THE MAN WHO LOST HIMSELF (26)

By: H. De Vere Stacpoole
September 12, 2018

This year marks the 100th anniversary of a forgotten Avenger/Artful Dodger-type adventure novel, The Man Who Lost Himself. A man down on his luck wakes up after a drunken night in London only to discover… that he has somehow slipped into the identity of a wealthy aristocrat! HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize this funny, thrilling yarn by H. De Vere Stacpoole — best known as author of The Blue Lagoon — here at HILOBROW.

ALL INSTALLMENTS SO FAR

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CHAPTER XXVI: A TRAMP, AND OTHER THINGS

He was awakened by a glorious morning, and, looking out of his window, he saw the street astir in the sunshine, stout men in white flannels with morning newspapers in their hands, children already on their way to the beach with spades and buckets, all the morning life of an English seacoast town in Summer.

Then he dressed. He had no razor, his beard was beginning to show, and to go about unshaved was impossible to his nature. For a moment the wild idea of letting his beard grow — that oldest form of disguise — occurred to him, only to be dismissed immediately. A beard takes a month to grow, he had neither the time nor the money to do it, nor the inclination.

At breakfast — two kippered herrings and marmalade — he held a council of war with himself.

Nature has equipped every animal with means for offence and defence. To man she has given daring, and that strange indifference in cool blood to danger, when danger has become familiar, which seems the attribute of man alone.

Jones determined to risk everything, go out, prospect, find some likely road of escape, and make a bold dash. The eight thousand pounds in the London Bank shone before him like a galaxy of eight stars; no one knew of its existence. What he was to do when he had secured it was a matter for future consideration. Probably he would return right away to the States.

One great thing about all this Hoover business was the fact that it had freed him from the haunting dread of those terrible sensations of duality and negation. Fighting is the finest antidote to nerve troubles and mental dreads, and he was fighting now for his liberty, for the fact stood clearly before him, that, whether the Rochester family believed him to be Rochester or believed him to be Jones, it was to their interest to hold him as a lunatic in peaceful retirement.

Having breakfasted he lit a cigarette, asked Mrs. Henshaw for a latch key so that he might not trouble her, put on his panama and went out. There was a barber’s shop across the way, he entered it, found a vacant chair and was shaved. Then he bought a newspaper and strolled in the direction of the beach. The idea had come to him that he might be able to hire a sailing boat and reach London that way, a preposterous and vague idea that still, however, led him till he reached the esplanade, and stood with the sea wind blowing in his face.

The only sailing boats visible were excursion craft, guarded by longshoremen, loading up with trippers, and showing placards to allure the innocent.

The sands were swarming, and the bathing machines crawling towards the sea.

He came on to the beach and took his seat on the warm, white sands, with freedom before him had he been a gull or a fish. To take one of those cockleshell row boats and scull a few miles down the coast would lead him where? Only along the coast, rock-strewn beyond the sands and faced with cliffs. Of boat craft he had no knowledge, the sea was choppy, and the sailing boats now out seemed going like race horses over hurdles.

No, he would wait till after luncheon, then in that somnolent hour when all men’s thoughts are a bit dulled, and vigilance least awake, he would find some road, on good hard land, and make his dash.

He would try and get a bicycle map of this part of Wessex. He had noticed a big stationers’ and book-sellers’ near the beach, and he would call there on his way back.

Then he fell to reading his paper, smoking cigarettes, and watching the crowd.

Watching, he was presently rewarded with the sight of the present day disgrace of England. Out of a bathing tent, and into the full sunlight, came a girl with nothing on, for skin tight blue stockinette is nothing in the eyes of Modesty; every elevation, every depression, every crease in her shameless anatomy exposed to a hundred pairs of eyes, she walked calmly towards the water. A young man to match followed. Then they wallowed in the sea.

Jones forgot Hoover. He recalled Lady Dolly in Moths — Lady Dolly, who, on the beach of Sandbourne-on-Sea would have been the pink of propriety, and the inhabitants of this beach were not wicked society people, but respectable middle class folk.

“That’s pretty thick,” said Jones to an old gentleman like a goat sitting close to him, whose eyes were fixed in contemplation on the bathers.

“What?”

“That girl in blue. Don’t any of them wear decent clothes?”

“The scraggy ones do,” replied the other, speaking in a far away and contented manner.

At about half past eleven Jones left the beach, tired of the glare and the bathers, and the sand digging children. He called at the book shop, and for a shilling obtained a bicycle map of the coast, and sitting on a seat outside the shop scanned it.

