It had all followed upon acquaintance with the one-eyed man.
Taciturn in the beginning and suspicious of Billy’s questionings, that dark-skinned individual had at first betrayed abyssmal ignorance of all save the virtues of stuffed crocodiles, but convinced at last that this was no trap, but a genuine situation from which he could profit, his greed overcame his native caution, and through the aid of his jerky English and Billy’s jagged Arabic a certain measure of confidence was exchanged.
The one-eyed man then recollected that he had noticed a Turkish officer and an American girl returning together to the hotel upon that Wednesday afternoon. He had stared, because truly it was amazing, even for American madness—and also the young girl was beautiful. “A wild gazelle,” was his word for her. The man was Captain Kerissen. He was known to all the city—well known, he was—in a certain way. It was not a good way for the ladies. Yes, he had a motor car—a grand, gray car. (Billy remembered that the fatal limousine had been gray.) It was well known that he had bought it for a foreign woman whom he had brought from over-seas and installed in the palace of his fathers. Yes, he knew well where that palace was. His brother’s wife’s uncle was a eunuch there, but he was a hard man who held his own counsel and that of his master.
Could a girl be shut up in that palace and the world be no wiser? The one-eyed man stared scathingly at such ignorance. Why not? The underworld might know, but native gossip never reached white ears.
What was the best way of finding out, then? The one-eyed man had no hesitation about his answer.
A native must use his eyes and ears for the American. Through his subtle skill and the American’s money the discovery could be made. The women servants would talk.
That was the way, Billy agreed, and quoted to the Arab his own proverb, “A saint will weary of well-doing and a braggart of his boasts, but a woman’s tongue will never stop of itself,” and the one-eyed man had nodded, with an air of resigned understanding, and quoted in answer, “There is nothing so great and nothing so small, nothing so precious and nothing so foul, but that a woman will put her tongue to it,” and an understanding appeared to have been reached.
The one-eyed man was to loiter about the palace, calling upon the brother’s wife’s uncle if possible, and discover all that he could without arousing suspicion. And Billy determined to do a little loitering himself and quicken the one-eyed man’s investigations and keep watch of Kerissen’s comings and goings, and a donkey boy was hired by the one-eyed man to follow the Captain when he appeared in the street and report the places to which he went.
It was all very ridiculous, of course, Billy cheerfully agreed with himself, but by proving its own folly it would serve to allay that extraordinarily nagging uneasiness of his. If he could just be sure that little Miss Beecher wasn’t tucked out of sight somewhere in the power of that barbaric scamp with his Continental veneer!