“Then why did you not?” asked Marker. “You were rich enough to make a proper beginning.”
“I expect I was too slack. I wanted to try the thing, but there was so much that was repulsive that I never quite got the length of trying. Besides, I have a bad habit of seeing both sides of a question. The ordinary arguments seemed to me weak, and it was too much fag to work out an attitude for oneself.”
Marker looked sharply at Lewis, and George for a moment saw and contrasted the two faces. Lewis’s keen, kindly, humorous, cultured, with strong lines ending weakly, a face over-bred, brave and finical; the other’s sharp, eager, with the hungry wolf-like air of ambition, every line graven in steel, and the whole transfused, as it were, by the fire of the eyes into the living presentment of human vigour.
It was the eternal contrast of qualities, and for a moment in George’s mind there rose a delight that two such goodly pieces of manhood should have found a meeting-ground.
“I think, you know, that we are not quite so bad as you make out,” said Lewis quietly. “To an outsider we must appear on the brink of incapacity, but then it is not the first time we have produced that impression. You will still find men who in all their spiritual sickness have kept something of that restless, hard-bitten northern energy, and that fierce hunger for righteousness, which is hard to fight with. Scores of people, who can see no truth in the world and are sick with doubt and introspection and all the latter-day devils, have yet something of pride and honour in their souls which will make them show well at the last. If we are going to fall our end will not be quite inglorious.”
Marker laughed and rose. “I am afraid I must leave you now. I have to see my servant, for I am off to-morrow. This has been a delightful meeting. I propose that we drink to its speedy repetition.”
They drank, clinking glasses in continental fashion, and the host shook hands and departed.
“Good chap,” was George’s comment. “Put us up to a wrinkle or two, and seemed pretty sound in his politics. I wish I could get him to come and stop with me at home. Do you think we shall run across him again?”
Lewis was looking at the fast vanishing lights of the town. “I should think it highly probable,” he said.
THE TACTICS OF A CHIEF
There is another quarter in Bardur besides the English one. Down by the stream side there are narrow streets built on the scarp of the rock, hovels with deep rock cellars, and a wonderful amount of cubic space beneath the brushwood thatch. There the trader from Yarkand who has contraband wares to dispose of may hold a safe market. And if you were to go at nightfall into this quarter, where the foot of the Kashmir policeman rarely penetrates, you might find shaggy tribesmen who have been all their lives outlaws, walking unmolested to visit their friends, and certain Jewish gentlemen, members of the great family who have conquered the world, engaged in the pursuit of their unlawful calling.