Infomotions, Inc.The Weavers: a tale of England and Egypt of fifty years ago - Volume 4 / Parker, Gilbert, 1860-1932

Author: Parker, Gilbert, 1860-1932
Title: The Weavers: a tale of England and Egypt of fifty years ago - Volume 4
Date: 2002-10-13
Contributor(s): Hogarth, C. J. [Translator]
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Identifier: etext6264
Language: en
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Title: The Weavers, Volume 4.

Author: Gilbert Parker

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THE WEAVERS

By Gilbert Parker


BOOK IV.


XXVIII.   NAHOUM TURNS THE SCREW
XXIX.     THE RECOIL
XXX.      LACEY MOVES
XXXI.     THE STRUGGLE IN THE DESERT
XXXII.    FORTY STRIPES SAVE ONE
XXXIII.   THE DARK INDENTURE
XXXIV.    NAHOUM DROPS THE MASK




CHAPTER XXVIII

NAHOUM TURNS THE SCREW

Laughing to himself, Higli Pasha sat with the stem of a narghileh in his
mouth.  His big shoulders kept time to the quivering of his fat stomach.
He was sitting in a small court-yard of Nahoum Pasha's palace, waiting
for its owner to appear.  Meanwhile he exercised a hilarious patience.
The years had changed him little since he had been sent on that
expedition against the southern tribes which followed hard on David's
appointment to office.  As David had expected, few of the traitorous
officers returned.  Diaz had ignominiously died of the bite of a
tarantula before a blow had been struck, but Higli had gratefully
received a slight wound in the first encounter, which enabled him to beat
a safe retreat to Cairo.  He alone of the chief of the old conspirators
was left.  Achmet was still at the Place of Lepers, and the old nest of
traitors was scattered for ever.

Only Nahoum and Higli were left, and between these two there had never
been partnership or understanding.  Nahoum was not the man to trust to
confederates, and Higli Pasha was too contemptible a coadjutor.  Nahoum
had faith in no one save Mizraim the Chief Eunuch, but Mizraim alone was
better than a thousand; and he was secret--and terrible.  Yet Higli had a
conviction that Nahoum's alliance with David was a sham, and that David
would pay the price of misplaced confidence one day.  More than once when
David's plans had had a set-back, Higli had contrived a meeting with
Nahoum, to judge for himself the true position.

For his visit to-day he had invented a reason--a matter of finance; but
his real reason was concealed behind the malevolent merriment by which he
was now seized.  So absorbed was he that he did not heed the approach of
another visitor down an angle of the court-yard.  He was roused by a
voice.

"Well, what's tickling you so, pasha?"

The voice was drawling, and quite gentle; but at the sound of it, Higli's
laugh stopped short, and the muscles of his face contracted.  If there
was one man of whom he had a wholesome fear--why, he could not tell--it
was this round-faced, abrupt, imperturbable American, Claridge Pasha's
right-hand man.  Legends of resourcefulness and bravery had gathered
round his name.  "Who's been stroking your chin with a feather, pasha?"
he continued, his eye piercing the other like a gimlet.

"It was an amusing tale I heard at Assiout, effendi," was Higli's abashed
and surly reply.

"Oh, at Assiout!" rejoined Lacey.  "Yes, they tell funny stories at
Assiout.  And when were you at Assiout, pasha?"

"Two days ago, effendi."

"And so you thought you'd tell the funny little story to Nahoum as quick
as could be, eh?  He likes funny stories, same as you--damn, nice, funny
little stories, eh?"

There was something chilly in Lacey's voice now, which Higli did not
like; something much too menacing and contemptuous for a mere man-of-all-
work to the Inglesi.  Higli bridled up, his eyes glared sulkily.

"It is but my own business if I laugh or if I curse, effendi," he
replied, his hand shaking a little on the stem of the narghileh.

"Precisely, my diaphanous polyandrist; but it isn't quite your own affair
what you laugh at--not if I know it!"

"Does the effendi think I was laughing at him?"

"The effendi thinks not.  The effendi knows that the descendant of a
hundred tigers was laughing at the funny little story, of how the two
cotton-mills that Claridge Pasha built were burned down all in one night,
and one of his steamers sent down the cataract at Assouan.  A knock-down
blow for Claridge Pasha, eh?  That's all you thought of, wasn't it?  And
it doesn't matter to you that the cotton-mills made thousands better off,
and started new industries in Egypt.  No, it only matters to you that
Claridge Pasha loses half his fortune, and that you think his feet are
in the quicksands, and 'll be sucked in, to make an Egyptian holiday.
Anything to discredit him here, eh?  I'm not sure what else you know; but
I'll find out, my noble pasha, and if you've had your hand in it--but no,
you ain't game-cock enough for that!  But if you were, if you had a hand
in the making of your funny little story, there's a nutcracker that 'd
break the shell of that joke--"

He turned round quickly, seeing a shadow and hearing a movement.  Nahoum
was but a few feet away.  There was a bland smile on his face, a look of
innocence in his magnificent blue eye.  As he met Lacey's look, the smile
left his lips, a grave sympathy appeared to possess them, and he spoke
softly:

"I know the thing that burns thy heart, effendi, to whom be the flowers
of hope and the fruits of merit.  It is even so, a great blow has fallen.
Two hours since I heard.  I went at once to see Claridge Pasha, but found
him not.  Does he know, think you?" he added sadly.

"May your heart never be harder than it is, pasha, and when I left the
Saadat an hour ago, he did not know.  His messenger hadn't a steamer like
Higli Pasha there.  But he was coming to see you; and that's why I'm
here.  I've been brushing the flies off this sore on the hump of Egypt
while waiting."  He glanced with disdain at Higli.

A smile rose like liquid in the eye of Nahoum and subsided, then he
turned to Higli inquiringly.

"I have come on business, Excellency; the railway to Rosetta, and--"

"To-morrow--or the next day," responded Nahoum irritably, and turned
again to Lacey.

As Higli's huge frame disappeared through a gateway, Nahoum motioned
Lacey to a divan, and summoned a slave for cooling drinks.  Lacey's eyes
now watched him with an innocence nearly as childlike as his own.  Lacey
well knew that here was a foe worthy of the best steel.  That he was a
foe, and a malignant foe, he had no doubt whatever; he had settled the
point in his mind long ago; and two letters he had received from Lady
Eglington, in which she had said in so many words, "Watch Nahoum!" had
made him vigilant and intuitive.  He knew, meanwhile, that he was
following the trail of a master-hunter who covered up his tracks.  Lacey
was as certain as though he had the book of Nahoum's mind open in his
hand, that David's work had been torn down again--and this time with dire
effect--by this Armenian, whom David trusted like a brother.  But the
black doors that closed on the truth on every side only made him more
determined to unlock them; and, when he faltered as to his own powers,
he trusted Mahommed Hassan, whose devotion to David had given him eyes
that pierced dark places.

"Surely the God of Israel has smitten Claridge Pasha sorely.  My heart
will mourn to look upon his face.  The day is insulting in its
brightness," continued Nahoum with a sigh, his eyes bent upon Lacey,
dejection in his shoulders.

Lacey started.  "The God of Israel!"  How blasphemous it sounded from the
lips of Nahoum, Oriental of Orientals, Christian though he was also!

"I think, perhaps, you'll get over it, pasha.  Man is born to trouble,
and you've got a lot of courage.  I guess you could see other people bear
a pile of suffering, and never flinch."

Nahoum appeared not to notice the gibe.  "It is a land of suffering,
effendi," he sighed, "and one sees what one sees."

"Have you any idea, any real sensible idea, how those cotton-mills got
afire?"  Lacey's eyes were fixed on Nahoum's face.

The other met his gaze calmly.  "Who can tell!  An accident, perhaps,
or--"

"Or some one set the mills on fire in several places at once--they say
the buildings flamed out in every corner; and it was the only time in a
month they hadn't been running night and day.  Funny, isn't it?"

"It looks like the work of an enemy, effendi."  Nahoum shook his head
gravely.  "A fortune destroyed in an hour, as it were.  But we shall get
the dog.  We shall find him.  There is no hole deep enough to hide him
from us."

"Well, I wouldn't go looking in holes for him, pasha.

"He isn't any cave-dweller, that incendiary; he's an artist--no palace is
too unlikely for him.  No, I wouldn't go poking in mud-huts to find him."

"Thou dost not think that Higli Pasha--" Nahoum seemed startled out of
equanimity by the thought.  Lacey eyed him meditatively, and said
reflectively: "Say, you're an artist, pasha.  You are a guesser of the
first rank.  But I'd guess again.  Higli Pasha would have done it, if it
had ever occurred to him; and he'd had the pluck.  But it didn't, and he
hadn't.  What I can't understand is that the artist that did it should
have done it before Claridge Pasha left for the Soudan.  Here we were
just about to start; and if we'd got away south, the job would have done
more harm, and the Saadat would have been out of the way.  No, I can't
understand why the firebug didn't let us get clean away; for if the
Saadat stays here, he'll be where he can stop the underground mining."

Nahoum's self-control did not desert him, though he fully realised that
this man suspected him.  On the surface Lacey was right.  It would have
seemed better to let David go, and destroy his work afterwards, but he
had been moved by other considerations, and his design was deep.  His
own emissaries were in the Soudan, announcing David's determination to
abolish slavery, secretly stirring up feeling against him, preparing for
the final blow to be delivered, when he went again among the southern
tribes.  He had waited and waited, and now the time was come.  Had he,
Nahoum, not agreed with David that the time had come for the slave-trade
to go?  Had he not encouraged him to take this bold step, in the sure
belief that it would overwhelm him, and bring him an ignominious death,
embittered by total failure of all he had tried to do?

For years he had secretly loosened the foundations of David's work, and
the triumph of Oriental duplicity over Western civilisation and integrity
was sweet in his mouth.  And now there was reason to believe that, at
last, Kaid was turning against the Inglesi.  Everything would come at
once.  If all that he had planned was successful, even this man before
him should aid in his master's destruction.

"If it was all done by an enemy," he said, in answer to Lacey, at last,
"would it all be reasoned out like that?  Is hatred so logical?  Dost
thou think Claridge Pasha will not go now?  The troops are ready at Wady-
Halfa, everything is in order; the last load of equipment has gone.  Will
not Claridge Pasha find the money somehow?  I will do what I can.  My
heart is moved to aid him."

"Yes, you'd do what you could, pasha," Lacey rejoined enigmatically, "but
whether it would set the Saadat on his expedition or not is a question.
But I guess, after all, he's got to go.  He willed it so.  People may try
to stop him, and they may tear down what he does, but he does at last
what he starts to do, and no one can prevent him--not any one.  Yes, he's
going on this expedition; and he'll have the money, too."  There was a
strange, abstracted look in his face, as though he saw something which
held him fascinated.

Presently, as if with an effort, he rose to his feet, took the red fez
from his head, and fanned himself with it for a moment.  "Don't you
forget it, pasha; the Saadat will win.  He can't be beaten, not in a
thousand years.  Here he comes."

Nahoum got to his feet, as David came quickly through the small gateway
of the court-yard, his head erect, his lips smiling, his eyes sweeping
the place.  He came forward briskly to them.  It was plain he had not
heard the evil news.

"Peace be to thee, Saadat, and may thy life be fenced about with safety!"
said Nahoum.

David laid a hand on Lacey's arm and squeezed it, smiling at him with
such friendship that Lacey's eyes moistened, and he turned his head away.

There was a quiet elation in David's look.  "We are ready at last," he
said, looking from one to the other.  "Well, well," he added, almost
boyishly, "has thee nothing to say, Nahoum?"

Nahoum turned his head away as though overcome.  David's face grew
instantly grave.  He turned to Lacey.  Never before had he seen Lacey's
face with a look like this.  He grasped Lacey's arm.  "What is it?" he
asked quietly.  "What does thee want to say to me?"

But Lacey could not speak, and David turned again to Nahoum.  "What is
there to say to me?" he asked.  "Something has happened--what is it?
.  .  .  Come, many things have happened before.  This can be no worse.
Do thee speak," he urged gently.

"Saadat," said Nahoum, as though under the stress of feeling, "the
cotton-mills at Tashah and Mini are gone--burned to the ground."

For a moment David looked at him without sight in his eyes, and his face
grew very pale.  "Excellency, all in one night, the besom of destruction
was abroad," he heard Nahoum say, as though from great depths below him.
He slowly turned his head to look at Lacey.  "Is this true?" he asked at
last in an unsteady voice.  Lacey could not speak, but inclined his head.

David's figure seemed to shrink for a moment, his face had a withered
look, and his head fell forward in a mood of terrible dejection.

"Saadat!  Oh, my God, Saadat, don't take it so!" said Lacey brokenly,
and stepped between David and Nahoum.  He could not bear that the
stricken face and figure should be seen by Nahoum, whom he believed to be
secretly gloating.  "Saadat," he said brokenly, "God has always been with
you; He hasn't forgotten you now.

"The work of years," David murmured, and seemed not to hear.

"When God permits, shall man despair?" interposed Nahoum, in a voice
that lingered on the words.  Nahoum accomplished what Lacey had failed to
do.  His voice had pierced to some remote corner in David's nature, and
roused him.  Was it that doubt, suspicion, had been wakened at last?  Was
some sensitive nerve touched, that this Oriental should offer Christian
comfort to him in his need--to him who had seen the greater light?  Or
was it that some unreality in the words struck a note which excited a new
and subconscious understanding?  Perhaps it was a little of all three.
He did not stop to inquire.  In crises such as that through which he was
passing, the mind and body act without reason, rather by the primal
instinct, the certain call of the things that were before reason was.

"God is with the patient," continued Nahoum; and Lacey set his teeth to
bear this insult to all things.  But Nahoum accomplished what he had not
anticipated.  David straightened himself up, and clasped his hands behind
him.  By a supreme effort of the will he controlled himself, and the
colour came back faintly to his face.  "God's will be done," he said,
and looked Nahoum calmly in the eyes.  "It was no accident," he added
with conviction.  "It was an enemy of Egypt."  Suddenly the thing rushed
over him again, going through his veins like a poisonous ether, and
clamping his heart as with iron.  "All to do over again!" he said
brokenly, and again he caught Lacey's arm.

With an uncontrollable impulse Lacey took David's hand in his own warm,
human grasp.

"Once I thought I lost everything in Mexico, Saadat, and I understand
what you feel.  But all wasn't lost in Mexico, as I found at last, and I
got something, too, that I didn't put in.  Say, let us go from here.  God
is backing you, Saadat.  Isn't it all right--same as ever?"

David was himself again.  "Thee is a good man," he said, and through the
sadness of his eyes there stole a smile.  "Let us go," he said.  Then he
added in a businesslike way: "To-morrow at seven, Nahoum.  There is much
to do."

