Puslapio vaizdai

Millard, laughingly, and Sears turned look hardly such as is given by a man

a a meditative glance about the place. caught in a woman's fascinations; more

"You are kind of like rats in here." a look of pride, as at the unexpected

“And what possible difference could exploit of some one near to him. it make, having that arch in your pictures?"

$ 6 Sears took his time in answering, his With the sunset Djemal rode out gaze bent inward as though upon some again, and the night shut down as private problem of his own.

black and hot as the lid of a stove, "I don't know yet," he said at last, sickly with breaths from the monsoon "but it will be there if we need it." breaking a thousand miles to the south.

The day dragged on with its mob of Hollis and Le Marchant, dropping warriors, camp-followers, and all the the day's smiles like masks, yawned hangers-on of a Sudanese semi-poten- weary satisfaction at Djemal's visit. tate. Amid it Sir Everard moved “They see we are here to stay. The rather like a statue of himself, adept old boy knows which side his bread is in every turn of this African diplomacy. buttered." A perfect picture of a perfect soldier "And he swings half this country, he made, and there were moments too; there will be no Nationalist rubwhen Millard found himself oppressed bish up here." by a strange fear. The man was ex- "Pack of damn' rebels." traordinarily complete, and too much Oppressed by the heat, Millard completing is often the ending as well. found himself unable to join their

Not until the shadows began to chorus; there was an inner unease creep across the fore-court did the girl that sent him wandering on the walls. dance before massed ranks of the It was incredible that any one should retinue, Djemal seated by Sir Ever- want to keep such a place, yet that ard's side, with flutes sounding thinly golden window in the tower, lonely and through thudding tom-toms, and the aloft, told of Sir Everard sitting at his girl posturing against the yellow wall, task of holding it by the mere magic with flaring skirt, girt breasts, and un- of his presence. It was that lighted bound waist, like some poisonously oblong which was the real symbol of scarlet desert flower. It was to Sir their grasp upon the place, not the Everard that she danced, whirling in fort guns or the thin line of transport, the last passion of the music, flinging with the guarded wells strung like herself on her knees before the general, beads upon it. violently supplicating. His hand was Later on a moon, now past the full, already raised to plaster a gold piece hunched itself above the world's rim, on her damp forehead when she looming saffron and distorted through spoke, her words covered by the drums, the haze. In its wan light the fort and Millard saw Sir Everard's hand seemed to hang suspended above nothstiffen in surprise. Only an instant, ing in particular. Something moved, then the general hid it with a laugh and Millard, shooting out an instincand a sentence of appropriate Arab tive hand, grasped an arm. ribaldry. But Millard had caught a “This is sure' one sweet night,” came nod of assent and a strange look-a Sears's voice.

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They moved on side by side, each volitions of their own, bearing him drawing vague satisfaction from the steadily upward. At the bend of the presence of another as uncomfortable steps he came upon Sir Everard's as himself. The fore-court was a Seedee boy servant, crouching sleepily smear of gray, dark solidities melting over a water-pipe. to shadow as they stepped into them. "David, is the sirdar alone?" MilOnly that golden-lighted window lard asked. seemed entirely real. A splash of "Yes, sa-ar." moonlight now lay across the tower "That woman has gone?" side, and its pale reflection on the “Yes, sa-ar; ten minute' she be gone. steps disclosed a mounting figure. I wait for call."

Millard was about to cry out, then Millard sprang on up the steps. restrained himself. Whoever it was At the top the heavy door was ajar, must have passed the white sentry on swinging at a push, disclosing the guard at the foot of the steps, and barren room under its hot lamplight." orders must have been given. In the Great moths beat against the ceiling dimness it was impossible to see, but as though in fright, and there sounded there were other senses besides sight. the chirping of a cricket hidden in Millard caught the swish of a skirt, the some crevice. unmistakable clink of anklets.

