For some little while Jim and his father sat close beside one another with heads touching, conversing in whispered tones, for it was necessary that the prisoner should be instructed precisely how to act when they were outside the hut.

“You must tell me what I am to do clearly and concisely, my boy, for I am entirely in your hands,” whispered the colonel. “It seems strange that I, who have always prided myself upon my resourcefulness, and who have always been the leader when you and I have been together, should give place to you. But, then, you see, you have all the strings in your fingers, and know exactly which one to pull, and when to let go your hold. Indeed, so far as I have been able to gather in these few seconds, you have shown yourself to possess a master’s mind. But come, let us be going, for I dread that at any moment an alarm may be given, and then we can scarcely hope to escape.”


“You understand, then, father, that you follow me closely out of the hut, and slip to the back of it. I shall wrap the blanket about my shoulders and march round and round, to put the other sentry at ease. Then we shall disappear into the darkness, and I shall lead the way to our rendezvous. It will not be long before my absence will be noticed. Then, no doubt, the Somali sentry will discover the body of his comrade and your flight. But they can kick up as much row as they like, for we shall be in hiding, and even if we were discovered, we have sufficient guns with us to make a tough fight of it.”

“Depend upon it, we will,” was the colonel’s hearty response. “Put a weapon into my hand, and I will cause them to regret the day when they first made me captive. This Mullah and his followers shall find that their slave has strength for fighting, as well as for chopping wood and drawing water.”

“That reminds me, father. Here is the sentry’s sword. Take it, for you may perhaps require something. I have the spear and my revolver.”

Having settled their arrangements, the two rose to their feet, and silently crept to the door. Then Jim gently pushed it open a few inches, and, thrusting his head out at the bottom, looked in the direction of the Mullah’s house. Striding stalwartly out of the firelight, as he had done so often before, came the athletic watchman, his spear swinging easily over his shoulder, and his head held well in the air. That he was unsuspicious of the events which had happened so close at hand was evident, for as he walked he hummed a dismal native air in the sonorous tones common to these people, while his thoughts were undoubtedly far away. Most likely he was still thinking of his comrades who were attacking the infidel zareba, for he paused every now and again to listen, and stopped his song, only to be disappointed, however, and take to his lonely beat again with an impatient stamp of his foot.

Now was the time for the fugitives, for the Mullah’s hut suddenly cut off the warrior’s figure. The next instant Jim pushed the door open quietly, and stepping out, stood there while his father emerged. Then, as the colonel darted round the hut, Jim placed the blanket about his shoulders, and, walking some distance to the left, waited for the appearance of the sentry again. The instant he caught sight of him he began to saunter forward, and yawned deeply again, as though he had only just awakened from a sleep in which he had indulged on the farther side of the building.

Three times in succession did Jim make the complete circle, slouching round as though the effort were too much for him. Then, as he came opposite his father again, he tossed the blanket to one side, and, catching him by the arm, drew him away towards the village.

“Now for the store-hut,” he said in an exultant whisper, feeling as though all their difficulties were ended. “Come this way along the dark side of the street, and when we halt, lie down in the shadow of the wall, for it will be as well to see that we are not followed. After that, all we have to do is to slip across the street, open the door, and enter.”

“As simple as A, B, C, old boy. Lead the way, Jim, and you can rely upon my following your orders. Now, on you go!”

Pressing forward, Jim quickly made his way along the darkest side of the village street, and, ere many minutes had passed, had reached a spot which was exactly opposite to the store-hut. And here, in accordance with the directions which he had already given, he threw himself flat upon the ground.

“Good!” he whispered, when some little time had passed without a sound having disturbed the silence. “No one suspects us, so we may make ready to cross the street.”

“Hu-s-s-sh! Keep your eyes open,” came his father’s voice at that moment in warning tones, while his hand gripped Jim by the arm, and steadily, and with every caution, pushed it in a direction which pointed to a spot across the street and slightly to the left. Instantly Jim’s eyes turned to the place, and peering into the darkness, he quickly became aware of the fact that a stealthy figure was moving there.

“Was it the sentry who had suddenly discovered the absence of his comrade and the flight of the prisoner, or was it some other native of the village, whose suspicions had been aroused in some unforeseen manner?” Jim asked himself the question as he lay there, but for the moment could find no answer, for the stranger’s figure was hidden almost completely, while his features were entirely invisible. Creeping along in the shadow of the farther wall, he soon reached a point which was exactly opposite to the fugitives, and separated only from them by a matter of a few yards. Then he crept slowly into the middle of the sun-dried road, and turning, faced the store-hut, bending his head forward as if he wished to inspect it closely.

