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Pre-Beadle Novels

It may be of interest to compare an excerpt from a pre-Beadle novel with excerpts from Beadle novels as given in Part IV of this book.

Here is a bit from "The Signal; or, The King of the Blue Isle," by E. Curtiss Hine, U.S.N., published—of all places—in Boston in 1848. In fact, Boston was the seat of publication of many of the earlier hair-curlers.

Noiseless as spectres, Delano and the two maidens slid into the apartment; and the young lieutenant, who fully understood the part which he was to play, instantly singled out the chief from among his sleeping comrades, and with one fierce thrust, sent his cutlass directly through his body, and with such force, that the keen weapon was deeply sunk in the floor of the apartment. Rodolph never groaned nor sighed, for his fate had been instantaneous—the point of the cutlass having cut his heart in two halves. From the deep slumber of the inebriate, he had passed with all his sins upon his head, to the deeper slumber that knows no waking —the slumber of the dead. Adelaide was now anxiously beckoning to Delano to approach where she was standing; and when he had complied with her request, she pointed to the bandaged head of Leroy, and whispered:

"He is the greatest villain of them all."

Instantly the cutlass again descended with a terrible crunch through the body of the sleeping ruffian, and, like his chief, he passed from his slumbers to eternity. In like manner was Alonzo made to suffer, and Delano, proceeding from one to another, at last completed his task. Three hundred corpses †lay strewn about the room, in the same position in which they had died. Of the whole number, not one cried out, or groaned, or shrieked! The sleeping potion seemed to have benumbed them, and even to have deadened within them the sense of pain.

No sooner had the rest of the ruffians been despatched, than Delano, hurling his gold banded cap on high, shouted as if in ecstacy—

"Huzza! huzza!—we're free I" . . .

Words are inadequate to describe the rapture which swelled the bosoms of the two maidens, when they thus beheld themselves loosened from their bonds. The tears flowed down their cheeks, but they were tears of joy; and, forgetting that they had played the most prominent part themselves in freeing the trio from bondage, they fell upon the neck of the young officer, and lavished their caresses upon him. . . . Happy Delano!

"Come, come," said he, "it is time we left behind this scene of death; let us seek some more cheerful apartment, where we may consult upon the best course to pursue in our present condition."

Adelaide and Ida, at once led him to their rooms, and having seated themselves . . .

With his boots full of blood and his clothes saturated—! Never, in a Beadle novel or elsewhere, did any hero ever approach the record of three hundred men, slain single handed! Even Morgiana scored only thirty-seven with boiling oil! Well, there was Sampson, of course, with a thousand Philistines.

Here is another excerpt from a pre-Beadle novel entitled "The Corsair King; or, The Blue Water Rovers." It was written by Charles E. Averill and was published in Boston—Boston again—in 1847.

Blows as of a hammer were now blended with the shriek of agony, which rose instantly from the doomed man; and yell upon yell of mortal anguish followed, as the Corsair King nailed down to the boat one after another the limbs of the barbarous pirate, whose cruelty had brought down upon himself this fearful yet not undeserved punishment, (p. 10).

The Corsair King was a merciful pirate who thus punished one of his underlings for cruelty! In rounded phrases the pirate spoke to his sweetheart:

"Nay, dearest Eva," responded the rover, no less violently agitated. "I love you with a pure deep affection; but until lately I had believed that my heart was entirely devoted to you and should have rejoiced to have called you my own,—a circumstance, however, has shown me that my strong regard for you is that of a brotherly character."

The Houri Queen sprang frantically from his fraternal embrace, and there was that in her blazing eye, which showed that the gentleness of her nature was gone and the lion of revenge and jealousy had sprung up in her soul.

"Deceiver and traitor to my heart's best affections," she frantically exclaimed; "you love another—are false to me! Know that my soul's unutterable wealth of love has changed into hate—passionate devotion into the gall and bitterness of inextinguished hatred. Thus I avenge myself upon you, deceiver—betrayer. My own hand shall now shed the life-blood of him whom I would have periled my soul to save."

