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´╗┐Title: Miss Caprice
Author: Rathborne, George, St., 1854-1938
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miss Caprice" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                             MISS CAPRICE

                       By ST. GEORGE RATHBORNE

Author of "Dr. Jack," "Dr. Jacks Wife," "Captain Tom," "Baron Sam,"
"Miss Pauline of New York," etc.

                                 1893



CHAPTER I.

"COWARD!"


A little party of tourists might be seen one lovely day in January, on
the hill back of the city of Valetta, on that gem of Mediterranean
islands, Great Britain's Malta.

The air is as clear as a bell, and the scene is certainly one to charm
the senses, with the blue Mediterranean, dotted with sails, a hazy line
far, far away that may be the coast of Africa, the double harbor below,
one known as Quarantine, where general trade is done, the other, Great
Harbor, being devoted to government vessels.

Quaint indeed is the appearance of the Maltese city that rests mostly
upon the side of the hill under the fortifications, a second Quebec as
it were.

The streets are, some of them, very steep, the houses, built of
limestone, generally three stories in height, with a flat roof that
answers the same purpose as the Spanish or Mexican _azotea_.

Valetta has three city gates, one the Porta Reale, through which our
little tourist group came to reach their present position, leads to the
country; the Porta Marsamuscetto to the general harbor where lie craft
of all nations, while the government harbor is reached by means of the
Marina gate.

Thus they hold to many of the ways of Moorish and Mohammedan countries.

The fortifications of limestone are massive--England has a second
Gibraltar here.

In general, the Maltese speak a language not unlike the Arabic, though
English and Italian are used in trade.

They are a swarthy, robust, fearless people, strong in their loves and
hates, and the vendetta has been known to exist here just as fiercely as
in its native home of Corsica.

Many dress in the costume of the Franks, but the native garb is still
worn by the lower classes, and is a picturesque sight, such as we see
upon the stage.

It consists of a long bag made of wool, and dyed various colors, making
a cap such as is worn by the sailors in stage scenes like the "Pirates
of Penzance."

The top part of this is used for a purse, or forms a receptacle for any
small articles the wearer desires to carry.

A short, loose pantaloon, to the knee, which leaves the lower leg bare,
is confined at the waist by a girdle or sash of colored cotton or silk.
Then there is worn a cotton shirt, with a short, loose vest, or
waistcoat, as they were formerly known, covering the same; the latter
often ornamented with rows of silver buttons, quarter-dollars, or
English shillings.

As to the ladies of Malta, their costume is very odd, and reminds one
somewhat of Spain. In part, it consists of a black silk petticoat, bound
round the waist, over a body of some other kind of silk or print which
is called the _half onuella_. The upper part, the _onuella_, of the same
material, is drawn into neat gathers for the length of a foot about the
center of one of the outer seams. In the seam of one of the remaining
divisions is inclosed a piece of whalebone, which is drawn over the
head, and forms a perfect arch, leaving the head and neck bare.

As may be expected, it requires much practice to wear such a dress
gracefully. Many of the best ladies of Valetta now get their fashions
direct from Paris--so the world moves.

The little party of tourists have ascended the hill for the purpose of
obtaining the glorious view referred to, and at the same time whiling
away a few hours of time, for their stay at the Island of Malta has not
been of their choosing, a peculiar accident causing the steamer on which
they were taking passage to put in here for some necessary repairs.

The tourists are five in number, and a very brief description will
give the reader an idea as to their identity, leaving individual
peculiarities to be developed as our story progresses.

Probably the one that would attract the attention of a stranger first
would be the young lady with the peach-bloom complexion and sunny blue
eyes, whose figure is so stylish, and whose rather haughty manner
bespeaks proud English blood.

There is another female, whom the young lady calls Aunt Gwen, and as a
specimen of a man-female she certainly takes the premium, being tall,
angular, yet muscular, and with a face that is rather Napoleonic in its
cast. A born diplomat, and never so happy as when engaged in a broil or
a scene of some sort, they have given this Yankee aunt of Lady Ruth the
name of Gwendolin Makepeace. And as she has an appendage somewhere,
known as a husband, her final appellation is Sharpe, which somehow suits
her best of all.

Aunt Gwen is a character to be watched, and bound to bob up serenely,
with the most amazing assurance, at unexpected times.

Then there is Sharpe, her worse half, a small gentleman over whom she
towers, and of whom she is secretly fond in her way, though she
tyrannizes him dreadfully.

Near him may be seen a young American, whom they have somehow dubbed
"Doctor Chicago," because he is a medical student hailing from that
wonderful city, by name John Alexander Craig. Among his friends he is
simply Aleck. His manner is buoyant, and he looks like an overgrown boy,
but his record thus far proves his brain to contain that which will some
day cause him to forge ahead.

No one knows why Craig is abroad. That he has some mission besides a
tour for health and sight-seeing, several little things have proved.

There is another member of the group, a gentleman of sturdy build, with
a handsome face, whose ruddy tint suggests the English officer, even
without the flowing whiskers.

Colonel Lionel Blunt has seen much service in India and around Cape
Colony. He gained an enviable reputation for deeds of valor, and is
disposed to look upon our friend from Chicago as an amiable boy, though
after seeing how they rush things out in that Western metropolis he may
have occasional qualms of fear lest this young doctor finally reach the
goal for which both are aiming. That goal, any one can see, is the
favor of the bright English girl whom fate has thrown in their way.
Perhaps it is not all fate, since Colonel Lionel has recently crossed
the States coming from India, and seems to pursue Lady Ruth with
singular pertinacity.

Others are present, one a Maltese gentleman, the proprietor of a select
club-house, where the garrison officers fence and engage in gymnastics,
but Signor Giovani is not of our party.

There are also several commissionaires or guides, at five francs a day,
for one cannot move at Malta without being attended, and it is wise to
engage one cicerone to keep the rest of his tribe at bay.

Thus, on the hill above the singular Maltese city of Valetta, our story
opens.

Aunt Gwen is sweeping a field-glass around, and emphasizing her
admiration of the picturesque scene with various phrases that would
immediately give her away as a Western Yankee.

Lady Ruth, with an admirer on each side, looks a trifle tired, or, it
may be, bored.

She may be planning some innocent little scheme, such as girls are wont
to indulge in when they have a superfluity of beaus, in order to extract
some amusement from the situation, even if it come under the head of
"cruelty to animals."

Philander Sharpe, with his hands under the tails of his long coat, and
his glasses pushed up on his forehead, is a study for a painter.

He was once a professor in a Western college, and with his smooth face,
hair reached up from his high forehead, standing collar, and general
dignified air, is no mean-looking figure, though dwarfed into
insignificance by the side of his spouse, the wonderful Aunt Gwen.

The conversation runs upon what lies there before them, and an animated
discussion arises as to the possibility of a foreign enemy ever being
able to successfully assault this second Gibraltar of the Mediterranean.

Of course, the young American is enthusiastic, and has unbounded faith
in the new White Squadron to accomplish anything, while, on the other
hand, the British officer, like most of his class, believes that John
Bull is invincible on land or wave. Of course, the young man from
Chicago disputes the point, and energetically contends that no nation
is superior to the Republic, or that any flag can be more desperately
defended than "Old Glory."

And right in the midst of the heated discussion Lady Ruth smiles, as
though she has suddenly hit upon an idea at last--an idea that offers a
solution to the problem that has been perplexing her of late, concerning
the courage of these rival admirers.

She turns to the American, and smiles sweetly.

"Doctor, you speak of your countrymen being brave; will you prove it?"
is what she says.

The young man turns a trifle red.

"I beg your pardon. In speaking of Americans I did not intend to sound
my own praises. Personally, I never claimed more than the average amount
of boldness, though I don't know that I was ever called a coward."

His manner is modest, but the young girl with English ideas chooses to
look upon his words with suspicion.

"Doctor Chicago must not take water. I have surely understood him to be
a regular fire-eater--that all Chicago has rung with his escapades,"
says the colonel of Royal Engineers, sneeringly.

"Nonsense! But, Lady Ruth, you spoke of my proving something--what can
I do for you?"

"Look!"

She extends a shapely arm. Her finger points to a white flower growing
out upon the face of the precipice beside them.

"Do you see that flower?" she asks.

"I do," he replies, calmly.

"I would like to possess it."

The young man looks down. A fall means instant death, and it would be
impossible for even an experienced Alpine traveler to pass along the
face of the rock in safety.

"I see no means of reaching the flower, or I assure you I would gladly
secure it for you."

"Ah! but a bold man would climb out there."

"Pardon--he would be a fool--his life would pay the penalty for a pretty
girl's whim. Unfortunately, perhaps, my life is too precious to some one
other than myself, to admit of the sacrifice. I am willing to do much
for Lady Ruth, but I decline to be made a fool of."

"Well spoken," begins the professor.

"Philander!" exclaims his spouse, and the little man draws in his head
very much after the style of a tortoise.

"Coward!"

The English girl is sorry as soon as the low word leaves her lips. No
one hears it but the young doctor, for the attention of all the others
is at that time directed elsewhere.

This time the object of her scorn does not flush, but turns very white,
as he looks her steadily in the eyes.

"I am sorry you have such a poor opinion of me, Lady Ruth. I make no
apologies, save the one that my life is too valuable--to others, to
myself--to throw it away at the mere caprice of a girl."

"There is a gentleman who finds a way to accomplish what he wants. Take
a lesson from him, Doctor Chicago," she says.

Colonel Lionel has noticed a long pole near by, in the end of which is a
cleft. This he has secured, and, by crawling as far as is safe along the
face of the rock, he is enabled to just reach the flower.

After a number of ineffectual lunges he succeeds in clutching the
coveted article in the cleft of the pole, and draws it toward him.

A moment later he presents the flower to Lady Ruth, with a smile and a
bow.

"No English lady ever expressed a wish that a British officer did not
feel bound in honor to grant," he says.

The girl thanks him, and then says:

"After all, the flower was prettier at a distance than when in my hands."

Colonel Lionel hardly knows whether he has made such a huge advance over
his rival after all.

The afternoon sun is waning.

"We must go down," declares Aunt Gwen.

"One more look around and I am ready," says Lady Ruth.

Already she is sorry for her cruel words. Like the best of women, she
can wound at one moment and be contrite the next. She finds an
opportunity a minute later, when the colonel lingers to get the shawl
she--perhaps purposely--left behind, to say in a low tone:

"I was cruel--forgive me--forget that foolish word," and while what she
utters gives him a pleasurable feeling, and brings the color into his
set face, he only smiles, as he answers:

"Willingly, Lady Ruth. I did not believe you could mean it."

Then, as the colonel bustles up, the subject is tabooed, and the party
of tourists proceed down the steep street leading to the Hotel Imperial.



CHAPTER II.

A DEADLY ENCOUNTER.


The scene, so peaceful, so picturesque, is rudely broken in upon by a
clamor so strange and awful that the blood is chilled in the listeners'
veins. Cries are heard down the steep street; cries that indicate alarm,
even terror; cries that proceed from children, women, ay, and strong
men, too.

Our party comes to a halt midway between the brow of the hill and the
base. On either side tall houses, the declivity ending only at the
water. It is a bustling street at all hours, with loungers, business
men, women going to and returning from market, and children playing as
children do the world over, in the dirt.

"What can it mean?" says Lady Ruth, as she looks breathlessly down the
street.

No one in their party can explain the cause of the excitement. They see
people running madly this way and that, as if panic-stricken.

"By Jove! it must be a fire!" suggests the colonel, twirling his
whiskers.

"Nonsense! we should see the smoke," declares sensible Aunt Gwen.

"You are right; it is something more than a fire. Those people are
almost crazed. I've seen such a sight in Chicago, when a wild Texan
steer got loose and tossed things right and left," asserts the medical
student.

"That's what's the matter. See! they point at something as they run!
Look out for the bull!" cries Philander.

Thus, in watching for a bulky frame to appear, they fail to notice the
actual cause of the disturbance.

The street is almost deserted, save where people begin to reappear
below, as though the danger were past, to reappear and shout afresh as
they wave their arms.

Some one is shouting close to them now. They turn their heads and behold
the crowd of commissionaires dashing headlong for the shelter of
adjacent houses, and acting like crazy men.

It is Signor Giovani who shouts, first in Arabic, then in Italian, and
finally in English. They hear him now, and no wonder the blood runs cold
in their veins--it is a cry to alarm the boldest warrior on earth.

"Mad dog! Run, signors!--save the ladies! To the houses, or you are
lost!"

That is what the old fencing-master of Malta shouts while he retreats.
It causes them to turn their heads, and what do they see? Advancing up
the middle of the inclined street, turning aside for neither king nor
peasant, comes a great gaunt beast, his square head wagging from side to
side, his eyes blood-shot, and the foam dropping from his open jaws.

Heavens! What a spectacle to rivet one with horror to the spot.
Fortunately there are some people of action present.

Aunt Gwen clutches her _infant_ by the shoulder, and drags him along in
the direction of the nearest house.

"Run, Philander, or you're a goner! It's worse than snake poison, the
bite of a mad dog is. Haven't I seen a bitten man so furious that it
required six to hold him down? Faster, professor! on your life!"

With that iron grip on his shoulder poor Philander's feet barely touch
the ground as he is whirled through space, and the dog, mad or not, that
overtakes Aunt Gwen and her infant must be a rapid traveler, indeed.
Thus they reach a house, and in another minute reappear upon a balcony,
to witness a scene they will never forget.

Lady Ruth, though naturally quivering with excitement, has plenty of
cavaliers to hurry her to a place of safety. Besides, after that one
first shock, she shows more grit than might have been expected of her.

She allows herself to be hurried along. A strong hand grasps each arm;
and if every one in the path of the mad brute were as well attended,
there would be little cause for anxiety or alarm.

Now they have reached a house, and safety is assured, for the hospitable
door stands open to welcome them.

Already a number have preceded them, for they seem to be the last in the
vicinity.

Just as they arrive, the colonel, who appears intensely excited, is
saying, hoarsely:

"Enter quickly, I beg, Lady Ruth."

She turns her head in curiosity for one last look, impelled by an
unknown power--turns, and is at once petrified by what she sees.

They notice the look of horror on her lovely face, and instinctively
guessing, also cast a glance in the direction where last the savage
brute was seen.

He has continued to advance in the interim, and is now quite close,
though not moving out of the straight line in the center of the
street--a repulsive looking object truly, and enough to horrify the
bravest.

Colonel Lionel gives a gasp. He is trembling all over, for it chances
that this brave soldier, who has led forlorn hopes in the Zulu war, and
performed prodigies of valor on Egyptian battle-fields, has a peculiar
dread of dogs, inherited from one of his parents.

It is not the animal that has fixed Lady Ruth's attention. Just in front
and directly in the line of the dog's advance is a small native child
that has been playing in the street.

He cannot be over three years of age, and with his curly black head and
half-naked body presents a picture of robust health.

Apparently engrossed in his play, he sees and hears nothing of the clamor
around until, chancing to look up, he sees the dog, and fearlessly
extends his chubby arms toward it.

The picture is one never to be forgotten.

It thrills every one who looks on.

No one seems to have a gun or weapon of any kind. A peculiar paralysis
affects them, a feeling of dumb horror.

A shriek sounds; from a window is seen the form of a native woman, who
wrings her hands in terrible anguish.

The child's mother! God pity her! to be an eye-witness of her darling's
fate!

Lady Ruth turns to the colonel, to the man who so recently proudly
declared that no English woman ever asked a favor that a British officer
would not grant, no matter what the risk.

"Save the darling!" her pallid lips utter.

He trembles all over, groans, takes a couple of tottering steps
forward, and then leans against the wall for support.

"I cannot," he gasps.

Other Britons there are who would be equal to the emergency. Mortal man
has never done aught in this world that Englishmen dare not imitate, and
indeed they generally lead. It is unfortunate for England that an
antipathy for dogs runs in the Blunt family.

This time Lady Ruth does not say "coward," but her face expresses the
fine contempt she feels. With that mother's shrieks in her ears, what
can she think of a man who will hesitate to save a sweet child, even
at the risk of meeting the most terrible death known to the world?

She turns to face the man who a short time before positively refused to
risk his life because Miss Caprice desired it.

What can she hope from him?

As she thus turns she discovers that John Craig is no longer there,
though three seconds before his hand was on her arm.

A shout comes from the street, where, when last she looked, not a living
thing could be seen but the advancing mad dog and the kneeling child. A
shout that proceeds from a strong pair of lungs, and is intended to turn
the attention of the brute toward the person emitting it. A shout that
causes hope to thrill in many hearts, to inspire a confidence that the
innocent may be saved.

The young doctor from Chicago is seen bounding to meet the maddened
brute, now so terribly close to the child.

None knows better than John Craig what the result of a bite may be.
He has seen more than one hydrophobia patient meet death in the most
dreadful manner known to the profession.

Yet he faces this fate now, the man who was thought too cowardly to
crawl out along that bleak rock and secure a white flower for a girl's
whim.

He goes not because it will be a great thing to do, or on account of the
admiration which success will bring him. That mother's shriek of agony
rings in his ears, and if he even knew that he was going to his death,
yet would he still assume the risk.

It was on account of a mother--his own--he refused to risk his life
before, and the same sacred affection inspires his action now, for he
could never look into her dear eyes again, except in a shame-faced way,
if he allowed this child to meet death while he stood an inactive
spectator of the tragedy.

As he advances, John draws his right arm from his coat-sleeve. It is not
the act of thoughtlessness, but has been done with a motive.

When the coat is free, with a quick motion he whirls it around, so that
it rolls about his left arm.

Those who see the act comprehend his purpose, and realize that he means
to force the brute to seize him there.

All this has occurred in a very brief time. Perhaps a quarter of a
minute has elapsed since Lady Ruth turned to Colonel Lionel, and
besought his aid.

John Craig has at least accomplished one purpose. Just as the mad dog is
about to snap at the child, the young medical student snatches the boy
away, and throws him to the rear. The child rolls over and over, and
then, sitting up, begins to cry, more from surprise at the rough
treatment than because he is hurt.

There is no time for John to turn and fly, and pick up the child on the
way.

The dog is upon him.

John has only a chance to drop on his knee, and thrust his left arm
forward.

Those who are watching, and they are many, hold their breath in dread
suspense.

"Heaven preserve him!" says Lady Ruth, wringing her clasped hands in an
agony of fear.

They see the youth, he is hardly more, offer his bound arm to the beast,
and those glittering fangs at once close upon it.

Then, quick as a flash, having filled the dog's jaws, John Craig throws
himself forward, his whole effort being to crush the animal to the
ground by his weight.

It is the work of a strategist. A veteran hunter when met by a fierce
panther could not do better than this.

As John has expected, the dog, taken by surprise, does not offer the
resistance that his powerful strength would warrant, but is at once
borne backward, nor can he release his hold from the cloth-bound arm
which his teeth have seized upon.

A struggle under such circumstances must be a terrible thing, and the
shorter it can be made the better.

They see the man throw himself upon the brute; they know his other hand
has sought the animal's throat, as the only means of ending his
existence.

Prayers for his safety arise from many a heart, as the people watch the
dreadful conflict from windows, and balconies, and other places where
they have sought refuge.

The struggle is of brief duration.

John has the advantage in the contest, and the desire in his soul to
prevent this mad beast from injuring others lends him a strength beyond
what is naturally his portion.

With a grip of iron he clutches the brute's throat, and in a few moments
the dog stiffens in death.

The young medical student arises, but the ferocious brute lies there
harmless in the roadway. The smallest child in Valetta may play on the
street now and fear no evil, thanks to the love one American bears for
his mother.

Now that the danger is past, people flock out.

With the rest our tourists hasten toward the young hero. A form flies
past them with wild eyes and disheveled hair; a form that pounces upon
the little chap still crying in fright, and presses him convulsively to
her breast.

That is the mother of the child.

They rush to the spot, some to congratulate the youth who slew the dog,
others to gaze upon the horrible spectacle the animal presents as he
lies there devoid of life.

Lady Ruth comes with the rest, and upon her fair face and in her sunny
eyes can be seen a warmth of keenest admiration, such as poor Blunt
failed to receive when he leaned far over the dizzy precipice to secure
the flower Miss Caprice desired.

"Oh, doctor, how noble of you! I shall never forgive myself for the
foolish blunder I made. See! these people look upon you as a hero, for
you risked your life for a child of Malta. I am proud to be known as
your friend."

Her looks as well as her words are enough to send any man into the
seventh heaven of delight.

John Craig is very white; a set look is upon his face, but he smiles a
little.

"I am glad the little fellow was not touched."

"And you?" she gasps, a sudden fear arising.

He slowly unwinds the coat which was thrust into the mad dog's mouth,
and then rolls up his shirt-sleeve, to disclose to her horrified eyes
the blue imprint of two fangs in the muscular part of his forearm.



CHAPTER III.

SAVED BY FIRE.


She looks up into his eyes; there is a set expression to be seen there,
but his face is no whiter than before, although it must be a terrible
shock to any man to see the imprint of a mad dog's teeth in the flesh of
his arm.

"Oh, it has happened, the worst that could come about! What will you do,
doctor?"

He is a man of medicine, and he knows full well what such a wound means.

"There is only one thing to be done. Excuse me for a minute or two, Lady
Ruth."

He springs away from her side, and, turning with surprise, she sees him
dart into the smithy of a worker in iron, just down the road a bit.

"Let us follow him!" says Philander.

"Poor, poor boy!" remarks Aunt Gwen.

"Oh, aunt! do you believe he will go mad?" gasps the younger lady, in a
trembling voice.

"I am afraid; I've known of cases that happened like this. One thing's
in his favor."

"And that?"

"He wasn't bit in the face, or on the hand."

"How does that matter?" demands Sharpe.

She gives him a look of scorn.

Then, ignoring her spouse, she says, as if continuing her speech to Lady
Ruth:

"The dog's teeth went through several thicknesses of woolen cloth before
entering the skin. The fabric very probably absorbed the poison. A
rattlesnake's fangs are a different thing; they cut through the cloth
and the poison is then injected from the hollow teeth or fangs."

"Oh!"

They have reached the smithy, and, standing in the door-way, witness a
singular scene.

The smith is a brawny native Maltese, with a form a Hercules might envy.
He has just taken from the fire a slender rod of iron, one end of which
is hissing hot, even red.

With this he advances upon John Craig, who has laid his arm, bared
almost to the shoulder, upon a high window ledge.

Then the iron just touches the flesh, and a little gust of white smoke
puffs up.

"Jove! the boy has grit," mutters Colonel Lionel, unable to restrain his
admiration, even for a rival in love.

As if overcome with the sensation of inflicting such pain, the blacksmith
shudders and draws back.

"Again, it is not near enough," cries John Craig.

The blacksmith shakes his head.

"I cannot," he says, in English.

"My life may depend on it, man. This is no time for hesitation. Give me
the iron!"

His words are spoken with authority, and the brawny smith surrenders the
rod of glowing iron.

Without an instant's hesitation, only compressing his lips firmly
together, the Chicagoan presses the red-hot iron upon his arm.

Then he tosses the hissing thing aside, and begins to draw his shirt
over the raw red scar an inch square, which the merciless brand has
seared upon his white arm.

Seeing the blanched face of Lady Ruth, and the anxious countenances of
the others near-by, the doctor, who has recovered from the shock, smiles
in a reassuring way.

"I am sorry you saw this; I didn't intend you should. Let us go to the
hotel!" he says, slipping a coin in the hand of the honest smith, who
seems loth to accept it.

Then the party continue down in the direction of the hotel, where they
stop while the steamer undergoes repairs.

"Colonel Blunt, will you do me the favor to come to my room? I want to
put a small bandage with iodoform on the burn," he says aside, but Lady
Ruth hears it.

"Colonel Blunt, indeed! What sort of trained nurse do you suppose he
would make? I have had experience--you may smile if you like. Tell the
colonel where to find your box of liniments and bandages, and bring it
to me."

"But, my dear Lady--"

"Not a word, doctor. I shall esteem it an honor; and what I lack in
scientific knowledge my aunt can supply."

This clinches the matter, and John can offer no further argument against
her wish; so Blunt, the Royal Engineer officer, is sent after the
doctor's case, which errand he performs willingly enough, for although
he knows this affair has brightened up the chances of his rival, still,
as an Englishman, he has a deep, inborn admiration for bravery, no
matter whether shown in a Zulu warrior, armed with war club and assagai,
or in a Yankee youth who throws himself between a dusky child of Malta
and a mad dog, to receive the monster's attack.

So he hastens up stairs to the room which John Alexander Craig
temporarily occupies, opens the door, and speedily returns with the
little traveling case in which the young physician keeps many important
medicines, an assortment of ready liniment and lint, with the wonderful
remedial agents known to modern surgery.

To John's surprise, after he has opened the case and started to arrange
the small bandage, it is gently taken from his hands.

"Allow me," says the pretty "doll," as he has at times been forced to
mentally term Lady Ruth, after she has played with his admiration.

"But, do you know--"

"I never told you my uncle was a surgeon, Sir Archibald Gazzam--"

"What! that great man your uncle!" cries the student, with the deep
respect a young M.D. has for a famous practitioner.

"Yes; and more than once I have assisted him in some simple case at the
house. He gave me credit for a fair amount of nerve."

"Fair amount! Jove! for a girl you have a wonderful quantity. Why, I
believe you'd have faced that brute yourself, if I hadn't gone," he
says, enthusiastically, the others being momentarily at the window to
witness a procession pass the hotel, with the dead dog on a litter.

"No, no, I could not do that; but, Doctor Chicago, was that what sent
you out to meet that awful beast?"

Her head is bent over her work, so that the intense blush remains
unseen, but it fades away at his cool reply.

"Oh, no; quite another thing! I told you I never considered myself a
coward, and when I saw that dear little child apparently doomed to a
terrible death, I could see the eyes of one I revere looking at me, and
though death were sure I could not refrain."

He says this quietly and earnestly, yet without an apparent desire to
arouse any feelings of chagrin on her side.

Lady Ruth bites her lips, but her hands are steady, and the touch is
exceedingly gentle as she binds up the ugly red mark which he has
inflicted on himself with what she is disposed to term Spartan-like
courage.

"There; it is done, doctor."

"And neatly done, too," says Aunt Gwen, with a nod and a look of pride.

"I thank you sincerely, Lady Ruth."

"Ah! you are a thousand times welcome. There is not a woman in Valetta
who would not feel it an honor to bind up the wound of the hero who
saved that Maltese child," says this young lady, frankly.

More shouts without.

This time the men of Valetta are clamoring for the American to show
himself. They do not know much of America, but they recognize true grit
wherever they meet it.

Of course, a rush is made for the balcony, but John remains behind.

He is feeling somewhat weak after the exciting events of the afternoon.

And, as he sits there, smiling to hear the clamor without--for he is
human, this young Chicago M.D.--some one touches his arm.

"Lady Ruth, I thought you went out with the rest," he stammers, with a
guilty blush, for it chances that at the very moment he is thinking of
her, and what a soft, electric touch she has, so soothing, so very
delightful.

"I did not go; I was watching you."

"An interesting study, surely."

"It was to me. I desired to know whether you secretly feared the results
of your wound."

"And I did not dream you were so concerned about me. Considering the
matter calmly, I am disposed to believe there is now no danger--that the
hot iron radically destroyed the last chance of infection."

"I am very glad to hear you say so."

"You care a little, then?"

How quickly she is on her guard.

"Because I would not see a brave boy needlessly sacrificed."

"You look on me as a boy. I am twenty-three."

"My own age, sir. That gives me the right to feel myself your senior."

"How so?"

"You know a woman is older at twenty-three than a man. Then you do not
wear a beard."

"I shall cultivate one from this hour. Why, a year ago I looked like a
pard, but was influenced to change."

Again that quick flash of intelligence.

"Ah! Doctor Chicago has left a lady love in the city on the lake."

"What makes you say that?"

"Several remarks you have made; the one just now, and then in reference
to the spur that sent you to face that dog. Ah! my friend, it must have
been a strong motive to influence you like that."

He overlooks the peculiar patronizing air, such as a young woman
sometimes assumes toward a boy her junior.

"Lady Ruth, the person you refer to, the thought of whom sent me to save
that child, bears what is to me the holiest name on earth--mother."

She draws a quick breath.

"Forgive me. I was rude."

"Not at all. My words admitted of just such a meaning as you placed upon
them."

"You left her in Chicago, of course."

John looks at her steadily.

"Lady Ruth, it may sound strange to you after what I have said, but my
memories of my mother are all confined to the far past, to a period when
I was a mere child; but they are none the less previous on that account."

She looks puzzled, as well she may.

"Do you mean she is--dead?"

"Heaven forbid, but I have not seen her in all these years. That is one
reason I am abroad, Lady Ruth. I have a sacred mission to perform--to
find my mother--to seek the solution of a mystery which has embittered
my life. Perhaps some time, if we know each other a little better, I may
confide a strange and sad story to you."

"Just as you please, doctor," she replies, with deep feeling in her
voice, and at this moment the others bustle in.

"You must show yourself on the balcony. The dear people clamor for a
sight of you, and I am really afraid they'll tear the house down soon if
you don't appear before them," says Aunt Gwen, with unusual vigor.

"Yes, they unquestionably desire to publicly show their appreciation of
your services, and I for one feel proud to be an American this day."

"Philander!"

"Excuse me, my dear. John, my boy, allow me to lead you out."

"One minute, please," says Lady Ruth, who has made a comfortable sling
of a long white silk kerchief, which she wore around her neck.

This she insists on securing over John's shoulder.

"That arm must be painful. I know it from my long experience as the
reliable assistant of my surgeon uncle. You will be glad to have this."

"But--for such a mere scratch--people will laugh at me," he protests,
feebly, though it may be noticed that he makes no effort to deliver
himself from the silk sling which she is now tying.

"People laugh at you! A mere scratch! Confound it, boy, there isn't a
man living who would go through with what you have to-day for a cool,
hundred thousand. I know one man a million would not tempt," cries the
professor.

"I suppose I must submit," and accompanied by Philander, with the two
women bringing up the rear, he passes out upon the balcony, where the
colonel of Royal Engineers has remained, to be a curious spectator of
the scene.

At sight of the hero of the street drama, those in the square before the
hotel shout and cheer. They are mostly natives, but men and women feel
very strongly drawn toward this young, smooth-faced American who risked
his life to save a child, and that child a Maltese boy.

John bows, and presses his uninjured hand upon his heart, bows again,
and retires.

Slowly the crowd disperses.

Lady Ruth completely ignores the colonel, but that veteran is not
crushed by any means. He watches the capricious maiden with a quizzical
light in his eye, which shows that he has not yet lost confidence in the
kindness of fate, or his own charms as a beau.

Lionel Blunt's success in life has come from the fact that he has ever
been ready to watch his chance and take advantage of every possible
opportunity.

So night settles over Malta, over the dreamy, blue Mediterranean, over
the singular city of Valetta, where this little company of tourists have
been temporarily marooned, and where Doctor Chicago, aided by fate, has
been enabled to make his first charge upon the heart of the proud
English girl, Lady Ruth.



CHAPTER IV.

A WORLD-WIDE SEARCH.


It is a night of nights, destined to mark, as with a white stone, the
progress of at least two life currents that have until recently flown
contentedly on, each in its own individual channel.

Valetta, being a city of the Italian school, makes much ado over the
coming of Lent. The people, as if to prepare for six weeks of fasting,
indulge in all manner of feasting.

Even the Mohammedans, who are present in no small numbers, join the
festivities, for they, too, have a period of fasting, according to the
example set by the prophet, and commanded in the Koran.

Hence Valetta is very gay when night comes on; fancy Chinese lanterns
hang in the streets, music is heard on every hand, and laughing,
good-natured crowds jostle elbows in a way that would horrify a high
caste Hindoo.

