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CHAPTER XIX FENCING
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Russell sat unmoved; he was not acting1 without due deliberation, though he realized that he had a dangerous foe2 to deal with. For some time Uzali played with the string, tying and untying3 the knots as if he were making up his mind what to do next. To Wilfrid Mercer, looking on, the incident reminded him of two chess masters bent4 over a table.
 
"You are a stranger to me," Uzali said.
 
"That, to a certain extent, I am prepared to admit," Russell replied. "I don't know whether you are a religious man or not, Mr. Uzali, but probably you will agree with me——"
 
"So you know my name at any rate," Uzali said.
 
Russell shrugged5 his shoulders.
 
"I don't want any credit for that," he said. "I could have learnt your name from a score of people since I have been here. Besides, it is no news to me seeing that I am under the impression that you are using it as a nom de guerre. On the other hand my name is Swan Russell, and this is my friend, Dr. Wilfrid Mercer. I have spent a great deal of time in Borneo seeking a fortune, which, until a short time ago, appeared to be within my grasp. Unfortunately, I had unscrupulous people to deal with, and am really hard up for a hundred pounds. My friend, Dr. Mercer, is even in worse case than myself. He had the misfortune to be a medical attendant on board a steamer which was wrecked6 in the East. I should not be surprised if you have heard of a boat called the Guelder Rose, which was owned by Mr. Samuel Flower, of the Flower Line of steamers. Believe me, I am not occupying your time merely to hear myself talk."
 
Uzali glanced keenly at the speaker. The look of suspicion had died from his face. Something like a smile lurked7 in the corners of his mouth.
 
"I may be mistaken," he said, "but I think you are a man after my own heart. Now tell me candidly—have you suffered any wrong at the hands of this Samuel Flower? Is your friend in the same predicament?"
 
"That is so," Russell said gravely. "But for Samuel Flower I should be a rich man. But for Samuel Flower my friend Mercer would not be so desperately8 situated9 as he is. I think I have given you enough evidence of my bona fides in the piece of string which you are holding in your hand."
 
"I am not going to deny it," Uzali said. "And I see the necessity for caution. I suppose you realize that Mr. Flower is in some danger?"
 
"Flower is in imminent10 peril11 of his life I know," Russell replied. "Upon my word, I hardly know how to go on. To all practical purposes, you are as good as an Englishman, Mr. Uzali, and you know our laws as well as I do. If anything happened to Flower now and the trouble were traced home to you, for instance, you would have considerable difficulty in saving your neck. In other words, I am going to accuse you of being concerned in a conspiracy12 to put an end to Samuel Flower. I know this is a bold assertion."
 
"Oh, we will grant it for the moment," Uzali said coolly. "I confess you startled me when you passed me that piece of string. I see you understand the significance of those five knots, and, indeed, you have already told me that you have spent a good deal of your time in North Borneo. You pay me the compliment of deeming me to be an antagonist13 worthy14 of his steel, and I have an equal respect for your courage and audacity15. But you are wrong in asserting that Samuel Flower stands in danger from me at the present moment. Later, perhaps, circumstances may alter. In the meantime he is as safe as yourself."
 
The last words were uttered with a grimness which was not lost upon the listeners.
 
"I thank you for those words," Russell said gravely, "and none the less because they prove to me that you don't know everything. You are unaware16, I suppose, that two of your fellow-countrymen were, until recently, engaged to a circus proprietor17 who is touring in Kent. It does not matter who this circus proprietor is. The main point is that he picked these men up in the Mediterranean18 and they have been a great draw to his show. A little time ago the circus was at a place called Castlebridge, which happens to be quite close to Maldon Grange, the country residence of our friend Mr. Samuel Flower."
 
Uzali nodded his lean yellow head restlessly. It was evident that this information was new to him. He looked at Russell rather searchingly, as if trying to read his inmost secrets. The company in the theatre was beginning to get smaller. Not more than a score or two of guests remained, and these were mostly men who had crowded into the refreshment-room.
 
"You cannot tell how vastly I am obliged to you," Uzali said. "But please go on. I give you my word of honour that I had not the least idea of this. I had not the remotest knowledge that one of my own clansmen was in England. But I still see you have something important to say. I am all attention."
 
"Well, how, I don't know," Russell resumed, "but these men found out that Samuel Flower was in the neighbourhood. They made one or two excursions to Maldon Grange, because my friend Mercer happened to see them himself. He will describe to you what incantations they were going through and the mysterious way in which they vanished when he interrupted them. Late that night an attack was made on the life of Mr. Flower, and, but for the intervention19 of Dr. Mercer, the ship-owner's troubles would have been at an end. But perhaps my friend had better tell the story in his own way."
 