He turned towards the gate with Lacey, where the horses waited.  Mahommed
Hassan met them as they prepared to mount.  He handed David a letter.
It was from Faith, and contained the news of Luke Claridge's death.
Everything had come at once.  He stumbled into the saddle with a moan.

"At last I have drawn blood," said Nahoum to himself with grim
satisfaction, as they disappeared.  "It is the beginning of the end.
It will crush him-I saw it in his eyes.  God of Israel, I shall rule
again in Egypt!"




CHAPTER XXIX

THE RECOIL

It was a great day in the Muslim year.  The Mahmal, or Sacred Carpet,
was leaving Cairo on its long pilgrimage of thirty-seven days to Mecca
and Mahomet's tomb.  Great guns boomed from the Citadel, as the gorgeous
procession, forming itself beneath the Mokattam Hills, began its slow
march to where, seated in the shade of an ornate pavilion, Prince Kaid
awaited its approach to pay devout homage.  Thousands looked down at the
scene from the ramparts of the Citadel, from the overhanging cliffs, and
from the tops of the houses that hung on the ledges of rock rising
abruptly from the level ground, to which the last of the famed Mamelukes
leaped to their destruction.

Now to Prince Kaid's ears there came from hundreds of hoarse throats the
cry: "Allah!  Allah!  May thy journey be with safety to Arafat!"
mingling with the harsh music of the fifes and drums.

Kaid looked upon the scene with drawn face and lowering brows.  His
retinue watched him with alarm.  A whisper had passed that, two nights
before, the Effendina had sent in haste for a famous Italian physician
lately come to Cairo, and that since his visit Kaid had been sullen and
depressed.  It was also the gossip of the bazaars that he had suddenly
shown favour to those of the Royal House and to other reactionaries,
who had been enemies to the influence of Claridge Pasha.

This rumour had been followed by an official proclamation that no
Europeans or Christians would be admitted to the ceremony of the Sacred
Carpet.

Thus it was that Kaid looked out on a vast multitude of Muslims, in which
not one European face showed, and from lip to lip there passed the word,
"Harrik--Harrik--remember Harrik!  Kaid turns from the infidel!"

They crowded near the great pavilion--as near as the mounted Nubians
would permit--to see Kaid's face; while he, with eyes wandering over the
vast assemblage, was lost in dark reflections.  For a year he had
struggled against a growing conviction that some obscure disease was
sapping his strength.  He had hid it from every one, until, at last,
distress and pain had overcome him.  The verdict of the Italian expert
was that possible, but by no means certain, cure might come from an
operation which must be delayed for a month or more.

Suddenly, the world had grown unfamiliar to him; he saw it from afar; but
his subconscious self involuntarily registered impressions, and he moved
mechanically through the ceremonies and duties of the immediate present.
Thrown back upon himself, to fight his own fight, with the instinct of
primary life his mind involuntarily drew for refuge to the habits and
predispositions of youth; and for two days he had shut himself away from
the activities with which David and Nahoum were associated.  Being deeply
engaged with the details of the expedition to the Soudan, David had not
gone to the Palace; and he was unaware of the turn which things had
taken.

Three times, with slow and stately steps, the procession wound in a
circle in the great square, before it approached the pavilion where the
Effendina sat, the splendid camels carrying the embroidered tent wherein
the Carpet rested, and that which bore the Emir of the pilgrims, moving
gracefully like ships at sea.  Naked swordsmen, with upright and shining
blades, were followed by men on camels bearing kettle-drums.  After them
came Arab riders with fresh green branches fastened to the saddles like
plumes, while others carried flags and banners emblazoned with texts and
symbols.  Troops of horsemen in white woollen cloaks, sheikhs and
Bedouins with flowing robes and huge turbans, religious chiefs of the
great sects, imperturbable and statuesque, were in strange contrast to
the shouting dervishes and camel-drivers and eager pilgrims.

At last the great camel with its sacred burden stopped in front of Kaid
for his prayer and blessing.  As he held the tassels, lifted the gold-
fringed curtain, and invoked Allah's blessing, a half-naked sheikh ran
forward, and, raising his hand high above his head, cried shrilly:
"Kaid, Kaid, hearken!"

Rough hands caught him away, but Kaid commanded them to desist; and the
man called a blessing on him; and cried aloud:

"Listen, O Kaid, son of the stars and the light of day.  God hath exalted
thee.  Thou art the Egyptian of all the Egyptians.  In thy hand is power.
But thou art mortal even as I.  Behold, O Kaid, in the hour that I was
born thou wast born, I in the dust without thy Palace wall, thou amid the
splendid things.  But thy star is my star.  Behold, as God ordains, the
Tree of Life was shaken on the night when all men pray and cry aloud to
God--even the Night of the Falling Leaves.  And I watched the falling
leaves; and I saw my leaf, and it was withered, but only a little
withered, and so I live yet a little.  But I looked for thy leaf, thou
who wert born in that moment when I waked to the world.  I looked long,
but I found no leaf, neither green nor withered.  But I looked again upon
my leaf, and then I saw that thy name now was also upon my leaf, and that
it was neither green nor withered; but was a leaf that drooped as when an
evil wind has passed and drunk its life.  Listen, O Kaid!  Upon the tomb
of Mahomet I will set my lips, and it may be that the leaf of my life
will come fresh and green again.  But thou--wilt thou not come also to
the lord Mahomet's tomb?  Or"--he paused and raised his voice--"or wilt
thou stay and lay thy lips upon the cross of the infidel?  Wilt thou--"

He could say no more, for Kaid's face now darkened with anger.  He made a
gesture, and, in an instant, the man was gagged and bound, while a sullen
silence fell upon the crowd.  Kaid suddenly became aware of this change
of feeling, and looked round him.  Presently his old prudence and
subtlety came back, his face cleared a little, and he called aloud,
"Unloose the man, and let him come to me."  An instant after, the man
was on his knees, silent before him.

"What is thy name?" Kaid asked.

"Kaid Ibrahim, Effendina," was the reply.

"Thou hast misinterpreted thy dream, Kaid Ibrahim," answered the
Effendina.  "The drooping leaf was token of the danger in which thy life
should be, and my name upon thy leaf was token that I should save thee
from death.  Behold, I save thee.  Inshallah, go in peace!  There is no
God but God, and the Cross is the sign of a false prophet.  Thou art mad.
God give thee a new mind.  Go."

The man was presently lost in the sweltering, half-frenzied crowd; but he
had done his work, and his words rang in the ears of Kaid as he rode
away.

A few hours afterwards, bitter and rebellious, murmuring to himself, Kaid
sat in a darkened room of his Nile Palace beyond the city.  So few years
on the throne, so young, so much on which to lay the hand of pleasure, so
many millions to command; and yet the slave at his door had a surer hold
on life and all its joys and lures than he, Prince Kaid, ruler of Egypt!
There was on him that barbaric despair which has taken dreadful toll of
life for the decree of destiny.  Across the record of this day, as across
the history of many an Eastern and pagan tyrant, was written: "He would
not die alone."  That the world should go on when he was gone, that men
should buy and sell and laugh and drink, and flaunt it in the sun, while
he, Prince Kaid, would be done with it all.

He was roused by the rustling of a robe.  Before him stood the Arab
physician, Sharif Bey, who had been in his father's house and his own
for a lifetime.  It was many a year since his ministrations to Kaid had
ceased; but he had remained on in the Palace, doing service to those who
received him, and--it was said by the evil-tongued--granting certificates
of death out of harmony with dark facts, a sinister and useful figure.
His beard was white, his face was friendly, almost benevolent, but his
eyes had a light caught from no celestial flame.

His look was confident now, as his eyes bent on Kaid.  He had lived long,
he had seen much, he had heard of the peril that had been foreshadowed by
the infidel physician; and, by a sure instinct, he knew that his own
opportunity had come.  He knew that Kaid would snatch at any offered
comfort, would cherish any alleviating lie, would steal back from
science and civilisation and the modern palace to the superstition of the
fellah's hut.  Were not all men alike when the neboot of Fate struck them
down into the terrible loneliness of doom, numbing their minds?  Luck
would be with him that offered first succour in that dark hour.  Sharif
had come at the right moment for Sharif.

Kaid looked at him with dull yet anxious eyes.  "Did I not command that
none should enter?" he asked presently in a thick voice.

"Am I not thy physician, Effendina, to whom be the undying years?  When
the Effendina is sick, shall I not heal?  Have I not waited like a dog at
thy door these many years, till that time would come when none could heal
thee save Sharif?"

"What canst thou give me?"

"What the infidel physician gave thee not--I can give thee hope.  Hast
thou done well, oh, Effendina, to turn from thine own people?  Did not
thine own father, and did not Mehemet Ali, live to a good age?  Who were
their physicians?  My father and I, and my father's father, and his
father's father."

"Thou canst cure me altogether?" asked Kaid hesitatingly.

"Wilt thou not have faith in one of thine own race?  Will the infidel
love thee as do we, who are thy children and thy brothers, who are to
thee as a nail driven in the wall, not to be moved?  Thou shalt live--
Inshallah, thou shalt have healing and length of days!"

He paused at a gesture from Kaid, for a slave had entered and stood
waiting.

"What dost thou here?  Wert thou not commanded?" asked Kaid.

"Effendina, Claridge Pasha is waiting," was the reply.

Kaid frowned, hesitated; then, with a sudden resolve, made a gesture of
dismissal to Sharif Bey, and nodded David's admittance to the slave.

As David entered, he passed Sharif Bey, and something in the look on
the Arab physician's face--a secret malignancy and triumph--struck him
strangely.  And now a fresh anxiety and apprehension rose in his mind as
he glanced at Kaid.  The eye was heavy and gloomy, the face was clouded,
the lips once so ready to smile at him were sullen and smileless now.
David stood still, waiting.

"I did not expect thee till to-morrow, Saadat," said Kaid moodily at
last.

"The business is urgent?"  "Effendina," said David, with every nerve at
tension, yet with outward self-control, "I have to report--" He paused,
agitated; then, in a firm voice, he told of the disaster which had
befallen the cotton-mills and the steamer.

As David spoke, Kaid's face grew darker, his fingers fumbled vaguely with
the linen of the loose white robe he wore.  When the tale was finished he
sat for a moment apparently stunned by the news, then he burst out
fiercely:

"Bismillah, am I to hear only black words to-day?  Hast thou naught to
say but this--the fortune of Egypt burned to ashes!"

David held back the quick retort that came to his tongue.

"Half my fortune is in the ashes," he answered with dignity.  "The rest
came from savings never made before by this Government.  Is the work less
worthy in thy sight, Effendina, because it has been destroyed?  Would thy
life be less great and useful because a blow took thee from behind?"

Kaid's face turned black.  David had bruised an open wound.

"What is my life to thee--what is thy work to me?"

"Thy life is dear to Egypt, Effendina," urged David soothingly, "and my
labour for Egypt has been pleasant in thine eyes till now."

"Egypt cannot be saved against her will," was the moody response.  "What
has come of the Western hand upon the Eastern plough?"  His face grew
blacker; his heart was feeding on itself.

"Thou, the friend of Egypt, hast come of it, Effendina."

"Harrik was right, Harrik was right," Kaid answered, with stubborn gloom
and anger.  "Better to die in our own way, if we must die, than live in
the way of another.  Thou wouldst make of Egypt another England; thou
wouldst civilise the Soudan--bismillah, it is folly!"

"That is not the way Mehemet Ali thought, nor Ibrahim.  Nor dost thou
think so, Effendina," David answered gravely.  "A dark spirit is on thee.
Wouldst thou have me understand that what we have done together, thou and
I, was ill done, that the old bad days were better?"

"Go back to thine own land," was the surly answer.  "Nation after nation
ravaged Egypt, sowed their legions here, but the Egyptian has lived them
down.  The faces of the fellaheen are the faces of Thotmes and Seti.  Go
back.  Egypt will travel her own path.  We are of the East; we are
Muslim.  What is right to you is wrong to us.  Ye would make us over--
give us cotton beds and wooden floors and fine flour of the mill, and
cleanse the cholera-hut with disinfectants, but are these things all?
How many of your civilised millions would die for their prophet Christ?
Yet all Egypt would rise up from the mud-floor, the dourha-field and the
mud-hut, and would come out to die for Mahomet and Allah--ay, as Harrik
knew, as Harrik knew!  Ye steal into corners, and hide behind the
curtains of your beds to pray; we pray where the hour of prayer finds us
--in the street, in the market-place, where the house is building, the
horse being shod, or the money-changers are.  Ye hear the call of
civilisation, but we heap the Muezzin--"

He stopped, and searched mechanically for his watch.  "It is the hour the
Muezzin calls," said David gently.  "It is almost sunset.  Shall I open
the windows that the call may come to us?" he added.

While Kaid stared at him, his breast heaving with passion, David went to
a window and opened the shutters wide.

The Palace faced the Nile, which showed like a tortuous band of blue and
silver a mile or so away.  Nothing lay between but the brown sand, and
here and there a handful of dark figures gliding towards the river, or a
little train of camels making for the bare grey hills from the ghiassas
which had given them their desert loads.  The course of the Nile was
marked by a wide fringe of palms showing blue and purple, friendly and
ancient and solitary.  Beyond the river and the palms lay the grey-brown
desert, faintly touched with red.  So clear was the sweet evening air
that the irregular surface of the desert showed for a score of miles as
plainly as though it were but a step away.  Hummocks of sand--tombs and
fallen monuments gave a feeling as of forgotten and buried peoples; and
the two vast pyramids of Sakkarah stood up in the plaintive glow of the
evening skies, majestic and solemn, faithful to the dissolved and
absorbed races who had built them.  Curtains of mauve and saffron-red
were hung behind them, and through a break of cloud fringing the horizon
a yellow glow poured, to touch the tips of the pyramids with poignant
splendour.  But farther over to the right, where Cairo lay, there hung a
bluish mist, palpable and delicate, out of which emerged the vast
pyramids of Cheops; and beside it the smiling inscrutable Sphinx faced
the changeless centuries.  Beyond the pyramids the mist deepened into a
vast deep cloud of blue and purple, which seemed the end to some mystic
highway untravelled by the sons of men.

Suddenly there swept over David a wave of feeling such as had passed over
Kaid, though of a different nature.  Those who had built the pyramids
were gone, Cheops and Thotmes and Amenhotep and Chefron and the rest.
There had been reformers in those lost races; one age had sought to
better the last, one man had toiled to save--yet there only remained
offensive bundles of mummied flesh and bone and a handful of relics in
tombs fifty centuries old.  Was it all, then, futile?  Did it matter,
then, whether one man laboured or a race aspired?

Only for a moment these thoughts passed through his mind; and then, as
the glow through the broken cloud on the opposite horizon suddenly faded,
and veils of melancholy fell over the desert and the river and the palms,
there rose a call, sweetly shrill, undoubtingly insistent.  Sunset had
come, and, with it, the Muezzin's call to prayer from the minaret of a
mosque hard by.

