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|The Club of Queer Trades||Gilbert K. Chesterton|
The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown
|Page 6 of 15||
"For heaven's sake," he said, "don't mention jackals."
Then he threw open the door, releasing a burst of red lamplight, and ran downstairs with a clatter.
The Major stepped into a rich, glowing room, full of red copper, and peacock and purple hangings, hat in hand. He had the finest manners in the world, and, though mystified, was not in the least embarrassed to see that the only occupant was a lady, sitting by the window, looking out.
"Madam," he said, bowing simply, "I am Major Brown."
"Sit down," said the lady; but she did not turn her head.
She was a graceful, green-clad figure, with fiery red hair and a flavour of Bedford Park. "You have come, I suppose," she said mournfully, "to tax me about the hateful title-deeds."
"I have come, madam," he said, "to know what is the matter. To know why my name is written across your garden. Not amicably either."
He spoke grimly, for the thing had hit him. It is impossible to describe the effect produced on the mind by that quiet and sunny garden scene, the frame for a stunning and brutal personality. The evening air was still, and the grass was golden in the place where the little flowers he studied cried to heaven for his blood.
"You know I must not turn round," said the lady; "every afternoon till the stroke of six I must keep my face turned to the street."
Some queer and unusual inspiration made the prosaic soldier resolute to accept these outrageous riddles without surprise.
"It is almost six," he said; and even as he spoke the barbaric copper clock upon the wall clanged the first stroke of the hour. At the sixth the lady sprang up and turned on the Major one of the queerest and yet most attractive faces he had ever seen in his life; open, and yet tantalising, the face of an elf.
"That makes the third year I have waited," she cried. "This is an anniversary. The waiting almost makes one wish the frightful thing would happen once and for all."
And even as she spoke, a sudden rending cry broke the stillness. From low down on the pavement of the dim street (it was already twilight) a voice cried out with a raucous and merciless distinctness:
"Major Brown, Major Brown, where does the jackal dwell?"
Brown was decisive and silent in action. He strode to the front door and looked out. There was no sign of life in the blue gloaming of the street, where one or two lamps were beginning to light their lemon sparks. On returning, he found the lady in green trembling.
"It is the end," she cried, with shaking lips; "it may be death for both of us. Whenever--"
But even as she spoke her speech was cloven by another hoarse proclamation from the dark street, again horribly articulate.
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|The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton
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