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The Finding of Lot's Wife 



THE 

FINDING 

OF 

LOTS WIFE 



BY 

ALFRED CLARK 



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•Wew l!?orft anb lon^on 

Frederick A* Stokes Company 

PUBLISHERS ^- w / -T 



Copyright, t896 
By Frederick A^ Stokes G)mpany 



CONTENTS. 




Chapter 

L A Strangle Legend 
n» In Perils of the Wilderness 
m. The Sheikh's Daughter 
IV* The Beni Azaleh 
V. A Disappointing; Discovery 
VL The Professor ♦ 
Vn* The Monastery of SU Lot 
Vm. Isha Payne 
IX» AJudas • • 

X« Selim • « 

XI* The Attack on the Monastery 
Xn* A Young Martyr 
XIII* Brother Manon's Experiences 
XIV. Prisoners ♦ 

XV. The Valley of Madness. 

XVI. Ay^da's Devotion . , 
XVIL Lot's Wife 

XVIII. The Pass of Many Voices 
XIX. A Miracle 



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Q^ Bo6j2:^ 



The Finding of Lot's Wife 



CHAPTER L 
A Strangle Legfend. 

A PARTY of travelers was slowly and wearily 
making its way along a steep and stony wadi, or 
valley, among wild, arid mountains in South- 
eastern Palestine. 

It was a desolate scene. Precipitous red cliffs, 
streaked with dull yellow and brown strata, shut 
in the valley on two sides, and beyond them rose 
bare, barren hills, glowing in the afternoon sun- 
light. Great boulders, bleached by centuries of 
exposure to the weather, lay at the foot of the 
cliffs, while the whole wadi was strewn with 
masses of gray stone like the refuse of a foundry. 
The ground was channeled and fissured as if by 
the action of water ; but there was no other indi- 
cation that rain ever fell there. The only vege- 
tation to be seen was one or two prickly pears 
growing in the crevices of the cliffs, and a few 
stunted, half-dead juniper bushes. The land- 



6 The Findings of Lot's Wife» 

scape was quivering, in the hot, hazy air ; and 
every sound, however slight, even the fall of 
crumbling earth high up the face of the cliffs, 
was distinctly audible. Human beings appeared 
out of place in such a spot, which was more fitted 
to be the undisturbed home of the gray hyena, 
the bald vulture, and the deadly horned cerastes. 

The travelers were two young Englishmen, 
attended by a dragoman and a cook, and accom- 
panied by an escort of armed Arabs. The elder 
of the two men was Hal Aylward, of Lang- 
holme Hall, in Berkshire — a tall, broad-shouldered 
young man, whose blue eyes, light curly hair, and 
drooping flaxen moustache showed his Saxon 
ancestry. He was not exactly good-looking ; but 
the expression of his face, that of an honest, 
true-hearted man, was very pleasant. A sort of 
good-humored nonchalance and an intelligent 
taciturnity were characteristic of him ; but he 
could be quick enough, both with hands and 
tongue, when there was occasion. 

Some six months before he had inherited a 
fine property through the death of an uncle, one 
of his few surviving relatives. He at once re- 
signed the commission he held in the army, and, 
after all business matters in connection with the 
estate left to him had been satisfactorily settled, 
gratified a long-felt wish and started on a visit to 
the East. Not caring to travel alone, he asked 
a friend, a man he had known from boyhood, to 



A Strangle Legend* 7 

accompany him — an invitation which, to his 
great pleasure, was at once accepted. 

Noel Yorke, his friend, was an artist by pro- 
fession, and, though quite a young man, had 
already made a name for himself as a painter of 
Eastern scenes and life. For a number of years 
he had spent every winter in Egypt, where he 
had learned to speak Arabic fluently, and had 
made himself thoroughly conversant with the 
home-life and modes of thought of the natives. 
He was slight in build, but was very good-look- 
ing, with clear-cut features and dark eyes. He 
had a small moustache, the ends of which he had 
a trick of continually twisting, and he wore an 
eye-glass. Being an amusing talker and of a 
light-hearted, easily-pleased disposition, Aylward 
found him an excellent companion, and the 
friendship between the two men deepened every 
day. 

There being no occasion for hurry, the two 
friends traveled very leisurely. After spending 
some three months in Algeria, they visited 
Morocco and Tunis, going on for the winter to 
Egypt, where they remained a long time. Ayl- 
ward sauntered about, visiting places of interest 
and doing a little shooting when he got the 
opportunity, while Yorke sketched assiduously. 
He was engaged on a series of types of Eastern 
beauty, a task beset with many difficulties. 
More than once he got himself into trouble by 



8 The Finding of Lof s Wife* 

ill-advised attempts to portray the features of 
veiled brown maidens whom he met. 

About a year after they had left England, the 
two men drifted over to Palestine. They had 
journeyed to Damascus, climbed Lebanon, and 
inspected nearly all the sacred places, traveling 
just as the humor seized them day by day, and 
were returning from a visit to the Dead Sea, 
when something happened which cut short their 
tour and greatly affected their after-lives. 

During a visit to the famous cliff-monastery of 
Mar Saba they were told by the monks there of 
a belief current among them that, in the moun- 
tains to the south-east of the Dead Sea, there 
existed an extraordinary community of ancho- 
rites, whose monastery was. perched on an inac- 
cessible pinnacle of rock in a lonely valley. It 
was affirmed, however, that no human being 
unconnected with this wonderful retreat had 
ever seen it or knew the way there. 

This curious legend so deeply interested Noel 
Yorke that he made further inquiries about it. 
He found that not only the monks of Mar Saba, 
but all the Arabs of the neighborhood had heard 
of this strange place, and believed firmly in its 
existence. They all spoke of it as the Monastery 
of Mar Lood or St. Lot. The inmates of it were 
supposed to have become more than human 
through their pious austerities, and to have 
attained immunity from death or disease. They 



A Strange Legend. 9 

were said to have long white hair and beards, 
and their bodies to be covered with gray fur in 
place of clothes, also to have lost the power of 
speech through protracted observance of their 
vows of silence. Their food was believed to be 
brought to them by ravens, and the water they 
drank to be provided by a miraculous dew that 
fell every night. These naked, speechless monks 
and their ministering ravens were reputed to be 
the only living things in the desolate valley over- 
looked by the monastic eyrie. Countless evil 
spirits, however, were said to haunt the moun- 
tains round, who were always seeking to gain 
entrance to the monastery, but were kept out by 
the sound of a sacred bell tolled continually by 
the monks. 

The vivid imagination of the artist was so fired 
by this weird legend that, after talking about it 
for several days, the insane idea, as his friend did 
not hesitate to term it, suggested itself to him 
that they should go in search of the Monastery 
of St. Lot ! He explained to Aylward that he 
did not suppose that any such place existed as 
that described by the monks, peopled by nude, 
voiceless eremites, centuries old and fed by 
ravens, but that he thought it possible that there 
was some foundation for the legend, and hoped 
that they might find something extraordinary 
and worth seeing. Alyward did not share, in 
the least, his friend's interest in the matter, or 



lo The Findings of Lot's Wife. 

expect that they would discover anything worth 
the trouble of the journey ; but, on being asked 
by Yorke whether he would accompany him, 
cheerfully consented to do so, hoping to get 
some sport among the unfrequented mountains 
they intended to explore. 

The two men soon found that there were 
formidable difficulties in the way of their pro- 
posed expedition. On learning the object of the 
journey, all their servants and followers, with 
the exception of two, positively refused to go 
with them, being filled with superstitious fears. 
Their dragoman Georgis and their cook Hanna, 
both Syrian Christians, consented to accompany 
them, after much persuasion and on promise of 
double pay. But the greatest trouble they had 
was with the Arabs, of whom it was necessary to 
take a number as guides and as a guard against 
robbers. There was an encampment of Jehaleh 
Arabs in the neighborhood of Mar Saba, and 
negotiations were opened with the sheikh for an 
escort. Yorke, attended by the dragoman, had 
several wearisome interviews with him, and 
listened with ill-concealed impatience while the 
wily old savage magnified the dangers to be met 
with in the mountains, and demanded fabulous 
sums for the services of his ragged followers. At 
length the eloquence of the dragoman prevailed 
and a bargain was struck. The sheikh was to 
furnish, for the sum of ten Turkish pounds and a 



A Strange Legend. ii 

bakshish, six men mounted and armed and led by 
his nephew, an evil-looking and evil-smelling 
ruffian, to serve as an escort for a stipulated 
period of ten days. He persisted in adding a 
proviso, that should his men come across any- 
thing which was, in their opinion, uncanny, they 
were to be at liberty to turn back at once, and 
to this Yorke was forced to consent. After the 
usual irritating delays and false excuses on the 
part of the Jehaleh, the expedition started. 

Aylward had bought at Jerusalem for the trip 
to the Dead Sea a number of country-bred horses 
and riding and baggage donkeys. Of these he 
and Yorke selected for their own use a pair of 
good-looking Syrian stallions, and gave the 
dragoman and the cook a stout riding donkey 
each. Half-a-dozen other donkeys were laden 
with a small tent, carpets and pillows, saddle- 
bags containing clothes, crates of provisions and 
cooking utensils. They were driven by a couple 
of Arab boys, each clad in a single ragged and 
filthy garment, and a skull-cap apparently glued 
to his shaven skull with dirt. The Jehaleh escort 
rode in front on their wiry, bony mares, armed to 
the teeth, a picturesque troop of rascals. 



CHAPTER n. 
In Perils of the "Wilderness^ 

At the end of the third day the travelers 
found themselves among bare, waterless moun- 
tains far from any known human habitation. 

By this time the toilsome stony way, the 
scanty fodder and water, and the excessive heat 
had so told on the Syrian horses, which were 
unaccustomed to fatigue and privation, that they 
became too exhausted to be ridden, and Aylward 
and Yorke were forced to dismount and lead 
them. The condition of the riding donkeys was 
almost as bad, but neither the dragoman nor the 
cook saw the least necessity for walking so long 
as the poor beasts under them could stagger 
along. The former was a very stout man, and 
the miserable donkey whose hind quarters he 
bestrode could scarcely support his weight. The 
cook's steed was more fortunate, for its rider 
was a wizened, little old man. 



In Perils of the Wilderness* 13 

" May God curse the father of this donkey! " 
exclaimed the dragoman in Arabic wrathfully, 
when the wretched creature, unable to move 
another step, stopped with outstretched feet 
and quivering flanks. The figure presented by the 
obese rider was a ludicrous one. His fat legs, 
clad in baggy blue trousers, hung like bolsters 
on each side of the saddle. The heels of the red 
slippers, balanced on his bare toes, nearly 
touched the ground. His tightly-fitting and 
much-embroidered jacket seemed about to burst, 
and his fez cap, bound round with a yellow silk 
handkerchief, about to fall off as he gave vent to 
his indignation. 

"Will you not go on, O bundle of obstinacy? 
Must I weary myself beating the hair off your 
hide, O animal sunk in sloth ? " he cried, bela- 
boring the donkey furiously with a heavy koor- 
batch or cowhide whip that he carried. 

" Hold hard, Georgis ! Don't thrash the 
poor little brute like that ! " shouted Aylward, 
who had turned on hearing the sound of the 
blows. 

" Get off and walk, you lazy beggar ! Don't 
you see that the wretched brute is too done up 
to carry you any further ? " added Yorke, indig- 
nantly. 

Slowly and grumblingly the dragoman did as 
he was ordered, sliding off over the donkey's 
tail. 



14 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

" Please God, I shall see the vultures picking 
out your eyes before lorig, O pig of a donkey ! " 
he muttered viciously. Dragging the worn-out 
but patient brute by the bridle and giving it a 
cruel back-cut with his whip from time to time, 
he followed the rest of the party sulkily. He 
found some satisfaction to his wounded feelings 
in roughly ordering the cook to dismount, which 
the old man did, muttering resentfully. 

" I t'ink t'ese Arab raskils not know where t'ey 
going ! ** exclaimed the dragoman in English, on 
coming up with his masters. 

" That has been pretty evident for some time," 
observed Aylward quietly. 

" I heard them say just now that they expected 
to find water under the cliffs at the end of the 
wadi," remarked Yorke. 

" I hope to heaven that they will, for these 
poor brutes won't be able to hold out much 
longer ! " returned Aylward. 

At this moment the Jehaleh, who were riding 
some twenty paces in front, simultaneously 
drew rein and sat staring at 'something that 
had unexpectedly come into view. Following 
their gaze, the two Europeans saw a sight which 
filled them with surprise and some alarm. On 
the crest of some rising ground, about a quarter 
of a mile distant, appeared a score or more of 
horsemen armed with long tufted lances. They 
had shown themselves so suddenly that they 



In Perils of the Wilderness* 15 

seemed almost to have sprung from the ground. 
On catching sight of the two white men and the 
armed party with them the strangers halted 
abruptly, and sat motionless as equestrian statues, 
looking towards them. The Jehaleh were obvi- 
ously greatly terrified at the sight. 

" By God ! who are these ? " exclaimed their 
leader anxiously. ''They must be jin, for no 
human beings live in these mountains!" 

" You talk folly. They are Bedawin like your- 
selves. One of you ride forward and greet 
them," ordered Yorke ; but not a man of the es- 
cort seem disposed to obey him. 

" Let us ride off ! Please God, they will not 
follow us. Even if they are but men and not jin, 
we cannot face them, for they number a score, at 
least, of lances and have guns ! " cried the leader 
of the escort to his followers. 

At that moment the strangers, who had been 
consulting together, began to advance towards 
them at a walk. The Jehaleh at once wheeled 
their mares' heads round and galloped off, fol- 
lowed by the two donkey boys, running like 
hares. The dragoman would fain have fled, but 
he was too fat to run, and his donkey had taken 
the opportunity of the halt to lie down. The old 
cook wrung his hands and cried out, in his 
native tongue, in his fear: 

" Wah ! wah ! they are harami.* They will 

* Robbers. 



1 6 The Finding of Lot's "Wife^ 

spit us on their spears like quails on skewers. 
Let us run ! let us run ! " 

" Worse ! worse ! " groaned the dragoman, quak- 
ing. " They are savage Arabs from the Great 
Desert ! Look at their long 'abaiyehs and black 
camel's-hair akals — and they have their faces 
hidden in their keffiehs — they intend us evil ! 
Ya Allah ! We shall all have our throats cut ! " 

The dragoman spoke in Arabic in his excite- 
ment and terror. Yorke translated what he had 
said to his friend, and the two men at once pre- 
pared for defence. They hastily capped their re- 
volvers, the chambers of which were charged, 
and began to load their rifles. Meanwhile, the 
strangers had come within two hundred paces, 
and had again halted on seeing the preparations 
being made for their reception. After a few 
moments' hesitation their leader rode out alone 
till he was within easy speaking distance. He 
was a very swarthy sinister-looking man, with thin 
hard features, hook nose, and close-set hawk-like 
eyes. He carried a long-barreled gun, the 
sickle-shaped stock of which was encrusted with 
mother-o'-pearl. At his side hung a crooked 
ram's horn powder-flask, and in his belt was stuck 
a couple of flint-lock pistols and a khanjar or 
double-edged knife. He was riding a lean but 
handsome mare, and his graceful flowing robe, 
curious rope head-dress, and antique weapons 
made him a picturesque figure. 



In Perils of the Wilderness* 17 

" Who are you, O men ? " he demanded in a 
harsh voice. 

"■ Go forward and speak to the fellow, Georgis ! " 
ordered Yorke. 

The dragoman did as he was directed, but evi- 
dently thought he was going to his death. He 
had armed himself with a dabus, or Arab club, 
dropped by one of the Jehaleh, but it shook so in 
his grasp that it seemed about to fall from his 
hand. 

" O Arab, son of an Arab ! " he began in Arabic, 
in quivering tones, when he had advanced a few 
paces towards the strangers, " these Franks whom 
you see are two English milords who are trav- 
eling for pleasure ! " 

" From whence have you come, and whither 
are you going?" 

" We come from El Khoddes (Jerusalem), but 
where we are going God only knows ! Who can 
tell what mad Englishmen will do or where they 
will go?" replied the dragoman, forgetting in his 
trepidation that one of his masters understood 
what he was saying. 

" But what has brought them here, where there is 
nothing to be seen ? " asked the Arab suspiciously. 

" They heard some lying stories about a won- 
derful Christian monastery somewhere in these 
mountains, and are come to look for it." 

The Arab seemed much struck by this informa- 
tion. 

(uiri7IESlf yj 



i8 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

" By God ! is that so?" he observed thought- 
fully, directing a searching glance at Aylward 
and Yorke. After a short pause he asked, '' Who 
were the men who fled at our approach ? " 

"They were Jehaleh from the Saba whom my 
masters had engaged to protect them on the jour- 
ney. May the hyenas crack their bones, the 
cowardly dogs ! " 

" Where do you intend to camp to-night ? " 

" We were looking for a suitable spot when 
you rode up, O Sheikh, but could find no water." 

The Arab did not reply, but, turning, rode back 
to his companions, with whom he held a short 
consultation, after which he returned to where 
the travelers stood and said ungraciously, though 
his words were friendly enough : 

" If the noble ones, your masters, will honor 
the poor camp of the Beni Azaleh with a visit, 
they will be welcome. Our tents are pitched 
under that cliff yonder, where there is water." 
He pointed with his lance up the wadi to a spot 
about half a mile distant. 

" Thank him for his invitation, Georgis, and 
tell him that we accept his hospitality heartily," 
said Yorke, which the dragoman did. 

Before starting for the Beni Azaleh camp, 
Aylward and Yorke looked round anxiously, hop- 
ing to find that their escort had halted on seeing 
that they had not been followed, but the Jehaleh 
had galloped out of sight, and the donkey boys 



In Perils of the Wilderness* 19 

had also disappeared. As they had but a short 
distance to go, the two EngHshmen continued 
the journey on foot, leading their horses, followed 
by the dragoman and cook dragging along their 
worn-out steeds. Most of the Arabs rode in 
front, while two or three followed, driving the 
baggage donkeys before them with the butts of 
their lances. The dragoman's alarm had not 
subsided. As they went along he confided his 
fears to his masters, representing the Beni Azaleh 
to be the most cruel, rapacious, and treacherous 
of all the desert marauders. 

'* T'ey t'ink the blood of Franks too good medi- 
cine for t'eir women when t'ey are seek ! " he 
whispered in a tone of horror. 

Both Aylward and Yorke were, however, rather 
favorably impressed by the appearance and bear- 
ing of the horsemen. Though they saw no 
reason to suspect them of treachery, they never- 
theless kept their weapons ready to hand in case 
of sudden attack. On nearing the camp several 
of the Arabs spurred their mares with the sharp 
edges of their stirrups, and rode off to give notice 
of the coming of the strangers. Others galloped 
about making their steeds to pirouette, and 
brandishing their long, quivering lances till they 
bent nearly double. On coming in sight of the 
tents, the dragoman urged his masters to mount 
their horses. 

''Mustn't walk to Arab people*s camp — too 



2Q The Finding of Lot's Wife, 

much shame. T*ey will t'ink my masters com- 
mon fellows," he explained. 

Seeing this to be good advice, Aylward and 
Yorke rode their tired horses the short distance 
they had still to go, and the dragoman and cook 
also mounted their donkeys. It was in " honor- 
able fashion," as the dragoman said, that they 
entered the Beni Azaleh camp. 

It consisted of about threescore black camel- 
hair tents, hidden from view in a hollow under a 
high cliff. They were grouped round a shallow 
well in a cleft on the rocky ground. A solitary 
wild date palm, laden with dead branches, stood 
beside it, the only tree for miles. A thick 
deposit of animal-droppings lay all round. Num- 
erous camels, many with heads decorated with 
woolen ornaments, were picketed on the open 
places of the camp. At the doors of many of 
the tents were tethered mares of excellent breed, 
though rough-coated and in poor condition, some 
of which had foals suckling them. A number of 
miserable donkeys, cruelly hobbled to prevent 
them from straying, were limping about the 
camp. 

The news of the coming of the travelers had 
spread, and everyone in the camp had hurried out 
to see them : swarthy bearded men ; old hags 
with faces begrimed with the dust of years ; 
married women in bright-colored but filthy 
clothes, accompanied by naked unwashed chil- 



In Perils of the Wilderness* 21 

dren, also graceful girls laden with tawdry finery. 
None of the women and girls wore face-veils, 
and many had blue tattooed foreheads and lips. 

The tent of the sheikh stood near the well. It 
was larger than any of the others, and a long, 
handsome lance tufted with ostrich feathers was 
stuck in the ground in front of it. The leader 
of the party of horsemen conducted their guests 
to the door of the tent, and, springing off his 
mare, invited them to enter. Aylward was 
about to step in, revolver in hand, when the 
dragoman interposed. 

" Master, please not take pistol into tent, 
Arabs will be angry," he whispered warningly. 
Aylward thereupon thrust the revolver into the 
holster of his saddle, and then entered the tent, 
followed by Yorke, also unarmed. Both men felt 
that their weapons would be of little avail to save 
them if the Arabs treacherously attacked them, 
and that it would be better for them to feign the 
confidence they did not feel. 

The tent was capacious, but very bare of fur- 
niture. In it some twenty men were assembled 
to receive the guests of the tribe. On a thread- 
bare carpet on the floor, in the place of honor, 
sat an old man, very much lighter in complexion 
than Arabs usually are, with fine features and a 
long beard streaked with gray. There was a va- 
cant expression on his face and a troubled look 
in his eyes, which struck both Aylward and Yorke 



22 The Finding of Lot's Wiic 

as strange on seeing him. He did not speak or 
make any gesture of welcome as they entered 
the tent. From the silent respect shown to him 
by all present, it was evident that he was the 
sheikh. Beside him sat another old man, whose 
dress showed him to be a mullah or Mohamme- 
dan priest. His green robe and turban indicated 
that he was a hadji, one who had made the 
pilgrimage to Mecca. He had a forbidding 
wrinkled face, rheumy but austere eyes under 
overhanging bristly eyebrows, and a thin, gray 
beard. He looked what he was, the embodiment 
of fierce fanaticism. As the two Englishmen 
came in he eyed them keenly, but without curi- 
osity. A number of tribesmen stood round, 
also several negroes. One of the latter was a 
huge, Caliban-like creature whose hideous black 
features, pitted by small-pox, were more like an 
exaggerated mask representing the brute pas- 
sions than a human face. 

On entering the tent, Yorke exclaimed in Ara- 
bic : " Peace be to you ! " To which the mullah 
replied coldly, with a grave inclination of his 
head, but without rising, " On you be peace ! ** 
and all the Arabs present repeated the saluta- 
tion. A couple of camel saddles were brought 
forward by a negro, and Aylward and Yorke 
seated themselves on them, with the dragoman 
standing beside them. After a few moments* 
silence, the mullah asked in grave, measured 



In Perils of the Wilderness. 23 

tones, whom the Beni Azaleh had the honor to 
receive in their camp. The dragoman, indicating 
Aylward with a respectful gesture, said that he 
was a great English milord of vast wealth, who 
was traveling for pleasure. 

" Good ! good ! he is welcome ! " responded 
the mullah, and then asked who Yorke was. 
The dragoman replied that he was a great friend 
of the milord, and that he accompanied him in 
order to paint pictures of the places they visited 
and of the people they met. 

" Praise to the Prophet ! " ejaculated the mul- 
lah disapprovingly, for to depict any created 
thing, and especially the human form or face, is 
contrary to Moslem tenets, as savoring of idola- 
try. He then asked what had brought the Eng- 
lish gentlemen to the mountains. 

The dragoman repeated what he had told the 
leader of the party of horsemen they had en- 
countered. His announcement of the object of 
the journey his masters had undertaken was fol- 
lowed by a long silence. On hearing his state- 
ment most of the Arabs gazed suspiciously at the 
Englishmen, others glanced at each other mean- 
ingly, and one or two whispered together. The 
mullah sat fingering his rosary, with his eyes on 
the ground, as if he had heard nothing. 

"Ask them if they know anything of the 
Monastery of Mar Lood, Georgis," said Yorke, 
noticing the effect on the Arabs of the dragoman's 



24 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

statement. The man did as he was ordered, 
addressing the question to the mullah, but the 
old man did not reply. The sun was now set- 
ting, and it was the hour of prayer. Rising with 
much solemnity and with a sanctimonious ex- 
pression of face, the mullah began his orisons, 
sometimes standing with his hands folded on his 
breast or clasped above his head, at other times 
kneeling and bowing continually with his face to 
the ground. Several of the Arabs present fol- 
lowed his example, imitating his genuflexions, 
but it was obvious that prayer was not an every- 
day exercise with them. When the performance, 
which lasted some minutes, was over, Yorke 
ordered the dragoman to repeat his question. 

" We do not know of any such Christian mon- 
astery. No one lives in these mountains but the 
Beni Azaleh," replied the mullah slowly after a 
few moments' thought, but there was something 
in his manner which showed that he was not 
speaking the truth. 

A conversation followed, in which some of the 
Arabs present joined. Numerous questions were 
asked of Aylward and Yorke, to which they 
replied through the dragoman. The comments 
made by their hosts on the appearance and ways 
of their guests were often far from flattering. 
Though Yorke understood all that was said, he 
thought it well not to show his knowledge. The 
old sheikh did not say a word during the whole 



In Perils of the Wilderness* 25 

interview, but sat looking about him as if uncon- 
scious of what was going on. 

" Inform your masters," said the mullah at 
length to the dragoman, " that they are welcome 
to the tent of Abd'allah Abou Mansur, Sheikh of 
the Beni Azaleh, who hopes they will honor him 
by remaining many days in his camp, accepting 
such poor hospitality as he can offer." 

This being formally translated by the drago- 
man to his masters, they directed him to express 
to the mullah their thanks and their acceptance 
of the invitation. 

A great copper dish, about three feet in 
diameter, was now brought in by two negroes, 
on which smoked a kid stewed in rice and set 
round with piles of thin, flat, tough Arab bread, 
lumps of dates, and pats of butter. The trav- 
elers being invited to partake, seated themselves 
beside the huge dish and began to convey small 
portions of stewed meat and greasy rice to their 
mouths with their hands in the best way they 
could. Neither the sheikh nor the mullah joined 
in the feast ; but two or three of the older men 
present squatted on the floor and began to tear 
the kid to pieces with their fingers and to shovel 
balls of rice down their throats. By way of 
dessert they dipped dates in the butter and ate 
them. When they were satiated, others took 
their place and fed as voraciously. In a very 
short time all the meat, rice, and butter had dis- 



26 The Finding of Lofs Wife* 

appeared, and all that remained were the date- 
stones which the feasters had spat out on the 
floor. One of the Arabs wiped his dripping fin- 
gers on the shock head of a child who had crept 
into the tent ; but most of them cleansed their 
hands with dust from the floor. 

Meanwhile Hanna, the cook, assisted by some 
of the Arabs outside, had unladen the baggage 
donkeys, and had put up the small tent that the 
travelers had brought with them. As it was by 
this time getting dark, Aylward and Yorke, after 
saluting the company, left the sheikh's tent and 
retired to their own. They had much difficulty 
in getting rid of the men, women, and children 
who crowded round it, whose curiosity was in- 
satiable. Then, having made themselves com- 
fortable for the night, they threw themselves on 
their carpets, too tired even to talk. 

They passed an uncomfortable night, being 
disturbed by the grunting of the camels and the 
tinkle of their bells, the neighing of horses, the 
bleating of goats, and the plaintive cry of a 
newly-born camel foal, which was tied close to 
the tent door. Constantly throughout the night 
voices could be heard roaring out desert songs, 
shouting at quarreling camels and squealing 
mares, or talking noisily. The disgusting odor 
which pervaded the camp seemed to thicken 
during the night. 

" What beasts these Arabs are ! " muttered 



In Perils of the Wilderness^ 27 

Aylward, as he turned on his carpet restlessly 
for the tenth time. 

** They be ryght foule folke and of evyll 
lyking," murmured Yorke sleepily, quoting Sir 
John Maundeville's dictum on the Tartars. The 
" Voiage and Travayle " of this old romancer was 
a favorite book with the artist, and he was al- 
ways quoting from it. 



CHAPTER HL 
The Sheikh's Daughter* 

The two young Englishmen soon found that 
they had nothing to fear from the Beni Azaleh, 
who treated them as honored guests, and gave 
them of the best they had. Presents of kid 
stewed in milk with spices, butter and coarse 
sugar mixed together, lumps of dates, greasy 
sweetmeats, and other Arab delicacies were 
brought to them by the leading men of the tribe, 
who were delighted to receive small quantities of 
coffee in return. 

There were, however, three men who openly 
showed ill-will to the guests of the tribe, though 
it was only by the expressions of their faces. 
The principal of these was the mullah, whose 
reason for regarding them with disfavor was 
probably because they were, in his eyes, infidels 
and enemies of God. When he happened to 
meet them he was coldly courteous, but took no 



The Sheikh's Daugfhten 29 

further pains to hide his feelings towards them. 
The leader of the party of horsemen whom the 
travelers had encountered was another man who 
was obviously unfriendly to them, for he never 
came to their tent_, and would scarcely conde- 
scend to return their greeting when they met. 
They learned that he was the nephew of the 
sheikh, and also his heir, as the old man had no 
son, also that he was always spoken of as El Jezzar, 
or '' the butcher," which seemed to be considered a 
complimentary appellation. They did not under- 
stand for what reason he was so ill-disposed 
towards them, but supposed it was because he 
would fain plunder them, but did not dare to do 
so against the will of the tribe. There was one 
other man who always scowled and muttered 
malevolently when he saw them ; but as this was 
only the hideous negro who had been present in 
the sheikh's tent when they were received by the 
leading men of the tribe, they did not trouble 
themselves in the least about him. He bore, 
they learned, the very appropriate nickname of 
El Wahsh, or " the wild beast." 

The dragoman informed his masters on the 
morning after their arrival in the camp that he 
had been told by the tribesmen that the reason 
why the old sheikh had not spoken to or taken 
any notice of them during their visit to his tent 
was because he had suddenly lost his reason 
some months before. He was, however, still re- 



so The Finding of Lot's wife* 

garded by the tribe as their leader, as they firmly 
believed that the medicines and prayers ot the 
mullah would soon cure him of his mental 
malady. 

At the request of their guests the Beni Azaleh 
sent out a party of horsemen to look for the 
Jehaleh escort, who, it was thought, might still 
be in the neighborhood. The pursuers followed 
the tracks of the fugitives all day, but without 
coming up with them. The Jehaleh had re- 
treated to Mar Saba as fast as their jaded steeds 
could take them, leaving the travelers whom they 
had been paid to protect, to the mercies of the 
armed strangers they had met so unexpectedly. 

As their horses and the riding and baggage 
donkeys were quite unfit for traveling after the 
toils and privations of the past three days, and as 
they themselves and their servants needed a rest, 
the two Englishmen determined to remain with 
the Beni Azaleh a few days, leaving their future 
movements to be decided on according to circum- 
stances. 

The hospitality and friendliness shown to the 
travelers was due to some extent to the popular- 
ity of the dragoman in the camp. Like all 
Arabs, the Beni Azaleh were very fond of listen- 
ing to stories, and Georgis soon became a great 
favorite with them owing to his gifts in that 
respect. In a few days he was known throughout 
the camp as El Hakwatieh, or the " story-teller." 



The Sheikh's Daughter 31 

He was a good-natured man, and, though he 
affected great contempt for Arabs, nevertheless 
condescended to spin interminable and full- 
flavored stories for their amusement every night. 
Sitting cross-legged in an open spot in the camp 
and surrounded by an appreciative audience, he 
told them of the marvelous things he had seen 
in his travels, such as women growing on trees, 
men with dogs' heads, and animals of the most 
extraordinary description, and related many 
stories of the wonders wrought by King Solomon 
by means of his cabalistic seal ; of the amours 
and escapades of sultans and viziers ; of the evil 
doings of magicians and giants, and many similar 
fables. At the conclusion of each story he in- 
variably solemnly swore by God that it was true. 

Aylward made inquiries through the dragoman 
as to what sport was to be obtained in the neigh- 
borhood, and was informed by some of the Beni 
Azaleh that they had seen ibex on the high 
ranges above the wadi. He accordingly went in 
search of them, accompanied by two or three men 
as guides and gun-carriers ; but though he spent 
the greater part of three days wandering about 
the bare, rocky hills, he did not find so much as 
the footprints of the wild goats. He therefore 
gave up the pursuit, being satisfied that the game 
he had been looking for existed only in the im- 
agination of the tribesmen. 

Yorke occupied himself all the morning of 



32 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

their first day in the camp in making inquiries re- 
garding the Monastery of St. Lot, as he was quite 
convinced that the mullah had lied in reply to 
his question on the subject the evening before. 
But he learned nothing. The Beni Azaleh de- 
clared that they were strangers to the mountains, 
having come there from the Nefood Desert, only 
some fifteen moons before. The " mistrowing 
men," as the artist called them, positively denied 
all knowledge of any Christian monastery or 
other inhabited building of any kind in the 
neighborhood, and grew sulky and silent. When 
Yorke, much disappointed and indignant at what 
he believed was their foolish and purposeless 
lying, roundly expressed his disbelief in their 
statements, they admitted that they had seen 
" sura hdjar *' or stone pictures on the rocks, but 
protested that these were the only evidence that 
the barren almost waterless wadis round them 
had ever been inhabited. 

Yorke was possessed of a fair knowledge of 
rough surgery and simple medicine, and this fact 
having been made known by the dragoman to the 
Beni Azaleh, the artist was dubbed by them El 
Hakim or doctor, and was pestered all day by 
sick persons seeking relief. Men and women 
crowded round the tent door, and publicly de- 
scribed their ailments with embarrassing minute- 
ness and absence of reticence. No case was con- 
sidered too hopeless to benefit by the hakim's 



The Sheikh's Dau^hten ' ^ 33 

skill. Persons stone-blind and incurably de- 
formed presented themselves for medical treat- 
ment, also several unhappy wives who hoped to 
get some medicine that would cure them of 
barrenness or bring about the birth of male 
children. A screaming child was brought to him 
one morning, who, it was said, had been bitten 
by a "mother of forty-four," which mysterious 
creature turned out, on inquiry, to be a centipede. 

The medicine most popular was white lump 
sugar, of which the travelers had a good supply. 
Troops of children hung about the tent all day in 
hope of getting a piece, and even the men did 
not disdain to beg for some. The women and 
girls, several of whom were very handsome, 
showed no fear of the Englishmen, and chatted 
freely with Yorke, much to the disapprobation of 
the dragoman, who professed to be scandalized 
by what he chose to regard as their immodesty 
and forwardness. 

In the early morning, and also before sunset, 
when not engaged in his medical duties, Yorke 
was accustomed to wander about the camp taking 
sketches, generally attended by a retinue of 
youths and children. He made a number of ex- 
cellent drawings of swarthy sons of the desert 
tending their mares, women making butter in 
goat-skins, graceful girls carrying pitchers of 
water on their heads, and other camp scenes. 

Very early one morning, before the camp was 



34 The Finding of Lot^s Wife* 

astir, the artist, who was always up before day- 
break, came out of the tent and sauntered off, 
looking for something to sketch. One or two 
men who stood yawning in their tent doors 
saluted him, but nobody followed him, and he 
arrived alone at the outskirts of the camp, where 
he stopped. As he stood looking about him, an 
Arab girl whom he had not seen before appeared 
from another direction with a large wooden bowl 
on her head, and, going towards some she-camels 
tethered near, began to milk one of them. She 
had not seen the young man, who was partly 
hidden by a tent. 

The girl, who was about sixteen years old, was 
of remarkable beauty, tall and slender, with small 
hands and feet. Her complexion was unusually 
light for one of her nation, being of a delicate, 
golden olive tint, and she had clear-cut features 
of the aquiline Bedawin type. Her lustrous, dark 
eyes looked unnaturally large, being painted 
round with henna. She was clad in a flowing 
dark-blue garment, open at the throat, which, at 
every movement, revealed the outline of her lithe 
figure and supple limbs. A loosely tied sash en- 
circled her slender waist. Her long black hair hung 
down her back, partly hidden by a hood thrown 
gracefully over her head. Rows of gold sequins 
and other coins hung over her forehead, and 
round her shapely neck were numerous necklaces 
of silver, amber, and glass beads. She had large 



The Sheikh's Daughter 35 

silver rings in her ears, and curiously shaped 
bracelets and chains on her delicate wrists and 
ankles. 

Yorke stood for some moments admiring the 
girl and wondering who she was, and how it was 
that he had not seen her before. He then seized 
his pencil and block, and began to make a furtive 
and rapid sketch of her in the act of milking the 
she-camel. He had very nearly finished it when 
she caught sight of him. The foal of the camel 
she was milking, a little creature all legs and eyes, 
having pushed against her in its efforts to get at 
its dam, she had looked round and had seen the 
artist. She did not appear startled, but gazed at 
him fearlessly yet modestly, obviously wonder- 
ing what he was doing. The young man beck- 
oned to her to come and look at the sketch he 
had made, and she at once came to his side and 
stood for some moments looking at the picture. 

" Do you like it, O girl ? " asked Yorke. 

" It is most wonderful, my lord," she replied, 
with a little sigh of delight. 

" Do you think it is like you ? " 

*' No, my lord," replied the girl, laughing musi- 
cally. 

" Why, O fair one ? " 

" Because my lord has drawn with the skill God 
has given him a most beautiful peri, while I am 
but a Bedawi girl." 

" You are far prettier than I have made you in 



36 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

the picture, O modest one," returned the young 
man, looking up into the girl's lovely face. 

Just then the voices of people approaching be- 
came audible. Yorke had no difficulty in recog- 
nizing one of them from its harshness, as being 
that of El Jezzar, the nephew of the sheikh. On 
hearing it, the girl darted off, and, catching up 
the bowl of camel's milk, tripped gracefully away. 
The artist looked after her smilingly. She evi- 
dently read the admiration in his face, for she 
shot a half-amused, half-pleased glance from her 
dark eyes at him as she disappeared. 

Yorke went back to the tent, where he found 
Aylward sitting down to the early morning meal 
that Hanna the cook had just brought in, and 
joined him. When they had finished, he handed 
his friend the sketch he had just made, with the 
remark — 

" What do you think of that ? " 

" H'm — an English girl dressed in Arab female 
costume, milking a she-camel," commented Ayl- 
ward^ glancing at the picture. 

** She's a Beni Azaleh girl of pure blood," ob- 
served Yorke testily. 

" Doesn't look it. Where did you see her ? " 

" Out in the camp just now. She's the pretti- 
est Eastern girl I have ever seen." 

"So you've discovered another paragon of Ori- 
ental beauty, have you ? Let's see — this makes 
the seventeenth, I think, to whose dusky charms 



-f- 



The Sheikh's Daughter. 37 

you have fallen a victim since we came to the gor- 
geous East together. There was that Berber 
creature you raved about at Tangiers, and that 
Jewess at Algiers, and that Galla slave-girl at 
Cairo, and " 

" Oh, shut up ! This girl is far and away pret- 
tier than any of those." 

" Of course ! The last black beauty that bursts 
on your enraptured vision is always the prettiest," 
retorted Aylward. " How you can find beauty in 
any of these brown tattooed Arab females, 
adorned with beads and dirt, beats me ! I expect 
to hear you some day singing the charms of a 
woolly-haired negress ! " 

" I never saw such a prejudiced fellow as you 
are, Hal. If a girl has a dark skin, you think 
she must necessarily be hideous." 

" Every man to his taste. To my eyes, a 
plump, rosy-cheeked English dairy-maid is far 
prettier than any of your black but comely 
belles." 

" I'm pretty sure that if you saw the girl I met 
just now you would acknowledge her to be the 
loveliest and most graceful creature you ever saw." 

" Who is she ? " demanded Aylward, with an 
incredulous laugh. 

" Haven't the least notion. It is a strange 
thing that I should not have seen her before. I 
thought every girl in the camp had been round to 
beg for sugar." 



38 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

'* Well, if you will take my advice, Noel, you 
won't attempt to meet her again. The fact that 
you have never seen her before shows that she is 
not allowed to go about like the other girls, prob- 
ably because she is of better birth. She is sure 
to have a husband or lover who will want to cut 
your throat if he catches you talking to her." 

The subject then dropped. Aylward, accom- 
panied by half-a-dozen of the Beni Azaleh, went 
off to look for the mythical ibex said to frequent 
the hills around, while Yorke sat down to finish 
the sketch he had made. He worked at it all the 
morning, taking much pains, and was well pleased 
with the result when he had finished it. As he 
worked he thought a great deal of the beautiful 
girl he had seen. He knew that the advice his 
friend had given him was sound common sense ; 
nevertheless he resolved to ascertain who the girl 
was and to try and meet her again if possible. 
The dragoman, he knew, would find out all about 
her, if ordered to do so, but he did not care to 
speak to him on the subject. He felt that his 
only chance of seeing her again would be another 
accidental meeting. 

The whole of that afternoon the artist wan- 
dered about the camp, pretending to be looking 
for something to sketch. As he strolled along he 
gazed round in all directions, glancing into every 
tent that he passed, but saw nothing of the girl 
he was in search of. At length he decided that 



The Sheikh's Daughter 39 

for some reason that he could not guess she was 
being kept out of sight, and he accordingly left 
the camp in dudgeon and went towards the cliffs 
some two or three hundred paces distant. There 
were several picturesque caverns at the foot of the 
cliffs which had been converted into folds for 
goats, and his object was to sketch them. As he 
neared the cliffs, he saw, seated at the entrance to 
the largest of the caves, two girls who were tend- 
ing a flock of black, long-eared goats ; and the 
idea instantly occurred to him that one of them 
might be the girl he was looking for. He was 
followed as usual by a crowd of children, and he 
determined to get rid of them before going any 
farther. He was feeling in his pocket for some 
copper paras with which to bribe them to go 
away, when there was a sudden commotion in the 
camp behind. A vicious camel had attacked its 
owner open-mouthed, and had then bolted, throw- 
ing out its long ungainly legs as it fled down the 
wadi, followed by all the idlers in the camp. On 
seeing this, all the children at the artist's heels 
ran off after the runaway camel, screaming with 
excitement. 

Congratulating himself on his good fortune in 
getting rid of his satellites so easily, Yorke went 
on. He had not gone a stone's throw when a 
smile of satisfaction crossed his face, for he had 
recognized the slender, graceful form of one of 
the girls. It was the beautiful girl whom he had 



40 The Finding of Lot^s Wife* 

met that morning and for whom he had been 
looking all the afternoon. The other was a 
plump, merry-faced little creature, about twelve 
years old, who wore a silver ring through her 
under-lip. The young man recognized her at 
once by this singular ornament, as one of the 
children who had come to the tent to beg for 
sugar. She was the first to see him, and she 
pointed him out excitedly to her companion, 
who, however, did not rise, but looked round 
calmly as the artist approached. For a moment 
Yorke was at a loss how to accost the girl ; but, 
seeing, a bowl of goat's milk standing beside the 
stone on which she sat, he pointed to it and 
said — 

*' May I drink, O girl ? " 

Rising, she took up the bowl, and handing it 
to him said, with a graceful gesture, " Drink, my 
lord." 

Having sipped a little of the milk, the young 
man put down the vessel, and, seating himself at 
the girl's feet, began to talk to her. 

*' What is your name, O girl ? " 

" Ay^da, my lord." 

** Whose daughter are you ? " 

" The daughter of the Sheikh, Abd'allah Abou 
Mansur." 

" Is your mother alive? " 

" No, my lord." 

** Have you any brothers or sisters ? " 



The Sheikh's Daug^hter* 41 

"They are all dead," replied the girl sadly. 

" Where is your husband ? " 

" I have no husband, my lord." 

" How is that ? Is it not the custom for the 
Bedawin maidens to be married very young?" 

" Yes, my lord. Feydeh here is married. Are 
you not, Feydeh ? " 

"Yes; I was married last date-season," said 
the younger girl, conscious of her dignity. " But 
El Jezzar is going to marry you, Ay^da," she 
»added. 

The elder girl made no remark, but the ex- 
pression of her face seemed to show that she did 
not view the prospect with pleasure. 

"Your future husband is your cousin, then?" 

" Yes, my lord ; he is the son of my father's 
brother," replied Ay^da, with evident reluctance 
to talk on the subject. 

" Why do they call him El Jezzar ? " 

" Because he and El Wahsh crept one night 
into the camp of the Awdhineh and cut the 
throats of a score of men and women while they 
slept," replied the younger girl Feydeh gleefully, 
evidently considering the bloody deed to have 
been a highly meritorious feat. 

" A full wicked man and a fell," quoted Yorke in 
English. He sat in silence for some time, glanc- 
ing up every now and then at Ay^da's lovely face. 

" How is it that you are so different from the 
other maidens of your tribe ? " he asked at length. 



^2 The Finding of Lof s Wife. 

" In what am I different, my lord ? " 

" In your appearance. You are very beauti- 
ful, and your skin is nearly as fair as mine." 

" It must be because of my blood. The first- 
born males of my family have been sheikhs of 
the Beni Azaleh for many generations, and have 
always taken wives of the best born and most 
beautiful of the Bedawtn maidens," replied Ay^da 
simply, but with a pleased smile. 

" Is it not a little over-bold for a lovely girl 
Hke you to go outside the camp with only a 
child as a companion ? " 

" What should I fear, my lord ? Nobody lives 
in this wadi but my own people, and there are no 
wild beasts." 

" I am glad to see that you are not afraid of 
me, though I am a stranger and an unbeliever." 

" I would be foolish indeed to fear you. All 
our tribe know that Englishmen are good." 

** El Jezzar does not love Franks," remarked 
Feydeh, nodding her head with deep conviction. 

At that moment Ay6da made a warning ges- 
ture of silence. She sat in a listening attitude 
for a few moments, then rose and glanced towards 
the camp. 

