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14. The Lady of the Mantilla
Since that first night I had never clapped eyes on Sandy. He had gone clean out of the
world, and Blenkiron and I waited anxiously for a word of news. Our own business was
in good trim, for we were presently going east towards Mesopotamia, but unless we
learned more about Greenmantle our journey would be a grotesque failure. And learn
about Greenmantle we could not, for nobody by word or deed suggested his existence,
and it was impossible of course for us to ask questions. Our only hope was Sandy, for
what we wanted to know was the prophet's whereabouts and his plans. I suggested to
Blenkiron that we might do more to cultivate Frau von Einem, but he shut his jaw like a
'There's nothing doing for us in that quarter,' he said. 'That's the most dangerous
woman on earth; and if she got any kind of notion that we were wise about her pet
schemes I reckon you and I would very soon be in the Bosporus.'
This was all very well; but what was going to happen if the two of us were bundled off to
Baghdad with instructions to wash away the British? Our time was getting pretty short,
and I doubted if we could spin out more than three days more in Constantinople. I felt
just as I had felt with Stumm that last night when I was about to be packed off to Cairo
and saw no way of avoiding it. Even Blenkiron was getting anxious. He played Patience
incessantly, and was disinclined to talk. I tried to find out something from the servants,
but they either knew nothing or wouldn't speak - the former, I think. I kept my eyes
lifting, too, as I walked about the streets, but there was no sign anywhere of the skin
coats or the weird stringed instruments. The whole Company of the Rosy Hours
seemed to have melted into the air, and I began to wonder if they had ever existed.
Anxiety made me restless, and restlessness made me want exercise. It was no good
walking about the city. The weather had become foul again, and I was sick of the smells
and the squalor and the flea- bitten crowds. So Blenkiron and I got horses, Turkish
cavalry mounts with heads like trees, and went out through the suburbs into the open
It was a grey drizzling afternoon, with the beginnings of a sea fog which hid the Asiatic
shores of the straits. It wasn't easy to find open ground for a gallop, for there were
endless small patches of cultivation and the gardens of country houses. We kept on the
high land above the sea, and when we reached a bit of downland came on squads of
Turkish soldiers digging trenches. Whenever we let the horses go we had to pull up
sharp for a digging party or a stretch of barbed wire. Coils of the beastly thing were lying
loose everywhere, and Blenkiron nearly took a nasty toss over one. Then we were
always being stopped by sentries and having to show our passes. Still the ride did us
good and shook up our livers, and by the time we turned for home I was feeling more
like a white man.