When I was thinking over our conversation last night, chance put a piece of information in my way which you may think fit to use. You know that I am more intimate than most people with the hill tribes. Well, let this be the guarantee of my news, but do not ask how I got it, for I cannot betray friends. Some of these, the Bada-Mawidi to wit, are meditating mischief. The Forza camp, which I think you have visited—a place some twenty miles off—is too near those villages to be safe. So to-morrow at latest they have planned to make a general attack upon it, and, unless the garrison were prepared, I should fear for the result, for they are the most cunning scoundrels in the world. What puzzles me is how they have ever screwed up the courage for such a move, for lately they were very much in fear of the Government. It appears as if they looked for backing from over the frontier. You will say that this proves your theory; but to me it merely seems as if some maniac of the Gromchevtsky type had got among them. In any case I wish something could be done. My duties take me away at once, and in a very different direction, but perhaps you could find some means of putting the camp on their guard. I should be sorry to hear of a tragedy; also I should be sorry to see the Bada-Mawidi get into trouble. They are foolish blackguards, but amusing.
Yours most sincerely,
Lewis read the strange letter several times through, then passed it to George. George read it with difficulty, not being accustomed to a flowing frontier hand. “Jolly decent of him, I call it,” was his remark.
“I would give a lot to know what to make of it. The man is playing some game, but what the deuce it is I can’t fathom.”
“I suppose we had better get up to that Forza place as soon as we can.”
“I think not,” said Lewis.
“The man’s honest, surely?
“But he is also clever. Remember who he is. He may wish to get us out of the way. I don’t suppose that he can possibly fear us, but he may want the coast clear from suspicious spectators. Besides, I don’t see the good of Forza. It is not the part of the hills I want to explore. There can be no frontier danger there, and at the worst there can be nothing more than a little tribal disturbance. Now what on earth would Russia gain by moving the tribes there, except as a blind?”
“Still, you know, the man admits all that in his letter. And if the people up there are going to be in trouble we ought to go and give them notice.”
“I’ll take an hour to think over it, and then I’ll go and see Thwaite. He was to be back this morning.”