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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XXX. The Rescue Expedition
|Page 3 of 6||
"I don't want to raise any false hopes," said Widgery. "But I do NOT believe they even came to Chichester. Dangle's a very clever fellow, of course, but sometimes these Inferences of his--"
"Tchak!" said Phipps, suddenly.
"What is it?" said Mrs. Milton.
"Something I've forgotten. I went right out from here, went to every other hotel in the place, and never thought--But never mind. I'll ask when the waiter comes."
"You don't mean--" A tap, and the door opened. "Tea, m'm? yes, m'm," said the waiter.
"One minute," said Phipps. "Was a lady in grey, a cycling lady--"
"Stopped here yesterday? Yessir. Stopped the night. With her brother, sir--a young gent."
"Brother!" said Mrs. Milton, in a low tone. "Thank God!"
The waiter glanced at her and understood everything. "A young gent, sir," he said, "very free with his money. Give the name of Beaumont." He proceeded to some rambling particulars, and was cross-examined by Widgery on the plans of the young couple.
"Havant! Where's Havant?" said Phipps. "I seem to remember it somewhere."
"Was the man tall?" said Mrs. Milton, intently, "distinguished looking? with a long, flaxen moustache? and spoke with a drawl?"
"Well," said the waiter, and thought. "His moustache, m'm, was scarcely long--scrubby more, and young looking."
"About thirty-five, he was?"
"No, m'm. More like five and twenty. Not that."
"Dear me!" said Mrs. Milton, speaking in a curious, hollow voice, fumbling for her salts, and showing the finest self-control. "It must have been her YOUNGER brother--must have been."
"That will do, thank you," said Widgery, officiously, feeling that she would be easier under this new surprise if the man were dismissed. The waiter turned to go, and almost collided with Dangle, who was entering the room, panting excitedly and with a pocket handkerchief held to his right eye. "Hullo!" said dangle. "What's up?"
"What's up with YOU?" said Phipps.
"Nothing--an altercation merely with that drunken ostler of yours. He thought it was a plot to annoy him--that the Young Lady in Grey was mythical. Judged from your manner. I've got a piece of raw meat to keep over it. You have some news, I see?"
"Did the man hit you?" asked Widgery.
Mrs. Milton rose and approached Dangle. "Cannot I do anything?"
Dangle was heroic. "Only tell me your news," he said, round the corner of the handkerchief.
"It was in this way," said Phipps, and explained rather sheepishly. While he was doing so, with a running fire of commentary from Widgery, the waiter brought in a tray of tea. "A time table," said Dangle, promptly, "for Havant." Mrs. Milton poured two cups, and Phipps and Dangle partook in passover form. They caught the train by a hair's breadth. So to Havant and inquiries.
Dangle was puffed up to find that his guess of Havant was right. In view of the fact that beyond Havant the Southampton road has a steep hill continuously on the right-hand side, and the sea on the left, he hit upon a magnificent scheme for heading the young folks off. He and Mrs. Milton would go to Fareham, Widgery and Phipps should alight one each at the intermediate stations of Cosham and Porchester, and come on by the next train if they had no news. If they did not come on, a wire to the Fareham post office was to explain why. It was Napoleonic, and more than consoled Dangle for the open derision of the Havant street boys at the handkerchief which still protected his damaged eye.
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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