Fortunately for Jim and his father, the man had chosen a site to which a few stray rays of the watch-fire contrived to penetrate, and this light falling upon his face, revealed the fact that he was not the sentry, but the native who, when Jim’s dagger was found, had suggested that the white prisoner and his rescuer had taken refuge in the store-hut. Evidently, in spite of the Mullah’s derision, he had come at length to investigate the matter for himself. With a start of surprise our hero recognized him.

“Our game is up,” he whispered; “that is the man who declared to his companions that we must be hiding in the village. And now he has come to set the question at rest, and so that he should not incur the ridicule of his comrades, has selected this late hour in which to put in an appearance. What can we do?”

“Do?” murmured the colonel. “We must manage to silence the fellow, or the whole village will be upon us. But I confess that it is almost an impossibility, for he is bound to discover us before we can get within reach of him. In that case, we must effectually silence him and then escape, for otherwise, he would set his comrade upon us. Hush! he is looking in this direction.”

As he spoke the native turned around slowly, peering into the darkness in all directions, and, as his eyes fell upon the shadow in which they were lurking, he started backwards. Then, as if uncertain of his powers of vision, he crept a few paces closer, and, shading his eyes with both hands, as though they would help him to penetrate the darkness, stared suspiciously at the two figures crouching there. A second later he had given vent to a shout, and, turning upon his heel, fled down the street, making the air ring with his calls.

Jim was utterly bewildered at the turn which events had taken, but Colonel Hubbard was a man who had faced danger in many forms, and whose wits had been sharpened upon many a field of battle. Realizing at once that this man would not only arouse his comrades but would lead them in the pursuit, he, too, was upon his feet and dashing along between the houses before an instant had passed. Fear seemed to lend fleetness to his feet, for though the native spy sped onward at a rapid pace, he could not outdistance his pursuer. Indeed, the colonel seemed to come up with him by leaps and bounds, and then with one gigantic spring to land upon his shoulders. What followed Jim could not make out, but when Colonel Hubbard returned he knew that they were safe. The man whom he had followed had paid for his persistence with his life.

Meanwhile, Jim had not been idle. Grasping the fact that the storehouse could not longer afford a safe shelter, he had at once darted across the street and hurled the door open. Then, as a figure appeared to bar his progress, and he heard the sharp click of a gun-lock, he called a loud warning to John Margetson and leapt hurriedly aside. Well was it for him that he had the presence of mind to do so, for, suddenly aroused from the slumber into which he had fallen, Margetson had seized one of the Mullah’s weapons which lay close to his hand, and, hearing the door burst open and the commotion outside, had discharged the contents into the darkness.

“Steady, old man!” shouted our hero; “it’s Jim, and I’ve come to tell you that we must make a bolt for it. Out you come at once!”

To say that John Margetson was surprised at the sudden turn which events had taken was to express the situation mildly. For half an hour after Jim’s departure he had remained in the store-hut, looking out through the aperture between the roof and the wall; but, wearied of seeing nothing, and having by now no small amount of confidence in the young fellow who had so miraculously come to rescue him, he had sat down upon a bag of dates, just to rest for a few moments. Then the heavy atmosphere within the hut—the aroma of dried dates and the store of wine—had overcome him, and little by little his eyelids had drooped till he was fast asleep. Roused by the alarm and by the opening of the door, he had started to his feet, and, rushing at once to the conclusion that the natives had discovered his lair, he immediately opened fire, without thought of the harm he might have done to his young companion.

“What, you!” he exclaimed in bewilderment, appearing at the door with a smoking weapon in his hand. “Have I hurt you? Good heavens! Don’t say that my bullet wounded you!”

“There’s nothing wrong with me; but I’m in a desperate hurry!” cried Jim again. “Bring your gun, and come along quickly, for we haven’t a moment to lose.”

“But the prisoner, your father?”

“He’s here. I’ve managed to get him safely out of his cell, and now we must fly for our lives. Ah——”

At that moment Jim became aware of the fact that a tall figure was rushing down upon them from the direction of the Mullah’s house, and instantly realized that it must be the sentry who for a short period of time had claimed him as a comrade that evening. Already the man was within a few paces of him, and, with lowered spear-point, and shield held well forward so as to protect his body, came headlong towards them.

