Halt! Who Goes There?

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Halt! Who Goes There?  (1924) 
by Robert Ervin Howard
First published in The Yellow Jacket, September 24, 1924. Inspired by Gus Mager's Hawkshaw the Detective.

Prologue[edit]

A blazing sun blazed out of a blazing sky and blazed down blazingly on a blazing expanse of blazing, barren sand, in a blazing desert.

Naught was to be except sand dunes. And yet, aha! A long caravan of camels emerged from behind a sand dune and meandered along the ancient desert trail which was ancient before the memory of man. Aye, it was even said that the trail had been made before William Jennings Bryan began to run for president.

The Taureg chieftain looked about him with a sneer on his handsome face. With contempt he gazed at the sand dunes. Somehow he felt superior to them. Presently the caravan stopped by an ancient city, half-hidden beneath the sands of the desert. It was almost ruins. A very ancient city; it had been deserted long before Congress began to discuss the immigration problem, even.

The Taureg dismounted from his camel and entered his tent. A slave girl offered him a chaw of Beech-nut from her own private plug. He kicked her with a harsh tone of voice.

Seating himself on an expensive divan from Bokhara, he reflected meditatively.

“Durn it,” he soliloquized.

Chapter I—“Awhaw”[edit]

“One million dollars,” mused the Colonel.

“Exactly, my dear Colonel,” returned Hawkshaw, the great detective, wittily.

“But what details of the crime?”

“As follows,” Hawkshaw replied. “The night watchman of the Stacksuhkale bank, London, was knocked unconscious and a million dollars in American thrift-stamps as well as one million pounds of sterling and a box of fine cigars were taken.”

“The villain!” exclaimed the Colonel indignantly. “And cigars as expensive as they are.

“How are you going to go about finding the guilty person?” asked the Colonel.

“In the following manner,” answered Hawkshaw. “Let us first begin by deduction. Let us say, for example, that three persons have robbed the bank. You, I, or the Khedive of Egypt. Now it is impossible that you could commit the robbery because at the time the robbery was committed you were playing a foursome of tiddledy winks with the duke of Buckingham.”

“That’s true but how did you now?” exclaimed the Colonel.

“My dear Colonel,” answered Hawkshaw, “I saw the crumbs on your opera hat. Now, as for myself, I could not have done the robbery because I was in a theatre in Drury Lane. I almost distinctly remember the play even. It was called ‘The Store-keeper of Venice’ and was written by a fellow named Shooksbeer or something, who is a native of Algeria.

“Then, consider the Khedive of Egypt, he could not have committed the robbery because he was on his sugar-moon, I mean his molasses-moon, with his 999999999999999999th wife, hunting social lions, lounge-lizards, zebras and other big game, in the wilds of Schenectady, New Tork. And, having eliminated myself, you and the Khedive, do you see what this points to?”

“No,” the Colonel answered.

“It indicates that the robbery was done by someone else!” said Hawkshaw, dramatically.

“Indeed!” exclaimed the Colonel in admiration. “Awhaw! Wonderful!”

“I shal now,” Hawkshaw continued, “go into the street and arrest everyone I meet. To each I shall put the auestion: ‘Did you rob the Stacksuhkale bank or did you not?’ and I shall be governed by their answers.”

Chapter II—The Anarchist.[edit]

“Curses!” hissed Alexichsky Grooglegoofgiveimoffaswiftskykickovitchinsky-therearovitchsky.

“Curses!” Alexichsky, etc., hissed again even more hissier thatn before. “This nation of England shall fall or my name is not A’sky Majlmp.” (Giving the correct pronunciation of the name Alexichsky, etc.)

The anarchist, with great stealth, then placed a bomb under a girls’ school.

“There,” he hissed, “that be a defeat to the accursed burgwassol!”

After going several blocks he stopped with an enraged look in his coat pocket.

“Ten billion imprecations!” he hissed, “I forgot to light the fuse.”

He walked on through London.

Presently the anarchist came to a palatial mansion in the slums which was the clubhouse of all the anarchists in London.

He walked up to the door and rang the old fashioned doorknocker.

“Giff der pass-vord,” hissed a voice from within.

