Page:The Days Work (1899).djvu/206

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WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR

ing, heavy with the smell of the newly watered Mall. The flowers in the Club gardens were dead and black on their stalks, the little lotus-pond was a circle of caked mud, and the tamarisk-trees were white with the dust of weeks. Most of the men were at the band-stand in the public gardens—from the Club verandah you could hear the native Police band hammering stale waltzes—or on the polo-ground, or in the high- walled fives-court, hotter than a Dutch oven. Half a dozen grooms, squatted at the heads of their ponies, waited their masters' return. From time to time a man would ride at a foot-pace into the Club compound, and listlessly loaf over to the whitewashed barracks beside the main building. These were supposed to be chambers. Men lived in them, meeting the same white faces night after night at dinner, and drawing out their office-work till the latest possible hour, that they might escape that doleful company.

"What are you going to do?" said Martyn, with a yawn. "Let 's have a swim before dinner."

"'Water 's hot. I was at the bath to-day."

"'Play you game o' billiards—fifty up."

"It 's a hundred and five in the hall now. Sit still and don't be so abominably energetic."

A grunting camel swung up to the porch, his badged and belted rider fumbling a leather pouch.

"Kabber-kargaz-ki-yektraaa," the man whined, handing down the newspaper extra—a slip printed on one side only, and damp from the press. It was pinned up on the green-baize board, between notices of ponies for sale and fox-terriers missing.

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