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HOME > Classical Novels > The Last Egyptian > CHAPTER XXIV. THE SHEIK DEMURS.
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CHAPTER XXIV. THE SHEIK DEMURS.
No one on board the dahabeah had entertained even a suspicion of danger. Winston Bey knew well the unreliable character of the natives of certain villages, but even he did not dream that the steamer would be molested or its passengers annoyed; therefore, the surprise was complete.

Mrs. Everingham, awakening with a start, heard the patter of many feet upon the deck and saw a man advancing into the cabin where she and Aneth had been sleeping.

Her first inspiration was to scream; but instead she reached beneath her pillow and drew out a small revolver, with which she fired two shots in rapid succession point blank at the intruder.

Neither bullet took effect, but they startled Kāra as much as her vigorous screams, in which Aneth now joined. He retreated hastily from the cabin, thus allowing Mrs. Everingham to close the door and secure it with a heavy bar provided for that purpose.

The after-cabin having been given up to the women, Winston and Lord Roane occupied a smaller cabin forward. Between the two were the kitchen and the engine-room. As the natives boarded the steamer near the bow, their first act was to drop into the forward cabin{257} and seize the white men before they were fairly awake. Roane offered no resistance whatever, but Winston struggled so energetically that it took three of the men, headed by the gigantic sheik, to secure him. It required but a few moments to bind the prisoners securely hand and foot, and then they were left in their bunks under a guard of natives, who held their bare knives in their hands in readiness to prevent any possible escape.

The four Arabs of Winston’s crew were easily overcome, and by the time that Kāra arrived forward they laid upon the deck carefully pinioned. There had been no bloodshed at all, and the steamer was now entirely in the control of Kāra and his mercenaries.

“All right,” said the sheik, nodding his satisfaction as the Egyptian approached. “It was very easy, my prince. The two white men are below, and the boat is ours.”

Kāra, by the dim light of a lantern, peered into the faces of his prisoners.

“Where is the dragoman?” he asked. “Did you kill him, as I commanded you to do?”

“We had not that pleasure,” returned the sheik, “for he was not on board.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very sure, my prince.”

“He may be in hiding. Search every part of the steamer thoroughly except the cabin of the women.”

The sheik shrugged his shoulders, but gave the command{258} to his men. They examined every possible hiding-place without finding the dragoman.

Meanwhile Kāra squatted upon the deck, thinking earnestly of what his future action should be, while the silent sheik sat beside him with composed indifference. When the Arabs returned from their unsuccessful quest, the Egyptian said to his ally:

“Let your men watch the prisoners until morning. We can do nothing more at present.”

So they stretched themselves upon the deck and rested until daybreak.

As soon as it was light enough to distinguish objects readily, Kāra arose and ordered Winston and Lord Roane brought upon deck. There they saw the Egyptian for the first time and understood why they had been attacked.

“I suspected that I owed this little diversion to you,” said Winston, glaring angrily upon his enemy. “Perhaps you do not realize, Prince Kāra, that by this lawless act you have ruined yourself and your career.”

“No,” returned Kāra, smiling; “I do not realize that.”

“These things are not tolerated in Egypt to-day,” continued the Bey.

“Not if they are known,” admitted Kāra.

“Do you think, sir, that I will remain silent?” demanded Winston, indignantly.

“Yes.”

“And why?”{259}

“Because I have no intention of permitting you to return to Cairo. Understand me, Winston Bey—I entertain no personal enmity toward you; but you saw fit to interfere with my purposes, and in doing so destroyed yourself. Having been lawless enough to capture your boat, an outrage only justified by my desire to obtain possession of the persons of Aneth Consinor and Lord Roane, I am compelled, in order to protect myself, to silence every person aboard who might cause me future annoyance. Therefore, it is necessary to kill you.”

“You dare not!”

“You misjudge me,” answered Kāra, coolly; “but I shall be glad to furnish you immediate proof of my sincerity.” Turning to Antar, he said: “Comrade, oblige me by placing your knife in the heart of Winston Bey.”

The sheik did not move.

“Well?” cried Kāra, impatiently.

“It is not in the compact,” returned the imperturbable Arab.

“You are wrong,” said the Egyptian, sharply. “It was fully understood you should obey my commands, especially as to killing those of my enemies whom I desired to silence.”

“My brother will remember,” returned the sheik, “that there was also another understanding—a little matter relating to certain jewels and piastres.”

“You shall have them!”{260}

“And you shall be obeyed—when I have them.”

Winston smiled, and Kāra saw it and uttered a curse.

“Will you thwart me now, when it is too late for either of us to retreat with safety?” he asked Antar, angrily.

“By no means. I do not object to the killing, believe me, my brother; but my people are poor, and the money you have promised them will do much to ease their sufferings. Let me but see the gems and the piastres and all your desires shall be gratified.”

Winston looked at the gigantic Arab closely. He seemed to remember the man, but could not place him, for Antar had not only trimmed his gray beard, but had dyed it a deep black. Still, all natives are crafty and covetous, and the words he had overheard gave him an idea.

“Listen, my sheik,” he said in Arabic. “If it is money you wish, I will double Kāra’s offer to you. It is but natural that a man will pay more for life than another will pay for revenge. State your price, and the sum shall be yours.”

Antar turned toward the Egyptian, an expression of satisfaction upon his keen features.

“My brother will answer,” he said.

&l............
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