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Вы находитесь здесь:Детектив»Крутой детектив»The Saint Meets the Tiger

The Saint Meets the Tiger

The Saint Meets the Tiger The Saint Meets the Tiger The Saint Meets the Tiger

Introduction

This reprint will probably bring great joy to a number of Saint fans who have been trying for some decades to get a glimpse of the very first volume of the Saga- a book which was never expected at the time to launch a series.

It has been out of print for more years than I can guess at- and with no complaints from me. Personally I would have been very happy to leave it quietly in limbo: I was still under 21 when I wrote it- more than fifty years ago- and I am no more anxious to parade it than any other youthful indiscretion. Looking at it now- with absolute objectivity- I can see so much wrong with it that I am humbly astonished that it got published at all. In extenuation- it ...

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In this curious home the Saint had installed himself, together with a retainer who went by the name of Orace. And the Saint had been so overcome with the dullness of Baycombe that within three days he was the victim of routine.

At 9 a. m. on this third day (the Saint had a rooted objection to early rising) the man who went by the name of Orace entered his master's bedroom bearing a cup of tea and mug of hot water.

"Nice morning, sir," said Orace, and retired.

Orace had remarked on the niceness of the morning for the last eight years, and he had never allowed the weather to change his pleasant custom.

The Saint yawned, stretched himself like a cat, and saw with half-closed eyes that a stream of sunlight was pouring in through the embrasure which did duty for a window. The optimism of Orace being justified, Simon Templar sighed, stretched himself again, and after a moment's indecision leaped out of bed. He shaved rapidly, sipping his tea in between whiles, and then pulled on a bathing costume and went out into the sun, picking up a length of rope on his way out. He skipped energetically on the grass outside for fifteen minutes. Then he shadow-boxed for five minutes. Then he grabbed a towel, knotted it loosely round his neck, sprinted the couple of dozen yards that lay between the Pill Box and the edge of the cliff, and coolly swung himself over the edge. A hundred and fifty foot drop lay beneath him, but handholds were plentiful, and he descended to the beach as nonchalantly as he would have descended a flight of stairs. The water was ripplingly calm. He covered a quarter of a mile at racing speed, turned on his back and paddled lazily shoreward, finishing the last hundred yards like a champion. Then he lay at the edge of the surf, basking in the strengthening sun.

All these things he had done as regularly on the two previous mornings, and he was languidly pondering the deadliness of regular habits when the thing happened that proved to him quite conclusively that regular habits could be more literally deadly than he had allowed for.

Phhhew-wuk!

Something sang past his ear, and the pebble at which he had been staring in an absent-minded sort of way leaped sideways and was left with a silvery streak scored across it, while the thing that had sung changed its note and went whining seaward.

"Bad luck, sonny," murmured the Saint mildly. "Only a couple of inches out...."

But he was on his feet before the sound of the shot had reached him.

He was on one of the arms of the bay, which was roughly semicircular. The village was in the centre of the arc. A quick calculation told him that the bullet had come from some point on the cliff between the Pill Box and the village, but he could see nothing on the skyline. A moment later a frantic silhouette appeared at the top of the tor, and the voice of Orace hailed down an anxious query. The Saint waved his towel in response and, making for the foot of the cliff, began to climb up again.

He accomplished the difficult ascent with no apparent effort, quite unperturbed by the thought that the unknown sniper might essay a second round. And presently the Saint stood on the grass above, hands on hips, gazing keenly down the slope toward the spot from where the bullet had seemed to come. A quarter of a mile away was a broad clump of low bushes; beyond the copse, he knew, was a cart track leading down to the village. The Saint shrugged and turned to Orace, who had been fuming and fidgeting around him.

"The Tiger knows his stuff," remarked Simon Templar with a kind of admiration.

"Like a greenorn!" spluttered Orace. "Like a namachoor! Wa did ja expect? An' just wotcha deserved — an' I 'ope it learns ya! You ain't 'urt, sir, are ye?" added Orace, succumbing to human sympathy.

"No — but near enough," said the Saint.

Orace flung out his arms.

"Pity he didn't plug ya one, just ter make ya more careful nex' time. I'd a bin grateful to 'im. An' if I ever lay my 'ands on the swine 'e's fore it," concluded Orace somewhat illogically, and strutted back to the Pill Box.

Orace, as a Sergeant of Marines, had received a German bullet in his right hip at Zeebrugge, and had walked with a lop-sided strut ever since.

"Brekfuss in narf a minnit," Orace flung over his shoulder.

The Saint strolled after him at a leisurely pace and returned to his bedroom whistling. Nevertheless, Orace, entering the sitting room with a tray precisely half a minute later, found the Saint stretched out in an armchair. The Saint's hair was impeccably brushed, and he was fully dressed — according to the Saint's ideas of full dress — in shoes, socks, a dilapidated pair of gray flannel trousers and a snowy silk tennis shirt. Orace snorted, and the Saint smiled.

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