The Zeppelin's Passenger HTML version

Chapter 19
Lessingham sat upon a fallen tree on Dutchman's Common near the scene of his romantic
descent, and looked rather ruefully over the moorland, seawards. Above him, the sky was
covered with little masses of quickly scudding clouds. A fugitive and watery sunshine
shone feebly upon a wind-tossed sea and a rain-sodden landscape. He found a certain
grim satisfaction in comparing the disorderliness of the day with the tumult in his own
life. He felt that he had embarked upon an enterprise greater than his capacity, for which
he was in many ways entirely unsuitable. And behind him was the scourge of the
telegram which he had received a few hours ago, a telegram harmless enough to all
appearance, but which, decoded, was like a scourge to his back.
Your work is unsatisfactory and your slackness deserves reprobation. Great events wait
upon you. The object of your search is necessary for our imminent operations.
The sound of a horse's hoofs disturbed him. Captain Griffiths, on a great bay mare,
glanced curiously at the lonely figure by the roadside, and then pulled up.
"Back again, Mr. Lessingham?" he remarked.
"As you see."
The Commandant fidgeted with his horse for a moment. Then he approached a little
nearer to Lessingham's side.
"You are a good walker, I perceive, Mr. Lessingham," he remarked.
"When the fancy takes me," was the equable reply.
"Have you come out to see our new guns?"
"I had no idea," Lessingham answered indifferently, "that you had any."
Griffiths smiled.
"We have a small battery of anti-aircraft guns, newly arrived from the south of England,"
he said. "The secret of their coming and their locality has kept the neighbourhood in a
state of ferment for the last week."
Lessingham remained profoundly uninterested.
"They most of them spotted the guns," his companion continued, "but not many of them
have found the searchlights yet."
"It seems a little late in the year," Lessingham observed, "to be making preparations
against Zeppelins."