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The great temptation


THEGREATTEMPTATION
BYRICHARDMARSH
AUTHORor“THEBEETLE:AMYSTERY”
“THEWOMANINTHECAR,”ETC.ETC.
TORONTO
S.B.GUNDY
PublisherinCanadaforHumphreyMilford1916
[PRINTEDINGREATBRITAIN]
CONTENTS


BOOKI
THEPONYSKINCOAT
I.THEPONYSKINCOAT
II.INPRISON
III.CRASH!CAMETHEKNOCKER
IV.UNDERSTANDING
V.THEPILL
VI.TONEWYORKFOR5OO
VII.ATTHERISKOFHISLIFE

VIII.GROVEGARDENS
IX.CATHERINE
X.THEOWNEROFTHECOAT
XI.CATHERINE’SIDEA
XII.TWENTY-TWO


BOOKII
CATHERINE’SSTORY
XIII.THEFIRSTSTAGEOFTHEJOURNEY
XIV.ABEDNEGOP.THOMPSON
XV.HUGH’SNOTE
XVI.AMEMORYOFMOSCOW
XVII.MR.TROUNCER’SSTORY
XVIII.CATHERINE’STROUBLE
XIX.CHANGED
XX.ANUNSOLICITEDINTRODUCTION
XXI.TWENTY-FIVETHOUSANDDOLLARS
XXII.THEFIRSTNIGHT
XXIII.“DEVILOFAWOMAN!”
XXIV.ALMOSTWITHINSIGHTOFLAND


BOOKIII
THEGREATTEMPTATION
XXV.THEPATIENT
XXVI.TWOFRIENDS
XXVII.CALLERS
XXVIII.NURSEADA
XXIX.PARKERVANGROOT
XXX.ANUNEXPECTEDVISITOR
XXXI.EXERCISINGPRESSURE
XXXII.MR.BENNINGTON’SOPINION
XXXIII.POSTERESTANTE
XXXIV.HUGH’SPORTRAIT
XXXV.THEGREATTEMPTATION
XXXVI.PRINCESSKITTY
XXXVII.MRS.VANGROOTDISCLAIMSRESPONSIBILITY
XXXVIII.HISFIRSTAPPEARANCE
XXXIX.“THEJOYOUSBRIDE”


XL.THEMOSTEXPENSIVEHATINTHEWORLD
XLI.THE“MAISONCATHERINE”


BOOKI
THEPONYSKINCOAT


CHAPTERI
THEPONYSKINCOAT
ITcamesmashontomyhat,slippedoffthebrimontomyshoulder,thenfellto
thepavement.Ididnotknowwhathadhappened.Itookoffmyblackfelthat
andlookedatit.Therewasagreatdentinthecrown;ifithadnotbeenformy
hatsomethingwouldhavehappenedtomyhead.Andmyshoulderhurt.ThenI
lookedatthepavement.Atmyfeetwaswhatseemedtobesomesortofcanvas
bag.Ipickeditup.Itwasmadeofcoarsebrowncanvas,perhapsfiveinches
square,andwasstuffedfullofwhatfelttobesomesortofmetal.Itwasheavy,
weighingperhapsapound.Nowonderithaddentedmyhatmademyshoulder
smart.Wherecouldthethinghavecomefrom?
AsIwaswonderingIbecameconsciousthatamanwasmovingtowardsme
fromtheothersideoftheroadmovingrapidly.IhadbeenvaguelyawareasI
camestridingalongthattherewassomeoneontheothersideoftheroad.Now
hewaspositivelyrushingatmewaswithinafootbeforeIrealisedthathewas
makingforme.HesaidsomethinginsomegutturalforeigntongueIsupposedit
tobeaforeigntongue,although,sofarasIknew,Ihadneverhearditspoken
beforeandmadeagrabatthebagwhichhadstruckme.Iputitbehindmyback
inmylefthand;myrightIplacedagainsthischestandpushed.
“Whatareyouupto?”Iinquired.
Theinquirywasfoolish;itwasprettyplainwhathewasuptohewasafterthat
bag.Theeffectonhimwascurious.Hewassoslightandapparentlyweakthat
thoughIhadusedscarcelyanyforceatallhestaggeredbackwardsacrossthe
pavementintotheroad.WhenIlookedathimheraisedhisarmsabovehishead
asiftowardoffablow.Hestruckmeasamanwhomightberecoveringfroma
severeillness.Hishairlessfacewaswhiteanddrawn,thintothevergeof
emaciation.Heworeanold,softblackfelthatwhichwascertainlynotEnglish.
Thewholemanwasun-Englishhisoddlyshaped,long,blackfrock-coat,soold
andshabbythat,sotospeak,onlythethreadsoftheoriginalmaterialseemedto
beleft;theancienttrousers,sotightandnarrowthatonlythinlegscouldhave
gotintothem;theunblacked,elastic-sidedbootseverythingabouthimsuggested
somethingwithwhichIwasunfamiliar.


Ifhestartledme,Iseemedtoterrifyhim.When,asitseemed,herealisedwhat
kindofmanIwastolookatnoonecansaythereisanythingalarminginmy
appearanceheswungroundandtoreoffdownthestreetasifflyingforhislife.I
staredafterhim.
“You’reacuriosity,”Itoldmyself.“What’sthemeaningofthis,Iwonder.”
Ilookedatthebrowncanvasbag,thenhadanotherlookatmyhat.Itwasbadly
dented.Whoeverwasresponsibleforthedamagewouldhavetobuymeanew
one.Icouldnotwalkaboutwithmyhatinthatcondition;atthatmomentIcould
notaffordtospendmoneyonasubstitute.Whowasresponsibleforthedamage?
IlookedaboutmeatthehouseIwaspassingupatthewindows.Iwasjustin
timetocatchaglimpseofaheadprotrudingfromawindowonthetopfloor.It
wasonlyaglimpseIcaught;itwaswithdrawnthemomentIlookedup.An
impressionwasleftuponmymindofabeardandlongblackhair.Nodoubtthe
owneroftheheadwaslookingtoseewhathadhappenedtothecanvasbag
whichhehaddroppedfromthewindow.Anice,carelesssortofpersonhewas,
nottotakethetrouble,inthefirstinstance,tofindoutwhoorwhatwasbeneath.
Thatwretchedbagofhismighthavekilledme.Then,afterseeingwhathad
happened,insteadofexpressingcontrition,tosnatchbackhisheadasifhe
wishedmetosupposethathehadseennothing!Icalledouttohim:
“Hi!Youupthere!”
Hetooknottheslightestnoticeofmycall,butIfeltsurehehadheard.Ididnot
wanthiscanvasbag;IdidwantanewhatsoIknockedatthedoorofthehouse.
Thatdoorhadbeenoriginallystainedtoimitateoak,butthestainhadpeeledoff
inpatches,sothatyoucouldseethedealbeneath.TheinstantItoucheditwith
theknockerthedoorflewopen;itopenedsorapidlythatitisnoexaggerationto
saythatitflew.Themomentitopenedsomeonecamethroughthedoor,tookme
bytheshoulders,drewmeintothehouseunexpectedly,beforeIcouldofferthe
leastresistanceandshutthedoorwithabang.Sosoonasthedoorwasbanged
thesamepersoncontinuedtogripmyshoulderswithwhatseemedtometobe
actualferocity,hauledmealonganarrow,darkenedpassageintoaroomwhich
wasattheend.TosaythatIwastakenbysurprisewouldbeinadequatelyto
describemyfeelings.Iwasamazed,astounded,confused,bewildered.Some
personorpersonsIwasawarethatinthatdarkenedpassagethereweremore
personsthanonehadbeenguiltyofanoutrage.Alibertyhadbeentakenwithme
whichwaswithouttheslightestjustification.