David was conscious of a movement behind him--that Kaid was praying with
hands uplifted; and out on the sands between the window and the river he
saw kneeling figures here and there, saw the camel-drivers halt their
trains, and face the East with hands uplifted.  The call went on--"La
ilaha illa-llah !"

It called David, too.  The force and searching energy and fire in it
stole through his veins, and drove from him the sense of futility and
despondency which had so deeply added to his trouble.  There was
something for him, too, in that which held infatuated the minds
of so many millions.

A moment later Kaid and he faced each other again.  "Effendina," he said,
"thou wilt not desert our work now?"

"Money--for this expedition?  Thou hast it?" Kaid asked ironically.

"I have but little money, and it must go to rebuild the mills, Effendina.
I must have it of thee."

"Let them remain in their ashes."

"But thousands will have no work."

"They had work before they were built, they will have work now they are
gone."

"Effendina, I stayed in Egypt at thy request.  The work is thy work.
Wilt thou desert it?"

"The West lured me--by things that seemed.  Now I know things as they
are."

"They will lure thee again to-morrow," said David firmly, but with a
weight on his spirit.  His eyes sought and held Kaid's.  "It is too late
to go back; we must go forward or we shall lose the Soudan, and a Mahdi
and his men will be in Cairo in ten years."

For an instant Kaid was startled.  The old look of energy and purpose
leaped up into his eye; but it faded quickly again.  If, as the Italian
physician more than hinted, his life hung by a thread, did it matter
whether the barbarian came to Cairo?  That was the business of those who
came after.  If Sharif was right, and his life was saved, there would be
time enough to set things right.

"I will not pour water on the sands to make an ocean," he answered.
"Will a ship sail on the Sahara?  Bismillah, it is all a dream!  Harrik
was right.  But dost thou think to do with me as thou didst with Harrik?"
he sneered.  "Is it in thy mind?"

David's patience broke down under the long provocation.  "Know then,
Effendina," he said angrily, "that I am not thy subject, nor one beholden
to thee, nor thy slave.  Upon terms well understood, I have laboured
here.  I have kept my obligations, and it is thy duty to keep thy
obligations, though the hand of death were on thee.  I know not what has
poisoned thy mind, and driven thee from reason and from justice.  I know
that, Prince Pasha of Egypt as thou art, thou art as bound to me as any
fellah that agrees to tend my door or row my boat.  Thy compact with me
is a compact with England, and it shall be kept, if thou art an honest
man.  Thou mayst find thousands in Egypt who will serve thee at any
price, and bear thee in any mood.  I have but one price.  It is well
known to thee.  I will not be the target for thy black temper.  This is
not the middle ages; I am an Englishman, not a helot.  The bond must be
kept; thou shalt not play fast and loose.  Money must be found; the
expedition must go.  But if thy purpose is now Harrik's purpose, then
Europe should know, and Egypt also should know.  I have been thy right
hand, Effendina; I will not be thy old shoe, to be cast aside at thy
will."

In all the days of his life David had never flamed out as he did now.
Passionate as his words were, his manner was strangely quiet, but his
white and glistening face and his burning eyes showed how deep was his
anger.

As he spoke, Kaid sank upon the divan.  Never had he been challenged so.
With his own people he had ever been used to cringing and abasement, and
he had played the tyrant, and struck hard and cruelly, and he had been
feared; but here, behind David's courteous attitude, there was a scathing
arraignment of his conduct which took no count of consequence.  In other
circumstances his vanity would have shrunk under this whip of words, but
his native reason and his quick humour would have justified David.  In
this black distemper possessing him, however, only outraged egotism
prevailed.  His hands clenched and unclenched, his lips were drawn back
on his teeth in rage.

When David had finished, Kaid suddenly got to his feet and took a step
forward with a malediction, but a faintness seized him and he staggered
back.  When he raised his head again David was gone.




CHAPTER XXX

LACEY MOVES

If there was one glistening bead of sweat on the bald pate of Lacey of
Chicago there were a thousand; and the smile on his face was not less
shining and unlimited.  He burst into the rooms of the palace where David
had residence, calling: "Oyez!  Oyez!  Saadat!  Oh, Pasha of the Thousand
Tails!  Oyez!  Oyez!"

Getting no answer, he began to perform a dance round the room, which in
modern days is known as the negro cake-walk.  It was not dignified, but
it would have been less dignified still performed by any other living man
of forty-five with a bald head and a waist-band ten inches too large.
Round the room three times he went, and then he dropped on a divan.  He
gasped, and mopped his face and forehead, leaving a little island of
moisture on the top of his head untouched.  After a moment, he gained
breath and settled down a little.  Then he burst out:

         "Are you coming to my party, O effendi?
          There'll be high jinks, there'll be welcome, there'll be room;
          For to-morrow we are pulling stakes for Shendy.
          Are you coming to my party, O Nahoum?"

"Say, I guess that's pretty good on the spur of the moment," he wheezed,
and, taking his inseparable note book from his pocket, wrote the
impromptu down.  "I guess She'll like that-it rings spontaneous.  She'll
be tickled, tickled to death, when she knows what's behind it."  He
repeated it with gusto.  "She'll dote on it," he added--the person to
whom he referred being the sister of the American Consul, the little
widow, "cute as she can be," of whom he had written to Hylda in the
letter which had brought a crisis in her life.  As he returned the note-
book to his pocket a door opened.  Mahommed Hassan slid forward into the
room, and stood still, impassive and gloomy.  Lacey beckoned, and said
grotesquely:

        "'Come hither, come hither, my little daughter,
          And do not tremble so!'"

A sort of scornful patience was in Mahommed's look, but he came nearer
and waited.

"Squat on the ground, and smile a smile of mirth, Mahommed," Lacey said
riotously.  "'For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o'
the May!'"

Mahommed's face grew resentful.  "O effendi, shall the camel-driver laugh
when the camels are lost in the khamsin and the water-bottle is empty?"

"Certainly not, O son of the spreading palm; but this is not a desert,
nor a gaudy caravan.  This is a feast of all angels.  This is the day
when Nahoum the Nefarious is to be buckled up like a belt, and ridden in
a ring.  Where is the Saadat?"

"He is gone, effendi!  Like a mist on the face of the running water, so
was his face; like eyes that did not see, so was his look.  'Peace be to
thee, Mahommed, thou art faithful as Zaida,' he said, and he mounted and
rode into the desert.  I ran after till he was come to the edge of the
desert; but he sent me back, saying that I must wait for thee; and this
word I was to say, that Prince Kaid had turned his face darkly from him,
and that the finger of Sharif--"

"That fanatical old quack--Harrik's friend!"

"--that the finger of Sharif was on his pulse; but the end of all was in
the hands of God."

"Oh yes, exactly, the finger of Sharif on his pulse!  The old story-the
return to the mother's milk, throwing back to all the Pharaohs.  Well,
what then?" he added cheerfully, his smile breaking out again.  "Where
has he gone, our Saadat?"

"To Ebn Ezra Bey at the Coptic Monastery by the Etl Tree, where your
prophet Christ slept when a child."

Lacey hummed to himself meditatively.  "A sort of last powwow--Rome
before the fall.  Everything wrong, eh?  Kaid turned fanatic, Nahoum on
the tiles watching for the Saadat to fall, things trembling for want of
hard cash.  That's it, isn't it, Mahommed?"

Mahommed nodded, but his look was now alert, and less sombre.  He had
caught at something vital and confident in Lacey's tone.  He drew nearer,
and listened closely.

"Well, now, my gentle gazelle, listen unto me," continued Lacey.  He
suddenly leaned forward, and spoke in subdued but rapid tones.  "Say,
Mahommed, once upon a time there was an American man, with a shock of red
hair, and a nature like a spring-lock.  He went down to Mexico, with a
million or two of his own money got honestly by an undisputed will from
an undisputed father--you don't understand that, but it doesn't matter--
and with a few millions of other people's money, for to gamble in mines
and railways and banks and steamship companies--all to do with Mexico
what the Saadat has tried to do in Egypt with less money; but not for the
love of Allah, same as him.  This American was going to conquer like
Cortez, but his name was Thomas Tilman Lacey, and he had a lot of gall.
After years of earnest effort, he lost his hair and the millions of the
Infatuated Conquistadores.  And by-and-by he came to Cairo with a
thimbleful of income, and began to live again.  There was a civil war
going on in his own country, but he thought that one out of forty
millions would not be strictly missed.  So he stayed in Egypt; and the
tale of his days in Egypt, is it not written with a neboot of domwood in
the book of Mahommed Hassan the scribe?"

He paused and beamed upon the watchful Mahommed, who, if he did not
understand all that had been said, was in no difficulty as to the drift
and meaning of the story.

"Aiwa, effendi," he urged impatiently.  "It is a long ride to the Etl
Tree, and the day is far spent."

"Inshallah, you shall hear, my turtle-dove!  One day there came to Cairo,
in great haste, a man from Mexico, looking for the foolish one called T.
T. Lacey, bearing glad news.  And the man from Mexico blew his trumpet,
and straightway T. T. Lacey fell down dismayed.  The trumpet said that a
million once lost in Mexico was returned, with a small flock of other
millions; for a mine, in which it was sunk, had burst forth with a stony
stream of silver.  And behold!  Thomas Tilman Lacey, the despised waster
of his patrimony and of other people's treasure, is now, O son of the
fig-flower, richer than Kaid Pasha and all his eunuchs."

Suddenly Mahommed Hassan leaned forward, then backward, and, after the
fashion of desert folk, gave a shrill, sweet ululation that seemed to
fill the palace.

"Say, that's A1," Lacey said, when Mahommed's voice sank to a whisper of
wild harmony.  "Yes, you can lick my boots, my noble sheikh of
Manfaloot," he added, as Mahommed caught his feet and bent his head upon
them.  "I wanted to do something like that myself.  Kiss 'em, honey;
it'll do you good."

After a moment, Mahommed drew back and squatted before him in an attitude
of peace and satisfaction.  "The Saadat--you will help him?  You will
give him money?"

"Let's put it in this way, Mahommed: I'll invest in an expedition out of
which I expect to get something worth while--concessions for mines and
railways, et cetera."  He winked a round, blue eye.  "Business is
business, and the way to get at the Saadat is to talk business; but you
can make up your mind that,

        "'To-morrow, we are pulling stakes for Shendy!
          Are you coming to my party, O Nahoum?'"

"By the prophet Abraham, but the news is great news," said Mahommed with
a grin.  "But the Effendina?"

"Well, I'll try and square the Effendina," answered Lacey.  "Perhaps the
days of backsheesh aren't done in Egypt, after all."

"And Nahoum Pasha?" asked Mahommed, with a sinister look.

"Well, we'll try and square him, too, but in another way."

"The money, it is in Egypt?" queried Mahommed, whose idea was that money
to be real must be seen.  "Something that's as handy and as marketable,"
answered Lacey.  "I can raise half a million to-morrow; and that will do
a lot of what we want.  How long will it take to ride to the monastery?"

Mahommed told him.

Lacey was about to leave the room, when he heard a voice outside.
"Nahoum!" he said, and sat down again on the divan.  "He has come to see
the Saadat, I suppose; but it'll do him good to see me, perhaps.  Open
the sluices, Mahommed."

Yes, Nahoum would be glad to see the effendi, since Claridge Pasha was
not in Cairo.  When would Claridge Pasha return?  If, then, the effendi
expected to see the Saadat before his return to Cairo, perhaps he would
convey a message.  He could not urge his presence on the Saadat, since he
had not been honoured with any communication since yesterday.

"Well, that's good-mannered, anyhow, pasha," said Lacey with cheerful
nonchalance.  "People don't always know when they're wanted or not
wanted."

Nahoum looked at him guardedly, sighed and sat down.  "Things have grown
worse since yesterday," he said.  "Prince Kaid received the news badly."
He shook his head.  "He has not the gift of perfect friendship.  That is
a Christian characteristic; the Muslim does not possess it.  It was too
strong to last, maybe--my poor beloved friend, the Saadat."

"Oh, it will last all right," rejoined Lacey coolly.  "Prince Kaid has
got a touch of jaundice, I guess.  He knows a thing when he finds it,
even if he hasn't the gift of 'perfect friendship,' same as Christians
like you and me.  But even you and me don't push our perfections too far
--I haven't noticed you going out of your way to do things for your 'poor
beloved friend, the Saadat'."

"I have given him time, energy, experience--money."

Lacey nodded.  "True.  And I've often wondered why, when I've seen the
things you didn't give and the things you took away."

Nahoum's eyes half closed.  Lacey was getting to close quarters with
suspicion and allusion; but it was not his cue to resent them yet.

"I had come now to offer him help; to advance him enough to carry through
his expedition."

"Well, that sounds generous, but I guess he would get on without it,
pasha.  He would not want to be under any more obligations to you."

"He is without money.  He must be helped."

"Just so."

"He cannot go to the treasury, and Prince Kaid has refused.  Why should
he decline help from his friend?"  Suddenly Lacey changed his tactics.
He had caught a look in Nahoum's eyes which gave him a new thought.
"Well, if you've any proposition, pasha, I'll take it to him.  I'll be
seeing him to-night."

"I can give him fifty thousand pounds."

"It isn't enough to save the situation, pasha."

"It will help him over the first zareba."

"Are there any conditions?"  "There are no conditions, effendi."  "And
interest?"

"There would be no interest in money."

"Other considerations?"

"Yes, other considerations, effendi."

"If they were granted, would there be enough still in the stocking to
help him over a second zareba--or a third, perhaps?"

"That would be possible, even likely, I think.  Of course we speak in
confidence, effendi."

"The confidence of the 'perfect friendship.'"

"There may be difficulty, because the Saadat is sensitive; but it is the
only way to help him.  I can get the money from but one source; and to
get it involves an agreement."

"You think his Excellency would not just jump at it--that it might hurt
some of his prejudices, eh?"

"So, effendi."

"And me--where am I in it, pasha?"

"Thou hast great influence with his Excellency."

"I am his servant--I don't meddle with his prejudices, pasha."

"But if it were for his own good, to save his work here."

Lacey yawned almost ostentatiously.  "I guess if he can't save it himself
it can't be saved, not even when you reach out the hand of perfect
friendship.  You've been reaching out for a long time, pasha, and it
didn't save the steamer or the cotton-mills; and it didn't save us when
we were down by Sobat a while ago, and you sent Halim Bey to teach us to
be patient.  We got out of that nasty corner by sleight of hand, but not
your sleight of hand, pasha.  Your hand is a quick hand, but a sharp eye
can see the trick, and then it's no good, not worth a button."

