AMONG the passengers who alighted from the train at the terminus of Shepperton, the little village near the Thames, one evening in early summer, was a young man differing noticeably, but in a way not easy to define, from all the rest. He was tall, but so were many; dark, ...
AMONG the passengers who alighted from the train at the terminus of
Shepperton, the little village near the Thames, one evening in early
summer, was a young man differing noticeably, but in a way not easy to
define, from all the rest. He was tall, but so were many; dark, but most
men are dark; bronzed, but the young men who spent idle hours in sculling
or punting on the river were as sun-tanned as he. Nor was it anything in
his attire that marked him out from his fellow-men, unless, perhaps, that
he was a trifle "smarter" than they. Yet many eyes had been attracted to
him as he walked down the platform at Waterloo, and many followed him, at
Shepperton station, as he stepped out of the compartment and doffed his
soft hat to a young girl, who stood evidently awaiting him, and whose
face lit up at his approach.
"Hullo, kid!" he said, in the young Briton's casual manner of greeting.
"He'll be here in a minute or two," replied the girl. "I am glad to see
"Thanks. How's Aunt?"
"The same as ever," said the girl with a smile. "Have you brought your
"Just a valise. The porter has it. Take it to that fly, will you?" he
added, as the man came up.
"Oh! Wait a minute," said his sister, laying a hand on his arm. "George
will be here in a minute."
"That means ten, unless George has reformed. Well, well, children must be
Brother and sister stood side by side chatting.
The porter set the valise down by the fence. We may take advantage of the
delay to explain that Maurice Buckland was one of the secretaries of the
British agency at Sofia, and had come home on short leave. It was nearly
two years since he was last in England. Affairs in the Balkans had been
in a very ticklish condition, the focus of interest to all the
chancelleries of Europe. A grave crisis had just been settled peaceably
after a long diplomatic game of Puss in the Corner, and Buckland was at
last free to take his well-earned holiday.
He showed an impatience far from diplomatic as the minutes flew by, and
his younger brother George did not appear.
"Really, Sheila--" he began after five minutes.
"Please, a little longer," interrupted his sister. "George has a surprise
"Has he, indeed! The greatest surprise would have been to find him
punctual. What is he cracking his wits on now?"