IN THE LAND OF SHINAR
"Then I said to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear
"And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar;
and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base."
David raised his head from the paper he was studying. He looked at Lacey
sharply. "And how many rounds of ammunition?" he asked.
"Ten thousand, Saadat."
"How many shells?" he continued, making notes upon the paper before him.
"Three hundred, Saadat."
"How many hundredweight of dourha?"
"And how many mouths to feed?"
"How many fighters go with the mouths?"
"Nine hundred and eighty-of a kind."
"And of the best?'
"Well, say, five hundred."
"Thee said six hundred three days ago, Lacey."
"Sixty were killed or wounded on Sunday, and forty I reckon in the others,
The dark eyes flashed, the lips set. "The fire was sickening—they fell back?"
"Well, Saadat, they reflected—at the wrong time."
"Not back—they were slow in getting on."
"But they fought it out?"
"They had to—root hog, or die. You see, Saadat, in that five hundred I'm only
counting the invincibles, the up-and-at-'ems, the blind-goers that 'd open the
lid of Hell and jump in after the enemy."
The pale face lighted. "So many! I would not have put the estimate half so
high. Not bad for a dark race fighting for they know not what!"
"They know that all right; they are fighting for you, Saadat."
David seemed not to hear. "Five hundred—so many, and the enemy so near, the
temptation so great."
"The deserters are all gone to Ali Wad Hei, Saadat. For a month there have
been only the deserted."
A hardness crept into the dark eyes. "Only the deserted!" He looked out to
where the Nile lost itself in the northern distance. "I asked Nahoum for one
thousand men, I asked England for the word which would send them. I asked for a
thousand, but even two hundred would turn the scale—the sign that the Inglesi
had behind him Cairo and London. Twenty weeks, and nothing comes!"
He got to his feet slowly and walked up and down the room for a moment,
glancing out occasionally towards the clump of palms which marked the
disappearance of the Nile into the desert beyond his vision. At intervals a
cannon-shot crashed upon the rarefied air, as scores of thousands had done for
months past, torturing to ear and sense and nerve. The confused and dulled roar
of voices came from the distance also; and, looking out to the landward side,
David saw a series of movements of the besieging forces, under the Arab leader,
Ali Wad Hei. Here a loosely formed body of lancers and light cavalry cantered
away towards the south, converging upon the Nile; there a troop of heavy cavalry
in glistening mail moved nearer to the northern defences; and between,
battalions of infantry took up new positions, while batteries of guns moved
nearer to the river, curving upon the palace north and south. Suddenly David's
eyes flashed fire. He turned to Lacey eagerly. Lacey was watching with eyes
screwed up shrewdly, his forehead shining with sweat.
"Saadat," he said suddenly, "this isn't the usual set of quadrilles. It's the
real thing. They're watching the river—waiting."
"But south!" was David's laconic response. At the same moment he struck a
gong. An orderly entered. Giving swift instructions, he turned to Lacey again.
"Not Cairo—Darfur," he added.
"Ebn Ezra Bey coming! Ali Wad Hei's got word from up the Nile, I guess."
David nodded, and his face clouded. "We should have had word also," he said
There was a knock at the door, and Mahommed Hassan entered, supporting an
Arab, down whose haggard face blood trickled from a wound in the head, while an
arm hung limp at his side.
"Behold, Saadat—from Ebn Ezra Bey," Mahommed said. The man drooped beside
David caught a tin cup from a shelf, poured some liquor into it, and held it
to the lips of the fainting man. "Drink," he said. The Arab drank greedily, and,
when he had finished, gave a long sigh of satisfaction. "Let him sit," David
When the man was seated on a sheepskin, the huge Mahommed squatting behind
like a sentinel, David questioned him. "What is thy name—thy news?" he asked in
"I am called Feroog. I come from Ebn Ezra Bey, to whom be peace!" he
answered. "Thy messenger, Saadat, behold he died of hunger and thirst, and his
work became mine. Ebn Ezra Bey came by the river...."
