Sea Fog - J.S. Fletcher - ebook
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This is a mysterious story that is full of turns. Young Tom goes from work to the grocery store to find something interesting. Soon he meets an elderly gentleman who is looking for a mill somewhere in the countryside. Tom spends the night on the top floor of the mill and finds the dead man the next morning. This is just the beginning for Tom, who is in the middle of the action.

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Liczba stron: 350

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Contents

CHAPTER ONE. THE MAN WHO ASKED HIS WAY

CHAPTER TWO. THE SECOND MAN

CHAPTER THREE. THE CAPTAIN AND THE SERGEANT

CHAPTER FOUR. SUB JUDICE

CHAPTER FIVE. NAME OF KEST

CHAPTER SIX. UNDER EXAMINATION

CHAPTER SEVEN. THE CLAMPED CHEST

CHAPTER EIGHT. COMPLEX

CHAPTER NINE. THE DITTY-BOX

CHAPTER TEN. THE HILL-SIDE—MIDNIGHT

CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE LOCK-UP SHED

CHAPTER TWELVE. THE DEAD MAN’S SAFE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN. SUSPECT

CHAPTER FOURTEEN. THE MAN WHO BOUGHT FOOD

CHAPTER FIFTEEN. BLACK MILL BOTTOM

CHAPTER SIXTEEN. MACPHERSON

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. THE CHINA SEAS

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. DITTY-BOX AND ’BACCA-BOX

CHAPTER NINETEEN. DETECTIVE-SERGEANT PARKAPPLE

CHAPTER TWENTY. THE THATCHED ROOF

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE. RECOGNITION

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. THE LIGHT IN THE MILL

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE. THE REGISTERED PACKET

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR. THE UNCUT DIAMOND

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE. THE PACKAGE OF COCOA

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX. THE SILK NECKERCHIEF

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN. THE BILLIARD-ROOM

CHAPTER ONE. THE MAN WHO ASKED HIS WAY

I’ll say at once that Mr. Andrew Macpherson, the Scotch grocer of Horsham, from whose shop I walked out to a glorious and unexpected wildness of liberty and adventure the morning on which this story properly begins, was a man in a thousand, for it was he who, at his own suggestion, threw wide the door of what I had come to consider a prison-house, and cheered me on my way with a word and a smile, instead of helping me across its threshold with a hearty kick.

Most other men would have considered me deserving of that kick; five out of six might have given it. For Mr. Macpherson had been a fine friend to me; he took me to his hearth when I was left a defenceless orphan lad of ten years old; he gave me a good schooling; he tried to teach me his own business. I picked up the schooling readily enough, but not the grocery trade; the buying and selling of that stuff made no appeal to my nature. And on the particular morning I speak of, Mr. Macpherson himself reluctantly arrived at the same conclusion. I forget what I had been doing; maybe I had mixed green with black in undue proportions, or sent the parcels to the wrong places; but anyway, the good man looked at me with a sorrowful shake of his head, and let out a heavy sigh.

“Man Tom,” said he, “I’m thinking ye’ll never do any good at the grocery! It’s a peety, but ye’ve no intellectual inclination to it!”

“I’ve been thinking that a long time myself, Mr. Macpherson,” I answered him. “It’s not my line; I don’t like it. And I’d have said so before, but for the fear of hurting your feelings.”

“Aweel!” he said, with another sigh. “Ye’re eighteen years of age, my lad, and I’m not the sort to stand in any young fellow’s way. What is it ye want to do, Tom?”

“Mr. Macpherson,” said I boldly, “I don’t want to be fastened up in a shop! There’s times when I can’t breathe! I want space!”

“Ye’ll be for going out and seeing the world?” he suggested. “Aye!–it’s in yer blood, my man! And where would you be for setting your face, now?”

“Anywhere there’s ships and sailors, and the sight and smell of the sea, Mr. Macpherson,” I told him. “Portsmouth–Southampton–Plymouth–any place the like of them! I want adventure!”

There was more said between us, much more; all kindly and sympathetic on his part. And the end of it was that within an hour I was in my best clothes, a bag in my hand, and ten pounds in my pockets, standing in the street–free! There was Macpherson’s blessing in my ear, and the grip of his big hand was warm on mine, but I never as much as looked back at the shop. That life was over.

It was a beautiful May morning. There was the sharp zest of the new springtide in the air and the smell of flowers in the streets; above the old roofs and chimneys there was a wondrous blue sky, and for one who had just emerged from the gloom of an ill-lighted shop the blaze of the sun was like an illumination from heaven. It was the sunlight more than anything that made me suddenly change my direction. I had taken my first steps of liberty towards the railway, intending to travel in that fashion to Portsmouth. But the sun, and the spring air, and the smell of growing things, reminded me that I owned an unusually strong pair of legs–why ride in a stinking railway carriage when I could foot it, at my own pace, across the hills and downs of Sussex?

I turned sharp in Carfax, and instead of going north, went away across the stream by the old church, and, choosing footpaths rather than highways, made boldly for the open country to the south.

