When daylight came the captives could
scarcely believe that the events of the preceding
night had not been all a dream. There was the
document, however, to prove their reality, and Guy
was deeply studying its faded characters when the
His face was radiant with happiness,
an expression which quickly gave way to deep sadness
as a big Somali entered with a platter of food.
The latter had barely closed the door when Canaris
held up a warning finger and motioned the Englishmen
to draw near.
“It is well,” he said
softly. “I will tell you what I have done.
Near the palace lives a Jewish merchant whom I know
well. To him I went last night and by the aid
of your gold made a good bargain. On the western
side of the city, close by the wall, is a deserted
guard-house that was once used before the watch-towers
were built. Here the Jew promised to take for
me the goods I purchased namely, a supply
of dates, figs, and crackers, three revolvers, three
rifles with boxes of shells, three sabers, two ancient
bronze lamps with flasks of palm oil, a box of English
candles, and four long ropes with iron hooks on the
“He will betray you to the Emir,” said
Guy in alarm.
“Oh, no,” returned Canaris,
“no danger of that. I know a little secret
concerning my Jewish friend that would put his head
above the town walls in an hour’s time.
The things are even now hidden in the deserted house,
you may rely on that.”
“But how are we going to get
out of this infernal dungeon?” asked Guy.
“And how can we pass through the streets to the
edge of the town?”
For answer the Greek opened the leather
case that he had brought with him and took out three
revolvers, three boxes of shells, a coil of rope,
and a sharp knife.
“These are my surgical instruments,”
he said. “I will put them under the straw,”
and he suited the action to the word.
“Affairs outside have changed
somewhat,” he continued. “The people
are sullen and restless. They mistrust the Emir,
and fear they will be cheated of the pleasure they
are looking forward to.”
Guy turned pale. “Then we are lost!”
“No, you are saved,” said
Canaris. “That very fact works for your
salvation. The Emir is alarmed; he fears for himself,
not for you. His troops are few since he despatched
the caravan to Zaila, and at night, for better security,
he takes guards from the prison courtyard and stations
them before the palace. This leaves three guards
to contend with; one watches in the corridor, one
stands before the prison door, and the third guards
the gateway that opens from the prison yard on to a
dark avenue of the town. If all goes well you
will be free men at midnight. I must hurry away
now. Listen well to my instructions, and do just
as I tell you.
“You,” and he turned to
Melton, “must pretend that your wound is bad.
Refuse to eat and lie on the straw all the time.
It will be better if I do not return today. I
fear that even now Rao Khan grows suspicious.
The Arab doctor is angered because I have assumed
his duties. At midnight, if you listen sharply,
you will hear the guard relieved by a new man.
Soon after that knock on the door, and when the guard
looks in show him the wounded man, who will then feign
to be very bad. I sleep in a rear apartment of
the palace. The guard will send for me, and I
will come. Otherwise my visiting you at that
time of night would be looked upon with suspicion.
The rest I will tell you then. Don’t despair.
All will be well; till midnight, farewell.”
Canaris glided from the dungeon, and
the prisoners were alone. They passed the long
hours of that day in a strange mixture of hope and
fear. The difficulties to be overcome seemed
insurmountable. They must escape from the prison,
pass through the very midst of their bloodthirsty
enemies, scale the wall, and then where
were they? Hundreds of miles from the coast,
surrounded by barbarous and savage people, and their
only hope that mysterious underground river which in
itself was a thing to be feared.
But, on the other hand, speedy death
awaited them in the dungeon of Rao Khan. The
chances were truly worth taking.
They followed instructions closely
when the guard brought them food at noon, and in the
evening Melton tossed on the floor as though in pain.
The thrice-welcomed darkness came at last, and the
light faded out of their dungeon. Once a horrible
thought entered Guy’s mind. What was to
prevent the Greek from making his escape alone, and
abandoning the Englishmen to their fate? It was
but momentary, however, and then he dismissed the
suspicion with a feeling of shame. He had already
learned to trust the Greek implicitly.