"He is near?" asked David impatiently.
"He is twenty miles away."
"Thou camest by the desert?"
"By the desert, Saadat, as Ebn Ezra effendi comes."
"By the desert! But thou saidst he came by the river."
"Saadat, yonder, forty miles from where we are, the river makes a great
curve. There the effendi landed in the night with four hundred men to march
hither. But he commanded that the boats should come on slowly and receive the
attack in the river, while he came in from the desert."
David's eye flashed. "A great device. They will be here by midnight, then,
"At midnight, Saadat, by the blessing of God."
"How wert thou wounded?"
"I came upon two of the enemy. They were mounted. I fought them. Upon the
horse of one I came here."
"God is merciful, Saadat. He is in the bosom of God."
"How many men come by the river?"
"But fifty, Saadat," was the answer, "but they have sworn by the stone in the
Kaabah not to surrender."
"And those who come with the effendi, with Ebn Ezra Bey, are they as those
who will not surrender?"
"Half of them are so. They were with thee, as was I, Saadat, when the great
sickness fell upon us, and were healed by thee, and afterwards fought with
thee." David nodded abstractedly, and motioned to Mahommed to take the man away;
then he said to Lacey: "How long do you think we can hold out?"
"We shall have more men, but also more rifles to fire, and more mouths to
fill, if Ebn Ezra gets in, Saadat."
David raised his head. "But with more rifles to fire away your ten thousand
rounds"—he tapped the paper on the table—"and eat the eighty hundredweight of
dourha, how long can we last?"
"If they are to fight, and with full stomachs, and to stake everything on
that one fight, then we can last two days. No more, I reckon."
"I make it one day," answered David. "In three days we shall have no food,
and unless help comes from Cairo, we must die or surrender. It is not well to
starve on the chance of help coming, and then die fighting with weak arms and
broken spirit. Therefore, we must fight to morrow, if Ebn Ezra gets in to-night.
I think we shall fight well," he added. "You think so?"
"You are a born fighter, Saadat."
A shadow fell on David's face, and his lips tightened. "I was not born a
fighter, Lacey. The day we met first no man had ever died by my hand or by my
"There are three who must die at sunset—an hour from now-by thy will,
A startled look came into David's face. "Who?" he asked.
"The Three Pashas, Saadat. They have been recaptured."
"Recaptured!" rejoined David mechanically.
"Achmet Pasha got them from under the very noses of the sheikhs before
sunrise this morning."
"Achmet—Achmet Pasha!" A light came into David's face again.
"You will keep faith with Achmet, Saadat. He risked his life to get them.
They betrayed you, and betrayed three hundred good men to death. If they do not
die, those who fight for you will say that it doesn't matter whether men fight
for you or betray you, they get the same stuff off the same plate. If we are
going to fight to-morrow, it ought to be with a clean bill of health."
"They served me well so long—ate at my table, fought with me. But—but
traitors must die, even as Harrik died." A stern look came into his face. He
looked round the great room slowly. "We have done our best," he said. "I need
not have failed, if there had been no treachery...."
"If it hadn't been for Nahoum!"
David raised his head. Supreme purpose came into his bearing. A grave smile
played at his lips, as he gave that quick toss of the head which had been a
characteristic of both Eglington and himself. His eyes shone-a steady,
indomitable light. "I will not give in. I still have hope. We are few and they
are many, but the end of a battle has never been sure. We may not fail even now.
Help may come from Cairo even to-morrow."
"Say, somehow you've always pulled through before, Saadat. When I've been
most frightened I've perked up and stiffened my backbone, remembering your luck.
I've seen a blue funk evaporate by thinking of how things always come your way
just when the worst seems at the worst."
David smiled as he caught up a small cane and prepared to go. Looking out of
a window, he stroked his thin, clean-shaven face with a lean finger. Presently a
movement in the desert arrested his attention. He put a field-glass to his eyes,
and scanned the field of operations closely once more.