"Incantations," Uzali muttered. "Oh, yes, I understand. There were brass20 crucibles21, a peculiar22 smell, strange globes of light. Oh, yes, I have seen it all before. And, mind you, it is not the poor make-believe of magic such as you get in Europe. That was the real thing. But I am interrupting you, doctor. I shall be greatly obliged if you will tell me everything."
 
Nothing loth, Wilfrid proceeded to tell his story which Uzali followed with breathless attention.
 
"I assure you I knew nothing of this," he said, when at length Mercer had finished. "I never guessed anything of the kind. On the contrary, I would give more than half I possess to insure Samuel Flower's safety for the next few weeks. We are wasting time here. I shall be glad if you gentlemen will come with me as far as Castlebridge without delay so that I may interview these fellow-countrymen of mine. They will listen to me as they will listen to nobody else. When they have my commands they will obey them as well-trained hounds should do. It is perhaps fortunate that Samuel Flower is in town, but those men are so fearless, so reckless of life, that it is little—but we must be moving. I shall be glad if you will come with me as far as my house so that we can take the motor without delay and get to Chatham before daylight. It is the only way I can see."
 
"But I cannot leave town," Mercer protested. "I have some urgent business which will keep me here till Saturday at the least. You seem to have forgotten what I told you about those countrymen of yours. They were fetched back to the theatre at the end of a whip by the proprietor and his big negro, but by the morning they had vanished. It seemed so strange to see them return in that docile23 fashion. I am afraid you will have great trouble in finding them now."
 
"It is annoying," Uzali muttered. "I had forgotten that those fellows had given the circus proprietor the slip. At any rate, I shall not have to look for them in the country. If they are not already in London, they are on their way here. And now, gentlemen, will you do me the honour of coming with me as far as my house? There is still much to be said between us, much to explain, and I am sure that if you will only put out a hand to help me, I shall do everything in my power to assist you. Is that a bargain?"
 
The lights were going out one by one. The few late stayers were drifting away from the bar. It was not far short of three o'clock in the morning, but none of the trio were disposed to sleep. The air seemed to be charged with magnetic fluid; something like danger lingered in every nook.
 
"By all means," Russell said. "I should like to tell you my story, and then you can judge whether I am right or not in what I have resolved to do."
 
Without another word Uzali slipped into his overcoat and bade his companions follow. They entered a cab and were whirled westwards until they came to a tall block of flats at the corner of Oxford24 Street. Uzali put his key in the latch25 and opened the door. Then he stood back with a bow signifying that his companions might precede him.
 

