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How Mr. Mccunn Committed An Assault Upon An Ally
Dickson always maintained that his senses did not leave him for more than a second or
two, but he admitted that he did not remember very clearly the events of the next few
hours. He was conscious of a bad pain above his eyes, and something wet trickling down
his cheek. There was a perpetual sound of water in his ears and of men's voices. He found
himself dropped roughly on the ground and forced to walk, and was aware that his legs
were inclined to wobble. Somebody had a grip on each arm, so that he could not defend
his face from the brambles, and that worried him, for his whole head seemed one aching
bruise and he dreaded anything touching it. But all the time he did not open his mouth,
for silence was the one duty that his muddled wits enforced. He felt that he was not the
master of his mind, and he dreaded what he might disclose if he began to babble.
Presently there came a blank space of which he had no recollection at all. The movement
had stopped, and he was allowed to sprawl on the ground. He thought that his head had
got another whack from a bough, and that the pain put him into a stupor. When he awoke
he was alone.
He discovered that he was strapped very tightly to a young Scotch fir. His arms were bent
behind him and his wrists tied together with cords knotted at the back of the tree; his legs
were shackled, and further cords fastened them to the bole. Also there was a halter round
the trunk and just under his chin, so that while he breathed freely enough, he could not
move his head. Before him was a tangle of bracken and scrub, and beyond that the gloom
of dense pines; but as he could see only directly in front his prospect was strictly
Very slowly he began to take his bearings. The pain in his head was now dulled and quite
bearable, and the flow of blood had stopped, for he felt the encrustation of it beginning on
his cheeks. There was a tremendous noise all around him, and he traced this to the
swaying of tree-tops in the gale. But there was an undercurrent of deeper sound--water
surely, water churning among rocks. It was a stream--the Garple of course--and then he
remembered where he was and what had happened.
I do not wish to portray Dickson as a hero, for nothing would annoy him more; but I am
bound to say that his first clear thought was not of his own danger. It was intense
exasperation at the miscarriage of his plans. Long ago he should have been with Dougal
arranging operations, giving him news of Sir Archie, finding out how Heritage was
faring, deciding how to use the coming reinforcements. Instead he was trussed up in a
wood, a prisoner of the enemy, and utterly useless to his side. He tugged at his bonds, and
nearly throttled himself. But they were of good tarry cord and did not give a fraction of
an inch. Tears of bitter rage filled his eyes and made furrows on his encrusted cheek.
Idiot that he had been, he had wrecked everything! What would Saskia and Dougal and
Sir Archie do without a business man by their side? There would be a muddle, and the
little party would walk into a trap. He saw it all very clearly. The men from the sea would
overpower them, there would be murder done, and an easy capture of the Princess; and
the police would turn up at long last to find an empty headland.
He had also most comprehensively wrecked himself, and at the thought genuine panic
seized him. There was no earthly chance of escape, for he was tucked away in this