THE PARIAH DOG
This is the second and concluding instalment of Norman Reilly Raine’s gripping story of adventure and intrigue on the Sudanese desert. We left Captain Elliott alone in the mad swirl of the sandstorm which followed the defeat of his column at Jebel Salmi. Here we find him striving desperately to salvage his honor from the wreckage of that disaster.
Norman Reilly Raine
A SERIAL IN TWO PARTS: PART TWO
AS LIFE drains from the cheek of a dying man, leaving it grey and ashen, so passed the sand-storm from the face of the desert.
The drifted sand lay in an unbroken sheet, save where the bodies of the fallen raised nubbles on the smooth expanse. Silence reigned, and utter solitude. Jebel Salmi, grim and desolate, showed no sign of life. The dom palms at El Gabu reared their slender stems into the blue, while, far overhead, the specks of waiting vultures wheeled and circled in search of prey.
In the lee of a shrouded camel Elliott slowly was recov-' ering consciousness. After one or two futile attempts he managed to force himself to his feet and stood, gently swaying, his figure dwarfed in the stupendous bowl of the desert, like the last occupant of a dead planet. Dumbly striving for coherency of thought and movement, he turned and surveyed the still forms about him, but the sight raised no emotion save one of vague fellowship. He lifted his dull gaze to Jebel Salmi, sinister, aloof, and it drew him, directing him toward it as though a speaking voice commanded. His brain w’as full of whirling thoughts of which consciousness touched but the rim. He must climb Jebel Salmi to . . . to . . .he did not know, but it called to him with never-ceasing tongue.
Shaking his head, he set off at a shambling half-run toward the western spur, stumbling, falling heavily and rising again, driven by a mental lash he could not grasp to the sphinx-like mockery of the death-strewn slope. After a time he gained the rear of the position; to have gone up the face would have been easier, but he was beyond logic, so he began a crazed, upward scramble over rock and through the thorns of close-matted bushes. He entered the mouth of a steep, narrow and deep defile leading to the summit. Half way up he passed the bodies of five men in uniform—Earrell’s men—and on top of the hill, two more. Here, physical weakness called a halt. Scattered about him, half buried in sand or huddled under the thorn scrub were the shapeless, blood-stained heaps of dead Bedouins, mute testimony to the marksmanship of Elliott’s own men.
Once more he got under way and plowed heavily along the crest, the thorns jabbing his unheeding flesh as he made his way to the eastern end. His brain burned; visions raced on a whirlpool before his mind, and in that red vortex was one scene, and that but half-comprehended. He knew now, though, why he had come to Jebel Salmi. Raising his voice in a thin, aimless cry, he plunged down the face of the hill until he came upon what he sought—the bullet-riddled frame of Badul Halim lying on his face between two great rocks. The Canadian sank to his knees and shook him, gently, at first, then roughly, and called his name. Turning him over with one arm—for the other dangled useless by his side—he gazed into the filmed eyes and called him again by name. Getting no response his voice became querulous, complaining. At last the truth percolated, and the Egyptian’s head, never so handsome as now, with that colossal calm upon its young brow, slipped from his arm onto the sand. Lips moving with unuttered words, Elliott staggered once more to the top of the hill.
When he reached the eastern extremity he halted and gazed down. Then his ear caught a faint shout and he listened, not greatly interested, to an oft-repeated cry for help.
“Wha’ do you want?” he yelled drunkenly in reply, dully annoyed at this disturber of his solitude; then, as the calling increased, he stumbled down the hill. Halfway he stopped and again vaguely demanded to know what was wanted. His answer was a choking cry which appeared to issue from directly beneath his feet. He stepDed forward, laughing inanely at this Drank of a
fellow who hailed one from under the ground. The earth gave way and he fell a few feet, landing heavily on the
“Damn it, George!” he snapped, “—you did that! What’s the idea?” He advanced angrily toward a shallow cave spooned out of the side of the hill, but there his choler gave way to laughter again. Silly, wasn’t it? Thought old Farrell’d shoved him, but how the devil could he, when here he was, lying on the floor of the cave, trussed like a pig for market with ten of his men around him?
It was a splendid joke, so he sat on the sand and enjoyed it, while Farrell’s horrified eyes took in the torn and bloody uniform, the caked and matted scalp, the useless arm in its soaking sleeve, and the wild, blue eyes, filled with a strange, hard light.
Farrell, by a stupendous effort, rolled himself toward him. “Elliott, old man—in God’s name what has happened?” he said.
The other stared vacantly back at him, and smiled. Farrell spoke again.
“Elliott! Elliott! Wake up, man! Have you got a knife? . . . yes yes! a knife! Get it out then, and cut me loose from these damned thongs! . . . I say, cut me loose, yes! Do you hear? . . ah—that’s better
. . now this side . . . that’s right! . . wait a minute—I can wriggle out of the rest alri—” He stopped abruptly and quickly cast away the remainder of his bonds as the jack-knife slipped from his friend's nerveless fingers and he slacked forward upon his face.
Under the Irishman’s ministrations he soon revived, and, when able to travel, the little party left the cave and commenced the long journey across the desert to Tel-elRahib. Crossing the plain of El Gabu, dotted with sandshrouded heaps from which protruded an arm or head or the swelling belly of a camel, Farrell's lips grew white and hot devils flickered in his eyes. He thought to while the tedium of steady plodding by relating the misadventure of his Lewis gun force, but desisted when he saw that little of any of it was understood. With frequent halts for rest, they plowed through the heavy sand until the stars appeared and the moon again whitened the desert.
At length, without warning, Elliott crumpled up and Farrell knew he had reached the end of his endurance. He was made comfortable and they prepared to camp for the night when suddenly, black against the moonlight, there appeared the long heaving file of a relief column, rocking swiftly toward them from the direction of Tel-elRahib.