There was something savage behind Nahoum's eyes, but they did not show
it; they blinked with earnest kindness and interest.  The time would come
when Lacey would go as his master should go, and the occasion was not far
off now; but it must not be forced.  Besides, was this fat, amorous-
looking factotum of Claridge Pasha's as Spartan-minded as his master?
Would he be superior to the lure of gold?  He would see.  He spoke
seriously, with apparent solicitude.

"Thou dost not understand, effendi.  Claridge Pasha must have money.
Prestige is everything in Egypt, it is everything with Kaid.  If Claridge
Pasha rides on as though nothing has happened--and money is the only
horse that can carry him--Kaid will not interfere, and his black mood
may pass; but any halting now and the game is done."

"And you want the game to go on right bad, don't you?  Well, I guess
you're right.  Money is the only winner in this race.  He's got to have
money, sure.  How much can you raise?  Oh, yes, you told me!  Well, I
don't think it's enough; he's got to have three times that; and if he
can't get it from the Government, or from Kaid, it's a bad lookout.
What's the bargain you have in your mind?"

"That the slave-trade continue, effendi."

Lacey did not wink, but he had a shock of surprise.  On the instant he
saw the trap--for the Saadat and for himself.

"He would not do it--not for money, pasha."

"He would not be doing it for money.  The time is not ripe for it, it is
too dangerous.  There is a time for all things.  If he will but wait!"

"I wouldn't like to be the man that'd name the thing to him.  As you say,
he's got his prejudices.  They're stronger than in most men."

"It need not be named to him.  Thou canst accept the money for him, and
when thou art in the Soudan, and he is going to do it, thou canst prevent
it."

"Tell him that I've taken the money and that he's used it, and he
oughtn't to go back on the bargain I made for him?  So that he'll be
bound by what I did?"

"It is the best way, effendi."

"He'd be annoyed," said Lacey with a patient sigh.

"He has a great soul; but sometimes he forgets that expediency is the
true policy."

"Yet he's done a lot of things without it.  He's never failed in what he
set out to do.  What he's done has been kicked over, but he's done it all
right, somehow, at last."

"He will not be able to do this, effendi, except with my help--and
thine."

"He's had quite a lot of things almost finished, too," said Lacey
reflectively, "and then a hand reached out in the dark and cut the wires
--cut them when he was sleeping, and he didn't know; cut them when he was
waking, and he wouldn't understand; cut them under his own eyes, and he
wouldn't see; because the hand that cut them was the hand of the perfect
friend."

He got slowly to his feet, as a cloud of colour drew over the face of
Nahoum and his eyes darkened with astonishment and anger.  Lacey put his
hands in his pockets and waited till Nahoum also rose.  Then he gathered
the other's eyes to his, and said with drawling scorn:

"So, you thought I didn't understand!  You thought I'd got a brain like a
peanut, and wouldn't drop onto your game or the trap you've set.  You'd
advance money--got from the slave-dealers to prevent the slave-trade
being stopped!  If Claridge Pasha took it and used it, he could never
stop the slave-trade.  If I took it and used it for him on the same
terms, he couldn't stop the slave-trade, though he might know no more
about the bargain than a babe unborn.  And if he didn't stand by the
bargain I made, and did prohibit slave-dealing, nothing'd stop the tribes
till they marched into Cairo.  He's been safe so far, because they
believed in him, and because he'd rather die a million deaths than go
crooked.  Say, I've been among the Dagos before--down in Mexico--and I'm
onto you.  I've been onto you for a good while; though there was nothing
I could spot certain; but now I've got you, and I'll break the 'perfect
friendship' or I'll eat my shirt.  I'll--"

He paused, realising the crisis in which David was moving, and that
perils were thick around their footsteps.  But, even as he thought of
them, he remembered David's own frank, fearless audacity in danger and
difficulty, and he threw discretion to the winds.  He flung his flag
wide, and believed with a belief as daring as David's that all would be
well.

"Well, what wilt thou do?" asked Nahoum with cool and deadly menace.
"Thou wilt need to do it quickly, because, if it is a challenge, within
forty-eight hours Claridge Pasha and thyself will be gone from Egypt--or
I shall be in the Nile."

"I'll take my chances, pasha," answered Lacey, with equal coolness.  "You
think you'll win.  It's not the first time I've had to tackle men like
you--they've got the breed in Mexico.  They beat me there, but I learned
the game, and I've learned a lot from you, too.  I never knew what your
game was here.  I only know that the Saadat saved your life, and got you
started again with Kaid.  I only know that you called yourself a
Christian, and worked on him till he believed in you, and Hell might
crackle round you, but he'd believe, till he saw your contract signed
with the Devil--and then he'd think the signature forged.  But he's got
to know now.  We are not going out of Egypt, though you may be going to
the Nile; but we are going to the Soudan, and with Kaid's blessing, too.
You've put up the bluff, and I take it.  Be sure you've got Kaid solid,
for, if you haven't, he'll be glad to know where you keep the money you
got from the slave-dealers."

Nahoum shrugged his shoulders.  "Who has seen the money?  Where is the
proof?  Kaid would know my reasons.  It is not the first time virtue has
been tested in Egypt, or the first time that it has fallen."

In spite of himself Lacey laughed.  "Say, that's worthy of a great
Christian intellect.  You are a bright particular star, pasha.  I take it
back--they'd learn a lot from you in Mexico.  But the only trouble with
lying is, that the demand becomes so great you can't keep all the cards
in your head, and then the one you forget does you.  The man that isn't
lying has the pull in the long run.  You are out against us, pasha, and
we'll see how we stand in forty-eight hours.  You have some cards up your
sleeve, I suppose; but--well, I'm taking you on.  I'm taking you on with
a lot of joy, and some sorrow, too, for we might have pulled off a big
thing together, you and Claridge Pasha, with me to hold the stirrups.
Now it's got to be war.  You've made it so.  It's a pity, for when we
grip there'll be a heavy fall."

"For a poor man thou hast a proud stomach."

"Well, I'll admit the stomach, pasha.  It's proud; and it's strong, too;
it's stood a lot in Egypt; it's standing a lot to-day."

"We'll ease the strain, perhaps," sneered Nahoum.  He made a perfunctory
salutation and walked briskly from the room.

Mahommed Hassan crept in, a malicious grin on his face.  Danger and
conflict were as meat and drink to him.

"Effendi, God hath given thee a wasp's sting to thy tongue.  It is well.
Nahoum Pasha hath Mizraim: the Saadat hath thee and me."

"There's the Effendina," said Lacey reflectively.  "Thou saidst thou
would 'square' him, effendi."

"I say a lot," answered Lacey rather ruefully.  "Come, Mahommed, the
Saadat first, and the sooner the better."




CHAPTER XXXI

THE STRUGGLE IN THE DESERT

     "And His mercy is on them that fear Him throughout all generations."

On the clear, still evening air the words rang out over the desert,
sonorous, imposing, peaceful.  As the notes of the verse died away the
answer came from other voices in deep, appealing antiphonal:

     "He hath showed strength with His arm, He hath scattered the proud
     in the imagination of their hearts."

Beyond the limits of the monastery there was not a sign of life; neither
beast nor bird, nor blade of grass, nor any green thing; only the perfect
immemorial blue, and in the east a misty moon, striving in vain to offer
light which the earth as yet rejected for the brooding radiance of the
descending sun.  But at the great door of the monastery there grew a
stately palm, and near by an ancient acacia-tree; and beyond the stone
chapel there was a garden of struggling shrubs and green things, with one
rose-tree which scattered its pink leaves from year to year upon the
loam, since no man gathered bud or blossom.

The triumphant call of the Magnificat, however beautiful, seemed
strangely out of place in this lonely island in a sea of sand.  It was
the song of a bannered army, marching over the battle-field with
conquering voices, and swords as yet unsheathed and red, carrying the
spoils of conquest behind the laurelled captain of the host.  The
crumbling and ancient walls were surrounded by a moat which a stranger's
foot crossed hardly from moon to moon, which the desert wayfarer sought
rarely, since it was out of the track of caravans, and because food was
scant in the refectory of this Coptic brotherhood.  It was scarce five
hours' ride from the Palace of the Prince Pasha: but it might have been a
thousand miles away, so profoundly separate was it from the world of
vital things and deeds of men.

As the chant rang out, confident, majestic, and serene, carried by voices
of power and shrill sweetness, which only the desert can produce, it
might have seemed to any listener that this monastery was all that
remained of some ancient kingdom of brimming, active cities, now lying
beneath the obliterating sand, itself the monument and memorial of a
breath of mercy of the Destroyer, the last refuge of a few surviving
captains of a departed greatness.  Hidden by the grey, massive walls,
built as it were to resist the onset of a ravaging foe, the swelling
voices might well have been those of some ancient order of valiant
knights, whose banners hung above them, the 'riclame' of their deeds.
But they were voices and voices only; for they who sang were as unkempt
and forceless as the lonely wall which shut them in from the insistent
soul of the desert.

Desolation?  The desert was not desolate.  Its face was bare and burning,
it slaked no man's thirst, gave no man food, save where scattered oases
were like the breasts of a vast mother eluding the aching lips of her
parched children; but the soul of the desert was living and inspiring,
beating with vitality.  It was life that burned like flame.  If the
water-skin was dry and the date-bag empty it smothered and destroyed; but
it was life; and to those who ventured into its embrace, obeying the
conditions of the sharp adventure, it gave what neither sea, nor green
plain, nor high mountain, nor verdant valley could give--a consuming
sense of power, which found its way to the deepest recesses of being.
Out upon the vast sea of sand, where the descending sun was spreading a
note of incandescent colour, there floated the grateful words:

     "He remembering His mercy hath holpen His servant Israel; as He
     promised to our forefathers, Abraham, and his seed for ever."

Then the antiphonal ceased; and together the voices of all within the
place swelled out in the Gloria and the Amen, and seemed to pass away in
ever-receding vibrations upon the desert, till it was lost in the
comforting sunset.

As the last note died away, a voice from beneath the palm-tree near the
door, deeper than any that had come from within, said reverently: "Ameen-
Ameen !"

He who spoke was a man well over sixty years, with a grey beard, lofty
benign forehead, and the eyes of a scholar and a dreamer.  As he uttered
the words of spiritual assent, alike to the Muslim and the Christian
religion, he rose to his feet, showing the figure of a man of action,
alert, well-knit, authoritative.  Presently he turned towards the East
and stretched a robe upon the ground, and with stately beauty of gesture
he spread out his hands, standing for a moment in the attitude of
aspiration.  Then, kneeling, he touched his turbaned head to the ground
three times, and as the sun drew down behind the sharp, bright line of
sand that marked the horizon, he prayed devoutly and long.  It was Ebn
Ezra Bey.

Muslim though he was, he had visited this monastery many times, to study
the ancient Christian books which lay in disordered heaps in an ill-kept
chamber, books which predated the Hegira, and were as near to the life of
the Early Church as the Scriptures themselves--or were so reputed.
Student and pious Muslim as he was, renowned at El Azhar and at every
Muslim university in the Eastern world, he swore by the name of Christ as
by that of Abraham, Isaac, and all the prophets, though to him Mahomet
was the last expression of Heaven's will to mankind.  At first received
at the monastery with unconcealed aversion, and not without danger to
himself, he had at last won to him the fanatical monks, who, in spirit,
kept this ancient foundation as rigid to their faith as though it were in
mediaeval times.  And though their discipline was lax, and their daily
duties orderless, this was Oriental rather than degenerate.  Here Ebn
Ezra had stayed for weeks at a time in the past, not without some
religious scandal, long since forgotten.

His prayers ended, he rose up slowly, once more spread out his hands in
ascription, and was about to enter the monastery, when, glancing towards
the west, he saw a horseman approaching.  An instinct told him who it was
before he could clearly distinguish the figure, and his face lighted with
a gentle and expectant smile.  Then his look changed.

"He is in trouble," he murmured.  "As it was with his uncle in Damascus,
so will it be with him.  Malaish, we are in the will of God!"

The hand that David laid in Ebn Ezra's was hot and nervous, the eyes that
drank in the friendship of the face which had seen two Claridges emptying
out their lives in the East were burning and famished by long fasting
of the spirit, forced abstinence from the pleasures of success and
fruition-haunting, desiring eyes, where flamed a spirit which consumed
the body and the indomitable mind.  The lips, however, had their old
trick of smiling, though the smile which greeted Ebn Ezra Bey had a
melancholy which touched the desert-worn, life-spent old Arab as he had
not been touched since a smile, just like this, flashed up at him from
the weather-stained, dying face of quaint Benn Claridge in a street of
Damascus.  The natural duplicity of the Oriental had been abashed and
inactive before the simple and astounding honesty of these two Quaker
folk.

He saw crisis written on every feature of the face before him.  Yet the
scanty meal they ate with the monks in the ancient room was enlivened by
the eager yet quiet questioning of David, to whom the monks responded
with more spirit than had been often seen in this arid retreat.  The
single torch which spluttered from the wall as they drank their coffee
lighted up faces as strange, withdrawn, and unconsciously secretive as
ever gathered to greet a guest.  Dim tales had reached them of this
Christian reformer and administrator, scraps of legend from stray camel-
drivers, a letter from the Patriarch commanding them to pray blessings on
his labours--who could tell what advantage might not come to the Coptic
Church through him, a Christian!  On the dull, torpid faces, light seemed
struggling to live for a moment, as David talked.  It was as though
something in their meagre lives, which belonged to undeveloped feelings,
was fighting for existence--a light struggling to break through murky
veils of inexperience.

Later, in the still night, however--still, though air vibrated
everywhere, as though the desert breathed an ether which was to fill
men's veins with that which quieted the fret and fever of life's
disillusions and forgeries and failures--David's speech with Ebn Ezra Bey
was of a different sort.  If, as it seems ever in the desert, an
invisible host of beings, once mortal, now immortal, but suspensive and
understanding, listened to the tale he unfolded, some glow of pity must
have possessed them; for it was an Iliad of herculean struggle against
absolute disaster, ending with the bitter news of his grandfather's
death.  It was the story of AEdipus overcome by events too strong for
soul to bear.  In return, as the stars wheeled on, and the moon stole to
the zenith, majestic and slow, Ebn Ezra offered to his troubled friend
only the philosophy of the predestinarian, mingled with the calm of the
stoic.  But something antagonistic to his own dejection, to the Muslim's
fatalism, emerged from David's own altruism, to nerve him to hope and
effort still.  His unconquerable optimism rose determinedly to the
surface, even as he summed up and related the forces working against him.

