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Title: Oriental Encounters - Palestine and Syria, 1894-6
Author: Pickthall, Marmaduke William, 1875-1936
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      | Transcriber's note:                                         |
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      | Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been  |
      | preserved. Inconsistent spellings of Arabic terms have been |
      | preserved.                                                  |
      |                                                             |
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      | document.                                                   |
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      +-------------------------------------------------------------+



ORIENTAL ENCOUNTERS

Palestine And Syria (1894-5-6)

by

MARMADUKE PICKTHALL



London: 48 Pall Mall
W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.
Glasgow Melbourne Auckland
Copyright 1918



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                             PAGE.

        INTRODUCTION                                  1

     I. RASHÎD THE FAIR                              11

    II. A MOUNTAIN GARRISON                          20

   III. THE RHINOCEROS WHIP                          28

    IV. THE COURTEOUS JUDGE                          36

     V. NAWÂDIR                                      45

    VI. NAWÂDIR (_continued_)                        54

   VII. THE SACK WHICH CLANKED                       68

  VIII. POLICE WORK                                  77

    IX. MY COUNTRYMAN                                87

     X. THE PARTING OF THE WAYS                      96

    XI. THE KNIGHT ERRANT                           106

   XII. THE FANATIC                                 117

  XIII. RASHÎD'S REVENGE                            125

   XIV. THE HANGING DOG                             134

    XV. TIGERS                                      142

   XVI. PRIDE AND A FALL                            151

  XVII. TRAGEDY                                     161

 XVIII. BASTIRMA                                    171

   XIX. THE ARTIST-DRAGOMAN                         181

    XX. LOVE AND THE PATRIARCH                      188

   XXI. THE UNPOPULAR LANDOWNER                     198

  XXII. THE CAÏMMACÂM                               209

 XXIII. CONCERNING BRIBES                           218

  XXIV. THE BATTLEFIELD                             226

   XXV. MURDERERS                                   237

  XXVI. THE TREES ON THE LAND                       245

 XXVII. BUYING A HOUSE                              255

XXVIII. A DISAPPOINTMENT                            264

  XXIX. CONCERNING CRIME AND PUNISHMENT             273

   XXX. THE UNWALLED VINEYARD                       282

  XXXI. THE ATHEIST                                 291

 XXXII. THE SELLING OF OUR GUN                      302

XXXIII. MY BENEFACTOR                               311



INTRODUCTION


Early in the year 1894 I was a candidate for one of two vacancies in
the Consular Service for Turkey, Persia, and the Levant, but failed to
gain the necessary place in the competitive examination. I was in
despair. All my hopes for months had been turned towards sunny
countries and old civilisations, away from the drab monotone of London
fog, which seemed a nightmare when the prospect of escape eluded me. I
was eighteen years old, and, having failed in one or two adventures, I
thought myself an all-round failure, and was much depressed. I dreamed
of Eastern sunshine, palm trees, camels, desert sand, as of a Paradise
which I had lost by my shortcomings. What was my rapture when my
mother one fine day suggested that it might be good for me to travel
in the East, because my longing for it seemed to indicate a natural
instinct, with which she herself, possessing Eastern memories, was in
full sympathy!

I fancy there was some idea at the time that if I learnt the languages
and studied life upon the spot I might eventually find some
backstairs way into the service of the Foreign Office; but that idea,
though cherished by my elders as some excuse for the expenses of my
expedition, had never, from the first, appealed to me; and from the
moment when I got to Egypt, my first destination, it lost whatever
lustre it had had at home. For then the European ceased to interest
me, appearing somehow inappropriate and false in those surroundings.
At first I tried to overcome this feeling or perception which, while I
lived with English people, seemed unlawful. All my education until
then had tended to impose on me the cult of the thing done habitually
upon a certain plane of our society. To seek to mix on an equality
with Orientals, of whatever breeding, was one of those things which
were never done, nor even contemplated, by the kind of person who had
always been my model.

My sneaking wish to know the natives of the country intimately, like
other unconventional desires I had at times experienced, might have
remained a sneaking wish until this day, but for an accident which
freed me for a time from English supervision. My people had provided
me with introductions to several influential English residents in
Syria, among others to a family of good position in Jerusalem; and it
was understood that, on arrival in that country, I should go directly
to that family for information and advice. But, as it chanced, on
board the ship which took me to Port Said from Naples I met a man who
knew those people intimately--had been, indeed, for years an inmate of
their house--and he assumed the office of my mentor. I stayed in
Cairo, merely because he did, for some weeks, and went with him on the
same boat to Jaffa. He, for some unknown reason--I suspect
insanity--did not want me in Jerusalem just then; and, when we landed,
spun me a strange yarn of how the people I had thought to visit were
exceedingly eccentric and uncertain in their moods; and how it would
be best for me to stop in Jaffa until he sent me word that I was sure
of welcome. His story was entirely false, I found out later, a libel
on a very hospitable house. But I believed it at the time, as I did
all his statements, having no other means of information on the
subject.

So I remained at Jaffa, in a little _gasthaus_ in the German colony,
which had the charms of cleanliness and cheapness, and there I might
have stayed till now had I awaited the tidings promised by my
counsellor. There for the first two weeks I found life very dull. Then
Mr. Hanauer, the English chaplain, and a famous antiquarian, took pity
on my solitary state, walked me about, and taught me words of Arabic.
He was a native of Jerusalem, and loved the country. My sneaking wish
to fraternise with Orientals, when I avowed it after hesitations,
appeared good to him. And then I made acquaintance with a clever
dragoman and one of the most famous jokers in all Syria, who happened
to be lodging at my little hostelry, with nothing in the world to do
but stare about him. He helped me to throw off the European and plunge
into the native way of living. With him I rode about the plain of
Sharon, sojourning among the fellâhîn, and sitting in the coffee-shops
of Ramleh, Lydda, Gaza, meeting all sorts of people, and acquiring the
vernacular without an effort, in the manner of amusement. From dawn to
sunset we were in the saddle. We went on pilgrimage to Nebi Rubîn, the
mosque upon the edge of marshes by the sea, half-way to Gaza; we rode
up northward to the foot of Carmel; explored the gorges of the
mountains of Judæa; frequented Turkish baths; ate native meals and
slept in native houses--following the customs of the people of the
land in all respects. And I was amazed at the immense relief I found
in such a life. In all my previous years I had not seen happy people.
These were happy. Poor they might be, but they had no dream of wealth;
the very thought of competition was unknown to them, and rivalry was
still a matter of the horse and spear. Wages and rent were troubles
they had never heard of. Class distinctions, as we understand them,
were not. Everybody talked to everybody. With inequality they had a
true fraternity. People complained that they were badly governed,
which merely meant that they were left to their devices save on great
occasions. A Government which touches every individual and interferes
with him to some extent in daily life, though much esteemed by
Europeans, seems intolerable to the Oriental. I had a vision of the
tortured peoples of the earth impelled by their own misery to desolate
the happy peoples, a vision which grew clearer in the after years.
But in that easy-going Eastern life there is a power of resistance,
as everybody knows who tries to change it, which may yet defeat the
hosts of joyless drudgery.

My Syrian friend--the Suleymân of the following sketches--introduced
me to the only Europeans who espoused that life--a French Alsatian
family, the Baldenspergers, renowned as pioneers of scientific
bee-keeping in Palestine, who hospitably took a share in my
initiation. They had innumerable hives in different parts of the
country--I have seen them near the Jaffa gardens and among the
mountains south of Hebron--which they transported in due season, on
the backs of camels, seeking a new growth of flowers. For a long while
the Government ignored their industry, until the rumour grew that it
was very profitable. Then a high tax was imposed. The Baldenspergers
would not pay it. They said the Government might take the hives if it
desired to do so. Soldiers were sent to carry out the seizure. But the
bee-keepers had taken out the bottom of each hive, and when the
soldiers lifted them, out swarmed the angry bees. The soldiers fled;
and after that experience the Government agreed to compromise. I
remember well a long day's ride with Emile and Samuel Baldensperger,
round by Askelon and Ekron, and the luncheon which a village headman
had prepared for us, consisting of a whole sheep, roast and stuffed
with nuts and vegetables; and a day with Henri Baldensperger in the
Hebron region. The friendships of those days were made for life.
Hanauer, the Baldenspergers, Suleymân, and other natives of the
country--those of them who are alive--remain my friends to-day.

In short, I ran completely wild for months, in a manner unbecoming to
an Englishman; and when at length, upon a pressing invitation, I
turned up in Jerusalem and used my introductions, it was in
semi-native garb and with a love for Arabs which, I was made to
understand, was hardly decent. My native friends were objects of
suspicion. I was told that they were undesirable, and, when I stood up
for them, was soon put down by the retort that I was very young. I
could not obviously claim as much experience as my mature advisers,
whose frequent warnings to me to distrust the people of the country
thus acquired the force of moral precepts, which it is the secret joy
of youth to disobey.

That is the reason why the respectable English residents in Syria
figure in these pages as censorious and hostile, with but few
exceptions. They were hostile to my point of view, which was not then
avowed, but not to me. Indeed, so many of them showed me
kindness--particularly in my times of illness--that I cannot think of
them without a glow of friendliness. But the attitude of most of them
was never mine, and the fact that at the time I still admired that
attitude as the correct one, and thought myself at intervals a sad
backslider, made it seem forbidding. In my Oriental life they really
were, as here depicted, a disapproving shadow in the background. With
one--referred to often in these tales--I was in full agreement. We
lived together for some months in a small mountain village, and our
friendship then established has remained unbroken. But he, though not
alone, was an exception.

Owing to the general verdict on my Arab friends, I led what might be
called a double life during the months of my first sojourn in
Jerusalem; until Suleymân, the tourist season being ended, came with
promise of adventure, when I flung discretion to the winds. We hired
two horses and a muleteer, and rode away into the north together. A
fortnight later, at the foot of the Ladder of Tyre, Suleymân was
forced to leave me, being summoned to his village. I still rode on
towards the north, alone with one hired muleteer, a simple soul. A
notion of my subsequent adventures may, perhaps, be gathered from the
following pages, in which I have embodied fictionally some impressions
still remaining clear after the lapse of more than twenty years. A
record of small things, no doubt; yet it seems possible that something
human may be learnt from such a comic sketch-book of experience which
would never be derived from more imposing works.



CHAPTER I

RASHÎD THE FAIR


The brown plain, swimming in a haze of heat, stretched far away into
the distance, where a chain of mountains trenched upon the cloudless
sky. Six months of drought had withered all the herbage. Only
thistles, blue and yellow, and some thorny bushes had survived; but
after the torrential winter rains the whole expanse would blossom like
the rose. I traversed the plain afterwards in spring, when cornfields
waved for miles around its three mud villages, wild flowers in mad
profusion covered its waste places, and scarlet tulips flamed amid its
wheat.

Now all was desert. After riding for four days in such a landscape, it
was sweet to think upon the journey's end, the city of perennial
waters, shady gardens, and the song of birds. I was picturing the
scene of our arrival--the shade and the repose, the long, cool drinks,
the friendly hum of the bazaars--and wondering what letters I should
find awaiting me, all to the tune of 'Onward, Christian soldiers'--for
the clip-clap of a horse's hoofs invariably beats out in my brain some
tune, the most incongruous, against my will--when a sudden outcry
roused me. It came from my companion, a hired muleteer, and sounded
angry. The fellow had been riding on ahead. I now saw that he had
overtaken other travellers--two men astride of one donkey--and had
entered into conversation with them. One of the two, the hindmost, was
a Turkish soldier. Except the little group they made together, and a
vulture, a mere speck above them in the blue, no other living creature
was in sight. Something had happened, for the soldier seemed amused,
while my poor man was making gestures of despairing protest. He
repeated the loud cry which had disturbed my reverie, then turned his
mule and hurried back to meet me.

'My knife!' he bellowed 'My knife!--that grand steel blade which was
my honour!--so finely tempered and inlaid!--an heirloom in the family!
That miscreant, may Allah cut his life!--I mean the soldier--stole it.
He asked to look at it a minute, seeming to admire. I gave it, like
the innocent I am. He stuck it in his belt, and asked to see the
passport which permitted me to carry weapons. Who ever heard of such a
thing in this wild region? He will not give it back, though I
entreated. I am your Honour's servant, speak for me and make him give
it back! It is an heirloom!' That grey-haired man was crying like a
baby.

Now, I was very young, and his implicit trust in my authority
enthralled me. I valued his dependence on my manhood more than gold
and precious stones. Summoning all the courage I possessed, I clapped
spurs to my horse and galloped after the marauder.

'Give back that knife!' I roared. 'O soldier! it is thou to whom I
speak.'

The soldier turned a studiously guileless face--a handsome face, with
fair moustache and a week's beard. He had a roguish eye.

'What knife? I do not understand,' he said indulgently.

'The knife thou stolest from the muleteer here present.'

'Oh, that!' replied the soldier, with a deprecating laugh: 'That is a
thing unworthy of your Honour's notice. The rogue in question is a
well-known malefactor. He and I are old acquaintance.'

'By the beard of the Prophet, by the August Coran, I never saw his
devil's face until this minute!' bawled the muleteer, who had come up
behind me.

'Give back the knife,' I ordered for the second time.

'By Allah, never!' was the cool reply.

'Give it back, I say!'

'No, it cannot be--not even to oblige your Honour, for whose pleasure,
Allah knows, I would do almost anything,' murmured the soldier, with a
charming smile. 'Demand it not. Be pleased to understand that if it
were your Honour's knife I would return it instantly. But that man, as
I tell thee, is a wretch. It grieves me to behold a person of
consideration in such an unbecoming temper upon his account--a dog, no
more.'

'If he is a dog, he is my dog for the present; so give back the
knife!'

'Alas, beloved, that is quite impossible.'

With a wave of the hand dismissing the whole subject the soldier
turned away. He plucked a cigarette out of his girdle and prepared to
light it. His companion on the donkey had not turned his head nor
shown the slightest interest in the discussion. This had lasted long
enough. I knew that in another minute I should have to laugh. If
anything remained for me to do it must be done immediately. Whipping
my revolver from the holster, I held it close against the rascal's
head, yelling: 'Give back the knife this minute, or I kill thee!'

The man went limp. The knife came back as quick as lightning. I gave
it to the muleteer, who blubbered praise to Allah and made off with
it. Equally relieved, I was about to follow when the utterly forlorn
appearance of the soldier moved me to open the revolver, showing that
it was not loaded. Then my adversary was transfigured. His back
straightened, his mouth closed, his eyes regained their old
intelligence. He stared at me a moment, half incredulous, and then he
laughed. Ah, how that soldier laughed! The owner of the donkey turned
and shared his glee. They literally hugged each other, roaring with
delight, while the donkey underneath them both jogged dutifully on.

Before a caravanserai in a small valley green with fruit-trees, beside
a slender stream whose banks were fringed with oleander, I was sitting
waiting for some luncheon when the donkey and its riders came again in
sight. The soldier tumbled off on spying me and ran into the inn like
one possessed. A minute later he brought out the food which I had
ordered and set the table for me in the shade of trees.

'I would not let another serve thee,' he informed me, 'for the love of
that vile joke that thou didst put upon me. It was not loaded. After
all my fright!... It is a nice revolver. Let me look at it.'

'Aye, look thy fill, thou shalt not touch it,' was my answer; at which
he laughed anew, pronouncing me the merriest of Adam's race.

'But tell me, what wouldst thou have done had I refused? It was not
loaded. What wouldst thou have done?'

His hand was resting at that moment on a stool. I rapped his knuckles
gently with the butt of the revolver to let him know its weight.

'Wallahi!' he cried out in admiration. 'I believe thou wouldst have
smashed my head with it. All for the sake of a poor man of no account,
whom thou employest for a week, and after that wilt see no more.
Efendim, take me as thy servant always!' Of a sudden he spoke very
earnestly. 'Pay the money to release me from the army. It is a
largeish sum--five Turkish pounds. And Allah knows I will repay it to
thee by my service. For the love of righteousness accept me, for my
soul is thine.'

I ridiculed the notion. He persisted. When the muleteer and I set
forth again, he rode beside us, mounted on another donkey this
time--'borrowed,' as he put it--which showed he was a person of
resource. 'By Allah, I can shoe a horse and cook a fowl; I can mend
garments with a thread and shoot a bird upon the wing,' he told me. 'I
would take care of the stable and the house. I would do everything
your Honour wanted. My nickname is Rashîd the Fair; my garrison is
Karameyn, just two days' journey from the city. Come in a day or two
and buy me out. No matter for the wages. Only try me!'

At the khan, a pretty rough one, where we spent the night, he waited
on me deftly and enforced respect, making me really wish for such a
servant. On the morrow, after an hour's riding, our ways parted.

'In sh'Allah, I shall see thee before many days,' he murmured. 'My
nickname is Rashîd the Fair, forget not. I shall tell our captain thou
art coming with the money.'

I said that I might think about it possibly.

'Come,' he entreated. 'Thou wouldst never shame a man who puts his
trust in thee. I say that I shall tell our captain thou art coming.
Ah, shame me not before the Commandant and all my comrades! Thou
thinkest me a thief, a lawbreaker, because I took that fellow's
knife?' he asked, with an indulgent smile. 'Let me tell thee, O my
lord, that I was in my right and duty as a soldier of the Sultan in
this province. It is that muleteer who, truly speaking, breaks the law
by carrying the knife without a permit. And thou, hast thou a passport
for that fine revolver? At the place where we had luncheon yesterday
were other soldiers. By merely calling on them to support me I could
have had his knife and thy revolver with ease and honesty in strict
accordance with the law. Why did I not do so? Because I love thee! Say
thou wilt come to Karameyn and buy me out.'

I watched him jogging on his donkey towards a gulley of the hills
along which lay the bridle-path to Karameyn. On all the evidence he
was a rogue, and yet my intimate conviction was that he was honest.
All the Europeans in the land would lift up hands of horror and
exclaim: 'Beware!' on hearing such a story. Yet, as I rode across the
parched brown land towards the city of green trees and rushing waters,
I knew that I should go to Karameyn.



CHAPTER II

A MOUNTAIN GARRISON


The long day's ride was uneventful, but not so the night. I spent it
in a village of the mountains at a very curious hostelry, kept by a
fat native Christian, named Elias, who laid claim, upon the signboard,
to furnish food and lodging 'alafranga'--that is, in the modern
European manner. There was one large guest-room, and an adjoining
bedroom of the same dimensions, for some thirty travellers. I had to
find a stable for my horse elsewhere. A dining-table was provided, and
we sat on chairs around it; but the food was no wise European, and the
cooking was degraded Greek. A knife, fork, and spoon were laid for
every guest but several cast these on the floor and used their
fingers. In the long bedroom were a dozen beds on bedsteads. By
offering a trifle extra I secured one to myself. In others there were
two, three, even four together. An elderly Armenian gentleman who had
a wife with him, stood guard with pistols over her all night. He was
so foolish as to threaten loudly anyone who dared approach her. After
he had done so several times a man arose from the bed next to mine and
strolling to him seized him by the throat.

'O man,' he chided. 'Art thou mad or what, thus to arouse our passions
by thy talk of women? Be silent, or we honest men here present will
wring thy neck and take thy woman from thee. Dost thou understand?' He
shook that jealous husband as a terrier would shake a rat. 'Be silent,
hearest thou? Men wish to sleep.'

'Said I not well, O brother?' said the monitor to me, as he got back
to bed.

'By Allah, well,' was my reply. The jealous one was silent after that.
But there were other noises. Some men still lingered in the guest-room
playing cards. The host, devoted to things European, had a
musical-box--it was happily before the day of gramophones--which the
card-players kept going all night long. I had a touch of fever. There
were insects. Sleep was hopeless. I rose while it was yet night, went
out without paying, since the host was nowhere to be seen, and, in
some danger from the fierce attacks of pariah dogs, found out the
vault in which my horse was stabled. Ten minutes later I was clear of
the village, riding along a mountain side but dimly visible beneath
the stars. The path descended to a deep ravine, and rose again, up,
up, interminably. At length, upon the summit of a ridge, I felt the
dawn. The mountain tops were whitened like the crests of waves, while
all the clefts and hollows remained full of night. Behind me, in the
east, there was a long white streak making the mountain outlines bleak
and keen. The stars looked strange; a fresh breeze fanned my cheek and
rustled in the grass and shrubs. Before me, on an isolated bluff,
appeared my destination, a large village, square-built like a
fortress. Its buildings presently took on a wild-rose blush, which
deepened to the red of fire--a splendid sight against a dark blue sky,
still full of stars. A window flashed up there. The sun had risen.

Some English people, when informed of my intention to buy a man out of
the Turkish Army had pronounced it madness. I did not know the people
of the land as they did. I should be pillaged, brought to destitution,
perhaps murdered. They, who had lived in the country twenty, thirty
years, were better qualified to judge than I was. For peace and quiet
I pretended acquiescence, and my purpose thus acquired a taste of
stealth. It was with the feelings of a kind of truant that I had set
out at length without a word to anyone, and with the same adventurous
feelings that I now drew near to Karameyn. Two soldiers, basking in
the sunshine on a dust-heap, sprang up at my approach. One was the man
I sought, the rogue Rashîd. They led me to their captain's house--a
modest dwelling, consisting of a single room, with hardly any
furniture. A score of soldiers followed after us.

The Captain--Hasan Agha--an old man, with face scarred and heavy white
moustache, was in full uniform, and, as I entered, was engaged in
putting on a pair of cotton gloves. He was one of the old 'alaïli,'
Turkish officers--those whose whole knowledge of their business was
derived from service in a regiment or 'alaï,' instead of from
instruction at a military school; and his manner towards the men had
nothing of the martinet. He addressed them as 'my children,' with
affection; and they, though quite respectful, conversed freely in his
presence. Hasan Agha paid me many compliments, and repeatedly inquired
after my health. He would not hear about my business till I had had
breakfast. Luncheon had been arranged for me, he said, but that could
not be ready for some hours. Would I be so kind as to excuse a
makeshift? Even as he spoke, a soldier entered with a tray on which
were slabs of Arab bread, a pitcher of sour milk, and heaps of grapes.
Another soldier began pounding coffee, while yet another blew upon the
charcoal in a brazier. I refused to eat unless my host ate with me,
which he did only after much polite resistance. After the meal, we sat
and talked, the soldiers joining in the conversation. They told me of
old wars and deeds of valour. Hasan Agha was, it seemed, a famous
fighter; and the men did all they could to make him tell me of his
battles. They brought an old man in out of the town to see me because
he had fought in the Crimean war, and knew the English. Before it grew
too hot, they took me out to see the barracks and a ramshackle old
fieldpiece which they seemed to idolise. Then followed luncheon with
its long array of Arab dishes, of which the soldiers had their share
eventually. Rashîd assured me afterwards that all the food on this
occasion had been 'borrowed.' That was in Abdul Hamid's golden days.
After luncheon, there was coffee with more compliments; and then at
last we got to business.

A public writer was brought in. He wrote out a receipt for me, and
also the discharge Rashîd required. Hasan Agha stamped both documents
with an official seal, and handed them to me, who gave him in exchange
the money.

'Bismillah!' he exclaimed. 'I call all here to witness that Rashîd,
the son of Ali, called the Fair, is free henceforth to go what way he
chooses.'

To me he said: 'Rashîd is a good lad, and you will find him useful.
The chief fault I have found in him is this: that, when obeying
orders, he is apt to think, and so invent a method of his own, not
always good. Also, he is too susceptible to female charms, a failing
which has placed him in some strange positions.'

The last remark evoked much laughter, relating, evidently to some
standing joke unknown to me. Rashîd looked rather sheepish. Hasan Agha
turned to him, and said:

'My son, praise Allah for thy great good fortune in finding favour in
the sight of one so noble and benevolent as our beloved guest, who is
henceforth thy master. Remember, he is not as I am--one who has been
what thou art, and so knows the tricks. Serve him freely with thy mind
and soul and conscience, not waiting for commands as in the Army. Come
hither, O my son, grasp hands with me. I say, may God be with thee now
and always! Forget not all the good instruction of thy soldier days.
Be sure that we shall pray for thy good master and for thee.'

The old man's eyes were wet, so were Rashîd's, so were the eyes of all
the soldiers squatting round.

Rashîd, dismissed, went off to change his uniform for an old suit of
mine which I had brought for him, while Hasan Agha, talking of him as
a father might, explained to me his character and little failings.

At last I took my leave. Rashîd was waiting in my cast-off clothes, a
new fez of civilian shape upon his head. He held my stirrup, and then
jumped on to a raw-boned beast which had been 'borrowed' for him by
his friends, so he informed me. It might be worth my while to buy it
for him, he suggested later--the price was only eight pounds Turk, the
merest trifle. The whole garrison escorted us to the last houses,
where they stood a long while, waving their farewells. Two hours
later, on the mountain-ridge, beyond the wady, we turned to look our
last on Karameyn. It stood amid the flames of sunset like a castle of
the clouds.

