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.
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.”