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The Dark Tower   By: (1884-1963)

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Copyright, 1916, by THE CENTURY CO.

Published, September, 1916

Dauntless the slughorn to my lips I set, and blew "Child Roland to the dark tower came." Robert Browning

TO W. W. D. H.

"God forbid that I should do this thing.

If our time be come, let us die manfully for our brethren And let us not stain our honour."

I Maccabees, ix, 10.

[Illustration: "I shall never be dangerous for you, Miss Rivers," he said gently]


"I shall never be dangerous for you, Miss Rivers," he said gently

"You may have to take her as a daughter in law, though," Winn remarked without turning round from the sideboard.

In his heart there was nothing left to which he could compare her

"I don't want a chance," whispered Claire

"You've got to live," said Winn, bending grimly over him; "You've got to live!"




Winn Staines respected God, the royal family, and his regiment; but even his respect for these three things was in many ways academic: he respected nothing else.

His father, Admiral Sir Peter Staines, had never respected anything; he went to church, however, because his wife didn't. They were that kind of family.

Lady Staines had had twelve children. Seven of them died as promptly as their constitutions allowed; the five survivors, shouted at, quarreled over, and soundly thrashed, tore themselves through a violent childhood into a rackety youth. They were never vicious, for they never reflected over or considered anything that they did.

Winn got drunk occasionally, assaulted policemen frequently, and could carry a small pony under each arm. Charles and James, who were in the navy, followed in the footsteps of Sir Peter; that is to say, they explored all possible accidents on sea or ashore, and sought for a fight as if it were a mislaid crown jewel.

Dolores and Isabella had to content themselves with minor feats and to be known merely as the terrors of the neighborhood, though ultimately Dolores succeeded in making a handsome splash by running away with a prize fighting groom. She made him an excellent wife, and though Lady Staines never mentioned her name again, it was rumored that Sir Peter met her surreptitiously at Tattersall's and took her advice upon his horses.

Isabella, shocked and outraged by this sisterly mischance, married, in the face of all probability, a reluctant curate. He subsided into a family living given to him by Sir Peter, and tried to die of consumption.

Isabella took entire control of the parish, which she ruled as if it were a quarter deck. She did not use her father's language, but she inherited his voice. It rang over boys' clubs and into mothers' meetings with the penetration and volume of a megaphone.

Lady Staines heartily disliked both her daughters, and she appeared not to care very deeply for her sons, but of the three she had a decided preference for Winn. Winn had a wicked temper, an unshakable nerve, and had inherited the strength of Sir Peter's muscles and the sledge hammer weight of Lady Staines's wit. He had been expelled from his private school for unparalleled insolence to the head master; a repetition of his summing up of that gentleman's life and conduct delighted his mother, though she assisted Sir Peter in thrashing him for the result.

It may have contributed to his mother's affection for him that Winn had left England at nineteen, and had reached thirty five with only two small intervals at home.

His first leave had kept them all busy with what the Staines considered a wholly unprovoked lawsuit; a man whom Winn had most unfortunately felt it his duty to fling from a bus into the street, having the weak minded debility to break his leg had the further audacity to claim enormous damages... Continue reading book >>

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