The lion's share

The lion’s share by Octave Thanet

Introduction

Have you ever heard of Octave Thanet? If not, you are not alone. Octave Thanet was the pen name of Alice French, an American writer who was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but is now largely forgotten. She wrote novels and short stories that depicted life in the Midwest and the South, often with a social and moral message. She was also a pioneer of regionalism, realism, and naturalism in American literature.

One of her most interesting and unusual works is The Lion’s Share, a novel published in 1907. The Lion’s Share is a mystery and adventure story that revolves around a kidnapping plot, a revenge scheme, and the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. It features a diverse cast of characters, including a colonel, a prince, a journalist, a millionaire, a detective, a spy, a bandit, and a lion. It also explores themes such as loyalty, honor, justice, love, and patriotism.

The Lion’s Share is a rare and captivating book that deserves more attention and appreciation. In this article, we will take a closer look at The Lion’s Share by Octave Thanet and see why it is worth reading.

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Octave Thanet

The Plot

The plot of The Lion’s Share by Octave Thanet is complex and fast-paced. It begins with Colonel Rupert Winter, a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, who is visiting his friend’s son at Harvard. There he meets Cary Mercer, a charming and mysterious young man who claims to be an artist. Winter is intrigued by Mercer’s personality and talent, and invites him to join him on his trip to California.

On their way to San Francisco, they encounter Prince Boris Zergoff, the heir to the throne of Montenegria, a small Balkan country. Zergoff is traveling with his cousin Princess Olga and his secretary Count Paul Ronsard. Winter recognizes Zergoff as an old acquaintance from his days in the Philippines, where Zergoff was involved in some shady dealings. Winter also suspects that Ronsard is actually a spy for Russia, which has designs on Montenegria.

Winter warns Mercer to stay away from Zergoff and his entourage, but Mercer is fascinated by them. He becomes friendly with Zergoff and Olga, and even falls in love with the latter. He also learns that Zergoff is carrying a secret treaty that could change the balance of power in Europe. The treaty is between Montenegria and Japan, which promises to support each other in case of war with Russia.

Meanwhile, Winter meets Harold March, a journalist who works for the New York Herald. March is investigating a series of kidnappings that have been plaguing San Francisco. The kidnappers are led by Jack Maitland, a notorious bandit who calls himself “The King of California”. Maitland has been extorting huge ransoms from wealthy victims, using his gang of outlaws and his pet lion as his weapons.

Winter and March join forces to track down Maitland and rescue his latest victim: John Hammersley, a millionaire financier who has been kidnapped from his hotel room. They discover that Maitland has a personal grudge against Hammersley: Hammersley had ruined Maitland’s father in business years ago, driving him to suicide. Maitland wants revenge on Hammersley and his family.

However, things get complicated when Winter and March find out that Maitland has another prisoner: Prince Zergoff. Maitland has learned about the secret treaty from Ronsard, who betrayed Zergoff for money. Maitland plans to sell the treaty to Russia for a fortune. He also intends to kill Zergoff and Ronsard after he gets the money.

Winter and March decide to rescue Zergoff as well as Hammersley. They enlist the help of Tom O’Rourke, an Irish detective who works for the Pinkerton Agency. O’Rourke has been following Maitland’s trail for years. They also get assistance from Mercer, who wants to save Olga from Zergoff’s clutches.

The four men manage to locate Maitland’s hideout in Chinatown. They infiltrate the place disguised as Chinese coolies. They find Zergoff and Hammersley locked up in separate rooms. They free them and try to escape with them.

However, they are discovered by Maitland and his men. A fierce fight ensues, with guns, knives, and fists. Maitland unleashes his lion, which attacks Winter. Winter shoots the lion, but is wounded by Maitland. Mercer saves Winter by stabbing Maitland in the back.

The fight is interrupted by a sudden earthquake that shakes the whole city. The building collapses, killing most of Maitland’s gang. Winter, March, O’Rourke, Zergoff, Hammersley, and Mercer survive and make their way out of the rubble.

They are greeted by a scene of devastation and chaos. San Francisco is on fire, and people are fleeing for their lives. The heroes try to find a safe place to stay and to contact their friends and families.

The novel ends with a happy resolution for most of the characters. Winter recovers from his injuries and marries Hammersley’s daughter, Helen. March becomes a famous reporter and writes a book about the earthquake. O’Rourke gets a promotion and a reward for his services. Zergoff returns to Montenegria with the treaty and marries Olga. Mercer goes with them as their friend and adviser.