Valetta has long been known as the headquarters of the famous Order of
Malta. The representative commanderies of different nations have their
inns, each called an _auberge_, on the principal streets, while the
palace of the Grand Master is three hundred feet on each side, facing
four streets, with a large square in front known as the Piazza St.
Giorgio.

A small tower on the top known as the _Torretta_ is used as a station
from which men-of-war are signaled.

Everywhere can be seen the insignia of this ancient order, the white
Maltese cross on a blood-red field, arousing thoughts of men in armor,
the crusades, and much that is stirring and romantic in the history of
the centuries that are gone.

A student of history would find much to entrance him in this peculiar
hill-side city on the British Island of Malta.

Supper is served at the hotel just as night comes on, and John Craig,
M.D., has managed to eat in an unconcerned way, talking with his
friends, and trying to appear unconscious of the fact that two score of
curious eyes are upon him, the incident of the afternoon having spread
like wild-fire among the rest of the delayed steamer's passengers who
stop at the same hotel.

This is the first time the young master of medicine has found himself
the center of observation, and he comes through the ordeal very fairly,
as Lady Ruth informs him laughingly, when they _by chance_ leave the
dining-room together.

Another ordeal awaits John. In the parlor he finds the mother of the boy
whose life he saved. She cannot talk much English and John is hardly at
home in Arabic, or the mixed language used by the Maltese.

When two persons are very much in earnest they manage to get on, and the
poor woman calls down the blessings of Heaven on his head ere she leaves.

"I wish all this were over," he laughs, rejoining the English girl.

"Make the most of it, doctor," says the colonel, sauntering up with
a choice weed between his teeth; "such occasions come rarely and had
better be appreciated. Take the advice of an old campaigner, and make
hay while the sun shines."

"Oh! I mean to, colonel," replies John, and there is a hidden meaning
in his words that causes the officer to look at him steadily and mutter:

"Hang the boy! I really believe he expects to enter the lists against
me, Colonel Lionel Blunt, who carries a Victoria Cross and knew what
a love affair was before he was born. Well, the end is not yet, and he
laughs loudest who laughs last."

All of which is very true, and proves that the colonel of Royal Engineers
does not mean to let the opportunity pass.

A few minutes later John and Lady Ruth stand on the piazza of the hotel.
The scene is well worth looking at, with its many lights, bright colors,
and constantly changing crowds.

She expresses surprise, and seeks an explanation which fortunately the
young doctor is able to give, thanks to certain information he picked up
in scanning his guide book.

"In time of peace prepare for war. They seek by a double allowance of
gayety to make up for the amount to be lost during Lent," he says.

"Is Mr. Craig here?" asks a voice, and all look at the speaker, who is
a quiet appearing man, perhaps a native of England.

"That is my name, sir."

"John Alexander Craig?"

"The same."

"Of Chicago?"

"Well, what can I do for you?"

The other has been looking at him steadily.

"I desire to speak a few words with you, Doctor John Craig."

"Go on."

"I beg your pardon--it must be in private."

"In that case my friends will excuse me for a few minutes."

"Oh! yes," replies Lady Ruth, looking at the bearer of the message again.

"Certainly," says Blunt, promptly dropping into the chair John vacates
at her ladyship's side, and his celerity to take advantage of the
circumstance arouses a little suspicion in her mind that after all it
may be a ruse to get him away, with the Briton's gold backing it.

She pays little attention to what the colonel is talking about; twice
she turns her head and looks to where John and the stranger talk, while
to herself she says:

"Strange why I am interested in him and his fortunes. What is this
singular story concerning his mother, which some time he means to tell
me--when we become better friends? And now comes this man to hold a
secret consultation with him! Where have I seen him before, where heard
his voice? I cannot remember just now, but there is something familiar
about him. The doctor appears to be excited--there, he lays his well
hand on the other's arm and speaks quickly. Pshaw! it's none of my
business," and she resolutely turns her face toward the bright scene
on the street, only to glance back again a dozen seconds later.

The doctor comes up; singularly enough Lady Ruth has just bethought
herself of her fan, and the military figure of the stalwart Briton is
seen passing through the door-way upon a wild-goose chase for the much
maligned article of ladies' warfare, which has played its part in many
a bit of diplomacy, and which he will never find, as it is at that moment
resting in the folds of milady's dress, cleverly hidden from view.

"I trust you have had no bad news, doctor?" says the English girl, with
a touch of sympathy in her voice.

"On the contrary, Lady Ruth, I have heard something that is of intense
moment to me," he replies, showing emotion.

"About--your mother?" she asks, quickly.

"It is so. Lady Ruth, you have heard me speak enough of my past to
realize that it has been a lonely life. My father loves me after his own
fashion, and I--respect him deeply; but all my life I have longed for
the love of a mother, until it has reached an intensity you can hardly
comprehend. Now I have received certain news that gives me a wild hope."

"I, too, lost my mother when young, and that circumstance enables me to
feel for you."

Her tender eyes thrill him as he never yet has been touched; the bond of
sympathy is akin to love; he has never had a confidant, and human nature
yearns to unbosom itself.

"I promised to tell you the story, Lady Ruth. If I were sure we would
not be interrupted, I would be inclined to speak now, for I am about
starting upon a mission, the result of which Heaven alone can foresee."

His earnestness impresses her ladyship; trust a bright girl for bridging
over a trifling difficulty such as this.

"There is a little private parlor attached and generally empty," she
suggests, artlessly.

"Just the ticket," he boldly exclaims.

In a few minutes they are seated alone in this bijou parlor; its
decorations are quaint, even barbaric in their splendor, and a lover
of the _bizarre_ would happen upon such a scene with the keenest of
pleasure.

"Here are some drawings we can be looking over," she suggests, and he
nods eagerly, inwardly blessing her ready sagacity.

Thus they look harmless enough.

"Now I will play the lady confessor. What is it all about? Have you
fallen into debt like a bad boy, and don't dare write the _pater_?"

He looks at her and laughs.

"You see the comical side of everything, Lady Ruth. This I fear bids
fair to be a tragedy."

"A tragedy! Dear me, didn't we have quite enough of that this afternoon?
What can it be? Surely, you and the colonel--" and she colors furiously
upon realizing how near she has come to betraying her thoughts.

"The colonel and I have had no words, as yet, Lady Ruth. This affair
is something that concerns my past. Let me briefly tell you a few facts
that are of especial interest to me, and may claim your attention.

"I told you I had not seen my mother since I was a child, yet she is not
dead. An unfortunate affair happened, and she was exiled from home.
Heaven knows I have ever believed her innocent.

"On several occasions, unbeknown to my stern father, I have received a
line without a signature, a line that called down Heaven's blessings on
my head, a line that caused me to cry like a baby.

"Thus year by year my resolve became stronger; I would find my mother,
I would seek the solution of the dreadful mystery that hangs over the
Craig home.

"My studies were done; I graduated at the head of the medical class and
spent a year under the most eminent professors at Heidelberg. When they
gave me my diploma, they wrote my father that I ought to have a year of
travel to improve my health before entering upon the life work to which
I am devoted.

"Of course my desire was granted, and I began the search. I have been six
months at it without success; it is like pursuing an _ignis fatuus_. A
clew would take me to Russia, whence I would fly to Persia, then to
Turkey, and next to London. In Paris I felt sure of success, but the
lady I was tracking turned out to be a grandmother, and there was a
lively scene in her house when I sprung my game.

"Talk of 'Japhet in search of his father!' why, he wasn't in it at all
compared with me. At last came another clew; among the letters forwarded
in a bunch from home was a line in the same precious hand. See, here it
is."

He takes out from a note-book a slip of paper; the writing is elegant
and feminine.

She reads:

"January 12th. Just twenty years to-day. Oh! Heaven! teach me to kiss
the rod."

No signature, only a mark like a tear-drop.

"Now you realize my position; you can, in a measure, understand the
peculiar mingling of love, reverence, and pity with which I think of
this mother, and how the thought of her enters into every act of mine."

"Yes, yes, I do indeed," sympathetically.

"I have sworn to find her--to let her know there is one who loves the
poor exile. Let my father rage if he will, my heart burns to meet her.
I will proceed. This letter was postmarked Malta, here at Valetta."

"But you did not mention--"

"I knew the steamer would stop a few hours at least, and thought that
might be enough in which to learn the truth. Strange things have
happened since we landed. I have learned several facts which astound me.

"You saw a man come in and draw me aside? That man controls the
destinies of these people of Valetta, even as a chief of police would in
our cities. When first I landed I sought the presence of Luther Keene--"

"There--your mention of his name revives my recollection like a flash.
Now I know just when and where I met that man," she says.

"He promised to assist me, for a consideration, of course, and was
especially delighted at the chance to prove that even out here in Malta
there might be a second Vidocq.

"In his first report he told me the party I sought had been in Valetta
only recently, but he believed she was now gone.

"The man told me just now where Blanche Austin staid during her
residence here, at a house on the Strada Mezzodi, and I shall go as soon
as I leave you, to make inquiries there. If you are interested in my
story, you might, perhaps, care to hear what news I may pick up on my
visit to this house, which has so recently covered my mother."

"Indeed, I am more than interested in your story, and anxious to learn
how you succeed. Would you know your mother if you should meet her
to-day?" she asks, mentally wondering why he has taken her into his
confidence.

"I believe so. A son's loving eyes would do much toward solving the
problem."

"But your memory of her must be exceedingly hazy, to say the least."

"That is true; but I have another clew. Once, when a boy, I was rummaging
through some old papers in an antique secretary which I found in the
attic, when I ran across an ivory miniature that had been overlooked.

"Upon it was painted a girl's face; my heart told me who it was, and
underneath I found the words 'Blanche Austin at eighteen.'

"I have treasured that ever since; it has been my most valued possession.
Would you like to see it, Lady Ruth?"

"Must assuredly," she replies, warmly, eagerly.

He places it in her hands.

"It was plain when I found it; with my spending money for a whole year
I had that gold locket made which holds it now. Ever since it has been
very close to my heart."

"Such devotion is wonderful. I sincerely hope it will meet its reward."

Then she looks at the miniature, which time has not in the least harmed,
looks at it--and utters a little ejaculation.

"She was beautiful indeed, Doctor Chicago--most charming. A face to
haunt one. I can see a trace of sadness in it, even at this early age,
as though her coming troubles cast a shadow before. You will be
surprised when I tell you I have met her."



CHAPTER V.

THE PROFESSOR ACTS.


The medical student looks at her eagerly.

"When--where?" he asks, huskily.

Any one who has met the woman about whom cluster all the tender
associations and thoughts of his lonely years of childhood, must assume
new importance in his eyes.

"It was a year or so ago. At the time I was in Paris with my uncle, Sir
Hugh, then alive."

"Yes, yes, she was there about that time, as I have since learned."

"I was out driving alone; it was just at dusk when we were returning
from the boulevards, and a wheel came off the vehicle.

"Though a little alarmed, I kept my senses, and bade the driver tie his
horse and then seek another vehicle for me.

"The neighborhood chanced to be a rather unsavory one. I could hear
boisterous men singing, and on finding myself alone I grew alarmed. From
windows frowzy heads were thrust out and rude women mocked at me. I
feared insult, injury. I was ready to fly for my life when a hand
touched my arm, and a gentle voice said:

"'Come with me, miss, I will protect you.'"

John trembles with emotion.

"Then you have heard her speak! Oh, what bliss that would be for me--my
mother, my poor mother who has suffered so long."

"When I looked in her face I knew I could trust her. Besides, her garb
reassured me."

"Her garb?" wonderingly.

"Yes. She was dressed as a Sister of Charity or some other order in
Paris. Willingly I followed her to an adjoining house. She begged me to
sit down and await the vehicle. I was grateful and asked her questions
about the great work being done by such organizations in the gay city of
Paris.

"I was interested in her and asked her name. She told me she was known
as Sister Magdalen. Then the carriage came and I left her."

"One question, Lady Ruth--how did she impress you?"

"Frankly, as one who had passed through the furnace of affliction; her
face was sad, yet oh, so inexpressibly sweet. It haunted me. I have
looked at every sister I met wherever I traveled, in the hope of meeting
her, but it has been useless."

It can be readily believed that this arouses the deepest interest in the
young student of medicine. The desire to find his mother has been the
one aim of his life; it has carried him over many a dark crisis, and has
become stronger with the passage of years.

Now he is getting daily, hourly, nearer the object of his solicitude,
and his anticipation so long and fondly cherished, bids fair to be a
realization.

"How I envy you, Lady Ruth. You have seen her, pressed her hand. It makes
you seem less a stranger to me to think that my mother was able to do you
a service."

"I am positive it was she. Wait--perhaps I can prove it. I noticed she
had a medallion secured around her neck with a guard, and once I was
enabled to see the face upon it. It was that of a man."

"Oh! describe it if you can."

"The gentleman, I should judge, was about twenty-three. He wore a
mustache and small side whiskers. I judged he was English. His hair was
light and inclined to be curly."

John Craig smiles.

"Ah! the last doubt has been swept away."

"You recognize this picture, then?"

"Yes; your description answers for my father when he was a young man. I
have not the slightest doubt that it was the one I seek who rendered you
this service. And she a Sister of Charity! I don't understand."

"Your story has interested me deeply, doctor. You have my most sincere
wishes for success; and if I can in any way assist you, don't hesitate
to call upon me."

"I believe you mean every word of it, and from my heart I thank you. I
must leave you now, to seek the house in the Strada Mezzodi--the house
that may reveal much or little."

At this moment the others enter; fortune has been kind to allow the
conversation to reach its legitimate end, and John, with a pleasant word
for Aunt Gwen and her husband, and only a peculiar look for the Briton,
hurries out.

In five minutes more he comes down stairs, ready for the street. To his
surprise he is stopped near the door by some one he knows--Philander
Sharpe, wearing a ridiculous helmet hat, as becomes a traveler.

"Pardon me, but I'm in a hurry," he says, as the other plucks his
sleeve.

"Oh! yes; but I'm going with you, Chicago," pipes the little professor,
shutting one eye and nodding in a very knowing manner.

"But I'm not off to paint the town red," says John, believing the other
thinks it is his intention to see the sights of Malta's capital by
night--"I have an engagement."

"In the Strada Mezzodi; eh?"

"Thunder; how did you guess it?" ejaculates the man of medicine,
astonished beyond measure.

"I am not a guesser. I know what I know, and a dused sight more than
some people think, especially my beloved wife, Gwendolin."

"What do you know--come to the point?"

"First, all about your past, and the trouble in the Craig family."

"Confusion! and you never told me you had ever heard of me before? This
explains the manner in which you seemed to study me at times on the
steamer," reproachfully.

"Just so. I had reasons for my silence; _she_ was one of them," jerking
his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the parlor above, whence
the voice of the amiable Gwendolin Makepeace floats to their ears.

"In haste, then, let me tell you a secret, John. I was not always what
you see me, a docile, hen-pecked man. Twenty-five years ago Philander
Sharpe, young, good-looking, conceited, and rich, had the world before
him."

"Cut it short, I beg, professor," groans John, impatient to be off.

"I fell in love; my affection was returned; we were engaged; a friend in
whose honor I fully believed stole her heart away from me, but all these
years I have never forgotten--never. John Craig, the girl I loved and
who was to have been my wife was--your mother."

The little man folds his arms and throws his head back in a peculiar way
he has. How strangely full of dignity these undersized people can be at
times.

"Is it possible, and you never breathed a word of all this to me before?"

"Ah! my dear boy, the time was not ripe. I said nothing but sawed wood."

"Why do you speak now?"

"I have an idea that you are about to make a step in the dark, and after
duly considering the matter, came to the conclusion that it was time to
speak--time to let you know my sympathies were with you, time to take a
hand in this game myself."

John hardly knows what to do or say, he is so amazed at such a strange
happening.

"But, professor, I am only going now to see if I can learn anything
about my mother at the house where she staid six weeks ago, when a line
was sent to me."

The little man wags his head wisely.

"That information was given to you by one whom you believed to be Signor
Stucco, otherwise Luther Keene, the person having charge of the police
of Valetta?"

"Yes," replies John, wonderingly.

"At that hour the signer was in his own room, engaged in other business,
and oblivious of the fact whether one John Alexander Craig, M.D., was in
the land of the living or not."

All of which excites the curiosity of the young man not a little.

"Since you know so much, professor, perhaps you can tell me who it is
plays with me, the object he has, and whether my mother was ever in
that house on the Strada Mezzodi."

"I can answer in part. I believe she was there. These enemies of yours,
dear boy, have baited a trap. You are about to walk into it."

"A trap, professor! why should they seek to harm me?"

"They have reasons. I can't mention them all, but perhaps some event in
your past may give you a clew. Have you ever heard of a person, by name
Pauline Potter?"

The young man starts.

"Ah! I see you have," pursues Philander, dryly.

"I confess it; she was a pretty actress, but my boyish passion for her
died out when I discovered her perfidy."

"Very true; but she has never forgiven you. What harm did you do her,
boy?"

"The harm was on her side. When I found what deception she had put upon
me I simply denounced her in the presence of several who were at supper
with her, a new admirer among them. Perhaps she hates me for that, but
it seems queer that Pauline Potter, whom I knew in Chicago, should bob
up in Malta. Almost like a modern play."

"Well, she's here. I've seen her."

"Professor, pardon me for saying it, but you've allowed yourself to be
maligned. I believed you were a nonentity, but I find you possessed of
a remarkable mind. You are a second Richelieu."

"You flatter me. John, grant my favor; allow me to accompany you on this
errand. I will then have a chance to explain how I managed to learn all
these things."

"I see no reason to refuse."

"Good! Come, let's move off," with a quick glance over his shoulder.

"Oh," laughs the student, "_she's_ up stairs yet," and his words are
corroborated, for a burst of almost masculine laughter comes floating
down from the next floor, causing Philander to shrug his shoulders.

"She'll imagine I'm off seeing the sights. I went to see the modern
Mabille in Paris and have never heard the last of it. Stand by me in
case of war, my boy."

"That I will, professor."

They have left the hotel, and John's face tells of the puzzle which he
is trying to solve--the strange connection between Pauline Potter, the
actress who won his boyish admiration only to deceive him, and she whom
he seeks with reverent love in his heart, his mother, the Sister
Magdalen of Lady Ruth's Paris adventure.

And the professor guesses the truth.

"I may be able to assist you, John, though you shall be the judge. Will
you listen to my yarn?"

"With pleasure."

They walk on, arm in arm; the doctor has lighted a cigar, and seems to
take much comfort in the mechanical puffs of smoke which he sends out
into the darkness--not that there is anything of the inky pall about
this, throwing a silvery path way along the mysterious waters of the
romantic sea, and besides, the lanterns that flash on trees and from
house fronts serve to render the scene far from gloomy, though a modern
city dweller, used to electric lights, might notice the change.

"Before we enter into a discussion, my dear boy, let me explain how I
came to know these facts connected with the presence of Pauline Potter
in Valetta, and the duplicity of the man representing the head of the
police, Signor Stucco.

"After returning from our eventful walk to the hill-top back of the
town, I had business in another section, business connected with my trip
along the Mediterranean, and which has been kept a secret from my spouse.

"When on my way back to the hotel, just at dusk, I crossed and passed
down a street, thinking to shorten my route, but in a way became
confused, and made up my mind I would inquire of the first person
I came to.

"That, my boy, was the hand of fate leading me on, as you will speedily
learn.

"In all these years that have flown I have at times heard of you. I knew
the skeleton that lay hidden in your family closet, and believing your
mother innocent, made no sign, for she was supposed to be dead.

"Let me go back a step, and begging your pardon for the fact, confess
that I heard your interesting interview with Lady Ruth."

"Professor!" in reproach.

"My dear boy, it was all an accident. I had thrown myself upon the
lounge in the corner of the little parlor, for an after-dinner nap, when
you came in and failed to notice me, owing to the arm-chair I had drawn
in front of me to shut out the light.

"At first I thought you would simply look at the picture and then go
away, but when I heard you telling her your sad story and the new hopes
you entertained, I felt that I had a right to listen then. Thus you
understand how I know these facts.

"This takes me back to where I was lost in the streets of Valetta and
forced to inquire my way. As luck would have it I saw a man before me,
but ere I reached him he was joined by a woman.

"I stood still; in the dusk I heard him say something that gave me a
thrill, and as near as I can remember those words were:

"'For love of you, Pauline Potter, I have assumed this disguise and
become for the present Signor Stucco, the master of Valetta's police.
Now give me orders; tell me how I am to win your favor; how bring to the
Strada Mezzodi--' I heard no more, as his voice fell, but presently my
ears, sharpened to an intensity, caught a name--it was--'Doctor
Chicago.'"

"You interest me, professor; please proceed."

"Ah! that is all. I lost track of them and managed to work my way to the
hotel in time for dinner. When that man called you out, I recognized the
dim figure I had seen talking with the soft-voiced woman at dusk. It
takes time for me to figure things out, and I must be beyond the range
of her voice. That was one reason I lay down in the little parlor. When
I heard you announce your intention of visiting the Strada Mezzodi I
made up my mind to act quickly. That is why I tapped you on the arm, why
I am now tramping at your side. Now let us probe deeper.

"Mark the first point; this Pauline is a shrewd creature, and doubtless
possessed of more than an ordinary Corsican nature to hate so bitterly."

"Ah! you know her mother was a Corsican?"

"I believe I have heard it told in New York, and it is easy to realize
the fact now. Pauline is a good hater--her father was Scotch I presume.

"What I want to point out is this--she has been investigating your
record--the skeleton in your closet, or rather your family, is no secret
with her."

"I understand that, sir. It is no accident, her presence in the same
house my mother occupied."

"Well, as to that, you're not sure. That fellow who brought the news was
paid to represent the head of the Valetta police, for they knew you had
invoked official aid, and just as like as not he gave you an address
that your mother never heard of."

"Well, here we are!" suddenly.

"Eh? This is the Strada Mezzodi?"

"Any objections to it?" laughing.

"Oh, no! one place is as good as another to me, in this Maltese city,
where you seem to be climbing to paradise or descending into hades all
the time. Only I'm glad I came."

"Why, professor?"

"Well," with a look down the street, "I'm afraid you'll need the
services of a friend before long--that you are about to experience a
sensation you won't soon forget," replies Philander, coolly.



CHAPTER VI.

PAULINE POTTER'S HOUR COMES.


"It is possible!" declares John; "and under such circumstances I shall
indeed be glad to have a friend in need. At the same time it seems as
strange to me to think Pauline Potter can be here--that the Chicago
actress whom I once adored and with a youth's ardor swore to make my
wife, can be here and bothering her head about one John Craig, M.D."

"It will soon be known. You have a good description of this house which
the man supposed to be Luther Keene brought?" asks Philander, showing
unexpected business qualities; indeed, he is proving more of a wonder
to the young Chicagoan every hour.

"Yes, and can find it easily enough by the red lamp in front," he
replies.

"I see such a light along the strado."

"That is, in all probability, our destination."

They advance, and in another minute are at the door of the domicile
marked so conspicuously with a red light.

John allows himself a brief period of ecstasy as he remembers that his
mother crossed this threshold only recently, and in his eyes this
renders it holy.

Then he recovers his common sense, and is once more the wide-awake,
vigilant John Craig who met the advance of the mad dog so coolly upon
the hill road of Valetta.

"There's a knocker," says the professor.

"I'll try it," John replies, and as he swings the weight a ponderous
sound ensues, a hollow clamor that is loud enough to arouse the whole
street, John thinks.

"Great guns!" mutters Philander, "it's a great piece of luck there's no
grave-yard near."

"How's that?" demands his companion.

"Well, that clang would arouse the dead," is the amazing reply.

Further conversation is cut short by the sound of footsteps within--a
bolt is withdrawn, proving that the inmates of the house on the Strada
Mezzodi do not have the Maltese sense of honor that makes the presence
of locks and bars unnecessary.

Then the door is opened.

The red lantern gives a light that shows them the interior of this
Valetta house, and in the brilliant illumination stands a man, a native
Maltese servant.

John has arranged his plan of action in such an event. He hopes the man
who opens the door may talk English.

"Good evening," he says, courteously.

The man returns the salutation gravely.

"I would see the gentleman of the house on business of importance."

"Are you Doctor Craig?"

"That is my name."

"John Alexander Craig?"

"The same."

"Of Chicago?"

"You hit it, my friend of Malta."

"Ah! you are expected--enter," is the surprising reply, and the
professor calls his attention to it by a sly dig in the ribs.

They start to enter, when the faithful servitor of the house bars the
way of the professor.

"Pardon; I said Doctor Craig."

"Well?" demands Philander, bristling up.

"You can wait for him outside. I will give you a chair, a cigar."

The professor laughs in good humor.

"Bless you, I'm Doctor Craig's shadow; he can't go anywhere but with me.
Fetch two chairs. We will interview your master outside."

The citizen of Malta appears perplexed. John comes to the rescue.

"It will be all right; this gentleman is my companion, my interpreter.
It is necessary that he accompany me. Enter, professor."

His assurance carries the day; the man backs down and allows Philander
a passage.

Their first point is gained.

The servant having closed and barred the door and asked them to follow,
goes on ahead. The professor takes advantage of the opportunity
presented, and plucks John's sleeve, and as that worthy bends down,
he whispers:

"Have you noticed it?"

"What?" asks the young doctor.

"His style of address, my boy; same words exactly that were used at the
hotel by the man who brought you the news."

"Jove! you are right, professor. I imagine that must be the formal style
in this country."

Philander chuckles.

"You'll have to guess closer to the mark than that, my boy, when you
want to strike the truth."

"What can you mean, sir?"

"Bless you, it's the same man. Notice his walk; doesn't he hold himself
just so?"

"Professor, you're wide awake. I admit all you say. There is a wonderful
resemblance. Yes, I believe it is the same man. Really, this affair
grows more and more interesting. Talk about your comedies, they're not
in it."

Further conversation is cut off by the fact of their guide ushering them
into a room that is lighted with an antique lamp.

"Wait here," he says, and disappears.

John Craig manages to retain his self-possession, though it gives him
a thrill to think that he may be looking upon a scene which was only
recently graced by the presence of the being whom he seeks far and
wide--his mother.

Now some one comes; they hear the rustle of skirts, and know it is no
man who advances.

"Steady, boy," warns Philander, knowing the sensation produced in John's
quivering, expectant heart; "steady it is now, and keep your wits
bright."

"Steady it is," replies John, who knows it is only right he should brace
up.

Then the party advancing enters the apartment, and looking up the two
men behold one who is garbed in a peculiar habit, the insignia of an
order; a heavy black gown, corded at the waist, with a white flowing
collar, and a strange bonnet both black and white, the size of which
is astonishing.

Her face they do not see, as a gauze vail hides it from mortal view.

In this city of orders, where the nations of the world seem to vie with
each other in creating strange commanderies, it is nothing to meet with
such a garb.

John Craig is a gentleman; he rises from his chair and bows; ditto
Philander, who keeps a little in his rear, as becomes a sensible,
well-behaved "shadow."

The dress of the woman gives John an idea she is at the head of some
charitable organization which has set rules for dress and duty, although
his knowledge of such matters is not most profound.

"Madame, pardon this intrusion," he says, at the same time wondering
whether she is English, French, or a native of Malta.

Her reply comes in a low voice, and tells him she is as familiar with
the English language as himself, no matter what her nationality.

"It is no intrusion, Doctor Craig. I have been expecting you."

"Indeed; you surprise me, madame, since I sent no word of my coming."

"Ah! a little bird sent me the news."

"Do you know why I enter your abode without an invitation, madame?"

"You seek news, Doctor Craig."

"That is true."

"News of one who has long been lost; news concerning a member of our
holy order; the dear sister who has consecrated her life to charity, and
who, under my fostering care, has long since redeemed her past--Sister
Magdalen."

The words almost unnerve John; he has a feeling that perhaps Heaven
means to be kind and allow him the bliss he craves.

"Ah! madame, you know my secret. It is true. I would find her, would
hear from her own lips the story of the past. I believe you can help
me. She has occupied this house."

"That very chair upon which you are seated sustained her fainting form
one afternoon when she came in. I thought she was dying. In her hand she
carried a paper, an American daily. I glanced at it to see if I could
learn the truth, and saw it there as plain as day. She had read a notice
of a fire in Chicago where a young man named John Craig, said to be a
medical student, perished."

"Did she see that account? It was cruel. The next day's paper refuted
the lie, and explained how he escaped," says John, warmly.

"Yes, I saw it. She would give us no rest until we procured a later copy
of the same paper, and there she read the truth. Sister Magdalen was all
smiles from that hour; she said that Heaven had indeed answered her
prayer."

"Tell me, is she here now?" holding his breath with suspense.

"Oh! no, she went away several weeks ago. We shall not see her again
unless she chances to be one of three lay delegates now on their way
here from a sister sanctuary."

"Then you can give me hope; let me know where I may find her?"

"If I see my duty in that way, Doctor Craig," is the astonishing reply
he receives.

He conceives the idea what this may mean.

"Madame, I am ready to do what I can for the good of your order if you
will bring about this long anticipated meeting."

"Your word shall be your bond. We need five hundred dollars to endow
another bed in the hospital at Rome."

"It shall be yours; I swear it."

"Hush, impious man! Your word is enough. On my part I promise that ere
an hour goes by you shall be in a fair way to look upon the face of one
who loves you more dearly than if you had never been lost to her."

John hears and believes; he is not suspicious enough to put a double
meaning upon the words.

"An hour--so soon? What am I to do in order to gain this consummation of
my hopes?" he asks, in deep surprise.

"Nothing, only be content to remain here as my guests."

John looks at Philander and the latter nods, for it all seems clear and
above board.

"We agree, madame," says the young doctor.

The Mother Superior, as they take her to be, bows her head solemnly.

"It is well," she says, and touches a bell.

Almost immediately the native servant appears, to whom she speaks in low
tones, while John wonders when so great a revolution in the affairs of
orders like this occurred whereby they are enabled to have men-servants.

Hardly has the native vanished than another sister appears, carrying a
small tray upon which are seen a crystal bottle full of grape juice,
three odd glasses and a plate of plain flat cakes.

"Doctor Craig, our order refuses the use of wines; this is the pure
juice of the grape, expressed at our own vineyard on this island. It is
as harmless as water, but refreshing. It is our simple habit to invite
our guests to join us in this way; we believe in the Arab rule of
breaking bread; those with whom we take salt are ever more our friends.
You will not, cannot refuse."

How should they?

John looks at the professor, and in turn the latter looks at John.

"Madame, you have given me cause for happiness; we will join you in your
simple lunch," returns the young man.

"You are wounded," noticing his arm in its sling.

"Not seriously."

"By chance I saw your adventure this day. I am proud to have the hero of
that noble deed for my guest."

"Pardon; please do not mention it."

He accepts a glass of the grape juice and an anise-seed cake, for this
plant is grown in Malta for export.

The liquid is cold and very refreshing. John has a dozen questions on
the tip of his tongue, all of which relate to Sister Magdalen, but he
does not put them, for his thoughts become somewhat incoherent, and it
is so comfortable sitting there.

When the Mother Superior raises her vail to sip from the amber glass of
unfermented wine John Craig, M.D., has sense enough to notice two
things; the hand that holds the glass is plump and fair, and the lips
under the vail form a Cupid's bow such as age can never know.

This arouses a wild curiosity in his mind; he wonders what this woman,
who wears such a strange habit, can be like, and watches her with
something of eagerness.

Surely the room is growing very close; a window opened would be a good
thing he believes, and yet somehow lacks the energy to open it, turns
his head, and sees the professor lying back in his chair _fast asleep_.

This gives him a faint shock, but his nerves are deadened; nothing would
surprise him very much now, unless an earthquake occurred.

"Rest your head, Doctor Craig; the back of the chair is very
comfortable," he hears a soft voice say.

