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by Albert Payson Terhune
Author of "The Treasure Jar."

"I'M GLAD you're as cross as you know how to be," observed Maia.

Perhaps the man did not hear. Certainly he did not heed. He sat looking blankly to westward, over the roofs of the city.

"Because," explained Maia brilliantly, "then you can't be any crosser than you are."

Even this perfect feminine logic did not shake the man into a reply. Maia Garth tried to crush him with a single look, but her glare was wasted. He did not see. He did not sec anything but the line of black Palisades to the westward—black against an only less black sky.

Maia poked daintily with a waxed-paper straw at a fugitive cherry that lurked elusive amid the ice fields at the bottom of her long glass. Then she looked—despairingly, this time—at the man; and, noting his fixity of look, let her own gaze follow his.

Out over the heat-baked roofs, dull and misty, broken by rectangles of smoky, furnace-like glare from the intersecting streets she gazed; then over the dimmer void that was the North River, to the inky wall of rock, its crest picked out here and there with diamond points of blue-white electric lights, that stood out so primly against the starless sky behind.

The spectacle did not inspire Maia. Indeed, it vaguely depressed her. And, coupled with her escort's fixed abstraction, it tended to bring on a fit of blues.

To shake off the cloud, she turned eastward and leaned over so that she could see above the parapet of the roof-garden into whose far comer their table was wedged. Here, forsooth, was a spectacle of life to drive away the most persistent blues from any one who dwelt upon the outer crust of his own soul.

Below snapped and sparked joy! Real, hand-made joy. A form of joy that it took an aged and otherwise sane Dutch city three centuries to evolve.

The hot night air was vibrant with light and sound. A swirl of color blended and tinged the sky. from the hundred different hues cast by Gargantuan electric signs— signs that seemed to hang unstained in midair, in the dark murk of the Summer evening.

And in this white street itself and in its cross currents loafed and panted and sweltered the pleasure chasers, for few are adrift on Broadway at nine o'clock of an August night for anything but amusement—amusement that is fresh and optimistic; amusement that has grown stale unto boredom; noisy or apathetic or shop-worn amusement. Vet the lights, the crowds, the racket, all merged into one rather stirring note by the time they reached the altitude of roof-garden parapet.

At any rate, Maia found it a vast improvement on watching a glum-faced man eying a glum-faced line of Palisades. And thus cheered, she tried to galvanize Moylan Kiel back to life again.

"I can't just now think," she mused aloud, "of a jollier way to spend an hour in Summer than in the corner of a roof-garden, looking from a seltzer-lemonade glass that is empty to a man whose expression makes the glass seem brim full by contrast."

"H'm!" murmured Kiel abstractedly.

"Perhaps so," she agreed meekly. "That's one way of looking at it, of course. Moylan, are you thinking of staying cranky much longer? I only ask because the Fraynes are over there at the fourth table. And if you could set a time limit on your sulkiness, 1 could go across and sit with them till then. Or——"

Kiel came out of his abstraction with a start. Some of her words, or else a sudden realizing of her displeasure and of his own remissness, seemed to revive him.

"That is Grantwood over there," he announced, with a general gesture toward the Palisade crest. "Somewhere along there; just a little to the north, I think."

"Wonderful!" she sighed in stark rapture. "This is worth sitting up for! Grantwood! Oh, think of it! I'll just step over and tell the Fraynes. They'd love to know."

Kiel shifted his eyes from the west and looked doubtfully at her. He had not clearly understood. Her effort at irony had quite escaped him. Now he tried to rally his flagging attention.

"I—I beg your pardon," he faltered confusedly, "I——"

"It's about time," she announced, sarcasm shifting in a breath to indignation, as she caught the note of semi-penitence. "When you asked me to come here with you this evening, I was foolish enough to be a little glad. Then you brought me to this hole-in-a-corner table. And since you ordered I don't think you've spoken twenty words."

"I'm sorry. You see——"

"I don't see. If you wanted to get on a housetop and glower in dead silence at New Jersey, why did you bring me along to watch you do it? There are more exciting ways for a girl to spend the evening. Moylan!" she broke off sharply; for his troubled eyes had left her face and were once more fixed broodingly on the Palisades.

This time her exclamation brought him permanently to himself.

"I'm sorry," he said again simply. "I really am. It was rotten of me. Will—will you let me tell you about it? I didn't want to—yet. I wanted it (or a surprise. That's why I asked you to come here. But if it was going to happen, it would have happened by now, I think, it's quarter past nine. And nine was the time he said——"

"If you'll put it into English," she interposed with labored patience, "perhaps I can understand part of it. Start at the subject before last. What about Grantwood? And then, passing lightly to the next cage, who is 'he'?"

"Grantwood." said Kiel, "is one of the dozen or so suburbs that fringe the top of the Palisades. Judge Gregg lives there."