We returned, then, to the 'alafranga' hostelry; but Rashîd, having
heard the story of my sleepless night, would not allow me to put up
there. I paid my debt to the proprietor, and then he found for me an
empty house to which he brought a mattress and a coverlet, a lot of
cushions, a brazier, and the things required for making coffee, also a
tray of supper--all of them borrowed from the neighbouring houses. I
might be pillaged, brought to destitution, and eventually murdered by
him, as my friends had warned me. At least, the operation promised to
be comfortable.



CHAPTER III

THE RHINOCEROS WHIP


'Where is the whip?' Rashîd cried, suddenly, turning upon me in the
gateway of the khan where we had just arrived.

'Merciful Allah! It is not with me. I must have left it in the
carriage.'

Rashîd threw down the saddlebags, our customary luggage, which he had
been carrying, and started running for his life. The carriage had got
half-way down the narrow street half-roofed with awnings. At Rashîd's
fierce shout of 'Wait, O my uncle! We have left our whip!' the driver
turned and glanced behind him, but, instead of stopping, lashed his
horses to a gallop. Rashîd ran even faster than before. The chase,
receding rapidly, soon vanished from my sight. Twilight was coming on.
Above the low, flat roofs to westward, the crescent moon hung in the
green of sunset behind the minarets of the great mosque. I then took
up the saddle-bags and delicately picked my way through couchant
camels, tethered mules and horses in the courtyard to the khan itself,
which was a kind of cloister. I was making my arrangements with the
landlord, when Rashîd returned, the picture of despair. He flung up
both his hands, announcing failure, and then sank down upon the ground
and moaned. The host, a burly man, inquired what ailed him. I told
him, when he uttered just reflections upon cabmen and the vanity of
worldly wealth. Rashîd, as I could see, was 'zi'lân'--a prey to that
strange mixture of mad rage and sorrow and despair, which is a real
disease for children of the Arabs. An English servant would not thus
have cared about the loss of a small item of his master's property,
not by his fault but through that master's oversight. But my
possessions were Rashîd's delight, his claim to honour. He boasted of
them to all comers. In particular did he revere my gun, my Service
revolver, and this whip--a tough thong of rhinoceros hide, rather
nicely mounted with silver, which had been presented to me by an aged
Arab in return for some imagined favour. I had found it useful
against pariah dogs when these rushed out in packs to bite one's
horse's legs, but had never viewed it as a badge of honour till Rashîd
came to me. To him it was the best of our possessions, marking us as
of rank above the common. He thrust it on me even when I went out
walking; and he it was who, when we started from our mountain home at
noon that day, had laid it reverently down upon the seat beside me
before he climbed upon the box beside the driver. And now the whip was
lost through my neglectfulness. Rashîd's dejection made me feel a
worm.

'Allah! Allah!' he made moan, 'What can I do? The driver was a chance
encounter. I do not know his dwelling, which may God destroy!'

The host remarked in comfortable tones that flesh is grass, all
treasure perishable, and that it behoves a man to fix desire on higher
things. Whereat Rashîd sprang up, as one past patience, and departed,
darting through the cattle in the yard with almost supernatural
agility. 'Let him eat his rage alone!' the host advised me, with a
shrug.

Having ordered supper for the third hour of the night, I, too, went
out to stretch my limbs, which were stiff and bruised from four
hours' jolting in a springless carriage, always on the point of
overturning. We should have done better to have come on horseback in
the usual way; but Rashîd, having chanced upon the carriage, a great
rarity, had decided on that way of going as more fashionable,
forgetful of the fact that there was not a road.

The stars were out. In the few shops which still kept open lanterns
hung, throwing streaks of yellow light on the uneven causeway, a gleam
into the eyes of wayfarers and prowling dogs. Many of the people in
the streets, too, carried lanterns whose swing made objects in their
circle seem to leap and fall. I came at length into an open place
where there was concourse--a kind of square which might be called the
centre of the city.

The crowd there, as I noticed with surprise, was stationary, with all
its faces turned in one direction. I heard a man's voice weeping and
declaiming wildly.

'What is it?' I inquired, among the outskirts.

'A great misfortune!' someone answered. 'A poor servant has lost a
whip worth fifty Turkish pounds, his master's property. It was stolen
from him by a miscreant--a wicked cabman. His lord will kill him if
he fails to find it.'

Seized with interest, I shouldered my way forward. There was Rashîd
against the wall of a large mosque, beating himself against that wall
with a most fearful outcry. A group of high-fezzed soldiers, the
policemen of the city, hung round him in compassion, questioning.
Happily, I wore a fez, and so was inconspicuous.

'Fifty Turkish pounds!' he yelled. 'A hundred would not buy its
brother! My master, the tremendous Count of all the English--their
chief prince, by Allah!--loves it as his soul. He will pluck out and
devour my heart and liver. O High Protector! O Almighty Lord!'

'What like was this said cabman?' asked a sergeant of the watch.

Rashîd, with sobs and many pious interjections, described the cabman
rather neatly as 'a one-eyed man, full-bearded, of a form as if
inflated in the lower half. His name, he told me, was Habîb; but Allah
knows!'

'The man is known!' exclaimed the sergeant, eagerly. 'His dwelling is
close by. Come, O thou poor, ill-used one. We will take the whip from
him.'

At that Rashîd's grief ceased as if by magic. He took the sergeant's
hand and fondled it, as they went off together. I followed with the
crowd as far as to the cabman's door, a filthy entry in a narrow lane,
where, wishing to avoid discovery, I broke away and walked back
quickly to the khan.

I had been there in my private alcove some few minutes, when Rashîd
arrived with a triumphant air, holding on high the famous whip. The
sergeant came across the court with him. A score of soldiers waited in
the gateway as I could see by the light of the great lantern hanging
from the arch.

'Praise be to Allah, I have found it!' cried Rashîd.

'Praise be to Allah, we have been enabled to do a little service for
your Highness,' cried the sergeant. Therewith he pounced upon my hand
and kissed it. I made them both sit down and called for coffee.
Between the two of them, I heard the story. The sergeant praised
Rashîd's intelligence in going out and crying in a public place until
the city and its whole police force had a share in his distress.
Rashîd, on his side, said that all that would have been in vain but
for the sergeant's knowledge of the cabman's house. The sergeant, with
a chuckle, owned that that same knowledge would have been of no effect
had not Rashîd once more displayed his keen intelligence. They had
poured into the house--a single room, illumined only by a saucer lamp
upon the ground--and searched it thoroughly, the cabman all the while
protesting his great innocence, and swearing he had never in this
world beheld a whip like that described. The soldiers, finding no
whip, were beginning to believe his word when Rashîd, who had remained
aloof, observing that the cabman's wife stood very still beneath her
veils, assailed her with a mighty push, which sent her staggering
across the room. The whip was then discovered. It had been hidden
underneath her petticoats. They had given the delinquent a good
beating then and there. Would that be punishment enough in my opinion?
asked the sergeant.

We decided that the beating was enough. I gave the sergeant a small
present when he left. Rashîd went with him, after carefully
concealing the now famous whip. I suppose they went off to some tavern
to discuss the wonderful adventure more at length; for I supped alone,
and had been some time stretched upon my mattress on the floor before
Rashîd came in and spread his bed beside me.

'Art thou awake, O my dear lord?' he whispered. 'By Allah, thou didst
wrong to give that sergeant any money. I had made thy name so great
that but to look on thee was fee sufficient for a poor, lean dog like
him.'

He then was silent for so long a while that I imagined he had gone to
sleep. But, suddenly, he whispered once again:

'O my dear lord, forgive me the disturbance, but hast thou our
revolver safe?'

'By Allah, yes! Here, ready to my hand.'

'Good. But it would be better for the future that I should bear our
whip and our revolver. I have made thy name so great that thou
shouldst carry nothing.'



CHAPTER IV

THE COURTEOUS JUDGE


We were giving a dinner-party on that day to half a dozen Turkish
officers, and, when he brought me in my cup of tea at seven-thirty
a.m., Rashîd informed me that our cook had been arrested. The said
cook was a decent Muslim, but hot-tempered, and something of a blood
in private life. At six a.m., as he stood basking in the sunlight in
our doorway, his eyes had fallen on some Christian youths upon their
way to college, in European clothes, with new kid gloves and
silver-headed canes. Maddened with a sense of outrage by that horrid
sight, he had attacked the said youths furiously with a wooden ladle,
putting them to flight, and chasing them all down the long acacia
avenue, through two suburbs into the heart of the city, where their
miserable cries for help brought the police upon him. Rashîd, pursuing
in vain attempts to calm the holy warrior, had seen him taken into
custody still flourishing the ladle; but could tell me nothing of his
after fate, having at that point deemed it prudent to retire, lest he,
too, might be put in prison by mistake.

It was sad. As soon as I was up and dressed, I wrote to Hamdi Bey, the
chief of our intended visitors, informing him of the mishap which
would prevent our giving him and his comrades a dinner at all worthy
of their merit. By the time that I had finished dressing, Rashîd had
found a messenger to whom the note was given with an order to make
haste. He must have run the whole way there and back, for, after
little more than half an hour, he stood before me, breathless and with
streaming brow, his bare legs dusty to the knee. Rashîd had then gone
out to do some marketing. The runner handed me a note. It said:

'Why mention such a trifling detail? We shall, of course, be charmed
with anything you set before us. It is for friendship, not for food,
we come!'

There was a postscript:--

'Why not go and see the judge?'

Suleymân was in the room. He was an old acquaintance, a man of decent
birth, but poor, by trade a dragoman, who had acquired a reputation
for unusual wisdom. When he had nothing else to do, he came to me
unfailingly, wherever I might chance to be established or encamped. He
was sitting cross-legged in a corner, smoking his narghîleh,
capriciously illumined by thin slants of light, alive with motes, from
the Venetian blinds. He seized upon the postscript, crying:--

'It is good advice. Why not, indeed? Let us approach the judge.'

Therewith he coiled the tube of his narghîleh carefully around the
bowl thereof, and, rising with the same deliberation, threw upon his
shoulders a white dust-cloak, then looked at me, and questioned: 'Are
you ready?'

'But I do not know the judge.'

'No more do I. But that, my dear, is a disease which can be remedied.'

Without much trouble we found out the judge's house. A servant told us
that his Honour had already started for the court. We took a carriage
and pursued his Honour. At the court we made inquiry of the crowd of
witnesses--false witnesses for hire--who thronged the entrance. The
judge, we heard, had not yet taken his seat. We should be sure to find
his Honour in the coffee-shop across the road. One of the false
witnesses conducted us to the said coffee-shop and pointed out our
man. Together with his clerk and certain advocates, one of whom read
aloud the morning news, the judge sat underneath a vine arbour in
pleasant shade. He smiled. His hands were clasped upon a fair round
belly.

Suleymân, his dust-cloak billowing, strolled forward coolly, and
presented me as 'one of the chief people of the Franks.' The company
arose and made us welcome, placing stools for our convenience.

'His Highness comes to thee for justice, O most righteous judge. He
has been wronged,' observed Suleymân, dispassionately.

The judge looked much concerned. 'What is the case?' he asked.

'Our cook is snatched from us,' was the reply, 'and to-night we have
invited friends to dinner.'

'Is he a good cook?' asked the judge, with feeling.

'If your Excellency will restore him to us, and then join us at the
meal----'

'How can I be of service in this matter?'

I motioned to Suleymân to tell the story, which he did so well that
all the company were soon in fits of laughter.

The judge looked through the cause list till he found the case,
putting a mark against it on the paper.

'How can we dine to-night without a cook?' I sighed, despairingly.

'Fear nothing,' said the judge. 'He shall be with you in an hour.
Come, O my friends, we must to business! It grows late.'

The judge took leave of me with much politeness.

'Now,' said Suleymân, when they were gone, 'let us go into the court
and watch the course of justice.'

We crossed the narrow street to an imposing portal. Suleymân whispered
to a soldier there on guard, who smiled and bade us enter, with a
gracious gesture.

The hall inside was crowded. Only after much exertion could we see the
dais. There sat the judge, and there stood our lamented cook, the
picture of dejection. A soldier at his side displayed the wooden
ladle. The Christian dandies whom he had assaulted were giving their
account of the adventure volubly, until his Honour, with a heavy
frown, bade them be silent. Then they cowered.

'Be careful what you say,' the judge enjoined. 'You have not hesitated
to impute the anger of this cook to religious fanaticism. The
Nazarenes are much too ready to bring such a charge against the
Muslims, forgetful that there may be other causes of annoyance. Nay,
many of the charges brought have proved upon investigation to be
altogether groundless. You Nazarenes are often insolent in your
demeanour. Confiding in the favour of the foreign consuls, foreign
missionaries, you occasionally taunt and irritate, even revile, the
Muslims. Now, even supposing your account of this affair to be
correct--which I much doubt, for, on the one hand, I behold a wooden
ladle of no weight; while, on the other, there are two fine
walking-sticks with silver heads'--one of the Christian youths let
fall his stick in trepidation--'and you are two, while this poor cook
is one. Even supposing what you say is true, are you certain that
nothing in your appearance, conversation, or behaviour gave him cause
for anger? I incline to conjecture that you must have flouted him, or
uttered, it may be, some insult to his creed.'

'He beat us for no reason, and most grievously,' moaned one of the
assailed. Such language from a Muslim judge in a court filled with
Muslims made the two Christians tremble in their shoes.

'We did not even see him till he started beating us. By Allah, my poor
head is sore, my back is broken with that awful beating. He was like a
madman!' The speaker and his fellow-plaintiff wept aloud.

'Didst thou beat these youths, as he describes?' inquired the judge,
turning towards the cook with like severity.

'No, O Excellency!' came the bitter cry. 'I am an ill-used man, much
slandered. I never set eyes upon those men until this minute.' He also
began weeping bitterly.

'Both parties tell me lies!' exclaimed the judge, with anger. 'For
thou, O cook, didst beat these youths. The fact is known, for thou
wast taken in the act of beating them. And you, O Nazarenes, are not
much injured, for everyone beholds you in most perfect health, with
clothes unspoilt. The more shame to you, for it is evident that you
bring the charge against this Muslim from religious hatred.'

'By Allah, no, O Excellency. We wish that man no harm. We did but
state what happened.'

'You are a pack of rogues together,' roared the judge. 'Let each side
pay one whole mejîdi[1] to the court; let the parties now, this
minute, here before me, swear peace and lifelong friendship for the
future, and never let me hear of them again!'

The Christian youths embraced the cook, the cook embraced the
Christian youths repeatedly, all weeping in a transport of delight at
their escape from punishment. I paid the money for our man, who then
went home with us; Suleymân, upon the way, delivering a lecture of
such high morality, such heavenly language, that the poor, simple
fellow wept anew, and called on Allah for forgiveness.

'Repentance is thy duty,' said Suleymân approvingly. 'But towards this
world also thou canst make amends. Put forth thy utmost skill in
cookery this evening, for the judge is coming.'

FOOTNOTES:

[1] About four shillings.



CHAPTER V

NAWÂDIR[2]


We had arrived in a village of the mountains late one afternoon, and
were sauntering about the place, when some rude children shouted: 'Hi,
O my uncle, you have come in two!'

It was the common joke at sight of European trousers, which were rare
in those days. But Suleymân was much offended upon my account. He
turned about and read those children a tremendous lecture, rebuking
them severely for thus presuming to insult a stranger and a guest. His
condemnation was supported on such lofty principles as no man who
possessed a particle of religion or good feeling could withstand; and
his eloquence was so commanding yet persuasive that, when at length he
moved away, not children only but many also of the grown-up people
followed him.

The village was high up beneath the summit of a ridge, and from a
group of rocks within a stone's throw of it could be seen the sea, a
great blue wall extending north and south. We perched among those
rocks to watch the sunset. The village people settled within earshot,
some below and some above us. Presently an old man said:

'Thou speakest well, O sage! It is a sin for them to cry such things
behind a guest of quality. Their misbehaviour calls for strong
correction. But I truly think that no child who has heard your
Honour's sayings will ever be so impudent again.'

'Amân!'[3] cried one of the delinquents. 'Allah knows that our
intention was not very evil.'

I hastened to declare that the offence was nothing. But Suleymân would
not allow me to decry it.

'Your Honour is as yet too young,' he said severely, 'to understand
the mystic value of men's acts and words. A word may be well meant and
innocent, and yet the cause of much disaster, possessing in itself
some special virtue of malignity. You all know how the jânn[4] attend
on careless words; how if I call a goat, a dog, or cat by its generic
name without pointing to the very animal intended, a jinni will as
like as not attach himself to me, since many of the jânn are called by
names of animals. You all know also that to praise the beauty of a
child, without the offer of that child to Allah as a sacrifice, is
fatal; because there is unseen a jealous listener who hates and would
deform the progeny of Eve. Such facts as those are known to every
ignoramus, and their cause is plain. But there exists another and more
subtle danger in the careless use of words, particularly with regard
to personal remarks, like that of these same children when they cried
to our good master: 'Thou hast come in two,' directing the attention
to a living body. I have a rare thing in my memory which perhaps may
lead you to perceive my meaning darkly.

'A certain husbandman (fellâh) was troubled with a foolish wife.
Having to go out one day, he gave her full instructions what to do
about the place, and particularly bade her fix her mind upon their
cow, because he was afraid the cow might stray, as she had done
before, and cause ill-feeling with the neighbours. He never thought
that such a charge to such a person, tending to concentrate the
woman's mind upon a certain object, was disastrous. The man meant
well; the woman, too, meant well. She gave her whole mind to obey his
parting words. Having completed every task within the house, she sat
down under an olive tree which grew before the door, and fixed her
whole intelligence in all its force upon the black-and-white cow, the
only living thing in sight, which was browsing in the space allowed by
a short tether. So great did the responsibility appear to her that she
grew anxious, and by dint of earnest gazing at the cow came to believe
that there was something wrong with it. In truth the poor beast had
exhausted all the grass within its reach, and it had not entered her
ideas to move the picket.

'At length a neighbour passed that way. She begged him, of his
well-known kindness, to inspect the cow and tell her what the matter
really was. This neighbour was a wag, and knew the woman's species; he
also knew the cow as an annoyance, for ever dragging out its peg and
straying into planted fields. After long and serious examination he
declared: "The tail is hurting her and ought to be removed. See how
she swishes it from side to side. If the tail is not cut off
immediately, the cow will die one day."

'"Merciful Allah!" cried the woman. "Please remove it for me. I am all
alone, and helpless."

'The man lifted up an axe which he was carrying and cut off the cow's
tail near the rump. He gave it to the woman and she thanked him
heartily. He went his way, while she resumed her watch upon the cow.
And still she fancied that its health was not as usual.

'Another neighbour came along. She told him of her fears, and how the
Sheykh Mukarram, of his well-known kindness, had befriended her by
cutting off the damaged tail.

'"Of course," cried the newcomer, "that accounts for it! The animal is
now ill-balanced. It is always a mistake to take from one end without
removing something also from the other. If thou wouldst see that cow
in health again, the horns must go."

'"Oh, help me; I am all alone! Perform the operation for me," said the
woman.

'Her friend sawed off the horns and gave them to her. She exhausted
thanks. But still, when he was gone, the cow appeared no better. She
grew desperate.

'By then the news of her anxiety about the cow had spread through all
the village, and every able body came to help her or look on. They cut
the udder and the ears, and then the legs, and gave them to her, and
she thanked them all with tears of gratitude. At last there was no cow
at all to worry over. Seeing the diminished carcase lying motionless,
the woman smiled and murmured: "Praise to Allah, she is cured at last;
she is at rest! Now I am free to go into the house and get things
ready for my lord's return."

'Her lord returned at dusk. She told him: "I have been obedient. I
watched the cow and tended her for hours. She was extremely ill, but
all the neighbours helped to doctor her, performing many operations,
and we were able to relieve her of all pain, the praise to Allah! Here
are the various parts which they removed. They gave them to me, very
kindly, since the cow is ours."

'Without a word the man went out to view the remnant of the cow. When
he returned he seized the woman by the shoulders, and, gazing
straight into her eyes, said grimly: "Allah keep thee! I am going to
walk this world until I find one filthier than thou art. And if I fail
to find one filthier than thou art, I shall go on walking--I have
sworn it--to the end."'

Suleymân broke off there suddenly, to the surprise of all.

'I fail to see how that rare thing applies to my case,' I observed, as
soon as I felt sure that he had finished speaking.

'It does not apply to your case, but it does to others,' he replied on
brief reflection. 'It is dangerous to put ideas in people's heads or
rouse self-consciousness, for who can tell what demons lurk in
people's brains.... But wait and I will find a rare thing suited to
the present instance.'

'Say, O Sea of Wisdom, did he find one filthier than she was?'

'Of course he did.'

'Relate the sequel, I beseech thee.'

But Suleymân was searching in his memory for some event more clearly
illustrating the grave risks of chance suggestion. At length he gave
a sigh of satisfaction, and then spoke as follows:

'There was once a Turkish pasha of the greatest, a benevolent old man,
whom I have often seen. He had a long white beard, of which he was
extremely proud, until one day a man, who was a wag, came up to him
and said:

'"Excellency, we have been wondering: When you go to bed, do you put
your beard inside the coverings or out?"

'The Pasha thought a moment, but he could not tell, for it had never
come into his head to notice such a matter. He promised to inform his
questioner upon the morrow. But when he went to bed that night he
tried the beard beneath the bedclothes and above without success.
Neither way could he get comfort, nor could he, for the life of him,
remember how the beard was wont to go. He got no sleep on that night
or the next night either, for thinking on the problem thus presented
to his mind. On the third day, in a rage, he called a barber and had
the beard cut off. Accustomed as he was to such a mass of hair upon
his neck, for lack of it he caught a cold and died.

'That story fits the case before us to a nicety,' said Suleymân in
conclusion, with an air of triumph.

'What is the moral of it, deign to tell us, master!' the cry arose
from all sides in the growing twilight.

'I suppose,' I hazarded, 'that, having had attention called to the
peculiar clothing of my legs, I shall eventually have them amputated
or wear Turkish trousers?'

'I say not what will happen; God alone knows that. But the mere chance
that such catastrophes, as I have shown, may happen is enough to make
wise people shun that kind of speech.'

I cannot to this day distinguish how much of his long harangue was
jest and how much earnest. But the fellâhîn devoured it as pure
wisdom.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] Rare things.

[3] Equivalent to 'Pax.'

[4] Genii.



CHAPTER VI

NAWÂDIR (_continued_)


'What happened to the man who went to seek one filthier than she was?
How could he ever find one filthier?' inquired Rashîd, reverting to
Suleymân's unfinished story of the foolish woman and her husband and
the hapless cow, when we lay down to sleep that evening in the village
guest-room. I also asked to hear the rest of that instructive tale.
Suleymân, sufficiently besought, raised himself upon an elbow and
resumed the narrative. Rashîd and I lay quiet in our wrappings.

'We had reached that point, my masters, where the injured husband,
having seen the remnant of the cow, said to his wife: "Now, I am going
to walk this world until I find one filthier than thou art; and if I
fail to find one filthier than thou art I shall go on walking till I
die." Well, he walked and he walked--for months, some people say, and
others years--until he reached a village in Mount Lebanon--a village
of the Maronites renowned for foolishness. It was the reputation of
their imbecility which made him go there.'

'What was his name?' inquired Rashîd, who liked to have things clear.

'His name?' said Suleymân reflectively, 'was Sâlih.'

'He was a Muslim?'

'Aye, a Muslim, I suppose--though, Allah knows, he may perhaps have
been an Ismaîli or a Druze. Any more questions? Then I will proceed.

'He came into this village of the Maronites, and, being thirsty,
looked in at a doorway. He saw the village priest and all his family
engaged in stuffing a fat sheep with mulberry leaves. The sheep was
tethered half-way up the steps which led on to the housetop. The
priest and his wife, together with their eldest girl, sat on the
ground below, amid a heap of mulberry boughs; and all the other
children sat, one on every step, passing up the leaves, when ready, to
the second daughter, whose business was to force the sheep to go on
eating. This they would do until the sheep, too full to stand, fell
over on its side, when they would slaughter it for their supply of
fat throughout the coming year.

'So busy were they in this occupation that they did not see the
stranger in the doorway until he shouted: "Peace upon this house," and
asked them for a drink of water kindly. Even then the priest did not
disturb himself, but, saying "Itfaddal!" pointed to a pitcher standing
by the wall. The guest looked into it and found it dry.

'"No water here," he said.

'"Oh," sighed the priest, "to-day we are so thirsty with this work
that we have emptied it, and so busy that the children have forgotten
to refill it. Rise, O Nesîbeh, take the pitcher on thy head, and
hasten to the spring and bring back water for our guest."