There were three roads out of Sandbourne-on-Sea; the London road; a road across the cliffs to the west; and a road across the cliffs to the east. The easterly road led to Northbourne, a sea-side town some six or seven miles away, the westerly road to Southbourne, some fifteen miles off. London lay sixty miles to the north. The railway touched the London road at Houghton Admiral, a station some nine miles up the line.

That was the position. Should he take the London road and board a train at Houghton Admiral, or take the road to Northbourne and get a train from there?

The three ways lay before him like the three Fates, and he determined on the London road.

However, Man proposes and God disposes.

He folded up the map, put it in his pocket and started for home — or at least Mrs. Henshaw’s.

Just at the commencement of the street he paused before a photographer’s to inspect the pictures exposed for view. Groups, family parties, children, and girls with undecided features. He turned from the contemplation of these things and found himself face to face with Hoover.

Hoover must have turned into the street from a bye way, for only sixty seconds before the street had been Hooverless. He was dressed in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, and his calves showed huge.

“Hello!” said Jones.

The exclamation was ejected from him so to speak, by the mental shock.

Hoover’s hand shot out to grasp his prey. What happened then was described by Mr. Shonts, the German draper across the way, to a friend.

“The thin man hit Mr. Hoover in the stomack, who sat down, but lifted himself at wance and pursued him.”

Jones ran. After him followed a constable, sprung from nowhere, boys, a dog that seemed running for exercise, and Hoover.

He reached the house of Mrs. Henshaw, pulled the latch key from his pocket, plunged it in the lock, opened the door and shut it. So close was the pursuit on him that the “bang-bang” of the knocker followed at once on the bang of the door.

Then the bell went, peal after peal.

Jones made for the kitchen stairs and bolted down them, found a passage leading to the back door, and, disregarding the bewildered Mrs. Henshaw, who was coming out of the kitchen with her hands all over flour, found the back yard.

A blank wall lay before him, another on the right, and another on the left. The left and right walls divided the Henshaw back yard from the yards of the houses on either side, the wall immediately before him divided it from the back yard of a house in Minerva Terrace, which was parallel to the High Street.

Jones chose this wall. A tenantless dog kennel standing before it helped him, and next moment he was over, shaken up with a drop of twelve feet and facing a clothes line full of linen. He dived under a sheet and almost into the back of a broad woman hanging linen on a second clothes line, found the back door of the house, which the broad woman had left open, ran down a passage, up a kitchen stairs and into a hall. An old gentleman in list slippers, coming out of a room on the right, asked him what he wanted. Jones, recalling the affair later, could hear the old gentleman’s voice and words.

He did not pause to reply. He opened the hall door, and the next moment he was in Minerva Terrace. It was fortunately deserted. He ran to the left, found a bye way and a terrace of artisans’ dwellings, new, hideous, and composed of yellow brick. In front of the terrace lay fields. A gate in the hedge invited him, he climbed over it, crossed a field, found another gate which led him to another field, and found himself surrounded by the silence of the country, a silence pierced and thrilled by the songs of larks. Larks make the sea lands of the south and east coasts insufferable. One lark in a suitable setting, and, for a while, is delightful, but twenty larks in all grades of ascent and descent, some near, some distant, make for melancholy.

Jones crouched in a hedge for a while to get back his breath. He was lost. Road maps were not much use to him here. The larks insisted on that, jubilantly or sorrowfully according to the stage of their flight.

Then something or someone immediately behind him on the other side of the hedge breathed a huge sigh, as if lamenting over his fate. He jumped up. It was a cow. He could see her through the brambles and smell her too, sweet as a Devonshire dairy.

Then he sat down again to think and examine the map, which he had fortunately placed in his pocket. The roads were there but how to reach them was the problem, and the London road, to which he had pinned his faith, was now impossible. It would be surely watched. He determined, after a long consultation with himself, to make for Northbourne, striking across the fields straight ahead, and picking up the cliff road somewhere on its course.

He judged, and rightly enough, that Hoover would hunt for him, not along the coast but inland. Northbourne was not the road to London, even though a train might be caught from Northbourne. The whole business was desperate, but this course seemed the least desperate way out of it. And he need not hurry, speed would be of no avail in this race against Fate.

He took the money from his pocket and counted it. Out of the nine pounds he started with from Hoover’s there remained only five pounds eleven and ninepence.