Warm breath fans his face. The Mother Superior has thrown aside that
ugly bonnet; it is a young, face, a fair face, surrounded by golden
curls, that looks down upon him, as with a stage laugh the woman rests
one hand on the head of the drugged medical student from Chicago, to
exclaim:

"At last! he belongs to Pauline Potter!"



CHAPTER VII.

THE BEAUTIFUL TIGRESS.


John Craig dreams. He fancies himself bathing with demon apes in the
wilds of Africa, having read an explorer's account of such a scene very
recently.

They press him hard, and he can see no hope of escaping with his life.

In the midst of his mental torture he opens his eyes, and the
disagreeable features of the case are suddenly swept away.

Where can he be? Soft music throbs upon the scented air, he hears the
gentle plash of a fountain in a court near by; a mellow light, anything
but garish, shows him the most luxurious surroundings, silks and
velvets, brightness in color and gorgeousness in taste, everywhere.

This amazes him; almost takes his breath away; it is so different from
his dream, which left him in a desperate hole.

His mind seems dull of comprehension, which must be the effect of the
drug, so that for a brief time he is unable to understand the situation,
or grasp his condition.

Then it dawns upon him, the mission that took him away from the hotel;
and having reached that point, he is wrestling with what must have
followed when something touches his face, something that is cool and
pleasant--the soft, white hand of a woman.

Then Doctor Chicago's eyes flash open again, and he looks up startled;
he has just recollected Lady Ruth's story, and a wild hope rushes into
existence, a hope that could not be put into words, but which takes the
form of an idea that she whom the English girl met as Sister Magdalen,
his mother, is near.

He looks up; his eyes fall upon a face that boasts of extreme beauty, a
face of wondrous black eyes and cheeks aflame, a face that, set in sable
coils of hair, would drive an artist wild with the desire to transfer
its charms to canvas.

And John Craig, strange man, frowns.

Evidently there is something in his composition that prevents him from
accepting what the prodigal gods have thrown in his path.

"You?" he says, bluntly, and with disdain.

The woman with the black eyes smiles sweetly as she continues to
soothingly touch his forehead, which throbs and burns as though he
endures the keenest pain.

"Did you imagine it could be any other, my dear John? You deserted me,
but I believe you failed to know your own mind. At any rate I have
determined not to desert you."

"Pauline, you do not--it is impossible for you to care for me after what
has happened."

"Impossible! Why should it be? I can't help myself. I have seen others
profess to love me, have played with them as a queen might with her
subjects who prostrated themselves before her. Yet, John Craig, I never
loved but once. You have stirred my heart to its depths. I am not able
to analyze these feelings. I only know what I know."

She does not feel the modesty of a young girl; much acting before the
public has made her brazen, this midnight beauty with the glowing eyes
black as sloes, the pouting lips, the figure of a Hebe.

John Craig may have seen adventures before in his life, and probably has
been in many a fix, being fond of spending his vacations in rambling
over the wilderness away up in the Michigan peninsula, with a gun on his
shoulder; but plainly he has now met the crisis of his whole career.

"Pauline, I am a frank fellow, as you know. It is not in me to dissemble.
I am going to speak plainly with you," he says, rising to a sitting
posture, and looking the actress full in the eyes.

She moves uneasily, and her cheeks, which were erstwhile tinted with
scarlet, grow pallid. Then she sets her teeth and with a smile continues:

"That is right, I hate a deceiver worse than anything else on earth. It
was your honest way, John Craig, that first drew me toward you. Yes,
speak your mind."

Evidently she is in part prepared for the worst, though she has hoped
that the old witchery might be thrown about the young doctor.

"When you treated me in that merciless way, long ago, the regard I felt
for you died out of my heart--your spell was broken."

"Ah! John, you have thought so, perhaps, just as I did, but I learned
that these affections of ours are deeper than we suspect. I believed I
had dropped you forever, but time has taught me what a terrible wrench
it must be that would tear the image of John Craig from my heart."

"I am sorry to hear you say so, Pauline, for on my part I have been
effectually cured. I even look back and regard our love-making as a
foolish, boyish fancy in which neither of us knew our own minds. Why
can't you do the same?" he says, calmly.

"I am not built that way--my nature is of the tropical order, for my
mother was born in Corsica, you know. Some of these fair English girls
may be fickle, but Pauline Potter is the same as when she knew you in
Chicago. But, John Craig, this same love can change to hate; it is but
a step between the two, and no magician's wand is needed to make the
transformation."

Already a change has swept over her face; it does not look so lovely
now, for the arched black brows meet in a frown, while from the midnight
eyes the fires of aroused passions begin to scintillate.

Craig knows that when he stirs up the pool he arouses the worst elements
in her nature. Still he will not disguise his feelings and assume an
ardor he is far from feeling.

Mentally he contrasts this girl with the English maid, and Pauline
suffers by the comparison.

Perhaps a trifle of the scorn he feels shows upon his face. Pauline can
no longer call him her slave, and it may be this that arouses the new
feeling in her heart, for a woman will never bear the sneers of one whom
she has madly loved.

"This is worse than foolish, Pauline. You seem to know at least a
portion of my mission abroad, and hence must be aware that I am in no
humor for love-making--that my whole soul is bound up in my search."

"Well, I can help you, John," she says, quietly, holding her feelings in
check until she has ventured upon this last resort.

"You can? Then I beg of you, Pauline, to give me assistance. To find my
mother is the one thought of my existence, and any one who can shorten
my quest must have my deepest gratitude."

Pauline frowns again.

"I hate that word; it has no place with me, John Craig. Friendship I
despise--it is either love or hate with me. Let me tell you what I am in
a position to do--find your mother for you, bring you face to face, or,
on the other hand, render it impossible for you to ever set eyes upon
her."

Her manner proves it to be no idle boast, but the young man will not
descend to deceit, even when he might accomplish so much.

"Will you bring about this meeting?" he asks.

"On one condition, John."

"Well"--hesitatingly--"name it."

"That you marry me," is the prompt reply, and even Pauline, actress by
nature and vocation as she is, turns a trifle rosy under his gaze,
though not abashed.

"That is a sudden ultimatum. Kindly tell me when you would like this
little affair to come off?" he asks, lightly.

"Now--before I take you to the one you have long sought."

"Pardon me; I can hardly collect my wits. You see I had not dreamed of
marrying for years. It is very, very sudden."

"Oh! I'll give you time to reflect upon it, John. I wouldn't hurry up
such grave business."

"I don't believe I need much time. Don't you think it is a rather strange
thing to demand payment before you deliver the goods?"

"If you gave me your word, John, I would wait until I had carried out my
word."

"You think you could trust me?"

"I am willing to accept the chances."

"Indeed!"

"Will you make the promise?"

"Not I."

"Then you were simply gaining time," with a clenching of the small hands
and a gathering of the black brows.

"I wanted to uncover your batteries; to learn what you knew; to
understand your designs. Now that you give me no alternative, I am
compelled to hurt your feelings by declaring myself able to find the one
I seek without the aid of Pauline Potter."

As he speaks the last word he rises to his feet, once more feeling like
himself.

"What would you do now, John Craig?"

"Leave this building, since I was lured here under false pretenses. What
have you done with my companion?"

"The funny little man? Oh, he left here long ago when he learned you had
fallen among old friends," she replies, carelessly.

John remembers something now; it is the sight of Philander Sharpe lying
back in his chair drugged, and therefore he does not credit what the
actress says.

"Will you show me the way out?" he asks.

"I will do more."

She claps her hands together in the oriental way of summoning a servant.

Instantly the curtains move; three men enter the apartment, and John
realizes that Pauline Potter is about to show her teeth.

He draws his figure up, for while not a pugnacious man, he knows how to
defend himself. As to his bravery who can question it after his action
of the afternoon?

"Does it take three to show me to the door? With your permission I will
depart."

"Not yet Doctor Chicago--not yet."

"Ha! you would attempt violence. Well, I'm ready to meet these fellows,
thanks to the forethought that caused me to arm myself before starting
on this quixotic errand to-night."

The young Chicagoan throws a hand back, meaning to draw the little
pocket revolver which has more than once served him well, but, to his
dismay, it is gone.

He sees a derisive smile upon the features of Pauline, and knows she has
taken it while he lay there unconscious on the couch.

"I was afraid you might do yourself damage, John. If you are wise you
will submit tamely," she says, and clapping her hands again sets the
three men upon him.

Craig is no Hercules in build, and besides, his left arm is in rather
a poor condition for warfare, being exceedingly sore.

Still he is not the one to submit tamely so long as a single chance
remains, and for the space of a minute there is a lively scene in the
oriental apartment, in which divans are overturned, men swinging
desperately around, and even Pauline Potter, accustomed to stage battles
only, is constrained to utter a few little shrieks of alarm.

Then it is over.

Doctor Chicago, breathing hard and looking his dogged defiance, stands
there in the hands of his captors.

"Do you change your mind, John Craig?" asks the woman, fastening her
burning gaze upon his face.

"I have too much Scotch blood in me for that. On the contrary, I am
more than ever determined to pursue my mission without any outside
assistance," he answers.

"Take him away!" she cries, and the look that crosses her face can only
be likened to the black clouds preceding the hurricane.

John struggles no longer, for he realizes that he is safer out of her
sight than in it.

They take him through a door-way and the last he hears from the
beautiful tigress is her taunting cry of:

"We will break this proud spirit of yours, John Craig--what you scorn
now you will beg for after awhile, when it is too late!"

He wonders whether this is a prophecy.

The men hurry him along a narrow hall, for many of these Maltese houses
are built in a queer way, nor do they treat him with consideration, but
rather the contrary.

When he ventures to protest, the man who opened the door orders silence
and enforces it with a cowardly blow from his fist.

John looks him straight in the eye and says:

"You coward! I will remember that," at which the man turns his head away
and swears under his breath.

Presently they halt in front of a door, which the leader unlocks. At a
word from him the young American is pushed inside.

John, receiving such an impetus, staggers and throws out his hands for
support, but failing to find anything of this kind, pitches over, just
as the door slams shut.

He recovers himself and sits up, a trifle bruised, but not otherwise
injured through his rough treatment.

This is a nice predicament, to be shut up in a house of Valetta, while,
perhaps, Philander Sharpe returns to the hotel with a story of his
succumbing to the wiles of a beautiful enchantress.

The steamer will sail without him, and the duse must be to pay
generally.

John begins, like a man, to wonder if he can do anything for himself;
that spirit so distinctive, so Chicago like, will not allow him to sit
down and repine.

Surrounded by gloom, how will he find out the nature of his prison?

He endeavors to penetrate the darkness--a trace of light finds an
entrance under the door and relieves the somber blank. It does more, for
all at once John's eyes discover something that rivets his attention.

There are two of them--eyes that gleam in the darkness like those of a
great cat.

A thrill sweeps over the doctor; can it be possible they have shut him
in here with some great fierce animal that will tear him limb from limb?
Is this Pauline Potter's dramatic revenge?

Who can blame him for a sudden quaking in the region of his heart--such
a fate is too terrible to calmly contemplate; but this qualm is only
momentary, and then Doctor Chicago is himself again, brave and
self-reliant.



CHAPTER VIII.

HER DEBT CANCELED.


He begins to reason, to strain his mind in search of all the things he
ever heard with relation to a meeting between unarmed men and wild
beasts.

The power of the human eye has been held up as an example, and surely
here is a chance to try it--the stake, his life.

By this time he becomes cognizant of a certain fact that renders him
uneasy; the yellow orbs do not seem as far away as before, and it is
evident that they approach gradually nearer.

He can even imagine the great body of the animal, perhaps a tiger from
African shores, creeping on its belly, inch by inch shortening the
distance between itself and its prey.

John cannot retreat--already he is in a corner, with the wall behind, so
that all he can do is to await developments.

Nearer still, until scarcely five feet separate him from the glowing
orbs, he can even hear the animal's stentorian breathing.

John prepares for a terrible struggle; he holds his hands out so as to
clutch the great beast by the throat as he advances, and his muscles are
strained in order to sustain the shock.

Just when he expects to hear the roar of a hunger-stricken beast, he is
astonished beyond measure at what occurs.

"Scat! you rascal!" exclaims a voice, and there is heard a great
threshing sound, as though some one endeavors to intimidate by the
swinging of arms as well as by sound.

"What! is that you, Professor Sharpe?" demands the doctor, amazed,
delighted, not because he has a companion in misfortune, but on account
of the dissipation of his fears respecting an assault.

In another minute the two are embracing; there is nothing like danger to
bring men together and make them brothers.

There is strength in union, and both of them feel better since the
meeting.

Of course their thoughts are wholly bent on escape, and the talk is of
this. Sharpe has not been so thoroughly searched as his companion, and
soon produces a few matches, with which they proceed to examine their
dungeon.

It is a gloomy prospect.

The walls are heavy and of stone; there is no opening beyond a mere slit
in the corner through which comes wafts of the sweet air without.

As to the door, it would withstand the assault of giants.

Hopeless indeed does it all appear, and yet little do we poor mortals
know what the next minute may bring forth.

While they are seated there, seeking to cheer up each other, it is
John's keen ears that detect the presence of some one at the door.

This is not a new event that may be pregnant with hope--on the contrary,
it is possibly the next downward step in the line of Pauline Potter's
revenge.

When the key turns in the lock, both men are on their feet ready to meet
whatever may be in store for them.

The door swings open.

Instead of a man, they see a woman of Malta. Upon her arm hangs a
lantern. She shades her eyes from its glare and looks upon the prisoners.

To say Doctor Chicago is surprised would be putting it feebly; he is
amazed at the sight of a woman jailer.

Now she fastens her eyes on his face, he can almost feel her gaze. She
advances a step or two.

"Chicago?" she says, inquiringly.

John hardly knows what she means.

"Answer her," says Sharpe, quickly; "she wants to know if you are from
Chicago."

"Yes," returns Craig, nodding.

"Name?"

"John Craig, M.D."

"It is good. Come."

He is thrilled with a new hope. Can this mean escape? or does the clever
Pauline play a new game with them?

"Shall we go, Sharpe?" he asks, in a whisper.

"Go--well, I reckon we'd be fools to let such a chance as this slip,"
returns the little man, instantly.

So they proceed to follow their strange guide, out of the dungeon door
and along the narrow passage after her.

Again John suspects, and bends his head close to that of his comrade.

"Professor."

"Well, I'm wide awake. What is it you want?" returns the other.

"Do you really mean to trust her?"

"She seems friendly enough. We're out of that abominable place--bah! I'd
as soon be shut up in the Calcutta Black Hole as there."

"But, Pauline--"

"Well, what of her?"

"She is a wonderfully shrewd girl, and this may only be one of her
tricks."

"I don't believe it; she had us safe enough before. Besides, John, my
dear boy, I seem to have discovered something that has not yet made
itself apparent to you."

"Then tell me."

"You noticed how she stared at you and asked your name; why, it didn't
matter if a dozen Philander Sharpe were near by."

"Yes, but get down to facts."

"She is repaying her debt."

"To me--she owes me nothing, man."

"You mistake. As you walk, doctor, don't you feel your left arm twinge
some?"

"Hang it, yes; but what's that got to do with this Maltese woman with
the lantern?"

"Softly--speak in whispers if you don't want to arouse the house. See,
she turns and raises her forefinger warningly. Do you mean to say you
don't remember her, John?"

"Her face is familiar, but--"

He hesitates, and faces the professor.

"I see, you've got it. You saved her child from the death fangs of the
mad dog, and a kind Heaven has placed her in a position to return the
favor, which she would do if the most terrible fate hung over her head."

"It seems incredible," mutters the doctor.

Nevertheless it is true; the one chance in ten thousand sometimes comes
to pass.

Already has his afternoon's adventure borne fruit in more ways than one;
first it restored him to his former place in the esteem of Lady Ruth,
which his refusal to do her foolish errand had lost him, and now it
works greater wonders, snatching him from the baleful power of the
actress who, unable to rule, would ruin.

Truly he has no reason to regret that heart affection, that love for
humanity which sent him out to snatch the dusky child of Malta from the
fangs of the beast.

Now they have reached a door that is heavily barred, proving that their
course has been different from the one by means of which they gained the
dungeon.

The woman lays down her lantern and takes away the bars. Then she places
her hand on John's arm.

"You saved my child, Chicago; I save you."

She smiles, this dusky daughter of Malta, as if greatly pleased at being
able to frame her thoughts in English--smiles and nods at the young
doctor.

"But you--she may punish you," he says, and she understands, shaking her
head.

"She no dare; I am of Malta; also, I shall see her, this proud mistress,
no more," which doubtless means that she intends taking French leave as
soon as the Americans have gone.

John takes her hand and presses it to his lips; a dusky hand it is, but
no cavalier of old ever kissed the slender member of a lady love with
more reverence than he shows.

"Go, it is danger to stay," she says, with something of a look of alarm
on her face, as from the interior of the dwelling comes some sort of
clamor which may after all only turn out to be the barking of a dog
confined in the court where the fountain plays, but which at any rate
arouses her fears.

They are only too glad to do so; after being confined in that murky
dungeon the outside air seems peculiarly sweet.

It must be very late, and in this quarter, at least, the noises of the
earlier night have passed away.

The only sounds that come plainly to their ears are the booming of the
heavy tide on the rocks, and the sweep of the night wind through the
cypress trees.

When they turn again after making an effort to locate themselves, the
door in the wall is closed, and the Maltese woman is gone.

There is no cause for them to linger, and they move away.

John Craig has nothing to say. The disappointment has been keen, and he
does not yet see a ray of light ahead.

Hope had such a grasp upon his soul, when he started from the hotel,
that the fall has been more disastrous.

Not so Philander Sharpe.

An evil fortune has kept him pretty quiet for quite a little while now,
and he begins to make up for it in part, chirping away at a merry rate
as they push their way along the street.

At first Doctor Chicago pays little heed to what he says, but presently
certain words catch his ear and tell him that the professor is not
merely speaking for oratorical effect or to hear himself talk.

"What's that you say, sir?" he asks.

Cheerfully Philander goes back to repeat.

"I was saying that I experienced queer sensations when I came to. They
had carried you away to some more luxurious apartment, but I was left
where I went to sleep--anything was good enough for Philander Sharpe.

"At first I was dazed; the soft murmur of the fountain came near putting
me to sleep again with its droning voice. Then I suddenly remembered
something--a charming face with the flashing eye of a fiend.

"That aroused me to a comprehension of the position, and I no longer
cared to sleep. Action was necessary. I knew they cared little about
Philander Sharpe, as it was you the trap had been set for--hence I was
perhaps in a position to accomplish something.

"I left my chair and prowled around. They had disarmed me, and my first
natural desire was to find some sort of weapon with which I could do
service in case of necessity.

"In thus searching I came across a peculiar knife, perhaps used as a
paper-cutter, but of a serviceable kind, which I pocketed.

"More than this, I discovered something that I thought would prove of
importance to you, and this I hid upon my person, very wisely, too, for
a short time later I was suddenly set upon by three miserable rogues,
who crept upon me unawares, and in spite of my frantic and Spartan-like
resistance, they bore me away along a dim passage, to finally chuck me
into the vile den where you came later and alarmed me so dreadfully, as
I fully believed it must be some tiger cat they had been pleased to shut
in with me."

The little professor rattles off these long sentences without the least
difficulty--words flow from his lips as readily as the floods roll over
Niagara.

When John sees a chance to break in he hastily asks what it is the
professor has discovered that interests him.

Whereupon Philander begins to feel in his various pockets, and pull out
what has been stored there. At last he utters an exclamation of
satisfaction.

"Eureka! here it is. Found it lying on a desk. Was attracted by the
singular writing."

"Singular writing! that makes me believe it must have come from my
mother."

"It is signed Sister Magdalen."

"Then that proves it; you remember what Lady Ruth said about meeting a
Sister in Paris who resembled the miniature I have of my mother. It was
a kind fate that brought this to you, professor."

"Well, you see, I always had a faculty for prying around--might have
been a famous explorer of Egyptian tombs if I hadn't been taken in and
done for by Gwen Makepeace."

"Was there anything particularly interesting in this letter?" asks John.

"I considered it so--you will see for yourself," is the reply.

All is darkness around them. John is possessed of patience to a
reasonable extent, but he would like to see what this paper contains.

"Professor, you seem to have about everything; can you drum up a cigar
and a match?"

"Both, luckily."

"Ah! thanks," accepting them eagerly.

"It may be dangerous to light up here," says Philander, cautiously, but
the other is deaf to any advice of this sort.

There is a rustling of paper, then the match is struck, and Doctor
Chicago is discovered bending low in order to keep it from the wind. His
cigar is speedily lighted, and his eyes turned upon the paper which
Philander has given him--Philander, who hovers over him now in eager
distress, anxious to hear John's opinion, and yet fearful lest the rash
act may bring danger upon them.

John's lips part to utter an exclamation of mingled amazement and
delight, when from a point close to their shoulders an outcry proceeds;
the burning match has betrayed them.



CHAPTER IX.

BRAVO, PHILANDER!


It is impossible for them to understand just at the moment what has
occurred.

They are in a part of the Maltese city that Europeans might well
hesitate to visit at the hour of midnight, however much they would
frequent it in daylight.

The natives of Valetta have not all become reconciled to British rule,
and although no open outbreak occurs, more than once has it been placed
in evidence that there is a deep feeling of resentful distrust in
certain quarters, which only awaits an opportunity to show its ugly
teeth.

Knowing this fact, it is general principles more than anything else that
causes Philander to have concern.

When those loud cries break forth close at hand, he knows his fears were
not without foundation.

John Craig is also suddenly brought to a realization of the fact that he
has hardly been prudent in his action.

He stows the paper away with a single movement of his hand. It is
precious to him, and must be kept for future study.

Then he is ready to face those who, by their presence and outcries,
announce themselves as the foes of foreigners.

There are many secret societies on the famous island besides the Knights
of Malta, and it is not at all improbable that an organization exists
which has for its main object the eventual uprising of the Maltese and
their freedom from the British yoke.

This would naturally be kept a secret, and not proclaimed from the flat
roofs of Valetta, or the platform of St. Lazarus.

Philander has shown remarkable traits upon this night of nights, traits
which Doctor Chicago never suspected he possessed. He now proves that,
in addition to these other commendable qualities, he has wonderful
presence of mind, and that no sudden emergency can stupefy his senses.

Just as soon as the outcry is heard, he draws the small, cimeter-shaped
paper-knife, which he claimed would make a serviceable weapon.

At the same time he cries out:

"We're in for it, John, my boy! Don't be too proud to run. Legs, do your
duty!"

With which remark Philander starts his lower extremities into action,
turning his head to make sure that his companion has not hesitated to
follow.

If the professor is a small man, he has the faculty for getting over
ground at quite an astonishing rate of speed. His short legs fairly
twinkle as they measure off the yards; and, given a fair show, he would
lead any ordinary runner a race.

The darkness, the uneven street, and his unfamiliarity with his
surroundings, are all against him now, so that he cannot do himself
justice.

Suddenly he misses his companion. John was close beside him ten seconds
before--John, who is a sprinter from athletic education, and who could
have distanced the professor with only half an effort had he wished, but
who moderated his speed to conform with that of his less favored friend.

The shouts have continued all this while, proving that the citizens of
Valetta have steadfastly pursued them with some dark purpose in view.

Just as soon as Philander Sharpe makes this discovery, his action is one
that proves him a hero.

He stops in his tracks, and no longer keeps up his flight.

"Turn the other way, boys! At 'em like thunder! As Sheridan said at
Cedar Creek: 'We'll lick 'em out of their boots,'" is the astonishing
cry he sends forth, as he begins to travel over the back trail.

This speedily brings him upon the scene of action. Several dark figures
have come to a halt around a prostrate object. They are the men of
Valetta, who have organized this secret vendetta against all foreigners.

It is easy to understand why they thus halt. John Craig is the
recumbent, struggling figure on the roadway; John Craig, who has
possibly been lassoed by some expert among the pursuers, and who kicks
with the vim and energy of a free American citizen.

This Philander understands instantly, and also comprehending that he
must do something very speedily, throws himself into the midst of the
dusky Maltese thugs.

The advent of a wild-cat could not produce more astonishment and
consternation than this sudden coming of the energetic little man.

He accompanies his assault with the most energetic movements of both
arms and legs, and his shrill voice keeps time to the music.

As he holds the cimeter-knife in one hand, his movements are not without
certain painful accompaniments. The men fall back in dismay. A momentary
panic is upon them. Philander is shrewd enough to know this will not
last, and he does not attempt to pursue them.

Upon finding that for the time being the scene is left to him, and that
he is the master of the situation, the professor bends down to free his
companion from the noose that binds his arms.

Already has John managed to gain a sitting posture, as the fellow at the
other end of the rope forgets to pull steadily upon it in his alarm at
the new phase of affairs.

Before he can collect his wits, and once more stretch the line,
Philander's keen blade of Damascus steel is pressed against the rope,
and as it comes taut it instantly separates.

This is enough for John, who has now gained his feet, and throws aside
the entangling loop.

His tumble has had a queer effect on the young doctor; usually cool and
cautious, he has been transformed into a Hotspur; there is a sudden
desire for revenge.

In his hand he holds a cudgel, which he snatched from the street as he
arose. It is the spoke of a wheel belonging to some light vehicle, and
which no doubt one of the assailants carried.

With this flourishing about his head, Doctor Chicago leaps in among the
Maltese and belabors them right and left.

As Philander, seeing what is going on, and knowing his assistance would
be appreciated, springs to his side, the dusky sons of Malta break and
run.

They realize, perhaps, that they have waked up the wrong customers, and
immediate flight is the only thing that will save them from the result
of their impetuosity.

The two Americans make a pretense of pursuing them, but truth to tell
their course really lies in an altogether different direction, and, as
if by mutual consent, they suddenly turn right about face.

Taking advantage of the enemy's discomfiture, they are enabled to make
good their escape, and presently reach the vicinity of the hotel, rather
out of breath, and looking somewhat the worse for their strange
adventures.

Professor Sharpe has been glowing with pride and satisfaction up to the
moment they reach the caravansary, then all of a sudden he seems to
collapse.

A sound comes from a window above; a clear, sibilant sound; a human
voice uttering one word, but investing it with a volume of reproach
beyond description.

That word:

"Philander!"

The doughty little professor, who has proved himself as brave as a lion
in the face of actual and overwhelming danger, now shows positive signs
of flunking. He clutches the arm of his fellow-adventurer, and whispers:

"John Craig, remember your solemn promise."

"Never fear; I'll stand by you, professor."

"Philander Sharpe!"

This time the inflection is more positive and acrid. It is no longer a
tone of plaint and entreaty, but touches the Caudle lecture style. Of
course, he can no longer ignore the presence of his better half.

"It's I, Gwendolin," he says, meekly.

"Oh, it is! You've condescended to take some notice of me at last. Well,
I'm glad to see you. Come up stairs at once, and confess that you've
treated me abominably, you bad man."

"For Heaven's sake let's get in before a crowd gathers," groans the
professor, with a glance of horror up in the direction of the
white-capped head protruding from, the second-story window.

Craig is amused, but takes pity on his companion, so they enter the
hotel together.

"Will you tell her all?" he asks.

"She'll never rest content now until she discovers it," says Philander,
sadly.

"Then make a clean breast. I give you permission to speak of my affairs,
only--"

"What?"

"Somehow I'd rather not have Lady Ruth know about Pauline Potter, and
the foolish whim that causes her to pursue me."

At this Philander chuckles, being able to see through a millstone with a
hole in it.

"I'll warn Gwendolin, then. She entertains a warm feeling for you,
John--always has since making your acquaintance; and after the event of
to-day, or rather yesterday, since it is past the witching hour of
midnight, she is ready to do anything for you."

"Well, good-night, professor," with a warm shake of the hand, for what
they have passed through in common to-night will make these two the best
of friends.

When John Craig finds himself alone, he does not at once retire to
his small room. Sleep is one of the last things he thinks of just at
present, his mind has been so wrought up by the events of the night.

The hotel remains open. It is not customary, for there are no late
trains to come in at Valetta, and the people keep early hours, as a
usual thing, but this is an exceptional time of the year, preceding
Lent, and there may be some other reason besides that causes an
all-night open house.

Doctor Chicago finds a chair, and seats himself, first of all to reflect
upon the singular train of events that has marked a red cross in his
career since the last sunrise.

His stricken arm pains him, but he has not the slightest fear as to the
ultimate outcome of that episode; the self-inflicted scorching with the
hot iron effectually ended that.

At last he draws out the piece of paper which Philander secured in the
room that marked their downfall, the paper that bears the signature of
Sister Magdalen.

Lady Ruth's reminiscence has thus proved of great value to him.

He takes out one of the notes which came periodically to him--it is the
one that bore the postmark of Valetta, Malta. Holding the two side by
side, he eagerly compares them.

"Yes, the same hand penned both--I would swear to that."

Long he muses, sitting there. The papers have been put away, his cigar
falls unheeded to the floor, and his thoughts fly far away.

Finally he arises, with a sigh, and seeks his room, to rest very poorly,
between the pain of his arm and the worry of his mind.

Another day dawns upon Valetta.

As yet the tourists, who sojourn at the city of Malta by the sea, have
received no intimation that the disabled steamer is in a condition to
proceed.

This means another day on the island, for which few are really sorry, as
Valetta is not an unpleasant place in winter.

Our friends gather around the breakfast-table, and conversation is
brisk. More than once Lady Ruth watches the face of John Craig. She is
anxious to hear what success he met with on the preceding night, and
will doubtless find an opportunity for a quiet little chat after the
meal.

On his part, Craig is uneasy, feeling that he owes her a recital of
facts, and yet loth to tell her anything about Pauline Potter, for he
is ashamed of his boyish infatuation with regard to the Chicago actress.

So he dallies over his breakfast, hoping that something will turn up to
lead their thoughts in another channel, and at least give them a longer
respite. Perhaps a message will come from the steamer announcing an
immediate sailing.

He is eager to be off. Whatever was in the note Philander picked up in
the house of the Strada Mezzodi, it has given John a feverish anxiety to
reach some other port.

Ah! here is the good captain of the Hyperion himself, a jolly sea-dog
whom every passenger clings to in time of storm and trouble, and who
buoys up trembling souls, fearful of the worst, with his hearty,
good-natured manner.

He announces aloud for the benefit of his passengers that a notice just
posted in the office of the hotel gives the time of the vessel's sailing
at seven in the evening, and all passengers are requested to be on board
before that hour, if possible.

This means another day on shore. It means that John Craig cannot longer
elude the recital of his night's adventures to Lady Ruth.



CHAPTER X.

SPRUNG ALEAK!


Lady Ruth captures him very soon after breakfast by means of a clever
little piece of diplomacy. John is really amused at the manner in which
she manages this affair, and allows himself to be carried off to enjoy a
bird's-eye view of the harbor which she has discovered at the end of the
piazza, and which he must pass an opinion upon.

The others do not follow, Philander and Aunt Gwen, because they know
what is going on, and Sir Lionel, on account of a bore of a British
nobleman who has fastened upon him, and talks an incessant streak.

Miss Caprice, as Aunt Gwen has christened Lady Ruth, suddenly develops a
new phase in the conversation.

"Do you know what time it was when you came in last night?" she says,
shaking a finger at him, whereat John laughingly declares his ignorance,
having failed to take note of it.

"Just a quarter of two."

"Is it possible? Really, I--"

"Now, it would be only justice to myself to tell how I happened to
know. Awaking from sleep with a slight headache, I arose to get my
smelling-salts, and noted the time.

"Just then I heard Aunt Gwen's angelic voice calling down. My first fear
was that Uncle Philander had gone off on some sort of racket, and was
returning in no condition for a gentleman, for which suspicion I humbly
beg his pardon, for he's just as lovely as a man ever could be."

"A fine little fellow, I'll declare, and he stood by me like a hero,"
declares John, with great earnestness.