" My lord, he of whom Feydeh spoke is com- 
ing, and is near at hand," she said in a low voice, 
turning to Yorke. " It will not be well for him 
to see you with us. Hide yourself in the cave 
till he has gone on his way." 



The Sheikh's Daughter* 43 

The artist was unwilling to get the girl into 
trouble with the man she was to marry, so did as 
he ,was bidden in silence. He stood back in a 
narrow dark recess on the side of the cavern, 
from which position he could both see and hear 
all that happened. He saw El Jezzar arrive, 
and heard him ask the two girls in a loud 
authoritative tone why they were idling there, 
but neither of them made any reply. The fel- 
low then ordered them sharply to go back to the 
camp at once. The younger girl rose to obey, 
but her companion remained seated and took no 
notice of her kinsman's order; and Feydeh, 
after glancing timidly from one to the other, 
seated herself again. El Jezzar, with an oath, 
again ordered them to the camp, but neither of 
them moved ; so, seeing that they did not in- 
tend to obey him, he walked off muttering 
angrily. A minute or two later Yorke heard 
Ay^da's clear voice say, " He is gone, my lord," 
and accordingly came out of the cave and again 
seated himself at her feet. 

" El Jezzar was so angry ! " remarked Feydeh, 
her eyes wide open and shining with excitement. 
" He ordered us to return to the camp, but 
Ay^da would not go." 

" It will be time enough for me to obey him 
when I am his slave, and he can beat me if I re- 
fuse," said Ay^da, with flashing eyes and defiant 
curl of her lips. 



CHAPTER IV. 
The Bcni Azaleh. 

YORKE continued to talk to the two girls for 
some time, addressing himself principally to 
Ay^da. During their conversation the girl al- 
luded to the misfortunes which had befallen her 
tribe, whereupon the artist asked what had hap- 
pened to them. 

" I suppose you fled to these mountains from 
enemies ? " he remarked. 

Before replying, the girl rose and glanced 
round to assure herself that El Jezzar was not in 
sight, and no one else coming to disturb them. 
Then seating herself, she began to tell the young 
man the sad story of her tribe and family, with 
eyes flashing with indignation or wet with grief. 
She spoke with dramatic force, gesticulating with 
her little hands, every line of her graceful form 
being instinct with feeling. 

** Listen, my lord, and I will tell you how it 



The Beni Azalch* 4S 

has pleased God to bring our tribe to nought," 
she said. " The Beni Azaleh are true children of 
the desert. Our home is many days* journey 
from here — in the great Sand country, south of 
the Euphrates. Only some fifteen moons ago 
we were a powerful tribe ; our tents numbered 
over fifty score, and our camels and goats cov- 
ered the country. There were no horses like the 
horses of the Beni Azaleh. We led a happy life, 
wandering from pasture to pasture, and enrich- 
ing ourselves by the sale of our foals and young 
camels. There was no fighting except chance 
encounters with robber-tribes. 

" One day there came to our camp from Da- 
mascus a white man, an Englishman, and he 
brought his lady with him. He was a very saint, 
though it was said that he was an unbeliever, and 
she was a blessed one. They said they had 
come to live among us till God took them. 
The effendi became the brother of my father the 
sheikh by the blood-ceremony. Ere long he was 
looked upon as a father by the men, and his lady, 
the hatdun, as a mother by the women of our 
tribe. They taught us many holy things, espe- 
cially about the goodness and mercy of God, who 
had sent his son Esa to take on himself the bur- 
den of our sins ; and gradually our men began to 
forsake their evil ways and foul talk, and our wo- 
men to grow pure and gentle. But an evil day 
came. The hatdun sickened and died, and soon 



46 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

after the wise and good effendi, who sorrowed 
greatly for her, also died. 

"Soon after this war broke out between us 
and the Awdhineh. We had always been ene- 
mies" — here Ayeda linked her little fingers to- 
gether to express " enemies " — " for they were 
bitterly jealous of us. They trespassed on one 
of our camel-pastures, and refused to leave when 
ordered to do so by my father. Thereupon the 
men of our tribe cried to the sheikh to lead them 
against the enemy. But my elder brother, Man- 
ser, restrained them, remembering the words of 
the saintly effendi, that all war was evil, espe- 
cially between people of the same race. Alone 
and unarmed he rode to the camp of our enemies, 
hoping to settle the dispute without bloodshed. 
But the tent of the Awdhineh is the abode of 
shame. As Mansfir left the tent of the sheikh, 
where he had eaten salt with him, he was stabbed 
in the back by the sheikh's brother with his yem- 
biya and fell dead in the doorway. When the 
news of his treacherous murder reached our 
camp, every man, woman, and child cried aloud 
for vengeance, and before nightfall five hundred 
armed horsemen had started on a great 'ghazu.' * 
They took with them the sacred ' atfah.' " 

" What was that ? " interrupted Yorke. 

" It is a great basket-saddle, my lord, adorned 
with ostrich feathers and carried by the finest 

* War-party. 



The Beni AzalcK 47 

camel in the tribe. It was ridden by my sister 
Fasala, whose right it was to do so as the eldest 
daughter of the sheikh. The possession of it was 
believed by our people to ensure victory to them, 
but they soon found that it was not so. The 
Awdhineh knew well what to expect after their 
wickedness, and prepared to defend themselves. 
They induced by lying promises several other 
tribes — who, though they professed to be our 
friends, had long been jealous of us — to join 
them. A great battle was fought. The Beni 
Azaleh acquitted themselves like men, but were 
beaten, being overpowered by their enemies. 
My sister received a bullet in her side, but con- 
tinued to chant the war-song till she fell dead, 
and then the ' atfah ' was taken by the enemy. 
When they saw what had happened, our people 
lost heart and fled. The Awahineh pursued 
them, and our whole tribe retreated before them 
deeper into the desert. Day and night we trav- 
eled, almost without rest. We were forced to 
abandon our flocks of goats, and our camels and 
horses died by scores in that terrible flight. Our 
enemies followed hard, and cut off and slew 
many of our tribe who had been unable from fa- 
tigue to keep up with the rest. When at length 
they gave up the pursuit and turned back, there 
was left of the great tribe of the Beni Azaleh only 
the handful you now see. Our people thought 
scorn to go and live among the fellahin in the 



48 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

Ghor, so we made our way to these desolate 
mountains, where we are safe from our enemies. 
Here we are likely to remain the rest of our 
lives." 

" I suppose it was the destruction of his tribe 
that made your father the sheikh what he now 
is ? " remarked Yorke sympathetically. 

Ayeda shook her head. 

*' No, my lord ; it was an even greater misfor- 
tune which bereft him of his senses. My father 
had two sons — Mansur, who was murdered by 
the Awahineh, and Selim, who was born after me, 
and he loved them both with his whole soul. 
Mansur was the best horseman in the tribe, and 
no one could wield the lance or shoot so well as 
he. But Selim cared neither for horses nor 
weapons. He loved to sit at the feet of the 
English effendi and listen to his words of wis- 
dom. Both the effendi and the blessed one, his 
lady, cherished the boy and taught him daily , 
and when they died he wept many days, refusing 
to be comforted. 

"After Mansur's death my father could not 
bear to let Selim out of his sight, and guarded 
him as a precious jewel. Nevertheless one day, 
about six moons ago, the boy disappeared and 
has never been seen by any one since. Most of 
of our people say that he was carried off by jtn, 
of which these mountains are full. Some whis- 
per that El Jezzar murdered him, and hid his 



The Beni Azalch^ 49 

body in order that he might himself become 
sheikh of the tribe after my father's death. But 
this I do not believe, else would I slay myself 
rather than marry him. There are a foolish few 
who think Selim is with — But I forget — the 
mullah has forbidden us to speak of that. 

" When Selim disappeared, my father was like 
one distracted. He and all the men of the tribe 
searched every wadi and cave and earth-crevice 
for miles around, ascending even to the tops of 
the mountains, but without finding any trace of 
him. They killed several horses in the search. 
One day my father, followed by six men, came 
on a narrow cleft in the cliffs in a wadi some miles 
distant from here. There was a rough path at 
the bottom of it leading downwards into the 
earth. My father, who was on his black mare 
* Wind Drinker,' rode into this gorge, following 
the path, with his men behind him. They had 
not gone far when the hearts of the men follow- 
ing him began to fail them, for the path grew 
darker and darker because of the height of the 
cliffs above them, till they could scarcely see their 
horses' heads. The gorge was full of 'daughters of 
the voice,'* who mocked them when they spoke, 
and jin sat on the ledges above and threw down 
stones on them. And as they rode down the 
ever-descending path it grew hotter and hotter, 
till they began to fear that their horses' hoofs 

* Echoes. .a^^^^^'-^J^^ 

[UHIVBRSITTJ 



50 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

would melt, and the sweat dripped from them 
through the heat and from fear. At length the 
six men drew rein and cried to my father that it 
was the road to hell, and that they would go no far- 
ther. But he paid no heed to them and rode on. 
Then those cowards turned their mares* heads 
and galloped back to the camp, with the news 
that the sheikh had descended into the bowels of 
the earth by a perilous path, dark as night and 
full of jin. Some of our people went at once to 
the mouth of the gorge and waited there for my 
father's return. On the third day he came out 
on foot, looking like a dead man that walked. 
He could scarcely stand, was shrunk to the 
bones, and dying of hunger and thirst. They 
brought him to the camp, and by careful tending 
his life was saved, but his reason had departed. 
From that day to this he has not known any of 
us, even me, his own daughter, nor spoken a 
word. We hoped that with his strength his rea- 
son would return to him, but it has not been so : 
he is now as he was then. A party of our people 
went some moons ago to Damascus and brought 
back with them the learned mfillah who is now 
in the camp, in order that he may cure the sheikh. 
The holy man has already begun the necessary 
ceremonies. Please God, my father will soon be 
well again." 

" It was very strange that your brother should 
disappear so completely," observed Yorke ; " are 



The Beni Azalch.^ 51 

you sure that he was not carried off by some 
wild beast ? " 

" There are no wild beasts here, my lord ; and 
moreover, had he been killed by one, our people 
would certainly have found the remains of his 
body or clothes." 

It was evident that the girl had loved her 
young brother very deeply and felt his loss 
keenly, for her voice broke when speaking of him, 
and tears stood in her dark eyes. Yorke felt for 
her, and in order to change the current of her 
thoughts began to talk about his art. 

Though the artist spoke Arabic in Egyptian 
fashion, pronouncing his " g's " hard, and though 
Ay^da used many expressions peculiar to the 
desert, the Englishman and the Arab girl had no 
difficulty in understanding each other. In talking 
to the young man, Ayeda showed no shame- 
facedness or mock-modesty. She was quite 
aware that her people would regard her conduct 
with strong disapproval at the least, but she had 
such faith in the honor of Englishmen that she 
felt no shame in disregarding conventionality. 
The younger girl Feydeh sat listening to their 
talk deeply interested, and feeling delightfully 
bold and wicked. The conversation was sud- 
denly and rudely interrupted. 

"Infidel dog! what are you doing here?" 
shouted a loud, strident voice ; and El Jezzar 
stood before them, brandishing his khanjar, his 



52 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

face distorted with rage. He had crept up 
unseen and unheard, and his jealous fury at find- 
ing the girl betrothed to him talking in private 
with the young Englishman, showed itself in 
every line of his evil face. Yorke did not rise on 
seeing him or reply to his abusive interrogation, 
but, putting up his eye-glass, gazed at him with 
calm face. El Jezzar seemed somewhat taken 
aback by the artist's cool reception of him. 

" Have you dared to meet this Frank dog in 
secret, O shameless one ! Would that I had a 
stick that I might break it over your back, O 
creature of infamy ! " he shouted, turning on 
Ay^da. The girl, though her eyes flashed, did 
not look at him, or make any reply. Infuriated 
by her contemptuous silence, the fellow began to 
abuse her in foul terms, making such charges 
against her in the coarsest language that Yorke 
grew hot with shame and anger. Fearing that 
the ruffian would strike her, and being resolved 
not to allow him to do so, he slipped his hand 
into his pocket and drew out his revolver. The 
sight of the weapon had an immediate effect on 
the raging Arab. He stopped flourishing his 
khanjar, and his language took a different tone. 

"Go you back to the camp, girl," he ordered 
sullenly. " I will afterwards speak to you of 
this matter." 

Casting a scornful glance at him, Ay^da rose 
silently and moved off with stately composure, 



The Bern A^aleh^ 53 

with Feydeh clinging to her, frightened and 
crying. As soon as they were gone Yorke, after 
yawning with exaggerated deliberation, picked 
up his sketching things and strolled leisurely off 
to the camp. El Jezzar followed him with scowl- 
ing face ; and though the artist thought it not 
impossible that the scoundrel might stab him in 
the back, he did not take the slightest notice of 
him. Nevertheless he felt relieved when he 
reached the camp and the fellow left him and 
went off to the sheikh's tent, frowning fiercely 
and muttering threats. Yorke found Aylward 
just returned from his unsuccessful search for 
ibex, and at once told him all that had taken 
place. 

" I warned you how it would be if you at- 
tempted to speak to the girl," said his friend, 
with a disgusted air. " I suppose there will be a 
row now. It is a pity you were not content to 
worship your dusky divinity from afar." 

" I'm sorry, Hal ; but I didn't think there was 
any harm in speaking to her, considering how 
many girls I've chatted with and chaffed in the 
camp here." 

" There is a good deal of difference, my young 
friend, between talking to an ordinary girl in the 
camp and meeting the daughter of the sheikh in 
private outside. However, I'm afraid your artis- 
tic appreciation of Oriental beauty is too strong 
for you, and you'll go on discovering peerless 



54 The Findingf of Lot's Wife. 

brown maidens and getting into trouble with 
their male belongings to the end of our travels." 

The two men called in the dragoman and 
informed him of what had happened. He looked 
very blank at first, on hearing of El Jezzars 
anger and threats, and gave his masters to under- 
stand that Yorke's indiscretion might produce 
very grave results, but took a more cheerful view 
of the incident on reflection. 

" T'ese Arab peoples wort'less, quite wort'less," 
he observed. "You give them 'nough money 
and t'ey let you do any mortil t'ing — cut t'eir 
mothers* t'roats if you like. You give El Jezzar 
two — t'ree pounds, and he sell t'at girl to you, 
Mr.'Yok." 

"By Jove! that's a new idea, Georgis. You 
must buy her for me, cheap," said Yorke gravely. 
" I'll take her home and make my fortune out of 
her by hiring her out as a model." 

The dragoman looked doubtingly at him, 
evidently puzzled to know whether he was in 
earnest or not ; but, seeing Aylward smile, he 
realized that the artist was joking. 

" You talking funny, Mr. Yok. English gen- 
tlemen not buying Arab girls," he observed, 
grinning. " But I go now and see what t'ey 
talking in the tents, and come back soon and 
tell," he added and departed. 

It was dark when he returned ; but the news 
he brought was reassuring. He had learned, he 



The Beni Azaleh* 55 

said, that El Jezzar had summoned all the lead- 
ing men to the sheikh's tent, and had informed 
them how he had found one of the two Franks 
then in the camp — he who the people called El 
Hakim, and who violated the ordinances of Allah 
by impiously painting pictures — talking to the 
daughter of the sheikh, who, they were aware, 
had been promised to him in marriage. He had 
represented Yorke's conduct as not only a dis- 
honor to himself, but also an insult to the whole 
tribe, and had demanded his punishment. This 
view of the matter had not commended itself to 
the meeting. It was the general opinion that, if 
anyone was to blame, it was the girl for not 
running away when the hakim spoke to her so 
far from the camp. It was pointed out that 
Yorke had been allowed to talk freely with all 
the women and girls in the camp, and that he 
had not done or said anything in the least offen- 
sive; also that he had been very kind to the 
children, and had relieved the sufferings of many 
of their sick by his medical arts. It was obvious, 
they said, that he was a good man, and they 
refused to allow him to be injured in any way ; but 
recommended that the girl should be given a beat- 
ing to teach her to be more modest in future. 

'* Good God ! I hope the brutes won't thrash 
the poor girl ! That must be stopped at all 
hazards ! " exclaimed Yorke indignantly, spring- 
ing to his feet. 



$6 The Finding: of Lot^s Wife* 

*^Do not be frightened for tat, Mr. Yok. 
T'ey will not touch her. It is only Arab talk," 
said the dragoman soothingly. 

He went on to say that El Jezzar had continued 
to rage and to demand satisfaction for his 
wounded honor, and the meeting had at length 
decided to leave the matter to the decision of 
the mullah. The holy man had approved of the 
opinion expressed by the meeting that no vio- 
lence should be offered to the artist as a guest of 
the tribe, but directed that the strangers should. 
be sent away honorably as soon as possible. It 
had then been decided that the two Englishmen 
and their servants should be escorted next morning 
to some place, apparently in the neighborhood, 
but the exact locality of which the dragoman 
was not able to learn. 

" It strikes me, Noel, that we have got out of 
this mess pretty well. Let it be a warning to 
you, my susceptible young friend," observed 
Aylward. 

" I do hope that they won't ill-treat that poor 
girl, Hal. It makes me miserable to think that 
they may beat her because she allowed me to 
talk to her ! " exclaimed Yorke ruefully. 

"Wat for you troubling, Mr. Yok? Little 
"beating good for girls," remarked the dragoman. 

"You're a brute, Georgis ! " retorted the artist 
angrily. 



CHAPTER V* 
A Disappointingf Discovery. 

Very early next morning Aylward and Yorke 
were awakened by the dragoman entering the 
tent with a lantern. 

" El Jezzar and some of the other Arabs wait- 
ing to see my masters," he announced. 

"What's the time, Georgis?" asked Yorke 
drowsily. 

" It quite dark, Mr. Yok, not enough light to 
tell white thread from black one." 

" They are in a mighty hurry to get rid of us," 
grumbled Aylward. 

In a few minutes the two men were dressed, 
and went out to interview El Jezzar and his fol- 
lowing. The Arabs, wrapped in their 'abaiyehs 
and mounted and armed, were waiting in silence 
before the tent, a disquieting sight in the dim 
light. 
• " Peace be to you, brothers ! why have you 



$8 The Finding of Lot's Wiic 

roused us so early ? " demanded Yorke in Arabic. 
One of the hooded horsemen, whom he had no 
difficulty in recognizing from his harsh voice to 
be El Jezzar, replied gruffly — 

" The Beni Azaleh have decided that it is not 
for the welfare of the tribe that Frank strangers 
should continue to reside among them. We 
have therefore been deputed to escort you and 
your servants and baggage out of the camp." 

"Where do you intend to take us? " asked the 
artist. 

El Jezzar made no reply. 

" The fellow won't say what they are going to 
do with us, which looks as if they meant mis- 
chief," remarked Yorke, turning to his friend. 

" We can't help ourselves ; — we are in their 
power, and must consent to anything they pro- 
pose," replied Aylward. " I fancy they will take 
us a mile or two from the camp, and then leave 
us to find our way back to Mar Saba as best we 
can. You had better tell them that we shall be 
ready to start in a few minutes." 

Yorke did so, and El Jezzar grunted some in- 
articulate response. 

The two men then retired to their tent, where 
Hanna the cook brought them biscuits and 
coffee. They made a good meal by lamplight, 
being in doubt as to when they might be able to 
eat and drink again. When they had finished, 
the tent was struck and the baggage donkeys 



A Disappointing Disco very* 59 

loaded. The horses and riding donkeys, which 
had quite recovered from the fatigues of the 
journey from Mar Saba, were then saddled and 
led up. Day had just begun to dawn when the 
party started. 

El Jezzar and his companions, half a score in 
number, rode in front with the Englishmen, and 
their servants behind them, and the baggage 
donkeys in the rear, driven by two or three 
youths on foot. As they rode through the camp, 
they could hear the voices of people just awak- 
ened from sleep. Men and women came to the 
doors of their tents, on hearing the hoof beats of the 
cavalcade, and gazed sleepily after them. Yorke 
glanced eagerly about him, hoping to see Ayeda 
peeping out from one of the tents, but she did 
not show herself. The thought that the slender, 
graceful creature might be cruelly beaten that 
day, because she had listened when he talked to 
her, troubled the artist greatly, and he more than 
once drew rein with the intention of turning 
back and appealing to the men of the tribe to 
prevent the brutality ; but, realizing on reflection 
that his interference would probably only make 
matters worse for the girl, he rode on, comforting 
himself with the thought that her relatives would 
content themselves with scolding and abusing 
her, as the dragoman had assured him they 
would. As they passed through the camp. El 
Jezzar every now and then turned in his saddle 



6o The Finding of Lot's Wifc^ 

and glared fiercely at him. He seemed to under- 
stand what the artist's motive was in gazing at 
the tents so keenly, and to resent the action 
bitterly. His long lance quivered continually in 
his grasp, as if he could scarcely restrain himself 
from plunging its sharp point into the hated 
stranger. 

After riding some miles along rock-strewn 
wadis and winding gorges on the red, barren 
hills, the party suddenly emerged, through a 
tunnel-like passage, on a white plain, about a 
mile wide, surrounded by lofty cliffs. The mo- 
ment they entered the plain, Yorke gave a shout 
of surprise and rapture — 

" Great Caesar ! Look, Hal, look ! — the Mon- 
astery of St. Lot ! " 

Near the centre of the plain stood a great 
isolated pinnacle of rock, some two hundred feet 
high, with perpendicular sides. Though it 
seemed inaccessible, it was nevertheless crowned 
with buildings, the white walls and red roofs of 
which were brilliantly illuminated by the sun- 
beams streaming over the eastern cliffs. The 
monastery — for such it obviously was — was 
perched on a ledge near the top, with a great 
round rock rising above it. It was of consider- 
able extent, consisting of a picturesque main 
building, surmounted by a dome, and detached 
houses and towers here and there clinging to the 
rock, wherever there was space to build. An 



A Disappointing^ Discovery* 6i 

irregularly built parapet wall ran round the sum- 
mit along the edge of the precipice. A number 
of large trees were growing among the buildings. 
The two travelers halted abruptly to gaze on this 
unexpected but welcome sight. 

The Beni Azaleh had shown no surprise 
on coming in sight of the monastery-crowned 
rock in the midst of the mountains. They had 
evidently been aware of its existence. 

" What ghastly liars these fellows are ! " ex- 
claimed Yorke, wrathfuUy, alluding to them. 
'' They swore by God and by their Prophet that 
there was no building inhabited by human beings 
anywhere in the neighborhood of their camp, but 
it is obvious from their demeanor that they knew 
perfectly well of this place." 

" It is the wonderful monastery they told us of 
at Mar Saba right enough ; it can't be anything 
else," said Ay 1 ward, staring at the great rock as 
if he could scarcely believe his eyes. 

" I wonder if they are going to take us there," 
cried his friend, eagerly. 

The doubt was soon solved. El Jezzar, after 
a few moments' discussion with his tribesmen, 
turned his mare's head and led the way across 
the plain, going slowly and cautiously. The 
other Arabs followed him, riding in single file, 
and the Englishmen and their servants did the 
same, for they saw that the path was a dangerous 
one. It wound like a snake-track across the 



62 The Finding; of Lot's Wife* 

plain, which was covered with white salt crystals 
and patches of sulphur efflorescence, skirting 
brine-pools, filled with blue water and black bitu- 
men-pits, from which rose a suffocating odor. 

" Take care, O hakim ! To fall into one of 
these subbkhas is death ! " grunted the rearmost 
of the Beni Azaleh, half turning his head to speak 
to Yorke, who was behind him. The dragoman, 
in the rear, overheard the warning, and was 
seized with terror. 

" By God ! I would rather trust my own two 
legs than the four legs of this pig of a donkey ! 
I will walk," he exclaimed. He slid off the ani- 
mal's hind-quarters, but so clumsily that he al- 
most threw it down. In trying to save itself the 
donkey trod on the brittle overhanging brink of a 
brine-pool, and the next moment the poor beast 
had disappeared into its blue depths. 

" Ride on ! ride on ! " shouted the Arabs on 
hearing the splash. " If you stop, the path will 
sink and we shall all fall in." 

In an agony of fear the dragoman seized the 
tail of Aylward's horse and roared for help. 

*' Don't yell like that, my man, or you'll scare 
the horses ! Walk quietly behind, and you'll be 
all right," exclaimed his master. But the drago- 
man had been too much startled by the sudden 
disappearance of his donkey and his own narrow 
escape to be able to restrain himself, and he con- 
tinued to utter ejaculations of terror and horror 



A Disappointing Discovery. 63 

as he staggered after his master. No attempt 
whatever was made to rescue the drowning don- 
key. 

As they neared the lofty rock, Yorke, who was 
greatly excited, began to indulge in all sorts of 
speculations as to what they were about to dis- 
cover. He was more than half inclined to believe, 
in the state of mind he was in, that the accounts 
the monks and Arabs of Mar Saba had given 
him of this lonely monastery would prove true. 

" I don't see the ravens, Hal," he remarked in 
a disappointed tone. " There ought to be scores 
of them flying about the trees up there." 

" They are all away — gone to get food for the 
monks," returned his friend dryly. 

"We ought to be able to see some of the 
monks now," continued the artist, gazing up 
anxiously. " If we find that they wear clothes 
and that they can use their tongues, I shall con- 
sider that we have been shamefully imposed 
upon." 

At that moment a strange clanging, vibrating 
sound came from the monastery above, and was 
echoed by the surrounding cliffs again and again. 

" There goes the sacred bell that the monks 
ring to kee.p the devils off ! " exclaimed Yorke 
with delight. '' By Jove, Hal, this looks as if we 
were going to see something wonderful ! " 

By this time they had crossed the plain and 
had reached the foot of the rock on which the 



64 The Finding: of Lot's Wife» 

monastery stood. About one hundred and fifty 
feet above them was a small tower, built on two 
great beams that projected out from the face of 
the rock. In the floor of the tower overhanging 
the precipice was a closed trap-door. As no living 
thing was visible the Beni Azaleh shouted long 
and loudly, calling on the inmates of the monas- 
tery to show themselves, but no one appeared 
and no voice was heard in reply. El Jezzar then 
unslung his gun, and, after several unsuccessful 
attempts, managed to fire it off, rousing count- 
less echoes. 

Suddenly, while the whole party was looking 
up for some sign of life in the monastery, the trap- 
door in the tower above was opened, and a face 
appeared for a moment looking down and then 
vanished. There was instantly a yell of amaze- 
ment from all the Beni Azaleh. Though the 
face had been visible only for a second or two, 
too brief a time for either of the Englishmen 
to be able to say whether it was the face of 
a man, woman or child, the keen eyes of the 
Arabs had evidently recognized it. 

" Wah ! wah ! " '' By God ! " '' Saw you that, 
brothers ? " " Praise be to God ! " and other 
exclamations of surprise and joy burst from their 
lips, and they stared at one another with startled 
eyes as if they had seen something too wonder- 
ful for belief. At a word from El Jezzar, who 
appeared the most disturbed of them all, they 



A Disappointingf Discovery* 65 

rode off, out of earshot of the rest of the party, 
and talked excitedly among themselves- with 
animated gestures, pointing frequently up at the 
monastery with their lances. El Jezzar's harsh 
voice could be heard reiterating vehemently some 
opinion he held. At length all the Arabs, to the 
surprise of the travelers and the consternation 
of their two servants, wheeled round and rode 
off across the plain at a much faster pace than 
they had come. They were followed by the don- 
key-boys, who bolted without a word of explana- 
tion. Neither Aylward nor Yorke could see any 
good reason for this extraordinary behavior on 
the part of the Beni Azaleh, though it had obvi- 
ously been caused by the sight of the face look- 
ing through the trap-door. 

" What do those fellows mean by leaving us in 
that unceremonious fashion, Georgis? What 
were they jabbering about ? " demanded the for- 
mer indignantly. 

''I not know, Mr. Ilwad, but I t'ink they 
see one devil in the tower up t'ere," re- 
plied the dragoman, with a frightened glance up- 
ward. 

" Don't be an ass, Georgis ! " was his master's 
testy rejoinder. 

Just then two or three dark, bearded faces ap~ 
peared at the trap-door above them. Aylward 
fancied that he also saw a white face, apparently 
that of a European, looking down. Presently a 



66 The Finding of Lot^s "Wife* 

voice was heard, asking in broken Arabic who 
they were and what they wanted. 

" They're not dumb, at any rate ! ** remarked 
Yorke, disgustedly. He then shouted in reply, 
in the same language, that they were English- 
men who had lost their way, and that they craved 
the hospitality of the monks for themselves and 
their two servants. There was a few minutes' 
silence, and then another voice said distinctly in 
excellent English^ — 

" A rope is about to be sent down to you, 
gentlemen, to draw you up into the monas- 
tery." 

" Angels and ministers of grace, defend us ! 
Did you hear that, Hal ? " ejaculated the artist, 
with dismay on his face. 

" One of the monks is an Englishman, I sup- 
pose," returned his friend coolly. 

" Or there are English travelers there, and we 
have been forestalled in our discovery of the 
wonderful Monastery of St. Lot," said Yorke, in 
a tone of deep annoyance. 

While they were speaking, a faint creaking 
sound became audible, and a long thick rope 
began to descend slowly through the trap-door 
above. It had an iron hook at the end, from 
which hung a strong rope-net and a goat's-hair 
blanket. When the rope reached the ground, the 
voice they had last heard spoke again in Eng- 
lish— 



A Disappointingf Discovery^ 67 

" If one of you will get into the net, he will be 
drawn up." 

" I'll go up first, if you don't mind^ Hal," said 
Yorke, eagerly. 

''AH right. I'll follow you. Georgis and 
Hanna can send up the baggage and come up 
afterwards." 

" How about the horses and donkeys? I sup- 
pose the monks won't haul them up." 

" We had better ask what we are to do with 
them." Raising his voice, Aylward asked in 
English whether there was any place below 
where they could leave the animals. After a few 
moments' silence the voice from above said — 

" The monks say that you will find a cave in 
the face of the cliff, a little to the east, where 
you can tether them." 

" The fellow is a traveler like ourselves, con- 
found him ! I wonder if there are any more of 
them," exclaimed Yorke, on hearing this. 

Having unsaddled the horses and riding- 
donkeys, and unladen the baggage animals, the 
two men, assisted by the dragoman and cook, 
led them to the cave indicated, which was close 
at hand. It had been converted into rude stables, 
but there was no sign that they had ever been 
occupied by any animal. Posts had been driven 
into the floor, to which the travelers tethered the 
horses and donkeys. 

Yorke now made ready to ascend to the monas- 



68 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

tery. The rope net was laid on the ground with 
the blanket spread over it, and the artist having 
seated himself, his friend caught up the outer 
meshes of the net and slipped them on to the 
hook. He then signaled to the monks above, 
and Yorke was drawn up, tightly enveloped in 
the net. As he ascended he revolved slowly and 
bumped softly every now and then against the 
face of the rock. Once or twice the rope gave a 
jerk which sent his heart into his mouth. The 
dragoman and cook gazed up after him, uttering 
ejaculations of surprise and horror. The pros- 
pect of having to ascend in the same perilous 
fashion filled them with dismay. 

On being drawn up into the tower, through the 
trap-door, Yorke felt himself grasped by half-a- 
dozen hands, dragged to one side, and gently de- 
posited on the floor. He was then released from 
the rope-net, and at once sprang to his feet. As 
he did so he heard himself addressed in English, 
and became aware that an old man, in semi- 
European costume and wearing colored glasses, 
was holding out his hand to him. The stranger 
was rather short and spare, with a thin intellectual 
face and a long gray beard. 

" Permit me to introduce myself, sir — Professor 
Abraham Payne, of Clarksonville University, 
Illinois/' said the stranger, in a slightly nasal 
voice, which betrayed his nationality. 

" Delighted to make your acquaintance. Pro- 



A Disappointing^ Discovery* 69 

fessor. My name is Noel Yorke," returned the 
artist, shaking hands with him, and then looking 
round him with eager curiosity. In a moment 
all his preconceived ideas and hopes were dashed 
to the ground. One glance was sufficient to 
show him that the monks of the Monastery of 
St. Lot were not the centuries-old, naked, hairy 
ascetics they had been represented to be. There 
were about a dozen of them present, only one of 
whom was aged ; the rest, with the exception of 
one young man, being men of middle age. They 
all wore long, dark robes, bound with camel-hair 
girdles, and had on their heads strangely-shaped 
hats with flanged tops. All were barefooted, 
and wore long hair and beards, and looked as if 
personal cleanliness was not one of their monastic 
rules. 

" This, sir, is Father Polycarp, the hegoumenos 
or superior. He wishes me to say that the 
Brotherhood of St. Lot welcome you and your 
friend to their monastery," said Professor Payne 
to Yorke, indicating one of them. 

The hegoumenos was a portly, elderly man, 
with good features and a beard of unusual length. 
There was nothing in his dress to distinguish him 
from the other monks. He made a dignified, 
courteous gesture and bowed gravely on hearing 
himself named. Yorke was then introduced to 
Brother Sophronius, the patriarch of the monas- 
tery, whose snowy beard, almost sightless eyes, 



70 The Finding: of Lot^s Wife* 

and trembling limbs bore out the Professor's 
statement that it was over seventy years since he 
had joined the brotherhood. All the other 
monks were then made known to the artist by 
name, and the monastic office and duties of each 
explained to him. Yorke was amazed to see 
that, though the visits of strangers to the 
monastery must have been extremely rare, not 
one of the monks showed the least excitement, 
pleasure, or curiosity, or said a word. Each one 
wore a solemn, sorrowful expression of face, as if 
he had some unshriven sin on his conscience. 

While these grave courtesies were being ex- 
changed, the monks had again let down the rope. 
It passed round a large windlass standing in the 
middle of the tower and securely fastened to the 
floor and roof-timbers. It was turned with bars 
by half-a-dozen monks, while two others watched 
at the trap-door and directed their movements. 
Presently the monks began to turn the creaking 
capstan, and in a couple of minutes Aylward ap- 
peared, enveloped in the net, with the stolid 
look on his face that an Englishman puts on 
when anything unusual is happening to him. His 
friend helped him to his feet and introduced him 
to Professor Payne, who presented him to the 
hegoumenos and the rest of the monks. Ayl- 
ward expressed no surprise or curiosity, for it 
had seemed to his strong common sense to be 
impossible that the monastery should be tenanted 



A Disappointingf Discovery^ 71 

by any but human beings of ordinary appearance 
and habits, and it did not seem to him a matter 
for surprise that other European travelers should 
have found their way there. 

When the introductions were over, the rope 
was again lowered, and all the baggage of the 
travelers having been packed into the net by 
their servants was hoisted up. Hanna the cook 
was then drawn up, and was followed by the 
dragoman, who had himself to slip the meshes of 
the net in which he sat over the hook at the end 
of the rope. His terror lest the net should slip 
and he should fall out was excessive, and he ar- 
rived in the tower in a pitiable state, trembling 
exceedingly and bathed in perspiration. The 
fervency of his self-congratulations on his safe 
ascent was greatly damped by the thought that 
he would have to return the same way. 

" By my father's beard ! " he muttered to him- 
self in Arabic, " I will become a monk and stay 
here the rest of my days, for go back that way I 
will not, though my tarbush be filled with gold 
pieces ! " 



CHAPTER VI- 

The Pfofesson 

When the two Englishmen, their servants, and 
their baggage had all been drawn up by the wind- 
lass into the monastery, Father Polycarp, address- 
ing Aylward and Yorke in Greek, Professor Payne 
acting as interpreter, informed them that a cham- 
ber had been got ready for them, to which he 
would conduct them if they would honor him by 
accompanying him. Guided by the portly hegou- 
menos, and followed by the dragoman, the cook 
and some of the monks carrying their baggage, 
the travelers and the Professor passed out of the 
tower, up some stone steps and through an arch- 
way cut in the solid rock, to a small building 
standing on the very verge of the precipice, and 
opening on a shady cloister. It contained only 
one dark room, with a stone divan running round 
three sides of it, and had small windows, an 
earthen floor, and whitewashed walls. It was 



The Profcs^^^^i^^^ 

bare of furniture or ornaments, witlTnie excep- 
tion of a small low table, about a foot from the 
ground, and a picture of a hard-featured saint 
painted on wood. All the baggage having been 
put into the room, Father Polycarp expressed the 
hope, through the Professor, that they would be 
comfortable, and took his departure, but returned 
for a moment to say that the mid-day meal would 
be ready shortly. 

" I suppose you are surprised to see us. Profes- 
sor ? " remarked Yorke, seating himself on the 
stone divan, the old savant and Aylward doing 
the same, while the dragoman and cook busied 
themselves in unpacking the saddle-bags. 

*' Not more so, I think, than you were on find- 
ing us — me here, sir," was the reply. 

'* That's true enough. To tell you the truth, 
we not only did not expect to find any traveler 
here, but almost thought, froni the extraor- 
dinary stories we had been told about the place, 
that it would prove to be tenanted by naked, 
hirsute monks, hundreds of years old, who had 
lost the power of speech ! " said the artist, laugh- 
ing. 

" It is one of the strangest communities of re- 
cluses I ever met with, though happily not so ex- 
traordinary as you had imagined," remarked the 
old man. 

" How did you find your way here. Professor? 
as far as we have been able to learn, the existence 



74 The Findingf of Lofs "Wife. 

of this monastery is only known to the outer 
world by the vaguest rumors." 

" It was partly through an accident that we 
discovered the place." 

" We ! " repeated Yorke. " Are you not alone 
here then ? " 

*' No, my daughter is with me." 

"Your daughter!" ejaculated the artist, 
while Aylward's face showed his surprise. 
'^ Excuse my rude exclamation, but I thought 
that these celibate monks would not permit 
females, even of animals, to enter their monas- 
teries ! " 

" That is true, sir, but they think my daughter 
to be a boy." 

" Is she dressed as one ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Pardon the question, Professor, but how old 
is she?" 

"Nineteen." 

" Great Caes We shall have the pleasure 

of seeing Miss Payne, I hope." 

" She will not come out of her room till the 
evening, for she feels a very natural reluctance to 
appear before two young gentlemen in the dress 
that circumstances have forced her to adopt, and 
which she dislikes extremely." 

" Well, this is the strangest of all the strange 
experiences of the morning ! Who would have 
dreamt of meeting a young lady here?" 



The Professor* 75 

" My daughter has been with me in many 
strange places, poor child." 

*' I hope you will not think my curiosity imper- 
tinent, Professor, but I should very much like to 
know what brought you here, and how it is that 
your daughter is with you." 

" I will tell you with pleasure, Mr. Yorke, but 
I must first explain what my vocation is. The 
past fifteen years of my life have been spent in 
wandering about the East searching for the 
many almost unknown monasteries which exist in 
remote mountains and deserts, in order to inspect 
their literary treasures. About three years ago 
I went to England to see my daughter, Isha, my 
only child, and made the surprising discovery — 
though it will, no doubt, seem absurd to you — 
that she had grown up, in my absence, to be a 
young woman, too old to remain at school. As 
she had no mother — my wife, who was an Eng- 
lishwoman, having died in giving birth to her — 
and as I had no relatives with whom I could 
leave her, I determined to take her back with me 
to the East to be my companion on my travels. 
It was not till we arrived in Abyssinia that I real- 
ized what a mistake I had made. I had not fore- 
seen in my foolishness that the companionship of 
a girl would be an obstacle to my studies, as she 
would not be admitted to the monasteries in 
which they were carried on. I was considering 
what to do, when my daughter, who had discov- 



76 The Finding of Lot^s Wife* 

ered my dilemma, suggested that she should 
dress as a boy, in which guise she could safely 
accompany me. I consented, after some little 
demur, thinking that as we should meet only 
ignorant monks, and few if any people of our own 
class, it was immaterial what dress she wore. I did 
not at all understand the sacrifice of her feelings 
that she had made, but actually supposed that she 
would find childish pleasure in masquerading in 
boy's clothes. 

** For a time all seemed to go well. We visited 
several monasteries, and my daughter's disguise 
was not suspected. The life we were forced to 
lead must have been a very trying one to a young 
girl, but she made no complaint, and I had no 
idea that she was unhappy. One day, however, 
I found her in tears, and was distressed beyond 
measure to discover how acutely she was suffer- 
ing. She loathed the unmaidenly part she had 
to play, and was pining for the society of her 
own sex. All those months she had been hiding 
her real feelings from me lest she should inter- 
rupt my studies. I tell you all this, gentlemen, 
that you may see that it was simply love for her 
old father which led her to adopt male costume." 

" You are much to be congratulated on your 
daughter, Professor!" interrupted Aylward 
warmly. 

" A girl of a thousand ! " added Yorke. 

" Thank you, gentlemen," said the old man, 



The Professor* 77 

with a pleased smile, taking off his glasses, which 
had become dimmed, and wiping them. 

"At the time I made this discovery," he con- 
tinued, '* circumstances made it impossible for 
me to change my plans, but about three months 
ago I found myself free to return home, and 
started at once, being anxious to take my daugh- 
ter back to civilized life as soon as possible. We 
were then at a remote monastery in an oasis of 
the Nefood Desert ; and the Bedawin having in- 
formed us that the nearest way to Jerusalem lay 
through these mountains, we came this way. 
We, however, lost ourselves among the wadis and 
wandered about in great danger of dying of 
thirst, when, through the providential straying of 
one of our camels, we discovered this valley. At 
sight of the monastery the Bedawin with us, who 
were our only attendants, were thunderstruck, 
and swore that the buildings we saw were not 
real, but were built of air by evil spirits to lure 
belated travelers to destruction. They positively 
refused to approach the rock, preferring to run 
the risk of perishing among these barren, water- 
less mountains rather than go near to it. Ac- 
cordingly my daughter and I left them, and made 
our way across the plain on foot to the monastery, 
carrying a few necessaries with us. We were 
hospitably received by the monks, and have re- 
mained here ever since. The Bedawin who had 
come with us no doubt gave us up for lost, for 



78 The Finding: of Lot^s Wife* 

next morning they had disappeared, taking all 
our belongings with them. Being thus deprived 
of the means of continuing our journey, we had 
almost begun to fear that we should have to end 
our days here, for we soon discovered that we 
were the first visitors to the monastery within the 
memory of any of the monks. You may there- 
fore imagine with what pleasure we learned of your 
arrival, for we thought you would not refuse to 
allow us to accompany you when you resumed 
your journey." 

"We shall be very pleased indeed, if you and 
Miss Payne will join us," said Aylward, speaking 
as the leader of the party ; " but the fact is, we 
are almost as badly off as you are, for, though we 
have horses and donkeys and provisions, we have 
no guides to show us the way out of the moun- 
tains, and shall probably have to find it for our- 
selves." He then gave Professor Payne some 
account of himself and Yorke, and of their jour- 
neyings during the past few months, and of their 
recent adventures among the Beni Azaleh. 

While he was speaking the loud clanging noise 
they had heard while at the foot of the rock, 
again arose, and they could hear its echoes 
booming in the distance. 

" They are striking the semandron as a signal 
that the mid-day meal is ready," remarked the 
Professor, seeing the surprise of the other two at 
the strange sound. 



The Professor* 79 

" What is a semandron ? " asked Yorke. 

'*It is a beam of hard, sonorous wood that is 
hung from a tree in the courtyard and is pounded 
with a mallet. The monks use it instead of a 
bell. If you are ready, I will conduct you to the 
refectory." 

The two young men hastily changed their 
travel-soiled dress for clean garments ; and having 
washed in a brass basin of cool, clean water 
brought by the dragoman, declared themselves 
to be ready to follow the old man. 

The refectory was close at hand. It was a 
large, crypt-like apartment, with arched roof, 
stone-paved floor, and narrow windows. A long 
table stood in it, at which the monks were al- 
ready seated on forms. Roughly-made chairs 
had been placed for the travelers near the hegou- 
menos, who sat at the head of the table. Being 
courteously invited by him with a wave of his 
hand to seat themselves, the three men did so, 
and were waited on by the dragoman, who put 
before them food which had been prepared by 
the old cook. After a long grace in Greek from 
Father Polycarp, he and his brethren began to 
partake sparingly of the poor fare before them, 
consisting of barley bread, thin lentil soup, and a 
little fruit. The two young Englishmen, glanc- 
ing round the table, were struck with the sorrow- 
ful faces and dejected attitudes of all the monks. 
They ate with frequent pauses and downcast 



8o The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

eyes, as if they felt they were giving way to sin- 
ful indulgence in satisfying their appetites. 

" Would you mind asking the hegoumenos, 
Professor, whether he and his monks will not 
honor us by sharing with us some of the things 
we have brought?" said Aylward. ''We have 
some Lebanon wine which our man will produce if 
they care to try it. It seems so unsociable for us 
to be feasting on tinned luxuries while they are 
filling themselves with broth and black bread." 

Professor Payne communicated his wish to 
Father Polycarp, who, however, shook his head, 
while a stern expression came into his face. 

'' We are much indebted to the gentlemen for 
their kindness and thought for us, but we cannot 
accept their generous offer," he said in Greek. 
" We wish them to feel themselves at liberty to 
partake of such things as they may have brought 
with them, for our poverty permits us to offer our 
guests only food to which they are doubtless un- 
accustomed. As for us, it behoves us to mortify 
the flesh to the utmost limit of our human en- 
durance. Never since the founding of the mon- 
astery of St. Lot have the brotherhood had such 
need for humbling themselves before God." 

On hearing these austerely spoken words sev- 
eral of the monks groaned audibly ; one or two 
pushed away their bowls of soup, while Brother 
Sophronius, the aged monk, trembled so exces- 
sively that a monk sitting next to him put his 



The Professor. 81 

arm round him to support him. None of them 
spoke, however. 

Professor Payne translated to Aylward what 
the hegoumenos had said, but without remarking 
on the agitation shown by the monks at the con- 
clusion of their Superior's reply. 

*' I suppose you have found out by this time 
all about this queer place, Professor? " remarked 
Yorke, after a few minutes' silence. 

'' Well, yes, sir. I think I have learned all that 
is to be learned of the monastery and its inmates 
from the monks themselves and from their rec- 
ords. It is without doubt one of the strangest 
places in the world." 