“Whatonearth,”Idemanded,assoonasIwasintheroomandhadregaineda
littleofmybreath,“isthemeaningofthis?Whoareyou,sir,thatyoushould
handlemeasthoughIwereacarcaseofbeef?”
Iputmyquestiontoahugeman,welloversixfeet,broaderthanhewastall,
withabigheadanddark,square-jowledface.Hehaddarkhair,whichwas
longerthanwewearitinEngland,andalongfrock-coat,fashionedsomewhat
likethatwornbythemanontheothersideoftheroad,onlynotsoshabby.
Altogetherhegavemetheideathathewasagiant,instatureandinstrength.
ItseemedthatmywordshadaffectedhiminawayIhadnotintended;he
gloweredatmeinamannertowhichIobjectedoneverypossibleground.
Stretchingouthisimmensearmheagaingrabbedmyshoulderwiththeimmense
handattheendofit,andwithoutspeakingaworddrewmetowardshimasifI
wereapuppetwhichhecouldhandleasheliked.Itwasnousemyattemptingto
offerresistance.Shaken,disconcerted,confused,Ireallywaslikeapuppetinhis
grip.Hecausedmeactualpain.Ihaveanotionthat,withoutintendingit,Icalled
out“Don’t!youhurt!”Whereuponhehurtmemorethanbefore,asifhe
understood,though,judgingbywhatfollowed,Idoubtifhedid.Withhisface
withinafootofmine,heglared;Ihaveseldomfeltmoreuncomfortable.
Iwasawarethattheotherswereglaringalso;therewerefiveothermeninthe
room.Mywordsseemedtohaveaffectedthemall.Theywereallglaring;more
unprepossessing-lookingmenIdonotremembertohaveseen.
Closebymeonmyrightwasalittleman,soshortastobealmostadwarf.
Behindhimwasabig,fat,fairfellow,withanuntidyfairbeardwhichseemedto
begrowingalloverhisface.Thentherewasadark,thinman;somethinghad
happenedtohisnoseitwasnotonlybroken,itlookedasifithadbeencutright
intwo,alongtimeago,andneverproperlyjoined.Thentherewasamanwho
mighthavebeenanEnglishman;hewaswell-dressed,properlybarbered,redfaced.Englishornot,therewassomethingsensualaboutthemanwhichI
instinctivelydisliked.AtsightofhimIhadaridiculousfeelingthathewasofthe
sortofstuffofwhichmurderersaremade.
Fromthespectacularpointofview,thefifthmanwasthemostremarkableofthe
lot.Heseemedtobecrooked,asifsomethinghadtwistedhisbodysothathe
couldnotholdhimselfstraight.Hehadaverylong,thinface,withsmall,
reddish-lookingeyeswhichmatchedhisreddishhair.Hismouthwasalittle


open,asifhefounditdifficulttokeepitclosed;hehadatrickofputtingthefirst
fingerofhisrighthandbetweenhisyellowteethandgnawingatthetip.Notone
ofthemeninthatroomwasgoodtolookat;buthe,Ithink,wastheworstof
themall.Ifthesewerenotundesirablealiens,thentheirappearancebeliedthem.
Iwonderedwhatforeignlandhadbeenrelievedoftheirpresence.
Theroomitselfwasnotapleasantone.Itwasnotclean;Idoubtifithadknown
anysortofcleansingprocessforgoodnessknowshowlong.Theceilingwas
black,thewallsgrimy,thefloorsuggestiveofundesirablethings,theone
windowobscuredbydustanddirt.Therewasscarcelyanyfurnitureanolddeal
tablewhichlookedasifithadhadpiecescutoutofit,fiveorsixwoodenchairs
ofvariouspatterns,aricketycouchcoveredwithhorsehair,withflockcoming
outofaholeinthemiddle,alittlepaintedcupboardinacorner,withglasses,
bottles,andplatesonthetop,nocarpettohidethefilthyboards.Themost
prominentobjectintheroomwaswhatlookedtomelikeapileofclothing
whichwasheapedonthecouch.Alessattractiveapartmentonecouldscarcely
imagine.
Thecompanymatchedtheroom.Itstruckmethatthatwasthekindofapartment
towhichtheyhadbeenaccustomedalltheirlives;theyseemedsoill-clothed,
unkempt,badlywashed.EventhemanwholookedlikeanEnglishmanIfeltsure
wasnotfondofsoapandwater.Theystaredatmewithsuchunfriendlyeyes,as
ifeachinhisheartwouldliketomurderme.WhatIhaddonetocausethem
annoyanceIcouldnotimagine,yetitwassufficientlyobviousthattheywere
seriouslyangrywithmeaboutsomething.
Theyweresilentforsomemoments,thenbrokeintoababelofspeech.Thehuge
manspokefirst.Theydidnotwaitforhimtofinishwhateveritwashewishedto
say;directlyheopenedhismouththeyallbegantotalktogether.IknowFrench
whenIhearit,IknowGerman,andDutch;Ibelieve,also,thatIknowthesound
ofSpanishandItalian.WhatlanguagetheyweretalkingIhadnotthefaintest
notion.Ihadneverheardsuchsoundsbefore;theyseemedtomelikeguttural
grunts.Theygesticulated,shakingtheirfists,extendingtheirhandstowardsme
inawayIdidnotlikeatall.Theyseemedtobequarrellingexpressingopinions
aboutmewhichitwasperhapsaswellIdidnotunderstand.
Then,whenIwaswonderingwhatthetalkwasallabout,thehugemansuddenly
putouthisarmandsnatchedthecanvasbag,whichIwasstillholding,frommy
hand.Whenhehelditupintheairtheysimplyyelled.Inaninstant,tomy


