“Atcha!” said I, going close to him.
He did not answer a word, but shouldered his rifle and marched off. Before he had gone six paces he brought the rifle to the trail, and started running. Another Sikh—a younger man—stepped out of the shadow and took his place on the lower step. He was not quite so silent, and he knew at least one word of Arabic.
“Imshi!” he grunted; and that, in plain U.S. American, means “Beat it!”
I had no objection. It sounded rather like good advice. Remembering what Grim had said about the danger I was running, and looking at the deep black shadows of the streets, it occurred to me that that spy, who slept so soundly by the mosque door, might wake up and be annoyed with himself. When men of that type get annoyed they generally like to work it off on somebody.
Rather, than admit that he had let me get away from him he might prefer to track me through the streets and use his knife on me in some dark corner. After that he could claim credit with Noureddin Ali by swearing he had reason to suspect me of something or other. The suggestion did not seem any more unreal to me than the moonlit panorama of the Haram-es-Sheriff, or the Sikh who had stepped out of nowhere-at-all to “Imshi” me away.
On the other hand, I had no fancy for the hotel steps. To sit and fall asleep there would be to place myself at the mercy of the other two spies, who might come and search me; and I was conscious of certain papers in an inner pocket, and of underclothes made in America, that might have given the game away.
Besides, I was no longer any too sure of Suliman. The boy was so sleepy that his wits were hardly in working order; if those two spies by the hotel were to question him he might betray the two of us by some clumsy answer. If there was to be trouble that night I preferred to have it at the hands of Sikhs, who are seldom very drastic unless you show violence. I might be arrested if I walked the streets, but that would be sheer profit as compared to half-a-yard of cold knife in the broad of my back.
“Take me to the house where you talked with your mother,” I said to Suliman.
So we turned to the left and set off together in that direction, watched with something more than mild suspicion by the Sikh, and, if Suliman’s sensations were anything like mine, feeling about as cheerless, homeless and aware of impending evil as the dogs that slunk away into the night. I took advantage of the first deep shadow I could find to walk in, less minded to explore than to avoid pursuit.
“But we’re ready for them.”
Without in the least suspecting it I had gone straight into a blind trap, into which, it was true, I could not be followed by Noureddin Ali’s spy, but out of which there was no escape without being recognized. The moment I stepped into the deep shadow I heard an unmistakable massed movement behind me. Sure that I could not be seen, I faced about. A platoon of Sikhs had appeared from somewhere, and were standing at ease already, across the end of the street I had entered, with the moonlight silvering their bayonets.