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Clive Darrell took from the pocket of a somewhat tattered coat, which bore many a stain and many a sign of hard wear, a filbert of good size, and having admired it in silence cracked the same by placing it upon a miniature anvil and giving it an adroit blow with a hammer. There was a precision about his movements and his action which spoke of practice. Clive was inordinately fond of nuts. His pockets bulged widely with them. As he ate he extracted a handful and presented some to each of his two comrades.
“Here, have a go. I’ve heaps to draw from. Well?”
“Well?” came from Hugh Seymour, a boy of his own age, just a little more than thirteen.
But Bert Seymour, brother to Hugh, made no answer. Taller than the other two, a year older than his brother, he was a weedy, lanky youth, running to height rather than to breadth. He had tossed his cap on to the bench, so that he presented a tousled head of hair, above a face thin like his frame, but ruddy enough, with keen penetrating eyes which wore a curiously dreamy aspect for such a youngster. He was cogitating deeply. That was evident. But being the prince of good fellows, one who made a point of returning hospitality, he rummaged also in his pocket, producing a medley of articles to be found nowhere else save in the case of a schoolboy. A piece of tangled string, half a broken hinge, a knife, a second knife, somewhat bigger and distinctly rusty, a length of galvanised wire which made one wonder if he were a jack-of-all-trades, three handkerchiefs, each more terrible in appearance than the last, a number of air-gun slugs, a broken box for the same, now empty and severely damaged, and lastly, that for which he searched, a respectably sized piece of toffee in a wrapping of paper which was broken at one corner, and through which a half-dozen slugs had contrived to insert themselves and were now nicely imbedded in the sweetmeat.
“Have some,” he said laconically, handing over the packet to Clive.
“Fair does then. Thanks.”
There was a strange taciturnity about these three lads. A silence and absence of words to which they were unaccustomed. But then, great events bring about equally great changes on occasion, and this day saw the trio face to face with a circumstance which baffled them, rendered them almost inarticulate, when they were accustomed to chatter, not seldom either in the lowest tones, and made of them a somewhat morose gathering.
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