“Glad to meet you,” said the man. “Heard of you. Coming up our way? I hope you will after I get this beastly leg of mine better.”
“Thwaite will tell you I have been cross-examining him about your place. I wanted badly to ask you about it, for I got a letter this morning from a man called Marker with some news for you.”
“What did he say?” asked Holm sharply.
“He said that he had heard privately that the Bada-Mawidi were planning an attack on you to-morrow or the day after.”
“The deuce they are,” said Holm peevishly, and Thwaite’s face lengthened.
“And he told me to find some way of letting you know.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me earlier?” said Thwaite. “Marker should know if anybody does. We should have kept Holm up there. Now it’s almost too late. Oh, this is the devil!”
Lewis held his peace. He had forgotten the solidity of Marker’s reputation.
“What’s the chances of the place?” Thwaite was asking. “I know your numbers and all that, but are they anything like prepared?”
“I don’t know,” said Holm miserably. “They might get on all right, but everybody is pretty slack just now. Andy has a touch of fever, and some of the men may get leave for shooting. I must get back at once.”
“You can’t. Why, man, you couldn’t get half way. And what’s more, I can’t go. This place wants all the looking after it can get. A row in the hills means a very good possibility of a row in Bardur, and that is too dangerous a game. And besides myself there is scarcely a man in the place who counts. Logan has gone to Gilgit, and there’s nobody left but boys.”
“If you don’t mind I should like to go,” said Lewis shamefacedly.
“You,” they cried. “Do you know the road?”
“I’ve been there before, and I remember it more or less. Besides, it is really my show this time. I got the warning, and I want the credit.” And he smiled.
“The road’s bound to be risky,” said Thwaite thoughtfully. “I don’t feel inclined to let you run your neck into danger like this.”
Lewis was busy turning over the problem in his mind. The presence of the man Holm seemed the one link of proof he needed. He had his word that there were signs of trouble in the place, and that the Bada-Mawidi were ill at ease. Whatever game Marker was playing, on this matter he seemed to have spoken in good faith. Here was a clear piece of work for him. And even if it was fruitless it would bring him nearer to the frontier; his expedition to the north would be begun.
“Let me go,” he said. “I came out here to explore the hills and I take all risks on my own head. I can give them Marker’s message as well as anybody else.”
Thwaite looked at Holm. “I don’t see why he shouldn’t. You’re a wreck, and I can’t leave my own place.”
“Tell Andy you saw me,” cried Holm. “He’ll be anxious. And tell him to mind the north gate. If the fools knew how to use dynamite they might have it down at once. If they attack it can’t last long, but then they can’t last long either, for they are hard up for arms, and unless they have changed since last week they have no ammunition to speak of.”