"Well, I'm a woman, you know, and curious. I poked my head out of the
window, and saw that you were with the professor. Of course, I knew he
was all right, then."

The charming _naivette_ with which she makes this engaging remark almost
takes John's breath away. He feels a mad desire to take her in his arms,
and to call her "you blessed darling," or some other similarly foolish
pet name.

Fortunately he contents himself with putting his feelings into a burning
look, the ardor of which causes the cheeks of the young ma'mselle to
grow as red as fire, and she looking the other way at the time.

"I promised to tell you what success I had in my search," he begins,
knowing the confession to be inevitable.

Now she looks at him eagerly, expectantly.

"Yes, and I have tried to read the result in your face, but fear that it
has not been flattering."

So he tells her all, dealing lightly with the matter of Miss Pauline,
though she is such an important factor in the game that she cannot be
ignored.

Lady Ruth looks him directly in the eyes with her own steel blue orbs,
so honest, so strong, that John has always delighted to meet their gaze,
nor does he avoid it now.

"Perhaps I have no business to ask, Doctor Craig, but this Pauline
Potter--what is she to you, what was she to you that she goes to all
this trouble? Have you a secret of hers which she desires to gain?"

"I desire to retain your good opinion, Lady Ruth, and consequently am
anxious that you should know all. I shall not spare myself one iota."

So he explains how the fascinating actress caught his boyish fancy some
two years previous, and how devoted he had been to her until he learned
of her duplicity.

Then followed his denunciation in the presence of several admirers,
after which he had not seen her again until the night before.

All of which is told in a frank way, and listened to with earnestness.

At the conclusion of his narrative, John looks again into Lady Ruth's
face to see whether she condemns him or not, and is gratified to
discover a smile there.

"I think you are little to blame, Doctor Chicago. Like all young men,
you were dazzled by the bright star that flashed before your eyes; but
your illusion lasted only a brief time, for which you may be thankful.
As to this woman's endeavor to regain your regard, it shows what a
brazen creature she is."

The fine contempt she feels is written on her face, and John is glad he
made a full confession of the whole matter.

"I hope I will never see her again," he says, in a penitent way.

"So do I," she echoes, and then turns a trifle red, hastily adding: "for
your sake, doctor. Now, tell me what you hope to do about finding your
mother."

Thus, with the diplomacy of a general, upon finding herself growing
uncomfortable she instantly changes the situation, and brings a new
question to the fore.

John does not notice this. He is too well pleased with the fact that she
overlooks his indiscretion, and still grants him her valued friendship.

He goes on to explain his plans.

They are not elaborate. The paper which Philander Sharpe discovered
gives him a new clew, and this he means to push to the utmost.

He anticipates success, but is gradually learning to tone down his
enthusiasm, realizing that difficulties beset his way.

Thus all has been told, and he has not lost rating with the proud
English girl, for whose good opinion he is coming to be solicitous.

Presently Aunt Gwen is heard calling her niece, and they think it time
to join the rest, as the plans of the day are being discussed.

There are still many things to be seen on the Island of Malta by the
curious. A few even start for the city of Civita Vecchia in the center
of the island, but our friends decide against such an expedition, as
there is a chance of delay, and the captain may refuse to hold his
vessel an hour longer than is absolutely necessary.

Again they start out, and in seeing various curious things the day is
gradually passed.

John is glad that no sign is discovered that would indicate the presence
of Pauline Potter near them.

He has feared lest the vindictive actress might take it into her head
to suddenly appear, and publicly denounce him as her recreant lover, and
thinking thus, is especially glad that he told Lady Ruth the whole story.

So the day ends.

It has been a remarkably pleasant one to all of them, and John has
certainly enjoyed it to the utmost. When I say all, there should be an
exception, for Sir Lionel is in anything but an angelic frame of mind.

He has been wont to look upon the young American's chances with regard
to winning Lady Ruth as exceedingly slim, when such a hero as himself
enters the field.

That is an Englishman's egotism sure enough. To him Doctor Chicago seems
only a boy, and he looks upon John's daring to enter the lists against
him as a specimen of Yankee assurance.

This day teaches Sir Lionel that nothing can account for the vagaries of
a girl's mind. She even shows a decided preference for the society of
the American, allows him to carry her parasol, to assist her up the
steps when they visit the signal tower, and on several occasions they
manage to slip off by themselves, and can be seen eagerly comparing
notes and exchanging opinions respecting the magnificent views that are
to be suddenly discovered at various points.

The British soldier is too old a campaigner not to know what all this
signifies, though the bull-dog elements in his composition will not let
him dream of giving up as yet.

"It's all owing to that beastly little affair of yesterday. The boy made
a big jump in her estimation, when he saved that child. It was a brave
act. I don't want to say a word to the contrary, and the lad has grit,
more than I ever dreamed of; but I want Lady Ruth, by Jove, more than I
ever wanted anything in all my life, and as I've said before, when a
British soldier fails to succeed one way, he will another."

Thinking thus, Sir Lionel cudgels his brains during the day, in order to
invent some _coup de grace_ by means of which he may cleverly regain his
lost prestige.

When a man allows his passions to get the better of his judgment
and sense of fair play, he is really but a single step from being a
scoundrel, and although Sir Lionel would have vehemently scouted the
suspicion of his doing anything to sully his fair name, he nevertheless,
in his desperation at being worsted in a love affair by a mere boy, goes
about some things that are hardly fair.

It has been decided that the little party shall go aboard after supper,
by the light of the young moon, which will be nearly overhead.

Two boats have been engaged to wait for them at the quay.

It is at this time Sir Lionel hopes to make his point, and to accomplish
it he does not hesitate to descend to a low plane, and even imperil
human life.

When they reach the quay a breeze is blowing, but not strong enough to
cause any uneasiness.

The party place their luggage in one boat.

Then comes a pretty piece of by-play that really reflects credit upon
the engineering skill of the soldier, for it is his hand that pulls the
strings.

Lady Ruth steps into one boat. One of the men having stopped John to ask
him something, the colonel is given a chance to occupy the same boat,
and, when Doctor Chicago arrives, he is told by the boatman that this
craft having two passengers, and being smaller than the other, can carry
no more.

Sir Lionel as they push off sings out to him, pleasantly:

"A Roland for an Oliver, Chicago."

John smothers his chagrin and enters the other, boat with Aunt Gwen and
the professor. After all, it is only for a brief time, and surely he can
afford to give Sir Lionel that pleasure.

Thus they set out.

Lady Ruth appears to be in good spirits, for they can hear her voice in
song, blending with the bass of the baronet, floating over the waves,
which are really rougher than any of them had anticipated.

The lights of the steamer can be seen, and they head for her.

Suddenly the song ceases to float across the water. It comes so suddenly
to a stop that John Craig sits up in the other boat and clutches the arm
of the professor.

"Listen! I thought I heard a slight scream."

"Nonsense!" exclaims Aunt Gwen.

"That British prig--"

"Sir Lionel is a gentleman. He would not sully his reputation by a word
or deed."

"There--again."

"That time I heard it, too. Boatman, bend to your oars, and pull. There
is something wrong with the other boat," cries the professor.

Then across the bounding waters comes a hail, in the lion-like voice of
the Briton. A hail that stirs the blood in their veins until it runs
like molten lava--a hail that tells of danger.

"Ho! there, this way, quick! We're sinking! sprung aleak!"

Such is the cry that comes to them.

All are at once alarmed. The boatman is pulling well, but, to John's
excited fancy, it seems as though they hardly move.

He springs up, and takes one of the oars.

"Professor, mind the helm!" he cries.

"Ay, ay!" sings out that worthy, adapting himself immediately to the
situation.

The young American is hardly an athlete, although he belongs to one of
Chicago's best boat clubs.

He has an incentive now which causes him to strain every muscle, and
under the united strength of two men the boat dances over the billows in
the quarter whence the cry of help was heard.

It nevertheless takes them nearly five minutes to reach the scene, and
this is the longest five minutes John ever knew.

Only the voice of the boatman is heard, still calling, and by this they
know that the climax has already come.

A dreadful fear almost palsies John's heart as they reach the scene.

The boatman is discovered, clinging to the oars, and showing some
evidence of alarm. Perhaps he has had more than he bargained for.

John helps him in.

"Where are the others?" he cries, hoarsely.

"I am afraid, lost."

"Just Heaven! What has happened?"

"Boat sprung leak--go down fast. Soldier say he save lady, but struck
his head on boat and lose senses. I saw them no more."

It is horrible!

"Did the boat sink?" asks John, huskily.

"I do not know."

"Would it sink under such circumstances?" he asks their own boatman,
who also has the appearance of being rattled. When they entered into a
little trickery with Sir Lionel, they had no idea it would turn out so
tragically, and the possible serious consequences now staring them in
the face make them uneasy.

"No; it could not," returns that worthy.

"Then, if floating still, we must find it. Our only chance lies there."

Fortunately John is, in a measure, self-possessed. He at least shows
himself equal to the emergency.

They pull in the direction where it is most likely they will find what
they seek.

John twists his neck as he rows, and endeavors to scan the sea around
them. Again and again he calls out, hoping in the fullness of his heart
that some answering cry may come back.

What leaden seconds those are--never can they forget them.

"I see something!" says Aunt Gwen, who is crouching in the bow,
regardless of the spray that now and then spatters her.

"Where away?" demands John, eagerly.

"Straight ahead."

They pull with fierce energy.

"Can you make it out?"

"It's the swamped boat," replies Aunt Gwen, who has remarkable eyes for
one of her age.

John shouts again.

"Boat ahoy!"

This time an answer comes back, but not in the roar of the British lion.

"Here--come quickly--I am nearly worn-out!"

John's heart gives a great bound.

"Thank Heaven! It is Lady Ruth!" he says.



CHAPTER XI.

AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER.


John can hold back no longer, but gives his oar to the boatman, and
seeks the bow in place of Aunt Gwen, who allows him the privilege.

They are now almost upon the floating swamped boat.

"Careful now. Don't run into the wreck. I see her," and with the last
words, John, who has kicked off his shoes in almost a second of time,
throws coat and vest down in the boat and leaps overboard.

His hands seize upon the gunwale of the nearly submerged boat, over
which each wave breaks. He pulls himself along, and thus reaches Lady
Ruth whom he finds holding on to one of the tiller ropes which has
formed a loop, through which her arm is passed.

"Thank Heaven! You are safe! Here comes the boat! You must let me help
you in, Lady Ruth!" he says, dodging a wave and ready to clutch her if
she lets go.

"I am not alone. You must take him in first," she gasps.

Then John for the first time becomes aware that she is supporting Sir
Lionel, whose arm has also been passed through the rounded tiller rope.

He seems to hang a dead weight.

Amazed at the action of the brave English girl, John at once takes hold
of the soldier. The boat by this time comes up.

In getting him aboard a spill is narrowly averted, and now a new
trouble arises. The boat will hold no more, and is dangerously loaded
even now.

What can be done? Lady Ruth must be taken aboard. Her strength is
almost gone, and John, in deadly fear lest one of the hungry waves
should tear her away before their very eyes, passes an arm around her
waist.

He takes in the situation.

"Here, you!" to the already wet boatman, "tumble overboard, quick now.
We can hold on behind, I reckon."

The man hesitates, and this is a bad time for deliberation.

Professor Sharpe suddenly seizes upon him, and in almost the twinkling
of an eye has the fellow overboard, more through a quick movement than
any show of strength.

"There's a boat from the steamer coming this way. Hail it, Philander!"
exclaims Aunt Gwen, and this gives them new life.

Lady Ruth is now taken into the boat with some degree of caution.

Sir Lionel shows no sign of life, and both ladies are extremely
solicitous about him, so the professor bends down to make a cursory
examination.

"He'll be all right when the water is pumped out of him," he announces.

The boat from the steamer comes up, led to the spot by Philander's
shrill whoops, and the men in the water are rescued.

In ten minutes they reach the side of the steamer and go aboard. A
terrible disaster has been narrowly averted, and John cannot but feel
amazed at the wonderful grit shown by this girl, who saved the baronet
from a watery grave.

It proves his estimation of her qualities at the time she assisted to
bind up his arm was not out of the way.

As the two boatmen are about to go down into their craft again, the one
who has not been in the water beckons John, who has not yet sought his
cabin-room to change his soaked clothes.

"Will the gentleman recover?" he asks.

"You mean Sir Lionel? Oh, yes! He is already back in his senses.
Strangely enough the first question he asked upon learning that Lady
Ruth was saved, concerned your companion, and when he learned that the
boatman had also survived, he said: 'The devil!'"

At this the man chuckles.

"I understand--perhaps you can. I like you, sir, while his ways make me
mad. He thinks we Maltese dogs. I say no more--only look out for him. It
easy to sink when plank in boat loosened."

Without another word the fellow slides down the rope to his boat, and
pushes off with his soaked companion.

When John turns and heads for his state-room, he has something to think
about, and the consciousness that there has been some foul play about
this accident makes him decidedly uneasy.

Now they are off, the passengers who in the morning started on a
pilgrimage to Civita Vecchia having returned in good time.

When Doctor Chicago once more comes on deck, clad in warm, dry clothes,
the lights of Valetta are astern, and the steamer is putting miles
between them.

He paces up and down, reflecting upon the startling event of the evening.

What can the significant words of the boatman mean, if not what he
suspects.

John would not wrong any one, and he believes it policy to keep this
to himself. At the same time he realizes that the game is taking on a
desperate phase, when a gentleman of Sir Lionel's caliber descends to
such treachery, in order to make himself a favorite with the fair
English maid.

Of course, it was his intention to save Lady Ruth and appear the hero.
He trusted in his well-known ability as an expert swimmer to accomplish
this, and never once thought fate would step in and deal him such a blow.

As near as can be learned from what the wet boatman said when picked
up, just when the craft was sinking Sir Lionel must have stumbled and
fallen, striking his head upon the gunwale, which rendered him
unconscious.

John walks up and down, smoking and pondering, and, when his thoughts go
toward Lady Ruth, he smiles as if they are pleasant.

Twice he goes to seek the stewardess to make inquiries concerning the
young woman, and is gratified to hear that the ship's Scotch surgeon has
given her a glass of warm toddy to keep her from taking cold as a result
of her exposure, and that having retired she is now in a perfectly
natural sleep.

Pleased with this, he lights another cigar and resumes his walk, to meet
Sir Lionel, who has quite recovered from his ducking, and is disposed to
treat the whole matter something like a joke.

John engages him in conversation for a purpose, and learns what he can
about the peculiar affair; but the soldier professes to know nothing
beyond the fact that the boatman suddenly cried that the craft was
sinking, whereupon he called out for assistance from the other boat,
and then, as the emergency seemed very close, he sprang up to save Lady
Ruth, when his foot caught in the thwart and he pitched heavily forward.

He was not wholly unconscious, and with some one's help, he knew not
whom at the time, he managed to crook his arm through the rope belonging
to the tiller. After which he knew no more until he came to on board the
steamer and found the surgeon pouring whisky down his throat.

"Perhaps your boatman was crazy. I'm sure our fellow must have been out
of his mind, judging from his actions when leaving the steamer. Why, he
even warned me to keep an eye on you, sir."

At this the Englishman removes his cigar from between his teeth, looks
hard at the doctor, says "by Jove!" several times, and then laughs
heartily.

"That is very funny. Indeed, I can't remember anything that strikes
me as more peculiar. Any one can watch me--my actions are, I hope,
above-board. It is true I am disappointed in not having been able to
have saved Lady Ruth, but so long as some one took her from the water,
what does it matter? The boatmen are mad, because they lost a craft.
Jove! I'd like to teach them a lesson for taking out passengers in a
cranky, rotten boat. Do you know, I believe my foot went clean through
the bottom when I jumped up."

This, spoken in a frank, ingenuous way, quite disarms John.

He does not like to think evil of his fellow human beings, at any rate.

The wind is increasing meanwhile, and clouds hide the young moon.

"I believe we will have a storm," is the last remark Sir Lionel makes,
as he staggers across the rising deck and makes a plunge down into the
cabin, for although a duck in the water, the Briton is no yachtsman, and
possibly already feels the terrible grip of the coming _mal de mer_.

His words are soon verified, however, for the waves and wind continue to
rise until the steamer is mightily buffeted. Still John remains on deck.
There is a fascination for him in the scene that words cannot express.
When he has had enough he will find his state-room and sleep, for surely
he needs it after being awake a good deal of the preceding night at
Valetta.

Darker grow the heavens. Thunder rolls, and the electric current cuts
the air, illuminating the wild scene with a picturesque touch that is
almost ghastly in its yellow white.

The steamer is well built, and in good condition to withstand the
tempest, roar as it may. John tires of the weird spectacle at last,
and he, too, makes a plunge for the cabin, reaching it just in time to
escape a monster wave that makes the vessel stagger, and sweeps along
the deck from stem to stern.

Below he finds considerable confusion, such as is always seen on board a
steamer during a storm. Timid men looking as white as ghosts, frightened
women wringing their hands and screaming with each plunge of the ship,
as if they expect it to be the last.

A few foreign passengers are aboard, and they do not seem free from the
contagion, though inclined to be more stoical than the Europeans.

As the steamer plunges, some of the passengers are huddled in a corner.
Loud praying can be heard, and those who are least accustomed to such
things on ordinary occasions are most vehement now.

A Mohammedan is kneeling on his rug, with his face turned in the
direction of Mecca, as near as he can judge, and going through with
the strange rigmarole of bows and muttered phrases that constitute his
religion.

This scene is not a very pleasant one, but there are features about it
which are worth being noticed, and John stands to gaze before seeking
his room.

He has heard from the captain that the boat is perfectly safe, unless
the storm should grow much heavier, and with this assurance intends to
seek his berth and sleep, if such a thing be possible.

He moves toward his state-room. Just then a billow strikes the steamer
almost amidships, and she rolls. This, not being expected, causes John
to slide across the cabin floor, to the accompaniment of a chorus of
cries from the frightened people, who are huddled in a corner by this
new move on the part of the vessel.

He brings up alongside a state-room door, which is in the act of being
opened, even as he bangs up against it.

Consequently John has the greatest difficulty in maintaining his
balance, and in order to keep from sliding through the door grasps the
sides.

Some one has opened it. A face is exposed close to his own, a face that,
although not terror-stricken, bears the evidence of sudden alarm, as
though the new pitch of the vessel and renewed shrieks from within have
aroused fear--a face that John Craig recognizes with amazement.

"Tell me, are we sinking?" she exclaims.

Then she looks again.

"Ah! Doctor Chicago!"

"You here, Pauline Potter?"

The presence of the actress on board the steamer gives him a sudden
thrill.

It is no mere accident that brings her, but a part of a deep-laid plan,
which perhaps not only concerns him, but one in whom he has taken the
deepest interest--Lady Ruth.

That is why he cries out, and his words have more than an ordinary
amount of astonishment in them.

"Yes, I am leaving Malta. I have no reason to remain there longer. But
tell me the worst, John Craig; are we doomed to go down?"

The vessel does not toss so wildly now, and the wails of the alarmed
passengers grow less in volume.

"I hope not. The captain assured me there was no danger whatever, and
told me to get some sleep, if I could. I am on my way to my berth now.
Be of good cheer, the morning will see us safe enough, I believe."

Then he leaves her, and the state-room door closes.

This encounter makes John think of the other ladies. Are Aunt Gwen and
Lady Ruth among those whose clamor arises from the cabin with each lurch
of the ship?

As the thought flashes upon his mind, some one clutches his arm, and,
turning, he beholds the little professor. There is a wild look in
Philander's eyes, and his teeth rattle like castanets. Really the
situation is terrible enough to appall any one.

"When do we go down, John?" he asks.

"Good Heaven! I trust not at all," and he cheers the other with what the
captain has told him.

"I wish you could tell the ladies that."

"Where are they?" asks John.

"Come with me!"

In a few seconds the doctor sees the ladies, who have a state-room
together. They are fully dressed, and look woe-begone. At each lunge of
the vessel they gasp, and, when a particularly big one occurs, fall into
each other's arms.

Both are brave enough, and yet the situation is such that a strange
feeling creeps over the stoutest heart.

When John appears, and tells them what the captain has said, it
reassures them considerably, and they feel better.

Presently he leaves them, and seeks his berth, where he actually goes
to sleep. Tired nature will assert her power, even under the most
discouraging conditions.

During the night the storm abates.

John Craig is awake early, and can tell that all is well from the easy
motion of the steamer, for her plunges are few and of small moment. A
silence broods over the scene; the tired passengers have gone to sleep;
all John can hear as he lies there is the dull throb of the engines and
the swish of water against the side of the vessel.



CHAPTER XII.

TO THE HOUSE OF BEN TALEB.


Algiers!

The sunset gun is just booming over the African hills as the steamer
drops anchor off the wonderful city where the French have gained a
foothold and seem determined to stay.

John Craig is in a fever to go ashore. He has had news that from Malta
his mother went to Algiers on a mission, and his one object in life is
to follow her until the time comes when he can see face to face the
woman to whom he owes his being, toward whom his heart goes out, and
whom he believes to have been dreadfully wronged.

Most of the passengers are going farther, but as the steamer will remain
in the harbor until morning, there is no need of any going ashore.

John, however, cannot wait.

He engages a boatman--there are many who at once come out to the steamer
for various purposes--tells his friends where they may find him, and
with his luggage is away, just before darkness sets in, for it comes
very soon after sunset in this country.

Upon landing, John secures a guide, and makes for the central square
known as the _Place du Gouvernement_, where he knows of a good hotel,
recommended by the captain.

The air is fragrant with the odor of flowers.

In his walk he meets strange people, Arabs, Moors, Kabyles from the
desert, long-bearded Jews, Greeks, negroes, Italians, and, of course,
French soldiers.

_Al Jezira_, as the natives call their capital, is undoubtedly the most
interesting city for a traveler's eyes, exceeding even Constantinople
and Cairo.

Part of the city is modern, the rest just as it might have been a
century ago, when the Algerian pirates made a reign of terror sweep over
the Mediterranean.

Omnibuses are seen, and even street-cars run to Birkadeen, a suburb. The
houses on the terraces of Mustapha Superieur are peopled with the nicest
of French and English families, who spend the winter in this charming
place.

Still, if one enters the native quarter, ascending the narrow streets
where no vehicle can ever come, where the tall, white houses, with their
slits for windows, almost meet above, shutting out the cheery sunlight,
where one meets the Moor, the Arab, the gipsy, the negro porter, the
native woman with her face concealed almost wholly from view, it would
be easy to believe the city to be entirely foreign and shut off from
European intercourse.

Within a stone's throw how different the scene--the wide streets, the
fine houses, the people of Paris and London mixing with the picturesque
costumes of the natives, the bazaars, music in the air coming from the
Kasbah, once the stronghold of the merciless Janizaries, now the
barracks for French zouaves, the bric-a-brac merchant with his
extraordinary wares spread out, while he calmly smokes a cigarette and
plays upon the mandolin.

No wonder the pilgrim in Algiers is charmed, and lingers long beyond his
time.

John has glimpses of these things on his way to the hotel, and although
his mind is hardly in a condition to take much notice of such matters,
they nevertheless impress him to a certain degree.

Dull, indeed, must be the man who cannot grasp the wonderful beauty of
such a scene. At another time John would have been charmed.

He reaches the hotel, and at once engages a room. Supper is ready, and
he sits down to a meal one can hardly procure outside of Paris itself,
and served in French style.

If any one were watching John, his nervousness would be perceptible.

From the table he seeks the office of the hotel.

"What can I do for monsieur?" asks the polite attendant, seeing him
standing there expectantly.

"I desire to procure a guide."

"To-morrow?"

"Now--at once."

The clerk looks at him curiously. He cannot understand what such
impetuosity means.

He realizes that he is dealing with one who is different from the usual
run of travelers.

"Monsieur does not, perhaps, know the danger involved in the night;
foreigners do not often invade the old town after dark."

"Pardon me, my business is very important. Can you procure me a reliable
guide, one who speaks English?"

"It can be done. First, I would recommend that you seal up your watch
and valuables in this envelope."

"A good idea. You will keep them in your safe," suiting the action to
the word.

"Now; monsieur will write his name."

"Done."

"Also the address."

"Eh? I don't quite understand."

"To which he would have them sent."

"Sent?"

"In case we see monsieur no more."

"Ah! Now I catch on," with a smile, as he adds the words: "Chicago,
Ill., U.S.A."

"Chicago, I have heard of it; quite a place," remarks the clerk.

"Rather," dryly. "The cicerone, please."

Then the clerk beckons to a man who has been lounging not far away.

John sweeps his eyes over him.

He sees an Arab gipsy, a swarthy fellow of stalwart build, dressed in
the attractive costume of his race. John reads human nature fairly well,
and he believes he sees a man who can be depended on.

"This, monsieur, is Mustapha Cadi. You can depend upon him always," and
the clerk goes to his regular work.

The Arab makes the ordinary salutation, crossing his hands over his
breast, and bowing.

These people are very ceremonious, never entering a room or being seated
before a guest.

"You speak English?" asks John.

"Oh, yes!" smiling.

"I want to engage you in my service for some days, Mustapha Cadi."

"I have just come with a party from the wine caves of Chateau Hydra and
the cemetery on Bouzareah. I am now free, and in monsieur's service."

"Good! Your terms?"

"Two duros a day."

"I will make it four."

"Great is Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. I shall not complain."

"There is a condition."

"Name it."

"I am very anxious to see some one whom I have reason to believe is in
this city."

"Of course."

"You must take me to him to-night."

Mustapha Cadi looks a little anxious.

"Does this illustrious person live in new or old Al Jezira?"

"I cannot say, it is for you to tell."

"His name?"

"Ben Taleb."

The Arab shrugs his shoulders, a French trick that follows their
conquests, and is so very suggestive.

"The Moorish doctor; he lives in the heart of the old town."

"But many Europeans visit him, he has a reputation abroad."

"They never dare go at night."

"I am willing to take the risk."

Mustapha Cadi looks at the young man admiringly--curiously, for he
cannot imagine what would cause such haste. He sees a specimen of
healthy manhood, so that it can hardly be for medical advice he takes
such chances to see the old Moor.

"Monsieur, I consent."

"It is well."

"I, too, have conditions."

"Ah! that may alter the case," suspiciously.

"My reputation is dear to me."

"Naturally."

"It is my means of earning much money. Listen to me. I have taken
Franks everywhere through this country, to Oran and even the far-away
lead mines of Jebel Wanashrees; yes, once even to the city of Fez, in
Morocco; yet never has anything serious happened to those in my charge.
We have been attacked by robbers in the desert, but we dispersed them
with gun and yataghan. Here in Al Jezira, many times, beggars for
backsheesh have become impudent, and tried to enforce their demands,
but I have taken them before the cadi, and had them punished with the
bastinado. Ah! they know Mustapha Cadi, the guide, and give him a wide
berth _by daylight_. But, monsieur, what might happen in the streets of
the old town should a Frank go there at night, I am afraid to say."

"Still, you promised."

"Ay, and will keep my word, if the monsieur agrees to the condition."

"Let me hear it!"

"I will procure a burnoose, you shall put the robe on, and be an Arab
for to-night."

John draws a breath of relief, he smiles.

"Willingly, Mustapha. Let us lose no time, I beg of you!"

"Then, monsieur, come!"

As he passes the clerk that worthy bends forward to say:

"Does monsieur know these people who have come from the steamer?"

John sees a list of names under his own.

Professor Sharpe and wife.
Lady Ruth Stanhope.
Colonel Lionel Blunt.
Miss Pauline Potter.

There they are, all present, and he hears the voice of Aunt Gwen in the
dining-room, even at the moment of his reading her name, gently chiding
a waiter for not serving the professor more promptly, always in a hurry,
but generally good-natured withal.

"They are friends of mine," he says, and then follows his Arab guide.

Once on the street John observes what is passing around him, and the
scene on the grand square is certainly lively enough, with the garrison
band discoursing sweet music, the numerous lights from _cafe_ and
_magasius de nouveautes_, and crowds moving about.

Presently they come to a bazaar, where every article known to oriental
ingenuity, from Zanzibar carpets, embroideries of Tunis, Damascus
cutlery, and odd jewelry to modern novelties can be found.

Here they enter.

The guide selects what he needs, and John pays for it, wondering what
sort of clumsiness he will display in the wearing of an Arab costume.

Until they reach the border of the old town upon the hill-side, there is
little need of his donning the ridiculous affair.

He casts many inquisitive glances upon his guide and other Arabs whom
they meet to see how they wear the burnoose.

"I reckon John Craig won't disgrace Chicago, if he isn't to the manner
born," he concludes.

"Now, monsieur will allow me," says his tall guide, leading him into a
dark corner.

There is some little difficulty experienced, but in the end John turns
Arab.

"Say not one word--if saluted, I will reply," is the last caution he
receives.

Then they move on.

Now their road ascends.

They are in Al Jezira, the old Arab town.

The passage is so narrow that at times John could easily touch the walls
of the spectral houses on either side by extending his arms.

Every little while there is a short step. Now and then an arch from
which hangs a queer lantern, burning dimly. Over a door, here and there,
a light marks the residence of some Moor or Arab of note. But for these
the passage-way would be totally dark, even on the brightest moonlight
night.

They meet bearded and turbaned Arabs, who stalk majestically along,
proud as Lucifer, even without a piastre in their purses--even women
vailed as usual, wearing anklets, and with their nails stained with
henna.

The men salute, and Mustapha replies, while the disguised young American
merely bows his head, which he has hidden after the manner of one who
mourns.

Thus they advance.

Presently they turn sharply to the left, and enter a dark passage.

"We will wait here a few minutes."

"But why?" asks the impatient doctor.

"You saw the group above descending, monsieur?"

"Yes."

"I recognized them as rival couriers. If they saw me they would glance
sharply at my companion. Perhaps for much duros they have some time
taken a Frank through Al Jezira at night. That would not count. If they
believed I did the same thing they would spread the news abroad, and I
am afraid we would have trouble. Better a little delay than that," and
he draws a finger across John's throat to signify the terrible stroke of
a vengeful yataghan.

"I think you are right," replies John.

They hear the group go by, laughing and joking, and the passage is again
clear.

"Again, forward, monsieur," whispers the faithful courier, and leaving
their hiding-place they push on.

They are in the heart of the old town, and a most singular sensation
comes over John as he looks all around to see the white walls, the
solemn figures moving about, and hears sounds that never before greeted
his ears.

It is as if he were in another world.

While he thus ponders and speculates, his companion comes to a sudden
halt. They are at the door of a house a little more conspicuous than its
fellows, and Mustapha hastily gives the rapper a resonant clang.



CHAPTER XIII.

A NIGHT IN ALGIERS.


His manner gives the man from Chicago to understand that he has cause
for sudden anxiety.

"What is it, Mustapha?" he whispers.

"Monsieur did not notice. Two Arabs, one a _muezzin_, or priest, just
passed us. They brushed against you. Perhaps they disturbed the
burnoose; at any rate, their heads go together; they appear excited;
they stop below; see, you can yourself notice; two more join them; they
point this way. Ah! there is trouble, monsieur. Nay, do not draw a
weapon; it comes not now, but later. I hear footsteps within, the bolt
is withdrawn, the door opens."

What Mustapha says is true; the heavy door, still secured by a stout
chain, opens half a foot, and by the dim light a Moorish lad is seen.

To him the guide addresses himself. Whatever he says in the Moorish
tongue, it must be direct to the point, for immediately the door is
opened wide enough to admit them, after which it is shut and the heavy
bolt shoots into its socket.

John follows his conductor. For the time being he loses sight of
Mustapha, and must depend upon his own abilities. Trust a young man
from Chicago to be equal to any occasion, no matter how extraordinary.

In another minute he is ushered into a large room, which is decorated in
an oriental way that John has never seen equaled.