“The wages of sin are a mansion on Riverside Drive,” answered the anarchist. The door swung open and he entered. There were several members of the Anarchist club in the club room, engaged in anarchist past times, such as swinging ginger-ale, playing marbles for keeps, growing whiskers and cussing the bourgeoisie.

Feeling in a reckless mood, Alexichsky spent a nickel for ginger-ale and offered to bet three cetns either way on the next Olympic games. One of the club members, Heinie Von Shtoofe, then made a speech.

“Vass iss?” he began eloquently. “Vot iss der nation goming do evn der cost of hog-iron, I mean pig-iron iss gone up two cents on der vard, alretty yet? Und vot for iss so may Irisher loafers getting chobs ven vhite men like me cant, yet? I haf meet a Irisher on der street und I say, ‘Get oudt of mine way, you no-good bumf!’ Und look at der black eye vot he giffs me. Dey say dot Irishers is such goot fighters, Bah! Dot makes me tired feel. Vhy, over to Gretchen’s vedding, dot drunken O’Hooligan come in und tried to raise it a rough-house und me und my cousin, Abie, und Ludvig und Hands und four or five others, vhy ve pretty threw dot Irishman right oudt of der house! I vont never go to Ireland.”

The anarchists applauded and then Alexichsky proposed a toast, “Down with everything!” Long live Lendnine and Lopesky and hurrah for Russia!”

Chapter III—“Brittania Rules the Waves.”[edit]

As Alexichsky the anarchist walked down Piccadilly Circus, he glanced about hoping to see a bank that he could rob.

As he came into another street, to men accosted him, one a tall thin man, and the other a short, stocky man.

“Aha!” said Hawkshaw, for it was he, “Methinks yon unshaven Russian with the cannibalistic face has the guilty look of a first-class criminal.”

The detective stopped Alexichsky, “Wait a moment, my friend, pause while I gaze on you un-handsome visage and ask you a question or three or four.”

“What do you want?” asked Alexichsky, having swiftly selected a fiendish sneer from his extensive collection of mocking smiles, derisive leers, glares, dirty looks, unholy mirth, chuckles, diabolical stares, etc.

“Did you rob the Stacksuhkale bank?” asked Hawkshaw.

“No,” answered Alexichsky.

“Dern it,” said the Colonel, “Baffled again.”

“Hold on,” said Hawkshaw, “My Russian friend, you are under arrest.”

The Russian was seized by policemen and Scotland Yard detectives.

Brittania rules the waves,” said Mr. Hawkshaw, “another triumph for Scotland Yard.”

He addressed Alexichsky, “I knew you were telling a falsehood because when you denied robbing the bank, you raised an eyebrow and wiggled your toes. Also, I had suspicions of you when you asked the inspector of Scotland Yard if they found a set of burglar’s tools in the Stacksuhkale bank. You said they were yours and if they were found to deliver them to the Anarchist’s Clubhouse. I delivered them myself, disguised as a rear admiral of the Swiss army. Then when I saw the million dollar notes and thrift-stamps in your vest pocket, I took a chance and arrested you.”

“Curses,” cussed Alexichsky.

“The way you robbed the bank was in the following manner,” said Hawkshaw. “You came to the bank, disguised as a king of the South Sea islands. You climbed up the fire escape and down one of the marble pillars of the bank front. Then, having taken an impression of the keyhole with wax, you filed out a key to fit, from a cigar made in Dusseldorf, Germany. Then you entered and robbed the bank. Is that correct?”

“No, the watchman had left the door open and I went up the back steps and walked in,” answered the Russian.

Epilogue[edit]

The Eskimo floundered through the deep snow and kicked an iceberg out of his way. Reaching his igloo, he unharnessed his team of whales from his sled and entered the igloo.

Snow covered the land, yards deep. Here and there mighty icebergs reared up toward the sky.

For it was mid-summer in northern Alaska.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.
For Class A renewals records (books only) published between 1923 and 1963, check the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database and the Rutgers copyright renewal records.
For other renewal records of publications between 1922 - 1950 see the Pennsylvania copyright records scans.
For all records since 1978, search the U.S. Copyright Office records.

The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


Works published in 1924 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1951 or 1952, i.e. at least 27 years after it was first published / registered but not later than 31 December(31 December) in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1953(1 January 1953).