The Lost Valley – eBook


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THE POSTHUMOUS PUZZLE OF MR. BRYCE. CHAPTER I. THE ADVENTURE ON THE SANDS. I came upon the place quite unexpectedly. Centuries of wind and wave had carved a little nook out of the foot of the cliff and fashioned it so cunningly that I did not see it until I was right on top of it. After the warmth of the open beach and the glare of the white road I had recently travelled its shade looked so inviting that I limped in under the overhang of the cliff and dropped joyfully on to the cool patch of sand. It was the first moment of contentment I had known for many weary months, and, needless to say, I set myself out to make the most of it. I was absolutely sick of tramping about. My left boot had burst and, by the feel of it, there wasnt too much left of my right sole. I had been crawling along the road since daylightand for many days before for that mattersearching for a job that failed to materialise. Jobs, it appeared, were just about as scarce as cool spots in Hades. They had been very kind to me at the last farmhouse. The good lady had given me an excellent breakfast and an extra glass of milk, had loaded my bedraggled pockets with food and had finally put me on the road to the sea. Work, she said, they could not give me. They had put off two men the previous day. I might find something to do in the next town. She did tell me what it was called, but my thoughts were on my own poor prospects and I didnt quite catch what she said. On the principle that a rose by any Other name would still have its thorns, I didnt ask her to repeat it. I just said, Thank you, maam, in my best tramp manner and set off down the road to the sea. On the way my left boot burst and a pebble worked in through the opening and set me limping. To make matters worse the day was perhaps the hottest of all that memorable summer, and the glare from the white grit of the road played the devil with my eyes. I was very pleased when at length I reached the low sand dunes and dropped between them on to the wet sand of the beach. I walked along this aimlessly for a mile or so until the big hump of the bluff rose up over me. Then, as I have already related, I came across that heaven-sent cave and threw my weary length on its damp flooring of sand, determined to snatch as much peace and repose as I could before I continued my search for work. I cant say for the life of me how long it was before I first sat up and took notice of the fat little man. He was bobbing up and down in the surf for all the world like some ungainly porpoise, and every time he moved he shot sunlit streams of water off his gross body. Ive seen fat men in my time, but this one was just about the limit. He was all up and down and then across. I know that doesnt quite explain what he looked like, but its about the only way I can describe him. He was short and tubby; if he had been any shorter he would have been a human Humpty-Dumpty. He was so obviously enjoying himself and getting the best out of his gambols in the water that my heart went out to him. He was ducking and splashing about, rolling and wallowing in a way that reminded me of a hippopotamus I had once shot atand missedin happier if not more spacious days spent on the lower Nile. The Hippo I christened him, and then chuckled to myself at the singular appropriateness of the name


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