He apologized for carrying off her companion, escorted her back to the ballroom, and then returned to satisfy the amazed George.
“I want to talk to you. Excuse my rudeness, but I have explained to Mrs. Tracy. I have a good many things I want to say to you.”
“Where on earth have you been all night, Lewis? I call it confoundedly mean to go off and leave me to do all the heavy work. I’ve never been so busy in my life. Lots of girls and far too few men. This is the first breathing space I’ve had. What is it that you want?”
“I am going off this very moment up into the hills. That letter Marker sent me this morning has been confirmed. Holm, who commands up at the Forza fort, has just come down very sick, and he says that the Bada-Mawidi are looking ugly, and that we should take Marker’s word. He wanted to go back himself but he is too ill, and Thwaite can’t leave here, so I am going. I don’t expect there will be much risk, but in case the rising should be serious I want you to do me a favour.”
“I suppose I can’t come with you,” said George ruefully. “I know I promised to let you go your own way before we came out, but I wish you would let me stick by you. What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing desperate,” said Lewis, laughing. “You can stay on here and dance till sunrise if you like. But to-morrow I want you to come up to a certain place at the foot of the hills which I will tell you about, and wait there. It’s about half distance between Forza and the two Khautmi forts. If the rising turns out to be a simple affair I’ll join you there to-morrow night and we can start our shooting. But if I don’t, I want you to go up to the Khautmi forts and rouse St. John and Mitchinson and get them to send to Forza. Do you see?”
Lewis had taken out a pencil and began to sketch a rough plan on George’s shirt cuff. “This will give you an idea of the place. You can look up a bigger map in the hotel, and Thwaite or any one will give you directions about the road. There’s Forza, and there are the Khautmis about twenty miles west. Half-way between the two is that long Nazri valley, and at the top is a tableland strewn with boulders where you shoot mountain sheep. I’ve been there, and the road between Khautmi and Forza passes over it. I expect it is a very bad road, but apparently you can get a little Kashmir pony to travel it. To the north of that plateau there is said to be nothing but rock and snow for twenty miles to the frontier. That may be so, but if this thing turns out all right we’ll look into the matter. Anyway, you have got to pitch your tent to-morrow on that tableland just above the head of the Nazri gully. With luck I should be able to get to you some time in the afternoon. If I don’t turn up, you go off to Khautmi next morning at daybreak and give them my message. If I can’t come myself I’ll find a way to send word; but if you don’t hear from me it will be fairly serious, for it will mean that the rising is a formidable thing after all. And that, of course, will mean trouble for everybody all round. In that case you’d better do what St. John and Mitchinson tell you. You’re sure to be wanted.”