guessed. She struggled once in the ropes, then her lips came firmly together and she closed her eyes as the brand moved closer towards her.
Scarcely thinking, I raised my carbine to my shoulder, took aim, and shot Major John, the King of East Grinstead, squarely between the eyes. His face was almost comic in its astonishment and then the great bulk fell forward off the dais and lay in a heap before its stunned subjects.
I moved quickly then, thankful for my army training.
While those hideously ravaged faces looked at me with expressions of horror, I ran to the trellis and with a few quick strokes of my knife cut Una Persson free.
Then, quite deliberately, I shot down three of the nearest men. One of them had been armed and I signed to Una Persson to pick up the rifle, which she did as quickly as she could, though she was plainly suffering a good deal of pain.
“This place is surrounded by men,” I told them. “All are crack shots. The first to threaten us with his weapon will die as swiftly as your leader. As you can see, we are merciless. If you remain within the stockade and allow us to go through the gate unhampered, no more of you will be harmed.”
A few of the people growled like animals, but were too nonplused and alarmed to do anything more. I could not resist a parting speech as we got to the gate.
“I might tell you that I am British,” I said. “As British as you are and from the same part of the world. And I am disgusted by what I see. This is no way for Britons to behave. Remember your old standards. Recall what they once meant to you. The fields remain and you have stock. Grow your food as you have always grown it. Breed the beasts. Build East Grinstead into a decent place again...”
Una Persson put a hand on my arm, whispering: “There is not much time. They’ll soon realize that you have no men. They are already beginning to look for them and not see them. Come, we’ll make for my machine.”
We backed out of the gate and closed it behind us. Then, bent low, we began to run. I followed Una Persson and she plainly had a good idea of where she was going. We ran through a wood and across several overgrown fields, into another wood, and here we paused, listening for sounds of pursuit, but there was none.
Panting, Una Persson pushed on until the forest thinned. Then she bent over a bush and without any apparent effort seemed to pull the whole thing up by the roots, revealing the faint gleam of metal. She operated a control, there was a buzz and a hatch swung upwards.
“Get in,” she said, “there’s just about room for both of us.”
I obeyed. I found myself in a cramped chamber, surrounded by a variety of unfamiliar instruments. Una Persson closed the hatch over her head and began turning dials and flicking switches until the whole machine was shaking and whining. She peered through a contraption which looked to me rather like a stereoscopic viewer, then pulled a large lever right back. The whining sound increased its pitch and the machine began to move—heading downwards into the very bowels of the earth.
“What sort of machine is this?” I enquired in my amazement.
“Haven’t you seen one before?” she said casually. “It’s an O’Bean Mark Five tunneler. It’s about the only way to move these days without being spotted. It’s slow. But it’s sure.” She smiled, pausing in her inspection of the controls to offer me her hand. “I haven’t thanked you. I don’t know who you are, sir, but I’m very grateful for what you did. My mission in this part of Britain is vital and now it has some chance of success.”
It had become extremely hot and I fancied that we were nearing the core of the planet!
“Not at all,” I replied. “Glad to be of service. My name’s Bastable. You’re Mrs. Persson, aren’t you?”
“Una Persson,” she said. “Were you sent to help me, then?”
“I happened to be passing, that was all.” I wished now that I hadn’t admitted to knowing