THE WHITE HAT
MAJOR JACK RAGSTAFF
“Hallo! Innes,” said Paul Harley as his secretary entered. “Someone is making a devil of a row outside.”
“This is the offender, Mr. Harley,” said Innes, and handed my friend a visiting card.
Glancing at the card, Harley read aloud:
“Major J. E. P. Ragstaff, Cavalry Club.”
Meanwhile a loud harsh voice, which would have been audible in a full gale, was roaring in the lobby.
“Nonsense!” I could hear the Major shouting. “Balderdash! There’s more fuss than if I had asked for an interview with the Prime Minister. Piffle! Balderdash!”
Innes’s smile developed into a laugh, in which Harley joined, then:
“Admit the Major,” he said.
Into the study where Harley and I had been seated quietly smoking, there presently strode a very choleric Anglo-Indian. He wore a horsy check suit and white spats, and his tie closely resembled a stock. In his hand he carried a heavy malacca cane, gloves, and one of those tall, light-gray hats commonly termed white. He was below medium height, slim and wiry; his gait and the shape of his legs, his build, all proclaimed the dragoon. His complexion was purple, and the large white teeth visible beneath a bristling gray moustache added to the natural ferocity of his appearance. Standing just within the doorway:
“Mr. Paul Harley?” he shouted.
It was apparently an inquiry, but it sounded like a reprimand.
My friend, standing before the fireplace, his hands in his pockets and his pipe in his mouth, nodded brusquely.
“I am Paul Harley,” he said. “Won’t you sit down?”
Major Ragstaff, glancing angrily at Innes as the latter left the study, tossed his stick and gloves on to a settee, and drawing up a chair seated himself stiffly upon it as though he were in a saddle. He stared straight at Harley, and:
“You are not the sort of person I expected, sir,” he declared. “May I ask if it is your custom to keep clients dancin’ on the mat and all that—on the blasted mat, sir?”
Harley suppressed a smile, and I hastily reached for my cigarette-case which I had placed upon the mantelshelf.
“I am always naturally pleased to see clients, Major Ragstaff,” said Harley, “but a certain amount of routine is necessary even in civilian life. You had not advised me of your visit, and it is contrary to my custom to discuss business after five o’clock.”
As Harley spoke the Major glared at him continuously, and then:
“I’ve seen you in India!” he roared; “damme! I’ve seen you in India!—and, yes! in Turkey! Ha! I’ve got you now sir!” He sprang to his feet. “You’re the Harley who was in Constantinople in 1912.”