Cloaked in Danger (The Willoughby Family series)

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At last old Sam declared that he could go no farther, and sank down, begging the others to bring him water if they could find it. In vain they tried to persuade him to move along, and they supported him for some distance till they came to another sandhill, where they placed him under some bushes which might afford some slight protection. Having no fire-arms they could only leave him a pointed stick with which to defend himself. They now hurried on, eager to obtain water not only for themselves, but that they might rescue their shipmate from death. They were almost sinking when their eyes were cheered by a grove of trees, though still far off.

Roger acknowledged that they could not have been visible from where he had supposed he had seen them. As they reached the oasis their eyes were gladdened by the sight of a small pool formed by a spring bubbling out of the earth. Falling on their knees they eagerly baled the water into their mouths with their hands. Thus revived, Jumbo was able to climb one of the trees and obtain as many bunches of dates as they wanted. They now thought of their old shipmate, but when the sun went down the sky became overcast, and to find him in the dark seemed impossible.

And much as they would have enjoyed the rest under the trees, they started without delay. Roger thought he knew the direction to take, and in the cool air of night travelling was easier than in the daytime. They did not trouble their heads about lions, or leopards, or beasts of prey; though ready to sink with fatigue, they went on till they fancied that they had reached the spot where they had left old Sam. They shouted his name, but no answer came. They searched about, keeping within hail of each other. Having poured some water, however, down his throat, he somewhat revived.

The sun had already risen high when Roger awoke, and on going to the top of the sandhill to look out for the oasis, he saw between it and where he stood a number of objects. He called Stephen, who joined him. Descending the sandhill they concealed themselves behind it lest they should be discovered; but Roger, unable to restrain his curiosity, crept on one side whence he could see what was taking place.

The fugitives had turned round to meet their pursuers; a fierce fight was going forward, in which the camels on both sides seemed to be taking part by kicking and leaping at each other, and he could hear their peculiar cries amid the clash of the weapons and the shouts of the combatants. Presently he saw a person, who had apparently been thrown from his camel, come rushing at headlong speed towards the sandhill.

Roger drew back, and in another minute the stranger came round to where the party lay. He was a mere boy, dressed in loose trousers, a silk jacket, a shawl round his waist, and a turban on his head. His alarm at seeing them was so great, that he was running on to avoid them, when Jumbo, who, it will be remembered, spoke Arabic, called to him gently, telling him that they were friends. On this he came and crouched down close to them, trembling in every limb.

Jumbo as before put the question. From the sounds which reached their ears Stephen and his companions knew that the fight was still raging, but moving farther and farther from where they lay.

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The young Arab could not refrain from trying to see what was going on, and had not Roger pulled him back, would very likely have been discovered. At length the sound ceased, and crawling to the brow of the hillock, so as just to look over it, Roger saw the two parties apparently still carrying on a straggling fight in the far distance. They were by this time getting very hungry and thirsty.

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It was somewhat difficult, however, to restrain themselves. At last old Sam declared that he could stand it no longer, that he had eaten up the dates of the rest of the party and drunk up their water, and that it was his business to go and forage for them. Stephen again warned him, but in spite of this he set off, running for the date-grove.

Roger, who had climbed to the top of the hill, watched as far as he could see his figure. At last he appeared to have entered the grove, and had been gone for some time, when Selim, who, accompanied by Jumbo, had been looking out from the top of the hill, said that his enemies were coming back and were making for the date-grove.

Roger feared that old Sam would be on his way to rejoin them, and, being seen by the Arabs, would lead them to their hiding-place. The Arabs came nearer and nearer, and Roger fancied that he saw the old sailor just coming out of the grove, but on perceiving the Arabs, he darted back again, probably to conceal himself. His capture seemed certain.

Cloaked in Danger (The Willoughby Family, #2) by Jeannie Ruesch

The Arabs reached the date-grove, and to the dismay of the shipwrecked party, appeared to be preparing to pass the night there. Their sufferings now became intense; they feared also that the old sailor would be compelled to betray them. The evening was approaching, and Roger and Stephen agreed that they could scarcely hope to live through the night unless they could obtain food.

