ST. GEORGE RATHBORNE (1854-1938)
St. George Henry Rathborne †one of the most prolific of the dime novelists, was born in Covington, Kentucky, December 26, 1854, the son of Captain Gorges Lowther Rathborne and his wife Margaret H. Robertson. He was educated in the high school of Cincinnati and among his schoolmates was President William H. Taft. His first story, "Sure Shot, the Hunter Chief," was sold to the New York Weekly about 1868, and after that he produced innumerable novels, mostly books for boys. Among them were 60 novels of adventure known as the "Doctor Jack" books, over 250 cloth bound juveniles, some 25 aviation books, and many serials and short stories in the weekly story papers as well as numerous dime novels. Besides writing under his own name, he used some twenty pseudonyms, and he himself(1) listed the following: "Harry St. George," "Dash Dale," "Marline Manly," "Col. Lawrence Leslie," "Jack Howard," "Warne Miller," "Ward Edwards, "Old Broadbrim," "Jack Sharpe," "Duke Duncan," "Lieut. Keene," "Major Andy Burton," "A Private Detective," "Mark Merrick," "Aleck Forbes," "Alex. Robertson, M.D.," and "W. B. Lawson" (partim). In an obituary notice(2) the following additional names were given: "Harrison Adams" (for his Pioneer Boys series), "Herbert Carter" (Boy Scout stories), "Gordon Stewart" (Boy Scouts in the World War), and "John Prentice Langley" (aviation stories). "Oliver Lee Clifton" was given by Block and Stonehill.(3)
Besides writing stories for Beadle and Adams, he also wrote for Norman L. Munro, Street and Smith, A. L. Burt, Hurst and Lee, and L. C. Page. †For the Nickel Library he wrote sixty-three stories under eight different pen names, but none under his own. See Albert Johannsen, "The Nickel Library. Bibliographic Listing, Suppl. 3," Dime Novel Round-Up, Fall River, Mass., April, 1959, 52pp. He was editor for the Street and Smith publications for many years, and was writing fiction as late as 1935. He was married to Jessie Fremont Conn, of Cincinnati, May 21, 1879, and by her had four children. She died in 1929, and he died in Newark, New Jersey, December 16, 1938.
REFERENCES: Who's Who, XII, 1922-23 and later; New York Herald Tribune, Dec. 17, 1938; Home Magazine, IX, 1897, 163, with portrait.
Boy's Library (quarto). No. 120
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 100
Under the name "Harry St. George" the following novels were published.
Starr's American Novels. No. 104
Pocket Novels. No. 86
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 30, 44, 59, 108, 166, 172, 1110
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 154
Pocket Library. Nos. 20, 25, 43, 101, 148, 192, 458
SPECIMEN OF ST. GEORGE RATHBORNE'S STYLE
"Old Hickory; or, Pandy Ellis's Scalp." Half-Dime Library No. 59, pp. 2-3.
In a glen where the undergrowth and trees obstructed the sides, and rendered a passage more than ordinarily difficult, a very small fire crackled and blazed.
It had been built upon a spot that was chosen by wise old Bolly Wherrit, and it is doubtful whether a better could have been found, where the chances of the light's remaining undiscovered were concerned.
Around this blaze the three friends gathered, each with a large piece of juicy venison fastened to the end of a ramrod or stick, and cooking it in the heat, while the owner occasionally varied the performance by turning the novel spit.
Bolly was arguing a knotty point with his friends in regard to some law of the border, which seemed to have a special adaptation to their mission in this wild and unfrequented part of the country.
He had just reached a flight of oratorical brilliancy, when the legitimate use of words was entirely forgotten or ignored, and the speaker plunging into his subject with the fire of a Cicero or Demosthenes, was waving his disengaged arm wildly above his cranium, when a hoarse voice from some unknown quarter ejaculated the single word:
The orator immediately sprung to his feet, in which act he was followed by Rocky Mountain Joe. As for the reckless ranger, he continued to be at his ease beside the fire, keeping one eye on his supper, and allowing the other to rove around in search of the owner of that mysterious voice.