" It is a Christian monastery, of course? " 

" It belongs nominally to the Greek Church ; 
but, though the monks profess to be under the 
spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Con- 
stantinople, I doubt whether his Holiness is even 
aware of their existence. They follow the rule 
of St. Basil and are under vows of poverty, silence, 
and, it need hardly be said, of celibacy. They 
elect their own hegoumenos." 

" What sort of fellows are they ? I hope none 
of them understand English, by the way ? " 

" Oh, no. They are chiefly Greeks, and do not 
speak any language but their own. The hegou- 
menos can converse in Arabic, however. They 
are an excellent. God-fearing, simple-minded 
body of men, superior to the ordinary run of 



82 The Finding of Lofs Wife. 

monks of the Eastern Church ; but, like their 
brethren in other places, ignorant and somewhat 
uncleanly in their habits. They live entirely 
on vegetable food, and their only treatment for 
sickness is prayer and application of balm of 
Gilead." 

" I suppose the monastery is a very ancient 
one?" 

" The monks say that it was founded by the 
Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. It is 
possible that it then became a Christian monas- 
tery ; but my belief is, from archaic inscriptions 
I have found and from ancient records in the 
library which I have deciphered, that this rock 
was inhabited by a community of ascetics long 
before the Christian era." 

" I wonder, seeing how unknown the monastery 
is and that the monks have no communication 
with the outer world, that it has not ceased to 
exist, through the death of all its inmates." 

** The monks made an extraordinary statement 
when I questioned them on the subject. They 
assured me that there are never more nor less 
than twelve brothers in the monastery, and that 
it always happened when one of them died, that 
a candidate for admission into the Brotherhood, 
sent by God, presented himself at the foot of the 
rock at daybreak next morning! " 

" The age of miracles has evidently not yet 
passed in these parts," observed Yorke, dryly. 



The Pfofesson - 83 

" I see that there are only eleven monks pres- 
ent," remarked Aylward, looking round the 
table. 

" That is so, sir. I have not seen Brother 
Barlaam, one of them, for some days," said Pro- 
fessor Payne. " The hegoumenos told me some 
time ago that no brother had ever been known 
to break his vows, but I fancy that something of 
the kind has at length happened,. judging from 
the unusual conduct of all the monks recently. 
They have obviously been in a state of great 
horror and distress about something." 

'' I suppose they have locked up the erring 
brother in one of the cells ? " said Yorke. 

" I think so, sir." 

" I hope they won't build him up alive in the 
walls, or commit any such barbarity of the Mid- 
dle Ages ! One somehow feels that anything is 
possible in this extraordinary place." 

" They will probably keep him in confinement 
till he has expiated his sin by penance and has 
obtained absolution. I think it unlikely that 
they will treat him more severely." 

By this time the monks had finished their 
silent, frugal meal ; some, indeed, including the 
hegoumenos, having eaten scarcely sufficient to 
support life. A short thanksgiving was then 
repeated by them, all standing, after which they 
filed out of the refectory with hanging heads and 
mournful faces. Father Polycarp, with an apolo- 



84 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

getic murmur and a grave inclination of the 
head, followed them. 

The three travelers, who had risen to their 
feet as the monks retired, seated themselves 
again and continued their conversation. They 
had much to tell each other, and sat for some 
hours in the refectory talking together with 
animation. Professor Payne proved himself to 
be a most entertaining companion, having a vast 
fund of information regarding the strange places 
and stranger people he had seen in his wander- 
ings, and many stories of adventure and peril to 
relate. He appeared to take a great interest in 
the political and social questions of the day, and, 
not having had any reliable news of what was 
going on in the world for many months, had 
many questions to ask. He was anxious for 
news of the war then raging in the Crimea, and 
heard with greM satisfaction of the recent vic- 
tories of the Allies. 

" Good heavens, Noel ! We have forgotten all 
about those poor brutes of ours that we left in 
the cave at the foot of the rock ! " exclaimed 
Aylward, suddenly. 

" I heard the hegoumenos give directions to 
one of the brothers to take down some locust- 
beans and water for them, and the creaking of 
the windlass soon after ; so I think the animals 
have been attended to," remarked Professor 
Payne. 



The Professor. 85 

" That was really very good of the old fel- 
low ! " observed Yorke. " One would imagine 
from his thinking of the needs of animals, of 
which he must have long ceased to have any 
experience, that he was in the habit of enter- 
taining travelers daily." 

'' As I said before, there is no record or even 
rumor of any stranger ever having come to the 
monastery previous to the arrival of my daughter 
and myself," said the old savant. 

"It is almost too marvelous for belief!" 
ejaculated Yorke. " I say. Professor, will you 
show us over the place? I suppose you know 
your way about it ?" 

" I think I know every nook and corner of it, 
sir, and shall be delighted to act as cicerone. 
There are many things in it that are well worth 
seeing." 

" Do the monks object to smoking?" 

" They do not indulge in the habit themselves, 
but I feel sure they will make no objection to 
their guests doing so." 

" Here goes, then ! " Yorke lit his pipe ; and 
his friend having followed his example, they left 
the refectory to explore the Monastery of St. 
Lot under the Professor's guidance. 



CHAPTER VIL 

The Monastery of St. Lot* 

Passing through a door at the end of the 
refectory, the three men found themselves in a 
stone-paved courtyard, round three sides of which 
ran a shady cloister, while the remaining side 
was open to the precipice, protected only by a 
low parapet wall. The courtyard was full of 
ancient olive-trees, the gnarled and twisted trunks 
of several of which were quite hollow. Beneath 
their great branches the ground was covered 
with white blossoms like snow. Above the 
courtyard on one side rose the main building of 
the monastery perforated with small windows, 
and, on the other, a great rock raised its rounded 
head some fifty feet above the roofs of the build- 
ings. A dark passage at the end of the court- 
yard gave access to a stone bridge which spanned 
a deep chasm. Beyond was a flight of steps 
rudely cut in the rock, protected by chains 



The Monastery of St. Lot. 87 

swinging from iron supports over the precipice. 
Professor Payne led the way up this perilous 
path to the top of the rock, whence they had a 
magnificent view. 

Round the monastery-rock stretched a laby- 
rinth of rocky mountains, ridge beyond ridge, 
glowing like red-hot iron in the brilliant sun- 
light. They looked like waves of molten lava 
which, while running storm-high, had been sud- 
denly commanded to stand still. Torn and 
racked by convulsions of nature, they were 
piled confusedly together, terminating in bold 
bluffs that looked like ruined strongholds or in 
sheer precipices. Their faces were scored with 
terraces and land-slips, and their summits 
crowned with domes, towers, pinnacles, and 
mighty boulders. A tremulous blue haze lay 
over the scene. 

" How in the world did the ancient builders of 
this monastery succeed in climbing the rock? 
It is surrounded by precipices on all sides," ob- 
served Aylward, after they had stood in silence 
some time, looking round them and admiring the 
scene. 

" Perhaps they used kites, like our steeple- 
jacks at home," suggested Yorke. 

" I think the monks know of some secret path 
up, the entrance to which they have hidden, but 
where it can be I have not the least idea, though, 
actuated by curiosity, I have searched every part 



88 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

of the monastery open to my inspection," said 
Professor Payne. 

Below the three men lay the monastery, a 
picturesque group of red-tiled buildings straggling 
irregularly over the rock, with the sky-line above 
them. Fruit trees of different kinds grew wher- 
ever there was room for their roots, comprising 
olive-trees, their dark-blue foliage contrasting 
with the pale green of mulberry and almond 
trees ; orange and citron trees laden with golden 
fruit ; pomegranates ablaze with crimson flowers, 
and figs and locust trees. Some had been 
planted in the clefts of the rocks, and their 
branches overhung the precipice. Narrow paths 
had been cut to these along the face of the 
cliffs, from cranny to cranny, to enable the 
monks to collect the fruit. 

On top of the rock, where there was a level 
space some two acres in extent, was the mon- 
astery garden, every foot of which was culti- 
vated. The soil had no doubt been brought up 
from below — a toilsome work which must have 
occupied the monks of bygone centuries for 
many years. The garden was full of melons, 
beans, onions, cucumbers, and culinary and 
sweet-scented herbs, and was surrounded by a 
wall built of loose stones. A couple of monks 
were at work in it, but they took no notice of 
the travelers. 

In a hollow in the rock below the garden 



The Monastery of Su Lot* 89 

was a pool of clear, cool, sweet water. An 
ancient donkey, almost white from age, was 
working a roughly-made, groaning shadoof, which 
drew up water from the pool for the irrigation of 
the garden. A silent monk, sitting in the shade 
of the rock, was watching it. 

" The monks say that this pool is always kept 
full miraculously, as there is no spring and the 
rain never falls ; but the probability is that the 
water is forced up some pipe-like fissure in the 
rock from a great depth, as in an Artesian well," 
observed the Professor. 

** It certainly is a very strange thing that there 
should be a never failing well at the top of this 
bare rock ! " responded Aylward. 

''That donkey is the only living thing in the 
monastery besides the monks and ourselves — 
and the fleas," continued the old man. " Father 
Polycarp told me that it was brought here by a 
new brother more than a hundred years ago, and 
that it was even then old ! " 

" I am quite prepared to believe from its ap- 
pearance that it is the identical ass that, we are 
told, remonstrated with the irate prophet for 
beating it ! " remarked Yorke, flippantly. 

At the back of the garden, and hidden from 
view by the wall of loose stones, was a ledge of 
rock sloping inwards. Professor Payne led the 
way towards it. 

" This is where the monks dispose of their 



90 The Finding: of Lof s Wife* 

dead. A gruesome sight, is it not? " he said, on 
reaching the spot. 

" Great Caesar ! I should think it was ! " ejacu- 
lated Yorke. 

Arranged in rows on the flat surface were a 
number of corpses of monks clad in their ordi- 
nary robes, with their dead faces turned up to 
the sky, and their bony hands folded on their 
sunken breasts. Most of them looked like mum- 
mies, for the hot sun and dry, still air had desic- 
cated and deodorized the bodies ; but a few had, 
in the course of years, gradually crumbled to 
dust. In a hollow, under the overhanging rock, 
were neatly stacked scores of whitened skulls 
and bones. No carrion birds had ever attacked 
the human remains in that strange cemetery, and 
the dead monks lay there undisturbed, awaiting 
the resurrection. 

" I am informed that some of these sun-dried 
mummies are the bodies of monks who died 
more than a hundred years ago ! " remarked the 
Professor. 

"It's horrible !— let's get out of this!" ex- 
claimed Yorke ; and Aylward cordially agreeing 
with him, they left the spot and descended to 
the courtyard. They were not sorry to return 
to the shade of the old olive-trees, for the sur- 
face of the rock above had been so heated by the 
sun as to be almost too hot to walk on. Pro- 
fessor Payne then took them to see the church. 



The Monastery of Su Lot* 91 

It was built on a broad ledge against the cliff 
on the western side of the rock facing Jerusalem. 
The path to it, hewn with infinite difficulty and 
labor, passed above the windlass tower and below 
the main building of the monastery. The 
church was in the form of a Greek cross, and was 
surmounted by a tiled dome. The interior was 
very dark, but refreshingly cool, and was per- 
vaded by the odor of incense. The walls were 
adorned with many icons or sacred pictures in 
costly frames. Numerous lamps hung from the 
roof, some ancient and very valuable and hand- 
some, others of common glass tumblers in tin 
frames. A number of ostrich eggs were also 
suspended from the roof. At the end of the 
church stood a richly-gilded iconostasis or altar- 
screen. Near it was the carved chair of the 
hegoumenos, and a lectern inlaid with ivory and 
mother-o*-pearl, an ancient imperial gift to the 
monastery. Behind the iconostasis was the 
apse, hewn out of the solid rock. The roof was 
black with the smoke of the lamps, and the stone 
floor was spotted and slippery with yellow taper 
droppings. 

Over the altar, on which stood a great cross of 
carved wood, set in gold and jewels, hung an 
extraordinary and very realistic picture of the 
Last Judgment. Goat-headed devils with forked 
tails were represented as tormenting the wicked, 
while rov.'s of ugly little saints, very hairy and 



•V-^feJ^Sk, 



92 The Poinding of Lot's Wife 

very holy, with what appeared to be white 
plates on their heads, looked on round-eyed. 
Yorke's delight on seeing this altar-piece was in- 
tense. 

" Look at these * halowes of heaven,' Hal ! " 
he cried, indicating the staring saints ; " did you 
ever see anything funnier?" 

The picture fascinated the artist, and he stood 
before it a long time, finding fresh amusement in 
it every minute. 

In a recess at the side of the apse stood the 
reliquary. It was an exquisitely carved ebony 
cabinet on which were arranged many costly 
relic-receptacles, containing the bones and other 
portions of the bodies of martyrs and saints. 
Gold and silver sacramental vessels, and many 
beautiful specimens of ancient art-work and 
jewelry, also stood on the reliquary, quite 
unprotected. In the place of honor was a long, 
narrow golden casket encrusted with gems. 

"That casket, gentlemen," observed Professor 
Payne, pointing to it, *' contains a relic of in- 
estimable value ; nothing less than the staff of 
St. Lot, presumably the identical one used by 
the patriarch when fleeing from the doomed 
Cities of the Plain ! I was informed by the 
hegoumenos that its virtue is such, that, should 
any mentally afflicted person touch it, he would 
immediately become perfectly sane. However, 
whatever its healing powers may be, I am 



The Monastery of St* Lot. 93 

sure that it is the most ancient relic in the 
world." 

" How do you make that out, Professor?" 

** I will show you presently, sir, a document 
over three thousand years old, in which it is 
mentioned." 

*' By Jove, that will be worth seeing ! " 

" I suppose you have been shown some queer 
relics in your visits to out-of-the-way monaster- 
ies, Professor," remarked Aylward. 

The old savant's eyes twinkled behind his 
spectacles as he replied — 

*' I have seen many, sir. I was once shown, as 
a very sacred relic, what I was assured was a 
finger of the Woman of Samaria. On another 
occasion the Superior of a Maronite monastery 
exhibited to me with much pride a piece of the 
potsherd with which the patient patriarch Job 
had scratched himself ! " 

'*0h! come, come. Professor!" exclaimed 
both Aylward and Yorke simultaneously. 

'' Quite true, I assure you, gentlemen," re- 
turned the old man, laughing, as he led the way 
out of the church. 

Having peeped into one or two of the dark 
comfortless cells tenanted by the monks, and 
having examined an ancient olive press cut out 
of the solid rock, and some inscriptions which 
the Professor said were very ancient and were 
names probably of ascetics who had lived on the 



94 The Finding: of Lot^s Wife* 

rock centuries before the Christian era, the three 
men entered the monastic library. It was a small 
vaulted chamber not far from the church, and 
stood on the edge of the precipice, with a deep 
window commanding a view over the valley. 
The books, manuscripts, and rolls were arranged 
in niches in the thick walls. 

"This is the most valuable and best kept of 
all the monastic libraries that I have met with in 
my travels. It contains treasures for which 
wealthy bibliomaniacs in Europe and America 
would give thousands of pounds," said Professor 
Payne, enthusiastically. 

So saying, he reverently and carefully took 
down a number of priceless manuscripts, and 
exhibited them to his companions, pointing out 
their beauties and peculiarities. He showed 
them an Evangelistarium of the ninth century, 
written in uncial letters in the form of a cross ; a 
fine folio of Job in large letters, surrounded with 
*' scholia " in a smaller hand and illustrated with 
numerous ghastly miniatures of the patriarch's 
sufferings ; a rare Byzantine manuscript written 
in purple ink powdered with gold dust; an 
illuminated Menologia or Lives of the Saints 
on gazelle skin ; a manuscript in " charta 
bombycina," a material used in very early 
times, and many other fine examples of ancient 
art. 

''Owing to the monastery being almost un- 



The Monastery of St* Lot. 95 

known, to the dry climate, and to the ignorance 
of the monks, who have handled these manu- 
scripts but little, they are in a wonderful state of 
preservation," observed the Professor. " My 
experience hitherto has almost invariably been 
that the monks of Eastern monasteries take little 
or no care of the literary treasures many of them 
possess, and often put them to extraordinary uses. 
I remember finding in an Armenian monastery a 
bed of penance contrived out of ancient tomes, 
bound in wooden boards studded with metal 
bosses. I have frequently seen monastic accounts 
kept in priceless vellum books, from which the 
exquisite illuminations and lettering had been 
washed off. I have several times found whole 
libraries so eaten by insects, or so rotten from 
damp, as to fall to pieces at my touch ! " The 
old savant spoke in a tone of indignation and 
grief. 

" You must have been able to purchase many 
valuable books in your travels. Professor," re- 
marked Aylward. 

" I have never bought a single book, sir. I am 
of opinion that the proper place for ancient works 
such as these is the monastery library in which 
they have lain for centuries. I have made it a 
practice to acquaint the monks with the great 
pecuniary value of their books and manuscripts, 
and to urge them not to part with them on any 
account." 



gS The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

Yorke, meanwhile, was examining with the 
deepest interest specimens of the illuminator's 
art, such as he had never seen before. His artis- 
tic training and tastes enabled him to appreciate 
fully the wonderful coloring, quaint designs, and 
microscopic detail of the paintings before him. 
Some of the manuscripts looked as fresh as if they 
had just left the hands of the monk-artists whose 
work they were. Yorke pored over them in 
silence for some time, and then his pleasure found 
vent in words. 

" They are really wonderful ! The sight of 
these manuscripts is worth all the trouble we had 
in finding the monastery, Hal ! " he exclaimed. 

"That is what I myself thought, sir, when, the 
day after my arrival here, I discovered this 
treasure-house of ancient wisdom and art," said 
Professor Payne. " But I had almost forgotten. 
I have not yet shown you the three-thou- 
sand-year-old document that I told you of, 
which, I think, is the most curious thing in the 
library." 

Saying this, he took out of an antique silver 
case that lay in a separate niche in the wall, 
made apparently, from its shape, expressly for its 
reception, an ancient sheep-skin scroll, the rods of 
which were of ebony ornamented with gold. It 
was wrapped in many folds of embroidered silk. 
The parchment was grimed and yellow with age, 
with its edges greatly frayed, and the writing on 



The Monastery of St« Lot* 97 

it was much faded, portions of it being quite il- 
legible. 

" What is it, Professor ? " asked the artist when 
the old savant had gazed at it, unrolled on the 
table before him, without speaking for some 
time. 

"It may be described as the charter of the 
Monastery of St. Lot, sir," was the reply. " It 
is written in archaic Hebrew ; and from internal 
evidence that it contains, I am convinced that 
the hand that guided the reed that wrote it, 
became dust at least three thousand years ago. 
Only about half the writing is legible. I have 
tried every means that long experience in deci- 
phering ancient manuscripts has taught me, to 
make out the faded portions, but with little suc- 
cess ; but, by piecing together detached sentences 
and scattered words, I have been able to gather 
the general sense of the document. 

"It begins with the solemn invocation of 
Jehovah, followed by a prayer for the sins of 
mankind. A remarkable declaration is then 
made. It states that, when God cursed Lot's 
wife and turned her into a pillar of salt. He left 
it standing at the southern end of the Salt Sea 
that covered the site of the accursed cities He 
had destroyed, as a warning to all men against 
disobedience. But, says the parchment, so many 
men went mad at the sight of the awful Woman 
of Salt, that God, in His mercy, removed it to 



98 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

the Valley of Madness among the mountains, 
the only road to which lies along the Pass of 
Many Voices, — a narrow way, dark and danger- 
ous. Then follows another strange statement. 
It says that God further ordained that a House 
of Mercy should be built in the mountains, the 
duty of the inmates of which should be to restore 
to his senses any unfortunate man who might 
enter the Valley of Madness and look on Lot's 
wife. That portion of the parchment which 
apparently specifies how this is to be done is 
very illegible. All I have been able to make out 
are several unintelligible references to the Staff of 
Lot, which, as I told you, is believed by the 
monks to possess miraculous powers. The men- 
tion of it in this exceedingly ancient document 
goes to show what a unique relic is possessed by 
the monastery." 

The two young men listened with the deepest 
interest to the old savant's account of the vener- 
able dilapidated parchment, and, when he ceased 
speaking, examined it carefully. It was with 
feelings almost of awe that they gazed at its 
crabbed, faded characters. 

** I suppose the monks know of the existence of 
this scroll ? " observed Yorke. 

" They do, sir, but they are unable to read it. 
It is probable that no inmate of the monastery 
has been able to read it for many hundreds of 
years past; nevertheless its contents appear to 




The Monastery of SU Lot* 99 

have been handed down by oral tradition. 
Father Polycarp, to whom I spoke of it, was 
obviously aware of its strange nature, and of the 
duty it imposes on him and his fellow-monks. 
He, however, seemed so unwilling to give me 
any information in regard to it, that I forebore 
to question him." 

"It was the universal belief in the Middle 
Ages that the Pillar of Salt was still standing 
near the Dead Sea," remarked the artist. "For 
instance, dear old Sir John Maundeville says: 
' At the ryght side of this see dwelleth Lothe's 
wife in a stone of salt, for that* she looked againe 
when the citie sanke downe,' and many other old 
travelers say the same." 

" I have seen so many strange things in my 
travels that I can afford to be thought credulous, 
so I do not mind saying, gentlemen, that I firmly 
believe that parchment before you to be an 
authentic document," said the old savant. 

" Oh, come. Professor ! " expostulated Ayl- 
ward, " you don't mean to say that you think 
that Lot's wife, or rather the Pillar of Salt, is 
still in existence, and that " 

" By Jove, Professor ! " interrupted Yorke ex- 
citedly, " it has just occurred to me that I heard 
only yesterday a wonderful story, which seems to 
confirm one statement at least in this old parch- 
ment." 

He proceeded to repeat what Ayeda had told 



loo The Finding of Lot's Wife^ 

him of her father's discovery of the great rift in 
the cliffs, and of his ride down into the bowels of 
the earth in search of his son, and of his return, 
three days afterwards, hopelessly insane. 

'' Now I should very much like to know 
whether that is true or not ! " exclaimed Pro- 
fessor Payne with animation. ** Unfortunately, 
long experience of the Bedawin has convinced 
me that of all people they are the most addicted 
to falsehood. It has often seemed to me that 
they lie for pleasure, for they frequently make 
false statements when they have nothing to gain 
or lose by speaking the truth. They have not 
even grace enough to be ashamed of the vice. If 
you doubt any statement made by an Arab, he 
will retort : ' The fore-foot of my camel stands on 
the centre of the earth. If you don't believe me, 
go and measure for yourself ' ! " 

*' You're right enough. Professor, they are liars 
of the first magnitude ; the least gifted of the 
Beni Azaleh could give Ananias heavy odds. 
But I am sure that the girl who told me the story 
I have just repeated was speaking what she be- 
lieved to be the truth." 

" Her story strangely corroborates what is 
stated in this ancient manuscript. I should think 
it would be time well spent to inquire further 
into the matter," remarked the Professor. 

The three men stayed in the library talking to- 
gether about the wonderful old scroll and other 



The Monastery of St* Lot. loi 

subjects till the sun had set. Professor Payne, 
realizing from the sudden darkness that came on 
how late in the day it was, hurried off, reproach- 
ing himself for having left his daughter alone so 
long. The other two men strolled off to the 
courtyard. 



>'' at ram *• 

UiriVBRSITT] 



CHAPTER VUL 
Isha Payne* 

As the young Englishmen walked up and 
down the blossom-strewn courtyard, Yorke 
amused himself with conjectures as to the per- 
sonal appearance and manners of the Professor's 
daughter, whom they had not yet seen. 

" I suppose she'll prove to be a cheeky, slangy 
young woman, of scraggy build, with a thin face 
and a hard reedy voice spoken through her 
nose," he said. 

" Her mother was English, and she was 
educated at home, so I don't see why you 
should suppose anything of the sort," returned 
his friend. 

" Perhaps we shall find her to be a spectacled 
young person, very plain and prim." 

" If she had been a girl of that sort, she would 
not have consented to wear boy's clothes." 

"After all, I should not wonder if she turned 



Isha Payne* 103 

out to be a gawky school-girl, too shy to do any- 
thing but giggle." 

" She's nineteen, and must have got over that 
period of girlhood." 

'^ Or a regular tomboy, who will want us to 
romp with her and -'* 

" Be quiet ! Here she comes with her father," 
interrupted Aylward in a low voice. 

Though the sun had set, leaving only a faint red 
glow in the west, there was plenty of light, for the 
full moon hung unclouded over the horizon. By 
its silvery beams the two men saw Professor Payne 
advancing towards them accompanied by a pic- 
turesquely-attired young girl, who seemed to 
come reluctantly, and to be trying to hide her- 
self behind the old savant's spare form. She 
was dressed in loose Turkish trousers, bound 
about the waist with a broad sash, and in a red 
silk blouse under an embroidered Albanian 
jacket. On her head, which was covered with 
short curly locks, was a small fez cap, and she 
wore a pair of dainty little Parisian boots. She 
had thrown a shawl round her in such a way as to 
partly hide that part of her boyish dress of which 
she was evidently most ashamed. She wore no 
jewelry or ornaments of any kind. The instant 
Yorke saw her he realized that his forebodings 
as to her appearance had been unfounded, for the 
Professor's daughter was an extremely pretty 
girl. 



104 The Finding of Lofs Wife* 

" My dear, allow me to present to you Mr. 
Aylward and Mr. Yorke," said her father, indicat- 
ing each of the young men with a wave of his 
hand. The girl bowed to them gracefully, but 
with a somewhat embarrassed smile on her face, 
and did not speak. 

" You have no idea how surprised we were this 
morning to find that there was a young lady stay- 
ing in this extraordinary place, Miss Payne," 
said Aylward. 

" You must have been still more surprised to 
hear that she was dressed — in boy's clothes, Mr. 
Aylward," returned the girl, blushing painfully. 
She spoke in a clear, sweet voice, without a 
trace of nasal accent. 

*' Your father has explained to us the necessity 
there is for the disguise, and all I can say is that, 
if I had been blessed with a sister who dressed 
as a boy in order to accompany me to places 
where we could not otherwise have gone to- 
gether, I should be very proud of her indeed. 
Miss Payne." 

"Thank you, Mr. Aylward," was the girl's 
grateful response, as she smiled brightly. 

" You don't travel about with a toilet glass in 
which you can see yourself full length, do you. 
Miss Payne?" asked the artist. 

" No, indeed, Mr. Yorke." 

" Well, if you did, I think you would be more 
reconciled to the dress you wear. I am an artist, 



Isha Payne* 105 

you know, and privileged to tell people how they 
look in costume." 

" You are right, sir," said Professor Payne. " I 
have always thought, my dear, that the pretty 
costume became you, but I shall be pleased when 
the necessity for wearing it no longer exists." 

" I am glad you like it, father dear," responded 
the girl quietly, but in a tone which showed that 
she did not wish the subject pursued. 

After a little further conversation the three 
men and the girl began to stroll up and down the 
courtyard in the moonlight. Presently Aylward 
and Miss Payne found themselves walking to- 
gether; the Professor and Yorke, who had got 
on the subject of monastic art, having stopped 
under one of the old olive-trees to argue out 
some point. 

**Is it not a strangely beautiful scene. Miss 
Payne ? " observed Aylward, gazing round. 

*' You will perhaps think it silly and sentimen- 
tal, Mr. Aylward, but moonlight is always associ- 
ated in my mind with Heaven." 

" I can understand the feeling perfectly. I 
think most people have felt the influence of the 
silvery radiance which softens and beautifies 
everything it touches. Beautiful cloud scenery, 
the sound of running water, and the scent of 
flowers at night have much the same effect. The 
best feelings of our hearts are stirred by the 
sweet sights, sounds, and odors of nature, and 



io6 The Findings of Lot's Wife* 

we feel, while enjoying them, as near Heaven as 
it is permitted for us to be in this world." 

It was seldom indeed that Aylward spoke in 
this strain, but it seemed natural enough under 
the circumstances. The young lady said nothing 
in reply, and they went together to the parapet 
wall along the brink of the precipice, and leaning 
on it gazed round for some time in silence. 

The salt-encrusted plain lay below like a lake 
of silver, with the winding path across it faintly 
visible. Round'them the mountains raised their 
heads in majestic gloom, their desolation hidden 
by the silver veil of the moonlight. Far away a 
snow-capped peak peeped over the distant rocky 
ridges with a diadem of stars round its glisten- 
ing turban. Behind and above glittered the white 
walls and red roofs of the monastery buildings, 
with the dark outlines of the trees sharply de- 
fined against them. An inexpressible calm 
reigned over the scene, only deepened by the 
distant solemn chanting of the monks at even- 
song. 

As Aylward stood leaning over the parapet 
wall, he had an opportunity of better observing 
his companion. He saw that she was taller than 
he had supposed, her boy's dress having had the 
effect of making her look small. That she was 
painfully conscious of her masculine costume was 
shown by her restless plucking of the shawl she 
had draped about her. Her face was not only 



Isha Payne^ 107 

beautiful, but full of animation, and had that 
sweet innocent look that is a maiden's chief 
charm. Her hair was cut short, which, instead of 
detracting from her good looks, seemed to add 
piquancy to them. She had large, trustful, dark 
gray eyes, and a sensitive little mouth with smiles 
ever lurking in its corners. 

*' By what name does your father address you 
in public, Miss Payne ? " asked Aylward, breaking 
the silence. 

*' Arthur is my man's name, Mr. Aylward," re- 
plied the girl, smiling. 

" How came your own name to be an Arabic 
one ? " 

" It is not Arabic, Mr. Aylward." 

" Surely Ayesha is an Arab girl's name. If I 
remember right, it was the name of one of Mo- 
hammed's wives." 

^' Yes, but my name is Isha, I-s-h-a." 
• " Sounds like Japanese, somehow." 

*' It is Hebrew, and was Eve's first name. It 
was my father's fancy to give it to me." 

" Never knew before that Eve had any other 
name ! " 

" You will find it given in the margin of your 
Bible. It means simply ' woman.' " 

" Has your father taught you Hebrew, Miss 
Payne?" 

" I am glad to say that he has not thought it 
necessary to do so," replied the girl, laughing. 



io8 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

" I suppose you know a lot of modern lan- 
guages, though ? " 

" Besides the French and German I learned at 
school, I have picked up, during the last two 
years, Arabic and modern Greek, and can speak 
both languages pretty fluently." 

*' Do you know, Miss Payne, I think you are 
one of the pluckiest girls I ever met ? " 

" I am so glad that you don't think I did wrong 
in putting on these boy's things," returned Isha, 
blushing with pleasure. 

''Wrong! " repeated the young man, " I think 
it was a remarkable act of self-sacrifice. I am 
sure that even the most frigidly decorous of 
Quaker maiden ladies would approve of it under 
the circumstances." 

" Oh, Mr. Aylward ! there are thousands of girls 
who would have done the same." 

" For their lovers, perhaps — not for their 
fathers." 

There was a pause, during which the young 
man and young woman gazed in silence over 
the moonlit plain, occupied with their own 
thoughts. Presently Aylward remarked — 

" You must often have felt the want of com- 
panions of your own sex and age during your 
wanderings. Miss Payne." 

" Yes, indeed. It would have made such a 
difference if a sister, or even a young brother had 
been with me. I often longed for a girl-friend to 



Isha Payne* 109 

talk to, but there were no women, of course, in 
the monasteries and I could not talk to the Arab 
girls we sometimes saw, as they all thought I 
was a young man ! " replied the girl, glancing 
down at her Turkish trousers with a comical 
twist of her mouth. 

" I suppose your father and you sometimes 
met with adventures in your journeys?" 

" Oh, yes, we have had some strange experi- 
ences,'* returned Isha, half laughing and half 
sighing. 

*' Would you mind telling me some of them ? " 

'' I will do so with pleasure, Mr. Aylward, only 
you must not think that the — the inconveniences 
I have had to piit up with were due to any want 
of consideration for or care of me on the part of 
my dear father. The troubles we have met with 
were accidental and unavoidable." 

" I am sure that your father would not need- 
lessly expose you to any risk or discomfort." 

"Well, perhaps, I had better tell you first, 
what happened to us in Abyssinia. Early last year 
we were staying in a Coptic monastery in the in- 
terior, the black monks of which were very wicked 
men. My father, on discovering what dreadful 
lives they led, was anxious to take me away, but 
we could not leave at once, as our horses had been 
stolen. I spent a miserable month there, shut 
up in my chamber all day. The superior was a 
good-natured old man, but a great drunkard who 



no The Finding of Lot's "Wife* 

had no control over his monks. One day they 
poisoned him, and set the monastery on fire and 
fled. We had great difficulty in escaping from 
the burning building, and, still more, in making 
our way on foot across the mountains to the 
next monastery." 

" Good heavens ! what an experience ! " cried 
Aylward, aghast at the perils the young girl had 
passed through but of which she spoke so calmly. 
** Have you any more ' Inconveniences,' as I 
think you call them, to relate ? " he asked. 

" Plenty," responded the girl with a laugh. 
" We spent the winter before last in a monastery 
among the Pasaroum mountains in Persia, and 
were snowed up and nearly frozen and starved to 
death. When we had consumed all our stock 
of provisions, including the store of dried apricots 
that the monks had prepared during the autumn 
for sale, we were forced to boil down for food, 
the vellum pages of ancient and priceless books 
in the library and to burn their covers for fuel. 
I do not know how many lives of the saints, 
martyrologies, and works of the Fathers we did 
not eat in the form of thin soup in which floated 
strips of pappy vellum ! My father was almost 
distracted by the destruction of the library, and 
when, in our extremity, the monks cut up and 
boiled a magnificent manuscript of the Psalms, 
on purple vellum, in gold letters, beautifully 
illuminated and bound with jeweled clasps, he 



Isha Payne» in 

fairly cried ! You have no idea how thin we 
all were when the thaw came at last and freed 



us 



" My dear young lady, you're a heroine to have 
faced such privations ! " exclaimed her compan- 
ion, admiringly. 

'^ It was an unpleasant experience," admitted 
the girl, quietly. *' But I have been forced to wit- 
ness sights, and to hear things which I found 
harder to bear. Once when we were at a Maro- 
nite monastery in Lebanon, a monk, while digging 
in the garden, discovered a treasure-trove con- 
sisting, as my father said, of a potful of silver 
coins of the Selucidae, Kings of Antioch. The 
monks tried to hide the treasure, but the Pasha 
heard of it and claimed it, and on the refusal of 
the monks to give it up, attacked the monastery 
with a party of soldiers. Several of the inmates 
were killed, and I saw their bodies lying in the 
courtyard. Some of the monks were then put 
to the torture to make them confess where they 
had concealed the money. I tried to shut my 
ears to the shrieks of the poor men, but I heard 
them through the blanket I wrapped round my 
head. It was dreadful. The Pasha soon found 
the treasure and carried it off." 

" I had no idea that such things were done in 
Palestine now. One would think you were relat- 
ing an incident of the Middle Ages," remarked 
Aylward, deeply interested. 



112 The Findingf of Lot^s "Wife^ 

Isha then related briefly, in the same quiet, 
laatter-of-fact fashion, other perils which she and 
her father had encountered : how they had been 
seized and kept prisoners in a cave by Kurdish 
robbers ; how their camp, while traveling in 
Abyssinia, had been attacked by three lions ; 
how they had been nearly smothered by a sand- 
storm while crossing a desert, and other inci- 
dents. 

The shyness the girl had at first shown, 
had, by this time, worn off, and she talked well 
and amusingly, showing a keen sense of humor. 
The pair were soon very good friends, and grew 
confidential. The young man spoke of his home 
in England, and she talked to him of her school- 
life and girl friends. Involuntarily they drew 
closer together and dropped their voices. Ayl- 
ward had no idea that he was not behaving to- 
wards his companion in the way to be expected 
of a young man who had just met a young lady 
for the first time. The strange loveliness of the 
scene round them, the girl's own beauty, and his 
admiration of her courage and devotion to her 
father, unconsciously affected* his manner. He 
bent towards her and gazed into her dark gray 
eyes earnestly while he spoke in low tender 
tones. The heart of the girl who, for over two 
years, had been cut off from all companionship, 
save that of her old father, thrilled with pleasure 
as she listened. As she glanced up at him shyly 



Isha Payne* 113 

from time to time, she thought what a good, 
manly fellow he looked, and the shame she felt 
that he should see her in such hybrid attire, deep- 
ened every minute, and called up frequent flushes 
to her face. They had been talking together for 
some considerable time, when they both started 
on hearing Professor Payne, who had approached 
with Yorke unheard, say — 

" My dear, it is getting late." 

" Father, dear, I think I could stay up till 
daylight, such a lovely night as this," replied his 
daughter, turning to him with a happy smile on 
her face. 

**You can safely do so, Miss Payne. You 
don't want any beauty sleep ! " said the artist. 

** I won't risk it, Mr. Yorke — good-night ! " she 
replied, shaking hands with him. She then held 
out her hand to Aylward in silence, who took it 
also in silence. It somehow did not seem neces- 
sary for either of them to say anything. As they 
shook hands, their eyes met, and the blush and 
little smile that instantly appeared on the girl's 
sweet face, showed that something in the young 
man's glance had pleased her. 

'' Good-night, gentlemen ! I too must re- 
tire," said Professor Payne, and went off with 
his daughter. Aylward and Yorke watched them 
in silence as they crossed the courtyard till 
they disappeared in the deep shadow of the 
cloister. 



114 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

" Anything more scandalous than the way in 
which you flirted with that girl I never saw ! " 
exclaimed the latter to his friend severely, when 
the old savant and his daughter were out of ear- 
shot. *' However," he added, " you had some ex- 
cuse, she's very pretty.'* 



CHAPTER DL 

A Judas* 

For several hours the two young men walked 
up and down the courtyard, or sat on the para- 
pet-wall along the precipice, talking earnestly 
together. They had many things to discuss ; 
the discovery of the monastery, the inexplicable 
conduct of the Beni Azaleh on their arrival 
there, the meeting with the old savant and his 
pretty daughter and the marvelous things they 
had learned of the monastery and its inmates. 
The surroundings were so strange and lovely, 
the moonlight so brilliant, the air so still, and 
the silence so profound, that both men felt as if 
some spell was on them, and it was not till 
nearly midnight that they sought their chamber. 
By the dim light of a lamp burning in a smoke- 
blackened niche in the wall, they saw that the 
dragoman had laid out their carpets, blankets 
and pillows on the floor. In a few minutes they 



ii6 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

were stretched on their hard beds, courting sleep ; 
trying to shut out of their minds the exciting- 
events of the day. And they had scarcely closed 
their eyes, when they simultaneously made a 
horrible discovery ; the room swarmed with fleas 
of the liveliest and most blood-thirsty breed. 
In a few minutes both men were slapping and 
scratching themselves vigorously, muttering an- 
athemas and expressions of disgust. 

" This is awful," growled Aylward, sitting up 
and shaking his garment furiously to dislodge 
the enemy. 

" They told us at Tiberias that the King of 
the Fleas held his court there, but I think his 
Majesty must have come here for a change of air, 
with all his courtiers and subjects!" exclaimed 
Yorke, kicking out his legs violently. 

" We can't possibly stop here ; we shall be 
eaten alive ! " 

" At any rate we sha'n't be able to get a wink 
of sleep. Let's wake up Georgis, and ask him to 
find us a place where we shall not be dragged 
out of bed by ravenous insects." 

The dragoman, with the cook beside him, was 
sleeping in the cloister close by, wrapped in a 
white sheet and snoring loudly. It took some 
time to rouse him, for he was a phenomenally 
heavy sleeper. When he at length realized that 
some one was shaking him violently, while some 
one else was bumping his head on the floor, he 



A Judas* 117 

emitted a series of loud grunts, and finally sat 
up. Several more minutes were occupied in 
making him understand why his masters had 
roused him so unceremoniously. 

" Fleas ! " he repeated contemptuously, on 
comprehending the state of affairs. '' What for 
you troubling 'bout fleas, Mr. Yok? You stop 
quite quiet, and after little time they all go 
'way." 

" Confound you ! Do you think we can lie 
still while we are being devoured by vermin, you 
old pachyderm ? Get up and^ tell us where we 
can sleep in peace." 

The dragoman was deeply insulted by the 
opprobrious term applied to him by the artist, 
the more so as he did not understand its mean- 
ing. Drawing his sheet over his head he lay 
down again in dignified silence. 

" Isn't there a clean room anywhere about 
where we can sleep, Georgis ? " asked Aylward, 
when the dragoman did not reply to his friend's 
question. 

" Better go and sleep in the church, Mr. 
Ilwad. No fleas ever go into Christian church," 
replied Georgis, in a sullen tone from under his 
sheet. 

'*By Jove, that's a queer fact in natural his- 
tory that we will at once investigate the truth 
of ! " exclaimed Yorke. 

" The church stinks of incense and lamp oil ; 



ii8 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

but anything is better than the fleas," remarked 
Aylward. 

They returned to their chamber and brought 
out their bedding, and having beaten and shaken 
each piece to get rid of the noxious insects it 
harbored, tucked the bundles under their arms 
and made for the church. On arriving at the 
open doorway they saw lights inside and heard 
voices and supposed that midnight service was 
being held by the monks. It was, of course, 
impossible for them to use the church as a dormi- 
tory while the [monks were at prayers, so they 
resolved to go quietly in and look on till the 
service was over. 

The interior of the church, save at the farther 
end, was steeped in darkness, only relieved by 
the moonlight streaming in at the door. None 
of the lamps hanging from the roof, were lit. 
The hegoumenos, clad in his ceremonial robes, 
sat in his chair of office before the gilded altar 
screen. On either side of him stood four of the 
monks, each with a dimly-burning taper in his 
hand. They were chanting in low, deep, mourn- 
ful tones what sounded like a solemn confession 
of sin. There was a sort of wail in their deep 
voices, the pathos of which much impressed the 
two men listening. Again and again was the 
refrain, '' O God, have mercy on us ! O Christ, 
have compassion on us ! " repeated in every tone 
of sorrowful supplication. 



A Judas* 119 

The chant was at length concluded, and all the 
monks stood for a long time in silence with bent 
heads. Presently Father Polycarp raised his 
hand slowly, and at the signal two monks ad- 
vanced from some recess in the side of the church 
where they had remained unseen during the 
singing. They led between them another monk, 
a dark, mean-looking little man, on whose 
sullen face looks of shame and fear were strug- 
gling with a resentful scowl. It was evident 
that he was Brother Barlaam, the monk who, as 
Professor Payne had surmised, had broken his 
vows. It was obvious too, that he was now 
about to be tried or punished, and the two 
Englishmen, standing unobserved in the semi- 
darkness at the end of the church, looked on 
with keen interest. 

The hegoumenos regarded the sinning and 
apparently unrepentant monk for some moments 
in silence, with a stern look in his eyes. He then, 
in measured tones, asked some question to which 
the accused made no reply. The question was 
repeated three times,, but the monk was obdur- 
ately silent. A short silence followed, till 
Father Polycarp, with an expression of pain on 
his face, and with an obvious effort, made a sign 
to one of the monks guarding the prisoner, who 
produced from under his robe a scourge of three 
cords. Another monk, standing beside the hegou- 
menos, stepped forward at the same moment, 



I20 The Finding: of Lofs Wife* 

after laying his burning taper on the floor, to 
assist in the punishment about to be adminis- 
tered. The back of the culprit was bared, in 
spite of some feeble resistance on his part, and 
while he was firmly held by the arms by two of 
the monks, the third gave him, with the scourge, 
thirty-nine blows, which were counted by Father 
Polycarp in a trembling voice. The punishment 
was far from severe, yet the monk under disci- 
pline struggled violently, and shrieked and whined 
for mercy. When it was over, he fell groveling 
on the floor. Meanwhile the church resounded 
with the sobs and groans of the rest of the 
brethren. 

For a long time the hegoumenos sat with his 
face in his hands, obviously unable to speak, 
while his monks stood in their places, weeping 
with downcast faces. Presently, having regained 
command of his voice. Father Polycarp looked 
up and began to address the writhing monk lying 
before him. Neither Aylward nor Yorke could 
understand more than a word here and there of 
what the hegoumenos said in Greek, but his ges- 
tures were eloquent, and the tenor of his address 
was clear enough to them. He pointed out to the 
cringing culprit the enormity of the crime he had 
committed, reproaching him, with deep emotion, 
for bringing such shame and sorrow on the 
brotherhood as had never been known since its 
establishment centuries before. He exhorted 



A Judas* 121 

him to repentance, and then solemnly pro- 
nounced on him sentence of expulsion from the 
monastery. 

The two young men in the doorway, seeing 
that the monks were about to leave the church, 
slipped out, and standing in a dark corner, in 
the shadow of the rock, waited to see the end of 
the strange affair. Presently, all the monks 
headed by the hegoumenos, came out of the 
church in procession into the moonlight. The 
prisoner, who had been stripped of his monastic 
robe and hat and now wore the dress of a lay- 
man, followed, guarded by two monks. The 
procession marched slowly and in silence to the 
windlass tower and disappeared into it. The two 
Englishmen did not follow them, but going to 
the parapet wall, watched for the final act in the 
scene they had witnessed. Presently they heard 
the creaking of the capstan, and saw a dark ob- 
ject, which they knew to be the expelled monk, 
being lowered to the foot of the rock. When the 
rope reached the ground, they saw the man in the 
net disengage himself and spring to his feet. 
They then distinctly saw him raise his clenched 
hand towards the monastery above and shake it 
threateningly. The monks apparently did not 
observe their late brother's action, or regarded 
it only as fresh evidence of his evil disposition, 
for no voice of censure or sorrow came from 
the tower. They all emerged a moment later 



122 The Finding: of Lofs Wife* 

and dispersed dejectedly and in silence to their 
cells. 