Sir Everard sat in his accustomed "So that's the way of it,” said Sears, chair, one arm resting upon his writingand Millard, in involuntary loyalty to desk, motionless, serene at first sight, the general, found himself investing though his whole figure was horridly the moment with a mantle of sanction. sunk in upon itself, as though its ap

“She has private information for Sir parent bronze had crumpled. A soft Everard."

drip, drip spread in a blackish stain "Well," —Sears shrugged as though upon the floor, the gleam of a knifetilting the whole affair into some pit hilt was under his breast, and that of disregard,—"whatever it is, I guess cricket shrilled away like the voice of a it does n't go on the films."

fool in a place of dread. “And of course that 's all you care Millard's hands caught at his own about," Millard half sneered.

throat, choking back the cry that came "That's all I 'm here for."

swelling up. In one flashing instant Alone again, Millard found himself he saw that since it was Sir Everard oppressed and ill at ease. In the who, dead or alive, really held Koom tower the light burned steadily, but in Katia, then it must be Sir Everard who his mind thronged unbidden appre continued to hold it. hensions as to just what it might be

87 shining upon in that upper chamber. At last he crossed the fore-court, It was Sir Everard's orders that mechanically returning the salute of Millard called down the steps to the the sentry as he mounted the steps. drowsy servant, his tones quiet and It was inexcusable thus to seek the alert, with no trace of dismay-orders general without summons and with no that brought Hollis, Le Marchant, and other reason than a vague and woman- the ranking surgeon at once to the ish fear. But his feet seemed to have tower. In the hot lamplight of the

chamber they gathered, linked by the There was incredulity in that as it knowledge that they alone possessed, came from Hamid's lips with the sudand issued other orders in the name denness of breath expelled by an unof that silent figure that sent the sen- expected blow. His eyes showed distry and the servant David off on a may, as though some black thing four-day errand to rail-head and sur- stirred under the surface of two clear, rounded the entire oasis of Koom brown pools. He caught swiftly at Katia with a ring of steel that none Millard's wrist. might pass.

"What 's up?" There was just a chance that the Not until they were safe from eardancing girl might be trapped within shot beyond the walls did Millard the cordon thrown about the mud- speak, and Hamid covered his quiverwalled rabbit warren of a town. With ing face. the dawn the house-by-house search "Oh, God! Sir Everard-murbegan. The crackle of wireless from dered!" Cairo brought warnings of grim possi- "Yes, murdered by Sheik Djemal's bilities should Sir Everard's death dancing girl." become known; and if that girl had "And it was I who brought Djemal made good her flight, the news must to him!” Hamid cried. be already wide upon the face of the Millard let that pass. There would plain. Millard wished that Hamid be grilling enough for Hamid when were there, for his native knowledge general headquarters began their inwould have been invaluable in that vestigation; those millstones of his search; but the fellow was masquerad- mixed ancestry would grind in upon ing unreachably off at El Kebar, him then. Picked out by crude sungathering information for a man whose light against that hopeless plain, with ears were forever sealed.

his English trimness upon his halfThen suddenly Hamid came. How Egyptian body, he looked like one who he had returned so quickly or how he did not quite fit into either world. had passed the cordon Millard fore- “They are sending Hewitt with reinbore to ask, too relieved to see him in forcements from Khartum," Millard red tarboosh, with cane and cigarette, went on. "Until he arrives, Sir Everpushing his way through the throng ard must be alive. Five days-time with a single disdainful finger. As enough for the Nationalists to wipe usual, he was all at once there, as us all out if the truth becomes known." though he had merely stepped from “That girl will spread the news.” some convenient doorway, and his "If she got away," Millard grimly blithe ignorance of all that had hap- amended. "If they don't attack us, pened was irresistibly remindful of

we can be pretty sure she is trapped in that cricket chirping in the bloodied the oasis here; and then—" room.

Millard's silence of completion was "What's this?" he laughingly asked as relentless as the blaze of the sun on as he sauntered up. “Are you playing the land around them, a land stripped 'button, button' with Koom Katia?" of all pity, its only issues life and death. "It is Sir Everard's orders."

The fate of that woman was sealed "Orders from Sir Everard!"

by the harsh line of his lips.

"If only I had been here instead of ing his tumbled hair back from his at El Kebar!" Hamid fretted. “If forehead. I could have seen her, I'd know her "You mean that I am responsible again under any disguise.'

for it?he asked. "By George!" Millard gazed at “

“Those pictures would never have the other in the light of a dawning been made had I been here.” idea. "Come with me to the fort. Picking again at the strings, Sears We'll see.”

considered Hamid, then came a nod It was to Sears's quarters that he of non-committal agreement. went. The room was stifling with “Maybe a lot of things would n't reflected glare, littered with odds and have happened if you 'd been here,” ends of camera-craft. Sears himself he said, and turned to Millard. "Can lay sprawled upon the cot, teasing his I speak with you?" ukulele to sobs of sentiment. In all There was antagonism in the air as that fort, now seething with rumor, he Hamid began an exit carefully casual; seemed the only one at real ease. then he wheeled, his high-built, nar

“Those pictures you took yesterday, row face alight with purpose. how soon can they be developed?” "Look here, Millard, that girl must Millard asked, and the other's glance have got away. Suppose I go out after met his in guarded understanding. her. I could probably pick up her

"You mean the flash-lights I took trail and—” in the tower last night at Sir Everard's "My orders from Cairo are to perorders?

mit absolutely no one to leave the “No, the ones you took of the danc- fort." ing girl.”

