Beasts and Super-Beasts HTML version

The Name-Day
ADVENTURES, according to the proverb, are to the adventurous. Quite as often they are
to the non- adventurous, to the retiring, to the constitutionally timid. John James
Abbleway had been endowed by Nature with the sort of disposition that instinctively
avoids Carlist intrigues, slum crusades, the tracking of wounded wild beasts, and the
moving of hostile amendments at political meetings. If a mad dog or a Mad Mullah had
come his way he would have surrendered the way without hesitation. At school he had
unwillingly acquired a thorough knowledge of the German tongue out of deference to the
plainly-expressed wishes of a foreign-languages master, who, though he taught modern
subjects, employed old-fashioned methods in driving his lessons home. It was this
enforced familiarity with an important commercial language which thrust Abbleway in
later years into strange lands where adventures were less easy to guard against than in the
ordered atmosphere of an English country town. The firm that he worked for saw fit to
send him one day on a prosaic business errand to the far city of Vienna, and, having sent
him there, continued to keep him there, still engaged in humdrum affairs of commerce,
but with the possibilities of romance and adventure, or even misadventure, jostling at his
elbow. After two and a half years of exile, however, John James Abbleway had embarked
on only one hazardous undertaking, and that was of a nature which would assuredly have
overtaken him sooner or later if he had been leading a sheltered, stay-at-home existence
at Dorking or Huntingdon. He fell placidly in love with a placidly lovable English girl,
the sister of one of his commercial colleagues, who was improving her mind by a short
trip to foreign parts, and in due course he was formally accepted as the young man she
was engaged to. The further step by which she was to become Mrs. John Abbleway was
to take place a twelvemonth hence in a town in the English midlands, by which time the
firm that employed John James would have no further need for his presence in the
Austrian capital.
It was early in April, two months after the installation of Abbleway as the young man
Miss Penning was engaged to, when he received a letter from her, written from Venice.
She was still peregrinating under the wing of her brother, and as the latter's business
arrangements would take him across to Fiume for a day or two, she had conceived the
idea that it would be rather jolly if John could obtain leave of absence and run down to
the Adriatic coast to meet them. She had looked up the route on the map, and the journey
did not appear likely to be expensive. Between the lines of her communication there lay a
hint that if he really cared for her -
Abbleway obtained leave of absence and added a journey to Fiume to his life's
adventures. He left Vienna on a cold, cheerless day. The flower shops were full of spring
blooms, and the weekly organs of illustrated humour were full of spring topics, but the
skies were heavy with clouds that looked like cotton-wool that has been kept over long in
a shop window.
"Snow comes," said the train official to the station officials; and they agreed that snow
was about to come. And it came, rapidly, plenteously. The train had not been more than