"Good-good!" he burst out cheerfully. "Achmet has done the one thing
possible. The way to the north will be still open. He has flung his men between
the Nile and the enemy, and now the batteries are at work." Opening the door,
they passed out. "He has anticipated my orders," he added. "Come, Lacey, it will
be an anxious night. The moon is full, and Ebn Ezra Bey has his work cut
out—sharp work for all of us, and..."
Lacey could not hear the rest of his words in the roar of the artillery.
David's steamers in the river were pouring shot into the desert where the enemy
lay, and Achmet's "friendlies" and the Egyptians were making good their new
position. As David and Lacey, fearlessly exposing themselves to rifle fire, and
taking the shortest and most dangerous route to where Achmet fought, rode
swiftly from the palace, Ebn Ezra's three steamers appeared up the river, and
came slowly down to where David's gunboats lay. Their appearance was greeted by
desperate discharges of artillery from the forces under Ali Wad Hei, who had
received word of their coming two hours before, and had accordingly redisposed
his attacking forces. But for Achmet's sharp initiative, the boldness of the
attempt to cut off the way north and south would have succeeded, and the circle
of fire and sword would have been complete. Achmet's new position had not been
occupied before, for men were too few, and the position he had just left was now
exposed to attack.
Never since the siege began had the foe shown such initiative and audacity.
They had relied on the pressure of famine and decimation by sickness, the steady
effects of sorties, with consequent fatalities and desertions, to bring the
Liberator of the Slaves to his knees. Ebn Ezra Bey had sought to keep quiet the
sheikhs far south, but he had been shut up in Darffur for months, and had been
in as bad a plight as David. He had, however, broken through at last. His ruse
in leaving the steamers in the night and marching across the desert was as
courageous as it was perilous, for, if discovered before he reached the
beleaguered place, nothing could save his little force from destruction. There
was one way in from the desert to the walled town, and it was through that space
which Achmet and his men had occupied, and on which Ali Wad Hei might now, at
any moment, throw his troops.
David's heart sank as he saw the danger. From the palace he had sent an
orderly with a command to an officer to move forward and secure the position,
but still the gap was open, and the men he had ordered to advance remained where
they were. Every minute had its crisis.
As Lacey and himself left the town the misery of the place smote him in the
eyes. Filth, refuse, debris filled the streets. Sick and dying men called to him
from dark doorways, children and women begged for bread, carcasses lay unburied,
vultures hovering above them—his tireless efforts had not been sufficient to
cope with the daily horrors of the siege. But there was no sign of hostility to
him. Voices called blessings on him from dark doorways, lips blanching in death
commended him to Allah, and now and then a shrill call told of a fighter who had
been laid low, but who had a spirit still unbeaten. Old men and women stood over
their cooking-pots waiting for the moment of sunset; for it was Ramadan, and the
faithful fasted during the day—as though every day was not a fast.
Sunset was almost come, as David left the city and galloped away to send
forces to stop the gap of danger before it was filled by the foe. Sunset—the
Three Pashas were to die at sunset! They were with Achmet, and in a few moments
they would be dead. As David and Lacey rode hard, they suddenly saw a movement
of men on foot at a distant point of the field, and then a small mounted troop,
fifty at most, detach themselves from the larger force and, in close formation,
gallop fiercely down on the position which Achmet had left. David felt a shiver
of anxiety and apprehension as he saw this sharp, sweeping advance. Even fifty
men, well intrenched, could hold the position until the main body of Ali Wad
Hei's infantry came on.
They rode hard, but harder still rode Ali Wad Hei's troop of daring Arabs.
Nearer and nearer they came. Suddenly from the trenches, which they had thought
deserted, David saw jets of smoke rise, and a half-dozen of the advancing troop
fell from their saddles, their riderless horses galloping on.