Bolly and Joe were staring their amazement, for surely the hail had come from the left hand bank of the ravine, and yet not a sign of a human being could they see.
"Hullo, down tharl"
This time Bolly sighted the dim outlines of a human figure upon the right bank.
"Hullo yerself, stranger!" he answered.
"Room fur wun more?" asked the fellow who had hailed them.
"Allers thet, pervidin' he's a friend."
The man began to approach the fire.
"I reckon I kim under thet catergory, et least I wull ef wun o' you gents kin 'blige me wid a chaw. My 'bacca run out some time back. Ah! t'ank 'ee, olehoss!"
"My name ain't ole hoss. I'm the ginuine, only and unadulterated wild-cat o' the perairies, Bolly Wherrit."
"I've heard o' ye, ole hoss. Shake on it; an' who air these youngsters?" asked the stranger as he grasped Bolly's hand.
The persons indicated might have felt insulted by this term, but the first glance at the new-comer had revealed a tall man, with snow-white hair that fell upon his shoulders and a beard of the same color, that effectually concealed the lower part of his features.
The upper half was shaded by an immense sombrero, so that all they saw of the stranger's face, was the twinkling of his eyes through the shadow of his broad-rimmed hat.
He was dressed in a new suit of buck-skin that was several degrees too large for his lank frame, and carried weapons that seemed to be of a recent make, for the possessed all the latest improvements.
Bolly took upon himself the task of introducing two comrades.
"This hyar critter air a roarer from the Colorado canyon, Ralph Rockwood by name. He kin lick his weight ten times over o' reds, w'ich air recommend enuff. T'other chile air Rocky Mountain Joe, who lived alone in the big hills fur five years an' more. Now, stranger, who mout you be? I've never seen yer phiz afore, an' thet's sayin' a heap fur Bolly Wherrit."
The other indulged in a chuckle that seemed to come from his moccasins, and then in his strange, hoarse voice he said:
"Never heard o' me? Wal now, thet's more than passin' strange az—az my ole gran'ther used ter remark. My name hez been a terror ter ther red-skins fur forty years an' more. I'm known az Ole Hickory, least-ways thet's wun o' my names, fur I hev heaps o' 'em. I'm death on all o' ther pizen critters, an' no mistake. I'm out hyar on a mission, w'ich air a secret like, but it ye hev no 'jection I wouldn't mind tarryin' along wi' ye a spell. Ef thar's goin' ter be ary a scrimmage wi' ther reds ye'll find Ole Hickory ar' a right smart hand wi' his repeatin' rifle, fur he's jest death on scrimmages, an no mistake."
"B'ars' claws an' buffler-hoofs! Ole man, guv us yer paw! Ye talk like an ancient ranger. True, I never heard o' ye afore, which air my loss, I reckon. Ef ye're in search o' a pard, cling ter me. Thar's my hand on it; it's me that sez it, Roarin' Ralph Rockwood, you bet." The white-haired ranger took the hand offered to him. "I hev a chum, ole hoss, but az he hez gone back on me, I reckon you an' I kin hitch teams fur a w'ile without ary a wun being hurt. Now, w'at air ye fellers a-doin' in this glory forsaken part o' ther kentry, ef I ain't impudent in makin' ther inquiry?" inquired Ole Hickory.
"Painters an' powder-horns! not a bit of it, seein' az you an' me have struck up a sorter alliance, 'tensive an' defensive like. Thar war an ole friend of ours named Tom Grampus, w'at war murdered in cold blood by a varmint w'at we're trailin' down. Then thar's Bolly, w'at wants ter hunt fer his chum, Pandy Ellis. We seen a sign over yonder offerin' a big reward for the ole man's skulp, an' mebbe he's gone under."
"You bet he hez," murmured Old Hickory, whose sharp eyes were roaming in every direction at once as it seemed.
"Wat's that ye said?" demanded Ralph.
"Nothin', nothin', I'm in ther habit o' speakin' like ter myself at times, an' hardly know w'en I do it," the new-comer hastened to say.