He had spent as follows:

Mrs. Henshaw £2 0 0
Panama 6 11
Nightshirt 3 11
Coat 15 0
Public House 10
Shave and Newspaper 7
Road Map 1 0
———————
£3 8 3

He went over these accounts and checked them in his head. Then he put the money back in his pocket and started on his way across the fields.

Despite all his worries this English country interested him, it also annoyed him. Fields, the size of pocket handkerchiefs, divided one from the other by monstrous hedges and deep ditches. To cross this country in a straight line one would want to be a deer or a bounding kangaroo. Gates, always at corners and always diagonal to his path, gave him access from one field to the other. Trees there were none. The English tree has an antipathy to the sea, and keeps away from it, but the hedge has no sensitiveness of this sort. These hedges seemed to love the sea, to judge by their size.

He was just in the act of clambering over one of the innumerable gates when a voice hailed him. He looked back. A young man in leggings, who had evidently been following him unperceived, raised a hand. Jones finished his business with the gate, and then, with it between him and the stranger, waited. He was well dressed in a rough way, evidently a superior sort of farmer, and physically a person to be reckoned with. He was also an exceedingly cantankerous looking individual.

“Do you know that you are trespassing?” asked he, when they were within speaking distance.

“No,” said Jones.

“Well, you are. I must ask you for your name and address, please.”

“What on earth for — what harm am I doing your old fields?” Jones had forgotten his position, everything, before the outrage on common sense.

“You are trespassing, that’s all. I must ask you for your name and address.”

Now to Jones came the recollection of something he had read somewhere. A statement, that in England there was no law of trespass in the country places, and that a person might go anywhere to pick mushrooms or wild flowers, and no landlord could interfere so long as no damage was done.

“Don’t you know the law?” asked Jones. He recited the law accordingly, to the Unknown.

The other listened politely.

“I ask you for your name and address,” said he. “Our lawyers will settle the other matter.”

Then anger came to Jones.

“I am the Earl of Rochester,” said he, “and my address is Carlton House Terrace, London. I have no cards on me.”

Then the queerest sensation came to Jones, for he saw that the other had recognised him. Rochester was evidently as well known to the ordinary Englishman, by picture and repute, as Lloyd George.

“I beg your pardon,” said the other, “but the fact is that my land is over-run with people from Sandbourne — sorry.”

“Oh, don’t mention it,” replied the Earl of Rochester. “I sha’n’t do any damage. Good day.” They parted and he pursued his way.

A mile farther on he came upon a person with broken boots, a beery face, and clothes to match his boots. This person was seated in the sunshine under a hedge, a bundle and a tin can beside him.

He hailed Jones as “Guvernor” and requested a match.

Jones supplied the match, and they fell into conversation.

“Northbourne,” said the tramp. “I’m goin’ that way meself. I’ll shew you the quickest way when I’ve had a suck at me pipe.”

Jones rested for a moment by the hedge whilst the pipe was lit. The trespass business was still hot in his mind. The cave-in of the Landlord had not entirely removed the sense of outrage.

“Aren’t you afraid of being held up for trespass?” asked he.

“Trespass,” replied the other, “not me. I ain’t afeared of no farmers.”

Jones gave his experience.

“Don’t you be under no bloomin’ error,” said the tramp, when the recital was finished. “That chap was right enough. That chap couldn’t touch the likes of me, unless he lied and swore I’d broke fences, but he could touch the likes of you. I know the Lor. I know it in and out. Landlords don’t know it as well as me. That chap knows the lor, else he wouldn’t a’ been so keen on gettin’ your name and where you lived.”

“But how could he have touched me if he cannot touch you?”

The tramp chuckled.

“I’ll tell you,” said he, “and I’ll tell you what he’ll do now he’s got where you live. He’ll go to the Co’t o’ Charncery and arsk for a ’junction against you to stop you goin’ over his fields. You don’t want to go over his fields any more, that don’t matter. He’ll get his ’junction and you’ll have to pay the bloomin’ costs — see — the bloomin’ costs, and what will that amahnt to? Gawd knows, maybe a hundred pound. Lots of folks take it into their silly heads they can go where they want. They carnt, not if the Landlord knows his Lor, not unless they’re hoofin’ it like me. Lot o’ use bringin’ me up to the Co’t o’ Charncery.”

“Do you mean to say that just for walking over a field a man can be had up to the court of Chancery and fined a hundred pounds?”

“He ain’t fined, it’s took off him in costs.”

“You seem to know a lot about the law,” said Jones, calling up the man of the public house last night, and coming to the conclusion that amongst the English lower orders there must be a vast fund of a peculiar sort of intelligence.