'The girl Nesîbeh, who was fourteen years of age, rose up obediently,
shaking off the mulberry leaves and caterpillars from her clothing.
Taking up the pitcher, she went out through the village to the spring,
which gushed out of the rock beneath a spreading pear tree.

'There were so many people getting water at the moment that she could
not push her way among them, so sat down to wait her turn, choosing a
shady spot. She was a thoughtful girl, and, as she sat there waiting,
she was saying in her soul:

'"O soul, I am a big girl now. A year or two and mother will unite me
to a proper husband. The next year I shall have a little son. Again a
year or two, he will be big enough to run about; and his father will
make for him a pair of small red shoes, and he will come down to this
pleasant spring, as children do, to splash the water. Being a bold
lad, he will climb that tree."

'And then, as she beheld one great bough overhanging like a
stretched-out arm, and realised how dangerous it was for climbing
children, she thought:

'"He will fall down and break his neck."

'At once she burst out weeping inconsolably, making so great a din
that all the people who had come for water flocked around her, asking:
"O Nesîbeh, what has hurt thee?" And between her sobs, she told them:

'"I'm a big girl, now."

'"That is so, O beloved!"

'"A year or two, and mother will provide me with a husband."

'"It is likely."

'"Another year, and I shall have a little son."

'"If God wills!" sighed the multitude, with pious fervour.

'"Again a year or two, he will be big enough to run about, and his
father will make for him a pair of small red shoes. And he will come
down to the spring with other children, and will climb the tree.
And--oh!--you see that big bough overhanging. There he will slip and
fall and break his neck! Ah, woe!"

'At that the people cried: "O cruel fate!" and many of them rent their
clothes. They all sank down upon the ground around Nesîbeh, rocking
themselves to and fro and wailing:

'"Ah, my little neighbour. My poor, dear little neighbour! Ah, would
that thou had lived to bury me, my little neighbour!"[5]

'Meanwhile the stranger waiting for the water grew impatient, and he
once more ventured to interrupt the work of sheep-stuffing with a
remark that the young girl was long returning with her pitcher. The
priest said: "That is true," and sent his second daughter to expedite
the first. This girl went running to the spring, and found the
population of the village sitting weeping on the ground around her
sister. She asked the matter. They replied: "A great calamity! Thy
sister--poor distracted mother!--will inform thee of its nature." She
ran up to Nesîbeh, who moaned out: "I am a big girl now. A year or
two, our mother will provide me with a husband. The next year I shall
have a little son. Again a year or two he will be old enough to run
about. His father will make for him a pair of small red shoes. He
comes down to the spring to play in childish wise. He climbs that
tree, and from that overhanging branch he falls and breaks his neck."

'At this sad news the second girl forgot her errand. She threw her
skirt over her head and started shrieking: "Alas, my little nephew! My
poor, dear little nephew! Would God that thou had lived to bury me, my
little nephew!" And she too sat down upon the ground to hug her sorrow
with the rest.

'The priest said: "That one too is long in coming; I will send another
child; but thou must take her place upon the steps, O stranger, or
else the work of stuffing will be much delayed."

'The stranger did as he was asked, while child after child was sent,
till he alone was left to do the work of carrying the fresh leaves up
from the ground and stuffing them into the sheep. Still none returned.

'The priest's wife went herself, remarking that her husband and the
stranger were able by themselves to carry on the work. They did so a
long while, yet no one came.

'At last the priest rose, saying: "I myself will go and beat them for
this long delay. Do thou, O stranger, feed the sheep meanwhile. Cease
not to carry up the leaves and stuff him with them, lest all the good
work done be lost through negligence."

'In anger the priest strode out through the village to the spring. But
all his wrath was changed into amazement when he saw the crowd of
people sitting on the ground, convulsed with grief, around the members
of his family.

'He went up to his wife and asked the matter.

'She moaned: "I cannot speak of it. Ask poor Nesîbeh!"

'He then turned to his eldest daughter, who, half-choked by sobs,
explained:

'"I am a big girl now."

'"That is so, O my daughter."

'"A year or two, and you and mother will provide me with a husband."

'"That is possible."

'"Another year, and I shall have a little son!"

'"In sh' Allah!" said her father piously.

'"Again a year or two, and my son runs about. His father makes for him
a pair of small red shoes. He came down to the spring to play with
other children, and from that overhanging bough--how shall I tell
it?--he fell and broke his darling little neck!" Nesîbeh hid her face
again and wailed aloud.

'The priest, cut to the heart by the appalling news, tore his cassock
up from foot to waist, and threw the ends over his face, vociferating:

'"Woe, my little grandson! My darling little grandson! Oh, would that
thou had lived to bury me, my little grandson!" And he too sank upon
the ground, immersed in grief.

'At last the stranger wearied of the work of stripping off the
mulberry leaves and carrying them up the staircase to the tethered
sheep. He found his thirst increased by such exertions.'

'Did he in truth do that, with no one looking?' said Rashîd. 'He must
have been as big a fool as all the others.'

'He was, but in a different way,' said Suleymân.

'He walked down to the spring, and saw the congregation seated
underneath the pear tree, shrieking like sinners at the Judgment Day.
Among them sat the priest, with features hidden in his torn black
petticoat. He ventured to approach the man and put a question. The
priest unveiled his face a moment and was going to speak, but
recollection of his sorrow overcame him. Hiding his face again, he
wailed:

'"Alas, my little grandson! My pretty little grandson! Ah, would that
thou hadst lived to bury me, my little grandson!"

'A woman sitting near plucked at the stranger's sleeve and said:

'"You see that girl. She will be soon full-grown. A year or two, and
she will certainly be married. Another year, and she will have a
little son. Her little son grows big enough to run about. His father
made for him a pair of small red shoes. He came down to the spring to
play with other children. You see that pear tree? On a day like
this--a pleasant afternoon--he clambered up it, and from that bough,
which overhangs the fountain, he fell and broke his little neck upon
those stones. Alas, our little neighbour! Oh, would that thou had
lived to bury us, our little neighbour!" And everyone began to rock
and wail anew.

'The stranger stood and looked upon them for a moment, then he
shouted: "Tfû 'aleykum!"[6] and spat upon the ground. No other word
did he vouchsafe to them, but walked away; and he continued walking
till he reached his native home. There, sitting in his ancient seat,
he told his wife:

'"Take comfort, O beloved! I have found one filthier."'

Suleymân declared the story finished.

'Is there a moral to it?' asked Rashîd.

'The moral is self-evident,' replied the story-teller. 'It is this:
however bad the woman whom one happens to possess may be, be certain
it is always possible to find a worse.'

'It is also possible to find a better,' I suggested.

'Be not so sure of that!' said Suleymân. 'There are three several
kinds of women in the world, who all make claim to be descended from
our father Noah. But the truth is this: Our father Noah had one
daughter only, and three men desired her; so not to disappoint the
other two, he turned his donkey and his dog into two girls, whom he
presented to them, and that accounts for the three kinds of women now
to be observed. The true descendants of our father Noah are very
rare.'

'How may one know them from the others?' I inquired.

'By one thing only. They will keep your secret. The second sort of
woman will reveal your secret to a friend; the third will make of it a
tale against you. And this they do instinctively, as dogs will bark or
asses bray, without malevolence or any kind of forethought.

'That same priest of the Maronites of whom I told just now, in the
first days of his married life was plagued by his companion to reveal
to her the secrets people told him in confession. He refused,
declaring that she would divulge them.

'"Nay, I can keep a secret if I swear to do so. Only try me!" she
replied.

'"Well, we shall see," the priest made answer, in a teasing manner.

'One day, as he reclined upon the sofa in their house, that priest
began to moan and writhe as if in agony. His wife, in great alarm,
inquired what ailed him.

'"It is a secret," he replied, "which I dare not confide to thee, for
with it is bound up my earthly welfare and my soul's salvation."

'"I swear by Allah I will hide it. Tell me!" she implored.

'"Well," he replied, as if in torment, "I will risk my life and trust
thee. Know thou art in the presence of the greatest miracle. I, though
not a woman, am far gone with child--a thing which never happened on
the earth till now--and in this hour it is decreed that I produce my
first-born."

'Then, with a terrific cry, he thrust his hand beneath his petticoat,
and showed his wife a little bird which he had kept there hidden. He
let it fly away out through the window. Having watched it disappear,
he said devoutly:

'"Praise be to Allah! That is over! Thou hast seen my child. This is a
sacred and an awful mystery. Preserve the secret, or we all are dead!"

'"I swear I will preserve it," she replied, with fervour.

'But the miracle which she had witnessed burned her spirit. She knew
that she must speak of it or die; and so she called upon a friend
whose prudence she could trust, and binding her by vows, told her the
story.

'This woman also had a trusted friend, to whom she told the story,
under vows of secrecy, and so on, with the consequence that that same
evening the priest received a deputation of the village elders, who
requested, in the name of the community, to be allowed to kiss the
feet of his mysterious son--that little, rainbow-coloured bird, which
had a horn upon its head and played the flute.

'The priest said nothing to his wife. He did not beat her. He gave her
but one look. And yet from that day forward, she never plagued him
any more, but was submissive.'

'The priest was wise on that occasion, yet so foolish in the other
story!' I objected.

'The way of the majority of men!' said Suleymân. 'But women are more
uniformly wise or foolish. A happy night!' said Suleymân conclusively,
settling himself to sleep.

The usual night-light of the Syrian peasants--a wick afloat upon a
saucerful of oil and water--burned upon the ground between us, making
great shadows dance upon the walls and vaulting. The last I heard
before I fell asleep was Rashîd's voice, exclaiming:

'He is a famous liar, is our wise man yonder; yet he speaks the
truth!'

FOOTNOTES:

[5] 'Yâ takbar jârak, yâ jâri!'--a very common cry of grief in Syria.

[6] Something like 'Pooh-pooh to you!' but more insulting.



CHAPTER VII

THE SACK WHICH CLANKED


The sand which had been a rich ochre turned to creamy white, the sea
from blue became a livid green, the grass upon the sand-hills
blackened and bowed down beneath a sudden gust of wind. The change was
instantaneous, as it seemed to me. I had observed that clouds were
gathering upon the mountain peaks inland, but I had been riding in hot
sunlight, only a little less intense than it had been at noon, when
suddenly the chill and shadow struck me. Then I saw the sky completely
overcast with a huge purple cloud which bellied down upon the land and
sea. The waves which had been lisping all day long gave forth an
ominous dull roar. White horses reared and plunged. A wind sang
through the grass and thistles of the dunes, driving the sand into my
face.

Rashîd, who had been riding far behind, in conversation with our
muleteer, came tearing up, and I could hear the shouts of the mukâri
urging his two beasts to hurry.

'There is a village on the headland over there--a village of
Circassian settlers,' cried my servant, breathless. 'It has a bad
name, and I had not thought to spend the night there. But any roof is
good in such a storm. Ride fast! We may arrive before the downpour.'

My horse had broken to a canter of his own accord. I urged him to a
gallop. We flew round the bay. The village on the headland took shape
rapidly--a few cube-shaped, whitewashed houses perched amid what
seemed at first to be great rocks, but on a close approach revealed
themselves as blocks of masonry, the ruins of some city of antiquity.
From time to time a jet of spray shot up above them, white as lilies
in the gloom. The sea was rising. I discerned an ancient gateway
opening on the beach, and set my horse towards it, while the rain came
down in sheets. I saw no more until the ruins loomed up close before
me, a blind wall.

'Your right hand!' called Rashîd; and, bearing to the right, I found
the gateway. We waited underneath its vault until the muleteer, a
dripping object, shrouded in a sack, came up with his two mules; and
then we once more plunged into the deluge. The path, a very rough one,
wavered up and down and in and out among the ruins. There were,
perhaps, a dozen scattered houses without gardens or any sign of
cultivation round them. Only one of them possessed an upper storey,
and towards that, supposing it to be the guest-room, we now picked our
way. It stood alone right out upon the promontory, topped by clouds of
spray.

A little courtyard gave us partial shelter while Rashîd ran up some
rough stone steps and hammered at a door, exclaiming:

'Peace be on this house! My master craves for food and shelter, and
we, his servants, ask the same boon of thy goodness. O master of the
house, God will reward thy hospitality!'

The door was opened and a man appeared, bidding us all come in, in
Allah's name. He was of middle height and thick-set, with a heavy grey
moustache. An old-fashioned, low-crowned fez, with large blue tassel,
was bound about his brow with an embroidered turban. A blue zouave
jacket, crimson vest and baggy trousers of a darker blue completed
his apparel, for his feet were bare. In his girdle were a pair of
pistols and a scimitar.

He bade us welcome in bad Arabic, showing us into a good-sized
room--the upper chamber we had seen from far. Its windows, innocent of
glass, were closed by wooden shutters, roughly bolted, which creaked
and rattled in the gale. A very fine-looking old man rose from the
divan to greet us.

'What countryman art thou? A Turk, or one of us?' he asked, as I
removed my head-shawl. 'An Englishman, sayest thou?' He seized my
hand, and pressed it. 'An Englishman--any Englishman--is good, and his
word is sure. But the English Government is very bad. Three Englishmen
in Kars behaved like warrior-angels, fought like devils. And while
they fought for us their Government betrayed our country. What? Thou
hast heard about it? Praise to Allah! At last I meet with one who can
confirm the story. My son here thinks that I invented it.'

I happened to have read of the defence of Kars under the leadership of
three heroic Englishmen--General Williams, Captain Teesdale, and
Doctor Sandwith--and of the betrayal of the Circassian rising under
Shamyl at the time of the Crimean war.

The old man was delighted. 'Listen, O my son!' he called out to the
person who had let us in. 'It is true what I have often told to thee.
This Englishman knows all about it. So does all the world, except such
blockheads as thyself and thy companions.'

His son begged to be excused a minute while he put his crops into the
barn. Therewith he dragged a sack out of the room. What crops he may
have grown I do not know; but this I know--the contents of that sack
clanked as he dragged it out.

When he returned, he brought a bowl of eggs cooked in clarified
butter, two slabs of bread, and a great jug of water, apologising for
the coarseness of the fare. We all supped together, the old man
babbling of the days of old with great excitement. His son stared at
me with unblinking eyes. At last he said:

'I like thee, O khawâjah. I had once a son about thy age. Say, O my
father, is there not a strong resemblance?'

Thereafter he talked quite as much as the old man, giving me the
history of their emigration from the Caucasus to escape the yoke of
the accursed Muscovite, and enumerating all the troubles which
attended their first coming into Syria.

'We are not subjects of the Government,' he told me, 'but allies; and
we have special privileges. But the dishonoured dogs round here forget
old compacts, and want us to pay taxes like mere fellâhîn.'

We sat up talking far into the night, while the storm raged without,
and the rain and the sea-spray pounded on the shutters; and never have
I met with kinder treatment. It was the custom for chance comers to
have food at evening only and leave betimes next morning. But our
host, when I awoke in splendid sunlight, had breakfast ready--sour
milk and Arab bread and fragrant coffee--and when I went out to my
horse he followed me, and thrust two roasted fowls into my
saddle-bags, exclaiming 'Zâd!'--which means 'food for the road.' And
much to my abashment he and the old man fell upon my neck and kissed
me on both cheeks.

'Good people! The very best of people! They would take no money. God
reward them,' chanted Rashîd, as we rode out of the ruins inland
through a garden of wild flowers. The storm had passed completely. Not
a cloud remained.

After an hour we came in sight of a large khan outside a mud-built
village on the shore. Before it was a crowd, including several
soldiers. As we drew near, Rashîd inquired the meaning of the throng.

'A great calamity,' he was informed. 'A man, a foreigner, is dying,
killed by highwaymen. One of his companions, a poor servant, is
already dead.'

We both dismounted, and Rashîd pushed in to learn more of the matter.
Presently a soldier came to me.

'Your Honour is an Englishman?' he questioned. 'Praise be to Allah! I
am much relieved. This other also is an Englishman, they tell me. He
is severely wounded, at the gate of death.'

I went with him at once to see the sufferer, who seemed relieved to
hear me speak, but could not answer. Rashîd and I did what we could
to make him comfortable, giving the soldiers orders to keep out the
crowd. We decided to ride on and send a doctor, and then report the
matter to a British consul.

'He was going down to start some kind of business in the city over
there,' the leader of the soldiers told me, nodding towards the south.
'He had a largeish company, with several camels. But near the village
of ---- he was attacked by the Circassians, and was so foolish as to
make resistance. They took everything he had of worth--his arms, his
money--and killed a camel-driver, besides wounding him. It happened
yesterday before the storm. They say I should take vengeance for him.
What am I--a corporal with six men--to strive with Huseyn Agha and his
cavalry! It needs a regiment.'

He went grumbling off. Rashîd and I were staring hard at one another;
for the village named was that where we had spent the night, and
Huseyn Agha's roasted fowls were in our saddle-bags.

Rashîd, as I could see, was troubled upon my account. He kept silence
a good while. At last he said:

'It is like this, my lord. Each man must see with his own eyes and not
another's. People are as one finds them, good or bad. They change with
each man's vision, yet remain the same. For us those highway robbers
are good people; we must bless them; having cause to do so. This other
man is free to curse them, if he will. Good to their friends, bad to
their enemies. What creature of the sons of Adam can condemn them
quite?'



CHAPTER VIII

POLICE WORK


Having to dress for dinner on a certain evening, I took off my
money-belt, and quite forgot to put it on again. It happened to
contain twelve English pounds. I left it lying on the table in the
hotel bedroom. When I came back in the small hours of the morning it
was gone. Rashîd--who slept out at a khan in charge of our two
horses--came in at eight o'clock to rouse me. Hearing of my loss, he
gave me the worst scolding I have ever had, and then went out to blow
up the hotel proprietor.

It was, for once, a real hotel with table d'hôte, hall-porter, and a
palm-lounge--everything, in fact, excepting drains. The owner was a
fat, brown individual, whom I had generally seen recumbent on a sofa
in his office, while someone of his many sons did all the work. But
that he could show energy upon occasion I now learnt. Hearing from
Rashîd that I, a guest in his hotel, had suffered robbery, he sprang
on to his feet and danced with rage.

When I arrived upon the scene, which was the palm-lounge--an open
courtyard shaded by an awning--he was flourishing a monstrous whip,
with dreadful imprecations, literally foaming at the mouth. I begged
him to do nothing rash, but he seemed not to hear me. With the squeal
of a fighting stallion, he rushed off to the servants' quarters,
whence presently there came heartrending shrieks and cries for mercy.
His sons, in fear of murder, followed him, and added their
remonstrance to the general din. The women of his house appeared in
doorways, weeping and wringing their hands.

Rashîd seemed gratified by this confusion, regarded as a tribute to
our greatness, his and mine.

'Be good enough to go away,' he told me. 'The scene is quite unworthy
of your dignity. I will take care that all is done to raise your
honour.'

I remained, however. Presently, the host returned, perspiring freely,
mopping his brown face with a crimson handkerchief. He smiled as one
who has had healthy exercise.

'It is no use,' he told me, with a shrug. 'I beat them well, and every
one of them confessed that he alone, and not another, was the thief.
Each, as his turn came, wished to stay my hand at any cost.'

He sank down on a sofa which was in the court. 'What further is your
Honour's will?' he asked. 'I will beat anyone. The story is so bad for
the hotel. I should be ruined if it reached the ears of Cook or
Baedeker.'

The cries of those unhappy servants having shamed me, I told him that
I was content to count the money lost rather than that harmless folk
should suffer for my carelessness. Rashîd protested, saying twelve
pounds was no trifle, although I might, in youthful folly, so regard
it. He, as my servant, had to guard my wealth.

'The gold is lost. It is the will of Allah. Let it be,' I answered
irritably.

'Thou wilt not tell the English consul?' cried the host, with sudden
eagerness. 'Thou wilt refrain from saying any word to Cook or Baedeker
to bring ill-fame and ruin on the place? Our Lord augment thy wealth
and guard thee always! May thy progeny increase in honour till it
rules the world!'

'But something must be done,' Rashîd remonstrated. 'A crime has been
committed. We must find the culprit.'

'True,' said the host, 'and I will help with all my strength. The
consul would not help at all. He would but frighten the police, with
the result that they would torture--perhaps hang--a man or two, but
not the man who stole your belt of money. Our police, when not
alarmed, are clever. Go to them and give a little money. They will
find the thief.'

'I go this minute,' said Rashîd.

I bade him wait. Knowing his way of magnifying me and my possessions,
I thought it better to be present at the interview, lest he should
frighten the police no less than would the intervention of a consul.

We went together through the shady markets, crossing here and there an
open space of blinding sunlight, asking our way at intervals, until at
last we entered a large whitewashed room where soldiers loitered and
a frock-coated, be-fezzed official sat writing at a desk. This
personage was very sympathetic.

'Twelve pounds!' he cried. 'It is a serious sum. The first thing to be
done is to survey the scene of crime. Wait, I will send with you a
knowing man.'

He called one of the soldiers, who stepped forward and saluted, and
gave him charge of the affair.

'You can place confidence in him. He knows his business,' he assured
me, bowing with extreme politeness, as we took our leave.

With the soldier who had been assigned to us we sauntered back to the
hotel. The man abounded in compassion for me. He said it was the worst
case he had ever heard of--to rob a man so manifestly good and amiable
of so great a sum. Alas! the badness of some people. It put out the
sun!

At the hotel he spent a long while in my room, searching, as he said,
for 'traces.' Rashîd, the host and all his family, and nearly all the
servants, thronged the doorway. After looking into every drawer, and
crawling underneath the bed, which he unmade completely, he spent some
minutes in debating whether the thief had entered by the window or the
door. Having at last decided for the door, he turned to me and asked
if there was anybody I suspected. When I answered 'no,' I saw him
throw a side-glance at Rashîd, as if he thought him fortunate in
having so obtuse a master. As he was departing, Rashîd, at my command,
gave him a silver coin, for which he kissed my hand and, having done
so, said:

'I know a clever man, none like him for such business. I will send him
to your presence in an hour.'

Three hours passed. I had finished luncheon, and was sipping coffee in
the lounge, when a sleek personage in gorgeous robes was brought to
me. He had a trick of looking down his nose at his moustache, the
while he stroked it, with a gentle smirk.

'Your Excellency has been robbed,' he murmured in a secret tone, 'and
you would know the robber? There is nothing simpler. I have
discovered many thieves. I think it likely that I know the very man. I
will disguise myself as an old woman or a begging dervish. There are
many ways. But, first, your Honour must bestow on me an English pound.
That is my fee. It is but little for such services.'

I answered languidly that the affair had ceased to thrill me; I wished
to hear no more about the money or the thief. He stayed a long while,
wheedling and remonstrating, depicting his own subtlety in glowing
terms; but in the end departed with despairing shrugs and backward
glances, hoping that I might relent.

Rashîd, who had been out to tend the horses, came presently and asked
if I had seen the great detective. When I described our interview, he
nearly wept.

'The people here think me the thief,' he told me. 'They say nothing,
but I feel it in their bearing towards me. And now you give up seeking
for the culprit! Am I to bear this shame for evermore?'

Here was a new dilemma! No way out of it appeared to me, for even if
we did employ the great detective, our chance of finding the
delinquent seemed exceeding small. I was thinking what could possibly
be done to clear Rashîd, when a familiar figure came into the court
and strolled towards us. It was Suleymân! I had imagined him three
hundred miles away, at Gaza, in the south of Palestine. Loud were our
exclamations, but his calm rebuked us. I never knew him show
excitement or surprise.

He heard our story with deliberation, and shook his head at the police
and the detective.

'No use at all,' he scoffed. 'The one man for your purpose is the
Chief of the Thieves. I know him intimately.'

'Ma sh'Allah! Is there then a guild of thieves?'

'There is.'

'The Sheykh of the Thieves must be the greatest rogue. I do not care
to have to do with him.'

'You err,' remarked Suleymân, with dignity. 'Your error has its root
in the conviction that a thief is evil. He may be evil as an
individual; all men are apt to be who strive for gain; but as a
member of a corporation he has pride and honour. With Europeans, it is
just the opposite. They individually are more honourable than their
governments and corporations. The Sheykh of the Thieves, I can assure
you, is the soul of honour. I go at once to see him. He can clear
Rashîd.'

'If he does that, he is the best of men!' exclaimed my servant.

An hour later one of the hotel men, much excited, came to tell me that
some soldiers were approaching, who had caught the thief. The host and
all his family ran out into the hall. Rashîd and all the servants came
from kitchen purlieus. Four soldiers entered with triumphant
exclamations, dragging and pushing forward--Suleymân!

The prisoner's demeanour had its usual calm.