" The monastery is well rid of that fellow," ob- 
served Aylward, " ^ Scoundrel ' was written in 
every line of his face. I wonder what offence he 
committed ? " 

'' He must have tried to murder one of his fel- 
low-monks by pushing him over the precipice, 
perhaps, or have attempted something equally 
atrocious, judging by the horror and agitation of 
the holy men." 

** It was a strange sight. I would not have 
missed it for a good deal." 

The two men watched the dark figure of the 
ex-monk crossing the plain along the serpentine 
track till it disappeared in the distant darkness. 
They then returned to the church, and spreading 
their bedding on the floor near the door, lay 
down to sleep. They soon found, however, 
that the dragoman's statement that the sanctity 
of the church was respected by the fleas was 
purely legendary. There were as many lively 
members of that insect tribe there as in the 
chamber they had fled from. Anathematizing 
the monks for their want of cleanliness, they 
took up their carpets and pillows, and making 
their way to the moonlit courtyard, laid them 
in the open air, in the dark shadow of an olive- 
tree. Here they were not molested by vermin ; 
but, as the hours passed, the air grew very cold. 



A Judas* 123 

Just before dawn they woke from their uneasy 
sleep, and getting up, began to walk up and down 
the courtyard briskly, in order to warm them- 
selves. When the stiffness resulting from their 
hard beds and the cold had passed off, they went 
to the edge of the precipice and stood, wrapped in 
their blankets, watching the dawning of the day. 
The first gray streaks of light had just appeared 
in the east when the faint sound of deep voices 
came from the church. The monks were already 
at their morning devotions. The two men began 
to talk about the strange scene they had wit- 
nessed during the night. 

''By the way, Hal," exclaimed Yorke, ''do 
you remember the Professor telling us yesterday 
in the refectory, that when any monk died or 
left the monastery a candidate for admission into 
the brotherhood invariably presented himself at 
daybreak next morning? We shall see now, 
I suppose, whether it was only a monkish fable 
or not. I can't say I believe it." 

" If it is not true, how do you account for the 
fact that the monastery has now, and has appar- 
ently always had, its full complement of monks, 
though they have no communication with the 
the outer world ? " 

" You are taking that for granted. I am not 
so sure that they have no means of communica- 
ting with their ecclesiastical superiors and monks 
of other monasteries." 



124 The Findings of Lot's Wife* 

"Well, but from what the Professsor told us 
yesterday, it was evident that the offence for 
which that monk was unfrocked and ejected last 
night, could have been committed only about 
three days ago, which would scarcely have given 
time for the hegoumenos to arrange for another 
man to take his place." 

" By Jove ! Hal, look at that fellow up there ! " 
Yorke pointed upwards as he spoke. 

A solitary monk was standing on the edge of 
the great rock above them, his gaunt figure, in 
long loose robes and a flanged hat, silhouetted 
against the gray dawn. He was gazing from his 
elevated position over the plain, and the rigidity 
of his attitude showed that he was watching 
eagerly for something. 

" Upon my word, Hal ! I believe he is on the 
lookout for the expected man ! " continued the 
artist, excitedly. 

At that moment the watching monk suddenly 
changed his position. He bent forward, and 
every line of his dark form became instinct with 
intense expectation. He shaded his eyes with his 
hand as if to strengthen his vision, and stood like 
a statue for a few moments. Then'he uttered a 
loud cry, and turned, and disappeared, to reap- 
pear a few seconds later running rapidly down the 
stone steps cut in the steep face of the rock. 
Darting into the courtyard, he seized the mallet 
of the semandron and began to pound the bar 



A Judas. ^ ^tx./^25 

like a madman. The sonorous vibrations went 
rolling in waves of sound across the plain and 
broke in countless echoes on the cliffs around. 
The chanting that came from the church ceased 
at the first clang of the semandron ; but a mo- 
ment later it rose again louder and clearer. The 
monks had broken into a paean of praise and 
thanksgiving. 

Meanwhile Aylward and Yorke were looking 
eagerly over the plain for the cause of the monk's 
excitement. At first they could see nothing, ow- 
ing to the deep shadows of the mountains, but 
when the light grew stronger, they saw in the 
dim distance a small moving object coming ap- 
parently towards the rock. The two friends 
glanced at one another on catching sight of it. 
Aylward made no remark, but Yorke muttered : 

" It's all humbug! a pious fraud of the monks! 
It can't be anything else ! " 

They watched with keen interest the approach 
of the object, which, when looked at through a 
powerful telescope, which the artist fetched from 
their chamber, proved to be a solitary man 
carrying a staff, and nothing else. He was walk- 
ing rapidly and followed the dangerous path 
winding among the salt pools and bitumen pits 
of the plain, as if he was familiar with it. The 
sun had just risen over the mountains when he 
arrived at the foot of the rock. 

By this time the monks had made their prep- 



J 26 The Finding of Lofs Wife* 

arations for receiving the new brother. They 
had come in procession out of the church headed 
by the hegoumenos in his vestments and had 
gone to the windlass tower ; the two Englishmen 
followed them there and stood looking on. The 
rope was lowered and touched the ground just as 
the stranger reached the spot. 

" Get into the net, my son, and we will draw 
you up ! " cried Father Polycarp to him through 
the trapdoor. The man did as directed and the 
monks began to turn the capstan. 

When the new-comer had been hoisted into 
the tower and was released from the net he 
proved to be a tall, powerfully-built young man 
wkh a black beard and a broad honest face. 
He knelt at the feet of the hegoumenos and ex- 
claimed in Greek, in a singularly clear, musical 
voice : 

" Father, I, Manon, a humble follower of 
Christ, and an unworthy servant of the Church, 
crave to be admitted to the Brotherhood of St. 
Lot." 

" God has sent you to us, my son ! You are 
welcome in His name — thrice welcome ! " cried 
Father Polycarp joyfully, raising him and kissing 
him on both cheeks. All the other monks em- 
braced him in turn, welcoming him. The hegou- 
menos then raised a psalm of thanksgiving, and 
led the way back to the church, holding the new 
brother by the hand. The faces of the monks as 



A Judas. 127 

they followed singing, exhibited the utmost satis- 
faction and joy, their gloomy sorrow-stricken 
looks having all disappeared. Yorke's suspicions 
were dispelled at once, though he would not own 
it. 

" What do you think of it all now, Noel ? " 
asked his friend when all the monks had disap- 
peared into the church. The artist shook his 
head gravely and did not reply to the question. 

" Let us go and make ourselves decent, the 
Professor and Miss Payne will be out soon," he 
said. 



CHAPTER X. 

Selim« 

Neither Aylward nor Yorke cared to enter 
again the insect-infested chamber out of which 
they had been driven during the night, so per- 
formed their ablutions and toilet in the cloister 
outside. They had just finished when they heard 
the voices of Professor Payne and his daughter, 
who were coming down the steps from their 
chambers above, and went to meet them. Both 
men saw, on glancing at the girl as she entered 
the courtyard, that the moonlight the evening 
before had not deceived them as to her appear^ 
ahce. From the short curly hair, which clus- 
tered round her sweet face, to her dainty little 
feet Isha Payne was as pretty a girl as they kad 
seen for a long time. She still wore a shawl 
draped round her loose Turkish trousers, with 
one end thrown over her shoulder plaid-wise. 
The crisp morning air had tinted her somewhat 



Selim* 129 

pale cheeks and added lustre to her dark gray 
eyes. Her picturesque dress, graceful form 
and lovely face made her a charming little figure. 
On meeting the two friends she glanced quickly 
at Aylward, but spoke to Yorke first, who, with 
his usual assurance, complimented her on her 
looks. 

"Traveling in the wilds seems to suit you, 
Miss Payne, if bright eyes are any criterion," he 
remarked, after they had exchanged morning sal- 
utations. 

" Perhaps it is the pleasure of meeting you that 
has had that nice effect, Mr. Yorke ! " replied 
the girl, with a smile. 

" I wish — I do wish I could hope that, Miss 
Payne! " exclaimed the artist with mock earnest- 
ness, laying his hand on his heart. 

As Isha shyly offered her hand to Aylward 
there was a look in her eyes which caused the 
young man to gaze keenly at her, retaining the 
little hand in his grasp. Neither of them spoke, 
but after a few seconds Isha withdrew her hand a 
little abruptly and turned away, but the half-sup- 
pressed smile on her face showed that she was 
far from resenting his apparent rudeness. Yorke 
oljiperved this somewhat singular behavior on the 
part of his friend and the young lady — they had 
met for the first time so recently — and his eyes 
twinkled with amusement. 

" I hope you slept well, gentlemen ; but, judg- 



130 The Finding of Lot's "Wife. 

ing by my own experiences I fear you must have 
passed an uncomfortable night," said Professor 
Payne, shaking hands with both men. 

" We had some strange experiences during the 
night, Professor," replied Yorke, who went on to 
tell him of the torment they had suffered from 
the fleas ; of their retreat to the church ; of the 
punishment of Brother Barlaam which they had 
witnessed there ; of his explusion from the mon- 
astery, and of the apparently miraculous advent 
of his successor, to all of which the old savant and 
his daughter listened with deep interest. 

" It strikes me. Professor, that this monastery is 
a survival of the days of miracles. There is 
nothing too strange to happen here. If you as- 
sured me that the monks wore wings under their 
robes, and were accustomed to fly about the rock 
like pigeons on saint's days, I should believe you 
implicitly after what we have seen," said the 
artist in conclusion. 

He had scarcely finished speaking when the 
whole party was startled by hearing the report of 
a gun from below, followed by loud shouts. On 
going to the parapet-wall and looking down they 
saw, to their great surprise, a large party .of 
mounted and armed Arabs below the windlass- 
tower. 

"They're the Beni Azaleh ! What's brought 
them back, I wonder ? " exclaimed Yorke. 

" Perhaps their consciences troubled them for 



Selim* 131 

deserting you so unceremoniously yesterday and 
they have returned to offer to escort you out of 
the mountains," suggested Isha. 

" I am afraid that is not why they have 
come, my dear. The conscience of a Bedawi 
may be described in mathematical language as 
an unknown quantity," remarked her father, 
dryly. 

**Our friend El Jezzar is with them, I see," ob- 
served Yorke, turning to Aylward. ** I don't 
think he has any conscience about him worth 
mentioning. It isn't any good motive that has 
brought the villain back." 

By this time the report of the gun and the 
shouting of the Arabs had roused the monks. 
The hegoumenos, attended by two or three 
brothers, made his appearance and descended to 
the windlass-tower. Yorke and Aylward, hoping 
to find that the Beni Azaleh, acting on some 
Bedawin code of honor, had returned to escort 
their late guests to Mar Saba, followed the 
monks, accompanied by Professor Payne and his 
daughter. When they entered the tower the 
monks were just opening the trap-door in its 
floor. Father Polycarp stood for a few moments 
looking down on the Arabs, a hundred and fifty 
feet below, who presented a curiously fore- 
shortened appearance. He then demanded in 
Arabic what they wanted. The harsh voice of 
El Jezzar was heard in reply. 



132 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

" We are men of the Beni Azaleh. We know 
that you have the son of our sheikh up there, 
and we require you to give him up to us at 
once." 

" O, father, they have come for Stephanos ! " 
exclaimed Isha, on hearing these words. 

" May I ask who Stephanos is. Miss Payne," 
said Aylward. 

" He is a Bedawi boy, Mr. Aylward, who, the 
monks say, came alone to the foot of the rock 
about six months ago and asked to be admitted 
to the monastery as he wished to be a Christian. 
They took him in, and after instructing him for 
some months, baptised him. He is here now. 
I wonder that you have not seen him." 

Yorke uttered an ejaculation on hearing that 
there was an Arab boy in the monastery. 

" By Jove ! So Master Selim, who was sup- 
posed to have been carried off by evil spirits, is 
here, is he ? " he exclaimed. 

" Selim is his Arabic name ; but how did you 
know it, Mr. Yorke?" asked Isha, in surprise. 

" His sister told me about him," replied the 
artist, and he proceeded to relate to the others 
the story Ay^da had told him of the mysterious 
disappearance of her young brother ; of the fruit- 
less search made for him, and its unhappy end- 
ing in the insanity of her father. 

** I wonder how his people found out that he 
was here ? " observed Isha, deeply interested. 



Selinru 133 

" The boy was in the tower yesterday when 
our friends arrived, and his tribesmen must have 
caught sight of him through the trap-door," re- 
marked her father. 

''Which accounts for their extraordinary be- 
havior at the time," said Aylward. ''They no 
doubt rode off to the camp at once with the 
news." 

While they were talking together Father 
Polycarp, who had not replied to El Jezzar's 
demand, had sent one of the monks to call the 
boy for whom the Arabs had come. The 
brother returned in a few minutes, accompanied 
by a remarkably handsome boy of fifteen, who 
was no darker in color than any of the monks. 
He was dressed in a white robe descending to 
his knees, and was bareheaded and barefooted. 
Yorke saw at once that he was the living image 
of his sister Ay^da. 

" What a good-looking youngster he is; one 
would think he was a girl in disguise," he re- 
marked, and then silently apostrophized himself 
as an ass, while Isha blushed consciously. 

The hegoumenos, taking the boy by the arm, 
led him to the trap-door and pointed down at 
the Beni Azaleh below. 

" Stephanos, my son, your brethren have come 
for you," he said in Arabic. 

" Father, I see them," replied the boy, in a soft 
voice. 



134 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

" Will you return to your tribe with them or 
will you stay with us, my son ? " 

" Father, with your permission I will stay here 
with you and the brothers." 

" My son, think well before you speak again," 
said Father Polycarp, in a kind voice. "■ If you 
return to your tribe you will some day be their 
sheikh and be honored of men." 

" Father, have you not taught me that it is 
better to please God than to receive honor of 
men? I will stay here and serve Him." 

"You are young, my son, and it may be that 
you will grow weary of us and yearn to return to 
the world you are renouncing. For the third 
time I ask you, will you stay with us or return 
to your brethren?" 

The hegoumenos spoke in a voice that qua- 
vered with anxiety. 

" Father, though you ask me a hundred times 
I shall give no other answer : I will stay here till 
God takes me." 

" The blessing of the triune God, the Father, 
the Son and the Holy Spirit rest on you, my 
son ! " exclaimed Father Polycarp, tears of joy 
starting to his eyes. The monks crowded round 
the boy, patting him on the head and praising 
him. Yorke, exclaiming " Good lad ! " shook 
hands with him, in which kindly act he was fol- 
lowed by Professor Payne and Isha. Aylward, 
who had not understood the conversation between 



Selim. 



'35 



the hegoumenos and the boy, looked on with 
surprise. 

Father Polycarp now went to the trap-door 
and cried in a joyful voice to the Beni Azaleh 
below that the boy, having been given his choice 
of leaving the monastery or staying, had decided 
to remain with them. 

'' Let him say so himself ! " shouted El Jezzar, 
incredulously, in reply. 

At a sign from the hegoumenos Selim came to 
the trap-door and stood for a moment looking 
down on his tribesmen in silence. Then he said 
in a clear, quiet voice : 

" Has'n ibu Menifeh, I that speak to you am 
your cousin Selim. I have resolved to remain 
here the rest of my life serving God. Let me be 
to you all as one that is dead." 

On hearing these words the whole party of 
horsemen gave a shout of surprise and anger 
and began to talk together excitedly. The 
hegoumenos ordered the trap-door to be closed 
and taking the boy affectionately by the hand 
led the way out of the tower, followed by all 
present. 

Professor Payne and his daughter and the two 
young Englishmen returned to the courtyard and 
leaning over the parapet-wall watched the doings 
of the Beni Azaleh below. A number of the 
older men among them dismounted and seated 
themselves on the ground, holding their mares 



136 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

by their rope bridles. A long discussion fol- 
lowed, but little of what was said could be heard 
by those above. The rest of the horsemen occu- 
pied themselves in shouting to the boy Selim to 
show himself and speak again with them, and in 
uttering curses and threats against the monks. 
Presently all the men who had dismounted rose 
to their feet and springing on their mare's backs 
prepared to ride off. But before they left a 
party of them went to the cave at the foot of 
the rock, where the horses and mules belonging 
to Aylward's party were tethered, and led them 
out. 

" The scoundrels are going to steal our nags, 
Hal!" exclaimed Yorke furiously on seeing 
this, and he hurried off to their chamber to get 
a rifle and ammunition, with which he hoped to 
so intimidate the Arabs as to put a stop to the 
theft. 

Meanwhile the Beni Azaleh had ridden off a 
short distance and had then stopped for the party 
driving the stolen horses and donkeys to come 
up. El Jezzar was directing operations. Glanc- 
ing up as he rode in the rear, he caught sight of 
Professor Payne and his daughter, and Aylward, 
watching them from above, and a murderous 
scowl appeared on his dark face. He unslung 
the long-barreled gun hanging at his back and 
examined its flint lock and priming. 

*' You think yourselves safe up there, O bastard 



Selim* 137 

sons of unbelieving mothers ! but, please God, we 
shall find means to reach you, when we will cut. 
the throat of every dog of you !" he yelled. as he 
raised the sickle-shaped stock of his gun to his 
shoulder and pulled the stiff trigger. 

Aylward saw the ruffian's action, and, on the 
impulse of the moment, caught Isha, who was 
leaning over the wall beside him, round the waist 
and dragged her back. The next second the ill- 
fitting bullet from El Jezzar's gun went singing 
past just over their heads, cut through the leaves 
of the olive-tree behind them, and struck the 
wall of rock behind. 

'' Pray forgive my violence. Miss Payne. I 
saw that the scoundrel was going to fire, and 
there was no time to warn you ! " exclaimed 
Aylward, as the girl disengaged herself blushingly 
from his grasp. 

" I have nothing to forgive, Mr. Aylward, but 
much to be grateful for. I think you saved my 
life," replied the girl, softly. 

"Indeed he did, my dear!" exclaimed her 
father, grasping Aylward's hand. "The bullet 
would certainly have struck you but for our 
friend's presence of mind. Pray accept our 
warmest thanks, sir." 

At this moment Yorke returned with his rifle 
loaded and capped. Before Aylward could pre- 
vent him he had advanced to the parapet wall, 
and taking a hasty aim had fired over the retiring 



13^ The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

party of horsemen. The bullet did no harm, but 
the effect of the shot was ludicrous. The Beni 
Azaleh, who had been riding jauntily away flour- 
ishing their weapons, on hearing the report of the 
rifle and the whistle of the ball over their heads, 
spurred their mares furiously and galloped off, 
bending low in their saddles. 

" I'll give the thieving blackguards another 
shot ! " exclaimed Yorke, raising his rifle again. 
But Aylward interposed. 

*' Don't, Noel. You can't prevent them carry- 
ing off the beasts now, and you might hit one of 
them and make matters worse for us." 

The artist saw the force of his friend's remon- 
strance and forbore to fire. They all watched 
the flight of the alarmed Arabs with much amuse- 
ment and some concern, for they^ momentarily 
expected to see one or more of them engulfed in 
the salt pools and black pits that yawned on both 
sides of the winding path. The whole party 
however got safely across the plain with the 
stolen horses and donkeys and disappeared 
through the tunnel-like passage at the southern 
end of the vallejj. 

Professor Payne, his daughter, and the two 
young men spent the day together. They took 
their morning meal in a corner of the cloister, 
waited on by the portly dragoman with much 
sulky dignity, for he was brooding over the insult- 
ing term which he supposed Yorke to have ap- 



Selim^ 139 

plied to him during the night. They had much 
to talk about, and the conversation and laughter 
never flagged. The Professor told several capi- 
tal stories, some comical, others almost tragical. 
They were all personal experiences, and though 
simply told showed what an adventurous life the 
old savant had led in the pursuit of his studies, 
and what remarkable courage, patience and tact 
he possessed. Isha proved that she could talk 
well and amusingly, and charmed her new friends 
by her pretty ways and quaint remarks. 

After the meal they all went out into the 
shady courtyard, and very soon Aylward found 
himself alone with Isha, his friend having en- 
gaged her father in an animated conversation on 
some subject of absorbing interest to the old 
man. As soon as the young man and maiden 
discovered that they were out of earshot of their 
companions they suddenly grew silent and 
walked up and down the courtyard more than 
once without exchanging a word. At length 
Isha, glancing up shyly, broke the embarrassing 
silence by a remark regarding the olive-blossoms 
on the ground, and soon the pair were talking 
merrily together. Before long the sun grew too 
hot for walking to be pleasant, so they seated 
themselves close together in a hollow of an 
ancient olive-tree and talked uninterruptedly for 
a couple of hours or more. When the semandron 
clanged as a signal that the monks' midday meal 



I40 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

was ready they felt as if they had known each 
other for years. As they rose at the sound out of 
the tree-hollow there was an expression on the 
girl's sweet face and a light in her great gray eyes 
that showed how thoroughly she had been en- 
joying herself, while Aylward's face had a happy 
flush on it. They discovered on looking round 
that Professor Payne and Yorke had left the 
courtyard, and went in search of them. They 
met them returning from the library, where the 
artist had been feasting his eyes on the exquisite 
works of art treasured there. They all went to- 
gether to the refectory and dined in company 
with the monks. 

The faces of the brothers seated round the 
table wore very different expressions to those 
that had clouded them during the meal the day 
before. Satisfaction and joy now reigned in 
every face. Brother Manon, the new monk, sat 
at the bottom of the table, with devout happi- 
ness written on every feature. Behind Father 
Polycarp stood the Arab boy Selim, who, after 
grace had been said, waited on the monks. They 
received his services in silence, but with kindly 
looks and little affectionate pats on the arm. 
When the repast was over and as the monks 
were leaving the refectory Yorke asked, through 
Professor Payne, the permission of the hegou- 
menos to speak to the boy, which was at once 
accorded with a smile. 



Selim* 141 

''You have not forgotten, it seems, what the 
English effendi and his lady taught you at your 
camp in the desert, Selim, son of Abou Mansftr," 
he said to him in Arabic. 

The boy started with surprise on hearing the 
words. 

" Oh, my lord, did you know the holy effendi 
and the hatoun, blessed among women?" he 
burst out eagerly, his face aglow with delight. 

" No, O boy ; but I heard of them from your 
people. Tell me of them." 

It was soon evident that no more welcome 
request could have been made to the boy. It 
was a keen pleasure to him to talk of the good 
old Englishman and his wife, who had lived so 
long with his tribe, whose memory he so revered, 
and whose teachings had brought about so great 
a change in his life. Speaking in the picturesque 
language of the desert, and with many graceful 
gestures, he poured out to the artist the story of 
the sojourn of the effendi and his lady among 
the Beni Azaleh. His beautiful face shone as he 
spoke of their saintly character and how they 
were honored and loved by all the tribe. When 
he alluded to the affection they had shown him, 
and to the care they had bestowed on him in 
teaching him their holy faith, it was in a low 
voice, as if their love for him was almost too 
sacred a thing for him to speak of. His voice 
broke and tears welled into his dark eyes when 



142 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

he related the death of the hatoun, followed by 
that of the aged effendi. 

Yorke was moved by the emotion shown by 
the boy, and talked to him a long time. He 
thought of telling him of the mental condition 
in which his unhappy father was, and of the deep 
sorrow felt by his sister at his disappearance and 
supposed death, but forebore to do so, reflecting 
that it would only distress him unnecessarily. 
He however told him what little he had been 
able to learn of the affairs of the Beni Azaleh 
while in their camp. Though the boy had re- 
nounced his tribe and kindred he was eager to 
hear news of them, and asked numerous ques- 
tions, many of which the artist was not able to 
answer. Professor Payne and Isha joined in the 
conversation, and the latter translated to Ayl- 
ward most of what was said by the boy, who 
was evidently a great favorite with her. 

When they left the refectory the party sepa- 
rated, and they all sought the cool seclusion of 
their chambers, away from the heat and glare. 
The surface of the great rock had become so 
heated by the sun that the bare hand could not 
be laid on it with impunity. There was not a 
breath of wind stirring, the only air in motion 
being what rose, like the hot blast of a furnace, 
from contact with the glowing face of the rock. 
Aylward and Yorke lay on the floor of their 
chamber, which had been thoroughly cleansed of 



Selim. 143 

its insect pests by Hanna the cook, who had 
swept it with a flaming torch and consumed them 
all. The young men, having passed an uncom- 
fortable sleepless night, now slept soundly, in 
spite of the heat and motionless air. It was late 
in the afternoon when they awoke and shouted to 
the dragoman to bring water and towels. Hav- 
ing refreshed themselves they went out to the 
courtyard, where they found Professor Payne and 
Isha sitting under one of the olive-trees. Yorke 
was just about to utter some commonplace about 
the heat when there came across the salt plain 
the distant but unmistakable roar of some an- 
imal. 

"A lion, by Jove! I had no idea there were 
any here ! " exclaimed the artist. 

^' It seemed to me more like the bellow of a 
vicious camel," remarked the professor, to whose 
ears the sound was familiar. 

" We ought to be able to see the brute, what- 
ever it is," observed Aylward, going to the 
parapet-wall, followed by the rest. " Hello ! " 
he added in surprise, as he glanced across the 
plain. 

A string of heavily laden camels was defiling 
into the valley through the narrow entrance at 
the end of it, stalking along in stately delibera- 
tion with necks and noses in the air. Troops of 
horses and baggage-donkeys and flocks of goats 
followed them. A number of horsemen then 



144 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

appeared, who galloped about keeping the strag- 
gling caravan in line. Parties of women and 
children trudging on foot brought up the rear. 
On entering the plain the caravan stopped, and 
it was soon evident that they were about to camp 
under the cliffs. Before long the baggage ani- 
mals had been unladen and numerous black tents 
began to rise. The angry roars of the camels, 
the cries of their drivers, " Haa-o ! had-o ! " the 
neighing and whinnying of the horses and mares, 
the braying of donkeys, the bleating of goats and 
the shrill voices of women could be plainly 
heard. 

" The whole tribe of the Beni Azeleh, by all 
that's wonderful ! What brings them here ? " 
exclaimed Yorke, on seeing this. 

"They are come to besiege the monastery, I 
think," remarked the Professor, quietly. 

" Great Caesar ! You don't mean that ? " 

" I fear so, sir. Their object, no doubt, is to 
intimidate the monks, and force them to give up 
the son of their sheikh." 

"It can be nothing else," observed Aylward. 
" For what other reason would they break up 
their camp and come to this waterless, pasture- 
less plain ? " 

The proceedings of the Beni Azaleh soon 
proved that Professor Payne had been right in 
his surmise. They laid out their camp in a way 
which his experience told him showed that they 



Selim* 145 

intended it to be a permanent one. The tents 
were pitched in line, spaces for tethering the 
camels, horses and goats were marked out, and 
men could be seen digging under the cliffs appar- 
ently with the hope of finding water. 

Yorke was the only one of the party who 
seemed disturbed by the coming of the Beni 
Azaleh and their apparently hostile intentions. 
The discovery of the monastery had delighted 
him, and its inmates and the many wonderful and 
beautiful things it contained deeply interested 
him. Nevertheless, the prospect of being kept 
there a prisoner for an indefinite time was any- 
thing but pleasing to him. 

" Good Heavens, Hal ! This is a serious busi- 
ness ! " he exclaimed, anxiously. *' It will be im- 
possible for us to get away while those fellows 
are in camp there. They will murder us to a cer- 
tainty if we venture down ! " 

" It's a bad look-out ; but things might be 
worse. We're safe enough here, at any rate," 
replied his friend, who seemed disposed to accept 
the situation very calmly. 

Professor Payne, too, appeared to be little con- 
cerned by the turn affairs had taken. He re- 
marked that for his daughter's sake he would be 
glad to return to civilization as soon as possible ; 
but that a few days' or weeks' delay was of no 
great moment. Turning indignantly from the 
two men, Yorke asked Isha what she thought of 



146 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

affairs, and she replied dutifully that she was con- 
tent to remain at the monastery so long as her 
father thought that there was nothing else to be 
done. Having said this, she, to the artist's wrath 
and amusement combined, glanced towards 
Aylward, who was apparently awaiting her reply 
with interest. The reason for the resignation 
shown by his friend and the young lady at the 
prospect of a long enforced sojourn at the mon- 
astery was obvious enough to him. 

Meanwhile the hegoumenos, who had been 
apprised of the arrival of the Beni Azaleh, had 
entered the courtyard and surrounded by all the 
monks stood looking down on the camp. It was 
clear that they understood what was the object 
of the Bedawi in coming, yet their faces exhibited 
no alarm, but only gentle curiosity. At Yorke's 
suggestion the Professor asked Father Polycarp 
what he proposed to do. The hegoumenos replied 
that there was nothing to be done or nothing to 
be afraid of, as the children of Ishmael, as he 
called the Arabs, could do them no harm. He 
said that he deeply regretted that anything 
should have happened to prevent the guests of 
the Brotherhood leaving whenever they wished, 
but that they need be under no apprehension 
they would be detained long, as it was impossi- 
ble for their enemies to stay on that desolate 
valley with their flocks and herds for any length 
of time. If, however, they did succeed in finding 



Selim. 147 

pasturage and water, and did not depart soon, he 
would find means to send the travelers away in 
safety. 

" Which means, I suppose, that he will, if nec- 
essary, show us some secret way of escape that he 
knows of ! " muttered Yorke, not at all satisfied 
by the promise made. 

The monks remained only a few moments, 
and then returned to their cells. When they 
were gone, the Europeans occupied themselves 
in watching through their glasses all that went 
on in the Beni Azeleh camp. Yorke brought out 
his large telescope, and with it searched the whole 
camp, hoping to see Ay^da, the sheikh's daughter. 
He at length caught sight of her, standing in a 
dejected attitude in the doorway of one of the 
tents and looking towards the rock. She had no 
doubt heard of the discovery that her brother 
was in the monastery, and of his refusal to return 
to the tribe, and it was plain that she was full of 
sorrow at the prospect of never seeing him again. 
The artist watched the slender, graceful figure 
for a long time, the glass enabling him almost to 
read the expression of her face. He did not, 
however, point her out to the others, and they 
did not observe her. 

Just before dark, while Yorke was taking a 
last look through the telescope, he caught sight 
of a man who sneaked out of one of the tents 
and gazed up at the monastery in a furtive man- 



148 The Finding of Lot^s Wife* 

ner that seemed to show that he did not wish to 
^pQ seen from it. The artist saw that he was not 
2tn Arab, but could not distinguish his face. He 
called the attention of Professor Payne, who was 
standing near, to the man, and gave him the 
glass to look at him, but by this time the fellow 
had slunk back into the tent. The Professor, 
after scanning the camp for some minutes, re- 
marked : 

*' Do you notice that hardly any men are to be 
seen ? I suppose they are all assembled in the 
sheikh's tent and are holding a council of war." 

"Their deliberations will result in a good deal 
of wasted breath, I fancy ! " said Yorke. " Un- 
less they grow wings and fly up to us we are safe 
enough from attack." 

When the sun had set the Beni Azeleh camp 
became a picturesque scene. The lurid glare of 
the bitumen-fed fires blended strangely with the 
flood of silvery moonlight that lay over the 
white salt plain. The contrast between the 
brilliantly illuminated noisy camp below and the 
moonlit silent monastery above was very strik- 
ing. 



CHAPTER XL 
The Attack on the Monastery* 

That night, as Aylward and Yorke lay sleep- 
ing in their chamber, they were awakened about 
midnight by the braying of the monastery don- 
key. From the direction of the sound, it was 
evident that the animal was standing on top of 
the rock some fifty feet above the courtyard, but, 
so powerful was its voice and so still the night, 
that the whole monastery resounded with the 
discordant din. 

" Confound that noisy brute ! " growled Ayl- 
ward, when the donkey had continued braying 
without cessation for some minutes. 

^' A decrepit centenarian, if you please!" ex- 
claimed Yorke disgustedly, referring to the 
ancient animal. " Why, the old beast has ten- 
donkey-power lungs ! " 

*' What can it be making such a row about ? " 

*' If it doesn't stop soon those mummies of 



ISO The Finding of Lot's Wife^ 

?nonks in the cemetery will be getting up to pro- 
test ! " 

The excited braying of the old donkey had 
even awakened the dragoman and the cook, who 
were sleeping in the cloister before the door of 
their master's room. Yorke heard them apostro- 
phizing the animal. 

" Oh, father of asses ! your voice is most 
ravishing, but, by God, we have heard enough ! " 
grumbled the cook. 

" The long-eared pig must see a whole caravan 
of devils ! " grunted the dragoman, alluding to 
the Eastern belief that when a donkey brays it is 
a sign that the devil is near. 

" Oh, melodious one ! you have sung enough ! 
Will you not reserve some of your music for an- 
other night?" continued the cook, after a pause. 

" May the devil slit the nostrils of that don- 
key ! " added the dragoman, wrathfully. 

But all their expostulations and curses were 
unheard and unheeded by the strident-voiced 
offender, who continued to utter prolonged hys- 
terical brays ending in convulsive sobs. 

" Something's got to be done to stop that 
brute ! " exclaimed Yorke at length, in despera- 
tion. 

" I remember reading somewhere that the way 
to stop a donkey from braying is to tie a stone to 
its tail!" observed Aylward. 

" Let's go and do it at once!" returned the 



The Attack on the Monastery* 151 

artist. " But, by Jove, if the old beast's kick is 
as powerful as its voice we shall have a tough 
job of it ! " 

The two men proceeded to carry their design 
into execution. Having, with the cook's assist- 
ance, procured a stone of suitable size, they 
tied firmly round it a piece of cord with a slip- 
noose at one end. They hoped to take the don- 
key by surprise and to slip its tail through the 
noose before it had time to resent the attention 
with its heels. Aylward, carrying the stone and 
followed by his friend, crossed the courtyard, 
and began to creep cautiously up the steep steps 
to the summit of the rock where the donkey was 
stiir braying with unabated vigor. On reaching 
the top of the steps, Aylward saw at once that 
the animal was alarmed at something it saw or 
heard. It stood facing the cemetery with its 
nose stuck ^ut and its tail stiff out behind. With 
long ears cocked, and huge lips drawn back over 
its teeth, it was giving vent to bray after bray. 

" What in the world is the matter with the 
brute ? " ejaculated Aylward, under his breath. 
At that moment his companion clutched his arm 
quickly and pointed in the direction in which the 
old donkey was looking. Just visible over the 
ledge of rock, beyond which lay the mummified 
monks, were the plumed heads of two or three 
long Arab lances with the moonlight glinting on 
their polished points. For a few seconds, the 



152 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

two men gazed at this amazing sight in silence, 
and then the same conviction flashed into the 
minds of both. 

" Great Caesar! the Beni Azaleh are upon us!" 
exclaimed Yorke, in an intense whisper. " That 
infernal blackguard of a monk who was expelled 
from the monastery last night must have betrayed 
to them the secret way up the rock ! " 

Their suspicions were verified a moment later. 
A head appeared over the edge of the rock and 
gazed a few moments at the defiant donkey. 
The indignant Englishmen recognized at a glance 
the dark, mean face on which the moonlight had 
deepened the malevolent yet cringing sneaking 
expression which seemed habitual to it. 

" The scoundrel himself ! " whispered Yorke, 
excitedly. 

" Let's go down and warn the monks. Per- 
haps they will know of some way of circumvent- 
ing the villains," suggested Aylward, in a low 
voice. 

** Or shall we make a rush and secure while we 
can, the entrance to the secret way, which is, 
probably narrow and easily guarded ? " 

"Too late, I'm afraid. Several of them have 
already got to the top, and there may be a score 
of them, all armed, crouching behind that rock. 
We had better go down and get out our guns and 
revolvers as soon as we can." 

Fortunately the Beni Azaleh had not seen or 



The Attack on the Monastery^ 153 

heard them, their attention being diverted by the 
braying donkey. Hastily, but noiselessly, the 
two men descended the steps to the courtyard. 
As they went down, Yorke whispered to his com- 
panion his surprise that none of the monks had 
been disturbed by the braying of the donkey, or 
had come to ascertain the cause of such unusual 
behavior on its part, but, at that moment, they 
heard the distant sound of singing in the church, 
and concluded that even the donkey's stentorian 
voice was inaudible in the cave-like sanctuary 
where the monks were at prayers. 

Having roused the dragoman and the cook, 
who, on learning the news were seized with panic 
and loudly expressed their fears, Aylward as- 
cended to Professor Payne's room in the main 
building of the monastery, and awoke him. The 
old savant, who showed no alarm and little con- 
cern, on hearing what the young man had to 
tell him, went to the door of his daughter's 
chamber, and called to her in a low voice to get 
up. " Yes^ father," she replied quietly from 
within ; but forbore to ask any question, though 
she realized at once that something serious must 
have happened. 

Meanwhile, Yorke hurried to the church, and 
unceremoniously interrupting the service, in- 
formed the hegoumenos in Arabic, that the Beni 
Azaleh had by some means ascended the rock, 
and would probably attack the monastery in a 



(■[THI7SIlSITr\ 



154 The Finding of Lofs Wife. 

few minutes. Father Polycarp received the ter- 
rible news with marvelous composure. Turning 
to the monks, he said a few words in Greek with 
calm face and tranquil voice. One of them, on 
hearing his superior's announcement, murmured 
audibly the words of the Psalmist. " O God ! 
the heathen are come into Thy inheritance. 
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of 
Thy name!" but most of the- others merely 
clasped their hands and gave no other sign of 
agitation. 

" What do you propose to do, good friend ? " 
asked the hegoumenos of Yorke. 

" Fight," returned the artist, laconically. 

At this moment. Brother Manon, the new monk 
who had arrived at the monastery that morning, 
stepped forward and knelt at the feet of the 
hegoumenos. 

" Father ! " he cried in a deep voice, '* I have 
not yet taken on me the vows, the oil of conse- 
cration has not yet been poured on my head. In 
my youth, ere God ca-l-led me, I was a man of 
war. Suffer me, I pray you, to fight the Lord's 
battle, and to help our friends to drive the 
heathen out of His sanctuary," 

" Go, my son," returned Father Polycarp, after 
a moment's hesitation. *' May God strengthen 
your arm, if it be needful for you to strike in de- 
fence of His holy place and servants. We will 
meanwhile, betake ourselves to prayer, in the 



The Attack on the Monastery* i55 

hope that He will, in His mercy, deliver us from 
our enemies without bloodshed." 

*' Come, O friend, there is not a moment to 
lose ! " exclaimed Yorke, addressing Brother 
Manon, who, having made a deep reverence to 
the altar, and having crossed himself, followed 
the artist out of the church. The monk was evi- 
dently a man of action, for as he went he tucked 
up his robe, and bared his brawny arms. When 
the two men arrived in the courtyard they found 
there Aylward, Professor Payne and Isha. The 
old savant had thought it necessary to rouse his 
daughter and warn her of the danger that 
threatened them ; but had begged her to stay in 
her chamber. She had, however, entreated him 
to allow her to be with him and their two friends, 
and the old man had felt powerless to refuse her 
request. 

" Do not be afraid, Mr. Aylward, I shall not be 
in the way and may be of use in loading the 
guns, if you are going to fight," she was saying 
when Yorke and the monk came up. The artist 
also tried to persuade her to return to her room, 
but the girl seemed determined not to leave her 
father's side under any circumstances. At 
length the three men gave up urging her to go 
and began their preparations for repelling the 
momentarily expected attack. 

''Where are Georgis and Hanna, Hal?" asked 
Yorke, looking round. 



156 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

" They have hidden themselves, I fancy. Best 
thing they could do, — they would both be per- 
fectly useless." 

The dragoman and cook, quaking and perspir- 
ing with fear, were at that moment perched on 
the beams in the roof of their master's chamber, 
the only hiding-place they could think of in their 
perturbation. 

Aylward had brought out all the fire-arms they 
had, which consisted of a rifle, a double-barreled 
shot-gun, and a couple of revolvers. Professor 
Payne was not able to contribute any weapon for 
the defence, as the most lethal instrument he pos- 
sessed was a pen-knife. He remarked that in all 
his wanderings in wild countries he had never 
before been called upon to defend himself from 
armed enemies, though he had many times stood 
in danger of rough treatment and robbery. 

While Aylward and Yorke were rapidly but 
carefully loading their guns and revolvers, they 
discussed the best method of meeting the rush 
that the Beni Azeleh would no doubt make in a 
few minutes. To reach the monastery, the 
enemy would have to descend the steep steps 
from the summit of the rock to the courtyard, 
and it seemed obvious that if they could be pre- 
vented from making use of the stairway the mon- 
astery would be safe. Yorke proposed that they 
should destroy the bridge that spanned the deep 
crevice at the foot of the steps, but on examining 



The Attack on the Monastery* 157 

it, they found that it would be the work of hours 
to break it down. They therefore contented 
themselves blocking it by a heavy table which 
they brought out of the refectory and laid on its 
side across the foot-way. 

Aylward armed with the shot-gun and one of 
the revolvers, climbed the wall over the entrance 
to the courtyard, and sitting outside of it, in the 
deep shadow of an over-hanging olive-tree, 
waited for the coming of the Beni Azaleh. He 
grasped his gun ready for action, with the ham- 
mer at full cock, while his revolver lay on the 
wall before him. Isha stood below him, holding 
his powder-flask, shot-pouch and caps, which duty 
she had insisted on undertaking in spite of the 
renewed protests of her companions. Yorke took 
up his position on the roof of the cloister armed 
with the rifle and the other revolver. Professor 
Payne stood within reach ready to supply him 
with ammunition. The weapons of the two Eng- 
lishmen commanded the steps descending the 
rock, down which no one could come without be- 
ing exposed to a cross-fire from them. Brother 
Manon, on being informed by Yorke from what 
corner the attack was expected, placed himself in 
the most perilous position. Grasping in his 
sinewy hands the heavy wooden mallet of the 
semandron he waited in the shadow of the arch 
in the courtyard wall ready to rush out to the 
defence of the bridge, should the Arabs succeed 



158 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

in descending the rock in the face of his com- 
rades' fire. 

Meanwhile, the ancient donkey had not ceased 
to bray ; but no other sound broke the stillness. 
The defenders of the monastery awaited in silence 
the rush of the enemy, who, on their part, neither 
uttered any sound nor showed themselves. The 
singing of the monks in the church had ceased, 
and the camp of the Beni Azaleh in the plain be- 
low lay dark and noiseless. Suddenly the don- 
key began to bray with redoubled vigor, but a 
few moments later, it uttered a sort of scream 
and then became silent. 

'* They've speared the poor beast, Hal ! " ex- 
claimed Yorke, in a loud whisper. 

" They will be down in a minute — look out ! '* 
responded his friend in the same tone. 

" If you see that scoundrel of a monk give him 
both barrels, Hal." 

He had scarcely spoken, when a crowd of 
armed Arabs appeared at the edge of the rock 
above them. There were about forty of them, 
and the moonlight revealed that they were 
all armed with lances, swords, knives and clubs. 
Two or three of the leaders whispered together, 
and then led the way down the steps cut in the 
face of the rock. The party crept down silently, 
one by one, taking care not to make any noise 
with their weapons, their object obviously being 
to take the monastery by surprise. They evi- 



The Attack on the Monastery^ 159 

dently had no suspicion that they had been seen, 
or that preparations had been made for their re- 
ception. The foremost man, whom the moon- 
light showed to be El Jezzar, had got half-way 
down the steps when Yorke demanded loudly 
in Arabic what they wanted. There was a mo- 
ment of surprise and hesitation on the part of 
the attacking party, and then El Jezzar, shouting 
to his men to follow, was about to spring down 
the remaining steps when Aylward and Yorke 
fired simultaneously. The bullet from the latter's 
rifle missed El Jezzar; but apparently struck the 
man behind him, for he uttered a loud cry and 
staggered as if about to fall into the deep crevice 
below him. The shot from Aylward's gun raked 
the whole line of men behind, who yelled with 
pain and dismay. El Jezzar, who had reached 
the bottom of the steps, shouted to them furi- 
ously to come on ; but a second charge of shot 
from Aylward's left-hand barrel completed their 
discomfiture, and they turned and fled up to 
the top of the rock, slipping and stumbling so 
much that it was a marvel none of them fell 
over the precipice. El Jezzar, finding himself 
deserted by his followers, and that he was 
exposed to fire, also retreated, bounding up 
the stone steps like a wild goat. Yorke fired 
two barrels of his revolver after him, but without 
hitting him. 

"Have you driven them back, Mr. Aylward?" 



i6o The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

whispered Isha, looking up at him. She spoke 
calmly, but her face was very pale. 

"Yes, for the time. Miss Payne ; but they will 
be down again soon, I think. Give me the 
powder-flask, please, quick ! " 

It was soon apparent, however, that the warm 
reception they had received had demoralized the 
Beni Azaleh, and that they had no desire to face 
again the fire-arms of the defenders of the mon- 
astery. While Aylward and Yorke were reload- 
ing their weapons, assisted by the Professor and 
his daughter, the enemy remained invisible and 
perfectly quiet. 

** Do you think they will attack us again, O 
friend ! " cried Yorke in Arabic to Brother Manon, 
who stood in the archway grasping his improvised 
club with a look of grim satisfaction on his face. 

" If they are men they will," returned the stal- 
wart monk. " Did you kill any of them with your 
guns, my lord? I could not see what happened." 

" One of them received a bullet from me ; but 
he did not fall. I do not think my friend slew 
any of them, though he must have wounded 
many with shot," replied the artist. 

At that moment, Aylward, having loaded his 
gun, glanced up to see if any of the enemy were 
showing themselves, and caught sight of a long 
brightly-polished gun barrel hanging over the 
edge of the rock above. It was pointed down 
into the courtyard, and there was an Arab lying 



The Attack on the Monastery* i6i 

behind it taking aim, his head and shoulders only 
being visible. Before the young man could 
shout a warning to his friend, El Jezzar, for it 
was he who held the gun, had fired. Yorke, who 
had just seated himself again on the tiles of the 
cloister-roof after reloading his rifle, fell forward 
at the shot and rolled off into the courtyard. 
Professor Payne tried to catch him in his arms, 
and succeeded in partly breaking his fall. 

