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The Fire Trumpet A Romance of the Cape Frontier   By: (1855-1914)

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The Fire Trumpet A Romance of the Cape Frontier By Bertram Mitford Published by Spencer Blackett, London. This edition dated 1889.



"To my valued friend, Arthur Claverton, I bequeath the sum of nine thousand pounds."

He to whom this announcement was made could not repress a start of surprise. The only other occupant of the room paused and laid down the document from which he had been reading. The room was a solicitor's office.

"You hardly expected to be remembered, then?" said the latter.

"No. At least I won't say that, exactly; but nothing like to such an extent. I thought poor Spalding might have left me some trifle to remember him by his pet breechloader, or something of the kind; but, candidly, I never expected anything like this!"

"Yet you saved his life, once."

"Pooh! Nothing at all. The weather was hot, and the swim did me good. If I hadn't gone in, the nearest Jack Tar would have, and have thought nothing of it; nor do I. Poor Spalding!"

The speaker is a man of about thirty to all appearance. His face, which is a handsome and a refined one, wears a look of firmness, not unmixed with recklessness. It is the countenance of one who has seen a good deal of the world, and knows thoroughly well how to take care of himself. The other man is more than twice his age, and looks what he is every inch the comfortable, well preserved family solicitor.

"I don't know about that, Mr Claverton," answered the latter. "The story our poor friend told me was something very different. The vessel was going at thirteen knots, the night being pitch dark, and a heavy sea running. And no one saw him fall overboard but yourself."

The other laughed in a would be careless way. "Oh, well, I think you are making too much of it. But the job was a risky one, I admit, and at one time I did think we should never be picked up. And now, Mr Smythe, I'm going to ask you a question that you may think queer. First of all, you knew my poor friend intimately for a good many years?"

"I did. When first I made his acquaintance, Herbert Spalding was a little chap in Eton jackets. I've known him tolerably intimately ever since."

"Well, then, didn't it strike you that latterly he had something on his mind?"

"Yes, it did. And I happen to know he had. The old story. He was jilted; and being one of those sensitive men with a high strung nervous organisation, he took it to heart too much. I believe it shortened his life. Poor fellow."

"Well, whoever did it, has something to answer for, or would have had, at least; for, between ourselves, that time he went overboard he went of his own free will."

"I had suspected as much," said the lawyer, quietly. "That was on the voyage out, wasn't it?"

"It was. We first became acquainted on board ship, you know. He hardly spoke to any one on board till, all of a sudden, he took a violent fancy to me. We occupied the same cabin. In fact, I soon began to suspect there was a petticoat in the case, the poor chap was so down on his luck; but he didn't tell me in so many words, and it wasn't for me to pry into another fellow's private affairs. One evening I came into the cabin, and found him loading a revolver. There was nothing very astonishing in that, you know, because fellows often go in for revolver practice at sea shooting bottles from the yard arm, and all that sort of thing; but it was the way in which it was done. He hid the thing, too, when he saw me, and that looked fishy. However, I managed to get hold of it, unknown to him, and stuck it right away, and made up my mind to keep an eye on him. That very night, or rather morning, for it was in the small hours, I was awoke by something moving in the cabin. I sung out, but got no answer. Then I went over to Spalding's bunk, and, by Jove, it was empty. When a fellow has been kicked about the world as much as I have, he don't take long to think; consequently I was on deck in about a second, with precious little on but my nightshirt, and luckily so as it happened... Continue reading book >>

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