The Weavers by Gilbert Parker
Chapter XLI. In the Land of Shinar
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?" "Eighty--about."
"And how many mouths to feed?" "Five thousand."
"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, Saadat."
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 sharply.
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 him.
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 added.
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 Arabic.
"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, perhaps?"
"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 will."
"There are three who must die at sunset--an hour from now-by thy will, Saadat."
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 silently--
"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:
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 so long.
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 Achmet."
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 again.