Chapter 41 | The Time For Flight | Yussuf the Guide

Chapter Forty One.

“And you are sure, Yussuf?” said Mr Preston two days later.

“Yes, effendi. I have been there alone twice since, and in a few hours I had moved enough stones to let me through to the light, and in a few hours more I can make the passage so easy that a lady can go through.”

“And where the light shines in?”

“Is just over a narrow rugged path leading down the mountain—a way that has been forgotten. Effendi, after I have been there once again the way is open, and though the path is dangerous it will lead to safety, and we must escape.”

“When?” said Mr Preston eagerly.

“As soon as we can collect a little food—not much, but enough to carry us to the nearest village where we can get help.”

“And our goods—our property?”

“Must stay, excellency. Once you are all safe we can send the soldiery by the path by which we left, for the brigands will not know how we have escaped.”

“Well, I can save my drawings,” said the professor, “and they will be worth all the journey, as we have no ransom to pay.”

The next day Mr Burne was let into the secret, but it was decided not to tell the Chumleys till they were awakened on the night of the attempt.

It was hard work to keep down the feeling of elation so as not to let the chief see that the captives were full of hope, for he came day by day to visit them and complain about the length of time his messengers were gone.

But the secret was well kept, and those who shared it, in obedience to Yussuf’s suggestion, began to store away portions of their provisions so as to be prepared at any moment for a journey which might take them for many days through the mountains away from village or beaten track.

“I shall leave this place with regret,” the professor said with a sigh; “but I must say I do not relish paying for my stay with every shilling I have scraped together during my life.”

“No. Let’s get away, Preston,” said Mr Burne. “Oh, if I could only commence an action against these scoundrels for our imprisonment! I’d make them smart.”

They were sitting together among the ruins, and their thoughts naturally reverted to Yussuf and his reticent ways, for two days had passed since he had made any communication, and he had seemed to be more retiring than ever.

The sun was shining brightly, and warmed the stones where they sat, but the air seemed to be piercingly cold, and Mr Burne shivered more than once, and got up to walk about.

“I shall not be sorry to get down out of the mountains,” he said. “What do you say, Lawrence?”

“Oh! I’ve liked the stay up here very well, it has all been so new and different; and besides, I have been so well, and I feel so strong.”

“Yes, you are better, my boy,” said Mr Burne, nodding his head approvingly.

“I used to feel tired directly I moved,” continued Lawrence, “but now I scarcely ever feel tired till quite night. Yussuf says it is the mountain air.”

“Yes,” said the professor dryly, “it is the mountain air. Where is Yussuf?”

“Here, excellency,” said their guide; and they all started with surprise, he had approached so quietly. “I was coming to tell you that I have been up to the top of the old temple, and have at length traced the ancient path. I have only seen parts of it here and there, but I can make out the direction it takes, and it is right opposite to that by which we came.”

“But where does it lead?” said the professor.

“Away west, effendi—where, I cannot say; but let us get out of this place and I will lead you in safety somewhere.”

“But the old path—is it very dangerous?” said Mr Burne.

“I went out upon it last night in the darkness, and followed it for a couple of miles, excellency. It is dangerous, but with care we can get safely along.”

“You have quite cleared the passage, then?” said the professor.

“Right to the mouth, effendi. There, so as not to excite notice, I have only left a hole big enough to crawl from. Not that anyone could see, except from the mountain on the other side, and nobody is ever there.”

“When do we go, then?” said Lawrence eagerly.

“If their excellencies are willing, to-morrow night,” said Yussuf. “Every hour I am expecting to see the messenger return, and you, gentlemen, forced to agree to some terms by which in honour you will be bound to pay heavy amounts, and then it will not be worth while to escape.”

“I say, look here, Yussuf,” said Mr Burne, “are you real or only sham?”

Yussuf frowned slightly.

“Your excellency never trusted me,” he replied proudly.

“I did not at first, certainly,” said the old lawyer. “I’ll go so far as to say that in the full swing of my suspicions I was almost ready to think that you had been playing into the brigands’ hands and had sold us.”

“Oh, Mr Burne!” cried Lawrence reproachfully.

“You hold your tongue, boy. You’re out of court. You haven’t been a lawyer for nearly forty years; I have.”

“I have tried hard to win Mr Burne’s confidence,” said Yussuf gravely. “I am sorry I have failed.”

“But you have not failed, my good fellow,” cried the old lawyer. “I only say, Are you a real Turk or a sham?”

“Will your excellency explain?” said Yussuf with dignity. “I speak your tongue, and understand plain meanings, but when there are two thoughts in a word I cannot follow.”

“I mean, my dear fellow, you so thoroughly understand the thoughts and ways of English gentlemen that it is hard to think you are a born Turk.”

“Oh!” said Yussuf smiling. “I have been so much with them, excellency, and—I have tried to learn.”

“There’s a lesson for you, Lawrence,” said the professor smiling. “Well, then, Yussuf, to-morrow night.”

“Yes, excellency.”

“Then, had we not better tell the Chumleys?”

Yussuf was silent for a few moments.

“I am sorry about them,” he said at last. “We cannot leave them behind, for it would mean their death; but if we fail in our escape, it will be through them. No, excellency, say no word till we are ready to start, and then say, ‘Come!’”

“You are right, Yussuf,” said Mr Burne. “That woman would chatter all over the place if she knew: say nothing, and we must make the best of them. But I say, isn’t it turning very cold?”

“Yes, excellency, we are high up in the mountains. There is no other place so high as this, and if we do not go soon the winter will be upon us.”

“Winter? not yet,” said the professor.

“Your excellency forgets it is winter in the mountains when it may be only autumn in the plains.”