Therefore, although every nerve in my body shrank from the whisky-maddened figure which I pictured in the room above, I still answered, in as careless a voice as I could command, that I was ready to go.
Some further remark of Lord Roxton's about the danger only made me irritable.
"Talking won't make it any better," said I.
I rose from my chair and he from his.
Then with a little confidential chuckle of laughter, he patted me two or three times on the chest, finally pushing me back into my chair.
"All right, sonny my lad—you'll do," said he.
I looked up in surprise.
"I saw after Jack Ballinger myself this mornin'.
He blew a hole in the skirt of my kimono, bless his shaky old hand, but we got a jacket on him, and he's to be all right in a week.
I say, young fellah, I hope you don't mind—what?
You see, between you an' me close-tiled, I look on this South American business as a mighty serious thing, and if I have a pal with me I want a man I can bank on.
So I sized you down, and I'm bound to say that you came well out of it.
You see, it's all up to you and me, for this old Summerlee man will want dry-nursin' from the first.
By the way, are you by any chance the Malone who is expected to get his Rugby cap for Ireland?"
"A reserve, perhaps."
"I thought I remembered your face.
Why, I was there when you got that try against Richmond—as fine a swervin' run as I saw the whole season.
I never miss a Rugby match if I can help it, for it is the manliest game we have left.
Well, I didn't ask you in here just to talk sport.
We've got to fix our business.
Here are the sailin's, on the first page of the Times.
There's a Booth boat for Para next Wednesday week, and if the Professor and you can work it, I think we should take it—what?
Very good, I'll fix it with him.
What about your outfit?"
"My paper will see to that."
"Can you shoot?"
"About average Territorial standard."
"Good Lord! as bad as that?
It's the last thing you young fellahs think of learnin'.
You're all bees without stings, so far as lookin' after the hive goes.
You'll look silly, some o' these days, when someone comes along an' sneaks the honey.
But you'll need to hold your gun straight in South America, for, unless our friend the Professor is a madman or a liar, we may see some queer things before we get back.
What gun have you?"
He crossed to an oaken cupboard, and as he threw it open I caught a glimpse of glistening rows of parallel barrels, like the pipes of an organ.
"I'll see what I can spare you out of my own battery," said he.
One by one he took out a succession of beautiful rifles, opening and shutting them with a snap and a clang, and then patting them as he put them back into the rack as tenderly as a mother would fondle her children.
"This is a Bland's .577 axite express," said he.
"I got that big fellow with it."
He glanced up at the white rhinoceros.
"Ten more yards, and he'd would have added me to HIS collection.
'On that conical bullet his one chance hangs, 'Tis the weak one's advantage fair.' Hope you know your Gordon, for he's the poet of the horse and the gun and the man that handles both.
Now, here's a useful tool—.470, telescopic sight, double ejector, point-blank up to three-fifty.
That's the rifle I used against the Peruvian slave-drivers three years ago.
I was the flail of the Lord up in those parts, I may tell you, though you won't find it in any Blue-book.
There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again.
That's why I made a little war on my own.
Declared it myself, waged it myself, ended it myself.
Each of those nicks is for a slave murderer—a good row of them—what?
That big one is for Pedro Lopez, the king of them all, that I killed in a backwater of the Putomayo River.