Suddenly Selim, observing their countenances, which showed how much they were suffering, put his hand in his pocket and produced a quantity of dried dates, which he offered to them. Though their thirst was great they were able to eat the dates, and felt much revived. When night came, they lay down to rest.

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There was little risk of being discovered by their enemies, but a lion or some other wild beast might scent them. Both Roger and Stephen were, however, too tired to keep awake, but Selim seemed to divine how matters stood, and offered to sit up and watch while they slept. He was faithful to his trust, for when the dawn broke and Roger awoke, he saw him still sitting, with his eyes fixed on them. Roger, however, went to the top of the hillock, on which a few bushes completely concealed him, and from thence he could see the date-grove.

In a short time the Arabs, mounted on their camels, were seen moving to the north-east.

Stephen and Roger, with their two dark-skinned companions, waited till the Arabs had disappeared in the distance; they then all four hurried to the grove. On reaching it they lost not a moment in quenching their thirst, and as soon as they had recovered their voices they shouted for old Sam, but no answer was returned.

They hunted about in all directions, and at last came to the conclusion that the Arabs had carried him off. They had taken away a large portion of the dates, but a few remained, which Selim and Jumbo, climbing the tree, got for them. They remained in the grove all day eating dates and drinking water. We must consult with Selim as to what course to pursue. Selim advised them to be very careful of the water, as it might be many days before they reached another spring.

William H G Kingston

With their sticks in their hands they trudged over the plain. Though the heat was great, the country as they advanced was less arid and sandy than farther south. After travelling for five or six days they unexpectedly came upon another date-grove shading a pool. Stephen suggested that they should return to the coast, where they might be taken off by some passing vessel.

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Having thus unexpectedly met a friend, it will be better to stick by him, and he may, through his relatives, find the means of enabling us to escape from the country. When they spoke on the subject to Selim, he advised them not to go to the coast, but to continue on till they could meet with his people, who would be sure to show their gratitude for the service they had rendered him. Day after day they trudged on, sometimes almost starved and ready to die of thirst. Occasionally they saw what they supposed to be caravans moving in the distance, but Selim recommended that they should not attempt to join them, as he feared that the Arabs might carry them off to sell as slaves.

At length one day they were traversing a wide open plain without either hillocks or bushes, when they saw some objects moving towards them. On they came rapidly, and were soon discovered to be a party of men on the backs of camels.

They accordingly stood, as Stephen advised, close together, he in front, Selim and Jumbo on one side, and Roger on the other. As the camels drew nearer, it was seen that they were ridden by dark-skinned fellows, who were brandishing in their hands long spears and scimitars. Spare these white men, they are my friends. The Arabs instead of cutting down the party, instantly reined in their animals.

Indeed, in a few minutes, from the rough motions of the camels, the skin was nearly worn off their legs. For the remainder of the day they travelled on till they reached another oasis, where their friends encamped, and very glad Stephen and Roger were to get some rest. They got accustomed to that style of travelling, and by drawing their handkerchiefs tight round their waists, they did not suffer much from the pangs of hunger, though they in a short time became merely skin and bone. They were now passing over a hilly country covered with low shrubs of a peculiarly brittle character, between which the camels had to pick their way, winding in and out among them, which greatly increased the length of the road traversed.

They observed that the Arabs moved with more caution than heretofore, several men being sent in front to act as scouts. Evening was approaching, and they were looking out for a spot on which to encamp, when, as they were passing the base of a rocky and precipitous hill, a party of horsemen dashed out from a narrow ravine on the left, where they had remained concealed from the scouts.

At the same moment, another party of men on foot appeared on the heights above them. Some did so, but the horsemen dashed in between them and the remainder, whom they furiously attacked, shooting some of the camels and ham-stringing others.