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.”
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.