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    Chapter 53

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    Chapter 53
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    A Visit to the Basha

    Hamon had spoken no more than the truth when he had said that Jim was in serious trouble with the authorities. But it was that kind of serious trouble which he could handle. The basha of Tangier, governor and overlord of the faithful, was at coffee when Jim was announced by the great man's majordomo. The basha pulled his beard and frowned horribly.

    "Tell the Excellency that I cannot see him. There has been a complaint by the Shereef Sadi Hafiz which must go before the Consulate Board to-morrow."

    The servant disappeared, to return almost immediately.

    "Lord," he said, "Morlaki sends you one word and waits your answer."

    "You're a fool," said the basha angrily. "I tell you I will not see him. What is the word?"

    "The word, Lord, is 'sugar.'"

    It was an innocent enough word, but the official's hand came straight to his beard and plucked at it nervously.

    "Bring him to me," he said after a while, and Jim came into the presence unabashed.

    "Peace on your house, Tewfik Pasha!" he said.

    "And on you peace!" gabbled the other, and, with a wave of his hand, dismissed the servant from the room. "Now I tell you, Excellency, that there is serious trouble in Tangier. The Shereef Sadi Hafiz has brought charges against you of breaking into"--he lowered his voice fearfully--"his harem."

    "O la la!" said Jim contemptuously. "Do I come here to talk of harems, Tewfik? I come here to talk sugar--great cases of sugar that came to you in the spring of the year of the rising, and in those cases of sugar were rifles, which went out to the pretender."

    "God give you grace!" groaned the basha. "What can I do? If Sadi makes a complaint I must listen to him, or my authority is gone. As to the sugar----"

    "We will not talk about sugar," said Jim, sitting down on a cushion in front of the basha's divan. "We will talk about a lady who has been taken from this town through the agency of Sadi Hafiz."

    "If you can prove this----"

    "What proof is there in Tangier?" said Jim scornfully. "Where you may buy a thousand witnesses for ten pesetas on either side! You know Sadi, Tewfik: he has been your enemy----"

    "He has also been my friend," said Tewfik uneasily.

    "He is your enemy now. A week ago he sent word to the Sultan that you had been plotting with the Spaniards to sell a railway concession."

    "May he die!" exploded the basha. "I did no more than give a feast to a distinguished Spanish Excellency----"

    Again Jim stopped him.

    "This much I tell you, that you may know how you stand with Sadi. Now give me authority to deal with him."

    The basha hesitated.

    "He is a very powerful man, and the Angera people are friends of his. They say that he is also a friend of Raisuli, though I doubt this, for Raisuli has no friends. If I do not take action----"

    "How can you take action if Sadi Hafiz is in prison?" asked Jim quietly, and the basha jumped.

    "Prison? Bismallah! Could I put a man of his importance in the kasbah? You're mad, Morlake! What crime?"

    "Find me a crime at the right moment," said Jim. He took from his pocket a thick bundle of thousand-peseta notes and threw them into the lap of the governor of Tangier, "God give you peace!" he said as he rose.

    "And may he give you many happy dreams!" replied the basha mechanically, as he touched the notes lovingly.

    Jim went back to the hotel and saw Lord Creith, and for once that nobleman did not object to being bothered.

    "It is going to be difficult to search the houses where she may be hidden," said Jim. "I've got into bad trouble already. The only searches we can make are purely unauthorised. Of one thing I'm certain--that they have not gone along the Fez Road. I've gone twenty miles beyond the place where we found the trolley, and nobody had seen such a party. They must be in the vicinity, and to-night I am going out to conduct my investigations alone."

    He was impatient to be gone, the more so as Lord Creith expressed a desire to accompany him. The old man went up to his room to get an authority he had procured that afternoon from the international consulates, and whilst he was waiting Jim stepped out on to the balcony. The night was chill, but a full moon rode serenely in the unclouded heavens, and he stood spellbound for a moment by the beauty of the scene. The broad terrace was deserted except for one man who sat with his coat collar turned about his ears, his feet raised to the stone parapet.

    American or English, thought Jim. Nobody else would be mad enough to risk the ills which are supposed to attend the night air.

    The stranger was smoking a cigar, and Jim sniffed its fragrance and found it good, but Creith appeared at that moment with the authorisation.

    "I'm afraid it is not going to help you much, Morlake," he said, "but in such places as acknowledge the Sultan you will find it of assistance with the local authorities." He held out his hand. "Good luck to you!" he said simply. "Bring back my girl--I want her, and I think you want her too."

    Jim pressed the hand of the old man in his, his heart too full for words. Dropping his hand on Creith's shoulder, he nodded, and then gently pushed him through the glass door into the lobby of the hotel. He needed solitude at that moment.

    He stood for a moment, his eyes on the old man, as, with bowed shoulders, he walked up the carpeted corridor; then, turning abruptly, Jim made for the steps that led to the Beach Road. He was on the point of descending when a voice hailed him:

    "Hi!"

    It was the smoker of cigars. Thinking that he had made a mistake, he was going on.

    "Hi! Come here, Morlake!"

    Astounded, he turned, and went toward the lounger.

    "As you know me well enough to call me by name, I feel no diffidence in telling you that I'm in a great hurry," he said.

    "I suppose you are," drawled the man on the seat, crossing his legs comfortably. "What I want to know is this: have you seen anything of my friend Hamon?"

    Jim stooped to get a better view of the man's face. It was Captain Welling!
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