Rich colors blend, soft light falls upon the many articles of a
connoisseur's collection, and, taken in all, the scene is dazzling.

He gives it one glance.

Then his attention is riveted upon the figures before him. A couple
of servants wait upon the owner of the house, Ben Taleb, the Moorish
doctor. He is a venerable man, with white hair and a long snowy
beard--his costume is simply black; but beside him sits his daughter,
and she presents a spectacle John never saw equaled.

Silks of the loveliest hues, velvets that are beyond description,
diamonds that flash and dazzle, strings of milky pearls that cause one's
eyes to water. John sees the beautiful dreamy face, and thinks, as he
compares it with the rosy-cheeked, laughing eyed English girl's, that
these Moors make veritable dolls of their daughters.

Fortunately that Chicago assurance, which has carried him through many
singular scenes, does not desert him now.

He has never yet beheld what beauty the miserable yashmak and foutah of
the vailed Moorish lady concealed, and is naturally taken aback by the
disclosure, but, recovering himself, he advances toward those who seem
to await some action on his part.

The miserable burnoose he has discarded in the hall, so that, hat in
hand, John now appears under his own colors.

Bowing low, much after the salaam of a native, in deference to beauty's
presence, he addresses the Moorish doctor.

An observant traveler, Craig has a way of assimilating what he sees, and
hence speaks in something of the figurative and flowery style so common
among the dark-skinned people of all oriental countries, for an Arabian
robber will be as polite as a French dandy, and apologize for being
compelled to cut your throat.

Having, therefore, asked pardon for an intrusion at such an hour, he
proceeds to business.

The old doctor has up to this time said not a word, only bowed; but now
he speaks:

"Where do you come from?" he asks.

"America--Chicago," with the full belief that the _taleb_ must have
heard of the bustling city upon Lake Michigan.

And he is right, too, for the old Moor frowns.

"Chicago is accursed. I hate it, because it shelters an enemy to one I
revere, one who saved my only child from death, when she lay with the
fever at Alexandria. Your name, monsieur, and then your ailment, for I
take it your case is urgent to bring you here under such risk."

"My name I have never been ashamed of. It is John Alexander Craig. My
disease is one of the heart, and I believe--"

The appearance of the old Moor is such that John comes to a sudden
stop--Ben Taleb's eyes are dilated--he stares at the young man in a
fierce way, and his whole body appears to swell with rising emotions.

"Stop!" he thunders, and claps his hands in an excited way.

John, remembering his former experience, draws himself up in readiness
for defense, nor is he surprised to see several slaves enter the room at
the bidding of their master.

"This is the height of infamy, you who bear that hated name dare invade
the home of Ben Taleb! I read your secret; you are not sick."

"No, no; I--"

"You come with another motive; you seek one who has long been lost, one
who has suffered for years, unjustly, because of a Craig. May Allah's
curses blight your footsteps."

"You mistake--"

"May Mohammed, his prophet, make your life a blank. May your days end in
torment, and your nights be sleepless."

"When you are done, most illustrious _taleb_, allow me to speak. Even a
dog should not be condemned unheard."

"Father, he is right; you are just, you are good; you condemn no man
unheard. Let him speak; good may even come out of Chicago," says the
lovely houri at the side of the Moor, and John thanks her with his eyes,
mentally concluding that, after all, Moorish females, if nonentities on
the street, have certain rights under their own roofs.

At this the great doctor frowns, but cannot withstand the angelic,
appealing glance which his daughter bestows upon him.

"Perhaps it is so. What have you to say, you who bear that hated name?
Since through the kindness of my child you are given the opportunity to
speak, embrace it."

The situation is a peculiar one, and John feels that he must make the
most of it.

"Illustrious Moor, listen then while I relate the reason for my
presence, why for months I have searched country after country for one
who ever seemed to be just beyond my reach, like a will-o'-the-wisp
dancing over the swampy ground.

"The person I seek is known as Sister Magdalen. It is with no unworthy
motive I would find her, Ben Taleb, for she is my mother."

At this the sheik and his daughter exchange significant glances.
Perhaps something of incredulity may be discovered in their expression.
Evidently they have heard but little of the story before, and only
know that the troubles of the woman they revere came through a Craig.

John, having become stirred up, proceeds to tell them more of the past,
and, while not caring to show emotion in the eyes of strangers, explains
his feelings in the matter with a dignity that does him full justice.

While not thoroughly convinced, for he suspects there may be some
artifice in this visit, the venerable Moor is inclined to look more
favorably upon John.

"Perhaps you may not be so bad as I believed, but do not hope to receive
news from me," is his slowly spoken remark.

John's heart sinks, he fears that after all his long search he is now to
be frustrated by the stubborn will of an old man.

He even becomes eloquent in his appeal, and, while he fails to bring
Ben Taleb to terms, he charms the sheik's daughter, whose lovely eyes
glisten as she hears.

At last he wrings one promise from the Moor, to the effect that he will
communicate with the lady in question, and stating the whole case, allow
her to decide.

This is certainly fair enough, and Ben Taleb presumes to be a man who
desires to do that which is right. Hence he agrees, but will not let
John know whether news can be sent to him at the hotel on the morrow,
or a week later. He must learn to practice the divine art of patience,
and bide his time.

This, while a keen disappointment with regard to what he had expected
and hoped for, is the best that can be done under the circumstances.

John is something of a philosopher.

When he has done his best, he is willing to trust the rest to fortune.

So he assumes a cheerfulness he is far from feeling, and assures Ben
Taleb he will always be indebted to him for his kindness. After this he
begs for a piece of paper, and the sheik sends one of his slaves for it.
John writes a line upon it, a line that comes from his heart:

"MY MOTHER: I have searched half of the world over for you.
JOHN ALEXANDER CRAIG."

If she ever reads that, the meeting will not long be delayed, he
believes.

A short time is spent in the company of the sheik and his daughter, and
as the young American admits that he is a doctor, the Moor shows new
interest, asking various questions concerning some of the great events
in the world of surgery that prove him to be a man far beyond his class,
and one who keeps abreast of the times.

Finally, as the hour grows apace, John thinks it time for him to be
going.

Where is his courier, the faithful Mustapha Cadi, all this while?

As he mentions him, the sheik claps his hands and the guide appears. He
enters into a brief conversation with Ben Taleb in the Moorish tongue.

John rightly guesses that the guide is relating the facts concerning
their reaching the house, and that he fears they may be attacked, if
they leave by the same way they entered.

The old Moor smiles, and after answering, turns to the young man from
Chicago.

"There is another way of leaving this place, and one of my slaves will
show you. They shall not harm one who comes to see Ben Taleb, if it can
be prevented."

Then comes the ceremonious leave-taking, and John manages to get through
this with credit. He has undoubtedly made a deep impression on the
Moorish beauty, who, catching the crumbs falling from her father's table
of knowledge, has aspirations above being the wife of a Moor, who may
also have a harem.

At last they start off, with the slave in the lead, and after passing
through several rooms, which John views with interest, arrive at a wall.

Acting under the advice of his guide, John has assumed the burnoose
again, for Mustapha carried it on his arm when he appeared.

"We will pass through this door, and reach another street. Are you
ready, monsieur?"

John replies in the affirmative. The light is hidden under a basket, and
then a sound is heard as of a door slowly opening.

"Pass through," whispers the guide.

Thus they reach the outside, and the wall resumes its innocent
appearance. If they are fortunate, they will avoid the trouble that
lay in wait at the door of the old Moor.

John no longer trembles in anticipation of what is to come. He has been
disappointed, and yet bears his burden well.

His guide is yet cautious, believing that one is not safe until out of
the woods. It is possible word may have been sent around among the
strolling Moors and Arabs of the old town, that a Frank is wandering
about in a burnoose under the care of Mustapha Cadi, and hence
discovery, with its attendant desperate conflict, still to come.

By degrees they approach the boundary line, and will soon be safe.

John is obliged to admire the diplomatic way in which the Arab conducts
the retreat it would be creditable to a military strategist. They dodge
and hide, now advancing, anon secreting themselves in dark corners.

At last--success!

Into the brilliant light of the new Algiers they pass; the danger is
behind, safety assured.

Then Craig turns to the Arab, and tells him in plain language what he
thinks of such remarkable work, and Mustapha humbly answers that he is
glad the monsieur is satisfied.

Secretly, he exults in the eulogy; for even an Arab is able to
appreciate praise.

Thus they bring up at the hotel.

John looks at the hour, and finds it ten. He sees the clerk nodding,
and, as he repossesses himself of his valuables, accepts the other's
congratulations with respect to having gone through such an experience,
and lived to tell the tale.

Where are the others?

They do not seem to be about.

The music has ceased on the square, which is less crowded than before,
although many people still saunter about, fakirs cry aloud their goods,
and the scene is one which has certain fascinations for the traveler's
eye, a warmth of color not to be found in American cities.

Here venders of fruit drinks serve their wares in an attractive way,
with queer jars and fancy glasses that lend quite an inducement to
purchase.

Upon making inquiries of the clerk, he finds that his four
fellow-tourists have sauntered out some time since, and as yet
failed to return; so John also steps outside.

In a moment Mustapha is at his side, and what he whispers is not
pleasant news:

"Monsieur must be careful. The news has gone abroad that he it was who
invaded Al Jezira on this night. Some one has spread the report that he
is a spy, that his mission is to discover the details of the plot that
is always going on among my people, for the rescue of Algiers from
French hands. Hence he is watched; they may even proceed to violence.
What little I have learned tells me this. Be awake; be always ready for
defense, and seek not the dark corners where an assassin might lie.
Bismillah!"

This is pleasant, indeed.

John has something of the feeling that comes upon the man who awaits the
verdict of the jury.

At the same time he is resolved to take the advice given, and be on his
guard.

As he saunters around, he fails to see those whom he seeks, though soon
becoming conscious of the fact that he is watched and followed.

This does not add to his pleasure.

From the hints Mustapha has dropped, he begins to realize that there is
some sort of a league in Al Jezira, looking toward an uprising and the
coming of a patriot leader, who will take charge of the rebellion.

He has gained the ill-will of these conspirators by this night visit to
the old town, and how unfortunate this may be for him, the future may
prove.

It is while he wanders about the square, keeping in the light, and
always on his guard, that John receives something of a shock.

He sees a figure ahead, a figure garbed as a sister. She moves slowly
on, her face is vailed, and a mad impulse comes upon him to toss aside
that vail, to discover whether this can be Sister Magdalen, the one for
whom he searches, or another.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE COMING OF MISS CAPRICE.


This sudden impulse on the part of the young Chicago doctor may be the
means of getting him into trouble, for no people are more quick to
resent an insult, either fancied or real, to females upon the street,
than those of Algeria, Egypt, or Turkey.

Woman is not an equal there, but a highly prized possession, and must
never appear upon the street with her face unvailed, so that any man
caught tearing the foutah of a lady from her face would be severely
dealt with.

John, of course, is only desirous of seeing whether this may be his
mother, but the public will hardly take this fact into consideration.

Upon so suddenly conceiving this bold plan of action, John Craig hastens
his footsteps, and there is need of hurry, if he hopes to overtake the
figure in black before she leaves the square, for, as if conscious that
she is pursued, she has also quickened her pace.

He overhauls her just on the outskirts of the Place du Gouvernement, and
as he brushes past quickly raises his hand to snatch aside the flowing
vail.

Again his heart almost stands still, and the sacred word "mother"
trembles on his lips, as he bends forward to get a quick glance of the
face that must be disclosed by the shifting of the vail.

His quick movement is not without its result. The vail is drawn aside,
and John Craig receives a staggering blow as he gazes upon the
shriveled countenance of an old woman.

It is impossible that this can be his mother--perish the thought!--and
yet the garb is one seldom seen on the streets of Algiers.

His almost palsied hand drops the vail. Lucky for him will it be if no
jealous Moor's eyes have seen the action.

The Sister does not cry out, and call upon those who are present to
avenge the insult--even had she been a Moorish lady, the demand for
punishment would not come from her, but from those of the sterner sex
near-by.

Instead, she stands there as if waiting for him to speak--stands there
like a statue in black.

John at once apologizes for his rudeness--he is already sorry for what
he has done.

"Madame, pardon. I believed you were one very dear to me, one who wears
the insignia of your order, one for whom I have searched far and near,
half the world over--my mother."

"It was a bold act, young sir, but far be it from me to denounce you.
Tell me, how would you know this mother?" she asks, in a thick voice.

"She is known as Sister Magdalen--perhaps you know her--she may even be
staying at the same convent as yourself," eagerly.

"I know one Sister Magdalen, a sweet, quiet woman, lately from Malta,
whither she went to consult the head of our order."

Her words arouse John.

"It is she. If you would only take me to her, I would at once be rid of
all these doubts and fears."

"Would you come?"

John has forgotten the warning of Mustapha, forgotten all former
experiences. There is a crowd gathering around them, and this is one of
the things he was to guard against, still he pays little attention to
this fact, his mind is so bent upon accomplishing his object.

"Eagerly. Once this night I have risked much to find my mother, and I am
ready to do more."

"Then follow me. Better still, walk at my side, for I see ugly faces
around. You have made enemies, but I will stand between. My garb is
sacred, and they will respect it."

"I am ready, lead on."

What is this that plucks at his sleeve? He half-turns impatiently, and
looks into a face he ought to know full well, but which he now sees with
something of annoyance.

"Ah! professor, is it you? Sorry--in something of a hurry--"

"Hold on; some one wants to see you."

"Have to do later."

"Don't say so, John. Important, I tell you."

"So is this. Good-by."

The professor is not so easily shaken off, but tightens his hold. John
will have to dislodge him by muscular force.

"Are you coming?" asks the Sister.

"Yes, when I have broken loose from the hands of this madman."

He turns upon the professor.

"John, be careful. Cool off; you are excited."

"I'm of an age to take care of myself. When I need a guardian, I'll call
on you. Once more I say, release your grasp."

He actually looks ugly for the moment, and Philander does let go, but
it is only because, as an advance courier, he has accomplished his
mission, and not on account of any fear.

As Doctor Chicago turns to follow the Sister, he draws in a long breath,
for he finds himself face to face with Lady Ruth.

She has hurried up behind Philander, and near-by can be seen the British
soldier and Aunt Gwen, also pushing forward as rapidly as the assembling
crowd will allow.

"Doctor Craig."

Her presence recalls John to his senses.

"I am going to see my mother, Lady Ruth," he says, as if apologizing for
his rudeness.

"With whom?"

"This Sister."

Lady Ruth surveys the other from her vail to the hem of her dress.

"I would advise you not to do so, doctor."

"Why do you say that?" he asks, astonished.

"Because you will regret it, because you are being made the victim of
another plot."

"Lady Ruth, do I hear aright? Do you fully realize what it is you say?"

"I am conscious of the gravity of the charge, but that does not prevent
me from asserting it. I repeat what I said before, that you are again
the victim of a plot. As to this Sister here, can it be possible you do
not know her?"

He shakes his head.

"Have you seen her face?"

"It is old and shriveled--that of a stranger."

At this the Sister throws back her vail, and they see the features John
describes.

"After all I am right," says John, with the air of a man who attempts to
justify himself.

At that the English girl laughs scornfully.

"Really, I did not think men could be so easily deceived, and one whom
I considered as shrewd as you, Doctor Chicago. See what a miserable
deception, a fraud transferred from the boards of a New York theater to
Algiers. Behold! the magic wand touches age with a gentle touch, and
what follows?"

Lady Ruth is standing between the two, and within arm's length of
either.

The Sister has not moved, but, as if confident of influencing John,
holds her own. She shoots daggers with her eyes at the English girl,
but looks cannot hurt.

As Lady Ruth utters her last words, she makes a sudden move.

With a dexterous fling of an arm she succeeds in tearing from the
Sister's face the cleverly-made thin stage mask that was contrived to
conceal the features of one who did a double act.

The professor laughs.

From the crowd that is still gathering various sounds arise, for no one
can even give a guess as to the nature of the peculiar trick which is
thus being enacted.

As for John Craig, he holds his breath at the stupendous nature of the
disclosure, for little as he has dreamed of the fact, he sees before him
the well-known features of Pauline Potter.

This queen of the stage has made even another attempt to get John, and
might have succeeded only for the opportune coming of his friends.

He backs away from her.

"So, it is you again, wretched girl?" he exclaims, in something of
righteous wrath.

She has lost once more, but this is frolic to one of her nature, and
she laughs in his face.

"Oh, it's a long road that has no turning, and my chance will yet come!
Bah! I snap my fingers at such weak friendship. Good-night, all of you,
but not good-by."

Thus she disappears.

Craig feels abashed.

He has almost come to blows with his best friend about this female, and,
after all, she turns out to be the plotting Pauline.

"I think I need a guardian," he murmurs, as if rather disgusted with
himself.

"From the ugly looks some of these chaps are bending on you, I think
ditto," declares Philander, nor are his words without meaning, for the
natives scowl dreadfully.

"Lady Ruth, I owe you thanks; but, while we walk to the hotel, tell me
how you came to know she was masquerading in that style."

"It is easily told, sir. A mere accident put me in possession of the
facts, and, thank Heaven, I am able to build two and two together. You
were frank enough, Doctor Craig, to give me certain particulars
concerning that creature's plotting, and that confidence has now borne
fruit.

"Listen, then. I was in the hotel, in my room. Some freak of fortune
placed her in the apartment opposite. Knowing what presumably brought
her to Algiers, the desire to have revenge upon you, I entertained a
feeling of almost contempt for a woman who could so forget her sex and
seek a man who loved her not. If it were I whom you jilted, Doctor
Chicago, I would freeze you with scorn."

"Jove! I don't doubt it, Lady Ruth, but please Heaven you will never
have the chance," he says, in a half-serious, half-joking way.

"To return to my story, then," she continues, blushing under the ardent
look that has accompanied his words, "the queer part of it lies in the
fact that a transom over my door was partly open. There was a black
paper back of the glass, which gave it the properties of a mirror.

"Over her door was a similar contrivance, and as I sat there in the
darkness of my room, pondering over what has happened, my attention was
attracted by a flash of light, and, looking up, I saw the interior of
her room as plainly as though looking through the door--saw her assume
the garb of a Sister--saw her try on that horrible face-mask before a
mirror, and realized that the clever actress, Pauline Potter, was about
to again undertake some quixotic crusade in the furtherance of her plans.

"Later on, Aunt Gwen came and said we had better go outside to hear
the music and see the crowd, so I came, but all the while I had been
puzzling my brain wondering what she hoped to accomplish with that
clever disguise, nor did the truth break in upon my mind until we
discovered her talking to Doctor Chicago. Then I comprehended all."

"And I am again indebted to your clever woman's wit," he says, warmly.

"Who can tell from what dreadful fate I saved you," she laughs; "for
this same Pauline seems determined that you shall not remain a merry
bachelor all your days."

"So far as that is concerned, I quite agree with Pauline. Where we
differ is upon the subject that shall be the cause of my becoming a
Benedict. She chooses one person, and I chance to prefer another. That
is all, but it is quite enough, as you have seen, Lady Ruth, to create
a tempest in a tea-pot."

"Here we are at the hotel," she hastens to say, as if fearing lest he
push the subject then and there to a more legitimate conclusion, for she
has learned that these Chicago young men generally get there when they
start; "and I am not sorry for one. Look around you, doctor!"

This he does for the first time, and is startled to discover that
they have been accompanied across the square by at least half a dozen
natives, who gaze upon John much as might wolves that were kept from
attacking the sheep by the presence of faithful guards.

"They don't seem to bear me any good-will, I declare; but I am bound
to prosecute my search in spite of every Arab in Algiers," is the only
remark he makes, meeting glance for glance.

They have not yet succeeded in cowing the spirit in John Craig, though
the man has a poor chance who incurs the vindictive race hatred of
Mohammedan devotees in their own country.

The others enter also.

Sir Lionel, not a whit abashed by the failure of his grand plan for
saving the life of Lady Ruth in the harbor of Malta, still haunts her
shadow. He knows John Craig has a strong suspicion of the truth, but
having read that young man's character before now, feels quite certain
that he will not speak of the subject without positive proof, which he
cannot secure.

Besides, the Briton came out of the affair with such hard luck, that
there is much sympathy for him. He lives in the hope of retrieving his
fallen fortunes.

Thus the little party breaks up, to meet again on the morrow.

John Craig's only hope now of success in his quest lies in the Moor, Ben
Taleb. If the spirit so moves him, he can bring him and his mother face
to face, but whether this will ever come to pass remains to be seen.

John, ere retiring, catches sight of the faithful Mustapha Cadi, who
lounges near-by, and who makes a signal, as he catches his employer's
eye, that brings Craig to his side.

"Where does the master sleep?" he asks.

John explains the position of his room, having some curiosity to know
why the courier asks.

"Monsieur should be careful about leaving his windows open; Arabs climb
well; vines very handy; yataghan make no shout. There is no disgrace in
being prepared."

This is too broad to admit of any misinterpretation, and John again
makes up his mind to continual watchfulness.

He retires to seek rest, to dream of a strange conglomeration of gray
eyes, and black and brown--that he is compelled to choose between the
English girl, the Chicago actress, and the Moorish beauty, while death
waits to claim him, no matter which one he selects.



CHAPTER XV.

THE WRECKED STAGE.


John Craig takes all the precautions that the courier mentions, for he
does not care to awaken in the night and find a dark-faced fanatic of a
Mohammedan in his room, sworn to accomplish his death.

Perhaps his safety is in part due to this; at any rate morning comes and
finds him undisturbed.

When he descends from his room he has a vague hope that some word may
have come from Ben Taleb.

In this respect he is doomed to disappointment, for there is no letter.
So another day of waiting begins. The doctor is determined by nature,
and has made up his mind that he will not give up his mission until he
has accomplished that which he set out to perform, no matter if he
spends weeks in the African city at the foot of the hills known as
Sahel.

The others join him by degrees.

Such charming weather; a dozen trips for the day are proposed and
rejected. All conclude to wait until after breakfast, when they will be
in a condition to discuss the matter and decide just what is best to be
done.

John is ready to join them and see the sights, for there is a chance
that he may in this way run across the one he seeks, if she be moving
about the city on errands of mercy, as becomes her order.

Besides, he places considerable dependence upon the promise of the old
Moor.

So he enters into the discussion with assumed vigor, being magnetized
now by the blue eyes of Lady Ruth.

They ask the advice of Mustapha Cadi, and he promises to show them many
queer sights before the sun sinks behind the hills and the boom of the
gun in the fortress announces the close of another day.

Thus, all of them prepare for a day's outing, and Lady Ruth looks quite
charming in her jaunty costume, especially suited for such business.

John no longer remembers the dazzling beauty of the Moorish girl who
sat at the feet of old Ben Taleb on the preceding night; it could not
compare with the vivacious intelligence of an educated girl coming from
the countries beyond the seas.

First of all they mount the terraces of Mustapha Superieur and enjoy
the magnificent view of the city and harbor. Many modern yachts lie
upon the blue waters, side by side with strange vessels peculiar to the
Mediterranean, while the incoming steamer from Oran is just entering the
harbor.

Upon this ridge above the city lie numerous palatial residences now
occupied by French and English families, but which were once owned by
the pirate kings of Algiers, whose names may often be found upon the
gate post, cut in letters of gold.

From this eyrie they scanned the sea with their glasses, and the
appearance of a sail in the dim distance would be the signal for a mad
chase to see which piratical felucca could first overhaul the stranger.

Uncle Sam had something to do with breaking up this tremendous pirates'
den, and France has since redeemed it.

Thus a considerable portion of the morning is consumed in this pleasant
engagement. They take an omnibus now for the Arab village of Birkadeen,
in among the hills, where new and novel sights will be looked upon.

Every female they meet arouses John's interest, and he looks sharply at
the half-hidden face. The hope he cherishes is always before him, and
when Lady Ruth notices his eager actions she understands just what it
means, and is as anxious in one way as himself.

One thing annoys the American; this is the persistence with which Sir
Lionel keeps up as a member of the little company. He makes himself
agreeable all around, and as John has had no proof of the Briton's
miserable work in the harbor of Malta, he is wise enough to restrain his
feelings and hold his tongue, trusting to some future event to tear off
the mask and reveal him in his true colors.

At noon they are in the village, and stop to eat their lunch at an Arab
tavern, where they fare pretty well, though John is ready to make a vow
never to again touch the native dish of Kuskusu which is set before
them.

They see strange things at Birkadeen, and from there continue their
journey to other villages, Bermandries, and El-Biar, at each of which
Mustapha has something odd to show them that will ever remain a pleasant
memory in the future.

It is a day John Craig will never forget for more reasons than one; a
day marked with a white stone because of the pleasure he enjoys in the
society of this bright English girl whom he has ere now learned to love,
and a day that must always remain prominent in his mind because it
precedes a night that is the most memorable in all his history.

In more ways than one does Lady Ruth, while always acting as a lady,
show that she prefers his society to that of Sir Lionel, and though the
British soldier appears unruffled on the surface, he is undoubtedly
deeply piqued.

So the hours wear on.

The sun is low in the west, and the ever watchful Mustapha declares it
is time they started for the city. They have enjoyed a ride on the ship
of the desert, as the camel is called, admired the Arabian steeds, which
all the money of an unbeliever or Christian dog could not purchase, and
looked upon many strange scenes.

Several times during the afternoon they have been temporarily separated.
The baronet appears to have a deep interest in the queer things to be
seen in the Arab village, for more than once he lingers behind to ask
questions as he explains, in the hope of purchasing some article that
has particularly caught his fancy.

John never once suspects that Sir Lionel may have another motive in his
actions.

When Mustapha announces that it is time they return, they look around
for the vehicle which was to take them back, but strangely enough it
does not appear.

As the minutes pass Mustapha grows exceedingly impatient. He has
arranged matters to suit their convenience, and this delay is annoying.
It does not suit him to return at night.

Just as patience ceases to be a virtue, and the guide has announced his
intention of finding some other means of transportation, they discover
the omnibus coming into view from beyond the thicket of cactus and aloe.

It has been carrying a load of villagers from their homes to the high
hills of Bouzaveah, to the native cemetery which crowns the summit.

Then they suddenly remember that it is Friday, or the Mohammedan Sunday,
on which day great throngs repair to the grave-yards and visit the tombs
of the _marabouts_ or saints, gazing upon some ancient relic which the
departed wore in his life-time, and which on account of its disreputable
condition no respectable European would touch.

They have the omnibus to themselves, which, of course, pleases them.

John shakes his head dubiously as he enters the vehicle. He has glanced
at its condition, and declares they will be lucky indeed to reach
Algiers without a break-down.

The driver has been scored by Mustapha for his tardiness, and appears to
feel the sting of the reproach, for no sooner are they seated in the old
vehicle than he uses his whip with some vim, the horses start away, and
they head for the city.

When the road is smooth it is all very good, but after leaving Birkadeen
they will strike a rough section that must try the staying powers of the
wretched vehicle.

As they whirl through Birkadeen in a cloud of dust, with several mangy
curs howling at the heels of the steaming horses, it is just sunset.
There is no mosque here with its minaret, from which the _muezzin_
chants his call to prayer, but the faithful do not need such a summons,
and can be seen here and there prostrating themselves on the ground with
faces toward the holy city.

One grows accustomed to such spectacles when traveling in oriental
countries where Mohammed is looked upon as the great prophet of Allah,
and the novelty inspired by the first sight dies away.

After leaving the Arab village they strike the rough section of the road.

It would be natural to suppose that the driver has by this time gotten
over his anger at being chided by Mustapha, and might moderate his pace,
out of respect to his antiquated vehicle, if not the safety of those who
occupy it.

Not so.

If anything, as darkness steals over the scene, he uses his whip with
greater energy, and his voice urges on the sweating horses.

Now they have it surely.

The ruts in the road cause the vehicle to bounce from side to side, and
those inside are tossed about much like rubber balls.

At first they are disposed to treat it as a joke, and laugh over the
ludicrous situation, but as it increases, their sufferings begin.

The dust is disagreeable, the jolting actually dangerous, as they are
shot from one side of the vehicle to the other with tremendous force.

Besides, John is in momentary expectation of the rickety affair breaking
down and spilling them all out on the roadway.

Indeed, he is surprised that this accident has been so long delayed.

He shouts to the driver to slacken the pace, but evidently the fellow
fails to hear. Then he puts his head out of the window and once more
elevates his voice, but the rattle of the plunging vehicle, together
with the noise made by the driver himself, as he shouts at his steeds
like a crazy Bedouin, combine to deaden all other sounds.

At any rate there is no result.

John has by this time become excited; they are mounting a little
elevation, and temporarily their pace is reduced. Once at the top and
a long slant lies beyond, down which they must go at lightning speed.

It is now or never.

He is bound to stop this mad race against time if he has to climb to the
top of the swaying vehicle and toss the reckless driver off.

It is with this intention before him that he bids the ladies hold on
with all their power, while he seeks an interview with the fellow who
handles the ribbons.

Then he seizes the window-frame, intending to get hold of something
above which will serve as a fulcrum to move his body.

It is just at this interesting moment that the expected event occurs.

There is a sudden, tremendous shock, as they strike some obstacle;
shrieks from the women, a swaying of the coach, which immediately falls
over on one side.

A wheel has come off.

They are wrecked among the hills, and a considerable distance from
Algiers, the lights of which illumine the heavens beyond.

"Is anyone injured?" calls out John, with some anxiety in his voice, for
the shock has been quite serious.

They are all in a confused heap in the corner that is down, and the
professor is the first to crawl out.

Then comes Lady Ruth, excited, but, thank Heaven, uninjured.

They help Sir Lionel out. He limps around, feeling his left leg and
groaning a little as even the bravest of men may do on occasions, and
hoping the pain he feels is nothing serious.

Aunt Gwen alone remains, and there is heard no sound from her. The
usually vociferous voice seems to have been utterly hushed.

"Oh! is she dead?" exclaims the young girl, with horror in her voice, as
Doctor Chicago and the professor carry Aunt Gwen out.

"I trust not. I think she has only fainted. Can you lift one of the
cushions from the wreck, Lady Ruth, and we will place her upon it here."

She shows immediate animation instead of going into hysterics, as many
girls would do under the circumstances, and flies to assist to the
extent of her ability.

Thus Aunt Gwen is soon in a comfortable position, and the doctor starts
to bring her to, for he believes she has only swooned.

This he soon accomplishes, and when she is able to declare that she is
not in pain, only badly broken up by the shock, he feels that it is time
he turned his attention to another quarter.

They are in a bad fix, wrecked several miles from their destination.

Darkness has now set in.

John rises from his knees and takes in the situation. It is evident that
something must be done in order that they may be rescued from their
unpleasant position.

Where are Mustapha and the driver? Both of them have utterly vanished in
the most mysterious manner. Who, then, will mount one of the panting
horses and ride back to Birkadeen for succor?

"Let me go?" says Sir Lionel, staggering forward, and clutching an
olive tree for support.

John sees his weak state.

"You are not in a condition to go. Stay here and protect the ladies, for
it is a lonely place, and there may be wild animals in these woods, who
knows?" With which words the young American throws himself on the
horse's back and urges the animal along over the road they have
traveled, followed by the anxious eyes of Lady Ruth.



CHAPTER XVI.

A FRENCH WARRIOR.


John digs his heels into the sides of the animal he bestrides, and urges
him on with every artifice known to a jockey, and considering the
darkness, the rough nature of the road, and the weariness of the beast,
he succeeds in getting over the ground at quite a respectable rate.

Thus, meeting no one on the way, he finally bursts upon the village of
Birkadeen much after the manner of a thunderbolt from a clear sky, and
dashes up to the office of the stage line, which, as may be supposed, is
managed by Franks.

A Frenchman has charge, and upon his vision there suddenly bursts a
dusty figure, with hair destitute of covering, and clothing awry, a
figure that has leaped from a horse bathed in sweat; a figure he
imagines has broken loose from some mad-house, yet which upon addressing
him shows a wonderful amount of coolness.