“Look out!” shouted John Margetson.

But Jim needed no warning, for, hazardous though the position was, he had never for one moment allowed his coolness to desert him. Without moving, therefore, from the spot upon which he stood, he turned slightly, and whipping the revolver from his waistcloth, leveled it at the advancing sentry. Click! Back went the lock as he gave the first pressure upon the trigger. Snap! The hammer fell; but there was no explosion, no bullet flew from the muzzle, for by an evil chance a splash of the river had damped the cap.

Undaunted, however, Jim gave vent to an exclamation of annoyance, and then, without lowering his arm, jerked at the trigger again. Bang! This time the hammer had fallen upon an undamaged cartridge. Jim heard the bullet strike the man’s breast, and then, ere the flash of the powder had died down, he saw him suddenly plunge forward, with arms thrown out before him, while spear and shield were cast high into the air. A second later, with a clatter which could be heard all over the village, the muscular figure of the unfortunate sentry came crashing to the ground, where it lay motionless.

And now the Mullah’s village, which a moment before had been peacefully slumbering, was suddenly plunged into a state of wildest turmoil. A very pandemonium seemed to have broken loose, for in all directions doors were flung wide open with a series of resounding bangs, while loud voices rent the silence of the night. Then, just as had happened on a previous evening, a tall figure suddenly appeared beside the flagstaff which stood upon the roof of the central dwelling, and the voice of the Mullah rang out clearly, drowning every other sound.

“Catch them!” he shouted. “After them, every one of you! For if these impudent dogs escape this time we shall be forever disgraced. Follow them, I say! Pick up their tracks, and when you have done so, I myself will lead you.”

“Come down, then, and show us the way now!” called out one of the few men who had been left in the village. “We can see no sign of them, though here, in front of the store-hut, are the bodies of two of our comrades.”

“A third is here!” shrieked another at this moment, happening to stumble upon the sentry who lay behind the prisoner’s hut. “It is Abdul Hamid, who kept watch over our white slave. See,” he continued, appearing a moment later, dragging the body towards the watch-fire, “he is dead. Allah has taken him, and the thrust of a sword has sent him to his end. Where are these infidels? Lead us, you who are our ruler, and show us that you have those powers of which you boast.”

That the incident which had so suddenly and unexpectedly aroused the village had angered the warriors there was little doubt, for they now came crowding round the Mullah’s residence, and forgetting the humble manner in which they were apt to address him, demanded hotly that he should do something in the matter.

“It is a disgrace to our manhood!” cried one of them bitterly. “If these men, whoever they may prove to be, escape us, the tribes who live within touch of our camp will jeer and point the finger of disdain at us, and will speak of us as women, fit only to toil in household work, and handle the staff with which our corn is crushed, instead of shield and spear. Up, then, and lead us in the pursuit!”

That the indignant words had their due effect upon the Mullah was evident, for scarcely had the speaker ended the sentence when the door of the central hut flew open with a crash, and the leader sprang into the firelight, brandishing a sword above his head.

“Ay!” he shouted. “Women we should be, and worse! Dogs, indeed, to let these men get safely away. You have called upon me to show you how to act, and, therefore, stand still now and listen. These are the facts, as I see them. Our brothers are abroad between this and the desert, and it would be a clever fugitive who could contrive to slip between their ranks, even upon a dark night such as this is. It is clear, therefore, that these infidels have turned their faces in another direction. To the river, then! Rundown some of you, and see whether a trace of their flight cannot be discovered.”

At his order half a dozen of the men who surrounded him turned quickly, and rushing to the watch-fire, each picked up a smoldering brand, and ran off towards the river. By the time they had reached the banks the impact of the air upon the glowing ends of the wood had fanned them into flames, and converted them into excellent torches. Scattering with these in their hands, they proceeded to search every foot of the neighborhood, and ere long came upon signs which rewarded them for their trouble. Then a shout rang out in the air.

“Silence!” bellowed the Mullah, who had again taken his post upon the top of his hut. “Let every man remain quiet, so that we may hear what is said.”

“Our father is right,” shouted the man again. “He is a wise leader, indeed, for here are sure signs of the dogs who have disturbed us. Boats are missing from the banks, and by the aid of my torch I can see them on the farther side. Wait while I go over to look further into the matter.”