"And it's out of friendship for your old chief that you stare at the Palisades he lives on? Loyal friend!"

"No," returned Kiel. "It's to see what he means to do."

"Oh," exclaimed Maia. "Certainly! If only you had a night glass and watched long enough you might even see him wind the clock and put out the cat."

"No," he corrected, "I might see him make my career, or set me adrift."

SHE looked at him keenly, and at the stolid earnestness in his face, her own lost its banter and annoyance. Leaning forward, she touched ever so lightly the tanned fists clenched together on the table top.

"Tell me," she said softly.

"They want him to go back to Damascus," answered Kiel. "You know how popular he was with the natives and the Turkish Government while we were there, he and I. I was only a kid at the time— the youngest vice-consul in the East, they said. But I was old enough to appreciate all that Judge Gregg was doing for Uncle Sam over there, and how he stood head and shoulders above the rest of the diplomatic bunch."

"You've told me. But I thought he came back to his law7 practise here because he was sick and tired of the East. Why should he go again?"

"'Once you've 'eard the East a-callin'," chanted Kiel, villainously off key, "'you won't 'eed nothin' else.'"


"The Government wants him to go back. The Syrians in New York have heard about it, and they heard he was undecided. So they went over there tonight—a big delegation of them—to wait on him; to make orations and pleas and other Oriental arguments to urge him to accept."

"But you don't think he will, do you?" asked Maia in real concern. "Why, Moylan, if he does, what will become of the plan to take you into partnership? You've built so on that plan, and——"

"I've built on it," he returned grimly, "a lot more than you can realize. Perhaps a lot more than you can care. As one of the hungry army of young lawyers in this over-lawyered city I'm barely able to keep my head above water. Another ounce of weight would sink me. And—and I've been longing lately to take on a good deal more than an extra ounce. It's meant everything to me. I hadn't any right to say so. I haven't, yet, till I'm perfectly certain the Judge won't accept."

His tone sent a faint red to her throat and forehead, and her breath came a little faster. But, as he paused, she did not reply.

"The Judge solved it all when he offered me the partnership the other day," went on Kiel. "As his partner my future was assured. He made the offer conditional on his refusing the Damascus job; but I gathered that he didn't mean to take it. It's always hard to tell just what good old Gregg will do. His training in law, and in diplomacy too, has made him pretty secretive. if he takes me into partnership I'm made. If he goes to Syria I'm going, too."


The negation broke involuntarily through Maia Garth's paling lips; and at the word a light crept into the man's eyes.

"I hope I won't have to," said he. "I'm not going as his vice-consul, as I went before. There's no future in that. I'm going to make money. I know how it can be done over there—in a hurry, too. A single stake. And the winning end of that stake is fortune. A chap tried it while I was at Damascus."

"And he won the fortune."

"No " hesitated Kiel. "He blundered. And he won—the other thing. But I sha'n't. I figured out the whole business, long ago, just as a matter of curiosity. And I rut on a way to do it in safety, perfect safety.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm sick of plodding along on nothing a week and of working ten hours a day to get it. I manage to get bread, a roof and cheap clothes. That is all. If this partnership scheme falls through, I mean to win enough at a single throw to put me on 'Easy Street'—enough to give me the one thing in life I want."

"But what is this 'single throw'? What is the venture that you say is safe for you, but that seems to have cost some one else his life?"

She spoke with growing uneasiness. For the first time he withdrew his gaze wholly from the dark west and looked steadily at her.

"The Shem-es-Nabi," made answer, half whispering the words.

"If you are beginning to talk Arabic again," she said vexedly, "just stop to remember that all of us haven't had your advantage of being the son of a missionary and of spending our childhood in Syria. A few of us are more at home with our own language."

"The 'Shem-es-Nabi,'" he explained, too eager to be rebuffed by the interruption, "is literally, 'The Sun of the Prophet.' It was Mohammed's signet-ring."


"It was the ring that Mohammed took from the dead hand of the Negus of Abyssinia, who was slain in battle by the Moslem hordes, back in the seventh century. It was supposed to be a talisman of vast power. The Negus had looted it from a Parsee shrine. On the jade stone of the ring is carved a rising sun. And there are hieroglyphs under it."

"What about it?"

"It is one of the 'Six Treasures of the Moslem Faith.' The Islamites look on it with a veneration that couldn't make you understand. It is kept under guard at the Scrail in Damascus, and it is on view only three times a year. It will next be shown four weeks from today. And if Judge Gregg upsets my hopes by going to the East again, I'm going to take it, that day."

"Are you crazy?"

"Not yet."

"But how——"

"A silver-gilt reproduction of the Shem-es-Nabi was made by the Sultan's orders, years ago, and given to Judge Gregg as a special mark of honor. Only a fair copy, but good enough to deceive a casual onlooker—especially in the dim light of the Serail. The Judge gave it to me as a memento when we left Damascus. I have it at home, It would be easy for a man who was quick with his hands to substitute it for the real treasure and to get out of the city before the exchange could be found out."