"Are you the agent of the stage line?" is the first question fired at
him.

"I am Monsieur Constans. I have ze charge of ze elegant equipage line
zat you speak of as one stage," returns the Frenchman.

"You remember my passing through here a little while ago, bound for
Algiers?"

"_Parbleu!_ zat is so. I am astonish. What for are you back on ze
horseback, too. _Mon Dieu!_ have ze robbers been at it again? Ten souzan
fury, and ze _cadi_ promise zat we have no more trouble wif zem."

At the mention of the word John experiences a sudden chill, remembering
that he has left Lady Ruth and Aunt Gwen upon the loneliest part of the
road to Algiers; but becomes somewhat reassured when it also crosses his
memory that the gallant professor and the soldier hero of Zulu battles
are there to defend them.

"You are mistaken. The miserable vehicle has broken down," he says.

"_Ciel!_ is zat all?"

"All! Confound your impudence, and isn't it enough when two ladies are
almost killed outright by the accident? All! when we've been rattled
about like dry peas in a pod, until there's hardly a square inch of me
that doesn't ache. I'll tell you, monsieur, what you are to do, and in
a dused hurry, too. Order out another stage and fly to the scene of the
wreck without delay."

"Begar! if I only had a vehicle," he groans.

"You shall find one of some sort inside of five minutes and go with me
to the scene to rescue my friends, and take them to safety, or you must
take the consequences," and in his excitement John glowers upon the
dapper Gaul until the latter actually trembles with trepidation.

"Stop! I have zink of something. Zere is one old vehicle in ze shed,
laid by for repairs. By careful handling it would do."

"Good! Get horses hitched to it; we must lose no time. To the rescue,
Monsieur Constans. Ladies have been hurt; they must be taken to the city
as speedily as possible."

The Gaul is excitable by nature, and he catches some of John's surplus
enthusiasm, springs to his feet, and is out of the office door like a
shot, shouting almost unintelligible orders to the gang of dirty Arabs
who have rushed to the scene upon the advent of a Frank entering the
village like a young cyclone and riding a horse that from its harness
they recognize as belonging to the stage line.

John, finding they make such poor headway, proceeds to lend his
assistance, and under his directions the job is finally completed.

An old stage, even worse than the wrecked one, is brought out, and the
horse John rode harnessed to it. Then a second animal is secured, and
after some difficulty about the harness has been adjusted, they are off.

There is, of course, danger that the same catastrophe will happen to
them, but the emergency is great, and John handles the reins himself.

Thus through the darkness they proceed, gradually nearing the scene of
the disaster.

The nearer they come the more John's fears arise, though he would find
it hard to give good reasons for them, since they rest only upon the
words that have been let fall by the dapper little French agent who sits
beside him on the box, and holds on for dear life, uttering numerous
exclamations, in his explosive way, as they pitch and toss.

A tree looms up. John recognizes it as a mark which just preceded their
overthrow. Hence, the wrecked stage must lie just beyond, so he pulls in
his horse and tries to pierce the darkness that lies like a pall around.

They have at his suggestion brought a lantern along, but of course this
is of little use to them as yet.

"What is that cry up on the hill-side?" asks John, as he hears a
peculiar sound.

"Monsieur es worry; he need be. Zat is some rascally jackal or hyena;
zey hover around ze villages and do much mischief. I have seen zem
myself carry off one sheep."

This is not very pleasant intelligence, but John is now engaged in
trying to pierce the gloom, and believes he sees some object that may
prove to be the wrecked stage.

He sings out with a hail:

"Ah, there, professor!"

Not a reply; only what seems to be an echo is flung back from the
hill-side.

Then John's heart stands still with a sudden fear, as he imagines that
some terrible thing has occurred. He raises his voice and calls upon
Philander. When there comes no reply to this, he makes use of Sir
Lionel's name and bellows it forth until the valley seems to ring with
the sound. Still hopeless, for no answer bids him drop his fears.

Now the fact is assured that something serious has happened.

John jumps to the ground, desirous of seeing whether they have actually
reached the spot where the wrecked omnibus lies.

He finds it to be true, and in another moment is standing upon the very
place where Aunt Gwen reclined at the time of his departure.

There is much room for speculation. Any one of half a dozen things might
have happened, for to one who is utterly in the dark, there is no end of
possibilities.

What can he do?

One chance there is, that while he, Doctor Chicago, was absent,
bent upon his errand of mercy and rescue, Mustapha may have once more
appeared upon the scene, and influenced the little party to move
on in the direction of the distant city.

He still places implicit confidence in the guide, and has strong hopes,
though the absence of the Arab at the time of the accident is utterly
unexplainable.

By this time monsieur has descended from his perch, and joins him. In
his hand he carries the lantern, ready for use.

"What have you found, _mon ami_?" asks this worthy, as he arrives on the
scene.

"Here is the wrecked stage, but my friends have vanished. It puzzles me
to know what has become of them."

"No doubt they have gone ahead, fearing that you could not ze new
vehicle obtain. We may soon discover ze truth."

"By going forward, yes; but before we do that, perhaps I can learn
something about the direction they took."

"Ah! you will apply ze wonderful science of ze prairie. I have heard of
it, begar, and I shall be one very glad to see ze experiment."

He poses in an attitude of expectation, and keeps his eyes fastened upon
the other, who has already picked up the lantern and bends over, with
the intention of following the trail.

This soon brings him from the ruined stage to the olive tree under which
they had laid Aunt Gwen.

Arrived here he utters an exclamation.

"This tells the story. Confusion, indeed."

"What now, monsieur?" echoes the Frenchman.

"See; the tracks are numerous."

"But they would have been had these people moved about a good deal."

"Look again. You will note that they are made by other feet. Many men
have been here. What you once suggested--"

"_Mon Dieu!_ robbers?" as if appalled.

"That explanation is nearer the mark that anything else."

The prospect is appalling, for these wild robbers of the desert fear
neither man nor devil, and when once they retreat to their hiding-places
in the mountains, it is next to folly to dream of following them.

John Craig finds himself in a dilemma. To whom can he appeal in this,
his hour of trial? Will the authorities do anything for him in case the
American or British consul make a demand? Can they accomplish aught?
These wild Bedouins of the desert do not come under the jurisdiction of
the Dey. His orders would be laughed to scorn, and mounted on their
swift Arabian steeds they would mock any effort to chase them.

So John is deeply puzzled, and knows not how to turn. If the Frenchman,
usually so bright and witty, cannot suggest something to help him out of
this dilemma, he will have to depend upon himself alone; but Monsieur
Constans shrugs his shoulders and professes to be all at sea.

Dimly John begins to suspect that this may not have been such an
accident after all.

He begins to suspect a plot.

The driver? what of him?

His actions had been strange and almost crazy from the start, and yet
John feels sure that if the case were thoroughly investigated it would
be found that he was not in the habit of thus running with his loads
over the rough part of his trip.

There is something unusual in this, and something that demands
investigation. The man's actions were suspicious, to say the least,
for just as soon as the break-down occurred he had vanished from view.

Evidently he was in league with some one.

John is furious to think that he left the scene of the disaster.

Why did he not let Sir Lionel go? The baronet seemed to be in earnest in
his offer, and under such circumstances--but what nonsense after all, to
think that he could do more, when the veteran of three wars was
evidently unable to prevail against his foes.

Thus, after summing up, John is compelled to admit with a groan that he
knows absolutely nothing about the case, and is in a position to learn
little more.

He is a man of action, however, and can not bear to see minutes pass
without at least an effort to utilize them.

Can they follow the track?

It is a possible solution of the problem, although it promises to be
hard work.

Then, again, he thinks of his companion. How far may the Gaul be
trusted? He has known Frenchmen who were brave; he has a good opinion of
them as a fighting nation, and yet this individual specimen may not turn
out to be a warrior.

With the hope of getting an ally, then, he turns to the subject of his
anxiety.

"Monsieur Constans."

"I am here."

"Your words have come true. Arab robbers have, I fear, carried off my
friends."

"_Mon Dieu!_ it ees sad."

"I am determined to rescue them."

"Bravo! bravo!" clapping his hands with the excitement of the moment.

"One thing worries me."

"Ah! monsieur must be plain."

"It concerns you."

"_Le Diable!_ in what way?"

"How far can I depend on you?"

At this the French agent draws his figure up with much pomposity. He
slaps one hand upon his inflated chest.

"To ze death, monsieur!"

"Good! Tell me, are you armed?"

"It has been my habit, among zese Arabs, zese negroes, zese ragged
Kabyles from ze mountains. I would not trust my life wizout zis."

Then he suddenly flourishes before John's eyes, delighted with the
spectacle, a genuine American bull-dog revolver, which, judging from its
appearance, is capable of doing considerable execution when held by a
determined hand, and guided with a quick eye.

John instantly matches it.

"Hurrah!" he exclaims, with enthusiasm, "we are well matched, Monsieur
Constans. Let it be the old story of Lafayette and Washington."

"It ees glorious! Zey won ze fight. Why should not we, monsieur--"

"My name is Doctor John Craig from Chicago."

"I greet you zen, Monsieur Doctaire. Zis is all new business to me. Tell
me what to do, and I am zere."

"Then we'll follow these tracks a little and try to learn something
about those who were here, their number, whether mounted or afoot, and
the probable direction they took."

"Superb! I am one delighted to serve wiz a man of zat caliber. You
meesed ze vocation I zink, Monsieur John, instead of ze doctaire you
should be ze general."

John knows it will not pay to stop and talk with Monsieur Constans.
A Frenchman is inclined to be voluble, and valuable time may be lost.

So he walks on, bending low in order that the lantern light may be
utilized. Thus he follows the tracks some little distance, with the
fighting Gaul at his elbow, endeavoring to penetrate the darkness
beyond.

It is a peculiar situation, one that causes him to smile. This time
he is not tracking the deer through the dense forests of Michigan.
Somewhere ahead are fierce Arab foes who have his friends in their
hands.

At the same time he has a vague feeling of alarm in the region of his
heart, alarm, not for himself, but concerning the fortunes of Lady Ruth.

A month, yes, hardly more than two weeks before, John Craig did not know
there was such a being in existence.

Even when first made acquainted with her he had believed her rather
haughty, according to his American notion of girls.

Gradually he has come to know her better, has come to understand the
piquant character underlying what he was pleased to look upon as pride,
and which her aunt must have had in mind when she gave her the
significant name of Miss Caprice.

Thus events have rolled on until now, in this period of suspense, when
the girl seems to be in desperate danger, he awakens to the fact that
he loves her.

With Monsieur Constans at his side, John has gone perhaps a few hundred
yards when the light of the lantern suddenly falls upon a human figure
advancing; an Arab, too.

John is about to assume an offensive attitude when he recognizes
Mustapha Cadi, the guide.



CHAPTER XVII.

ON TO THE METIDJA MINE


A startled exclamation at his side causes the young doctor to remember
that he has a companion. He whirls around and just in time to avert what
might have turned out to be a catastrophe, for Monsieur Constans, seeing
the figure of an Arab coming toward them, has no other idea than that it
is an enemy.

Perhaps the fiery Gaul is somewhat anxious to try his fire-arms. At any
rate, when John so suddenly wheels upon him, monsieur is in the act of
covering the advancing figure.

John with a sharp cry knocks his leveled weapon up, and calls out:

"It is a friend; my guide, Mustapha Cadi."

"_Diable!_ I am one fool," exclaims the Gaul. "I recognize ze man now,
and but for you he would be dead. I shall beg his pardon. It was one
grand meestake."

Meanwhile Mustapha has come up.

Doctor John Craig is filled with a new excitement now. In his eyes the
coming of this man means much. It is strange that no suspicion enters
his head in connection with Mustapha. Even while he is so certain that
the driver of the omnibus is in league with their enemies; that the
break down is only a part of the grand scheme to obtain possession of
the English girl who can pay a big ransom, he has never once connected
the Arab guide with the matter.

This is all the more singular because Mustapha Cadi was on the top of
the coach at the time of the wreck, and he disappeared with the driver.

It can only be accounted for by the fact that like most keen men John
Craig is in the habit of relying upon his judgment in such matters, and
there is something about the face of Mustapha that wins his confidence.

Then, again, there are the events of the preceding night. The courier
stood by him like a Spartan hero; yes, he can be trusted.

Thus John meets the guide warmly, and a new hope immediately springs
into existence, a hope born of confidence.

"What does all this mean, Mustapha Cadi? See, I have brought the agent
of the stage line, but when we arrive at the scene of the wreck we find
it deserted. What does it mean? Have my friends fallen into the hands of
robbers?"

Mustapha immediately nods his head.

"It is so, monsieur."

"Who are they?"

"Arabs, Kabyles, Moors--all who hate the Franks, yet love money more.
They are under a desperate leader, the Tiger of the Desert."

At this Monsieur Constans utters a low cry.

"He means Bab Azoun, ze terrible gate-way of death."

Mustapha again nods, and John resumes his cross-questioning with a
lawyer's tact.

"Were our friends injured?"

"Not seriously. They fight well. The soldier threatens to kill all, but
they do not allow him to do it."

"Brave Blunt; he deserves a Victoria cross. But where were you,
Mustapha?"

The Arab hangs his face; he looks sheepish.

"I come up just when all was over. They twenty against one. It would be
foolish for me to try and fight. I believe I can do better; so I watch,
I follow, I learn much."

John cannot restrain his feelings. He seizes the Arab's dusky hand and
shakes it with real Chicago ardor.

"Mustapha, you're a jewel. Go on. Where did you go at the time of the
accident?"

"Bismallah! I was after him, the cause of it all--him, who entered into
this conspiracy--the driver. Monsieur, he ran like a deer through the
dark. I thought to grasp him more than once, but each time he turned and
let me hug the air. But success at last."

"You got him?"

"He picked up a stone with his foot and stretched his length on the
ground. Here was my opportunity. I embraced it. Both were out of breath,
but I held him there, pinned to the earth. Great is Allah, and Mohammed
is his prophet."

"Did you make him confess?"

"I tried to persuade by silvery speech, but it did not meet with
success. Then I turned to muscular force. Monsieur, when Abdul el
Jabel saw I was in earnest, he cried out for fear, and swore by all
the prophets that if I would let him live he would confess the truth."

"Good, good!" says John, pleased with the business qualities of his
guide.

"_Begar!_ it ees better zan one play," mutters the French agent.

"So I made the miserable driver confess that he had entered into an
arrangement with one of the robbers to upset us between Birkadeen and
Al Jezira, so that they could make the capture."

"The villain! he deserved hanging. I hope you executed Arab justice on
him then and there."

Mustapha shakes his head.

"Monsieur forgets. I had given my word. An Arab will never break that.
But I let him go after a few kicks, which, you see I have learned to
give from the Franks. He will not go back. He now becomes an open ally
of Bab Azoun, the desert tiger."

"Well--"

"Monsieur, one word more. He could not tell me all, but gave me to
understand that Bab Azoun was in the employ of another party, some Frank
who loves revenge."

This opens up a new vista. John is visibly agitated by the news.

"I believe I see light; the hand of Pauline Potter is behind it all."

"Monsieur, pardon."

"Well, what is it now?"

"From all he said I was inclined to believe it was a man who bought Bab
Azoun."

"Yes, yes; but you see he may have been mistaken. Besides, Blunt fought
like a tiger. It does not matter just now. What we want to do is to
rescue them all."

"That is right."

"You came upon the scene just as these friends of mine were overpowered.
Tell us what next occurred?"

"A move was made. I feared that it would be the end, for Bab Azoun
and his followers usually dash into the desert when they have secured
plunder, the pursuit from the French soldiers being what they fear,
since the Algerian rulers have given all over into the hands of the
Franks.

"Monsieur, I was surprised to see them start off on foot. I was more
than pleased to find that they took a _chemin de travers_ or what you
call a country cross road that leads to the deserted mines or caves of
Metidja. This told me they were encamped there, and I heard one man
telling another they would not leave until morning, as they had other
business in hand."

At this John plucks up courage. The thought of Lady Ruth being miles
away, mounted on a fast horse and speeding toward some desert fastness
of the robbers, was one to almost paralyze his brain, for the chances of
his doing anything to help her in such a case were few and far between.

"What can we do, Mustapha? We are bold and determined, still we are only
three against an army. The odds are great."

"Ah! monsieur, it might be beyond our power to overcome the fighters of
Bab Azoun by force, but there are other ways."

"Thank Heaven, yes."

"The battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift."

"He speaks like ze prophet," murmurs Monsieur Constans, gazing upon the
sublime face and magnificent figure of the Arab courier with something
that partakes of the nature of awe.

"True, we are three--they are forty. If we venture to attack we will
meet death. That is very good; death comes to all men, and the Koran
teaches us that the brave who die in battle, with their faces toward the
foe, are transported immediately to paradise. That is why the followers
of Mohammed never know fear in a battle. But if we die, what then
becomes of those in the hands of Bab Azoun?"

"Ay, what indeed?" mournfully.

"Therefore, to save them, monsieur, we must try to live."

"It ees good; we will live," echoes the Gaul.

"And rescue the prisoners of the desert tiger."

"How far away are these deserted mines?"

"About a mile."

"Among the hills on this side of the plain known as Metidja?"

"It is even so, illustrious Frank, on a line with that snowy peak, Djara
Djura, which towers above the Atlas Mountains."

"Your plan, Mustapha--speak, for I know you have been considering it."

The courier places his hand on his chest and bows. Praise delights
even the tympanum of an Arab, and flattery gains favors in the most
unexpected quarter.

"_Ciel!_ we are in the agony of suspense," declares the Frenchman, never
once taking his eyes off the Arab's face.

"Great is Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. I am but as a grain of
sand on the sea-shore. Let the praise be his."

With this preliminary, Mustapha Cadi gives his plan of action briefly.

It was his intention to go to Al Jezira, to seek the French commandant
at the barracks known as the Kasbah, and give him the information
concerning Bab Azoun.

It has long been the ambition of the various French generals stationed
in Algeria to kill or capture the notorious desert prince who for years
has defied their power, suddenly making a bold dash upon some point,
and, leaving smoking ruins in his wake, as mysteriously vanish.

Again and again have they sought to track his band over the plains,
along the desert and into the wild recesses of the mountains, but it has
always turned out a failure. Bab Azoun, on his native heath, laughs them
to scorn, and once laid an ambuscade in which the soldiers suffered
badly.

Hence, it can be set down as certain that the military governor of
Algiers will be delighted with a chance to surround the tiger of the
desert, and his band, so close to the city--that as soon as the news is
carried to him he will fit out a secret expedition against the enemy.

Now that there are three of them instead of one, it is not necessary
that all should go. A single messenger is enough.

Whom shall it be?

Fate decrees.

They look to Monsieur Constans. Mustapha is needed to serve as a guide
to the old mines, and Doctor Chicago ought to be on hand, because it is
to rescue his friends they go.

Even the French agent recognizes this fact.

"_Parbleu!_ Monsieur Craig, it ees right I should go. Besides, I am well
acquaint wiz ze commandant. Zen let us consider ze business as settle. I
sall away to ze Kasbah, and zen in due time look for ze swoop of ze
French zouaves. _Begar!_ if Emile Constans may have a hand in ze capture
of zat deevil, ze reward will allow him to visit ze adorable Paris
again. I am off. I sall let nothing stop me. _Allons!_"

With a majestic wave of the hand he turns his back on them and runs.

They stand and listen.

Plainly can they hear him plunging on through the darkness in the
direction of the spot where the old stage was left. Once, twice he
measures his length on the ground, only to scramble to his feet, and
uttering choice Parisian invectives, continue his flight.

"Now he reaches the stage," says John.

Then comes the crack of a whip.

"They are off. Jupiter! what a noise he makes! How the old stage rattles
and bangs. The man is raving mad to plunge over such ground at a
reckless pace like that. He will surely meet the same fate, sooner or
later, that befell the old vehicle we were in. He only thinks of the
reward; of a great holiday lasting six months, on the boulevards and in
the cafes of Paris. Sometimes there's a slip between--Great Scott! he's
over!" as there comes a grand smash and then utter silence.

Mustapha appears uneasy.

"Monsieur, it is their worst fault; they are too hot-blooded. Not so the
English. He is dead."

"Hark!"

Now they hear the clatter of a horse's hoofs; the sound heads toward
Algiers.

"Has that horse a rider, Mustapha?" asks John, ready to rest his
decision upon the trained ear of the Arab.

"It is even so. You hear yourself; he runs too regularly to be loose."

As he speaks they catch a cry from the quarter where the horse runs, a
cry as of a rider urging his steed on.

"That is enough. Monsieur Constans is on the way to the Kasbah. Now we
can turn our heads in the direction of the mines of Metidja."

"It is well. Follow me, monsieur," says the courier, gravely.

"We may need this," holding up the lantern.

"It would be dangerous to carry it, for the eyes of Bab Azoun's men are
like owls'. Besides, monsieur, we do not need it. Another lantern will
give us all the light Allah desires."

As he speaks he points toward the east, where, just peeping above
the hill-top, is a golden rim like a monster eye that is about to be
fastened upon the earth below.

"The moon; that is a blessing. I accept it as an augury of success.
Mustapha, I am ready. Lead on, and may the God of battles decide for
the right."



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE MODERN LEONIDAS.


Mustapha Cadi, like most Arabs, possesses many of the properties that in
times gone by distinguished our American Indians.

The signs of the desert and mountains are like an open book to him, and
he is quite at home in an undertaking of this sort, a mission requiring
energy and daring, as well as caution.

So, without much apparent trouble, he leads the young Chicagoan along.
Sometimes the way is difficult, indeed, impossible in John's eyes, but
the Arab knows the secret, and finds a passage where none appears to
exist.

Thus they advance for nearly an hour. John imagines they have gone
farther than is the case. This is on account of the rough ground.

"Now, caution. We draw near the place. They will be on the watch.
Monsieur knows what discovery means."

"Yes--death. That is understood, but it does not prevent me from
desiring to advance. Still we will redouble our caution."

They see lights. These appear to come from openings in the hill,
doubtless mouths of the deserted mines, which the robber band of Bab
Azoun occupy temporarily, with their accustomed boldness.

Drawing still nearer, under Mustapha's clever guidance, they discover
that the main body of the robbers are encamped in the largest cavern,
and as it seems natural that they would bring their prisoners here, the
two men devote their time toward looking up that quarter.

The Arab courier has played as a boy in these old mines, and knows all
about them. This knowledge may serve him well now, and John is pleased
to think he is in the hands of one so well informed.

In half an hour they have managed to learn an important fact. The
prisoners are in the main cavern. All escape is cut off by the presence
of numerous guards at the mouth of the mine, and they are watched
besides.

Mustapha, putting his knowledge of the place into good use, has led his
companion into a cleft where there is hardly room to crawl; but, as they
reach the end, they have a chance to gaze upon the interior where the
Arabs and Kabyles, the Moors and negroes, who battle under the free
banner of Bab Azoun, are assembled.

Eagerly John looks upon the face of Lady Ruth. His heart seems in his
throat, and he no longer can deceive himself regarding his true feelings
toward this young lady.

"What can we do?" he whispers to the Arab.

"Nothing but wait," is the reply.

John has a great fear tugging at his heart. On their way they have
discussed the situation, and Mustapha has related the habits of the Arab
desert outlaws. Should it appear that a rescue was imminent, it was
their habit to murder any prisoners.

Surely this is enough to arouse John's keenest fears. What if the French
forces do come and annihilate the robber host--if the prisoners share
their doom, what has been gained?

That is why he asks so anxiously if there is nothing to be done.

The Arab by this time realizes why he is so anxious, and hesitates a
little before making reply.

"We must watch and wait. Monsieur will see something soon. Watch the
soldier."

This gives John a new idea, and he speedily discovers that Sir Lionel is
not idle. The soldier has been in too many desperate situations to be
dismayed over such a trifling thing as this.

He is not bound, and hence can move about. Now he seems to be talking to
the professor, and anon with Aunt Gwen. Last of all he speaks to Lady
Ruth, who nods eagerly.

And a strange feeling comes up in John's mind as he surveys this scene.
What causes him to remember the harbor of Malta, the words of the
boatman before leaving the steamer, the tragic scene in the blue waters?

It comes over him like a flash. Perhaps he did Sir Lionel an injustice
when he suspected him of criminal plotting in such a case, but the
circumstances were decidedly against the man.

If he could be guilty of such a scheme, what would he not do in order to
win favor at the hands of the young English beauty?

Again it flashes through John's mind; did not the driver in speaking of
the facts tell Mustapha that in his opinion it was a man who had entered
into a conspiracy with Bab Azoun?

John's first thought was of Pauline Potter--that she had hoped to get
hold of him; but now he changes his mind, and locates the trouble
elsewhere, fixing it upon the veteran.

Under these circumstances it may be interesting to see how the Briton
intends working his plan. John's only desire is a sincere wish that Lady
Ruth may be rescued from her predicament. He has no wish to put her to
any unnecessary trouble in order that he may play the hero. As well Sir
Lionel as any one else, so long as she is benefited.

With this spirit, he can watch the development of affairs composedly,
though the suspicion that has crept into his mind causes him a little
worry.

Sir Lionel is evidently getting ready to make a move for liberty. His
very actions betray it in more ways than one. John cannot but think that
he goes about it with something like a flourish of trumpets that is
hardly in keeping with the situation, for it is supposed that a dozen
pairs of eyes are upon them.

First of all, he secures a weapon that is hanging upon the wall near-by.
It must be his own revolver, John believes. How lucky that the Arabs
hung it so close to his hand. No one appears to notice the action.
Really, Sir Lionel is attended by the goddess of luck.

Then the professor makes a move in the same direction, crawls forward,
and lays hands on a gun that rests against the wall. This he smuggles
back with him, and again the guards are all interested in other
business, laughing, and joking.

So far, good. Perhaps they can, if this marvelous good fortune follows
them, steal all the arms in the camp, and even capture the brigade. So
John concludes with a smile, as he sees what the professor has done.

Anxiously, he waits to see what there will be next on the programme.
Some of the guards have left the place, others lie down to sleep.

"The grand climax is coming," he thinks, as he takes note of these
things. "Blunt is getting ready to sweep the board. Well, good luck to
him."

Even Mustapha has discovered that something strange is on the _tapis_.

He has a singular way of expressing it.

"Poor Monsieur Constans," he whispers.

"What is the matter with him?" ejaculates John, in about the same tone.

"It is too bad."

"Mustapha, speak out."

"He will come after a while."

"Yes, yes."

"And he will find no Bab Azoun, no band of illustrious robbers to do
battle with."

John's mind instantly hits upon flight as the cause for all this.

"Why do you speak so?"

"This wonderful soldier, he do it all; by the mighty power of his arm he
will overcome the hosts of Bab Azoun. Great is Allah, and Mohammed is
his prophet; but I have never seen such a thing before in all my life."

Then the exquisite, dry humor of the thing strikes John, and with such
force that he comes very near bursting with laughter.

He has not the slightest desire to do anything that will bring about a
change in the plan. So long as Lady Ruth is rescued from her unpleasant
position, it matters little what the means are.

Hence, he watches the development of matters with a keen interest. It is
not long before he is in a position to see that there is solid truth in
his suspicions. The actions of Sir Lionel confirm the fact that he has
been induced to compromise his honor in order to succeed with John as a
rival.

When the divine spark touches the heart, it causes men to do strange
things.

Here is one who in times past has been very jealous of his honor, and
would as soon cut off his hand as compromise himself. Yet, reduced to
sore straits by the success of a rival, he now descends the scale, and
schemes as cleverly as any rascally adventurer.

The critical period draws near, and our military hero can scarce
restrain his valor. Indeed, he shows symptoms of wanting to rush out and
annihilate the whole band of Arabs and Moors, but Lady Ruth restrains
him, as though she is clever enough to see the folly of a move too
premature.

It is a picturesque scene, and one that John will never forget. The
grotto alone has charming features, since the walls are white and
incrusted with some metallic substance that shines like silver.

On either side can be seen giant stalactites dependant from the roof,
looking like mighty columns to support the dome.

The fire and the torches illumine the scene, until it looks like one of
enchantment. The strange costumes of the nomads, with the various colors
they boast, add to the romantic nature of the exposition, and his must
be a poor soul, indeed, that fails to catch something of artistic fervor
when such a picture appears in view.

There were twenty of Bab Azoun's men present an hour before, but now
only half of that number can be seen.

The remainder have mysteriously disappeared. Things seem to be working
to suit the desperate plans of the veteran Zulu fighter, and he will
soon be in a condition to open the engagement.

There will doubtless be a battle. John is lost in admiration of the
genius that could prepare such a scene, such a triumph. He does not
anticipate that even if the Briton is successful in his plans, he will
carry the heart of Lady Ruth by storm.

"We must move," whispers Mustapha.

"Why?" asks John, desiring enlightenment.

"So as to be ready to take a hand in the grand affair," is the reply.

Up to this moment it has not occurred to the young man from Chicago that
he may be in a position to profit by this peculiar situation.

He smiles with the idea.

"Mustapha, I leave all in your hands. Do with me as you please."

"Then come."

They quit the cleft, using great caution to prevent discovery. The
plans of the Arabian guide are soon made manifest, for he signifies his
intention of securing a sentry who paces up and down outside the old
mine.

If he were a baby he could not have made less resistance. John would
have been amazed only that he has been forewarned. It is not the guard's
policy to attempt an outcry--undoubtedly he has had his orders.

"Well?" says Mustapha, after the fellow has been tied up, and prevented
from making an outcry.

"I believe we can capture the whole outfit at that rate. I feel equal to
twenty myself. They must have taken some drug; they have no more life
than a mummy from the pyramids."

The Arab grins as though he enjoys the joke.

"It is coming, prepare to see the mighty Frank's wonderful work."

Even as he speaks, they hear loud shouts within the old mine--shouts
that would indicate an upheaval--shouts from Arab lips, that echo from
the Kabyle throats.

They seem to indicate astonishment--fear.

Above them rises the bellow of a Briton, rushing to the fray with the
eagerness of an infuriated bull.

Oh, it is grand!--it is beautiful to see that one man hurl himself on
half a dozen! Fear--he knows not the meaning of the word it seems--his
opponents monopolize that.

John, looking in, is delighted with the spectacle, and laughs to himself
as he sees how remarkably deadly are all Sir Lionel's shots. A man falls
every time he pulls trigger; if he rushes at a fellow, so great is the
fear his awful presence inspires that the wretched Arab sinks down and
actually expires through fright.

The doctor has seen some wonderful stage fights, but the equal of this,
never. He laughs, yet finds himself almost stupefied with amazement.
Truly, the Victoria cross would well become this remarkable hero.

One or two of the dead men do not seem to have had enough, or else are
dissatisfied with the manner of their taking off. At any rate, they
stagger to their feet, and have to be put to sleep again by energetic
means.

Philander comes near making a mess of it all by his enthusiasm. It is a
regular picnic to the small professor.

In the beginning he aimed his gun at one of the brigands. The weapon is
strange to him, being a long Arabian affair, with a peculiar stock, but
Philander has some knowledge of weapons, shuts his eyes, and pulls the
trigger.

The report staggers him. When he opens his eyes, and sees the big,
ragged Kabyle at whom he aimed lying flat on his back, with arms
extended, the professor is horrified at first.

Then some of the warlike spirit that distinguished his ancestors at
Lexington begins to flame up within him.

He gives a shrill war-cry that would doubtless please many a Greek
scholar, and plunges headlong for the foe.

The way in which he swings that Arab gun is a sight to behold; in itself
the apparition of Professor Sharpe thus advancing to the fray is enough
to strike terror to the human heart.

One poor devil is in a position to receive a tremendous whack on the
back with the gun, now used as a cudgel, and there is positively no
fraud about the manner of his sprawling around.

