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The Finding of Lot's Wife
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•Wew l!?orft anb lon^on
Frederick A* Stokes Company
PUBLISHERS ^- w / -T
By Frederick A^ Stokes G)mpany
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
The Finding of Lot's Wife
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-
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
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 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.
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
"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
" 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-
Slowly and grumblingly the dragoman did as
he was ordered, sliding off over the donkey's
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
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
"■ Go forward and speak to the fellow, Georgis ! "
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
" 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-
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
''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
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
" 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.
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
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-
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
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
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-
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
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
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
*' May I drink, O girl ? "
Rising, she took up the bowl, and handing it
to him said, with a graceful gesture, " Drink, my
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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.
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
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
" 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^^
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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,
"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
" 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
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
" 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,"
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
• " 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
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-
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
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
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-
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
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-
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-
''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-
" Don't be an ass, Georgis ! " was his master's
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-
" 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-
A Disappointingf Discovery^ 67
" If one of you will get into the net, he will be
" I'll go up first, if you don't mind^ Hal," said
''AH right. I'll follow you. Georgis and
Hanna can send up the baggage and come up
" 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
" 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 ! "
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
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-
" 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
" 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 ? "
" Pardon the question, Professor, but how old
" 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
** 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
" 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
"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
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
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
" I suppose the monastery is a very ancient
" 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
" 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
" 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
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
" 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.
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
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
" 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
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
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-
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
" 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
"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
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
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-
" 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
" How do you make that out, Professor?"
** I will show you presently, sir, a document
over three thousand years old, in which it is
*' 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
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
''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
" You must have been able to purchase many
valuable books in your travels. Professor," re-
" 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
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
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-
" 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
"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 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-
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
>'' at ram *•
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
" 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
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,"
" 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.
"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
**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-
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
*' 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-
^' 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
" 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
" Oh, Mr. Aylward ! there are thousands of girls
who would have done the same."
" For their lovers, perhaps — not for their
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
*' 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
" 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
" My dear young lady, you're a heroine to have
faced such privations ! " exclaimed her compan-
'^ 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-
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
**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
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.'*
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
'*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
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
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
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
" 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
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
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
" Father, I, Manon, a humble follower of
Christ, and an unworthy servant of the Church,
crave to be admitted to the Brotherhood of St.
" 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
" 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
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
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
"Traveling in the wilds seems to suit you,
Miss Payne, if bright eyes are any criterion," he
remarked, after they had exchanged morning sal-
" 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-
"They're the Beni Azaleh ! What's brought
them back, I wonder ? " exclaimed Yorke.
" Perhaps their consciences troubled them for
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,
**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
" O, father, they have come for Stephanos ! "
exclaimed Isha, on hearing these words.
" May I ask who Stephanos is. Miss Payne,"
" 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.
" 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
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
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
the hegoumenos and the boy, looked on with
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
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
" 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
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
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-
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.
''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
" 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
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-
"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
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
" 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
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
pasturage and water, and did not depart soon, he
would find means to send the travelers away in
" 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-
*' 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-
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
" 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-
" 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,
" 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
** 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
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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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-
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
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-
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
"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
** 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
" 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
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
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
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
Selim, seeing that the Europeans lay bound on
the ground, and that his tribesmen had no im-
mediate intention of murdering them, remained
" 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
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
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
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.
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
" 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
" 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-
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
" 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
" 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
** What think you, O friend, will happen to
" 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
*' 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,
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
" 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
" 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
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-
"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
"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-
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
" 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
" 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
** 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-
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.
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
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-
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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,
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
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
*^ 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
" 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
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
** 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 , . '
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
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
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-
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
"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
" 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
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-
" 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.
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 ? "
" 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
" 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
" 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
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
an Arab would announce his repudiation of his
" 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
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
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
"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."
"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,
"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
" 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
' 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.
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
When daylight appeared, Aylward, happening
to glance at their escort ahead, saw, with surprise
and apprehension, that the leader was El Wahsh,
"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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" He says that the sounds we heard were
caused by evil spirits."
" The impudent black scoundrel ! " exclaimed
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
*' 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-
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-
" 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
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
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
" 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
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
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
" What's the matter ? " demanded Aylward,
on seeing these signs of agitation among his com-
" 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-
" 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
'' 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
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."
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
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
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-
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
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
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-
" 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,
" Where were all these people going, father? "
" 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
The Valley of Madness, 247
" What is it, Professor? " asked Aylward, much
" 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
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.
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 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
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
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
" Is that really you, Ayeda ? " he gasped out
** 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
'^ 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
" No, my lord ; he is dead. As I left the camp
I heard the women of his tent raising the zulghut,
"But perhaps others of the tribe will follow
" 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
''Then I must die, Ayeda. I cannot desert
" If my lord wills it, I will go in search of
" 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
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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
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-
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.
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-
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
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-
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
*' 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
" 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
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, —
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
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
'* 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
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
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
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
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
" 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
^^ And for His wonder ful works to the children
Isha heard no more. She realized that help
was at hand, and sank to the ground fainting.
' 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-
" 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
** Thanks be to God ! My lord's senses have
returned to him," he exclaimed, in his deep, clear
"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,
" It is not good to drink much at first, my
lord. Moreover, there is but little, and we must
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-
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
"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
" 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
" 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-
" 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
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
** 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
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 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
"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,
" 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.
" 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
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
"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
" 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
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
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-
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 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-
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