There was a splash as the Somali plunged into the water, and then, as all eyes were turned in that direction, he could be seen swimming sturdily by the aid of one arm and his legs, while with the other he held the flaring stake above his head. About him, the stream flashed and eddied, while the light was reflected from a thousand brilliant points, and clearly showed the seething wake which he left behind him. Then, ere he had traversed half the distance, another voice awoke the silence.

“Ha! Here is another boat!” one of the searching party shouted. “I can see it stuck high and dry upon the reef which crosses the river at the foot of the village. It is stranded and empty.”

“And here are five more!” called the first, who had now reached the opposite side, making a funnel of his hands, so that his voice should carry the more surely; “and by their side, and for some feet on the marshy edge of the water, the mud and grass is trampled by a hundred feet. It is clear that this alarm was caused by more than one of the enemy.”

For a minute there was silence as the Mullah cogitated, and then mindful of the fact that he must not hesitate—for to do so would be to show weakness before his followers—he once more issued his orders.

“Few or many, we must follow, and that at once,” he called. “Therefore, I command that the greater part of you at once cross the water and search out the tracks of these invaders. Others shall mount the fleetest horses we possess and gallop to their brothers with the word that they are to leap into their saddles and come hither like the wind. Then, with myself at their head to lead and guide them with my wisdom, we, too, will ford the stream and take up the chase. Be sure, my men, that Allah will aid us in this matter, as He has always done, for are we not brave and deserving of His favor?”

His followers were eager to obey his words, and before a quarter of an hour had passed some fifteen of them rode down to the water’s edge, and spurring their ponies into the water, swam them boldly across. Then with a forest of blazing torches held high above their heads, they took up the supposed tracks of the fugitives and followed them to the rocky and hard ground beyond. But here their cunning and native craft were baffled, for not a scratch, not a hoof-mark could be seen upon the uneven surface, in spite of the fact that each one of the warriors was trained in such matters, and possessed eyes as keen as those of a ferret. An hour passed, and still, they could make nothing of the difficulty and were compelled to send one of their number to the Mullah with a message to that effect.

“What! No further sign of them!” exclaimed the latter wrathfully, issuing from his hut. “I will return with you and see into this matter.”

Diving back into the darkness of his dwelling, he reappeared in a few minutes with a flowing robe about him and a rifle of modern workmanship in his hand. At a shout from one of the men near at hand, a pure-bred Arab, clean of limb, and with tossing mane, was led up by a native slave, who stood there, bridle in hand, holding the finely worked stirrup for his lord and master.

Scarcely had he arrived when the leader, disdaining the aid so invitingly held out towards him, leapt with a bound into the saddle. With the certainty of a practiced equestrian, his feet fell into the stirrups, while his left hand picked up the embroidered reins. Then, waving his rifle above his head, he plunged the cruel rowels with which his heels were armed into the flanks of the noble animal, which at once sprang forward with a bound that would have unseated any but an accomplished horseman.

With a snort and a shout from the rider, they plunged recklessly into the river and began to swim across. It was grand to see the manner in which the Arab thoroughbred clambered to the top of the bank beyond, and shook himself there like a dog, while the gleam of the torches shone upon his silky coat. It was splendid, too, to watch this Mullah, forgetful of intrigue and of the arts by which he maintained his authority over his followers, become a man again. Tossing the reins upon the animal’s neck, he placed a hand upon the pommel of the saddle, and then leapt lightly to the ground.

“A torch!” he cried sharply. “Fools! Give me one of the brands, that I may search with my own eyes. Ha! Now follow behind me, and beware how you tread, for I wish not to be led away by the footprints which you yourselves have made.”

Cowed by his fierceness, the search-party promptly obeyed his orders, falling in behind him, and following every movement he made.

“Let me start at the beginning, and then work from the river,” cried the Mullah, striding to the edge of the water, where he sank to his ankles in the soft mud. “Here is the groove which the prow of the boat cut as it was run to the shore, and here, deeply impressed in the ooze, is the sandal-mark of the man who first leapt overboard. See!” He turned, and digging his heels into the ground, so as to lend power to his arms, he dragged the craft still higher. “And here are the prints of those who followed him. One, two—I count eight of them, but—what is this? Each one is broad and long and of precisely the same pattern. It is strange that all the infidels who landed here should be possessed of feet which do not differ in size. We must be careful, for this enemy of ours is a cunning one, and has already proved difficult to deal with.”

