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Unformatted text preview: Colonel Carter, who lives near the church. A
good deal of gossip is handed round at these evenings, sometimes seriously interfering with the game in
progress. We used to play bridge - chatty bridge of the worst description. We find Mah Jong much more
peaceful. The irritated demand as to why on earth your partner did not lead a certain card is entirely done
away with, and though we still express criticisms frankly, there is not the same acrimonious spirit.
'Very cold evening, eh, Sheppard?' said Colonel Carter, standing with his back to the fire. Caroline had
taken Miss Gannett to her own room, and was there assisting her to disentangle herself from her many
wraps. 'Reminds me of the Afghan passes.' 'Indeed?' I said politely.
'Very mysterious business this about poor Ackroyd,' continued the colonel, accepting a cup of coffee. 'A
deuce of a lot behind it - that's what I say. Between you and me, Sheppard, I've heard the word
blackmail mentioned!' The colonel gave me the look which might be tabulated 'one man of the world to
another.' 'A woman in it, no doubt,' he said. 'Depend upon it, a woman in it.' Caroline and Miss Gannett
joined us at this minute. Miss Gannett drank coffee whilst Caroline got out the Mah Jong box and poured
out the tiles upon the table.
'Washing the tiles,' said the colonel facetiously. 'That's right - washing the tiles, as we used to say in the
Shanghai Club.' It is the private opinion of both Caroline and myself that Colonel Carter has never been
in the Shanghai Club in his life. More, that he has never been farther east than India, where he juggled
with tins of bully beef and plum and apple jam during the Great War. But the colonel is determinedly
military, and in King's Abbot we permit people to indulge their little idiosyncrasies freely.
'Shall we begin?' said Caroline.
We sat round the table. For some five minutes there was complete silence, owing to the fact that there is
tremendous secret competition amongst us as to who can build their wall quickest.
'Go on, James,' said Caroline at last. 'You're East Wind.' I discarded a tile. A round or two proceeded,
broken by the monotonous remarks of 'Three Bamboos,' 'Two Circles,' 'Pung,' and frequently from Miss
Gannett 'Unpung,' owing to that lady's habit of too hastily claiming tiles to which she had no right.
'I saw Flora Ackroyd this morning,' said Miss Gannett.
'Pung - no - Unpung. I made a mistake.' 'Four Circles,' said Caroline. 'Where did you see her?' 'She
didn't see me,' said Miss Gannett, with that tremendous significance only to be met with in small villages.
'Ah!' said Caroline interestedly. 'Chow.' 'I believe,' said Miss Gannett, temporarily diverted, 'that it's the
right thing nowadays to say "Chee" not "Chow."' 'Nonsense,' said Caroline. 'I have always said "Chow."'
'In the Shanghai Club,' said Colonel Carter, 'they say "Chow;" Miss Gannett retired, crushed. 'What were you saying about Flora Ackroyd?' asked Caroline, after a...
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