The Thrilling Adventures of Dick Anthony of Arran/The Sword of Iskander
THE SWORD OF ISKANDER
THE Anthonys were ever an untameable breed, unbowed by circumstances, and though the last but one, the present laird, was a sport from all the true type, Richard, the last of all of them, was the most uncompromising, the most indomitable of the lot.
"What good are you?" demanded his uncle, Major Anthony. "What can you do?"
"I have to thank circumstances," smiled Richard. "I can swim, I can ride, and I can sail a boat against any man I ever met."
"That's it!" swore his uncle, blowing up with rage. "Sail a boat! That's all you can do! That's all you own beyond a suit or two of clothes! Sail a boat!"
"I mean to," said Richard. "I'm only waiting for you to talk business first."
"What business? Balderdash! What d'you think I'll do for you?—a failure!—a disgrace to the Anthonys! Not one penny! Not one ha'penny!
"You're disinherited! It's automatic. The estate provided for you while there was a chance to pass an examination. That ceased when you failed for the Indian Civil. To inherit, an Anthony must enter one or other of the services. You know that. You failed. What are you here for? I'll support no able-bodied man!"
"Did you ever fight one?" wondered Dick.
"What d'ye mean?"
"I'm giving you your choice. You fight or you pay me a thousand pounds; a thousand pounds was provided in the will for every Anthony in line of succession on entering any of the services. I want that thousand."
"You want—I've heard of impudence!" his uncle stammered.
"You either fight or pay," smiled Richard without moving.
"What d'ye mean?"
"I mean I'm entitled to the money and I've come for it. Don't answer yet. Listen! Just before old MacDougal died he told me how much you paid him to break my leg by accident. He quoted your actual words—'If he's not there, MacDougal, at examination time there'll be a hundred pounds for you.' He showed me the actual hundred—the actual bank notes you gave him. He offered them to me. His son Andry has the hundred now; he knows where it came from and for what, and he has tried to get me to take it."
The Major's jaw dropped, but he spun on his heel in an attempt to bluster.
"What mare's nest is this?" he spluttered.
"He admitted that you bribed him, and I thrashed him for it just three weeks ago today. He and I are quits. He put the admission in writing and I had it witnessed; my lawyer has it now."
The Major said nothing, thoughtfully. An officer—presumably a gentleman—found out at such expedients for saving money, it is perhaps wiser if he does say nothing.
"Under the circumstances," continued Dick, "I applied for a commission in a hurry, and saw a lawyer. I know where I am and where you are. I've come for that thousand, and I'll take it now or fight—now, understand—not tomorrow or the day after—now! And I give you from now exactly five minutes to come to a decision! No, don't try to leave the room—I've got my eye on the bell, too—thirty seconds are up! Think, man—you'd better think!"
After one wild glance around him for a way of escape Major Anthony sat down and thought deliberately.
"I'll pay," he said quietly, pulling out his check book, just as Dick snapped his watch shut. "It's extortion, but I'll pay."
Dick watched him write the check, and watched him write and sign a letter to the Lamlash bankers in confirmation of it.
"Now I'm off," he said, putting both into his pocket. "You'll pay my four hundred a year to my lawyer, or he'll be after you to know why. There's only one thing more before I go—the sword—I'm the heir—I've a right to it—I want it."
"No," said Major Wallace Anthony.
"Possession," said Dick, walking to the mantelpiece, "is nine points of the law."
He took down a wonderful old claymore, basket-hilted, with a beryl set in the top of the hilt, and characters etched rather rudely down the blade. It had no scabbard; and though the blade had been kept polished by almost unnumbered generations, the weapon looked older than the mantelpiece.
"I'll take it with me," said Dick, "and if you want it back you'll have to fight for it—except on one condition, of course. The day a direct heir is born I'll bring it back if I'm at the other end of the world. Failing an heir—remember the written evidence I hold against you—and—don't—let—me—catch—you—again! Good day!"
