The Missionary - George Griffiths - ebook

The Missionary ebook

George Griffiths

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In the epicenter of events, the main character and his bright faith, as well as the book he wrote. Many of the books in the collection have not been produced for decades, and therefore the writer’s book was not available to the general public. The goal of the publishing program is to facilitate quick access to this huge reservoir of literature. This is a significant literary work that deserves to return to the press in many decades.

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Liczba stron: 444

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Contents

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

EPILOGUE

PROLOGUE

“Oh–Eny!”

“Well, you needn’t be angry, Vane. I kissed you this morning, you know.”

“That’s no reason why you should kiss that chap, too! You’re my sweetheart.”

“Is she? Well, she won’t be much longer, because I’m going to have her.”

“Are you? Shut up, or I’ll punch your head.”

“You can’t–and, anyhow, you daren’t.”

Smack!

It was a good swinging blow with the open hand across the cheek, and it left a vivid flush behind it on the somewhat sallow skin.

“Oh, if you’re going to fight I shall go away, and I shan’t be friends with either of you.”

But as the two lads closed, the blue-eyed, golden-haired little beauty only shrank back a little nearer to the after-wheelhouse of the homeward bound P. and O. liner whose deck was the scene of this first act of the tragedy of three lives. A bright flush came into her cheeks, and a new light began to dance in her eyes as the first look of fright died out of them. The breath came and went more quickly between the half-opened lips with a low sibilant sound. They were pretty, well-cut lips, the upper short and exquisitely curved, and the lower full with the promise of a sensuous maturity.

She was only seven, but she was woman enough already to know that these two lads were fighting for her–for the favour of her smiles and the right to her kisses–and so she stayed.

She had heard in India how the tigers fought for their mates, and, with the precocity of the Anglo-Indian child, she recognised now the likeness between tigers and men–and boys. She was being fought for. These two lads, albeit they had neither of them seen their eleventh birthday, were using all their strength against each other, hammering each other’s faces with their fists, wrestling and writhing, now upstanding and now on the deck at her feet, were not unlike the tigers she had heard her father tell her mother about.

She saw the hatred in their eyes, red and swollen by the impact of well- planted blows. She watched the gleam of their teeth between their cut and bleeding lips. They hated each other because they loved her–or, in their boyish way, most firmly believed they did. Their lips were cut and bleeding because she had kissed them.

The fascination of the fight grew upon her. The hot young blood began to dance in her veins. She found herself encouraging now one and then the other–always the one who was getting the worst of it for the time being–and when at last the younger and slighter but more wiry and active of them, the one who had caught the other kissing her, took adroit advantage of a roll of the ship and pitched his antagonist backwards so heavily against the wheelhouse that he dropped half-stunned to the deck, she looked proudly at the panting, bleeding victor, and gasped:

“Oh, Vane, I’m so glad you’ve won. You haven’t quite killed him, have you? I suppose the captain would hang you if you did. I’m so sorry it was all about me. I’ll never let any one else but you kiss me again. Really I won’t. You may kiss me now if you like. Take my handkerchief. Oh, I don’t mind the cuts. You did it for me. There! It was brave of you, for he’s bigger than you. Poor Reggie, let’s help him up. I suppose you’ll both have to go to the doctor.”

“We shall both get a jolly good licking more likely. Still, I don’t care as long as you won’t let him kiss you again.”

“No, Vane, indeed I won’t, nor anyone else for ever and ever if you’ll only forgive me this time.”

And then, for the first time since the fight began, her big bright blue eyes filled and grew dim with tears.

CHAPTER I

It was the evening of Boat-race day, and as usual that province of Vanity Fair whose centre is Piccadilly Circus was more or less completely given over to joyously boisterous troops of undergraduates and ‘Varsity men of all academic ranks whom the great event of the year had brought together from all parts of the kingdom, and even from lands beyond the sea.

