Here he took a cheque-book from his letter-case and spread it out on the little table in the tent, on which there were ink and a pen, adding—
“Now, Mr. Quatermain, will it meet your views if I fill this up for #250?”
“No,” I answered; “taking everything into consideration the sum is excessive. But if you do not mind facing the risks of my non-appearance, to say nothing of your own, you may make it #50.”
“You are very moderate in your demands,” he said as he handed me the cheque which I put in my pocket, reflecting that it would just pay for my son’s operation.
“And you are very foolish in your offers,” I replied. “Tell me, why do you make such crack-brained arrangements?”
“I don’t quite know. Something in me seems to say that we shall make this expedition and that it will have a very important effect upon my life. Mind you, it is to be to the Lydenburg district and nowhere else. And now I am tired, so let’s turn in.”
Next morning we parted and went our separate ways.
So much for preliminaries, now for the story.
The eighteen months had gone by, bringing with them to me their share of adventure, weal and woe, with all of which at present I have no concern. Behold me arriving very hot and tired in the post-cart from Kimberley, whither I had gone to invest what I had saved out of my Matabeleland contract in a very promising speculation whereof, today, the promise remains and no more. I had been obliged to leave Kimberly in a great hurry, before I ought indeed, because of the silly bargain which I have just recorded. Of course I was sure that I should never see Mr. Anscombe again, especially as I had heard nothing of him during all this while, and had no reason to suppose that he was in Africa. Still I had taken his #50 and he might come. Also I have always prided myself upon keeping an appointment.
The post-cart halted with a jerk in front of the European Hotel, and I crawled, dusty and tired, from its interior, to find myself face to face with Anscombe, who was smoking a pipe upon the stoep!
“Hullo, Quatermain,” he said in his pleasant, drawling voice, “here you are, up to time. I have been making bets with these five gentlemen,” and he nodded at a group of loungers on the stoep, “as to whether you would or would not appear, I putting ten to one on you in drinks. Therefore you must now consume five whiskies and sodas, which will save them from consuming fifty and a subsequent appearance at the Police Court.”
I laughed and said I would be their debtor to the extent of one, which was duly produced.
After it was drunk Anscombe and I had a chat. He said that he had been to India, shot, or shot at whatever game he meant to kill there, visited his relations in England and thence proceeded to keep his appointment with me in Africa. At Durban he had fitted himself out in a regal way with two wagons, full teams, and some spare oxen, and trekked to Pretoria where he had arrived a few days before. Now he was ready to start for the Lydenburg district and look for those buffalo.