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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XXX. The Rescue Expedition
|Page 2 of 6||
"The museum. Very well. And after that there's a little thing or two I've thought of myself," said Widgery.
To begin with they took Mrs. Milton in a kind of procession to the Red Hotel and established her there with some tea. "You are so kind to me," she said. "All of you." They signified that it was nothing, and dispersed to their inquiries. By six they returned, their zeal a little damped, without news. Widgery came back with Dangle. Phipps was the last to return. "You're quite sure," said Widgery, that there isn't any flaw in that inference of yours?"
"Quite," said Dangle, rather shortly.
"Of course," said Widgery, "their starting from Midhurst on the Chichester road doesn't absolutely bind them not to change their minds."
"My dear fellow!--It does. Really it does. You must allow me to have enough intelligence to think of cross-roads. Really you must. There aren't any cross-roads to tempt them. Would they turn aside here? No. Would they turn there? Many more things are inevitable than you fancy."
"We shall see at once," said Widgery, at the window. "Here comes Phipps. For my own part--"
"Phipps!" said Mrs. Milton. "Is he hurrying? Does he look--" She rose in her eagerness, biting her trembling lip, and went towards the window.
"No news," said Phipps, entering.
"Ah!" said Widgery.
"None?" said Dangle.
"Well," said Phipps. "One fellow had got hold of a queer story of a man in bicycling clothes, who was asking the same question about this time yesterday."
"What question?" said Mrs. Milton, in the shadow of the window. She spoke in a low voice, almost a whisper.
"Why--Have you seen a young lady in a grey bicycling costume?"
Dangle caught at his lower lip. "What's that?" he said. "Yesterday! A man asking after her then! What can THAT mean?"
"Heaven knows," said Phipps, sitting down wearily. "You'd better infer."
"What kind of man?" said Dangle.
"How should I know?--in bicycling costume, the fellow said."
"But what height?--What complexion?"
"Didn't ask," said Phipps. "DIDN'T ASK! Nonsense," said Dangle.
"Ask him yourself," said Phipps. "He's an ostler chap in the White Hart,--short, thick-set fellow, with a red face and a crusty manner. Leaning up against the stable door. Smells of whiskey. Go and ask him."
"Of course," said Dangle, taking his straw hat from the shade over the stuffed bird on the chiffonier and turning towards the door. "I might have known."
Phipps' mouth opened and shut.
"You're tired, I'm sure, Mr. Phipps," said the lady, soothingly. "Let me ring for some tea for you." It suddenly occurred to Phipps that he had lapsed a little from his chivalry. "I was a little annoyed at the way he rushed me to do all this business," he said. "But I'd do a hundred times as much if it would bring you any nearer to her." Pause. "I WOULD like a little tea."
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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