“I have just arrived,” said the other simply; “but it was from a different direction. I have been shooting in the hills, getting cool air into my lungs after the valleys. Why, Mrs. Logan, I have been down to Rawal Pindi since I saw you last, and have been choked with the sun. We northerners do not take kindly to glare and dust.”
“But you are an old hand here, they tell me. I wish you’d show me the ropes, you know. I’m very keen, but as ignorant as a babe. What sort of rifles do they use here? I wish you’d come and look at my ironmongery.” And George plunged into technicalities.
When Lewis rose to leave, following unwillingly the convention which forbids a guest to stay more than five minutes after a new visitor has arrived, Marker crossed the room with them. “If you’re not engaged for to-night, Mr. Haystoun, will you do me the honour to dine with me? I am alone, and I think we might manage to find things to talk about.” Lewis accepted gladly, and with one of his sweetest smiles the gentleman returned to Mrs. Logan’s side.
THE DINNER AT GALETTI’S
“I Have heard of you so much,” Mr. Marker said, “and it was a lucky chance which brought me to Bardur to meet you.” They had taken their cigars out to the verandah, and were drinking the strong Persian coffee, with a prospect before them of twinkling town lights, and a mountain line of rock and snow. Their host had put on evening clothes and wore a braided dinner-jacket which gave the faintest touch of the foreigner to his appearance. At dinner he had talked well of a score of things. He had answered George’s questions on sport with the readiness of an expert; he had told a dozen good stories, and in an easy, pleasant way he had gossiped of books and places, people and politics. His knowledge struck both men as uncanny. Persons of minute significance in Parliament were not unknown to him, and he was ready with a theory or an explanation on the most recondite matters. But coffee and cigars found him a different man. He ceased to be the enthusiast, the omnivorous and versatile inquirer, and relapsed into the ordinary good fellow, who is no cleverer than his neighbours.
“We’re confoundedly obliged to you,” said George. “Haystoun is keen enough, but when he was out last time he seems to have been very slack about the sport.”
“Sort of student of frontier peoples and politics, as the newspapers call it. I fancy that game is, what you say, ‘played out’ a little nowadays. It is always a good cry for alarmist newspapers to send up their circulation by, but you and I, my friend, who have mixed with serious politicians, know its value.”
George nodded. He liked to be considered a person of importance, and he wanted the conversation to get back to ibex.