David's heart leaped: Achmet had, then, left men behind, hidden from view;
and these were now defending the position. Again came the jets of smoke, and
again more Arabs dropped from their saddles. But the others still came on. A
thousand feet away others fell. Twenty-two of the fifty had already gone. The
rest fired their rifles as they galloped. But now, to David's relief, his own
forces, which should have moved half an hour before, were coming swiftly down to
cut off the approach of Ali Wad Hei's infantry, and he turned his horse upon the
position where a handful of men were still emptying the saddles of the impetuous
enemy. But now all that were left of the fifty were upon the trenches. Then came
the flash of swords, puffs of smoke, the thrust of lances, and figures falling
from the screaming, rearing horses.
Lacey's pistol was in his hand, David's sword was gripped tight, as they
rushed upon the melee. Lacey's pistol snapped, and an Arab fell; again, and
another swayed in his saddle. David's sword swept down, and a turbaned head was
gashed by a mortal stroke. As he swung towards another horseman, who had struck
down a defender of the trenches, an Arab raised himself in his saddle and flung
a lance with a cry of terrible malice; but, even as he did so, a bullet from
Lacey's pistol pierced his shoulder. The shot had been too late to stop the
lance, but sufficient to divert its course. It caught David in the flesh of the
body under the arm—a slight wound only. A few inches to the right, however, and
his day would have been done.
The remaining Arabs turned and fled. The fight was over. As David,
dismounting, stood with dripping sword in his hand, in imagination, he heard the
voice of Kaid say to him, as it said that night when he killed Foorgat Bey:
"Hast thou never killed a man?"
For an instant it blinded him, then he was conscious that, on the ground at
his feet, lay one of the Three Pashas who were to die at sunset. It was sunset
now, and the man was dead. Another of the Three sat upon the ground winding his
thigh with the folds of a dead Arab's turban, blood streaming from his gashed
face. The last of the trio stood before David, stoical and attentive. For a
moment David looked at the Three, the dead man and the two living men, and then
suddenly turned to where the opposing forces were advancing. His own men were
now between the position and Ali Wad Hei's shouting fanatics. They would be able
to reach and defend the post in time. He turned and gave orders. There were only
twenty men besides the two pashas, whom his commands also comprised. Two small
guns were in place. He had them trained on that portion of the advancing
infantry of Ali Wad Hei not yet covered by his own forces. Years of work and
responsibility had made him master of many things, and long ago he had learned
the work of an artilleryman. In a moment a shot, well directed, made a gap in
the ranks of the advancing foe. An instant afterwards a shot from the other gun
fired by the unwounded pasha, who, in his youth, had been an officer of
artillery, added to the confusion in the swerving ranks, and the force
hesitated; and now from Ebn Ezra Bey's river steamers, which had just arrived,
there came a flank fire. The force wavered. From David's gun another shot made
havoc. They turned and fell back quickly. The situation was saved.
As if by magic the attack of the enemy all over the field ceased. By sunset
they had meant to finish this enterprise, which was to put the besieged wholly
in their hands, and then to feast after the day's fasting. Sunset had come, and
they had been foiled; but hunger demanded the feast. The order to cease firing
and retreat sounded, and three thousand men hurried back to the cooking-pot, the
sack of dourha, and the prayer mat. Malaish, if the infidel Inglesi was not
conquered to-day, he should be beaten and captured and should die to-morrow! And
yet there were those among them who had a well-grounded apprehension that the
"Inglesi" would win in the end.
By the trenches, where five men had died so bravely, and a traitorous pasha
had paid the full penalty of a crime and won a soldier's death, David spoke to
his living comrades. As he prepared to return to the city, he said to the
unwounded pasha: "Thou wert to die at sunset; it was thy sentence."
And the pasha answered: "Saadat, as for death—I am ready to die, but have I
not fought for thee?" David turned to the wounded pasha.
"Why did Achmet Pasha spare thee?"
"He did not spare us, Saadat. Those who fought with us but now were to shoot
us at sunset, and remain here till other troops came. Before sunset we saw the
danger, since no help came. Therefore we fought to save this place for thee."