After that the professor sweeps the air in vain with his weapon. Men who
have met the terrors of the Algerian desert for years, fall down and
expire before he can hasten their exit from this vale of tears.

Really, it is wonderful--he never before knew the tenets of the
Mohammedan religion made its devotees so accommodating; they seem to
court dissolution in the longing for paradise, where the prophet
promises eternal happiness for all who die in battle.

It ends; even such obliging fellows as these do not need to be killed
more than a couple of times. Lady Ruth had covered her eyes with her
hands when the action began.

She is the daughter of a soldier race, and as brave as the majority of
her sex; still she shudders to gaze upon the taking of human life.

Perhaps, too, she anticipates the death of the valorous Briton, who has
hurled himself so impetuously into the breach, for under all ordinary
conditions his chances would seem to be small.

When the dreadful racket is over, when the shouts, shrieks, and report
of fire-arms die away, Lady Ruth uncovers her eyes.

She fully expects to see a slaughter-pen, with the valorous Sir Lionel
and Philander among the slain. As to the latter, there are no lack of
them, for they lie in every direction, and in every position the human
mind can conceive.

And here is the hero warrior rushing up to her, a smoking revolver in
one hand. His usual coolness and _sang froid_ are gone--Sir Lionel is
actually excited. It is not every day that even a veteran of the Cape
wars is given a chance to thus immortalize himself after the manner of
Samson.

"My dear Lady Ruth, the way is clear. We must fly before the rest of
the rascals appear. Perhaps we may be fortunate enough to find horses
outside, then a hot dash and the city will be gained. Permit me to
assist you."

The girl springs up, ready to accept the chance a kind fate has thrown
in her way, and with a startled, curious glance at the piles of slain
that incumber the cavern, follows her friends.



CHAPTER XIX.

WAR--HORRID WAR!


These strange events have occurred with great rapidity, and yet, of
course, they have taken some little time.

It would seem as though the remainder of Bab Azoun's band, if anywhere
in the vicinity, might by this time have arrived on the spot, but they
do not show up, which fact is a fortunate one for them, though it takes
away from the luster of Sir Lionel's fame.

When the four fugitives come out of the old mine into the moonlight, the
soldier looks about him quickly.

"If we could only find horses," he cries.

"What's this?" asks Philander.

A whinny sounds close by.

"This way, friends. Bless me! if this isn't the acme of good luck! Here
are horses--three, four of them, just one apiece, by Jove!"

"Oh, how singular! I mean how fortunate!" exclaims Lady Ruth.

There are the animals, fastened to branches of the trees. Why they are
separated from the remainder of the herd is not explained.

Sir Lionel never looks a gift of fortune in the face, but when his eyes
fall upon the four miserable worn-out hacks which have thus fallen to
their share, he grits his teeth, and Philander is puzzled to understand
what he just catches:

"Duse take the bloody heathen! A hundred pounds and four such
scarecrows!"

Perhaps he is thinking of the chances of their being overhauled by the
men of Bab Azoun, mounted on swift coursers, for there are none who ride
better than these desert warriors, and none who own such steeds.

"Let us mount--seconds are precious. There, by throwing one stirrup
over, it will make a fair lady's saddle. Allow me, Lady Ruth."

They are speedily mounted. Aunt Gwen seems quite at home on a horse,
which she has ridden many times in the Blue Grass regions of Kentucky.
As to Philander, the same does not apply. He acts as though in deadly
fear of being pitched over the animal's head. The fates decree that the
largest horse of all falls to his lot, a raw-boned, loose-jointed
specimen of equine growth, and the little professor looks like a monkey
perched aloft.

If the beast ever had any martial ardor, it has long ago died out, and
yet to the excited fancy of the professor, he might as well be upon the
back of a prancing, rearing, snorting war-horse. When the equine wonder
shakes his long ears, Philander imagines he is about to perform some
amazing trick, and, filled with a new dread, he clasps his arms around
the poor creature's neck, and calls out:

"Whoa! there's a good fellow--be quiet now! I wouldn't hurt you, boy!
Whoa! I say. Hang me if I don't believe you've got the devil in you.
Want to kill me, eh? No, you don't. Easy now, you rascal. Whoa, whoa!"

Fortunately for Philander the horse follows the lead of the others, and
the professor is not left behind.

All seems working well.

Sir Lionel, the undaunted veteran, can afford to smile. Success is
apparently assured, for they have gone some little distance, and only
now do the clamorous sounds from their rear indicate a commotion.

Pursuit may be made, but it will be useless, as they are not many miles
from the walls of Algiers, which will give them shelter.

It looks like a big success, and surely after the wonderful events of
this night Lady Ruth cannot ignore the claims he presents. She must fall
into the arms of the hero who has rescued her from the Arab host.

So probably he reasons.

But fate hits the man of valor a cruel blow, and that just when it seems
as though he has success between his fingers.

It happens naturally enough. At the time a portion of Bab Azoun's
piratical band chanced to be separated from the main body, and were
under orders to join them at the Metidja mines.

Coming up the slope, they are amazed to see a little band of pilgrims
advancing, lashing their plugs of horses desperately, in the hope of
making good time.

The fatal moonlight betrays the fact that this little party is made up
of the hated Franks, and hearing the tremendous commotion that has now
arisen in the direction of the cavern, it is easy to line up the case,
and conclude that the party has escaped.

Hence it is that all of a sudden Sir Lionel finds himself in the midst
of half a dozen Arab riders, who bar farther progress.

It is the unexpected that happens.

He attempts the same system of tactics that were so successful in the
previous difficulty, but they do not pass current with these fierce men.

Immediately the two Franks are set upon by the desert tigers. Two seize
Sir Lionel and drag him from his steed, he resisting desperately. What a
great pity he exhausted his resources so thoroughly in the first round.
Ten men could not overcome him then, while two manage to hold him quiet
now.

Philander, emboldened by his former success, thinks he can show them a
trick or two that will count; but a blow chances to fall upon his bony
steed's haunches, starting the animal off, and the professor, throwing
valor to the four winds, proceeds to clasp his arms tightly around the
horse's neck, shouting out an entreaty for some one, in the name of
Julius Cesar, Mohammed, or Tom Jones, to stop the wicked beast before
he makes mince-meat of his master.

One of the desert raiders gallops alongside, and, clutching the bridle,
turns the runaway around.

By this time the commotion above has increased, and it even sounds
as though the men of Bab Azoun might be starting out in quest of the
fugitives who have given them the slip.

What are these sounds closer by--the thunder of many hoofs, the wild
neighing of steeds? It is as though a squad of French cavalry might be
rushing down upon them.

The leader of the small Arab force gives quick orders, and his men
immediately fall into line of battle, ready to meet the foe, if
perchance such proves to be the character of the cavalcade.

Now they burst out of the aloe thicket--they come dashing straight on
toward the spot where the little company is gathered.

The moonlight falls upon them. Most of the horses are seen to be
riderless, yet they are the pet steeds of the outlaws, animals upon
the backs of which they have committed depredations on the desert,
and laughed pursuit to scorn.

Upon two of the foremost chargers human figures may be seen, and one
glance tells them who these worthies are.

Lady Ruth is the first to exclaim:

"Why, it is John Craig."

"He will be killed, see these fellows getting ready to fire. John, take
care!" and Aunt Gwen, in her eager desire to warn the doctor, waves her
hands in the air, one of them grasping a fluttering white kerchief.

They hear the cry, they see the signal, and their eyes take in the line
of dusky warriors that awaits their coming.

"Down, monsieur!" exclaims Mustapha.

Not a second too soon do they drop upon the necks of their horses,
for a blinding flash comes from the men of Bab Azoun, a flash that is
accompanied by a roar, and a hail-storm of lead sweeps through the space
occupied by the forms of John Craig and his guide just a brief interval
before.

"Charge!" cries Craig, rising in his seat, his face white with the
strange battle spirit, his right hand clutching a weapon.

Then comes a scene of action that is totally unlike the one preceding
it, for now both sides are in deadly earnest, and the battle is a royal
one, indeed.

When Craig fires he aims to diminish the number of his foes. Sometimes
a rearing horse gets the benefit of the flying lead.

For the space of a minute or so the utmost confusion reigns. At first
the string of horses that the bold Craig and his guide were running away
with, becomes a feature in the scene, prancing and shrilly neighing.
Then they break and scatter in many directions.

There were six Arabs originally in the party, but Philander knocked one
_hors de combat_ with the tremendous whack of a gun he snatched from its
keeper.

Another drops from his horse before the fire of Doctor Chicago, and
Mustapha, who handles a yataghan with marvelous dexterity, actually
cleaves a third to the chin with the keen blade.

There is a brief but exceedingly lively engagement between the survivors
and the Franks; but the tide of battle is with the strangers in Algiers.

Wounded and fairly beaten, the three raiders at last whirl their horses
and dash madly away. Perhaps they are wise. It sometimes takes Sir
Lionel a little while to get in motion, but that great fire-eater is
about ready to enter the engagement at the time they fly, thus showing
rare wisdom.

The field is won.

John hears the shouts of the pursuers close by, while sharp whistles
sound, signals which are meant for the stray horses, loose from the
kraal, which they are bound to obey.

"We must make use of every second. They will be after us," he says,
hastily.

Lady Ruth shudders when she sees one of the Arabs endeavoring to stanch
a wound in his shoulder. There is no mimic war here, it is evident.

When they start in a little squad, it is with a faint hope of making
such progress that the enemy must give up the pursuit; but almost
immediately John discovers something that gives him uneasiness.

His horse staggers. It is evident that the beast has been struck with a
flying piece of lead, and is about to fall under him.

The doctor says nothing, and hopes his absence may not be noticed by the
flying column, but, as it happens, when the catastrophe does occur, all
of them see it.

Fortunately John clears himself just in time, and reaches the ground in
safety. Lady Ruth pulls in her horse.

"You must not stop!" cries John; "urge your horses on--fly while you
have time. I hear them coming!"

He tries to start Lady Ruth's nag, but she pulls on the lines.

"I decline to run and leave you here, Doctor Chicago," she says,
resolutely.

"But you must go," he declares.

"Nonsense!" breaks in Philander. "Here's room for you, John. Jump up."

The young man sees that the quickest way to get them started is to obey,
so he manages to reach the saddle in front of the professor, who clasps
his arms about him and holds on.

This done, they clatter on again.

It soon becomes evident that their pursuers gain upon them rapidly,
despite their best efforts. There can be but one end to the race, and
this is in plain view.

John keeps his wits about him. If caught upon the open by the rushing
column of fierce desert warriors, a desperate engagement must ensue,
which will doubtless end in their complete annihilation, for it can
hardly be expected that Sir Lionel will be able to play his great game
twice on the same night.

The Englishman has maintained a stolid silence all this while. Perhaps
he is out of humor at the change in the arrangements, and fears lest,
after all his hard work, the young Chicagoan may carry off the palm.

Past experience has been of that order.

Hence he moves without much animation. There seems to be a fatality
about the sudden appearance of Doctor Chicago on the scene.

Meanwhile John Craig is not bothering his head about the small
side-issues connected with the matter, which will work out their own
final adjustment. He is more concerned regarding their escape from the
threatening doom that seems ready to ingulf them.

Something must be done, that is certain, beyond all peradventure, and
John quickly grasps the situation. There is no disease that does not
have its remedy, and he finds a loop-hole of escape here.

As they gallop along they come to a structure built upon the
road-side--a singular affair it was once upon a time, being made of
stone. John recognizes features that tell him this deserted place was
once a holy spot, the tomb of a _marabout_, or saint, built in a manner
to suit the taste of the departed.

It has been long deserted, as too public, and the holy relics moved to
some more secluded tomb within the walls of the cemetery on the high
hill of Bouzareah.

This is their chance.

To continue the race means positive overhauling and doubtless death,
while by accepting the chance that fortune has thrown in their way
they may keep their enemies at bay until aid comes, for John has not
forgotten the mission of Monsieur Constans.

He calls a halt, and briefly explains his plans. All of them see
that the horses they ride are not in the race when compared with the
magnificent steeds of their pursuers, and recognizing the fact that what
John suggests is probably the best thing to be done under the existing
circumstances, they quickly dismount.

The horses are then started along the road in the hope that they will
lure the pursuers on while the little party pass through the opening,
and enter the quaint building, once the resting-place of a holy
Mohammedan's bones.



CHAPTER XX.

THE COMING OF THE FRENCH ZOUAVES.


Perhaps Mustapha Cadi, as a true Mohammedan, may have a certain amount
of respect for this odd tomb of a _marabout_, but, as the saint's bones
have been removed, he has no hesitation about making a fort out of the
rocky recess.

When all have entered he closes the opening. The door is broken, but
there are many loose stones around that can be made to serve.

There is no time just now to use them, for the rush of horses' hoofs are
heard up the road, as the men of Bab Azoun come racing along, intent
upon overhauling the fugitives.

They sweep past the rocky tomb like a young cyclone; it is a spectacle
none of those who gaze upon it will ever forget. The moonlight renders
it perfectly plain, and they can even see the savage expression of each
Arab face as the riders dash by.

Now they are gone, and Mustapha begins to pile up the rocks against the
door.

The others see what he is about, and immediately assist him, so that
when a couple of minutes have elapsed they have made use of every
available stone, and can regard their work with considerable
satisfaction.

The roof of the tomb is the worst part, and, being made of wood, it
shows signs of decay. They locate themselves as best the circumstances
will allow and await the sequel.

It is too much to hope that their enemies will long be deceived by the
trick that has been played. When they overtake, or sight, the riderless
horses, they must grasp the situation, and whirling about, look for the
fugitives upon the back trail. No doubt their shrewdness will at once
tell them just where those they seek may be found.

Even as they finish their labor and take their positions, those in the
tomb discover that a change has come; the shouts of the robbers are
growing, louder, showing that they no longer race away. Their tenor has
changed, too, and they sound vindictive in their anticipated triumph.

"Ready! they come!" remarks the sententious guide, who takes matters in
a cool manner, showing no sign of emotion.

There can be no mistaking the fact, for in another minute the angry band
is in front of the old tomb.

Then begins a scene that savors of horrid war. The clamor of battle is
in the air, loud shouts ring out, men charge, shots are fired, and with
serious result.

Those who defend the fort know their lives are at stake, and they
endeavor to make each shot tell. Even Sir Lionel has managed to reload
his revolver, and this time makes sure that it contains lead.

The professor is bound not to be left, and as he has secured the long
gun which was fastened to the saddle of the bony steed he rode, he sends
its contents among the assailants, even as they make their rush.

The result is disastrous to Philander, since it knocks him off his
perch; but, scrambling to his feet again, he looks out in time to see
that his shot has played havoc among the animals of the attacking force.
Three are down, and their riders crawl from underneath, doubtless
pretty well scared, if not seriously injured.

The first assault is over--the result is disastrous to the Arabs, who
have received severe wounds among them.

They will probably reason the thing over now, and proceed upon new
lines, which will possibly bring them nearer success than they have been
thus far.

Our friends are not over-confident, even though they have won the first
round. They know the tenacious character of the foe against whom they
are pitted, and feel sure this is only the beginning. What the end may
be only Heaven knows.

The breathing spell is occupied by them in reloading. Lady Ruth and Aunt
Gwen arise to the occasion, and beg to be allowed to do anything that
falls in their line. If there was only a spare weapon, the English girl
declares she could easily load it, but it happens they have none.

Once more breaks out the noise of battle. Whatever may have been the
original plans of Bab Azoun and his men, they have long since been
forgotten. Revenge is the leading fact in their minds now, revenge for
what has been done on this night.

An Arab is a good hater, especially if the object of his animosity be a
Christian dog, an unbeliever. Nothing can be too cruel to inflict upon
such a foe.

Those within the tomb have aroused the worst passions of the robbers,
and can look for no mercy.

The engagement is bitter, indeed, for the Arabs have separated, and
creep upon the place on all sides. They discover the weakness of the
roof, and bend their energies toward crushing this in.

There is a hot scene, and more than one of the sailants feel the breath
of flying lead, together with the sudden sting that tells of a burning
wound.

It would be hard to say how the affair might have terminated were the
original combatants allowed to carry it to a conclusion, for both sides
are desperate, and one of them would have to win.

John has not been without hope. He believes the French zouaves from the
Kasbah must long ere this have started on their secret march toward the
old mines of Metidja, and he feels sure the noise of battle must direct
them to the spot where the fierce engagement is in progress.

Men will fight like tigers when all they have in the world is at stake.
John is nerved to greater deeds of valor by the fact that Lady Ruth is
present. He shudders at the thought of her falling into the hands of
these wild desert rovers.

Finding their efforts to beat in the door useless, the assailants turn
their whole attention toward the roof. Great stones are hurled upon it,
and the chances of its holding out are few indeed.

When an opening is made a dark face appears at it, and the fellow
attempts to push his gun in so that he may fire. Before he can succeed,
Mustapha Cadi has leaped upward, and fastened his hand upon the man's
throat, and by the weight of his body pulls the fellow through.

Philander snatches up the gun with a cry of delight. He seems to have a
weakness for these Arab weapons, on this night, at least, three having
passed through his hands. There is heard the sound of a desperate
tussle, as the faithful guide battles with his victim.

Again the hole above is darkened, as a human figure attempts to push
through, but the British soldier is ready this time. He has the gun
Philander threw aside as useless, and, with all his power, he dashes
this against the human wedge that fills the opening, sending the fellow
whirling over to the ground, shrieking out Arabic imprecations, and
calling upon Allah to give the unbelieving dogs into their hands.

More stones are served. They begin to drop through, and it looks serious
for those who crouch within. Certainly they cannot hold out much longer.

Heaven is kind, Heaven is merciful. The silent prayers of the two women
who kneel within the old tomb are heard.

Just when the clamor of battle is at its height, when the climax is
near at hand, they hear a sound that brings joy to the little band,
struggling against unequal numbers--a sound that has many times been
heard upon the great war-fields of the world--the clear notes of a
bugle.

Then come fierce shouts, the cheers of charging zouaves. It is a
thrilling period to those who have been almost at the last gasp.
Louis Napoleon, struggling at Sedan, could not have heard the zouave
battle-cry with more complete satisfaction than they do now.

The Arabs are caught in the very trap they have so long eluded, and it
looks like a bad job for them. As to our friends, they are no longer in
the affair, and proceed to remove the stones from the door, in order
that they may look upon the last scene of the tragic drama.

When this has been done, they see a spectacle that is more pleasing to
their eyes than any recently enacted--a scene made up of struggling
Arabs and French zouaves, where the latter are five to one--where
flashing bayonets meet the cruel yataghan, and the dark deeds of many
past years are avenged by the brave soldiers of France.

It is quickly over.

Bab Azoun and his desperate followers expect no mercy, and the French
give none. The few Arabs who are uninjured, make a determined assault in
one quarter, and literally hew their way through, leaving half of their
number on the field.

Few indeed are they who escape, but the victory is shorn of its
principal feature, when the fact is disclosed that the dread terror of
the desert, the notorious rebel, Bab Azoun, is not among the slain.

He was seen to fall, and yet they cannot find his body, search as they
may.

Not being mounted, the French soldiers are unable to give pursuit to
the little band that hewed a way out. Besides, they have plenty to do
attending to the wounded.

Up to the now open door of the _marabout's_ tomb rushes a figure that
has leaped from a horse.

"_Mon Dieu!_ tell me, are you safe, ze ladies also?" gasps this party.

It is Monsieur Constans. He has faithfully carried out his part of the
contract, and is warmly greeted by those whom the coming of the zouaves
has saved.

Lady Ruth is pale--she has looked upon sights such as are not usually
seen by her sex--sights that make strong men shudder until they become
battle hardened, for war is always cruel and bloody.

"Let us get to the hotel as soon as possible," she says to Aunt Gwen.

"My goodness, are you going to faint?" exclaims that good soul.

"Oh, no, I don't think so, but the sooner I am at the hotel the better,"
replies the girl.

"There comes John Craig. He has been talking with the officer in command
of the soldiers, and I guess has made some sort of arrangements for us."

What Aunt Gwen says is true enough, for John leads them to captured
horses, and ere long they are moving in the direction of Algiers,
escorted by a detachment of the zouaves on foot.

Their trials for the night are over, but they will never forget what
they have seen and endured. John is secretly fuming, as he ponders over
the facts. If he could only prove that Sir Lionel is the direct cause of
all this trouble, he would demand satisfaction from the Briton in some
shape. That is where the trouble lies, in proving it. What he has
learned thus far can be put down as only suspicions or hints, though
they look bad for the Briton.

If Lady Ruth has observed enough to open her eyes with regard to the
veteran soldier, John will call it quits.

A thought occurs to him, even as he rides toward Algiers, that causes
a grim smile to break out upon his face. It is a thought worthy of a
Richelieu--an idea brilliant with possibilities.

"Here are Sir Lionel and Pauline--two despairing people who long for the
unattainable. Why should they not be mated? It is perhaps possible, and
would be a master stroke of genius on my part. Jove! I'll see what I can
do! Great pity to have all the plotting on one side of the house."

From that hour John Craig devotes his whole mind to the accomplishment
of this purpose, for he sees the benefit of diplomacy.

This is the great idea that is struggling in his mind as he rides along.



CHAPTER XXI.

SHE CALLS HIM JOHN NOW.


When the news of the battle is known in Algiers, great excitement
abounds. There are many sympathizers of Bab Azoun among the native
population, and in some quarters their ugly teeth are shown; but France
has too secure a hold of Algeria not to be ready for such an emergency,
and her troops parade the streets, armed for battle.

Consequently no demonstration on the part of the natives is attempted.
Among the foreigners, and in the better circles of merchants and
traders, there is great rejoicing over the victory, for it has long been
dangerous to travel in the region of the coast because of the bold
forays of this same Bab Azoun. They hope his power will now be broken,
and that perhaps the outlaw himself may be dead.

In the morning our friends gather for breakfast. John alone is absent,
nor do they know what has become of him, for the clerk of the hotel
informs them that the Chicagoan was early astir.

He comes in before they are done eating, but volunteers no information
concerning his wanderings, so that they of course conclude he has only
been for a walk.

Sir Lionel seems rather shy. Most men upon making such a dismal failure
on two separate occasions, would probably be willing to give up the
game, but there is something of the bull-dog about Sir Lionel. He will
hold on until the end.

He fears John Craig has penetrated his schemes, and this makes him
assume a dogged air. Evidently he still clings to hope of ultimate
success.

As for Craig, he is undecided whether to call Sir Lionel a fool or a
knave, and is rapidly drifting to a belief that the Briton may be a
composite of both.

They have much to see in Algiers. Mosques, bazaars, and the remarkable
features that cluster about this famous resort. A thousand and one
things unite to charm a traveler who strikes Algiers in the winter time,
and they usually go hence with many regrets, and memories that will
never fade.

John watches his chance to speak to the girl at his side. He feels that
the time has come when he must tell her what he has in his heart--that
he loves her.

If she gives him his _conge_, he will go his way and try to forget; but
he has hopes of a different answer; eye speaks to eye, and there is a
language of the heart that needs not lips to proclaim it, a secret
telegraphy that brings together those who love. The touch of a hand
thrills as no other touch can, and the sound of a voice heard
unexpectedly causes the heart to almost cease beating.

At length he makes an opportunity, as only a bold and determined lover
can. They have gone in the street-cars to the terraced heights of
Mustapha Superieur, to visit a house which most tourists see--a house
with a remarkable history--and in departing, John and Lady Ruth somehow
are separated from the rest. The fault lies with him, because at the
last moment he proposed a final view of the wonderful scene spread out
below, to which Lady Ruth consented, and as the others boarded the
tram-car that would take them back to the city, John called out their
intention, and that they would join them later.

There is nothing singular about this, and yet Lady Ruth's cheeks turn
rosy as she hears Aunt Gwen's laugh, and stealing a glance over her
shoulder discovers that quaint individual shaking her finger out of the
car-window.

Upon a rustic seat the two rest. The grand panorama spread before them
charms the eye, and they feast upon the glorious scene. How blue the sea
appears, and the numerous sails are like splashes of white against the
deep background.

There lies Algiers in all her glory, modern structures almost side by
side with Mohammedan mosques, whose domes shine like great balls of gold
and whose minarets guard the sacred edifice like sentries thrown out in
the nature of defenses.

Who could gaze upon such a vision and not feel his heart stirred, must
indeed be dead to everything that appeals to the better senses.

John Craig, M.D., might ordinarily be set down as an enthusiastic lover
of nature, and such a scene when he first gazed upon it aroused the
deepest emotions in his artist heart; but strange to say he pays little
heed to what is before him now. It is what occupies the rustic seat in
common with John Craig that takes his whole attention.

How shall he say it. What words can he frame into an animated expression
of his feelings? It was all mapped out before, but the words have
utterly slipped his memory, as is always the case in such events.

He turns to Lady Ruth. Her hand is in her lap. He boldly reaches out and
takes it. There is only a feeble resistance. Their eyes meet, "Lady
Ruth, will you give me this hand?"

"You--I--what could you do with it?" she asks, turning rosy red.

"Well, to begin with--this," and he presses it passionately to his lips.

"Oh! Doctor Craig, what if some one should see you!" now struggling to
free her hand, which he holds firmly.

He laughs recklessly, this hitherto shy young man. Once in the affair,
he cares little for prying eyes, and indeed there is small chance of
any one noticing them in this retired spot, as there are no other
sight-seers around.

"I don't care who sees me. I've got to tell you what I'm sure you
already know, that I love you--I love you."

He leans forward and looks in her face, which is downcast. She has
ceased to struggle now, and her hand lies fluttering in his.

Such scenes as these the novelist has no business to linger over. The
emotions that are brought out at such a time should be sacred from the
public gaze.

John does not wait long for his answer, as Lady Ruth is a sensible girl,
and really cares a great deal more for this young man than she has been
ready to admit even to herself.

So she tells him that she is afraid she does take an uncommon interest
in his welfare, and that perhaps it would be as well for her to later on
assume such a position as will give her the right to watch over him.

So it is nicely settled, and John feels supremely happy, just as all
sincere and successful wooers have done from time immemorial.

After a short time John remembers that he meant to introduce a certain
subject, and putting aside his feelings of new-found joy--there will be
plenty of time for all that--he speaks of Sir Lionel.

"Now that you know I am not at all jealous, I want to talk about
another. Sir Lionel Blunt."

Her face lights up with a smile.

"Perhaps I can guess what you would say."

"It is about the affair last night."

"Poor Sir Lionel is rather quiet to-day. He is not so young as he was,
and I imagine that his severe exertions last night have caused him many
twinges to-day."

"Perhaps. It was the most remarkable affair I ever witnessed."

"You saw it all?"

"Yes. Mustapha and myself were in hiding not far away. We were astounded
at the easy way those fellows died."

At this Lady Ruth gives a merry peal of laughter.

"It was really ridiculous."

"Did you guess it at the time?"

"Well, certain things looked very strange to me. I was amazed as we were
leaving to see a man whom I was positive had twice fallen as if dead,
raise his head and look after us with a smile on his ugly face.

"Whatever I thought, I was so glad to get away on any terms that I said
nothing, and when the next engagement took place I found Sir Lionel very
much in earnest.

"On this account, although feeling sure that he was the cause of all the
trouble, I have been disposed to forgive him. You know the poor fellow
professes to be in love with me, though I have had some reason to
believe it is my fortune he is after as well, for my father
unfortunately left me an heiress."

"Well, I'm in a position to be generous, and though I condemn his
methods, I can easily see how, in his despair he might forget his honor.
I have good reason to believe this is not the first time he has tried to
play the hero."

Lady Ruth looks surprised.

"How is that?" she asks.

Thereupon John narrates what the boatman said to him off Malta,
concerning a broken plank in the bottom of the little craft, which of
course astonishes the young girl.

She shows some indignation at the thought of his imperiling her life.

"The joke of the whole thing lies in the fact that it was you who saved
the would-be hero of the occasion," remarks John, and this fact induces
both of them to laugh.

On the whole they feel so happy that it is hard to bear a grudge even
against the veteran who has been baffled by fate.

Lady Ruth cannot forget that Sir Lionel gave many evidences of being in
love with her, and a woman is apt to forgive even a fault in a man who
professes to have sinned for her, to have even given up honor in the
hope of winning her favor.

"I have arranged a little scheme whereby I hope to pay Sir Lionel back
in his own coin," says the young Chicagoan, grimly.

"Why, John, I thought you said just now that you could forgive him. Now
you pretend to be quite blood-thirsty."

"Oh, no; not that. I'm looking out for the poor fellow. He's gone it
alone quite long enough, and I want to see him caught."

"Caught? Explain, please. Perhaps I'm a little obtuse, but really, under
the circumstances--"

"Yes, I know. It's all excusable, my dear girl. In plain English I want
to see the veteran married."

"Married?"

"And I shall take upon myself the task of selecting the girl who will
rule him hereafter."

"John, what do you mean? Surely--oh, that is nonsense. Tell me who she
is?"

"Pauline Potter," calmly.

"Why, that's the actress."

"True."

"The actress who professed to be so madly in love with one Doctor John
Craig."

"And as the said Craig is already taken, she is left out in the cold.
Now you behold my little scheme. We are happy--why should not these two
people be the same?"

"Why, indeed?"

"Their greatest fault lies in loving not wisely but too well. This has
caused them to sin. Now, in order to prevent any future plots that may
give us trouble, I purpose to so arrange it that Sir Lionel shall have
a wife and Pauline a husband."

"A clever idea."

"I may want your assistance."

"You can have it at any time."

"We must protect ourselves, and the easiest way to do this will be to
disarm our foes."

"Really, Doctor Chicago, I didn't give you credit for so much
shrewdness. Tell me if you have any plans arranged."

"Well, only the skeleton of one as yet, but I'll tell you all about it
as far as I have gone."

They sit upon that bench for a full hour. Time is not taken into account
when love rules the occasion.

It is Lady Ruth who finally jumps up with a cry of consternation. She
has heard a clock upon a tower in new Algiers strike the hour.

"What will they think of us, John?" she says.

"Little I care, for I mean to announce our engagement to Aunt Gwen on
sight, and she is the only one who has any business to complain,"
returns the successful wooer, firmly.

"Oh! it is so sudden; perhaps we'd better wait a little while."

"With your permission, not an hour. You belong to me, now--see, let me
put this solitaire diamond on your finger. It was my mother's ring. By
that token I simply desire to warn all men 'hands off.' Tell me, am I
right, Ruth?"

"Yes; I can offer no objection. Do as you think best, doctor."

This is a beautiful beginning. Clouds will be rare in their future if
they keep on in this way.

So they once more go back to the hotel, and find Aunt Gwen on the
lookout, her kindly face wearing an anxious expression that becomes
a quizzical one when she sees John smile.

"Your blessing, Aunt Gwen," he says.

"My what?"

"Oh! it's all settled. Ruth has promised to be my wife," continues John,
looking very happy.

"The dickens she has!" and Philander pushes into view from behind the
voluminous skirts of his better half. "What business has she to accept
any one without consulting her doting--"

"Philander!"

"--Aunt? Don't take me seriously, my boy. Accept my congratulations, wish
you joy, and thank Heaven it isn't that pompous baronet."

"Amen!" says John, warmly.

"Now that you allow me a chance, Philander, I want to say just this: it
suits me to a dot. I'm delighted--enchanted. Of course you'll live in
Chicago. That's another blow against John Bull. We'll be mistress of the
seas yet. Here, let me kiss you both, my children, and take the blessing
of a woman who has not lived fifty years for nothing."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE WEAVER--FATE!


Even in the midst of his happiness John Craig has not forgotten the one
important fact that brought him to Algiers.

While he can devote himself to laying a plan for the accomplishment of a
certain object, and with the assistance of Lady Ruth arrange to surprise
Sir Lionel Blunt, he is at the same time anxiously awaiting news.