discomfort,eachmanhadaweaponinhishand.Thelittlemannearme,andthe
red-headedman,hadeachalong,thinknifedreadful-lookingweapons.The
othershadrevolvers.Theymadeageneralmoveinmydirection;Ireallythought
foramomentthattheyweregoingtokillmeincoldbloodforsomeoffenceof
whichIhadnotbeenguilty,butthehugemanextendedhisgreatleftarm,
holdingitrigidasifitwereabarofiron,andheldthemback.Thenthetalk
beganagain.Iamawarethatwhenpeopletalkinalanguageofwhichyouknow
nothingitoftensoundsasiftheywerequarrellingwhentheyaredoingnothing
ofthekind.Abouttheangerofthosefivementherecouldbenoshadowof
doubt.Ihalfexpectedtoseethemventitoneachotheriftheycouldnotgetat
me.Therewere,forme,somemomentsofuncomfortabletension.
Thenthedecentlydressedmansaidsomethingwhichinducedthegianttohand
himoverthecanvasbag.Theyallgatheredroundtolookatit,pokingatitwith
theirunpleasantfingers.Presentlytherewasanintervalofcomparativesilence;
thenthedecentlydressedmansaidtome,addressingmeinEnglish:
“Whoareyou?”
“Iamaninoffensivestranger,”Itoldhim.
“Whatisyourname?”
“HughBeckwith.”Ifeltitthepartofwisdomtoanswerhisquestionsasbriefly
andclearlyasIcould.
“Whatareyoudoingwiththis?”Heheldoutthebag.
ThenIdidbecomealittlevoluble.
“Someonedroppeditoutofthewindowofaroomupstairs.Itfellonmyhead
andsmashedmyhatjustlookatthat!”Iheldoutthehatforhimtolookat.“Ifit
hadn’tbeenformyhatitmighthavekilledme.Iknockedatthedoorfirstofall
toreturnthebag,whichisnopropertyofmine,andthentopointoutthat
whoeverdroppeditfromthewindowmustbuymeanewhat.”
Thered-facedmanlookedatmeforsomeseconds,asifheweretryingtomake
uphismindhowmuchofwhatIsaidwastrue.Thenhesaidsomethinginthat
gutturaltongue.InaninstanttheyrainedonhimwhatIhadnodoubtwasa
torrentofquestions.Heexplained,tellingthem,probably,whatitwasIhadsaid.


Theyregardedmewithsuspiciouseyes,asiftheydidnotbelieveawordofit.
Thenthered-facedmanreturnedtoEnglish.
“Whatareyou?”
“Iamaclerk.”
“Whatkindofaclerk?”
“Iamaclerkinadried-fruitfirmatleastIwasuntilacoupleofhoursago.This
morningtheydismissedme.”
“Dismissedyouwhy?Whathadyoubeendoing?”
“Nothingabsolutelynothing!Oneofthepartnerswasinabadtemper,andletit
looseonme.BecauseIaskedhimwhatIhaddonehepaidmeaweek’swages
andtoldmetoleaveatonce.TheinjusticeofitmademesomadthatIhavebeen
walkingaboutthestreetseversince.Nowthishappens!WhatIhavedonetoyou
tocauseyoutobehavetomelikethisisbeyondmealtogether.”
“Youareverytalkative,fullofexplanationsplausible.Iwonderif,byany
chance,youareconnectedwiththepoliceanartistinyourownline.Youare
playingthepartverywellifyouare.”
Istaredathim.“I’mnomoreconnectedwiththepolicethanyouare.”
“ThanIam!”Helaughed,oddly.“That’sanunfortunateremark.Ihavebeen
connectedwiththepoliceagooddealinmytime,asitispossibleyouknow.”
“Iknownothingofthesort!Iknownothingaboutyouofanykind.Whoare
you?”
Hespokewithmarkeddeliberation,apausebetweeneachword.
“IamwhoIam;weallofusarewhoweare.Ifyouaretryingtotrickuswe’ll
tearyourtongueoutbytheroots.Inspiteofwhatyousayyouprobablyknow
thatweshouldmakenothingofalittlejestlikethat.”
“IdeclaretoyouIdon’tknowwhyyoudoubtmeIhavenothoughtoftrickery.
IfyouwillcomewithmetowhereIliveIwillprovethatwhatIsaidistrue.”


“No,thankyou;Iwouldrathernotcomewithyoutowhereyoulive.Wewould
ratherkeepyouhere.”
Therewasanominoussomethinginthetoneinwhichhesaidthiswhichgrated
onmynerves.Thehugemansaidsomething,asifhewereimpatientatbeing
keptinignoranceofwhatitwasthatweweresaying.Thered-facedmanreplied
tohim.Theclamourwasrenewed.Soangryweretheirvoices,soexcitedtheir
gestures,thatIfeltasifeverymomentIwasgoinginperilofmylife.Thenthe
red-facedmanaskedanotherquestion.
“Whatproofcanyougiveusherethatwhatyousayistrue?Weshouldliketo
searchyourpockets.”
Theydidnotwaitformypermission;beforeIcouldspeakthebigmantookme
insomedeftwaybythescruffoftheneckandliterallytoremycoatoffmyback.
BeforeIcouldevenexpostulatehehadturnedthepocketsinsideout.Therewere
twolettersintheinsidepocketintheiroriginalenvelopes,mynameandaddress
oneach.Asifhecouldnotmakemuchofthem,hepassedthemtothered-faced
man.Intheright-handoutsidepockettherewereapipeandtobaccoandaboxof
matches,whichhethrewuponthetable.Intheleft-handpocketwasmy
handkerchief,whichhestretchedoutandexamined.Mynamewasonitinink
“H.Beckwith.”Therewasnothingelseinthepocketsofmycoat;having
satisfiedhimselfonthatpoint,hedroppeditontothetable.
Isupposedthattheyhadtakenlibertiesenoughwithmyattire;therewasproof
ontheenvelopesandintheletterstheycontainedthatIwaswhoIclaimedtobe,
whichmusthavebeenplaintothered-facedman.ButIwasmistakenin
imaginingthattheyhadsubjectedmetoenoughindignity.BeforeIhadeven
guessedhisintention,thehugefellowhadevenstrippedmeofmywaistcoat,
amidwhatwereclearlythejeersofhiscompanions.Theyregardedthewayin
whichIwasbeingtreatedasajoke.Thebigmanturnedoutmywaistcoat
pocketsmywatchandchain,penknife,pencil-case,thelittleboneinstrument
withwhichImanicuredmyfingernails.Theotherssnatchedupeachofthe
articlesasheputitdown.Isawthatthered-headedmanhadtakenoffhisfilthy
coatandwastryingonmyjacket.Ididremonstratethen.
“Itisnouse,Isuppose,”IsaidtotheEnglish-speakingperson,“topointoutthat
youaretreatingmeinawayforwhichyouhavenoexcuse;atleast,youhavein
yourhandsproofofthetruthofwhatIsaid;and,anyhow,Ishallbeobligedif


