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Full text of "Laughing Torso"

LAUGHING   TORSO

some onions. He showed me my room, which was
at the back and facing some roofs. I had been
foolish enough to register my luggage only as far as
Calais and had no clothes at all except what I had
on. I had to sleep in a very old, short, and ragged
chemise. About five a.m. I woke up choking. The
room was full of smoke and smelt as if something
was burning. I did not take this very seriously as I
thought that Tommy had probably burnt the
onions. I tried to sleep and suddenly there was a
banging on the door and I heard Tommy say,
" Don't you think that you had better get up, you
know the house is on fire." I jumped out of bed and
opened the door. In burst flames and smoke. The
smoke was so thick in the passage that I could not
breathe, and I seized a towel, which I stuffed into
my mouth, and held my nose. I found my way
downstairs, still in the very short chemise and, stand-
ing at the bottom of the staircase, was the vicar with
his hat on. I found out afterwards that the reason
that he wore his hat was that he usually wore a wig
and during the excitement was unable to lay his
hand on it. I felt slightly embarrassed and so, I
think, did the Vicar. I saw an umbrella-stand and
hat-rack and on it hung a clergyman's top coat. I
grabbed it and put it on as, after the fiery furnace
upstairs, I felt rather cold. Russell Green had gone
to the nearest fire alarm and sent for the Fire
Brigade. He came back and he and his wife and I
took some of the clergyman's chairs and sat in a row
just inside the front door waiting for the firemen.
They arrived in a few minutes and laid on the hose,
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