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PAGE 2

The Seven Pullet
by [?]

“Hullo, how’s the giant mushroom, or whatever it was?” was all the notice Blenkinthrope got from his fellow travellers.

Young Duckby, whom he mildly disliked, speedily monopolised the general attention by an account of a domestic bereavement.

“Had four young pigeons carried off last night by a whacking big rat. Oh, a monster he must have been; you could tell by the size of the hole he made breaking into the loft.”

No moderate-sized rat ever seemed to carry out any predatory operations in these regions; they were all enormous in their enormity.

“Pretty hard lines that,” continued Duckby, seeing that he had secured the attention and respect of the company; “four squeakers carried off at one swoop. You’d find it rather hard to match that in the way of unlooked- for bad luck.”

“I had six pullets out of a pen of seven killed by a snake yesterday afternoon,” said Blenkinthrope, in a voice which he hardly recognised as his own.

“By a snake?” came in excited chorus.

“It fascinated them with its deadly, glittering eyes, one after the other, and struck them down while they stood helpless. A bedridden neighbour, who wasn’t able to call for assistance, witnessed it all from her bedroom window.”

“Well, I never!” broke in the chorus, with variations.

“The interesting part of it is about the seventh pullet, the one that didn’t get killed,” resumed Blenkinthrope, slowly lighting a cigarette. His diffidence had left him, and he was beginning to realise how safe and easy depravity can seem once one has the courage to begin. “The six dead birds were Minorcas; the seventh was a Houdan with a mop of feathers all over its eyes. It could hardly see the snake at all, so of course it wasn’t mesmerised like the others. It just could see something wriggling on the ground, and went for it and pecked it to death.”

“Well, I’m blessed!” exclaimed the chorus.

In the course of the next few days Blenkinthrope discovered how little the loss of one’s self-respect affects one when one has gained the esteem of the world. His story found its way into one of the poultry papers, and was copied thence into a daily news-sheet as a matter of general interest. A lady wrote from the North of Scotland recounting a similar episode which she had witnessed as occurring between a stoat and a blind grouse. Somehow a lie seems so much less reprehensible when one can call it a lee.

For awhile the adapter of the Seventh Pullet story enjoyed to the full his altered standing as a person of consequence, one who had had some share in the strange events of his times. Then he was thrust once again into the cold grey background by the sudden blossoming into importance of Smith-Paddon, a daily fellow-traveller, whose little girl had been knocked down and nearly hurt by a car belonging to a musical-comedy actress. The actress was not in the car at the time, but she was in numerous photographs which appeared in the illustrated papers of Zoto Dobreen inquiring after the well-being of Maisie, daughter of Edmund Smith-Paddon, Esq. With this new human interest to absorb them the travelling companions were almost rude when Blenkinthrope tried to explain his contrivance for keeping vipers and peregrine falcons out of his chicken-run.

Gorworth, to whom he unburdened himself in private, gave him the same counsel as heretofore.

“Invent something.”

“Yes, but what?”

The ready affirmative coupled with the question betrayed a significant shifting of the ethical standpoint.

It was a few days later that Blenkinthrope revealed a chapter of family history to the customary gathering in the railway carriage.

“Curious thing happened to my aunt, the one who lives in Paris,” he began. He had several aunts, but they were all geographically distributed over Greater London.

“She was sitting on a seat in the Bois the other afternoon, after lunching at the Roumanian Legation.”