youwouldaskyourfriendbehindyounottoputhimselfintomyjacket.”
IbelievethatuntilIcalledhisattentiontothefacthedidnotnoticewhatthe
otherwasdoing;then,glancinground,hesaidsomethingtohiminhisguttural
lingo.Thefellowanswered.WhathesaidIhadnonotion;itwasclearly
somethingwhichthosewhounderstoodfoundamusing.Thelittlefellowbyme
shriekedwithlaughter,asifintheenjoymentofsometremendousjoke.Thefat,
fairfellowpressedhishandstohissidesasifhefearedhemightbetickledtothe
bursting-point.Thered-hairedmanstoodasstraightashistwistedbody
permitted,stretchingouthisarms,asifaskingtheotherstoobservethefitofmy
jacketonhiscrookedform.Astheyallshoutedandlaughedheputhishandon
theEnglish-speakingperson’sshoulderandsaidsomethingtohimina
peremptoryinsistenttone,asifhewereissuinganorder.Whentheotherseemed
reluctanttodoashewastoldtodo,theypressedroundhim,repeating,soItook
it,inasortofchorus,whatthered-hairedmanhadsaid.Asifhefoundthem
difficulttoresist,hesaidsomethingtothegiant.Inaninstantthemonster,
puttinghisarmsaboutmyneck,begantounbuttonmybraces.Itwasuselessfor
metoresist;hisstrengthwassomuchmorethanminethatIwashelpless.To
rendermemorehelplessstilltheothersgavehimtheirassistance.Theytoremy
trousersoff,myboots,myshirttheystrippedmetotheskin,hootingwith
laughterallthewhile.
Thered-hairedman,whohadbeendisrobingwhiletheystrippedme,putonmy
garmentsastheytorethemoff.Presentlyhewasarrayedfromheadtofootinmy
clothes:Iamboundtosayhepresentedamuchmorepleasantappearancethan
inhisown.Theyfittedhimbetterthanmighthavebeenexpected.Iwasabout
hisheight,andslimtheymightalmosthavebeenmadeforhim.Hewas
enraptured,gesticulating,exclaiming,capering.Iwasafraidthattheywould
suggestthatIshoulddonhisfilthyragsinplaceofmyown.Ishouldnothave
beenabletoresistiftheyhad.Butallatoncethelittlefellowgaveasortof
screech,pointingtothecouch.WhathewasafterIcouldnotguessbutthey
knew.ThefatmancaughtupwhatseemedtobetheheapwhichIhadnoticed.
Itresolveditselfintogarments.AnoldfurcoatofafashionwhichIhadnever
seenbefore:baggybreeches,enormousboots,atall,round,brimlesssomething,
coveredwithsomemangyblackskin,whichItooktobeahat.Leftonthe
couch,whenthegarmentshadbeenremoved,wasalargepieceofcoarsebrown
paper,onwhichwerehalfadozenlabels,whichItooktobethewrapperin
whichthegarmentshadcometothehouse.


Thefatmanheldupthegarmentsoneaftertheother,displayingthemtothebest
advantage;theyshoutedatthesightofeach.Whentheyhadseenthemallthey
yelledinchorus.Thered-facedmansaidtome:
“Youcannotgoaboutnaked;asarespectableclerkitisimpossible.Herearetwo
suitsyoucanhaveyourchoice.Willyouhavetheonewhichourfriendiswilling
toofferyouinexchangeforyourown,orwillyouhavetheother?Thisisthe
uniformofadroskydriverofSt.Petersburg.ThedroskyistheRussiancab;the
droskydriverisasplendidfellow;heisperhapsalittlegiventodrink,butstilla
splendidfellow.Thisuniform,whichhascometousthismorningGodknows
fromwhomorwhyithasbeensentisnotsogayassomeofthem,andisperhaps
alittleworn.Now,quick;whichdoyouchoosethisortheother?”
Heprofessedtogivememychoice,butIdidnothaveitreally.Thehugeman,
assistedbyhisfriends,putmeinthatdroskydriver’suniform.Therewereno
bracesforthebreeches;theyfastenedthemontomewithastrap,drawingitso
tightthatIcouldscarcelybreathe.Thetopbootscameabovemyknees;they
weresolargethatIcouldhavekickedthemoff.Inthecoat,made,Ifancy,of
somesortofponyskin,therewasroomenoughforanotheraswellasforme.
Thecoarsehairwithwhichitwascoveredhadcomeoffitinadozenplaces;it
musthavebeenverymanyyearsold.Anunpleasantodourfromitassailedmy
nostrils.Asiftocrowntheinsultswhichtheywerepilingonme,theyplaced
uponmyheadthetall,black,brimlessthingwhichIhadrightlysupposedtobea
hat.Liketheotherthingsitwasmuchtoolargeforme.Themonstercorrected
thatdefectbyclappingitwithhishugepalmuponthetopwithsuchforcethathe
droveitdownrightovermyeyes.IraisedmyhandstofreemyselfIcouldsee
nothing.WhileIwasstillstrugglingmyheadhadgotfixedinthethingIheard
thedooropenandthesoundofawoman’svoice.