Holding the strange sword by the blade, he strode out, straight up the road to Lamlash.
"Where away, Mr. Dicky, sir?"
The voice and the accent were a Scotsman's speaking English with the prideful accuracy of learning newly won.
"Away, that's all," said Dick. "Just away."
"Ye have the sword, I see. I'm glad ye have it. Ye'll be goin' in the yacht?"
Andry was six full inches the taller of the two and looked even bigger in his uniform.
"Where are ye goin' Mr. Dicky? Where awa'?"
There was a pause while they eyed each other, Dick uncompromising, Andry recognizing the fact.
Forgetful of his uniform, he held out a great fist like a club with hairs and freckles on it. Then he remembered and changed to a salute. Dick reached his own hand out (and it was only very little whiter); Andry seized it, and was satisfied.
"If I could have gone into the old regiment, Andry, I would have been proud to have you for a servant. It was decent of you to enlist on my account. As it is, you're in and I'm out; you can't get out and I can't get in. Do your best to be a credit to the regiment. Good-by."
Andry saluted him again and stood at gaze as Dick walked off. Neither looked back until they were out of each other's sight.
After that Dick freed his hawser—threw it inboard—and jumped after it. He stood at the little ketch's helm until his headsails drew, and then sat down comfortably, headed down the Firth of Clyde with wind and tide aiding.
But not even Dick had ridden out a storm such as swept the whole of Western Europe for six weeks or more that summer.
He fought to a finish with the biggest bully he could find—the North Atlantic. He won, and it took him a month to win.
He was three days and three nights and another day in making sight of Brest, and he dropped anchor in water on a lee shore, too tired to do anything but let out every fathom of chain he had and fling himself below to sleep.
Nursing his sails' strength Dick bored close-hauled into the blackness, luffing a little and again when the worst of the wrenching squalls took hold of him, until a glimpse behind him over one shoulder told him that the lights of Brest were fifteen miles away; they were growing paler in the first dim efforts of a watery dawn.
Then he hove to. Then, with the spirit that had brought him out still running high, and growing higher as the promise of foul weather showed the need of it, he reached for his bagpipes. "Should Auld Acquaintance" skirled aloud and louder, where the gulls had days since ceased to dare. So it was not a gull that answered him, as the last notes died away. And the sea gives back no echo. They were pipes!
Then, as the gray dawn lifted, he caught the lilt and skirl and swing of pipes. Then, as he rose on a giant comber and could see 'round a twice-as-wide horizon, a patched gray lugsail showed, bellied tight and bearing down on his at a terrific pace.
In a small French fishing boat, such as poorer Bretons use, a giant of a man sat perched with what certainly were pipes across his knees. He sat with his legs in water, and was steering with evident intent of coming very close indeed to Dick.
"I found ye by wireless," he said with a note of pride, as he dropped into the cockpit later and accepted bread and cheese. "Did you desert?" asked Dick; and these were the first words he had spoken.
"I did not. I bought ma dis-char-r-ge. It was verra costly, but I broke into the hunner' pound an' bought it."
"So I'm at y'r ser-r-vice," with an air of triumph.
"Very well, Andry. Man the pump."
So the two men went on from Brest, where one had started out alone, and through all that followed there was never any more compact than that between them—three words of agreement and an order—"Man the pump". They were enough.
Cairene society is cosmopolitan, but Princess Olga Karageorgovich was out of place.
If she was more than two and twenty, then the extra years were as artfully concealed as were her motives. She had all junior officialdom enthralled—enraptured—hypnotized by the art that glowed behind her eyes—attendant on her. The seniors (and their wives) all voted her a nuisance.
The princess posed as a student of institutions. And after Dick let go his anchor in the harbor of Alexandria and came on to Cairo by express, she grew interested in purely British things, asking a brand-new line of questions. Officialdom had hopes for a while that she even meant to visit Scotland.
