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HOME > Classical Novels > The Blue Balloon > CHAPTER III.THE BALLOON GOES UP.
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 Still absorbed in his own thoughts, Lucius followed his friend in silence through the crowded streets until they reached a remote field or piece of waste land at the very outskirts1 of the town, and here Ephraim halted and spoke2 once more.  
The pomp and circumstance of glorious war had laid hold of poor Grizzly3, for his cheeks were still red and his eyes sparkling, while there was something intense in his voice as he said: ‘Air ye sot, Luce? Air ye still sot like ye war?’
‘Set on what?’ asked Lucius, still dreaming.
‘On seeing the fight.’
‘Oh yes,’ answered Lucius; but his expression plainly showed that he had scarcely heard, and certainly not comprehended Grizzly’s remarks.
‘Waal, come over hyar, then,’ said Ephraim, ‘and I’ll show ye what I’ve been fixed5 onter fer the last five months.’
He moved mysteriously towards an old shed of considerable size that stood in a corner of the field, and with many anxious glances all around unlocked the 33door. Though it chimed in with his mood, his caution was unnecessary, for not a civilian6 was in sight. Only in the near distance they could see part of the cordon7 of sentries8 pacing up and down with bayonets fixed, and ever and anon a patrol rode swiftly by. Occasionally a bugle9 blared in the town, and the hum of many voices came faintly to them. Except for these all was quiet, and they were quite alone.
‘Come along, Luce,’ said Ephraim, pulling him through the door, which he carefully shut and locked behind him. ‘Ye won’t know whar ye air, but I’ll tell ye. This is my new workshop. I got it a bargain from Pete Taylor last December after us two had thet talk. I pinned him down not to let on that I had the place, fer I didn’t want ter be followed and worried by the boys. And I been fixin’ things hyar ever sence ye ’lowed ye war so sot.’
He flung the shutters11 wide as he spoke, and the light streamed through two windows upon a great heap of blue cotton material, apparently12 enveloped13 in a network of fine ropes. Here and there lay other ropes neatly14 coiled, and close beside the blue heap was what looked like a large round hamper15 without a cover.
‘Waal,’ demanded Ephraim anxiously, after a somewhat protracted16 pause, during which Lucius glanced vacantly around the workshop, ‘what d’ ye think of her? I ’lowed I’d try and fix her up fer ye, seein’ ye war so sot.’
‘For me?’ echoed Lucius. ‘What is for me? I don’t see anything.’
‘Don’t see nuthin’, don’t ye?’ chuckled17 Ephraim. ‘I reckon ye see without onderstandin’. What d’ ye ’magine this is?’
34He took up an armful of the blue fabric18 as he spoke and let it fall again in a heap.
‘I’m sure I don’t know,’ answered Lucius.
‘Co’se ye don’t; co’se ye don’t,’ said Ephraim, rubbing his hands together, and grinning delightedly. ‘Ye never see nuthin’ like her before, I bet.’
‘I have not,’ returned Lucius, now thoroughly19 awake, and examining everything with great curiosity. ‘What a queer-looking——Oh! why, Grizzly, if I don’t believe it’s a balloon!’
Ephraim sprang off the ground and twirled round in the air for joy. ‘Thet’s it,’ he cried. ‘Thet’s it! By time! ef ye ain’t cute. Thet’s jest what it is.’
‘But—but—I don’t understand,’ said Lucius, fingering the network. ‘Where did you get it?’
Ephraim gave himself another spin. ‘I done read her up out of a book, and made her myself,’ he said.
‘Grizzly!’ cried Lucius in profound admiration21. ‘You—made—it—yourself. Well, if you don’t just beat every one. You’re a genius, that’s what you are. What put it into your head to make it? You clever old stick!’
‘You did,’ answered Ephraim, glowing with pride and pleasure.
‘I did! Why? How? What is it for, then?’
Ephraim took a step forward and looked into his eyes. ‘Fer you and me to sail around in and watch the war,’ he said.
Profound silence followed this extraordinary announcement, and then Lucius sat down on a heap of shavings and rather feebly remarked, ‘Oh!’ There really seemed nothing more to be said.
‘Yas, sir,’ went on Ephraim, still beaming with 35satisfaction; ‘when ye said ye wuz so sot ter see some fightin’, I began ter study and figger out what’d be the best way for ye ter do it ’thout ye gettin’ in the track of the bullets.’
