The Adventures of Hiram Holliday

BOOK: The Adventures of Hiram Holliday
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The Adventures of Hiram Holliday
Paul Gallico
novel [1]


Paul Gallico was born in New York City, of Italian and Austrian parentage, in 1897, and attended Columbia University. From 1922 to 1936 he worked on the New York
Daily News
as sports editor, columnist and assistant managing editor. In 1936 he bought a house on top of a hill at Salcombe in South Devon and settled down for a year with a Great Dane and twenty-three assorted cats. It was in 1941 that he made his name with
The Snow Goose,
a classic little story of Dunkirk which became a world-wide best-seller and is now available in Penguins. Having served as a gunner's mate in the U.S. Navy in 1918, he was again active as a war correspondent with the American Expeditionary Force in 1944. Paul Gallico, who lives in Monaco, is a first-class fencer and a keen sea-fisherman. His books, which have achieved exceptionally high sales on both sides of the Atlantic, include
Flowers for Mrs Harris
Mrs Harris Goes to New York
Love of Seven Dolls
(1954) and
Trial by Terror
(1952) - all of which are available in Penguins. His
The Lonely
are being published by Penguins in one volume, at the same time as this book. He has also written
The Steadfast Man,
a scholarly study of St Patrick, and
The Hurricane Story
(1959), a 'biography' of the famous fighter-plane. His latest books are
Love, Let Me Not Hunger
The Hand of Mary Constable
Harris, M.P.
(1965), and
The Man Who Was Magic


penguin books


Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

First published by Michael Joseph 1939 Published in Penguin Books 1967 Copyright © Paul Gallico, 1939

Made and printed in Great Britain by Hazell Watson & Vincy Ltd Aylesbury, Bucks Set in Monotype Plantin

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser


crisis in london

sanctuary in paris

illusion in prague

death notice in berlin

flight from vienna

duello in rome


'Who is Hiram Holliday?'

the third day out, they were asking aboard the gigantic
Europe bound: 'Who is Hiram Holliday?' or: 'Has anyone seen this M'sieu Holliday ?'

Politics and the coming war were of course the first topics of conversation in smoke-room, bar and lounge, but there is always room on a transatlantic liner, no matter how big it is, for speculation on the identity of passengers, particularly people of importance, though goodness knows there was nothing important about Holliday. He was there for all to see, but one of the curious things about the man was that he had a surface insignificance. You would never notice him either alone or in a room full of people until you knew him. And once you knew him well, you wondered how he had ever escaped you.

He appeared on the passenger list, cabin class, of the s.s.
as - 'Mr Hiram Holliday.' In the dining-room he sat at the Third Engineer's table along with a half-dozen dull and undistinguished people, and he spoke very little. The Third Engineer, who was reasonably observant, noted that M'sieur Holliday had eager, excited eyes behind steel-rimmed glasses, and that he seemed to miss little of what was going on.

Everyone is curious about everyone, but no one speaks to anyone on those huge four-and-a-half-day boats. The trip is over so quickly anyhow. And then with so many important people on board one does not like to run the risk of speaking to someone unimportant. It comes under the head of wasted social opportunity.

There was a famous adventurer-explorer-soldier-of-fortune-writer chap aboard the
and it was only natural that he should be expected to win the transatlantic pistol-shooting championship held in the shooting gallery on the promenade deck. The explorer was over six feet tall and had piercing eyes and drew women like flies. The shooting gallery was jammed when he went to shoot his card, mostly with flappers. No one saw the rather stoutish little man - little compared to the explorer, though he was a good five feet ten and a half - with the unruly sandy hair and the bright blue eyes behind steel-rimmed spectacles, who stood on the far side of the gallery, shooting at a target with a -22 calibre target pistol mounted on a -38 frame.

The explorer shot with flair and flourish, and well. While he was performing to the admiration of all, the little man finished, brought his target back, examined it, said: 'Hmph!' signed his name across the bottom of it and went out after handing it to the steward in charge, who looked startled and pinned it up on the contest-board. The explorer then finished, and his target, a very pretty cluster for a rocking boat, was examined with 'oh's,' and 'ah's' of admiration. No shots were out of the black, and two were through the inner bull for a total of 56 out of a possible 60.

The steward said: 'But we are fortunate to have two such great shots on the same voyage. You, M'sieu, have won second prize.' And he then nodded towards the board where was pinned the target left by the stoutish little man. The black centre had been quite chewed out of it. The score, 59, was marked on it, and across the bottom was scrawled the name 'Hiram Holliday.'

'Now who the devil is Hiram Holliday ?* asked the explorer with a grin, not of envy, but of admiration, because he knew shooting when he saw it. It created a small stir, because nobody remembered what he had looked like.

Then there was the matter of the injury to M. Lapol, the gymnasium instructor, the story of which also circulated around the boat, considerably magnified.

