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Authors: Leslie Charteris

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Follow the Saint

FOLLOW

THE SAINT

LESLIE CHARTERIS

UNABRIDGED

PAN BOOKS LTD : LONDON

 

First published 1939 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

This edition published 1961 by Pan
Books Ltd.,

8 Headfort Place, London,
S.W.1.

2nd Printing 1962

3rd Printing 1963

4tb Printing
1964

THE
 
CHARACTERS
 
IN THIS
 
BOOK
 
ARE
 
ENTIRELY

IMAGINARY
  
AND
  
HAVE
  
NO
  
RELATION
   
TO
  
ANY

LIVING PERSON

Printed in Great Britain by Cox and Wyman Ltd., London, Reading
and Fakenham

 

PART 1:
THE MIRACLE TEA PARTY

 

I

T
HIS STORY
starts with four wild coincidences; so we may
as well admit them at once and get it over with,
and then
there will be no more
argument. The chronicler makes no
apologies
for them. A lot of much more far-fetched coin
cidences have been allowed to happen without protest in the
history of the world, and all that can be done
about it is to
relate them exactly as
they took place. And if it should be
objected
that these particular coincidences led to the down
fall of sundry criminals who might otherwise never
have
been detected, it must be
pointed out that at least half the
convicts
at present taking a cure in the cooler were caught
that way.

Chief Inspector Claud Eustace
Teal sat in a tea shoppe that
was not much
more than a powerful stone’s throw from
Scotland Yard. Dispassionately considered, it was quite a
suitable
target for stone-throwing, being one of those dens of
ghastly chintz-curtained cheerfulness which stand as grisly
omens
of what the English-speaking races can expect from a
few more generations of purity and hygiene; but Mr Teal
held it in a sort of affection born of habit.

He had
finished his tea, and he sat glancing over a news
paper. And in order
that there may be positively no decep
tion about this, it must be admitted at
once that not even the
most enthusiastic advocate of temperance
would have chosen
him
as an advertisement of the place that he was in. Mr Teal,
in fact, who even at his best suffered from
certain physical
disadvantages which
made it permanently impossible for
him
to model for a statue of Dancing Spring, was at that
moment not even in the running for a picture of
Mellow
Autumn. His round pink pace had
a distinctly muddy tinge under its roseate bloom; the champing of his jaws on
the
inevitable wodge of spearmint was
visibly listless; and his
china-blue
eyes contained an expression of joyless but stoical
endurance. He looked, to speak with complete
candour,
rather like a discontented
cow with a toothache.

After a
while he put the newspaper aside and simply sat,
gazing mournfully
into space. It was a Sunday afternoon, and
at that rather late
hour he had the place to himself, except for a vacant-faced waitress who sat in
a corner knitting some
garment in a peculiarly dreadful shade of mustard yellow. A
small radio on the mantelpiece, strategically
placed between a
vase of artificial
flowers and a bowl of wax fruit, was emitting
strains of that singularly lugubrious and eviscerated music
which supplies the theme song of modern romance.
Mr Teal
appeared to be enduring that
infliction in the same spirit as Job might have endured the development of his
sixtysecond
boil. He looked as if he
was only waiting for someone to come along and relieve him of the cares of the
Universe.

Someone
did come along, but not with that intention. The
crash of the door
opening made Mr Teal’s overwrought
nerves wince; and when he saw who it
was he closed his eyes
for a moment in sheer agony. For although Mr
William
Kennedy was easily the most popular of the Assistant Com
missioners,
his vast and jovial personality was approximately
the last thing that a
man in Mr Teal’s condition is able to
appreciate.

“Hullo, laddie!” he
roared, in a voice that boomed through
the
room like a gale. “What’s the matter? You look like a
cold poached egg left over from yesterday’s
breakfast. What
are you doing—thinking
about the Saint?”

Mr Teal
started as if an electric current had been applied to
his posterior. He had
expected the worst, but this was worse
than that. If anything
could have been said to fill his cup of
suffering to the
brim, that something had been said. Mr Teal
now looked as if
there was nothing left except for him to find
some suitably awful
spot in which to die.

Scientists, whose restless
researches leave no phenomenon
unprobed,
have discovered that certain persons are subject to quite disproportionately
grievous reactions from stimuli which to other persons are entirely innocuous.
These inor
dinate sensitivities are
known as allergies. Some people are
allergic
to oysters, others to onions; others need only eat a
strawberry to be attacked by violent pains and
break out in a
rash.