Crouched by their dungeon door, they
listened by the hour, and at last their patience was
rewarded. Voices were heard, steps approached
and died away, and then all was silent.
The time for action had come.
Melton threw himself on the straw
and moaned. Guy rapped sharply on the door and
waited in suspense. Almost instantly it opened,
and the guard, a tall Nubian, pushed his lamp into
the doorway and followed it up with head and shoulders.
“Canaris, Canaris!” said
Guy earnestly, pointing to Melton, who uttered at
that moment a most unearthly groan.
The guard drew back and shut the door.
His soft tread echoed down the corridor, and all was
The suspense of the next five minutes
Guy will never forget as long as he lives. It
seemed to his excited imagination as though an hour
had passed by, when suddenly sounds were heard in
the corridor, and in an instant more Canaris stood
before them, his leather case at his side, a lamp
in his hand. He closed the door, opened, the case,
and drew out two wide linen tunics and two long jackets
such as the Émir’s troops wore.
“Put these on,” he whispered.
“You can wear your helmets; there are many of
them in Harar.”
As he spoke he drew an Arab burnous
over his head, shading entirely his light hair and
mustache. He next pulled the revolvers and shells
from under the straw, distributed them around, and
with the knife cut the rope in a dozen parts.
By this time Guy and Melton had donned their disguises
and were ready for action.
Up to this point Guy had supposed
that Canaris had bribed the guards and paved the way
out of prison.
“You are sure the guards will let us pass?”
Canaris looked at him in wonder, and then a smile
rippled over his face.
“You thought I had bribed the
guards,” he said. “Ten thousand pounds
could not tempt them. They would only lose their
heads in the morning. It matters little,”
he added. “They will lose them anyhow.
But our time has come; be ready now to assist.”
He motioned Guy and Melton behind
the door, and then, pulling it partly open, uttered
a few words in a strange tongue.
Instantly the powerful frame of the
big Nubian entered, and as he stood for one second
on the dungeon floor, sudden mistrust in his ugly
features, Canaris leaped at his throat and bore him
heavily to the ground.
“Quick!” he cried, and
in an instant Guy and Melton had seized the struggling
man’s arms and feet.
Still pressing the fellow’s
windpipe with one muscular hand, Canaris thrust a
gag into the gaping mouth, and in two minutes their
captive was lying bound and helpless on the straw.
“What did you tell him?” asked Guy.
“I said our lamp was going out,”
Canaris replied. “And now for the man at
the prison door. I must get him inside, for the
post is in plain view of the guard at the gate.”
A solution of this puzzling problem
was closer at hand than anyone imagined. The
creaking of a door was heard, followed by approaching
“Here he comes now!” said
Canaris in an excited whisper. “He has grown
suspicious, and has determined to investigate.
Canaris darted to the other side of
the doorway, and then ensued another period of chilling
The tread came nearer, and at last
another stalwart Nubian blocked the doorway with his
massive bulk. His look of wonder was comical as
he saw his comrade gagged and bound on the dungeon
floor, but before the half articulated exclamation
could escape his lips Canaris had him by the throat,
and down they came. The fellow uttered one cry,
and then, as his head struck the edge of the door
in falling his struggles lessened, and with no trouble
at all he was gagged and bound.
Canaris tore the ammunition from their
belts, handed Guy and Melton their rifles, and then,
blowing out the lamp, he pushed them into the corridor
and bolted the door.
“Two heads will be off in the
morning,” he remarked grimly. “One
more victory and we are out of prison.”
He blew out the light that stood in
the corridor and led the way through the darkness
till he reached the door. He pulled it open, a
crack revealing the moonlit courtyard, and took a long,
“There is the man we want,”
he whispered, pointing across the court, and putting
his eyes to the crevice Guy saw against the massive
prison wall a dark shadow leaning grimly on a rifle.