CHAPTERII
IMPRISONED
WHENIhadgotmyheadsufficientlyoutoftheridiculous,heavystructurethey
hadgivenmetoserveasahattheroomwasinconfusion;Imeaninevengreater
confusionthanithadbeen.Thesixmenweregroupedaboutagirl,theireyes
fixedonher.Ifeltthatsheregardedthemasiftheyweresomuchdirt.Shewasa
daintyexampleofhersexshort,slender,wellsetup,carryingherheadina
fashionwhichsuggestedthatshelookedupontheworldwithscorn.Shewas
quiteyoung;Idoubtifshewasmorethantwenty.Shehadanabundanceoffair
hair,whichsheworegatheredinaknotandpartedononeside.Herattirewas
simpleandinexquisitetaste,and,Ihadanotion,costmoney.Shelookedasif
shehadjuststeppedoutofadrawing-room,wearingneitherhatnorjacket.That
therewasadecentapartment,suitableforalady’suse,inthathouse,Icouldnot
imagine.Inherelegantsimplicityshelookedsingularlyoutofplaceinthat
company,inthatuncleanroom.Ihadanotionthatshemightbethinkingthe
sameofme.Herbigovaleyeswerefixeduponmyformasifshewere
wonderingwhatIwasdoingthere.Shewasaddressingtheothersinthe
dissonant,gutturaltongue,inwhichsheseemedtobeasmuchathomeasthey
weresomehow,comingfromherlips,itsoundedalittlemoremusical.
ObviouslyshewasaskingquestionsaboutwhoIwasandhowIcametobe
there.Whenshehadobtainedtheiranswerssheseemedsuddenlytobecome
possessedwithexcitement,whichsheseemedtoimparttothem.Theyglaredat
meintheunpromisingfashiontheyhaddoneatfirst.Certainlysomethinglike
murderwasintheireyes.Surelythisslipofagirlcouldnotbeincitingthemto
commitfurtheractsofviolence.Iappealedtoher,takingadvantageofapausein
herspeech.
“YouspeakEnglish?”Sheansweredneitheryesnorno;butjuststoodwithher
headthrownbackandlookedatme.Ifeltsuresheunderstoodthatshedidspeak
English.“Iappealtoyou,”Iwenton,“forprotection.Ihavedonenothingto
incurtheresentmentofyour”Ihesitated,changingfromoneformofwordsto
another“ofthesegentlemen.Imerelyknockedatthedoortoreturnsomething
whichhadfallenontomyheadfromawindowabove.TheinstantIknocked
theyassailedme,draggedmeinhere,subjectedmetoallsortsofindignities,and
nowtheyhavedeprivedmeofmyclothingandforcedmetowearthese


disgustingthings.IbegyoutoexplaintothemthatIamaninnocentand
peaceablestranger,andthatIdesiretoquarrelwithnoone.AllIwantthemtodo
istogivemebackmyownclothesandletmego.”
“Allyouwantthemtodoistogiveyoubackyourownclothesandletyougo.”
Theechocamefromthered-facedman,who,leaninguponthetable,kepthis
eyesfixedonmyface.Therewasanominoussomethingabouteverythinghe
said.Perhapsitwasmyimaginationtomehissimplestwordsseemedtoconvey
athreat.Ihatedtheman!Englishthoughhemightbe,Ifearedanddislikedhim
morethananyoftheothers.Whatseemedtobehissneeringechoofmyremark,
whethersheunderstooditornot,seemedtohaveuponthegirlanythingbuta
pacificeffect.Shesaidsomethinginshort,quicktoneswhichseemedtomove
thementoanger.Theymovedtowardsmewithintheirhandstheweapons
whichhadappearedbefore.Theshortmanhadaknifewhoseblade,Ishould
think,wassixteenoreighteenincheslonganevil-lookingthing.Heraiseditasif
tostrikeatme.Ithoughthewouldstrike.Suchabladewouldgorightthrough
me,spittingmelikealarkonaskewer.IdidnotproposetolethimdothatifI
couldhelpit.Isteppedback,pickedupanoldwoodenchair,swungitovermy
shoulders,andbroughtitdownuponthatsmallgentleman.Itwastheonly
weaponofdefenceIcouldfind.Thetumultwhichensued!IdoubtifIdidthe
littlescoundrelwithhishorribleknifemuchharmhemovedasidesoswiftlythat
thesideofthechairbutgrazedhisshoulder.Judgingbythebehaviourofhis
friendsandcompanionsonemighthavethoughtthatIhadkilledhim,without
theslightestprovocation.Theyrushedatmewithupliftedknivesandpointed
revolvers.Thegirlshoutedhalf-a-dozenwordswhichundoubtedlyconveyeda
command.Knivesandrevolverswereloweredinaninstant.Istillheldthechair,
preparedtodefendmyselfwithitsomehow.BeforeIguessedhisintention,the
hugemanwrencheditaway,grippingmywristsinhistwogreathands.Inspite
ofmehedrewthembehindmybackandheldthemthere.Thefatfellowwitha
beardproducedfromsomewherewhatlookedtomelikeapieceofclothesline.
Whilethemonstersqueezedmyelbowssocruellywithhisironfingersallthe
senseseemedtogooutofmyarmswiththeclotheslinehiscolleaguetiedmy
wriststogether,sothatIstoodbeforethemwithmyhandspinionedbehindmy
back.Itwasnothingshortofacowardlyoutrage.Istartedtotellthemso.Idid
notfearthem;Ibeganwiththemostperfectfranknesstoletthemknowit;butI
hadnotutteredadozensyllablesbeforeagainthegirlsaidsomething.Thebig
manclappedhisfilthyhandacrossmymouth.Thelittlemanlefttheroom,
returningalmostinstantlywithwhatlookedtomelikeadirtyduster.Hetorea


stripoffoneside.AlthoughIshoutedandravedanddidmybesttostopthem
theyforcedthefoulragintomymouthandkeptitinitsplacebypassingthe
stripofmaterialacrossthegagandtyingitatthebackofmyhead.
Justastheknotwastiedthedoorwasopenedandstillanothermancameinan
elderlymanwithalongblackbeard,andcoarseblackhair,whichheworein
greasyringlets.IhadafeelingthathiswastheheadofwhichIhadcaughta
glimpseasitwasbeingdrawnbackthroughthewindowoftheupperroomthat
probablyhewasthemanwhohaddroppedthecanvasbag.Theinstanthe
enteredhebrokeintowhatseemedtometobenoisyejaculations.Ihadnota
notionwhathewastalkingabout,butwhateveritwasitsutteranceseemedtofill
hislistenerswithwhatlookedverylikepanicfear.Ithoughtthattheyweregoing
tomakeageneralstampede,butthegirlstoppedthem.Acting,asItookit,upon
herinstructions,thebigmanandthefatmanseizedmeoneithersideandranme
fromtheroom,almostpitchingmedownanarrow,ricketyflightofstairs,and
pushedmethroughadoorintopitchblackdarkness.Iheardthedoorlockedand
boltedontheotherside,andknewthatintheveryheartofLondon,fornoreason
atallthatIcouldunderstand,Iwasaprisonerindeed.