“Yes,” said the tramp. “I told you I did.” Then interestedly, “What might your name be?”

Jones repeated the magic formula to see the effect.

“I am the Earl of Rochester.”

“Lord Rochester. Thought I knew your face. Lost half a quid over your horse runnin’ at Gatwood Park last Spring twel’ months. ‘White Lady’ came in second to ‘The Nun,’ half a quid. I’d made a bit on ‘Champane Bottle’ in the sellin’ plate. Run me eye over the lists and picked out ‘White Lady.’ Didn’t know nothin’ abaht her, said to a fren’, ‘here’s my fancy. Don’t know nothin’ abaht her, but she’s one of Lord Rawchester’s, an’ his horses run stright’ — That’s what I said — ‘His horses run stright’ and give me a stright run boss with a wooden leg before any of your fliers with a dope in his belly or a pullin’ jockey on his back. But the grown’ did her, she was beat on the post by haff an ’eck, you’ll remember. She’d a won be two lengths, on’y for that bit o’ soggy grown’ be the post. That grown’ want over-haulin’, haff a shower o’ rain, and boss wants fins and flippers instead o’ hoofs.”

“Yes,” said Jones, “that’s so.”

“A few barra’ loads o’ gravel would put it rite,” continued the other, “it ain’t fair on the hosses, and it ain’t fair on the backers, ’arf a quid I dropped on that mucky bit o’ grown’. Last Doncaster meetin’ I was sayin’ the very same thing to Lor’ Lonsdale over the Doncaster Course. I met him, man to man like, outside the ring, and he handed me out a cigar. We talked same as you and me might be talkin’ now, and I says to him: ‘What we want’s more money put into drains on the courses. Look at them mucky farmers they way they drains their land,’ said I, ‘and look at us runnin’ hosses and layin’ our bets and let down, hosses and backers and all, for want of the courses bein’ looked after proper.’”

He tapped the dottle out of his pipe, picked up the bundle, and rose grumbling.

Then he led the way in the direction of Northbourne.

It was a little after three o’clock now, and the day was sultry. Jones, despite his other troubles, was vastly interested in his companion. The height of Rochester’s position had never appeared truly till shown him by the farmer and this tramp. They knew him. To them, without any doubt, the philosophers and poets of the world were unknown, but they knew the Earl of Rochester, and not unfavourably.

Millions upon millions of the English world were equally acquainted with his lordship, he was most evidently a National figure. His unconventionality, his “larks,” his lavishness, and his horse racing propensities, however they might pain his family, would be meat to the legions who loved a lord, who loved a bet, who loved a horse, and a picturesque spendthrift.

To be Rochester was not only to be a lord, it was more than that. It was to be famous, a national character, whose picture was printed on the retina of the million. Never had Jones felt more inclined to stick to his position than now, with the hounds on his traces, a tramp for his companion, and darkness ahead. He felt that if he could once get to London, once lay his hands on that eight thousand pounds lying in the National Provincial Bank, he could fight. Fight for freedom, get lawyers to help him, and retain his phantom coronet.

He had ceased to fear madness; all that dread of losing himself had vanished, at least for the moment. Hoover had cured him.

Meanwhile they talked as they went, the tramp laying down the law as to rights over commons and waste lands, seeming absolutely to forget that he was talking to, or supposed to be talking to, a landed proprietor. At last they reached the white ribbon that runs over the cliffs from Sandbourne to Northbourne and beyond.

“Here’s the road,” said the tramp, “and I’ll be takin’ leave of your lor’ship. I’ll take it easy for a bit amongst them bushes, there’s no call for me to hurry. I shawnt forget meetin’ your lor’ship. Blimy if I will. Me sittin’ there under that hedge an’ thinkin’ of that half quid I dropped over ‘White Lady’ and your lor’ship comin’ along — It gets me!”

Up to this moment of parting he had not once Lordshipped Jones.

Jones, feeling in his pocket, produced the half sovereign, which, with five pounds one and nine pence made up his worldly wealth at the moment.

He handed it over, and the tramp spat on it for luck.

Then they parted, and the fugitive resumed his way with a lighter pocket but a somewhat lighter heart.

There are people who increase and people who reduce one’s energy, it is sometimes enough to look at them without even talking to them. The tramp belonged to the former class. He had cheered Jones. There was nothing particularly cheery in his conversation, all the same the effect had been produced.