"The exchange? The theft, you mean! If I didn't know you were joking——"

"How would it be theft? Whose ring is it? Mohammed stole it from the dead Negus and the Negus first stole it from a Parsee temple, to which it had probably , been brought as a votive offering by the general or the sheik who stole it from its original sun-worshiping owner. One can't well steal what is already stolen and whose rightful ownership was buried in obscurity nearly a thousand years ago. The ring is as much mine, or yours, or anybody's, as it is the Turkish Government's."

"That's sophistry."

"That's sense. But we don't need to argue it. For I'm perfectly sure now that there'll be no need to go for it. But if there were—well, the Sultan's people would pay enough for the ring's return to keep me comfortable forever. And then a while longer."

"You'd probably be caught."

"No, I know the country too well. I'd have framed up my line of escape. And when I got back here I'd treat with Turkey at long range."

"It's horrible! And however much you gloss it over it wouldn't be honest. I'm glad you don't have to do it. But why do you say there'll be no need to go? A few minutes ago you were afraid Judge Gregg might——"

"The delegation must have finished its addresses and its pleas half an hour ago. And he has refused."

"What makes you think so?"

"I know the Syrian customs. And I know from Krikorian, their chairman, that they've brought along the usual big box of fireworks. If the Judge's answer were 'yes,' then—a hundred dollars' worth of fireworks in ten minutes; and three hours' lawn-cleaning for the Judge's gardener tomorrow morning. That's why I watched the Palisades so closely, till long after nine o'clock."

"Oh, I see! And I thought you were sulking. I'm sorry I——"

"Sulking? Worse than that. It meant everything to me; the loss of everything I'd been longing for; the need to go out to Damascus on my great venture. Do you wonder I couldn't see or hear anything else till the danger grew less?"

"But why didn't you tell me beforehand? Then we could have watched together."

"Because I was afraid to. Because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to tell you without telling you something else—something I'm going to tell you, whether you want to hear it or not, the moment I'm certain there's no chance of his accepting. Do you mind if I leave you for a minute? It s a certainty by this time that he's refused. But I want to call him up and clinch it. Till then I've no right to say——"

A LITTLE gasp from the girl broke in on his speech. Her face had whitened and her eyes all at once had grown larger.

Moylan Kiel saw that she had shifted in her chair and was staring westward. He whirled back to his neglected post of vigil in time to see a red rocket burst high in air above the Palisades, just to the north, showering the black night with sparks and jets of falling scarlet flame.

Man and girl looked at each other in tense silence for a full minute; while a second rocket, then a third and a fourth, cut huge hairy arcs in the dull Jersey sky and strewed the lower air with their varicolored stars.

Then Moylan Kiel rose just a little unsteadily to his feet and held out his hand. "Do you mind," he asked quietly, "if we go home now? There's a French liner sailing at dawn. And I've a bit of packing to do."

"A French liner?" she echoed vaguely.

"To Havre," he explained, as if laying out a tour for some one in whom be felt no interest. "Then across by land to Marseilles. I'll just catch a messagerie boat there for Port Said. Three days at most from there to Damascus. Perhaps two, if I can make the right——"

"Damascus! Moylan, you're not——"

"Please don't," he begged her very gently. "Shall we go now?"

Dumb from plenitude of speech rather than from its dearth, she followed him to the elevator. A backward glance showed her the western skyline, at one point, fairly snapping with fireworks that danced and whizzed and sputtered, and otherwise profaned the solemn night of Summer.

She said no word, nor did Kiel, as they chugged uptown in a wheezing taxicab through the sick heat and smells of the streets. But, the door of the Garth apartment reached, and the motor-brigand dismissed, Maia spoke her mind. She spoke it briefly and in a low tone, but very much to the point.

She told the sullenly listening Kiel just what a criminally reckless and recklessly criminal exploit he was planning. She proved clearly that no man in his senses would set forth on such an errand, and that no one who was not at heart dishonest could so much as give the scheme a second thought.

She said he would break her heart with worry. Also that she should not give him a second thought nor would she care what might befall so evil a man. She told him that the taking of the Shem-es-Nabi would be wicked theft that no wretched legal sophistry could condone, and that a man who could do such a thing and make any girl so miserably unhappy by going into danger was not worthy her bothering over.

She did not play the virago, nor did she cry. She was a brave little girl. Her voice shook, it is true, and she spoke very fast—in fact, some of her words and even sentences had to be guessed, and Moylan guessed them with fearful correctness.

One thing, however, she did not leave to his imagination nor to the chances of guesswork. At the end of her little speech, and when a bad cold began to impede her diction, she said slowly and distinctly that if Kiel should persist in his wildly sinful intent he need never, never come to see her— or try to communicate with her upon his return. The acquaintance would end, here and now.

