“Very good, friend,” answered Higgs, who never bore malice, “only don’t try to poison Pharaoh again, and, for my part, I’ll promise not to remember this matter when we get to Mur.”
“Quite a converted character, ain’t he, Doctor?” sarcastically remarked Quick, who had been watching this edifying scene. “Nasty Eastern temper all gone; no Hebrew talk of eye for eye or tooth for tooth, but kisses the fist that smote him in the best Christian spirit. All the same, I wouldn’t trust the swine further than I could kick him, especially in the dark, which,” he added meaningly, “is what it will be to-night.”
I made no answer to the Sergeant, for although I agreed with him, there was nothing to be done, and talking about a bad business would only make it worse.
By now the afternoon drew towards night—a very stormy night, to judge from the gathering clouds and rising wind. We were to start a little after sundown, that is, within an hour, and, having made ready my own baggage and assisted Higgs with his, we went to look for Orme and Quick, whom we found very busy in one of the rooms of an unroofed house. To all appearance they were engaged, Quick in sorting pound tins of tobacco or baking-powder, and Orme in testing an electric battery and carefully examining coils of insulated wire.
“What’s your game?” asked the Professor.
“Better than yours, old boy, when Satan taught your idle hands to punch Shadrach’s head. But perhaps you had better put that pipe out. These azo-imide compounds are said to burn rather more safely than coal. Still, one never knows; the climate or the journey may have changed their constitution.”
Higgs retreated hurriedly, to a distance of fifty yards indeed, whence he returned, having knocked out his pipe and even left his matches on a stone.
“Don’t waste time in asking questions,” said Orme as the Professor approached with caution. “I’ll explain. We are going on a queer journey to-night—four white men with about a dozen half-bred mongrel scamps of doubtful loyalty, so you see Quick and I thought it as well to have some of this stuff handy. Probably it will never be wanted, and if wanted we shall have no time to use it; still, who knows? There, that will do. Ten canisters; enough to blow up half the Fung if they will kindly sit on them. You take five, Quick, a battery and three hundred yards of wire, and I’ll take five, a battery, and three hundred yards of wire. Your detonators are all fixed, aren’t they? Well, so are mine,” and without more words he proceeded to stow away his share of the apparatus in the poacher pockets of his coat and elsewhere, while Quick did likewise with what remained. Then the case that they had opened was fastened up again and removed to be laden on a camel.
HOW WE ESCAPED FROM HARMAC