Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
 UP the steep sides of Mount Hor, Kanana climbed, without waiting to look for a path. He saw nothing,
heard nothing. He was all eagerness to reach the summit, in the faint hope that it might not be too
late to see the departing caravan of Raschid Airikat.
Unless a camel is fresh, unusually large and strong, or constantly urged, it rarely makes more than
two miles an hour. It was not over ten hours since the robber sheik had left the oasis, and some of
the camels were very old and exhausted. It was a foolish hope, no doubt, and yet Kanana hoped that
anything so large as a great caravan might still be distinguishable.
Up, up, up he climbed—as fast as hands
 and feet could carry him. He no longer felt the cool air of early morning. He no longer looked about
him to see the new sights of a strange oasis.
He did not even pause to look away over the desert as he climbed. The highest point was none too
high. He did not care how far he could see until he had gained the white tomb of Aaron, upon the
Had he not been too thoroughly occupied with what was above him to notice what transpired about him
and down below, he would have seen five Arab horsemen reach the stream by which he slept, almost as
he began to climb.
They were Mohammedan soldiers, thoroughly armed for war, and had evidently come from the northern
borders of Arabia, where the victorious Mussulmans were triumphantly planting the banner of Islam.
They had been riding hard, and both men and horses were exhausted. They hurried to the water. The
men hastily ate
 some food which they carried, and tethered their horses in Arab fashion, by a chain, one end of
which is fastened about the forefoot of the animal and the other end about the master, to prevent
their being stolen while the master sleeps.
The moment this was accomplished, the five men rolled themselves in their mantles, covering their
faces, as well as their bodies, and lay down upon the grass to sleep.
They were skilled in the art of making long journeys in the shortest possible time, and were
evidently upon important business; for an Arab is never in haste unless his mission is very
Before Kanana reached the temple the men were soundly sleeping, and the horses, lying down to rest
themselves, were still eating the grass about them, as a camel eats.
Panting for breath, and trembling in his eager haste, Kanana reached the tomb of Aaron: an open
porch, with white pillars
 supporting a roof of white, like a crown of eternal snow upon the summit of Mount Hor.
Between the snowy pillars Kanana paused. One quick glance at the sky gave him the points of the
compass, and shading his eyes from the glowing east, he looked anxiously to the south and west.
Sand, sand, sand, in billows like great waves of an ocean, lay about him in every direction. Far
away there were low hills, and a semblance of green which, to his practiced eye, meant a grove of
date palms upon the banks of a stream. But nowhere, search as he would, was there the faintest speck
to indicate the caravan.
He was still anxiously scanning those distant hills when the first rays of the rising sun shot from
the eastern horizon, flashing a halo of glory upon the snow-white crown of old Mount Hor, before
they touched the green oasis lying about its base.
Never, in all the ages, had the sun come
 up out of the Arabian desert to see such a tableau as his first bright beams illumined Aaron's tomb.
All absorbed in his eager search, Kanana stood upon the very edge of the white porch. One hand was
extended, grasping his shepherd's staff, the other was lifted to shade his eyes.
In his eagerness to reach forward, one foot was far before the other, and the knee was bent, as
though he were ready to leap down the steep declivity before him.
His turban, a large square piece of cloth, was bound about his head with a camel's-hair cord; one
corner was thrown back over his forehead, and a corner fell over each shoulder, like a cloak. His
coat was sheepskins stitched together. Summer and winter, rain and sunshine, the Bedouin shepherd
wears that sheepskin coat, as the best protection against both sun and frost.
KANANA STOOD UPON THE VERY EDGE OF THE WHITE PORCH.
His bare feet rested firmly upon the white platform, and the arm that held the
 shepherd's staff was knotted with muscles which a strong man might have envied him.
His beardless face was dark, but not so dark as to hide the eager flush which heightened the color
in his cheeks, and his chest rose and fell in deep, quick motions from his rapid climb.
His lips were parted. His dark eyes flashed, while the hand which shaded them stood out from his
forehead as though trying to carry the sight a little farther, that it might pierce the defiles of
those distant hills and the shadows of the date palm groves.
The sun rose higher, and its full light fell across the young Ishmaelite. It was the signal for the
morning call to prayer, and from the minaret of every mosque in the realm of Islam was sounding
La Illaha il Allah Mahamoud rousol il Allah. Kanana did not need to hear the call, however.
He instantly forgot his mission, and, a humble and devout Mohammedan, laid aside his staff and
 toward Mecca to repeat his morning prayer.
Standing erect, with his open hands beside his head, the palms turned forward, he solemnly began the
Nummee Allah voulhamda. With his hands crossed upon his breast he continued. Then he placed
his hands upon his knees, then sat upon the floor. Then with his open hands upon the floor he
touched his forehead to the platform as he repeated the closing words of the prayer.
In this position he remained for some time, whispering a petition of his own for strength and
courage to carry out the task which he had undertaken.
There was something so solemn and impressive in the death-like stillness of the early morning, upon
that solitary peak, that it almost seemed to Kanana that, if he listened, he should hear the voice
of Allah, answering his prayer.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a sharp cry, and another and another in
 quick succession mingled with savage yells.