David looked them in the eyes. "Ye were traitors," he said, "and for an
example it was meet that ye should die. But this that ye have done shall be told
to all who fight to-morrow, and men will know why it is I pardon treachery. Ye
shall fight again, if need be, betwixt this hour and morning, and ye shall die,
if need be. Ye are willing?"
Both men touched their foreheads, their lips, and their breasts. "Whether it
be death or it be life, Inshallah, we are true to thee, Saadat!" one said, and
the other repeated the words after him. As they salaamed David left them, and
rode forward to the advancing forces.
Upon the roof of the palace Mahommed Hassan watched and waited, his eyes
scanning sharply the desert to the south, his ears strained to catch that stir
of life which his accustomed ears had so often detected in the desert, when no
footsteps, marching, or noises could be heard. Below, now in the palace, now in
the defences, his master, the Saadat, planned for the last day's effort on the
morrow, gave directions to the officers, sent commands to Achmet Pasha, arranged
for the disposition of his forces, with as strange a band of adherents and
subordinates as ever men had—adventurers, to whom adventure in their own land
had brought no profit; members of that legion of the non-reputable, to whom
Cairo offered no home; Levantines, who had fled from that underground world
where every coin of reputation is falsely minted, refugees from the storm of the
world's disapproval. There were Greeks with Austrian names; Armenians, speaking
Italian as their native tongue; Italians of astonishing military skill, whose
services were no longer required by their offended country; French Pizarros with
a romantic outlook, even in misery, intent to find new El Dorados; Englishmen,
who had cheated at cards and had left the Horse Guards for ever behind; Egyptian
intriguers, who had been banished for being less successful than greater
intriguers; but also a band of good gallant men of every nation.
Upon all these, during the siege, Mahommed Hassan had been a self-appointed
spy, and had indirectly added to that knowledge which made David's decisive
actions to circumvent intrigue and its consequences seem almost supernatural. In
his way Mahommed was a great man. He knew that David would endure no spying, and
it was creditable to his subtlety and skill that he was able to warn his master,
without being himself suspected of getting information by dark means. On the
palace roof Mahommed was happy to-night. Tomorrow would be a great day, and,
since the Saadat was to control its destiny, what other end could there be but
happiness? Had not the Saadat always ridden over all that had been in his way?
Had not he, Mahommed, ever had plenty to eat and drink, and money to send to
Manfaloot to his father there, and to bribe when bribing was needed? Truly, life
was a boon! With a neboot of dom-wood across his knees he sat in the still,
moonlit night, peering into that distance whence Ebn Ezra Bey and his men must
come, the moon above tranquil and pleasant and alluring, and the desert beneath,
covered as it was with the outrages and terrors of war, breathing softly its
ancient music, that delicate vibrant humming of the latent activities. In his
uncivilised soul Mahommed Hassan felt this murmur, and even as he sat waiting to
know whether a little army would steal out of the south like phantoms into this
circle the Saadat had drawn round him, he kept humming to himself—had he not
been, was he not now, an Apollo to numberless houris who had looked down at him
from behind mooshrabieh screens, or waited for him in the palm-grove or the
cane-field? The words of his song were not uttered aloud, but yet he sang them
"Every night long and all night my spirit is moaning and crying
O dear gazelle, that has taken away my peace!
Ah! if my beloved come not, my eyes will be blinded with weeping
Moon of my joy, come to me, hark to the call of my soul!"
Over and over he kept chanting the song. Suddenly, however, he leaned farther
forward and strained his ears. Yes, at last, away to the south-east, there was
life stirring, men moving—moving quickly. He got to his feet slowly, still
listening, stood for a moment motionless, then, with a cry of satisfaction,
dimly saw a moving mass in the white moonlight far over by the river. Ebn Ezra
Bey and his men were coming. He started below, and met David on the way up. He
waited till David had mounted the roof, then he pointed. "Now, Saadat!" he said.
