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Peccavi   By: (1866-1921)

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PECCAVI

BY E. W. HORNUNG

AUTHOR OF "THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN," "MY LORD DUKE," "YOUNG BLOOD," ETC.

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS NEW YORK 1901

COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

All rights reserved

THE CAXTON PRESS NEW YORK.

CONTENTS

Chapter Page I. Dust to Dust 1 II. The Chief Mourner 11 III. A Confession 18 IV. Midsummer Night 29 V. The Man Alone 45 VI. Fire 51 VII. The Sinner's Prayer 66 VIII. The Lord of the Manor 77 IX. A Duel Begins 89 X. The Letter of the Law 100 XI. Labour of Hercules 115 XII. A Fresh Discovery 125 XIII. Devices of a Castaway 131 XIV. The Last Resort 137 XV. His Own Lawyer 150 XVI. End of the Duel 162 XVII. Three Weeks and a Night 186 XVIII. The Night's Work 193 XIX. The First Winter 209 XX. The Way of Peace 230 XXI. At the Flint House 249 XXII. A Little Child 262 XXIII. Design and Accident 275 XXIV. Glamour and Rue 291 XXV. Signs of Change 306 XXVI. A Very Few Words 316 XXVII. An Escape 323 XXVIII. The Turning Tide 335 XXIX. A Haven of Hearts 348 XXX. The Woman's Hour 362 XXXI. Advent Eve 378 XXXII. The Second Time 390 XXXIII. Sanctuary 397

PECCAVI

I

DUST TO DUST

Long Stow church lay hidden for the summer amid a million leaves. It had neither tower nor steeple to show above the trees; nor was the scaffolding between nave and chancel an earnest of one or the other to come. It was a simple little church, of no antiquity and few exterior pretensions, and the alterations it was undergoing were of a very practical character. A sandstone upstart in a countryside of flint, it stood aloof from the road, on a green knoll now yellow with buttercups, and shaded all day long by horse chestnuts and elms. The church formed the eastern extremity of the village of Long Stow.

It was Midsummer Day, and a Saturday, and the middle of the Saturday afternoon. So all the village was there, though from the road one saw only the idle group about the gate, and on the old flint wall a row of children commanded by the schoolmaster to "keep outside." Pinafores pressed against the coping, stockinged legs dangling, fidgety hob nails kicking stray sparks from the flint; anticipation at the gate, fascination on the wall, law and order on the path in the schoolmaster's person; and in the cool green shade hard by, a couple of planks, a crumbling hillock, an open grave.

Near his handiwork hovered the sexton, a wizened being, twisted with rheumatism, leaning on his spade, and grinning as usual over the stupendous hallucination of his latter years. He had swallowed a rudimentary frog with some impure water. This frog had reached maturity in the sexton's body. Many believed it. The man himself could hear it croaking in his breast, where it commanded the pass to his stomach, and intercepted every morsel that he swallowed. Certainly the sexton was very lean, if not starving to death quite as fast as he declared; for he had become a tiresome egotist on the point, who, even now, must hobble to the schoolmaster with the last report of his unique ailment... Continue reading book >>




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