“Musket House” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts originally appeared in the pulp The Popular Magazine (7 June 1921), and represents book No. 22 in the Garden City Publications series.
My apologies, foremost, for supplying such a shoddy cover. It is the only copy I have ever been able to locate. As noted, the cover became wet and adhered to another book (an earlier title in my possession which affected the rear cover instead) and both are heavily water-damaged titles. This title is doubly-difficult to reasonably obtain because the author still has a devout, however small, following, even today.
The tale involves a 28 year old male whom can’t settle down to one job or task in his life, departing from London and abandoning all he has ever known, in search for lost, buried treasure. His hankering for this treasure appears in the form of a diary note his grandfather wrote, regarding his adventures overseas. While in the wilderness, he and a crew of other assorted Lords and such made hospitable stay at a Dexterfells’ home, the Musket House, which legend holds was so named after Dexterfell annually surrendered rifles to the local Indians in exchange for land.
That aside, he also reportedly was something of a pirate and had buried loot upon his lands. While drinking heavily and playing cards, he becomes deeper and deeper in debt beyond monetary capability, and Lord Stourbridge decides to burn the notes. Dexterfell becomes enraged and humiliated, insists on honoring the notes, and whispering, informs the Lord that their is loot beyond his imagination buried upon the land.
Oddly, he ends up leaving Musket House to kill an annoying whippoorwill that is torturing the assorted Englishmen, but ends up blowing his face off instead, by accident.
Fast-forward a couple generations, and Lord Stourbridge’s useless grandson, having read that diary entry, has sold all his worldly possessions to pay for ship and rail to track down this fairy tale loot.
And so, enter Rodney Goodwin.
Foolishly, he makes to meet the current resident of Musket House, the last reported known heir of the Dexterfell line. He’s informed that the old man is madly insane, but knocks on the door, regardless, and is met with a pair of circular objects that lead down twin long barrels and a leering face that gives him a 15-second start to run before he’s filled full of lead.
He accepts the sprinting challenge and promptly hugs the dirt as one barrel, then the other, cleave the air above him. Angered by the assault, he charges the assailant, Dexterfell, whom is chuckling but unaware of the charge, for he can’t see through the shotgun’s cloud.
Rodney tackles the coot and knocks the gun aside and threatens to thrash him, when, to his amazement, the old nutter speaks completely and rationally sane. Rodney cares not for his sudden miraculous change of attitude and confiscates the shotgun, and departs back to the place he is bedding down at.
While in his room at night, something is hurled through the open window, and attached is a note written by Dexterfell, begging for the return of his only gun, so that he doesn’t starve to death. He admits to being poor and the gun is is only means to obtaining food.
Recklessly, Rodney returns the firearm and departs. He’s later invited to meet the old man in even terms at Musket House. Accepting, he knocks at the door and finds the man relatively cleaned up, of good speech, and acting the part of a gentleman. They play chess and Rodney loses on purpose, hoping to get in the man’s good graces and perhaps learn more of the treasure.
Plans go awry when an equally crazy half-breed assaults Dexterfell and, Rodney, whom comes upon the scene, stupidly hurls himself through a shattered window. The half-breed knocks him out and tosses him down into the wine cellar, to die.
Departing, Rodney is left unconscious and old Dexterfell, upstairs, is out cold, too, from a brutal bit of torture.
To their rescue comes Lizbeth. She resides at the home in which Rodney takes residence, down the trail a bit, and worries about his not appearing for meal time. Grabbing a gun, she hustles up to Musket House, spies the shattered window, and creeps in carefully. Finding Dexterfell out, she searches the whole house until she finds the trapdoor cellar and descends.
Alarmed at her findings, she returns with help and brings both men back with her to the house. Nursed back to health by a regional doctor, whom, incidentally, recognizes our Rodney from a London party, disclaims him as a bounder (honestly, the odds of anyone knowing him from anywhere is absurd, and it does zero for the plot).
Eventually, each profess their love for each other, but the plot thickens and we learn the half-breed Indian and Dexterfell are actually half-related, and, furthermore, that Lizbeth is the granddaughter of a Dexterfell herself, something that she never knew, until the half-breed, in a drunken state, blurts it out to Rodney, whom disbelieves it.
Sadly, she is nearby and overhears the drunken confession and makes a run for it. Lizbeth fears Rodney will never now marry her, because she is tainted with Dexterfell “mad” blood in her.
The whole story collapses with Rodney chasing her and injuring himself to the point that she returns to his side and all the while, back at Musket House, a lynx that happens to have wandered in the house was down in the cellar, and assaults the half-breed. A lantern is upset and the whole place goes up in one big blaze….