It sounds as impossible as grand opera. In spite of this long speech, the rover was not prepared for what was to follow:

The living incarnation of the jealous woman, Eva madly wrenched a dagger from the belt of Conrad, and with a lightning-like movement, plunged it first to the hilt in the rover's breast and then buried the weapon deep in her own bosom; and the next instant, love overcoming hatred even in the very act of its fearful consumation, the murderess sank into the wounded man's arms and impressed a kiss of frantic passion upon the lips of her recreant lover! (p. 56).

But the rover recovers, and again goes to sea. His crew mutiny and abandon the ship.

"Will the small boat ride in this storm, think you?" asked Bernard, with anxiety. " 'Tis all the mutineers have left us."

"Not a minute," rejoined the rover, promptly; "in my cabin, unknown to all save myself, is providentially a life boat. The small boat would not live a second in this sea.'Even the boats of the mutineers, with their heavier calibre, will not ride out the gale."

The prophecy was verified almost as soon as uttered. The boats crowded to overflowing and exposed to the full fury of the tremendous tornado, swamped before they had got three cables' length from the deserted ship, and instantly the traitor pirates were struggling with the billows. Clinging despairingly to the sides of the boats, now bottom upwards, their desperate struggles caused the latter suddenly to right,—when, instantly filling, they sank to the bottom,(1) depriving the doomed buccaniers of even this frail support.

A moment after, there was a mighty rushing sound through the water—a flashing of fins—one simultaneous yell of agony—a crimsoning of the billows to a blood-red dye—a munching, crashing noise, and stillness and silence over the moonlit sea!

It was a school of sharks! and such was the awful end of the Sea Queen's pirate crew!

The three seamen and Blanche were awed a moment, then in spite of the hurricane under the moonlit sky, launched the lifeboat which the captain had miraculously been able to stow away in his cabin!

From the perils of drowning the life-boat secured them. . . . But security from this dreadful peril was accompanied with a threatened danger of still more terrible magnitude. Starvation stared them in the face, and they outlived the storm but to endure the protracted horrors of hunger's fearful pangs. . . .

Alone, alone on the wide open sea—without food, drink or sustenance—prostrated with hunger and thirst, and dying of lingering starvation, is it possible for the comfortably situated reader, or the complacent landsman, to imagine the full horrors of their position? . . .

The boat eventually lands on an island, where game abounds. They had come well supplied with guns and ammunition, so their immediate wants would be satisfied. But must they remain on the island?

"The chances are a thousand to one that we live and die upon the island," said the Corsair King, looking up with a glowing smile from a chart of the sea he had been studying attentively, "my observations make us about a degree to the northward of Cuba; but I have been looking in vain to find this island set down in the chart. I can nowhere detect it, and the only reasonable presumption is, that this is an unknown and undiscovered isle, and most probably the foot of human being has never before traversed its soil. We are doomed in all human probability to pass our lives in this isolated spot."

Only sixty miles from the coast of Cuba, with the miraculous lifeboat intact! Later they again have a lucky break. Issuing from the top of the rocks which form the "beetling summit" of the island, they find a spring of fresh water! But they are to see more wonders. On the top of the mountain they also find the entrance to a cave in which there is a lake of boiling water. Descending a side passage--In a deep hollow of the cavern, they beheld a perfect sea of fire, a lake of livid flame, crackling, blazing, roaring like a mighty furnace.

"Look upwards!" cried the rover, in a deep voice.

The party directed their surprised gaze upward. Could they believe their eyes? Above their heads they beheld the boiling lake of water they had just left, directly over the tossing sea of fire, and separated from the blazing element below, by a thin ledge of rock, underneath and around which the flames were crackling and licking with tremendous fury.

What kept the water, which apparently could be seen from below, from running over the edge of the ledge of rock, is not explained.

Whatever faults the publications of Beadle and Adams may have had, even their worst enemy could not accuse them of having published anything as bad as this.

† Correction made as per Volume 3.


1 Wooden boats do not sink to the bottom until they have become water-logged.

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