THE DRAGOMAN’S INSPIRATION.

They left the train at the station opposite Fedah, and the dragoman
secured a native to row them in his skiff across the river. Consinor
asked no questions and appeared wholly indifferent as to their
destination. Indeed, his life had been so aimless since his disgraceful
flight from Cairo that he welcomed any diversion that might relieve its
dull monotony.

When they arrived at Fedah, Tadros took him secretly to the hut of old
Nefert, the bread-baker, which was directly across the street from the
dwelling of Hatatcha, now owned by Kāra. The viscount was inclined to
resent the filthiness of the hovel wherein he must hide, until the
dragoman led him to the shade of the opposite archway and explained to
him something of the project he had in mind.

Tadros began by relating the “royal one’s” early history, emphasizing
the fact that old Hatatcha had been able to support herself and Kāra
without any labor whatever. Then he told of Hatatcha’s death, and how
he, Tadros, had discovered the valuable rolls of papyrus in Kāra’s
possession. From thence to the brilliant advent of the “prince” in Cairo
was but a step, and the entire history permitted but one
explanation–the fact that Kāra had knowledge of an ancient tomb
containing great riches.

“Once,” said the dragoman, “Kāra and I made a visit to Fedah; but I did
not suspect his errand and so neglected to watch him, being at the time
greatly occupied with a certain maiden. In the morning I found he had
loaded his traveling cases with treasures–wonderful gems that have
enabled him to live in princely fashion ever since.”

“Where did he get them?” asked Consinor, eagerly.

“As I said, from some hidden tomb, the secret of which is known only to
himself.”

“Do you think he has carried all of the treasure away?”

“I have reason to believe that more remains than has ever been taken.
Once, in an unguarded moment, Kāra told me that he could not spend it
all in a thousand years.”

“Do you suppose we can discover this tomb?”

“Yes, if we are clever. It is no use to hunt without a clew, but Kāra
will furnish us the clew we need.”

“In what way?” the viscount inquired.

“He is coming here presently.”

Consinor frowned.

“I do not care to meet him,” he said, hastily.

“Nor do I,” rejoined Tadros, with a shudder; “but it will not be
necessary for us to meet Kāra, who will not suspect we are in the
village.”

“What then?”

“He is coming to secure more treasure, his former supply being
exhausted, as I have reason to know. He has promised his tradesmen
money, and will not dare delay his visit to Fedah. Besides, he is not
far from here at this very moment. By to-morrow, if he comes in Winston
Bey’s dahabeah, he will reach this place. If he decides to take a
railway train, he may be here this evening.”

“In that case, what do you propose to do?” demanded Consinor.

“Spy upon him; discover where the treasure is hidden, and when he is
gone, help ourselves,” was the confident reply.

The idea seemed quite feasible when further elaborated. They entered the
room of Kāra’s dwelling and examined the place carefully.

“This,” explained the dragoman, “is doubtless his starting-point. From
here he has either a secret passage into the mountain, or he steals away
to the desert, where the entrance to the tomb is hidden underneath the
shifting sands. We must be prepared to watch him in either event, and
that is why I have proposed to you to assist me, rather than try to
secure all the fortune myself. I am assured there is plenty for two, and
to spare.”

“Doubtless,” replied the viscount, laconically. Already he saw visions
of great wealth, which would enable him to return to London and rise
superior to all the sneers and scandals that had been thrust upon him.

They discussed the matter long and earnestly, the few inhabitants of the
village, stupid and inert, being entirely ignorant of their presence. It
was finally decided that on Kāra’s approach Consinor should conceal
himself beneath the dried rushes of the old bed, Tadros so arranging his
position that the viscount could observe every action of one moving
within the room. Then the dragoman would himself lurk at the edge of the
village to follow Kāra if he stole away into the desert.

As a matter of fact, Tadros was firm in his belief that the treasure was
hidden within the mountain; but he had no intention of risking his own
life when he could induce Consinor to become his catspaw. Discovery
meant death–he knew that well enough. It was better not to take
chances, and if the viscount succeeded in learning Kāra’s secret it
would mean the same to Tadros as learning it himself. He knew how to
handle this outcast Englishman, and if the treasure proved as large as
he suspected, he could afford to be generous, and would play fair with
his accomplice. Otherwise–but that could be considered later.

Tadros did not desire to expose the stranger to the curious gaze of the
villagers, but there was no harm in their knowing that the dragoman had
come among his old friends once more; so he insisted that Consinor
should stay concealed in Nefert’s hovel, flying to a dark corner at the
sound of every footstep, while he himself visited Sĕra and her daughter
in furtherance of his sagacious plans.