'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? . . .
'He ran on like this, forgetting his plate, with a knife and fork in hand (he had
found me at tiffin), slightly flushed, and with his eyes darkened many shades,
which was with him a sign of excitement. The ring was a sort of credential--("It's
like something you read of in books," he threw in appreciatively)--and Doramin
would do his best for him. Mr. Stein had been the means of saving that chap's life
on some occasion; purely by accident, Mr. Stein had said, but he--Jim--had his
own opinion about that. Mr. Stein was just the man to look out for such accidents.
No matter. Accident or purpose, this would serve his turn immensely. Hoped to
goodness the jolly old beggar had not gone off the hooks meantime. Mr. Stein
could not tell. There had been no news for more than a year; they were kicking
up no end of an all-fired row amongst themselves, and the river was closed. Jolly
awkward, this; but, no fear; he would manage to find a crack to get in.
'He impressed, almost frightened, me with his elated rattle. He was voluble like a
youngster on the eve of a long holiday with a prospect of delightful scrapes, and
such an attitude of mind in a grown man and in this connection had in it
something phenomenal, a little mad, dangerous, unsafe. I was on the point of
entreating him to take things seriously when he dropped his knife and fork (he
had begun eating, or rather swallowing food, as it were, unconsciously), and
began a search all round his plate. The ring! The ring! Where the devil . . . Ah!
Here it was . . . He closed his big hand on it, and tried all his pockets one after
another. Jove! wouldn't do to lose the thing. He meditated gravely over his fist.
Had it? Would hang the bally affair round his neck! And he proceeded to do this
immediately, producing a string (which looked like a bit of a cotton shoe-lace) for