/"'■OLONEL WHEATLEY leaned across the orderly ^ room table, his heavy face wearing a deeper flush than even the heat of the day would warrant, and stared belligerently at Elliott who sat opposite, his damaged wrist in a sling and bandages drawn tightly about his head.
“I’ve been waiting here in Tel-el-Rahib until you were able to be about, Elliott,” the Colonel was saying, “and it’s time I got back to Denbara—but there are one or two matters which must be cleared up first. What’s Farrell’s excuse for being trapped?”
Elliott’s eyes, which held none of their customary directness, remained on the table. He spoke with a curious hesitation.
“Captain Farrell did not offer an excuse, sir. He gave me a reason.”
The Colonel’s lips tightened.
“Don’t quibble! Excuse or reason, what’d he have to say?”
“He stated that after gaining the rear of Jebel Salmi he sent a couple of scouts through a defile leading to the top, and followed through with the rest of his men He was surprised in the pass by the tribesmen in greatly superior numbers. Some of his force were killed by boulders, smashed down on them from above, and the rest were taken prisoner. They had no chance, hemmed in as they were.”
“That means, then, that the Emir had wind of your plans, and forestalled you.”
“Obviously, sir. There was no other reason for his occupation of the hill.”
“What happened then?”
“They were put under guard in a cave where they remained during the action. When the sandstorm ended the fight the Bedouins rode away and left them without further molestation.”
“How did the Emir, Abdul Husuf, get wind of your attack?”
For the first time the Canadian looked squarely at his commanding officer.
“I have my opinion, sir—but no proof.”
“Opinion? What the devil good does your opinion do? I want facts, not guesswork!”
“I can give you no facts without proof, sir,” the younger man replied meaningly, “but proof I mean to have.”
The Colonel leaned back. His eyes were hard and hostile, but he injected into his tone a frankness he obviously did not feel.
“We’ll drop talking riddles to each other, Elliott, and act straight!” he said. “As man to man, there is no love lost between us, but you are in a nasty mess over this affair, and—although this mayjsurprise you, I am anxious to see you climb out and clear your name; not altogether for your own sake, but—well, Freda is coming down from Cairo. She is on her way, in fact. We have discussed your engagement in several letters and possibly I may withdraw my opposition if you can show yourself clean in this affair. It’s her happiness I am considering, of course.”
“Are you charging me with treason, sir?” Elliott’s eyes flamed.
“Not yet, but—oh, what the hell’s the sense in mincing things, man? Either you, or Farrell or Badul Halim or what’s his name—Abd-el-Rahman Osman gave the game away to the Emir!”
Elliott jumped to his feet, tense with anger, but with a sudden reminder of his physical weakness the swift gust passed. He sank back into his chair with shaking body, and knew the inadequacy of his position.
“It was not Farrell, nor my Egyptian officers—
“That leaves only yourself, then!” his senior cut in. “Don’t be a fool, Elliott, trying to shield others—if that is your idea. Someone’s got to pay. You must see that.” “Yes, I see that, right enough; still, the others are not responsible. I am willing to answer personally for that, Colonel Wheatley!”
The Colonel ground his cigar stub under his boot. “Damn it, then, if you persist in being a sentimental fool, you can jolly well take your medicine. I’ve done all I can to give you a chance!”
“Are you suggesting that I shove the blame on one of my juniors, sir?” asked Elliott quietly, leaning forward.
“I suggest nothing. Either you are guilty or they are. In any case you’ll come under investigation. I’m leaving for Denbara now. Give me that copy of the General Scheme of Defence which I sent you, and I’ll take it along. In the meantime consider yourself relieved of command of this post.”
With set face Elliott went to the safe and manipulated
the knob. The door swung open. A second later he was on his feet, his fists gripping the table edge until it seemed that the wood must split. ;
“What's the matter?” the Colonel rapped, his face the color of mud. 1
Elliott’s eyes burned into his, repressed passion draining his voice of tone.
“Matter? . . . you rotten devil! . . . you unspeakable . . .!”
“What do you mean man? . . . you must be mad—”
“No, I’m not mad . . . never was more sane! The plan is gone! . . . Oh, this is what you have been working for, you skunk! No, I don’t give a damn for you or your rank!” His fist beat on the table top. “But I’ll not go down without a fight, mind that! Come on with your investigation—and I’ll cook up the liveliest lot of hellry you’ve ever encountered, before I’m knocked out!”
Colonel Wheatley jumped to his feet.
“By gad, Elliott, I’m your commanding officer and I’ll not tolerate being talked to in this fashion! For half a piaster I’d—”
“You’d what?” Elliott challenged.
Suddenly Wheatley’s voice became moderated. He changed his tactics.
“Look here, Elliott—wait a minute,” he said placatingly. “I know your head wound has upset you and you are not yourself. I’ll give you another chance. You say the general scheme is gone. Pull yourself together now, and think—could you have put the papers in some other spot?”
Memory of the long months of persecution by this man, which had culminated in the massacre of Jebel Salmi, swept over Elliott in a flood, and he lost control.
“It’s you, you treacherous, lying swine!” he shouted hoarsely, and his fingers gripped about the haft of a longbladed Baggara knife which lay on the table before him.
“You egged the Emir on—you murdered little Moffatt—you slaughtered Badul Halim and the rest of my splendid lads with your damnable scheming, and now, by the Lord, I’ll—-!”
The door opened, arresting him, and Rahman Osman entered, covered with the dust of the desert. In a flash he took in the situation and laid swift grip on the Canadian’s arm.
“Here—for God’s sake, old chap—” he said, and looked at the Colonel, who had not moved.
“It’s all right, Rahman Osman,” the latter said coolly, though his lips twitched a bit.
“Captain Elliott is not quite himself. The last few days have upset him somewhat.