To which he retorted that if he did not go the acquaintance must end anyhow, since he had reached the point where it could no longer be mere acquaintance, and as finances would never, under present conditions, reach the stage where it could be anything stronger.

With which grumbled morsel of repartee he kissed her, before she could prevent him and then strode tragically and rapidly away before she could rebuke him—a double unfairness that was perhaps the cause of her sleepless and somewhat lacrimose night.

At daybreak Maia called up Kiel's rooms. She had framed a new and absolutely irrefutable set of arguments against his going to Syria, but she had no chance to deliver them. For, after a century's wait, Central reported with blithe optimism—

"909090 Gram'cy don't seem to answer."

Then Maia called up Judge Gregg, whom she had never met.

The telephone toll from New York to Grantwood-on-the-Palisades is ten cents for five minutes. Maia's total bill was ninety cents. And at that she continued the talk, an hour later, in the Judge's Nassau Street office. And many times thereafter.


"LA ILLAHA ILLA 'LL AH!" smugly intoned an Imám. in pious and questioning salutation of the somewhat foreign-looking devotee in native garb who lounged past him out of the Serail at Damascus, just four weeks later.

And the man who the Imam had at first thought might be an outlander infidel utterly disarmed suspicion by whining unctuously in flawless Syrian Arabic—

"Sâïdna Ma'moud rasôul Alláh!"

With which speech Moylan Kiel slouched forth from the Government building with the Shem-es-Nabi safely reposing in the breast of his abieh.

He went at snail's pace until he rounded the comer. Then, tucking up his robe, he ran at top speed through twisty streets and foul alleyways until he reached the native house where he lodged.

Safe in his stone-floored room there, he drew forth the ring and laid it on a tabouret near the one small barred window. The light was better than in the Serail treasure room, but not brilliant. So far as Kiel could see by it, the Shem-es-Nabi was not greatly different, on close examination, from the imitation he had so deftly substituted for it.

The band of gold was old and badly worn, so badly that its row of hieroglyphs was well-nigh effaced. There was a crack across the jade stone, splitting transversely the rude carving of a rising sun.

From its general aspect, Kiel judged that an antiquary might have given ten dollars for the ring, as it stood. Scarcely more. Yet this was one of Islam's Six Treasures—the relic supposedly endowed with magic powers, which the Prophet himself had handed down as an all-prized heirloom to those of the Faith who should come after him. For more than twelve hundred years it had been guarded with adoring reverence, none of Islam's sons for a moment questioning its potency.

For a treasure so jealously watched over, its theft had been absurdly easy.

Kiel had reached Damascus but a day or two before the thrice-a-year exhibition of the Relics, at the Serail. There, vouched for by a local muezzin—whose total lack of previous acquaintance with the foreigner was easily bridged by a judicious use of bakshish—he had entered the treasure chamber with a line of devotees.

As he passed the guarded little shrine he had stumbled awkwardly over the hem of his robe, had lurched forward and had caught at the shrine to save himself from falling. Then as two soldiers and a priest had sprung at him he had recovered his balance, salaaming low. And as soon as possible he had withdrawn from the room and from the building, having neatly palmed the ring and left in its place the substitute presented to him by Judge Gregg.

Now that the first and worst peril was past, his wits rose to the next step. Within an hour or two the room at the Serail would be closed. The ring and the other treasures would be put back in their proper resting places. Then, infallibly, the guardian of the Shem-es-Nabi would discover the fraud, and the alarm would flash throughout all the Moslem world.

Fanatic zeal would wing the search, and that search would be of a sort not lightly eluded. Yes, and if it were not successfully eluded, there would be consequences that Moylan Kiel did not care to contemplate. There is no legal death penalty in Turkish dominions, but criminals sometimes disappear, and when they do they arc seldom found again, even in sections.

Clearly, there was no time to be lost in getting out of the Ottoman Empire. The shortest way to the coast from Damascus is by way of Beirut. Next to that, a journey southward to Jerusalem and Jaffa, or a trip over the mountains westward to Tyre or Sidon, or some other coast town where ships touch.

Wherefore, as Kiel had already forecasted, every one of those ports would be watched with a vigilance that would make the all-seeing Eye of Mormonism seem strabismic. The customs folk, with an array of police-spy helpers, would infallibly search to the skin every departing native or tourist.

And Kiel had laid his plans accordingly. Having wasted a bare half minute in the inspection of his booty, he wrapped the ring in a dirty amulet case such as desert travelers wear, and strapped it firmly beneath the bend of his left knee. He covered this strap with a ragged cloth on which were traces of dried blood. It was a typical Syrian bandage—one that would have brought tears of horror to the eyes of a first-year medical student.

Then, arranging his small hoard of money in a turban and putting it on his head, he wrapped his other belongings in a big bundle, slung it over his shoulder and, with a serviceable old-fashioned army pistol stuck prominently in his belt, sallied forth.

