A Chinese Command by Harry Collingwood Page 1 of 313

Chapter One.
The Outcast.

A furious gust of wind tore down the chimney, blowing the smoke out into the small but cosily-furnished sitting-room of the little cottage at Kingston-on-Thames, and sending a shower of sparks hissing and spluttering on to the hearth-rug, where they were promptly trodden out by a tall, fair-haired young giant, who lazily removed his feet from a chair on which they reposed, for the purpose.

This operation concluded, he replaced his feet on the chair with deliberation, re-arranged a cushion behind his head, leaned back luxuriously, and started hunting in his pocket for matches wherewith to light his pipe, which had gone out.

"Beastly night for a dog to be out, much more a human being," he soliloquised. "Poor old Murray"s sure to be drenched when he gets back, as well as frozen to the bone. Let"s see - is everything ready for him? Yes, there are his slippers warming before the fire - hope none of those sparks burnt a hole in "em - likewise dry coat, shirt, and trousers; that ought to do him all right.

I hope to goodness the poor old chap"s got some encouragement to-day, if nothing else, for he"s fearfully down on his luck, and no mistake. And, between me and those fire-irons there, I"m getting almost afraid to let him out of my sight, for fear he"ll go and do something foolish - though, to be sure, he"s hardly that kind of fellow, when one comes to think of it.

However, he should be in very soon now, and then I, shall learn the news."

Having delivered himself of this monologue, Dick Penryn lit his pipe, took up the book he had been reading, and was soon deep in the pages of Theophile Gautier"s Voyage en l"Orient.

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