shootin' and fishin'. But God knows
I 'm no idler."

Jerry laughed.

"What you don't understand is that nothing is
expected of you except to decorate the land-
scape, whereas I am expected to be useful. In
Elmford, Marchy, you would be accounted a bad


"What sort of place is this Elmford?" March-
banks asked thoughtfully.

"Well," said Jerry, "first there 's the river, then
the railway station, then Main Street, then Elm
Street, and the square. There 's a bunch of old
families, a plow factory, a button works, and the
Eagle Hotel. I suppose, all told, there are about
thirty thousand people in the place. The principal
diversion is going to New York."

"Sounds rather awful," said Marchbanks in a
subdued tone.

"My father loves it," Jerry went on. "I don't
know why unless it 's because his father loved it.
My sister likes it because she 's never lived any-
where else. She may marry the son of the button
works or the paying teller in the bank or a bright
young lawyer. Those are the eligible dancing


"And I suppose," suggested Marchbanks, "that
you will marry the daughter of the plow works
and have twelve children and grow a family physi-
cian's whiskers."

"Well, that's the question," said Jerry. "I
imagine it 's what the governor would like, only the
family physician is a little out of the picture.
You 've got to know some medicine to be a family


"Well, there 's only one best way out of it," said
Marchbanks, sagely, "and that is not to lose weight
worrying. Something will turn up. You '11 see.
And now get washed and clad in suitable raiment,
and I '11 scout for dinner and some proper cham-
pagne." He moved toward the door, but stopped
before he got there. "I say, old man," he said
affectionately, "there 's no chance of your doing
anything that will interfere with the grouse-shootin'
next month?"

"I don't know," Jerry answered. "The gov-
ernor mentions no special time for me to sail."

"Well, you know we are counting on you from
August twelfth on. There are only six guns. You
can't run out. The family would never speak to
me if you did."

"The Lord knows I don't want to," Jerry an-

"Well, that 's a date, as you say," said March-
banks, "whatever happens." He went out.

Ten minutes after he had gone Jerry was still
sitting by the window with his father's letter before
him. He knew that he had come to a parting of
the ways. The sign on the cross-roads was plainly
labeled. He loved his father. He could not con-
ceive not loving him, for his father had always be-
haved in an altogether lovable manner toward him.


Yet he was not at all ready to leave the roving,
cosmopolitan life of Europe that he had drifted
into. He was aware that the picture that he had
drawn of Elmford for Marchbanks was far from a
veracious one. There was much that was delight-
ful about Elmford; yet, compared with Paris and
London and the things they implied, Elmford ex-
cited no compelling hold upon his heartstrings.
All the tentacles of his daily life for eight years
clung to Europe and ached in protest at the pros-
pect of being torn loose and told to fasten upon the
little New England city.

Emile, his valet, came softly in with hot water,
arranged a tin bath-tub, and lighted the candles.
He surveyed his work, saw that it was good, and
paused before departing.

"Is there anything monsieur wishes?" he asked.

Jerry rose abruptly and squared his shoulders.

"Emile," he said, "do you want to go to America
with me?"

"Mais oui" the man answered promptly. "Is
it permitted that I inquire when we start?"

"To-morrow," was the answer. "Cook's will
still be open. Get tickets and accommodations on
the first ship we can make from Cherbourg or
Southampton." He took a handful of notes from
his pocket-book. "And you need n't mention our


leaving to Mr. Marchbank's servant," he added.

"Bien, Monsieur," said Emile and departed.

Jerry began to take off his clothes with a mixture
of emotions. In the main it was a sense of relief,
almost elation, that possessed him. He had known
that the break would have to be made sometime.
Now he had made it. He was doing the right thing
and he felt at peace. But he shrank from further
argument with Marchbanks. In a fashion March-
banks represented those eight delightful years of
luxurious drifting and playing at work. March-
banks in the present situation was the tempter. He
must flee from him. He dined with his friends
and talked shooting till midnight. Then he went
to his room and scribbled a note for Marchbanks:

I 'm off in the morning. I Ve got to do it. If I
can get back for August 12 I '11 cable. Love to Mildway.
Help each other to be moderately good, and if you meet
the beautiful niece marry her and wire me about it.

G. S.

His impulse had been to cable his father that he
was sailing, but on second thought he decided
against it. They would meet him in New York,
kill the fatted calf, and generally make a fuss over
him. He wanted nothing of that sort. It would
be hard enough to explain that he was a failure at


medicine without any of the welcome-home stuff.
When he arrived he would arrive, and that was all
there was to it.


FORTY-EIGHT hours later Jerry boarded the
Aquitanic. The first supporting flush of
conscious virtue had died in him like drink. He
felt like an extradited man, going home to face life
imprisonment. He saw joy nowhere or any pros-
pect of joy. He understood the feeling of the
prodigal son on his return trip.

The passenger list held no name that he knew.
His first inspection of his fellow-passengers deep-
ened his gloom. Fate and the second steward had
determined his place at table and apparently
neither had been kind. On his left was a citizen
of Chillicothe, returning from a German cure.
This man talked of nothing but diabetes. On his
right was a shoe salesman who talked of nothing
but shoes. Opposite sat a stout lady who never
spoke at all. Her enthusiasms ran to food.