"They have stolen in?" David peered into the misty whiteness.
"They are almost in, Saadat. Nothing can stop them now."
"It is well done. Go and ask Ebn Ezra effendi to come hither," he said.
Suddenly a shot was fired, then a hoarse shout came over the desert, then
there was silence again.
"They are in, Saadat," said Mahommed Hassan.
Day broke over a hazy plain. On both sides of the Nile the river mist spread
wide, and the army of Ali Wad Hei and the defending forces were alike veiled
from each other and from the desert world beyond. Down the river for scores of
miles the mist was heavy, and those who moved within it and on the waters of the
Nile could not see fifty feet ahead. Yet through this heavy veil there broke
gently a little fleet of phantom vessels, the noise of the paddle-wheels and
their propellers muffled as they moved slowly on. Never had vessels taken such
risks on the Nile before, never had pilots trusted so to instinct, for there
were sand-banks and ugly drifts of rock here and there. A safe journey for
phantom ships; but these armed vessels, filled by men with white, eager faces
and others with dark Egyptian features, were no phantoms. They bristled with
weapons, and armed men crowded every corner of space. For full two hours from
the first streak of light they had travelled swiftly, taking chances not to be
taken save in some desperate moment. The moment was desperate enough, if not for
them. They were going to the relief of besieged men, with a message from Nahoum
Pasha to Claridge Pasha, and with succour. They had looked for a struggle up
this river as they neared the beleaguered city; but, as they came nearer and
nearer, not a gun fired at them from the forts on the banks out of the mists. If
they were heard they still were safe from the guns, for they could not be seen,
and those on shore could not know whether they were friend or foe. Like ghostly
vessels they passed on, until at last they could hear the stir and murmur of
life along the banks of the stream.
Boom! boom! boom! Through the mist the guns of the city were pouring shot and
shell out into Ali Wad Hei's camp, and Ali Wad Hei laughed contemptuously.
Surely now the Inglesi was altogether mad, and to-day, this day after prayers at
noon, he should be shot like a mad dog, for yesterday's defeat had turned some
of his own adherent sheikhs into angry critics. He would not wait for starvation
to compel the infidel to surrender. He would win freedom to deal in human flesh
and blood, and make slave-markets where he willed, and win glory for the Lord
Mahomet, by putting this place to the sword; and, when it was over, he would
have the Inglesi's head carried on a pole through the city for the faithful to
mock at, a target for the filth of the streets. So, by the will of Allah, it
should be done!
Boom! boom! boom! The Inglesi was certainly mad, for never had there been so
much firing in any long day in all the siege as in this brief hour this morning.
It was the act of a fool, to fire his shot and shell into the mist without aim,
without a clear target. Ali Wad Hei scorned to make any reply with his guns, but
sat in desultory counsel with his sheikhs, planning what should be done when the
mists had cleared away. But yesterday evening the Arab chief had offered to give
the Inglesi life if he would surrender and become a Muslim, and swear by the
Lord Mahomet; but late in the night he had received a reply which left only one
choice, and that was to disembowel the infidel, and carry his head aloft on a
spear. The letter he had received ran thus in Arabic:
"To Ali Wad Hei and All with Him:
"We are here to live or to die as God wills, and not as ye will. I
have set my feet on the rock, and not by threats of any man shall I
be moved. But I say that for all the blood that ye have shed here
there will be punishment, and for the slaves which ye have slain or
sold there will be high price paid. Ye have threatened the city and
me—take us if ye can. Ye are seven to one. Why falter all these
months? If ye will not come to us, we shall come to you, rebellious
ones, who have drawn the sword against your lawful ruler, the
It was a rhetorical document couched in the phraseology they best understood;
and if it begat derision, it also begat anger; and the challenge David had
delivered would be met when the mists had lifted from the river and the plain.