"They have all come at once," he said; "all the activities opposing me,
just as though they had all been started long ago at different points,
with a fixed course to run, and to meet and give me a fall in the hour
when I could least resist.  You call it Fate.  I call it what it proves
itself to be.  But here it is a hub of danger and trouble, and the spokes
of disaster are flying to it from all over the compass, to make the wheel
that will grind me; and all the old troop of Palace intriguers and
despoilers are waiting to heat the tire and fasten it on the machine of
torture.  Kaid has involved himself in loans which press, in foolish
experiments in industry without due care; and now from ill-health and bad
temper comes a reaction towards the old sinister rule, when the
Prince shuts his eyes and his agents ruin and destroy.  Three nations who
have intrigued against my work see their chance, and are at Kaid's elbow.
The fate of the Soudan is in the balance.  It is all as the shake of a
feather.  I can save it if I go; but, just as I am ready, my mills burn
down, my treasury dries up, Kaid turns his back on me, and the toil of
years is swept away in a night.  Thee sees it is terrible, friend?"

Ebn Ezra looked at him seriously and sadly for a moment, and then said:
"Is it given one man to do all?  If many men had done these things, then
there had been one blow for each.  Now all falls on thee, Saadat.  Is it
the will of God that one man should fling the lance, fire the cannon, dig
the trenches, gather food for the army, drive the horses on to battle,
and bury the dead?  Canst thou do all?"

David's eyes brightened to the challenge.  "There was the work to do, and
there were not the many to do it.  My hand was ready; the call came; I
answered.  I plunged into the river of work alone."

"Thou didst not know the strength of the currents, the eddies and the
whirlpools, the hidden rocks--and the shore is far off, Saadat."

"It is not so far but that, if I could get breath to gather strength,
I should reach the land in time.  Money--ah, but enough for this
expedition!  That over, order, quiet yonder, my own chosen men as
governors, and I could"--he pointed towards the southern horizon--
"I could plant my foot in Cairo, and from the centre control the great
machinery--with Kaid's help; and God's help.  A sixth of a million, and
Kaid's hand behind me, and the boat would lunge free of the sand-banks
and churn on, and churn on.  .  .  .  Friend," he added, with the winning
insistence that few found it possible to resist, "if all be well, and we
go thither, wilt thou become the governor-general yonder?  With thee to
rule justly where there is most need of justice, the end would be sure--
if it be the will of God."

Ebn Ezra Bey sat for a moment looking into the worn, eager face,
indistinct in the moonlight, then answered slowly: "I am seventy, and the
years smite hard as they pass, and there or here, it little matters when
I go, as I must go; and whether it be to bend the lance, or bear the flag
before thee, or rule a Mudirieh, what does it matter!  I will go with
thee," he added hastily; "but it is better thou shouldst not go.  Within
the last three days I have news from the South.  All that thou hast done
there is in danger now.  The word for revolt has passed from tribe to
tribe.  A tongue hath spoken, and a hand hath signalled "--his voice
lowered--" and I think I know the tongue and the hand!"  He paused; then,
as David did not speak, continued: "Thou who art wise in most things,
dost decline to seek for thy foe in him who eateth from the same dish
with thee.  Only when it is too late thou wilt defend thyself and all who
keep faith with thee."

David's face clouded.  "Nahoum, thou dost mean Nahoum?  But thou dost not
understand, and there is no proof."

"As a camel knows the coming storm while yet the sky is clear, by that
which the eye does not see, so do I feel Nahoum.  The evils thou hast
suffered, Saadat, are from his hand, if from any hand in Egypt--"

Suddenly he leaned over and touched David's arm.  "Saadat, it is of no
avail.  There is none in Egypt that desires good; thy task is too great.
All men will deceive thee; if not now, yet in time.  If Kaid favours thee
once more, and if it is made possible for thee to go to the Soudan, yet I
pray thee to stay here.  Better be smitten here, where thou canst get
help from thine own country, if need be, than yonder, where they but wait
to spoil thy work and kill thee.  Thou art young; wilt thou throw thy
life away?  Art thou not needed here as there?  For me it is nothing,
whether it be now or in a few benumbing years; but for thee--is there no
one whom thou lovest so well that thou wouldst not shelter thy life to
spare that life sorrow?  Is there none that thou lovest so, and that will
love thee to mortal sorrow, if thou goest without care to thy end too
soon?"

As a warm wind suddenly sweeps across the cool air of a summer evening
for an instant, suffocating and unnerving, so Ebn Ezra's last words swept
across David's spirit.  His breath came quicker, his eyes half closed.
"Is there none that thou lovest so, and that will love thee to mortal
sorrow, if--"

As a hand secretly and swiftly slips the lever that opens the sluice-
gates of a dike, while the watchman turns away for a moment to look at
the fields which the waters enrich and the homes of poor folk whom the
gates defend, so, in a moment, when off his guard, worn with watching and
fending, as it were, Ebn Ezra had sprung the lever, and a flood of
feeling swept over David, drowned him in its impulse and pent-up force.

"Is there none that thou lovest so--"  Of what use had been all his
struggle and his pain since that last day in Hamley--his dark fighting
days in the desert with Lacey and Mahommed, and his handful of faithful
followers, hemmed in by dangers, the sands swarming with Arabs who
feathered now to his safety, now to his doom, and his heart had hungered
for what he had denied it with a will that would not be conquered?
Wasted by toil and fever and the tension of danger and the care of
others dependent on him, he had also fought a foe which was ever at his
elbow, ever whispered its comfort and seduction in his ear, the insidious
and peace-giving, exalting opiate that had tided him over some black
places, and then had sought for mastery of him when he was back again in
the world of normal business and duty, where it appealed not as a
medicine, but as a perilous luxury.  And fighting this foe, which had a
voice so soothing, and words like the sound of murmuring waters, and a
cool and comforting hand that sought to lead him into gardens of
stillness and passive being, where he could no more hear the clangour and
vexing noises of a world that angered and agonised, there had also been
the lure of another passion of the heart, which was too perilously dear
to contemplate.  Eyes that were beautiful, and their beauty was not for
him; a spirit that was bright and glowing, but the brightness and the
glow might not renew his days.  It was hard to fight alone.  Alone he
was, for only to one may the doors within doors be opened-only to one so
dear that all else is everlastingly distant may the true tale of the life
beneath life be told.  And it was not for him--nothing of this; not even
the thought of it; for to think of it was to desire it, and to desire it
was to reach out towards it; and to reach out towards it was the end of
all.  There had been moments of abandonment to the alluring dream, such
as when he wrote the verses which Lacey had sent to Hylda from the
desert; but they were few.  Oft-repeated, they would have filled him with
an agitated melancholy impossible to be borne in the life which must be
his.

So it had been.  The deeper into life and its labours and experiences he
had gone, the greater had been his temptations, born of two passions, one
of the body and its craving, the other of the heart and its desires: and
he had fought on--towards the morning.

"Is there none that thou lovest so, and that will love thee to mortal
sorrow, if thou goest without care to thy end too soon?"  The desert, the
dark monastery, the acacia tree, the ancient palm, the ruinous garden,
disappeared.  He only saw a face which smiled at him, as it had done 'by
the brazier in the garden at Cairo, that night when she and Nahoum and
himself and Mizraim had met in the room of his house by the Ezbekieh
gardens, and she had gone out to her old life in England, and he had
taken up the burden of the East--that long six years ago.  His head
dropped in his hands, and all that was beneath the Quaker life he had led
so many years, packed under the crust of form and habit, and regulated
thought, and controlled emotion, broke forth now, and had its way with
him.

He turned away staggering and self-reproachful from the first question,
only to face the other--"And that will love thee to mortal sorrow, if
thou goest without care to thy end too soon."  It was a thought he had
never let himself dwell on for an instant in all the days since they had
last met.  He had driven it back to its covert, even before he could
recognise its face.  It was disloyal to her, an offence against all that
she was, an affront to his manhood to let the thought have place in his
mind even for one swift moment.  She was Lord Eglington's wife--there
could be no sharing of soul and mind and body and the exquisite devotion
of a life too dear for thought.  Nothing that she was to Eglington could
be divided with another, not for an hour, not by one act of impulse; or
else she must be less, she that might have been, if there had been no
Eglington--

An exclamation broke from him, and, as one crying out in one's sleep
wakes himself, so the sharp cry of his misery woke him from the trance of
memory that had been upon him, and he slowly became conscious of Ebn Ezra
standing before him.  Their eyes met, and Ebn Ezra spoke:

"The will of Allah be thy will, Saadat.  If it be to go to the Soudan,
I am thine; if it be to stay, I am thy servant and thy brother.  But
whether it be life or death, thou must sleep, for the young are like
water without sleep.  Thou canst not live in strength nor die with
fortitude without it.  For the old, malaish, old age is between a
sleeping and a waking!  Come, Saadat!  Forget not, thou must ride again
to Cairo at dawn."

David got slowly to his feet and turned towards the monastery.  The
figure of a monk stood in the doorway with a torch to light him to his
room.

He turned to Ebn Ezra again.  "Does thee think that I have aught of his
courage--my Uncle Benn?  Thou knowest me--shall I face it out as did he?"

"Saadat," the old man answered, pointing, "yonder acacia, that was he,
quick to grow and short to live; but thou art as this date-palm, which
giveth food to the hungry, and liveth through generations.  Peace be upon
thee," he added at the doorway, as the torch flickered towards the room
where David was to lie.

"And upon thee, peace!" answered David gently, and followed the smoky
light to an inner chamber.  The room in which David found himself was
lofty and large, but was furnished with only a rough wooden bed, a rug,
and a brazier.  Left alone, he sat down on the edge of the bed, and, for
a few moments, his mind strayed almost vaguely from one object to
another.  From two windows far up in the wall the moonlight streamed in,
making bars of light aslant the darkness.

Not a sound broke the stillness.  Yet, to his sensitive nerves, the air
seemed tingling with sensation, stirring with unseen activities.  Here
the spirit of the desert seemed more insistent in its piercing vitality,
because it was shut in by four stone walls.

Mechanically he took off his coat, and was about to fold and lay it on
the rug beside the bed, when something hard in one of the pockets knocked
against his knee.  Searching, he found and drew forth a small bottle
which, for many a month past, had lain in the drawer of a table where he
had placed it on his return from the Soudan.  It was an evil spirit which
sent this tiny phial to his hand at a moment when he had paid out of the
full treasury of his strength and will its accumulated deposit, leaving
him with a balance on which no heavy draft could be made.  His pulse
quickened, then his body stiffened with the effort at self-control.

Who placed this evil elixir in his pocket?  What any enemy of his work
had done was nothing to what might be achieved by the secret foe, who had
placed this anodyne within his reach at this the most critical moment of
his life.  He remembered the last time he had used it--in the desert:
two days of forgetfulness to the world, when it all moved by him, the
swarming Arabs, the train of camels, the loads of ivory, the slimy
crocodile on the sandbanks, the vultures hovering above unburied
carcasses, the kourbash descending on shining black shoulders,
corrugating bare brown bodies into cloven skin and lacerated flesh, a
fight between champions of two tribes who clasped and smote and struggled
and rained blows, and, both mortally wounded, still writhed in last
conflict upon the ground--and Mahommed Hassan ever at the tent door or by
his side, towering, watchful, sullen to all faces without, smiling to his
own, with dog-like look waiting for any motion of his hand or any
word....  Ah, Mahommed Hassan, it was he!  Mahommed had put this phial in
his pocket.  His bitter secret was not hidden from Mahommed.  And this
was an act of supreme devotion--to put at his hand the lulling, inspiring
draught.  Did this fellah servant know what it meant--the sin of it, the
temptation, the terrible joy, the blessed quiet; and then, the agonising
remorse, the withering self-hatred and torturing penitence?  No, Mahommed
only knew that when the Saadat was gone beyond his strength, when the
sleepless nights and feverish days came in the past, in their great
troubles, when men were dying and only the Saadat could save, that this
cordial lifted him out of misery and storm into calm.  Yet Mahommed must
have divined that it was a thing against which his soul revolted, or he
would have given it to him openly.  In the heart and mind of the giant
murderer, however, must have been the thought that now when trouble was
upon his master again, trouble which might end all, this supreme
destroyer of pain and dark memory and present misery, would give him the
comfort he needed--and that he would take it.

If he had not seen it, this sudden craving would not have seized him for
this eager beguiling, this soothing benevolence.  Yet here it was in his
hand; and even as it lay in his cold fingers--how cold they were, and his
head how burning!--the desire for it surged up in him.  And, as though
the thing itself had the magical power to summon up his troubles, that it
might offer the apathy and stimulus in one--even as it lured him, his
dangers, his anxieties, the black uncertainties massed, multiplied and
aggressive, rose before him, buffeted him, caught at his throat, dragged
down his shoulders, clutched at his heart.

Now, with a cry of agony, he threw the phial on the ground, and, sinking
on the bed, buried his face in his hands and moaned, and fought for
freedom from the cords tightening round him.  It was for him to realise
now how deep are the depths to which the human soul can sink, even while
labouring to climb.  Once more the sense of awful futility was on him: of
wasted toil and blenched force, veins of energy drained of their blood,
hope smitten in the way, and every dear dream shattered.  Was it, then,
all ended?  Was his work indeed fallen, and all his love undone?  Was his
own redemption made impossible?  He had offered up his life to this land
to atone for a life taken when she--when she first looked up with eyes of
gratitude, eyes that haunted him.  Was it, then, unacceptable?  Was it so
that he must turn his back upon this long, heart-breaking but beloved
work, this panacea for his soul, without which he could not pay the price
of blood?

Go back to England--to Hamley where all had changed, where the old man he
loved no longer ruled in the Red Mansion, where all that had been could
be no more?  Go to some other land, and there begin again another such a
work?  Were there not vast fields of human effort, effort such as his,
where he could ease the sorrow of living by the joy of a divine altruism?
Go back to Hamley?  Ah, no, a million times, no!  That life was dead, it
was a cycle of years behind him.  There could be no return.  He was in a
maelstrom of agony, his veins were afire, his lips were parched.  He
sprang from his bed, knelt down, and felt for the little phial he had
flung aside.  After a moment his hand caught it, clutched it.  But, even
at the crest of the wave of temptation, words that he had heard one night
in Hamley, that last night of all, flashed into his mind--the words
of old Luke Claridge's prayer, "And if a viper fasten on his hand,
O Lord--"

Suddenly he paused.  That scene in the old Meetinghouse swam before his
eyes, got into his brain.  He remembered the words of his own prayer, and
how he had then retreated upon the Power that gave him power, for a
draught of the one true tincture which braced the heart to throw itself
upon the spears of trial.  Now the trial had come, and that which was in
him as deep as being, the habit of youth, the mother-fibre and
predisposition, responded to the draught he had drunk then.  As a body
freed from the quivering, unrelenting grasp of an electric battery
subsides into a cool quiet, so, through his veins seemed to pass an ether
which stilled the tumult, the dark desire to drink the potion in his
hand, and escape into that irresponsible, artificial world, where he had
before loosened his hold on activity.