As El Jezzar rose on his hands after firing, 
Aylward raised his gun, and the next moment the 
Arab's arm was shattered at the elbow, and his 
gun fell out of his hand on to the roof of the 
cloister. Springing off the wall, Aylward ran to 
his friend's assistance followed by Isha. 

" Noel ! Noel ! are you hurt ? " he cried anx- 
iously, seeing the artist did not attempt to get 
up. 

" Got a beastly chewed Arab bullet through 
my leg, I believe, Hal," replied Yorke, cheerfully. 
" Lucky I did not get it through the top of my 
head. But don't mind me — go and guard the 
bridge ! " 

Aylward would not leave him, however, till 
he had ascertained how he was wounded. He 
and the Professor carried him under one of the 
trees and on examination, found that El Jezzar's 
bullet had passed through the artist's leg an 
inch or two above the knee but without breaking 
the bone. The wounded man protested that he 



1 62 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

was but slightly hurt and urged his friend to go 
back to his post. This Aylward at length re- 
luctantly did, followed by Isha, leaving Professor 
Payne to bind up the artist's wound. 

Half an hour passed, and as nothing was seen 
or heard of the enemy, Aylward began to hope 
that the Beni Azaleh, dismayed at the hot re- 
ception they had met with and the bullet and 
shot wounds many of them had received, had 
given up the attack, and had retreated by the 
secret path. But the reason for their apparent 
inaction was at length revealed. Some twenty 
men suddenly appeared on the edge of the rock 
above, and the next moment a hail of heavy stones 
descended into the courtyard, tearing through 
the tree-tops and crashing through the roof-tiles. 
The Beni Azaleh had taken a large number of 
stones from the wall round the monks' garden, 
and half of them were bombarding the defenders 
of the monastery, while the rest again essayed 
the descent of the stairway to the courtyard. 
Aylward fired both barrels at the shouting 
Arabs above him, and then springing off the wall, 
darted under the archway for shelter, calling on 
Isha to follow him. Had any of the stones 
struck them, death or mutilation would have 
been the instant result, but they reached the 
arch in safety. Brother Manon was standing 
there, swinging his mallet. 

" Is your friend badly wounded, my lord?" he 



The Attack on the Monastery* 163 

asked quietly in Arabic, referring to Yorke. 
Aylward not understanding him, shook his head, 
and was about to ask Isha what he had said, 
when the monk, glancing towards the bridge, 
said quickly, — 

" My lord — they come ! " 

A score of the Beni Azaleh, under cover of 
their comrades' stone-bombardment, were again 
descending the rock. They came springing 
down the steps, flourishing their weapons and 
yelling like demons. Aylward's gun was empty, 
but he had his revolver, and he rapidly emptied 
all five chambers at the enemy, hoping to check 
the rush. None of the bullets apparently took 
effect, for the Arabs did not stop, but springing 
on the bridge, began to clamber over the table 
that had been laid across it to bar the way. As 
the first man, khanjar in hand, leaped into the 
archway. Brother Manon's mallet descended, and 
the fellow fell with a broken shoulder. Shout- 
ing " In the name of the Father, the Son, and 
the Holy Spirit ! " the monk swung up his for- 
midable weapon, and dashed into the midst of 
his foes. A couple of them went down before 
him, but in striking a third blow he missed the 
man he aimed at, and the mallet alighting on a 
bridge-post, its helve was shivered in his grasp. 
In another moment half a dozen men had sprung 
on him and borne him to the ground. 

Aylward, meanwhile, standing in front of Isha, 



1 64 The Findingf of Lot^s "Wife* 

was fighting desperately. He struck down with 
his clubbed gun the first man who approached 
him, breaking off the stock with the force of the 
blow. He continued to keep off his assailants 
for a short time with the gunbarrels, but very 
soon both he and Isha were thrown down and 
pinioned. Thinking that they were about to 
cut his throat, he struggled furiously ; but pres- 
ently, feeling that his hands and feet were being 
tied with ropes, he ceased to resist, for he 
realized that they would not take the trouble to 
secure him if they intended to murder him at 
once. 

Having pinioned Aylward, Isha, and Brother 
Manon, the Beni Azaleh dashed into the court- 
yard, and were met by a volley from Yorke, who 
sat under the tree with Professor Payne behind 
him. The artist fired his rifle at the leading man, 
but missed him in the uncertain light. He then 
snatched up his revolver, and had fired two shots 
from it when the Arabs rushed on him in a 
body, wrenched the weapon from his grasp, and 
roughly bound his hands and feet. The Pro- 
fessor was thrown down and secured in the same 
way. 

At this moment a cry was heard, and Selim, 
the Arab boy whose flight to the monastery had 
brought about the attack on it, ran into the court- 
yard, his white robe glistening in the moonlight. 

** Do not kill the Englishmen ! Oh, spare 



The Attack on the Monastery^ 165 

them, brothers, spare them ! " he cried, in an 
agonized voice. 

One of the Beni Azaleh, the leader in the 
second assault, a fierce-eyed grey-beard, down 
whose swarthy face blood was trickling, stepped 
forward and seized the boy by the arm. 

" Do you, whose wickedness has caused the 
blood of so many of your kin to flow, plead for 
the lives of these Franks, O traitor to your faith 
and tribe?" he exclaimed, wrathfully. "Are 
you not ashamed to wear women's garments, 
O unworthy son of your father?" he added, 
contemptuously glancing at the boy's white robe, 
which somewhat resembled in shape an Arab girl's 
dress. 

Selim, seeing that the Europeans lay bound on 
the ground, and that his tribesmen had no im- 
mediate intention of murdering them, remained 
silent. 

" Do you, Ali, and you, Yusef, take this young 
infidel whelp to El Jezzar," said the old Arab to 
two young men among those crowding round. 
" By God, O boy, you will have to answer to 
him for his broken arm. Expect no sweet words 
from him ! " 

The two young men, grasping the boy's arm 
roughly, led him away. He did not resist or 
protest, and betrayed no fear at the prospect of 
meeting his wounded cousin, but the expression 
on his face showed that he was wondering why 



1 66 The Finding: of Lot's Wife^ 

he was to be taken to El Jezzar, and not before 
his father, the sheikh. 

" Leave the Franks lying there, brothers, and 
follow me to the church. We shall find the 
monks there, and will teach them not to steal 
boys of the Beni Azaleh again ! " cried the old 
grey-beard. 

Flourishing their weapons, the Arabs rushed 
off, after taking possession of the guns and re- 
volvers that Aylward and York had used with 
such effect against them. Three or four young 
men were left to guard the prisoners. Yorke and 
Professor Payne, who saw that it was the inten- 
tion of the Beni Azaleh to murder all the monks, 
listened with beating hearts for the sounds an- 
nouncing the commencment of the massacre. 
But several minutes passed, and all they could 
hear were the yells of the Arabs, who were hunt- 
ing for their intended victims. The would-be 
murderers searched the church, the library, the 
refectory, the cells, and every other part of the 
monastery, but without finding any trace of the 
monks. They trooped back in about half an 
hour, and their fierce faces and angry voices 
showed how furious they were at being balked 
of their vengeance. 

"The monks have doubtless betaken them- 
selves to some hiding-place," whispered the Pro- 
fessor to Yorke as the Arabs returned from their 
fruitless search. 



The Attack on the Monastery* 167 

" It's a good thing for them that they have 
such a plaee to retreat to. These fellows will 
cut the throat of every mother's son of them if 
they find them," returned the artist faintly, his 
face contorted with the pain of his wound, which 
began to be severe, owing to the way his legs 
were tied. 

The Beni Azaleh discussed noisily what was to 
be done with their prisoners. Yorke and the 
Professor could hear all they said, and were re- 
lieved to find that they did not seem to harbor 
any resentment against them on account of the 
desperate resistance they had made, and which 
had cost them so much. No proposal was made 
to kill them or to maltreat them. At length all 
four men and Isha, bound hand and foot as they 
were, were carried by the Arabs one by one to 
the chamber which Aylward and Yorke had occu- 
pied, and were laid on the floor. The door was 
then closed and bolted from outside. 



CHAPTER Xn* 
A Youngf Martyr* 

The chamber into which the Beni Azaleh had 
thrust their captives was very dark. No lamp 
was burning in it and the only light it had was 
the faint moonshine which struggled in at a 
narrow window shadowed by the cloister roof. 
The prisoners lay still for a minute or more after 
the door had been shut on them without ex- 
changing a word. Suddenly a husky, tremulous 
voice was heard in the darkness proceeding 
apparently from somewhere above them. 

" Mr. Ilwud ! — Mr. Yok ! " said the voice, 
which both men named recognized at once. 

" Is that you, Georgis ? " asked Aylward, in a 
whisper. 

" Yes, Mr. Ilwud." 

" Where are you ? " 

" Hiding on the roof, Mr. Ilwud.*' 

" Where's Hanna ? " 



A Youngf Martyn 169 

" He here also." 

" For goodness' sake, get down, man, and untie 
these ropes ! " groaned Yorke, who was suffering 
intense pain. 

" The Arabs all gone way, Mr. Yok ? " 

"They're on watch outside, so don't make a 
row ; drop down quietly ! " replied Aylward. 

With many qualms of fear and suppressed 
groans and grunts the fat dragoman did as he 
was ordered, but, in dropping from the beam, 
he came to the floor with such a thump, and 
uttered so loud an ejaculation of fright that all 
present expected the door to open and their cap- 
tors to appear, to ascertain the cause of the 
noise. Luckily it passed unnoticed, and the 
dragoman picked himself up and rubbed his 
bruised person tenderly. The cook followed him 
more circumspectly, and the two then began to 
fumble in the dark for the knots of the ropes with 
which their masters were bound, and untied them. 
Aylward then freed Professor Payne, who un- 
bound the ropes with which his daughter's hands 
and feet had been lashed. The hard camel-ropes, 
which the Beni Azeleh had brought up with 
them for the purpose of binding their prisoners, 
had bruised the girl's slender wrists badly, but 
she had made no complaint. Brother Manon 
was the last to be set free. 

The first thing done was to attend to Yorke's 
wound. They were afraid at first to light the 



170 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

oil-lamp in the room, lest the guard outside 
should see it, but at Isha's suggestion, Aylward 
held his coat against the window, and the drag- 
oman struck a match and lit the floating wick. 
By this feeble light the professor washed and 
bound up the artist's wound, who bore the pain 
in stoical silence. When this was finished the 
lamp was put out for fear of discovery, and 
the whole party sat in darkness, whispering to- 
gether. 

For several hours the sound of voices and the 
smell of smoke came from the courtyard, the 
Beni Azeleh having evidently camped for the 
night under the olive-trees. The prisoners could 
hear the movements of their guards in the 
cloister outside, also their talk, though they 
could understand little of what they said, owing 
to the thickness of the walls and door. About 
an hour before dawn all noises outside ceased, 
the Arabs having apparently gone to sleep. 
Aylward proposed that they should try to open 
the door, and, if successful, to creep out, collect 
the weapons of their sleeping enemies, and, after 
arming themselves, to throw the rest over the 
precipice. A little discussion, however, showed 
how slender was the chance of such a desperate 
undertaking being successful, and the idea was 
abandoned. 

" Think you, O friend, that the Bedawi will 
find your brethren?" asked Professor Payne, 



A Youngf Martyn 171 

touching Brother Manon, who was sitting 
silently beside him in the dark. 

" No, my lord ! God will protect His servants 
from their enemies ! " replied the monk confi- 
dently, in his deep musical voice. " Father Poly- 
carp showed me our hiding-place after even-song 
yesterday. It is a cave for which one might 
search for days without finding it. The brethren 
have food and water, and will continue to wor- 
ship God day and night where they are till their 
enemies grow weary of looking for them and 
go away." 

" I trust that the jewels, relics and pictures 
have not fallen into the hands of the Bedawin." 

" Fear not, my lord ; the first care of the 
brethren was, doubtless, to remove the holy things 
to some secret place, where they will be safe from 
the heathen." 

** What think you, O friend, will happen to 
us?" 

" I cannot say, my lord. It may be that they 
will murder us all in order that there may remain 
no witnesses of their unlawful deeds. As for my- 
self, if they find that I am of the Brotherhood, 
they will kill me without doubt," returned the 
monk, grimly. 

*' We are in the hands of the Merciful One ! " 
sighed the Professor. " All we can do now is to 
await with such calmness as we can command, 
the fate He has decreed for us." 



172 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

" I have something to propose, my lord." 

"What is it, O friend?" 

" Let us make a hole in the roof, and I will es- 
cape through it ; descend the rock by the secret 
way by which our enemies came up ; make my 
way through the mountains to the Holy City, 
and report what has happened to the consul, who 
will doubtless take steps at once to send help." 

Professor Payne shook his head doubtfully, 
and then told Aylward and Yorke of the propo- 
sal the monk had made. 

" I can tell you, from experience, exactly what 
will happen, should our good friend succeed in 
reaching Jerusalem safely on his errand," he ob- 
served. *' The consul, on hearing of our plight, 
will at once insist on the Pasha sending troops to 
our assistance. That worthy will promise to do 
all in his power, but will do practically nothing. 
He will send out a troop of his ragamuffins, who 
will not attempt to come here, but will gallop 
about the country firing off pistols into the air, 
and living at free quarters. A descent will per- 
haps be made on some small Arab tribe who 
have made themselves obnoxious to the Turks ; 
one or two of them will be declared to be our mur- 
derers, and will be hanged to please the consul, 
and the rest will be mad-e to * eat stick ' ad libitum 
— and there will be an end of the business." 

" I daresay you are right. Professor," said Ayl- 
ward ; " but it must be remembered that this 



A Youngf Martyr* 173 

brave fellow is certain to be murdered in the 
morning, as soon as the Beni Azaleh discover 
that he is a monk, and if he is willing to make 
the attempt he proposes, I think he should be 
allowed to do so in his own interests, as well as 
in ours and his fellow-monks. Even if no real 
effort is made by the authorities to rescue us, at 
least our friends will get news of us." 

" If the Beni Azaleh find that a messenger has 
been despatched to Jerusalem to ask for assist- 
ance, I fancy they will be afraid to maltreat us," 
observed Yorke, in a faint voice. 

" On the other hand, they may take all our lives 
at once, and retreat to the desert, out of the reach 
of the Turkish troops," added the professor, 
dryly. 

The dragoman, on being consulted, agreed 
with Professor Payne that there was very little 
likelihood of the Pasha taking any active steps to 
send them help, however much he might be 
urged by the consul. After some further discus- 
sion it was decided that the monk should be 
allowed to do as he had suggested. On being 
informed by the Professor, in grateful terms, 
that his offer was accepted by his fellow-pris- 
oners. Brother Manon rose at once, and said he 
was ready to start. Aylward, being the strong- 
est man present, leaned up against the wall, and 
the monk springing on his shoulders, grasped a 
beam in the roof above, and swung himself up on 



174 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

to it. He then carefully and noiselessly removed 
some of the tiles, and forced apart the' roof tim- 
ber, till he had made a small hole, through 
which he squeezed himself. Before he disap- 
peared he looked down into the dark chamber, 
and whispered, " God be with you all, O brothers 
in affliction ! " And the Professor and the 
dragoman responded in low tones, '' May He go 
with you, O friend!" "Allah protect you, 
brother ! " The imprisoned party heard the 
monk creeping slowly and cautiously over the 
tiles, and listened with beating hearts, fearing 
every moment to hear the shout of the Arabs on 
catching sight of the escaping man. But several 
minutes passed, and no alarm was raised. 
Brother Manon had evidently succeeded in pass- 
ing through their sleeping enemies unseen. 

About an hour after the monk's escape, the 
day began to dawn. Soon after sunrise the door 
of the chamber in which the prisoners were con- 
fined was opened, and half a dozen armed men 
came in. They looked surprised as they glanced 
round and saw that their captives had freed 
themselves from the ropes with which they had 
been bound after the fight. 

" Did we not carry in hither five men bound 
last night, O brothers ? Lo, there are now six 
men unbound ! " exclaimed one of them. 

" By God ! here is the merry one. El Hak- 
watieh, also the Syrian cook of the Franks ! " 



A Young Martyn 175 

remarked another with surprise. '' How came 
you in here, brothers? We saw you not last 
night ! " 

Before the dragoman, who was trembling 
excessively, could reply, the first man who had 
spoken uttered an exclamation, and pointed with 
his drawn khanjar to the hole in the roof. 

" Look, O brothers. They have been trying 
to escape! " He then glanced keenly round the 
little group of prisoners. " By the Prophet ! one 
of them has escaped — the big, bearded man who 
fought with the wooden hammer last night ; the 
rest are all here. Out, brothers, and search for 
him ; he cannot be far off." 

Two of the men at once darted out of the 
room, crying out to their comrades outside, that 
one of the Franks had escaped. 

On the entry of the Arabs armed with knives 
and clubs, the prisoners had at once concluded 
that they were about to be massacred. Isha 
threw herself into her father's arms, who, grasp- 
ing her tightly, breathed a prayer that their 
deaths might be mercifully speedy. Aylward 
stepped in front of them with clenched fists, 
determined to protect them to the utmost of his 
power, and to sell his life dearly. Yorke stag- 
gered to his feet, resolved to strike at least one 
blow before he was murdered. The dragoman 
and the cook crouched, terror-stricken, against 
the wall. But the words uttered by the Beni 



176 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

Azaleh on entering, showed such of the im- 
prisoned party as understood Arabic, that their 
captors had no immediate intention of taking 
their lives. Aylward, not understanding them, 
was about to spring on the nearest man in order 
to wrest his weapon from him, when he was 
arrested by hearing Isha, who divined his inten- 
tion, whisper quickly, — 

"Stop, Mr. Aylward; they do not intend to 
kill us ! " 

" Will you come quietly with us if we do not 
bind you, O Franks?" asked the leader of the 
party. 

" We will do so," replied Professor Payne, and 
then told Aylward what the man had said. 

*' I suppose it would be useless to resist," said 
the young man. "Tell the fellow to lead, Pro- 
fessor, and we will follow." The Professor did 
so, whereupon the Beni Azaleh all turned and 
left the room, and the six prisoners, headed by 
Aylward supporting Yorke, passed out after 
them into the courtyard. A number of Arabs 
were congregated there. Four of them were 
carrying off in their arms a sorely wounded man 
covered with blood. They were followed by sev- 
eral others, whose contortions and groans showed 
that they had been severely hurt during the 
night-attack. They went in the direction of the 
windlass tower, from whence came a creaking 
sound, showing that the Beni Azaleh were lower- 



A Young: Martyn 177 

ing their wounded and disabled to the foot of the 
rock. Their guard led Aylward and his compan- 
ions through the courtyard and up the stone 
steps to the top of the rock. At its highest 
point and close to the edge of the precipice, were 
grouped about a score of Beni Azaleh. 

Seated on a carpet laid on the rock was the 
mullah, who, with bent head, was fingering a 
string of beads and muttering prayers. Beside 
him sat the demented sheikh of the tribe, gazing 
before him with expressionless face. Neither of 
these old men had been with the attacking party 
during the night, but had come up from the camp 
that morning. The prisoners were led forward, 
and made to stand in a row before them. Yorke 
being unable to stand from the pain of his wound, 
soon subsided on the rock. Isha stood between 
her father and Aylward, while the dragoman and 
the cook stood in frightened, suppliant attitudes 
at the end of the line. The mullah did not look 
up as they approached, but continued his me- 
chanical prayer-making without taking any no- 
tice of them. The old sheikh gazed at them as 
if he did not see them, and uttered no sound. 
The traitorous ex-monk, Brother Barlaam, though 
he had been with the attacking party during the 
night, was not now present. 

Aylward was about to suggest to the Professor 
that he should ask the mullah what the Beni 
Azaleh meant by their treatment of them, when 



178 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

all the Arabs standing round turned their faces 
to look at a small party of men coming over the 
rock toward them. El Jezzar was leading, and 
grasped in his left hand a long, tufted lance. 
His shot-broken right arm was hidden in his 
cloak, but the pain he was suffering from it was 
shown by the ferocious expression of his haggard 
face. Behind him came Selim, the sheikh's son, 
guarded by two of his tribesmen. On being led 
forward, the boy gazed eagerly at his father with 
a face full of affection and joy at seeing him ; 
but the old man looked at him with unrecogniz- 
ing eyes. A look of intense surprise, followed 
by a spasm of pain, crossed the boy's beautiful 
features when he realized that his father had 
taken no notice of him. Tears started to his 
eyes and he sighed slightly, but said nothing. It 
was obvious that he was not aware of the con- 
dition of the old sheikh's mind. He did not 
look towards his fellow-prisoners, the shock of 
his father's reception of him having for the mo- 
ment made him oblivious of everything else. 
Meanwhile the mullah had raised his head, and 
was regarding him keenly. For some moments 
he remained silent, and then said slowly and 
austerely, — 

" Selim, son of Abd'allah Abou Mansur, sheikh 
of the Beni Azaleh, you have sinned against God 
and against your tribe and kin. 

" Six moons ago," he continued, when the boy 



A Youn§f Marty n 179 

made no reply, " you secretly fled from the tents 
of your people, from those in authority over you, 
from those who loved you, to herd here with 
Christian dogs, enemies of God and of His 
Apostle. Behold the result of the deadly sin 
you have committed ! Your father has lost his 
reason in his search for you, and the blood of 
your tribesmen has been shed by unbelievers." 

On hearing the mullah's statement regarding 
his father, Selim started and gazed at the old 
sheikh with eyes overflowing with grief. Every 
line of his expressive face showed the deepest 
distress and contrition. His lips trembled, as if 
he was about to speak, but he restrained himself, 
and said nothing. 

*' Do you know, boy, that if God wills it, you 
will one day be the sheikh of the Beni Azaleh ? " 
demanded the mullah. 

" I renounce my right," replied Selim firmly, 
but in a voice that vibrated with pain. 

" Dare you say that to our very beards ? " 
shouted El Jezzar wrathfuUy, though an ill-con- 
cealed look of satisfaction passed across his face 
on hearing the boy's words. The mullah mo- 
tioned to him with his hand to be silent. 

" You cannot renounce your right," he said, 
addressing Selim. " There are but two things 
that can prevent you becoming some day the 
sheikh of your tribe — your death or your 
apostasy." 



i8o The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

The boy was silent. 

" Selim, child of the Beni Azaleh, I call on you 
to repeat the Eshed ! " continued the mullah. 

The boy made no reply. 

*'Say, my son, 'God is the Lord, and Moham- 
med is the Prophet of God ! ' " 

Selim did not speak. El Jezzar uttered an im- 
patient execration. 

"You waste words in questioning him, O 
saintly one ! " he exclaimed. " Can we not all see 
that he has become an infidel and spits on the 
Eshed?" 

"Is it even so, O unhappy one? '* demanded 
the miillah, eyeing the boy sternly. 

Selim kept silence. 

"What! Will you, a son of Islam, renounce 
the Faith and throw in your lot with these 
Christian swine, blasphemers of God and His 
Prophet ? " 

Still the boy said nothing. 

" Are you prepared to meet the fate of all un- 
believers ? Will you risk the fire that is fed with 
the bodies of men?" cried the mullah, angrily. 

"Listen, O obdurate one," he continued, in a 
cold hard voice, on receiving no reply. " It has 
been decided by the council of the tribe, that if 
you have abjured the Faith, you are not only 
unfit to lead the tribe after your father's death, 
but even to live." 

Selim's face quivered, but he did not speak. 



A Youngf Martyr. 18 1 

El Jezzar cursed and threatened him, but the boy 
did not seem to hear him. 

*' If you do not at once repeat the Eshed, I 
swear by the beard of the Prophet that you shall 
be thrown from the rock ! " shouted El Jezzar, 
furiously. He beckoned to the hideous negro El 
Wahsh, one of the boy's guards, who, with a grin 
on his bestial face, dragged him to the edge of 
the precipice, and forced him to look down. 
Selim shuddered visibly, but no sound came 
from his lips. 

" See, you young Christian dog," continued El 
Jezzar, sticking his lance upright in a crack in 
the rock, '* if you have not renounced the cursed 
teachings of those vile sons of shameless mothers 
before the shadow of this lance has shortened 
one span, you shall be thrown over ! " 

Some minutes passed in total silence. The 
Beni Azaleh standing round, looked on stolidly 
and silently, showing no feeling in their dark 
faces. The mullah bent over his beads and re- 
sumed his prayers. El Jezzar stood glaring ma- 
levolently at Selim, who with eyes on the ground 
remained motionless and silent. Once the boy 
looked up and glanced appealingly at his father, 
but lowered his eyes again, for the old sheikh 
was obviously unconscious of what was going on. 

" Father, oh, father ! surely they will not do 
as they threaten ? " whispered Isha, horrified at 
hearing El Jezzar's last words. 



i82 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

" I fear they will, my child," returned Profes- 
sor Payne, in an agitated voice. " We can only 
pray that God will give the dear boy strength — 
and receive him." 

Isha covered her face with her hands, and 
prayed fervently that the boy's life might not be 
sacrificed. She could not bring herself to pray 
that he might stand steadfast, and meet a mar- 
tyr's fate. 

The shadow of the lance receded inch by 
inch, watched by all in a silence which to Isha 
and her companions seemed terrible. The mo- 
ment approached. Suddenly the mullah looked 
up. 

" Selim, son of Abd'allah Abou Mansur, Asrael, 
the angel of death, awaits you below," he said, in 
a cold deliberate voice, in which there was no 
trace of human feeling. " For the last time I call 
upon you, in the name of the Prophet of God, on 
whom be peace, to repeat the Eshed ! " 

There was a moment's silence, and then the 
boy spoke. He drew himself up, his face glowed, 
and his eyes dilated as he said, in a clear ringing 
voice, — 

" I believe in God, the Father of all, and in 
His Son, Esa, the Christ, and in " 

" In the name of God, the Mighty, the Merci- 
ful ! " interrupted El Jezzar loudly, making a 
furious motion with his hand. 

The next moment Selim was gone. El Wahsh, 



A Youngf Martyr. 183 

the negro, with the yell of a wild beast, had 
pushed him over the precipice. 

" My God ! " exclaimed Aylward, springing 
forward. He had seen from the fierce face and 
loud voice of El Jezzar, and the rough handling 
of the negro, that they were threatening the boy, 
but, not having understood what had been said, 
had not realized what tragedy was being enacted 
before him. 

** The murderous scoundrels ! " ejaculated 
Yorke, trying to rise to his feet, but sinking 
down again with a groan, for the effort had 
caused him agonizing pain. 

Meanwhile Isha, white to the lips, stood gaz- 
ing before her with dilating eyes, her hands out- 
stretched supplicatingly. She stood in this 
attitude, speechless with horror for some mo- 
ments, and then swayed slightly. Her father 
was just in time to catch her in his arms as she 
sank fainting to the ground. Aylward heard the 
choking cry she gave as she fell, and sprang to 
her assistance. He and her father were so en- 
grossed in attending to the unconscious girl that 
they did not see what happened directly after 
Selim's murder. Yorke, too, was occupied in 
watching their efforts to bring Isha back to con- 
sciousness and saw nothing, while the dragoman 
and the cook were so demoralized by fear as to 
be oblivious of everything but their own sup- 
posed danger. 



i84 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

The old sheikh had sat through the terrible 
scene in silence without showing any recognition 
of his son, but the moment the boy disappeared 
over the precipice he rose hastily and looked 
wildly round. Then with a heartrending cry of 
" My son ! my son ! " he rushed to the spot 
where Sclim had stood, and before any of the 
startled bystanders could prevent him, had 
sprung over the precipice. Uttering cries of dis- 
may, all the Beni Azaleh ran to the edge and 
peered down. Two shapeless objects lay close 
together on the sand at the foot of the rock. 

" He moves ! Thanks be to God ! " exclaimed 
several of the Arabs. 

" No, by God, he is dead ! Could one fall so 
far and yet live ! " returned others. 

A look of satisfaction that he tried in vain to 
suppress passed for a moment over the face of 
El Jezzar as he gazed down. He was now the 
sheikh of the tribe. 

" It is the will of the Disposer of all things. 
Let some of you descend at once. It may be 
that there is yet life in the sheikh," ordered the 
mdillah, calmly. He had not risen or shown any 
agitation on witnessing the murder of Selim or 
the suicide of the boy's demented father, except 
that he ceased for a moment to finger his beads. 
Half a dozen men at once hurried off to carry 
out his order. 

Isha soon recovered from the swoon, but not 



A Youn§f Martyn 185 

from the shock she had received. She lay for 
some minutes in her father's arms, unable to 
speak, her features convulsed with horror and 
distress. At length she gasped out, — 

" Oh, father dear ! Oh, Mr. Aylward ! Is he 
— is he dead?" 

" I fear so," responded Aylward, gravely. 

" He is now in the presence of the Christ he 
would not deny, and is wearing the martyr's 
crown, the noble boy," said Professor Payne, 
with a sob in his voice. Isha burst into tears. 

" Hush, my dear, restrain yourself, or the sus- 
picions of the Bedawin will be roused," contin- 
ued the Professor warningly. With a strong 
effort Isha choked back her sobs, and endeavored 
to compose her agitated features. The old 
sheikh's sudden action had fortunately drawn 
the attention of all the Beni Azaleh from them, 
or the girl's fainting fit and tears would certainly 
have betrayed her sex to them. 

Meanwhile El Jezzar, the mftllah, and some of 
the older men present had been talking together 
in low tones ; but much of what was said by 
them was overheard by the prisoners. El Jezzar 
spoke in a fierce voice, glaring malevolently from 
time to time at Yorke, who took little notite of 
the fellow, being in great pain. It soon became 
evident that the new sheikh was proposing that 
all their captives should be thrown over the 
precipice. The mullah and the others, however, 



i86 The Finding of Lot's Wife, 

refused to consent to the murder, much to the 
ruffian's wrath and dissatisfaction. They then 
talked some minutes about the dragoman and 
the cook, and some proposal that El Jezzar made 
seemed to meet the approval of the mullah, for 
he nodded his head gravely, whereupon the 
former roughly ordered the dragoman to come 
forward. Georgis stepped out of the line of 
prisoners, and approached in a cringing attitude, 
ready to grovel with fear. 

" You have seen what befell one who forsook 
the Faith, and blashemed God and His Prophet," 
observed the m(\llah, eyeing him sternly. " Are 
you a Christian ? Speak, fellow ! " 

The dragoman hesitated for some moments, 
and then, in a quavering voice, acknowledged 
that he belonged to the Nestorian Church. 

"Infidel dog! eater of the leprous pig! If 
you do not at once abjure your false creed you 
also shall be thrown from the rock ! " exclaimed 
El Jezzar, motioning to El Wahsh to seize him. 
The negro dragged Georgis to the edge of the 
precipice, and forced him to look down. The 
dragoman struggled in the black ruffian's grasp, 
and howled for mercy. 

" I renounce ! I renounce ! " he cried, in an 
agony of terror. "I will become a Moslem! I 
will repeat the Eshed ! — anything, anything — 
only spare my life ! " 

At a sign from the mullah El Wahsh drew the 



A Young Marty n 187 

trembling dragoman before him. Having looked 
at him in contemptuous silence for a few seconds, 
the mullah ordered him to repeat the Eshed after 
him, and then the following abjuration : 

"I renounce the society of unbelievers in this 
world and in that which is to come. I choose 
God for my Lord, Mohammed for my Prophet, 
and Islam for my faith." 

The wretched man was led off by two of the 
Arabs with the perspiration standing in beads on 
his fat face. Hanna, the cook, was next brought 
forward, and interrogated by the mullah as to 
his religious belief. He renounced Christianity 
at once, and was led away weeping. The Euro- 
pean prisoners felt sure that their turn was now 
come, and the thought in the mind of each was 
which of them would be called on first to face 
the trial. It was soon obvious, however, that the 
Beni Azaleh had no intention of attempting to 
force them to apostatize. 

During the next half-hour El Jezzar and his 
followers were occupied in watching the removal 
of the body of the old sheikh from the foot of 
the rock to the camp. Beyond giving one brief 
order in regard to the corpse, the mullah exhibited 
no interest in the proceedings, but sat praying, 
bent over his beads. Aylward and his companions 
were then conducted to the windlass-tower and 
lowered to the ground, one by one, to be taken 
to the camp. The loot collected by the Beni 



i88 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

Azaleh, which consisted only of cooking-utensils, 
porringers, and plates from the refectory, and 
other articles of little value, were afterwards sent 
down. A party of armed men, led by El Jezzar, 
then made a final and careful search for the hid- 
den monks, but found no trace whatever of them. 
They decided at length that their intended vic- 
tims must have made themselves invisible by 
magical arts, and accordingly gave up the search. 
They descended from the monastery by the 
secret way, and joined the rest of the party, who 
were waiting for them at the foot of the rock. 

Though the distance to the camp was not 
great, the Europeans found the march across 
the salt plain very trying, for the sun was by 
this time high in the heavens, and the heat in- 
tense. Professor Payne, Isha, and Aylward 
trudged on foot, but Yorke, being unable to walk, 
was mounted on a horse. As they neared the 
camp, a shrill, tremulous cry arose from one of 
the tents. It was. the death-wail raised by the 
women of the tribe for the late sheikh. On 
reaching the camp, the prisoners were placed, 
with their baggage, in a small tent, and a guard 
put over them. The dragoman and the cook had 
been taken on before to another part of the camp, 
and being now Moslems, were given their liberty, 
and were well treated. 



CHAPTER Xm* 
Brother Manon's Experiences^ 

Brother Manon, who had undertaken to con- 
vey to the authorities at Jerusalem the news of 
the attack on the monastery by the Beni Azaleh, 
and of the peril in which the European travelers 
stood, did not succeed in escaping to the hills 
before sunrise, as he had hoped. 

Having whispered the farewell to his fellow- 
prisoners through the hole in the roof of the 
chamber in which they were confined, the monk 
crept on his hands and knees to the ridge of the 
roof. Though he moved with the utmost delib- 
eration and caution, the tiles creaked and broke 
under him, and he feared every moment that 
some of them would slide off and crash on the 
stones below. On reaching the ridge, he peered 
over into the courtyard. 

By this time the moon was low on the horizon, 
and the shadows were long and deep. The fires, 



190 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

too, that the Arabs had made, were burning but 
dimly. There was, nevertheless, sufficient light 
for the monk to see that nearly all the Beni 
Azaleh were asleep, wrapped in their abaiyehs, 
with the exception of a few wounded men, who 
lay or sat round the fire. No guard > had been 
posted, and no precautions taken against any sud- 
den attack. The lances, knives and clubs of the 
Arabs lay on the ground or rested against the 
trees. It was evident that they felt no appre- 
hension that their weapons might be wanted 
again that night. 

Having watched the enemy for some minutes. 
Brother Manon slowly crept down to the eaves 
of the roof, and, removing a number of the tiles 
as a precaution, swung himself over and dropped 
noiselessly to the ground. After a few moments' 
hesitation, he made his way, his bare feet mak- 
ing no sound, to the windlass-tower, hoping to 
find the rope hanging down, in which case he 
had resolved to slip down it to the plain below. 
To his disappointment he found the rope wound 
up. He made an attempt to turn the capstan, 
to let the rope run out, but the clumsy machine 
gave so loud a creak as it moved, that the monk 
at once desisted, fearing that the noise would 
alarm the Beni Azaleh. 

There was only one other way of descending 
from the monastery, and that was by the secret 
stairway, but to reach the head of this it was 



Brother Manon's Experiences. 191 

necessary for him to pass through the courtyard, 
past the Arabs bivouacked there. It was a peril- 
ous proceeding, but the monk did not hesitate a 
moment. He slipped through the door giving 
access to the courtyard, and crept on hands and 
knees alon^ the dark cloister, past the sleeping 
guard at the chamber-door, till he stood within 
a few yards of the Beni Azaleh under the trees. 
The nearest to him was a man who sat with his 
face half hidden in the hood of his cloak. It was 
El Jezzar, but Brother Manon did not know that 
it was the leader of the party, and the most evil- 
disposed of them, who sat there apparently on 
the alert, or he might have hesitated to venture 
near him. The ruffian was very restless, and 
from time to time groaned and cursed audibly. 

Watching his opportunity, when El Jezzar had 
for a moment pulled his hood over his face, and 
dropped his head on his drawn-up knees, the 
monk rose quickly and walked boldly across the 
courtyard, keeping as much as possible in the 
shadow of the olive-trees. He passed in full 
view of all the armed men, but not one of them 
saw or heard him. A shaft of moonlight shot 
across the courtyard, and the monk saw that the 
white olive-blossoms that carpeted the ground 
were spotted with blood. It was with a sigh of 
relief that he stepped into the vaulted passage at 
the end of the courtyard and emerged on the 
bridged chasm beyond. Scrambling over the 



192 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

table, which still blocked the way, he ran up the 
steps cut in the rock to the summit, and made 
hastily for the monastic burial-place. On the 
way he passed the body of the faithful old don- 
key lying in a pool of blood. The rows of dead 
monks, lying on the rock, presented a ghastly 
appearance in the moonlight, and the monk, 
glancing at them, crossed himself, and hurried to 
the spot where he knew was the head of the 
secret stairway. It was under the shelving rock 
which overhung a part of the cemetery. The 
stack of monks' skulls and bones which had con- 
cealed the entrance to it, had been thrown down, 
revealing an open trap-door. 

Murmuring a prayer. Brother Manon lowered 
himself through the door till his feet rested on 
steps below. The stairway, which went down a 
narrow natural cleft in the rock, not visible 
either from outside or below, was pitch dark, and 
extremely steep and dangerous. The monk saw 
that a slip might precipitate him to the bottom 
and therefore descended very deliberately, clutch- 
ing the rock-wall with his fingers and feeling for 
every step with his feet. More than once he 
found that he had to stride across the narrow 
rock-fissure, for there was no step below. He was 
a brave man, but his limbs shook and the perspira- 
tion started on his face, as hanging over the dark 
chasm he, from time to time, as he descended 
felt about for foot-hold on the opposite side. 



Brother Manon's Experiences* 193 

When he had got about half-way down the 
day began to break. He saw the grey light of 
the dawn shining through a narrow crevice in 
the rock, and stopped to consider what he should 
do. It was now too late to attempt to cross the 
plain, for he would certainly be seen and pur- 
sued by the Beni Azaleh before he could reach 
the hills. It was dangerous for him to stop 
where he was, for it was more than probable that 
some of the Arabs would descend the rock by 
the way they had come up, when he would cer- 
tainly be discovered. Casting his eyes round in 
this dilemma, he saw with relief that projections 
and cracks in the rock-wall made it possible for 
him to climb into the crevice above, through 
which the daylight was now streaming. He 
resolved to clamber into the recess, and hide 
there all day, till darkness made it possible for 
him to escape. 

On creeping into the crevice he found at its 
extremity a very narrow path, evidently cut by 
human hands, leading along the face of the cliff. 
He followed it with great difficulty for some 
thirty yards and came on a small cave only just 
large enough to enable a man to stand upright 
or to lie at full length in. Its walls and shelving 
roof were adorned with very ancient rude fres- 
coes and archaic inscriptions. It had no doubt 
been the retreat many centuries before of some 
anchorite, who had found life in the monastery 



194 The Finding: of Lot's "Wife* 

above not sufficiently mortifying to the flesh and 
soul-satisfying, and had therefore retired to this 
hole in the cliff to pass his days in solitary medi- 
tation. The utensils that had supplied the holy 
man's simple wants were still there, but half 
buried in the dust of ages. The cave commanded 
an extensive view over the plain towards the 
camp of the Beni Azaleh, but was not visible 
from below. 

About an hour after sunrise Brother Manon 
saw a party of Arabs carrying across the plain 
their comrades who had been wounded during 
the night. As he sat watching them something 
suddenly shot past the mouth of the cavern, and 
a moment later a dull sound like a heavy blow 
came from below. On peering down he was 
horrified to see lying on the sand what he in- 
stantly recognized to be the body of the young 
proselyte Stephanos. Holding his breath, he 
gazed down eagerly, hoping to see some sign of 
life ; but the boy did not move, and the monk 
saw that he was dead. 

" Lord Jesus, receive the soul of Thy young 
martyr ! " he exclaimed fervently, crossing him- 
self. 

The words had just left his lips, when another 
human body rushed through the air in front of 
him, and struck the ground at the foot of the 
precipice with a sickening thud. 

" Holy God ! they are throwing down the 



Brother Manon's Experiences* i95 

English gentlemen ! " cried Brother Manon 
aloud, in his horror. But another peep down 
the precipice showed him that the second corpse 
now lying there was that of an elderly Arab 
with gray hair and beard. He wondered greatly 
what was going on above, and whether the pris- 
oners were fighting for their lives, and had 
thrown one of their assailants from the rock in 
the struggle. For several minutes he sat with 
his powerful hands tightly clasped and a set look 
on his brown face, waiting for the next victim to 
be hurled down. But when he had sat for a con- 
siderable time without anything happening, he 
began to breathe more freely. His conviction 
that the boy Stephanos had been murdered by 
his tribesmen because he had refused to apostatize 
was presently confirmed. Hearing voices [below, 
he peeped cautiously down, and saw a number 
of Beni Azaleh standing near the two bodies that 
lay on the sand. Several of them looked up to 
shout to their comrades above, and the monk for 
a moment feared that they would discover him, 
but they were too excited to notice the face 
peering down, and the monk withdrew his head 
quickly. As he did so he heard one of them 
shout, — 

" The sheikh is dead ; we will carry his body 
to the camp ! What shall we do with the boy ? " 

An answering cry came from above in El 
Jezzar's harsh voice, — 



196 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

** Let the young Christian dog lie and rot ! 
Why should you trouble yourselves about such 
carrion ? " 

Soon after, Brother Manon saw from his hid- 
ing-place a party of Arabs carrying the crushed 
body of their late leader, wrapped in a cloak, 
across the plain. The body of Stephanos re- 
mained untouched. Not long after the monl^ 
saw the dragoman and the cook being escorted 
to the camp by a few Arabs. The fact that 
their masters were not with them, and that they 
were walking at liberty, revealed to him at once 
what had happened. 

" They have denied their Lord ! May He have 
mercy on them in the day when they must an- 
swer for their sin ! " he murmured, sorrowfully. 

About an hour afterwards, he saw with satis- 
faction a large party of the Beni Azaleh crossing 
the plain with the four Europeans in their 
midst. Three of them were walking, and though 
unbound, were evidently prisoners, while the 
fourth, whom the monk recognized to be Yorke, 
rode a mare, her owner walking on one side and 
Aylward on the other, supporting the wounded 
man. Brother Manon watched the procession 
till it disappeared among the tents of the camp. 

A few minutes later he heard the voices of a 
number of men descending the secret stairway. 
They were talking and laughing loudly with the 
object obviously of keeping up their courage, 



Brother Manon's Experiences, 197 

while they went down the dark rock-rift, which 
they believed to be haunted by evil spirits. 

Brother Manon remained in his hiding-place 
all day. The sun streamed into the cave in the 
afternoon, making it a very oven. In spite, 
however, of its burning rays, the reflected heat 
of the rock-walls around, and the blinding glare, 
the monk contrived to get a few hours' sleep, in 
a crouching attitude at the back of the cave. 
He awoke parched with thirst, and stiff from the 
cramped position in which he had slept, just as 
the sun set over the hot red hills. The golden 
glow died quickly out of the western sky, and ere 
long was succeeded by the silvery light of the 
moon. 

As soon as the ghostly white orb appeared 
over the hills, the monk rose. He was resolved 
to fulfill his promise to his fellow-prisoners and 
carry the news of the lawless doings of the Beni 
Azaleh to the authorities at Jerusalem. His 
brethren were now safe, as the Arabs had appar- 
ently vacated the monastery ; but the European 
travelers were captives in the hands of the 
heathens and he felt it was his duty to succor 
them if possible. 

As he stepped out of the cave into the narrow 
path leading to the secret way, he cast a glance 
towards the camp of the Beni Azaleh, and saw a 
solitary figure coming across the plain towards 
the rock. As it approached, he saw by the 



iqS The Findingf of Lofs Wife. 

bright moonlight that it was that of an Arab girl. 
She came hurriedly to the foot of the rock, and 
fell on her knees beside the body of the martyred 
boy lying there, and then a long, low, wailing cry 
arose on the still night air. Brother Manon 
stood looking down with deep compassion in his 
dark face. 

" Selim ! Selim ! O my brother! my little 
brother, speak to me ! It is I, your sister, who 
call you. I, Ay^da, your own sister ! I am 
come to help you — to heal your hurts, to take 
away your pain. O Selim, Selim, speak to me, 
my brother ! " cried the girl, in a heart-broken 
voice. But no sound came from the motionless, 
huddled heap of bruised flesh and broken bones 
before her. Wringing her hands, she raised her 
agonized face to the sky, and wailed aloud. 
Then, throwing herself on the sand beside the 
corpse, she sobbed convulsively. Every now 
and then she sat up, and threw handfuls of dust 
over herself with despairing cries. 

" Poor child ! I will go down to her. It maj^ 
be that God will send comfort to her by me," 
murmured the monk. 

Making his way along the path, he lowered 
himself through the crevice in the cliff on to the 
dark stairway, and descended with great difficulty 
to the bottom. There he found a hole excavated 
in the rock, and crawling along it on hands and 
knees, emerged at the foot of the precipice. The 



Brother Manon's Experiences. 199 

sand that had hidden the entrance had been 
scraped away by the Arabs. A small cross cut 
in the rock marked the spot, and had enabled 
the traitorous monk, Barlaam, to find it when 
betraying the monastery to the Beni Azaleh. 

Having satisfied himself that no enemy was 
lurking near, and that the girl was alone, Brother 
Manon walked round the rock till he came to 
the spot where she was wailing over her brother's 
body. Ay^da lay with her face in her hands, 
her whole slender frame shaking with her chok- 
ing sobs, and did not notice the approach of the 
monk. 