'I have regained the belt,' he called to me. 'These men were watching
near the house, and found it on me. They would not hear reason. The
man who stole the belt--a Greek--has left the city. He gave the Sheykh
the belt, but kept the money.'

The soldiers, disappointed, let him go.

'How dost thou know all that?' inquired their leader.

'The Headman of the Thieves informed me of it.'

'Ah, then, it is the truth,' the soldier nodded. 'He is a man of
honour. He would not deceive thee.'

I do not claim to understand these things. I but relate them.



CHAPTER IX

MY COUNTRYMAN


One summer, in the south of Syria, amid that tumbled wilderness of
cliff and chasm, shale and boulder, which surges all around the Sea of
Lot, we had been riding since the dawn without encountering a human
being, and with relief at last espied a village, having some trace of
cultivated land about it, and a tree.

Rashîd was on ahead. Suleymân had been beside me, but had dropped
behind in order to perform some operation on his horse's hoof. As I
came down the last incline on to the village level I heard angry
shouts, and saw a crowd of fellâhîn on foot mobbing Rashîd. Urging my
horse, I shouted to him to know what was happening. At once a number
of the villagers forsook him and surrounded me, waving their arms
about and talking volubly.

I had gathered, from their iteration of the one word 'moyeh,' that
water was the matter in dispute, even before Rashîd succeeded in
rejoining me.

He said: 'I rode up to the spring which flows beneath that arch, and
was letting my horse drink from the stone trough of water, when these
maniacs rushed up and dragged my horse away, and made this noise. They
say the water in the spring is theirs, and no one else has any right
to touch it. I offered to make payment, but they would not hear me. I
threatened them with vengeance, but they showed no fear. Is it your
Honour's will that I should beat a few of them?'

Seeing their numbers, I considered it the wiser plan for us to let
them be till their excitement had cooled down, and till Suleymân
arrived to help us with advice. Accordingly, I smiled and nodded to
the villagers, and rode back up the path a little way, Rashîd obeying
my example with reluctance, muttering curses on their faith and
ancestry. Then we dismounted and lay down in the shadow of some rocks.
It wanted still two hours before the sun would set.

Suleymân came on us, and dismounted at a call from me.

'What is the noise down there?' he questioned, looking at the village
with that coolness, like indifference, habitual to his face when
meeting problems of importance.

'They will not let us touch the water--curse their fathers!' growled
Rashîd. 'Heard anyone the like of such inhospitality? It would but
serve them right if we destroyed their houses.'

Suleymân screwed up his eyes, the better to survey the crowd of
villagers below, who now sat guard around the spring, and murmured
carelessly:

'It is evident that thou hast angered them, O son of rashness. We
shall do well to wait before approaching them again with our polite
request.'

Therewith he stretched his length upon the ground, with a luxurious
sigh, and would, I think, have gone to sleep, had not Rashîd,
conceiving himself blamed, thought necessary to relate in full the
whole adventure.

'What else could man have done?' he asked defiantly. 'Say in what
respect, however trifling, did I act unwisely?'

'By Allah, thou didst nothing wrong, and yet thou mightest have done
better, since thy efforts led to failure,' said the sage, benignly.
'Thou art a soldier yet in thought, and thy one method is to threaten.
If that avails not, thou art helpless. There are other ways.'

'I offered money,' cried Rashîd indignantly. 'Could man do more?'

'What are those other ways? Instruct us, O beloved!' I put in, to save
Rashîd from feeling lonely under blame for ignorance.

'No truly great one ever argues with a crowd. He chooses out one man,
and speaks to him, him only,' said Suleymân; and he was going to tell
us more, but just then something in the wadi down below the village
caught his eye, and he sat up, forgetting our dilemma.

'A marvel!' he exclaimed after a moment spent in gazing. 'Never, I
suppose, since first this village was created, have two Franks
approached it in a single day before. Thou art as one of us in outward
seeming,' he remarked to me; 'but yonder comes a perfect Frank with
two attendants.'

We looked in the direction which his finger pointed, and beheld a man
on horseback clad in white from head to foot, with a pith helmet and
a puggaree, followed by two native servants leading sumpter-mules.

'Our horses are in need of water,' growled Rashîd, uninterested in the
sight. 'It is a sin for those low people to refuse it to us.'

'Let us first wait and see how this newcomer fares, what method he
adopts,' replied Suleymân, reclining once more at his ease.

The Frank and his attendants reached the outskirts of the village, and
headed naturally for the spring. The fellâhîn, already put upon their
guard by Rashîd's venture, opposed them in a solid mass. The Frank
expostulated. We could hear his voice of high command.

'Aha, he knows some Arabic. He is a missionary, not a traveller,' said
Suleymân, who now sat up and showed keen interest. 'I might have known
it, for the touring season is long past.'

He rose with dignified deliberation and remounted. We followed him as
he rode slowly down towards the scene of strife. When we arrived, the
Frank, after laying about him vainly with his riding-whip, had drawn
out a revolver. He was being stoned. His muleteers had fled to a safe
distance. In another minute, as it seemed, he would have shot some
person, when nothing under Allah could have saved his life.

Suleymân cried out in English: 'Don't you be a fool, sir! Don't you
fire!'

The Frank looked round in our direction, with an angry face; but
Suleymân bestowed no further thought on him. He rode up to the nearest
group of fellâhîn, crying aloud:

'O true believers! O asserters of the Unity! Bless the Prophet, and
inform me straightway what has happened!'

Having captured their attention by this solemn adjuration, he
inquired:

'Who is the chief among you? Let him speak, him only!'

Although the crowd had seemed till then to be without a leader, an old
white-bearded man was thrust before him, with the cry:

'Behold our Sheykh, O lord of judgment. Question him!'

Rashîd and I heard nothing of the conversation which ensued, except
the tone of the two voices, which appeared quite friendly, and some
mighty bursts of laughter from the crowd. No more stones were thrown,
although some persons still kept guard over the spring.

At length Suleymân returned to us, exclaiming:

'All is well. They grant us leave to take what water we require. The
spring has been a trouble to these people through the ages because the
wandering tribes with all their herds come here in time of drought and
drink it dry. But now they are our friends, and make us welcome.'

He called out to the Frank, who all this while had sat his horse with
an indignant air, more angry, as it seemed, to be forgotten than to be
assailed:

'It is all right. You take the water and you pay them five piastres.'

'It is extortion!' cried the Frank. 'What right have they to charge me
money for the water of this natural spring, which is the gift of God?
I will not pay.'

'No matter. I pay for you,' shrugged Suleymân.

I tried to make the missionary--for such he proved to be upon
acquaintance--understand that the conditions in that desert country
made the spring a valued property, and gave a price to every
pitcherful of water.

'What! Are you English?' was his only answer, as he scanned my
semi-native garb with pity and disgust. 'And who, pray, is that person
with you who was rude to me?'

'His name is Suleymân. He is a friend of mine.'

'A friend, I hardly think,' replied the Frank, fastidiously. He was a
big man, with a dark complexion and light eyes. 'I am going to camp
here to-night. I have a tent. Perhaps you will be good enough to come
and sup with me. Then we can talk.'

'With pleasure,' I made answer, taken by surprise.

'Where is your camp?' he asked.

'We haven't got one. We put up in the guest-room if there is one, or
under the stars.'

'Well, there's no accounting for tastes,' he murmured, with a sneer.

Rashîd, through all this conversation, had been standing by, waiting
to tell me that Suleymân had gone before into the village to the
headman's house, where it had been arranged that we should pass the
night. Thither we went, when I had finished speaking to the
missionary; and there we found Suleymân enthroned among the village
elders in a long, low room. He stood up on my entrance, as did all the
others, and explained:

'We have a room near by where we can throw our saddle-bags, but it is
verminous, and so we will not sleep inside it, but outside--on the
roof. For supper we are the invited guests of the good sheykh, and I
can tell you he is getting ready a fine feast.'

With deep regret and some degree of shame I told him of my promise to
take supper with the missionary. He looked reproach at me, and told
the villagers what I had said. They all cried out in disappointment.
Suleymân suggested that I should revoke the promise instantly, but
that I would not do, to his annoyance; and after that, till it was
time for me to go, he and Rashîd were sulky and withdrew their eyes
from me. I knew that they were jealous of the Frank, whom they
regarded as an enemy, and feared lest he should turn my mind against
them.



CHAPTER X

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS


It was dusk when I set out for the missionary's tent, and starlit
night before I reached it--so fleeting is the summer twilight in that
land.

Rashîd went with me, as in duty bound, and insisted on remaining with
the servants of the missionary by the cook's fire, although I told him
to go back repeatedly, knowing how his mouth must water for the
headman's feast. The dudgeon which he felt at my desertion made him
determined not to let me out of sight, and called for the martyrdom of
someone, even let that someone be himself.

The missionary called: 'Come in!' while I was still a good way off the
tent. Entering, I found him stretched on a deck-chair, with hands
behind his head. He did not rise upon my entrance, but just smiled and
pointed to another chair beyond a little folding table laid for
supper.

He spoke of the day's heat and the fatigues of travel and the flies;
and asked me how I could endure to sleep in native hovels full of
fleas and worse.

I told him that, by Suleymân's arrangement, we were to sleep upon the
roof for safety. He sniffed.

I then related a discussion I had overheard between Rashîd and
Suleymân as to the best way of defeating those domestic pests,
thinking to make him laugh. Rashîd had spoken of the virtues of a
certain shrub; but Suleymân declared the best specific was a new-born
baby. This, if laid within a room for a short while, attracted every
insect. The babe should then be carried out and dusted. The missionary
did not even smile.

'The brutes!' he murmured. 'How can you, an Englishman, and apparently
a man of education, bear their intimacy?'

They had their good points, I asserted--though, I fear, but lamely;
for the robustness of his attitude impressed me, he being a man,
presumably, of wide experience, and, what is more, a clergyman--the
kind of man I had been taught to treat with some respect.

He said no more till we had finished supper, which consisted of
sardines and corned beef and sliced pineapple, tomatoes and
half-liquid butter out of tins, and some very stale European bread
which he had brought with him. Confronted with such mummy food, I
thought with longing of the good, fresh meal which I had left behind
me at the headman's house. He may have guessed my thoughts, for he
observed: 'I never touch their food. It is insanitary'--which I knew
to be exactly what they said of his.

The man who waited on us seemed to move in fear, and was addressed by
his employer very curtly.

After the supper there was tea, which, I confess, was welcome, and
then the missionary put me through a kind of catechism. Finding out
who I was, and that we had some friends in common, he frowned deeply.
He had heard of my existence in the land, it seemed.

'What are you doing here at all?' he asked severely. 'At your age you
should be at college or in training for some useful work.'

'I'm learning things,' I told him rather feebly.

His point of view, the point of view of all my countrymen, imposed
itself on me as I sat there before him, deeply conscious of my youth
and inexperience.

'What things?' he asked. And then his tongue was loosed. He gave me
his opinion of the people of the country, and particularly of my two
companions. He had summed them up at sight. They were two cunning
rogues, whose only object was to fleece me. He told me stories about
Englishmen who had been ruined in that very way through making friends
with natives whom they thought devoted to them. One story ended in a
horrid murder. He wanted me to have no more to do with them, and when
he saw I was attached to them, begged me earnestly to treat them
always as inferiors, to 'keep them in their place'; and this I
promised, coward-like, to do, although I knew that, in the way he
meant, it was not in me.

It seemed that he himself was travelling in these wild places in
search of an old Greek inscription, mention of which he had discovered
in some book. He half-persuaded me to bear him company.

'You are doing no good here, alone with such companions,' he said, as
I at last departed. 'Think over my advice to you. Go back to England.
Come with me for the next few days, and share my tents. Then come and
stay with me in Jerusalem, and we can talk things over.' There was no
doubt of the kindliness of his intention.

I thanked him, and strolled back toward the village in the starlight,
Rashîd, who, at my first appearance, had detached himself from a small
group which sat around the missionary's kitchen fire, stalking on
before me with a lantern.

It seemed a wonder that the village dogs, which had made so great a
noise on our arrival in the place so short a while before, now took no
notice, seeming to recognise our steps as those of lawful inmates.

At the headman's house Suleymân still sat up talking with the village
elders. He expressed a hope that I had much enjoyed myself, but with a
hint of grievance which I noticed as a thing expected. Looking round
upon those eager, friendly faces, I compared them with the cold face
of the missionary, who suddenly appeared to me as a great bird of
prey. I hated him instinctively, for he was like a schoolmaster; and
yet his words had weight, for I was young to judge, and schoolmasters,
though hateful, have a knack of being in the right.

At last we three went up on to the roof to sleep. We had lain down and
said 'good night' to one another, when Suleymân remarked, as if
soliloquising:

'Things will never be the same.'

'What do you mean?' I questioned crossly.

'That missionary has spoilt everything. He told you not to trust us,
not to be so friendly with persons who are natives of this land, and
therefore born inferior.'

I made no answer, and Suleymân went on:

'A man who journeys in the desert finds a guide among the desert
people, and he who journeys on the sea trusts seamen. What allegations
did he make? I pray you tell us!'

'He told me stories of his own experience.'

'His experience is not, never will be, yours. He is the enemy. A
tiger, if one asked him to describe mankind, would doubtless say that
they are masters of the guile which brings destruction, deserving
only to be clawed to death. Question the pigeons of some mosque, upon
the other hand, and they will swear by Allah men are lords of all
benevolence.'

Rashîd broke in: 'His boys, with whom I talked, inform me that he is
devoid of all humanity. He never thanks them for their work, however
perfect, nor has a word of blessing ever passed his lips. He frowns
continually. How can he be the same as one like thee who laughs and
talks?'

We had all three sat up, unconsciously. And we continued sitting up,
debating miserably under the great stars, hearing the jackals' voices
answer one another from hill to hill both near and far, all through
that night, drawing ever closer one to another as we approached an
understanding.

'An Englishman such as that missionary,' said Suleymân, 'treats good
and bad alike as enemies if they are not of his nation. He gives bare
justice; which, in human life, is cruelty. He keeps a strict account
with every man. We, when we love a man, keep no account. We never
think of what is due to us or our position. And when we hate--may God
forgive us!--it is just the same--save with the very best and coolest
heads among us.'

'But you are cunning, and have not our code of honour,' I objected,
with satirical intention, though the statement sounded brutal.

'Your Honour says so!' cried Rashîd, half weeping. 'No doubt you are
referring to that theft in the hotel, of which you thought so little
at the time that you would take no action. That was the doing of a
Greek, as was established. Say, can you of your own experience of
children of the Arabs say that one of us has ever robbed you of a
small para, or wronged you seriously?'

'I cannot,' was my answer, after brief reflection. 'But the experience
of other, older men must weigh with me.'

'Let other men judge people as they find them, and do thou likewise,'
said Suleymân.

'He urged me to give up this aimless wandering and go with him in
search of an old Greek inscription, not far off. Within four days he
hopes to see El Cuds again; and thence he urged me to return to
England.'

At that my two companions became silent and exceeding still, as if
some paralysing fear hung over them. It was the hour immediately
before the dawn, and life seemed hopeless. The missionary's voice
seemed then to me the call of duty, yet every instinct in my blood was
fierce against it.

'Your Honour will do what he pleases,' said my servant mournfully.

'The Lord preserve thee ever!' sighed Suleymân. 'Thou art the leader
of the party. Give command.'

A streak of light grew on the far horizon, enabling us to see the
outlines of the rugged landscape. A half-awakened wild-bird cried
among the rocks below us. And suddenly my mind grew clear. I cared no
longer for the missionary's warning. I was content to face the dangers
which those warnings threatened; to be contaminated, even ruined as an
Englishman. The mischief, as I thought it, was already done. I knew
that I could never truly think as did that missionary, nor hold myself
superior to Eastern folk again. If that was to be reprobate, then I
was finished.

'Saddle the horses. We will start at once,' I told Rashîd. 'Before
the missionary is afoot--towards the East.'

For a moment he sat motionless, unable to believe his ears. Then
suddenly he swooped and kissed my hand, exclaiming: 'Praise be to
Allah!'

'Praise be to Allah!' echoed Suleymân, with vast relief. 'The tiger in
thee has not triumphed. We shall still know joy.'

'I resign myself to be the pigeon of the mosque,' I answered, laughing
happily.

Five minutes later we were riding towards the dawn, beginning to grow
red behind the heights of Moab.



CHAPTER XI

THE KNIGHT ERRANT


We had left Damascus after noon the day before, and had spent the
night at a great fortress-khan--the first of many on the pilgrims'
road. We had been on our way an hour before Rashîd discovered that he
had left a pair of saddle-bags behind him at the khan; and as those
saddle-bags contained belongings of Suleymân, the latter went back
with him to retrieve them. I rode on slowly, looking for a patch of
shade. Except the khan, a square black object in the distance, there
was nothing in my range of vision to project a shadow larger than a
good-sized thistle. Between a faint blue wave of mountains on the one
hand and a more imposing but far distant range upon the other, the
vast plain rolled to the horizon in smooth waves.

I was ascending such an undulation at my horse's leisure when a
cavalier appeared upon its summit--a figure straight out of the pages
of some book of chivalry, with coloured mantle streaming to the
breeze, and lance held upright in the stirrup-socket. This knight was
riding at his ease till he caught sight of me, when, with a shout, he
laid his lance in rest, lowered his crest and charged. I was
exceedingly alarmed, having no skill in tournament, and yet I could
not bring myself to turn and flee. I rode on as before, though with a
beating heart, my purpose, if I had one, being, when the moment came,
to lean aside, and try to catch his spear, trusting in Allah that my
horse would stand the shock. But the prospect of success was small,
because I could see nothing clearly, till suddenly the thunder of the
hoof-beats ceased, and I beheld the knight within ten yards of me,
grinning and saluting me with lance erect, his horse flung back upon
its haunches.

'I frightened thee, O Faranji?' he asserted mockingly.

I replied that it would take more than such a wretched mountebank as
he could do to frighten me, and showed him my revolver, which, until
the fear was over, had escaped my memory. It pleased him, and he
asked for it immediately. I put it back.

'A pretty weapon,' he agreed, 'but still I frightened thee.'

I shrugged and sneered, disdaining further argument, and thought to
pass him; but he turned his horse and rode beside me, asking who I was
and where I came from, and what might be my earthly object in riding
thus towards the desert all alone. I answered all his questions very
coldly, which did not disconcert him in the least. Hearing that I had
attendants, one of whom had skill in warfare, he said that he would
wait with me till they came up. I tried to frighten him with tales of
all the men Rashîd had slain in single combat: he was all the more
determined to remain with me, saying that he would gain much honour
from destroying such a man.

'But I do suspect that thou are lying, O most noble Faranji, and that
this boasted champion is some wretched townsman whose only courage is
behind a wall,' he chuckled.

At that I was indignant, and I lied the more.

Thus talking, we came near a piece of ruined wall, which cast
sufficient shadow for a man to rest in. The knight dismounted and tied
up his horse. I was for riding on, but he made such an outcry that,
wishing to avoid a quarrel, I alighted also and tied up my horse. We
lay down near together in the strip of shade. He passed me a rough
leathern water-bottle, and I took a draught of warmish fluid, tasting
like the smell of goats. He took a longer draught, and then exclaimed:
'There are thy friends.'

Far off upon the plain two specks were moving. I could not have told
man from man at such a distance, but the knight was able to
distinguish and describe them accurately.

'The younger man who sits erect upon his horse--he is no doubt the
warrior of whom thou speakest. The other, plump and lolling, has the
air of greatness--a Pasha, maybe, or a man of law.'

I told him that Suleymân was a man of learning, and then let him talk
while I took stock of his appearance. The figure out of books of
chivalry was shabby on a close inspection. The coloured surcoat was
both weather-stained and torn, the coat of mail beneath so ancient
that many of the links had disappeared completely; the holes where
they had been were patched with hide, which also was beginning to give
way in places. His age was about three-and-twenty; he had bright brown
eyes, a black moustache and beard, and a malicious air. He looked a
perfect ragamuffin, yet he spoke with condescension, talking much
about his pedigree, which contained a host of names which I had never
heard before--a fact which, when he realised it, filled him first with
horror, then with pity of my ignorance. He expatiated also on his
horse's pedigree, which was as lengthy as his own.

When my friends came up, I quite expected them to rid me of the
tiresome knight. But they did nothing of the sort. They took the man
and his pretensions seriously, exchanging with him compliments in
striking contrast with the haughty tone I had till then adopted.
Rashîd refused his challenge with politeness, and, much to my dismay,
Suleymân, the older and more thoughtful man, accepted it upon
condition that the combat should stand over till some more convenient
time; and when the knight proclaimed his sovereign will to travel with
us, they seemed pleased.

'He will be useful to us,' said Rashîd, when I complained to him of
this deception, 'for his tribe controls a great part of this country.
But it will be best for me to carry our revolver while he rides with
us. Then I and not your Honour can deny him, which is more becoming.'

The knight had asked for my revolver thrice already.

That evening, near a lonely village of the plain, the battle with
Suleymân was fought with equal honours, each rider hitting his man
squarely with the long jerideh--the stripped palm-branch--which is
substituted for the spear in friendly combat. The heroes faced each
other at a regulated distance. Then one--it was Suleymân--clapped
spurs into his horse's flanks and fled, keeping within a certain space
which might be called the lists; the other flying after him, with
fearful yells, intent to fling the missile so that it should strike
the victim in a certain manner. This lasted till the throw was made,
and then the order was reversed, and the pursuer in his turn became
the hunted.

The knight applauded his opponent's skill reluctantly, and with
regret that he himself had not been in his usual form.

He journeyed with us after that for many days. It seemed that he was
out in search of exploits, so did not care a jot which way he rode. In
former days, he told me, there used to be a tournament in every town
each Friday, where any stranger knight might show his prowess, winning
honour and renown. But in these degenerate times it was necessary for
the would-be champion to cry his challenge in some public place, or
else arrange the fight beforehand meanly in some tavern. I should have
been delighted with him on the whole, if he had not been quarrelsome
and had not expected us, as his companions, to extricate him from the
strife in which his arrogance involved him. We dreaded the arrival at
a town or village. If he had possessed the prowess of his courage,
which was absolutely reckless, he would have been a more endurable, if
dread, companion. But in almost every quarrel which he brought upon
himself he got the worst of it, and was severely beaten, and then
would talk to us about the honour of the Arabs till we fell asleep.

One night in the small town of Mazarib we rescued him from two
Circassian bravoes whom he had insulted wantonly. They had nearly
stopped his mouth for ever when we intervened. I cannot say he was
ungrateful upon that occasion. On the contrary, he swore that he would
not forsake us until death--a vow which filled us with dismay, for
even Suleymân by that time saw that he was useless; and Rashîd, our
treasurer, resented his contempt of money. He had a way, too, of
demanding anything of ours which took his fancy, and, if not forcibly
prevented, taking it, peculiarly obnoxious to Rashîd, who idolised my
few belongings. We were his friends, his manner told us, and he, the
bravest of the brave, the noblest of the noble Arabs, was prepared to
give his life for us at any time. Any trifles therefore which we might
bestow on him were really nothing as compared with what he gave us
every hour of every day.

It grew unbearable. The people in the khan at Mazarib were laughing at
us because that wretched Bedawi, a chance adherent, ruled our party.
We plotted desperately to get rid of him.

At length Suleymân devised a scheme. It was that we should change the
whole direction of our journey, turning aside into the mountain of the
Druzes. The Druzes were at war with many of the Bedu--probably with
this man's tribe; at any rate, a Bedawi, unless disguised, would run
grave risk among them while the war was on.

Accordingly, when we at length set out from Mazarib, Suleymân, with
many compliments, informed the knight of a dilemma which distressed us
greatly. I had been summoned to the bedside of a friend of mine, a
great Druze sheykh, now lying very ill, whose one wish was to gaze on
me before he died. Rashîd chimed in to say how tenderly that Druze
chief loved me, and how depressed I was by sorrow for his grievous
illness. In short, it was imperative that we should go at once to the
Druze mountain. What were our feelings when we suddenly bethought us
that there was danger in that region for an Arab knight! Must we then
part from our beloved, from our souls' companion? Suleymân declared
that we had wept like babes at such a prospect. No, that must never
be; our grief would kill us. We had been obliged to think of some
contrivance by which our hearts' delight might bear us company without
much risk, and with the help of Allah we had hit upon a splendid plan,
yet simple: That he should lay aside his lance and armour, dress as a
Christian, and become our cook.

'Why need he seem a Christian?' asked Rashîd.

'Because all cooks who go with English travellers are Christians,' was
the earnest answer, 'and because no man would ever think to find a
Bedawi beneath a Christian's cloak.'

'A person of my master's standing ought to have a cook,' murmured
Rashîd, as one who thought aloud.

