Then like shadows they slipped away.
Ten minutes later the truth was known and every man in the camp was up and armed. At first there were some signs of panic, but these with the help of Babemba we managed to control, setting the men to make the best preparations for defence that circumstances would allow, and thus occupying their minds. For from the first we saw that, except for the three of us who had horses, escape was impossible. That great camel corps could catch us within a mile.
Leaving old Babemba in charge of his soldiers, we three white men and Hans held a council at which I repeated every word that had passed between Harut and Marut and myself, including their absolute denial of their having had anything to do with the disappearance of Lady Ragnall on the Nile.
“Now,” I asked, “what is to be done? My fate is sealed, since for purposes of their own, of which probably we know nothing, these people intend to take me with them to their country, as indeed they are justified in doing, since I have been fool enough to keep a kind of assignation with them here. But they don’t want anybody else. Therefore there is nothing to prevent you Ragnall, and you Savage, and you Hans, from returning with the Mazitu.”
“Oh! Baas,” said Hans, who could understand English well enough although he seldom spoke it, “why are you always bothering me with such praatjes?”—(that is, chatter). “Whatever you do I will do, and I don’t care what you do, except for your own sake, Baas. If I am going to die, let me die; it doesn’t at all matter how, since I must go soon and make report to your reverend father, the Predikant. And now, Baas, I have been awake all night, for I heard those camels coming a long while before the two spook men appeared, and as I have never heard camels before, could not make out what they were, for they don’t walk like giraffes. So I am going to sleep, Baas, there in the sun. When you have settled things, you can wake me up and give me your orders,” and he suited the action to the word, for when I glanced at him again he was, or appeared to be, slumbering, just like a dog at its master’s feet.
I looked at Ragnall in interrogation.
“I am going on,” he said briefly.
“Despite the denial of these men of any complicity in your wife’s fate?” I asked. “If their words are true, what have you to gain by this journey, Ragnall?”
“An interesting experience while it lasts; that is all. Like Hans there, if what they say is true, my future is a matter of complete indifference to me. But I do not believe a word of what they say. Something tells me that they know a great deal which they do not choose to repeat—about my wife I mean. That is why they are so anxious that I should not accompany you.”
“You must judge for yourself,” I answered doubtfully, “and I hope to Heaven that you are judging right. Now, Savage, what have you decided? Remember before you reply that these uncanny fellows declare that if we four go, two of us will never return. It seems impossible that they can read the future, still, without doubt, they are most uncanny.”