点击收听单词发音收听单词发音  

1 acting czRzoc     
n.演戏,行为,假装;adj.代理的,临时的,演出用的
参考例句:
  • Ignore her,she's just acting.别理她,她只是假装的。
  • During the seventies,her acting career was in eclipse.在七十年代,她的表演生涯黯然失色。
2 foe ygczK     
n.敌人,仇敌
参考例句:
  • He knew that Karl could be an implacable foe.他明白卡尔可能会成为他的死敌。
  • A friend is a friend;a foe is a foe;one must be clearly distinguished from the other.敌是敌,友是友,必须分清界限。
3 untying 4f138027dbdb2087c60199a0a69c8176     
untie的现在分词
参考例句:
  • The tying of bow ties is an art; the untying is easy. 打领带是一种艺术,解领带则很容易。
  • As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" 33他们解驴驹的时候,主人问他们说,解驴驹作什么?
4 bent QQ8yD     
n.爱好,癖好;adj.弯的;决心的,一心的
参考例句:
  • He was fully bent upon the project.他一心扑在这项计划上。
  • We bent over backward to help them.我们尽了最大努力帮助他们。
5 shrugged 497904474a48f991a3d1961b0476ebce     
vt.耸肩(shrug的过去式与过去分词形式)
参考例句:
  • Sam shrugged and said nothing. 萨姆耸耸肩膀,什么也没说。
  • She shrugged, feigning nonchalance. 她耸耸肩,装出一副无所谓的样子。 来自《简明英汉词典》
6 wrecked ze0zKI     
adj.失事的,遇难的
参考例句:
  • the hulk of a wrecked ship 遇难轮船的残骸
  • the salvage of the wrecked tanker 对失事油轮的打捞
7 lurked 99c07b25739e85120035a70192a2ec98     
vi.潜伏,埋伏(lurk的过去式与过去分词形式)
参考例句:
  • The murderers lurked behind the trees. 谋杀者埋伏在树后。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Treachery lurked behind his smooth manners. 他圆滑姿态的后面潜伏着奸计。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
8 desperately cu7znp     
adv.极度渴望地,绝望地,孤注一掷地
参考例句:
  • He was desperately seeking a way to see her again.他正拼命想办法再见她一面。
  • He longed desperately to be back at home.他非常渴望回家。
9 situated JiYzBH     
adj.坐落在...的,处于某种境地的
参考例句:
  • The village is situated at the margin of a forest.村子位于森林的边缘。
  • She is awkwardly situated.她的处境困难。
10 imminent zc9z2     
adj.即将发生的,临近的,逼近的
参考例句:
  • The black clounds show that a storm is imminent.乌云预示暴风雨即将来临。
  • The country is in imminent danger.国难当头。
11 peril l3Dz6     
n.(严重的)危险;危险的事物
参考例句:
  • The refugees were in peril of death from hunger.难民有饿死的危险。
  • The embankment is in great peril.河堤岌岌可危。
12 conspiracy NpczE     
n.阴谋,密谋,共谋
参考例句:
  • The men were found guilty of conspiracy to murder.这些人被裁决犯有阴谋杀人罪。
  • He claimed that it was all a conspiracy against him.他声称这一切都是一场针对他的阴谋。
13 antagonist vwXzM     
n.敌人,对抗者,对手
参考例句:
  • His antagonist in the debate was quicker than he.在辩论中他的对手比他反应快。
  • The thing is to know the nature of your antagonist.要紧的是要了解你的对手的特性。
14 worthy vftwB     
adj.(of)值得的,配得上的;有价值的
参考例句:
  • I did not esteem him to be worthy of trust.我认为他不值得信赖。
  • There occurred nothing that was worthy to be mentioned.没有值得一提的事发生。
15 audacity LepyV     
n.大胆,卤莽,无礼
参考例句:
  • He had the audacity to ask for an increase in salary.他竟然厚着脸皮要求增加薪水。
  • He had the audacity to pick pockets in broad daylight.他竟敢在光天化日之下掏包。
16 unaware Pl6w0     
a.不知道的,未意识到的
参考例句:
  • They were unaware that war was near. 他们不知道战争即将爆发。
  • I was unaware of the man's presence. 我没有察觉到那人在场。
17 proprietor zR2x5     
n.所有人;业主;经营者
参考例句:
  • The proprietor was an old acquaintance of his.业主是他的一位旧相识。
  • The proprietor of the corner grocery was a strange thing in my life.拐角杂货店店主是我生活中的一个怪物。
18 Mediterranean ezuzT     
adj.地中海的;地中海沿岸的
参考例句:
  • The houses are Mediterranean in character.这些房子都属地中海风格。
  • Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean.直布罗陀是地中海的要冲。
19 intervention e5sxZ     
n.介入,干涉,干预
参考例句:
  • The government's intervention in this dispute will not help.政府对这场争论的干预不会起作用。
  • Many people felt he would be hostile to the idea of foreign intervention.许多人觉得他会反对外来干预。
20 brass DWbzI     
n.黄铜;黄铜器,铜管乐器
参考例句:
  • Many of the workers play in the factory's brass band.许多工人都在工厂铜管乐队中演奏。
  • Brass is formed by the fusion of copper and zinc.黄铜是通过铜和锌的熔合而成的。
21 crucibles 9be16b02402853ce414c404899e1b926     
n.坩埚,严酷的考验( crucible的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • Gooch crucibles or similar filters are used for such measurements. 在这样的测定中,采用Gooch坩埚或类似的过滤器。 来自辞典例句
  • Have you really measured the world by scrutinies, or through alembics and crucibles? 那么,这是否因为您是从蒸馏器和坩埚上来研究人类的呢? 来自互联网
22 peculiar cinyo     
adj.古怪的,异常的;特殊的,特有的
参考例句:
  • He walks in a peculiar fashion.他走路的样子很奇特。
  • He looked at me with a very peculiar expression.他用一种很奇怪的表情看着我。
23 docile s8lyp     
adj.驯服的,易控制的,容易教的
参考例句:
  • Circus monkeys are trained to be very docile and obedient.马戏团的猴子训练得服服贴贴的。
  • He is a docile and well-behaved child.他是个温顺且彬彬有礼的孩子。
24 Oxford Wmmz0a     
n.牛津(英国城市)
参考例句:
  • At present he has become a Professor of Chemistry at Oxford.他现在已是牛津大学的化学教授了。
  • This is where the road to Oxford joins the road to London.这是去牛津的路与去伦敦的路的汇合处。
25 latch g2wxS     
n.门闩,窗闩;弹簧锁
参考例句:
  • She laid her hand on the latch of the door.她把手放在门闩上。
  • The repairman installed an iron latch on the door.修理工在门上安了铁门闩。


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