THE VENGEANCE OF MAIE

To those who looked after Agahr with pitying eyes a slave entered,
announcing a messenger for David the Jew.

The little man hurried away to the next chamber, where, dimly lighted by
a swinging lantern, stood the form of a girl whose face was concealed to
the eyes by the folds of a dark mantle. But the eyes were enough for
David. He knew her at once.

“Halima!” he exclaimed. “Vy do you seek Davit?”

The girl drew a small box from her cloak.

“The gift of Maie,” she said.

“Maie! Bud, dey tell me Maie iss dead.”

“Of that I know nothing,” answered the slave girl, all unmoved. “It is
nevertheless her gift. I have been seeking you since before midnight,
and but now discovered you were at the palace. Take the casket; and,
mark me: here is the spring that opens it.”

She drew the cloak around her again and with quiet, cat-like steps left
the room.

David gazed after her with joy sparkling in his eyes.

“Id iss my luck!” he muttered, hugging the casket in an ecstasy of
delight. “Id iss de luck of cleffer Davit! Efen de dead adds to my
riches. Led me see–led me see if Maie iss generous.”

With trembling fingers he touched the spring, and as the lid flew back
he leaned over and feasted his eyes upon the gems and gold that sparkled
so beautifully in the dim light.

Then the silken purse attracted his attention. He drew it out, loosened
the string, and thrust in his thumb and finger.

Next moment an agonized yell rang through the palace. With a jerk that
sent the gold and jewels flying in every direction the Jew withdrew his
finger, glaring wildly at an object that curled about it and clung
fast. Then he dashed the thing to the floor, set his heel upon it and
screamed again and again in mad terror.

The cries aroused those in the next room; the draperies were torn aside
and the Khan entered, followed by Merad, Kasam and the Americans.

David lay writhing upon the floor, and even as they gazed upon him his
screams died away and his fat body rolled over with a last convulsive
shudder.

“What has happened?” asked Kasam, bewildered–as, indeed, they all were.

The physician bent over and cautiously examined the crushed thing that
had proved to be David’s bane.

“It is a mountain scorpion,” he said, “the most venomous creature in
existence.”

Maie’s vengeance had survived her; but perhaps it mattered little to the
dead girl that David’s punishment had been swift and sure.