The Moon Endureth HTML version

VIII. The Kings Of Orion
" An ape and a lion lie side by side in the heart of a man."
Spring-fishing in the North is a cold game for a man whose blood has become thin in
gentler climates. All afternoon I had failed to stir a fish, and the wan streams of the
Laver, swirling between bare grey banks, were as icy to the eye as the sharp gusts of hail
from the north-east were to the fingers. I cast mechanically till I grew weary, and then
with an empty creel and a villainous temper set myself to trudge the two miles of bent to
the inn. Some distant ridges of hill stood out snow-clad against the dun sky, and half in
anger, half in dismal satisfaction, I told myself that fishing to-morrow would be as barren
as to-day.
At the inn door a tall man was stamping his feet and watching a servant lifting rodcases
from a dog-cart. Hooded and wrapped though he was, my friend Thirlstone was an
unmistakable figure in any landscape. The long, haggard, brown face, with the skin
drawn tightly over the cheek-bones, the keen blue eyes finely wrinkled round the corners
with staring at many suns, the scar which gave his mouth a humorous droop to the right,
made up a whole which was not easily forgotten. I had last seen him on the quay at
Funchal bargaining with some rascally boatman to take him after mythical wild goats in
Las Desertas. Before that we had met at an embassy ball in Vienna, and still earlier at a
hill-station in Persia to which I had been sent post-haste by an anxious and embarrassed
Government. Also I had been at school with him, in those far-away days when we rode
nine stone and dreamed of cricket averages. He was a soldier of note, who had taken part
in two little wars and one big one; had himself conducted a political mission through a
hard country with some success, and was habitually chosen by his superiors to keep his
eyes open as a foreign attache in our neighbours' wars. But his fame as a hunter had gone
abroad into places where even the name of the British army is unknown. He was the
hungriest shikari I have ever seen, and I have seen many. If you are wise you will go
forthwith to some library and procure a little book entitled "Three Hunting Expeditions,"
by A.W.T. It is a modest work, and the style is that of a leading article, but all the lore
and passion of the Red Gods are in its pages.
The sitting-room at the inn is a place of comfort, and while Thirlstone warmed his long
back at the fire I sank contentedly into one of the well-rubbed leather arm-chairs. The
company of a friend made the weather and scarcity of salmon less the intolerable
grievance they had seemed an hour ago than a joke to be laughed at. The landlord came
in with whisky, and banked up the peats till they glowed beneath a pall of blue smoke.
"I hope to goodness we are alone," said Thirlstone, and he turned to the retreating
landlord and asked the question.