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- The Weavers, Volume 6. - 3/11 -


who should attempt to do these mad things for Egypt against the judgment of the world--against the judgment of your husband. Shall I have better judgment than the chancellories of Europe and England--and Lord Eglington?"

"Excellency, you know what moves other nations; but it is for Egypt to act for herself. You ask me why I did not go to the Effendina. I come to you because I know that you could circumvent the Effendina, even if he sent ten thousand men. It is the way in Egypt."

"Madame, you have insight--will you not look farther still, and see that, however good Claridge Pasha's work might be some day in the far future, it is not good to-day. It is too soon. At the beginning of the twentieth century, perhaps. Men pay the penalty of their mistakes. A man's life"--he watched her closely with his wide, benevolent eyes--"is neither here nor there, nor a few thousands, in the destiny of a nation. A man who ventures into a lion's den must not be surprised if he goes as Harrik went--ah, perhaps you do not know how Harrik went! A man who tears at the foundations of a house must not be surprised if the timbers fall on him and on his workmen. It is Destiny that Claridge Pasha should be the slayer of my brother, and a danger to Egypt, and one whose life is so dear to you, madame. You would have it otherwise, and so would I, but we must take things as they are--and you see that letter. It is seven weeks since then, and it may be that the circle has been broken. Yet it may not be so. The circle may be smaller, but not broken."

She felt how he was tempting her from word to word with a merciless ingenuity; yet she kept to her purpose; and however hopeless it seemed, she would struggle on.

"Excellency," she said in a low, pleading tone, "has he not suffered enough? Has he not paid the price of that life which you would not bring back if you could? No, in those places of your mind where no one can see lies the thought that you would not bring back Foorgat Bey. It is not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth that has moved you; it has not been love of Foorgat Bey; it has been the hatred of the East for the West. And yet you are a Christian! Has Claridge Pasha not suffered enough, Excellency? Have you not had your fill of revenge? Have you not done enough to hurt a man whose only crime was that he killed a man to save a woman, and had not meant to kill?"

"Yet he says in his letter that the thought of killing would not have stopped him."

"Does one think at such a moment? Did he think? There was no time. It was the work of an instant. Ah, Fate was not kind, Excellency! If it had been, I should have been permitted to kill Foorgat Bey with my own hands."

"I should have found it hard to exact the penalty from you, madame."

The words were uttered in so neutral a way that they were enigmatical, and she could not take offence or be sure of his meaning.

"Think, Excellency. Have you ever known one so selfless, so good, so true? For humanity's sake, would you not keep alive such a man? If there were a feud as old as Adam between your race and his, would you not before this life of sacrifice lay down the sword and the bitter challenge? He gave you his hand in faith and trust, because your God was his God, your prophet and lord his prophet and lord. Such faith should melt your heart. Can you not see that he tried to make compensation for Foorgat's death, by giving you your life and setting you where you are now, with power to save or kill him?"

"You call him great; yet I am here in safety, and he is--where he is. Have you not heard of the strife of minds and wills? He represented the West, I the East. He was a Christian, so was I; the ground of our battle was a fair one, and--and I have won."

"The ground of battle fair!" she protested bitterly. "He did not know that there was strife between you. He did not fight you. I think that he always loved you, Excellency. He would have given his life for you, if it had been in danger. Is there in that letter one word that any man could wish unwritten when the world was all ended for all men? But no, there was no strife between you--there was only hatred on your part. He was so much greater than you that you should feel no rivalry, no strife. The sword he carries cuts as wide as Time. You are of a petty day in a petty land. Your mouth will soon be filled with dust, and you will be forgotten. He will live in the history of the world. Excellency, I plead for him because I owe him so much: he killed a man and brought upon himself a lifelong misery for me. It is all I can do, plead to you who know the truth about him--yes, you know the truth--to make an effort to save him. It may be too late; but yet God may be waiting for you to lift your hand. You said the circle may be smaller, but it may be unbroken still. Will you not do a great thing once, and win a woman's gratitude, and the thanks of the world, by trying to save one who makes us think better of humanity? Will you not have the name of Nahoum Pasha linked with his--with his who thought you were his friend? Will you not save him?"

He got slowly to his feet, a strange look in his eyes. "Your words are useless. I will not save him for your sake; I will not save him for the world's sake; I will not save him--"

A cry of pain and grief broke from her, and she buried her face in her hands.

"--I will not save him for any other sake than his own."

He paused. Slowly, as dazed as though she had received a blow, Hylda raised her face and her hands dropped in her lap.

"For any other sake than his own!" Her eyes gazed at him in a bewildered, piteous way. What did he mean? His voice seemed to come from afar off.

"Did you think that you could save him? That I would listen to you, if I did not listen to him? No, no, madame. Not even did he conquer me; but something greater than himself within himself, it conquered me."

She got to her feet gasping, her hands stretched out. "Oh, is it true-- is it true?" she cried.

"The West has conquered," he answered.

"You will help him--you will try to save him?" "When, a month ago, I read the letter you have read, I tried to save him. I sent secretly four thousand men who were at Wady Halfa to relieve him--if it could be done; five hundred to push forward on the quickest of the armed steamers, the rest to follow as fast as possible. I did my best. That was a month ago, and I am waiting--waiting and hoping, madame."

Suddenly she broke down. Tears streamed from her eyes. She sank into the chair, and sobs shook her from head to foot.

"Be patient, be composed, madame," Nahoum said gently. "I have tried you greatly--forgive me. Nay, do not weep. I have hope. We may hear from him at any moment now," he added softly, and there was a new look in his wide blue eyes as they were bent on her.

CHAPTER XLI

IN THE LAND OF SHINAR

"Then I said to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the Ephah?

"And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar; and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base."

David raised his head from the paper he was studying. He looked at Lacey sharply. "And how many rounds of ammunition?" he asked.

"Ten thousand, Saadat."

"How many shells?" he continued, making notes upon the paper before him.

"Three hundred, Saadat."

"How many hundredweight of dourha?" "Eighty--about."

"And how many mouths to feed?" "Five thousand."

"How many fighters go with the mouths?" "Nine hundred and eighty-of a kind."

"And of the best?'

"Well, say, five hundred."

"Thee said six hundred three days ago, Lacey."

"Sixty were killed or wounded on Sunday, and forty I reckon in the others, Saadat."

The dark eyes flashed, the lips set. "The fire was sickening--they fell back?"

"Well, Saadat, they reflected--at the wrong time."

"They ran?"

"Not back--they were slow in getting on."

"But they fought it out?"

"They had to--root hog, or die. You see, Saadat, in that five hundred I'm only counting the invincibles, the up-and-at-'ems, the blind-goers that 'd open the lid of Hell and jump in after the enemy."

The pale face lighted. "So many! I would not have put the estimate half so high. Not bad for a dark race fighting for they know not what!"

"They know that all right; they are fighting for you, Saadat."

David seemed not to hear. "Five hundred--so many, and the enemy so near, the temptation so great."

"The deserters are all gone to Ali Wad Hei, Saadat. For a month there have been only the deserted."

A hardness crept into the dark eyes. "Only the deserted!" He looked out to where the Nile lost itself in the northern distance. "I asked Nahoum for one thousand men, I asked England for the word which would send them. I asked for a thousand, but even two hundred would turn the scale--the sign that the Inglesi had behind him Cairo and London. Twenty weeks, and


The Weavers, Volume 6. - 3/11

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