" My daughter ! He on whom you call is 
standing in the presence of God,,in the company 
of the blessed martyrs and saints. Everlasting 
happiness will be his reward ; therefore, weep 
not for him ! " said Brother Manon, in Arabic, 
gently. 

On hearing his voice Ay^da looked up, but 
showed no surprise or fear, for overwhelming 
grief had swallowed up all other feelings. She 
gazed at him in silence, but with questioning 
eyes for a few moments. 

" I am an unworthy servant of God, and have 
come in the hope that I may be able to help 
and comfort you." 

So saying, the monk bent over the body of 
the dead boy, and gently and tenderly turned 
the beautiful face, happily uninjured, to the 



200 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

moonlight, and straightened the broken limbs. 
Ay^da threw herself on the corpse, and kissed 
the rigid, dead features again and again, wailing 
and sobbing unrestrainedly. Brother Manon 
stood by, his lips moving in silent prayer. Pres- 
ently he moved off a few paces and began to 
dig a grave in the sand with his hands. It took 
him about an hour to excavate a hole deep 
enough to receive the boy's body. He then 
returned to where Ay6da was, and found her sit- 
ting with eyes fixed on the dead boy's face, sob- 
bing quietly, for grief had exhausted her. 

" My daughter, it is time for us to consign our 
dead to the earth, to await the resurrection of 
the just," he said. 

" It is well, O servant of God ! My people 
have left Selim to the wild beasts ; but we will 
put him out of their reach," returned Ayeda, in a 
choking voice. 

Taking up the crushed remains in his power- 
ful arms, the monk carried them to the rude, 
shallow grave he had prepared, and gently laid 
the body in it. He then knelt and recited in 
Greek the prayers for the dead. Ayi^da stood 
beside him, looking down on the dead form so 
dear to her, with her face convulsed with grief. 
When he had finished praying, Brother Manon 
filled in the grave with his hands, and picking 
up some loose stones, arranged them in the form 
of a cross above it. Ayeda did not give him any 



Brother Manon's Experiences. 201 

assistance, being evidently incapable of it. 
When all was over, the monk and the girl stood 
for some moments in silence. 

" Are the English gentlemen safe in the camp 
of your people, my daughter ? " asked the for- 
mer. Ay^da nodded. 

'' They are all alive now, for the holy mullah 
will not allow them to be hurt ; but if El Jezzar 
had his will, he would cut all their throats," she 
said, with deep indignation. 

" Who is El Jezzar ? " 

" He who killed Selim," returned the girl, with 
flashing eyes. " He is now the sheikh of the 
tribe, having caused the death of my father and 
my brother. He is a most wicked man, a very 
son of Shaitdn ! " 

" Was it your father who fell from the rock af- 
ter your brother was thrown down ? " 

The girl nodded, and her tears began to flow 
afresh. 

*^ My father sprang down the precipice when 
he saw Selim pushed over," she sobbed. 

" One of the English gentlemen was wounded 
in the fight with your people. How is his hurt ? " 

" El Jezzar shot him, and he will die ! " ex- 
claimed the girl, with a little cry of despair. 

*' Not so. The wound was but a flesh one, and 
will soon heal," returned the monk. A look of 
relief passed across Ayeda's face. 

'' What has become of the wicked man — may 



202 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

God forgive him ! — who betrayed us to your peo- 
ple ? " 

" El Jezzar threw him into one of thesubbkhas, 
where the salt will eat the flesh off his bones, 
though he swore to him on the koran that he 
would not harm him. He is such a son of evil 
that he cannot keep faith even with those who 
serve him ! " 

" When was this done ? " demanded the monk, 
his face showing deep concern at the news. 

" At midday, after El Jezzar returned to the 
camp.'* 

" Can you show me the place where the unfor- 
tunate man is, my daughter ? I must go to his 
help. Peradventure he is yet alive." 

" What ! " cried Ayeda, indignantly. " Do you 
ask me to help you to save from the fate he de- 
serves the man who caused, by his treachery, the 
death of my father and my brother ? " 

" It may be that God will change his heart, 
and that he will repent of his evil deed," said 
Brother Manon. The girl made no reply. 

" My daughter, if your brother could rise from 
his grave, he would say, ' Avenge not yourself, 
forgive your enemy, return good for evil,' " con- 
tinued the monk, earnestly. 

For a moment Ay^da stood silent ; then she 
said quietly, — 

" You are a good man, and I will show you the 
place." 



Brother Manon's Experiences. 203 

Before she left the spot to lead him there, she 
dropped on her knees and kissed the cross of 
stones that lay on her brother's grave. Then, 
saying simply, " Come ! " she walked off in the 
direction of the camp, followed by Brother Ma- 
non. Soon they found themselves among the 
salt-pools that covered the plain, through which 
the girl threaded her way slowly and cautiously. 
When they had gone half-way across the plain, 
the monk heard cries a short distance ahead, and 
urged his companion to hurry to the spot. 

'* Nay, servant of God, we must go slowly. 
The moonlight is deceitful and death will follow 
a false step," was her reply. 

In a few minutes they arrived at the edge of a 
large subbkha or brine-pit, out of which came pierc- 
ing cries of pain and despair. The brink and sides 
of the pit were covered with salt, which glistened 
like snow in the moonlight. The bottom was 
filled with water of inky blackness, from which 
came a strong sulphurous odor. The moon- 
light revealed the figure of a man up to his neck 
in the black water, and clinging to the snowy 
walls of the pit. He had evidently made frantic 
efforts to climb out of the corroding brine ; for 
his hands, torn by the sharp crystals of salt, were 
covered with blood. His long hair was plastered 
with salt, which also encrusted his face, giving 
his contorted features a horrible expression. 

" Brother, we are come to your help ! " shouted 



204 The Finding: of Lot^s Wife^ 

the monk. But the man in his fear and pain, ap- 
parently did not hear him, for he continued his 
frantic cries, echoed by the steep walls of the pit. 

Brother Manon crawled on hands and knees 
along the brink of the subbkha, till he reached a 
spot where a ledge of crystalized salt projected 
from the side of the pit a few feet over the head 
of the struggling man. Ayeda watched the 
monk on his perilous mission of mercy, fearing 
every moment that the brittle crust overhanging 
the pit would give way and precipitate him into 
the black brine. He, however, reached the other 
side in safety, and prepared to attempt the de- 
scent to the projecting ledge some twenty feet 
below him. 

** Take care ! take care ! if you slip you will 
die a fearful death ! " cried Ay^da, seeing what 
he was about to do. Brother Manon paused for 
a moment to cross himself and to utter a prayer, 
and then lying down, lowered himself gradually 
over the edge, and half sliding and half clinging 
to the sloping side of the pit, succeeded in 
reaching the ledge below. Bending down, he 
tried to grasp the hands of the man he was risk- 
ing his life to save, but they were just out of his 
reach. He then unwound his camel-hair girdle, 
and throwing one end down, shouted to the 
wretched man to seize it. He soon saw, how- 
ever, that the salt had blinded the poor creature, 
and that fear and burning pain had bereft him of 



Brother Manon's Experiences* 205 

reason, for he took no notice of his reiterated 
cries to him to grasp the girdle, but continued to 
utter piercing shrieks and to pray and curse in- 
coherently. At length the monk drew up the 
girdle, and having made a running noose at one 
end, was about to throw it over the other's head, 
when the doomed man, with an appalling yell, 
threw up his hands and disappeared into the 
black depths of the pit. After hours of agony 
the traitor had met the fate he had brought on 
himself by his wickedness. 

*' God have mercy on you ! God have mercy on 
you ! " ejaculated Brother Manon, horror-struck 
at the man's awful end. For some minutes he 
stood praying fervently and gazing into the 
water, in the hope that the drowning man might 
come to the surface. But he never rose again ; 
only a few bubbles appeared at the spot v^here 
he had sunk. 

The monk now attempted to climb out of the 
pit the way he had descended. He contrived to 
scramble half the way up, and then found it was 
impossible to advance another step. The wall of 
salt was too steep to afford foothold and crum- 
bled away at every effort he made to scale it. 
Again and again, with the perspiration streaming 
from him, he dug his toes and fingers into the 
cracks and fissures, and tried to raise himself, 
only to slip back each time in imminent danger 
of falling into the black brine that lay like pel- 



2o6 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

ished ebony below. He had begun to despair, 
and was standing in silence on a narrow ledge of 
rock-salt, trying to compose his mind in order to 
be able to meet with godly fortitude the awful 
death that he thought awaited him, when he 
heard a voice above say, — 

" Servant of God, throw the end of your girdle 
up to me ! " 

Ayeda had come to his help at peril of her life. 
She had crept on hands and knees round the 
edge of the subbkha, and was now kneeling above 
him, with her hand outstretched for the monk's 
girdle, by which she hoped to help him up. 

" Nay, my daughter, I should only draw you 
in to perish with me. Go back to the path, and 
return to your people. I do not fear death, and 
will remain here till it please God to take back 
the life He gave me," replied Brother Manon, 
gratefully but firmly. 

But the girl refused to leave him to his fate. 
She protested that she was stronger than she 
seemed to be, and was positive she could drag 
him up if the girdle held. For a long time the 
monk would not consent to imperil her life, 
but, seeing that she was determined not to go, 
he at length threw the end of his girdle to her, 
with repeated injunctions to stand well back 
from the bank, in case the overhanging crust 
gave way. The girl grasped the knotted end 
firmly, and cried to him to draw himself up hand 



Brothel* Manon's Experiences. 207 

over hand. With a prayer on his lips, not for 
himself, but for the brave girl above, the monk 
slowly and cautiously began to ascend, thrusting 
his naked toes into the crumbling wall of salt, 
while he raised himself with his strong arms. In 
a few moments he stood safe on the edge of the 
brine-pit, drawing deep breaths of relief; then, 
followed by Ayeda, he crawled back to the path. 
They had scarcely reached it when the whole 
side of the subbkha, where the monk had scram- 
bled out with the girl's assistance, suddenly fell 
in with a mighty splash, making the black brine- 
pool boil for a few minutes. 

** I thank Thee, O God, and dedicate anew to 
Thy service the life Thou hast preserved ! " ex- 
claimed Brother Manon, fervently. 

It was by this time midnight. The camp of 
the Beni Azaleh, about half a mile distant, lay 
dark and silent. At the monk's request Ay6da 
conducted him across the plain beyond the brine- 
pits, to the path leading through the passes of 
the mountains to the west. He then stopped 
and bade the girl farewell. 

'' My daughter, your martyr-brother is doubt- 
less at this moment interceding for you at the 
Throne of God. May the All-merciful speedily 
bring you to a knowledge of the Faith for which 
Stephanos died. The blessing of God, of His 
Son, and of His Spirit rest on you forever, my 
daughter. Farewell!" ^ i , . ' 

(viriTSItSIT 



2o8 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

The monk strode away on his mission to Jeru- 
salem on behalf of the English prisoners of the 
Beni Azaleh, and his tall form soon disappeared 
in the darkness. Ayeda returned to the camp, 
slowly and sorrowfully, but not weeping. The 
good man's blessing had been as balm to her 
heart-wounds. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Prisoners* 

The Beni Azaleh treated their prisoners kindly- 
enough, though they kept them confined in one 
of their tents, guarded by a couple of armed men. 
They were not bound or ill-used in any way, and 
they soon ceased to fear that any violence would 
be offered to them. All their possessions, except 
their weapons, had been placed in the tent intact, 
but they did not know what had been done with 
their horses and donkeys. They could not im- 
agine what their captors intended to do with 
them, but anticipated that eventually they would 
conduct them out of the mountains to the Ghor, 
and then leave them. They had no knowledge 
of what had become of Brother Manon, except 
that he had certainly escaped from the monastery 
and had got safely off on his mission. All they 
could do was to exercise patience, and hope for 
the best. 



2IO The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

The prisoners saw nothing of either the drago- 
man or the cook, who were lodged in another part 
of the camp, and were well treated, as being con- 
verts to Islam. Dressed food, evidently prepared 
by Hanna, was brought twice a day to the Euro- 
peans. 

While they were having their first meal as 
prisoners in the camp, just at sunset, they heard 
distinctly the clanging of the semandron from the 
monastery, showing that the monks had come 
out of their hiding-place and had resumed their 
usual avocations. At the sound many of the 
Beni Azaleh came to their tent-doors and gazed 
up at the rocks, muttering curses and threats. 

Professor Payne and Aylward screened off a 
portion of the tent for Isha's use, and made as 
comfortable a bed as they could for Yorke on 
the floor. His wound had inflamed and become 
very painful, and feverish symptoms had set in. 
The Professor during his wandering life had 
dressed many wounds, the result of fights or ac- 
cident. He did his best for Yorke, but the heat 
and uncomfortable surroundings had a bad effect 
on the wounded man. Isha waited on him all 
day, relieved at intervals by her father and Ayl- 
ward. Not being allowed to talk, the artist oc- 
cupied himself in watching the actions and looks 
of his young nurse, which seemed to amuse him, 
for faint smiles sometimes passed across his face. 
As Aylward sat beside him on the morning after 



Prisoners* 2 1 1 

their arrival in the camp, Isha having given up 
charge of him to attend to something her father 
had asked her to do, Yorke beckoned to him to 
bend down. 

"Hal," he whispered into his friend's ear, 
" that girl has lost her heart to you." 

" Nonsense, my dear fellow," returned Ayl- 
ward quickly, though a tell-tale flush crossed his 
face. 

" It's true enough, Hal," returned the artist. 
" She can't keep her eyes off you, and listens to 
every word you say, though she doesn't seem to. 
You're a lucky fellow, Hal. She's as good as 
she's pretty and plucky, and that's saying a good 
deal." 

Aylward made no reply, and Yorke said no 
more, but the next time the former spoke to 
Isha there was something in his manner and in 
the tone of his voice which made the girl's hands 
tremble, her color to rise, and her eyes to 
brighten. Yorke noticed the little scene, and a 
grin that was compounded half of amusement 
and half of pain flitted across his pale face. 

The day following that on which they had 
been brought prisoners to the camp Professor 
Payne, Aylward and Yorke discussed together 
what steps they should take to obtain their lib- 
erty. It was decided that the Professor should 
ask for an interview with the new sheikh, and offer 
him a good round sum for safe conduct to Mar 



212 The Finding: of Lofs Wife* 

Saba. He accordingly spoke to the Arabs 
guarding the tent, one of whom went off to in- 
quire what El Jezzar's pleasure was. After con- 
siderable delay a message was brought that the 
sheikh would see Abou* Dukhu, which was the 
name the Beni Azeleh had given the Professor 
on account of his long white beard. He left 
the tent, escorted by half the tribe, and was 
absent about half an hour. On his return his 
face exhibited mild indignation and some dis- 
gust. 

" Well ! how did the ruffian receive you ? " 
asked Ay 1 ward. 

" He was present, lying on a carpet in the 
corner of the tent, but took no part in the pro- 
ceedings, being too ill. He was in a high fever, 
owing to his shattered arm. I was received by 
the mullah and about a dozen of the elders of 
the tribe. They were civil enough, but I could 
not get from them any direct answer to our 
offer, or, indeed, any reply at all. The mullah 
took the lead in the palaver, though what he 
condescended to say was very little indeed. I 
asked him whether he was aware of the probable 
consequences to himself and the tribe of their 
lawless acts as soon as the Turkish authorities 
heard of them. He made no reply, but, stroking 
his beard, observed piously, ' Please God ! ' I 
then said that we would overlook their treat- 

* Father of a beard. 



Prisoners* 213 

ment of us, and would intercede for them with 
the Pasha, should the matter come to his ears, 
on condition that they at once released us. 
Whereupon he remarked, ' Thanks be to God ! * 
and made no other answer. Finally I promised 
to pay down one thousand piastres if they es- 
corted us in safety as far as Mar Saba. To this 
offer the only reply I got was, ' God is great ! * 
It seemed to me that they were alarmed at what 
they had done, and do not know what to do with 
us, being equally afraid to detain us or let us go. 
The mfillah was evidently disinclined to commit 
himself to any promises. He and some of the 
old men present held a whispered consultation, 
at the end of which I was told that my offers 
would be considered, and I should have my 
answer in the evening." 

" Is the sheikh in a bad way. Professor ? " 
asked Aylward. 

" I examined his wound before I left, at the 
request of some of the men present, and found 
him in a very critical condition. The shot had 
nearly cut his right arm off, and the bones were 
splintered. They had applied some useless con- 
coction of herbs, which had only served to in- 
flame the wound. On removing the dressing, I 
saw that gangrene was setting in, and that 
amputation was the only thing that could save 
him. I proposed it, but of course they would 
not hear of it, and I had to be content with 



214 The Findingf of Lot's Wife* 

washing and binding up the man's arm. I am 
afraid his days are numbered." 

" I suppose I ought to be sorry that it was I 
who gave him his wound, but I can't truthfully 
say I am," observed Aylward. " He is a mur- 
derous scoundrel, whose death will be no loss to 
the world." 

" I was much struck with the evil expression of 
his face. Cruelty, rapacity and lust were written 
in every line of it. The sight of it enabled me 
to realize the force of the Bedawin curse : 

* May God multiply your sheikhs,' " remarked the 
Professor. 

" It's a comfort to think, Hal, that there is 
little chance now of the brute ever forcing that 
beautiful girl to marry him," observed Yorke, lan- 
guidly. Aylward explained to Professor Payne 
and Isha, that his friend referred to the daugh- 
ter of the late sheikh, and the sister of Selim, 
whose dreadful death they had witnessed and 
that she was betrothed, most unwillingly, to El 
Jezzar. 

The Professor declaimed against the brutality 
of the Bedawin to their women, whom they 
treated with less consideration than their camels 
and horses. He said that their marriage rites 
might be described as " Wedded with a wink, 
and divorced with a kick," and that '^ My babuj * 
did not fit, so I cast it off," was the way in which 

* Slipper. 



Prisoners* 215 

an Arab would announce his repudiation of his 
wife. 

" I fancy that the man we have most reason to 
fear is that blear-eyed old villain of a mullah," 
remarked Ay 1 ward. 

" I think you are right, sir," returned the Pro- 
fessor. " He is ill disposed towards us because 
he looks on us as unbelievers and enemies of God. 
He is a hadji and is therefore a mixture of fana- 
ticism and scoundrelism. There is a significant 
Arabic proverb which says, ' If your neighbor has 
made the pilgrimage to Mecca, watch him ; if 
twice, avoid his society ; if three times, move into 
another street.' " 

The answer to the Professor's ultimatum prom- 
ised by the mullah was not sent, though the 
prisoners sat up till late, hoping to hear be- 
fore they lay down to sleep what their fate was 
to be. 

About the middle of the night, Isha, who was 
a very light sleeper, was awakened by a slight 
sound on the soft other side of the camel-hair 
wall of the tent. The footsteps of some person 
who was creeping cautiously round to the door 
were distinctly audible. She at once divined 
that any one approaching in so furtive a fashion 
could not have any good object in view, and the 
terrible thought instantly occurred to her that the 
Beni Azaleh had resolved to murder them all in 
their sleep, and that it was the assassin she heard 



2i6 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

coming on his evil errand. For a moment her 
heart stood still, but in another she had quickly 
but silently risen to her feet, and had stepped out 
from the recess in which she had lain screened 
from her companions. She had resolved that if 
she saw that murder was intended, to give the 
alarm, and hoped to be the first victim, if it was 
to be their fate to be massacred. 

The moonlight shining through the tent-door 
revealed her father lying asleep on the floor, with 
Yorke near him sleeping uneasily, and across 
the doorway lay Aylward, with the moonlight 
streaming on his face. Isha, as she stepped 
lightly over him, cast a glance at him that would 
have made his heart leap could he have seen it. 
She was relieved to find two men fast asleep at the 
door of the tent, squatting with their heads be- 
tween their knees, and their spears stuck in the 
ground beside them. They had drawn their 
camel-hair cloaks over their heads, so that the 
slight sound made by the girl's movements was 
unheard by them. A fire of camel-bones and 
dung was burning before the tent. Some dead 
juniper wood from the salt plain had been thrown 
on it, apndi)ufned-with/a bluish flame. 

On coming out of the tent, Isha, with a fast- 
beating heart, glanced nervously round, half 
expecting to see a swarthy assassin, with a gleam- 
ing khanjar in his hand, crouching near. The 
next moment she started violently, and uttered 



Prisoners. 217 

a low frightened cry, for standing close by, in the 
shadow of the tent, was a motionless figure. A 
second terrified glance showed her, to her intense 
relief, that it was not that of an armed man, but 
of a tall slender Arab giri. Isha gazed at her in 
surprise for a few moments, and then saw that 
she was beckoning to her. She hesitated, for she 
could not imagine what object the girl could have 
in coming to their tent secretly at such an hour, 
but plucking, up courage she stepped out of the 
doorway, and passing between the two sleeping 
Arabs, went towards her. The girl turned and 
led the way to the back of a neighboring tent, 
where they could not be seen by the guard. 
Isha saw by the moonlight that she was of re- 
markable beauty, and that her face was very sad. 
She knew at once who she was from Yorke's 
account of her and from her striking resemblance 
to Stephanos. But for her female dress she 
might have been mistaken for the martyred boy 
himself risen from the dead. It was Ay^da. 

" Does my lord understand the speech of the 
Bedawin?" asked the girl in a whisper. Isha 
indicated with a little nod of her head that she 
did. A. ^--^-^^t^^ I 

" My lord, I pray you pardon my boldness. I 
am the daughter of Abd'allah Abou Mansur, 
who was sheikh of the Beni Azaleh two days ago, 
but is now dead. I have brought some leben for 
my lord, the young hakim who is wounded." 



2i8 The Finding: of Lofs Wiic* 

So saying, she handed to Isha a pot full of 
sour curds. 

"The hakim will be pleased/' replied Isha, un- 
derstanding that she referred to Yorke. *' But why 
bring your gift at such an hour as this, O girl ? " 

On hearing Isha's voice Ay^da started, gazed 
^keenly at her face, and surveyed her from head 
to foot with obvious surprise and interest. 

" Because my people would not allow me to 
bring it in the daytime," she replied simply ; and 
then she added, after a few moments' silence, 
" My lord has the voice of a maiden and the face 
of a maiden, yet my lord is dressed like a man." 

It was a shock to Isha to find that the keen- 
eyed Arab girl had penetrated her disguise, and 
she did not for the moment know what to do or 
say. She realized that if it was so easy for a 
young girl to detect her by moonlight, it would 
be impossible for her to hide her sex from the 
Beni Azaleh long. She stood in silence for some 
moments, while Ayeda gazed at her with an ex- 
pression which showed that some painful thought 
had occurred to her. Isha decided to confide in 
the girl, and to trust to her evident wish to be- 
friend them not to betray her. 

" 1 am a girl like yourself, and I dress like a 
man to please my father," she said, in a low voice. 

" You are doubtless the daughter of the old 
man whom our people call Abou Dukhu ? " 

''Yes, O girl." 



Prisoners^ 219 

"Are you married, O lady?" 

Isha shook her head. 

** Do you love either of the two young lords ? " 
asked Ayeda eagerly, almost rudely. 

" We girls of the west think it unmaidenly to 
speak of such things," replied Isha, with a blush. 
But the Arab girl did not heed the reproof. 

" Is it the young hakim, he who is wounded, 
that you love ? " she demanded in a hard whisper, 
her eyes shining in the moonlight like those of 
some wild animal. 

" No, O girl ; but you must not ask me any 
more such questions." 

Ay^da uttered a sigh of relief, and the two girls 
stood looking at each other for a considerable 
time without speaking. 

'* I have evil tidings for you, O lady," said 
Ayeda, at length. 

" Let me hear them, O girl," replied Isha, 
anxiously. 

"Just after sundown, as I was passing at the 
back of the sheikh's tent on my way home from 
milking the camels, I overheard El Jezzar talking 
about you all. The holy mullah and some of the 
old men of the tribe were with him. El Jezzar 
spoke in a very low voice, for he is ill. It is said 
in the camp that he is dying. I heard him say 
that if the news of the attack on the monastery 
and of the capture of the Frank travelers by the 
tribe reached the Holy City, the Pasha would 



220 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

send troops against us, and that only by cutting 
the throats of all the strangers would we be safe. 
The mullah, the blessing of God be on him, and 
the old men present would, however, by no 
means consent to your death. Then El Jezzar 
proposed that they should allow Abou Dukhu 
and his son, that is, you and your father, to go ; 
but that they should put to death the hakim and 
his friend, in revenge for the wounds they had in- 
flicted on the men of the tribe. But to this also 
the mullah and the others would not give consent. 
They said that the two young lords had been the 
guests of the Beni Azaleh, and must not be hurt ; 
also, that in wounding men of the tribe they had 
only been defending themselves from attack. 
Then, O lady, the mullah suggested something, 
but I could not hear all that was said, for they 
spoke in whispers ; but this much I heard. You 
are all to be escorted from the camp to-morrow 
morning and taken to some place among the moun- 
tains, I know not where, and there left to find your 
way out if you are able. When you are gone the 
camp is to be broken up, and the Beni Azaleh 
are to return to the Great Desert. I fear me 
that, though they will not kill you, evil is in- 
tended, O lady." 

" Will they not give us horses and food, that 
we may have at least some chance of making our 
way to the Ghor?" asked Isha, with a sinking 
heart. 



Prisoners* 221 

" I know not, O lady ; but I fear that they will 
take you to some place from which it will not be 
possible for you to escape." 

Filled with concern at what the girl had told 
her, Isha left her, after thanking her for her kind- 
ness and receiving from her a promise that she 
would not divulge to her people the fact that one 
of their four prisoners was a girl in disguise, and 
crept back to the tent, which she succeeded in 
reaching without disturbing the guards. She 
awoke her father, and communicated to him what 
Ay^da had told her. Professor Payne aroused 
Aylward, and the two men discussed for some 
time the alarming news brought to them by the 
Arab girl. They decided at length that she was 
probably mistaken in supposing that her people 
intended their prisoners any harm, and that the 
Beni Azaleh would probably take them to 
within a few miles of Mar Saba, and then leave 
them to find the rest of the way themselves. 
Comforting themselves with this thought, they 
lay down and went to sleep again. 

Very early in the morning they were roused 
by the two men who had guarded them all night, 
who entered the tent noisily, shouting, — 

'* Rise, O Franks ! Men are come to ride with 
you from the camp. The morning star is shin- 
ing, and all is ready for the journey that is before 
you." 
' On hearing this peremptory order, which Pro- 



222 The Findingf of Lot's Wife* 

fessor Payne translated to Aylward, the two men 
rose hastily, and went to the door of the tent. 
Standing before it, in the bright moonlight, were 
two horses and two riding-donkeys, saddled ; also 
two baggage-donkeys, one laden with saddle- 
bags apparently containing provisions, and the 
other with two skins full of water. The horses 
and donkeys were led by armed Arabs, while 
half a dozen others sat their mares beyond, 
each man with his long lance in his hand. The 
mounted men were evidently to form their es- 
cort from the camp. The Europeans would have 
liked to have had some food before starting, but 
the Beni Azaleh were evidently impatient to be 
off, and the Professor advised that they should 
make no protest, but start at once. 

As Yorke could not walk Aylward carried him 
out in his arms, and lifted him on to one of the 
two donkeys. Isha, without a word, mounted 
the other donkey, sitting it as a man would. 
Aylward was about to help her into the saddle, 
but a warning look from the girl restrained him. 
He wished to walk beside his friend, but the 
Beni Azaleh, to his great wrath, would not allow 
him, but ordered him to mount his horse, which 
he at length reluctantly did, realizing that it 
would be useless to resist. Professor Payne 
mounted the other horse, and the party started. 
An Arab led Yorke's donkey by its bridle, while 
another walked beside him, supporting him. 



Prisoners* 223 

The six armed men rode in front. As they went 
through the camp, the travelers glanced about 
them, hoping that they would be joined by the 
dragoman and the cook, but saw nothing of 
them. 

When daylight appeared, Aylward, happening 
to glance at their escort ahead, saw, with surprise 
and apprehension, that the leader was El Wahsh, 
the negro. 

"Good heavens, Professor!" he exclaimed, 
turning in his saddle, "the brutal nigger, who 
murdered that poor boy at the monastery, is in 
charge of the party ! " 

" I saw that it was so when we started, sir," 
replied the old man, riding up to him and speak- 
ing in a low voice, so that his daughter should 
not hear. " I fear, from such a ruffian being de- 
puted to escort us, some villainy is intended." 

" Oh, for a revolver, that I might put a bullet 
through the black brute's head at the first hint 
of violence ! " groaned Aylward. 

The party had not ridden a mile from the 
camp when the pain of Yorke's wound became 
so excruciating that the perspiration started on 
his face, which grew so pale that his companions 
thought every moment that he was about to 
faint. He bore the torture without a murmur, 
and replied to their anxious questions that he 
could hold out if only they went slowly. It was 
evident that Isha was extremely nervous, and was 



224 The Finding: of Lot's Wiic* 

experiencing great discomfort, but she, too, said 
nothing. The miserable half-starved baggage- 
donkeys in the rear could scarcely stagger under 
their loads, and were mercilessly belabored every 
moment by the Arabs who drove them. 

They left the salt plain in the midst of which 
the monastery-rock stood, and rode up a long 
narrow wadi, on reaching the head of which they 
began to turn and twist among the defiles and 
gorges of the arid mountains, apparently going 
at haphazard, for there was no sign of any path. 
Suddenly, after they had been in the saddle for 
three hours or more, Aylward exclaimed, — 

"I'll be hanged, Professor, if I don't think 
these rascals are taking us round in a circle ! 
The sun was at our backs when we started, and 
we are now facing it ! " 

Professor Payne, who had been sunk in a 
reverie, glanced about him in surprise, without 
replying. 

" I'm sure that strangely-shaped peak in front 
of us is the one at the north end of the valley 
where the monastery is," remarked Isha. 

" It certainly is," returned her father. " We 
can't be far from where we started, in spite of 
our long ride." He then said something in 
Arabic to El Wahsh, who was riding a little in 
front. The negro gave a short gruff reply. 

"What did you ask him, Professor?" said 
Aylward. 



Prisoners* 225 

" I asked him where we were going, and he 
said ' Towards God's Gate,' which is a Bedawi's 
usual reply when he does not wish his destina- 
tion to be known." 

At that moment a familiar clanging, vibrating 
sound, coming from no great distance, was dis- 
tinctly heard by all the party. 

" By Jove, that's the semandron at the mon- 
astery ! " exclaimed Aylward. " I knew that the 
villains were playing us some trick ; but what 
can their motive be in bringing us back to the 
valley by such a circuitous route?" 

" Perhaps they have lost their way," suggested 
Isha. 

" They are not acting as if they had. Miss 
Payne ; they showed no surprise at hearing the 
semandron," returned Aylward. 

Meanwhile, Professor Payne had again ad- 
dressed the negro leader of the escort, and had 
received another curt reply, which had produced 
broad grins on the faces of the other Arabs. 

"What does the sooty satyr say now? " asked 
Aylward. 

" He says that the sounds we heard were 
caused by evil spirits." 

" The impudent black scoundrel ! " exclaimed 
Aylward, indignantly. 

The party had been riding up a very narrow 
gorge, the sides of which were formed by lofty 
terraced cliffs. It apparently led directly to the 



226 The Finding; of Lot's "Wife 

place from which the sound of the semandron 
had come, and the travelers were momentarily ex- 
pecting to come in sight of the monastery, when 
one of the escort, turning in his peaked saddle 
towards the Professor, pointed with his lance to 
something a short distance ahead. It was a 
huge monolith, one face of which had been 
chiseled smooth and some strangely-shaped 
characters of gigantic size engraved on it. On 
reaching the rock the Beni Azaleh all sprung 
from their mares, and each man touched the rock 
and then his forehead, exclaiming aloud, " In the 
name of God ! " ^ "^- -^ 

Meanwhile Professor Payne was gazing through 
his spectacles at the strange inscription with the 
keenest interest. 

*' What can it be ? ** he mused, aloud. " It is 
certainly not an Arab tribe-mark. No Bedawi 
would take the trouble to engrave a mark of such 
size so high up the face of the rock. It is cer- 
tainly writing of some sort, though the characters 
are not like those of any ancient language with 
which I am acquainted. Gentlemen ! — my dear! 
this seems to me a most important discovery ! " 

"They look to me something like Hebrew, 
though I can't say I know a word of that lan- 
guage," remarked Aylward, indifferently. 

" No, sir, they are not Hebrew characters," re- 
turned the Professor, with something of gentle 
contempt in his voice. " The inscription is cer- 



Prisoners^ 227 

tainly not in any ancient Eastern language 
of which we have any knowledge. What if it 
should prove to be a fragment of a lost language 
of Canaan, written before Israel entered the 
Promised Land ! I have never met with any- 
thing more interesting in all my travels ! " 

Hastily drawing out his note-book, the excited 
old savant began to copy the characters on the 
rock, every line of which was deeply and sharply 
cut. The Arabs, who had not mounted again, 
stood looking on, showing no impatience. 

" Mr. Aylward, look at that curious fissure in 
the cliff! " exclaimed Isha, suddenly. 

Aylward had dismounted, and was talking to 
Yorke, who sat bent with pain on his donkey. 
On hearing the girl's remark he turned, and 
looked in the direction she indicated. Behind 
the inscribed monolith, and hidden by it, was a 
narrow rift in the face of the cliff, extending from 
the top of it to its base and fully five hundred 
feet deep. It was only four or five yards wide, 
and the entrance was partly blocked by a pile of 
stones that had fallen from above. 

" It looks as if the cliff had been riven by an 
earthquake," observed Aylward. 

"Do you know, I think that the inscription 
which father is copying must refer to that fis- 
sure." 

" I think it must be the way to the valley 
where Lot's Wife is supposed to be hidden," re- 



228 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

marked Yorke slowly, looking up at the great rift 
with lack-lustre eyes. 

'• Oh, Mr. Yorke, do you really think that ? " 

" Oh, nonsense, Noel ! " exclaimed Aylward. 
"You surely don't believe in that monkish 
fable?" 

Professor Payne, who had been carefully copy- 
ing the inscription on the rock, and had been too 
engrossed in the work to hear the remarks of his 
companions, turned round at this moment. 

" The characters are not unlike the cuneiform 
Assyrian writings, but I cannot identify a single 
letter of them," he said, with chagrin in his face. 

" Father, dear, look behind the rock ! " said 
Isha. 

The old savant stepped one side, and gazed at 
the extraordinary cliif fissure above him for some 
time in silence. It was evident that he was 
deeply impressed by it, and that the sight of it 
had suggested something almost incredible to 
his mind. 

" I begin to understand — yes, it must be so," 
he said at length, turning to the rest of the party, 
his eyes glittering with excitement behind his 
spectacles. '' This is, without doubt, the Pass of 
Many Voices, a narrow way, dark and dangerous, 
leading to the Valley of Madness, where God 
placed the Pillar of Salt, according to the ancient 
scroll in the library of the Monastery of St. Lot." 

"Oh, father, perhaps this inscription was cut 



Prisoners* 229 

by the monks, and is intended as a warning to 
people not to approach the spot ! " 

" It was certainly not cut by them, my dear ; 
for they would have written it in Greek or Arabic, 
or some other known language. But I daresay 
it is a warning of some sort." 

"Ask the fellows, Professor, whether it was 
down this passage that their late sheikh rode in 
search of his lost son," said Yorke, in a faint 
voice. 

The old savant did as the artist had suggested. 
The Beni Azaleh looked surprised at the ques- 
tion, and glanced at each other, but none of 
them replied to it. After a few moments' silence 
El Wahsh, pointing with his lance to the rift in 
the cliff, said something in a harsh, peremptory 
voice. When he had spoken, the Professor stared 
at him in surprise, a look of dismay passed over 
Isha's face, and Yorke raised his drooping head 
quickly. 

" What's the matter ? " demanded Aylward, 
on seeing these signs of agitation among his com- 
panions. 

" The man says that our way lies along the 
bottom of that rift, and that they cannot come 
any further with us ! " explained the Professor. 

There was horrified silence for some moments, 
and then Aylward ejaculated, — 

" They can't mean that ! You must have mis- 
understood the fellow 1 " 



230 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

" No, sir, that is what he said," returned the 
old savant mildly. Ayhvard burst into a tower- 
ing rage. 

" Tell the scoundrels that we will not enter the 
passage," he cried, angrily. '' For all we know, it 
may be a death-trap they have prepared for us. 
They must take us to the monastery, which can- 
not be far off, or conduct us to Mar Saba." 

Professor Payne conveyed to the black leader 
of the escort what Aylward had said. The fel- 
low scowled, and growled out in reply some 
words which made Isha turn pale. 

" He says that if we do not at once enter the 
path leading into the cliff, they will drive us into 
it with their lances," said the Professor, quietly. 

On hearing this Aylward stormed and threat- 
ened, but without producing any effect on the 
Beni Azaleh but black looks and significant 
shakes of their long lances. He soon saw that 
all opposition and expostulation were useless, 
that they were entirely at the mercy of the 
Arabs, and that continued refusal to do their bid- 
ding was only to endanger their own lives. 

Professor Payne meanwhile expostulated with 
El Wahsh, pointing out that one of the party 
was wounded and ill, that they had no servants 
or tents and but little food and water, and that 
if they went on without guides they would prob- 
ably lose themselves among the wadis, and die of 
hunger and thirst. His intimate acquaintance 



Prisoners^ 23 1 

with Bedawin customs enabled him to appeal to 
their peculiar ideas of honor so strongly, that 
several of the Beni Azaleh seemed much dis- 
turbed, and glanced uneasily at each other. 
Their negro leader, however, remained unmoved. 
His hideous features wore a look of brutal de- 
termination, and he took no notice of the old 
savant's remonstrances. 

'' I suppose we shall have to give in. Professor ; 
I see the brutes mean mischief," said Aylward 
bitterly, seeing what little effect their expostula- 
tions had produced. " You had better tell them 
that we will obey their orders, confound them ! 
We will go down the path till we are out of sight 
and hearing of them, and encamp for the night, 
and in the morning we will turn back and make 
the best of our way to the monastery." 

Professor Payne informed El Wahsh that they 
were ready to enter the path he had pointed out. 
The negro nodded, and said something which 
the Professor translated to Aylward. 

" He says we must start at once while the sun 
is high, that otherwise we shall not be able to see 
our way. He also says that he and his men will 
remain here some days, and that should we 
attempt to turn back we shall be put to death ! " 

Aylward muttered something between his 
teeth, and then said, — 

"Ask the black brute where the path leads 
to." 



232 The Finding of Lot's Wife, 

The Professor put the question to El Wahsh, 
who, however, made no reply. 

" I suppose it is of no use asking the scoun- 
drels anything," growled Aylward, seeing that the 
negro had not replied to the Professor's ques- 
tion. " We must trust to finding a way through 
or over the mountains at the end of this mysteri- 
ous path, I only hope it won't prove to be a 
cul de sac ! " 

No preparations were needed, and they started 
at once. Aylward led the way, riding, and lead- 
ing the provision donkey by the bridle. Isha 
followed him on her donkey, and then Yorke 
clinging to his saddle, and Professor Payne 
brought up the rear, leading the donkey with the 
water-skins. The horses and donkeys scrambled 
over the debris at the entrance, and the party 
found themselves in a narrow gorge that seemed 
to lead straight into the mountains. When they 
had gone some fifty paces, Isha exclaimed, — 

" I'm afraid you will think it silly of me, Mr. 
Aylward, but I have a strong presentiment that 
we are going to see something wonderful." 



CHAPTER XV* 

The Valley of Madness* 

For a short distance the path at the bottom 
of the gorge was almost level, but some two 
hundred paces from the entrance it began to 
descend. In some places the great cliff-fissure 
opened to a width of fifty feet or more, in others 
it was so narrow that its two sides could be 
touched with the outstretched arms. The rock- 
walls rose perpendicularly several hundred feet on 
either side, overhanging threateningly, or ap- 
proaching each other so closely as almost to 
meet, so that no sky was visible above. The 
path was so choked with boulders and jagged 
rocks, that Aylward, Professor Payne, and his 
daughter soon found that it was easier to walk 
and to lead their steeds than to ride. Yorke, 
however, being unable to walk, did not dismount 
and his donkey went stumbling down the stone- 
strewn path, shaking the wounded man griev- 



234 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

ously, and causing him intense pain. As they 
could only proceed in single file, Aylward and 
the Professor drove the baggage-donkeys before 
them, leading their own horses. Isha was de- 
lighted to dismount from her riding-donkey, and 
trudged along bravely, dragging the unwilling 
beast behind her. 

It was with infinite difficulty and labor that 
the travelers made their way down the ever-de- 
scending ravine, and their progress was very 
slow. At times they could scarcely see the path, 
as the sunlight did not penetrate to the bottom 
of the deep canyon along which they were crawl- 
ing. It was toilsome work to scramble over the 
heaps of rock and loose earth, and to squeeze 
past the great boulders that barred their passage 
every few yards. The turnings and twistings in 
the path were endless. Several times they 
passed under tunnels formed by the fall of great 
rocks from above, which had stuck in the narrow 
gorge without reaching the bottom. 

The travelers soon understood why the ravine 
was called the Pass of Many Voices. Its acoustic 
properties were marvelous. The footsteps of 
their horses and donkeys were echoed and re- 
echoed till they seemed like the hoof-beats of a 
squadron of cavalry. The clattering of the stones 
and pebbles displaced by the stumbling beasts 
in scrambling down the steep path sounded like 
the roar of a landslip. When Aylward shouted 



The Valley of Madness, 235 

at the baggage-donkey he was driving before him, 
the echoes, in tones of thunder, sprang from rock- 
wall to rock-wall, till they died away in angry mut- 
terings in the distance. The blows he gave the 
obstinate brute, though by no means heavy, were 
echoed like successions of pistol-shots. The low 
moans sometimes wrung from Yorke by the torture 
he suffered from the rough paces of his donkey 
were multiplied and intensified till it seemed to the 
horrified party as if they were listening to the 
groaning of the damned in torment. So instan- 
taneous and overpowering was the din that 
followed the slightest sound that the travelers, 
awe-struck, spoke to each other only just above 
their breath, but even then, their whispers were 
caught up and repeated again and again, till the 
whole gloomy defile seemed filled with voices. 
They could hear the talking of the Beni Azaleh, 
who had apparently followed them a little way 
into the mouth of the gorge, as distinctly as if 
they were standing beside them, though the two 
parties were by that time a considerable distance 
apart. 

Another thing which was noticed with dismay 
and apprehension by the travelers was the fact 
that, as they descended the gorge the air grew 
hotter and hotter every minute. Secluded as 
the bottom of the pass was from the sun's rays, 
and out of reach of the hot wind, it should have 
been cooler there than on the bare burning hills 



236 The Findingf of Lot's Wife* 

above, but was, nevertheless, infinitely hotter. 
The heated air did not seem to be rising from 
the depths below, but was as motionless as in the 
interior of a closed oven. The temperature was 
almost high enough to warrant the travelers in 
believing that they were descending a volcanic 
shaft. Professor Payne touched the sides of the 
ravine, and, finding the rock to be not abnormally 
hot, was satisfied from that circumstance, and for 
other reasons, that the great heat was not due to 
seismic agency. He said nothing, but trudged 
on, glancing round from time to time, hoping to 
see inscriptions on the rocks around. Yorke rode 
in front of him, his pallor showing, in spite of his 
stoical silence, what pain he was enduring, and 
Isha toiled behind him uncomplainingly, her fair 
face flushed and her parched lips apart. Pres- 
ently, Aylward, who, was leading, turned and, 
wiping the perspiration from his face, said, — 

" Have you noticed how hot it is getting as we 
go down, Professor? If it gets any worse I shall 
begin to think we are descending into the infer- 
nal regions ! ** 

The echoes instantly caught up and repeated 
his last words, and cries of *' 'fernal regions ! 
'fernal regions ! " rose on all sides, as if troops of 
gnomes were mocking them. 

As Aylward spoke he glanced towards Yorke, 
and saw him, livid to the lips and with closed 
eyes, swaying in his saddle. He at once sprang 



The Valley of Madness. 237 ^ 

to his friend's assistance, and caught him in his 
arms as he fell forward in a swoon. The pain of 
his wound, the long ride, the want of food, and 
the intense heat had at last conquered the artist's 
dogged determination not to give in to the faint- 
ness he had felt coming on him. Aylward laid 
him down with his head on an extemporized pil- 
low which Isha hastily contrived, and, drawing 
some water from a skin carried by one of the 
baggage-donkeys, dashed it on the unconscious 
man's face. In a few minutes he recovered and 
sat up, but was so evidently unfit to go on, that, 
anxious as they all were to get out of the gorge 
into the open air, they determined to rest and re- 
fresh themselves before continuing the descent. 
They ate a few dates, which they found to be the 
only food that the Beni Azaleh had provided for 
them, and drank thirstily of the dirty, mawkish 
water in the skins. After an hour's much needed 
rest they resumed their journey. Yorke was 
lifted on to his donkey by Aylward, who walked 
beside him, supporting him, while the Professor, 
aided by Isha, drove the other horses and don- 
keys before them. 

Their progress was now even slower than be- 
fore. The gorge grew so dark that they had 
almost to feel their way, and the piles of rock- 
debris that obstructed the path seemed at times 
to make all further advance impossible. The 
heat, too, increased so much that the horses and 



238 The Finding of Lot's Wife 

donkeys began to hang out their tongues and to 
show signs of distress, while the four travelers 
gasped at every step, and staggered on, half- 
blinded by the perspiration which streamed into 
their eyes. They were beginning to fear suffoca- 
tion, when Aylward suddenly gave a shout, which 
was repeated like claps of thunder by the echoes. 

