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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Sadek first disarmed his adversary


Sadek

said they must be Sawars--mounted soldiers. Abbas Ali said they were robbers from Afghanistan. We shall see later what they were.

At 6.30 p.m. we left--it was quite dark--and we had gone but two miles when a distant voice called upon us to stop. By his speech the stranger seemed very excited when he reached us, and said we must keep the track, to the left and not follow the one to the right where two trails branched off. We could not see his face, for he kept some twenty or thirty yards off, and besides, his face was wrapped all round in the tail of his turban. We professed to be thankful for the information, but continued on the track to the right, which seemed greatly to disturb him--at least, judging by the number of times he entreated us to follow his advice.

Both Sadek and Abbas Ali corroborated my conviction that this was a trap laid for us. The man, on seeing us go a different way from the one he advised us, ran away, and presently we heard some shrill whistles which were no doubt signals to his companions.

We had gone but another mile when suddenly a figure with a gun in hand sprang before us and seized the camel man by the chest.

"Whose caravan is this?" he shouted.

"It is the _ferenghi's_," hastily replied the camel man.

There was a short pause in the conversation

when our interlocutor, looking up at my camel which had got close upon him, perceived himself covered by my rifle.

Sadek had leapt off his camel as quick as lightning and shoved the muzzle of his Winchester in the man's face. As the stranger's demeanour was most peculiar and his answers incoherent as well as flippant, Sadek first disarmed his adversary, then turned his own rifle the round way about and gave the man a good pounding for his impertinence in holding up my camel man. We heard a number of voices of people hidden all around. When the fellow managed to effect an escape he gave an alarm signal, and we saw a lot of black figures jump up and stampede for their lives.

This furnished a little variation in our dreary night marches, and we proceeded briskly, Sadek, Abbas Ali and I being most grateful to our unknown friends for the amusement they had provided us.

Some three miles further we came upon several caravans that had halted and were hiding, for they were aware of robbers being about--they had seen fresh tracks of their horses during the day and were in fear of being attacked. At first when we appeared on the scene they mistook us for brigands, and as we discovered them hidden we also mistook them for robbers, so that the beginning of our interview did not lack in humour.

We had a hearty laugh over it all when their identity and ours were established, and after a few minutes' halt we continued our journey on soft sand, rather undulating, with frequent depressions in places. We travelled the whole night of December 1st, passing to the right of the salt deposits--which looked like a big stretch of country covered with snow and threw out a certain luminosity, possibly because the salt crystals reflected and condensed what light there was from the stars. As the hours of the night went by we gradually left the salt stretch behind us to the north, and proceeded on the flat for some distance.


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