The mild saturnalia which London annually permits in honour of the historic struggle between the rival blues was at its height. The music halls were crowded to their utmost capacity, and lusty-voiced undergraduates joined enthusiastically, if not altogether tunefully, in the choruses of the songs; but the enthusiasm was perhaps highest and the crowd the greatest at the Palace, where start and race and the magnificent finish with which the struggle had ended were being shown by the American Biograph.

As the series of pictures followed each other on the screen, the cries which a few hours before had been roaring along the two banks of the river from Putney to Mortlake burst out anew from pit and gallery, circles and stalls and boxes. Cambridge had won for once after a long series of defeats, but the Oxford boys and men were cheering just as lustily and yelling themselves just as hoarse as the others, for they were all Englishmen and therefore good sportsmen.

The crush in the First Circle was terrific, but for the moment Vane Maxwell was conscious neither of the heat nor the crowding. His whole soul was in his eyes as he watched the weirdly silent and yet life-like phantoms flitting across the screen. It was only when the finish had faded into swift darkness and the thunders of applause had begun to die down that he became aware of the fact that someone was standing on one of his feet, and that just behind him someone else had got hold of his arm and was holding it with a convulsive sort of clutch.

Just then there was a lull in the applause, and he caught a faintly murmured “Oh, dear” in a feminine voice. He wrenched his foot free, and turned round just in time to slip his arm round the waist of a fainting girl and save her from falling.

The crush was loosening now, for the great attraction of the evening had passed, and a general move was being made towards the bars.

“If you please there, this young lady’s fainting. Give her as much room as you can, please,” he said loudly enough to be heard for some little distance round.

A number of undergraduates of both Universities managed to immediately clear a space about them, and one of his own college chums at Balliol who had come in with him said, “Take her to the bar, Maxwell, and give her a drop of brandy. Now, move up there, you fellows. Room for beauty in distress–come along!”

A couple of the stalwart attendants had also arrived on the scene by this time, and so a lane was easily made to the nearest bar. The girl opened her eyes again, looked about her for a moment, and then murmured:

“Oh, thank you so much, I think I can walk. I am getting all right now. It was the crowd and the heat. Please don’t trouble. It’s very good of you.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” said Maxwell. “Come and let me give you a drop of brandy. That’ll put you all right.”

As they went into the bar they were followed by not a few curious glances. Men and lads looked at each other and smiled, and women looked at them and each other, also smiling, but with plainer meaning, and one or two expressed themselves openly as to the neatness with which the whole affair had been managed.

Crowded as the bar was, Maxwell had no difficulty in getting a couple of brandies and a split soda for himself and his companion. Two men sitting at one of the tables had got up to let her sit down. One of them held out his hand to Maxwell and said:

“Why, Vane, old man, is it you? In luck, as usual, I see.” He said this with a glance towards the girl which brought the blood to Maxwell’s cheeks. Still, he took the other’s hand, and said good- humouredly:

“Good evening, Garthorne. Up for the race, I suppose? Fine fight, wasn’t it? I’m glad you won, it was getting a bit monotonous. Thanks for letting us have the table. This young lady is not very well, felt a bit faint in the crowd.”

“I see,” said Garthorne, with another look at her which Maxwell did not altogether like. “Well, good night, old man. Be as good as you can.”

As the two moved away Maxwell’s memory went back to a scene which had occurred behind the wheelhouse of a P. and O. liner about ten years before, and, without exactly knowing why, he felt as if it would give him a certain amount of satisfaction to repeat it. Then he turned to the girl and said:

“I beg your pardon; I hope you haven’t been waiting. You should have taken a drink at once.”

“Oh, thanks, that’s all right. I’m a lot better now,” she said, taking up the tumbler and smiling over it at him. “Well, here’s luck! It was awfully good of you to get me out of that crowd. I believe I should have fallen down if it hadn’t been for you.”

