The death of the Mexican had been the finishing touch to a bad assignment, one of the worst - squalid, dangerous and without any redeeming feature except that it had got him away from headquarters.
Now the covering troops and the stretcher-bearers were hurrying for the exit, getting down under cover of the guard wall. There would be five minutes' delay to clear the area before the bomb squad, now waiting bunched at the main gate, would go in.
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Immediately after the interruption occasioned by Gotterimo’s adventures, our sea-nymphs and wood-nymphs, led by Britannia herself, formed for a peculiar dance, the plan of which had been previously arranged. The figure was to take in the whole of the united group; and, on a signal given by the music, the young lady’s respective partners, in whatever disguise, were to join them as they stood in their places. Young Lord K? approached Lady Susan. Sir Philip flew to the side of Frances. Henry took his place near one of the Misses Morven. Lord Morven, Colonel Morven, &c. filled up the party, till Julia alone stood unclaimed, and, at the same time, importunately beset for alms by the old blind man who sold matches. He was bent double. A profusion of white hair fell around his patched and ragged shoulders. He held in one hand his hat, crutch, and the string by which his dog was fastened, while his other hand was stretched forth with a beseeching palm, and, in the piteous and tremulous accents of extreme age, he craved her ladyship’s compassion. At length, to humour the jest, she offered him a small donation. This the mendicant bent on one knee to receive, grasping, as he did so, and firmly retaining the hand that presented it in one of his, while, with the other, he flung off his disguises, and sprang to his feet the young and handsome Marquis of H?, unmasked, but dressed for Neptune, with a crown and trident, and splendid armour of gold and silver scales. The plaudits on the occasion were universal.
She laughed. 'You like being anonymous. I want everyone to cheer as we go by. I know you're going to have this car sprayed grey or black as soon as you get a chance. That's all right. But nothing's going to stop me wearing you like a flag from now on. Will you sometimes feel like wearing me like a flag?'
The man turned and looked inquisitively at the calendar. He laughed out loud. 'Actually the fifteenth. But quite respectable. I must set you against my men one of these days. And I might even bet on you. It would teach them a lesson.'