Chief
Inspector Teal was allergic to the Saint. But it must
be admitted that
this was an acquired rather than a congenital
allergy. It is true
that Mr Teal, on account of his profession,
was theoretically
required to be allergic to every kind of law
breaker; but there was
nothing in his implied contract with
the State which required him to be
pierced by such excruciat
ing pains or to break out in such a vivid
erythema as he was
apt to do whenever he heard the name or nickname of that
incorrigible
outlaw who had been christened Simon Templar.

But the
Saint was the kind of outlaw that no officer of the Law can ever have had to
cope with since the Sheriff of
Nottingham was pestered into apoplexy by the
Robin Hood
of those more limited days. There was no precedent in
modern
times for anything like him; and Mr Teal was con
vinced that it could
only be taken as evidence of the deliberate
maliciousness of Fate that out of all the
other police officers
who might have been
chosen for the experiment the lot had
fallen
upon him. For there was no doubt at all in his mind
that all the griefs
and woes which had been visited upon him
in
recent years could be directly attributed to that amazing
buccaneer whose unlawful excursions against
evildoers had
made criminal history,
and yet whose legal conviction and
punishment was beginning to seem as
hopelessly improbable
an event as the capture
of a genuine and indisputable sea-serpent. Kennedy was not being deliberately
cruel. It was
simply his uninhibited
proclamation of what was an almost
automatic
association of ideas to anyone who knew any
thing at all about Teal’s professional life: that whenever
Mr Teal looked as if he was in acute agony he was
under
going a spell of Saint trouble.
The fact that Mr Teal, as it
happened,
had not been thinking about the Saint at all when Kennedy came in only gave the
reminder a deeper power to
wound.

“No,
sir,” said Mr Teal, with the flimsiest quality of
restraint. “I was
not thinking about the Saint. I haven’t seen
him for weeks; I don’t
know what he’s doing; and what’s
more, I don’t care.”

Kennedy
raised his eyebrows.

“Sorry,
laddie. I thought from your appearance——

“What’s
wrong with my blasted appearance ?” snarled the
detective, with a reckless disregard for
discipline of which in
normal times he would
never have been capable; but Kennedy had no great respect for trivial
formalities.

“Blasted is right,”
he agreed readily. “You look like something the lightning had started out
to strike and then given up
as a work of
supererogation. What is it, then ? Have you been
getting hell for falling down on that espionage business ?”

Mr Teal
was able to ignore that. It was true that he had
made very little
headway with the case referred to, but that
was not worrying him unduly. When official
secrets spring a
leak, it is usually a slow
job to trace the leakage to its source, and Teal was too old a hand to let
himself be disturbed by the
slowness
of it.

His
trouble was far more intimate and personal; and the
time has now come when
it must be revealed.

Mr Teal was
suffering from indigestion.

It was a
complaint that had first intruded itself on his consciousness some weeks ago;
since when its symptoms had
become steadily more severe and regular, until
by this time
he had come to regard a stomach-ache as the practically
inevitable sequel to any meal he ate. Since Mr Teal’s tummy
constituted a very large
proportion of Mr Teal, his sufferings
were
considerable. They made him pessimistic and depressed,
and more than usually morose. His working days
had become
long hours of discomfort
and misery, and it seemed an eternity
since
he had spent a really restful and dreamless night. Even
now, after
having forgone his Sunday dinner in penitence for
the price he had had to pay for bacon and eggs at breakfast,
the
cream bun to whose succulent temptation he had not long
ago succumbed was already beginning to give him the un
happily familiar sensation of having swallowed a
live and
singularly vicious crab. And
this was the mortal dolour in addition to which he had had to receive a
superfluous re
minder of the Saint.

The
waitress at last succeeded in gaining audience.

“Yes,”
boomed Kennedy. “Tea. Strong tea. And about half a ton of hot buttered
crumpets.”

Mr Teal
closed his eyes again as another excruciating
cramp curled through
him.

In his darkened loneliness he
became aware that the music
had been
interrupted and the radio was talking.

“…
and this amazing tea is not only guaranteed to relieve indiges
tion immediately, but to effect
a complete and permanent cure,”
said
a
clear young voice with a beautiful Oxford accent.
“Every
day we are receiving fresh testimonials——

“My
God,” said Teal with a shudder, “where is that Eric-
or-Little-by-Little
drivelling from?”

“Radio
Calvados,” answered Kennedy. “One of the new
continental stations. They
go to work every Sunday. I sup
pose we shall have to put up with it as long
as the BBC refuses
to produce anything but string quartets and instructive
talks
on Sundays.”

“Miracle Tea”
said Eric, continuing little by
little.
“Remember that name. Miracle
Tea. Obtainable from all high-class
chemists,
or direct by post from the Miracle Tea Company, 909
Victoria Street, London. Buy some Miracle Tea
tonight !… And
now we shall
conclude this programme with our signature song

Tea
for You.”

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