The sunshine of Dick's character had strengthened, now that he had a companion of kinds.
The Bay of Biscay had treated them according to tradition. Turn about, they had to nurse the little ship day and night, night and day, ceaselessly.
When Andry was despondent, out would come Dick's bagpipes, and a swaggering refrain would answer back the storm, putting new fight in both of them. But after that there followed blue, sweet-sailing months in which they waddled leisurely along the coast of Africa, oblivious of time and unannoyed by the flag of England.
For a few days Cairo swallowed Dick. Officialdom, for his father's sake, put him up at the swellest clubs and entertained him. Sharp-eared, wide-eyed officialdom in sweat-wet suits extracted facts from him and sympathized in a manner all its own.
It was on a club veranda that Princess Karageorgovich heard Richard say things which convinced her—which made her send a cablegram or two in code.
She was not supposed to hear. She was supposed to be listening to the admiring chatter of a little group of worshippers. Dick, never a lady's man, even when the lady had soft eyes and was twenty-two, would have winced at the thought of sharing secrets with her. The hot, tired-eyed Proconsul in starched white drill drew Dick aside to where both thought themselves out of earshot. He was in quest of new, strong nerves—of un-mosquito-bitten energy—of youth, and young idealism, and clean pride—to feed the government machinery at 33 per cent of market price.
"You must be reasonable, my boy." It was clear that Dick had told him many things. "You must take what you can get. Because you failed for the Indian Civil and couldn't make the regular army for some reason or other is no reason why you shouldn't be a huge success with us. We want good men. Go home and get nominated—I'll give you a letter that will turn the trick."
"I wouldn't go home if they'd give me Egypt," answered Dick.
He raised his hat and stalked away, walking like a king and not at all aware of it; he seemed to himself more like a little, unimportant man who had said a lot too much. He reached his hotel and a new decision simultaneously.
He found Andry on the bedroom floor, crouched over the beryl-hilted sword, cleaning it, and he watched him for a while, half amused, half wondering.
"Pack up!" said Dick, after watching a little while. "We take the evening train for Alexandria."
Nothing loath, Andry obeyed.
But if Dick imagined that he was drawing back from a trap and that a quick retreat from Cairo would see him free of the world again, he mistook the signs or else he failed to see them.
"Who was the young man with the royal stride?" asked the Princess Olga Karageorgovich, not more than two minutes after Dick had left the club. And glad of a chance to answer what seemed for once a genuinely harmless question the Proconsul wiped inside his collar with a dripping handkerchief and told the truth.
He did not know that from behind a pillar the princess had heard every word of Dick's conversation, and he would not have cared two pins in any case. He was merely glad when the princess nodded him good afternoon and drove away.
But Andry—who was so suspicious of all strangers as a rule—was frankly and delightedly bewitched. She met him in the hotel corridor—by accident, of course—and wisely resisted the temptation to give him a gold coin.
"Off back to bonnie Scotland?" she asked him, with a smile that won his heart.
"No-no, leddy—na-na! We're gaun' tae Alexandria, on the train the nicht."
She smiled again and left him feeling as if the Sphinx had grown young again and had laid siege to him. And that evening as he stood on the station platform outside Dick's reserved compartment, he pointed out the princess and her little retinue fussing on to the train.
"She's a verra fine wumman, sir—verra fine!" he assured Dick, with an air of confidence. "Name, sir? Her name's the Princess Krakatchoustiwich. She's French. From France."
NO woman went in or out of the Hotel Tewfik Pasha without the benefit of Andry's notice, and there was one he particularly favored; she had round, brown eyes, and a dainty ankle, and she spoke so little English that he had to repeat things over and over again.
"If it is the business of a maid to let herself be kissed by a cannibale écossais and c-r-r-r-r-ushed comme ça," she panted, still trying to speak English, she was so unhinged with indignation, "then it is also business to say the price is a hundred francs, n'est-ce pas?"
