the wrong direction, or be back by a fixed time, the unrealistic arrangements for remuneration. As the conversation continued, though, in this direct and straightforward way, I began to feel again the excitement which had brought me here, to the Middle East, to explore the ruins of this ancient world. Was it possible I might succeed after all?
Horses. Equipment. Food. No camp-followers required – no wife, no servants, no guards. Was it possible he was a bandit, intending to march a few miles out into the countryside before killing me and stripping my body? Quite probable on the surface, but somehow, looking at those eyes, I could not believe it. This was someone who meant what he said.
He had heard of my plight from a servant of one of the British officials I had been talking to the night before, and saw this as a fortunate coincidence of aims. He wished to return to his native regions, and desired little profit beyond that required to cover his own travelling expenses. Secretly determining to reward him far beyond these modest claims if our travels came to anything, I shook hands with him to settle the bargain.
His hand was cool and soft, lacking the leathery consistency of the true desert dweller. What I noticed most about it, though, was the long ridged scar which ran across it like a trench. A straight razor cut which must have gone very deep indeed.