“I am all right now,” she declared.
Quest felt her pulse and her forehead. They moved back to the fire.
“We are within a dozen miles or so of the Mongar village,” Quest said grimly. “Do you suppose that fellow could have been watching?”
They all talked together for a time in low voices. The Professor was inclined to scout the theory of Craig having approached them.
“You must remember,” he pointed out, “that the Mongars hate these fellows. It was part of my arrangement with Hassan that they should leave us when we got in sight of the Mongar Encampment. It may have been meant for Hassan. The Mongars hate the dragomen who bring tourists in this direction at all.”
They talked a little while longer and finally stole away to their tents to sleep. Outside, the camel drivers talked still, chattering away, walking now and then around Hassan’s body in solemn procession. Finally, one of them who seemed to have taken the lead, broke into an impassioned stream of words. The others listened. When he had finished, there was a low murmur of fierce approval. Silent-footed, as though shod in velvet, they ran to the tethered camels, stacked the provisions once more upon their backs, lashed the guns across their own shoulders. Soon they stole away—a long, ghostly procession—into the night.
“Those fellows seem to have left off their infernal chattering all of a sudden,” Quest remarked lazily from inside the tent.
The Professor made no answer. He was asleep.
A DESERT VENGEANCE
Quest was the first the next morning to open his eyes, to grope his way through the tent opening and stand for a moment alone, watching the alabaster skies. Away eastwards, the faint curve of the blood-red sun seemed to be rising out of the limitless sea of sand. The light around him was pearly, almost opalescent, fading eastwards into pink. The shadows had passed away. Though the sands were still hot beneath his feet, the silent air was deliciously cool. He turned lazily around, meaning to summon the Arab who had volunteered to take Hassan’s place. His arms—he had been in the act of stretching—fell to his sides. He stared incredulously at the spot where the camels had been tethered. There were no camels, no drivers, no Arabs. There was not a soul nor an object in sight except the stark body of Hassan, which they had dragged half out of sight behind a slight knoll. High up in the sky above were two little black specks, wheeling lower and lower. Quest shivered as he suddenly realised that for the first time in his life he was looking upon the winged ghouls of the desert. Lower and lower they came. He turned away with a shiver.
The Professor was still sleeping when Quest re-entered the tent. He woke him up and beckoned him to come outside.
“Dear me!” the former exclaimed genially, as he adjusted his glasses, “I am not sure that my toilet—however, the young ladies, I imagine, are not yet astir. You did well to call me, Quest. This is the rose dawn of Egypt. I have watched it from solitudes such as you have never dreamed of. After all, we are here scarcely past the outskirts of civilisation.”