“I was going on though. Was I not?”
It was impossible to be angry with him: I could
not help a smile, and told him that in the old days
people who went on like this were on the way of becoming
hermits in a wilderness. “Hermits be hanged!”
he commented with engaging impulsiveness. Of course
he didn’t mind a wilderness. . . . “I
was glad of it,” I said. That was where
he would be going to. He would find it lively
enough, I ventured to promise. “Yes, yes,”
he said, keenly. He had shown a desire, I continued
inflexibly, to go out and shut the door after him.
. . . “Did I?” he interrupted in
a strange access of gloom that seemed to envelop him
from head to foot like the shadow of a passing cloud.
He was wonderfully expressive after all. Wonderfully!
“Did I?” he repeated bitterly. “You
can’t say I made much noise about it. And
I can keep it up, too—only, confound it!
you show me a door.” . . . “Very well.
Pass on,” I struck in. I could make him
a solemn promise that it would be shut behind him
with a vengeance. His fate, whatever it was, would
be ignored, because the country, for all its rotten
state, was not judged ripe for interference.
Once he got in, it would be for the outside world as
though he had never existed. He would have nothing
but the soles of his two feet to stand upon, and he
would have first to find his ground at that.
“Never existed—that’s it, by
Jove,” he murmured to himself. His eyes,
fastened upon my lips, sparkled. If he had thoroughly
understood the conditions, I concluded, he had better
jump into the first gharry he could see and drive
on to Stein’s house for his final instructions.
He flung out of the room before I had fairly finished
’He did not return till next morning. He
had been kept to dinner and for the night. There
never had been such a wonderful man as Mr. Stein.
He had in his pocket a letter for Cornelius ("the
Johnnie who’s going to get the sack,”
he explained, with a momentary drop in his elation),
and he exhibited with glee a silver ring, such as
natives use, worn down very thin and showing faint
traces of chasing.
’This was his introduction to an old chap called
Doramin—one of the principal men out there—a
big pot—who had been Mr. Stein’s friend
in that country where he had all these adventures.
Mr. Stein called him “war-comrade.”
War-comrade was good. Wasn’t it? And
didn’t Mr. Stein speak English wonderfully well?
Said he had learned it in Celebes—of all
places! That was awfully funny. Was it not?
He did speak with an accent—a twang—did
I notice? That chap Doramin had given him the
ring. They had exchanged presents when they parted
for the last time. Sort of promising eternal
friendship. He called it fine—did I
not? They had to make a dash for dear life out
of the country when that Mohammed—Mohammed—What’s-his-name
had been killed. I knew the story, of course.
Seemed a beastly shame, didn’t it? . . .