Leave us alone, please — by
the way—did you find any trace of Abdul Husuf?’ *
“No, sir. We kept on his tracks as far as Dari Newab, but lost all trace of him there, and I didn’t like to go out of our district.”
“Quite right. That will do, thanks. You will forget this—er—unfortunate—”
“Certainly, sir. Are you sure that—?” The Egyptian lingered, his eyes on Elliott.
“Yes, thanks! That will be all!” said the Colonel testily, and the other saluted and withdrew. When the door closed Colonel Wheatley turned again to Elliott who had slumped exhausted in his chair.
“I am going to pass over what has occurred, Elliott, and allow it to remain a personal matter between us for the present,” he said, “but you have a choice of two courses. It is now,” he consulted his wrist-watch, “four o’clock. Before midnight to-morrow night you will either hand back that general scheme to me, personally, in Denbara or else go before a court-martial on a charge of treason. Should neither of these courses appeal to you, there is but one alternative!” and his eyes traveled significantly to where the Canadian’s service pistol hung in its holster on the wall.
Elliott made no sign that he had heard. His superior stood, watching him for a moment, then strode hurriedly from the room. A few minutes later he was leading his escort back across the desert to Denbara.
FOR some time after he had gone Elliott sat motionless.
Every faculty seemed numbed and there was a queer throbbing at his temples. He had difficulty in focussing his thoughts, but he forced himself to face the situation. As though not enough of disgrace had been heaped upon him, there had come this crowning blow, the disappearance of the general scheme—and Freda coming to Denbara—perhaps already arrived—to witness the climax of his shame. Suddenly he squared his shoulders; he’d call the Colonel’s bluff and stand court-martial, and perhaps a clue would crop up. At any rate it would be a showdown, and that, at the moment, was what he most keenly desired. He realized that the scheme must have been stolen from the safe while he was away with the punitive force at El Gabu—but by whom? By someone in Wheatley’s service; he was sure of that. The older man’s astonishment had not rung true.
He slipped a sheet of paper into his typewriter and tapped out a letter, working clumsily with one hand. As he wrote a film came before his eyes and he was frequently forced to rest. When he had finished he tried to read it but the dull hammering in his ears and temples interfered. He had been over-excited, he supposed, and this was the reaction. The entry of the native orderly room clerk brought him to himself and he signed the sheet, folded it with difficulty, slipped it in an envelope and sealed it.
Something in his officer’s manner struck the Sudanese and he watched furtively as Elliott, remembering to direct the letter, pushed the envelope back in his machine and tapped out the address. Then he handed the envelope to the clerk.
“See that this goes out to-night, with the rider for headquarters. I want it away no later than six o’clock,” he instructed, and left the room.
"\X7MTH sandalled feet crossed upon the neck * ' of a racing dromedary, and clad in a flowing turban and burnoose, Captain Elliott,
D.S.O., M.C., rocked swiftly across the desert, with the abandon of one who has forsaken his world in pursuit of a fantastic objective. Far behind lay Tel-el-Rahib, farther still, Denbara —and in the grounds of his bungalow at Denbara Colonel Wheatley lay dead, with a longbladed Baggara knife buried to the hilt between his shoulders. Ahead, the Nubian desert stretched its desolation to the Atlantic, more than a thousand miles away. Elliott rode with grim lips and burning eyes, one thought alone in his fevered mind, feeling neither hunger, nor heat, nor thirst.
All night he traveled, and until well into the morning. Swerving to avoid a depression and swinging his mount to the top of a dune which skirted it he saw, far in the distance, like irregularly threaded beads, a camel caravan crawling toward him. Kicking his weary animal, he went forward to meet it.
The white-bearded old sheik who rode at the head of the caravan clapped a ready hand to his weapon as a quick swish of sand heralded the soldier’s coming, and his followers loped up unbidden on the flanks. Trust in a stranger has no place in the life of a desert nomad. Elliott halted and saluted, Arab fashion.
“Greeting, Father of the Faithful! Whence came ye, that thy camels falter ere the sun is high?”
The Arab noted his questioner warily—his valuable camel, the subdued richness of his burnoose, the thin, drawn cheeks and fever-polished eyes.
“An unbeliever, smitten by Allah,” he muttered to himself, and then, aloud, “Why seekest thou to know, white stranger? The flying sand asketh not the passing wind, ‘whence came thou, where goest thou, and why!’ ”
The Canadian rode close, regardless of the other’s halfdrawn weapon.
“I mean no harm, Father, but men of the desert do not press over-laden beasts through the hot hours, except misfortune hath overtaken them. I, too, have met with mischance and it may be that we can help each other. The Prophet hath said, ‘Be not the thong that binds the arm of justice.’ I seek one, Abdul Husuf, a Bedouin Emir. Perchance thou hast met him?”
“Aie!—that I have!” the Arab growled, with deepthroated cursing, “May his bowels turn mad dogs to raven him! Did not this brother of vultures, but a day gone, carry off seven of my finest camels, laden with cloth and ivory and many precious wares from the black kingdom to the south?—and now I journey to Denbara to seek aid of the soldiers.”
“Where did this take place, Afflicted One?”
“By the wells at Rab Newad, in that deep and rocky cleft that lieth to eastward of the village wall. There he was camped, with many followers. What could I do? I am a merchant—a man of peace. And he hath injured thee, also? But it is folly to seek him, my son. He is strong, with many warriors, while thou art alone!”
“Vengeance lendeth strength, Venerable Father, and Allah is just, as well as merciful. Where is the Emir now, thinkest thou?”
“That, I know not; most likely he is gone—may the breath of Satan go after him to dry up his loins! Travel swiftly, my son, and may the All-Seeing defend thee.”— but the wh'ite man was gone, a swift-fluttering ghost.
