He glanced quietly at the lady. “Rather a heavy one,” he said.
“Anyhow come and talk to us and be civil to her. Imagine she’s the Vicar’s wife come to call.”
Jaffery’s elementary sense of humour was tickled and he broke out into a loud guffaw that sent the house cat, a delicate mendicant for food, scuttling across the lawn. The sight of the terror-stricken animal aroused the rest of the party to harmless mirth.
“Tell me, Mrs. Prescott,” said Adrian, “was he allowed to do that in Albania?”
“I guess there aren’t many things Jaff Chayne can’t do in Albania,” replied Liosha. “He has the bessas that carry him through and he’s as brave as a lion.”
“I suppose you like brave men?” said Doria.
“A woman who married a coward would be a damn fool—especially in Albania. I guess there aren’t many in my mountains.”
“I wish you would tell us about your mountains,” said Barbara pleasantly.
“And at the same time,” said I, “Jaff might let us hear his story. That is to say if you have no objection, Mrs. Prescott.”
“With us,” said Liosha, “the guest is expected to talk about himself; for if he’s a guest he’s one of the family.”
“Shall I go ahead then?” asked Jaffery, “and you chip in whenever you feel like it?”
“That would be best,” replied Liosha.
And having lit a cigarette and settled herself in her deck-chair, she motioned to Jaffery to proceed. And there in the shade of the old wistaria arbour, surrounded by such dainty products of civilisation as Adrian (in speckless white flannels and violet socks) and the tea-table (in silver and egg-shell china) this pair of barbarians told their tale.
It is some years now since that golden August afternoon, and my memory of the details of the story of Liosha as told by Jaffery and illustrated picturesquely by the lady herself is none of the most precise. Incidentally I gathered, then and later in the smoking-room from Jaffery alone, a prodigious amount of information about Albania which, if I had imprisoned it in writing that same evening as the perfect diarist is supposed to do, would have been vastly useful to me at the present moment. But I am as a diarist hopelessly imperfect. I stare, now, as I write, at the bald, uninspiring page. This is my entry for Aug. 4th, 19—.
“Weighed Susan. 4 st. 3.
“Met Jaffery at station.
“Albanian widow turned up unexpectedly after lunch. Fine woman. Going to be a handful. Staying week-end. Story of meeting and Prescott marriage.
“Promised Susan a donkey ride. Where the deuce does one get donkeys warranted quiet and guaranteed to carry a lady? Mem: Ask Torn Fletcher.
“Mem: Write to Launebeck about cigars.”