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A Defensive Diamond
TREDDLEFORD sat in an easeful arm-chair in front of a slumberous fire, with a volume
of verse in his hand and the comfortable consciousness that outside the club windows the
rain was dripping and pattering with persistent purpose. A chill, wet October afternoon
was merging into a bleak, wet October evening, and the club smoking-room seemed
warmer and cosier by contrast. It was an afternoon on which to be wafted away from
one's climatic surroundings, and "The Golden journey to Samarkand" promised to bear
Treddleford well and bravely into other lands and under other skies. He had already
migrated from London the rain-swept to Bagdad the Beautiful, and stood by the Sun Gate
"in the olden time" when an icy breath of imminent annoyance seemed to creep between
the book and himself. Amblecope, the man with the restless, prominent eyes and the
mouth ready mobilised for conversational openings, had planted himself in a
neighbouring arm-chair. For a twelvemonth and some odd weeks Treddleford had
skilfully avoided making the acquaintance of his voluble fellow-clubman; he had
marvellously escaped from the infliction of his relentless record of tedious personal
achievements, or alleged achievements, on golf links, turf, and gaming table, by flood
and field and covert-side. Now his season of immunity was coming to an end. There was
no escape; in another moment he would be numbered among those who knew Amblecope
to speak to - or rather, to suffer being spoken to.
The intruder was armed with a copy of COUNTRY LIFE, not for purposes of reading,
but as an aid to conversational ice-breaking.
"Rather a good portrait of Throstlewing," he remarked explosively, turning his large
challenging eyes on Treddleford; "somehow it reminds me very much of Yellowstep,
who was supposed to be such a good thing for the Grand Prix in 1903. Curious race that
was; I suppose I've seen every race for the Grand Prix for the last - "
"Be kind enough never to mention the Grand Prix in my hearing," said Treddleford
desperately; "it awakens acutely distressing memories. I can't explain why without going
into a long and complicated story."
"Oh, certainly, certainly," said Amblecope hastily; long and complicated stories that were
not told by himself were abominable in his eyes. He turned the pages of COUNTRY
LIFE and became spuriously interested in the picture of a Mongolian pheasant.
"Not a bad representation of the Mongolian variety," he exclaimed, holding it up for his
neighbour's inspection. "They do very well in some covers. Take some stopping too, once
they're fairly on the wing. I suppose the biggest bag I ever made in two successive days -
"My aunt, who owns the greater part of Lincolnshire," broke in Treddleford, with
dramatic abruptness, "possesses perhaps the most remarkable record in the way of a
pheasant bag that has ever been achieved. She is seventy-five and can't hit a thing, but