"This is going to be a pleasant voyage," he said
to himself, gloomily. By lunch time on the second
day the single interest he had been able to arouse
in his fellow-beings was in the stout lady's system
of transporting food around the promontory of her



chest. It was not a large interest, but a genuine
one. The system depended upon a rhythmical
bending forward to meet the approaching mouth-
ful that seemed like the measured swing of oars-
men. While watching her discreetly from the
corner of his eye, he suddenly observed that when
she was at full reach there was disclosed a momen-
tary vista of the table diagonally beyond. Now
the central feature of this vista was a girl's head in
profile. It was not a commonplace profile. A
mass of black hair was drawn neatly from the nape
of the neck, disclosing a pleasant ear. A little
nose started skyward, but stopped at exactly the
right point. The corner of the mouth, which was
all he could see of that feature, was entirely de-

His interest immediately shifted from the stout
lady's transportation system, but unfortunately as
she finished the course and straightened up she
blocked the vista. While waiting for the next
course Jerry considered his discovery from the
point of view of a philosopher. Experience told
him that the promise of such a profile was not likely
to be fulfilled. He recalled bitter instances. His
life had been a series of just such disappointments.
He debated the advisability of suppressing his curi-
osity as to the frontal aspect of the face. Why


not preserve it always in profile? Why take
chances? A Solomon, a Socrates, would let well
enough alone. Acting on the dictates of philoso-
phy, he left the table before the stout lady had
finished, and retreated to the smoking-room for

The next morning some decent-looking chaps in-
vited him to play bridge, and he played two agree-
able rubbers with a loss of twenty-six dollars.
The third rubber he cut out and was not sorry as
he was holding unimaginably bad cards. He
found a seat on the transom where the sun streamed
in, and retired into his own thoughts. It was ap-
proaching noon. If Marchbanks and Mildway
held to their program they were at this moment on
the beach at Trouville. He could see it all in his
mind's eye the color, the life, the gaiety. Pres-
ently two Jerrys seemed to be contemplating the
scene. One longed to be sitting on the warm sand
with the sense of reckless enjoyment that idleness
and luxury bring to youth. The other was shaking
his head doubtfully. Echoes of a Puritan heredity
were whispering searching questions. What did
that pleasant life lead to? Why did the old-look-
ing middle-aged men who had lived it from boy-
hood have the faces they had? Why were they al-


ways bored? Why did they talk as if life was over
at fifty? Why were the women always having
nerves and jumping out of high windows? There
was something wrong about it.

As these men were, so would Marchbanks be
after thirty years of pleasure-hunting; so would
Jerry be if he kept along with them. It was not a
pleasant outlook. There must be a better way.
Perhaps, after all, there was something in strain and
effort, something in the old-fashioned virtues that
Marchbanks smiled at. The men who got the most
fun out of life were those who worked and enjoyed
work. They won going and coming, for their
work made their play enjoyable. Why had he
been such a fool? Why had n't he seen so obvi-
ous a fact? Why had n't he worked with a little
seriousness? What made the situation worse was
the impossibility of shielding his father from the
consequences already accrued and taking the whole
thing on his own shoulders, where it belonged.
The truth would hit the governor hard. There was
no dodging that. He would have to make it up
to him in other ways. Various plans to this end
began to shape themselves in his mind. He would
learn business so as to take up the management
of the family estate. He would forswear woman


and devote his life to filial piety. Somehow in
some way he would make good at something even
though he had failed at medicine.

However, a man of thirty-two with abounding
health and sufficient money is not able to keep his
mind on repentance indefinitely. When the third
officer came in and announced the run, he found
himself winner of the hat pool, amounting to
twenty-one pounds. The turn of his gambling luck
cheered him. It also reminded him that the higher
philosophy is not to cry over spilled milk or to
cross bridges till one comes to them.

As the bugle blew for lunch, he stepped out upon
the deck. There was a game of throwing rope
rings in progress, conducted by two young men and
a girl. The first glance identified the girl. It was
she of the profile. The first glance also refuted
those warning dictates of experience. She was
all the profile had suggested, perhaps more.

Academically Jerry was an advocate of blondes.
He had been born that way; yet he was open-
minded. What he saw now convinced him that
there are indeed two sides to the question. Ele-
mentally it was a manifestation of superabundant
youth speaking through the curves of a lithe body,
through color that flushed under a golden skin,
through eyes that danced with the zest of the game:


and the game was not putting rope rings over a

As a matter of fact the vision was bad at that.
But one look at the young men indicated the direc-
tion of her talents. They were subjugated, ab-
ject, ridiculous, and all this on the third day out!
She finished throwing the rings, which one of the
victims of love handed her, without looking at the
new-comer; yet Jerry knew that she had inspected
him, and that the inspection was complete. As to
what her verdict was she gave no intimation.
When the game of rings was finished, she smiled
upon each young man individually and vanished.

Now to man generally the manifestation of youth
and loveliness in the human female is not only an
agreeable phenomenon, but a stimulant. Jerry
had done pretty well with philosophy and health
in dispelling the gloom that was logically his por-
tion, but he now found further assistance. The
problem that awaited him at his journey's end was
no nearer solution, but the effect of stimulated
heart action was to make it seem less important.
It is thus that woman tends to maintain the life of
man in hopeful perspective. It was thus that
Jerry, in full possession of his faculties and as it
were with wilful intent, became, as they say, inter-
ested in the young lady in question.


Early in the afternoon he observed signs that
the established order of things as regards the young
men and the object of their worship had undergone
certain dislocations. First one then the other of
the love-birds wandered into the smoking-room,
lighted cigarettes, and ordered whisky and soda.
Obviously she had withdrawn herself. At the end

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Online LibraryDavid GrayThe boomerang : a novel based on the play of the same name → online text (page 1 of 14)