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People of Position   By: (1877-1914)

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[Illustration: LALAGE]




Author of "Little Brown Brother," "End of the Road," etc.

With a Frontispiece by H. RICHARD BOEHM







Grierson refilled the magazine of his rifle carefully when you are dealing with South American patriots it is better to take no chances, even though the enemy has retreated then he wiped a couple of half dried blood spots off his cheek, and, after that, went over to where lay the body of the man from whom that same blood had spurted.

For a full minute he stood very still, gazing with sombre eyes at the kindly face which seemed to be smiling back at him even in death; then he knelt down, and, with infinite gentleness, smoothed the ruffled hair, arranged the collar so as to hide the bullet hole in the bronzed throat, and crossed the hands on the breast. When he got up again his face was twitching strangely, seeing which, the American officer, who had come up behind him, suddenly became busy with his men.

It was one of those stories which seldom get into the newspapers, possibly because they are so utterly unimportant in themselves a ragged band of half breeds robbing and murdering in the name of liberty; a landing party of marines from the nearest warship, which happened to be American; and a futile little fight ending, as usual, in the defeat of the brigands. Only this time, an Englishman, who had gone out with the marines, had been killed; and now Grierson, his friend, was trying to realise the fact.

"He was awfully good to me, the whitest man that ever stepped. I met him down the coast a year ago my luck was right out and he brought me along with him. I hadn't had a proper meal for days, much less a smoke, and he'd only my word for who I was. Yet he risked it, and I've been here ever since." Grierson, who had been walking in silence beside the marine officer, spoke suddenly.

The American nodded sympathetically. "It was hard luck to be killed by a rotten Dago outfit like that. Whenever you get a coloured man talking about liberty you know he's just prospecting round for a chance to break the Eighth Commandment."

Grierson muttered a curse; then, as if he wanted to confide in someone, possibly as a relief to his own feelings, "His partner will be here in a week's time; he was on his way already. When he comes I shall clear out and go home."

Captain Harben nodded again. "Meaning England?" he asked.

"Yes, England London. I've had ten years knocking about the world China, India, Australia, and all round this forsaken continent; and the sum total of what I've got to show for it is the fever and a couple of knife scars in my back patriots again, one Hindu, one Peruvian. So I think I had better go home and begin afresh if I can." And he gave a bitter little laugh.

The American glanced sharply at the tall, thin figure and haggard face. When they had started out that morning to drive the saviours of their country out of the spirit stores they were looting, Grierson had struck him as a keen youngster with a rather infectious laugh, and his appreciation had been increased by the way in which the other had dropped a running insurgent at four hundred yards' range; now, however, the captain found himself wondering whether, after all, it was not too late for his companion to talk of beginning life afresh.

At dinner that night he expressed his doubts to the Consul, who shook his head. "Locke, the man they killed to day, told me young Grierson had been through a pretty rough time, touched rock bottom. He was going into the British Army, but had to throw it up, and went out to the Orient for some Company which failed soon after, leaving him stranded. Since then everything he had been in has turned out wrong; and now this has gone.... Queer how some men do get the cards dealt them that way.... He's clever, writes very well, and might have done something at it... Continue reading book >>

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