IN THE GARDEN OF AGAHR

When her father had left her alone Maie lay still, for a time, in deep
thought.

“It must be,” she reflected, “that our dear David, in spite of my
bribes, has sold our secret to my father. For tonight, at least, I have
lulled his suspicions. And he will soon be at the gate to admit Kasam;
so I fear nothing. But the little David must not be able to annoy me
again.”

With this came a thought whereat she laughed. Rising from her couch the
girl went to a tiny cabinet and cautiously unlocked it. She busied
herself there for several minutes, at times laughing softly to herself,
but with no trace of merriment in the notes. Finally she clapped her
hands to summon a maid.

“Bring here one of the slaves,” she commanded.

The girl withdrew, but presently returned alone.

“There are no slaves in the house, my mistress,” she reported.

“Indeed! My father must have taken them with him,” Maie replied. Then,
after consideration, she added: “You will do as well, Halima; nay,
perhaps better. Do you know David the Jew?”

“Yes, my mistress.”

“Then get your cloak and seek David out, wherever he may be. And, when
you have found him, give to him this casket, Halima, with the greetings
of the daughter of the vizier; and tell him it is a token of my faith in
him.”

She brought from the cabinet a small box, exquisitely enamelled and
inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

“Keep it safely concealed in your cloak, Halima. It does not lock, but
opens by pressing this spring–so!” The lid flew back, disclosing a
quantity of gold and gems and a silken purse; and after permitting the
girl to glance within she closed the cover, snapping it into place. “Now
that you have seen the contents, my child, you will not care to open it
again. Keep it well fastened until it is in David’s hands.”

The girl promised to obey, and taking the box started at once to perform
her mission. It seemed to her a queer hour–the dead of night–to carry
a present to a Jew; but the whims of Maie were past accounting for, and
the duty of a slave was to obey without question.

Left to herself, Maie glanced at the hour-glass and hastily caught up
the mantle which she had discarded the better to display her charms to
her father. She wound the robe carelessly about her shoulders, pressed a
panel in the wall, and gained egress by a narrow stairway to the
gardens.

“It is very dark,” she murmured, feeling her way along a path; “but so
much the better. My Allison will not need a light to know that it is I!”

Onward she crept, turning the angles of the hedges with unerring
instinct, until she paused beneath a group of stately siszandras where
the shadows were even deeper than elsewhere. But her eyes, growing
accustomed to the darkness, soon made out the dim outlines of a stone
bench, and she stooped and passed her hands along its length until she
discovered that it was vacant.

“He is late,” she whispered; “or perhaps I am a moment early. He will
come soon.”

Languidly she reclined upon the bench, her face turned toward the carved
pillars that marked the Gate of the Griffins, standing but a few paces
away like silhouettes against the murky sky.

After a few minutes’ lapse a key clicked in a lock; a stealthy foot-fall
reached her ears, and the next moment a man knelt beside her.

“Ah, sweet one!” he whispered, clasping his arms around her yielding
form and covering her face with kisses; “again for a few moments I may
enjoy paradise with you by my side! I have been very impatient, my Maie,
for this hour.”

“Yet you are late, Allison.” She spoke his name tenderly, and her broken
English rendered the sibilant very charming in his ears.

“I may be a trifle late, little one, for I met several groups of men
stealthily creeping through the darkness. I cannot understand why every
warrior in the town seems abroad at this hour of the night.”

She sat up suddenly, clinging to him.

“Which way did they go?” NORFLOXACIN

“To the westward, all of them,” he replied.

Somehow the words sent a chill to her heart, for she remembered her
father’s mission to the west gate. Could their carefully guarded
conspiracy have been betrayed? She listened eagerly, but all about them
the town lay still as death. It was not yet midnight.

Her lover’s caresses recalled her to the present. Allison had drawn her
closer beside him on the bench, and throwing back her mantle was
pressing her passionately to his heart. Unresistingly she nestled in his
arms, the dainty oriental perfumes that radiated from her body filling
his nostrils with their ravishing odors and the soft contact of her
cheek against his thrilling him with a joy akin to madness.

Words were barren messengers of love now; only the throbbing of his
heart and her gentle sighs betrayed to the caressing breeze the fact
that the bench was occupied.

Suddenly she shuddered, clutching at his hand so fiercely that her nails
were imbedded in his flesh. A low moan escaped her lips, and then her
grasp relaxed and she fell back limp and inert.

Filled with a nameless horror, Allison looked up. The sky had lightened,
somewhat, permitting him to discern before them the form of a huge
black, who held within his hand a dripping sword. Even as Allison gazed
the weapon leaped back and came straight for his heart in a quick
thrust. He shrank from the point, springing sideways, but could not
wholly escape. A biting pain pierced his side. But now he was upon his
feet, one hand pressing the wound and the other holding his revolver.




A shot rang out, followed by a scream. The black swayed and fell, but
others rushed with naked cimeters to take his place. Allison leaned
against the bench and fired again–and again–and again, a fierce joy
filling his breast at the outcries of his victims, even while the blood
surged through his brain and he felt the numbness of death creeping over
him.

The shots from the revolver were answered by loud cries from the other
end of the garden–that nearest the house. Torches flashed, sending
gleams of light dancing over the flowers and grasses toward the silent
group beside the stone bench. Then came Dirrag, bounding over the sward
with a band of chosen warriors in his wake.

At the ghastly tableau which the lights disclosed they paused, looking
on one another with horror in their eyes. And now the deep tones of the
gong from the west gate smote upon the air, rousing with its brazen
warning all the sleeping city. The far-away outlines of the wall sprang
into flame, while the hoarse cry of a multitude rolled grimly out upon
the midnight zephyrs.

In the garden of Agahr a grizzled warrior bent over Allison’s
unconscious form.

“I think, my captain, the American still lives,” he said.

For a moment Dirrag did not reply. He was gazing sadly upon the lovely
face of Maie, whereon still lingered the traces of a happy smile. But
the dark eyes, inscrutable as ever, were wide and staring, and the
warrior leaned over and gently covered the dainty form with the folds of
her mantle.

Then he stood up and coughed, for the night air had gotten into his
throat.

“Come along, you dogs!” he growled. “Let us report to the Khan. The
conspirator he sent us to arrest has escaped him.”

“And the American?” asked a man.

“Oh, the American?” Dirrag hesitated, wondering how his master would
desire him to act. “Well, bring the infidel dog along with you,” he
said.