That his Russian friend was animated by the same desire he could all the easier surmise, owing to the fact that Prince Tchajawadse belonged, of course, to one of the nations immediately concerned. He hastened, therefore, to acquaint him with the results of his interview with Colonel Baird. The effect of his communications upon the Prince was quite as he had anticipated.
“So, really! The advance guard is already across the Amu Darya. War will, then, break out just in the proper quarter,” exclaimed the Russian in a loud outburst of joy. “In our army the fear prevailed that the Tsar would never brace himself up to the decision to make war. Powerful and irresistible influences must have been at work to have finally conquered his love of peace.”
“You will, of course, get to the army as soon as possible?” inquired Heideck; and as the Prince answered in the affirmative, he continued: “I should be grateful to you if you would allow me to join you. But how shall we get across the frontier? It is to be hoped that we shall be allowed to pass quietly as unsuspected merchants.”
“That is not quite so certain; we shall probably not be able to leave India quite as readily as we entered it; but, at any rate, we must try our best. We can reach Peshawar by rail in twelve hours and Quetta in fifteen. Both these lines of railway are not likely at present to be blocked by military trains, but we shall do well to hasten our departure. In all probability we shall, either by way of Peshawar or Quetta, soon meet with Russian troops, for I have no doubt that a Russian army corps is also on the march upon Cabul, although the Colonel, as you say, only spoke of an advance guard moving on Herat.”
“I would suggest that we go by way of Peshawar and the Khyber Pass, because we should thus reach Cabul most speedily and with the greater security.”
“We will talk more of this anon, comrade! At all events, it is settled that we travel together. I hope most fervently that in the great theatre of the world your nation is at this present moment standing shoulder to shoulder with mine against England.”
THE CAPTAIN’S WIFE
As a married man, Captain Irwin was not quartered in one of the wooden barracks of the English camp, but had his own bungalow in the suburbs.
It was a house of one story with a broad verandah, was surrounded by a large well-kept garden, and formerly served a high official of the Maharajah as a residence. Apart from it lay two smaller buildings used as servants’ quarters, of which, however, only one was at present in use.
The sun of that same day, that had brought Hermann Heideck face to face with such momentous matters affecting his future for his final decision, was sinking rapidly into the heavens as he passed through the cactus hedge and bamboo thicket of the garden surrounding Irwin’s bungalow.