Beasts and Super-Beasts
IT was autumn in London, that blessed season between the harshness of winter and the
insincerities of summer; a trustful season when one buys bulbs and sees to the registration
of one's vote, believing perpetually in spring and a change of Government.
Morton Crosby sat on a bench in a secluded corner of Hyde Park, lazily enjoying a
cigarette and watching the slow grazing promenade of a pair of snow-geese, the male
looking rather like an albino edition of the russet-hued female. Out of the corner of his
eye Crosby also noted with some interest the hesitating hoverings of a human figure,
which had passed and repassed his seat two or three times at shortening intervals, like a
wary crow about to alight near some possibly edible morsel. Inevitably the figure came to
an anchorage on the bench, within easy talking distance of its original occupant. The
uncared-for clothes, the aggressive, grizzled beard, and the furtive, evasive eye of the
new-comer bespoke the professional cadger, the man who would undergo hours of
humiliating tale-spinning and rebuff rather than adventure on half a day's decent work.
For a while the new-comer fixed his eyes straight in front of him in a strenuous, unseeing
gaze; then his voice broke out with the insinuating inflection of one who has a story to
retail well worth any loiterer's while to listen to.
"It's a strange world," he said.
As the statement met with no response he altered it to the form of a question.
"I daresay you've found it to be a strange world, mister?"
"As far as I am concerned," said Crosby, "the strangeness has worn off in the course of
"Ah," said the greybeard, "I could tell you things that you'd hardly believe. Marvellous
things that have really happened to me."
"Nowadays there is no demand for marvellous things that have really happened," said
Crosby discouragingly; "the professional writers of fiction turn these things out so much
better. For instance, my neighbours tell me wonderful, incredible things that their
Aberdeens and chows and borzois have done; I never listen to them. On the other hand, I
have read 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' three times."
The greybeard moved uneasily in his seat; then he opened up new country.
"I take it that you are a professing Christian," he observed.