On arrival at Rab Newad long after nightfall he discovered that the Bedouin had departed. In the village there was marked hostility instead of the usual indiffer-
ence or friendliness accorded a white man. The natives were reticent, and the headman requested him to leave the place. This was the result of the failure of the troops at Tel-el-Rahib to afford protection against the depredations of the Emir. The fever light in the white man’s sunken eyes alone saved him from violence, for many judged him to be mad— an affliction respected by all children of the Prophet. Elliott rested his camel for a few hours and then, by bribery and threats, induced a goatherd outside the village walls to tell him the direction of the Emir’s retreat.
Two days later, exhausted, half-starved and nearly perishing of thirst, he staggered across the sand dunes, leading his tired animal. Then, emerging from between two huge drifts, he came onto a small level plain in the centre of which, scarcely a hundred yards away, were the tents and kneeling camels of a Bedouin camp, and he knew from the absence of pack animals that this was no trader’s caravan. His wild eyes gleamed. Jerking open
A Freebooter’s Wooing
TIE STOOD on a small, slippery rock. One hand grasped a struggling girl who, a moment before, had sought to plunge into the sea. His other hand grasped his sword. On they came, the infuriated pursuers of a daring outlaw. Another minute, and .... what?
Sang Leroy’s swashbuckling career did not end there. For further details you’ll have to wait for the July 1st issue of MacLean’s. Turn to Benge Atlee’s fascinating story, “Freebooter’s Wooing,” and step back to the time when Port Royal streets rang with the tale of a daring privateersman who was captured by Cupid.
his holster, and with teeth set in the effort to keep his spinning brain clear for the task ahead, he stumbled forward, then broke into an awkward run. His feet were like leaden weights as he kicked through the sand, and so engrossed was he in coming to grips with his enemy that he was unaware of the slinking figures of three or four Baggara Arabs who stole upon him in a converging arc.
Suddenly he tripped on a dragging corner of his burnoose and fell heavily, lying for a moment without strength. With the subconscious urge of his self-imposed mission still functioning, he regained his feet, but there was a roaring in his ears as of a dozen cataracts, and the sound of shouting that seemed endless leagues away. He became aware, in dim fashion, of the following tribesmen, but with the singleness of a half-delirious mind, disregarded them and shambled on.
A yellow haze, alive with dancing heat motes, swam before his eyes. When it cleared, a tall, bearded figure, dressed in robes of snow, splashed with trimming of vivid emerald, loomed before him, and a pair of dark, unfathomable eyes looked gravely down into his own. It was the Emir, Abdul Husuf, whose great frame barred the way. Elliott gave a weak cry of exultation and his nerveless fingers tugged at his pistol butt. The weapon would not come. He stopped, peering through a tangle of hair and blcol-stainedbandage and again pulledathis weapon. At last it was out, and shakily he levelled it at the Bedouin chieftain who met his murderous glare with the unemotional calm of the desert fatalist; then, without haste, Abdul Husuf reached forward and plucked the pistol from impotent fingers as the soldier pitched senseless to the sand.
W'ARRELL, sitting alone in the tiny orderly room at " Tel-el-Rahib, was wrapped in a most profound depression. Nearly three weeks had passed since the murder of Colonel Wheatley and the disappearance of Captain Elliott. In that time no apparent measures had been taken by Headquarters to clear up the mystery, nor had the slightest clue been brought forward as to the whereabouts of the missing officer; to all but Elliott’s friends, however, the thing was so painfully obvious that no time was lost on speculation.
Farrell did not attempt to deny to himself the possibility of his friend having killed the commanding officer, but it could only have been under the most intense provocation and while the Canadian was in a subnormal mental state. Farrell was now in acting command of the post, and men had been sent to replace those killed at Jebel Salmi, but, so far, no new officers had arrived, although the Irishman daily expected them. Abd-el-Rahman Osman had applied for a month’s leave, and Farrell
intended to ask for similar time as soon as affairs were in shape, so that he might search for his friend among the desert tribes.
Shaking off his gloomy thoughts, he lit a cigarette and was about to leave for the mess when suddenly the door opened, flinging a bar of dazzling sunshine across the shadowed room, and silhouetting a tall figure against the outside glare. The newcomer, a thin, bronzed individual in the uniform of a staff major, with vivid blue eyes in a leathery face, and wearing a triple row of decoration and service ribbons, entered and closed the door. He smiled, then, in friendly fashion, held out his hand.
“You’re Farrell, formerly of the Leinsters, aren’t you?” he said. “How d’ye do? I’m Dunbar . Intelligence, you know.”
Farrell flushed and his nerves tightened with a little thrill of anticipation. Major Dunbar—the cleverest intelligence officer in Africa, and the brains of the AngloEgyptian staff; Dunbar, who knew the Sudan and all its dialects, from Assuan to Wadelei north of the Albert Nyanza, and from the Red Sea to the farthest limits of Darfur and beyond; friend and adopted brother of half the tribes of the Nubian Desert, and the one white man loved and wholly trusted by all the nomad chieftains; the Lion of Nubia, they called him. Dunbar! Things were beginning to move! The Irishman indicated a chair.
“Yes, I’m Farrell. Won’t you sit down, Major?”
“Thanks.” The visitor sat and crossed his long legs, accepting one of the other’s cigarettes. “You stick to the Virginia leaf, I see. Glad they’re not those beastly Turkish things that Elliott used. Only weak point about old Elliott —would insist on smokin’ the smelly brutes, what?” His keen eyes puckered as he caught the startled glance the other threw him. Then they twinkled contagiously.
“I expect I know what you’re thinkin’,” he went on, “but you needn’t get the wind up. Sportin’ chap, Elliott. Knew him well—and I’m down from Khartoum to see if we can shed a bit of light on him. If you’re a real pal of his, and I take it you are, you’ll help me out, eh?” The man was genuine. Farrell brightened and relaxed.