Never have I seen such horror in the face of man as then convulsed the
features of the desert knight. He, a cook! He, the descendant of I
know not whom, to wear the semblance of a heathen and degraded
townsman! Rather than that he would encounter twenty spear-points. If
we were going to the mountain of the Druzes, we might go alone!

We all were eager to express regret. He listened with a sneer, and
answered nothing. After a while he beckoned me to speak apart with
him, and, when we were beyond the hearing of the others, said:

'I leave thee now, O Faranji, and journey towards Nejd to seek
adventures. Thou lovest me I am aware, and so I grieve to part from
thee; but thy adherents are low people and devoured by envy. If ever
we should meet again I will destroy them. If thou shouldst travel
south and eastward through the Belka, remember me, I beg, and seek our
tents. There thou shalt find a welcome far more hospitable than the
Druze will give thee. I shall never cease to pray for thee. My grief
will be extreme until we meet again. I pray thee give me that revolver
as a souvenir.'



CHAPTER XII

THE FANATIC


A European hat in those days was a rarity except in the large towns,
and it attracted notice. That is the reason why I generally discarded
it, with other too conspicuously Western adjuncts. Where the
inhabitants were not well-mannered, the hat was apt to be saluted with
a shower of stones.

One afternoon I happened to be riding by myself along a so-called road
in the bare mountain country round Jerusalem, wearing a hat, when I
came on a pedestrian resting in the shadow of a rock by the wayside.
He was a native Christian--that much could be detected at a glance;
but of what peculiar brand I could not guess from his costume, which
consisted of a fez; a clerical black coat and waistcoat, quite of
English cut, but very much the worse for wear; a yellow flannel shirt,
and a red cord with tassels worn by way of necktie; baggy Turkish
pantaloons; white stockings, and elastic-sided boots. Beside him, a
long staff leaned up against the rock. He sprang upon his feet at my
approach, and, with an amiable smile and bow, exclaimed:

'Good afternoon. I think you are an English gentleman?'

I pleaded guilty to the charge, and he asked leave to walk beside me
until past a certain village, not far distant, of which the people, he
assured me, were extremely wicked and averse to Christians. I readily
consented, and he took his staff and walked beside me, pouring out his
soul in fulsome flattery.

The village which he dreaded to approach alone was the abode of
Muslims, devilish people who hate the righteous Christians and
persecute them when they get the chance. He said that he looked
forward to the day when the English would take over the whole country
and put those evil-doers in their proper place, below the Christians.
It would be a mercy and a blessing to the human race, he gave as his
mature opinion, if the English were to conquer the whole world. They
were so good and upright and so truly pious. He did not think that any
wrong was ever done in England. And then:

'You are a Brûtestant?' he asked.

I answered that I was a member of the Church of England.

'Ah, thank God!' he cried. 'I also am a Brûtestant--a Babtist.' He
seemed to think that my avowal made us brothers.

It seemed, from the account he gave me of himself, that he was an
evangelist, working to spread the truth among his wicked
country-people; for the Christians of the Greek and Latin Churches
were both wicked and benighted, he informed me, and would persecute
him, like the Muslims, if they got the chance. It was hard work, he
told me, turning up his eyes to heaven. He grieved to say it, but
there seemed no other way to purge the land of all those wicked people
save destruction. He wondered that the Lord had not destroyed them
long ago. Yet when I said that I did not agree with him, but thought
that they were decent folk, though rather backward, he came round to
my opinion in a trice, exclaiming:

'Ah, how true you speak! It is that they are backward. They will
neffer be no better till they get the Gosbel light, the liffin water.'

I told him he was talking nonsense; that, for my part, I thought the
missionaries did more harm than good, and once again he changed his
standpoint, though less boldly, saying:

'It is so delightful to talk thus freely to a noble English gentleman.
God knows that I could listen for a day without fatigue, you talk so
sweet. And what you say is all so new to me.'

And he proceeded to relate with what severity the English missionaries
treated native converts like himself, mentioning many wicked things
which they had done in his remembrance. I could not but admire his
versatility and total lack of shame in his desire to please. Thus
talking, we approached the village of his fears.

'If I was by myself I should be much afraid,' he fawned; 'but not with
you. These wicked beoble do not dare to hurt an English gentleman, who
wears the hat and is brotected by the Bowers of Eurobe.'

We had not really got into the place before some boys at play among
the rocks outside the houses, spying my hat, threw stones in our
direction. One hit my horse. I raised my whip and rode at them. They
fled with screams of terror. Glancing back, I could perceive no sign
of my devout companion. But when I returned at leisure, having driven
the young rogues to cover, I found him vigorously beating a small boy
who had fallen in the panic flight and, finding himself left behind,
had been too frightened to get up again.

Never have I seen a face of such triumphant malice as then appeared on
that demure evangelist. He beat the child as if he meant to kill it,
muttering execrations all the while and looking round him furtively
for fear lest other Muslims should appear in sight, in which case, I
believe, he would at once have turned from blows to fondling.

'The wicked boy!' he cried, as I came up, 'to throw stones at a noble
English gentleman. He well deserfs to be deliffered ofer to the Bowers
of Eurobe.'

I bade him leave the child alone, or it would be the worse for him.
Aggrieved, and, in appearance, shocked at my unsympathetic tone, he
left his prey, and I endeavoured to speak comfort to the victim; who,
however, took no notice of my words, but ran hard for the village,
howling lustily.

'The wicked boy! The wicked children!' the evangelist kept moaning, in
hesitating and half-contrite tones. 'It is a bity that you let him go.
He will perhabs make trouble for us in the fillage. But you are so
brafe. I think the English are the brafest kind of beeble.'

I also thought it possible there might be trouble; but I decided to go
on, not wishing to show fear before that craven. He cried aloud in awe
and wonder when I told him that little boys threw stones in Christian
England.

'But only upon unbelievers!' he exclaimed imploringly, as one who
would preserve his last illusion.

I replied to the effect that members of the Church of England would,
no doubt, have stoned a Baptist or a Roman Catholic with pleasure, if
such heretics with us had dressed in a peculiar way; but that, in my
opinion, it was only natural instinct in a boy to throw a stone at any
living thing which seemed unusual.

The shock this information gave him--or his private terrors--kept him
silent through the village; where the people, men and women, watched
us pass with what appeared to be unfriendly faces. I was ill at ease,
expecting some attack at every step.

As luck would have it, at the far end of the place, when I could see
the open country, and was giving thanks for our escape, a great big
stone was thrown by a small boy quite close to me. It struck me on the
arm, and hurt enough to make me really angry.

'For God's sake, sir!' implored my terrified companion, 'Ride on! Do
nothing! There are men obserfing.'

I heard him taking to his heels. But I had caught the culprit, and was
beating him. His yells went forth with terrible insistence:

'O my father, O my mother, help. Ya Muslimin!'

And, in a trice, I was surrounded by a group of surly-looking
fellâhîn, one of whom told me curtly to release the boy. I did so
instantly, prepared for trouble. But no sooner had I left off beating
than that man began. The boy's appeals for help went forth anew; but
this time he addressed them to his mother only, for his father held
him.

I begged the man to stop, and in the end he did so.

All those ferocious-looking fellâhîn returned my smile at this
conclusion, and wished me a good evening as I rode away.

I never saw that bright evangelist again. No doubt he ran till he had
reached some place inhabited by altogether righteous Christian people.
But the way he started running was a clear inducement to pursuit to
any son of Adam not evangelised.



CHAPTER XIII

RASHÎD'S REVENGE


We were staying with an English friend of mine--a parson, though the
least parsonical of men--who had a pleasant little house in a Druze
village of Mount Lebanon, and nothing to do but watch, and do his
utmost to restrain, the antics of a very wealthy and eccentric lady
missionary. He had gone away for a few weeks, leaving us in
possession, when another sort of clergyman arrived--a little man with
long white beard, sharp nose, and pale, seraphic eyes. He was, or
fancied that he was, on duty, inspecting missionary establishments in
those mountains. The master of the house had once invited him to stay
there if he passed that way. He seemed surprised to find us in
possession, and treated us as interlopers, though I was in fact his
host, regarding our small dwelling as a clergy house. His gaze
expressed an innocent surprise when I sat down to supper with him and
performed the honours on the night of his arrival. He gave his orders
boldly to my servant, and his demeanour plainly asked what business I
had there, though he would never listen to my explanation.

I took the whole adventure philosophically, but rage and indignation
took possession of Rashîd. And his indignation was increased by the
popularity of our insulter with the girls and teachers of the
mission-school hard by. Our guest was innocence itself, if silly and
conceited. But Rashîd watched all his movements, and could tell me
that the old 'hypocrite,' as he invariably called him, went to the
school each day and kissed the pupils, taking the pretty ones upon his
knee, and making foolish jokes, talking and giggling like an imbecile,
bestowing sweetmeats. With them--for the most sinful motives, as
Rashîd averred, and, I suppose, believed--he was all sugar; but when
he came back to the house he was as grumpy as could be. Rashîd would
have destroyed him at a nod from me one evening when he said:

'I think I must have left my glasses over at the school. Will you be
good enough to go and ask?'

'Now your Honour knows how we feel when we meet a man like that; and
there are many such among the Franks,' my servant whispered in my ear
as I went out obediently. 'By Allah, it is not to be endured!'

The parson occupied the only bedroom; and I slept out upon the balcony
on his account. Yet he complained of certain of my garments hanging in
his room, and flung them out. It was after that revolting episode,
when I was really angry for a moment, that Rashîd came to me and said:

'You hate this hypocrite; is it not so?'

'By Allah,' I replied, 'I hate him.'

He seemed relieved by the decision of my tone, and then informed me:

'I know a person who would kill him for the sake of thirty English
pounds.'

It became, of course, incumbent on me to explain that, with us
English, hatred is not absolute as with the children of the
Arabs--mine had already reached the laughing stage. He was evidently
disappointed, and answered with a weary sigh:

'May Allah rid us of this foul oppression!'

It was a bitter pill for him, whose whole endeavour was for my
aggrandisement, to see me treated like a menial by our guest; who,
one fine evening, had me summoned to his presence--I had been sitting
with some village elders in the olive grove behind the house--and made
to me a strange proposal, which Rashîd declared by Allah proved his
perfect infamy. His manner was for once quite amiable. Leaning back in
a deck-chair, his two hands with palms resting on his waistcoat, the
fingers raised communicating at the tips, he said, with clerical
complacency:

'It is my purpose to make a little tour to visit missionary ladies at
three several places in these mountains, and then to go on to Jezzîn
to see the waterfall. As you appear to know the country and the people
intimately, and can speak the language, it would be well if you came
too. The man Rashîd could wait upon us all.'

Rashîd, I knew, was listening at the door.

'Us all? How many of you are there, then?'

He hemmed a moment ere replying:

'I--er--think of taking the Miss Karams with me'--Miss Sara Karam, a
young lady of Syrian birth but English education, was head teacher at
the girls' school, and her younger sister, Miss Habîbah Karam, was
her constant visitor--'I thought you might take charge of the younger
of the two. The trip will give them both great pleasure, I am sure.'

And they were going to Jezzîn, where there was no hotel, and we should
have to herd together in the village guest-room! What would my Arab
friends, censorious in all such matters, think of that?

I told him plainly what I thought of the idea, and what the
mountain-folk would think of it and all of us. I told him that I had
no wish to ruin any woman's reputation, nor to be forced into unhappy
marriage by a public scandal. He, as a visitor, would go away again;
as an old man, and professionally holy, his good name could hardly
suffer among English people. But the girls would have to live among
the mountaineers, who, knowing of their escapade, would thenceforth
scorn them. And as for me----

'But I proposed a mere excursion,' he interpolated. 'I fail to see why
you should take this tone about it.'

'Well, I have told you what I think,' was my rejoinder. I then went
out and told the story to Rashîd, who heartily applauded my decision,
which he had already gathered.

I did not see our simple friend again till after breakfast the next
morning. Then he said to me, in something of a contrite tone:

'I have been thinking over what you said last night. I confess I had
not thought about the native gossip. I have decided to give up the
expedition to Jezzîn. And it has occurred to me that, as you are not
going, I could ride your horse. It would save the trouble and expense
of hiring one, if you would kindly lend it.'

Taken fairly by surprise, I answered: 'Certainly,' and then went out
and told Rashîd what I had done. He wrung his hands and bitterly
reproached me.

'But there is one good thing,' he said; 'Sheytân will kill him.'

In all the months that we had owned that horse Rashîd had never once
before alluded to him by the name which I had chosen. It was
ill-omened, he had often warned me. But nothing could be too
ill-omened for that hypocrite.

'I do not want to lend the horse at all,' I said. 'And I am pretty
sure he could not ride him. But what was I to say? He took me by
surprise.'

'In that case,' said Rashîd, 'all is not said. Our darling shall enjoy
his bath to-day.'

The washing of my horse--a coal-black Arab stallion, as playful as a
kitten and as mad--was in the nature of a public festival for all the
neighbours. Sheytân was led down to the spring, where all the
population gathered, the bravest throwing water over him with kerosene
tins, while he plunged and kicked and roused the mountain echoes with
his naughty screaming. On this occasion, for a finish, Rashîd let go
his hold upon the head-rope, the people fled in all directions, and
off went our Sheytân with tail erect, scrambling and careering up the
terraces, as nimble as a goat, to take the air before returning to his
stable.

Our reverend guest had watched the whole performance from our balcony,
which, from a height of some three hundred feet, looked down upon the
spring. I was up there behind him, but I said no word till he
exclaimed in pious horror:

'What a vicious brute! Dangerous--ought to be shot!' when I inquired
to what he was alluding.

'Whose is that savage beast?' he asked, with quite vindictive ire,
pointing to Sheytân, who was disporting on the terrace just below.

'Oh, that's my horse,' I answered, interested. 'He's really quite a
lamb.'

'Your horse! You don't mean that?'

He said no more just then, but went indoors, and then out to the
mission school to see the ladies.

That evening he informed me: 'I shall not require your horse. I had no
notion that it was so strong an animal when I suggested borrowing it.
Old Câsim at the school will hire one for me. I should be afraid lest
such a valuable horse as yours might come to grief while in my
charge.'

That was his way of putting it.

We watched the party start one early morning, the clergyman all
smiles, the ladies in a flutter, all three mounted on hired chargers
of the most dejected type, old Câsim from the school attending them
upon a jackass. Rashîd addressed the last-named as he passed our
house, applying a disgraceful epithet to his employment. The poor old
creature wept.

'God knows,' he said, 'I would not choose such service. But what am I
to do? A man must live. And I will save my lady's virtue if I can.'

'May Allah help thee!' said Rashîd. 'Take courage; I have robbed his
eyes.'

I had no notion of his meaning at the time when, sitting on the
balcony, I overheard this dialogue; but later in the day Rashîd
revealed to me two pairs of eyeglasses belonging to our guest. Without
these glasses, which were of especial power, the reverend man could
not see anything in detail.

'And these two pairs were all he had,' exclaimed Rashîd with triumph.
'He always used to put them on when looking amorously at the ladies.
The loss of them, please God, will spoil his pleasure.'



CHAPTER XIV

THE HANGING DOG


Our English host possessed a spaniel bitch, which, being well-bred
gave him much anxiety. The fear of mésalliances was ever in his mind,
and furiously would he drive away the village pariahs when they came
slinking round the house, with lolling tongues. One brown and white
dog, larger than the others and with bristling hair, was a particular
aversion, the thought of which deprived him of his sleep of nights;
and not the thought alone, for that persistent suitor--more like a
bear than any dog I ever saw--made a great noise around us in the
darkness, whining, howling, and even scrabbling at the stable door. At
length, in desperation, he resolved to kill him.

One night, when all the village was asleep, we lay out on the balcony
with guns and waited. After a while the shadow of a dog slinking among
the olive trees was seen. We fired. The village and the mountains
echoed; fowls clucked, dogs barked; we even fancied that we heard the
cries of men. We expected the whole commune to rise up against us; but
after a short time of waiting all was still again.

Rashîd, out in the shadows, whispered: 'He is nice and fat,' as if he
thought that we were going to eat the dog.

'And is he dead?' I asked.

'Completely dead,' was the reply.

'Then get a cord and hang him to the balcony,' said my companion. 'His
odour will perhaps attract the foxes.'

Another minute and the corpse was hanging from the balcony, while we
lay out and waited, talking in low tones.

The bark of foxes came from vineyards near at hand, where there were
unripe grapes. 'Our vines have tender grapes,' our host repeated;
making me think of the fable of the fox and the grapes, which I
related to Rashîd in Arabic as best I could. He laughed as he
exclaimed:

'Ripe grapes, thou sayest? Our foxes do not love ripe grapes and
seldom steal them. I assure you, it was sour grapes that the villain
wanted, and never did they seem so exquisitely sour as when he found
out that he could not reach them. How his poor mouth watered!'

This was new light upon an ancient theme for us, his hearers.

After an hour or two of idle waiting, when no foxes came, we went to
bed, forgetting all about the hanging dog.

The house was close beside a carriage road which leads down from the
chief town of the mountains to the city, passing many villages. As it
was summer, when the wealthy citizens sleep in the mountain villages
for coolness' sake, from the dawn onward there was a downward stream
of carriages along that road. When the daylight became strong enough
for men to see distinctly, the sight of a great brown and white dog
hanging from our balcony, and slowly turning, struck terror in the
breasts of passers-by. Was it a sign of war, or some enchantment?
Carriage after carriage stopped, while its inhabitants attempted to
explore the mystery. But there was nobody about to answer questions.
My host and I, Rashîd as well, were fast asleep indoors. Inquirers
looked around them on the ground, and then up at the shuttered house
and then at the surrounding olive trees, in one of which they finally
espied a nest of bedding on which reclined a blue-robed man asleep. It
was the cook, Amîn, who slept there for fresh air. The firing of the
night before had not disturbed him.

By dint of throwing stones they woke him up, and he descended from his
tree and stood before them, knuckling his eyes, which were still full
of sleep.

They asked: 'What means this portent of the hanging dog?'

He stared incredulously at the object of their wonder, then exclaimed:
'Some enemy has done it, to insult me, while I slept. No matter, I
will be avenged before the day is out.'

The tidings of the mystery ran through the village, and every
able-bodied person came to view it, and express opinions.

'The dog is well known. He is called Barûd; he was the finest in our
village. He used to guard the dwelling of Sheykh Ali till he
transferred his pleasure to the house of Sheykh Selîm. It was a sin
to kill him,' was the general verdict. And Amîn confirmed it, saying:
'Aye, a filthy sin. But I will be avenged before the day is out.'

At last Rashîd, awakened by the noise of talking, came out of the
stable where he always slept, and with a laugh explained the whole
occurrence. Some of the villagers were greatly shocked, and blamed us
strongly. But Rashîd stood up for us, declaring that the dog belonged
in truth to no man, so that no man living had the right to blame his
murderer; whereas the valuable sporting bitch of the Casîs (our host)
was all his own, and it was his duty therefore to defend her from
improper lovers. He then cut down the body of the dog, which no one up
till then had dared to do; and all the people gradually went away.

The coast was clear when we arose towards eight o'clock. Rashîd, with
laughter, told the tale to us at breakfast. We had been silly, we
agreed, to leave the hanging dog; and there, as we supposed, the
matter ended.

But hardly had we finished breakfast when a knock came at the open
door, and we beheld a tall and dignified fellâh depositing his staff
against the doorpost and shuffling off his slippers at the call to
enter.

He said the murdered dog was his, and dear to him as his own eyes, his
wife and children. He was the finest dog in all the village, of so
rare a breed that no one in the world had seen a dog just like him. He
had been of use to guard the house, and for all kinds of work. The
fellâh declared his worth to be five Turkish pounds, which we must pay
immediately unless we wished our crime to be reported to the
Government.

With as nonchalant an air as I could muster, I offered him a
beshlik--fourpence halfpenny. He thereupon became abusive and
withdrew--in the end, hurriedly, because Rashîd approached him in a
hostile manner.

He had not been gone ten minutes when another peasant came, asserting
that the dog was really his, and he had been on the point of regaining
his possession by arbitration of the neighbours when we shot the
animal. He thus considered himself doubly injured--in his expectations
and his property. He came to ask us instantly to pay an English
pound, or he would lay the case before the Turkish governor, with
whom, he could assure us, he had favour.

I offered him the beshlik, and he also stalked off in a rage.

We were still discussing these encounters with Rashîd when there
arrived a vastly more imposing personage--no other than the headman of
the village, the correct Sheykh Mustafa, who had heard, he said, of
the infamous attempts which had been made to levy blackmail on us, and
came now in all haste to tell us of the indignation and disgust which
such dishonesty towards foreigners aroused in him. He could assure us
that the dog was really his; and he was glad that we had shot the
creature, since to shoot it gave us pleasure. His one desire was that
we should enjoy ourselves. Since our delight was in the slaughter of
domestic animals, he proposed to bring his mare--of the best blood of
the desert--round for us to shoot.

We felt exceedingly ashamed, and muttered what we could by way of an
apology. But the sheykh would not accept it from us. Gravely smiling,
and stroking his grey beard, he said: 'Nay, do what pleases you. God
knows, your pleasure is a law to us. Nay, speak the word, and almost
(God forgive me!) I would bring my little son for you to shoot. So
unlimited is my regard for men so much above the common rules of this
our county, and who are protected in their every fancy by the Powers
of Europe.'

His flattery dejected us for many days.



CHAPTER XV

TIGERS


The fellâhîn who came to gossip in the winter evenings round our lamp
and stove assured us there were tigers in the neighbouring mountain.
We, of course, did not accept the statement literally, but our English
friend possessed the killing instinct, and held that any feline
creatures which could masquerade in popular report as tigers would
afford him better sport than he had yet enjoyed in Syria. So when the
settled weather came we went to look for them.

For my part I take pleasure in long expeditions with a gun, though
nothing in the way of slaughter come of them. My lack of keenness at
the proper moment has been the scorn and the despair of native guides
and hunters. Once, in Egypt, at the inundation of the Nile, I had been
rowed for miles by eager men, and had lain out an hour upon an islet
among reeds, only to forget to fire when my adherents whispered as
the duck flew over, because the sun was rising and the desert hills
were blushing like the rose against a starry sky. I had chased a
solitary partridge a whole day among the rocks of En-gedi without the
slightest prospect of success; and in the Jordan valley I had endured
great hardships in pursuit of wild boar without seeing one. It was the
lurking in wild places at unusual hours which pleased me, not the
matching of my strength and skill against the might of beasts. I have
always been averse to every sort of competition. This I explain that
all may know that, though I sallied forth with glee in search of
savage creatures, it was not to kill them.

We set out from our village on a fine spring morning, attended by
Rashîd, my servant, and a famous hunter of the district named
Muhammad, also two mules, which carried all things necessary for our
camping out, and were in charge of my friend's cook, Amîn by name. We
rode into the mountains, making for the central range of barren
heights, which had the hue and something of the contour of a lion's
back. At length we reached a village at the foot of this commanding
range, and asked for tigers. We were told that they were farther on.
A man came with us to a point of vantage whence he was able to point
out the very place--a crag in the far distance floating in a haze of
heat. After riding for a day and a half we came right under it, and at
a village near its base renewed inquiry. 'Oh,' we were told, 'the
tigers are much farther on. You see that eminence?' Again a mountain
afar off was indicated. At the next village we encamped, for night
drew near. The people came out to inspect us, and we asked them for
the tigers.

'Alas!' they cried. 'It is not here that you must seek them. By Allah,
you are going in the wrong direction. Behold that distant peak!'

And they pointed to the place from which we had originally started.

Our English friend was much annoyed, Rashîd and the shikâri and the
cook laughed heartily. No one, however, was for going back. Upon the
following day our friend destroyed a jackal and two conies, which
consoled him somewhat in the dearth of tigers, and we rode forward
resolutely, asking our question at each village as we went along.
Everywhere we were assured that there were really tigers in the
mountain, and from some of the villages young sportsmen who owned guns
insisted upon joining our excursion, which showed that they themselves
believed such game existed. But their adherence, though it gave us
hope, was tiresome, for they smoked our cigarettes and ate our food.

At last, towards sunset on the seventh evening of our expedition, we
saw a wretched-looking village on the heights with no trees near it,
and only meagre strips of cultivation on little terraces, like ledges,
of the slope below.

Our friend had just been telling me that he was weary of this
wild-goose chase, with all the rascals upon earth adhering to us. He
did not now believe that there were tigers in the mountain, nor did I.
And we had quite agreed to start for home upon the morrow, when the
people of that miserable village galloped down to greet us with
delighted shouts, as if they had been waiting for us all their lives.

'What is your will?' inquired the elders of the place, obsequiously.

'Tigers,' was our reply. 'Say, O old man, are there any tigers in your
neighbourhood?'

