The man’s strength was prodigious, although he was puffy and short-winded. It began to look as if we would have to knock him on the head to get control of him. But even so, there was no rope—no sign of Mahommed ben Hamza and his men. You can think of a lot of things while you fight for your life eighty miles away from help. I wondered whether Grim would throw him over the parapet, and whether we two would have to take our chance of mountaineering down that ragged corner of the wall.
But suddenly about a hundred and eighty pounds of human brawn landed feet-first on my back. A voice said “Taib,* Jimgrim!” and two other men jumped after him from somewhere on the ruined wall above us. In another second Abdul Ali was held hand and foot, tied until he could not move, and then a wheat-sack was pulled down over his head and made fast between his legs. [All right.]
“You’re late!” said Grim. “Quick! Where’s the rope? Are your men below?”
The thundering on the door had ceased. Either they were coming up the steps already, or had gone to reach the parapet some other way. It did not occur to me, or for that matter to any of us in the excitement of the minute, that they might be holding a consultation below, or might even have abandoned the idea of following, although I think now that must be the explanation, for what we did took more time than it takes to set it down.
Ben Hamza made one end of the rope fast around Abdul Ali’s feet. He would not listen to argument. He said he knew his business, and certainly the knot was workmanlike. Then he called over the parapet (an Arab never whistles) and a voice answered from the southern side of the moat, where some fallen stones cast a shadow. Then the three of them lifted Abdul Ali over, and lowered him head-first.
It was a slow business, for otherwise he would have been stunned against the first projection. I thought that Grim looked almost as nervous as I felt, but Mahommed ben Hamza was having the time of his life, and could not keep his tongue still.
“Head upwards a man can yell,” he explained to me, grinning from ear to ear. “Feet upwards, too afraid to yell!” Then the thundering on the door began again, louder than before it seemed to me. They were using a battering-ram. But they were too late. After what seemed like a long-drawn hour we saw shadowy arms below reach up and seize our prisoner. Then the loose rope came up again hand over hand.
“You next!” said Grim quietly. He pushed me forward, after carefully examining the loop Mahommed ben Hamza tied in the end of the rope.
“Money doesn’t weigh much!”
Well—you don’t stand on precedence or ceremony at times like that. Over I went in the bight of the rope. They let me fall about fifteen feet before they seemed to realize that I had let go of the parapet. Added to all that had gone before, that made about the climax of sensation. The pain of barking the skin of knees and elbows against projecting angles of stone was a relief.