The Master Key

Page 31

And while he lay motionless three men dropped in quick succession from the top of the city wall and hid among the low bushes, crawling noiselessly from one to another and so approaching, by degrees, the little group of trees.

They were Turks, and had been sent by those in authority within the city to climb the tallest tree of the group and discover if the enemy was near. For Rob's conjecture had been correct, and the city of Yarkand awaited, with more or less anxiety, a threatened assault from its hereditary enemies, the Tatars.

The three spies were not less forbidding in appearance than the horde of warriors Rob had passed upon the desert. Their features were coarse and swarthy, and their eyes had a most villainous glare. Old fashioned pistols and double-edged daggers were stuck in their belts and their clothing, though of gorgeous colors, was soiled and neglected.

With all the caution of the American savage these Turks approached the tree, where, to their unbounded amazement, they saw the boy lying asleep. His dress and fairness of skin at once proclaimed him, in their shrewd eyes, a European, and their first thought was to glance around in search of his horse or dromedary. Seeing nothing of the kind near they were much puzzled to account for his presence, and stood looking down at him with evident curiosity.

The sun struck the polished surface of the traveling machine which was attached to Rob's wrist and made the metal glitter like silver. This attracted the eyes of the tallest Turk, who stooped down and stealthily unclasped the band of the machine from the boy's outstretched arm. Then, after a hurried but puzzled examination of the little instrument, he slipped it into the pocket of his jacket.

Rob stirred uneasily in his sleep, and one of the Turks drew a slight but stout rope from his breast and with gentle but deft movement passed it around the boy's wrists and drew them together behind him. The action was not swift enough to arouse the power of repulsion in the Garment of Protection, but it awakened Rob effectually, so that he sat up and stared hard at his captors.

"What are you trying to do, anyhow?" he demanded.

The Turks laughed and said something in their own language. They had no knowledge of English.

"You're only making fools of yourselves," continued the boy, wrathfully. "It's impossible for you to injure me."

The three paid no attention to his words. One of them thrust his hand into Rob's pocket and drew out the electric tube. His ignorance of modern appliances was so great that he did not know enough to push the button. Rob saw him looking down the hollow end of the tube and murmured:

"I wish it would blow your ugly head off!"

But the fellow, thinking the shining metal might be of some value to him, put the tube in his own pocket and then took from the prisoner the silver box of tablets.

Rob writhed and groaned at losing his possessions in this way, and while his hands were fastened behind him tried to feel for and touch the indicator of the traveling machine. When he found that the machine also had been taken, his anger gave way to fear, for he realized he was in a dangerously helpless condition.

The third Turk now drew the Record of Events from the boy's inner pocket. He knew nothing of the springs that opened the lids, so, after a curious glance at it, he secreted the box in the folds of his sash and continued the search of the captive. The Character Marking Spectacles were next abstracted, but the Turk, seeing in them nothing but spectacles, scornfully thrust them back into Rob's pocket, while his comrades laughed at him. The boy was now rifled of seventeen cents in pennies, a broken pocket knife and a lead-pencil,the last article seeming to be highly prized.

After they had secured all the booty they could find, the tall Turk, who seemed the leader of the three, violently kicked at the prisoner with his heavy boot. His surprise was great when the Garment of Repulsion arrested the blow and nearly overthrew the aggressor in turn.

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