‘Oh,’ commented Lucius, ‘you were afraid of being killed, were you?’
‘No, and I warn’t neither,’ returned Ephraim simply; ‘but I wuz powerful frightened lest ye might be. Bullets is sech darned unpolites—they never stops ter inquire if ye b’long ter a fust fam’ly or if ye don’t.’
‘But you know,’ explained Lucius, ‘when I said that I wanted to see a battle, I meant that I wanted to take part in one.’
‘I know ye did,’ assented22 Ephraim. ‘At the same time, ez fur ez I kin20 l’arn, that’s about the most or’nery way of seein’ a battle ez has ever been invented. I tell ye, a bullet is the meanes’ thing alive.’
Lucius laughed. ‘But we can’t fight if we are up in the air, Grizzly,’ he observed.
‘Can’t we? I reckon we kin, though,’ replied Ephraim. ‘But ez fur ez that goes, who wants ter fight? I don’t, fer wun; and I don’t mean to let you, fer another. Ain’t there enuff of ’em hammerin’ away just now without you and me joinin’ in?’
‘That’s not very patriotic,’ said Lucius with emphasis.
‘Ain’t it?’ answered Ephraim drily. ‘I reckon it’s sense all the same. Anyway, this is how I’ve fixed it up. If ye don’t like my way, I promise ye, ye won’t get a chance to go off on yer own, ef I have ter tie ye in a chair and keep ye at my own expense until the war is through.’
Lucius laughed again. ‘You dear old Grizzly,’ he 36said, ‘you are always thinking of me. I’d just love to go with you. It will be splendid fun. But, tell me, how ever did you manage to make such a wonderful thing all by yourself?’
‘Waal, I don’t say it war ez easy ez hoein’ a row,’ replied Ephraim, ‘but it warn’t so dreadful hard nuther. I got it all outern a book, as I was telling ye, and made her to measurement, and thar she is, ye see. Besides,’ he added with an affectionate grin, ‘seein’ ez how it wuz fer ye I made her, Luce, I didn’t take no count of trouble. Ef thar wuz any, I reckon it never come my way.’
‘Upon my word, you are a good old Grizzly,’ cried Lucius enthusiastically, and fetching Ephraim a sounding slap between the shoulders, which seemed to delight the assaulted one immensely. ‘To think of your taking all that trouble just to please me. And the thing itself—why, it’s magnificent! If you aren’t clever! Say, Grizzly, are you sure it will hold us?’
‘I reckon,’ answered Ephraim. ‘Git inter23 the kyar and see.’
‘Yes, I see there’s plenty of room in there,’ said Lucius, ‘but what I meant to say was, will it bear us, hold us up, or whatever you call it?’
‘Waal, I should say so,’ cried Ephraim joyously24. ‘Ye onderstand, Luce, thet’s jest whar the hard part came in. I had ter cal’clate the strain and——But d’ ye know anythin’ ’bout airy nortics?’
‘Airy who?’ repeated Lucius, puzzled. ‘Oh, I see, aeronautics25.’
‘Waal, I said so. D’ ye know ’em?’
Lucius shook his head.
‘Then I han’t no time ter teach ye now. Ye kin 37read ’em up twixt now and the time we go up, ef ye like.’
‘I shouldn’t understand it,’ said Lucius. ‘I guess I’ll leave it to you. It means the way to handle a balloon, I suppose?’
‘Thet’s about it,’ answered Ephraim sententiously. ‘I ’magine it’s easy ’nuff. I read her up, and if ye care to come, why, I ain’t afraid ter be airy-nort.’
‘I’ll go with you fast enough,’ said Lucius. ‘It will be grand. When do you mean to start?’
‘Waal, perhaps we’d better wait till we get a notion whar old Stonewall’s goin’ ter. Then we kin foller him up; fer, don’t ye know, thar’s bound ter be some mighty26 stark27 fightin’ when old Stonewall is around.’
‘Oh!’ cried Lucius, flushing scarlet28, as a sudden recollection struck him. ‘I forgot. I won’t—I mean I can’t go with you.’
‘What! what’s thet ye say?’ exclaimed Ephraim, too astonished for further speech.
‘A soldier’s first duty is obedience30,’ went on Lucius, speaking to himself. ‘It’s no use, Grizzly; I’ll just have to stay behind.’