"Look, Professor!'* he exclaimed, ''there is 
light ahead ! We shall be out of this awful place 
soon. Another hour of it would be our death." 
The echoes shouted threateningly. '' Death ! 
death ! " 

" I pray God we may find open country when 
we emerge from this extraordinary ravine. We 
must find some other way out of the mountains. 
By this path we can never go back," replied the 
old man in gasps. The echoes took up his last 
words, and cried exultingly, " Never go back ! 
never go back ! " 

The light in front of them grew stronger every 
minute, and at length the exhausted travelers 
reached the bottom of the frightful gorge along 
which they had been traveling for some six 
hours. Aylward helped Yorke off his donkey, 
and all the travelers threw themselves panting 
on the ground, too worn out by the heat and 
fatigue even to glance round to see in what 
kind of country they had arrived. They lay mo- 
tionless for a long time with eyes closed and 
mouths open, inhaling in gasps the hot air. Isha 



I 



The Valley of Madness. 239 

had turned very pale, and both she and Yorke 
looked more like corpses than living persons, the 
only evidence of life they exhibited being their 
faint breathing. Professor Payne was the^first to 
stir. He sat up, and after carefully wiping his 
glasses, which were dimmed with perspiration, 
looked round him anxiously. Aylward just then 
opened his eyes, and rising stiffly to his feet also 
gazed at the scene before them. Neither of the 
two men spoke for some minutes. 

It was by this time late in the afternoon ; but 
the blazing sun was still in the white hot sky. 
Its rays were streaming over a broad but much 
broken up valley, surrounded by lofty irregular 
cliffs. The sunlight shone on the mighty rock- 
rampart along the eastern side revealing immense 
fissures and huge inaccessible caverns in its face. 
The other side was a dark wall, a thousand feet 
high, throwing deep black shadows over the 
plain. Above the cliffs rose mountain ranges, 
their crests worn into many fantastic shapes. At 
the far end of the valley stood a huge cliff of 
black basalt, apparently sloping outwards over 
its base, its square summit looking like some 
gigantic fortress. The cliffs were scored here 
and there with what looked like the marks of 
extinct waterfalls that had been dry since the 
days of the Deluge. The bottom of the valley 
was a white waste of salt, in some places as hard 
as marble, and in others as soft and crisp as 



240 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

snow. Patches of sponge-like volcanic cinders 
and lines of black flints lay here and there on the 
plain. Contorted by earth-heavings, burnt and 
eroded by a never-clouded sun, fissured and fur- 
rowed by everlasting drought, the scene was one 
of surpassing desolation. 

** If this is the Valley of Madness, I must say 
its appearance justifies its name," observed Ayl- 
ward at length, panting as he spoke. 

" I have never looked on a scene of such grim 
grandeur. It is truly an ' abomination of desola- 
tion,* " replied the old savant, with dry lips. 

" Have you the least idea where we are, Pro- 
fessor! " 

" I cannot say that I have, sir. All I am sure 
of is that we must be now two thousand feet 
at least below the level of the sea." 

" I thought as much from the time it took us 
to come down that awful pass. It is a bit start- 
ling, though, to realize that the top of that tre- 
mendous rock in the distance is only about 
sea-level. The fact that we are so much below 
the surface accounts, of course, for this perfectly 
awful heat. What do you suppose the ther- 
mometer would stand at here ? " 

" A hundred and twenty degrees in the shade, 
at the least." 

" If we are so deep down, thero ought to be a 
lake in this valley, if only a salt one like the 
Dead Sea." 



The Valley of Madness. 241 

"Not necessarily, sir, I should judge this to be 
an almost rainless region. What little rain fell 
would be at once evaporated." 

" It will be a poor look-out for us if we do not 
find water soon or a way out of the valley. The 
water in the skins will only last us a few hours 
more." 

" As soon as the sun sinks behind the cliffs we 
must search for water, looking for springs at the 
heads of the wadis or for rain-water in the clefts 
of the rocks," replied Professor Payne. " If we 
find none by midnight, which, I fear, is but too 
probable, we must at once seek a path up the 
cliffs." 

" It will be awful work riding about this red- 
hot valley, even at night," groaned Aylward. 

" The air is evidently very dry here, and I am 
inclined to think that as soon as the sun goes 
down the radiation of heat will be very rapid, in 
which case the night will probably be extremely 
cold," said the Professor. 

" All the better ; anything is better than this 
unbearable heat," returned Aylward. 

The two men then turned their attention to 
their companions. Aylward bathed his friend's 
face with water, and Professor Payne did the 
same for his daughter. In a few minutes Yorke 
and Isha were suflficiently recovered to sit up. 
They were not able to do more than sip the tepid 
fluid which Aylward served out, and could not 



242 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

touch the dry dates which he urged them to eat. 
He and Professor Payne munched a few, more 
from a conviction that they ought to fortify 
themselves against any privations which they 
might be called upon to endure, than because 
they had any appetite. 

As soon as the shadows of the cliffs covered 
the plain, the travelers left the mouth of the 
terrible pass down which they had come, and 
began the search for water. They mounted 
their horses and donkeys, for they were' too 
fatigued to walk. Before they started, Aylward 
gave each of the evidently suffering animals a 
small quantity of water, which act of humanity 
seriously diminished their stock of the precious 
fluid. 

It was soon evident that there were no human 
beings living in that desolate valley. There were 
no signs to indicate that any living things had 
ever drawn breath there before. No birds flew 
overhead, and no earth-creatures, not even reptiles 
of the lowest form, showed themselves. There 
was not a tree, or a bush, or a blade of grass to 
be seen anywhere. No streams or pools were 
visible, or even any dry depressions on the sur- 
face showing signs that water had once stood 
there. Not a breath of wind was stirring. Deep 
silence reigned through the valley ; even the 
echoes seemed to be dead. 

The travelers rode along the western side of 



The Valley of Madness. 243 

the valley. Though they were in the shadow of 
the cliffs, the heat was still very great. They 
could feel it radiating from the white marble-like 
surface of the plain, making their faces burn. 
Professor Payne, who had been looking about 
for signs of water, in which, from long experience 
of desert-traveling, he had become an adept, 
happened to glance down, and at once uttered an 
exclamation. They had just come on a stretch 
of white crisp salt, and going across it, all in one 
direction, were a great number of footprints. 

" Look, Mr. Aylward," he exclaimed, dismount- 
ing from his horse hastily, " here is a strange 
thing indeed ! " 

" The track of a caravan, by all that's marvel- 
ous ! " ejaculated Aylward, amazed at this very 
unexpected sight. 

Professor Payne, bending over the footprints, 
examined them through his spectacles with in- 
tense interest. So absorbed was he in scrutiniz- 
ing them that he did not hear Aylward's question, 
twice repeated, asking whether he was able to 
make out whose they were. At length he raised 
himself with a look of wonder on his face that 
was solemn in its intensity. 

" I can scarcely credit it — it is almost too mar- 
velous for belief ! Yet they cannot be anything 
else," he exclaimed aloud, but addressing himself. 
" I thank God that it has been permitted to me 
to see so wonderful a thing ! " 



244 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

"What is it, Professor?" asked Ay 1 ward in 
surprise, while Isha added in a tired voice, ** Have 
you discovered anything, father dear?" 

''Yes, indeed I have, my dear," replied her 
father. " Mr. Aylward — Mr. Yorke — my dear," 
he continued, turning to each, " you see before 
you, on that soft salt soil, the footprints of men 
who have been dead many hundreds of years." 

Aylward stared at the old man, too surprised to 
be able to make any remark. Yorke gazed at the 
mysterious footprints with expressionless eyes, 
while Isha, seeing how pleased and excited her 
father was, smiled a wan smile of loving sym- 
pathy. 

" Dismount, sir, and tell me what you make of 
them," said the Professor to Aylward, whereupon 
the young man alighted and examined the marks 
in the salt with a puzzled air. 

"They are queer-looking footprints, I must 
say," he remarked. 

" You may think me demented, sir, but I am 
quite convinced that these marks were made hun- 
dreds of years ago, probably by men who, like 
ourselves, had accidentally found their way into 
this wonderful valley," said the Professor. 
" These," he continued, pointing to a series of 
club-footed marks, " are doubtless the footprints 
of one of that misguided class of eremities which 
flourished in the ninth century, who cut off their 
fingers and toes for the honor and glory of God, 



The Valley of Madness* 245 

poor creatures; and these, I am sure, are the foot- 
prints of some mail-clad crusader, and these again 
were made, I doubt not, by the caligae of Roman 
soldiers. Here are the footprints of the sandals, 
slippers and naked feet of men of many nations, 
some of which were made, it may be, two thou- 
sand years ago, and others but a few hundred 
years back. Nevertheless, they look as if they 
had been made but yesterday. It is truly mar- 
velous ! " The old savant's face beamed with 
pleasure as he spoke. 

" But how is it that these marks have not dis- 
appeared centuries ago?" asked Aylward, with 
an incredulous smile. 

*' Because the ordinary effacing agencies of 
nature are absent here. Apparently no rain 
ever falls, the air is perfectly still, and does not, 
I fancy, contain a particle of moisture. There 
are no animals to trample on the marks, or in- 
sects to burrow under them. It may seem to 
you, sir, absurd, but I firmly believe that our own 
footprints that we are now making will, if undis- 
turbed by human beings, remain distinct and 
recognizable till the crack of doom or till some 
change takes place in the climate here." 

" By Jove, there are the marks of a horse's 
hoofs!" exclaimed Aylward, looking down on 
the stream of footprints. '* They must be those 
of the old sheikh's mare, when he descended into 
the valley in search of his son. There can be no 



246 The Fmdm§f of Lot's "Wife* 

doubt now of the truth of the story that girl 
told you, Noel." 

" I never doubted it, Hal," returned the artist, 
faintly. 

" Where were all these people going, father? " 
asked Isha. 

" That we have yet to learn, my dear. It is a 
strange circumstance that the footprints all point 
one way. Not one of these ancient wayfarers 
ever turned back," replied her father solemnly, as 
he remounted his horse. 

The travelers resumed their march, following 
the broad trail of footprints. By this time dark- 
ness had begun to descend over the valley, and 
as Professor Payne had predicted, the tempera- 
ture began to fall rapidly. When the moon rose, 
which was about two hours after sunset, the air was 
so cold that the travelers were glad to wrap them- 
selves in blankets which formed part of the load 
which was carried by one of the baggage-donkeys. 

Just after sunset the party witnessed a strange 
phenomenon. A blaze of light suddenly ap- 
peared on the opposite side of the valley and 
floated along the base of the cliff southward. It 
seemed like a gigantic will-o'-the-wisp and its 
weird light illuminated brightly the rock-wall 
above, shining into the dark caverns and glancing 
over the great rocks and boulders at the foot of 
the cliffs. The travelers halted and gazed at the 
extraordinary spectacle. 



The Valley of Madness, 247 

" What is it, Professor? " asked Aylward, much 
impressed. 

" It is no doubt caused by electricity produced 
by the extreme dryness of the air. I have seen 
something like it before in the Nefood desert, but 
on a smaller scale," replied the old savant, gaz- 
ing at the mysterious light with much interest. 
The phenomenon was repeated at least a dozen 
times during the earlier part of the night. 

The travelers followed the track of human 
footprints till they lost it on hard ground about 
half-a-mile beyond the spot where they had come 
on it. They continued their ride till midnight, 
going up the valley on the western side. They 
looked in vain for any indications of water, 
though they examined every likely place they 
passed ; nor did they see any opening in the cliffs 
up which a path might be found out of the valley. 

The moonlight was so clear and was so brightly 
reflected by the white salt plain that everything 
could be seen almost as distinctly as by day. 

It now became evident that the whole party, 
including the horses and donkeys, were utterly 
worn out. Yorke sat his donkey in a sort of 
stupor of exhaustion, and Isha rode half asleep, 
in momentary danger of falling off. The ne- 
cessity for keeping a sharp look-out for water and 
for some outlet from the valley had sustained 
Professor Payne and Aylward, but they both felt 
now that they could not go any further. The 



248 The Findingf of Lot's Wife* 

horses and donkeys, with hanging heads and lol- 
ling tongues, crawled along rather than walked. 

About midnight one of the baggage-donkeys 
lay down and its example was immediately fol- 
lowed by its fellow. The donkey staggering 
under Yorke showed signs of being unable to 
keep its feet much longer. They were at the 
time close to a deep, low-mouthed cavern at the 
foot of the western cliffs, and decided to stay 
there for the night. Aylward carried Yorke into 
it and laid him down at its further end. Professor 
Payne and Isha dropped out of their saddles, 
rather than dismounted, and followed the two 
men. In a few minutes all four were fast asleep 
on the hard floor, wrapped in their blankets. 
They had been too exhausted to unsaddle or un- 
pack their horses or donkeys, or to hobble them, 
and the wretched beasts had collapsed outside, 
and lay quivering and panting. 

When the day 'broke, Aylward, rising with ach- 
ing limbs, went to the mouth of the cave, and 
looked out. He glanced to the right and left 
and all round, and his face assumed a look of sur- 
prise and then of alarm. The horses and don- 
keys had all disappeared ! The thirsty creatures 
had no doubt wandered off in search of water. 
Uttering an exclamation, Aylward ran out a short 
distance into the plain, and looked up and down 
the dim valley ; but no animal was in sight. 
Much disturbed, he returned to the cavern and 



The Valley of Madness. 249 

roused Professor Payne, whose troubled face 
showed his deep concern at the news the young 
man bought him, though he said nothing. The 
two men hurried out into the plain, and for 
several hours wandered about, looking for the 
strayed horses and donkeys. The ground all 
round the spot where they had stopped for the 
night was as hard as stone, and they could not 
find any tracks or traces that afforded them any 
clue as to the direction the animals had taken. 
They were at length forced by the intense heat 
to return to the cavern ; but did not do so till 
the scorching rays of the sun had blistered their 
faces and cracked their lips, and the glare had in- 
flamed their eyes and half-blinded them. 

It was a miserable day that the three men and 
their girl-companion spent. Even in the dark 
cavern the heat was suffocating. Outside, the 
whole plain glowed and radiated heat like a fur- 
nace. Yorke lay unconscious in the furthest 
recess of the cave, fanned assiduously by Isha 
with a folded handkerchief. The girl's face was 
drawn and white in spite of the heat ; but she 
suffered in silence. Her father and Aylward, 
their faces flushed brick-red, lay on the floor try- 
ing to sleep, but finding it impossible to do so, 
from the pain in their parched throats. Towards 
afternoon it became evident that heat-apoplexy 
was threatening Professor Payne, the result of ex- 
posure to the sun in the morning. He complained 



2SO The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

of violent headache, and soon after began to talk 
in a disjointed, incoherent fashion, being ob- 
viously unconscious of what he was saying. His 
daughter, leaving Yorke to Aylward's care, went 
to look after him, for his condition terrified her. 
She sat beside him, holding his hand and fanning 
him, talking lovingly to him the while. As the 
fiery heat of the day began to subside the Pro- 
fessor grew less restless and rambling in his talk, 
and at length dropped off into an uneasy slumber. 
Isha herself dozed, leaning against the wall of 
the cave. 

Late in the evening, Aylward, who had also fal- 
len asleep, heard his name called in a terrified 
voice, and waking with a start, found Isha stand- 
ing before him, her face full of consternation. 

*' Oh, Mr. Aylward, my father is not here ! I 
am afraid he has wandered away in his delirium, 
while I slept." 

Staggering to his feet, the young man hurried 
to the cavern-mouth and looked round. Dark- 
ness had begun to settle over the still heated 
plain, and he could see nothing of the old man. 
He ran out into the plain two or three hundred 
yards and shouted hoarsely, '' Professor ! Profes- 
sor ! " but no answer came back, not even the 
echo of his own voice. After some minutes he 
returned to the cave, at the mouth of which stood 
Isha, gazing anxiously up and down the valley 
and listening intently. 



The Valley of Madness. 251 

" Oh, Mr. Aylward ! " she exclaimed, in a chok- 
ing voice, " he will lose himself among the ravines 
and rocks ! I must go in search of him at once ! " 

" You must not go by yourself. Miss Payne ; I 
will come with you," replied Aylward. 

" But we cannot leave poor Mr. Yorke alone ! 
It would kill him to awake and find us all gone ! " 

" I am afraid it can't be helped. Miss Payne. 
We will make him as comfortable as we can 
before we start, and hurry back as soon as we 
have found your father. I do not think he can 
have gone far." 

They went into the cavern together, and did 
what they could for Yorke, moving the uncon- 
scious man into a more comfortable position and 
rearranging the extemporary pillow on which his 
head lay. Aylward tore a leaf out of his note- 
book, and writing a few lines on it, explaining 
what had happened, put it on the floor near the 
artist, with a stone on it. He and Isha then left 
the cave to look for the Professor. The golden 
glare of sunset had died out of the sky ; but the 
brilliant starlight enabled the young man and his 
companion to see their way without difficulty. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Ay^a's Devotion. 

Soon after midnight, Yorke was awakened by 
the cold, from the fever trance into which he had 
fallen. The rest had eased his wound, which was 
now less painful, and the fever had left him. He 
felt extremely weak, but his head was clear, and 
he lay for a few minutes thinking of all that had 
befallen him and his friends during the last few 
days. Soon he became conscious of a raging 
thirst. The terrible heat of the past day and the 
fever between them seemed to have evaporated 
all the moisture of his body. He turned slowly 
on the blanket on which he lay, and tried to say, 
"Some water, Hal, for goodness' sake ! " but his 
tongue felt like a piece of leather in his mouth, 
and his dry lips refused to frame a word. He lay 
still for a moment and then tried again to call 
his friend to him — but he only succeeded in mak- 
ing a ghastly inarticulate chuckling sound. Not 



Ay^da^s Devotion^ 253 

receiving any answer, he concluded that his com- 
panions were all asleep. His intolerable thirst, 
however, impelled him to try again to obtain 
relief. So, with an effort, he raised himself by 
his arms, and sitting upright on the floor, looked 
round for the water-skin. 

It was not till he had sat for some time gazing 
about him that he fully realized the startling fact 
that he was alone. The moonlight was shining 
brilliantly into the cavern, every recess and nook 
of which was visible. Not only was it certain 
that there was no one beside himself in the cave, 
but there was nothing to show that it had ever 
been occupied except the three blankets lying on 
the floor. 

The shock of this discovery was so great that 
Yorke sat for a long time in a dazed condition of 
mind, trying to think what could have happened. 
It occurred to him that his companions were 
possibly camping at the mouth of the cavern, in 
order to watch their horses and donkeys, and to 
guard the baggage. Rising with much difficulty, 
he staggered out of the cave, supporting himself 
by its walls. On coming out he saw at a glance 
that his conjecture had been wrong. His friends 
were not there, nor could he see any signs of 
them or of the animals. He knew that Aylward 
would never leave him to his fate, and terrible 
thoughts rushed into his mind as to what might 
have happened to him and the others. After a 



254 The Finding: of Lot's "Wife* 

few minutes' reflection he resolved to go and 
look for them, though he felt that, in the condi- 
tion he was, he could not hope to go far. He 
first went back into the cavern, and made a short 
search, thinking it possible that his friends had 
left some water for his use, but he did not find 
any. In his excitement and alarm he did not see 
the note left for him by Aylward, which was 
partly hidden by the stone placed on it, and so 
missed the clue to the unaccountable disappear- 
ance of his companions. Leaving the cave with 
his blanket wrapped round him, he crept out on 
the plain, staggering at every step like a drunken 
man, and groaning with the pain his wound gave 
him. 

About the middle of the plain was a patch 
of snow-like salt. Here York stopped exhausted 
and dropping to the ground looked dreamily about 
him. The whole valley was bathed in moon- 
light, and he could see a great distance ; but 
not a living- thing was visible. The cold was 
very great, but he did not feel it. As he lay 
gazing about him, he heard, to his great relief, 
a long clear cry, " Lul-lu-lu ! lul-lu-lu ! " which 
seemed to come from a great rock that stood 
alone in the plain some two or three hundred 
paces distant. He at once recognized it to be 
an Arab camel-call, and responded, uttering a 
feeble, quavering " coo-ey," which, however, was 
audible at a great distance in the deathlike still- 



Ay^da's Devotion* 255 

ness. A moment later he heard an answering cry, 
and saw two dark objects appear from behind the 
solitary rock and advance towards him. The 
moonlight soon revealed that one of the objects 
was a camel stalking sulkily along with its head 
down. It was not till they were close to him that 
the artist saw, with amazement, that the slender, 
graceful figure that walked before the camel, 
leading it, was that of an Arab girl and that it 
was Ayeda. 

On seeing him the girl uttered a cry of joy. 

" O my lord, thanks be to God, that I have 
found you ! " she exclaimed. 

It was some moments before the artist could 
persuade himself that it was the daughter of the 
old sheikh of the Beni Azaleh who stood before 
him, and that he was not the victim of some 
fever-dream. 

" Is that really you, Ayeda ? " he gasped out 
at length. 

** It is indeed I, my lord," she replied softly, 
smiling with pleasure at hearing herself addressed 
by name by the young man. 

" Have you any water, Ayeda ? I am parched 
with thirst.'* 

'^ I have brought some for my lord," she re- 
turned eagerly ; and detaching a small goat-skin 
which hung from the camel's neck, she put its 
leathern mouth to Yorke's lips, who drank greed- 
ily. The dirty tepid fluid seemed to him more 



256 The Findingf of Lofs Wife, 

delicious than the finest champagne he had ever 
quaffed. It gave him for the moment strength 
and hope, and his natural voice returned to him. 

" You have saved my life, O bright-eyed one ! " 
he said, gratefully. *' Do you know where my 
friends are?" he added. 

" My lord, I know not. It may be that God 
has punished them by allowing the jin to carry 
them off for leaving my lord alone in the wadi, 
wounded and dying of thirst." 

"No, no, Ayeda! They did not leave me to 
die. We have somehow got separated. Where 
are the rest of your party? " 

" My lord, there is no one with me." 

*' Did none of your tribesmen come with you ? " 
asked Yorke, in surprise. 

" No, my lord." 

*' You ventured all alone into this awful place ? 
Why did you come, O girl with a man's heart ? " 

'' To look for my lord," replied Ayeda simply, 
her eyes brightening at the young man's praise. 

" But how did you manage to leave the camp 
and to find your way here ? " 

" My lord, when I learned that the men of my 
tribe intended to take you and your friends to 
some terrible place among the mountains, and to 
leave you there to perish, I came to your tent in 
the camp at midnight, and warned the daughter 
of Abou Dukhu, she who is dressed like a man, 
of the evil thing intended. Then I went and 



Ayeda's Devotion* 257 

roused El Hakwatieh, the fat one, also the little 
old Syrian, the servants of my lord, and told them 
that my people would assuredly cut their throats 
after their masters were gone, whereupon they, 
being terrified, cried to me to assist them to escape. 
I consented, and one hour before dawn we three 
left the camp, taking with us a bag of dates and 
a skin of water, and made our to the wadi that 
descends to the plain. On our way we came on 
this old camel, which my people had abandoned 
on account of its age and infirmities, and secured 
it. When daylight came we hid behind some 
rocks, making the camel lie down. We saw you 
all come from the camp, escorted by El Wahsh 
and the others, and you rode past close to where 
we lay. We followed you till you stopped at 
the mouth of the ravine where stands the great 
Rock of Writing. We saw the men of my tribe 
force you all to enter the dark passage, and 
waited for them to go away, that we might follow 
you ; but they remained there, in order, doubt- 
less, to prevent your return. All day we lay 
in concealment, watching them. We heard the 
bell of the monastery twice, and knew therefore 
that it was not far distant. When the moon rose, 
I proposed to the two men with me that we 
should creep past El Wahsh and the rest, who 
were asleep, and enter the gorge into which you 
had gone. But the men were afraid, and leaving 
me alone, departed to make their way to the 



258 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

monastery, after giving me a portion of the dates 
and of the water. When they were gone I, lead- 
ing the camel, advanced to where the seven men 
lay, and, by the favor of God, succeeded in pass- 
ing through them without being seen. After 
going a short distance down the path, I stopped, 
for the darkness was like a wall before me, and 
the 'daughters of the voice' mocked the sound 
of my feet and, it seemed to me, even the beat- 
ing of my heart. When daylight came I went 
on, and God guiding my steps, I entered this 
valley and found my lord." 

" You have done what few men would have 
dared to do. If I live, you shall not have cause 
to complain of my ingratitude, O brave and 
beautiful one ! " said Yorke, deeply touched by 
the devoted girl's simple story. Ay^da said 
nothing, but her sparkling eyes and smiling lips 
showed her pleasure at hearing the artist's words. 

" Will not El Jezzar, on discovering your 
escape, follow you here ? " asked Yorke, after a 
pause. 

" No, my lord ; he is dead. As I left the camp 
I heard the women of his tent raising the zulghut, 
the death-cry." 

"But perhaps others of the tribe will follow 
you?" 

" No, my Lord ; it has been settled by the 
mullah and the elders that as soon as the Franks 
had been got rid of, the camp should be broken 



Ayeda's Devotion^ 259 

up, and the tribe return to the Great Desert. 
The Beni Azaleh are doubtless now on their way 
there. Moreover, why should they trouble them- 
selves about a girl who has neither father nor 
brothers, nor any other male kin left alive?" 
added Ay^da, bitterly. 

The girl's voice had been getting gradually 
fainter, and she spoke the last words in a very 
low tone. Yorke saw that she was standing in 
an attitude of weariness, and that her beautiful 
face was drawn and thin, making the great dark 
eyes look unnaturally large. 

" You have done more than what you had 
strength for, Ay^da ! You look as if you can 
scarcely stand, and half starved," he said, much 
concerned at her appearance. 

'' It is true, my lord, that I have had little to 
eat or drink since I left the camp ; but my lord 
forgets that we children of the desert are accus- 
tomed to fatigue and hunger and thirst." 

She did not tell him how the dragoman and 
the cook, unable to restrain themselves, had con- 
sumed the greater part of the slender supply of 
dates and water which they had brought with 
them, and how, since they had left her, she had 
eaten and drunk scarcely sufficient of the share 
they had given her to support life, fearing that it 
might be wanted for the man she had come to 
rescue from death. 

'' Will it please my lord to mount the camel, 



26o The Finding of Lot^s Wife* 

and I will lead it and take you back to the mon- 
astery, to be healed of your wound," she said. 
" I cannot go without my friends, Ay^da." 
'' My lord, to stay in this wadi another day, 
wounded and weak as you are, will be your 
death." 

''Then I must die, Ayeda. I cannot desert 
my friends." 

" If my lord wills it, I will go in search of 
them." 

" Help me up on the camel, Ayeda, and I will 

" No, lord, you would fall off from weakness 
ere you had gone a dozen paces. It is better I 
should go. If I do not find them, I will return 
at daybreak. My lord must stay here till I 
come." 

So saying, Ay^da climbed on to the camel's 
back, and rode off. After she had long disap- 
peared from view, Yorke could hear her musical 
cry, " Lul-lu-lu ! " in the far distance. Refreshed 
by the water he had drunk, he sat wrapped in 
his blanket, looking anxiously about him and 
listening intently. But the exertion he had just 
made began to tell on him ; red-hot pains began 
to run through his wounded limb, and his fever 
returned strongly. He grew worse every minute, 
and ere an hour had passed was stretched in an 
unconscious state. 

The day had just begun to dawn when Ay^da 



Ayeda's Devotion* 261 

returned. She was so exhausted by her night's 
wanderings and the want of food and water, that 
when she slipped off the camel she swayed where 
she stood, for some moments unable to walk for 
weakness. But, at length, mastering her faint- 
ness, she advanced to where Yorke lay, and 
shaking him gently by the shoulder, said, in a 
faint, hollow voice, — 

'' My lord, I have not found your friends. 
Arise, the day is dawning, and we must leave the 
wadi at once." 

The artist did not reply, and the girl saw that 
he was unconscious. For some moments she 
gazed at the prostrate figure despairingly ; then 
taking her camel by its rope bridle, she led it 
close to him. The brute was very old and thin, 
all its ribs were visible, and its hump had almost 
disappeared. It was very mangy, and what little 
hair it had was clotted with filth. Ay6da or- 
dered it to kneel, whereupon it bent its swollen 
joints with difficulty, tucked its splay feet under 
it, and lay down with angry grunts. As it knelt, 
the vicious brute turned its wry neck and after 
gazing malevolently at her with its drunken- 
looking eye, drew its pendulous lips over its 
yellow fangs, and tried to bite her. She struck 
it sharply on the nose, whereupon it roared in- 
dignantly. Taking up the unconscious young 
man in her slender arms, the girl, with an effort 
that made her tremble and gasp, laid him on the 



262 The Findingf of Lofs Wiic. 

camel's back. It had no saddle, but with a long 
rope which she had brought, she contrived to tie 
Yorke securely on the brute's bare back, across 
which he lay like a sack. She then made the 
camel rise, and leading it by its bridle, started up 
the valley towards its northern end. The old 
camel could only walk at a funeral pace, being 
lame, and Ay^da was so utterly worn out, that it 
was only with difficulty that she could drag her 
weary limbs along. 

They had not gone half a mile when the sun 
rose over the eastern cliffs, and the burning hot 
day began. The scorching rays streamed on the 
back of the unconscious man lying across the 
camel's bony back, and Ay^da saw that death 
would soon follow such exposure. She led the 
camel to the base of the cliffs, under the shadow 
of which they trudged on for another hour, by 
which time the valley was full of blinding light 
and the heat intense. Ay^da knew that the 
mouth of the gorge, for which she was making, 
could not be far off ; but realized that it would be 
madness to continue the journey during the heat 
of the day. She therefore led the camel under 
an overhanging rock, which gave some shelter 
from the sun, and making the brute kneel, lifted 
Yorke off its back, and laid him tenderly on the 
ground. Then unslinging the skin, which now 
contained only a small quantity of warm, stinking 
water, she seated herself, with his head in her 



Aycda's Devotion^ 263 

lap, and began to moisten his lips and to bathe 
his face and throat. Not a drop did she drink her- 
self, though her whole emaciated frame quivered 
at the touch of the moist water-skin. In a short 
time Yorke began to show signs of returning con- 
sciousness, whereupon she poured a small quan- 
tity of water into his mouth, which he swallowed 
in spasmodic gulps. Presently he opened his 
eyes, but lay a long time looking up at the beau- 
tiful face above him without speaking. At length 
he asked, with an effort, — 

" Did you find them, sweet one ? " Ay^da 
shook her head. There was another long silence, 
and then the artist said, — 

" Ayeda, I am dying." 

The girl tried to reply, but the pain in her 
contracted throat prevented her uttering a sound. 
At the third attempt she said, in a sort of hoarse 
whisper, — 

" Let not my lord say so ! " 

" Ayeda ! " said Yorke again, after a pause dur- 
ing which he seemed to be unconscious. 

" I am here, my lord." 

" Did you really leave your people, and follow 
me into this oven of a place, to come to my 
help ? " 

" It is true, my lord." 

" And your people will cast you out, and you 
will have no home and no kindred ? " 

" Even so, my lord." 



264 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

There was a long silence, and then Yorke said 
faintly, — 

" Ay^da ! " 

" I listen, my lord." 

" Do you love me ? " 

" Yes, my lord," replied the girl simply, with a 
smile that was infinitely tender and infinitely 
wan. 

" If we escape with our lives, will you go with 
me to my own country, and be my wife ! " asked 
the artist, taking the girl's small brown hand in 
his feeble grasp. Ay^da did not reply at once. 
With her other hand she caressed his face, and 
after some moments said softly, — 

" I will go with you, my beloved. Your peo- 
ple shall be my people, and your tent my tent." 

The exertion required for this short conversa- 
tion, and the happy shock she had experienced 
when Yorke asked her to be his wife, were more 
than the girl's little remaining strength could 
support. She did not faint, however, but sat a 
long time in a sort of stupor, only dimly realizing 
that some great happiness had befallen her. She 
was roused by the young man's voice saying, — 

"Give me water, Ay^da." 

" It is here, my beloved," she replied, pouring 
a few drops from the water-skin into his mouth. 

*' You must be thirsty yourself, sweet one ! 
Quench your thirst before the sun drinks all the 
water." 



Ay^da's Devotion, 265 

" I am not thirsty, my beloved," replied the 
girl, though every word caused a spasm of pain 
in her dry throat. 

Hour after hour of that dreadful day passed, 
and still Ayeda sat motionless, but unconscious 
most of the time, with the young man's head in 
her lap. Yorke did not speak again, but gradu- 
ally sank into such a state that the girl feared 
more than once that he was dead, and was only 
reassured by feeling the faint beating of his 
heart. He scarcely breathed, and there was no 
movement of his black, swollen lips. Around 
them, beyond the shadow cast by the rock, the 
plain glowed like a lake of white lava. The heat 
seemed to heave round them in slow moving 
waves of colorless fire, but there was nothing that 
the wounded man and the exhausted girl could do 
but to sit still and suffer. The old camel lay 
with its neck and nose on the ground, motionless 
but for the occasional twitching of its thick lips. 

At last the sun sank behind the cliffs, and it 
was possible to venture out into the plain. 
Gently raising Yorke's head from her lap and 
laying it on the ground, Ay^^da rose to her feet, 
lifting herself with the help of her hands, and 
looked despairingly round ; but no help was in 
sight. She tried to lift the young man on to the 
camel, but to raise him from the ground was now 
quite beyond her strength. Taking him by the 
shoulders, she dragged him towards the recum- 



^t 



266 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

bent animal, and by dint of repeated efforts 
managed to get the apparently dead body of the 
artist across its back. Having succeeded in this, 
she lay panting for a long time, utterly unable to 
rise to her feet. At length she crawled to the 
camel's side, and made Yorke's limbs fast with 
the rope, lest he should fall off. She then tried to 
give the word to the camel to rise but nothing but 
inarticulate clicking sounds-came from her dry lips. 
The obstinate brute did not move, and when the 
girl struck it with her feeble hands, it merely 
turned its hideous head towards her threaten- 
ingly, and did not rise. Suddenly, however, it 
rose with ungainly celerity, for Ay^da had be- 
thought herself of a little sharp-pointed imple- 
ment she carried, and had stuck it up to the head 
in the brute's lean flank. Staggering to her feet, 
she seized its rope bridle, and once more led the 
way towards the northern end of the valley. 

Exhausted to the last degree, panting with the 
awful heat, and suffering excruciating pain from 
thirst, the dying girl held resolutely on, though 
she swayed like a reed at every step. Her 
wasted form, trembling limbs, and hollow star- 
ing eyes showed that the end was near at hand. 
But, sustained by intense love for the man who, 
if they both lived, was to be her husband, she 
fought desperately against the death-swoon 
which she felt was creeping over her. Suddenly 
she saw with fast-fading eyes something ahead 



Ayeda's Devotion* 267 

which caused her to givG a choking cry of joy. 
It was a deep black rent in the face of the cliff, 
extending from its base to its summit. She rec- 
ognized it to be the mouth of the gorge by which 
she had descended into the valley. 

The devoted love, courage and endurance that 
had carried the Arab girl through so many perils 
and privations could no longer support her. She 
tottered on a few paces, hoping to reach the 
gorge before she dropped, but suddenly her 
strength failed her, and she sank to the ground, 
letting the camel's bridle go as she fell. The 
brute did not stop, but plodded steadily on 
towards the mouth of the gorge. Ayeda looked 
after it with glazing eyes. 

" Go on, go on, O camel ! Take my lord in 
safety to the monastery ! " she tried to cry after 
the animal, but only succeeded in uttering a 
series of choking meaningless sounds. 

Leaning on one arm, she watched the camel 
till it reached the Pass of Many Voices, and dis- 
appeared into it with Yorke lying unconscious 
and helpless across its back. 

" O my lord ! O my beloved ! " cried Ayeda 
hoarsely, as she fell forward dying. She lay still 
for some moments, then raised her head a little, 
and looked wildly round. A slight convulsion 
passed over her face, and the next moment her 
great dark eyes had closed in death. 



CHAPTER XVn. 
Lot's Wife. 

The last lingering gleams of sunset were dying 
out of the western sky when Aylward and Isha 
left the cave in search of Professor Payne. The 
silver glow in the east, preceding the rising of 
the moon, had not yet begun to appear, but the 
myriads of stars jeweling the dark vault above 
gave ample light. Every rock and boulder on 
the white waste round was visible for a consider- 
able distance. 

On leaving the cavern Aylward stood irreso- 
lute for some moments, in doubt as to the direc- 
tion they should take. Away to the north 
stretched the long lines of cliffs, till they were 
lost in the darkness of night. At the south end 
of the valley rose the great fortress-like rock, 
black and awful in the indistinct light. Aylward 
determined to go in its direction, thinking that, 
as it was the most prominent object in sight, it 



Lot's Wife* 269 

may have caught the Professor's eye, when he 
wandered out of the cave in his delirium, and 
have attracted him towards it. He told Isha of 
his reason for going south in their search, and 
they started. 

Walking side by side, they skirted the base of 
the cliffs, following the line that seemed the 
natural one for Professor Payne to take if he had 
gone in that direction. They entered every 
cavern they found in the cliffs, and peeped into 
every fissure and crevice and behind every boul- 
der. Aylward scrambled several times to the top 
of masses of debris lying at the foot of the cliffs,- 
and gazed anxiously over the plain, but nothing 
was in sight but blocks of rock salt and black 
boulders. He and Isha shouted frequently with 
hoarse and feeble voices, but no answering cry 
came, not even the echoes of their shouts. They 
glanced on the ground constantly as they walked, 
hoping to come on the Professor's footprints, 
but the hard marble-like plain showed no traces. 

Several times during the earlier part of the 
night they saw the mysterious electrical light 
which the whole party had watched with much 
interest the night before. It sometimes floated 
along the base of the cliffs on the other side of 
the valley, but more often they saw it gleaming 
in the distance. Once it came from behind, and 
flamed round them so brilliantly, that every 
object was as clearly visible as at noon-day. 



270 The Finding of Lot^s Wife* 

Their hearts stood still, as the weird white light 
flashed by, but they felt no shock, and were none 
the worse for the startling phenomenon. 

Aylward and Isha had been on foot some hours 
when the moon rose. As soon as the sky began 
to lighten they stopped for a short rest. The air 
had by this time become very cold, but neither 
of them, in their anxiety, felt it in the least. 
They sat on the salt-encrusted ground almost in 
silence, for both were impressed by a sense of 
some great calamity impending over them, and 
moreover their contracted throats and dry 
mouths made talking painful. Aylward said a 
few words from time to time, to encourage his 
companion, but only half-heartedly, for he had 
too high an opinion of her common-sense and 
courage, to attempt to hide from her how desper- 
ate he considered their position to be. In his 
heart he hoped that her father had already gone 
the way which, he felt sure, the rest of the party 
would soon have to follow, that she might be 
spared the anguish of seeing him die. Though 
the girl said little, it was obvious that she was 
deeply distressed. She gazed about continually 
with troubled, anxious eyes. Every now and 
then she fancied she saw something moving in 
the distance, and gazed at the object eagerly, 
only to realize, after a few moments, that her 
excited imagination had deceived her. Aylward 
observed her pale, agitated face, sad, tearless eyes, 






Lot's Wiic 271 

and twitching mouth, with deep but silent com- 
passion. 

As they sat together at the base of the cliffs 
the moon rose over the mountains, and shot her 
silver beams into the dark valley. The light 
slowly descended the illuminated face of the 
cliffs, till it touched the plain, across which it 
began to creep. Aylward now rose to his feet. 

" It is time we went on, Isha," he said. 

He had addressed her by her Christian name 
quite unconsciously, but the girl, though anxiety 
for her father occupied her thoughts to the 
exclusion of almost everything else, instantly 
noticed it. A flush, visible in the moonlight, 
crossed her face, as she replied softly, — 

" I am ready, Hal." 

On hearing this reply, the young man turned 
quickly, and gazed eagerly into the girl's face. 
Then stepping forward, he put his arm round 
her and raised her to her feet, saying tenderly, — 

'' Let us start, then, dear." 

He did not remove his arm from her waist, 
and they recommenced their search, he support- 
ing her, while she walked beside him with her 
arm over his shoulder, clinging to him. He did 
not kiss her or utter another word of endearment, 
yet the young man and maiden understood each 
other perfectly. They were content to realize 
that they loved each other, and felt that it was 
no time for protestations and caresses. 



272 The Findings of Lot's Wife. 

Leaving the ch'ffs, they began to cross the 
moonht plain towards the great square rock at 
the end of the valley, the frowning features of 
which were now visible in their gloomy grandeur. 
Half a mile of snowy salt-waste stretched before 
it, glistening in the moonlight. They had gone 
only a few paces over the soft crisp salt which 
crepitated under their feet, when Isha uttered a 
little cry, for she had caught sight of a stream of 
footprints on the white ground ahead. They 
hastened to the spot, and saw that the marks 
were those they had seen the previous day, at 
the northern end of the valley. The prints of 
sandals, slippers and other foot-coverings of 
many shapes and sizes, and of naked feet, some 
without toes, were clearly impressed on the salt, 
all pointing towards the great rock. 

" Look, dear ! " exclaimed Aylward, pointing 
downwards. Among the stream of ancient foot- 
prints were the marks of a pair of square-toed 
boots of obviously modern make. On seeing 
them Isha's lips moved convulsively, but she was 
for the moment too overcome to be able to say a 
word. At length she sobbed out, " Thank God ! 
oh, thank God ! " 

This discovery put new life into the pair, and 
they hurried across the white plain, following the 
trail. As they neared the other side they came 
on a long double row of rocks piled on one an- 
other in such a way, that they looked in the 



Lot's Wife* 273 

moonlight like mighty walls built by giants. 
They walked up the middle of this cyclopean 
street, following the footprints till they came to a 
series of low terraces like a titanic flight of steps. 
At the top of the terraces stood a strangely- 
shaped solitary rock, looking like a huge hand 
with the forefinger uplifted warningly. 

They were now close to the cliff, and became 
aware that it overhung its base so much as to 
form a stupendous cavern below, the black rock- 
roof of which was many hundreds of feet high. 
They saw that they were actually within the 
mighty cavern, though the base of the cliff was 
still distant two hundred paces or more. On 
ascending the rock terraces they stopped at the 
top and looked eagerly round, hoping to see the 
old man of whom they were in search standing 
near, but saw nothing of him. 

At the far end of the cavern, in the shadow of 
the clifT, was what looked like the mouth of an 
inner cave of considerable size. As Professor 
Payne had certainly ascended the terrace-steps, 
and was not in the cavern under the cliff, it 
seemed certain to Aylward that he must have 
gone on into the inner cave. He accordingly 
started across the hard stone-strewn floor of the 
cavern, supporting Isha, who, as she momentarily 
expected to see her father, was trembling with 
anxiety. When they had gone half across the 
cavern they simultaneously stopped and gazed 




274 The Finding: of Lot's Wife^ 

ahead with startled faces. Lying on the rock- 
floor all round the mouth of the inner cave were 
a number of dark motionless objects. When, 
with hesitating steps and beating hearts, they 
ventured to approach these objects, they found 
them to be dead bodies. The light was suffi- 
ciently strong to enable them to see that they 
were those of men dressed in strange garments 
such as no human being had worn for hundreds 
of years past. 

Near them lay a crusader in splendid armor, 
whose golden-crested helmet and embossed cuirass 
and greaves glinted brightly. Round him lay a 
number of men-at-arms, whose spears and swords 
lay on the rock beside them. All round lay 
strangely clad corpses, citizens of ancient Rome 
and Greece, in their plain dark robes ; legionaries 
with shields on their arms, and Greek archers 
bow in hand ; turbaned Saracens grasping curved 
scimitars ; Assyrians in tasselled garments, long 
curled hair and beards in cases ; shaven-headed 
Egyptians in semi-transparent linen clothes and 
thin sandals with turned-up toes ; Persians in 
baggy breeches, long coats and pointed hats ; 
Christian devotees, long-haired and long-bearded, 
some with self-mutilated hands and feet, and all 
clasping crosses to their sunken breasts ; Arabs, 
negroes, and men of many other nations, some of 
which had long been extinct. Scores of bodies 
lay around, all sleeping the sleep which in the 



Lot's Wife. 275 

case of most had already lasted centuries. Not a 
garment was displaced, not a particle of dust 
rested on any of the motionless figures, not a 
speck of rust dimmed the polished armor or the 
arms lying on the rock. Each hollow mummy 
face had the same expression on it — one of over- 
whelming horror such as would remain on the 
faces of men who had died mad with terror. It 
was a dreadful sight, and Aylward and his trem- 
bling companion stood for some moments look- 
ing on with horror in their faces and fear in their 
hearts. 

*' Oh, Hal, why should they all have come here 
to die ? " whispered Isha, in terrified tones. 

" I can't imagine, dear," returned Aylward, 
also in a whisper. ** It is the most awful sight I 
ever saw ! " 

"Oh, Hal, where can my father be?" wailed 
the girl. 

" He must be in that cave yonder," replied Ayl- 
ward, indicating the great black hole in the cliff- 
wall before them ; and then he added hesitatingly, 
glancing round with a shudder: "It may be 
that there is water there, and that it is poisonous, 
and that all these men died through drinking of 
it." 

Isha uttered an exclamation of alarm, and slip- 
ping out of her lover's encircling arm, hurried 
towards the inner cave. His words had raised a 
terrible fear in her heart that her father, in his 



276 The Finding of Lot's Wdc. 

delirium and raging thirst, might have entered it 
to drink of the deadly water that was possibly 
there. A prayer rose to her lips that they might 
not be too late to prevent him slaking his thirst 
at the cost of his life. Aylward followed the 
girl, who, picking her way through the dead 
bodies which lay thickly round the mouth of the 
dark cavity, entered it, crying aloud, — 

"Father! father!" 