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The Characters

The characters of The Lion’s Share by Octave Thanet are colorful and memorable. They include:

  • Colonel Rupert Winter: The main protagonist of the novel. He is a brave and honorable soldier who has seen many wars and adventures. He is loyal to his friends and his country. He is also intelligent and resourceful. He has a sense of humor and a romantic heart.
  • Cary Mercer: The secondary protagonist of the novel. He is a young and handsome artist who has a mysterious past and a hidden talent. He is charming and charismatic, but also reckless and impulsive. He is curious and adventurous, but also naive and idealistic. He falls in love with Princess Olga, but also respects Prince Zergoff.
  • Prince Boris Zergoff: The heir to the throne of Montenegria, a small Balkan country that is threatened by Russia. He is a proud and ambitious man who wants to make his country strong and independent. He is also brave and generous, but also arrogant and stubborn. He carries a secret treaty that could change the fate of Europe.
  • Princess Olga: The cousin of Prince Zergoff, who accompanies him on his trip to America. She is a beautiful and graceful woman who has a gentle and kind personality. She loves her cousin, but also falls in love with Mercer. She is loyal and courageous, but also sensitive and compassionate.
  • Count Paul Ronsard: The secretary of Prince Zergoff, who is actually a spy for Russia. He is a cunning and treacherous man who betrays his master for money. He sells the secret treaty to Maitland, hoping to get rich and powerful. He is also cruel and cowardly, as he tries to kill Zergoff and Mercer.
  • Harold March: A journalist who works for the New York Herald. He is a friend of Winter, who helps him in his investigation of the kidnappings in San Francisco. He is an honest and diligent reporter who wants to expose the truth and inform the public. He is also brave and loyal, as he risks his life to rescue the victims.
  • Tom O’Rourke: An Irish detective who works for the Pinkerton Agency. He is an expert on Maitland’s gang, as he has been following them for years. He joins forces with Winter and March to stop Maitland’s plans. He is a skilled and experienced investigator who knows the streets of San Francisco well. He is also witty and humorous, as he cracks jokes in every situation.
  • Jack Maitland: The leader of the kidnappers who calls himself “The King of California”. He is a notorious bandit who extorts huge ransoms from wealthy victims using his gang of outlaws and his pet lion as his weapons. He has a personal grudge against John Hammersley, whom he blames for his father’s death. He also wants to sell the secret treaty to Russia for a fortune.
  • John Hammersley: A millionaire financier who is kidnapped by Maitland from his hotel room. He is a successful businessman who has made his fortune in mining and railroads. He is also a philanthropist who supports various causes and charities. He is unaware of his role in Maitland’s father’s suicide, as he was only following the law at the time.
  • Helen Hammersley: The daughter of John Hammersley, who is worried about her father’s fate. She is a beautiful and wealthy heiress who has many suitors, but none of them interest her. She meets Winter at her father’s hotel, where they are both staying. She falls in love with him, as he saves her from Maitland’s lion.
  • The Lion: Maitland’s pet lion, which he uses as his weapon and symbol of power. The lion is fierce and loyal to Maitland, attacking anyone who opposes him or threatens him.

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FAQs

  • Who is Octave Thanet?
    • Octave Thanet was the pen name of Alice French, an American writer who lived from 1850 to 1934. She wrote novels and short stories that depicted life in the Midwest and the South, often with a social and moral message. She was also a pioneer of regionalism, realism, and naturalism in American literature.
  • What are some of her other works?
    • Some of her other works include The Bishop’s Vagabond (a novel about a runaway boy who becomes a bishop’s companion), Stories of a Western Town (a collection of stories set in Iowa), The Missionary Sheriff (a novel about a sheriff who tries to reform a criminal), and Knitters in the Sun (a collection of stories about women’s lives).
  • Why is the book called The Lion’s Share?
    • The book is called The Lion’s Share because it refers to the phrase “the lion’s share”, which means the largest or best part of something. In the book, Maitland wants to get the lion’s share of everything: money, power, and revenge. He also has a lion as his pet and weapon.
  • Is there a movie based on this book?
    • No, there is no movie based on this book. However, there are several movies that depict the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, such as A Trip Down Market Street (a documentary filmed four days before the disaster), San Francisco (a 1936 musical starring Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald), and In Old San Francisco (a 1927 silent film starring Dolores Costello and Warner Oland).
  • Where can I find this book?
    • You can find this book online or in your local library or bookstore. You can also read it for free on Project Gutenberg [here].

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Conclusion

The Lion’s Share by Octave Thanet is a forgotten gem of mystery and adventure fiction. It is a thrilling tale of kidnapping, revenge, and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It features a diverse cast of characters, including a colonel, a prince, a journalist, a millionaire, a detective, a spy, a bandit, and a lion. It also explores themes such as loyalty, honor, justice, love, and patriotism.

If you are looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat and transport you to another time and place, you should read The Lion’s Share by Octave Thanet. You will not be disappointed.

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