CHAPTERIII
CRASH!CAMETHEKNOCKER
IDOnotknowhowlongitwasbeforeIrealised,eveninthefaintestdegree,
whathadhappened;theyhadthrustmethroughthedoorwithsuchunnecessary
violencethat,stumblingoversomeunseenobstacle,Ihadfallenflatonmyface.
Thefallshookme.ItwassomemomentsbeforeIwassufficientlyrecoveredto
endeavourtoraisemyselffromwhereIhadfallen.Then,gaggedandpinionedas
Iwas,Igotontomyfeet.Letapersonunaccustomedtosuchexerciseslieflat
onhisstomachandraisehimselfwithouttheuseofhishands;itwillquicklybe
foundthatthethingisnottobedoneinaninstant.Ifirstofallrolledoveronmy
backdoingthatwithdifficulty;then,afteraseriesofjerks,Iraisedmyselftoa
sittingposture;then,withalop-sided,crablikemotion,ontomyknees:finally,
somehow,Igainedmyfeet.
WhenIhaddonethatIwasnobetteroff.Myturningsandtwistingshadtaught
menotonlythatthegroundwasuneven,butalsothattherewereobjectsonitof
allsortsandshapesandsizes,which,inthedarkness,itwasnoteasytoavoid.
Forinstance,IsatuponwhatIbelievedtobeabrokenbottle;possiblyonlythe
thicknessoftheskincoatIwaswearingpreventeditsdoingmeaninjury.Ihad
nowishtostumbleoversomethingwhichIcouldnotsee,andpossiblyfallon
somethingworsethanabrokenbottle.
MysensationsduringthefirstfewminuteswhichIpassedinthatgloomyplaceI
amnotabletodescribe.IthinkwhatIfeltchieflywasanger;Iwashalfbeside
myselfwithrage.Myinclinationwastoseekforsomethinganythingwhich
wouldexplainwhathadoccurred.Whowerethepeoplewhooccupiedthe
house?WhathadIdone,orwhatdidtheyimagineIhaddone,whichhadcaused
themtosubjectmetosuchtreatment?Thattheywereafraidofsomethingwas
obviousbutwhat?IrealisedbeforeIhadbeeninthatfilthyroomacoupleof
minutesthattheywereallinwhatstruckmeasastateofalmostpanicterror.
Theirnerveswereallonend:theyweresufferingfromwhat,whenIwasa
youngster,weusedtocallthe“jumps.”Theywereafraidofeverything.
Whodidtheysupposehadknockedatthedoor?Theywereafraidofhim,
whoeveritwas;buttheyfearedstillmorewhentheysawitwasnottheperson


theyexpected.Intheirterrortheywouldhavemurderedme.TheEnglishspeakingruffian’sinquiryastowhetherIwasconnectedwiththepolice
suggestedapossibleexplanation.Probablytheoccupantsofthehousewere
criminals,hidingfromjustice,incontinualalarmthatvengeancewasuponthem.
Ofwhatcrimehadtheybeenguilty?TheywerenotEnglishmen.SinceIwas
wearingthecostumeoftheSt.Petersburgequivalenttoourcab-drivers,possibly
theywereRussian.
IhadnopersonalknowledgeofRussiaortheRussians,butIhadreadthings
whichcausedmetofeelthatinthatpartoftheworldpeoplewereconstantly
guiltyofallsortsofcrimesofviolence.Thosemenhadbeenguiltyofsome
dreadfuldeedintheirowncountry;toavoidtheconsequencestheyhadfledfor
theirlives;soconsciousweretheythatthepursuitwasprobablystillhot-foot
afterthemthateverytrivialeventputtheminatremoroffearthattheavengerof
bloodwasuponthem.
Latelyill-luckseemedtohavedoggedmyfootsteps.Thatmorning,ata
moment’snotice,IhadlostasituationwhichIhadheldfornearlyfouryears,I
vowandprotestfornofaultofmyown.Messrs.Hunter&Barnett,of
CommercialBuildings,Southwark,hadpresentedmewiththekeyofthestreet
fornootherreasonthanthatthejuniorpartnerhadprobablyhadarowwithhis
wifeIbelievehewasalwayshavingthemandwantedtogetevenwithsomeone.
Sohefiredme.Hunterwasaway;possiblywhenhereturnedhewouldask
Barnettaquestionortwo.Buthewouldnotreturnfortwoorthreeweeks,and
meanwhilewhatredresshadI?TherehadbeentalkofmymarryingCatherinein
threeorfourmonths.Itlookedlikeit!situationsareeasiertolosethanfind.On
thetopofthattroublehadcomethis!Ihadbeenrobbedofmyclothes,putinto
filthygarmentswhichhadonceadornedacab-driver;andnow,gaggedand
pinioned,Iwaslockedupinsomesortofcellarinwhichthedarknesswas
Egyptian.HeavenonlyknewhowlongIshouldbekeptthere.Andithadall
comeuponmebecauseIhadhadtheill-lucktobepassingalongthepavementin
anunknownstreetatamomentwhensomeonehadchancedtobedropping
somethingfromawindowwhichhadfallenuponmyhatandbrokenit,andIhad
knockedatthedoorofthehousetoreturnthesomethingtoitsproperowner.
Inotherwords,IhaddonenothingtodeservetheplightwhichIwasin.HadI
hadthedimmestsuspicionwhattheoccupantsofthehousewerelikeIwould
havewalkedmilesandmilestoavoidthestreetwhichitwasin.Whatmademe
somadwastheconsciousnessthatallthosethingshadcomeuponmebecause,


