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Witching Hill   By: (1866-1921)

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First Page:

WITCHING HILL

BY E. W. HORNUNG

AUTHOR OF "RAFFLES"

HODDER AND STOUGHTON LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO

Reprinted, 1914.

[Illustration: "You won't improve his chances by keeping anything back."]

CONTENTS

UNHALLOWED GROUND

THE HOUSE WITH RED BLINDS

A VICIOUS CIRCLE

THE LOCAL COLOUR

THE ANGEL OF LIFE

UNDER ARMS

THE LOCKED ROOM

THE TEMPLE OF BACCHUS

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"YOU WON'T IMPROVE HIS CHANCES BY KEEPING ANYTHING BACK."

I SAW A BEDIZENED BEAUTY GO MAD BEFORE MY EYES.

I DROVE DELAVOYE BEFORE ME.

A HANDSOME, SINISTER CREATURE, IN A BROWN FLOWING WIG AND RAIMENT AS FINE AS ANY ON THE WALLS.

TRYING TO TUG THE FIERCE MOUSTACHE OUT OF HIS MILD FACE.

A HEAVY BLACKTHORN HELD IN MURDEROUS POISE.

HIS THIN ARMS LOCKED ROUND THE NECK OF THE YOUNG NURSE.

DELAVOYE FIRED OVER MY HEAD.

CHAPTER I

Unhallowed Ground

The Witching Hill Estate Office was as new as the Queen Anne houses it had to let, and about as worthy of its name. It was just a wooden box with a veneer of rough cast and a corrugated iron lid. Inside there was a vast of varnish on three of the walls; but the one opposite my counter consisted of plate glass worth the rest of the structure put together. It afforded a fine prospect of Witching Hill Road, from the level crossing by the station to the second lamp post round the curve.

Framed and glazed in the great window, this was not a picture calculated to inspire a very young man; and yet there was little to distract a brooding eye from its raw grass plots and crude red bricks and tiles; for one's chief duties were making out orders to view the still empty houses, hearing the complaints of established tenants, and keeping such an eye on painters and paperhangers as was compatible with "being on the spot if anybody called." An elderly or a delicate man would have found it nice light work; but for a hulking youth fresh from the breeziest school in Great Britain, where they live in flannels and only work when it is wet or dark, the post seemed death in life. My one consolation was to watch the tenants hurrying to the same train every morning, in the same silk hat and blacks, and crawling home with the same evening paper every night. I at any rate enjoyed comparatively pure air all day. I had not married and settled down in a pretentious jerry building where nothing interesting could possibly happen, and nothing worth doing be ever done. For that was one's first feeling about the Witching Hill Estate; it was a place for crabbed age and drab respectability, and a black coat every day of the week. Then young Uvo Delavoye dropped into the office from another hemisphere, in the white ducks and helmet of the tropics. And life began again.

"Are you the new clerk to the Estate?" he asked if he might ask, and I prepared myself for the usual grievance. I said I was, and he gave me his name in exchange for mine, with his number in Mulcaster Park, which was all but a continuation of Witching Hill Road. "There's an absolute hole in our lawn," he complained "and I'd just marked out a court. I do wish you could come and have a look at it."

There was room for a full size lawn tennis court behind every house on the Estate. That was one of our advertised attractions. But it was not our business to keep the courts in order, and I rather itched to say so.

"It's early days," I ventured to suggest; "there's sure to be holes at first, and I'm afraid there'll be nothing for it but just to fill them in."

"Fill them in!" cried the other young man, getting quite excited. "You don't know what a hole this is; it would take a ton of earth to fill it in."

"You're not serious, Mr. Delavoye."

"Well, it would take a couple of barrow loads. It's a regular depression in the ground, and the funny thing is that it's come almost while my back was turned... Continue reading book >>




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