BY THE HAND OF ALLAH

The events of this fateful night, numerous though they had been, were
not yet ended.

Leaving the women to care for the dead man the Khan had withdrawn to his
state apartment, taking with him the Persian, Dr. Warner and Colonel
Moore, as well as David the Jew.

“It is best that all mysteries and misunderstandings be cleared up at
once,” said the young ruler, when his guests had been seated. “The hour
is late, but I believe you will prefer not to rest until you have become
acquainted with the facts that explain my presence here as the Khan of
Mekran. But there are others in the palace who are entitled to hear the
story, and with your permission I will ask them to join us.”

The Colonel nodded consent. He was yet too dazed by the appalling
tragedy of the hour to command more than a listless interest in these
consequent proceedings. Dr. Warner was grave and thoughtful, but seemed
to realize intuitively that fate had been kind to his old friend in
removing Allison from his life. After the first shock of grief had
passed the Colonel himself would acknowledge this. The boy had been a
thorn in his side for many years.

“Dirrag,” said the Khan, “tell Captain Beni-Bouraz to unbind his
prisoners; and do you lead them here to me.”

They sat in silence until the command was obeyed, and Kasam and the aged
vizier entered the room.

The Prince carried himself rather better in misfortune than when free to
direct his own actions. He appeared composed and dignified, accepting
his fate with a stout heart and seemingly without desire to bemoan the
triumph of his enemy. Agahr’s face was sternly set. What his thoughts
might be none could tell.

The Khan greeted his prisoners courteously, and waited until they had
seated themselves before he began to speak.

“Gentlemen,” said he, addressing the entire group, “events have occurred
this night which render it necessary that you be made acquainted with
some portions of my life history that you are now ignorant of. A few
minutes ago Colonel Moore accused me of being an impostor, because seven
years ago he knew me in America as Howard Osborne.”

Kasam gave a start at these words.

“I have never believed you were a Baluch,” he said, scornfully. “You
were foisted upon us by that false mufti of Mehmet, Salaman, to further
some interest of his own.”

“It is true that I am not the son of Burah Khan,” responded the other,
in even tones. “My father is Dr. Merad Osborne, known to the people of
Mekran as a Persian physician, and now here to verify my statement.”

All eyes were turned upon the dark visage of the tall physician, seeking
in vain a resemblance between the two men that would lend truth to the
astonishing assertion.

Merad smiled. NORFLOXACIN

“I will tell you my story,” he said, “and then you will understand us
better.”

“I, for one, do not care to hear it,” exclaimed Kasam, with scarcely
suppressed eagerness. “If this man is no son of Burah Khan, he stands
before us a fraudulent usurper, and the throne of Mekran belongs to me!”

“Not so,” answered a clear voice, speaking in English, and the
white-robed priest of Takkatu pressed through the group and stood before
the Prince. “Ahmed Khan sits upon his throne by a better right than you
can ever boast, Prince Kasam of Raab!”

Kasam was about to retort angrily, but he marked the jewelled star upon
Salaman’s breast and controlled himself to bow low before the emblem.
England had not wholly driven out of the young Baluch’s heart the faith
of his fathers.

“Your words are strange, my father,” he murmured, still somewhat
rebelliously. “Is not this man acknowledged to be the son of Merad?”

“And who is Merad?” asked the priest, gravely.

“I do not know, my father.”

“Tell him, Merad.”

“I am the son of Keedar Khan,” said the physician, proudly.

A cry of surprise burst from his hearers. Even the vizier, who knew no
English, caught the name of Keedar Khan and looked upon the Persian with
curious eyes.




“I believe,” said Kasam, brokenly, “it will be best to hear your story.”

The priest stepped back, giving place to the physician.

“Keedar Khan had two legitimate sons,” began Merad, “of whom I was the
younger by several years. My brother Burah was fierce and warlike, and
realizing that I might at some time stand in the way of his ambition and
so meet destruction, I fled as a youth to Teheran, where I was educated
as a physician by the aid of secret funds furnished by my father. When
Keedar died and Burah ascended the throne I wandered through many lands
until I finally came to America, where I met and loved Howard’s mother,
the daughter of a modest New York merchant named Osborne. In wedding her
I took her name, my own being difficult for the English-speaking tongue
to pronounce, and from that time I became known as Dr. Merad Osborne, a
physician fairly skilled in the science of medicines.

