“I wish I had a troop of real Tommy Atkinses out here, by Jove.”
The road to the chateau took its devious way through the little town—out into the green foothill beyond. Two lumbering, wooden wheeled carts, none too clean, each drawn by four perspiring men, served as conveyances by which the arrivals were to make the journey to their new home. Mr. Bowles informed his lordship that horses were not submitted to the indignity of drawing carts. The lamented Mr. Skaggs had driven his own Arab steeds to certain fashionable traps, but the natives never thought of doing such a thing.
Lady Deppingham’s pert little nose lifted itself in disgust as she was joggled through the town behind the grunting substitutes for horseflesh. She sat beside her husband in the foremost cart. Mr. Bowles, very tired, but quite resplendent, walked dutifully beside one wheel; Mr. Saunders took his post at the other. It might have been noticed that the latter cut a very different figure from that which he displayed on his first invasion of the street earlier in the day. The servants came along behind in the second cart. Far ahead, like hounds in full cry, toiled the unwilling luggage bearers. From the windows and doorways of every house, from the bazaars and cafes, from the side streets and mosque-approaches, the gaze of the sullen populace fastened itself upon the little procession. The town seemed ominously silent. Deppingham looked again and again at the red coat on the sloping shoulders of their guardian, and marvelled not a little at the vastness of the British dominion. He recalled his red hunting coat in one of the bags ahead, and mentally resolved to wear it on all occasions—perhaps going so far as to cut off its tails if necessary.
At last they came to the end of the sunlit street and plunged into the shady road that ascended the slope through what seemed to be an absolutely unbroken though gorgeous jungle. The cool green depths looked most alluring to the sun-baked travellers; they could almost imagine that they heard the dripping of fountains, the gurgling of rivulets, so like paradise was the prospect ahead. Lady Agnes could not restrain her cries of delighted amazement.
“It’s like this all over the island, your ladyship,” volunteered Mr. Bowles, mopping his brow in a most unmilitary way. “Except at the mines and back there in the town.”
“Where are the mines?” asked Deppingham.
“The company’s biggest mines are seven or eight miles eastward, as the crow flies, quite at the other side of the island. It’s very rocky over there and there’s no place for a landing from the sea. Everything is brought overland to Aratat and placed in the vaults of the bank. Four times a year the rubies and sapphires are shipped to the brokers in London and Paris and Vienna. It’s quite a neat and regular arrangement, sir.”