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The Island of Sheep


Chapter1
Lost Gods
I have never believed, as some people do, in omens and forewarnings,
for the dramatic things in my life have generally come upon me as sud-
denly as a tropical thunderstorm. But I have observed that in a queer
way I have been sometimes prepared for them by my mind drifting into
an unexpected mood. I would remember something I had not thought of
for years, or start without reason an unusual line of thought. That was
what happened to me on an October evening when I got into the train at
Victoria.
That afternoon I had done what for me was a rare thing, and attended
a debate in the House of Commons. Lamancha was to make a full-dress
speech, and Lamancha on such an occasion is worth hearing. But it was
not my friend's eloquence that filled my mind or his deadly handling of
interruptions, but a reply which the Colonial Secretary gave to a ques-
tion before the debate began. A name can sometimes be like a scent or a
tune, a key to long-buried memories. When old Melbury spoke the word
'Lombard,' my thoughts were set racing down dim alleys of the past. He
quoted a memorandum written years ago and incorporated in the report
of a certain Commission; 'A very able memorandum,' he called it, 'by a
certain Mr. Lombard,' which contained the point he wished to make.
Able! I should think it was. And the writer! To be described as 'a certain
Mr. Lombard' showed how completely the man I once knew had
dropped out of the world's ken.
I did not do justice to Lamancha's speech, for I thought of Lombard all
through it. I thought of him in my taxi going to the station, and, when I
had found my compartment, his face came between me and the pages of
my evening paper. I had not thought much about him for years, but now
Melbury's chance quotation had started a set of pictures which flitted
like a film series before my eyes. I saw Lombard as I had last seen him,
dressed a little differently from to-day, a little fuller in the face than we
lean kine who have survived the War, with eyes not blurred from
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