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R Austin Freeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 206 pages of information about The Red Thumb Mark.

Unsatisfactory as this conclusion appeared, I knew it was useless to raise further objections, and, accordingly, when the cigar with its accompanying papers and wrappings had been deposited in a drawer, we dismissed it, if not from our thoughts, at least from our conversation.

CHAPTER XIV

A STARTLING DISCOVERY

The morning of the trial, so long looked forward to, had at length arrived, and the train of events which it has been my business to chronicle in this narrative was now fast drawing to an end.  To me those events had been in many ways of the deepest moment.  Not only had they transported me from a life of monotonous drudgery into one charged with novelty and dramatic interest; not only had they introduced me to a renascence of scientific culture and revived under new conditions my intimacy with the comrade of my student days; but, far more momentous than any of these, they had given me the vision—­all too fleeting—­of happiness untold, with the reality of sorrow and bitter regret that promised to be all too enduring.

Whence it happened that on this morning my thoughts were tinged with a certain greyness.  A chapter in my life that had been both bitter and sweet was closing, and already I saw myself once more an Ishmaelite and a wanderer among strangers.

This rather egotistical frame of mind, however, was soon dispelled when I encountered Polton, for the little man was in a veritable twitter of excitement at the prospect of witnessing the clearing up of the mysteries that had so severely tried his curiosity; and even Thorndyke, beneath his habitual calm, showed a trace of expectancy and pleasurable anticipation.

“I have taken the liberty of making certain little arrangements on your behalf,” he said, as we sat at breakfast, “of which I hope you will not disapprove.  I have written to Mrs. Hornby, who is one of the witnesses, to say that you will meet her at Mr. Lawley’s office and escort her and Miss Gibson to the court.  Walter Hornby may be with them, and, if he is, you had better leave him, if possible, to come on with Lawley.”

“You will not come to the office, then?”

“No.  I shall go straight to the court with Anstey.  Besides, I am expecting Superintendent Miller from Scotland Yard, who will probably walk down with us.”

“I am glad to hear that,” I said; “for I have been rather uneasy at the thought of your mixing in the crowd without some kind of protection.”

“Well, you see that I am taking precautions against the assaults of the too-ingenious X, and, to tell the truth—­and also to commit a flagrant bull—­I should never forgive myself if I allowed him to kill me before I had completed Reuben Hornby’s defence.  Ah, here is Polton—­that man is on wires this morning; he has been wandering in and out of the rooms ever since he came, like a cat in a new house.”

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