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    Chapter 61

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    Chapter 61
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    The Escape

    Two shots rang out together, and Sadi Hafiz went to his knees with a groan and fell sideways.

    "Get on to that horse, quick," said Jim, and almost threw her into the saddle.

    He was up behind her in a second.

    "Jim!" she whispered, and the arm that encircled her increased its pressure.

    Burdened as he was, the big horse strode out freely, and Jim, looking over his shoulder, saw that the white figures that had followed Sadi from the camp had halted to succour their fallen chief.

    "We've got ten minutes' start of them, anyway," he said, "and with any luck we ought to miss them."

    Wisely, he left the direction to the horse, who would know the country, and whose eyes would detect the pitfalls and barriers in which the plain abounded. There was no sign now of pursuers, but Jim was without illusions. If Sadi Hafiz was capable of issuing orders, there would be no dropping of the pursuit. After an hour's travelling the horse gave evidence of his weariness, and Jim dropped from the saddle and went to his head.

    "There used to be a guard house on the coast," he said, "though I don't know that a Moorish guard is much more companionable than the gentleman we have left behind."

    She was looking down at him, trying to recognise, in the unpleasant face, one vestige of the Jim she knew.

    "It is you?"

    "Oh yes, it is I," he laughed. "The make-up is good? It is an old character of mine, and if Sadi had had the sense of a rabbit, he would have remembered the fact. The nose is the difficulty," he added ruefully. "The wax gets warm in the sun and has to be remodelled, but the rest is easy."

    "But you have no teeth," she said, catching a glimpse of the black cavity of his mouth.

    "They're there, somewhere," he said carelessly. "A toothbrush and a cake of soap will make a whole lot of difference to me, Joan."

    He heard her gasp.

    "What is the matter?" he asked quickly.

    "Nothing," she said, and then: "How funny!"

    "If your sense of humour is returning, my young friend, you're on the high road to safety!"

    Before daybreak they halted near a spring and unsaddled and watered the horse.

    "I'm afraid I can give you nothing to eat," said Jim. "The only thing I can do----"

    He stripped off his jellab and unfastened his ragged shirt and produced from a pocket a small waterproof bag and carried it to the stream.

    He went down a hideous old man; he came back Jim Morlake, and she could only sit and look at him.

    "This is a dream," she said decidedly. "I shall wake up presently and find myself----" she shuddered.

    "You'll hardly be any more awake than you are at this moment," said Jim. "We are within two miles of the coast, and unless friend Sadi has given very emphatic orders, his men will not follow us to the guard-house."

    His estimate proved to be correct; they did not see a white cloak again, and reached the guard-house to find it in charge, as Jim had suspected, of a Spanish officer; for they had reached that territory which Spain regarded as within the sphere of her influence.

    "From here, we shall have to follow the coast-line and take a chance," said Jim, after interviewing the officer. "The Spaniards can't give us an escort to Tangier for political reasons--the French are rather jealous of their neighbours crossing the line, but I don't think we shall be molested."

    They made camp that night almost within view of the lights of Tangier. Jim had borrowed blankets from the Spanish outpost and spread them for the girl under the ruin of an old Moorish post.

    "By the way," he said, as he bade her good-night, before retiring himself to the windy side of the wall, "this morning, you said something was very funny--what was it?"

    "I'm not going to tell you," said Joan firmly.

    As she settled down to sleep, she wondered whether the ceremony of the morning had been legal and binding--and fervently hoped that it had.
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