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HOME > Classical Novels > The Last Egyptian > CHAPTER XX. THE SHEIK AGREES.
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CHAPTER XX. THE SHEIK AGREES.
Kāra congratulated himself. For one whose early life had been passed in a hovel, he had been very successful in directing the destinies of the great. All his grandmother’s vengeful plans, supplemented by his own clever arrangement of details, had matured in a remarkably satisfactory manner, and this evening he was destined to complete the ruin of Lord Roane’s family. In addition to compromising Aneth beyond all hope by a false marriage, he would to-morrow have my lord cast into prison on a charge of embezzlement. The proof which he had pretended to place in the girl’s keeping, and which she had without doubt promptly destroyed, was merely a forgery of the receipt to McFarland. The original was still safe in his custody.

This ruse had been a clever one. His judgment of the girl’s nature was marvelously accurate. Having destroyed the paper to insure her grandfather’s safety, Aneth was effectually prevented from breaking her contract with Kāra. There was no way for her to recede. He had paid the price, and she was left with no excuse for not fulfilling her part of the agreement.

When Kāra entered his courtyard he found it ablaze with lights. The women’s apartments, now completely refitted, were truly magnificent. A dozen servants,{227} arrayed in splendid costumes, stood motionless at their posts, awaiting the arrival of their new mistress. Mykel, a rascally Copt whom Kāra had recently attached to his household, was clad in priestly robes, and paced up and down the court with an assumed dignity that elicited sly smiles from his fellow-servants.

Only the prince’s own people were present, for Kāra wished to be in a position to deny even the farce of a ceremony, should Aneth attempt in the future to use it as an excuse for her downfall. But it pleased him to lull her suspicions in this way in the beginning, and so render her an easy victim. It also gave an added flavor to his revenge.

Tadros had been carefully instructed, and would have no difficulty in fulfilling his mission. He ought to reach the villa on his return by half-past nine, allowing for natural delays. Kāra trusted Tadros because the dragoman was so completely in his power; but, with his usual caution, he had sent a spy to watch his messenger and report any irregularity in his conduct. Tadros did not know of this spy; otherwise, he might have felt less confidence in himself.

Half-past nine arrived, but no sound of carriage wheels broke the stillness. The servants stood motionless in their places, and Kāra paced the courtyard in deep reflection while engaged in drawing on his white kid gloves. The false priest stood under the bower of roses where the ceremony was to take place, trying to find the service in the Coptic Bible he had borrowed.{228}

Nine-forty-five; ten o’clock. The dark-eyed servants noticed that their master grew uneasy and cast anxious glances toward the entrance.

It was twenty minutes later, when the nerves of the most unconcerned were beginning to get on edge, that the patter of horses’ feet and the rapid whir of wheels broke the silence. A carriage dashed up to the villa and halted.

Kāra hurried forward expectantly, but paused abruptly when he met the spy who had been sent to watch Tadros.

“Where is the dragoman?” he demanded, in a sharp voice.

“The dragoman, your highness, is a traitor,” said the man.

Kāra’s nervousness suddenly subsided. He became composed in demeanor and his voice grew soft.

“Explain, if you please,” said he.

The man bowed.

“Arriving at the hotel, Tadros sent away your excellency’s carriage—”

“Where is it now?”

“I do not know. Then he engaged another equipage—that of the Arab named Effta Marada, bearing the number of ninety-three. Tadros brought the young lady down and placed her in Effta’s carriage, ordering him to drive to the opera house. I sprang up behind and accompanied them. Tadros soon got rid of Effta by sending him on an errand and then drove quickly{229} away. He crossed the Nile to the west embankment and drove down the river to a point opposite the island of Roda, where your dragoman placed the lady on board a dahabeah.”

“Yes; go on.”

“When the boat steamed away up the river, I took the deserted carriage and drove here as rapidly as possible. That is all, your excellency.”

“Whose dahabeah was it?”

“That belonging to Winston Bey. I saw him on board.”

“Did you see anyone else?”

“The lady who has been a friend to Miss Consinor.”

“That is Mrs. Everingham.”

“And an old Englishman, Lord Roane.”

“Ah! Quite a family party. And our dear Tadros went with them?”

“He did, your excellency.”

“Up the river, you say?”

“Yes, your excellency.”

“Thank you. You may retire.”

Kāra turned to Ebbek.

“Put out the lights and send the servants to their quarters,” he said, calmly.

In his room the prince tore off the white gloves and changed from evening dress to a gray traveling suit. Then he returned to the now deserted courtyard and sat down in the moonlight beside the fountain to smoke a cigar.{230}

The blow had been sharp and sudden. While Kāra fully realized the natural capability of Tadros for deception and double dealing, he also knew that the blustering dragoman was an arrant coward, and so was bewildered at the courage manifested in his treachery.

But it was characteristic of Kāra that he neither bemoaned his adverse fortune nor became despondent. He entertained a passing regret that he had delayed killing the dragoman, but did not permit himself to dwell long upon his servant’s defection. The thing to be first sought was a remedy for the apparent failure of his carefully laid plans. By and by he would attend to the dragoman’s reward. Just now it was imperative to prevent his intended victims from succeeding in their attempt to escape.

There was no demand for immediate action. The dahabeah was, as he knew, a slow steamer, and would be forced to breast the Nile current sluggishly. His enemies doubtless depended for their safety from pursuit upon Kāra’s supposed ignorance of their whereabouts. He admitted that someone had plotted shrewdly against him. On the Nile a party in a small boat is almost as isolated as if at sea. The express steamers and tourist steamers pass now and then, but they travel rapidly, appearing and disappearing within the brief space of half an hour. Aside from these, only the native barges, picturesque and ghostlike as they drift by, break the ripples of the broad river. The banks{231} are sprinkled with many villages, and at this season shaduf workers are plentiful; but the native has tired of staring at the Nile flotilla, unless awaiting with eagerness the landing of the big tourist steamer, from whose passengers a scant livelihood is gained, and this occurs only at certain points of interest.

So Kāra had time to be deliberate. It even occurred to him that this seeming calamity might turn out to be exceptionally favorable to the success of his schemes. In Cairo one must act with circumspection, because the police of the city are alert and almost incorruptible. The Nile dwellers fear the law rather than respect it; but they are too far from the capital to be very much afr............
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