Through an alley he wound his way. Thence to the bazaar section, with its rattan-woven roofs of brown, through which the East's yellow light filters coolly down upon the shop-lined byways. The bazaars were crowded, for the heat of the day was passing, and Kiel was forced to slacken his pace more than once as the foot-crowds were jostled aside to permit the passing of some laden camel or string of donkeys, or a rich man's horse.

The bazaars were left behind, after an interminable time, and he swung out into the clearer passage of "The Street That Is Called Straight"—the oldest street, with a name, on earth.

In time this merged into walled orchards and then into open spaces where scavenger dogs and black-winged gray crows squabbled over carrion.

A final turn brought Kiel into a field where a swarm of men were loafing idly about a dozen busy natives who were engaged in arranging loads upon the backs of as many kneeling camels.

This was Kiel's first stopping-place, and he drifted unobserved into the throng of onlookers.

"Ohé!" a gorilla-faced man in a once-white caftan and a green turban was squalling. "Ohé, Mulai, brother of ten thousand infidels! How can the leader camel move without a breaking back when you load her with three hundred pounds on the left side and with but two hundred on the right? Is her back as unbalanced as your swinish brain, O descendant of the donkey folk.

He bustled off to where a mangy dun camel was kneeling, and to a fat giant near the beast's head he shouted furiously:

"Imshi, Child of Gehenna! Be off to the gutters where you belong. Where learned you to load a caravan camel? How think you the brute will rest at night when on neither side, as he kneels, the load touches the ground? Shall we be dragging after us a worn-out saddle-galled camel before the third day? Halil, show this fool of many thumbs how to adjust the load."

From camel to camel the caravan owner moved, now nodding with an approving grunt, now shrieking imprecations whose utterances seemed to threaten him with apoplexy. To his men—as to all Oriental porters—this tirade was a daily affair, and they took it with true Eastern apathy.

AS THE owner paused a moment on his tour, Kiel approached him. "O Brother of Giants," said Moylan ceremoniously, "may you lie where rose leaves shall fall upon your tomb!"

"May you live to scatter them there!" surlily vouchsafed the owner.

Not that he had the remotest wish of the sort nor even a rudimentary desire to be civil. But the Oriental etiquette, which demands that a conversation open with a compliment, also demands that the initial compliment be capped by one more florid, and this foreign-looking stranger looked too prosperous for the caravan owner to kick.

"You start for Bagdad?" queried Kiel.

"Yes," returned the owner more interestedly. "Have you freight? My journey is thirty-five days, to the hour. I have one camel—by the grace of Allah and to your own blessed fortune—that is not laden. Five hundred pounds she can bear. And my price for safe delivery' of her cargo will be but——"

"I have no freight."

The owner, in disgust, turned back to his work of supervision. He had no time and less inclination for answering idle queries.

But I wish to go as a passenger," announced Kiel, loudly enough for all around him to hear, and speaking with a studied nervousness. "I am in haste to reach Bagdad. Can you let me ride with you and spare me food?"

No! snarled the owner.

"Bismillah," carelessly returned Moylan, and walked off.

The owner let him go a few steps. Then, finding he showed no sign of coming back, ran after him.

"One hundred medjidie," he said.

"Robbery!" wailed Kiel.

"The miles of the journey are long, O Effendi!" explained the native.

"But the feet of my brother's camels are swift as the wings of the day'," replied Kiel, in true Eastern bargain tone, "and they are in grace like to the sacred beast that bore the Prophet—on whom be peaces—from Medina. I am stricken and poor. I do not own a hundred medjidie."

"Eighty-nine," countered the camel-man, now in Ids element as a trafficker.

"Inshallah! Is my purse so red with gold? I am poor. What says the blest Koran? 'He that hearkeneth not unto the cry' of the True Believer who is needy——'"

"Eighty," retorted the other.

"It is sheer theft!" moaned Kiel right loudly. "But my need is great. I accept!"

The camel-man had great ado to keep from bursting into tears. He had asked a hundred medjidie for a passage worth thirty. And he had hoped by judicious bargaining to get his customer to pay forty. Now, starting at a hundred, he had been taken up when he got to eighty. And he cursed his stars that he had not in the first place demanded from the spendthrift fool five hundred.

The listening crowd, too, murmured loudly in wonder at such a bargain. Tongues were certain to wag in the bazaars on the morrow' anent the man whose need for instant departure from Damascus was so great that he paid almost treble the regulation passage money for the privilege.

"Eighty medjidie" the discomfited owner at last found breath to acknowledge, adding as a clever afterthought:

"Half in advance. The rest at the oasis of——"

A commotion from the rear of the crowd drew all eyes away from the chaffering. The hero of the place had just come into the Square of Caravans. He was a huge negro, clad in spotless white; a kinky beard and shaven upper lip distinguishing him from the other blacks scattered through the throng.