It seems that one of the passengers had approached M. Lapol and inquired whether he fenced. Now before M. Lapol had retired to the job of sports instructor aboard the
he had been, among other things, a good blade in his day.

It was rare that a fencer appeared on the passenger list, and while his interrogator did not give the impression of much sport to come, he said that he would be delighted. The passenger who gave his name as Holliday reappeared in an hour, canvas-jacketed and trousered, with mask, glove and
which is the three-edged, stiff-bladed, duelling sword. M. Lapol raised his eyebrow at the weapon and was pleased, and donned a short white cotton drill instructor's foils jacket.

Mr Holliday had come over and
fingered the material, saying: ‘
Isn't that a little light? I like to use the
point d'arret,
you know. It makes it more exciting, more like the real thing.' He had said it, M. Lapol decided, apologetically, almost wistfully. Now, the
point d'arret
is a little blue steel button with three short, razor-sharp prongs which is fastened to the end of the
It will not penetrate mask, or tough canvas jacket, but it will catch and hold in the material, registering a well-made point. And it is no respecter of cotton.

M. Lapol had smiled tolerantly, and said: 'It weel be all right. I take the chance.' Mr Holliday adjusted his mask with some difficulty over his spectacles of steel, after the salute, and they faced one another on guard. M. Lapol was pleased to note that in spite of his somewhat pudgy appearance, the passenger's guard position was good, the bell of the sword completely covered his hand and forearm, and he looked as though in spite of his stoutness he might be light on his feet. Still, Holliday was not a figure to inspire too much respect in a confident swordsman. M. Lapol had the instructor's angle that the pupil or amateur must be put in his place quickly, so he devised a quick touch, a beat on the blade with a planned
or envelope, to the reply to the beat with the lunge driving through to the inside of the arm. But somehow Holliday's blade was not there to receive the beat, it was driving forward through the attacker's enveloping blade, strongly held, the hilt pushing the attac
king point outward, and M. Lapol’
s lunge finished the job of the stop-thrust to his own upper arm which shortly thereafter began to stain red on the white cotton.

cried M. Lapol, but the stout little man threw off his mask and ran to him, concern on his round features, but a tremendous excitement shining in his bright blue eyes. 'You are hurt,' he cried. 'I am terribly, terribly sorry,' but he looked at the spreading stain, and fingered the slit in the jacket in a sort of fascination, and murmured to himself: 'Just like the real thi
ng.... What a way to start this
vacation.... My dear sir, I beg your pardon .'

'But it is nothing,' said M. Lapol. The ship's doctor later decided that it would improve the looks of M. Lapol's arm considerably if he took two stitches in the gash. 'It ees my own fault. Next time I am not so smart, and wear the proper jacket,

That story got around, and also one told by a lady from Iowa, who sat at the Third Engineer's table next to Holliday. She wore an unusual cameo ring, and it was passed around the table for inspection. Holliday handled it last, and returned it to her with a half absent-minded air. He said: 'That ring has been wept over.'

'It was my mother's,' said the lady from Iowa. 'My father gave it to her. She led a very unhappy life. She ...' Suddenly she stopped and looked at Holliday in alarm: 'How did you know ? But, of course, I just told you. No, I didn't.... It was
. Oh, dear...' she began to flutter.

Hiram Holliday's round face turned quite red. He said:
'Forgive me I didn't mean to upset you
things some
times ...' he hesitated, fluster
ed, grew redder and said: 'I am
sure you will all excuse me,' and arose and left the table.

It became a sort of a joking byword amongst the faster set on that particular voyage of the
'Look out, or Hiram Holliday will get you.' Then someone would ask, accenting the second word: 'And
is Hiram Holliday ?' and then they would all chorus:' He's the man with the radio eyes!' But not ten people on the boat knew him when they saw him.

One girl had taken the trouble to talk to him and walk with him a little. She was a buyer for a big department store, on her way to Paris, a pleasant-looking though not beautiful person who was travelling with her younger, prettier sister. They met

during one of the afternoon horse-race sessions on deck, and he seemed so simple, and self-effacing and kind, that she felt sorry for him, and they walked the deck together and chatted, and even once had a coffee and liqueur in the smoking-room after dinner, though neither of them exchanged names. But somehow they talked to one another with the graceful freedom of people who are never going to see one another again.

The morning the boat docked at Southampton, the two girls were standing at the promenade deck windows watching the tiny tugs huffling and snuffling the gigantic liner into her berth. The younger sister said, half-indicating the direction with her eyes and head: 'Did you ever see a duller-looking man in your life ? Has he been on the boat all the time ? What do you suppose a man like that does in England ? Something in shoes, I suppose.'

BOOK: The Adventures of Hiram Holliday
4.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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