The cave appeared to be about fifty feet high. 
How far it extended into the cliff could not be 
seen, for the end of it was hidden in impenetrable 
darkness. It was bitterly cold inside, like the in- 
terior of an ice-cave. Undeterred by the awful 
gloom and silence of the place, and scarcely 
noticing the cold, Isha advanced into it a few 
paces, followed by Aylward, and stopped. She 
stood straining her ears for some sound indicat- 
ing her father's presence, while her companion 
listened intently, expecting to hear the splashing 
or dripping of water. But not the slightest 
sound broke the death-like stillness that reigned 
around. Isha now ventured further into the 
cave, feeling the way with her feet, for the re- 
flected moonlight shining in at its mouth did not 
penetrate far into the darkness. She had just 
cried again in a loud whisper, " Father! father! " 
when she became conscious that somebody or 
something was standing before her, dimly visible 
in the semi-darkness. In another moment she saw 



Lot's Wife* 277 

that it was her father, and that he was standing 
motionless with his back towards her. The girl 
choked with joy, and was about to spring for- 
ward to embrace him, when a strange and terrible 
thing took place. 

A ray of what seemed to be moonlight, but 
which was of a more intense whiteness, suddenly 
streamed into the cave. It was a flash of the 
electrical light which they had seen several times 
that night. It lasted only for a moment, but 
for that space of time the whole cave was 
brilliantly illuminated from end to end. Aylward 
and his companion saw that they had penetrated 
nearly to the centre of a great cavern of salt. 
The floor was like the purest alabaster, and from 
it sprang snow-white salt pillars of fantastic 
shape, which seemed to support the lofty white 
roof. Great stalactites of delicate beauty and 
exquisite purity hung from the walls. The elec- 
trical flash was reflected blindingly by millions of 
salt crystals strewn through the cave. 

The glare of light that had illuminated the 
cave had revealed something more than its fairy- 
like loveliness. Isha's horror-struck eyes had 
seen in that momentary gleam something that 
struck her motionless and speechless with fear. 

Standing in the centre of the cave, on a block 
of marble-like salt, was a dazzling white statue 
so life-like in attitude and expression that it 
seemed to be moving. Of such blinding brill- 



278 The Finding ^f Lofs Wife. 

iancy was it that no human eye could gaze long 
on it without risk of loss of sight. It was the 
figure of a very beautiful, though not very young 
woman, tall, and of graceful form. She was 
leaning slightly forward, as if in the act of run- 
ning, and with her left hand she was holding up 
her long tunic, as if to free her shapely limbs, 
which were exposed up to the knee. Her outer 
robe seemed to be flying behind her, revealing 
beneath it the cincture confining her tunic below 
the breasts. She wore a curious head-dress like 
a tiara, while her throat, wrists and ankles were 
laden with a profusion of barbaric ornaments. 
Her bare right arm was extended in an attitude 
of fear, and she was looking backwards over her 
shoulder. 

There was an expression in the marble-white 
face, a look of immeasurable, unutterable horror, 
which seemed to freeze the blood in Isha's veins 
as she gazed on it. Every feature of the awful 
face, its terror-drawn muscles, fixed staring eyes 
and convulsed mouth, was imprinted on her 
mind for ever. The appalling sight so terrified 
her, that for several seconds after the light had 
passed she stood as if rooted to the spot. Then, 
forgetful of everything else in her fear, she 
turned, and fled shrieking out of the cave. 

On reaching its mouth, Isha stopped and 
glanced round ; to her unspeakable dismay, she 
found that her father and her lover had not fol- 



Lot's Wife. 279 

lowed her. She stood listening for a few mo- 
ments, with her white face half turned towards 
the outer cave, and her foot out, ready to con- 
tinue her flight. Not a sound came from the 
darkness within. Scarcely able to frame the 
words from fear, she gasped out, — 

" Father, oh, father ! Mr. Aylward ! Hal ! " 
No reply came to her agonized cries and her 
heart almost stopped beating as she listened 
again. The stillness of death reigned around. 
Again she cried to her father and to Aylward, in 
tones of despairing entreaties, to come out, but 
no answer came. That some terrible thing had 
happened to them, she felt certain, nevertheless 
the devoted girl determined to return into the 
cave, where the awful thing stood in the dark- 
ness, in search of the two men. 

With face distorted with fear, and wildly 
beating heart, she went steadily back towards 
the spot where she had stood when she saw the 
sight that had so horrified her. As she walked 
on into the increasing darkness, terror took such 
hold of her, that she was about to turn and flee 
again, when she caught sight of the two men a 
few feet before her, standing motionless as 
statues. Springing forward, she seized first her 
father and then Aylward by the hand, and cry- 
ing, " Come, come ! oh, come ! " drew them 
towards the mouth of the cave. As they turned 
to leave it, Isha saw that the strange flashing 



28o The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

light was again coming. A moment later the 
whole cave was brilliantly lit up from floor to 
roof, but not for the world would the terrified 
girl have looked again on the awful figure in it. 
With averted face, she dragged her two compan- 
ions out of the darkness into the outer cavern, 
and stood there panting with her exertions and 
fear. 

'* Oh, Mr. Aylward, why did you stay in that 
dreadful place ? " she gasped, as soon as she 
found voice to speak. 

To her surprise the young man made no reply. 

" Hal ! " she whispered, laying her hand on his 
arm, " did you see that awful thing ? " 

Aylward did not respond. 

*' Hal ! Hal ! speak to me ! " cried Isha, now 
greatly alarmed at his silence, but the young man 
did not say a -word. Fearing she knew not what, 
the girl peered into his face. The light* was but 
dim, but she saw there a look that it had not 
worn a few minutes before, a fixed stare of frozen 
horror. She pressed her hand to her heart, and 
for some moments was unable to speak. She 
then turned to the Professor. 

" Father, dear ! " she said, quaveringly. 

The old man took no notice of her, but only 
stared at her with the same look of intense 
horror in his eyes. 

With clasped hands and white face working 
with agitation, Isha stood looking from one to 



Lot's Wife^ 281 

the other of her silent companions, then glanced 
round her despairingly Scores of dead men, 
strangely clad, lay round her ; and it seemed to 
her exyted imagination, that they were all watch- 
ing her with their sunken, shriveled eyes. Sud- 
denly s,hesaw, with a throb of pain that seemed to 
pierce her heart like a knife, that the expression 
which now contorted the faces of her father and 
her lover, were the same as those on the dead 
faces turned to her. She realized at once what 
had happened. The awful white figure in the 
icy-cold salt cave was Lot's Wife ! The sight of 
the dreadful face had deprived the two men of 
their reason. All the dead men round her had, 
doubtless, centuries before, looked on the Wo- 
man of Salt, and had died mad in consequence. 

Falling on her knees in her despair and distress, 
the girl prayed fervently for help. It was a 
silent, wordless appeal to God, for in the tumult 
of her feelings she could not express her helpless 
misery.. > On rising to her feet she took her 
father and Aylward by the hand, and led them 
out of the great cavern, down the terrace steps, 
and through the rows of rocks into the plain. 
The two men accompanied her unresistingly, but 
in silence and with fear-convulsed faces. 

Isha now stopped to consider what she should 
do, but it was some minutes before she could 
collect her thoughts. The shock she had received 
by the sight of Lot's Wife, the awful calamity 



282 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

which had befallen her father and the man who, 
she knew, loved her, and the deadly peril they all 
stood in, so confused her that for the time her 
mind refused to work. At length she decided 
that their only chance of saving their lives was 
to find the gorge by which they had entered the 
Valley of Madness. She knew that it was at the 
northern end of the valley, and accordingly started 
off in that direction, leading the two men by the 
hand, as if they were children. 

The moon was by this time high in the 
heavens, and its light flooded the whole valley. 
They crossed the white plain, following the track 
of the footprints, and then skirted the cliffs on 
the eastern side. They went very slowly, for the 
girl was exhausted with fatigue and grief. 

As they passed by a mass of debris lying at 
the foot of the cliffs, Isha saw something move 
below a shelving rock. On approaching the 
object, she saw, with intense relief and deep 
thankfulness, that it was one of the donkeys 
which had strayed the night before ; the one 
that carried the water-skin. The other baggage- 
donkey lay among the rocks, a little further off. 
Both were evidently dying ; their dry tongues 
were hanging out of their leather-like mouths, 
and their eyes were glazing. Leaving her com- 
panions, the girl turned towards the nearest 
animal, .and found that the goat-skin on its back 
still contained a few mouthfuls of water. With 



Lofs Wife. 283 

a sob of joy she seized it, and hastening to her 
father, held it to his mouth. He drank mechan- 
ically, but with obvious relief. She then held it 
to Aylward's lips, and he drank the remainder, 
gulping it down without evincing any sign that 
he was conscious of what he was doing. Isha 
then squeezed a few drops out of the sodden and 
evil-smelling skin into her mouth, and felt a little 
refreshed, though her thirst was still intense. 
Hanging from the other donkey's pack-saddle 
was the bag of dates which the Beni Azaleh had 
provided. With these the girl fed her compan- 
ions as if they were helpless children. She also 
ate several herself, but with difficulty, her mouth 
being so dry that she could scarcely masticate 
them. 

Day began to break when they reached that 
part of the valley where they had spent the pre- 
vious day. Isha soon found the cave in which 
they had left Yorke, and entered it hastily, to 
see how the young man was. To her surprise 
and dismay, she found it empty ! Not only was 
the artist not there, but she could not find any- 
thing that gave the smallest clue as to what had 
become of him. The blankets they had wrapped 
themselves in the night before still lay on the 
floor, and near them was the pencil-note which 
Aylward had left. The stone he had placed on 
it was still there, showing that the scrap of paper 
had not been seen by Yorke. The girl's first 



284 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

idea was that some wild beast had carried the 
artist off, but there was no sign of any struggle, 
and she reflected that it was improbable that any 
animal could live in that burning, waterless 
region. She decided that he must have wan- 
dered away either in search of his companions, or 
while he was delirious, but felt utterly incapable 
of going to look for him. , 

Knowing that in an hour or two it would be 
impossible for them to continue their journey, 
and being utterly worn out from fatigue and 
want of sleep, Isha decided to spend the day in 
the cave. She led her father and Aylward to 
the dark end of it, and after tying handkerchiefs 
to their wrists and securing the ends to her own, 
so that if either of them attempted to leave the 
cave she would be awakened, she threw herself 
on the rock-floor, and at once fell into a sort of 
swooning sleep which lasted many hours. 

It was afternoon when she awoke and the in- 
terior of the cave was like an oven. She sat up 
gasping for air and giddy. Her companions were 
crouching on the floor beside her, like uncom- 
plaining dumb animals, though the haggard look 
on their terror-struck faces showed how keen 
were their sufferings. They appeared to be as 
unconscious of each other as they were of the 
girl in whose care they were. Isha could not 
bear to look at them. 

The burning day at length came to an end. 



Lot's Wife* 285 

and the shadows of evening began to creep over 
the plain, though there v^as little abatement of 
the heat. As soon as she thought it safe to 
venture out, Isha, leading her companions by the 
hand, left the cave, and they continued their 
weary tramp towards the northern end of the 
valley. As they walked the girl glanced about 
from time to time, hoping to see Yorke some- 
where near or to come on his tracks, but found 
no trace of him. They had gone about half a 
mile, when she came across the unmistakable 
foot-marks of a camel, and beside them the 
prints of a small human foot. She stood gazing 
at this unexpected sight for some minutes, trying 
to think what it meant. The thought that the 
tracks of the camel might lead to some Arab en- 
campment made her heart bound. They led 
northward, and Isha, with rising hope, followed 
them, half leading and half dragging along her 
companions. 

The daylight had almost gone when Isha, look- 
ing ahead eagerly, saw something lying on the 
white surface of the ground close to the cliffs. 
On reaching it she saw, to her horror, that it was 
the body of an Arab girl. Uttering an exclama- 
tion, she stooped and gently raised the girl, and 
then saw, to her intense surprise and dismay, that 
it was Ay^da, the beautiful daughter of the 
shiekh of the Beni Azaleh. 

" Why do you lie there, O girl ? Are you ill ? " 



286 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

she asked in Arabic, in a trembling voice. Ayeda 
made no reply, and Isha saw, with a pang at her 
heart, that she was dead. Life had left the slen- 
der, graceful body but very recently, for it was 
still warm. For some minutes Isha stood gazing 
down at the dead girl with compassionate but 
tearless eyes. Wondering in a vague dazed way, 
what had brought the poor creature alone to that 
awful valley, she again took her companion's 
hands and led them on, following the camel's 
tracks. 

She had not gone three hundred paces further, 
when suddenly she became aware that yawning 
before her, in the cliff opposite, was the dark 
lofty mouth of the Pass of Many Voices. She 
recognized at once the narrow black rift in the 
cliff-wall. The surface of the plain at this spot 
was all slab rock-salt, on which the tracks of the 
camel were lost, but Isha felt sure that the animal 
had made for the gorge, and accordingly went 
straight towards the cliff. In a few minutes she 
and her companions were standing at the entrance 
to the dark defile. Glancing up the gorge, now 
steeped in impenetrable darkness, the girl saw 
that it would be madness to attempt to ascend it 
till daylight came again. There was no alterna- 
tive but to stay where they were for the night. 
By this time it was very dark, and the only light 
in the sky was that shed by myraids of brilliant 
stars. 



Lofs Wife. 287 

While Isha was looking for some place where 
they could lie down, her eyes fell on a strangely- 
shaped object not far off. On approaching it, 
she saw that it was the camel whose tracks she 
had been following. It was lying down, and had 
something on its back. Seized with a sudden 
fear, Isha turned towards it, and saw that some 
man was lying like a sack across the creature's 
back. A moment later, she saw that it was 
Yorke's apparently inanimate body. 

It wanted but this sight to fill the unhappy 
girl's cup of trouble and sorrow to the brim. 
She felt sure that the artist was dead, for his jaw 
had fallen, his eyes were open, and his tongue 
protruded. No tears came to her eyes, for her 
troubles had now passed the weeping stage ; but 
every line of her wan-drawn face expressed grief 
and despair. She stood gazing at the old camel, 
with the motionless man on its back, and at the 
two stricken men whose hands she held, with a 
sharp pain at her heart, and a sensation in her 
throat which seemed to choke her. She was so 
stupefied by the shock of this discovery that it 
did not strike her as strange that she should find 
the body of the artist fastened to the back of a 
recumbent camel, with no one in charge, nor did 
she connect the Arab girl she had just seen lying 
dead in the plain, with the circumstance. 

Suddenly, as she stood there, she heard a 
sound which caused her to turn her head quickly 



288 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

and glance up the dark gorge with parted lips 
and dilated eyes. 

It was a loud, confused sound, which evidently 
came from a great distance. Presently, to her 
inexpressible joy, she heard a human voice, and 
then another, but was not able to distinguish the 
words spoken. The talking ceased, after a few 
moments, and then came through the darkness, a 
deep clear musical voice, upraised in sacred song. 
It seemed to the girl's enraptured senses like the 
hymn of a seraph singing in glory, yet the voice 
seemed familiar to her. The unseen singer had 
not concluded the first verse, before Isha knew 
who he was. It was Brother Manon, chanting 
in stentorian tones a psalm in Greek. The 
words came pealing down the black gorge, every 
one as distinct as if spoken at her ear. 

" They wandered in the wilderness i7t a solitary 
way ; they found no place to dwell inT 

" Hungry and thirsty ^ their soul fainted in 
themr 

" Then they cried unto the Lord in their troubled 
^^ And He delivered them out of their distress'' 
" And He led them forth by the right way'' 
" Oh, that men would praise the Lord for 
His goodness." 

^^ And for His wonder ful works to the children 
of men." 

Isha heard no more. She realized that help 
was at hand, and sank to the ground fainting. 



CHAPTER XVm. 
' The Pass of Many Voices* 

ISHA never knew how long she lay uncon- 
scious on the ground. When her senses returned 
to her, she became aware, from sounds she heard 
around her, that their rescuers had found them. 
She overheard a voice that she instantly recog- 
nized, say in tones of amazement and hor- 
ror, — 

" Mr. Ilwud ! Mr. Ilwud ! what for you look- 
ing like t'at? You not know me? Georgis, 
dragoman ! " And then she heard him ejaculate 
in Arabic : *' Ya allah ! my master is mad ! " 

Isha opened her eyes and made an unsuccess- 
ful effort to sit up. A man who, she saw, was 
Brother Manon, was bending over her. He 
carried a nearly burnt-out torch in his hand, the 
light of which streamed over his dark, honest 
face, which expressed concern and compassion. 
On seeing the girl open her eyes, and the look of 



290 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

joy and relief that came into them, he smiled 
reassuringly. 

** Thanks be to God ! My lord's senses have 
returned to him," he exclaimed, in his deep, clear 
voice. 

"Water! " muttered Isha, with dry lips. 

Brother Manon placed the torch he held up- 
right in a crack in the rocky ground, and pres- 
ently the girl felt her head gently raised, and a 
gourd of water put to her lips. She drank 
eagerly, but before she had satisfied her consum- 
ing thirst, the monk took the gourd from her, 
saying,— 

" It is not good to drink much at first, my 
lord. Moreover, there is but little, and we must 
husband it." 

Isha had, however, drunk sufficient to relieve 
the contraction and burning sensation in her 
throat, and other painful effects of thirst. Greatly 
refreshed, and feeling as if new life had been 
given to her, she staggered to her feet. Brother 
Manon helping her. She expected to find a 
number of monks from the monastery present, 
but on glancing round, she saw by the flickering 
light of the torch-end burning on the ground, 
that their rescuers consisted only of Brother 
Manon, Georgis the dragoman, and Hanna the 
cook. The monk had the gaunt, haggard appear- 
ance of a man who had been on foot for several 
days and nights. The dragoman did not look so 



The Pass of Many Voices. 29^ 

fat and important as usual, while the old cook's 
face wore an alarmed expression, instead of its 
ordinary air of peevish discontent. Georgis and 
Hanna were staring affrightedly, and in silence, 
at their master, and at Professor Payne, who 
gazed back at them with horror-filled unrecogniz- 
ing eyes. 

Taking the gourd from Brother Manon's hand, 
Isha tottered towards her father and placed it 
to his mouth. When he had drunk a little of 
the water, she did the same for Aylward. The 
two unfortunate men drank without showing any 
sign of relief or pleasure, except that a sort of 
convulsion seenied to seize them in the throat, 
when the water touched their lips. 

"Mister Art'ur, w'at dreadful t'ing is t'is? 
Why my master not speak to me ? Why he 
look like one mad fellow?" asked the dragoman, 
in an awed whisper. 

"Nay, my lord, do not speak," interposed 
Brother Manon. " You are too exhausted and 
ill. Lie down again and rest. We will do what 
we can for my lords, your companions." 

"But where Mister Yok?" ejaculated the 
dragoman, as if it had suddenly struck him that 
the artist was not present. Isha pointed towards 
the spot where the camel lay, and then overcome 
with faintness, sank to the ground, and lay in a 
semi-conscious state. Having put a folded blan- 
ket under the girl's head. Brother Manon, fol- 



292 The Findingf of Lot^s Wife* 

lowed by the other two men, went in the direc- 
tion indicated by her, and found the camel with 
Yorke lying across its back. The dragoman and 
cook loudly expressed their surprise and horror 
at the position and condition in which they had 
found the artist. The three men unbound his 
hands and feet, and taking the apparently dead 
body off the camel, carried it to where Isha lay 
motionless and with closed eyes. They then 
tried to restore the apparently dying man to 
consciousness, moistening his mouth and'bathing 
his face with water, but their efforts were unsuc- 
cessful. While they were thus engaged, the 
torch went out. 

When Isha awoke from the sleep of exhaustion 
into which she had fallen, and sat up, pitch dark- 
ness and deep silence reigned around her, and 
it was bitterly cold. Startled at finding herself 
alone, as she thought, she uttered a cry of fear. 
She was assured by hearing the voice of Brother 
Manon saying quietly, — 

" Be not alarmed, my lord, we are all here." 

** Did you bring no light? " the girl asked. 

" Only the torch I happened to have with me, 
and it went out soon after we found my lord. 
There is here no wood with which we could make 
a fire." 

"What is the hour, friend ? " 

"It must be some hours after midnight; the 
day will dawn ere long." 



The Pass of Many Voices. 293 

"Are my father and the other gentleman near? 
Are they safe ? " 

" They are here and safe, my lord." 

Isha crept towards the monk through the ebon 
darkness and felt for her father's hand. She 
found him lying down, but, though she passed 
her hand softly over his face, could not tell 
whether he was sleeping or not. She then felt 
timidly for Aylward's hand, and took it, together 
with her father's hand, into her own. For the 
rest of that weary night she sat clasping their 
hands, fearful lest either of them should wander 
away unseen in the darkness. 

Just before daybreak she heard Brother Manon 
stirring, and soon after overheard him repeating 
his morning prayers. After going through the 
prescribed offices, he prayed fervently, but in low 
tones, that God would deliver them from death, 
and bring them safely out of their troubles. Isha 
understood the words, and silently prayed with 
him. When the monk had finished his prayer, 
she said, after a short silence, — 

" Are you awake, friend ? " 

" Yes, my lord." 

"Have you any water left? I am parched 
with thirst." 

" There is a portion remaining, but drink spar- 
ingly, my lord. We shall have to go through 
much fatigue ere we reach the monastery." 

So saying, the monk handed the girl the gourd 



294 The Finding: of Lot's Wife. 

of water. She drank only a very little, and re~ 
turned the vessel to him. He then gave her a 
handful of dried raisins and a piece of barley 
bread, which she ate with avidity on being assured 
by the monk that there was more for the others. 

** It needs not to ask what has befallen the no- 
ble ones, your companions," observed Brother 
Manon. "They have doubtless looked on the 
Woman of Salt?" 

" How know you that, friend?" asked Isha, in 
surprise. 

" Father Polycarp told me, on the morning of 
my arrival at the monastery, of this accursed 
valley, and of the certain fate of any man who 
entered it and looked on the awful thing hidden 
of God there." 

" O brother ! will my father and his friend 
never recover their reason and speech ? " cried 
the girl, despairingly. 

" Fear not, my lord. Within three days, if it 
please God to keep them alive till then, your 
father and the other noble ones shall be restored 
to health of mind and body." 

"But how, friend?" ejaculated Isha, filled 
with hope and joy on hearing this positive state- 
ment. 

" There is, in the church at the monastery, a 
most holy relic, the very touch of which will 
bring to his senses any man who may have been 
struck mad at the sight of Lot's Wife." 



The Pass of Many Voices. 295 

"But I saw the awful thing myself! How 
was it that I too did not lose my senses ? " 

" I know not, my lord. Father Polycarp said 
that no man could look on the face of the Woman 
of Salt and retain his reason. But it may be 
that God, in His mercy to your youth, spared 
you." 

Brother Manon did not ask any questions as 
to all that had befallen Isha and her companions 
in the Valley of Madness, or evince any curiosity 
as to the appearance of Lot's Wife, thinking 
doubtless that it would be sinful to discuss so 
awful a mystery. 

" How fared you in your journey to Jerusalem, 
friend ? " asked Isha. 

" But badly, my lord," responded the monk. 
'' I reached the Holy City on the everting of the 
third day, and went forthwith to the house of 
the English consul. He was at meat with his 
friends, and sent word, when I craved audience 
of him, that he would see me in the morning. I 
replied that the matter was urgent, and that life 
and death depended on my seeing him at once. 
Whereupon he granted me a hearing, but being 
anxious to return to his friends, he treated me 
with scant courtesy. When I began to set forth 
in order all that happened, he interrupted me, 
bidding me to be brief. As soon as he under- 
stood the matter, he asked me a number of ques- 
tions. On my speaking of the Monastery of St. 



296 The Finding of Lot's Wife. 

Lot, and that it was but three days' journey dis- 
tant, he laughed and said that he had no knowl- 
edge of it. When I stated that I knew not the 
names of the English gentlemen who had fallen 
into the hands of the Bedawin, and that I did 
not bring any letter from them, he refused to 
hear me any further, but bidding me apply to 
the Pasha for help, left the chamber abruptly to 
return to his friends. Whereupon, I went to the 
Pasha's palace, and after much difficulty, for I 
had nothing wherewith to bribe his attendants, 
obtained admission to him. He heard what I 
had to say in silence, but when I informed him 
that the armed men who had seized the monas- 
tery and taken captive the English travelers 
were Beni Azaleh, he called me ' lying Christian 
dog!' for that the Beni Azaleh lived in the 
Great Desert beyond the Euphrates. I swore to 
him by the Most Holy Name that I spoke the 
truth, nevertheless he ordered his kavasses to 
drive out the ' mad monk,' and I was accordingly 
thrust out. Seeing that it was ordained of God 
that I should get no help from those in au- 
thority, I left the Holy City to return to the 
monastery. As I neared my journey's end, at 
sunset yesterday, I met the two men, your ser- 
vants,, who informed me of the wicked and cruel 
act of the Bedawin in forcing their masters to 
descend into this accursed valley. Whereupon I 
persuaded them to accompany me down the 



The Pass of Many Voices* 297 

gorge to search for you, bringing such food and 
water as we had. Praise be to the God, the All- 
merciful, we found you all alive." 

Soon after Brother Manon had ceased speak- 
ing, the first signs of returning day appeared. 
It was not, however, till some two hours after 
sunrise, that sufficient light penetrated the gorge 
to enable them to see their way. While waiting 
for the light, the monk and the dragoman dis- 
cussed together how Yorke, who was still un- 
conscious, was to be conveyed to the monastery. 
The latter suggested that the camel on whose 
back they had found the artist should be made 
to carry him. He went to where the brute lay 
with outstretched neck, and beat it unmercifully 
with its bridle-rope, to make it rise, but the 
creature merely twitched its thick lips and rolled 
its sunken eyes, but did not move. At length 
the monk cried to the dragoman to leave it 
alone, as it was dying. He then proposed that 
he should himself carry the wounded man on his 
back. 

** Lack of food and hard travel during the past 
few days have taken some of my strength from 
me, but, with the help of God, I will carry the 
gentleman to the monastery," he said. 

Meanwhile Isha had remembered the dead 
Arab girl lying on the plain, and spoke of her to 
Brother Manon, who at once went to see the 
corpse. He was much amazed and deeply grieved 



298 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

to recognize it to be the body of the sheikh's 
daughter and the sister of Stephanos, the young 
martyr ; the girl who had risked her life to draw 
him out of the brine-pit into which he had de- 
scended to save the traitorous ex-monk. Kneel- 
ing beside it, he fervently commended her soul 
to God, and then, with the help of the dragoman, 
buried the body in the salt soil. 

On their return to the gorge Georgis and 
Hanna, assisted feebly by Isha, lifted the uncon- 
scious body of the artist on to Brother Manon's 
broad shoulders, and they started. Isha led her 
father by the hand, followed by the dragoman 
leading Aylward, while the cook brought up the 
rear, carrying their scanty supply of food and 
water. 

The descent into the awful valley they were 
now leaving had been difficult enough, but the 
ascent of the pass was more fatiguing. The 
brawny monk led the way, carrying Yorke. He 
went resolutely on and up in silence, but his 
straining muscles and labored breathing, told 
how severe was the task he had undertaken. It 
was well that the artist was of slight build, and 
much reduced by his illness, or Brother Manon's 
task would have been an impossible one. The 
perspiration streamed down the dragoman's fat 
face, but he did not grumble, though he panted 
and puffed lustily. Only once did he open his 
mouth, to exclaim dolefully, " Verily, this is the 



The Pass of Many Voices* 299 

road of the sweater!" He was unremitting in 
his attentions to his stricken master, never letting 
go of his hand, and helping him gently over the 
rough places. The cook followed, muttering to 
himself, and then listening shudderingly to the 
echoes of his murmurs. 

For several hours they made their toilsome 
way up the gloomy ravine, stopping frequently 
to rest. At length Isha, who was on the verge 
of swooning again from exhaustion, cried to 
Brother Manon that she could go no further. 
The party accordingly halted, and throwing 
themselves on the rough path, stretched out their 
aching limbs. When they had rested a little, each 
of them drank a mouthful of water and swallowed 
a little of the dry food they had, after attending 
to the wants of the three helpless men. They 
continued their journey in the afternoon, and by 
nightfall had ascended half-way up the pass. 
As soon as darkness came on they stopped for 
the night. 

The twelve hours of darkness that followed, 
were to Isha the most dreary and unhappy that 
she had ever passed. She could not sleep, but 
lay awake watching her father and Aylward, 
whom, at her suggestion, her companions had 
secured with the camel-rope, to prevent their 
wandering away during the night. Hour after 
hour passed in total darkness, but not in silence, 
for the gorge was filled with the thunderous 



300 The Finding of Lot^s Wife. 

echoes of the dragoman's snores and the old 
cook's nervous coughs. About midnight, Isha 
was startled by hearing a faint voice say, — 

" Hal ! " 

*'Did you call, Mr. Yorke ?" she asked, for she 
recognized the voice. 

" Is that — you. Miss Payne ? Where — are we ? 
Are we still in that — awful valley?" 

" No, Mr. Yorke, we are on our way back to 
the monastery, and we camped for the night in 
the ravine by which we descended to the valley." 

'' Is Ay^da— all right?" 

Isha knew that it would distress the young 
man deeply to hear the girl was dead, and was 
thinking how she could best tell him, when he 
spoke again. 

"You know — whom I mean — don't you, Miss 
Payne? Ay^da — the Beni Azaleh girl — who 
came to the valley — all alone — with a camel — to 
look for me ? " 

" She is not here, Mr. Yorke, " replied Isha, 
gently. 

" My God !— don't tell me she's dead ! " ex- 
claimed Yorke. Isha did not reply, and there 
was silence for a long time. She thought that he 
had relapsed into unconsciousness, but presently 
she heard him cry again, " Hal ! " Not receiving 
any reply, the young man cried out again in a 
broken voice, — 

" Hal ! Hal ! are you dead, too ? " 



The Pass of Many Voicesl .^\V^°^ 

" No, Mr. Yorke, Mr. Aylward is here, but he 
is — asleep," said Isha, chokingly. 

There was another long period of silence, and 
then the artist began to talk again, but was obvi- 
ously delirious. He evidently fancied, from the 
noise of the echoes, that he was in the camp of 
the Beni Azaleh. He called out his friend's 
name several times, and spoke as if answering 
questions from him. But it was the name of the 
dead Arab girl which was on his lips most in his 
delirium. He murmured continually words of 
admiration and praise in Arabic, but sometimes 
in English. Such expressions as " O pearl of 
beauty ! " '^ O gazelle-eyed ! " ''Sweet one ! " 
" Brave girl ! " were repeated over and over again, 
till the echoing gorge seemed to be full of whis- 
pering lovers. Isha listened with tears in her 
eyes. She understood now why the sheikh's 
daughter had left her tribe and had descended 
alone into the burning valley ; that it was love for 
the man who now lay murmuring her name un- 
consciously which had made her come in search 
of him and give her life for his. 

The wearied girl had begun to think that the 
sun would never rise again, when the gradual 
lightening of the gloomy defile told her that the 
day had broken. She roused her companions, 
and they continued their weary climb, but it was 
not till late in the afternoon that they reached 
the top of the ravine. Several times Brother 



302 The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

Manon, with Yorke on his back, stopped as if he 
could go no further, his face haggard, his eyes 
glaring, and foam on his lips, but on each occa- 
sion he had started again and gone doggedly on 
in silence. Professor Payne and Aylward did not 
show much sign of distress. It seemed as if 
strength of body had been given to them in place 
of their lost mental faculties. So exhausted was 
Isha that the last few hours they spent in the 
gorge passed like a fever-dream, and when at 
length they emerged into the blazing sunlight of 
the wadi above, she stood for some time gazing 
round with expressionless face, not realizing that 
they were out of the dark, echo-haunted pass at 
last. A sound in the distance restored her wan- 
dering senses to her. It was the clanging of the 
semandron at the Monastery of St. Lot, and^it 
seemed to the wearied girl the sweetest music she 
had ever heard. 

After a short rest, they went up the arid 
stony wadi, the monk still carrying Yorke, and 
the rest following with staggering steps and 
hanging heads. The sun was just setting when 
the party came in sight of the monastery. 



CHAPTER XIX. 
A Miracle. 

" Praise be to God, the Gracious, the Merci- 
ful, that He has brought us on our way in safety 
so far ! " panted Brother Manon, gently deposit- 
ing his unconscious burden on the ground. 

" By God, we have come out of hell," exclaimed 
the dragoman, wiping his streaming face. 

" Verily, I would not go again there, though I 
were offered a mountain of gold," squeaked the 
cook. 

The party stopped a few minutes to rest, and 
Isha, reclining on the hot sand, feasted her eyes 
on the distant monastery. Ecstatic visions of 
soft beds, cold water, sweet fruit, and cool breezes 
filled her mind. If she could only have felt con- 
fidence in Brother Manon's positive assurance 
that her father, her lover, and his friend would be 
restored to their health and senses in a few days, 
she would have been perfectly happy. Mean- 



304 The Finding of Lot's Wife, 

while it was bliss unspeakable to have escaped 
with their lives from the Valley of Madness and 
to be in sight of the hospitable monastery. 

The crimson glory of sunset was streaming 
over the great solitary rock, making it look like 
a gigantic pillar of carnelian. The red roofs of 
the buildings crowning it glowed as if red hot, 
and the white-washed walls were tinted with a 
pink flush. The rock stood out in sharp relief 
against the mountains beyond, buried in purple 
shadow. All round lay the salt-encrusted plain, 
over which night was creeping. 

As it would have been dangerous to attempt to 
cross the plain in the dark, in consequence of the 
numerous bitumen-pits and brine-wells that cov- 
ered its surface. Brother Manon advised, after a 
very short rest, that they should try to reach the 
monastery before darkness came on. They 
accordingly pushed on, the monk leading the 
way across the treacherous ground unerringly; 
nevertheless, they did not reach the foot of the 
rock till two hours after sunset. It was a long 
time before they succeeded in attracting the 
attention of the monks above, though Brother 
Manon shouted in his stentorian voice so power- 
fully that the dark mountains round echoed 
his cries. The dragoman and cook were too ex- 
hausted to give any assistance in rousing the 
monks, and they had all begun to think that they 
would have to stay where they were till the morn- 



A Miracle* 305 

ing, when they heard the trap-door in the wind- 
lass-tower above open, and a voice that said in 
Greek, — 

"Who calls below?" 

** It is I, Brother Manon, and with me are the 
English travelers and their servants." 

"Welcome, brother, welcome!" returned the 
voice, joyfully. " I will rouse Father Polycarp 
and the brethren, and will hasten back to let the 
rope down to you." 

Some minutes' silence followed, and then the 
voice of the hegoumenos was heard from the 
windlass-tower. 

" My son Manon, are you there ? " 

" I am in truth. Father." 

" God be thanked, that you have returned to 
us ! Who are with you, my son ? " 

" The English travelers. Father, who were car- 
ried away from the monastery by the Bedawin. 
Three of them are in evil case and helpless. 
Their two servants are also here." 

" We will lower the rope, my son. Send the 
sick men up first, that they may be attended to 
with all speed." 

There was a loud creaking sound, and pres- 
ently the rope appeared, twining and twisting 
above them, looking in the starlight like a huge 
writhing snake. Yorke was sent up first. He 
was unconscious, and lay so still and silent, as 
they put him into the net to be hauled up, that 



3o6 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

they feared for the moment that he was dead. 
Professor Payne was taken up next, and was 
followed by Aylward. Neither of the two men 
gave the smallest trouble, but behaved like obe- 
dient dumb children. 

Isha on being drawn up into the windlass- 
tower found all the monks assembled, several of 
them carrying lighted tapers. Three of them, 
one of whom was the monastery leech, were busy 
attending to Yorke, who lay on the floor. Sev- 
eral others were holding her father and her lover 
by the hand, speaking to them kindly and encour- 
agingly, but receiving no reply or sign of recog- 
nition from them. The hegoumenos welcomed 
Isha gravely, and congratulated her on her return 
to the monastery in safety and in health of body 
and mind. Neither he nor any of the monks 
asked any question of her as to what had 
happened to her companions. They seemed, 
from the expression of their faces and their 
attentions to the stricken men, to be perfectly 
aware what had caused them to lose their 
reason. 

The dragoman and the cook, both in deadly 
fear of the rope breaking, or other accident hap- 
pening, were hauled up next. They were kindly 
received by the monks to their evident relief and 
satisfaction. They had been very apprehensive 
as to the reception they might receive, fearing 
that the brethren might have heard how they 



A Miracle* • 3^7 

had denied the Christian Faith in order to save 
their Hves. They soon saw that the good men 
were ignorant of their apostasy, and the fright- 
ened, sheepish looks left their faces. 

When Brother Manon was drawn up last of all. 
Father Polycarp clasped him in his arms and 
blessed him, and all the monks embraced and 
kissed him, weeping tears of joy at his return. 
Seeing that he was scarcely able to stand from 
fatigue, two of them seized him by the arms, and 
led him away, staggering at every step. Yorke 
was then, by order of the hegoumenos, carried 
to the sick-chamber where Brother Luke, the 
leech, watched and prayed over him the rest of 
the night, for the artist seemed to be in a dying 
condition. Isha, her father, and Aylward were 
bestowed in the chamber that had been occupied 
before by the two young Englishmen. The hole 
in the roof through which Brother Manon had 
escaped, when the monastery was in the hands of 
the Beni Azaleh, was still there. Food and 
water were brought to them, but the monks 
would allow them to eat and drink very small 
quantities at a time. The dragoman and the 
cook were hospitably looked after in another part 
of the monastery. 

The whole of the next day, Isha lay dozing on 
the carpet, on which she had thrown herself 
when brought to the chamber. She only sat up 
to partake of the food and drink brought to her, 



3o8 The Finding: of Lot^s Wife. 

and even then was scarcely conscious of what 
she was doing. She was so stiff that she could 
only with difficulty bend her limbs, and she felt 
racking pains in every joint. Now that all dan- 
ger was past, and she and her companions were 
in safety, she was in a state of collapse, from 
which only perfect rest and careful nursing could 
rouse her. She was quite unable to do anything 
for the sick men, much to her distress. The 
dragoman and the cook were, however, unwearied 
in their attendance on all of them, thereby earn- 
ing the girl's deep gratitude. 

About midnight Isha was roused by the un- 
ceremonious entrance of the dragoman into the 
chamber, carrying a lighted candle. 

" Mister Art'ur!" he exclaimed in an impres- 
sive voice, addressing her. " The 'oly monks are 
going to make miracle now, to make the effendi 
your father and my masters well ! " 

The girl sat up and gazed at him for some 
time, not understanding for the moment what he 
meant. The dragoman saw this, and proceeded 
to explain that the hegoumenos and his monks 
had come in order to carry the two demented 
men to the church, where a religious ceremony 
was to be performed which would restore them 
to their senses. 

'* The monks got something in the church, I not 
know what 'xackly, but most 'oly t'ing. After 
saying prayers to God they touch my masters 



A Miracle* 3^9 

and the effendi with the t'ing, and lo-an'-be'old 
they get quite well and talk," he said. 

" Oh, Georgis ! do you think they really can do 
this?" exclaimed Isha, remembering Brother 
Manon's assurances. A thrill of joy and hope 
that seemed to clear her fatigued, dulled mind, 
and to take the pain and stiffness out of her 
limbs, ran through her at the thought. 

" Oh, yes, quite true. Mister Art'ur, T'ese 
monks wonderful men, can do miracles or any- 
t'ing," asserted the dragoman. 

'' I pray God it may be as you say, Georgis ; 
but — but I am so afraid that my dear father will 
never recover his reason." 

" You not 'fraid. Mister Art'ur. T'is place 
different from any ot'er place in the 'ole world. 
The monks make the effendi well, never fear." 

Having roused Professor Payne and Aylward, 
who rose obediently and in silence, the drago- 
man took the latter by the hand and led him 
from the chamber, after requesting Isha to follow 
with her father. Outside they found the hegou- 
menos and all the monks awaiting, each man 
holding a lighted taper in his hand. On an ex- 
temporized couch lay the unconscious body of 
Yorke, borne by four of the brethren. The 
whole party then went in procession to the 
church, headed by Father Polycarp, behind 
whom came the four monks carrying Yorke, 
followed by Isha and the dragoman leading the 



3IO The Finding of Lot's Wife* 

Professor and Aylward. Brother Manon was 
present, and his magnificent voice led the chant 
that was raised by the monks as they walked 
slowly through the moonlit courtyard and along 
the cloisters and corridors of the monastery. 

The light of the numerous lamps, with which 
the church had been brilliantly illuminated, 
streamed out of the great doors as they entered. 
The iconostasis had been removed from before 
the apse. The altar was ablaze with lights, and 
on it were displayed all the sacred relics and 
vessels. The icons, or holy pictures, had been 
taken from the walls of the church and hung up 
behind the altar. The glittering of the jeweled 
reliquary, the gleaming of the gilded icons and 
pohshed vessels, and the gorgeous colors of the 
silken altar-cloth and hangings combined to make 
a dazzling picture. 

The monks bearing the litter on which Yorke 
lay, placed it before the altar, and Isha, still hold- 
ing her father's hand, and the dragoman, grasping 
his master's, were directed to stand beside it. 
The monks, holding tapers, took up their posi- 
tions in two rows on either side. The hegoume- 
nos retired into a dark recess at the back of the 
apse, but returned in a few minutes arrayed in 
resplendent vestments, and the midnight service 
began. 

Isha never had any clear idea of what followed. 
Her limbs ached so, and she felt so ill and weak, 



A Miracle* 311 

that she was scarcely able to stand. The hope 
that the solemn appeal to God, that was evi- 
dently being made, would result in her father, her 
lover and his friend being restored to health and 
sanity sustained her. She watched all that went 
on as well as her fading eyes and dulled brain 
would permit her. The loud chanting of the 
monks, echoing through the crypt-like church, 
filled her ears like the rolling of drums. She 
could distinguish, however, the deep bass voice 
of Brother Manon, and the droning of the 
hegoumenos intoning the Greek prayers in the 
intervals of the psalmody. She could see the 
monks moving about in the procession during 
the service, kissing the icons and relics, swinging 
shining censers, and bowing and prostrating 
themselves every minute. The church was full 
of Mense clouds of incense, through which the 
light of the colored lamps hanging from the roof, 
of the candles on the altar, and of the tapers 
carried by the monks, shone mistily. 

Presently Isha became aware that all sound 
and movement in the church had suddenly 
ceased, and looked eagerly round, for she saw 
that the supreme moment had come. The 
monks had all prostrated themselves with their 
faces to the altar, before which lay the hegoume- 
nos at full length, with his hands in the attitude 
of prayer outstretched before him. For a long 
time, as it seemed to the expectant girl, who was 



312 The Finding: of Lot's Wife* 

trembling from head to foot, a deep, solemn 
silence reigned through the church. Then she 
saw Father Polycarp rise slowly, and bow many 
times before the altar, the monks meanwhile 
lying with their faces to the floor. Ascending 
the steps to the altar in bent reverential attitude, 
the hegoumenos took out of a beautiful golden 
case, swathed in silken wrappings, a long black 
staff. Having kissed it with a face full of awe, 
he turned, and held it aloft with both hands. 
Isha with dilated eyes saw him descend the 
altar-steps, and advance slowly towards them. 
She saw him touch, with the end of the staff, the 
breast of the unconscious man lying on the 
litter, and then she wanted to cry out, but could 
not, for the artist's eyes had opened and the 
color had returned to his white face ! The next 
moment the heart of the trembling girl stood 
still ; for Father Polycarp, bearing aloft the 
sacred relic, was approaching her. With the tip 
of the staff, he gently touched her father on the 
forehead. In an instant the look of ghastly 
horror on the old savant's face disappeared, and 
he glanced round with an air of surprise, and 
began to fumble for his spectacles. The hegou- 
menos then turned to touch Aylward. The 
dragoman had let go his master's hand, and was 
groveling on the floor, filled with amazement 
and terror at what he had seen. So great was 
Isha's anxiety and excitement, that every muscle 



A Miracle* 3^3 

and sense seemed to be paralyzed. Only her 
sense of hearing seemed to be left to her. There 
was a short agonizing silence, and then the 
quivering girl heard a voice say, — 

'' Good heavens, Professor ! where are we ? " 
And then a whisper, — 

" Isha, my darling ! What does all this mean ? 
How did we get here ? — Help, Professor ! help, 
Noel ! she's fainting ! " 

^ * * ^ * 

It was the Private View at the Royal Acad- 
emy. 

A small crowd was assembled before a painting 
hanging on the line in the principal room, which 
promised to be the picture of the year. It repre- 
sented a beautiful Arab girl milking a she-camel 
in a Bedawin camp in the early morning. It was 
exquisitely painted, the graceful figure of the 
girl contrasting with the ungainly camel, and its 
still more ungainly foal standing by, all legs and 
eyes. Behind the black tents rose the arid 
mountains tinged rose-pink by the rising sun. 
The girl was the only figure on the canvas. She 
was looking over her shoulder, smiling at some- 
body or something not appearing in the compo- 
sition. It was a picture that caught and charmed 
the eye at once, and exclamations of admiration 
and pleasure rose from the crowd before it. 

Presently a tall young man, with sunburnt 
face, and drooping moustaches, accompanied by 



314 The Findingf of Lot^s Wife* 

a pretty grey-eyed young lady, and followed by 
a slight-built, learned-looking old man in specta- 
cles, came into the room. A fat, dark-faced man 
in semi-Asiatic costume was in attendance on 
them. The party made its way through the 
crowd to the picture which was attracting so 
much notice. It was evident that they had seen 
it before. 

'' It seems to me more beautiful every time I 
see it ! " remarked the young lady, after they had 
stood in silence before it for a few moments. 

" Poor girl ! " said the young man, gazing at the 
lovely figure in the picture. 

*' And poor Noel — he will never forget her, " 
added the young lady. 

"What for Mister Yok painting t'is fool-pic- 
ture — common Arab girl milking one camel?" 
muttered their Asiatic attendant, contemptu- 
ously. 



THE END 



V^ OF THB^^ 

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