His reception by the idlers reminded Kiel strongly of the entrance of Escamillo, the Toreador, in "Carmen."

This black giant was a local hero, the demigod of loafers and camel-men alike. Even the arrogant little caravan owner deigned to smile pleasantly at him, for the newcomer was the great Ben Nassar Raad, mail-carrier between Damascus and Bagdad. Where the ordinary plodding caravan took from five to six weeks to make the tedious journey across the Syrian Desert, Raad on his Bisharin racing camel covered the distance in ten brief days —a feat that called forth the wondering admiration of all Syria.

To him sand-storm, Bedouin raid, perils of thirst, of sickness, of sunstroke, were matters for easy scorn. Was he not the fearless Raad whom no less a personage than the Pasha himself was wont to salute in the bazaar?

Kiel grudgingly paid down his forty medjidie advance money to the caravan owner, finding and counting out each piece with a separate groan. As he finished the operation his glance momentarily crossed that of Raad—Raad whose pet he had been as a child, in the mission house at Nabous—Raad, with whom he had passed an important hour the previous day—Raad, who at this minute had in his money-belt three hundred medjidie which Kiel had turned over to him twenty-four hours earlier.

The negro's gaze traveled carelessly past Kiel, and the redoubtable mail-carrier continued on his way to the comer of the field where his two camels were cared for by a black attendant.

Between these two camels and those of the caravan there was as much difference as between a Percheron and a thoroughbred race horse. Gray-white in hue, they were clean of limb, graceful as fawns, unbelievably swift.

One was for Raad's use; the other was to traverse the desert journey, alongside, in case of accident or emergency. He rode each on alternate trips.

Both now were well rested from the last jaunt from Bagdad. Their spongy feet were free from abrasions. Their humps were high and pendulous. At a pinch, and if not meantime supplied with water, both were able to travel a hundred leagues, across desert sands, in five days.

But at the end of such a forced ride their humps would be little larger than a man's two fists, and they would be as savage as sick bears. And, after stopping for water, they would be loggy and slow for the next two days.

"The mail-carrier starts when we do?" Kiel asked the caravan owner.

"Not he!" sneered the latter. "He is too proud to start with common folk. And he starts after star-shine, that he may make his first twelve hours in the cool. Mount your camel, Effendi. We start. Mleh!"

His cry of "Mleh!" was taken up by his men. Kiel jumped to his kneeling mount. Grunting and bubbling, the twelve heavy-laden draft camels scrambled to their feet and, of their own accord, took their proper alignment for the march.

It was not Moylan Kiel's first, nor hundredth, experience in the unlovely art of camel riding. He understood the knack of getting into the divan-like, high-pommeled saddle and, once there, how to dispose of the painful excess of leg length that such a position always develops.

He did not even feel the almost universal qualm that assails amateur riders when a camel rises pitchingly to its feet and strikes its gait—a gait not unlike the motion on a ship deck in a choppy sea.

Off moved the twelve-beast caravan in triple alignment, four deep, sixty feet between ranks, out of the Square of the Caravans and outward toward the barely visible strip of sand that lay like a yellow sword-blade, a day's journey to the northeast.

Kiel settled himself, as nearly comfortable as an outlander may, on his huge saddle. He caught the rough, sagging motion and swayed his body, native fashion, to it. He was the only rider. The natives at this early stage of the journey chose to plod afoot beside their ungainly charges. Later, when the desert sands should begin to burn the feet and the desert suns to play unholy tricks with the eyes, they would be clamoring for their turn to climb atop the more lightly burdened of the brutes.

The owner, first removing from his feet a pair of vehemently scarlet slippers and slinging them over his shoulder for safety, took his place at the head of the caravan. A tiny gray bell-donkey pattered sturdily at his side—the donkey that is the mascot, the real guide, the highly important leader of every Syrian caravan.

Camels may bolt, may sulk, may go musth, may exhibit in any fifty ways an artistic temperament that would make a prima donna seem stolid by comparison indeed, they usually do. At such times all human power over them sinks into obscurity compared to the control exerted by that one sober little gray donkey. The tinkle of its bell is more potent than the frenzied howls of all the professional drivers in Islamlik.

Kiel remembered, from his vice-consular days, the case of a quasi-humorous American who had been haled to the Damascus Serail, on the grave accusation of lese-majeste, for propounding to his Syrian dragoman the conundrum—

"Why is the Ottoman Empire like a string of camels?"

The answer, "Because it is led by a donkey," had been taken by the dragoman as of doubtful compliment to the Sultan. He had so reported it, and Judge Gregg had needed all the influence of the consulate to clear the ribald one.

