Marker speedily left the broader streets of the European quarter, and plunged down a steep alley which led to the stream. Half way down there was a lane to the left in the line of hovels, and, after stopping a moment to consider, he entered this. It was narrow and dark, but smelt cleanly enough of the dry granite sand. There were little dark apertures in the huts, which might have been either doors or windows, and at one of these he stopped, lit a match, and examined it closely. The result was satisfactory; for the man, who had hitherto been crouching, straightened himself up and knocked. The door opened instantaneously, and he bowed his tall head to enter a narrow passage. This brought him into a miniature courtyard, about thirty feet across, above which gleamed a patch of violet sky, sown with stars. Below a door on the right a light shone, and this he pushed open, and entered a little room.
The place was richly furnished, with low couches and Persian tables, and on the floor a bright matting. The short, square-set man sitting smoking on the divan we have already met at a certain village in the mountains. Fazir Khan, descendant of Abraham, and father and chief of the Bada-Mawidi, has a nervous eye and an uneasy face to-night, for it is a hard thing for a mountaineer, an inhabitant of great spaces, to sit with composure in a trap-like room in the citadel of a foe who has many acts of rape and murder to avenge on his body. To do Fazir Khan justice he strove to conceal his restlessness under the usual impassive calm of his race. He turned his head slightly as Marker entered, nodded gravely over the bowl of his pipe, and pointed to the seat at the far end of the divan.
“It is a dark night,” he said. “I heard you stumbling on the causeway before you entered. And I have many miles to cover before dawn.”
Marker nodded. “Then you must make haste, my friend. You must be in the hills by daybreak, for I have some errands I want you to do for me. I have to-night been dining with two strangers, who have come up from the south.”
The chief’s eyes sparkled. “Do they suspect?”
“Nothing in particular, everything in general. They are English. One was here before and got far up into your mountains. He wrote a clever book when he returned, which made people think. They say their errand is sport, and it may be. On the other hand I have a doubt. One has not the air of the common sportsman. He thinks too much, and his eyes have a haggard look. It is possible that they are in their Government’s services and have come to reconnoitre.”
“Then we are lost,” said Fazir Khan sourly. “It was always a fool’s plan, at the mercy of any wandering Englishman.”
“Not so,” said Marker. “Nothing is lost, and nothing will be lost. But I fear these two men. They do not bluster and talk at random like the others. They are so very quiet that they may mean danger.”
“They must remain here,” said the chief. “Give me the word, and I will send one of my men to hough their horses and, if need be, cripple themselves.”