Never had a better equipped caravan left the gates of Mekran to cross
the Gedrusian Desert in the direction of Kelat and civilization. The
palanquins of the dromedaries were so comfortable that Aunt Lucy
declared she felt as if on shipboard. The horses were the finest the
famous monastery of Mehmet had ever bred; the pack animals bore tents
and material for the nightly camp that would have been worthy the great
Alexander himself, and everything that might contribute to the comfort
and even luxury of the travellers had been provided with a liberal hand.
Here were the twenty Afghans, too, glad of the chance to return to their
own country again; but of the former party some were missing and some
had been added.
Dirrag was the guide, this time, and the faithful fellow lost no
opportunity to implore Howard Osborne to take him along to America.
“Your Highness will need a bodyguard,” he argued, “so why not take me,
whom you may trust?”
“We don’t use body guards in America, Dirrag,” was the laughing answer.
“But we have such things as true friends–when we can get them,” said
Janet, brightly; “so I shall insist upon having my old warrior by my
side, wherever we may go.”
“That settles it, Dirrag,” announced the doctor; “you’re half an
American already. Heigh-ho! I wish I could go with you. But Bessie says
I must return to her just as soon as I’ve bought the new furnishings for
the palace and seen Lucy well on her way home. You may expect me to end
my days in this jumping-off place, my dear Colonel.”
“It’s really a very fine country,” declared Aunt Lucy, with an air of
proud proprietorship; “and it’s only natural, Luther, you should wish to
live with Her Serene Highness the Khanum of Mekran and Empress of
Baluchistan, who is your only daughter and my niece.”
“Fiddlesticks!” said the doctor, laughing. “I really believe the only
reason Lucy is anxious to get back to New York,” he remarked to Dr. and
Mrs. Osborne in a loud aside, “is to air her relationship with the
Khanum. Oh, by the way, Colonel,” turning to his old friend, “how about