DAVID SELLS AN IMPORTANT SECRET

David brought the note, which he had received from the hands of the
khan’s Arab slave, Memendama. It was in Janet’s clear script and read as
follows:

“Do not worry about me in any way, for I am safe and happy. Of my own
free will I have become an inmate of the harem of the Khan.”

Aunt Lucy gave a shriek and fell over backward upon the floor, where her
heels beat a tattoo against the rug. No one paid the slightest attention
to her. The Colonel stared straight ahead with stony eyes and a look of
horror upon his face. The doctor stalked restlessly up and down the room
with his hands thrust deep in his pockets, whistling softly to himself.
Allison, stolid and unimpressed, lighted his pipe and puffed away with
supreme nonchalance. Bessie had not yet recovered from the adventure of
the morning. She lay face downward upon a divan and wept miserably.

Under these adverse circumstances Aunt Lucy’s fainting fit vanished. She
sat up and glared wildly upon the perturbed group.

“This,” she announced, “is the result of travelling in heathenish and
godless countries. We are ruined!”

Her brother waved his hand impatiently, but no one answered in words.

“And to think how that demure minx Janet has deceived me all these days
and made me believe she was respectable! Oh, it is terrible.”

“Shut up!” said Allison, rudely.

“You’re a beast, that’s what _you_ are!” retorted the old lady, white
with fury, “and a fit brother for your designing sister. And to think
that I’ve got myself mixed up with such a scandal. An American girl the
inmate of a harem! What will be said when this news reaches New York?
And Colonel Moore an officer of the great Metropolitan Construction
Syndicate!”

“See here, Lucy,” warned her brother, “you keep mum until you know what
you’re talking about. Janet is as good a girl as ever breathed.”

“Only de best gets into de khan’s harem,” remarked David, consolingly.

Aunt Lucy turned upon him like a tigress.

“It’s your doing, I’ll be bound,” she cried. “You’re a traitor!”

David winced a little, and studied the pattern in the rug.

“Now,” said the doctor, “it strikes me you’re getting nearer to the
truth, except that David is too much of a fool to be a scoundrel, and so
may escape suspicion. But I’m inclined to think there has been treachery
in some quarter, and that Janet has been forcibly seized by the Khan. I
wish there was an American or English consul in this forsaken town.”

“Her letter says she went willingly,” snapped Aunt Lucy, and the Colonel
groaned at the suggestion.

“It was probably written under threat of death or torture,” replied the
doctor, positively. “These Orientals are equal to any villainy. Knowing
Janet as we do, and believing in her modesty and truth, it is absurd to
interpret her letter in any other light. What do you think, Bessie?”

The girl shook her head, wiping the tears from her reddened eyelids.

“I don’t know, papa. There’s some dreadful mystery about it, I’m sure.”

“The thing to do,” said Aunt Lucy, “is to appeal to Prince Kasam. I
never trusted that young man very much, but he’s been decently brought
up in a civilized country, which is more than you can say for that awful
khan. In the circumstances the Prince ought to be willing to help us
rescue Janet.”

The Colonel stood up and brushed the gray locks from his forehead.

“I’ll find a way to get to Kasam at once,” he said, in a harsh and
strained voice. “In which direction did you tell me, Bessie, his camp
lies?”

She rose and walked steadily to the Colonel, putting her hands upon his
shoulders and looking full into his eyes.

“I have not told you all the truth of what happened this morning,” she
began, bravely. “It was Kasam and his men who first attacked us, and
Kasam who bore Janet away while the others tried to kill Dirrag.
Afterward the Khan appeared and rode after them, rescuing Janet just as
they reached the top of the hill. Kasam must have been killed or
dreadfully hurt, for we did not see him again. The rest happened as I
told you. Dirrag cut down the two men and saluted the Khan as he rode by
with Janet in his arms. I must have fainted just then, for I knew
nothing of this; but Dirrag afterward assisted me to get home, and when
I wept at the capture of Janet he told me to dry my eyes, for she had
smiled when the Khan kissed her.”

“Impossible!” cried the Colonel.

“Dirrag is very honest,” returned Bessie, hesitatingly, “and he thinks
the Khan carried her to his harem that she might be safe from Kasam. I
will not say she did not object; but, Colonel, there has been something
strange about Janet for some time–something I could not understand.”

“I thought she was happier,” said the Colonel, huskily; “that she was
learning to forget.”

“She has laughed in her sleep,” continued Bessie; “she, who used to be
so sad and melancholy. And only this morning she sang an old song as we
galloped away from the town, and semed as light hearted as a child.”

The Colonel buried his face in his hands, and a sob rose to this throat.