“I’ll help, of course,” he said slowly, “but I’ll tell you frankly, you needn’t expect me to say anything that’ll count against him, for I’ll not!”
“Tell me what you like; remember, though, things are against him, and it’s only through directness that we can get at the truth. I’m as anxious to see him cleared as you are, but you don’t want to put sentiment before justice, do you?”
“I’ll put Elliott’s welfare before any damn thing!” the Irishman said flatly. An approving smile flickered under the other’s moustache.
“Gad!” he murmured, then: “By the way, I took the liberty of stoppin’ at your mess. Miss Wheatley is with me—-you know her, I think—and your Egyptian sub invited her in to rest. She knows him, too. ’Pon my soul, she seems to know the entire Sudan garrison. See what it is to be a reigning beauty, what?”
“Freda Wheatley? What—?”
“Yes. I—hello! Here they come now.”
The door opened and Freda Wheatley entered, followed by Abd-el-Rahman Osman. She was in riding gear of exquisite cut, and her solar topee shadowed grey, longfringed eyes. There was a shy boyishness about her which, without losing feminine sweetness, is given, in rare instances, to women who live much in the open and who are accepted by men on a basis of frank comradeship. Farrell jumped to his feet. She was touched by the warmth of his welcome, and responded with a delight that matched his own.
“This is almost a family affair,” she smiled. “You here, and Rahman Osman—” she hesitated a shade, “Oh, yes, we met in Cairo some time ago—-and Major Dunbar has been most kind—” She flashed the older man a grateful glance.
“It’s been a rare treat, Miss Freda,” the Major assured her. “If you will all be seated, now I’ll explain why we came. It’s rather painful, but Miss Wheatley has been so brave throughout that I’m going to impose a bit more.” He turned to the girl.
“Do you mind tellin’ us again, what happened, the night that—”
“That Uncle was murdered? . . . Yes, I will tell you.”
She swallowed nervously once or twice, then went on in a steady tone:
“I got to Denbara from Cairo that afternoon. Uncle was my guardian and—I—there were business matters to discuss. They told me at his bungalow that he was here in Tel-el-Rahib, but that he was expected home during the evening. At half-past six he arrived. After dinner we sat on the verandah talking over my affairs, and I am sorry to say we had a disagreement. At about eightthirty a mounted soldier appeared at the gate with a letter for him, and when he read it, it upset him so that he could not go on with our conversation. He sat for nearly an hour without speaking a word, then went into the garden for a walk and a cigar. Do you know the garden about his bungalow? It’s just a big, rambling sandy patch with a few scrub bushes, mimosa, and thorns.
“When he left the verandah it was quite dark. I watched him pacing up and down for awhile, his figure just a dim white blur. Then I must have fallen asleep in my chair. Some time later I was awakened by a cry that turned my flesh cold. I jumped up, but could see no one about, and was entering the house when suddenly I saw lights flickering in the garden, and heard one of the native servants give a frightened shout. I knew, then, that something was wrong. I went down. He—he was lying face down under a mimosa bush with a long knife in his back. His cigar was still between his fingers. Oh, it was horrible! I was alone except for the house servants so I sent one of them for the doctor. While waiting for him, my thoughts kept turning to the letter he had received and I wondered if it would tell me anything about who had killed him. I—I took it from his tunic pocket, and went to the house and read it.”
“He didn’t do it, Major! It was not Captain Elliott! I’ll never believe it! He couldn’t be capable of such a thing!”
Suddenly the girl broke off her narrative and turned to Major Dunbar in agon ized appeal.
Dunbar interposed, gently.
“I think you’d better let me carry on, my dear,” he said, and produced a typewritten letter which he opened.
“As this is not an official inquiry and we all are here simply to help Elliott if possible, I want you to know all the facts. Read this aloud, will you, Farrell? It’s the letter Miss Freda found in her uncle’s pocket.”
Farrell smoothed the creases from the paper, and read:
Tel-el-Rahib, Sudan, 24th July. To the Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Colonel F. J. Wheatley, D.S.O., Kordofan Camel Corps,
Sir: In reply to your ultimatum of this afternoon I have decided to present my case before a board of enquiry. Ás matters stand I see no just reason why I should remove myself from your path as you so ingeniously suggested. You know, of course, that neither my officers nor myself are responsible for the disappearance of the General Scheme of Defence. As for my defeat at Jevel Salmi, I am perfectly willing to accept responsibility for that affair until such time as I can bring it home to the real culprit.
To destroy myself would be an admission of guilt—an admission I will never make, for so long as I live in the same world as yourself there is a chance that the truth will become known. May I be permitted to doubt if that truth will be as welcome to yourself as it will be to me.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your ob’t svt.,
C. E. Elliott, D.S.O., M.C., Captain,
O.C. No. 3 Coy., K.C.C. Note: A recent development makes it imperative that I call upon you at Denbara to-night, for further discussion. It will spare us both the embarrassment of a public scene if you allow me to see you in your garden at 9:30 o’clock.
Dunbar’s deep voice broke the silence that followed the reading.
“Is that Elliott’s signature, Farrell?” he asked.
Farrell’s lips tightened. “It is,” he admitted.
“—and you, Rahman Osman?”
“I’m afraid so, sir,” he said slowly.
“I’ll tell you, though,” added Farrell. “That postscript or note doesn’t ring true. Elliott was a man of definite action. He’d not write one thing one minute in the body of the letter, then renig the next. It wasn’t in him. It’s queer. I don’t like it!”
“Hmm-m! What do you think, Rahman Osman?”
“I say, sir, I stand by Farrell in believing Captain Elliott innocent,” said the Egyptian doggedly.
“Good egg!” Farrell grunted.
The Intelligence officer’s face was inscrutable. His shrewd eyes rested for a second on the Egyptian’s face.
“Any suggestions or comment?” he asked.