Kiel, familiar with the surrounding country, knew to an inch where the caravan would rest for the night. He knew, too, that the present jolting would be of short duration, since, whether a caravan starts at dawn or at dusk, its first day's journey is precisely forty furlongs—no more nor less —and it has been so from the birth of history, for what cause no living man knows, any more than it is known why the universal speed of all camel caravans is gaged to the second at sixteen furlongs an hour.

Wherefore, by Kiel's calculations, the night's rest would occur a hundred yards beyond the Tomb of Assad, five miles from the Square of the Caravans, and the halt would be called in just two and one-half hours from the time of starting. It was to prevent a premature halt that the start had been delayed until after the late afternoon call to prayer.

The forecast was wholly correct, as forecasts involving Eastern customs—but not Eastern temperaments—are more than reasonably certain to be. Just beyond the tomb the camels were made to kneel, and there, still laden, they were left for the night while fires were lighted and food prepared.

His labors and his vocal efforts momentarily ended, the caravan owner looked about for his passenger, with whom he had decided, during the five-mile walk, to have a most interesting and profitable conversation.

He was barely in time to see Kiel walking slowly away from the firelight radius out into the starry darkness, to southward, his bundle over his back. That a man should needlessly carry any burden was beyond the grasp of the owner's Oriental mind, and he inferred that Kiel, stretching his legs after the ride, had feared to leave his bundle behind lest it be looted.

The incident gave the Syrian a desirable peg whereon to hang his carefully prepared talk.

"OHÉ, Effendi!" he hailed Moylan.

The latter moved on without turning. The pursuer's short legs were put to their best to catch up the passenger two hundred yards away from camp.

"What does this mean?" raged the caravan owner, in a rage not wholly made to order, when at length he ranged alongside his quarry. "Why do you carry your luggage when you stray? My men are honest. I am their master—I, Imbarak the Honest."

"Well," laughed Kiel, glancing about him and then laying down his bundle in the narrow camel track that links Damascus with Bagdad, "what then, O Imbarak the Honest? May I not do as I will with mine own?"

"Your own?" scoffed Imbarak. "'Tis the catchword of every thief."


"No man pays triple passage money unless he is in flight," summed up Imbarak; "no man guards a bundle unless it be precious. You are a thief. You have stolen that which is of value and puts the black fear into your heart. You are in flight."

"Well?" repeated Kiel amiably. "What then, my little man?"

The calmness of the accused rudely shook Imbarak's convictions that he was a thief. For do not thieves—Syrian thieves—on accusation, ever beat their breasts and cry aloud upon Allah to witness their innocence?

Yet of one thing Imbarak was right certain—Kiel must have had some powerful reason for leaving Damascus in haste, to have made him pay so exorbitant a price. And, whatever the reason might be, its very existence sufficed Imbarak the Honest.

"When I took you as my passenger," said he, "I consented to a low fare, since you besought me in the name of Allah the Merciful and because you vowed you were poor. You are not poor. And you are a thief. Therefore I will take you no step beyond this."

"No? Then I must walk back to Damascus to await the next caravan, and meantime to lay information before the Cadi against one Imbarak the Honest, who hath robbed me of forty medjidie in passage-money."

"You dare not go before the Cadi. For I, too, shall return, at your side, and 1 shall tell why I refuse to let you bring ill fortune to honest folk by remaining on the march with us. On suspicion you will be searched and——"

"Exactly. How much?"

Here was a man with a soul too gross for the bliss of bargaining, and with a sigh of joys foregone, Imbarak the Honest replied—

"Nine hundred medjidie."

"Oh, Offspring of the Gadarenes," observed Kiel, "if I possessed nine hundred medjidie I would not be traveling with outcasts upon lame and mange-stricken camels, owned by a pickpocket of the bazaars."

To be termed a pickpocket and to hear his men referred to as outcasts was a mere every-day pleasantry that ruffled Imbarak the Honest not at all, but a slur on one's camels is as mortal an insult as is an affront to one's religion. And at the expressions "lame and mange-stricken" Imbarak figuratively and literally soared high in air, and he came down bodily upon Kiel, ugly curved belt-knife in fist.

Kiel took the assault as philosophically as a move in a chess-game. It was, in fact, a move he himself had prepared, and he was quite ready for it.

Imbarak struck downward—a move in Syrian knife-fighting that means merely a wound or a scratch, as differentiated from the gruesome up-thrust and its subsequent wrench of the crooked blade.

Kiel neatly blocked the blow with his bundle—which received thereby a mortal wound in its vitals—and with his right fist caught the Honest Imbarak flush on the left point of the chin.

The caravan man was transformed into a limp huddle of twitching clothes.

"He ought to be good for at least five minutes," mused Kiel, as he hurried cityward along the camel track, "unless I've forgotten how to put steam into a right lead."

A hundred yards farther on he stopped, as a soft quadruple pad-pad-pad of spongy feet broke on his ear. Two camels, huge in the gloom, rose ever larger, in his path.