“Oh, my girl–my dear little girl!” he murmured; “what can I do to save
you!”

“Cheer up, Dad,” said Allison, brusquely. “There’s no use taking it so
hard. What does it matter whether Janet’s in a harem or anywhere else,
so long as she’s happy and content? My opinion is we’re wasting our pity
on her. She isn’t the sort to write a letter under compulsion, and you
know it as well as I do.”

“Really,” the doctor remarked, “I can’t understand the thing at all. If
the girl had ever seen Ahmed Khan she might have fallen in love with
him. It’s common report that he’s a fine looking fellow. But until today
they were perfect strangers. H–m! Let me see. Wasn’t there some old
romance in Janet’s life–some trouble or other?”

“Yes,” said the Colonel. “But that is past and gone–years ago. Yet she
brooded upon it, doctor, and it may have driven her mad.”

“I’ve detected no signs of insanity in your daughter,” returned the
doctor, rather nettled at the suggestion. “But Allison is right; there’s
no use borrowing trouble over the matter until we know more. Perhaps we
shall think of some way to communicate with her, or to force the Khan to
give her up. We seem absurdly helpless in this tyrant-ridden town,
although were we in any other country on earth we might easily assemble
an army and rescue your daughter by force of arms, provided diplomacy
failed. Kasam seems as impossible as the Khan, for Bessie’s story leads
me to suspect he’s the greater scoundrel of the two.”

David had appeared ill at ease during this conversation. Now he rose
from his seat and after a half frightened glance around announced in a
timid voice:

“I haf a secret!” NORFLOXACIN

“Has it anything to do with Janet Moore?” asked Aunt Lucy, in her
sharpest tone.

“It iss a fine secret,” said David, fixing his little eyes upon the
Colonel, “ant it is vort’ a t’ousand fillibees.”

The old lady gave a snort of contempt, but the Colonel seemed
interested, and as he shrewdly examined the Jew’s face he noted great
beads of perspiration standing upon his shiny forehead–a warrant that
David, at least, was very much in earnest in his proposition. It was not
impossible David had a secret, and that he considered it a dangerous one
to disclose.

“Will you swear that your secret is worth a thousand fillibees to me?”
he asked.

“Sure, most Excellency–if your daughter she is vort’ so much money,”
earnestly answered the Jew.

“She is worth more,” declared the Colonel. “Tell me what you know, and
you shall have the price you ask.”

But David only stood still and trembled, answering not a word.

“Bessie,” said the doctor, “take your Aunt Lucy into the next room, and
keep out of earshot. We must have a business conference with David.”

When the women had gone the Colonel walked over to a desk and took from
a drawer a long envelope filled with English bank-notes, which he
carefully counted. They amounted to six hundred pounds. To these he
added a roll of gold and brought all the money to David, placing it upon
the table beside him.

“There, David, are a thousand fillibees, in good English and American
money. It is yours if you can tell me how to rescue my child from the
palace of the khan.”

David reached out his eager hands.




“Not yet,” cautioned the Colonel, sternly. “You must first prove that
your knowledge is of value to us.”

The man drew back, discomfited.

“I vill nod risk mine head,” he said, doggedly, “unless I haf de
moneys. Id iss more to you dan id iss to me. Gif me de t’ousant
fillibees or I nod speak von vort!”

The Colonel returned to the desk and brought forth a revolver.

“You will tell me all you know,” he said, “or you will soon be a dead
man, and then you won’t care for the money. And if you do not tell me
the truth, if your secret is not worth to me this sum of money which you
have demanded, you shall never leave this room alive. On the other hand,
if you have not deceived me the money shall be yours. Take time to think
it over, David, and be sure I will keep my word.”

David trembled anew, and cast a sly glance at the doctor, who looked as
stern and determined as his terrible friend. Because of the excitement
of the moment Allison had allowed his pipe to go out, and now sat
regarding the Jew with a cruel smile upon his handsome features.
Evidently these Americans were not to be trifled with. David looked
longingly at the money, and gave a sigh. He was fairly trapped, and he
knew it.

“Most Excellency,” he said, mopping his brow with a dirty red cloth,
“tonight de vest gate of Mekran vill be open’t to Prince Kasam ant hiss
army. De city vill be surprised.”

“Who will open the gate?” asked the Colonel.

David hesitated.

“Tell me!”

“De vizier,” whispered the Jew, with pallid lips.

“Well, and what then?”

“De Khan ant hiss people vill rush out of de palace to fight; but dey
vill not be ready to fight, an’ Kasam vill cut dem down.”

“I see. And then?”