But when the first thinning of the mists began, when the sun began to dissipate
the rolling haze, Ali Wad Hei and his rebel sheikhs were suddenly startled by
rifle-fire at close quarters, by confused noises, and the jar and roar of
battle. Now the reason for the firing of the great guns was plain. The noise was
meant to cover the advance of David's men. The little garrison, which had done
no more than issue in sorties, was now throwing its full force on the enemy in a
last desperate endeavour. It was either success or absolute destruction. David
was staking all, with the last of his food, the last of his ammunition, the last
of his hopes. All round the field the movement was forward, till the circle had
widened to the enemy's lines; while at the old defences were only handfuls of
men. With scarce a cry David's men fell on the unprepared foe; and he himself,
on a grey Arab, a mark for any lance or spear and rifle, rode upon that point
where Ali Wad Hei's tent was set.
But after the first onset, in which hundreds were killed, there began the
real noise of battle—fierce shouting, the shrill cries of wounded and maddened
horses as they struck with their feet, and bit as fiercely at the fighting foe
as did their masters. The mist cleared slowly, and, when it had wholly lifted,
the fight was spread over every part of the field of siege. Ali Wad Hei's men
had gathered themselves together after the first deadly onslaught, and were
fighting fiercely, shouting the Muslim battle-cry, "Allah hu achbar!" Able to
bring up reinforcements, the great losses at first sustained were soon made up,
and the sheer weight of numbers gave them courage and advantage. By rushes with
lance and sword and rifle they were able, at last, to drive David's men back
upon their old defences with loss. Then charge upon charge ensued, and each
charge, if it cost them much, cost the besieged more, by reason of their fewer
numbers. At one point, however, the besieged became again the attacking party.
This was where Achmet Pasha had command. His men on one side of the circle, as
Ebn Ezra Bey's men on the other, fought with a valour as desperate as the desert
ever saw. But David, galloping here and there to order, to encourage, to prevent
retreat at one point, or to urge attack at another, saw that the doom of his
gallant force was certain; for the enemy were still four to one, in spite of the
carnage of the first attack. Bullets hissed past him. One carried away a button,
one caught the tip of his ear, one pierced the fez he wore; but he felt nothing
of this, saw nothing. He was buried in the storm of battle preparing for the
end, for the final grim defence, when his men would retreat upon the one last
strong fort, and there await their fate. From this absorption he was roused by
Lacey, who came galloping towards him.
"They've come, Saadat, they've come at last! We're saved—oh, my God, you bet
we're all right now! See! See, Saadat!"
David saw. Five steamers carrying the Egyptian flag were bearing around the
point where the river curved below the town, and converging upon David's small
fleet. Presently the steamers opened fire, to encourage the besieged, who
replied with frenzied shouts of joy, and soon there poured upon the sands
hundreds of men in the uniform of the Effendina. These came forward at the
double, and, with a courage which nothing could withstand, the whole circle
spread out again upon the discomfited tribes of Ali Wad Hei. Dismay, confusion,
possessed the Arabs. Their river-watchers had failed them, God had hidden His
face from them; and when Ali Wad Hei and three of his emirs turned and rode into
the desert, their forces broke and ran also, pursued by the relentless men who
had suffered the tortures of siege so long. The chase was short, however, for
they were desert folk, and they returned to loot the camp which had menaced them
Only the new-comers, Nahoum's men, carried the hunt far; and they brought
back with them a body which their leader commanded to be brought to a great room
of the palace. Towards sunset David and Ebn Ezra Bey and Lacey came together to
this room. The folds of loose linen were lifted from the face, and all three
looked at it long in silence. At last Lacey spoke:
"He got what he wanted; the luck was with him. It's better than Leperland."
"In the bosom of Allah there is peace," said Ebn Ezra. "It is well with
With misty eyes David stooped and took the dead man's hand in his for a
moment. Then he rose to his feet and turned away.
"And Nahoum also—and Nahoum," he said presently. "Read this," he added, and
put a letter from Nahoum into Ebn Ezra's hand.
Lacey reverently covered Achmet's face. "Say, he got what he wanted," he said