A WOMAN’S WAY

“And now,” the vizier had said to his daughter on the evening of the
fourth day, “let us rest content. The sirdar of the tribe of Raab–our
faithful ally Zarig–has sent a force to patrol the desert trails over
which Dirrag must pass with Ahmed on his return to Mekran. Zarig has
sworn that the son of Burah shall never reach here by the seventh day.”

“That is good,” answered Maie, thoughtfully. “But it is not enough.”

Agahr threw out his palms with an impulsive gesture.

“What would you have?” he asked, impatiently. “I have suborned every
servant in the palace; I have followed every plan you have suggested;
intrigue and cunning each moment battle for our great object.”

“Yet the Persian sits beside Burah Khan and baffles our every plot,”
replied the girl. “I will go to him myself, my father.”

“You! Impossible.”

“No one shall ever know but yourself, and you will guard my secret. But
see the Persian I must. Despite his pretended loyalty he is a mere
man–and surely there is a way to influence any man that lives.”

An hour later Agahr secretly introduced Maie into the palace, and while
he himself guarded the passage leading to the chamber of Burah the girl
boldly pushed aside the draperies at the entrance and confronted the
physician.

The Persian was standing beside the couch as she entered, and after a
glance at his visitor he quietly drew a silken coverlet over the still
form and advanced to where the girl stood awaiting him.

“I am the daughter of the vizier,” she said, softly.

“You are welcome,” declared the Persian; but he passed one hand over his
forehead as he spoke, and his voice sounded weary and discouraged.

Maie threw back her veil and smiled, while the physician, leaning upon
the low table that bore the shaded lamp, gazed wonderingly at the
beautiful face revealed.

“May I rest myself?” she asked, in her sweet voice, and without awaiting
permission she passed between the table and Burah’s couch and sank
gracefully upon a low divan.

The Persian hesitated an instant, and cast an uneasy glance at his
patient. Then he seated himself beside the table and bowed.

“It is the same old tale, I suppose?” he said, enquiringly. “You do not
wish the Khan to live to acknowledge his son?”

The girl gave a little laugh.

“It is very pleasant to find you both frank and comprehensive,” she
returned, “for now many useless words may be spared. Tell me, Persian,
why you insist upon interfering with our plans to depose the sons of Ugg
and restore the throne to the former rulers of Baluchistan? What is it
to you, a stranger, whether Burah Khan dies tonight–this very
moment–or lives to acknowledge his son two days hence?”

“Only this,” he answered quietly. “I have given my word.”

“Do you fear for your reputation as a skillful physician? Elai! You have
already accomplished wonders enough to make you famous. Had you not
arrived in Mekran, Burah Khan long since would have passed away.”

“It was a draught of my own invention,” said the man, musingly. “I am
anxious to test its powers. If it will hold Death at bay for seven days
I shall have solved an important problem in medical science.”

“But why is it necessary to test your draught on the Khan of
Baluchistan? There may be thousands of similar cases wherein the matter
of life and death is unimportant. Perhaps, in spite of your great fame,
you lack money. See!”

With a quick gesture she arose and approached the table, emptying upon
its spread the contents of a chamois bag. Before the physician’s eyes
sparkled a score of exquisite gems–diamonds, rubies, sapphires and
emeralds of enormous value.

He gave them but a glance and looked into the girl’s eyes. They
sparkled as brilliantly as the jewels, but were equally mystifying. What
she read in his own eyes is uncertain, but a moment later she sank at
his feet and clasped his knees in her rounded arms.

“For the cause of science,” she murmured, looking up into his face with
a ravishing smile, “I will gladly promise the great physician ten gems,
equally as flawless and pure, for every one now before him! It is a rare
treasure, my Persian. All I ask in return is permission to attend the
Khan until morning.”




His brow flushed, but he did not withdraw his gaze from her dark eyes.

“Ah, do not refuse me,” she pleaded, resting her head against him so
that the fragrance of her hair saluted his nostrils like an enchanting
perfume. “It is so little for you to do, when you may ask so much in
return!” Her bosom heaved with emotion and pressed against his knee.
“You shall have a palace of your own, my friend, here in Mekran, where
you may woo Science at your will and command a thousand slaves to do
your bidding. Are we not playing for a throne? And who shall have
greater power than the man that enables the new khan to sit therein and
rule a kingdom? I am the daughter of the vizier, my Persian, and
hereafter no physician but you shall attend me.”

She nestled closer, with a little sigh of content that seemed to
indicate the battle was won to their mutual satisfaction, and for a
moment both maintained the pose, silent and motionless.

Suddenly the physician stood up, freeing himself from the girl’s
embrace. With an abrupt motion he swept the glittering gems into the
little bag and tossed it at the girl’s feet. Then, with folded arms, he
stood looking down at where she still crouched by the empty chair, her
lovely features convulsed with a passion terrible to witness.

But the mood quickly passed. Her face cleared. She raised her hand and
rearranged the disordered masses of her hair, laughing the while in low
tones and lifting her eyes unabashed to the man who had repulsed her.

The Persian shuddered.

Slowly rising to her feet she made him a mocking bow and said,
jestingly:

“The chisel must indeed be dull that can carve no emblem on the marble.
No man, believe me, is incorruptible; I have failed merely because I
overestimated my own powers. Well, I will go.”

She looked around for her cloak. It lay over the divan, and she passed
the Persian as if to get it. But in the act of picking it up she paused,
straightened, and in two bounds stood beside the couch of the
unconscious khan. A dagger flashed, and once–twice–thrice she plunged
it deep into the bosom of the form hidden by the silken coverlet. Then
she turned with a laugh of triumph toward the physician, the dagger
still clasped in her jewelled fingers.

The Persian smiled.

Without a word he walked to the couch, and as she shrank aside he seized
the coverlet and thrust it back, revealing nothing more than a mass of
bolsters and cushions cleverly placed to outline the form of a man.

The girl, rigid and staring, turned her eyes from the couch to the
physician.

“Where is he?” she whispered.

He took her wrist, fearless of the dagger she still held, and led her to
an alcove. Throwing back the curtains he allowed her to gaze upon the
still form of Burah Khan, lying peacefully beside a window through which
the moon’s rays flooded the small apartment with mellow light.

Maie made no attempt to escape the grasp upon her wrist. She permitted
the man to lead her back to the larger room, where he wrapped the cloak
around her shoulders and placed the bag of jewels in her hand.

A moment later she rejoined the vizier in the passage.

“Well?” he enquired, anxiously.

“We must pin our faith to the men of Raab,” she replied, between her set
teeth. “The Persian is not human–he is a fiend!”