However, as after the wildest storm the sea ebbs in ripples so even this tempest came to a more peaceful conclusion. The Kadi represented to the Vekeel what an unheard-of thing it would be, and in what a disgraceful light it would set Moslem justice if one of the noblest families in the country—to whose head, too, the cause of Islam owed so much—were robbed of its possessions on mere suspicion. To this the Vekeel replied that there were definite accusations brought by the head of the native Church, and that nothing had been robbed, but merely confiscated and placed in security. As to what Allah had thought fit to destroy by fire, no one could be held answerable for that. There was no “mere suspicion” in the case, for he himself had in his possession a document which amply proved that Paula, Orion’s beloved, had been the instigator of the crime which had cost the lives of twelve of the true believers.—The girl herself had been taken into custody yesterday. He would cross-examine her himself, too, in spite of all the Kadis in the world; for though Othman might choose to let any number of Moslems be murdered by these dogs of Christians he, Obada, would not overlook it; and if he did, by tomorrow morning the thousand Egyptians who were digging the canal would have killed with their shovels the three Moslems who kept guard over them.
At this, Othman assured the Vekeel that he was no less anxious to punish the miscreants, but that he must first make sure of their identity, and that, in accordance with the law, justly and without fear of man or blind hatred, with due caution and justice. He, as judge, was no less averse to letting off the guilty than he was to punishing the innocent; so the enquiry must be allowed to proceed quietly. If Obada wished to examine Paula he, the Kadi, had no objection; to preside over the court and to direct the trial was his business, and that he would not abdicate even for the Khaliff himself so long as Omar thought him worthy to hold his office.
To all this Obada had no choice but to agree, though with an ill-grace; and as the Vekeel wished to see Orion, the young man was called in. The huge negro looked at him from head to foot like a slave he proposed to buy; and, when Othman went to the door and so could not see him, he could not resist the malicious impulse: he glanced significantly at the prisoner, and drew his forefinger sharply and quickly across his black throat as though to divide the head from the trunk. Then he contemptuously turned his back on the youth.
In the course of the afternoon the Vekeel rode across to the prison in Memphis. He expected to find the bishop there, but instead he was met with the news that Plotinus was dead of the pestilence.
This was a malignant stroke of fate; for with the bishop perished the witness who could have betrayed to him the scheme plotted for the rescue of the nuns.—But no! The patriarch, too, no doubt, knew all.