Will old Ben Taleb carry out his promise? The heart of the young man
beats high with hope.

Unconscious of a great surprise in store for him, John enters the hotel
with Lady Ruth.

"A gentleman in the parlor to see you, sir."

John's face flashes; the instantaneous thought flashes into his mind
that a messenger has at length come from the Moorish doctor.

He enters.

His eyes are dazzled a little by the glare of the sun on white
buildings, and the room is dim. A man's figure advances toward him.
Surely that step is familiar. Good heavens, what a shock comes upon him!

"Father!"

"John, my boy!"

He has believed this father to be at the other side of the world. He is
surprised at the warmth of the greeting he receives. Really, this is
quite unlike the proud man John has known all his life, a man who
seemed to ever surround himself with a wall of coldness.

A sudden shock runs through John's frame. It is as if he has been given
the negative and positive ends of a battery. He believes that his mother
is here, in this city. Can that have anything to do with his father's
coming?

A feeling of resentment springs up, then dies away as he gets a good
look at his parent's face.

"Father, what has happened? Have you failed; has any disaster come upon
us?"

"Why do you ask that, John?"

"Your face; it is changed so. I miss something I have been accustomed to
see there."

Duncan Craig smiles.

"Ah! John, my boy, please Heaven, I am changed. I have been humbled in
the dust, and I believe I have emerged from the furnace, I trust, a far
better man."

John is puzzled. He cannot make out what has caused this humbling on the
part of his proud paternal ancestor, nor is he able to hazard a guess as
to the effect it may have upon his fortunes.

Craig, Sr., does not explain what brings him to Algiers at this
particular time, but immediately starts asking questions regarding the
scenes John has gazed upon since leaving the German college of medicine
where he received his graduation diploma.

While they are yet talking, who should appear on the scene but Lady
Ruth.

"You carried off my fan, John, and I wanted to mend it while I had the
chance. Oh! I beg your pardon; I did not know you were engaged. The
clerk told me you were in here, but--"

John has eagerly darted forward and has hold of the fair girl's arm.

"I want to introduce some one to you, some one you would see sooner or
later. Sir, this is Lady Ruth Stanhope, a young lady to whom I have lost
my heart, and my promised wife."

"What!" exclaimed Craig, Sr., "bless my soul, you're only a boy, John."

"Twenty-three, sir," promptly.

"Yes, you're right. Time flies. You've given me quite a little shock,
but, by Jove! I'm already favorably impressed with your taste. Will you
allow me the privilege of a kiss, my dear?"

"Sir!" indignantly, for in the dim light she does not see that his
mustache is snow-white, as is also his hair.

Her tragic attitude rather alarms John.

"Ruth, it's my father!" he cries.

This alters the case.

"Your father! Oh! John, has he--" She sees the warning finger her
betrothed raises up, and stops suddenly, for she has been about to say
something relative to the presence of Sister Magdalen in the city.

The elder Craig raises the shade, and in the new light Lady Ruth sees a
remarkably handsome man of middle age, even distinguished in his manner.

Then he is John's father, too, and that makes quite a difference. She
approaches, with hand extended.

"Forgive me, sir. I did not dream John's father was within five thousand
miles of Algiers."

"And if you have agreed to be my only boy's wife you must be my
daughter, too."

This time he bestows a paternal salute upon her velvety cheek. Possibly
Lady Ruth is ready to believe she is entering the Craig family very
rapidly; but with a woman's idea of the eternal fitness of small things,
she feels very much pleased to know that her future father-in-law is
such a distinguished-looking gentleman.

As is proper, she excuses herself, and leaves the room. Doubtless father
and son have much to talk over.

When John finds himself alone with the parent for whom he has ever felt
the greatest respect without deep filial affection, he grows anxious
again.

What can have brought the other across the sea at this particular time?
Is it connected with the facts he cherishes; the presence of this other
one in Algiers? and if so, what does Duncan Craig mean to do; cut him
off with a penny because he has dared allow the longing in his heart to
have its way, and has endeavored to find the mother so long lost?

When he steals another look at the elder Craig's face, he cannot see
that there is anything like deep anger there, and yet John admits that
he is not a good hand at analyzing motives.

He dares not mention the matter himself, and is therefore bound to wait
until his respected father speaks, if he does so at all.

Craig, Sr., talks of his trip, declares he is delighted with the glimpse
he has had of Algiers, and wonders how it would pay a good doctor to
settle down there for the winter months; at which John declares it would
just suit him.

Then the other drops a gentle clew to his late movements by asking John
which arm it was upon which he was recently vaccinated, which is a
puzzler to the young fellow until the name of Malta is mentioned, when
he cries:

"Were you at Valetta, father?"

"I reached there two days after you left. Bless me, the whole town was
still talking over a brave deed that had recently saved a child's life."

"Nonsense!"

"Well, it pleased me when I heard the name of the young man who saved
the child at the risk of his own life. I was proud to know I was his
father."

Still no mention of the real cause that has brought him so far from
home. John is baffled.

His recent happiness is dimmed a little, and he has an uneasy feeling as
though the unknown were about to happen; a weight rests upon his heart.

A strange thing occurs. Sir Lionel passes the door, and immediately
Craig, Sr., is taken with a spasm of fury. He acts as if to start to
rush out, then faces his son. John sees his father's face for the first
time convulsed with fury.

"Do you know that man?" he demands.

"Certainly."

"Is his name Blunt?"

"Yes, sir."

"I thought I could not be mistaken. There is something singular that
brings him here at this time. John, is this Reginald Blunt a particular
friend of yours?"

"Why, no, sir, in fact, he was my rival for the hand of Ruth Stanhope.
But you call him Reginald; this is Sir Lionel Blunt, a colonel from
India and the south of Africa."

"Then I made a mistake. It is his cousin. Yet I knew the face; I knew
the face."

Again John wonders.

"Did a Blunt ever do you a wrong, father?"

"Yes, I have believed so these many years; have been ready to stake my
very life upon it; and yet, and yet. Heaven forgive me for what wicked
thoughts I have hugged to my heart."

These words arouse a wild hope in the mind of John Craig. Can it be
possible his father has after all these years seen light?

The idea is so wonderful that, although hope causes his heart to beat
like a trip-hammer, he remains silent. When the time comes, Craig, Sr.,
will speak; he knows this of old.

Later on, when John finds himself alone, he begins to think again of the
little scheme he has decided to work, for the edification of himself and
the future good of Sir Lionel Blunt--ditto Mademoiselle Pauline, the
tragedy queen.

It must be well carried out to produce the intended effect, for these
are more than ordinarily sensible people and might resent the
interference of outsiders in their private affairs.

Whatever happens must not appear to have been prearranged, but be purely
accidental.

Perhaps success may come; it is worth an effort at any rate.

John fears more than ever lest Pauline, in the bitterness of her anger,
attempt some injury toward the girl he loves and who has made the sweet
confession that he is very dear to her.

This causes him much more uneasiness than anything else ever did. He can
feel afraid for the safety of Ruth where he would not dream of allowing
the sensation on his own account.

Hence his anxiety to mature his plans and clear the path ahead.

In the perfected work he believes he can count on the assistance of
Mustapha Cadi. The Arab guide has already proved himself so valuable
a man that John is ready to trust him with nearly anything.

So he waits to hear of some message from the old Moorish doctor, and
while waiting begins to arrange in his mind the plans for a future
campaign.

Pauline is still at the hotel, for he has had a glimpse of her. The
actress does not seem very much discouraged by the disasters of the
past. She smiles on meeting John, and nods in a cheery way, as though
giving him to understand that she is not done with him yet. He feels
that he can afford to meet her in the same spirit, although anxious
about his Ruth.

Fortune favors him, too.

The British nobleman happens to be standing near as Pauline sweeps past,
and as is her professional habit she gives him a bright look, that
somehow starts the blood to bounding in the veteran's veins.

He approaches John.

"Pardon me, but did you bow to that lady, my dear doctor?"

John admits that he did, though careful not to show any unusual
eagerness about it.

"May I ask who she is?"

"Come! this is rather singular."

"What is?"

"Why, truth to tell, I believe the lady is already interested in you."

"In me?"

Sir Lionel at once puffs out a little, as though feeling consequential.
It is gratifying to his conceit to hear that this beautiful being has
actually taken notice of him.

"Well, it would not be right for me to say more," continues the
diplomatic young man, and this increases the curiosity of the soldier.

"Who is she, doctor?"

"One of the most noted beauties on the American stage," replies John.

"An actress?"

"Yes, and a clever one; very popular in the States, and highly
respected. Why, she set half the young men in Chicago wild a year
or two ago."

"Including yourself, doctor?" slyly.

"I acknowledge the corn, Sir Lionel. Young men have no show to win her
favor."

"Indeed."

"She prefers a gentleman of middle age. A man who has seen life and had
varied experiences."

"Wise girl."

"In short, Sir Lionel, Pauline Potter is an admirer of bravery; she
adores a soldier who has won his spurs."

"Ahem! Pauline is a favorite name of mine. I've read of her triumphs,
too. She was out in Melbourne two years or more ago and carried the town
by storm."

"That is a fact."

"Duse take it, d'ye know what I've half a mind to do?"

"What's that, Sir Lionel?" asks John, with a very sober face, but
secretly chuckling at the success that is meeting him half-way. Why,
he has hardly dug his pit before the baronet comes tumbling into it.

"I've a good notion to strike up a flirtation with Mademoiselle Pauline,
to relieve the tedium of the hours. Who knows what result it might
have?" thinking that perhaps such a move might arouse a feeling of
jealousy in Lady Ruth's heart, and thus disclose to herself the state
of her feelings.

"Who knows, indeed? Be careful, Sir Lionel. Pauline is a bewitching
creature. She may add your heart to her list of conquests."

"Well, if I entered the lists, I'd give as good as I received,"
complacently stroking his luxuriant mustache.

"Jove! I really believe you would. And I'm human enough, having adored
the bright star in vain, to wish that some one else might cause the
beautiful Pauline to feel some of the pangs she gave us. If the notion
strikes you, colonel, I wish you success."

Then John immediately branches out upon another subject.

The seed is sown. It will require a little time to germinate, and then
perhaps the result may prove satisfactory.

So much for a beginning.

When John finds himself alone, he sets to work trying to kindle a
counter irritant, a congenial flame that will burn in the heart of the
actress.

Securing a beautiful bouquet of flowers he fastens to them a card upon
which he has written in a hand somewhat like the bold chirography of the
veteran, the words:

"A compliment to beauty and histrionic renown."

This he first shows to Lady Ruth.

Then a servant is hired to take it to the room of Pauline Potter, and he
is to utterly refuse any information beyond the fact that a gentleman
paid him to do it.

Of course this will excite the curiosity of the actress, and further
developments may soon be expected.

John, in a secure corner, waits, nor does he have long to watch before
Pauline appears, going straight to the desk where lies the ponderous
tome in which have registered men of note from all over the world.

She is looking for a signature that will in some degree at least
correspond with the writing of the note found among the flowers. Only a
few minutes she remains there, and then turning away, gives the watchful
John a chance to see the smile on her face.

Pauline has, as she believes, discovered the identity of the unknown who
sent the flowers.

The little side plot works apace, since each of them already feels an
interest in the other. The flame being kindled, the fire will grow of
its own accord.

He believes he can turn his attention to other things if necessary.

The remainder of the day is put in with sight-seeing. John notes one
thing. Sir Lionel leaves them after a time and saunters back to the
hotel. When this occurs, Lady Ruth and the doctor exchange significant
looks. They understand that already the seed is beginning to sprout, and
the absence of the Englishman is a positive relief to them.

Duncan Craig accompanies the party. Aunt Gwen has already taken a great
fancy to the gentleman, and makes it as pleasant for him as possible.

John tries to study his father in secret, but finds it a hard task.

Craig, Sr., is a lawyer of repute in Chicago, a man with a large income.
He has been called a Sphinx, and well deserves the cognomen, for no man
shows less upon his face the emotions of his heart.

Only in debate, and when addressing a jury that hangs breathlessly upon
his words, does he drop the mask and show what fire is in his soul.

So John, as in times of old, is unable to fathom the depths of his
father's thoughts.

He is wretched, not knowing whether the coming of Craig, Sr., will
influence his mission for good or evil.

And still the expected message from Ben Taleb does not come.

Once more evening vails day's splendor, and another night approaches, a
night that John hopes will make a change in this monotonous run of luck,
and bring him news.

Imagine his astonishment and secret delight when an open carriage stops
at the door of the hotel, and as he glances at the elegant couple seated
therein discovers Sir Lionel and the Potter.

It almost takes his breath away.

"Well, he is a hurricane in love, I declare. If he fought in the same
way, the Victoria cross wouldn't be enough to decorate him. Jove! they
already are dead set, each with the other. That was the cleverest piece
of business I ever attempted. If success comes, I'll have to set up as a
match-maker."

How gallantly Sir Lionel assists the lovely actress from the vehicle, as
if he expects that the whole town may be watching.

Doubtless his actions are in part studied with a view to the effect upon
a certain person, nameless, who must assuredly be looking from her
chamber window above.

In that case he is apt to go too far, and soon find himself in the
wiles of Pauline, who, accustomed to playing with men as one might the
pieces on a chess-board, would have little trouble in manipulating one
Englishman, fresh from the wilds of South Africa.

So John rests on his oars and waits for the chance to come; and the
unseen hand that weaves the fabric of their lives, manipulates the
shuttle through the woof.



CHAPTER XXIII.

FOUND--IN THE HOUSE OF THE MOOR.


John hears at last.

A native servant brings him a note, and it can be set down as positive
that the young Chicagoan eagerly breaks the seal.

It is from Ben Taleb. He writes a fair English hand, for he is a man of
much education.

"Come again this night at eleven. Tell Mustapha to be at the wall where
you departed from my house, at that hour, and to rap upon the large
stone with the handle of his knife, giving the signal of Mahomet's tomb.

"Ben Taleb, of Morocco."

So John's heart thrills with expectation. This looks friendly; he may be
near the end of his journey. It is still dark and uncertain ahead, for
even when he has found his mother, a reconciliation between these
separated parents seems impossible. The past has too much of bitterness
in it to be easily put aside.

His first thought is of Mustapha, and he casts around for the Arab, whom
he last saw close by the door of the hotel.

The dusky courier is near by, engaged in a little game with several
companion guides, for the Arab as a rule loves gaming, and will risk
everything but his horse.

When Mustapha catches his eye he comes up hastily, understanding there
is something in the wind.

"We are to go again into the old town."

"When, monsieur?"

"This night. See! Ben Taleb has sent me a message."

The Arab looks at the paper stolidly; it might as well be Sanscrit to
him.

"Read it, monsieur."

So John complies, and his guide takes in all that is said. He nods his
head to show that he understands.

"This time I, too, will change my appearance, and they will not know
that it is Mustapha Cadi who walks through the lanes of old Al Jezira
with an unbeliever at his side."

"A bright thought, Mustapha. When shall we leave the hotel?"

"Say half past nine, meet me here. I will have all arranged. The
_burnoose_ is safe."

John prepares for business.

He remembers that on the previous occasion he had need of weapons--that
they came very near an encounter with the natives--and hence arms
himself.

Before quitting the hotel he feels it incumbent upon himself to see Lady
Ruth, and tell her where he is going. Nothing like beginning early, you
know. She has already commenced to control his destiny.

Lady Ruth has a headache, and is bathing her brow with cologne in the
privacy of her little boudoir parlor, but readily consents to see the
young man.

"You'll think me a fright, John, with my hair brushed back like
this"--John stops this in a thrice as any ardent lover might, taking
advantage of the professor's absence, and the fact that Aunt Gwen has
gone back in the second room for another chair--"but once in a great
while I have a headache that will only succumb to a certain process. You
will excuse me?"

"Indeed, I sympathize with you; have had the same splitting headache
myself more than a few times. I wouldn't have intruded--"

"You know it's no intrusion, John," with reproach in her eyes.

"Kind of you to say so, my dear, but to the point I have heard from Ben
Taleb."

"Oh! your face tells me it is good news."

"I am to visit him at ten."

"To-night?"

"Yes."

"But John, the danger. You yourself told me it was no little thing to
enter old Al Jezira in the night. Those narrow lanes, with strange
figures here and there, eying one fiercely; the houses that threaten to
topple over on one's head; all these things make it a risky place to
wander in even during the daytime. After dark it must be awful."

So John describes the plan of action, and interests his affianced, who
asks more questions about his former visit, not forgetting the marvelous
beauty of the Moor's daughter, for she is human.

Time flies under such circumstances, and hence it is John suddenly
exclaims:

"I declare, it's after nine o'clock."

"And my headache is gone."

At this both laugh.

"You must be a wizard, John, to charm it away so completely," she
declares.

"I trust I shall always be as successful in the days to come," breathes
John, and this of course causes a blush to sweep over the fair maid's
face.

He hurries to his room to prepare for what is before him. Deep in his
heart arises a prayer for success. Again that feeling of anticipation
sweeps over him. Remembering former disappointments, he endeavors to
subdue his hopes and to prepare for another set back, but this does not
prevent him at times from indulging in dreams of happiness.

It is just half-past nine when he reaches the door of the hotel.

Mustapha Cadi is there, looking confident and bearing a small bundle.
Again, in a dark corner, John assumes an Arab covering, while his
conductor proceeds to alter his own looks so that any whom they meet may
not know who the tall Arab is.

So they tread the lanes of the hill-side town. Just as on the previous
night, they meet Arabs, Moors, Kabyles, Jews and negroes. The silence is
like that of the tomb, and yet the interior of more than one house
doubtless presents a spectacle gay enough to please any lover of light
and color, of lovely women, of rippling fountains, sweet flowers that
load the air with their incense, and all the accessories a Moorish court
can devise, for these people, while keeping the exterior of their
dwellings plain, spend money lavishly upon the interior.

Now they are at the wall, and Mustapha gives the signal clearly; indeed,
John fancies the hilt of the knife meets the stone with more force than
is necessary, or else his ears deceive him.

The signal is heard, is answered, and in another minute they are inside
the wall.

As they walk along behind their guide John whispers to the Arab:

"On my word, I believe the fellow neglected to quite secure the door in
the wall," to which remark Mustapha replies in low tones:

"Presumably he knows his business, monsieur; anyhow, it concerns us not
at all."

Which John takes as a gentle reminder that these Arabs are very
particular not to interfere with things that belong to another.

He says no more.

They reach the central room, opening upon the court where plashes the
fountain.

The guide stops.

Upon the scented air comes the notes of a musical instrument, a mandolin,
and the chords are peculiarly sad and yet so very full of music.

Then a voice breaks forth--such singing John has heard only in his
dreams--it is a voice of wondrous power, sympathetic and sweet, a voice
that would haunt a man forever.

John knows no Moorish maidens can sing that song, and his heart gives a
wild throb as the conviction is suddenly forced upon him that at last,
after these weary years of waiting, after his search over half the
world, he is now listening to the voice that hushed his infantile cries,
and fell upon his ears like a benison.

No wonder, then, he stands there as if made of stone--stands and drinks
in the sweet volume of sound as it floods that Moorish court, until the
last note dies away as might the carol of a bird at even-tide.

Then he swallows a sob, and braces himself for the coming ordeal.
Something behind reaches his ear. He is positive he catches a deep groan
as of despair; perhaps it comes from some cage, where this Moorish
judge has an enemy in confinement.

He is not given a chance to speculate upon the subject. His guide
touches his arm and points. John discovers that his presence has already
been made known to the Moor.

He is expected to come forward. Under the circumstances, the young man
is in no condition for delay. That song, that heavenly voice, has gone
straight to his heart, and he longs to look upon the face of the sweet
singer.

So he advances, not slowly and with any show of dignity, but in the
eager way that does credit to his heart.

He sees a figure in black, seated near the old Moor, and instantly his
eyes are glued upon that face.

Then his heart tells him he now looks upon the face of the mother who
has been lost to him so long.

Does she know? has she received his note, or is her presence here simply
at the desire of her friend, the old Moor? She does not show any intense
excitement as he approaches, and this tends to make him believe she has
been kept in ignorance of the truth.

The Mohammedan doctor and his lovely daughter watch his advance with
deep interest, for they are human, and take pleasure in a good deed
done. The Koran commends it just as thoroughly as does our Bible. At the
same time slaves are in waiting near by, armed with deadly cimeters, and
should it prove that John has deceived them, that the Sister does not
greet him with love, but fear, because he bears the name of Craig, a
signal from Ben Taleb will be the signing of his death warrant.

John fastens his eyes hungrily upon the face he now sees. He stands
distant only a yard or so, and as yet has not uttered a syllable, only
waiting to see if his burning gaze, his looks of eager love and
devotion, will have a miraculous effect on his parent.

As he stands thus mutely before her, she becomes aware of his presence
for the first time. She looks up at his face, the casual glance becomes
immediately a stare; her cheeks grow pale as death; it is evident that
something has aroused memories of the past, and they flood her soul.

Slowly the woman arises. Her figure is slight, but there is a nobility
about it. Purity is written upon her brow, in her eyes shines the light
of faith that dares to look the whole world in the face. And before a
word is spoken John Craig knows his mother has been dreadfully wronged
in the past, suffering in silence because of some noble motive.

She has gained her feet, and now advances, walking like one in a dream,
her hands outstretched. No wonder; it is like a phantasy, this seeing a
loved face of the past in the home of a Moor in Algiers. She must indeed
think it an illusion.

Now her hand touches John's face. Imagine the intense thrill that sweeps
over his frame at the impact. Soul speaks to soul, heart answers heart.

The woman begins to tremble. The look of frightened wonder upon her face
gives way to one of astonishment.

"It is no illusion! Alive! Oh, what does this mean? Where am I? Who are
you?"

Thus the broken sentences fell from her lips, as though she hardly knows
what she says.

John can only think of one reply, and as he puts out his hands, his
whole heart is contained in the whispered words:

"Oh, my mother!"

This seems to break the spell. In another instant she has eagerly
clasped her arms around his neck.

"Heaven be praised; my prayer is answered. My child has sought me out."

It is the magic power of love.

John's face tells his great joy. Words are denied them for some little
time, but with brimming eyes they gaze into each other's face.

"Oh! mother, I have searched for you in many lands. For years I have
longed to see you, to tell you that my heart believed in you. By the
kindness of Heaven, that time has come."

"And you, my own boy, you believe me innocent, worthy of your love,
though the world called me guilty?" she murmurs.

"Yes, because of the great love I bear you, I would believe it against
all. Oh! my mother, how barren my life has been, without your
companionship, your love. Many, many nights I have wept bitter tears of
anguish to think of you somewhere upon the face of the earth, wandering
alone, because of circumstantial evidence."

Again from the darkness beyond the court, comes that deep, terrible
groan. The old Moor turns his head as though he does not understand it;
but the tableau in front is too dramatic to be lost.

"I began to believe I should have to quit this world of woes without
seeing you, for though I do not wish to disturb your happiness, my poor
boy, you must see from my looks that I am fading like a flower in the
fall; that the monster, consumption, is sapping my life. Still, I may
live some years to enjoy your love; be of good cheer. How strange to see
you a man grown, you whom I left almost a babe. And, John, you so
closely resemble, as I knew him then, your father, my poor deceived
Duncan, whom Heaven knows I have never ceased to remember with love; who
wronged me terribly, but the circumstances were fearfully against me.
Heaven has purified my heart by suffering."

"I can stand this no longer!" cries a voice, and a man rushes into view,
advancing until he stands before them. "My eyes have been opened to the
truth. In bitter tears I repent the sorrowful past. Blanche, behold your
husband, unworthy to kiss the hem of your garment."



CHAPTER XXIV.

CONCLUSION.


John has been so amazed at the sight of this newcomer that he can not
move a hand or foot. He immediately recognizes his father, of course,
but the fact of Duncan Craig being present in this place is what
temporarily paralyzes him.

The coming of the other creates a decided sensation; it can be easily
understood. Upon the unfortunate wife and mother the effect is most
marked.

Many years have passed since last she saw this man, her husband.
Circumstances caused her to incur his apparently righteous anger, to
be sent out into the world as one unworthy to bear his name.

All this she has borne meekly, doing good wherever Heaven chose to send
her. The terrible infliction has tried her soul, and she has been
purified as by fire.

After this life suffering she now finds this husband at her feet. His
proud spirit is broken, and he seeks forgiveness.

She has long since learned to put away the ordinary small feelings that
actuate so many of her sex; but being still human, she cannot but feel
gratified at the vindication that has come.

John holds his breath and awaits the outcome of this strange event. He
remembers the sudden rage of the old Moor on the previous occasion, when
he told him he was a Craig, and fully expects to hear something from the
same source again.

Nor is he mistaken.

Ben Taleb has been listening intently, and not a word of what has
passed escapes his ear. He catches the confession of the man who humbles
himself, and his eyes blaze.

Almost immediately he claps his hands, and half a dozen armed retainers
make their appearance, springing from some unknown quarter.

"You have dared enter my house. You, a Craig, who brought years of
suffering upon the woman we revere. It is well. Allah has sent you here.
Mohammed is satisfied to leave you to our hands. I will be merciful, as
the hyena is merciful. Instead of having you torn to pieces I will order
you shot. You will learn that a Moor knows how to avenge the wrongs of
one for whom he entertains feelings of gratitude."

His words are cutting and cruel, and John, expecting every second to see
the slaves make their savage assault upon his father, holds himself in
readiness to jump forward and assist him.

The situation is indeed critical.

It looks as though a very trifling matter would precipitate a riot, in
which deadly weapons must be used.

Duncan Craig has made a terrible mistake in his past. He has been known
as a cold, proud man, though much of this has been assumed in order to
deceive himself. Yet no one ever called him a coward.

He knows that bodily danger menaces him, and as a soldier his spirit is
at once in arms.

Springing to his feet, he faces the old Moor.

His arms are folded. Upon his face can be seen a defiant light.

"I have entered your house, Ben Taleb, unarmed, bent upon a mission of
love. To humble myself. You may have the power to crush me. I have done
what I believed to be right just as soon as the light of truth entered
my soul. The consequences may be disastrous, but I am ready to meet
them."

The old Moor is struck by his manner, but, still moved by the passion
that swept over him at mention of that name, he does not allow his anger
to abate a particle.

"Because of the past you shall suffer. You have ruined the life of this
woman, whose only fault was in loving you, a base, heartless dog. Say
your prayers, wretched man, for you have but a few minutes to live."

He faces his judge calmly. An American can meet death with even the
stoicism so characteristic of the Moslem race.

The terrible sentence has awakened one who has seemed to be in a stupor.
Sister Magdalen arouses herself. The old feelings within her heart are
not dead; they have only been slumbering all this while.

She steps between Duncan Craig and the Moor, her face shining with a new
light. She raises her hand as if to ward off the impending blow, and her
voice is sweet and gentle.

"Ali Ben Taleb, great is thy house and the blessings of Allah hang over
it. I understand the motive that prompts you to thus undertake to avenge
what you think are my wrongs. But you must halt. I demand a hearing."

"Speak on; my ears are open to your voice. You saved my child from the
pestilence that stalketh at noon day, and the heart of Ben Taleb has
been full of gratitude ever since," replies the dignified native doctor.

"First, then, hear that, though I thought I should die when I no longer
had a home in my husband's house, my eyes were speedily opened, and I
saw that Heaven was using me as an instrument to bring about good. So I
learned to be patient. Confident of my innocence, I could calmly await
the time when the truth would be made known. That hour, Ali Ben Taleb,
has come.

"The second point, which I particularly desire to impress upon your
mind, is this: You are pleased to say that I was instrumental in
snatching your beloved child from the jaws of death. Be it so. Consider,
then, what would have been the result had this misfortune never happened
to me, if I had always remained in my husband's home."

"Great is Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet, but I fear I should have
lost my child," declares the Moor.

"You see the ways of Allah are past finding out. I have long since
learned to trust myself to the guidance of a power stronger than human
arms.

"You talk of avenging my wrongs, but time has already done that. The
result you see here in the actions of my husband. If I forgive him
freely and fully, what right have you or any other person to hate him
and declare vengeance? Does your Koran teach that; did Mohammed
propagate such doctrines?"

The old Moor hangs his head.

"It is not for Ben Taleb to go against the will of the one who saved his
child. Take, then, his miserable life, oh, remarkable woman; and as for
me, I have learned a lesson."

Again he claps his hands, and the armed retainers disappear. Peace once
more smiles upon the scene.

Sister Magdalen turns to her husband, and they converse in low tones,
yet with an earnestness that leaves no room for doubt of their sincerity.

Presently John sees his father motion, and he joins them.

"My boy, your mother has forgiven me. Heaven knows I do not merit such
action, but she is an earthly angel. And I want to ask you if you can
also forgive me, because through my actions you have all these years
been deprived of a mother's love?"

His contrite manner, his dejected attitude--these things would go far
toward influencing John even were his heart hardened toward the
unfortunate author of all this misery, which it is not.

"Ah! father, with such an example before me how could I entertain hard
feelings? The past is gone. Why should we live in it. Better that we
look forward toward the future and endeavor to find happiness. You know
Heaven works in a mysterious way, and much good has come to the world at
large through our suffering."

"Then you do forgive, my boy?"

"There is nothing to forgive, sir. Let us strive to forget the past and
hope that years of happiness may be before us."

"Ah! John, you have her spirit," sighs his father, as he wrings his
boy's hand.

Sister Magdalen smiles sweetly and sadly, for she knows full well that
their time together in this world will be short. She does not wish to
cast a damper on their present joy, however, and hence says nothing.

The Moor has been greatly impressed by all this. He learns a lesson in
life, for, as a rule, the female element in oriental circles has very
little to do with the events that occur from day to day, and never
engage in any of the discussions upon the leading questions of the hour.

Later on the little party leave the house of Ali Ben Taleb. Their
passage through the streets is accomplished in safety, for the Moor sees
to it that all are well disguised.

John never learns the truth about the coming of his father. He has
reason to believe that Mustapha Cadi must have entered into some
arrangement of the older Craig, after hearing his story, although the
stolid face of the Arab never betrays his secret.

When Lady Ruth learns that the end has come, and John's quest is at an
end, she rejoices with him.

Another day in Algiers.

Then a steamer will be due, upon which they can take passage for France,
and later on reach America.

Duncan Craig is very subdued, and intensely devoted to his recovered
wife. They have long conversations alone, and all that has passed in the
years of their separation is told. Craig opens his heart and reveals his
inmost feelings. He tells how he suffered in spirit while showing a
proud face to the world, and finally how he came to learn the truth.

John becomes interested in the courtship of Sir Lionel, who, finding his
ardent affection returned, pursues his game with such intensity of
purpose that he wins.

Seeing them come out of a church that afternoon, Doctor Chicago is
influenced to enter, and to his particular gratification learns that a
ceremony has just been performed that effectually removes both of them
from his track.

When he tells this to Lady Ruth that lively young lady is greatly
pleased, and laughs again and again. Thus all obstacles crumble before
the path of true love. Their skies are sunny and bright with hope.

Duncan Craig's wife has not become united with an order in bonds that
are indissoluble. She changes her garb, but her heart has become so
wedded to the work that the probabilities are she will finish her life
in the sweet service of charity; and Craig, filled with penitence and
newly awakened love, will be only too glad to follow her everywhere,
seconding by his money, her efforts.

John means to fling his shingle to the breeze, and start upon the road
of life as a full-fledged doctor. His German education will push him
forward, for their system is more thorough than the American, and few
there are who come out at twenty-three.

He will be separated from Miss Caprice a few months, but she is coming
over to see the World's Fair, and remain. Thus Chicago gains though
England loses.

With their departure from Algiers on the steamer, we may as well bid
them adieu. On board they meet Sir Lionel and his wife, of whom he is at
present very proud, but they keep by themselves, for each has a secret
that is not for the other to know.


THE END.





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