During the Major’s summing up Freda had been passing the incriminating letter nervously through and through her fingers. Suddenly a subtle change came over her. She removed the letter from the envelope and her fingertips explored the smooth surface of the paper, then were transferred with painstaking care to the envelope, front and back. Then she sighed—a sigh so full of relief that it startled her companions to attention. She laid a hand on the Major’s sleeve. Her lips were trembling.
“I would like to ask something, please. Captain Farrell said he did not believe that Claude — Captain Elliott—wrote that postscript. If it was proven that some other person wrote it, that would be very important, wouldn’t it?”
“Vitally so. It would alter the aspect of everything. But why should any one do such a thing?”
“Because Captain Elliott has enemies —deadly enemies, who would do anything to injure him. You said that there was personal antagonism between him and my uncle. You are right! There was— but it was uncle’s fault! Yes, I'll tell you why; it’s not a pleasant story, but I can’t shield a dead man when to do so would further his evil schemes!”
The others stared at the bitterness and loathing in her tones. She removed her topee, and the soft hair curled about her face as she shook her head in impatient punctuation.
“There was no affection between uncle and myself. I am the daughter of his ounger brother, and when father died is estate was left in trust for me, with uncle as administrator and guardian. That was three years ago, when I was seventeen. Up to Dad’s death I had seen uncle only twice and I—I didn’t like him. My property was to revert to me at majority, or if I married. Meanwhile, Uncle gave me a generous allowance.
“Claude and I became engaged shortly before he was sent to this regiment. The reason Uncle opposed our marriage and afterward tried to disgrace Claude in the hope that our engagement would be broken off was that my marriage would expose his embezzlement of my estate! There now!—it’s out! That is the motive behind Urcle’s persecution of Captain Elliott. I discovered it all through my allowance being cut, and cut, under various pretexts. I became suspicious and put investigators to work. It was with their report in my possession that I came to Denbara to face Uncle, and it was over that that we quarrelled. He had misappropriated nearly forty thousand pounds!” She stopped, white-lipped.
Farrell whistled, softly. “Daylight, by gorry!” he murmured.
“Brigade Headquarters never lost faith in Captain Elliott even in the light of the Colonel’s adverse reports,” Major Dunbar remarked. “You see, his career as a soldier was well-known. We, on the staff, didn’t know quite what the game was, so it was allowed to go on until one or the other committed himself. Had it been dreamed that things would take so serious a turn—especially that Jebel Salmi business—the brigadier would have stepped in long ago. Candidly, Headquarters feels that it shares the blame, and for that reason wants to give Elliott every chance to clear himself. We have a lead to follow, now, in what Miss Freda has told us, but there’s still the murder and the missin’ scheme of defence. Why did you ask about that postscript, my dear?”
“I was coming to that. Was anyone with Captain Elliott when he wrote the letter?”
"Perhaps the orderly room clerk was about,” suggested the Irishman. “Wait a shake and I’ll get him in.” He left the room.
A FEW minutes later he returned with an intelligent-faced native soldier, who sprang to attention and saluted smartly.
“This is Corporal Mohammed Bezoutin,” Farrell remarked.
"Does he speak English?” asked Freda. “Excellently.”
Freda turned to the Intelligence man.
“May I question him? Thank you . . . Mohammed Bezoutin, do you remember the last night that Captain Elliott was here?”
“Were you in this room when he wrote a letter to Colonel Wheatley?”
“Did he write it himself?”
“Sidi Captain make it on write machine.”
“Did he speak to you?—how did he act?”
“I t’ink him bellyache. He look like much drunk. No-no! Him not drunk but him eyes stare like dis. I t’ink very queer dat, so I watch. He give me letter for messenger.”
“Now think—did he address the envelope before or after he put the letter inside?”
“After. He make too much, forget an’ hab hard time for one arm sick.” “What does he mean?” Freda asked Farrell.
“I expect he means that with his wounded wrist Elliott found it hard to get the letter and envelope in the typewriter.” “Yaas, Sidi, Captain. Dat right.” “And you are sure the letter was in the envelope when he addressed it?” Freda continued.
“Then what happened?”
“Sidi Captain speak: ‘Gib dis letter to messenger fo’ Denbara sure’ den he go out to officer’ mess.”
“What did you do with the letter?”
“I lef’ it on dis desk to wait fo’ messenger, den I go out.”
“How long were you gone?”
“T’ree cigarette time.”
“Was the letter there when you got back?”
“Did Captain Elliott or any one enter the orderly room while you were gone?” “I no know. I not see.”
“Was anyone about the orderly room when you came back?”
Rahman Osman interrupted. “Are you sure?” he demanded.
“I suah. Day nobody, sar.”
The man was dismissed.
Farrell sighed. “What a pity, old girl!” he said mournfully. “I suppose that closes that line. It’s fairly plain that no one touched the letter after Elliott wrote it. Why, what’s up—-you look positively radiant!”
Freda’s eyes were stars. “I am!” she cried, her voice vibrant with excitement. “In spite of what the corporal told us, some one did open that letter and add the postscript before the messenger got it!’ “But I don’t see—”
“Of course you don’t, you stupid old darling, but you will in a moment.” She turned to meet the Major’s twinkling gaze. He nodded, smiling a bit, and she went on.
“You see, I ran a typewriter during the latter end of the war, so I know something about them. Now listen carefully, please. Captain Elliott typed the address with the letter inside. When an envelope is addressed with a letter inside, the punctuation marks make indentations through the face of the envelope and fainter ones on the letter within, but do not penetrate to the back of the envelope. If an empty envelope is addressed the marks will show on the back of the envelope, too.”
She produced the envelope in which Elliott’s letter had been enclosed.
