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    Chapter 50

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    Chapter 50
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    The Courtyard

    Tangier lay bathed in the early morning sunlight, a vast mosaic of white and green, and Joan Carston gazed spellbound at the beauty of the city as the yacht moved slowly into the bay. Overhead was a cloudless blue sky; and a shore wind brought in its lap a faint, pungent and yet indescribable aroma.

    "That is the East," sniffed Lord Creith.

    Joan had thrown off the effects of her terrible experience, but the change which Lord Creith had noticed in her before they had left England was more marked than ever.

    "Do you feel equal to going ashore?"

    She nodded.

    "You're a wonderful girl, Joan," he said admiringly. "You have had more knock-down blows in the past few weeks than come to most people in the course of their lives."

    She laughed.

    "You can become inured even to knock-down blows. I think it would take a human earthquake to disturb me now."

    He shot a furtive glance in her direction.

    "You're not worrying any more about--about Morlake?"

    She seemed to be examining her own mind before she replied.

    "It is difficult to tell how I feel. I have such faith in him and this feeling--that if anything terrible had happened I should know."

    Lord Creith was only too happy to agree. He had a weakness for agreeing to all cheerful, and for dissenting violently from all dismal, predictions.

    "The Captain says he has arranged to stay here a week and I think we can well afford the time."

    He had booked rooms at the big white hotel that overlooked the beach and, later in the day, from the broad terrace, she could gaze in wonder at the confused jumble of buildings, which made modern Tangier.

    "Rather like the Old Testament lit by electricity," said his lordship. "I don't know whether I've read that or whether I've invented it. If I've invented it, it is jolly good. I hope you're not being disappointed, Joan. These Eastern cities are never quite so pleasant near at hand as they are from three miles out at sea. And the smell--phew!" He dabbed his nose with his handkerchief and pulled an unpleasant face.

    "Jim lived here for years," she said.

    "Even that doesn't make it smell like Attar of Roses," said her practical father. "What was he doing here?"

    "Captain Green says he was in the diplomatic service. I am going to enquire."

    The next day she threaded the tortuous street in which the various consulates were situated. The news she secured about Jim Morlake was, however, of the most fragmentary character. By very reason of his profession, the officials at the consulates and embassies were reticent. She was, however, able to confirm the Captain's statement, which had been news to her, that for some years Jim Morlake had been something of a power in this city. Lord Creith knew the British Minister and they went to tea at the Residency and Joan listened without hearing to the talk of concessions, of representations, of the enormities of the sanitary council and the hideous injustice which was inflicted by the native basha upon the unfortunate subjects of the Sultan.

    She did not accompany her father in his visit to the prison and she was glad afterwards, when he brought back a highly coloured narrative of his experience.

    "A hell upon earth," he described it tersely, and she felt a little sinking of heart. If the method of the Kasbah was the standard of the Moorish treatment of prisoners, then it would go hard with Jim.

    It was the third day of their visit and already Joan had almost wearied of the town. She had seen the great marketplace, and wandered amidst the charcoal sellers and the kneeling camels, had watched the native jugglers and the professional holy men, and chaffered with the sellers of brass in the bazaar.

    "The prettiest part of Tangier one doesn't see. Do you remember that ugly street we passed through at the back of the mosque?" she asked. "A very old door opened and I caught a glimpse of the most gorgeous garden and there were two veiled women on a balcony, feeding the pigeons. It was so lovely a picture that I nearly went in."

    Lord Creith said something about the insanitary conditions of the houses and went on to discuss the hotel bill. That afternoon, they walked up the hill to see a gun play. A number of tribesmen had come in from the hills to celebrate the anniversary of a local saint's death and at her request he turned aside from the market place to show her the exterior of the prison.

    She shuddered as a horrible face leered out at her from behind the bars.

    "Do you want to have a look inside?"

    "No thank you, Daddy," she said hastily, and they turned their steps toward the bazaar.

    Lord Creith opened his lawn umbrella and put it up, for the sun's rays were unpleasantly hot.

    "East is East and West is West," he chanted. "What always interests me about these fellows is, what are they thinking about? You don't really get into the East until you understand its psychology."

    The girl, who had been walking behind him, did not answer, but he was used to that.

    "Now, if you were to ask me----" he began and turned his head to emphasise his remarks.

    Joan was not there!

    He strode back along the street. A begging man stood at the corner of a court, demanding alms in the name of Allah; a stout veiled woman was waddling away from him carrying a basket of native work; but there was no sign of Joan. He looked up at the high walls on either side, as though he expected to find her perched miraculously on the top.

    And then the seriousness of possibilities struck him and he ran along the uneven cobbled street to the end. He looked left and right, but there was no sign of Joan. In one street he saw four men carrying a wooden case, chanting as they went, and he came back to the beggar and was about to ask him if he had seen a lady, when he saw that the man had been blinded.

    "Joan!" he roared.

    There was no answer. A man who was asleep in the shadow of a doorway woke with a start, stared at the pallid old man, then, cursing all foreigners who disturb the rest of the faithful, curled up and went to sleep again.

    Lord Creith saw in the distance a French officer of gendarmes and ran up to him.

    "Have you seen a European lady--my daughter----?" he began incoherently.

    Rapidly he told the story of the girl's disappearance.

    "Probably she has gone into one of the houses. Have you any Moorish friends?" asked the officer.

    "None," said Lord Creith emphatically.

    "Where was she when you saw her last?" and Lord Creith pointed.

    "There is a short cut to the sok near here," suggested the officer and led the way.

    But Joan was not in the big market place and Lord Creith hurried back to the hotel. The lady had not returned, the manager told him. She was not on the terrace. The only person on the terrace was a tall man in grey, who was fanning himself gently with his broad-brimmed sombrero.

    He looked round at the sound of Lord Creith's voice and jumping to his feet, hurried toward him.

    "Morlake!" gasped Creith. "Joan...!"

    "What has happened to her?" asked Jim quickly.

    "She has disappeared! My God, I'm afraid--I'm afraid!"
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