"Speak French, imbecile," purred the Princess Olga Karageorgovich, "and do not speak so loud."
So the maid continued in her own swift-flowing tongue:
"He says-ugh! le monstre!—says—that he carries a sword in that bag, and that he sleeps with it because his master would rather die than lose it. He says he never, no, never, leaves it—not at any time. He showed it to me—ugh!—so big—and sharp—with two edges—and with a great beryl in the handle, old and badly cut—it is antique. He kisses me—là! He c-r-r-r-r-ushes me, comme ça. In the name of justice I demand a hundred francs!"
"Continue," smiled the princess, not noticing the modest request.
"There was no more, except that they leave here at daybreak—he did not name the steamer. Their berths have been engaged."
"Tell Filmi Fared I have news for him."
The maid bowed herself out in silence, and the princess walked to the window, whence she could see Dick Anthony striding along the sea-front as if the whole earth knew he owned it. She watched him as a snake might watch a bird until he crossed the street and disappeared in the hotel.
Her reflections were broken into—or perhaps continued—by the opening of the door. Filmi Fared bowed himself in, with both hands folded in front of him and his brown eyes fixed on the floor.
She stepped up to him and took his arm—led him to the couch—and stood there facing him, after compelling him to sit. He sat quite still, except that one hand stroked his gray-shot beard.
"News?" he asked. "Your messenger said news." He spoke French perfectly.
"Yes. News! I have the man for you."
Her young eyes that hinted so much deviltry flashed as his old ones could never do. "I have the leader. Listen, Filmi Fared—listen! There is little time. A king, named Alexander, once gave this man a sword. Is it not delicious? Where are we—in Alexandria, n'est ce pas? Who named it so? Alexander the Great—Iskander, as they call him—eh? Iskander, then, since our plot is laid in Arabic, gave a sword with a beryl in the hilt to this man's ancestor. Is that clear? Have you no imagination?"
"These are great lands—and times—for breeding legends," he remarked.
The princess laughed. "Have you one ready made, or must we invent one?"
"I was searching my memory."
"Bah! Let us invent! What is the legend of this Alexander? The legend, not the truth. He is almost a god, is he not? Tall—golden-headed—dignified—served by a giant—fearless—would that description fit him?"
"In popular imagination—yes."
"Well—my man is all those things—and more! My man is English, and a rebel—for I heard him say it! Now for the legend, though! It must be a prophesy—those always take the popular fancy best. Let us say—Iskander was to come again—in Alexandria, the city that he built and named after himself—he was to come holding a two-edged sword with a beryl in the hilt, given him by some god."
"It sounds like legend—like genuine legend."
"Then start the legend on its rounds!" exclaimed the princess, with the air of a teacher who has worked out a small boy's problem for him.
"It is time to act! This man, who can lead if he is made to, has booked his passage for tomorrow at daybreak."
"Filmi Fared—who is the arch conspirator? Who stands more committed and involved than any other man? Whose life would be forfeit if the English did but suspect his treachery? Eh—Filmi Fared? And—and—who—by a word or two—by a hint dropped here and there—could send him—Filmi Fared—to the six-foot drop and the hempen rope, to dance by the neck on nothing—eh? She who could pour all that good Russian money through her fingers—and could pour more—could—ah—hadn't you better begin your rebellion—Filmi Fared? The hour and the man are ready—Russia has paid and waits!"
"Where is your man?" demanded the Egyptian.
"Here. In this hotel."
"Does he know?"
"He knows nothing. He is opportunity. He must be seized, and used! You must make him prisoner—must hold him while the legend starts on its rounds—must show him to others—must compromise him, so that he dare not go back on you—must force his hand—and then strike, while the regiments are fat and the officers play polo and make love! And—do you hear me, Filmi Fared?—you must begin tonight!"