withthebestintentionsintheworld,Ihadraisedaknocker.
ButwhileIragedIknewthatangerwouldnotmendthesituation.WhatIwanted
wasacoolheadandaclearone;presenceofmind;tomakethebestuseofsuch
witsasIhad.FrenzywasnouseIwasnotgoingtogetthroughthedoorthat
way.
WhenIhadrealisedthatmuchIbegantogrowcalmer.Afterwhatseemedtome
tobealongintervalofwaitingImovedgingerlyinthedirectioninwhichI
believedthedoorwastobebroughtupsuddenlybyawall;whetheritwasof
brickorstoneIcouldnottell.WhenIfellIlostallsenseofdirectionbeforeI
gainedmyfeet;IgropedmywayalongthatwallforquiteadistancebeforeI
cameuponthedoor.ItwasnotatallwhereIhadsupposedittobe.
WhenIhadsatisfiedmyselfthatitwasthedoorIstoodstillandlistened.Icould
hearnothing;possiblysoundsfromabovedidnotpenetratetothatunderground
pit.AlthoughIstrainedmyearstolistennotasoundcametome.
WhatwasIdo?EverysenseIhadrevoltedattheideathatIshoulddonothing;
thatIshouldjuststaythere,helplessasatrussedfowl,waitingforsomeoneto
comeandletmeout.Noonemightevercome;atleastuntiltoolatefortheir
comingtobeofusetome.Atthatmomentthehousemightbeempty;those
guiltywretchesmighthavefledfortheirlives.Thebeardedmanhadbrought
themagitatingnewsofsomesort.Conceivablyhehadcometotellthemthatthe
officersofthelawwereontheirtrack;inwhichcase,unlessImisjudgedthem,
theycertainlywouldnotstandupontheorderoftheirgoing.Withallpossible
hastetheymighthaverushedfromtheplace,nevertoreturn.Inthatcasewhat
wouldbecomeofme?Withthatdisgustingraginmymouth,whichfelteach
secondasifitwouldchokeme,Icouldnotutterasound.Supposesomeonedid
cometothehousethepolice,forinstance;Icouldnothearthem.Possiblythey
mightnotdiscoverthepresenceofacellaratthefootofthosemean,rotten
stairs.WhatcouldIdo?
IsupposeIstayedinthatconditionofhelplessinactionforfiveorsixhours,
wandering,tothebestofmyability,alloverthecellar.IcouldnotbesurethatI
didnottraversethesamepieceofgroundtwice,butIdidmybesttolearnwith
myfeetwhatkindofplaceitwas.Iwalkedfromwalltowall,countingmysteps
asIwentbywhichIjudgedittobeaboutsixteenfeetacrossinonedirectionand
fifteenintheother.WhatithadbeenusedforIcouldnotmakeoutpossiblyas


somesortoflumberroom.Thereseemedtobeallsortsofqueerthingsuponthe
floorwhosenatureIcouldnotascertain.Ishouldhavelikedtobeabletostrikea
match,andseewhatsomeofthemwere.
AstimewentonIbecamebothhungryandtired.Ihadbeenalittlelatethat
morning;therehadonlybeentimeformetoscampmybreakfast.Ihadhadno
dinner,whichIalwayshadattheBoroughRestaurantasnearaspossibletoone
o’clock,andwhichwastomethemealoftheday.Ibegantofeelthewantofit.
Itisoddhowhungryonecangetifoneknowsitisimpossibletogetanythingto
eatandthirsty.
IdonotknowhowlongIhadbeentherewhenitfirstbegantodawnuponme
thatmyhandswerenotsotightlytiedastheyhadbeen.Ihadbecomewearyof
standing,andfoundthatleaningagainstthewallaffordedalittlerest.Iwas
unwillingtositdown;oneexperienceofthedifficultyofrisingfromasitting
posturewithmyhandstiedbehindwasenough.Myhandsandarmsandwrists
weregrowingmoreandmorepainful;theywereinanunnaturalposition.IfI
couldonlyloosenmywristsalittleImightbeeased.WiththisideaIgavemy
wristsalittletug,andfoundthattheywerelooserthanIhadsupposed;theyhad
beentightenoughwhenthatfatmantiedthemthecordhadcutintomyskinand
galledmeterribly;butItakeitthatunconsciouslyIhadbeencontinuously
fidgeting,withtheresultthatmybondshadgraduallyslackened.
Iwasstartledtofindhowslacktheyactuallywere.Byopeningmylefthandso
astomakeitasthinaspossibleImanaged,afteroneortwotugsandtwists,to
withdrawitfromtheslackenednooseandbothhandswerefree.Thereliefitwas
I
ThefirstuseImadeofmyfreedomwastorelievemyselfofthehorridragwhich
theyhadstuffedintomymouth.Whatacomfortitwastobeabletoopenone’s
mouthwide,andtobreatheasonechose.Iwasallatonceamuchbetterman
thanIhadbeen.InmysuddenexhilarationIjumpedtotheconclusionthatnowI
couldusemyhandsIcouldbethroughthatdoorinlessthannotime.ButIwas
wrong.Ipickedupallsortsofthingsfromthefloorbricks,bottles,andallsorts
ofoddsandendsandbroughtthemtobearagainstthedoorwhichshutmein.
Itresistedthemall.SofarasIcouldjudgeImadenoimpressiononitofany
kind.ItwasaprettysolidpieceofworkIhadlearntthatalready.NothingIcould
getholdofavailedtoforceitopen.