“Oh, please don’t mention that,” he said; “only too happy–I mean I was very glad I was there to do it. Here’s to your complete recovery.”

As he drank their eyes met over the glasses. Until now he had not really looked at her; things had been happening rather too rapidly for that. But now, as he put his glass down and began to scrutinize the half-saucy, half-demure, and altogether charming face on the other side of the table, it suddenly dawned upon him that it was exceedingly like his own.

The nut-brown hair was almost the same shade as his, but it had a gleam of gold in it which his lacked. The dark hazel eyes were bigger and softer, and were shaded by longer and darker lashes than his, but their colour and expression were very similar. The rest of the face, too, was very similar, only while his nose was almost perfectly straight, nearly pure Greek in fact, hers was just the merest trifle retroussé.

The mouths and chins were almost identical save for the fact that firmness and strength in his were replaced by softness and sweetness in hers. Not that hers were lacking in firmness, for a skilled physiognomist would have put her down at the first glance as a young lady of very decided character; but the outlines were softer, the lips were more delicate and more mobile, and, young as he was, there was a gravity in his smile which was replaced in hers by a suspicion of defiant recklessness which was not without its mournful meaning for those who had eyes to see.

“That’s done me a lot of good,” she said, as she finished her brandy and soda. “Now, I mustn’t keep you from your friends any longer. I’m very much obliged to you indeed. Good night!”

He rose as she did, and took the neatly-gloved little hand that she held out to him over the table.

“I don’t see why we should say good night just yet unless you particularly wish it,” he said. “I only came here with a lot of our fellows to see the Biograph, and I shan’t stop now that’s over. I’m getting jolly hungry, too. If you have no other engagement suppose we were to go and have a bit of supper somewhere?”

For some reason or other which she was quite unable to define, these words, although they were spoken with perfect politeness, and although she had heard them scores of times before without offence, now almost offended her. And yet there was no real reason why they should.

She had been out to supper with pretty nearly all sorts and conditions of men. Why should she not go with this well-groomed, athletic-looking young fellow who had already done her a considerable service, who was obviously a gentleman, and whose face and expression had now begun to strike her as so curiously like her own?

She really had no other engagement for the evening, and to refuse would be, to say the least of it, ungracious; so, after a moment’s hesitation, she took her hand away and said with a quick upward glance of her eyes:

“Very well, I was just beginning to think about supper myself when I turned up out there in that absurd way, so we may as well have it together. Where were you thinking of going? Suppose we were to try the grill-room at the Troc. Of course everywhere will be pretty crowded to-night, but we have as good a chance of getting a table there as anywhere else. Besides, I know one or two of the waiters. I often go there to lunch.”

“Very well,” he said; “come along.” And in a few minutes more they were rolling along in a hansom down Shaftesbury Avenue.

Vane Maxwell was in very good humour that night with himself and all the world. He had taken a double first in Mods., in History and Classics, after crowning a brilliant career at Eton with a Balliol Scholarship. He was stroke of his college boat, and had worked her four places up the river. In another year he might be in the ‘Varsity Eight itself, and help to avenge the defeat which the Dark Blues had just suffered. The sweetheart he had won in that Homeric little battle behind the wheelhouse had been faithful to him ever since. He had an abundance of pocket money and the prospect of a fair fortune, and altogether the world appeared to be a very pleasant place indeed to live in.

When they got into the cab the girl half expected that he would slip his arm round her as others were wont to do when they had the chance, but he didn’t, and she liked him all the better for it. He did, however, put his hand through her arm and draw her just a little closer to him. Then he leant back in the cab, and, as the light from a big gin palace lamp flashed on to her face, he said:

“Well, this is jolly. I’m so glad you came. I feel just in the humour for a good supper in pleasant society.”

“Thank you,” she said, with a little toss of her head; “but how do you know my society is going to be pleasant?”

“Oh, it couldn’t be anything else,” he laughed. “You are far too pretty not to be nice.”

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