"Raad!" called Moylan softly.

"It was well played, Howaji!" laughed the negro as he made the led camel kneel to receive its new burden. "Yet it is worth my commission if it be found out. Here are the swathing-cloths. Wrap them as I taught you, else you will be shaken to a jelly before the ten days be past. Now, mount and ride. We can reach Bagdad and you can leave it, full ten days ahead of the hue and cry"


MAIA GARTH had made it clear—very painfully clear—that Kiel's venture in quest of the Shem-es-Nabi would mark the end of his acquaintance with her. She had told him so, many times and from different angles, that August night when he left her at the door of her apartment. She had expressly forbidden him to hold any further communication with her on his return from the East.

For which excellent reasons, Moylan went to the Garth apartment direct from the ship. He arrived at a barbarously early hour and had the good fortune to find her at home and momentarily devoid of visible relatives. It was not an average condition, and he took hope.

She received him as if he had called barely a day before, instead of after a lapse of more than two months; nor did a shade of expression show she noted how thin and how brown he had grown, and that a queer hunted look was still lurking at the back of his eyes.

"Well?" was her cryptic greeting.

"I have it," was his, as he drew forth the Shem-es-Nabi.

"So I see," she answered, scarcely glancing at it, "but you've forgotten something."

"I—I don't——"

"That I don't care to number thieves among my friends."

"It isn't theft!" he burst forth. "I explained that——"

"I don't want to discuss it. Will you go now, please?"

He looked at her and he saw she was far worse than angry. She was entirely herself —cool, unruffled, pleasantly firm. He read no possible change of verdict in her clear eyes.

"As you like," he said, feeling all at once very sick and old. "I got this thing, and I risked my life to get it. Then I dodged the knife of a camel-man to keep it. Then I made a ten-day trip that was a hospital-furnace nightmare, fringed with two Bedouin chases, a touch of sunstroke and a day of sand blindness. I've spent every dollar I had on earth—all for this measly relic, and for what it meant to me. And now it—it means nothing."

"Nothing at all," she assented sweetly.

"Good-by!" he muttered, trying to find the door.

"It is good-by," she agreed. "I'm sorry, but it is."

He paused, looked at the ring in his palm, then again at her.

"You've made your choice," she reminded him, in an access of tact.

"Yes!" he growled. "I've made it. Just this minute. If it weren't for this tiling, you'd let me——"

"Isn't it too late to think of that?"

"No. I'll—I'll send it back. I'll—have it sent to the Serail at Damascus, if you'll——"

"Are you in earnest?"

"Do I look like a merry jester?"

"It means all that to you?"

"What's the use of rubbing it in? You know what it means, even though I've no right now, to tell you, and probably never shall have. Let it go at that. I can keep on coming here sometimes if I send this ring back?"


He looked again at the ring, then looked only at her and tried to forget that he had ever dreamed and ventured.

You'd have saved time and money," she went on unkindly, "by believing me when I said the same thing last August."

I thought I thought when you saw what I had done, and—and knew it meant wealth——"

"I tried to catch you by cable; but——"

I didn't use my own name. It was safer not to."

"I see. And how will you the ring back?"

I'll send it to Judge Gregg. He must be there by now. He'll manage the diplomatic part of the business."

There was another miserable pause. Then Maia twisted the subject.

"There's an Italian colony on the Palisades just south of Grantwood," she observed irrelevantly.

He looked at her in tired perplexity, but made no comment on the wondrous news. She continued:

"It seems they had a fiesta of some sort out there—a Saint's Day, or something—last August. Bands and—and fireworks."


The word woke uncomfortable memories.

"Yes. Rockets and things. A lot of them. At night, you know."

And at last a gleam of intelligence dawned in Moylan's deadened brain.

"Rockets?" he babbled feebly. "Not the night when we——?"


"But Judge Gregg——"

"Judge Gregg is still waiting impatiently for a man he wants as a law partner."


"He is a dear," pursued Maia enthusiastically. "I like him. We've become pretty well acquainted these last two months, he and I."


"He talks so interestingly about the East. For instance he told me a secret—a terribly secret secret—the Sultan told him. Want to hear it?"

Moylan was too busy digesting facts to reply. But she took his assent for granted.

"THE Sultan told him," said she, "that the Shem-es-Nabi has been locked in the treasure vaults under Yildiz Kiosk for three hundred 3'ears. An imitation of it is on view at Damascus. Or, rather, a series of imitations. For they are stolen at the rate of three a year. So a big supply is kept on hand. The Sultan gave one to Judge Gregg. Every now and then a story is carefully circulated that some one has been killed for stealing the ring."


"You didn't steal anything. You just traveled across the world to change one copy of a ring for another. Wasn't it funny? And—Oh, you bad, poor boy! Don't look like that! How thin you are, and how brown; and—oh, it's a shame:, dear!"