Thedisappointmentwasacute;Ihadbeensosure.WhenIrecognisedthatIwas
beatenIjustsankdownonthegroundandstoppedthere.Iwasnolongerafraid
ofbeingunabletoraisemyself,butIwaswornandweary,hungryandthirsty,
uncomfortableinmyill-fittingattire,consciousofgrimeanddirtIwouldhave
givenagooddealforawashsickatheart.Ihadneverpretendedtobeahero;I
feltsingularlyunheroicthen.IfIcouldonlyhavebeenathomeinmyroom,just
abouttositdowntosupper,withtheprospectofacomfortablebedtofollow,
whatahappymanIshouldhavebeen.Howmanymenwhoworkinthecity
clerkingforfortyorfiftyshillingsaweekarepreparedtofacewhatIhadgone
throughthen?Howmanyofthem,aftermyexperiences,wouldhavebeenfitand
cheerful?IadmitthatIwasnot;Iwasinastateofabjectmisery.
Allatoncewhatseemedtometobethedreadfulsilencewasbrokenbythe
barkingofadog.Isatupstraighterandlistened.Wastheanimalinthehouse?
Haditjustcomein?Withwhom?Itbarkedonce,ashort,sharpbark,andthenno
more.Silenceagain.Thenafterwhatappearedtometobeaprolongedinterval,
anotherbark;asinglenote,asitwere,ofexclamation.Allthroughthenightthe
dogkeptbarking.Iarrivedattheconclusionbydegreesthatthenoiseitmade
wasproofthatthehousewasempty.Theinmatesweregone;thedog,shutinone
oftheupstairsrooms,hadbeenforgotten;possiblyithadbeenasleep.Wakingat
last,ithadpossiblywaitedtobereleased,Whennoonecameitexpostulated,
andcontinued,asIhavesaid,toexpostulateallthroughthenight.Sometimesit
wouldgiveaseriesofyapsspreadingoveralongperiod;then,asiftiring,it
wouldceaseandpossiblysnatchanothersnooze;afteranintervalitwouldbegin
again,nowandthenburstingintoaseriesofexplosivecriesasiftoshowits
angeratthewayitwasbeingneglected.Probably,too,itwashungry,andthat
wasitswayofcallingattentiontothefact.
IdoubtifitwasashungryasIwas;Ifeelsureithadmoresleep.
Ialteredmyposition,sittingclosetothewall,sothatIhadittorestmyback
against.IwillnotsayIdidnotclosemyeyesbecauseIdid,againandagain,to
shutoutthedarkness.ButIdidnotsleepawink.Andwhenmyeyeswereclosed
thedarknessbecamemorevisible;IfanciedIcouldseethingswhichIknew
perfectlywellwerenotthere;yetIhadtoopenthemagaintomakesure.Then
thatdogwouldbark;Iwasconsciousofwhatseemedtobetheridiculousdesire
togetwithinreachofhimandtocomforthim.
IknownowthatIwasinthatcellarforcloseonfour-and-twentyhours.They


thrustmeinaboutnoonontheoneday;Iwasoutofitaboutnoononthenext.
Theywereinterminablehours.IshouldhavesufferedmorethanIdidhaditnot
beenforaqueerlittlething.Itiscuriouswhatatriflecandivertamanwhen,for
wantofoccupationandallthecomfortsoflife,hefeelsthatheisgoingmad.
Whathappenedtomewasthis.Thereweretwobigpocketsinthatdrosky
driver’scoat,oneoneitherside.Ithrustmyhandsdeepdowninthemforthe
sakeofwhateversolacetheycouldafford.FidgetingaboutwithmyfingersI
graduallybecameawarethatintheliningoftheoneontheright-handsidethere
seemedtobesomethingofthenatureofapea,orasmallroundbullet.Itmight
eitherhavelostitswaythroughaholewhichIcouldnotfind,orbeensewnin.It
was,asIhavesaid,atrifle,butitoccupiedmeatintervalsthroughthatdreary
nighttotrytoworkitloosetoascertainwhatthethingmightbe.
Itwasononesideofthepocket,intheseam.Iactuallysearchedforapieceof
brokenglass,orsomethingofthekind,andhadtogropeaboutalloverthefloor
tofindit.Therewasaboxofmatchesinthepocketofthecoatofwhichtheyhad
deprivedmeIfIhadonlyhaditthen!Thestoryofthatnightwouldhavebeen
altogetherdifferentandthestory,IthinkImaysay,ofallthatfollowed.
Ifoundapieceofglassatlast;withitssharpestedgeIdugattheseamofthe
pocket.ItwassharpenoughtocutmeIwasconsciousthatthebloodwas
flowingfromagashwhichitmadeonmyfinger;itwasnotsharpenoughtocut
thattoughmaterial.WithmyfingernailsandtheglasstogetherIdidloosen
someofthestitches,enoughofthemtothrustafingerthroughtheopening.But
eventhenIcouldnotreachthethingIwasafter.Itseemsabsurdwhenonelooks
back,butIdaresayIspenttwoorthreeofthosedragginghoursintryingtogetat
itwithoutsuccess.Icouldfeelitonbothsidesofthematerial.Thepocketwas
lined;thethingwassewn,orfastenedsomehow,betweentheliningandthestuff
ofwhichthepocketwasmade.Idecidedthatafterallitwasnothingbutapeaor
alargeroundshot;yetIhadanideathatwhenIpressedithardityieldedwhich
neitherapeanorashotwoulddo.ItwaspreposteroushowannoyedIbecameat
notbeingabletoworkitloose.Ofsuchfollycananordinary,level-headedman
becapable.
Iwasstilltryingtoworkthethingloosewhentheeventshappenedwhich
resultedinmyreleaseifreleaseitcouldbecalled.Thefirstunusualincidentof
whichIbecameawarewasthebarkingofthedog.Ithadbeensilentforsome
timewhen,allatonce,itbrokeoutintowhatsoundedverylikeaparoxysmof


barkingnottheyapsinwhichithadbeenoccasionallyindulging,butasustained
volleyoffull-lunged,open-mouthed,frenziedbarking.
Something,Itoldmyself,hadhappenedtoexcitethatdog.
IlistenedtolearnifIcoulddiscoveranyreason.Presently,whilethedogstill
barked,therewasaknocking,asIjudged,atthefrontdoor;notonemodest
knock,butapealofloud,insistentassaultswiththeknocker.Igotupfrom
whereIwassittingandgropedmywaytothecellardoor.
“Who’sthat?”Iaskedmyself,asIstoodwithmyfaceclosetothewoodwork.
“Thatsoundsasifsomeonewereinahurrytogetinwhodoesnotmeantobe
denied.”
Crash!crash!crash!cametheknocker.ThenatearingnoisewhichatfirstI
couldnotunderstand;thenfootstepswereheard.
“They’veforcedthedooropen,that’swhatitisthey’venotwaitedforan
invitation.Whoarethey?whatdotheywant?HadIbettercalltheirattentionto
mypresence?”
Ihesitatedamoment,thenyelledwiththefullforceofmylungs;almost
regrettinghavingdonesothesecondafter.Icouldnottellifanyonehadheard.
Thepointwas,WerethoseabovethesortofpersonsIwouldliketohavehear
me?Afterall,Imightpassfromthefrying-panintothefire.Clearly,whoever
hadcomeintothehouseweremenofviolence;iftheyweremoreviolentthan
thosewhoseacquaintanceIhadalreadymadeitmightfareillwithme.


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