2021-04-17 02:09:49

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ENGLISH "Certainly, yes, certainly. Now I want you to ride to the brigade camp and telegraph Miss Harper this: 'She needs you. Come instantly. Durand.'"--I repeated it to him.--"Right," he said. "Send that first; and after that--here is a military secret for you to tell to General Austin; I think you like that kind, eh? Tell him I would not send it verbally if I had my hands free. You know that regiment at whose headquarters we saw them singing; well, tell him they are to make a move to-day, a bad mistake, and I think if he will stay right there where he is till they make it, we can catch the whole lot of them. As soon as they move I shall report to him.""What's up?" exclaimed the constable, startled. "What yer playing at? Where are you?"

But duty to his parishioners remained uppermost in the conscientious Vicar's mind, and it was not fair to them that he should[Pg 86] catch his death of cold. He hurried back to the vicarage. For a quarter of an hour he pulled open drawers, ransacked cupboards, searching everywhere for an old wig that had been discarded and a new hat that had never been worn. He found them at last and arrived, breathless and out of temper, in the middle of the cinematograph display which constituted the first part of the performance."I see the man," he began, timidly, "I see 'im as I was going along the path to Bapchurch."

But a second later there was stony silence. For the thing that happened next was as unexpected as it was startling. Nobody, save perhaps Dr. Allingham, anticipated that the Clockwork man was capable of adding violence to eccentricity; he looked harmless enough. But apparently there lurked a d?monic temper behind those bland, meaningless features. The thing happened in a trice; and all that followed occupied but a few catastrophic seconds. The umpire had stepped up to the Clockwork man in order to explain to him that he was expected to retire from the wicket. Not hearing any coherent reply, he emphasised his request by placing a hand suggestively on the other's[Pg 37] shoulder. Instantly, something blade-like flashed in the stammering air, a loud thwack broke upon the silence, and the unfortunate umpire lay prostrate. He had gone down like a log of wood.Her hand had shot out grasping for something to steady herself on--the whole world spun around her. She had given her whole passionate, tempestuous soul to this man; she had never dreamt that she could fail to gain his love. She had never failed before, she had only required to hold up her hand. . . .

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When the dogs came at the Squire's call I breathed relief. Ferry appeared behind me and beckoned me deeper into the grove. He sank upon a stump, whispering "That was worse than ten fights."For a moment Allingham's face was a study in bewilderment. He tried to speak, but only succeeded in producing an absurd snigger. Then he tried to laugh outright, and was forced into rapid speech. "Well, what did I say?[Pg 62] The whole thing is preposterous. I'm afraid, inspector, we've troubled you for nothing. The fact is, somebody has been guilty of a monstrous hoax."

Allingham did so. Just on the edge of the lining there was an oblong-shaped tab, with small gold lettering:"Imagine an exceedingly complex kind of mechanism," Gregg resumed, "an exaggeration of the many intricate types of modern machines in use to-day. It would have to be something of a very delicate description, and yet rather crude at first in its effect. One thinks of[Pg 55] something that would work accurately if in rather a limited sort of way. You see, they would have to ensure success in some things at first even at the sacrifice of a certain general awkwardness. It would be a question of taking one thing at a time. Thus, when the Clockwork man came to play cricket, all he could do was to hit the ball. We have to admit that he did that efficiently enough, however futile were the rest of his actions.""Because she loves you," said Hetty, in a thrilling whisper. "Because her whole heart and soul is given over to a consuming passion for you. There is a woman who would go any length to win a man's love. If a husband stood in the way she would poison him; if a woman, she would be destroyed. Gordon, I am frightened; I wake up in the middle of the night trembling. I wish you had never come here; I don't know what I wish."

The happy hubbub was bewildering. "Where's this one?" "Where's that one?" "See here, I'm looking for you!" "Now, you and I go together--" "Dick Smith! where's Dick Sm'--Miss Harper wants you, Smith, up at the bride's door." But Miss Harper only sent me in to Charlotte."Yes," murmured Arthur, and then caught[Pg 83] his breath sharply. For his ear had detected a faint throbbing and palpitation in the distance. It seemed to echo from the far-off hills, a sort of "chew chew," constantly repeated. And presently, another and more familiar sound aroused his attention. It was the "toot-toot" of an automobile and the jerk of a brake. And then the steady whine of the engine as the car ascended a hill. Perhaps they were pursuing the Clockwork man. Arthur hoped not. It seemed to him the troubles of that strange being were bad enough without there being added to them the persecutions suffered by those to whom existence represents an endless puzzle, full of snares and surprises.

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"Now, that's a good idea. We might arrive at something by comparison. I never thought of that." He grasped the mustard pot again and tried to arrange certain matters in his mind. "It's a little difficult to know where to begin," he temporised.The bound man sat like a statue. The slave girl went upon her knees and began to pray for her master,--with whom she had remained after every other servant on the place had run off to the Federals, supplicating with a piteous fervor that drew tears down Harry's cheeks. "Humph!" said the Arkansan, still smiling straight into Oliver's eyes, "she'd better be thanking God for her freedom, for that's what we're going to give her to-night; we're going to take her and your poor old crippled father to the outposts and turn 'em loose, and if either of 'em ever shows up inside our lines after to-night, we'll hang 'em. You fixed the date of your death last June, and we're not going to let it be changed; that's when you died. Ain't it, Gholson? Whoever says it ain't fixes the date of his own funeral, eh, boys? I take pleasure in telling you we're not going to hang your father, because I believe in my bones you'd rather we'd hang him than not. Mr. Gholson, you're our most pious believer in obedience to orders; well, I'm going to give you one, and if you don't make a botch of it I sha'n't have to make a botch of you; understand?""Certainly, yes, certainly. Now I want you to ride to the brigade camp and telegraph Miss Harper this: 'She needs you. Come instantly. Durand.'"--I repeated it to him.--"Right," he said. "Send that first; and after that--here is a military secret for you to tell to General Austin; I think you like that kind, eh? Tell him I would not send it verbally if I had my hands free. You know that regiment at whose headquarters we saw them singing; well, tell him they are to make a move to-day, a bad mistake, and I think if he will stay right there where he is till they make it, we can catch the whole lot of them. As soon as they move I shall report to him."

The driver of the ambulance did not know why he had been ordered to report here, but when the Widow Roy came to the door she brought explanation enough. A courier had come to her and gone again, and the chaplain and the surgeon and every one else of any "army sort" except us two had "put out," and she was in a sad flurry. "The Lieutenant," she said, "writes in this-yeh note that this-yeh place won't be safe f'om the Yankees much longer'n to-day, and fo' us to send the wounded lady in the avalanch. Which she says, her own self, it'd go rough with her to fall into they hands again. My married daughter she's a-goin' with her, and the'd ought to be a Mr. Sm'--oh, my Lawdy! you ain't reg-lahly in the ahmy, air you?""I'll make a note of it," said the Curate. "But you must really excuse me now. I have so much to see to. There's the refreshments. The sandwiches are only half cut"

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Apr-17 02:09:49