The phial slipped from his fingers to the floor.  He sank upon the side
of the bed, and, placing his hands on his knees, he whispered a few
broken words that none on earth was meant to hear.  Then he passed into a
strange and moveless quiet of mind and body.  Many a time in days gone
by--far-off days--had he sat as he was doing now, feeling his mind pass
into a soft, comforting quiet, absorbed in a sensation of existence, as
it were between waking and sleeping, where doors opened to new experience
and understanding, where the mind seemed to loose itself from the bonds
of human necessity and find a freer air.

Now, as he sat as still as the stone in the walls around him, he was
conscious of a vision forming itself before his eyes.  At first it was
indefinite, vague, without clear form, but at last it became a room dimly
outlined, delicately veiled, as it were.  Then it seemed, not that
the mist cleared, but that his eyes became stronger, and saw through the
delicate haze; and now the room became wholly, concretely visible.

It was the room in which he had said good-bye to Hylda.  As he gazed like
one entranced, he saw a figure rise from a couch, pale, agitated, and
beautiful, and come forward, as it were, towards him.  But suddenly the
mist closed in again upon the scene, a depth of darkness passed his eyes,
and he heard a voice say: "Speak--speak to me!"

He heard her voice as distinctly as though she were beside him--as,
indeed, she had stood before him but an instant ago.

Getting slowly to his feet, into the night he sent an answer to the call.

Would she hear?  She had said long ago that she would speak to him so.
Perhaps she had tried before.  But now at last he had heard and answered.
Had she heard?  Time might tell--if ever they met again.  But how good,
and quiet, and serene was the night!

He composed himself to sleep, but, as he lay waiting for that coverlet of
forgetfulness to be drawn over him, he heard the sound of bells soft and
clear.  Just such bells he had heard upon the common at Hamley.  Was it,
then, the outcome of his vision--a sweet hallucination?  He leaned upon
his elbow and listened.




CHAPTER XXXII

FORTY STRIPES SAVE ONE

The bells that rang were not the bells of Hamley; they were part of no
vision or hallucination, and they drew David out of his chamber into the
night.  A little group of three stood sharply silhouetted against the
moonlight, and towering above them was the spare, commanding form of Ebn
Ezra Bey.  Three camels crouched near, and beside them stood a Nubian lad
singing to himself the song of the camel-driver:

         "Fleet is thy foot: thou shalt rest by the Etl tree;
          Water shalt thou drink from the blue-deep well;
          Allah send His gard'ner with the green bersim,
          For thy comfort, fleet one, by the Etl tree.
          As the stars fly, have thy footsteps flown
          Deep is the well, drink, and be still once more;
          Till the pursuing winds panting have found thee
          And, defeated, sink still beside thee--
          By the well and the Etl tree."

For a moment David stood in the doorway listening to the low song of the
camel-driver.  Then he came forward.  As he did so, one of the two who
stood with Ebn Ezra moved towards the monastery door slowly.  It was a
monk with a face which, even in this dim light, showed a deathly
weariness.  The eyes looked straight before him, as though they saw
nothing of the world, only a goal to make, an object to be accomplished.
The look of the face went to David's heart--the kinship of pain was
theirs.

"Peace be to thee," David said gently, as the other passed him.

There was an instant's pause, and then the monk faced him with fingers
uplifted.  "The grace of God be upon thee, David," he said, and his eyes,
drawn back from the world where they had been exploring, met the other's
keenly.  Then he wheeled and entered the monastery.

"The grace of God be upon thee, David!"  How strange it sounded, this
Christian blessing in response to his own Oriental greeting, out in this
Eastern waste.  His own name, too.  It was as though he had been
transported to the ancient world where "Brethren" were so few that they
called each other by their "Christian" names--even as they did in Hamley
to-day.  In Hamley to-day!  He closed his eyes, a tremor running through
his body; and then, with an effort which stilled him to peace again, he
moved forward, and was greeted by Ebn Ezra, from whom the third member of
the little group had now drawn apart nearer to the acacia-tree, and was
seated on a rock that jutted from the sand.  "What is it?" David asked.

"Wouldst thou not sleep, Saadat?  Sleep is more to thee now than aught
thou mayst hear from any man.  To all thou art kind save thyself."

"I have rested," David answered, with a measured calmness, revealing to
his friend the change which had come since they parted an hour before.
They seated themselves under the palm-tree, and were silent for a moment,
then Ebn Ezra said:

"These come from the Place of Lepers."

David started slightly.  "Zaida?" he asked, with a sigh of pity.

"The monk who passed thee but now goes every year to the Place of Lepers
with the caravan, for a brother of this order stays yonder with the
afflicted, seeing no more the faces of this world which he has left
behind.  Afar off from each other they stand--as far as eye can see--and
after the manner of their faith they pray to Allah, and he who has just
left us finds a paper fastened with a stone upon the sand at a certain
place where he waits.  He touches it not, but reads it as it lies, and,
having read, heaps sand upon it.  And the message which the paper gives
is for me."

"For thee?  Hast thou there one who--"

"There was one, my father's son, though we were of different mothers; and
in other days, so many years ago, he did great wrong to me, and not to me
alone,"--the grey head bowed in sorrow--"but to one dearer to me than
life.  I hated him, and would have slain him, but the mind of Allah is
not the mind of man; and he escaped me.  Then he was stricken with
leprosy, and was carried to the place from whence no leper returns.  At
first my heart rejoiced; then, at last, I forgave him, Saadat--was he not
my father's son, and was the woman not gone to the bosom of Allah, where
is peace?  So I forgave and sorrowed for him--who shall say what miseries
are those which, minute to minute, day after day, and year upon year,
repeat themselves, till it is an endless flaying of the body and burning
of the soul!  Every year I send a message to him, and every year now this
Christian monk--there is no Sheikh-el-Islam yonder--brings back the
written message which he finds in the sand."

"And thee has had a message to-night?"

"The last that may come--God be praised, he goeth to his long home.  It
was written in his last hour.  There was no hope; he is gone.  And so,
one more reason showeth why I should go where thou goest, Saadat."

Casting his eyes toward the figure by the acacia-tree, his face clouded
and he pondered anxiously, looking at David the while.  Twice he essayed
to speak, but paused.

David's eyes followed his look.  "What is it?  Who is he--yonder?"

The other rose to his feet.  "Come and see, Saadat," he replied.
"Seeing, thou wilt know what to do."

"Zaida--is it of Zaida?" David asked.

"The man will answer for himself, Saadat."  Coming within a few feet of
the figure crouched upon the rock, Ebn Ezra paused and stretched out a
hand.  "A moment, Saadat.  Dost thou not see, dost thou not recognise
him?"

David intently studied the figure, which seemed unconscious of their
presence.  The shoulders were stooping and relaxed as though from great
fatigue, but David could see that the figure was that of a tall man.  The
head was averted, but a rough beard covered the face, and, in the light
of the fire, one hand that clutched it showed long and skinny and yellow
and cruel.  The hand fascinated David's eyes.  Where had he seen it?  It
flashed upon him--a hand clutching a robe, in a frenzy of fear, in the
court-yard of the blue tiles, in Kaid's Palace--Achmet the Ropemaker!
He drew back a step.

"Achmet," he said in a low voice.  The figure stirred, the hand dropped
from the beard and clutched the knee; but the head was not raised, and
the body remained crouching and listless.

"He escaped?" David said, turning to Ebn Ezra Bey.

"I know not by what means--a camel-driver bribed, perhaps, and a camel
left behind for him.  After the caravan had travelled a day's journey he
joined it.  None knew what to do.  He was not a leper, and he was armed."

"Leave him with me," said David.

Ebn Ezra hesitated.  "He is armed; he was thy foe--"

"I am armed also," David answered enigmatically, and indicated by a
gesture that he wished to be left alone.  Ebn Ezra drew away towards the
palm-tree, and stood at this distance watching anxiously, for he knew
what dark passions seize upon the Oriental--and Achmet had many things
for which to take vengeance.

David stood for a moment, pondering, his eyes upon the deserter.  "God
greet thee as thou goest, and His goodness befriend thee," he said
evenly.  There was silence, and no movement.  "Rise and speak," he added
sternly.  "Dost thou not hear?  Rise, Achmet Pasha!"

Achmet Pasha!  The head of the desolate wretch lifted, the eyes glared at
David for an instant, as though to see whether he was being mocked, and
then the spare figure stretched itself, and the outcast stood up.  The
old lank straightness was gone, the shoulders were bent, the head was
thrust forward, as though the long habit of looking into dark places had
bowed it out of all manhood.

"May grass spring under thy footstep, Saadat," he said, in a thick voice,
and salaamed awkwardly--he had been so long absent from life's
formularies.

"What dost thou here, pasha?" asked David formally.  "Thy sentence had
no limit."

"I could not die there," said the hollow voice, and the head sank farther
forward.  "Year after year I lived there, but I could not die among them.
I was no leper; I am no leper.  My penalty was my penalty, and I paid
it to the full, piastre by piastre of my body and my mind.  It was not
one death, it was death every hour, every day I stayed.  I had no mind.
I could not think.  Mummy-cloths were round my brain; but the fire burned
underneath and would not die.  There was the desert, but my limbs were
like rushes.  I had no will, and I could not flee.  I was chained to the
evil place.  If I stayed it was death, if I went it was death."

"Thou art armed now," said David suggestively.  Achmet laid a hand
fiercely upon a dagger under his robe.  "I hid it.  I was afraid.  I
could not die--my hand was like a withered leaf; it could not strike; my
heart poured out like water.  Once I struck a leper, that he might strike
and kill me; but he lay upon the ground and wept, for all his anger,
which had been great, died in him at last.  There was none other given to
anger there.  The leper has neither anger, nor mirth, nor violence, nor
peace.  It is all the black silent shame--and I was no leper."

"Why didst thou come?  What is there but death for thee here, or anywhere
thou goest!  Kaid's arm will find thee; a thousand hands wait to strike
thee."

"I could not die there--Dost thou think that I repent?" he added with
sudden fierceness.  "Is it that which would make me repent?  Was I worse
than thousands of others?  I have come out to die--to fight and die.
Aiwa, I have come to thee, whom I hated, because thou canst give me death
as I desire it.  My mother was an Arab slave from Senaar, and she was got
by war, and all her people.  War and fighting were their portion--as they
ate, as they drank and slept.  In the black years behind me among the
Unclean, there was naught to fight--could one fight the dead, and the
agony of death, and the poison of the agony!  Life, it is done for me--
am I not accursed?  But to die fighting--ay, fighting for Egypt, since it
must be, and fighting for thee, since it must be; to strike, and strike,
and strike, and earn death!  Must the dog, because he is a dog, die in
the slime?  Shall he not be driven from the village to die in the clean
sand?  Saadat, who will see in me Achmet Pasha, who did with Egypt what
he willed, and was swept away by the besom in thy hand?  Is there in me
aught of that Achmet that any should know?"

"None would know thee for that Achmet," answered David.

"I know, it matters not how--at last a letter found me, and the way of
escape--that thou goest again to the Soudan.  There will be fighting
there--"

"Not by my will," interrupted David.

"Then by the will of Sheitan the accursed; but there will be fighting--
am I not an Arab, do I not know?  Thou hast not conquered yet.  Bid me go
where thou wilt, do what thou wilt, so that I may be among the fighters,
and in the battle forget what I have seen.  Since I am unclean, and am
denied the bosom of Allah, shall I not go as a warrior to Hell, where men
will fear me?  Speak, Saadat, canst thou deny me this?"

Nothing of repentance, so far as he knew, moved the dark soul; but, like
some evil spirit, he would choose the way to his own doom, the place and
the manner of it: a sullen, cruel, evil being, unyielding in his evil,
unmoved by remorse--so far as he knew.  Yet he would die fighting, and
for Egypt "and for thee, if it must be so.  To strike, to strike, to
strike, and earn death!"  What Achmet did not see, David saw, the glimmer
of light breaking through the cloud of shame and evil and doom.  Yonder
in the Soudan more problems than one would be solved, more lives than one
be put to the extreme test.  He did not answer Achmet's question yet.
"Zaida--?" he said in a low voice.  The pathos of her doom had been a
dark memory.

Achmet's voice dropped lower as he answered.  "She lived till the day her
sister died.  I never saw her face; but I was sent to bear each day to
her door the food she ate and a balass of water; and I did according to
my sentence.  Yet I heard her voice.  And once, at last, the day she
died, she spoke to me, and said from inside the hut: 'Thy work is done,
Achmet.  Go in peace.'  And that night she lay down on her sister's
grave, and in the morning she was found dead upon it."

David's eyes were blinded with tears.  "It was too long," he said at
last, as though to himself.

"That day," continued Achmet, "there fell ill with leprosy the Christian
priest from this place who had served in that black service so long; and
then a fire leapt up in me.  Zaida was gone--I had brought food and a
balass of water to her door those many times; there was naught to do,
since she was gone--"

Suddenly David took a step nearer to him and looked into the sullen and
drooping eyes.  "Thou shalt go with me, Achmet.  I will do this unlawful
act for thee.  At daybreak I will give thee orders.  Thou shalt join me
far from here--if I go to the Soudan," he added, with a sudden
remembrance of his position; and he turned away slowly.

After a moment, with muttered words, Achmet sank down upon the stone
again, drew a cake of dourha from his inner robe, and began to eat.

The camel-boy had lighted a fire, and he sat beside it warming his hands
at the blaze and still singing to himself:

    "The bed of my love I will sprinkle with attar of roses,
     The face of my love I will touch with the balm
     With the balm of the tree from the farthermost wood,
     From the wood without end, in the world without end.
     My love holds the cup to my lips, and I drink of the cup,
     And the attar of roses I sprinkle will soothe like the evening dew,
     And the balm will be healing and sleep, and the cup I will drink,
     I will drink of the cup my love holds to my lips--"

David stood listening.  What power was there in desert life that could
make this poor camel-driver, at the end of a long day of weariness and
toil and little food and drink, sing a song of content and cheerfulness?
The little needed, the little granted, and no thought beyond--save the
vision of one who waited in the hut by the onion-field.  He gathered
himself together and tuned his mind to the scene through which he had
just passed, and then to the interview he would have with Kaid on the
morrow.  A few hours ago he had seen no way out of it all--he had had no
real hope that Kaid would turn to him again; but the last two hours had
changed all that.  Hope was alive in him.  He had fought a desperate
fight with himself, and he had conquered.  Then had come Achmet,
unrepentant, degraded still, but with the spirit of Something glowing--
Achmet to die for a cause, driven by that Something deep beneath the
degradation and the crime.  He had hope, and, as the camel-driver's voice
died away, and he lay down with a sheep-skin over him and went instantly
to sleep, David drew to the fire and sat down beside it.  Presently Ebn
Ezra came to urge him to go to bed, but he would not.  He had slept, he
said; he had slept and rested, and the night was good--he would wait.
Then the other brought rugs and blankets, and gave David some, and lay
down beside the fire, and watched and waited for he knew not what.  Ever
and ever his eyes were on David, and far back under the acacia-tree
Achmet slept as he had not slept since his doom fell on him.