‘What ails31 ye ter say such ez thet?’ asked Ephraim, much aggrieved32. ‘Right now ye seemed willin’ ’nuff, and ye looked right peart and chipper. Ye seemed ter ache ter come. Co’se ye mought have been funnin’ bout’n thet; but ef thet’s so, why, I give in I never war so fooled before.’
‘No,’ said Lucius, shaking his head sadly; ‘you were not wrong. I did want to go. I do still, very much indeed.’
‘Then why in thunder don’t ye?’ queried33 the mystified Ephraim.
38‘Well,’ answered Lucius, growing very red again, and stirring a coil of ropes with his foot, ‘you know what father said when I told him I wanted to join; and then he said—the General, I mean—“a soldier’s first duty is obedience.” And, oh! Grizzly,’ he cried, flinging himself face downwards34 upon the blue heap, ‘I’d just love to go now; for since he spoke to me, I’d follow him through fire and water all the world over. But I mustn’t—I mustn’t.’
Ephraim stood twining his long brown fingers together, the picture of distress35 at sight of Luce’s grief. A blue vein36 which ran perpendicularly37 in the centre of his forehead, swelled38 out, a rugged39 bar, against which the waves of red which chased one another over his face broke and receded40. His eyes were troubled, and swept rapidly up and down and round and round as if seeking inspiration, while so firmly were his lips compressed that the line of parting could barely be distinguished41.
‘Don’t ye take on so, Luce. I can’t abear it,’ he muttered huskily, at last. Then, as if with the breaking of his silence the idea of which he had been in pursuit had been captured, he emitted a sudden cackle of satisfaction, and flinging himself down beside Lucius, drew the boy to him and hugged him like a grizzly indeed.
‘Cheer up, Luce!’ he cried. ‘I done got the way. By time! what an or’nery fool I must hev been not ter remember thet.’
‘Remember what?’ asked Lucius, willing but unable to see a ray of comfort.
‘What I been doin’ ter let thet notion past me?’ inquired Ephraim cheerfully of himself. ‘I declar’ I 39had her all along; on’y when ye up ’n said ye wouldn’t come, I ’low I let her slip fer a minnit.’
‘I wish you’d explain,’ said Lucius fretfully.
‘Comin’, Luce, comin’. Don’t ye go fer ter knock thet idee out er my head agen with yer talk. Why, I war workin’ along the very same lines myself when we began ter talk, if ye recollect29. Now, see hyar. This is the way I put it up. Your par4, he says ye’re not ter go fightin’—and I swow it’s the last thing I want ter do—Old Stonewall he ’lows ye orter do ez yer par says, and ye ’low ye orter agree with both of ’em. Ain’t thet so?’
‘That’s so,’ admitted Lucius forlornly.
‘Ezacly! Waal now, Luce, I’ll give ye the whole idee in a par’ble. Ye know thet black bull way down ter Holmes’s place?’ Lucius nodded. ‘Waal then, we’ll suppose yer par sez ter ye: “Luce,” sez he, “that bull er Holmes’s is powerful servigerous. I’ll not hev ye goin inter the field ter take him by the tail!”’
‘Well?’ laughed Lucius, as Ephraim paused to wrestle42 with his idea.
‘Waal, ye ’low ye’ll do ez yer par sez; but all the same ye hev an outrageous43 hankerin’ ter see thet bull er Holmes’s. Now, what d’ ye reckon ye’d do?’
‘Why, sit on the fence and look at him,’ answered Lucius.
‘Ezacly!’ cried Ephraim joyously. ‘Thet’s what I ’lowed ye’d do. And think no harm of it?’ he finished anxiously.
‘No,’ said Lucius; ‘I wasn’t told not to look at the bull. I don’t see how there could be any harm in doing that.’
‘Then thet’s all right. This hyar fight, thet stands 40fer Holmes’s bull, ye onderstand; and the old balloon, she stands fer the ring fence. How does thet strike ye?’
‘You mean,’ said Lucius thoughtfully, ‘that since we only intend to watch what is going on, I shall be doing no harm if I go with you.’
‘Thet’s it, I reckon. Why, don’t ye know, I’ve been studyin’ all the time how I could git ye thar, and give ye suthin’ like what ye wanted, without ye runnin’ no resks.’ It did not appear to strike Ephraim that there could be any risk connected with the balloon itself. ‘Waal,’ he added after a pause, during which Lucius gave himself up to reflection, ‘what d’ ye ’low ye’ll do?’