That evening when Dick had finished dinner, and had started for the steamer where his luggage was supposed to be all stowed by this time, Andry set off to swagger through the streets and let the ladies look him over. In lieu of a cane he carried the precious sword in its canvas cover under his arm, and it served as well.
At the place where six streets come together—where at night were principally shadows that hid the unguessable—Andry was hustled suddenly.
Before he could swing around and smite for the honor of the clan of Anthony, someone slippery had snatched the sword from underneath his arm. And before he could raise an outcry, or summon his wits, sword, thief, and those who had hustled him were gone—vanished—swallowed by the smelly silences.
Five minutes after Andry's breathless arrival back at the hotel found Dick there, too, listening in tight-kept silence—imagining his uncle with son and heir—recalling his promise—and considering his own predicament.
For one whole minute he cursed himself for having brought the sword away—for another he cursed Andry. Being British, his next move was to spring into a cab and hurry to police headquarters.
The police knew nothing, and cared less. They found it difficult to show even a semblance of interest—until Dick let loose on them a brand of wrath that was new in their experience. Then they consented to arrest the thief—if possible. Dick, considering advertisements and half a hundred other wild expedients, drove sadly back to the hotel to think.
It was the Princess Olga Karageorgovich—pink-slippered—her diamonds a-glitter and her divine eyes a-glow in the shaded corner of the hotel foyer—ignoring the conventions for the nonce and calling softly to him from between the potted palms—who first showed active sympathy.
"I buy many curios," she told him. "I know many of these men—and they know me. I am a known buyer. My agent knows the ropes. Let me send for him, and tell him to investigate."
"I'd be awfully glad if you would," said Dick, wondering how a woman could seem so young and speak so reliantly, and know so much.
So a Levantine named Henri was sent for, and dispatched in search. Very little more than an hour later he returned, and found Dick pacing up and down on the walk outside the hotel; and he knew—though Dick did not know—that both of them were watched through shutters of a first-floor window. He led Dick close up underneath the window before he spoke.
"A syndicate of thieves has bought the sword, sir, from the man who stole it. They say they will only deal direct. Will you come at once? If you will keep at a little distance so that no one will suspect, I will show the way."
"Andry!" called Dick, and the giant stepped out of the shadows, nearly frightening Henri out of his sallow skin; dumb with terror he glanced upward at the window. The shutters moved a trifle—forward and then backward—twice, silently, and Henri lost his fear. He made no objection then to Andry's following Dick.
Following their guide carefully, but keeping on the side of the street opposite to him, Dick and Andry treaded mazy side streets until they came at last to the dingiest, shabbiest part of Alexandria. Andry and Dick drew closer, Dick leading, but Andry so close behind that no man could have slipped between.
The guide crossed over at last—grinned in the sickly light of a small barred window—knocked a drum signal on the panel of a door, ten feet down a narrow passage—put his foot inside the door directly it was opened—and beckoned Dick.
"Let me go first!" swore Andry, thrusting himself past, heaving the Levantine to one side and rushing in. All he found was a pitch-dark passage and an old hag, nearly blind, who held a candle lamp. She peered up at him trembling and muttering.
"It's all right, Mr. Dick!" he called. And then he started, to find Dick beside him. He winced as Dick grabbed his arm. "You impudent ass! The only man who dare take my wind is a better man! Get to your place behind!"
He flung Andry by the taut-wrenched muscles back and out through the door to the street, then strode straight on alone down the unlit passage.
Dick took no notice of him when the giant brought up to him, breathing hard, at another door.
The Levantine made more signals, and that door opened, too. The hag dropped out of the procession, and they went on in utter darkness—left, right, right, left—the guide calling out directions from behind and striking occasional matches to assure himself. Finally Dick paused at a narrow doorway on his right, that gaped blacker than the rest had done.
"That's right, sir," the guide called, "straight in there!"
