Yes, that place you came over. It’s the only way anyone can get here.
Yes, I suppose it is. But how does the pass affect these idols?
It affects everything here. If that pass were closed no living man would ever enter or leave, or even hear of, this country. It’s absolutely cut off except for that one pass. Why, Archie, it isn’t even on the map.
Yes, I know.
Well, whoever owns that pass is everybody. No one else counts.
And who does own it?
Well, it’s actually owned by a fellow called Hussein, but Miss Clement’s uncle, a man called Hinnard, a kind of lonely explorer, seems to have come this way; and I think he understood what this pass is worth. Anyhow, he lent Hussein a big sum of money and got an acknowledgment from Hussein. Old Hinnard must have been a wonderfully shrewd man. For that acknowledgment is no more legal than an I.O.U., and Hussein is simply a brigand.
Not very good security.
Well, you’re wrong there. Hussein himself respects that piece of parchment he signed. There’s the name of some god or other written on it Hussein is frightened of. Now you see how things are. That pass is as holy as all the gods that there are in Al Shaldomir. Hussein possesses it. But he owes an enormous sum to Miss Miralda Clement, and I am here as her agent; and you’ve come to help me like a great sportsman.
O, never mind that. Well, it all seems pretty simple.
Well, I don’t know, Archie. Hussein admits the debt, but . . .
I don’t know what he’ll do.
Wants watching, does he?
Yes. And meanwhile I feel sort of responsible for all these silly people. Somebody’s got to look after them. Daoud!