At last Ebn Ezra Bey also slept; but David was awake with the night and
the benevolent moon and the marching stars.  The spirit of the desert was
on him, filling him with its voiceless music.  From the infinite
stretches of sand to the south came the irresistible call of life, as
soft as the leaves in a garden of roses, as deep as the sea.  This world
was still, yet there seemed a low, delicate humming, as of multitudinous
looms at a distance so great that the ear but faintly caught it--the
sound of the weavers of life and destiny and eternal love, the hands of
the toilers of all the ages spinning and spinning on; and he was part of
it, not abashed or dismayed because he was but one of the illimitable
throng.

The hours wore on, but still he sat there, peace in all his heart, energy
tingling softly through every vein, the wings of hope fluttering at his
ear.

At length the morning came, and, from the west, with the rising sun, came
a traveller swiftly, making for where he was.  The sleepers stirred
around him and waked and rose.  The little camp became alive.  As the
traveller neared the fresh-made fire, David saw that it was Lacey.  He
went eagerly to meet him.

"Thee has news," he said.  "I see it is so."  He held Lacey's hand in
his.

"Say, you are going on that expedition, Saadat.  You wanted money.  Will
a quarter of a million do?"  David's eyes caught fire.

From the monastery there came the voices of the monks:

     "O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with
     gladness, and come before His presence with a song."




CHAPTER XXXIII

THE DARK INDENTURE

Nahoum had forgotten one very important thing: that what affected David
as a Christian in Egypt would tell equally against himself.  If, in his
ill-health and dejection, Kaid drank deep of the cup of Mahomet, the red
eyes of fanaticism would be turned upon the Armenian, as upon the
European Christian.  He had forgotten it for the moment, but when, coming
into Kaid's Palace, a little knot of loiterers spat upon the ground and
snarled, "Infidel--Nazarene!" with contempt and hatred, the significance
of the position came home to him.  He made his way to a far quarter of
the Palace, thoughtfully weighing the circumstances, and was met by
Mizraim.

Mizraim salaamed.  "The height of thy renown be as the cedar of Lebanon,
Excellency."

"May thy feet tread the corn of everlasting fortune, son of Mahomet."

They entered the room together.  Nahoum looked at Mizraim curiously.  He
was not satisfied with what he saw.  Mizraim's impassive face had little
expression, but the eyes were furtively eager and sinister.

"Well, so it is, and if it is, what then?" asked Nahoum coolly.

"Ki di, so it is," answered Mizraim, and a ghastly smile came to his
lips.  This infidel pasha, Nahoum, had a mind that pierced to the meaning
of words ere they were spoken.  Mizraim's hand touched his forehead, his
breast, his lips, and, clasping and unclasping his long, snakelike
fingers, he began the story he had come to tell.

"The Inglesi, whom Allah confound, the Effendina hath blackened by a
look, his words have smitten him in the vital parts--"

"Mizraim, thou dove, speak to the purpose!"  Mizraim showed a dark
pleasure at the interruption.  Nahoum was impatient, anxious; that made
the tale better worth telling.

"Sharif and the discontented ones who dare not act, like the vultures,
they flee the living man, but swoop upon the corpse.  The consuls of
those countries who love not England or Claridge Pasha, and the holy men,
and the Cadi, all scatter smouldering fires.  There is a spirit in the
Palace and beyond which is blowing fast to a great flame."

"Then, so it is, great one, and what bodes it?"

"It may kill the Inglesi; but it will also sweep thee from the fields of
life where thou dost flourish."

"It is not against the foreigner, but against the Christian, Mizraim?"

"Thy tongue hath wisdom, Excellency."

"Thou art a Muslim--"

"Why do I warn thee?  For service done to me; and because there is none
other worth serving in Egypt.  Behold, it is my destiny to rule others,
to serve thee."

"Once more thy turban full of gold, Mizraim, if thou dost service now
that hath meaning and is not a belching of wind and words.  Thou hast a
thing to say--say it, and see if Nahoum hath lost his wit, or hath a
palsied arm."

"Then behold, pasha.  Are not my spies in all the Palace?  Is not my
scourge heavier than the whip of the horned horse?  Ki di, so it is.
This I have found.  Sharif hath, with others, made a plot which hath
enough powder in it to shake Egypt, and toss thee from thy high place
into the depths.  There is a Christian--an Armenian, as it chances; but
he was chosen because he was a Christian, and for that only.  His name is
Rahib.  He is a tent-maker.  He had three sons.  They did kill an effendi
who had cheated them of their land.  Two of them were hanged last week;
the other, caught but a few days since, is to hang within three days.
To-day Kaid goes to the Mosque of Mahmoud, as is the custom at this
festival.  The old man hath been persuaded to attempt the life of Kaid,
upon condition that his son--his Benjamin--is set free.  It will be but
an attempt at Kaid's life, no more; but the cry will go forth that a
Christian did the thing; and the Muslim flame will leap high."

"And the tent-maker?" asked Nahoum musingly, though he was turning over
the tale in his mind, seeing behind it and its far consequences.

"Malaish, what does it matter!  But he is to escape, and they are to hang
another Christian in his stead for the attempt on Kaid.  It hath no
skill, but it would suffice.  With the dervishes gone malboos, and the
faithful drunk with piety--canst thou not see the issue, pasha?  Blood
will be shed."

"The Jews of Europe would be angry," said Nahoum grimly but evenly.  "The
loans have been many, and Kaid has given a lien by the new canal at Suez.
The Jews will be angry," he repeated, "and for every drop of Christian
blood shed there would be a lanced vein here.  But that would not bring
back Nahoum Pasha," he continued cynically.  "Well, this is thy story,
Mizraim; this is what they would do.  Now what hast thou done to stop
their doing?"

"Am I not a Muslim?  Shall I give Sharif to the Nile?"

Nahoum smiled darkly.  "There is a simpler way.  Thy mind ever runs on
the bowstring and the sword.  These are great, but there is a greater.
It is the mocking finger.  At midnight, when Kaid goes to the Mosque
Mahmoud, a finger will mock the plotters till they are buried in
confusion.  Thou knowest the governor of the prisons--has he not need of
something?  Hath he never sought favours of thee?"

"Bismillah, but a week ago!"

"Then, listen, thou shepherd of the sheep--"

He paused, as there came a tap at the door, and a slave entered hurriedly
and addressed Nahoum.  "The effendi, Ebn Ezra Bey, whom thou didst set me
to watch, he hath entered the Palace, and asks for the Effendina."

Nahoum started, and his face clouded, but his eyes flashed fire.  He
tossed the slave a coin.  "Thou hast done well.  Where is he now?"

"He waits in the hall, where is the statue of Mehemet Ali and the lions."

"In an hour, Mizraim, thou shalt hear what I intend.  Peace be to thee!"

"And on thee, peace!" answered Mizraim, as Nahoum passed from the room,
and walked hastily towards the hall where he should find Ebn Ezra Bey.
Nearing the spot, he brought his step to a deliberate slowness, and
appeared not to notice the stately Arab till almost upon him.

"Salaam, effendi," he said smoothly, yet with inquisition in his eye,
with malice in his tone.

"Salaam, Excellency."

"Thou art come on the business of thy master?"

"Who is my master, Excellency?"

"Till yesterday it was Claridge Pasha.  Hast thou then forsaken him in
his trouble--the rat from the sinking ship?"

A flush passed over Ebn Ezra Bey's face, and his mouth opened with a gasp
of anger.  Oriental though he was, he was not as astute as this Armenian
Christian, who was purposely insulting him, that he might, in a moment of
heat, snatch from him the business he meant to lay before Kaid.  Nahoum
had not miscalculated.

"I have but one master, Excellency," Ebn Ezra answered quietly at last,
"and I have served him straightly.  Hast thou done likewise?"

"What is straight to thee might well be crooked to me, effendi."

"Thou art crooked as the finger of a paralytic."

"Yet I have worked in peace with Claridge Pasha for these years past,
even until yesterday, when thou didst leave him to his fate."

"His ship will sail when thine is crumbling on the sands, and all thou
art is like a forsaken cockatrice's nest."

"Is it this thou hast come to say to the Effendina?"

"What I have come to say to the Effendina is for the world to know after
it hath reached his ears.  I know thee, Nahoum Pasha.  Thou art a
traitor.  Claridge Pasha would abolish slavery, and thou dost receive
great sums of gold from the slave-dealers to prevent it."

"Is it this thou wilt tell Kaid?" Nahoum asked with a sneer.  "And hast
thou proofs?"

"Even this day they have come to my hands from the south."

"Yet I think the proofs thou hast will not avail; and I think that thou
wilt not show them to Kaid.  The gift of second thinking is a great gift.
Thou must find greater reason for seeking the Effendina."

"That too shall be.  Gold thou hadst to pay the wages of the soldiers of
the south.  Thou didst keep the gold and order the slave-hunt; and the
soldiers of the Effendina have been paid in human flesh and blood--ten
thousand slaves since Claridge Pasha left the Soudan, and three thousand
dead upon the desert sands, abandoned by those who hunted them when water
grew scarce and food failed.  To-day shall see thy fall."

At his first words Nahoum had felt a shock, from which his spirit reeled;
but an inspiration came to him on the moment; and he listened with a
saturnine coolness to the passionate words of the indignant figure
towering above him.  When Ebn Ezra had finished, he replied quietly:

"It is even as thou sayest, effendi.  The soldiers were paid in slaves
got in the slave-hunt; and I have gold from the slave-dealers.  I needed
it, for the hour is come when I must do more for Egypt than I have ever
done."

With a gesture of contempt Ebn Ezra made to leave, seeing an official of
the Palace in the distance.  Nahoum stopped him.  "But, one moment ere
thou dost thrust thy hand into the cockatrice's den.  Thou dost measure
thyself against Nahoum?  In patience and with care have I trained myself
for the battle.  The bulls of Bashan may roar, yet my feet are shod with
safety.  Thou wouldst go to Kaid and tell him thy affrighted tale.  I
tell thee, thou wilt not go.  Thou hast reason yet, though thy blood is
hot.  Thou art to Claridge Pasha like a brother--as to his uncle before
him, who furnished my father's palace with carpets.  The carpets still
soften the fall of my feet in my father's palace, as they did soften the
fall of my brother's feet, the feet of Foorgat Bey."

He paused, looking at Ebn Ezra with quiet triumph, though his eyes had
ever that smiling innocence which had won David in days gone by.  He was
turning his words over on the tongue with a relish born of long waiting.

"Come," he said presently--"come, and I will give thee reason why thou
wilt not speak with Kaid to-day.  This way, effendi."

He led the other into a little room hung about with rugs and tapestry,
and, going to the wall, he touched a spring.  "One moment here, effendi,"
he added quietly.  The room was as it had been since David last stood
within it.

"In this room, effendi," Nahoum said with cold deliberation, "Claridge
Pasha killed my brother, Foorgat Bey."

Ebn Ezra fell back as though he had been struck.  Swiftly Nahoum told him
the whole truth--even to the picture of the brougham, and the rigid,
upright figure passing through the night to Foorgat's palace, the gaunt
Mizraim piloting the equipage of death.

"I have held my peace for my own reasons, effendi.  Wilt thou then force
me to speak?  If thou dost still cherish Claridge Pasha, wilt thou see
him ruined?  Naught but ruin could follow the telling of the tale at this
moment--his work, his life, all done.  The scandal, the law, vengeance!
But as it is now, Kaid may turn to him again; his work may yet go on--he
has had the luck of angels, and Kaid is fickle.  Who can tell?"

Abashed and overwhelmed, Ebn Ezra Bey looked at him keenly.  "To tell of
Foorgat Bey would ruin thee also," he said.  "That thou knowest.  The
trick--would Kaid forgive it?  Claridge Pasha would not be ruined alone."

"Be it so.  If thou goest to Kaid with thy story, I go to Egypt with
mine.  Choose."

Ebn Ezra turned to go.  "The high God judge between him and thee," he
said, and, with bowed head, left the Palace.




CHAPTER XXXIV

NAHOUM DROPS THE MASK

"CLARIDGE PASHA!"

At the sound of the words, announced in a loud voice, hundreds of heads
were turned towards the entrance of the vast salon, resplendent with
gilded mirrors, great candelabra and chandeliers, golden hangings, and
divans glowing with robes of yellow silk.

It was the anniversary of Kaid's succession, and all entitled to come
poured into the splendid chamber.  The showy livery of the officials, the
loose, spacious, gorgeous uniforms of the officers, with the curved
jewelled scimitars and white turbans, the rich silk robes of the Ulema,
robe over robe of coloured silk with flowing sleeves and sumptuous silken
vests, the ample dignity of noble-looking Arabs in immense white turbans,
the dark straight Stambouli coat of the officials, made a picture of
striking variety and colour and interest.

About the centre of the room, laying palm to palm again and yet again,
touching lips and forehead and breast, speaking with slow, leisurely,
voices, were two Arab sheikhs from the far Soudan.  One of these showed a
singular interest in the movements of Nahoum Pasha as he entered the
chamber, and an even greater interest in David when he was announced; but
as David, in his journey up the chamber, must pass near him, he drew
behind a little group of officials, who whispered to each other excitedly
as David came on.  More than once before this same Sheikh Abdullah had
seen David, and once they had met, and had made a treaty of amity, and
Abdullah had agreed to deal in slaves no more; and yet within three
months had sent to Cairo two hundred of the best that could be found
between Khartoum and Senaar.  His business, of which Ebn Ezra Bey had due
knowledge, had now been with Nahoum.  The business of the other Arab, a
noble-looking and wiry Bedouin from the South, had been with Ebn Ezra
Bey, and each hid his business from his friend.  Abdullah murmured to
himself as David passed--a murmur of admiration and astonishment.  He had
heard of the disfavour in which the Inglesi was; but, as he looked at
David's face with its quiet smile, the influence which he felt in the
desert long ago came over him again.

"By Allah," he said aloud abstractedly, "it is a face that will not hide
when the khamsin blows!  Who shall gainsay it?  If he were not an infidel
he would be a Mahdi."

To this his Bedouin friend replied: "As the depths of the pool at Ghebel
Farik, so are his eyes.  You shall dip deep and you shall not find the
bottom.  Bismillah, I would fight Kaid's Nubians, but not this infidel
pasha!"

Never had David appeared to such advantage.  The victory over himself the
night before, the message of hope that had reached him at the monastery
in the desert, the coming of Lacey, had given him a certain quiet
masterfulness not reassuring to his foes.