The old man flung up both his hands to heaven, and his face became
transfigured as in ecstasy. He shouted: 'Is it tigers you desire?
This, then, is the place where you will dwell content. Tigers? I
should think so! Tigers everywhere!'

The elders pointed confidently to the heights, and men and women--even
children--told us: 'Aye, by Allah! Hundreds--thousands of them; not
just one or two. As many as the most capacious man could possibly
devour in forty years.'

'It looks as if we'd happened right at last,' our friend said, smiling
for the first time in three days.

We pitched our tent upon the village threshing-floor, the only flat
place, except roofs of houses, within sight. The village elders dined
with us, and stayed till nearly midnight, telling us about the tigers
and the way to catch them. Some of the stories they related were
incredible, but not much more so than is usual in that kind of
narrative. It seemed unnecessary for one old man to warn us gravely on
no account to take them by their tails.

'For snakes it is the proper way,' he said sagaciously, 'since snakes
can only double half their length. But tigers double their whole
length, and they object to it. To every creature its own proper
treatment.'

But there was no doubt of the sincerity of our instructors, nor of
their eagerness to be of use to us in any way. Next morning, when we
started out, the headman came with us some distance, on purpose to
instruct the guide he had assigned to us, a stupid-looking youth, who
seemed afraid. He told him: 'Try first over there among the boulders,
and when you have exhausted that resort, go down to the ravine, and
thence beat upwards to the mountain-top. Please God, your Honours will
return with half a hundred of those tigers which devour our crops.'

Thus sped with hope, we set out in good spirits, expecting not a bag
of fifty tigers, to speak truly, but the final settlement of a dispute
which had long raged among us, as to what those famous tigers really
were. Rashîd would have it they were leopards, I said lynxes, and our
English friend, in moments of depression, thought of polecats. But,
though we scoured the mountain all that day, advancing with the
utmost caution and in open order, as our guide enjoined, we saw no
creature of the feline tribe. Lizards, basking motionless upon the
rocks, slid off like lightning when aware of our approach. Two
splendid eagles from an eyrie on the crags above hovered and wheeled,
observing us, their shadows like two moving spots of ink upon the
mountain-side. A drowsy owl was put up from a cave, and one of our
adherents swore he heard a partridge calling. No other living creature
larger than a beetle did we come across that day.

Returning to the camp at evening, out of temper, we were met by all
the village, headed by the sheykh, who loudly hoped that we had had
good sport, and brought home many tigers to provide a feast. When he
heard that we had not so much as seen a single one he fell upon the
luckless youth who had been told off to conduct us, and would have
slain him, I believe, had we not intervened.

'Didst seek in all the haunts whereof I told thee? Well I know thou
didst not, since they saw no tiger! Behold our faces blackened through
thy sloth and folly, O abandoned beast!'

Restrained by force by two of our adherents, the sheykh spat
venomously at the weeping guide, who swore by Allah that he had obeyed
instructions to the letter.

Our English friend was much too angry to talk Arabic. He bade me tell
the sheykh he was a liar, and that the country was as bare of tigers
as his soul of truth. Some of our fellâh adherents seconded my speech.
The sheykh appeared amazed and greatly horrified.

'There are tigers,' he assured us, 'naturally! All that you desire.'

'Then go and find them for us!' said our friend, vindictively.

'Upon my head,' replied the complaisant old man, laying his right hand
on his turban reverently. 'To hear is to obey.'

We regarded this reply as mere politeness, the affair as ended. What
was our surprise next morning to see the sheykh and all the able men,
accompanied by many children, set off up the mountain armed with
staves and scimitars, and all the antique armament the village
boasted! It had been our purpose to depart that day, but we remained
to watch the outcome of that wondrous hunting.

The villagers spread out and 'beat' the mountain. All day long we
heard their shouts far off among the upper heights. If any tiger had
been there they must assuredly have roused him. But they returned at
evening empty-handed, and as truly crestfallen as if they had indeed
expected to bring home a bag of fifty tigers. One man presented me
with a dead owl--the same, I think, which we had startled on the day
before, as if to show that their display had not been quite in vain.

'No tigers!' sighed the sheykh, as though his heart were broken. 'What
can have caused them all to go away? Unhappy day!' A lamentable wail
went up from the whole crowd. 'A grievous disappointment, but the
world is thus. But,' he added, with a sudden brightening, 'if your
Honours will but condescend to stay a week or two, no doubt they will
return.'



CHAPTER XVI

PRIDE AND A FALL


There was to be a grand fantasia at the castle of the greatest of
Druze sheykhs in honour of a visit from the English Consul-General in
Syria; and as an Englishman I was invited to be there. It was a
journey of a day and a half. Upon the second morning Rashîd and I had
not gone far ere we fell in with other horsemen wending in the same
direction as ourselves, well mounted and in holiday attire. All
greeted us politely, but we kept apart, because they nearly all rode
mares while we rode stallions--a fruitful source of trouble and a
cause of war.

At length a young man mounted on a stallion overtook us with most
cordial greetings. I had met him often. He was the son of a rich
landowner in a neighbouring valley, and, I think, the most beautiful
human creature I ever saw. That day he was particularly good to look
at, his complexion of clear olive slightly flushed, his violet eyes
beneath their long dark lashes dancing, his perfect white teeth
gleaming with excitement and delight. He wore a cloak, broad striped,
of white and crimson, a white frilled shirt of lawn showing above a
vest of crimson velvet, fawn-coloured baggy trousers, and soft
sheepskin boots. A snow-white turban crowned his whole appearance. His
horse was thoroughbred and young, and he controlled its ceaseless
dance to admiration. He told me that the stallion was his own, an
uncle's gift, and quite the best in all the mountains; although mine,
he added out of mere politeness, was undoubtedly a pearl of breeding
and high spirit. He hoped with such a steed to gain renown in that
day's horsemanship, and, if it might be, win the notice of the
Consul-General and his lady.

'My father wished me to take out another horse,' he said; 'but I love
this one, and am used to all his ways. I could not do myself full
justice on another, nor would Rustem do his best for any other rider.'

He proceeded to discuss the horses which we saw before us on the road,
pointing out in each of them some defect, and exclaiming: 'I shall
excel them all, in sh' Allah! Does not your Honour also think my horse
the best?'

I assured him that I did indeed, and all my wishes were for his
success, 'because,' said I, 'I know and like you, and I do not know
the others.'

'But some thou knowest for a certainty, for all the Mountain will be
there. Come, let me name them to thee one by one.' And some of those
he named were certainly well known to me.

'When thou seest Hasan, son of Ali, nicely mounted, wilt thou not
think he is the better man?'

'No, no, by Allah!' I disclaimed such fickleness. 'Be sure that if
good wishes can ensure success, all mine are with thee in to-day's
event.'

'Allah increase thy wealth!' he cried in joy, as if I had bestowed on
him a gift of price.

There was a crowd of many colours on the well-made road which wanders
up through orchards to the village and ends on the meydân before the
castle gate. There the crowd halted, making fast their horses to the
many rings and tie-holes which were in the walls. Rashîd took charge
of my horse and his own, while I went on up steps on to a higher
platform intersected by a stream of ice-cold water plunging down into
the valley in a fine cascade whose spray and murmur cooled the air.
That rush of water was the greatest luxury in such a land, and the
lord of the castle took much pride in its contrivance.

I went up to a door where soldiers and domestics lounged, but was
informed: 'Our lord is out of doors.' A soldier pointed to a bunch of
trees above the waterfall and overlooking the meydân, where many
notables in black frock coat and fez sat out on chairs. He ran on to
announce my coming. I was soon a member of the formal group, replying
to the usual compliments and kind inquiries.

Coffee was handed round. Then came a tray of different kinds of
sherbet, then a tray of eatables. The chiefs around me talked of
harvests and the price of land, but, most of all, of horses, since it
was a horsey day. The screaming of a stallion came persistently from
the meydân--a naughty screaming which foreboded mischief. I recognised
the voice. The culprit was my own Sheytân. The screams were so
disturbing, so indecent, that several of the great ones round me
frowned and asked: 'Whose horse is that?' in accents of displeasure.
I was ashamed to own him.

At length the lord of the castle called a servant to his side and
whispered, pointing with his hand in the direction whence the screams
proceeded. The servant hurried off, but presently returned and
whispered something in his master's ear. His master looked at me and
nodded gravely. He then addressed me in a deprecating tone, remarking:
'Your Honour's horse is too high-spirited; the crowd excites him. Will
you allow him to be tethered in some other place?'

From the excessive smoothness of his manner I could guess that, had I
been a native of the land, he would have told me to remove the vicious
brute and myself likewise. I rose at once to go and see to it.

'Pray do not give yourself the trouble!' he exclaimed, distressed.

The servant went along with me, and, when we got to the meydân, Rashîd
came running. Sheytân was then indeed a terrifying sight, with
streaming tail, mane bristling, and a wicked bloodshot eye, tearing at
his head-rope, one minute pawing at the wall as if to climb it, the
next kicking wildly with his head down. I know little of horses in
general, but I knew that particular horse, and he knew me. I went up
quietly and talked to him, then loosed the rope and led Sheytân away
without much difficulty, Rashîd meanwhile explaining to the servant of
the house that no one else could possibly have done it. We tied him at
the further end of the meydân.

Then I went back on to the terrace, where the notables had risen and
were looking at the youths who were to take part in the fantasia,
among them my companion of the road, the young Sheykh Abdul Hamid.
These were now on the parade-ground with their horses. My neighbour in
the group of great ones said, politely:

'Your Honour should go with them; it is only proper, since their going
is to compliment the representative of England. And you are, I see, a
very skilful cavalier. The way you quieted that horse of yours was
wonderful. We have all been talking of it. Ride with them!'

I begged to be excused. The essence of the fantasia is to show off
one's own prowess and one's horse's paces while careering madly in a
widish circle round some given object--an open carriage with some
great one in it, or a bridal pair--taking no note of obstacles,
dashing over rocks and gulleys and down breakneck slopes, loading and
firing off a gun at intervals, in full career. I had tried the feeling
of it once at a friend's wedding, and had been far from happy, though
my horse enjoyed the romp and often tried to start it afterwards when
there was no occasion. Remembering Abdul Hamid and his desire for
praise that day, I said:

'There is only one good horseman here--Abdul Hamid, the son of the
Sheykh Mustafa. All the rest of us, compared with him, are mere
pedestrians.'

I pointed out the youth in question to my neighbour, who was a man of
power in the mountains, and he praised the beauty of his form on
horseback.

'By Allah, right is with thee,' he assented. 'There is none but he.'

Away they went--Jinblâts, Talhûks, and Abdul Meliks--all in clean
white turbans, with coloured cloaks a-stream upon the breeze, on
horses gorgeously caparisoned. We waited half an hour--in silence, as
it seemed; and then we heard the noise of their return, the shouts,
the firing. I swear I saw a horse and man surmount a housetop in the
village and then leap down upon the other side. At last, with yells
and reckless gunshots and a whirl of dust, the crowd of horsemen came
full tilt on the meydân. Their leader--in appearance a mad angel--was
my friend, Abdul Hamid. Suddenly he drew his rein, flinging the steed
right back upon his haunches. In so doing, looking up at me with a
triumphant smile, he somehow missed his balance and pitched clear over
his horse's head, just at the very moment when a carriage and pair
containing the beaming Consul-General and his lady, with a glorious
Cawwâs upon the box, arrived upon the scene. I ran to help him, but
another person was before me. A tall old man, whose garb bespoke him
an initiated Druze, rushed out among the horses and the dust and beat
the wretched lad about the shoulders, heaping curses on that lovely
head for bringing shame upon an honoured house before such company. It
was the lad's own father, the Sheykh Mustafa. I helped to drag the old
man off, and would have gone on to console the son; but just then I
beheld Sheytân approaching with a broken head-rope. I contrived to
catch him and to mount without attending to the girths; and, once on
horseback, I was glad to be there; for quite fifty of the tethered
steeds had broken loose in the excitement, and were rushing here and
there and fighting in a most alarming way. I have always had a dread
of horse-fights, and this was not a single fight; it was a mêlée,
fresh horses every minute breaking loose to join it. Right in my way
two angry stallions rose up, boxing one another like the lion and the
unicorn, and a little boy of ten or thereabouts ran in between and,
jumping, caught their head-ropes.

I escaped at last and rode down through the village to the bottom of
the valley, where a grove of walnut trees cast pleasant shade beside a
stream. There Rashîd found me later in the day. He told me that my
disappearance had caused consternation and alarm, the Consul-General
and his lady having asked for me. Bidding him remain with the two
horses, I went back on foot to the castle, where I stayed only the
time necessary to pay my respects.

As I was returning towards the valley, a litter borne between two
mules was leaving the meydân. Beside it walked the stern Sheykh
Mustafa, and in it, I had little doubt, reclined the beautiful Abdul
Hamid.

I asked the serving-man who led the foremost mule if his young lord
was seriously hurt. He answered:

'Yes; for he has broken his elbow and his shoulder and his
collar-bone. But that is nothing, since he has disgraced our house.'

A bitter wail of 'Woe the day!' came from within the palanquin.



CHAPTER XVII

TRAGEDY


The sun was sinking down over the sea, the mountain wall with all its
clefts and promontories wore a cloak of many colours, when we saw
before us on a rock a ruined tower. We were looking for some human
habitation where we might get food and shelter for the night; but we
should have passed by that building, taking it to be deserted, had not
we espied a woman's figure sitting out before it in the evening light.

Experience of late had taught us to shun villages, belonging
thereabouts to a peculiar sect, whose members made a virtue of
inhospitality. At noon that day, when wishing to buy food, we had been
met with such amazing insults that Rashîd, my henchman, had not yet
recovered from his indignation, and still brooded on revenge. On
seeing that the ruined tower had occupants, he said:

'If these refuse us, we will force an entrance mercilessly; for see,
they dwell alone, with none to help them.'

He rode before me towards the tower, with shoulders squared and whip
upraised.

It surprised me that the woman sitting out before the door appeared
indifferent to his approach, until, upon a closer view, I saw that she
was old and blind. She must, I thought, be deaf as well, since she had
failed to move at sound of hoof beats; which sound brought out an aged
man, who shattered Rashîd's plan of vengeance by exclaiming:
'Itfaddalû! (Perform a kindness!' that is, 'Enter!').

'It is thou who doest kindness,' I replied, by rote. 'We are thy
suppliants for food and rest this night.'

'All mine is thine,' the old man answered, coming to hold my horse's
head, while I dismounted. His wrinkled face was moulded to a patient,
sad expression, which became more noticeable when he smiled; and he
was always smiling.

I went into the tower and down a flight of much-worn steps, which
ended in a heap of fallen masonry.

'Deign to proceed,' called out the tenant from behind me; when,
climbing over the obstruction, I found myself in a large room, of
which the only furniture consisted in a heap of bedding and some
cooking things. Rather to my surprise the place was clean. The old man
flung himself upon the ground and blew upon the mass of charcoal in a
brazier, and presently a smell of coffee stewing filled the dungeon;
for such it doubtless had been in the past, its only window being high
above our heads, yet only just above the level of the rock, as I
discovered when I went to seek Rashîd, who, by our host's direction,
had bestowed the horses in a cavern by the sea. The blind old woman
still sat out before the door.

I walked all round the tower and noticed small fields neatly fenced
below it on the landward side, and a few hobbled goats upon a strip of
herbage near the shore; which, with some fishing-nets spread out upon
the rocks to dry, informed me how our host obtained a livelihood.

As I went back towards the door, I met Rashîd bringing our saddlebags.
He nodded to the woman, who still sat there motionless, and told me:
'She is mad, the poor old creature--but not dangerous. Fear nothing.
They are quite good people. It is strange, but he informs me she is
not his mother nor his wife, nor anyone by birth allied to him. And
yet he waits upon her, helpless as she is.'

Just then, the master of the tower appeared, and, going to the woman,
took her hand and raised her. 'Itfaddalû!' he said, with just the same
polite alacrity with which he welcomed us on our arrival, as if she,
too, had been an honoured guest. We all went down the broken steps
into the dungeon. A meal of fish and bread was set before us. The
woman took her food apart. The master of the house did not sit down
till she was satisfied; and, after supper, he set out a bed for her,
and then washed out the vessels, before he came again and sat with us.
By that time the old woman was asleep. Two lighted wicks, passed
through a piece of cork which floated in a bowl of oil and water,
roused the shadows of the vault. A sudden outcry at the far end of the
room made us both jump.

'Fear nothing!' said our entertainer. 'She is dreaming. Ah, poor lady!
Our Lord repay her goodness in the next life for all the evil she has
borne in this!'

'Is it permissible to ask to hear her story?' said Rashîd.

The old man looked at me with a reluctant smile, as who should say:
'It is a sad tale. Would you really care to hear it?'

I nodded gravely, and, with a deep sigh, he began:

'Many years ago--how many it is now impossible for me to say, for,
dwelling here, I have lost count of time--a certain chieftain of the
desert Arabs had a son who loved the daughter of his father's enemy.
There was no intercourse between the houses, but the young prince of
whom I speak contrived to see the maiden and to meet her stealthily,
even riding in among the dwellings of her people at risk of his own
life and mine; for I must tell you that I am his foster-brother,
though not by blood a scion of the desert, and so I served him, as was
usual with us, in the quality of an esquire.

'Both tribes were of those Arabs which have villages for their
headquarters, without renouncing the old life of war and wandering.
Our village was upon the borders of the Belka, and hers far north
towards the Hauran. In those days there were no Turkish military posts
beyond the Jordan. The feuds and customs of the tribes were then the
only law; though now, they tell me, that that country is made safe for
travel.

'There was no means to bridge the gulf which custom fixed between the
lovers; and so my foster-brother, being mad with longing for the maid,
decided to abduct her and escape into the settled country. I, loving
him, applauded all his schemes. The princess Amîneh--for she was the
daughter of a sovereign chief--was of a spirit equal to his own. She
rode out from her father's town by night upon the best mare of the
tribe with but one girl attendant. My lord and I were waiting by a
certain well. And then we rode, well knowing that both tribes would
hunt us, towards the wilâyet, where there was law and Turkish power to
protect us. The princess Amîneh lacked a man's endurance, and her
woman suffered greatly from fatigue. Their weakness had to be
considered, and there came a time when it was evident that they could
go no further without rest.

'We were then within a short day's journey of the nearest Government
post, attaining which we should have been in safety. We took refuge in
a ruined sheepcote. I was keeping the look-out while all the others
slept, when I noticed a small cloud of dust uprising in the distance.
I roused my lord, and told him: "The pursuers come." He looked upon
the princess and her maiden: they lay fast asleep, exhausted by
fatigue.

'"Let be," he said. "There is no hope for us in flight. Lie low.
Perhaps they will pass by without perceiving us."

'And so they might have done, God knows, had not our horses neighed,
winding the other horses.'

The old man wrung his hands, then hid his eyes with them.

'Never, never can I tell the details of what followed. We fought, and
the princess fought beside us, snatching a scimitar which I was
wearing from my side. Her boldness helped us somewhat to delay the
end, for our assailants were her father's people, and they feared to
hurt her. But the end came; it was from the first inevitable. I was
lying helpless on the ground, wounded, but fully conscious, when they
slew my lord. At once they hewed his body into fragments, each of
which was soon exalted on a spear. The princess, wounded in the face,
and pinioned, witnessed that. Her damsel lay inanimate, and at the
time I thought her dead. She was my promised bride. Then the Emir
approached with a great spear--as I suppose, to kill his daughter, but
just then there were loud shouts, and then another battle, in which I
heard the war-cry of our tribe. The father of my lord, pursuing also
with intent to punish us, had come upon his ancient enemy at unawares.
He won the day. The other Arabs broke and fled. The noblest of our
braves pursued them; but several of the lewder sort remained behind to
torture and dishonour my unhappy lady. I tried to rise and rescue her,
but, with the effort, my spirit left my body, and I lay as dead--the
praise to Allah!--which is the reason why I am alive to-day.

'So great a fight could not take place so near the guarded country
without coming to the knowledge of the Government. Ten Turkish
soldiers, armed with carbines, and an ombashi, coming to the spot
next day, discovered us, and carried the survivors to a place of
safety. The princess was then, as you yourselves have seen her, except
that she was young and now is old. Her damsel had survived the fight
without much hurt, by God's protection, having lain upon the ground so
still that she was left for dead. When I recovered from my wounds, I
married her.

'So tragic was our tale that all men pitied us. The Governor himself
protected the princess, and placed her with the women of his
household. But she could not be happy in the city, in that kind of
life; her soul grew restless, pining. My wife, who visited her every
day, was grieved for her; and when I found that it was as she said, I
went and asked the Governor's permission to support our lady.
Perceiving that she was not happy in his house, he yielded; and we
three wandered through the settled country for long months, the people
showing kindness to us through compassion, for our tale was known. At
last we reached this ruin by the sea, which pleased our lady because,
my wife believed, the mountains are so like a wall raised up between
her and the country of her grief. That must be thirty years ago; but
she has never wandered since.

'My wife died and I buried her beside the shore; for years I have
performed her duties to our lady. The people of these parts are
wicked, but they let us be, because they think that we are under some
enchantment. My prayer is always that I may survive my lady, for how
could she, poor creature, fare alone? So far, we have been very
fortunate, praise be to Allah!'

Rashîd was loud in his expressions of amazement at the story, his mind
intent upon the central tragedy. He said no word of praise or wonder
at our host's self-sacrifice. That he accepted, as a thing of course.
This attitude of his, which I observed, prevented me from uttering the
words of pity and condolence which were on my tongue; and I am glad
those words were never uttered, for they were impertinent, and would
have seemed absurd to Orientals, who have not our sentiment.

So, after the conclusion of the tale, we went to bed.



CHAPTER XVIII

BASTIRMA


The moon began to shine upon the gardens of Damascus, casting pale
shadows, though the daylight had not quite departed, and the sky
behind the trees to westward was still green. We were sitting out on
stools under the walnut trees, beside a stream which made a pleasant
murmur. The air was laden with the scent of unseen roses. Behind us
was a little tavern with a lantern lighted in its entrance arch, a
solitary yellow eye amid the twilight.

We were the centre of a crowd, as usual when Suleymân was with us. His
voice attracted people like a drum, and the matter of his talk had
power to hold them. It was a weighty voice of studied modulations,
which promised wisdom on the brink of laughter. He generally chose
some moral or religious subject for discourse, and illustrated it by
what we call 'nawâdir' (rare things) selected from his vast
experience of life. By his own account he had journeyed to the world's
rim, and had associated not alone with men, but also with jinn and
ghouls. On the other hand, he had been to Europe several times, and
knew the streets of Paris and of London. Somehow, one never doubted
any of his stories while he was telling them, the accents of his voice
had such conviction. One was conscious that his tales--even the most
extravagant--were true in some mysterious, intrinsic way. This time he
chose to speak to us of guilt and innocence, of good and evil works,
and their effect on man's salvation. He aired the theory, which roused
approving murmurs in the listening circle, that to have a good
intention was the chief desideratum for every son of Adam on his
journey through the world, no matter though his works might turn out
bad or unsuccessful.

'To lie with good intention is better than to tell the truth with bad
intention,' he declared.

'To lie is the salt of a man; the shame is to him who believes,' put
in Rashîd, my servant, who was great at proverbs.

Suleymân paid no heed to the interruption.

'A sin committed thoughtlessly,' said he, 'is light compared with one
which thou hast hatched and planned.'

'Nay, O beloved, a sin is a sin, appointed so by the Most High; and
the duty of a man is to avoid it. The hurt to man's salvation is the
same, however he approach it,' said an old man in the audience. 'If I
cut my hand, is the wound less, is it not rather likely to be
more--for being thoughtless?'

There was a murmur of applause as all eyes turned on this objector,
whose likeness could not be distinguished in the gloaming.

I spoke in approbation of the view expressed, and the old man,
emboldened, laughed:

'To lie is bad, to kill is bad, to steal is bad. Our Lord destroy this
rogue of an Intention, which plain men cannot catch nor understand!'

'Nay, listen!' Suleymân became persuasive and profoundly earnest, as
was his manner always under opposition. 'Thou hast not altogether
caught my meaning. I say a man should trust in the Most High, not
think too much beforehand of his ways. By thinking beforehand, he may
form a bad intention, since man's thoughts are naturally fallible.
Let him think afterwards, thus he will learn to shun such snares in
future, and by repentance place a good work to his credit. Men learn
wisdom from their sins, not from their righteous deeds. And the
consciousness of sin, the knowledge that they may at any moment fall
into it, preserves them from the arrogance of goodness.'

'There may be some small grain of sense in what thou sayest,' chuckled
the objector, 'but not enough to make sin righteous, nor yet to
abrogate the sacred law.'

Suleymân pursued unheeding: 'I have a rare thing, which will show you
what I mean.

