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Authors: Paul Gallico

Scruffy - A Diversion

BOOK: Scruffy - A Diversion
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SCRUFFY

Paul Gallico writes: “There is one demonstrable fact in this otherwise total work of fiction and that is on the 25th August, 1944, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, caused a signal to be sent to Gibraltar expressing anxiety over disquieting rumours concerning the welfare of the Barbary apes established there, and directing that every effort should be made to restore the dwindling number of apes to twenty-four, and that this number should be maintained thereafter. So much for truth. All that follows is nothing but the wildest imagination.”

From this lurid imagining Paul Gallico has produced Scruffy, the ugliest, nastiest-tempered, roughest old villain of a Barbary ape. The story contains all the fertility of Gallico’s invention, sparked by his love for the British and their odd ways, his understanding of animals, maiden ladies, young lovers, choleric Brigadiers, phychologists doubling as intelligence officers, and prang-prone R.A.F. pilots. It is a unique entertainment written with the inimitable Gallico touch; and renders the unbearable Scruffy the most lovable ape of your acquaintance.

Also by Paul Gallico

THE SNOW GOOSE
THE LONELY
JENNIE
THE SMALL MIRACLE
TRIAL BY TERROR
SNOWFLAKE
THE FOOLISH IMMORTALS
LOVE OF SEVEN DOLLS
LUDMILA
THOMASINA
THE STEADFAST MAN
A Life of St. Patrick

MRS. ’ARRIS GOES TO PARIS
THE HURRICANE STORY
MRS. ’ARRIS GOES TO NEW YORK
TOO MANY GHOSTS
CONFESSIONS OF A STORY-TELLER

“RAMONA”—Lyric by L. Wolfe Gilbert. Music by Mabel Wayne. © Copyright 1927/Copyright Renewal 1955 Leo Feist Inc., New York, N.Y. Used by permission copyright proprietor.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 62-8294
Copyright
©
1962 by Paul Gallico
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Jacket art by Ellen Raskin
First Edition January 1962

To

ROBERT FENN

Old Gibraltar hands will, no doubt, amuse themselves trying to identify the characters in this book and associate them with persons living they have known. This pastime I must hasten to inform them and all others so disposed will be a waste of energy since never during the war was I within a thousand miles of Gibraltar, and thus was unable to base my characters upon any persons dwelling or in office there at the time.

There is only one demonstrable fact in this otherwise total work of fiction and that is that on the 25th August, 1944, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, caused a signal to be sent expressing his anxiety over disquieting rumours concerning the welfare of the Barbary apes in Gibraltar and the wish that they should not be allowed to die out. And on the 8th September of the same year a second directive was issued to the effect that every effort should be made to restore the establishment of the apes to the number of twenty-four, and that this should be maintained thereafter.

So much for truth. All that follows is nothing but the wildest imagination.

P. W. G.

S C R U F F Y
A   D I V E R S I O N

1
Introducing Scruffy

T
he telephone rang in the narrow, crowded office in the Old Queen’s Gate Headquarters of the 3rd Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery, Gibraltar. It was a humid, hazy August morning. The flyblown calendar on the wall confirmed that it was the fifth day of the eighth month of the year 1939, and the dial of the wrist-watch on the arm of the pleasant-looking young officer who emerged from a huge pile of documents littering his desk said that it was ten minutes past ten.

The officer, who was in shorts and open-necked khaki shirt, was of medium height, with a frank, open face and a pair of gay blue eyes, which at times could reflect the most startling innocence, excitement and enthusiasm.

He picked up the insistently shrilling instrument and said, “Captain Bailey speaking.”

The voice at the other end of the line said, “Hello, sir. Lovejoy here.”

The Captain said somewhat testily, “Yes, yes, Lovejoy. What is it?” Ordinarily he would not have been so short with his right-hand man, the invaluable Gunner Lovejoy, Keeper of the Apes, but at that moment he was busy concocting an official letter which, when it reached its destination through all its official channels, he hoped would soften the heart of the Colonial Secretary to the point where he would not only increase the amount of funds available for the daily food allowance for the Rock apes but would also do something about the monkey-nuts situation. This was a simple problem controlled by the laws of supply and demand. They were out of monkey-nuts on the Rock, and the price of them from both French and Spanish Africa had shot up beyond the Captain’s budget.

The reason that this was a concern of Captain Timothy Bailey, Royal Artillery, was that in addition to his myriad other duties in connection with commanding anti-aircraft batteries, the job of Officer in Charge of Apes had been wished on him. This position carried with it no kudos, no perks, no medal at the end of it, not so much even as a “Well done!” from anyone.

From time immemorial, or ever since the British had taken over and held the Rock, and with it the responsibility for the simian packs that infested its upper reaches and every so often came swarming down to raid the town like a gang of destructive hooligans, the method for choosing the O.I.C. Apes had been for the Brigadier to make testy noises in his throat and with a look of distaste upon his features that he should have to concern himself with such a matter, run a finger down his list of officers and select the one least likely to squawk or make a nuisance of himself over the appointment.