Now, along the cliff road and coming from the direction of Northbourne a black speck developed, resolving itself at last into the form of an old man carrying a basket. The basket was filled with apples and Banbury cakes. Jones bought eight Banbury cakes and two apples with his one and nine pence, and then took his seat on the warm turf by the way to devour them. He lay on his side as he ate and cursed Hoover.

To lie here for an hour on this idyllic day, to watch the white gulls flying, to listen to the whisper of the sea far below, what could be better than that? He determined if ever he should win freedom and money to return here for a holiday.

He was thinking this, when, raised now on his elbow, he saw something moving amongst the bushes and long grass of the waste lands bordering the cliff road.

It was a man, a man on all fours, yet moving swiftly, a sight natural enough in the deer-stalking Highlands, but uncanny on these Wessex downs.

Jones leaving four Banbury cakes uneaten on the grass, sprang to his feet, so did the crawling one.

Then the race began.

The pursuer was handicapped.

Any two sides of a triangle are longer than the third. A right line towards Jones would save many yards, but the going would be bad on account of the brambles and bushes, a straight line to the road would lengthen the distance to be covered, but would give a much better course when the road was reached. He chose the latter.

The result was, that when the race really started the pursuer was nearly half a mile to the bad. But he had not recently consumed four Banbury cakes and two apples. Super-Banbury cakes of the dear old days, when margarine was ninepence a pound, flour unlimited, and currants unsought after by the wealthy.

Jones had not run for years. And in this connection it is quite surprising how Society pursues a man once he gets over the barrier — and especially when he has to run for his liberty.

The first mile was bad, then he got his second wind handed to him, despite everything, by a fair constitution and a fairly respectable life, but the pursuer was now only a quarter of a mile behind. Up to this the course had been clear with no spectators, but now came along from the direction of Northbourne an invalid on the arm of an attendant, and behind them a boy on a bicycle. The bicycle was an inspiration.

It was also yellow painted, and bore a carrier in front blazoned with the name of a Northbourne Italian Warehouseman. It contained parcels, evidently intended for one of the few bungalows that strewed the cliff.

The boy fought to defend his master’s property, briefly, but still he fought, till a happy stroke in the wind laid him on the sun-warmed turf. The screams of the invalid — it was a female — sounded in the ears of Jones like part of some fantastic dream, so seemed the bicycle. It had no bell, the saddle wanted raising at least two inches, still it went, and the wind was behind.

On the right was a sheer drop of two hundred feet, and the road here skirted the cliff edge murderously close, for the simple reason that cliff falls had eaten the bordering grass to within a few feet of the road. This course on an unknown and questionable bicycle laden with parcels of tea and sugar, was open to a good many objections; they did not occur to Jones; he was making good speed, or thought he was till the long declivity leading to Northbourne was reached. Here he began to know what speed really was, for he found on pressing the lever that the brake would not act. Fortunately it was a free wheel.

This declivity runs between detached villas and stone walls, sheltering prim gardens, right on to the west end of the esplanade, which is, in fact, a continuation of it. For the first few hundred yards Jones thought that nothing could go quicker than the houses and walls rushing past him, towards the end he was not thinking.

The esplanade opened out, a happy band of children with buckets and wooden spades, returning home to tea, opened out, gave place to rushing apartment houses with green balconies on the left, rushing sea scape and bathing machines on the right. Then the speed slackened.

He got off shaking, and looked behind him. He had reached the east end of the promenade. It lay, as it always lies towards five o’clock, absolutely deserted by visitors. In the distance and just stepped out of a newspaper kiosk a woman was standing, shading her eyes and looking towards him. Two boatmen near her were looking in the same direction. They did not seem excited, just mildly interested.

At that moment appeared on the long slope leading down to the esplanade the figure of a man running. He looked like a policeman — a sea-side policeman.

Jones did not pause to verify. He propped the bicycle against the rails of a verandahed house and ran.

The esplanade at this, the eastern end, ascends to the town by a zig-zag road. As he took this ascent the mind of Jones, far from being clouded or dulled, was acutely active. It saw that now the railway station of Northbourne was out of count, flight by train was impossible, for the station was the very first place that would be watched. The coast line, to judge by present results, was impossible, for it seemed that to keep to it he might go on for ever being chased till he reached John o’ Groats.

Northbourne is the twin image of Sandbourne-on-Sea, the same long high street, the same shops with blinds selling the same wares, the same trippers, children with spades, and invalids.

The two towns are rivals, each claiming the biggest brass band, the longest esplanade, the fewer deaths from drowning, the best drains, the most sunlight, and the swiftest trains from London. Needless to say that one of them is not speaking the truth, a fact that does not seem to disturb either of them in the least.

