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The Explorer
by [?]

As the evening wore on–and one young man after another asked Jocelyn Montrevor if she were going to Ascot, what? or to Henley, what? or what?–she wondered more and more if this were all that life would ever hold for her. Would she never meet a man, a real man who had done something? These boys around her were very pleasant, she admitted to herself; very useful indeed, she added, as one approached her with some refreshment; but they were only boys.

“Here you are,” said Freddy, handing her an ice in three colours. “I’ve had it made specially cold for you. They only had the green, pink, and yellow jerseys left; I hope you don’t mind. The green part is arsenic, I believe. If you don’t want the wafer I’ll take it home and put it between the sashes of my bedroom window. The rattling kept me awake all last night. That’s why I’m looking so ill, by the way.”

Jocelyn smiled kindly and went on with her ice.

“That reminds me,” Freddy went on, “we’ve got a nut here to-night. The genuine thing. None of your society Barcelonas or suburban Filberts. One of the real Cob family; the driving-from-the-sixth-tee, inset-on-the-right, and New-Year’s-message-to-the-country touch. In short, a celebrity.”

“Who?” asked Jocelyn eagerly. Perhaps here was a man.

“Worrall Brice, the explorer. Don’t say you haven’t heard of him or Aunt Alice will cry.”

Heard of him? Of course she had heard of him. Who hadn’t?

Worrall Brice’s adventures in distant parts of the empire would have filled a book–had, in fact, already filled three. A glance at his flat in St. James’s Street gave you some idea of the adventures he had been through. Here were the polished spurs of his companion in the famous ride through Australia from south to north–all that had been left by the cannibals of the Wogga-Wogga River after their banquet. Here was the poisoned arrow which, by the merciful intervention of Providence, just missed Worrall and pierced the heart of one of his black attendants, the post-mortem happily revealing the presence of a new and interesting poison. Here, again, was the rope with which he was hanged by mistake as a spy in South America–a mistake which would certainly have had fatal results if he had not had the presence of mind to hold his breath during the performance. In yet another corner you might see his favourite mascot–a tooth of the shark which bit him off the coast of China. Spears, knives, and guns lined the walls; every inch of the floor was covered by skins. His flat was typical of the man–a man who had done things.

“Introduce him to me,” commanded Jocelyn. “Where is he?”

She looked up suddenly and saw him entering the ball-room. He was of commanding height and his face was the face of a man who has been exposed to the forces of Nature. The wind, the waves, the sun, the mosquito had set their mark upon him. Down one side of his cheek was a newly healed scar, a scratch from a hippopotamus in its last death-struggle. A legacy from a bison seared his brow.

He walked with the soft easy tread of the python, or the Pathan, or some animal with a “pth” in it. Probably I mean the panther. He bore himself confidently, and his mouth was a trap from which no superfluous word escaped. He was the strong silent man of Jocelyn’s dreams.

“Mr. Worrall Brice, Miss Montrevor,” said Freddy, and left them.

Worrall Brice bowed and stood beside her with folded arms, his gaze fixed above her head.

“I shall not expect you to dance,” said Jocelyn, with a confidential smile which implied that he and she were above such frivolities. As a matter of fact, he could have taught her the Wogga-Wogga one-step, the Bimbo, the Kiyi, the Ju-bu, the Head-hunter’s Hug, and many other cannibalistic steps which, later on, were to become the rage of London and the basis of a revue.