Dick went ahead, and Andry followed close behind him. Suddenly the door closed on them—sliding in grooves, not swung—and they heard some kind of bolt go home with a well-oiled click. They were shut in, tight, in blackness of which they could sense the narrow limits. There was neither light nor ventilation.
Then both men heard something, and stood listening in silence. There were voices—the low, steady hum of a hundred voices—in a room beyond. Dick felt his way along the baked-brick wall. He felt up and down for a latch or lock, or keyhole, and found none. So he strode across the little room from wall to wall to measure it. There were ten clear feet of floor space.
"Lie down, Andry—on your back—feet against that wall—head toward this other door—that's it."
Andry obeyed, unquestioningly. Then Dick laid his own strength down in line with Andry's, with his feet on Andry's shoulders.
"Understand me—when I give the word, I want you to shove like hell!"
"Ready, sir!" said Andry, gathering Dick's legs in his mighty arms and filling his lungs.
Dick felt the heft of Andry's shoulders through his boots—heard the huge leg muscles crack, as the six feet five grew straight. His own hands—neck—shoulders—flattened and grew numb against the door—his own leg muscles nearly burst—and something began to give. Both men gasped and strained again—the still hot blackness shook and filled with yellow streaks—they grunted—there was a din beyond of scattering chairs and suddenly rutched feet—and the door went down in a blaze of light with a crash and the snapping of split woodwork.
In an instant they were on their feet—purple-faced with effort—hair disheveled—tremendous in the door frame. For an instant more they stared about them, blinking in the glare of light and trying to get focus. Then Andry leaped forward. "I see the sword!" he yelled.
But Dick's outstretched arm prevented him, and he found himself jerked back again. Dick, too, had seen what Andry had. His eyes were fixed on a table-end at which sat Filmi Fared. The crowd of at least a hundred men had opened down the middle, and there was a clear gangway down the center of the room. The sword—out of its canvas case—lay in front to Filmi Fared, and he blinked from it to Dick, and from Dick to the sword again.
"Give me that sword!" commanded Dick.
No one moved. Then Dick strode forward, suddenly, Andry closing up behind him, covering his master's back with his own huge bulk. In a second Dick had the sword and was examining it to make sure that the beryl was still safely in the hilt. It was there! In his glee he swung it, and brought it to a whistling, humming shiver in the air above him.
"Zindabad Anthony Shah!" yelled somebody. And that was Persian, Dick understood it—knew what it meant. In twenty tongues the crowd yelled out the answer, "Long live King Anthony!"
Unthinking—but possibly with the vague idea that he was proving ownership—Dick swung the sword aloft again. The crowd yelled a salvo of applause and a flashlight streamed out. There was no camera visible—only a suspicious looking box affair in one far corner of the room.
"These gentlemen," said Filmi Fared, standing up, "Are the sworn representatives of sixty-eight thousand armed men who are at present in secret rebellion against British rule. The movement is world-wide—it is named Pan-Islam—but our present plans are confined to Egypt. We have waited only for a leader. You have been chosen as that leader. You are required to take an oath of allegiance to our cause—on the Koran—on the Bible—and on your sword. You are required to swear that when you have been raised to the throne of Egypt you will reign constitutionally. And you are required to commit yourself in writing before these witnesses. You should sign here."
Dick threw back his tawny head and laughed aloud.
"You sign, or you die," smiled Filmi Fared.
Filmi Fared was about to speak again, but he was interrupted by a signal on another door, at the end of the room opposite to that through which Dick and Andry had burst in.
The signal was answered, and another one replied again. Then the door opened, and closed again behind a woman, veiled to her heels in black. Her slippers happened to be pink and Dick wondered where—and when—he had seen just such slippers.
With a walk that was inimitable—and vaguely familiar—she walked down a gangway opened through the crowd, straight up to Dick. She tapped him with a fan.
"You are the uncrowned King of Egypt!" she asserted—in French aloud—for all the room to hear. Then she said it again in Italian, and in English, and in Arabic.