It was not the voice of Allah, for which he had been waiting, and Kanana sprang to his feet and
looked anxiously about him.
The mountains of Arabia are not high. Among real mountains, Mount Hor would be but a rocky hill.
Looking down, for the first time, Kanana saw the stream below him, in its border of blue
forget-me-nots, and could clearly distinguish the five soldiers who had so quickly fallen asleep
upon its banks.
It was a fearful sight which met his eyes. The five men were still lying there, but they were no
longer sleeping. They were dead or dying; slain by three Bedouin robbers, who had crept upon them
for the valuable prize of their horses, and who did not dare attempt to steal the animals while the
masters were alive.
It was almost the first time that Kanana's eyes had rested upon a scene of blood, common as such
scenes are among
 his countrymen, and he stood in the porch benumbed with horror, while the robbers tore from the
bodies about them such garments as pleased them; then took their weapons, mounted three of the
horses, and leading two rode quickly away to the north.
There was no assistance which Kanana could render the unfortunate men. The caravan was already a
night's march ahead of him and every moment that he lost must be redeemed by hurrying so much the
faster under the burning sun, over the scorching sand, when, at the best, it was doubtful if flesh
and blood could stand what must be required of it.
With a shudder he turned from the terrible scene and began to descend the mountain. Soon he was upon
the banks of the stream and passing close to the spot where the five bodies were lying. He would not
run, but he hurried on, with his eyes fixed upon the ground before him.
A faint sound caught his ear. He started, clutched his staff, and turned
 sharply about, thinking that the robbers had seen him and returned. It was only one of the
unfortunate soldiers who had been left for dead. He had raised himself upon his elbow, and was
trying to attract Kanana's attention.
"Water! water! In the name of Allah, give me water!" he gasped, and fell back unconscious.
For a moment Kanana was tempted to hurry on. He did not want to go there, any more than he wanted to
delay his journey; but something whispered to him of the promises of the Koran to those who show
mercy to the suffering; that Allah would reward even a cup of water given to the thirsty.
It required no little courage of the Bedouin boy, all alone under Mount Hor, but he resolutely
turned back, filled with water the wooden cup which a shepherd always carries at his girdle, and
poured it down the parched throat of the almost insensible man.
 "Bless God for water!" he gasped. "More! give me more!"
Kanana ran to the brook and filled the cup again, but the poor man shook his head. It was too late.
He was dying.
Suddenly he roused himself. He made a desperate struggle to call back his failing senses, and, for a
moment, threw off the hand of Death.
He had almost given up, forgetting something of great importance. Steadying himself upon his elbow,
he looked into Kanana's face and said:
"You are a beardless youth, but you are an Arab. Listen to me. The mighty Prince Constantine, son of
the Emperor Heraclius, is soon to leave Constantinople, at the head of a vast army of Turks and
Greeks and Romans, like the leaves of the forest and the sand of the desert. He is coming to sweep
the Arab from the face of the earth and the light of the sun. We were bearing a letter to the Caliph
Omar, who is now at Mecca, telling him of the
 danger and asking help. If the letter does not reach him Arabia is lost and the Faithful are
destroyed. Would you see that happen?"
Too frightened to speak and hardly comprehending the situation, Kanana simply shook his head.
The man made another effort to overcome the stupor that had almost mastered him. He succeeded in
taking from his clothing a letter, sealed with the great seal, and gasped:
"In the name of Allah, will you fly with this to the great caliph?"
Hardly realizing what he said, Kanana solemnly repeated: "In the name of Allah, I will."
He took the letter and was hiding it in his bosom when the soldier grasped the cup of water, drank
ravenously, and, with the last swallow, let the cup fall from lifeless fingers.
Minute after minute passed, but Kanana did not move a muscle. His hand still
 touched the letter which he had placed in his bosom. His eyes still rested upon the lips that would
never speak again.
His sacred promise had been pledged to fly with that letter to the great caliph at Mecca. It had
been made in the name of Allah. It had been given to the man now lying dead before him. There was no
power that could retract it. It must be performed, and until it was performed no other consideration
could retard his steps or occupy his thoughts.
His lips parted and he muttered, angrily: "Is this my reward for having given a cup of water to the
thirsty?" Then it suddenly occurred to him that the caravan which he longed most of all to follow
was also upon its way southward, and that, for the present at least, for either mission the
direction was the same, and the demand for haste was great.
He caught his staff from the ground and set his face toward Mecca, pondering upon the dying
statement of the soldier till word
 for word it was fastened in his memory, and the thought that his mission was for Allah and Arabia
urged him on.
It was an easy task to follow the trail of the caravan. The Bedouin would be a disgrace to the
desert who could not recognize in the sand the recent footprint of one of his own tribe or of a
camel with which he was familiar, and who could not tell by a footprint whether the man or camel who
made it carried a burden, often what that burden was, always whether he was fresh or exhausted,
walking leisurely or hurrying.
So Kanana hurried on, daily reading the news of the caravan before him as he went, testing his
strength to the utmost before he rested, and starting again as soon as he was able; over the sand
and over the hills, through groves and villages and over sand again; always toward Mecca.