‘I’ll come,’ said Lucius, rising to his feet. ‘There can’t be anything wrong in this, for it’s only a piece of fun.’ There was a note of doubt in his voice; but he was anxious to allow himself to be convinced.
‘Then thet’s fixed,’ said Ephraim, with a sigh of relief. ‘’Taint likely ez I’d ask ye ter do anythin’ wrong, Luce.—Now we’ll git outern this, and I’ll let ye know when all’s ready fer a start.’
‘But how are you going to manage it?’ asked Lucius. ‘What about the gas?’
‘I’ll show ye,’ answered Ephraim. ‘See them two bar’ls?’
‘No,’ said Lucius; ‘I don’t see any barrels.’
‘Thar, opposite the door, buried in the ground.’
‘Oh yes; filled with straw. What are they for?’
‘They ain’t filled with straw, ye onderstand,’ explained Ephraim. ‘I’ll show ye.’
He gathered up the straw from the top of one of the 41barrels, and disclosed underneath44 a quantity of iron filings and borings.
‘Why, that’s iron,’ exclaimed Lucius; ‘what has that to do with gas?’
‘Hold on,’ replied Ephraim genially45. ‘I’ll make it cl’ar ter ye in a jiffy. Ye see,’ he pursued, ‘this kind er thing goes on all the way down—a layer er straw and a layer er iron-filin’s plumb47 down ter the bottom er the bar’l.’
‘I see,’ said Lucius, looking very wise, though, as a matter of fact, he was as much in the dark as ever.
‘Now,’ went on Ephraim, pointing to some carboys ranged against the wall, ‘them things is full er sulphuric acid—vitriol, that is ter say; and ez soon ez ever I take and heave the acid on top er the iron-filin’s, the gas—hydrergin it’s called—begins ter come off.’
‘Does it?’ said Lucius, much interested. ‘Let’s see.’
Ephraim grinned. ‘I reckon I han’t been gatherin’ the stuff all these months jest ter fire it off before the time,’ he remarked; ‘but I’ll show ye the same thing in a little way, so ter speak.’
He took a glass flask48 from a shelf and placed a few iron filings in it. He then poured some sulphuric acid into a cup, added some water thereto, and finally introduced it into the flask, completely covering the lumps of iron.
‘Now,’ said he, ‘ye’ll see what ye’ll see.’ He closed the mouth of the flask with a cork49 through which was set a glass tube, and to the free end of this latter he presently applied50 a lighted match. Instantly the gas which was issuing from the tube ignited, and burned with a pure, pale flame.
42‘Hooray!’ shouted Lucius. ‘That’s wonderful. I never saw anything like it.’
‘Waal, it’s been done before, ye know,’ said Ephraim drily. ‘I didn’t invent it.’
‘You’re a marvel51, all the same,’ cried Lucius enthusiastically. ‘My! what a splash you’ll make when you get to college, Grizzly.’
Ephraim turned quickly away, and stooping down, replaced the straw which he had taken from the barrel. When he looked up again, his face was very pale.
‘Ye see, Luce,’ he went on, concluding his explanation, but speaking with much less fire and animation53, ‘what went on in the flask is what’ll go on in the bar’ls, and ez the hydrergin comes off it’ll be led through these pipes, which I can fix onter the bar’ls, inter a tank er water, ye maybe noticed standin’ outside. Thar’s a receiver in the tank, or thar will be wanst we’re ready, and another pipe’ll be led from thar to the balloon, and thar ye air.’
‘What do you lead the gas under water for?’ inquired Lucius.
‘Ter cool it fer wan10 thing, and ter wash it fer another.’
‘Well, it’s wonderful! That’s all I can say,’ repeated Lucius. ‘And to think that you should have done everything all by yourself. But, Grizzly, surely you can’t fill the balloon and let her up without help.’
‘I know thet; but don’t ye fret,’ returned Ephraim. ‘I bet she’ll be ready when we air. There’s two or three in the works ez I kin trust to tell about her ’thout them lettin’ it go all over the town. All ye hev ter do is ter go home and set still till I arsk ye ter git 43up.—Come on; let’s be off out er this.’ For some reason or other he was growing restless under Luce’s perpetual fire of questions.