"Decidedly uncrowned!" smiled Richard, not knowing what to say.
"You must remain a prisoner until a story—a legend we have started—reaches its required destination. It went out tonight—like ripples of a pond, when a stone is thrown into it. It will travel fast. In the meanwhile, you had better sign. You are offered more than you perhaps realize."
Dick smiled, but did not answer.
She turned to the crowd and swept it with a majestic look.
"Leave me alone to speak to him!" she ordered.
The crowd drew back to the farthest wall. But that did not satisfy her; she waved them away.
"You have your choice between a kingdom and death!" said the woman, standing close and tapping Richard with her fan. She spoke in English now.
"Thanks awfully!" laughed Dick.
"You are said to be Iskander, come to life again with Iskander's sword. That is the story that has gone out tonight in ever-widening rings. In a week all Egypt will believe it. In a month—less, in two weeks—you will have all Egypt at your feet—you will be dealing with the great powers—acknowledged King of Egypt! Can you not see that these fools—these weaklings, none of whom dares lead—will then be your fools—your tools—you will be king and they your instruments? Is Richard Anthony afraid? You were not afraid to speak your mind to a high commissioner! Lead, man! Lead on! You are known for a rebel! Lead these other rebels!"
"I'm quite sober," said Dick, "and I'm not a drug fiend. You've chosen the wrong man."
"You're a proud man, aren't you?" she purred. "You are thinking of your honor, n'est ce pas? Well—it is gone, my friend, and you must win it back again! Yes—gone! You have been flashlight photographed with your sword aloft in the center of these rebels! Whether you consent to lead or no, that photograph hangs over you! That photograph alone would hang you—high as Haman—unless you lead, and win, win, win!"
"I wouldn't lead such an outfit as yours," he answered her, "If the King of England offered me the job!"
"Imbecile! Do you suppose that these men will risk letting you out of here alive unless you sign that paper there?"
"Who are you that ask?"
"Ah! My identity must always be a secret—"
"So?" said Dick—and he shot one arm out—a long, left arm that gathered her, and drew her to him, screaming. Then the beryl-hilted sword performed a task for which it had never been intended. It split the long black shroud that draped her to the heels. He pushed her away again, retaining her mask in his left hand, and she stood gasping in pink and cream and diamonds—the Princess Olga Karageorgovich—indignant—flushed—more lissome and more beautiful than he had ever thought a woman could be—Satanita at her savagest.
"Help! Help! Help! Kill him! Let him die, now! Slay quickly! He is a traitor—would betray us! Kill!"
There was a rush and Andry seized a chair. A hundred—more than a hundred—surged through the doors from either side. A knife, launched by a big Italian in the middle of the door that Dick had burst, whizzed at him—was seen as it flashed under the light—and stopped—caught in the sword hilt.
"Take it, Andry!"
Dick's eyes were on the big Italian, but he waited long enough for Andry to reach out and wrench the knife from between the steel of the basket hilt. Then he moved—and the Italian faded—leaving a gap in the doorway where he had been. And the football field at school had taught Dick what to do with an opening.
It was a fight that Sudanese might envy while it lasted—all rush and slash and thrust and roar and movement—a terrific impact—the hot, delirious feel of blood, backsquirted as the sword went in—the crash of a broken chair on human skulls as Andry widened the breach that Richard carved—a charge into blackness, where the cold steel was all that glimmered—and a burst with a wild hurrah into God's good midnight air, where a carriage waited at the corner and a driver slept.
Dick leaped for the box and Andry sprang inside.
"Madame—where is Madame?" asked the driver, waking up. But Dick's fist took him neatly underneath the jaw, and he toppled into the street gurgling.
By guesswork, and by sheer dead reckoning, Dick drove at the most prodigious flog for the shore—for the darkest part of the harbor front.
Dick and Andry sprang from the carriage, and a lash of the whip sent the horses galloping free in the direction of the city, with the empty carriage swaying in their wake.
