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HOME > Classical Novels > The Last Egyptian > CHAPTER XI. SETTING THE SNARES.
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Kāra also dreamed. The girl’s eyes haunted him. He saw her bright, eager glance, her appealing smile, the graceful pose of her beautiful head wherever he might chance to look. And he cursed the persistent vision and tried to exorcise it, well knowing it might lead to his undoing.

The Egyptian’s present establishment consisted of a handsome villa on the Shubra road which at one time had been owned by a high Turkish official. It was splendidly furnished, including many modern conveniences, and had a pretty garden in the court that led from the master’s quarters to the harem. Tadros, the dragoman, proudly boasted to himself—he dared not confide in others—that the furnishing of this villa had enabled him to acquire a snug fortune. Kāra allowed him a free hand, and much gold refused to pass through the dragoman’s fingers.

Tadros had ceased to bemoan the loss of his beloved tourists by this time. Even a dozen profligate Americans could not enrich him as his own countryman was doing. And the end was not yet.

A few days after the reception Kāra lunched at the Lotus Club and met there Lord Consinor. Later the prince played a game of écarté with Colonel Varrin,{123} of the Khedivial army, and lost a large sum. Consinor watched the game with interest, and after the colonel had retired proposed to take a hand with the Egyptian himself. To this Kāra politely assented. He was a careless player, and displayed little judgment. The result was that he lost again, and Consinor found himself the richer by a hundred pounds.

The prince laughed good-humoredly and apologized for his poor playing.

“The next time you favor me with a game,” said he, “I will try to do better.”

Consinor smiled grimly. To meet so wealthy and indifferent a victim was indeed rare good luck. He promised himself to fleece the inexperienced Egyptian with exceptional pleasure.

The Lotus Club was then, as now, the daily resort of the most prominent and at the same time the fastest set in Cairo. Both Roane and Consinor had been posted for membership, although the former seldom visited the place until after midnight, and then only to sup or indulge in a bottle of wine when there was nothing more amusing to do. It appeared that Lord Roane was conducting himself with exceptional caution since his arrival in Cairo. His official duties were light, and he passed most of his days at the rooms in the Savoy, where his party was temporarily located until a suitable house could be secured and fitted up. He left Aneth much alone in the evenings, however, and the girl was forced to content herself with the gaieties{124} of the fashionable hotel life and the companionship of those few acquaintances who called upon her. As for the viscount, he was now, as always, quite outside the family circle, and while he seemed attentive to his desk at the Department of Finance, the office hours were over at midday and he was free to pass the afternoons and evenings at the club. The viscountess remained languidly helpless and clung to her own apartment, where she kept a couple of Arab servants busy waiting upon her.

Consinor had told Aneth that he would not touch a card while he remained in Egypt; but if he had ever had an idea of keeping his word the resolution soon vanished. He found Kāra irresistible. Sometimes, to be sure, the prince had luck and won, but in that event it was his custom to double the stakes indefinitely until his opponent swept all his winnings away.

This reckless policy at first alarmed Consinor, who was accustomed to the cautious play of the London clubs; but he observed that Kāra declined ever to rise from the table a winner. No matter with whom he played, his opponent was sure to profit in the end by the Egyptian’s peculiar methods. For this reason no man was more popular at the club or more eagerly sought as a partner in “a quiet game” than Prince Kāra, whose wealth seemed enormous and inexhaustible and whose generosity was proverbial.

But the rich Egyptian seemed to fancy Consinor’s society above all other, and soon it came to be understood{125} by the club’s habitués that the two men preferred to play together, and the viscount was universally envied as a most fortunate individual.

Yet Kāra was occupying himself in other ways than card-playing during the weeks that followed the arrival of Lord Roane’s party in Egypt. The victims of Hatatcha’s hatred had been delivered into his net, and it was now necessary to spin his web so tightly about them that there could be no means of escape. The oriental mind is intricate. It seldom leads directly to a desired object or accomplishment, but prefers to plot cunningly and with involute complexity.

One of Lord Roane’s few responsibilities was to audit the claims against the Egyptian Government of certain British contractors who were engaged in repairing the Rosetta Barrage and the canals leading from it. This barrage had originally been built in 1842, but was so badly done that important repairs had long been necessary. At one place a contractor named McFarland had agreed to build a stone embankment for two miles along the edge of a canal, to protect the country when the sluice-gates of the dam were opened. This man found, when he began excavating, that at one time a stone embankment had actually been built in this same place, although not high enough to be effective, for which reason it had become covered with Nile mud and its very existence forgotten. Finding that more than half of the work he had contracted to perform was already accomplished, the astute McFarland kept his{126} lucky discovery a secret and proceeded to complete the embankment. Then he presented his bill for the entire work to be audited by Roane, after which he intended to collect from the Government. The matter involved the theft of eighteen thousand pounds sterling.

Kāra, whose well-paid spies were watching every official act of Lord Roane, learned of the contractor’s plot by means of its betrayal to one of his men by McFarland himself, who, in an unguarded moment, when he was under the influence of drink, confided his good fortune to “his dear friend.” But it was evident that Roane had no suspicion of the imposture and was likely to approve the fulfilment of the contract without hesitation.

Here was just the opportunity that the Egyptian had been seeking. One morning Tadros, being fully instructed, obtained a private interview with Lord Roane and confided to him his discovery of the clever plan of robbing the Government which McFarland was contemplating. Roane was surprised, but thanked the informer and promised to expose the swindle.

“That, my lord, would be a foolish thing to do,” asserted the dragoman, bluntly. “The Egyptian Government is getting rich, and has ample money to pay for this contract and a dozen like it. I ............
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