From the point of view of Brigadier J. W. Gaskell, O.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Captain Timothy Bailey had been the ideal choice. The young officer had a record of good conduct, respect for his superiors, no bad habits, and total absorption in the labours assigned to him. He appeared to have no time-wasting hobbies, to be of a serious turn of mind and eager to please.

“Yes, yes, Lovejoy,” repeated Captain Bailey. “What is it?” And then added, “Are you drunk or sober?”

“Sober, sir,” reported Lovejoy, and from the earnestness and timbre of his voice the Captain knew that this was so. “Sorry to disturb you, sir, but he’s off again.”

“Oh Lord,” groaned the Captain, “how long ago?”

“Half an hour.”

“Why didn’t you stop him?”

“I tried to, sir—but you know how he is.”

“Then why didn’t you call me earlier?”

“I couldn’t, sir—I’ve just got back from first aid.”

A throb of sympathy ran through Captain Bailey and softened his voice. “Oh, I say—are you O.K.?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Whereabouts?”

“The usual place, sir—the hand.”

A proverb rose to the top of Captain Bailey’s brain and went floating about there. It said, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” The point was that the ape, Harold, otherwise known as Scruffy, always did bite any hand that fed him. Yet somehow this managed to be a part of the perverted charm of the beast, and the spell he had contrived to cast over both of them.

“Poor old chap,” Captain Bailey repeated. “Hadn’t you better be having a drink?”

“I’ve been thinking about that, sir—but I thought it best to call you first.”

“Quite right,” Captain Bailey agreed. “Where are you calling from?”

“St. Michael’s Hut. I came back here after the M.O. fixed me up. I thought perhaps the old bas—, pardon me, sir—I mean, Scruffy might’ve come back. But he hasn’t. I reckon he’s well on his way now. You ought to be hearing from the C.R.A. within a couple of hours.”

Captain Bailey said, “Blast! Well, thanks for warning me. By the way, what started him off this time?”

“Well, sir,” explained the voice at the other end of the line, and Captain Bailey in his mind’s eye could see Lovejoy scrunched up like a goblin in the narrow confines of St. Michael’s Hut, the little gazebo not far from Prince Ferdinand’s Battery, where the apes hung out.

“Well, sir, you know how Scruffy is about his scoff—when he wants monkey-nuts there’s no two ways about it. It was carrots this morning. He takes one look at them, picks up the biggest, and lets go for me ’ead.”

Captain Bailey’s sporting sense momentarily got the better of him and he asked, “Did he hit you?”

Gunner Lovejoy replied with what almost amounted to pride, “He ain’t never missed yet.”

“Yes, of course,” Captain Bailey said. “And then?”

“He knew I’d fetch ’im one on his ruddy ar— Beg pardon, sir—I mean he knew I’d take measure if I caught him, so he called me a dirty name and went off down to the car park.”

Captain Bailey shuddered and said, “Oh dear. Were there any cars there?”

Gunner Lovejoy said, “Yes, sir—four.”

The Captain shuddered again and said, “Tourists?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well?”

“The usual, sir. He had the windscreen-wipers off quick as wink. You know he loves the rubber off’n them. Caviar, that’s what it is to ’im.”

“Yes, yes,” the Captain assented, “I know. Any other damage?”

The Gunner’s voice grew a shade less confident as it said, “I have the list ’ere, sir. Shall I read it out to you?”

A trifle wearily, the Captain said, “Yes, I suppose you might as well.” He took a fresh sheet of notepaper and poised his pencil.

“Binoculars, one pair, Zeiss, size 8 by 14, value thirty-eight pounds, belonging to a gentleman named Schlummer staying at the Rock Hotel,” the Gunner read off.

“What happened to them?” queried the Captain.

“Bunged ’em over the edge,” replied Lovejoy. “There wouldn’t be much left of them. The drop is seven hundred foot there.”

“Go on,” said the Captain.

“One camera, Ansco Reflex Automatic, three-five lens, fifteen unexposed films in magazine, value forty pounds, property likewise Mr. Schlummer.”

“What happened to that?” asked the Captain.

“Same thing, sir.”

“He didn’t like this fellow, Schlummer, did he?” the Captain suggested.

“That’s right, sir. You might almost say as what he ’ad a point there.”

“German type. Is that the lot?”

“No no, sir,” the Gunner replied cheerfully. “One hat, lady’s, sir, with violets on, property of a Miss Sacking, staying at the Bristol, value three guineas.”

“Good Lord!” exclaimed the Captain. “What happened to that?”

“Tore it up, sir. He didn’t like it. It wasn’t all that bad.”

“Yes. Go on.”

“One purse, lady’s, brown leather, chain and clasp broken, contents spilled, money blown over cliff, owner Mrs. Pritchard, likewise staying at Hotel Bristol. Damages and value of money claimed at fourteen pounds ten shillings.”

The Captain noted down the details of the sum and realized that he was sweating slightly. The ape had really been on the rampage.

The Gunner was reading again: “One teddy bear, child’s toy, property of Master Leonard Sletch, father and mother Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Sletch, at Hotel Victoria. Damages claimed to value of—”

The Captain interrupted with a bitter laugh. “That one at least oughtn’t to cost much.”

BOOK: Scruffy - A Diversion
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