‘How pretty the blue stuff looks, varnished,’ said Lucius, adding suddenly: ‘It must have cost an awful lot, Grizzly. Where did you get all the money to buy it with?’
‘Oh, hyar and thar,’ answered Ephraim uncomfortably. ‘I sold things. She ain’t made er silk, ye know—only er cotton stuff.—Come on, Luce, it’s gittin’ late, and Aunty Chris will be hollerin’ fer her tea.’
But Lucius stood still, looking down upon the confused heap of material and cordage, and pondering deeply. All at once he swung round and faced Ephraim. ‘Grizzly,’ he said jerkily, ‘I believe you have broken into the pile.’
Ephraim’s face was a study. If he had been caught robbing his master’s till, he could not have looked more sheepish and ashamed. He shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, and twisted his long fingers in and out till all the joints54 cracked like a volley of small-arms. ‘Waal, waal’——he stuttered.
‘You’ve broken into the pile,’ interrupted Lucius. ‘For five years you’ve been grubbing and saving all for one purpose, working overtime55, and making odds56 and ends here and there for the boys, all for one purpose—that you might go to college. And now you’ve gone and upset everything. I’ll bet you haven’t a dollar left of all your savings57. Now, have you?’
‘No,’ mumbled58 Ephraim shamefacedly. ‘But’——
‘I know what you’re going to say,’ broke in Lucius—‘you did it for me. You are always doing things for me. But you’d no right to do this. You’d 44no right to spoil your whole life just for me. What can I do? I can’t pay you back. And father’——
‘Ez ter thet,’ interjected Ephraim, ‘it war my own. I ain’t askin’ any wan ter put it back.’
‘It wasn’t your own,’ burst out Lucius. ‘At least it wasn’t your own to do as you liked with. It was to help you on in the world. It was to give your brains a chance. Oh! weren’t there heaps of ways in which we could have had our fun without this? If I’d known it, if I’d dreamed of it, I’d have gone off and ‘listed without a word to any one.’
‘I know ye would, Luce,’ said Ephraim quietly. ‘Ye were mighty nigh doin’ it thet snowy night when ye came ter me. Thet sot me thinkin’. I sez ter m’self, sez I, I reckon it’s mostly froth on Luce’s part. Ef I ken52 git him pinned down ter come with me, I guess I kin keep him out er harm’s way. Lordy! Luce, what would I hev done ef I’d gone and lost ye? Waal, ez I sot thar thinkin’ ter m’self, all at once thar comes an idee. I dunno whar it came from, but thet’s it’—he pointed59 to the balloon—‘and wanst I gripped it I never let it go again, fer it jest seemed the best way in all the world fer ter let ye see all ye wanted ter see, and ter keep ye safe et the same time.’ He held up his hand as Lucius was about to speak.
‘Don’t say it again, Luce. It’s done now, and can’t be undone60. Maybe some folk’d think it war a mad thing ter do; but it didn’t seem so ter me, seein’ it war done fer you.’
Sometimes the step from the ridiculous to the sublime61 is as easy as that in the opposite direction. It was so now, when the rough, hard-handed mechanic, whose brains, nevertheless, had been able to devise and 45execute this wonderful thing, stood before the high-spirited, empty-headed boy, whom he loved, and for whose well-being62, as he imagined, he had thrown away his substance and his worldly hopes.
For a few moments there was silence between the boys, Ephraim standing63 with his hand upon the bolt of the door, Lucius driving first the toe and then the heel of his boot into the ground. At last he shuffled64 over to Ephraim, glanced shyly up into the big gray eyes that beamed so affectionately down on him, and with something that sounded suspiciously like a sob65, clasped Grizzly’s free hand in both his own.
Ephraim flung wide the door. ‘Garn away!’ he said with a genial46 grin, and tenderly shoved Lucius out of the cabin.
On the following Wednesday Jackson marched his army out of Staunton, broke up the camp at West View, and started to attack General Milroy, whom he met and defeated with heavy loss at McDowell. Movement then followed movement so rapidly that the people of Staunton were bewildered. However, as all the news they received told of the success, they were also content. Meanwhile the month wore to an end without another word from Ephraim to Lucius on the subject of the balloon. But at last, one bright afternoon in early June, the long expected and desired summons came.
Lucius was sitting idly on his own gate, whittling66 a stick, when a working-man approached him, and after a cautious look up the avenue to see if any one else was in sight, observed interrogatively, ‘Young Squire67 Markham?’