Jones, walking swiftly, passed a sea-side boot shop, a butcher’s, greengrocer’s, and Italian warehouse — the same, to judge by the name over the door — that had sent forth the messenger boy on the bicycle. Then came a cinema palace, with huge pictures splashed across with yellow bands announcing:

“TO-NIGHT”

Then a milliner’s, then a post office, and lastly a livery stable.

In front of the latter stood a char-a-banc nearly full. A blackboard announced in white chalk: “Two hours drive two shillings,” and the congregation in the char-a-banc had that stamp. Stout women, children, a weedy man or two, and a honeymoon couple.

Jones, without the slightest hesitation, climbed into the char-a-banc. It seemed sent by Heaven. It was a seat, it went somewhere, and it was a hiding place. Seated amongst these people he felt intuitively that a viewless barrier lay between him and his pursuers, that it was the very last place a man in search of a runaway would glance at.

He was right. Whilst the char-a-banc still lingered on the chance of a last customer, the running policeman — he was walking now, appeared at the sea end of the street. He was a young man with a face like an apple, he wore a straw helmet—Northbourne serves out straw helmets for its police and straw hats for its horses on the first of June each year — and he seemed blown. He was looking about him from right to left, but he never looked once at the char-a-banc and its contents. He went on, and round the corner of the street he vanished, still looking about him.

A few moments later the vehicle started. The contents were cheerful and communicative one with the other, conversing freely on all sorts of matters, and Jones, listening despite himself, gathered all sorts of information on subjects ranging from the pictures then exhibiting at the cinema palace, to the price of butter.

He discovered that the contents consisted of three family parties — exclusive of the honeymoon couple — and that the appearance of universal fraternity was deceptive, that the parties were exclusive, the conversation of each being confined to its own members.

So occupied was his mind by these facts that they were a mile and a half away from Northbourne and in the depths of the country before a great doubt seized him.

He called across the heads of the others to the driver asking where they were going to.

“Sandbourne-on-Sea,” said the driver.

Now, though the Sandbournites hate the Northbournites as the Guelphs the Ghibellines, though the two towns are at advertisemental war, the favourite pleasure drive of the char-a-bancs of Sandbourne is to Northbourne, and vice versa. It is chosen simply because the road is the best thereabouts, and the gradients the easiest for the horses.

“Sandbourne-on-Sea?” cried Jones.

“Yes,” said the driver.

The vision of himself being carted back to Sandbourne-on-Sea with that crowd and then back again to Northbourne — if he were not caught — appeared to Jones for the moment as the last possible grimace of Fate. He struggled to get out, calling to the driver that he did not want to go to Sandbourne. The vehicle stopped, and the driver demanded the full fare — two shillings. Jones produced one of his sovereigns but the man could not make change, neither could any of the passengers.

“I’ll call at the livery stables as I go back,” said Jones, “and pay them there.”

“Where are you stayin’ in the town?” asked the driver.

“Belinda Villa,” said Jones.

It was the name of the villa against whose rails he had left the bicycle. The idiocy of the title had struck him vaguely at the moment and the impression had remained.

“Mrs. Cass?”

“Yes.”

“Mrs. Cass’s empty.”

This unfortunate condition of Mrs. Cass did not floor Jones.

“She was yesterday,” said he, “but I have taken the front parlour and a bed-room this afternoon.”

“That’s true,” said a fat woman, “I saw the gentleman go in with his luggage.”

In any congregation of people you will always find a liar ready to lie for fun, or the excitement of having a part in the business on hand; failing that, a person equipped with an imagination that sees what it pleases.

This amazing statement of the fat woman almost took Jones’ breath away. But there are other people in a crowd beside liars.

“Why can’t the gentleman leave the sovereign with the driver and get the change in the morning?” asked one of the weedy looking men. This scarecrow had not said a word to anyone during the drive. He seemed born of mischance to live for that supreme moment, diminish an honest man’s ways of escape, and wither.

Jones withered him:

“You shut up,” said he. “It’s no affair of yours — cheek.” Then to the driver: “You know my address, if you don’t trust me you can come back with me and get change.”

Then he turned and walked off whilst the vehicle drove on.

He waited till a bend of the road hid it from view, and then he took to the fields on the left.

He had still the remains of the packet of cigarettes he had bought at Sandbourne, and, having crossed four or five gates, he took his seat under a hedge and lit a cigarette.

He was hungry. He had done a lot of work on four Banbury cakes and an apple.

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SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.

RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

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