“Vhile de city iss in de uproar I leat you by a secret vay into de harem
of de Khan. You vill take de girl ant carry her avay.”

“Very good. Are you sure you know this secret way, David?”

“Sure, most Excellency. I pait a high price to find it oudt. A t’ousant
fillibees! Id iss too liddle, altogedder.”

The Colonel took a key from his pocket, unlocked the cabinet, and drew
out David’s leathern pouch. Into this he stuffed the money–notes and
gold together–and then replaced the pouch in the cabinet, locking it
securely.

“You will be a rich man, David, when we return from the palace,” said
he.

David clinched his hands and an angry look flashed in his beady eyes.

“Id iss nod right!” he protested. “You Americans do nod play de fair
way, at all. You ged my secret ant you keep my moneys.”

“Only until we have proven you,” replied the Colonel. “If you are true,
David, you will be rich. When are the gates to be opened?”

“Ad midnight.”

“All the gates?”

“Only de vest gade. De vizier, he vill trust no von bud himselfs.”

“Then how did you know of the plot?”

The Jew was silent.

“It will pay you to be honest, David.”

“De vizier musdt sent a man to de prince,” he said, reluctantly; “ant de
man he owes me two golt fillibees. He tells me hiss message to de
prince, ant I cancels de debt. _Sullah ben cairno!_ id iss vell I did,
for I safe mineself moneys. Ven de man comes back he hass a fit unt
dies. De vizier he iss a cleffer excellency–bud nod so cleffer ass
Davit.” He stopped to chuckle softly and rub his hands together; but
suddenly he paused and cast a gloomy look at the cabinet.

The Colonel tossed him the key.

“Now you will know the money is surely yours,” he said. “Keep the key
yourself, David, for you are going to stay here with us until after
midnight. If you guide us safely to the harem you may go free. If we
find you guilty of treachery I will put a bullet through your head. But
in either event the key unlocks the cabinet and the money is now in your
possession.”

David nodded and secreted the key in his bosom.

“I am true man,” he muttered. “Id iss impossible for me to deceive so
great an excellency!”

“We three,” said the doctor, “will accompany David to the harem.”

Allison grew red and uncomfortable.

“One of us, sir, should remain here to guard the women. Let me stay.
Surely my father and you will be able to look after David and bring
Janet home in safety.”

“That is not a bad idea,” returned the doctor. “There will be wild times
when Kasam’s army enters the city. It will be well for you to be on hand
to protect Bessie and my sister from possible intruders.”

This being arranged to the young man’s satisfaction the elder gentlemen
left the room to make preparations for their adventure, leaving Allison
to smoke his pipe and keep an eye upon the slippery David.

When they were alone the Jew approached his companion and whispered:

“Tonighdt you vill be in de garden mit de vizier’s daughter.”

Allison’s face flushed with mingled fear and anger.

“What do you mean by that, you scoundrel?” he exclaimed.

“Davit knows!” chuckled the Jew, wagging his head. “Six time–sefen
time–you meet mit Maie vhen no one knows bud Davit. Tonighdt you go
again. She iss very lofely–very beaudiful! Ah, yes. Bud do nod fear.
Davit vill say nodding–if he iss vell pait.”

“Well paid? So you intend to rob me, also, do you?”

“I am true man, Excellency. Your fadder should know; de vizier should
know; bud Davit vill forget efferyt’ing if he hass a hundert fillibees.”

“A hundred fillibees! I haven’t so much.”

“Fifty, den. Fifty fillibees iss so small for so big a secret!”

“Very well; tomorrow you shall have them,” said Allison.

“Bud, most Excellency, suppose I shouldt remember tonighdt, ant your
fadder ant de vizier shouldt know vot Davit knows? I cannod forget de
secret unless I haf de fifty golden fillibees. I vouldt try, Excellency;
I vouldt try hard; bud I could nod–could nod forget.”

Allison pulled at his pipe and thought it over, while the Jew stood
cringing and smiling before him. Then he drew from his pocket all the
gold and notes he could find and gave them into Davids hand.

“You’re making money fast, you dirty pig of a Jew,” he growled. “But
watch out that you don’t lose it just as quickly. I’ll get even with you
before I’m through.”

But David had other secrets, the thoughts of which made him accept the
young man’s threat with a good grace. With evident delight he concealed
the money in the bosom of his robe. It lay next to the hundred fillibees
which Agahr the Vizier had given him that very morning. And the key to
the cabinet was also in his possession.

David sighed from pure happiness, and sat down upon a chair to wait for
the Colonel and the doctor.

“De easiest t’ing in de vorlt to sell,” he murmured, contentedly, “iss
secrets!”