'A new judge had been appointed to the Holy City. He was departing
from Stambûl by ship to take up his appointment. On the quay, a Jew of
his acquaintance came to him with reverence, and begged him kindly to
convey a basket of bastirma to his (the Jew's) son at the Holy City,
which the Jews in their own language call Jerusalem. You all know what
bastirma is. It is dried and salted mutton--very tasty--a dish of
which the Turks are most inordinately fond. The Cadi graciously
consented, bidding his major-domo take the basket, and bestow it
carefully among the things. The Jew departed. The Cadi and his party
journeyed till they reached their destination, where, upon arrival,
they discovered a young Jew inquiring earnestly about a basket of
bastirma. The Cadi had forgotten its existence. "Ah, to be sure!" he
cried. "I gave it my major-domo for safe keeping."

'He called that servant, and commanded him to give the basket of
bastirma to the Jew there waiting. The major-domo bowed his head,
folded his hands upon his breast, and said: "I ask forgiveness, O my
lord. The basket still remains, but the bastirma was so excellent
that, having tasted but a piece of it, I wanted more, so that, in
fact, I ate it all upon the journey. I wish to pay the price of it to
this young Jew."

'The Cadi thought his servant's offer fair enough, but the young Jew
went mad. Flying at the throat of the major-domo, he flung him to the
ground, and tried to tear the soul out of his body with his teeth and
nails. The Cadi called upon the bystanders for help. The Jew was
dragged with difficulty from his victim. Then the Cadi asked:

'"Why, pray, did you attack my servant in that savage way?"

'"That man," said the Jew, still white with rage, and pointing with
his tallow finger at the major-domo, who had risen from the
ground--"that man contains my grandfather."

'"What words are these? Explain yourself!" the Cadi cried.

'"Three weeks ago, O gracious Excellency, my grandfather died in
Stambûl. It had ever been his dearest wish to be buried in the Holy
City, near the scene of judgment; and that wish of his was law on us
his offspring. But how could we fulfil it? How, I ask? No skipper,
whether Nazarene or Muslim, would receive a dead Jew on his ship for
less than the corpse-weight in gold. And we are poor. To take him
overland was quite impossible. And so my father and my mother in
Stambûl cured his dead limbs, and made of them bastirma, and sent him
hither in the way thou knowest. It follows that thy servant has
committed a most dreadful crime. Let him be killed, I pray, and
buried in the tomb we have prepared, that so my grandfather's great
wish may be fulfilled."

'The major-domo was more dead than living as he heard that story. He
rent his clothes and fell down on the ground insensible.

'The Cadi answered the young Jew with wisdom, saying: "Thou art
entitled to the price of one basket of bastirma, and no more, from
this my servant; but he, on his side, has a right to all thou ownest.
What wealth can ever compensate him for the haunting fear that on the
Last Day he may rise inextricably mingled with thy worthy grandfather?
Go, I say, and never venture to approach him any more, or I shall
surely act upon this judgment and denude thee quite." The
major-domo--'

Cries of 'Miskîn! Miskîn!' (poor fellow!) interrupted the narrative.

One said: 'I once ate pig's flesh by mistake, but this man's plight is
much more horrible.'

Suleymân's opponent cried: 'It was a judgment on him, evidently, for
his theft of the bastirma. Say, what became of him thereafter, O
narrator?'

'The major-domo, who, till then, had been a precious rogue--I knew him
intimately from a child, and so can vouch for it--became from that day
forth the saintliest of men. He thought about his crime and mourned
for it, and deemed himself an unclean beast until he died--may God
have mercy on him--and was buried in the Holy City as the Jew desired.
He thought of nothing but good deeds, yet without seeking merit,
knowing that nothing he could do would ever cleanse him. He became the
humblest and the best of men, who had before been arrogant and very
wicked. Therefore I say that it is well for men to think of their sins
after rather than before committing them.'

'But the intention!--What of the intention, O my master? His intention
was not good. He stole!'

'His intention went no further than a basket of bastirma. The Jew was
only an unpleasant accident, in respect whereof no guilt attached to
him. The case is clear, and yet, although I used to argue with him on
the subject, I never could contrive to make him see it. One thing is
certain, and will prove to you the worth of good intentions. He only
meant to eat a basket of bastirma; therefore he felt great remorse
when he devoured a Jew, and so became a saint for Paradise. Had he
intended to devour a Jew he could not possibly have felt such great
remorse. What say you?'

And everyone agreed that it was so.



CHAPTER XIX

THE ARTIST-DRAGOMAN


Of Suleymân in his capacity of dragoman I saw little but heard much
both from himself and others. The English residents in Palestine and
Syria--those who knew of him--regarded him as but a doubtful
character, if one may judge from their repeated warnings to me not to
trust him out of sight. His wisdom and his independent way of airing
it did not please everybody as they did me; and reverence in dealing
with a fellow-man was not his strong point. By travellers, I gather
from innumerable testimonials which he showed me, he was either much
beloved or the reverse, though none could say he did not know his
business.

His English, though voluminous and comprehensive, was sometimes
strange to native English ears. He had read the Bible in a German
mission school, and spoke of 'Billiam's donkey' and 'the mighty
Simson' where we should speak of Balaam's ass and Samson. He called
the goatskins used for carrying water 'beastly skins,' and sometimes
strengthened a mild sentence with an expletive.

I do not think he ever went so far in this way as another dragoman
who, riding out from Haifa one fine morning with an English lady,
pointed to Mount Carmel and observed:

'Bloody fine hill, madam!'

He knew how to adapt his language to his audience. But it is curious
that a man whose speech in Arabic was highly mannered, in English
should have cultivated solecisms. That he did cultivate them as an
asset of his stock-in-trade I can affirm, for he would invent absurd
mistakes and then rehearse them to me, with the question: 'Is that
funny? Will that make the English laugh?'

For clergymen he kept a special manner and a special store of jokes.
When leading such through Palestine he always had a Bible up before
him on the saddle; and every night would join them after dinner and
preach a sermon on the subject of the next day's journey. This he
would make as comical as possible for their amusement, for clergymen,
he often used to say to me, are fond of laughter of a certain kind.

One English parson he bedevilled utterly by telling him the truth--or
the accepted legend--in such a form that it seemed false or mad to
him.

As they were riding out from Jaffa towards Jerusalem, he pointed to
the mud-built village of Latrûn and said:

'That, sir, is the place where Simpson catch the foxes.'

'Ah?' said the clergyman. 'And who was Simpson?'

'He was a very clever gentleman, and liked a bit of sport.'

'Was he an Englishman?'

'No, sir; he was a Jew. He catch a lot of foxes with some traps; he
kill them and he take their skins to Jaffa to the tailor, and he tell
the tailor: "Make me one big skin out of these little ones." The
tailor make one thundering big fox's skin, big enough for Simpson to
get inside of it. Then Simpson, he put on that skin one night, and go
and sit out in the field and make the same noise what the little foxes
make. The little foxes come out of their holes to look; they see one
big fox sitting there, and they not know it's really Simpson. They
come quite near and Simpson catch hold of their tails and tie their
tails together. Then they make the noise, and still more foxes come,
and Simpson catch hold of their tails and tie their tails together,
till he got hundreds and hundreds.'

'Whatever did he do with them?' inquired the parson.

'He set fire to them.'

'What on earth did he do that for?'

'That, sir, was to annoy his wife's relations.'

'And would you believe it,' added Suleymân when he told me the story,
'that foolish preacher did not know that it is in the Bible. He took
it all down in his notebook as the exploit of a Jewish traveller. He
was the Heavy One.'

The last remark was in allusion to an Arabic proverb of which Suleymân
was very fond:

'When the Heavy One alights in the territory of a people there is
nothing for the inhabitants except departure.'

Which, in its turn, is an allusion to the following story:

A colony of ducks lived on an island in a river happily until a
certain day, when the carcase of an ox came drifting down the current
and stuck upon the forepoint of that island. They tried in vain to
lift it up or push it off; it was too heavy to be moved an inch by all
their efforts. They named it in their speech the Heavy One. Its stench
infected the whole island, and kept on increasing until the hapless
ducks were forced to emigrate.

Many Heavy Ones fell to the lot of Suleymân as dragoman, and he was by
temperament ill-fitted to endure their neighbourhood. Upon the other
hand, he sometimes happened on eccentrics who rejoiced his heart. An
American admiral, on shore in Palestine for two days, asked only one
thing: to be shown the tree on which Judas Iscariot had hanged
himself, in order that he might defile it in a natural manner and so
attest his faith. Suleymân was able to conduct him to the very tree,
and to make the journey occupy exactly the time specified. The
American was satisfied, and wrote him out a handsome testimonial.

It must have been a hardship for Suleymân--a man by nature sensitive
and independent--to take his orders from some kinds of tourists and
endure their rudeness. If left alone to manage the whole journey, he
was--I have been told, and I can well believe it--the best guide in
Syria, devoting all his energies to make the tour illuminating and
enjoyable; if heckled or distrusted, he grew careless and eventually
dangerous, intent to play off jokes on people whom he counted enemies.
One Englishman, with a taste for management but little knowledge of
the country, and no common sense, he cruelly obeyed in all things,
with the natural result in loss of time and loss of luggage, sickness
and discomfort. That was his way of taking vengeance on the Heavy
Ones.

'And yet the man was happy, having had things his own way, even after
the most horrid and disastrous journey ever made,' he told me with a
sigh. 'Some men are asses.'

One afternoon, when I was riding round the bay from Akka towards the
foot of Carmel, supposing Suleymân to be a hundred miles away, I came
upon a group of tourists by the river Kishon, on the outskirts of the
palm grove. They had alighted and were grouped around a dragoman in
gorgeous raiment, like gulls around a parrot. The native of the land
was holding forth to them. His voice was richly clerical in
intonation, which made me notice that his audience consisted solely of
members of the clergy and their patient women.

'This, ladies and gentlemen,' the rascal was declaiming like a man
inspired, 'is that ancient riffer, the riffer Kishon. It was here that
the great Brophet Elijah bring the Brophets of Baal after he catch
them with that dirty trick which I exblain to you about the sacrifice
ub there upon that mountain what you see behind you. Elijah he come
strollin' down, quite habby, to this ancient riffer, singin' one
little song; and the beoble they lug down those wicked brophets. Then
Elijah take one big, long knife his uncle gif him and sharben it ubon
a stone like what I'm doin'. Then he gif a chuckle and he look among
those brophets; and he see one man he like the look of, nice and fat;
and he say: "Bring me that man!" They bring that man; Elijah slit his
throat and throw him in the riffer. Then he say: "Bring his brother!"
and they bring his brother, and he slit his throat and throw him in
the riffer ... till they was ALL gone. Then Elijah clean his knife
down in the earth, and when he'd finished laughin' he put ub a brayer.

'That was a glorious massycration, gentlemen!'

The preacher was Suleymân, at struggle with the Heavy Ones. He was not
at all abashed when he caught sight of me.



CHAPTER XX

LOVE AND THE PATRIARCH


I was staying for some weeks at Howard's Hotel in Jerusalem (Iskender
Awwad, the dragoman, had transformed himself into the Chevalier
Alexander Howard, a worthy, if choleric, gentleman, and a good friend
of mine), and I rode out every day upon a decent pony, which I had
discovered in the stables at the back of the hotel. One afternoon a
nephew of the stable-owner, who was something of a blood, proposed
that we should ride together out towards Bethlehem. His horse was a
superb and showy stallion, quite beyond his power to manage properly.
My modest steed was fired to emulation, and, once beyond the outskirts
of Jerusalem, we tore away. At a corner where the road was narrow
between rocks, I do not know exactly how, the big horse cannoned into
mine and overturned him. I pitched headlong on some stones.

My first impression was that I had struck a wet spot in that arid
wilderness. Then I saw my horse at a great distance, galloping, and
heard the nephew of the owner saying that he must pursue it, while I
must mount his horse and ride on slowly.

'Not half a mile from here, upon that hill,' he said, 'is Katamûn, the
country seat of the Greek Patriarch. There you are certain to find
people who will have compassion. Would God that I had never lived to
see this day! Would God that I were in the grave instead of you!'

He seemed beside himself with grief and fear on my account; and yet
the sense of property remained supreme. His first concern was to
retrieve the runaway.

Bewildered and unable to see clearly, I did not mount the horse, which
would have mastered me in that condition, but led him slowly up the
hill to Katamûn. Upon the top there was a grove of trees, above which
peeped some flat roofs and a dome. At length I reached the gate of
this enclosure. It was open, and I led the horse along a sort of
drive, on which were many chickens and a tethered sheep, which,
bolting round a tree at our approach, became inextricably tangled in
its rope.

In a court between a little church and other buildings, a grim old
woman in a coloured head-veil looked at me out of a doorway. I called
to her that I had had an accident, and asked the favour of some
washing-water and a bandage. She stared at me in doleful wise, and
shook her head.

'Water! Bring me water!' I insisted.

She went indoors and fetched a man of the same breed, whose eyes grew
large and dull with horror at the sight of me.

Again I asked to be allowed to wash my head and face.

I heard the woman whisper: 'Shall I bring it?' and the man reply: 'Let
be! This blood-stained form is half a corpse already. He will surely
die. The horse, perhaps, is stolen. There has been a fight. If we
should touch him we might be concerned in it. Wait till the end. Then
we will summon his Beatitude, and have our testimony written down to
prove our innocence.'

Amazed at their stupidity, I took a step towards them, arguing. They
vanished headlong, when I realised for the first time that my
appearance was in truth alarming. Perceiving the advantage that
appearance gave me, I pursued them, promising them plagues in this
world and perdition in the next unless they brought some water
instantly.

The horse, which I was leading all this while, had been as quiet as a
lamb; but, frightened by my shouts and gestures, he became
unmanageable. I was struggling with him in the doorway of the house
when a large and dignified ecclesiastic came upon the scene, the
jewelled cross upon his cassock flashing in the sun. In the twinkling
of an eye, it seemed to me, he had subdued the horse and tied him to a
ring in the wall which I, in my bewilderment, had failed to see; had
seized me by the collar of my coat and driven me before him through a
kind of tunnel to a second court in which there was a cistern and a
pump. He worked that pump and held my head beneath it, cursing the
servants for a pack of imbeciles.

The man and woman reappeared, completely tamed. He sent them running,
one for stuff to make a bandage, the other for medicaments, but said
no word to me until the work was ended, when he grinned and asked:
'Art happy now?'

I told him that I felt a great deal better.

'Good,' he said, and led me by the hand into an upper chamber, richly
carpeted, and furnished with a cushioned divan, of which the windows
framed a wide view eastward over the Judæan wilderness.

There, sitting comfortably, he asked who I was and of what country;
and, hearing that I came from England, questioned me about the High
Church and the Low Church in that land, and whether they formed one
communion or were separate--a problem which he seemed to think of
great importance. He was glad, he said, that I was not a Roman
Catholic, a sect which he regarded as the worst of heretics.

But his concern with all these matters seemed perfunctory compared
with the delight he took in farming; for when I noticed from the
window some sleek cows munching in a small enclosure, he brightened up
and told me they were recent purchases. He talked about his poultry
and his sheep and goats, all of which he would be pleased to show me
if I cared to see them.

Accordingly, when we had drunk some coffee, which completed my
revival, he took me out and showed me round his small demesne. We
were standing in the shade of trees, discussing turkeys, when my
companion of the road arrived upon the truant horse. He was a member
of the Orthodox Greek Church.

What was my amazement when, having tied up the horse, he came with
reverent haste and knelt at my companion's feet, kissing his hand with
pious and devoted fervour. The grey-bearded priest, with full brown
eyes, and hair that curled below the tall black head-dress like a
trimming of grey astrakhan, with whom I had been talking so
familiarly, was no other than the successor of St. James, the Orthodox
Patriarch of Jerusalem. I had supposed him some sub-prior or domestic
chaplain. His Beatitude acknowledged my surprise by an ironic grin.

The new arrival, still upon his knees, embarked on a long story, told
in lamentable tones, about a man who was in love, and like to die of
it, with a young girl who was the sister of his brother's wife. It is
forbidden by the canons of the Eastern Church for two brothers to
marry two sisters.

'Is there no way by which he may obtain her lawfully?' the suppliant
asked.

The Patriarch assumed an air of weariness, and shook his head.

'If he were a Catholic or a Protestant he could obtain her lawfully.'

The Patriarch assumed an air of pitying scorn.

'The case is very hard,' the suppliant moaned, as he rose up from the
ground at last and cleaned his knees.

The Patriarch, with a shrug, remarked that it was so. The young man
should not have cast eyes upon a maid unlawful to him.

'The only way,' he said, 'is to obtain annulment of the brother's
marriage by proving it to be illegal in some way.' With that he left
the subject and resumed his talk concerning poultry. My companion of
the road was plucking at my sleeve.

I took leave of the Patriarch respectfully, with many thanks. He
clapped me on the shoulder, saying: 'Come again! And never seek to wed
the sister of thy brother's wife. Your Church does not forbid such
marriage--does it?--being still tainted with the Latin heresy. Why
does the Orthodox Church forbid it? Because it brings confusion into
families, and is indecent.'

He seemed to jest, but the look he gave to my companion as we rode
away was stern, I thought, and more than half-contemptuous.

Excepting that my head was bandaged, I felt well again; so we rode on,
as we had first intended, towards Bethlehem. Over a rocky land with
patches of pink cyclamen, black crows were wheeling in a sky of vivid
blue.

We came into the olive groves beneath the hill on which stands the
Greek priory of Mâr Elias, when my companion said ingratiatingly: 'If
you please, we will call at the monastery and take refreshment. The
monks are friends of mine. It was with the object of this visit that I
led our ride in this direction.'

As I raised no objection, we tied up our horses in the garden of the
monastery and went in. We found the Prior in the middle of a
tea-party, a number of Greek neighbours, of both sexes, being gathered
in a very comfortably-furnished room.

My friend, ere entering, implored me in a whisper not to tell them
that my accident was owing to his clumsy horsemanship. Instead, he
put about some story which I did not clearly overhear--something about
a fight with desert Arabs, redounding to my credit, I conclude, from
the solicitude which everyone expressed on my account when he had told
it. Some of the ladies present insisted on a second washing of my
wounds with rose-water, and a second bandaging with finer linen than
the Patriarch had used. Some monks, their long hair frizzed
coquettishly and tied with ribbon, helped in the work. I did not like
the look of them. My friend meanwhile was talking to some pretty
girls.

When we rode off again towards Jerusalem he asked me questions about
the Anglican and Roman Churches, and seemed to think it a sad defect
in the former that it lacked the faculty of dispensation with regard
to marriage.

After a space of silence, as we were riding down the hill by the
Ophthalmic Hospital, with the Tower of David and the city walls
crowning the steep before us, he inquired: 'Did you observe those
girls with whom I was conversing--especially the one with pale-blue
ribbons. It is her I love.' And, when I complimented him on his good
taste, he added: 'I think I shall become a Catholic,' and started
weeping.

I then learnt from his broken speech that he was himself the hapless
lover of his story to the Patriarch. The girl whom I had seen at Mâr
Elias was the sister of his brother's wife. I was as sympathetic in
appearance as I could be; but somehow all my sympathy was with the
Patriarch, who seemed to me the only man whom I had seen that day.



CHAPTER XXI

THE UNPOPULAR LANDOWNER


I had decided to buy land and settle down in Syria; and had obtained
consent from home upon condition that I did not spend more than a
certain sum of money, not a large one, which, Suleymân had told me,
would be quite sufficient for the purpose. He pointed out how lands,
at present desert, and to be bought for a mere song, could be rendered
profitable for the cost of bringing water to them. There was such a
tract of land adjacent to the village where he had a house, with water
running under it at no great depth. Rashîd, my servant, did not like
this notion of converting deserts into gardens. He called it simple
waste of time and labour, when gardens ready made were going cheap.
There was a nice estate, with two perennial springs within its
boundaries, near his village in the north. His people would be proud
and gratified if I would honour their poor dwelling while inspecting
it. Suleymân lamented that his house was quite unworthy of my
occupation, but proposed to have a fine pavilion pitched outside it,
if I would deign to grace the village as his guest.

'Depend upon it,' said an Englishman whom I consulted on one of my
rare visits to the city, 'the land they recommend belongs to their
relations. They will sell it you for twenty times the market value,
and then adhere to you like leeches till they've sucked you dry.' He
added: 'I advise you to give up the whole idea,' but I was used to
that advice, and firm against it.

His warning against native counsellors, however, weighed with me to
this extent, that I determined to ignore the lands they recommended in
their neighbourhood. Each was at first cast down when I announced this
resolution. But presently Rashîd exclaimed: 'No matter where we dwell.
I still shall serve thee'; and Suleymân, after smoking his narghîleh a
long while in silence, said: 'Each summer I will visit thee and give
advice.'

All three of us then set to work upon inquiries. Innumerable were the
sheykhs who seemed to be in money difficulties and wished to sell
their land. Some owners journeyed forty miles to come and see me, and
explain the great advantage of their property. But, knowing something
of the Land Code, I inquired about the tenure. I wanted only 'mulk' or
freehold land; and 'wakf' (land held in tail or mortmain) of various
and awful kinds is much more common. At last a sheykh came who
declared his land was 'mulk,' and certain of our neighbours, men of
worth, testified of their certain knowledge that he spoke the truth.

The village where the property was situated was a long day's journey
from our own. A fortnight after my discussion with the owner Suleymân
and I set out on our way thither, having sent Rashîd ahead of us to
find a decent lodging, since it was our intention to remain there
several days.

The village was arranged in steps upon a mountain side, the roofs of
houses on the lower level serving as approach to those above. On all
the steep slopes round about it there were orchards, with now and then
a flat-roofed house among the trees.

Rashîd came out to meet us, accompanied by certain of the elders,
among whom I looked in vain for the owner of the land we were to
visit. My first inquiry was for him. Rashîd replied: 'He is unpopular.
I went to the chief people of the village'--he waved his hand towards
the persons who escorted him--'and they have set apart a house and
stable for your Honour's use.'

The house turned out to be a single room, cube-shaped, and furnished
only with some matting. The stable, part of the same building, was
exactly like it, except that it was open at one end.

We had our supper at a tavern by the village spring, surrounded by a
friendly crowd of fellâhîn. Again I looked for the old gentleman whom
I had come to see, and whispered my surprise at not beholding him.
Rashîd again replied: 'He is unpopular.'

Returning to the house with me, Rashîd arranged my bed; put candle,
matches, cigarettes within my reach; fastened the shutters of two
windows; and retired, informing me that he and Suleymân were sleeping
at the dwelling of the headman of the place.

I had got into my bed upon the floor when there came a knocking on
the solid wooden shutters which Rashîd had closed. I went and opened
one of them a little way. It was moonlight, but the window looked into
the gloom of olive trees. A voice out of the shadows questioned:

'Is it thou, the Englishman?'

It was the owner of the land, who then reproached me in heartbroken
tones because I had not let him know the hour of my arrival, that he
and his three sons might have gone forth upon the road to meet me. The
owners of the place where now I lodged were his chief enemies. He
begged me to steal forth at once and come with him. When I refused, he
groaned despairingly and left me with the words:

'Believe not anything they say about us or the property.'

I closed the shutter and went back to bed. But it was hot. I rose
again and opened both the windows so as to secure whatever breeze
there was, and, after a long spell of angry tossing due to sandflies,
fell asleep. When I awoke the room was full of daylight and a murmur
which I first mistook for that of insects, but soon found out to be
the voice of a considerable crowd of human beings. At every window was
a press of faces and of women's head-veils, and children raised upon
their mothers' shoulders. I heard a child's sad wail: 'O mother, lift
me up that I, too, may behold the unbeliever!'

I made haste to cover myself somehow, for in my sleep I had kicked off
the bedclothes, and commanded all those women to be gone immediately.
They merely grinned and wished me a good day, and then discussed my
personal appearance, the whiteness of my skin, and more particularly
my pyjamas, with much interest. This went on till Rashîd appeared upon
the scene, bringing my india-rubber bath and a kerosene tin full of
water. He closed and bolted all the shutters firmly, with stern
reflections on the lack of shame of my admirers.

I told him of the visit of the owner of the land.

He answered as before: 'He is unpopular.'

I asked the reason, and he told me:

'There are in this part of the country two factions which have existed
from old time. All the people in this village are adherents of one
faction, except that old man and his children, who uphold the other.
The people would not mind so much if he kept silent, but he gibes at
them and vaunts his party upon all occasions. They intend to kill him.
That is why he wants to sell. It is good to know this, since it gives
us an advantage.'

Suleymân arrived. We all three breakfasted on slabs of country bread
and a great bowl of curds, and then went out to view that old man's
land. The sheykh--whose name was Yûsuf--and his sons were there to
show us round, and, though the property was not extensive, they
contrived to keep us there till noon, when a round meal was spread for
us beneath some trees. And after that was finished, the sheykh availed
himself of some remark of mine to start the whole perambulation once
again.

