the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably

time:2023-12-07 04:26:23 source:Stately net author:theory

I sat down on a chair and laboured to collect my thoughts. Laputa had gone, and would return sooner or later with Henriques. If I was to remain alive till morning, both of them must be convinced that I was harmless. Laputa was probably of that opinion, but Henriques would recognize me, and I had no wish to have that yellow miscreant investigating my character. There was only one way out of it - I must be incapably drunk. There was not a drop of liquor in the store, but I found an old whisky bottle half full of methylated spirits. With this I thought I might raise an atmosphere of bad whisky, and for the rest I must trust to my meagre gifts as an actor.

the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably

Supposing I escaped suspicion, Laputa and Henriques would meet in the outhouse, and I must find some means of overhearing them. Here I was fairly baffled. There was no window in the outhouse save in the roof, and they were sure to shut and bolt the door. I might conceal myself among the barrels inside; but apart from the fact that they were likely to search them before beginning their conference, it was quite certain that they would satisfy themselves that I was safe in the other end of the building before going to the outhouse.

the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably

Suddenly I thought of the cellar which we had built below the store. There was an entrance by a trap-door behind the counter, and another in the outhouse. I had forgotten the details, but my hope was that the second was among the barrels. I shut the outer door, prised up the trap, and dropped into the vault, which had been floored roughly with green bricks. Lighting match after match, I crawled to the other end and tried to lift the door. It would not stir, so I guessed that the barrels were on the top of it. Back to the outhouse I went, and found that sure enough a heavy packing-case was standing on a corner. I fixed it slightly open, so as to let me hear, and so arranged the odds and ends round about it that no one looking from the floor of the outhouse would guess at its existence. It occurred to me that the conspirators would want seats, so I placed two cases at the edge of the heap, that they might not be tempted to forage in the interior.

the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably

This done, I went back to the store and proceeded to rig myself out for my part. The cellar had made me pretty dirty, and I added some new daubs to my face. My hair had grown longish, and I ran my hands through it till it stood up like a cockatoo's crest. Then I cunningly disposed the methylated spirits in the places most likely to smell. I burned a little on the floor, I spilt some on the counter and on my hands, and I let it dribble over my coat. In five minutes I had made the room stink like a shebeen. I loosened the collar of my shirt, and when I looked at myself in the cover of my watch I saw a specimen of debauchery which would have done credit to a Saturday night's police cell.

By this time the sun had gone down, but I thought it better to kindle no light. It was the night of the full moon - for which reason, I supposed, Laputa had selected it - and in an hour or two the world would be lit with that ghostly radiance. I sat on the counter while the minutes passed, and I confess I found the time of waiting very trying for my courage. I had got over my worst nervousness by having something to do, but whenever I was idle my fears returned. Laputa had a big night's work before him, and must begin soon. My vigil, I told myself, could not be long.

My pony was stalled in a rough shed we had built opposite the store. I could hear him shaking his head and stamping the ground above the croaking of the frogs by the Labongo. Presently it seemed to me that another sound came from behind the store - the sound of horses' feet and the rattle of bridles. It was hushed for a moment, and then I heard human voices. The riders had tied up their horses to a tree and were coming nearer.

I sprawled gracefully on the counter, the empty bottle in my hand, and my eyes fixed anxiously on the square of the door, which was filled with the blue glimmer of the late twilight. The square darkened, and two men peered in. Colin growled from below the counter, but with one hand I held the scruff of his neck.

'Hullo,' I said, 'ish that my black friend? Awfly shorry, old man, but I've f'nish'd th' whisky. The bo-o-ottle shempty,' and I waved it upside down with an imbecile giggle.


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