“Here are marks on the back showing that nothing was inside when this envelope was addressed, yet there are indentations on the letter itself which prove that at one time it really was within an envelope while the address was being typed. It is obvious, then, isn’t it, that after Captain Elliott sealed and addressed his letter some one came in, opened and read it; added the postscript; addressed another envelope, put the letter in and replaced it on the desk for the messenger? Is it too much to suppose that the one responsible is also guilty of the murder?”
She stopped for breath, flushed, and near to tears.
“Well done, Miss Freda!” Major Dunbar’s deep voice approved. “It doesn’t whitewash Elliott, entirely, but it does enter a tremendous element of doubt. The next point is to determine the identity of the man who tampered with that letter. When we’ve got him, we’ve solved the whole business. It shouldn’t be difficult, for the number of men capable of writing English in this ga rison is extremely limited.”
Freda bent her head; then she looked up with wet eyes and determined lips. Her voice shook.
“I know who is guilty! It is only intuition, but—•”
Without warning the door crashed open, revealing Elliott, sunken-eyed and haggard, and dressed in the travelstained habiliments of a Dervish tribesman. At his back loomed the majestic bearded figure of Abdul Husuf, the Bedouin Emir.
For a stunned moment no one spoke, then Freda rose and darted forward with a cry. Very gently, Elliott kissed her. “Its all right, my dear; be patient for a few moments more,” he said, and put her to one side.
In the meantime the Bedouin’s dark eyes roved about the room. They met those of Major Dunbar, and lightened.
“The Lord of Majesty is good, that he so delights mine eyes, Lion of Nubia,” said Abul Husuf, softly.
“To see an old comrade is as salt to one’s meat, Brother of my Thoughts!” the soldier responded.
The Emir, having expressed his pleasure at meeting with an old friend, again swept his eyes about the group. By no sign did he betray that he had found what he sought, save that he leaned forward and whispered in Elliott’s ear. The Canadian nodded.
“Dunbar,” he said quietly. “You are senior here. Before you, and in the presence of these witnesses I accuse of treason, Lieutenant—”
There was a quick gasp, and a figure rushed for the door. The huge bulk of Abdul Husuf blocked the way. The Emir’s mighty fist arose and smashed upon yielding flesh and bone.
“Down, you pariah dog!” he growled.
“—Abd el-Rahman Osman!” Elliott completed.
“Oh, I knew it! ... I knew it!” Freda cried and buried her face in her hands.
ONCE more the desert night settled over Tel-el-Rahib; again under the moon-blanched walls the wandering minstrel strummed, in his plaintive octave, of the by-gone glories of his race; stars burned in the purple sky with an intensity that Northern lands can never know, and camels grunted as they swung through the narrow streets. The elusive smoke of evening fires drifted from flat-topped dwellings, and the little coffee shop of Ali-Ahmed-ben-Yusuf held its usual gossipping crowd.
Dinner in the mess was over, and out on the shadowed roof Freda, Farrell and Major Dunbar, deep in Bombay chairs, chatted softly and compared notes on the day’s developments, the reddening glow of cigarettes marking the intervals of conversation. Presently they were joined by Flliott, dressed in spotless drill. Some of the harshness had melted from his face, and his eyes brightened as they rested on the figure of the girl. He grasped a chair with his good hand, and lifted iteasily to her side. Abdul Husuf squatted, native fashion, by the knees of the Major, his mystic eyes turned to the desert. Occasionally he replied to a remark of his old friend, but for the most part he smoked his narghile in dreaming silence. Now and then the intermittent conversation was checked to longer stillness at thought of the man who lay, delirious and under guard, in his room below. The Emir’s blow had fractured the Egyptian’s skull and come nigh to ending his life.
“Did he—did Rahman Osman confess to everything?” Freda asked gently.
“No—But we got enough from his ravings to hang him a dozen times over, Then he came around a bit just before dinner and the Major taxed him. He admitted a lot—enemy agent during the war—instigator of the Cairo troublethinking he was going to pass out, I guess. Lord, how he hates the British! His mother was Russian—that’s where he got his white skin—and his father was an Egyptian of the old, crooked regime before the reconquest in ’98.”
“By the way, me boy—you haven’t told us how you ran across our garrulous friend, Abdul Husuf,” reminded Farrell, with a grin at the broad back of the Emir.
“I’ll do it now, then, if you want to hear it. After I wrote that confounded letter I started for the mess, but my head was spinning so that I hardly knew what
I was doing. All I could think of was, ‘Find the Emir!—find Abdul Husuf and you’ll find the truth!’ I ordered my camel and put on a burnoose, meaning to have a ride in the desert to see if it would clear my head. Then I suppose my subconscious thoughts gripped the bit. Anyway, next I knew, it was dawn and I was still riding, with my camel fagged out and ready to drop. I am not so clear as to what happened after. I had spells of lucidity in which it seemed I’d been riding for ages, and I remember questioning various people—who thought me quite mad, no doubt. In the end, though, I came across the Emir and tried to shoot him. Lucky I didn’t, eh? What with hunger and thirst and my re-opened head wound I was out of the ring for awhile, but a mother couldn’t have cherished me better than Abdul Husuf and his greasy crowd of outlaws. Hospitality is a sacred thing to a Moslem, of course.
“When [they’d nursed me around, the Emir and I had long chin-wags, but somehow I couldn’t convince him that I was Elliott, and he evidently thought me still a bit touched when I insisted. T have met the Captain Elliott’ he would say. ‘Elliott is taller, with dark eyes!’ Between times I tried to pumo him to see if he still had the scheme. I felt certain he had, for he admitted that although he did not fear pursuit he was moving out of British territory. But he was loyal to his employers and would say nothing definite.
