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The Tramp

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The Tramp

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Author: L. Ron Hubbard
Publisher: Galaxy Press, 2011
Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 1938

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Penniless, homeless and virtually lifeless, the vagrant "Doughface" Jack is about to discover that where medical marvels meet the mysteries of the human mind, amazing things happen. Like one of the comic book X-Men mutants, The Tramp acquires a capability beyond his imagination and without equal on Earth.

Riding the rails, Jack runs afoul of a local sheriff and ends up with a crushed skull. He's as good as dead until a savvy country doctor performs a bit of medical magic. Jack wakes up to find that his brain has been drastically altered. He has the power to save lives--and destroy them--with a single glance.

Will Jack use his astounding power for good... or for evil? His journey of discovery takes him to New York and into the arms of a woman, who has a plan of her own. Together they're bound for Washington, D.C., and a psychic adventure that could change the shape of history.

The Tramp was originally serialized in 1938 in three issues of Astounding Science Fiction. Its respected editor, John W. Campbell, wrote: "Hubbard is a very highly experienced writer, an author with a tremendous background of writing in every field. He's one of the few professional writers I know of who gets a genuine kick out of the story he's writing. In The Tramp, the suspense is intensified step by step, because every step points the same way. There are no backward slips, no scattered accidents that tend in any direction other than the one toward which Hubbard is driving."


The Tramp

"For a man that's been through what happened to you, I'd say you looked marvelous," smiled Miss Finch. That was not exactly true. Doughface had always been as fat as a butterball and his complexion had never been anything but pasty white. The bluish growth of beard did not help.

"What's the idea?" said Doughface, glancing around again.

"You mean where are you?" said Miss Finch. "Doctor Pellman saw you get hurt and brought you here. He operated."

"Geez," said Doughface, alarmed, "I ain't got no lucre. Them things cost the bucks!"

"Never mind," said Miss Finch. "The doctor hasn't collected a bill for years and he doesn't even try anymore. You can thank him for your life."

"Huh," said Doughface, "he must be a right guy."

"He's a wonderful fellow, if that's what you mean," said Miss Finch.

"Y'mean I'd be dead if it wasn't fer him, huh?"

"That's it."

"Geez... And he don't want no lucre for it?"

"No," replied Miss Finch. "Now you be quiet and I'll go get you something to eat."


"Yes. Anything you want in particular?"

Doughface shut his eyes and then gathered courage to take the plunge. "How about chicken and ice cream?"

"All right," said Miss Finch.

Doughface blinked. He suspected this wasn't Earth after all. If it wasn't for that mole this girl would look just like... Huh! He gaped at her in astonishment.

"What's the matter?" said Miss Finch.

"That... uh... y'had a mole on yer chin and it ain't there no more!"

Her hand flew to the spot. She stepped to a mirror at the head of the bed and stared at herself. "Why... why, that's so. It's gone!"

Through it all the man on one side had not moved and neither had the girl practically hidden in bandages.

Doughface did not long concentrate on the vanishing mole. "What burg is this?"

"Centerville," said Miss Finch in a preoccupied fashion, hand to chin.

"Then this is all the hospital there is, huh?"


"What's the matter with these ginks?" said Doughface nodding his head to right and left.

"That's Tom Johnson," said Miss Finch. "He's dying of cancer and the doctor is going to operate later in the day. And this is Jenny Stevens. She was in an accident last night--poor thing. You had better be very quiet. They're very sick."

"Jake with me," said Doughface. "You mean it about that chicken and ice cream?"

Miss Finch smiled and went out.

Doughface turned over and regarded the man for some time. The fellow was barely conscious and at long last he turned his head.

"How ya feel, pal?" said Doughface.

The man's lips moved but no sound came forth.

"Hard lines," said Doughface sympathetically.

The man moved his lips again and this time he spoke. "Heart's almost gone. But I hope Doc Pellman's gonna fix it. I know I wasn't none too good but..."

"He saved my life," said Doughface. "I guess he's a right guy."

"Shore is," said the man, strongly. "He brung my four children into the world. Ain't nobody hereabouts that'll say nothin' agin Doc Pellman."

He stirred restlessly and looked long at Doughface. Slowly he raised himself up on an elbow and further regarded the tramp.

Unexpectedly Tom Johnson said, "You got a cigarette, cap'n?"

"Me? Naw. They was some snipes in me clothes but I don't see nothin' around now."

Johnson raised himself higher and glanced around the room. An ashtray was under the window and he could see the butts in it. He swung down his feet and stretched. He shuffled across the floor and fished out a butt. He found some matches and brought the tray back to Doughface.

Again Johnson stretched and then took a luxurious puff. "Ain't enough air in here," he said, crossing to the window and throwing it open. He stood in the chill blast, again stretching.

"My goodness but I feels good," said Johnson.

Doughface was disappointed a little, but grinning just the same. "Yeah, I put on an act like that plenty of times. What'd you want, some free meals?"

"Ac'?" blinked Johnson. "Say, Doc Pellman was wrong. He said I was gonna die maybe. But I ain't gonna die. I feels like I could lift this buildin' sky-high."

Doughface grinned knowingly. The girl in the other cot stirred a bit and Doughface turned to grin at her. "Whatcha know about that, sister? Tom here pullin' a fake to squeeze a free handout from a right guy like this Pellman."

The girl turned her head painfully to look at Doughface. Her voice was very faint. "What?"

"I said Tom was tryin' to gyp the old man. But what the deuce. I done it myself lots of times. What was you doin'? Neckin' party or one arm drivin' or somethin'?"

The girl stirred. "Drivin'?" Until that moment she had not realized where she was. She started to put her arm down and found that it was in a cast. The weight of bandages on her face was suddenly smothering to her and she pried them away from her mouth and nose.

"How long have I been here?" she queried.

"The nurse said since last night," said Doughface. "She claimed you was on a wild party...."

The girl sat up straight. "I was not! The other man was at fault. He was on the wrong side of the road! Was Bob hurt?"

"Who's Bob?" said Doughface.

The girl looked wildly around her to make sure Bob wasn't there.

Miss Finch came in at that moment with a tray for Doughface--chicken, ice cream and all. She saw Johnson standing by the window in his nightshirt and gave a gasp of horror.

"Get in bed!" cried Miss Finch. "You're due to be operated on in an hour!" She turned and saw the girl sitting up. "For heaven's sake! Lie down! You've got a compound fracture and your face... Jenny Stevens! What have you been doing to your bandages?"

The girl pulled at the gauze so that she could see better and Miss Finch stopped dead.

The nurse managed to recover her wits. She advanced on Jenny and moved the gauze again.

"But it can't be!" cried the nurse. "That eye was out! There was an inch splinter of glass in it! But... but maybe it was the other eye." She lifted the other bandage and a healthy blue orb blinked at her in a puzzled way. "I must have been mistaken...." said Miss Finch shakily. "But... but no. I wasn't! I held your eye open while he took the glass out. He said you couldn't ever see again."

Copyright © 1938 by L. Ron Hubbard


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