The Zeppelin’s Passenger - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Zeppelin’s Passenger ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Opis

A World War I tale of espionage in a fictional „backwater” area in England with no apparent military value called Dreymarsh. The story begins with Dreymarsh residents discovering an observation car from a German zeppelin along with a Homburg hat near Dreymarsh. This discovery triggers a range of events and introduces a myriad of characters which all make for a rather delightful mystery. Oppenheim was famous for his hundreds of spy and espionage novels. He is considered one of the originators of the thriller genre, his novels also range from spy thrillers to romance, but all have an undertone of intrigue. „The Zeppelin Passenger” is the most audacious German spy story with a strong hint of romance that Mr. Oppenheim has heretofore written.

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Liczba stron: 312

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Contents

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

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER I

“Never heard a sound,” the younger of the afternoon callers admitted, getting rid of his empty cup and leaning forward in his low chair. “No more tea, thank you, Miss Fairclough. Done splendidly, thanks. No, I went to bed last night soon after eleven–the Colonel had been route marching us all off our legs–and I never awoke until reveille this morning. Sleep of the just, and all that sort of thing, but a jolly sell, all the same! You hear anything of it, sir?” he asked, turning to his companion, who was seated a few feet away.

Captain Griffiths shook his head. He was a man considerably older than his questioner, with long, nervous face, and thick black hair streaked with grey. His fingers were bony, his complexion, for a soldier, curiously sallow, and notwithstanding his height, which was considerable, he was awkward, at times almost uncouth. His voice was hard and unsympathetic, and his contributions to the tea-table talk had been almost negligible.

“I was up until two o’clock, as it happened,” he replied, “but I knew nothing about the matter until it was brought to my notice officially.”

Helen Fairclough, who was doing the honours for Lady Cranston, her absent hostess, assumed the slight air of superiority to which the circumstances of the case entitled her.

“I heard it distinctly,” she declared; “in fact it woke me up. I hung out of the window, and I could hear the engine just as plainly as though it were over the golf links.”

The young subaltern sighed.

“Rotten luck I have with these things,” he confided. “That’s three times they’ve been over, and I’ve neither heard nor seen one. This time they say that it had the narrowest shave on earth of coming down. Of course, you’ve heard of the observation car found on Dutchman’s Common this morning?”

The girl assented.

“Did you see it?” she enquired.

“Not a chance,” was the gloomy reply. “It was put on two covered trucks and sent up to London by the first train. Captain Griffiths can tell you what it was like, I dare say. You were down there, weren’t you, sir?”

“I superintended its removal,” the latter informed them. “It was a very uninteresting affair.”

“Any bombs in it?” Helen asked.

“Not a sign of one. Just a hard seat, two sets of field-glasses and a telephone. It seems to have got caught in some trees and been dragged off.”

“How exciting!” the girl murmured. “I suppose there wasn’t any one in it?”

Griffiths shook his head.

“I believe,” he explained, “that these observation cars, although they are attached to most of the Zeppelins, are seldom used in night raids.”

“I should like to have seen it, all the same,” Helen confessed.

“You would have been disappointed,” her informant assured her. “By-the-by,” he added, a little awkwardly, “are you not expecting Lady Cranston back this evening?”

“I am expecting her every moment. The car has gone down to the station to meet her.”

Captain Griffiths appeared to receive the news with a certain undemonstrative satisfaction. He leaned back in his chair with the air of one who is content to wait.

“Have you heard, Miss Fairclough,” his younger companion enquired, a little diffidently, “whether Lady Cranston had any luck in town?”

Helen Fairclough looked away. There was a slight mist before her eyes.

“I had a letter this morning,” she replied. “She seems to have heard nothing at all encouraging so far.”

“And you haven’t heard from Major Felstead himself, I suppose?”

The girl shook her head.

“Not a line,” she sighed. “It’s two months now since we last had a letter.”

“Jolly bad luck to get nipped just as he was doing so well,” the young man observed sympathetically.

“It all seems very cruel,” Helen agreed. “He wasn’t really fit to go back, but the Board passed him because they were so short of officers and he kept worrying them. He was so afraid he’d get moved to another battalion. Then he was taken prisoner in that horrible Pervais affair, and sent to the worst camp in Germany. Since then, of course, Philippa and I have had a wretched time, worrying.”

“Major Felstead is Lady Cranston’s only brother, is he not?” Griffiths enquired.

“And my only fiancé,” she replied, with a little grimace. “However, don’t let us talk about our troubles any more,” she continued, with an effort at a lighter tone. “You’ll find some cigarettes on that table, Mr. Harrison. I can’t think where Nora is. I expect she has persuaded some one to take her out trophy-hunting to Dutchman’s Common.”

“The road all the way is like a circus,” the young soldier observed, “and there isn’t a thing to be seen when you get there. The naval airmen were all over the place at daybreak, and Captain Griffiths wasn’t far behind them. You didn’t leave much for the sightseers, sir,” he concluded, turning to his neighbour.

“As Commandant of the place,” Captain Griffiths replied, “I naturally had to have the Common searched. With the exception of the observation car, however, I think that I am betraying no confidences in telling you that we discovered nothing of interest.”

“Do you suppose that the Zeppelin was in difficulties, as she was flying so low?” Helen enquired.

“It is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis,” the Commandant assented. “Two patrol boats were sent out early this morning, in search of her. An old man whom I saw at Waburne declares that she passed like a long, black cloud, just over his head, and that he was almost deafened by the noise of the engines. Personally, I cannot believe that they would come down so low unless she was in some trouble.”

The door of the comfortable library in which they were seated was suddenly thrown open. An exceedingly alert-looking young lady, very much befreckled, and as yet unemancipated from the long plaits of the schoolroom, came in like a whirlwind. In her hand she carried a man’s Homburg hat, which she waved aloft in triumph.

“Come in, Arthur,” she shouted to a young subaltern who was hovering in the background. “Look what I’ve got, Helen! A trophy! Just look, Mr. Harrison and Captain Griffiths! I found it in a bush, not twenty yards from where the observation car came down.”

Helen turned the hat around in amused bewilderment.

“But, my dear child,” she exclaimed, “this is nothing but an ordinary hat! People who travel in Zeppelins don’t wear things like that. How do you do, Mr. Somerfield?” she added, smiling at the young man who had followed Nora into the room.

“Don’t they!” the latter retorted, with an air of superior knowledge. “Just look here!”

She turned down the lining and showed it to them. “What do you make of that?” she asked triumphantly.

Helen gazed at the gold-printed letters a little incredulously.

“Read it out,” Nora insisted.

Helen obeyed:

Schmidt, Berlin, Unter den Linden, 127

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