“We talked over the fight at Jebel Salmi, but again he wouldn’t state who gave the game away, although he did tell me that someone had played traitor the night before we started out. I assumed, then, that whoever had bargained with him had impersonated myself. One day, during a ding-dong argument I showed him my identity disc. He immediately summoned one of his men who had been schooled at Omdurman and had served with the Australians during the war. He could read sufficient English to make sense out of my disc and soon convinced the Emir of his mistake. When that certainty got to him there was blood on the moon! Not that he made a racket about it—but there was a nasty something in those black eyes of his that didn’t promise well for the man who had tricked him. To a Mohammedan, honor is the most precious of all things, and he may not compromise even an enemy’s good name. So long as he believed the man with whom he was dealing to be a voluntary traitor, it was all right and his conscience was clear, but to dishonor my name in the eyes of my fellows was a different matter—and that is what he—unknowingly, of course—had been party to.
“The upshot was that he immediately insisted on accompanying me back to Tel-el-Rahib to identify the man responsible. When I was fit to travel we returned with six of his followers who are now camped out in the desert about a mile from the gates. Up to the time of my arrival I knew nothing of the death of the Colonel. I learned of it first from the corporal of the guard at the main gate and,” he smiled, “he told me with the obvious intention of giving me a chance to clear out again.”
Elliott paused to light a cigarette, then went on.
“With the information Freda gave us this afternoon and from what the Emir has since told me it is easy, now, to piece together the whole complicated scheme. That affair at Jebel Salmi, although it developed more seriously than its author expected, was but a side issue—a move— in a greater game. Wheatley was in a hole and needed a huge sum to recoup his loss of Freda’s inheritance Abdul Husuf was acting for a foreign power with large interests in Africa—one willing to give a tremendous price for a copy of the AngloEgyptian General Scheme of Defense. As Rahman Osman and the Colonel had been partners in one or two other shady games, they plotted to get the scheme into the Emir’s hands, Rahman Osman acting as go-between.
“As plans so important as this are never taken from Brigade Headquarters except on a big stunt, the Emir’s immediate job was to stir things up among the desert tribes and annoy the garrison here until there was sufficient justification for going after him on a large scale. That would bring the scheme out of Khartoum into the Colonel’s hands and through him to me. Once I had the scheme it was within reach of Rahman Osman. He watched me stow the papers in the safe
that night—he had the combination from the Colonel, of course—and after I cleared away to bed he pinched them and took them to the Emir. In that way the Colonel put himself beyond suspicion and put me out of business at one move. I don’t believe that the Colonel was concerned in that massacre at Jebel Salmi. That was a bloody-minded notion of the Egyptian’s. Wheatley simply intended to get the scheme to the Emir and have him clear out the same night. Abdul Husuf tells me that he gave Rahman Osman a chit on a bank in Cairo. That is what he wanted leave for—to cash that chit.”
“What about the murder then?” Farrell asked. “Did the Gyppo and Wheatley have a row?”
“No. After cashing the chit Rahman Osman was to split with the Colonel, but the double-crossing swine couldn’t even play straight with his own pal. The quarrel between the Colonel and myself gave him an idea. He came to the orderly room after I wrote that letter, opened it and added the postscript. Then he dodged out again without being seen.”
“But why was this blinkin’ Rahman Osman so keen on fixin’ you? Your relations had always been friendly, hadn’t they?” Major Dunbar put in.
“Yes, but his enmity was another wheel within wheels. I must have been blind as an owl. But Freda explained that, too. It seems that two years ago, in Cairo, Rahman Osman met Freda and, after a time, proposed to her. She refused him. He pursued his attentions and got well snubbed—which is something no Oriental ever forgives a woman. Then he learned through the Colonel that Freda was to marry me. Part of his reward was to have been the influence of Wheatley on Freda in his behalf. Possibly, hearing that she was coming to Denbara, and guessing that she had discovered her uncle’s crookedness, he realized that Wheatley would no longer have influence with her. He then determined to make the proceeds of their treachery all his own by killing the Colonel and shifting the blame to me. His scheme for nailing two birds at once nearly worked too, eh?”
“What became of the chit he got from the Emir?”
“I, don’t know. I searched Rahman Osman’s kit and every inch of his room this afternoon, but found nothing.”
Major Dunbar smiled and said a few low words in Arabic to Abdul Husuf whose white teeth gleamed in his beard. He arose, and drawing a long, heavy envelope from his bvrnoose handed it to Elliott. It contained the stolen scheme of defense.
“Sidi Captain,” said he, “thou art a man: even such a man as the Lion of Nubia, here at my right hand. In thine own fashion thou livest the word of the Prophet even as I spake it one night to yon pariah dog that lieth at hell’s door by my hand. ‘Thy treasure, thy life and thine own honor shalt thou cast into the fire for the honor of a friend.’ Abdul Husuf is thy friend for all time. My blood is thine and thy blood is my own.” He held out his hand. “It is the creed of the desert.”
Dunbar leaned across and gave the Emir a small piece of folded paper.
“Take it, old friend,” he said. “It is the chit. One of my men took it this afternoon from Rahman Osman’s gear while we were havin’ our little meetin’ in the orderly room. Oh, yes—I had suspected him for some time, but couldn’t fasten things on him. That’s one of the reasons why Headquarters took no action against Elliott. Hmm? Oh, we Intelligence blokes have our little ways of findin' things out. I might mention, too, that the plan which Abdul Husuf just returned to you was not the general scheme. No—it was a subsidiary one which was prepared against just such a case as this. Hello, Abdul Husuf!—-you off?”
The Bedouin nodded, then, saluting each in turn, with the exception of the gril whom he ignored, Moslem fashion, strode toward the door of the marquee. Halfway, he stopped, his great frame a mass of blurred white in the moonlight.
“The woman ... is she thine?” he asked Elliott.
“Yes, Abdul Husuf,” the other returned gravely.
“Allah is great! May he bless ye with warrior sons to the number that ye both have years!”
After he was gone they sat, deep in thought, until, long minutes after, there came from far out on the desert the high, weird cry of a pariah dog.