"That's all right I reckon, pardner. Every man hez his peculiarities, an' I'll sw'ar ye hev got the peskiest croaky voice I ever did hear. Grunters an' grub-grinders! don't take exception ter that; I mean it all in fun. It's me that sez it, Roarin' Ralph Rockwood, you bet."
"I'm alfired sorry ter hear yer news, chums, fur I knowed ther ole man well, an' many a time we slept under ther same blanket. Thet war w'en I nourished under another name, an' war a vartuous boyee. Poor Tom; never ter see him again! I'm wi' ye, heart an' soul, kumrades. Gone ter thet bourne from w'ich no traveler ever returns az—az my gran'ther used ter say."
"Thet gran'ther war a remarkable man, I sh'u'd say," averred Bolly Wherrit, dryly.
"Thet he war," croaked Old Hickory with a fearful chuckle.
"Would you mind telling us what you are doing up in this region?" asked Rocky Joe, who seemed to share Bolly's dislike and suspicion of the white-haired man, who kept his face concealed so studiously.
Old Hickory looked confused. He hemmed and hawed a minute, fingered a little bag that was suspended from his shoulder by a strap, rather nervously.
If the three hunters had only known what was in that little bag, wouldn't they have gone almost crazy with fury! The reader might as well know the truth, so that a proper estimation can be had of Old Hickory.
The venerable scoundrel actually had the scalp of old Pandy Ellis in his possession, and was even then on his way to claim the reward offered by the Sioux chiefs!
Where and by what means he had made way with the famous prairie ranger, is not consistent with the interest of my story just now, to relate.
What a reckless rascal this white-haired man must have been to have ventured into the midst of these men, who were avowed chums of the man whom he had disposed of, and whose gray hair he had in his possession.
Old Hickory invented a plausible story, to the effect that some dastard of a brave belonging to the tribe of Buffalo Horn, had stolen his old riffe and other things from a cache where he had hidden them, thus placing him under the necessity of buying an entire new outlay.
True, the new-fangled gun with its sixteen shots would be more serviceable in action than his old one, but there were memories connected with the stolen articles, so that he valued them highly, and intended getting them back again.
Of course they believed his story, all but Bolly, and he eyed the old man in a queer way, although he made no remark.
Roaring Ralph and the new-comer seemed to take to each other immediately, and soon the conversation resumed its wonted course.
Preparations for supper had been slowly progressing all this time, and when the venison was done to a turn, the friends proceeded to dispose of it. Bolly still eyed the venerable man askance, and the latter could but notice it. He muttered something to himself with an amused chuckle, which it was just as well for Bolly's peace of mind that he did not hear. The words of the old sinner might be put down in this fashion:
"I wonder if thar ain't a reward fur thet sculp o' yourn, Bolly Wherrit? Them gray ha'rs 'd make a beautiful topknot, most ekal ter ther wun in this hyar bag, he! he!"
The man must be a professional scalp-hunter, judging from his thoughts; and yet there was a metry twinkle in those deep, shaded eyes that mystified old Bolly whenever he caught them fixed upon him.
Time passed on.
Supper done, they lit their pipes, and seeking easy positions, allowed their fire to go out, which it soon did for lack of fuel.
A strange silence had fallen upon the little party. Ralph and Joe were thinking of their mission of vengeance, Bolly indulged in dreams with his eyes half-closed, in which his dear chum, Pandy Ellis, figured prominently, and the white-haired reprobate evidently planning how he could become possessed of Bolly's scalp.
Suddenly the peace was broken.
Reader, do not let the author fool you: Old Hickory is Pandy Ellis in disguise, and the fourth chapter beyond closes with the words:
Consternation! Old Hickory no longer, but the prince of prairie rangers himself—Pandy Ellis!
† Correction made as per Volume 3.
|1||In litteris, Rathborne to George French, July, 1934.|
|2||"Rathborne Dies; Wrote 'Dr. Jack' and Boys' Tales," Herald-Tribune, New York, December 17, 1938.|
|2||Anonyms and Pseudonyma, 1926.|