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A Warning in Red


'Yes,' said the Colonel, as he lit another cheroot, 'many a man when he is in action is simply mad for the time being, and fights like a demon because he sees red.'

'Sees red?' I asked, with a start.

'Don't you know what I mean?'


'Ah, it's a curious psychological problem that I've experienced myself. I was leading a cavalry charge at Joonpore, and suddenly the enemy, the country, everything seemed to fade away into a blood-red mist that blinded me with colour—I could see nothing else. And then the mad desire came upon me to slash and slay. They told me afterwards that I behaved like a fury, and I can believe it, for I've seen many a man in the same condition. It only comes in battle, I believe. That's the only time you can "see red".'

'Are you sure?'

'Yes. But what's the matter, Forbes? You look completely startled.'

'Oh, it's nothing,' I replied, 'only a fanciful presentiment I had when I arrived this evening, and you put me in mind of it.'

'What! you don't mean to say you saw red,' asked the Colonel, with a laugh.

'Not in your sense of the word, Colonel; and you'll only laugh at me if I tell you. It's a mere fancy, that's all.'

'Well, drown your fancies in a whisky and soda, and then get a good night's rest after your journey. That's the best thing for you, Forbes. But if you like to tell me what's upset you I won't laugh at you.'

So in the end I told him about the strange effect I had experienced in alighting at the station. I had come down from town to spend a couple of days with Colonel Ward at Manningford. Although I had known him for many years, and had often seen him at his club, it was the first time I had ever been to stay at his country house. He expected me by a late train, but judgement being given in a case in which I was professionally engaged as solicitor rather earlier than I had expected, I was able to get away from town in the afternoon, and reached Manningford station about six o'clock. I had not thought it worth while to wire, as I had determined to take a trap if it was far to walk, and surprise him.

Manningford was a little country station, I was the only passenger who alighted, and one solitary official, who seemed to combine the offices of stationmaster, porter, and ticket-collector, met me on the platform.

'Tickets, please,' he said, gruffly.

I gave him my ticket. As I did so, the train in which I had been travelling glided off the platform, and I caught a glimpse of the red tail-light showing in the fading day.

Grasping my Gladstone bag, I was about to depart, when the idea struck me that I would ask the stationmaster about a conveyance. He had retired to his office and was standing at the ticket-issuing window, which was open. He had lit the lamp inside, as the office was rather dark.

'Can I get a cab anywhere?' I asked.

He looked up. He was a red-faced man with red hair, and th...

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