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The Bronze Bell   By: (1879-1933)

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First Page:

THE BRONZE BELL

By LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE

1909

To

F. E. Z.

Chatelaine of Juniper Lodge

This story is dedicated by one to whom her hospitality, transplanted from its Kentucky home, will ever remain a charming memory.

[Illustration: "NOT ONCE DID HE LOOK BACK WHILE AMBER WATCHED HIMSELF DIVIDED BETWEEN AMUSEMENT, ANNOYANCE, AND ASTONISHMENT" (PAGE 14)]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I DESTINY AND THE BABU

II THE GIRL AND THE TOKEN

III MAROONED

IV THE MAN PERDU

V THE GOBLIN NIGHT

VI RED DAWN

VII MASKS AND FACES

VIII FIRST STEPS

IX PINK SATIN

X MAHARANA OF KHANDAWAR

XI THE TONGA

XII THE LONG DAY

XIII THE PHOTOGRAPH

XIV OVER THE WATER

XV FROM A HIGH PLACE

XVI SUNRISE FOR TWO

XVII THE WAY TO KATHIAPUR

XVIII THE HOODED DEATH

XIX RUTTON'S DAUGHTER

XX A LATER DAY

XXI THE FINAL INCARNATION

CHAPTER I

DESTINY AND THE BABU

Breaking suddenly upon the steady drumming of the trucks, the prolonged and husky roar of a locomotive whistle saluted an immediate grade crossing.

Roused by this sound from his solitary musings in the parlour car of which he happened temporarily to be the sole occupant, Mr. David Amber put aside the magazine over which he had been dreaming, and looked out of the window, catching a glimpse of woodland road shining white between sombre walls of stunted pine. Lazily he consulted his watch.

"It's not for nothing," he observed pensively, "that this railroad wears its reputation: we are consistently late."

His gaze, again diverted to the flying countryside, noted that it had changed character, pine yielding to scrub oak and second growth the ragged vestments of an area some years since denuded by fire. This, too, presently swung away, giving place to cleared land arable acres golden with the stubble of garnered harvests or sentinelled with unkempt shocks of corn.

In the south a shimmer of laughing gold and blue edged the faded horizon.

Eagerly the young man leaned forward, dark eyes the functions of waiting room and ticket and telegraph offices. From its eaves depended a weather worn board bearing the legend: "Nokomis."

The train, pausing only long enough to disgorge from the baggage car a trunk or two and from the day coaches a thin trickle of passengers, flung on into the wilderness, cracked bell clanking somewhat disdainfully.

By degrees the platform cleared, the erstwhile patrons of the road and the station loafers for the most part hall marked natives of the region straggling off upon their several ways, some afoot, a majority in dilapidated surreys and buckboards. Amber watched them go with unassumed indifference; their type interested him little. But in their company he presently discovered one, a figure so thoroughly foreign and aloof in attitude, that it caught his eye, and, having caught, held it clouded with perplexity.

Abruptly he abandoned his belongings and gave chase, overtaking the object of his attention at the far end of the station.

"Doggott!" he cried. "I say, Doggott!"

His hand, falling lightly upon the man's shoulder, brought him squarely about, his expression transiently startled, if not a shade truculent.

Short and broad yet compact of body, he was something round shouldered, with the stoop of those who serve. In a mask of immobility, full colored and closely shaven, his lips were thin and tight, his eyes steady, grey and shallow: a countenance neither dishonest nor repellent, but one inscrutable. Standing solidly, once halted, there remained a suggestion of alertness in the fellow's pose.

"Doggott, what the deuce brings you here? And Mr. Rutton?"

Amber's cordiality educed no response. The grey eyes, meeting eyes dark, kindly, and penetrating, flickered and fell; so much emotion they betrayed, no more, and that as disingenuous as you could wish... Continue reading book >>




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