It’s in the plane/ Drummond said coldly..Help yourself..
‘So this is Miss Tate?. Cheung took both of her hands in his..We must try to make your stay a pleasant one..
“You knew I was coming?.
Hamid grinned. ‘I had Indian Army Headquarters in Juma send a signal to warn the Khan.’
Cheung nodded. ‘Colonel Dil got the message last night by radio..
‘And probably told you before the Khan..
Brackenhurst jumped down from the Beaver and turned to lift out a wooden case containing his theodolite. ‘A hell of a lot of machine parts you seem to bring through these days,’ he commented and turned to Janet before Drummond could reply. Tm Tony Bracken-
S3 burst, Miss Tate. Fm doing geological survey work up here, but I’m also the British Consul. If I can help you in any way, don’t hesitate to ask..
‘She happens to be an American, so that’s hardly likely,’ Drummond said acidly.
Brackenhurst ignored him, holding her hand for longer than was necessary, an eager smile on his lips, and it was the smile which betrayed him, somehow revealing an essential weakness, a lack of strength.
“Why, that’s very kind of you, Mr. Brackenhurst’
Til be back in two days,’ he said. “You’ll probably still be here from what they tell me of the boy’s condition.’
He carried the theodolite across to the Land Rover and Cheung said quickly, Til go back with him. You’ll have enough in the jeep with the three of you and the luggage. You’ll call on me this afternoon, Jack?’
‘After lunch. I’ll take Janet out to the mission first Is the boy still out there?’
Cheung nodded and smiled down at her. ‘And you, I will have the pleasure of seeing you again this evening, Miss Tate. The Khan is to give a small dinner party for you. He has honoured me with an invitation.’
Til look forward to that, Mr. Cheung.’
The Land Rover moved back towards town and Drummond drove the jeep out of the hangar. He and Hamid pushed the Beaver inside and padlocked the door.
Tfl take Janet out to Father Kerrigan now. What about you, Ali?’
Hamid shrugged. ‘You can drop me at Colonel Dil’s headquarters. I’ll probably see you both tonight at the palace unless the old boy’s decided to change his usual guest list’
They got into the jeep and Drummond drove towards the town, following the rutted track that did service as a road. He changed down, scattering a herd of goats, and they entered the outskirts of Sadar.
Janet looked about her with interest, but there was nothing of the gaiety and colour of Jusna and Altaf here. The people were small, squat Mongolians with skins the colour of weathered parchment and slanting eyes. The men wore boots of untanned hide, baggy trousers and sheepskin jackets. Only a few sported the turban, the majority preferring conical sheepskin caps with earfiaps. The women’s attire differed in only one significant detail. Instead of the sheepskin jacket, they wore three-quarter length blanket coats of black and brovra, relieved in some cases by a necklace of silver coins.
They were dour and unsmiling, drab as the rocky land that bred them. Even the children in the market place lacked the energy and humour of their Indian counterparts, and there was a strange absence of bustle and vitality as they drove through the bazaar.
‘No oae seems to smile,’ Janet said. ‘Have you noticed that?’
This is a poor country,’ Hamid told her. “Anything they get has to be squeezed out of the very rocks. Life is hard, work from dawn till dusk. It leaves little time for laughter/
Across the square stood a barrack-like building, the Sag of Balpur, a black eagle against a grey and gold background, lifting in the slight breeze above the entrance. Two sentries, almost incongruously smart in neat khaki uniforms and military turbans, presented arms as Drummond braked and Hamid got out.
He reached for his canvas grip and an orderly ran down the steps and relieved him of it TH see you tonight, then,. he said and his hand lifted in a brief salute.
The palace was a hundred yards further on and looked considerably less forbidding than it had done from the air, wrought iron gates standing open to reveal a gravel drive, tall cypress trees fringing the wall, a profusion of greenery beyond to where a fountain lifted gracefully into the calm air.