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Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about If Winter Comes.

He went out of the room.  He thought, “There you are!  Now I’ve done it!” He went back.  “I say, I’m sorry for bursting out like that; but I’ve had rather a night of it.  It’s terrible, isn’t it, both of them like that?  Aren’t you awfully sorry about it, Mabel?”

She said, “I’m very sorry.  Very sorry indeed.  But you can’t expect me to say much when you speak in that extraordinary manner.”

“I was with her when she died.  It’s upset me a bit.”

“I don’t wonder.  If you ask me, I think it was very extraordinary your being there.  If you ask me, I think it was very funny of that Miss Bright sending for you at that hour of the night.  Whyever should she send for you of all people?”

“I was their greatest friend.”

“Yes, I know you always liked them.  But you couldn’t be of any use.  I must say I do think people are very funny sometimes.  If Miss Bright had done the right thing, as we are their nearest neighbors, she would have sent and asked me if I could let one of the maids go over and be with her.  Then you could have gone up too if you’d wished and could have come back again.  I don’t think she had any right to send for you.”

He had sat down and was about to pour himself out some tea.  He put down the teapot and got up.  “Look here, do me a favour.  They’re dead, both of them.  Don’t say anything more about them.  Don’t mention the subject again.  For God’s sake.”

He went out of the house and got his bicycle and set out for the office.  At the top of the Green he passed young Pinnock, the son of Pinnock’s Stores.  Some patch of colour about young Pinnock caught his eye.  He looked again.  The colour was a vivid red crown on a khaki brassard on the young man’s arm.  The badge of the recruits enrolled under the Derby enlistment scheme.  He dismounted.  “Hullo, Pinnock.  How on earth did you get that armlet?”

“I’ve joined up.”

“But I thought you’d been rejected about forty times.  Haven’t you got one foot in the grave or something?”

Young Pinnock grinned hugely.  “Don’t matter if you’ve got both feet in, or head and shoulders neither, over at Chovensbury to-day, Mr. Sabre.  It’s the last day of this yer Derby scheme, an’ there’s such a rush of chaps to get in before they make conscripts of ’em they’re fair letting anybody through.”

Sabre’s heart—­that very heart!—­bounded with an immense hope.  “D’you think it’s the same at Tidborough?”

“They’re saying it’s the same everywhere.  They say they’re passing you through if you can breathe.  I reckon that’s so at Chovensbury anyway.  Why, they didn’t hardly look at me.”

Sabre turned his front wheel to the Chovensbury road.  “I’ll go there.”

VII

At Chovensbury the recruiting station was in the elementary schools.  Sabre entered a large room filled with men in various stages of dressing, odorous of humanity, very noisy.  It was a roughish collection:  the men mostly of the labouring or artisan classes.  At a table in the centre two soldiers with lance corporal’s stripes were filling up blue forms with the answers to questions barked out at the file of men who shuffled before them.  As each form was completed, it was pushed at the man interrogated with “Get undressed.”

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