Something had awakened the suspicion of this crafty leader, for, as if a sudden thought had come to him, he bent low, till his head and beard almost swept the ground, and peered at the various depressions to be seen there. Then he stalked away from the edge of the water, bearing the torch at his feet until he came to the broken ground beyond. He did not venture as yet, however, to give his views to those who accompanied him, but, satisfied that he would learn nothing more at that spot, he trudged across to where a second boat lay drawn up on the shore.

Repeating precisely the same process as before, he passed to the third and fourth in succession, and, finally, to the last. Only then, when there was no longer room for doubt in his own mind, did he permit his warriors to gain an inkling of his thoughts. But now the evidence of a ruse was so clear that there was no fear of making a blunder, and consequently of losing prestige amongst his men. Therefore, calling them about him with a peremptory wave of the torch, he addressed them in deep tones, which trembled, so great was his anger.

“Where would you be had you not myself to guide you?” he asked, staring each man in turn in the face. “You would be as children without a mother, as sheep without a herd. For, had it not been for my presence here tonight, you would have ridden your horses to this spot, and then, unmindful of the cunning of your enemies, would have galloped away into the country beyond, bent on hopeless pursuit. Listen! The dogs who came hither tonight, and disturbed the peace of our village, escaped by another way, leaving a trap behind them, in the hope that it would put you aside and give them a longer start. As I have said, had it not been for me, you would ere now have been gone on a useless mission, having fallen victims to this ruse.”

“A ruse?” shouted his followers, pressing closer in their eagerness. “We are not blind; but in this we cannot follow your thoughts, and cannot agree with all that you say.”

“Fools! Did I not declare that without your leader you are lost? Come with me, and I will show you the truth of my words.”

Grasping the nearest man by the shoulder, with such fierceness that he would have started back had not a hand detained him, the Mullah dragged him across the turf towards the spot where one of the native craft lay stranded. From there he proceeded to the others in turn, followed closely all the while by the remainder of the party.

“Have you no eyes?” he demanded impatiently, directing their attention to the various footprints. “Measure the marks in your minds, and tell me, if you can, that they do not resemble one another. Look! The sandal upon the right foot of the infidel who planned this trap had had a portion of its inner edge cut away by some jagged stone, and the mud tells us of it as surely as could the owner. Then search about, and you will find that every print of the right foot, whether here or at the other landing-places, bears the same impression.”

Following the directions of their leader, the warriors ferreted about beside the river, like so many dogs hunting for rats; and then, convinced of the wisdom of the Mullah, they returned to his side, feeling more than ever that he was, indeed, a mighty man.

“It is wonderful!” exclaimed one of them humbly. “You say truly that, had it not been for you, we should have entered upon a chase which would have been fruitless. Tell us, you who are our father, what is the reading that you gather from these signs. For my part, I could have sworn by Allah that no fewer than a hundred of the enemy had landed here.”

“A hundred! I read it that one alone came here, and having settled the boats in their various positions, swam back again to the village. Then, when the trap was ready, by which he hoped to smother his trail and throw dust in our eyes, he made the attempt which has proved successful. But he shall repent. By Allah! whom we all worship, and whose slaves we are, this dog of an infidel shall suffer. Here are my orders. Cross once more to the village, and then ride hard to join your comrades. Tell them that the fugitives are in their direction, and bid them capture them alive. When the day dawns, I shall expect to see my warriors riding back triumphant.”

Once more the Mullah treated each one in the party to a stern and critical inspection, and then, striding to where his Arab charger stood shivering in the cold night air, he vaulted into the saddle without touching the stirrup, and in a moment was plunging into the river again. With his rifle grasped in his left hand, and the reins hooked over the barrel, he forded the stream with the aid of the light cast by the flaming torch which he still retained. Half a minute sufficed for him to reach the opposite shore, when, turning in his saddle to take one backward glance at his followers, he tossed the brand into the river and spurred his animal on.

A few paces brought him to his own dwelling, which was surrounded by a host of excited women, who were still ignorant of the cause of the uproar, and were fearful for their lives. But he thrust them aside haughtily and springing nimbly to the ground, disappeared from view. A flickering light, however, showed that he did not seek repose, but was even then busily making preparations for the pursuit which was to be carried out on the morrow.

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