Already I had a very definite notion of what I was going to do. I would strike for Portsmouth, by way of the South Downs, taking my time and looking about me. If I found nothing that appealed to me at Portsmouth, I would go on to Southampton by way of the coast. I was well prepared for a journey of that sort. Eight of the sovereigns with which Mr. Macpherson had presented me (for this was in the days when we were as familiar with gold as we now are with paper) were safely stowed away in a leather belt worn under my shirt; another was hidden in a waistcoat pocket; the tenth, changed into silver in the shop as I left it, lay in my trousers. And I had not lived with and been brought up by Mr. Andrew Macpherson all these years for nothing!–it was my intention to look well at and think long over every sixpence of my silver before parting with it. I had no fear of travelling expenses; Macpherson himself had shoved into my bag enough eatables to last me all that day and most of the next, and I was one of those lads who have no taste for cheap cigarettes or for drink. I reckoned as I walked along that I should have made small inroad on my silver by the time I reached Portsmouth; as for breaking into the gold in my belt, I took that to be a necessity which I meant never to acknowledge. It was my ambition, or, rather, my firm resolve, to present myself in a year or two to Mr. Macpherson once more, in the proud position of being able to show him that his one-time mouse had been metamorphosed into a man.

I went along all that day, my bag slung over my shoulders, through the Sussex villages, taking my time, rejoicing in my liberty, breathing the good air that increased in savour and quality the nearer I drew to the downs and to what I knew lay beyond their swelling outlines–the bright waters of the English Channel. But I was not to see those waters that day. By the end of the afternoon I had come to Petworth, at a distance of fifteen miles from Horsham, and, stout as my legs were, I was beginning, as they say, to know that I had feet at the end of them. That place, Petworth, had its charm, and, chancing on a little shop kept by a widow-woman whereat you could get a cup of tea, I turned in, and, finding the owner a motherly and come-at-able person, bargained with her for my supper and my bed and my breakfast next morning, all for two shillings.

It was still but the middle of the evening when I had eaten my supper, and the light being good, I went out to see the place, and it was while I hung around the old church, wondering at its queerness, and, as I thought, its ugliness, all the stranger because of the picturesqueness and charm of its surroundings, that a man came up and asked me, without preface, if I was well acquainted with that quarter of the country.

Having acquired a good deal of caution during my tutelage under Andrew Macpherson, I took a precise observation of this man before replying to him. He was a middle-aged man by appearance; a good fifty, no doubt, and already grizzled in hair and beard; a man, I fancied, who had lived much under strong winds and fierce suns. What with his brown skin and his blue cloth, and a rolling gait that he showed as he made up to me, I set him down as a seafarer. That inclined me to him, and I spoke, though, to be sure, it was but one word.

“No!”

“Stranger, then–like me?” he asked.

I nodded. Mr. Macpherson had taught me never to waste tongue-power when a gesture would serve the purpose. But the man persisted.

“Just so!” said he. “And which way are you from, now–did you come in here from north or south or east or west, young fellow?” Then, seeing my distaste, he went on hurriedly: “No offence, my lad, and no foolish curiosity!–I’ve a reason for asking. The fact is, I’m searching for something, and, d’ye see, you may ha’ seen it, in which case–”

“What are you looking for?” I asked abruptly.

Before answering, he drew out a brass tobacco-box, on the lid of which I noticed a curious design, and, taking a plug of tobacco from it, cut himself a quid with a clasp-knife, and stowed it away in his left cheek. It was not until he had put box and knife away again that he answered my question.

“To be sure!” said he. “That’s nat’ral! You couldn’t tell me anything if I didn’t tell you something. Very well!”–here he paused and looked about him, suspiciously, as if there might be listeners amongst the old tombs and yew-trees around us–“very well, I’ll tell you! A mill!”

I dare say I looked at him as if I suspected his sanity, for he shook his head.

“Queer, no doubt, young fellow,” he said hastily. “Queer you think it, and maybe queer it is! But–a mill! Not one of these here new-fangled mills, all steam and machinery; nor yet a water-mill. A windmill, d’ye see?–that’s my object!”

“There are a good many windmills in Sussex,” I remarked. “I’ve seen a fair lot myself, here and there.”

“That’s the devil of it!” said he eagerly. “It’s which of ’em is which! However, this here is like that game the children play, when one hides some little thing, a thimble or what not, and t’others seek for it, and him what’s hid it tells ’em if they’re hot or cold, according as they get nearer or farther. I reckon I’m getting hotter, for you say you’ve seen many mills hereabouts–windmills! Now, have you ever seen, do you know of, a windmill, very old, unused, what stands, all by itself, on top of a lonely down?”

“No!” said I.

He let out a heavy sigh, as if very seriously disappointed; but in the next moment his face became brighter again, and the old, eager look came back.

“Just so–exactly–you haven’t!” he said. “But, to be sure, you admit you’re a stranger, and what you mean is that you know such mills in your parts, and there ain’t such a mill as that I’m a-describing of. Now, without offence, what might your part be?”

“Horsham!” I answered.

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