As he entered the chamber but now, there flashed into his mind the scene
six years ago when, an absolute stranger, he had stepped into this
Eastern salon, and had heard his name called out to the great throng:
"Claridge efendi!"

He addressed no one, but he bowed to the group of foreign consuls-
general, looking them steadily in the eyes.  He knew their devices and
what had been going on of late, he was aware that his fall would mean a
blow to British prestige, and the calmness of his gaze expressed a
fortitude which had a disconcerting effect upon the group.  The British
Consul-General stood near by.  David advanced to him, and, as he did so,
the few who surrounded the Consul-General fell back.  David held out his
hand.  Somewhat abashed and ill at ease, the Consul-General took it.

"Have you good news from Downing Street?" asked David quietly.

The Consul-General hesitated for an instant, and then said: "There is no
help to be had for you or for what you are doing in that quarter."  He
lowered his voice.  "I fear Lord Eglington does not favour you; and he
controls the Foreign Minister.  I am very sorry.  I have done my best,
but my colleagues, the other consuls, are busy--with Lord Eglington."

David turned his head away for an instant.  Strange how that name sent a
thrill through him, stirred his blood!  He did not answer the Consul-
General, and the latter continued:

"Is there any hope?  Is the breach with Kaid complete?"

David smiled gravely.  "We shall see presently.  I have made no change in
my plans on the basis of a breach."

At that moment he caught sight of Nahoum some distance away and moved
towards him.  Out of the corner of his eye Nahoum saw David coming, and
edged away towards that point where Kaid would enter, and where the crowd
was greater.  As he did so Kaid appeared.  A thrill went through the
chamber.  Contrary to his custom, he was dressed in the old native
military dress of Mehemet Ali.  At his side was a jewelled scimitar, and
in his turban flashed a great diamond.  In his hand he carried a snuff-
box, covered with brilliants, and on his breast were glittering orders.

The eyes of the reactionaries flashed with sinister pleasure when they
saw Kaid.  This outward display of Orientalism could only be a reflex of
the mind.  It was the outer symbol of Kaid's return to the spirit of the
old days, before the influence of the Inglesi came upon him.  Every
corrupt and intriguing mind had a palpitation of excitement.

In Nahoum the sight of Kaid produced mixed feelings.  If, indeed, this
display meant reaction towards an entourage purely Arab, Egyptian, and
Muslim, then it was no good omen for his Christian self.  He drew near,
and placed himself where Kaid could see him.  Kaid's manner was cheerful,
but his face showed the effect of suffering, physical and mental.
Presently there entered behind him Sharif Bey, whose appearance was the
signal for a fresh demonstration.  Now, indeed, there could be no doubt
as to Kaid's reaction.  Yet if Sharif had seen Mizraim's face evilly
gloating near by he would have been less confident.

David was standing where Kaid must see him, but the Effendina gave no
sign of recognition.  This was so significant that the enemies of David
rejoiced anew.  The day of the Inglesi was over.  Again and again did
Kaid's eye wander over David's head.

David remained calm and watchful, neither avoiding nor yet seeking the
circle in which Kaid moved.  The spirit with which he had entered the
room, however, remained with him, even when he saw Kaid summon to him
some of the most fanatical members of the court circle, and engage them
in talk for a moment.  But as this attention grew more marked, a cloud
slowly gathered in the far skies of his mind.

There was one person in the great assembly, however, who seemed to be
unduly confident.  It was an ample, perspiring person in evening dress,
who now and again mopped a prematurely bald head, and who said to
himself, as Kaid talked to the reactionaries:

"Say, Kald's overdoing it.  He's putting potted chicken on the butter.
But it's working all right-r-i-g-h-t.  It's worth the backsheesh!"

At this moment Kaid fastened David with his look, and spoke in a tone so
loud that people standing at some distance were startled.

"Claridge Pasha!"

In the hush that followed David stepped forward.  "May the bounty of the
years be thine, Saadat," Kaid said in a tone none could misunderstand.

"May no tree in thy orchard wither, Effendina," answered David in a firm
voice.

Kaid beckoned him near, and again he spoke loudly: "I have proved thee,
and found thee as gold tried seven times by the fire, Saadat.  In the
treasury of my heart shall I store thee up.  Thou art going to the Soudan
to finish the work Mehemet Ali began.  I commend thee to Allah, and will
bid thee farewell at sunrise--I and all who love Egypt."

There was a sinister smile on his lips, as his eyes wandered over the
faces of the foreign consuls-general.  The look he turned on the
intriguers of the Palace was repellent; he reserved for Sharif a moody,
threatening glance, and the desperate hakim shrank back confounded from
it.  His first impulse was to flee from the Palace and from Cairo; but he
bethought himself of the assault to be made on Kaid by the tent-maker, as
he passed to the mosque a few hours later, and he determined to await the
issue of that event.  Exchanging glances with confederates, he
disappeared, as Kaid laid a hand on David's arm and drew him aside.

After viewing the great throng cynically for a moment Kaid said: "To-
morrow thou goest.  A month hence the hakim's knife will find the thing
that eats away my life.  It may be they will destroy it and save me; if
not, we shall meet no more."

David looked into his eyes.  "Not in a month shall thy work be completed,
Effendina.  Thou shalt live.  God and thy strong will shall make it so."

A light stole over the superstitious face.  "No device or hatred, or
plot, has prevailed against thee," Kaid said eagerly.  "Thou hast
defeated all--even when I turned against thee in the black blood of
despair.  Thou hast conquered me even as thou didst Harrik."

"Thou dost live," returned David drily.  "Thou dost live for Egypt's
sake, even as Harrik died for Egypt's sake, and as others shall die."

"Death hath tracked thee down how often!  Yet with a wave of the hand
thou hast blinded him, and his blow falls on the air.  Thou art beset by
a thousand dangers, yet thou comest safe through all.  Thou art an honest
man.  For that I besought thee to stay with me.  Never didst thou lie to
me.  Good luck hath followed thee.  Kismet!  Stay with me, and it may be
I shall be safe also.  This thought came to me in the night, and in the
morning was my reward, for Lacey effendi came to me and said, even as I
say now, that thou wilt bring me good luck; and even in that hour, by the
mercy of God, a loan much needed was negotiated.  Allah be praised!"

A glint of humour shot into David's eyes.  Lacey--a loan--he read it all!
Lacey had eased the Prince Pasha's immediate and pressing financial
needs--and, "Allah be praised!"  Poor human nature--backsheesh to a
Prince regnant!

"Effendina," he said presently, "thou didst speak of Harrik.  One there
was who saved thee then--" "Zaida!"  A change passed over Kaid's face.
"Speak!  Thou hast news of her?  She is gone?"  Briefly David told him
how Zaida was found upon her sister's grave.  Kaid's face was turned away
as he listened.

"She spoke no word of me?" Kaid said at last.  "To whom should she
speak?" David asked gently.  "But the amulet thou gavest her, set with
one red jewel, it was clasped in her hand in death."

Suddenly Kaid's anger blazed.  "Now shall Achmet die," he burst out.
"His hands and feet shall be burnt off, and he shall be thrown to the
vultures."

"The Place of the Lepers is sacred even from thee, Effendina," answered
David gravely.  "Yet Achmet shall die even as Harrik died.  He shall die
for Egypt and for thee, Effendina."

Swiftly he drew the picture of Achmet at the monastery in the desert.
"I have done the unlawful thing, Effendina," he said at last, "but thou
wilt make it lawful.  He hath died a thousand deaths--all save one."

"Be it so," answered Kaid gloomily, after a moment; then his face lighted
with cynical pleasure as he scanned once more the faces of the crowd
before him.  At last his eyes fastened on Nahoum.  He turned to David.

"Thou dost still desire Nahoum in his office?" he asked keenly.

A troubled look came into David's eyes, then it cleared away, and he said
firmly: "For six years we have worked together, Effendina.  I am surety
for his loyalty to thee."

"And his loyalty to thee?"

A pained look crossed over David's face again, but he said with a will
that fought all suspicion down: "The years bear witness."

Kaid shrugged his shoulders slightly.  "The years have perjured
themselves ere this.  Yet, as thou sayest, Nahoum is a Christian," he
added, with irony scarcely veiled.

Now he moved forward with David towards the waiting court.  David
searched the groups of faces for Nahoum in vain.  There were things
to be said to Nahoum before he left on the morrow, last suggestions
to be given.  Nahoum could not be seen.

Nahoum was gone, as were also Sharif and his confederates, and in the
lofty Mosque of Mahmoud soft lights were hovering, while the Sheikh-el-
Islam waited with Koran and scimitar for the ruler of Egypt to pray to
God and salute the Lord Mahomet.

At the great gateway in the Street of the Tent Makers Kaid paused on his
way to the Mosque Mahmoud.  The Gate was studded with thousands of nails,
which fastened to its massive timbers relics of the faithful, bits of
silk and cloth, and hair and leather; and here from time immemorial a
holy man had sat and prayed.  At the gateway Kaid salaamed humbly, and
spoke to the holy man, who, as he passed, raised his voice shrilly in an
appeal to Allah, commending Kaid to mercy and everlasting favour.  On
every side eyes burned with religious zeal, and excited faces were turned
towards the Effendina.  At a certain point there were little groups of
men with faces more set than excited.  They had a look of suppressed
expectancy.  Kald neared them, passed them, and, as he did so, they
looked at each other in consternation.  They were Sharif's confederates,
fanatics carefully chosen.  The attempt on Kaid's life should have been
made opposite the spot where they stood.  They craned their necks in
effort to find the Christian tent-maker, but in vain.

Suddenly they heard a cry, a loud voice calling.  It was Rahib the tent-
maker.  He was beside Kaid's stirrups, but no weapon was in his hand; and
his voice was calling blessings down on the Effendina's head for having
pardoned and saved from death his one remaining son, the joy of his old
age.  In all the world there was no prince like Kaid, said the tent-
maker; none so bountiful and merciful and beautiful in the eyes of men.
God grant him everlasting days, the beloved friend of his people, just to
all and greatly to be praised.

As the soldiers drove the old man away with kindly insistence--for Kaid
had thrown him a handful of gold--Mizraim, the Chief Eunuch, laughed
wickedly.  As Nahoum had said, the greatest of all weapons was the
mocking finger.  He and Mizraim had had their way with the governor of
the prisons, and the murderer had gone in safety, while the father stayed
to bless Kaid.  Rahib the tent-maker had fooled the plotters.  They were
mad in derision.  They did not know that Kaid was as innocent as
themselves of having pardoned the tent-maker's son.  Their moment had
passed; they could not overtake it; the match had spluttered and gone out
at the fuel laid for the fire of fanaticism.

The morning of David's departure came.  While yet it was dark he had
risen, and had made his last preparations.  When he came into the open
air and mounted, it was not yet sunrise, and in that spectral early
light, which is all Egypt's own, Cairo looked like some dream-city in a
forgotten world.  The Mokattam Hills were like vast dun barriers guarding
and shutting in the ghostly place, and, high above all, the minarets of
the huge mosque upon the lofty rocks were impalpable fingers pointing an
endless flight.  The very trees seemed so little real and substantial
that they gave the eye the impression that they might rise and float
away.  The Nile was hung with mist, a trailing cloud unwound from the
breast of the Nile-mother.  At last the sun touched the minarets of the
splendid mosque with shafts of light, and over at Ghizeh and Sakkarah the
great pyramids, lifting their heads from the wall of rolling blue mist
below, took the morning's crimson radiance with the dignity of four
thousand years.

On the decks of the little steamer which was to carry them south David,
Ebn Ezra, Lacey, and Mahommed waited.  Presently Kaid came, accompanied
by his faithful Nubians, their armour glowing in the first warm light of
the rising sun, and crowds of people, who had suddenly emerged, ran
shrilling to the waterside behind him.

Kaid's pale face had all last night's friendliness, as he bade David
farewell with great honour, and commended him to the care of Allah; and
the swords of the Nubians clashed against their breasts and on their
shields in salaam.

But there was another farewell to make; and it was made as David's foot
touched the deck of the steamer.  Once again David looked at Nahoum as he
had done six years ago, in the little room where they had made their bond
together.  There was the same straight look in Nahoum's eyes.  Was he not
to be trusted?  Was it not his own duty to trust?  He clasped Nahoum's
hand in farewell, and turned away.  But as he gave the signal to start,
and the vessel began to move, Nahoum came back.  He leaned over the
widening space and said in a low tone, as David again drew near:

"There is still an account which should be settled, Saadat.  It has
waited long; but God is with the patient.  There is the account of
Foorgat Bey."

The light fled from David's eyes and his heart stopped beating for a
moment.  When his eyes saw the shore again Nahoum was gone with Kaid.




GLOSSARY

Aiwa----Yes.
Allah hu Achbar----God is most Great.
Al'mah----Female professional singers, signifying "a learned female."
Ardab----A measure equivalent to five English bushels.

Backsheesh----Tip, douceur.
Balass----Earthen vessel for carrying water.
Bdsha----Pasha.
Bersim----Clover.
Bismillah----In the name of God.
Bowdb----A doorkeeper.

Dahabieh----A Nile houseboat with large lateen sails.
Darabukkeh----A drum made of a skin stretched over an earthenware funnel.
Dourha----Maize.

Effendina----Most noble.
El Azhar----The Arab University at Cairo.

Fedddn----A measure of land representing about an acre.
Fellah----The Egyptian peasant.

Ghiassa----Small boat.

Hakim----Doctor.
Hasheesh----Leaves of hemp.

Inshallah----God willing.

Kdnoon----A musical instrument like a dulcimer.
Kavass----An orderly.
Kemengeh----A cocoanut fiddle.
Khamsin----A hot wind of Egypt and the Soudan.

Kourbash----A whip, often made of rhinoceros hide.

La ilaha illa-llah----There is no deity but God.

Malaish----No matter.
Malboos----Demented.
Mastaba----A bench.
Medjidie----A Turkish Order.
Mooshrabieh----Lattice window.
Moufettish----High Steward.
Mudir----The Governor of a
Mudirieh, or province.
Muezzin----The sheikh of the mosque who calls to prayer.

Narghileh----A Persian pipe.
Nebool----A quarter-staff.

Ramadan----The Mahommedan season of fasting.

Saadat-el-bdsha----Excellency Pasha.
Sdis----Groom.
Sakkia----The Persian water-wheel.
Salaam----Eastern salutation.
Sheikh-el-beled----Head of a village.

Tarboosh----A Turkish turban.

Ulema----Learned men.

Wakf----Mahommedan Court dealing with succession, etc.
Welee----A holy man or saint.

Yashmak----A veil for the lower part of the face.
Yelek----A long vest or smock.




ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Cherish any alleviating lie
Triumph of Oriental duplicity over Western civilisation
When God permits, shall man despair?





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