Lucius nodded, and the man went on: ‘Ef that’s so, 46I’ve a message fer ye from the Grizzly. He sez ye’re ter jine him et the shed any time ye think fit after midnight, and before day.’
‘Is he—going up?’ asked Lucius, with rounded eyes.
‘I ’low he is, ef the wind holds from the south-west,’ replied the man. ‘Will I say ye’ll be on hand?’
‘Rather!’ answered Lucius. ‘Here’s a dollar for your trouble. I’m much obliged.—Hi! you won’t say anything about it?’
‘I’m dumb, squire,’ grinned the man as he moved away, while Lucius, ablaze68 with excitement, stole into the house and shut himself up in his room to think.
He knew perfectly69 well that he was about to do wrong; but he tried to deceive himself into the belief that Ephraim’s casuistry afforded him a sufficient excuse for going off without the leave which would certainly never have been granted him. Moreover, he argued that, after the sacrifice which Ephraim had made just to give him pleasure, he could not now hang back. In a word, as many a wise person has done before and since, he set up objections like so many men of straw, and deliberately70 proceeded to knock them down again.
At last he succeeded in crowding his conscience into a corner, and about eleven o’clock, when every one else in the house was fast asleep, rose from the bed where he had tossed and turned since nine, and slipping on his clothes, softly opened the window and got out.
The night was very dark; a light breeze blew from the south; and the waving branches of shrubs71 and trees smote72 Lucius gently on the face as he stole 47through the plantations73 to the turnpike. His heart thumped74 violently against his ribs75, for it seemed to him as if unseen hands were laying hold of him and striving to draw him back to his duty. But all these sombre thoughts took flight when he reached the rendezvous76, where Ephraim, with the aid of half a dozen of his fellow-workmen, was engaged in inflating77 the balloon.
Three or four great torches illuminated78 the scene, which was to Lucius at least sufficiently79 awe-inspiring, for what he had last seen a tangled80 heap upon the floor of the cabin, now rose a vast bulk, which, passing into the mirk above the flare81 of the torches, seemed to rear itself into the very vault82 of heaven. Lucius trembled as he watched it.
‘Hello! Luce,’ said Ephraim, coming forward. ‘Ye’re hyar on time.’
Lucius attempted to reply, but the words stuck in his throat, and he only gripped Ephraim nervously83 by the arm.
‘Purty, ain’t she?’ asked Ephraim with pardonable pride, as he surveyed his handiwork, which, now nearly full, and securely anchored to the ground by strong ropes, swayed to and fro in the night wind.
‘She ain’t big, ye know,’ went on Ephraim—big! she seemed to Lucius like a vast mountain—‘she ain’t big, ye know, but she’ll carry the like er us two shore and easy. Say, Luce,’ as he felt the latter shaken by a violent shiver, ‘ye ain’t afraid, air ye?’
‘Not I,’ answered Lucius, as well as he could for his chattering84 teeth. ‘I’m cold—I’m excited; but I’m not in the least frightened. Shall we get into the car?’
48‘Not yet,’ answered Ephraim. ‘She ain’t full yet. I’ll tell ye when.’
But two intolerably long hours passed before Ephraim hailed him with: ‘Now then, Luce, I reckon she’s ready, ef ye air.’
At the sound of his voice Lucius started. To say that the boy was merely frightened would be incorrect. He was sick and faint with a deadly, paralysing fear. The terrors of the unknown had got hold upon him with a vengeance86. However, he managed to stumble forward without knowing exactly how he did it, and assisted by one of the men, scrambled87 into the car, where Ephraim was already standing. The next moment the balloon, released from all its bonds save one, shot up to the extent of the remaining rope.
‘We’ll be off in a jiffy,’ said Ephraim cheerfully. ‘Good-bye, boys. Take keer on yersels till we see ye again. It don’t matter who ye tell now. We’ll bring ye the latest news from the seat er war. Cast her loose.’
‘Wait!’ gasped88 Lucius, rousing himself by a mighty effort. ‘I meant to write a message before I left home; but I forgot. One of you go up to the Hall in the morning and tell my mother I’m all right, and that I’ll be back in a day or two.’
He leaned over the side of the car as he spoke, and one of the men answered him. Then, even as he looked, the torches suddenly lessened89 to brightly twinkling points of light, then to mere85 sparks, and finally went out altogether.

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