“Our son grew to manhood and became the private secretary of Colonel
Moore. In appearance he favored his mother, rather than me, having her
eyes and hair as well as the sturdy physique of the Osbornes. Seven
years ago, or a little more, the catastrophy that wrecked our happiness
occurred. Howard disappeared, self-accused of forging his employer’s
name for a large amount. He left behind, for the eyes of his mother and
me alone, a confession of his innocence, together with the startling
information that he had secretly married Colonel Moore’s daughter before
the knowledge of Allison’s crime was known to him. His youth and
inexperience led him to believe that his sacrifice would shield his
wife’s brother and father from public exposure and disgrace, failing to
take into consideration the wrong done to his girl-wife and to his own
parents.

“I at once suspected that my boy had fled to the Orient, for he had
always maintained an eager interest in my tales of Persia and
Baluchistan, and knew I was a native of this country, although he was
ignorant of the fact that he was the grandson of the great Keedar Khan.
So his mother and I left New York, searching throughout the East in a
vain endeavor to trace our lost son. At last we were reluctantly
compelled to abandon the quest, and I settled in Kelat, where my fame as
a Persian physician soon became a matter of note.

“It was in this capacity that I was sent for to minister to my dying
brother, Burah Khan, who knew not that I was his brother. But I strove
faithfully to carry out his will, and to preserve his life until the
arrival of his heir. Then came from the monastery of Takkatu, where he
had secluded himself, my own son, appointed by the Grand Mufti of the
Sunnites to represent the successor of Burah Khan upon the throne of
Mekran. To the great priest of our Faith,” bowing low to Salaman, “no
knowledge is barred, and from Howard’s story of his father’s life the
Mufti knew the truth, and that he had a greater right, according to the
laws of the tribes, to rule this country than the son of Burah Khan,
who, also an inmate of the monastery, pleaded to be left to pursue his
sacred studies at Takkatu.

“Of the strange coming of the Americans, through whom my son had been
exiled from the land of his birth, I need not speak. The ways of Allah
are indeed inscrutable, and Ahmed Khan has acted, during these past days
of trial, by the advice of the great Salaman himself.”

A silence followed this terse relation, which had sufficed to explain
many things both to Kasam and to the Americans. David, also, shrinking
back into his corner, listened eagerly, wondering if there was any part
of the strange story that he could at some future time sell to his
advantage.

“There is little that I can add,” said the Khan, musingly, “to my good
father’s words. That he has always remained a faithful Moslem you can
easily guess, and it was but natural I should embrace the creed of my
forefathers. I found much comfort in the religious seclusion of the
monastery, but it is nevertheless a great relief to me to be freed at
last from the taint of guilt that has clung to my name. The only wrong I
did in America was to secretly marry the girl I loved and then leave her
to mourn a lover whom she might well consider faithless and unworthy. My
only excuse is that I was young and impulsive, and my dear wife, who had
never ceased to have faith in my honor, has generously forgiven me the
fault.”

As the Khan paused, Kasam the prince strode forward and held out his
hand.

“Forgive me, my cousin,” he said, bravely, “that I have been led to
misjudge and oppose you. From this time forth Ahmed Khan shall boast no
more faithful follower than Kasam of Raab.”

Howard pressed the proffered hand gratefully. Then he walked over to
the aged vizier, who had been a silent and puzzled witness of the scene,
and touched him gently upon his shoulder.

“You are forgiven, and you are free, Agahr,” he said in Baluch. “Go to
your home, and may the Prophet shield your heart from the bitterness of
the blow that there awaits you.”

Agahr looked into his eyes.

“Is it Maie?” he whispered.

The Khan nodded.

“The hand of Allah,” said he in kindly tones, “spares neither the high
nor the lowly.”

Agahr threw up his arms with a wild scream.

“The hand of Allah!” he cried; “no, no! not that! It was the hand of him
that loved her best–the hand of her father!”

And muffling his head in his cloak he tottered slowly from the room.