“You mean that I am under arrest?"What"

Hamid stormed. That was Hamid, and it sounded al- “No one is under arrest yet; we may most a cry as it cut across the drone of all of us be so before this is over." flies and the practised throbs of “The Hamid left. Watching his retreatRosary" from under Sears's fingers. ing figure, Millard remembered that

"You mean that you took pictures the death of a chief is often the fall of Djemal's visit after my warning!” of his favorites. Deprived of Sir Hamid pursued accusingly.

Everard's backing, Vansittart seemed "It was for Sir Everard to give to have already shrunk; there was orders about that,” Millard answered. something almost furtive in his re

Hamid moved jerkily about, his treating figure, shut in by those walls. habitual nonchalance cracking like a Yet the fellow was rather fine in his thin veneer above inner commotion. way, too; there was no knowing what

“I warned him-probably they Fehmy Pasha might not have offered found out about those pictures, and him to join the Nationalist cause. that had something to do with it all. Possibly the governorship of the Sir Everard promised me he 'd make Sudan itself, with opportunities for its that fellow keep his infernal camera unbridled toll and loot; yet he had out of it."

chosen to stick to the now tottering With a last thrum of his ukulele cause of his father's people. Sears picked himself off the cot, toss- “That guy would sure' have done a

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heap if he 'd been here,” Sears mused locked, a place of hot torment in which, as he also watched Hamid crossing the half stripped for hopeless coolness, he fore-court. "You can have those pic- plied arcane arts in the gloom of a tures to-night.”

red lamp. A sweating travesty of "Could you run them in the lantern deity he might have been, making that was brought up to amuse the things that were not as though they men?

were. Sears nodded an absent assent as he crossed to the camera and laid his hand upon it. At the accustomed It was past midnight when he touch a new authority seemed to come emerged, reeling, haggard with heat, to him, and there was again that effect but upon him the light of a triumph of one viewing things from some to accomplished. Tilting the contents of tally different point of view.

a canvas water-cooler over his head "I 'll print two sets of positives,” and chest, with wet fingers he caught he answered, apparently to himself, at a cigarette and said; "one the way it was, and the other the "All set; let 's go." way it might have been.”

At Millard's summons they came: "You are a most extraordinary per- Hollis, Le Marchant, the surgeon, and son," said Millard. "What do you Vansittart, the four holders of the expect to gain from printing a picture secret of Sir Everard's death, gathering the way it was not?

uncomfortably like conspirators in the From his vantage-point behind the empty mess-room, whose blank wall camera Sears's glance came again, a was to serve as a screen. Silently they glint of narrow-lidded gray as blankly waited, oppressed by the potencies of impartial as the lens itself as it fol- the lantern, looming monstrous and lowed Hamid's figure.

inert, while all about them the fort lay "Well, we might find out what would like some super-heated catacomb of have happened if that bird had really uneasy sleep. been here."

Under Sears's touch the lantern “How can you make Vansittart here sprang to an uncanny, sputtering life, when he was really off at El Kebar?” casting an oblong of purple-white light

Millard's tone was sharp, irritated as empty as the first day. There was by the other's constant mystery. Yet something almost terrifying about it, he saw that Sears was unaware of be that blank light was so horribly uning mysterious; it was simply that in concerned as to what might come to his own queer way he regarded things fill it. When it came, it was almost as being all along just the pictures in worse, all the too well remembered which they ended. But there was happenings of yesterday flickering more mystery than ever in his reply. unsubstantially by in a ghastly effect

"Did n't I tell you I had left a hole of life. As he watched Djemal's in my films?"

motley crew come pouring through the With that Millard had to be content, arch, Millard felt again that cracking seeing that to Sears it was somehow as though the back of his mind were the crux of the whole matter. For the about to fall out. Great God! where rest of the day Sears's door remained on earth were they coming from, pour


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