"Look!" said Dick. "Jump for it!"
There was a boat, with three rowers in it, moored to a buoy some fourteen feet out from the shore. The rowers slept. Dick jumped first. He landed absolutely in the middle of the boat, and fell headlong over one of the natives, frightening him almost out of his skin. Andry followed with a groan and a monumental effort. He hit the water, like a whale descending, four short feet. Dick hauled him in.
"Know the Themistokles?" he asked. "The other harbor, eh? Well, take us there—give way—hurry up!"
The still sleepy native crew gave way. They were too accustomed to the manners and peculiarities of drunken first-class passengers from ships to be suspicious, and too interested in the money they would earn to hesitate. A half hour's row—for they had to search for the little ship—brought them alongside, and a sleepy watchman welcomed them.
"How much d'you want?" asked Dick.
"Ten shillings," said the owner of the boat.
"I'll give you a pound," said Dick, "if you'll lie alongside here till the steamer leaves."
"Very good, sir," said the boatman, with a grin.
"A pound," said Andry with a wry face, "Is an awfu' lot of money, sir!"
"It's cheap," said Dick. "It would cost us more than that, Andry, if they went back to the city and told tales."
The Themistokles—one thousand tons—one class of passengers—Greek flag—mixed cargo—anything for anywhere—was due to start a little after dawn.
Andry went below—unpacked certain valises—changed into dry clothes and stowed away the sword. Thenceforth the two of them paced up and down the little afterdeck, one on either side—Andry prayerful, Dick fuming, and both of them taut-strung to jumping point.
They exchanged no word. They walked the deck and waited, each knowing what the other thought too well to waste breath.
"Andry!" said Dick after a while, when the tenth false alarm had set their hearts to fluttering against their ribs. The huge man hove alongside, and fell into step.
"To cut a long story short, Andry, my man, if we get out of this mess safely, this is where we part company. It was all very well for me to accept your service at a time when I was an independent man of means. Now I'm a fugitive! Then, I could draw a certain income from home at any time—a small income, but a certain one. Now—I have considerably less than a thousand pounds, and positively no prospects. Are you listening?"
"I've been photographed with a drawn sword, surrounded by a crowd of known criminals. I suppose about a hundred men would swear in a court of law that I am a rebel. Do you follow me so far? Very well. I've no right to drag you down into my quagmire, and I've no intention of doing it. At the first port we reach—provided we get away from here—I shall pay your passage back home again, and buy you a draft on Glasgow for a hundred pounds. That will put you where you were before. Do you understand me?"
"Is that all, sir?"
"Then hear me now! D'ye ken where I was before ye accepted my service, as ye call it? I was in the water—aye—swummin'—verra nearly drooned. Ye're big enough—ye're strong enough—tae put me back in again—an' I give ye leave. Then—I'd be where I was. Ye've a right to do that—an' no more."
Dick smiled a little. He was not much given to displaying the more serious emotions; they lay too deep.
"I didn't ask you to follow me in the first place," he asserted.
Andry touched his forelock—and Dick held out his hand.
The little liner's whistle screamed impatiently, but with due consideration of the cost of steam. A launch came alongside and disgorged some passengers. The companion ladder was hauled up and in. The steamer screamed again. The winch began to swallow steel chain with a roar as the windward kedge came home.
Then the little ship's propeller started turning with the steady, hypnotizing thug that calls more men than ever sails did. Alexandria began to fall away astern, and the chance of arrest grew insignificant.
He felt a pluck at his arm, but he did not turn. Then a more deliberate tug at his coat sleeve drew his attention, and he looked 'round—straight into the eyes of the Princess Olga Karageorgovich!
"I think we both had a very narrow squeeze for it!" she said in exquisitely shaded English. "But——" and she tapped him with a remonstrating finger—"You owe me for a two-horse carriage, Mr. Anthony! Remember—I shall claim the debt!"