“Thanks, Sergeant; that’s better than nothing, and cold drink is always dangerous if you are hot. What’s the matter? Oh! not much. Shadrach tried to poison Pharaoh; that’s all. I was watching him out of the corner of my eye, and saw him go to the strychnine tin, roll a bit of meat in it which he had first wetted, and throw it to the poor beast. I got hold of it in time, and chucked it over that wall, where you will find it if you care to look. I asked Shadrach why he had done such a thing. He answered, ’To keep the dog quiet while we are passing through the Fung,’ adding that anyhow it was a savage beast and best out of the way, as it had tried to bite him that morning. Then I lost my temper and went for the blackguard, and although I gave up boxing twenty years ago, very soon had the best of it, for, as you may have observed, no Oriental can fight with his fists. That’s all. Give me another cup of water, Sergeant.”
“I hope it may be,” answered Orme, shrugging his shoulders. “To tell the truth, old fellow, it would have been wiser to defer blacking Shadrach’s eyes till we were safe in Mur. But it’s no use talking now, and I daresay I should have done the same myself if I had seen him try to poison Pharaoh,” and he patted the head of the great dog, of which we were all exceedingly fond, although in reality it only cared for Orme, merely tolerating the rest of us.
“Doctor,” he added, “perhaps you would try to patch up our guide’s nose and soothe his feelings. You know him better than we do. Give him a rifle. No, don’t do that, or he might shoot some one in the back—by accident done on purpose. Promise him a rifle when we get into Mur; I know he wants one badly, because I caught him trying to steal a carbine from the case. Promise him anything so long as you can square it up.”
So I went, taking a bottle of arnica and some court plaster with me, to find Shadrach surrounded by sympathizers and weeping with rage over the insult, which, he said, had been offered to his ancient and distinguished race in his own unworthy person. I did my best for him physically and mentally, pointing out, as I dabbed the arnica on his sadly disfigured countenance, that he had brought the trouble on himself, seeing that he had really no business to poison Pharaoh because he had tried to bite him. He answered that his reason for wishing to kill the dog was quite different, and repeated at great length what he had told the Professor—namely, that it might betray us while we were passing through the Fung. Also he went on so venomously about revenge that I thought it time to put a stop to the thing.
“See here, Shadrach,” I said, “unless you unsay those words and make peace at once, you shall be bound and tried. Perhaps we shall have a better chance of passing safely through the Fung if we leave you dead behind us than if you accompany us as a living enemy.”
On hearing this, he changed his note altogether, saying that he saw he had been wrong. Moreover, so soon as his injuries were dressed, he sought out Higgs, whose hand he kissed with many apologies, vowing that he had forgotten everything and that his heart toward him was like that of a twin brother.