At last it came to mention of the price, which seemed to me excessive,
and I said so to my friends.

Rashîd replied: 'Of course! The business has not yet begun. To-morrow
and the next day we shall view the land again; and after that we shall
arrange for the appointment of two valuers, one for us and one for
him, who will inspect the land, first separately, then together; and
after that we shall appoint an arbiter who will remonstrate with the
owner of the land; and after that----'

'But the business will take months.'

'That is the proper way, unless your Honour wishes to be cheated.'

'What is your opinion?' I inquired of Suleymân.

'The land is good, and capable of much improvement,' he replied, 'and
all the trees go with it, which is an advantage. Also the source of
water will be all our own.'

Suleymân repeated this remark in presence of the crowd of villagers
whom we found awaiting our return before my house. At once there rose
a cry: 'That Yûsuf is a liar. Some of the trees do not belong to him.
The water, too, does not originate upon his property, but on the hill
above, so can be cut from him.'

Suleymân was talking with the village headman. When he returned to me
his face was grave.

'What is it?' I inquired. 'Has the Sheykh Yûsuf been deceiving us?'

He shook his head with a disgusted frown before replying:

'No, it is these others who are lying through dislike of him. Is your
heart set upon the purchase of that land?'

'By no means.'

'That is good; because this village is a nest of hornets. The headman
has long marked that land out for his own. Were we to pay Sheykh Yûsuf
a good price for it, enabling him to leave the neighbourhood with
honour, they would hate us and work for our discomfort in a multitude
of little ways. We will call upon the Sheykh to-morrow and cry off the
bargain, because your Honour caught a touch of fever from the land
to-day. That is a fair excuse.'

We proffered it upon the morrow, when the Sheykh Yûsuf received it
with a scarce veiled sneer, seeming extremely mortified. Directly
after we had left him, we heard later, he went down to the tavern by
the village spring and cursed the elders who had turned my mind
against him in unmeasured terms; annoying people so that they
determined there and then to make an end of him.

Next morning, when we started on our homeward way, there was a noise
of firing in the village, and, coming round a shoulder of the hill in
single file we saw Sheykh Yûsuf seated on a chair against the wall of
his house, and screened by a great olive tree, the slits in whose old
trunk made perfect loopholes, blazing away at a large crowd of hostile
fellâhîn. He used, in turn, three rifles, which his sons kept loading
for him. He was seated, as we afterwards found out, because he had
been shot in the leg.

I was for dashing to his rescue, and Rashîd was following. We should
both have lost our lives, most probably, if Suleymân had not shouted
at that moment, in stentorian tones: 'Desist, in the name of the
Sultan and all the Powers of Europe! Desist, or every one of you shall
surely hang!'

Such words aroused the people's curiosity. The firing ceased while we
rode in between them and their object; and Suleymân assured the
villagers politely that I was the right hand and peculiar agent of the
English Consul-General, with absolutely boundless power to hang and
massacre.

Upon the other hand, we all three argued with Sheykh Yûsuf that he
should leave the place at once and lay his case before the Governor.

'We will go with him,' said Suleymân to me, 'in order that your Honour
may be made acquainted with the Governor--a person whom you ought to
know. His property will not be damaged in his absence, for they fear
the law. The heat of war is one thing, and cold-blooded malice is
another. It is the sight and sound of him that irritates them and so
drives them to excess.'

At length we got the Sheykh on horseback and upon the road; but he was
far from grateful, wishing always to go back and fight. We could not
get a civil word from him on the long ride, and just before we reached
the town where lived the Governor he managed to escape.

Rashîd flung up his hands when we first noticed his defection. 'No
wonder that he is unpopular,' he cried disgustedly. 'To flee from us,
his benefactors, after we have come so far out of our way through
kindness upon his account. It is abominable. Who, under Allah, could
feel love for such a man?'



CHAPTER XXII

THE CAÏMMACÂM


Though the reason of our coming, the Sheykh Yûsuf, had deserted us, we
rode into the town and spent the night there, finding lodgings at a
khan upon the outskirts of the place, of which the yard was shaded by
a fine old carob tree. While we were having breakfast the next morning
in a kind of gallery which looked into the branches of that tree, and
through them and a ruined archway to the road, crowded just then with
peasants in grey clothing coming in to market, Suleymân proposed that
he and I should go and call upon the Caïmmacâm, the local Governor. I
had spent a wretched night. The place was noisy and malodorous. My one
desire was to be gone as soon as possible, and so I answered:

'I will call on no one. My only wish to see him was upon account of
that old rogue who ran away from us.'

'The man was certainly ungrateful--curse his father!' said Rashîd.

'The man is to be pitied, being ignorant,' said Suleymân. 'His one
idea was to defend his house and land by combat. He did not perceive
that by the course of law and influence he might defend them more
effectually, and for ever. He probably did not imagine that your
Honour would yourself approach the Governor and plead with him.'

'I shall see nobody,' I answered crossly. 'We return at once.'

'Good,' said Rashîd. 'I get the horses ready.'

'And yet,' said our preceptor thoughtfully, 'his Excellency is, they
say, a charming man; and this would be a golden opportunity for us to
get acquainted with him and bespeak his favour. Thus the Sheykh Yûsuf,
though himself contemptible, may be of service to us. Already I have
told the people here that we have come on an important errand to the
Governor. Rashîd, too, as I know, has spoken of the matter in a
boastful way. If, after that, we should depart in dudgeon without
seeing him, there would be gossip and perhaps--God knows--even
political disturbance. The Governor, coming to hear of it, might
reasonably feel aggrieved.'

He argued so ridiculously, yet so gravely, that in the end I was
obliged to yield. And so, a little before ten o'clock, we sauntered
through the narrow streets to the Government offices--a red-roofed,
whitewashed building near which soldiers loitered, in a dusty square.

There we waited for a long while in an ante-room--spacious, but rather
dingy, with cushionless divans around the walls, on which a strange
variety of suitors sat or squatted. Some of these appeared so poor
that I admired their boldness in demanding audience of the Governor.
Yet it was one of the most wretched in appearance who was called first
by the turbaned, black-robed usher. He passed into an inner room: the
door was shut.

Then Suleymân went over to the usher, who kept guard upon that door,
and held a whispered conversation with him. I know not what he said;
but, when the wretched-looking man came out again, the usher slipped
into the inner room with reverence and, presently returning, bowed to
us and bade us enter. I went in, followed by Suleymân, who swelled
and strutted like a pouter pigeon in his flowing robes.

The Caïmmacâm was a nice-looking Turk of middle-age, extremely neat in
his apparel and methodical in his surroundings. He might have been an
Englishman but for the crimson fez upon his brow and a chaplet of red
beads, with which he toyed perpetually. He gazed into my eyes with
kind inquiry. I told him that I came with tidings of a grave
disturbance in his district, and then left Suleymân to tell the story
of Sheykh Yûsuf and his neighbours and the battle we had witnessed in
the olive grove before his house.

Suleymân exhausted all his powers of language and of wit, making a
veritable poem of the episode. The Governor did not appear profoundly
interested.

'Sheykh Yûsuf! Who is he?' he asked at the conclusion of the tale.

I explained that the Sheykh Yûsuf was a landowner, whose acquaintance
we had made through my desire to buy some property.

'Your Honour thinks of settling here among us?' cried his Excellency,
with sudden zest, appearing quite enraptured with the notion. He
asked then if the French tongue was intelligible to me, and, hearing
that it was, talked long in French about my project, which seemed to
please him greatly. He said that it would be a blessing for his
district to have a highly civilised, enlightened being like myself
established in it as the sun and centre of improvement; and what a
comfort it would be to him particularly to have an educated man at
hand to talk to! He hoped that, when I had set up my model farm--for a
model it would be, in every way, he felt quite sure of that, from my
appearance and my conversation--I would not limit my attention solely
to the work of agriculture, but would go on to improve the native
breeds of sheep and oxen. He heard that splendid strains of both were
found in England. He wished me to import a lot of English bulls and
rams, assuring me of the assistance of the Government in all that I
might do in that direction, since the Sultan ('His Imperial Majesty'
he called him always) took the greatest interest in such experiments.

All this was very far from my original design, which was to lead as
far as possible a quiet life. But I promised to give thought to all
his Excellency's counsels.

He made me smoke two cigarettes and drink a cup of coffee which his
secretary had prepared upon a brazier in a corner of the room; and
then, with a sweet smile and deprecating gestures of the hands, he
begged me to excuse him if he closed the interview. It was a grief to
him to let me go, but he was very busy.

I rose at once, and so did Suleymân.

'But what of the Sheykh Yûsuf?' I exclaimed, reminding him.

'Ah, to be sure!' rejoined the Governor with a slight frown. 'Of what
religion is he?'

'I suppose a Druze.'

'And the people who attacked him so unmercifully?'

'Are Druzes too.'

'Ah, then, it is all in the family, as the saying goes. And, unless
some deputation from the Druze community appeals to me, I should be
ill-advised to interfere in its affairs. Our way of government is not
identical with that which is pursued with such conspicuous success in
highly civilised and settled countries like your own. We leave the
various communities and tribes alone to settle their internal
differences. It is only where tribe wars on tribe, religion on
religion, or their quarrels stop the traffic on the Sultan's highway
that we intervene. What would you have, mon ami? We are here in Asia!'

With these words, and a smile of quite ineffable indulgence for my
young illusions, his Excellency bowed me out.

In the ante-room Suleymân drew close to my left ear and whispered
sharply:

'Give me four mejîdis.'

'Whatever for?' I asked in deep amazement.

'That I will tell you afterwards. The need is instant.'

I produced the four mejîdis from a trouser-pocket, and, receiving
them, he went back to the door by which the usher stood, and whispered
to the man, who went inside a moment and came back with the private
secretary of the Caïmmacâm. The compliments which passed between them
seemed to me interminable.

I paced the pavement of the waiting-room, the only figure in the crowd
whose attitude bespoke impatience. The others sat or squatted round
the walls in perfect resignation, some of them smoking, others
munching nuts of various kinds, of which the shells began to hide the
floor adjacent to them. A few of the suppliants had even had the
forethought to bring with them bags full of provisions, as if
anticipating that their time of waiting might endure for several days.

At last, when I was growing really angry with him, Suleymân returned
and told me:

'All is well, and we can now be going, if your Honour pleases.'

'I do please,' I rejoined indignantly. 'Why have you kept me waiting
all this while? I never wished to come at all into this place, and
Allah knows that we have done no good by coming. We have spoilt a
morning which we might have spent upon the road.'

'Allah, Allah!' sighed Suleymân long-sufferingly. 'Your Honour is
extremely hard to please. Did not his Excellency talk to you
exclusively, with every sign of the most lively pleasure for quite
half an hour; whereas he scarcely deigned to throw a word to me,
although I wooed his ear with language calculated to seduce the mind
of kings? I have some cause to be dejected at neglect from one so
powerful; but you have every cause to be elated. He is now your
friend.'

'I shall never see him in my life again most likely!' I objected.

'Nay, that you cannot tell,' replied my mentor suavely. 'To be
acquainted with a person in authority is always well.'



CHAPTER XXIII

CONCERNING BRIBES


'Why did you want those four mejîdis?' I inquired severely.

Suleymân shrugged up his shoulders and replied:

'I had to pay the proper fees, since you yourself showed not a sign of
doing so, to save our carefully established honour and good name.'

'You don't mean that you gave them to the Caïmmacâm?'

'Allah forbid! Consider, O beloved, my position in this matter. To put
it in the form of parables: Suppose a king and his vizier should pay a
visit to another king and his vizier. If there were presents to be
made, I ask you, would not those intended for the king be offered
personally by the king, and those for the vizier by the vizier? It
will be obvious to your Honour, upon slight reflection, that if, in
our adventure of this morning, a present to the Governor was
necessary or desirable, you personally, and no other creature, should
have made it.'

'Merciful Allah!' I exclaimed. 'He would have knocked me down.'

'He would have done nothing of the kind, being completely civilised.
He would merely have pushed back your hand with an indulgent smile,
pressing it tenderly, as who should say: "Thou art a child in these
things, and dost not know our ways, being a stranger." Yet,
undoubtedly, upon the whole, your offer of a gift, however small,
would have confirmed the good opinion which he formed at sight of you.

'But let that pass! Out of the four mejîdis which you gave me so
reluctantly (since you ask for an account) I presented one to the
usher, and three to his Excellency's private secretary, in your name.
And I have procured it of the secretary's kindness that he will urge
his lord to take some measures to protect that ancient malefactor, the
Sheykh Yûsuf.'

'If I had tipped the Governor, as you suggest that I ought to have
done,' I interrupted vehemently, 'do you mean to say he would have
taken measures to protect Sheykh Yûsuf?'

'Nay, I say not that; but he would at least have had complete
conviction that your Honour takes a lively interest in that old
churl--a person in himself unpleasant and unworthy of a single thought
from any thinking or right-minded individual. Thus, even though he
scorned the money, as he would no doubt have done, the offer would
have told him we were earnest in our application, and he might
conceivably have taken action from desire to do a pleasure to one
whom, as I said before, he loved at sight.'

'The whole system is corrupt,' I said, 'and what is worse,
unreasonable.'

'So say the Franks,' replied Suleymân, shrugging his shoulders up and
spreading wide his hands, as though before a wall of blind stupidity
which he knew well could never be cast down nor yet surmounted. 'Our
governors, our judges, and the crowd of small officials are not highly
paid, and what they do receive is paid irregularly. Then all, whether
high or low, must live; and it is customary in our land to offer
gifts to persons in authority, because a smile, God knows, is always
better than a frown from such an one. We are not like the Franks, who
barter everything, even their most sacred feelings, even love. It
gives us pleasure to make gifts, and see them welcomed, even when the
recipient is someone who cannot in any way repay us for our trouble,
as a Frank would say.'

'But to sell justice; for it comes to that!' I cried, indignant.

'Who talks of selling justice? You are quite mistaken. If I have to go
before a judge I make a gift beforehand to his Honour, whose
acceptance tells me, not that he will give a verdict in my favour--do
not think it!--but merely that his mind contains no grudge against me.
If he refused the gift I should be terrified, since I should think he
had been won completely by the other side. To take gifts from both
parties without preference, making allowance, when there is occasion,
for the man who is too poor to give; and then to judge entirely on the
merits of the case; that is the way of upright judges in an Eastern
country. The gifts we make are usually small, whereas the fees which
lawyers charge in Western countries are exorbitant, as you yourself
have told me more than once and I have heard from others. And even
after paying those enormous fees, the inoffensive, righteous person is
as like to suffer as the guilty. Here, for altogether harmless men to
suffer punishment in place of rogues is quite unheard-of; though
occasionally one notorious evildoer may be punished for another's
crime when this is great and the real criminal cannot be found and
there is call for an example to be made upon the instant. This
generally happens when a foreign consul interferes, demanding
vengeance for some slight offence against his nationals. Things like
that take place occasionally when the court is flustered. But in its
natural course, believe me, Turkish justice, if slow-moving, is as
good as that of Europe and infinitely less expensive than your English
law.'

I made no answer, feeling quite bewildered.

Suleymân was always serious in manner, which made it very hard to tell
when he was joking or in earnest. Among the natives of the land, I
knew, he had the reputation of a mighty joker, but I had learnt the
fact from the applause of others. I never should have guessed from
his demeanour that he jested consciously.

He also held his peace until we reached our hostelry. There, some
half-hour later, when I had given orders for our horses to be ready
for a start directly after luncheon--a decision against which Suleymân
protested unsuccessfully, declaring it would be too hot for riding--I
overheard him telling the whole story of our visit, including the
donation of the four mejîdis, to Rashîd, who was lazily engaged in
polishing my horse's withers.

'That secretary is a man of breeding,' he was saying, in a tone of
warm approval; 'for I noticed he was careful to receive the present in
his left hand, which he placed behind his back in readiness, with
great decorum. Nor did he thank me, or give any token of
acknowledgment beyond a little friendly twinkle of the eyes.'

At once I pounced on this admission, crying: 'That shows that he
regarded the transaction as unlawful! And your remark upon it shows
that you, too, think it so.'

Suleymân looked slowly round until his eyes met mine, not one whit
disconcerted, though until I spoke he had not known that I was
anywhere in earshot.

'Your Honour is incorrigible,' he replied, with a grave smile. 'I
never knew your like for obstinacy in a false opinion; which shows
that you were born to fill some high position in the world. Of course
they all--these fine officials, great and small--regard it as beneath
their dignity to take a present which they sorely need. To take such
presents greedily would be to advertise their poverty to all the
world. And Government appointments swell a man with pride, if nothing
else--a pride which makes them anxious to be thought above all fear of
want. For that cause, they are half-ashamed of taking gifts. But no
one in this country thinks it wrong of them to do so, nor to oblige
the giver, if they can, in little ways. It would be wrong if they
betrayed the trust reposed in them by their superiors, or were seduced
into some act against their loyalty or their religion. But that,
praise be to God, you will not find. It is only in small matters such
as acts of commerce or politeness, which hardly come within the sphere
of a man's conscience, that they are procurable, and no one in this
country thinks the worse of them, whatever people say to you, a
foreigner, by way of flattery. It is very difficult for foreigners to
learn the truth. Your Honour should be thankful that you have Suleymân
for an instructor--and Rashîd, too,' he added as an after-thought,
seeing that my bodyservant stood close by, expecting mention.

And after more than twenty years' experience of Eastern matters, I
know now that he was right.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE BATTLEFIELD


Our road, the merest bridle-path, which sometimes altogether
disappeared and had to be retrieved by guesswork, meandered on the
side of a ravine, down in the depths of which, in groves of oleander,
there flowed a stream of which we caught the murmur. The forest was
continuous on our side of the wadi. It consisted of dense olive groves
around the villages and a much thinner growth of ilex in the tracts
between. The shade was pleasant in the daytime, but as night came on
its gloom oppressed our spirits with extreme concern, for we were
still a long way off our destination, and uncertain of the way.

The gloom increased. From open places here and there we saw the stars,
but gloom filled the ravine, and there was little difference between
the darkness underneath the trees and that outside in open spaces of
the grove. We trusted to our horses to make out the path, which
sometimes ran along the verge of precipices.

I cannot say that I was happy in my mind. Rashîd made matters worse by
dwelling on the risks we ran not only from abandoned men but ghouls
and jinnis. The lugubrious call of a hyæna in the distance moved him
to remark that ghouls assume that shape at night to murder travellers.
They come up close and rub against them like a loving cat; which
contact robs the victims of their intellect, and causes them to follow
the hyæna to its den, where the ghoul kills them and inters their
bodies till the flesh is ripe.

He next expressed a fear lest we might come upon some ruin lighted up,
and be deceived into supposing it a haunt of men, as had happened to a
worthy cousin of his own when on a journey. This individual, whose
name was Ali, had been transported in the twinkling of an eye by
jinnis, from somewhere in the neighbourhood of Hamá to the wilds of
Jebel Câf (Mount Caucasus), and had escaped a hideous and painful
death only by recollection of the name of God. He told me, too, how
he himself, when stationed at Mersîn, had met a company of demons, one
fine evening in returning from an errand; and other tales which caused
my flesh to creep.

The groves receded. We were in an open place where only a low kind of
brushwood grew, when suddenly my horse shied, gave a fearful snort,
and sturdily refused to budge another inch. I let him stand until
Rashîd came up. He thought to pass me, but his horse refused as mine
had done.

'It is no doubt some jinni in the way,' he whispered in a frightened
tone; then, calling out: 'Dastûr, ya mubârak' (Permission, blessed
one!), he tried to urge his horse, which still demurred. So there we
were, arrested by some unseen hand; and this became the more
unpleasant because a pestilential smell was in the place.

'Better return!' muttered Rashîd, with chattering teeth.

'Give me a match!' I said distractedly. 'My box is empty.'

'Better return!' he pleaded.

'A match, do you hear?' I cried, made cross by terror.

He gave the match, and I believe I shouted as I struck it. For a brief
space it made a dazzle in my eyes, preventing me from seeing anything,
and then went out.

'There is something lying in the path!' Rashîd was gibbering.

I got down off my horse and lit a second match, which I took care to
shelter till the flame was strong. A human arm lay in the path before
us.

My horror was extreme, and grew uncanny when the match expired. But
the ghastly object had restored his courage to Rashîd, who even
laughed aloud as he exclaimed:

'The praise to Allah! It is nothing which can hurt us. No doubt some
murder has been here committed, all unknown. The Lord have mercy on
the owner of that arm! We will report the matter to some high official
at our journey's end.'

We turned our horses to the right and made a long detour, but scarcely
had they found the path again when mine (which led the way) demurred
once more.

'Another piece,' exclaimed Rashîd excitedly. He got down off his
horse to look. 'Nay, many pieces. This, by Allah, is no other than a
battlefield unknown to fame.'

'How can a battle take place without public knowledge?' I inquired,
incredulous.

'The thing may happen when two factions quarrel for unlawful cause--it
may be over stolen gains, or for some deadly wrong which cannot be
avowed without dishonour--and when each side exterminates the other.'

'How can that happen?' I exclaimed again.

Rashîd could not at once reply, because in our avoidance of those
human relics we found ourselves on broken ground and among trunks of
trees, which called for the address of all our wits. But when the
horses once more plodded steadily, he assured me that the thing could
happen, and had happened often in that country, where men's blood is
hot. He told me how a band of brigands once, in Anti-Lebanon, had
fought over their spoils till the majority on both sides had been
slain, and the survivors were so badly wounded that they could not
move, but lay and died upon the battlefield; and how the people of two
villages, both men and women, being mad with envy, had held a battle
with the same result. I interrupted him with questions. Both of us
were glad to talk in order to get rid of the remembrance of our former
fear. We gave the rein to our imaginations, speaking eagerly.

Reverting to the severed limbs which we had seen, Rashîd exclaimed:

'Now I will tell your Honour how it happened. A deadly insult had been
offered to a family in a young girl's dishonour. Her father and her
brothers killed her to wipe out the shame--as is the custom here among
the fellâhîn--and then with all their relatives waylaid the men of the
insulter's house when these were cutting wood here in the forest.
There was a furious battle, lasting many hours. The combatants fought
hand-to-hand with rustic weapons, and in some cases tore each other
limb from limb. When all was done, the victors were themselves so
sorely wounded that they were able to do nothing but lie down and
die.'

'How many do you think there were?' I asked, believing.

'To judge by scent alone, not one or two; but, Allah knows, perhaps a
hundred!' said Rashîd reflectively.

'It is strange they should have lain there undiscovered.'

'Not strange, when one remembers that the spot is far from any village
and probably as far from the right road,' was his reply.

This last conjecture was disquieting; but we were both too much
excited for anxiety.

'It is an event to be set down in histories,' Rashîd exclaimed. 'We
shall be famous people when we reach the village. Such news is heard
but once in every hundred years.'

'I wish that we could reach that village,' was my answer; and again we
fell to picturing the strange event.

At length we heard the barking of a dog in the far distance, and gave
praise to Allah. A half-hour later we saw lights ahead of us. But that
did not mean that the village was awake, Rashîd explained to me, for
among the people of that country 'to sleep without a light' is to be
destitute. A little later, Rashîd hammered at a door, while savage
dogs bayed round us, making rushes at his heels.

'Awake, O sons of honour!' was his cry. 'A great calamity!' And, when
the door was opened, he detailed the story of an awful fight, in which
both parties of belligerents had been exterminated. 'They are torn
limb from limb. We saw the relics,' he explained. 'If you have any
doubt, question my lord who is out here behind me--a great one of the
English, famed for his veracity.'

And I was ready to confirm each word he said.

In a very little while that village was astir.

It was the seat of a mudîr who had two soldiers at his beck and call.
The great man was aroused from sleep; he questioned us, and, as the
result of the inquiry, sent the soldiers with us to survey the
battlefield. A crowd of peasants, armed with quarter-staves and
carrying lanterns, came with the party out of curiosity. Our horses
having had enough of travel, we went back on foot amid the noisy
crowd, who questioned us incessantly about the strange event. The
murmur of our going filled the wood and echoed from the rocks above.
By the time we reached the place where we had seen the human limbs,
the dawn was up, to make our lanterns useless.

Rashîd and I were certain of the spot. We came upon it with a thrill
of apprehension.

But there was nothing there.

'I seek refuge in Allah!' gasped Rashîd in pious awe. 'I swear by my
salvation it was here we saw them. The name of God be round about us!
It is devilry.'

Our escort was divided in opinion, some thinking we had been indeed
the sport of devils, others that we lied. But someone sniffed and
said:

'There is a smell of death.'

There was no doubt about the smell at any rate. Then one of the
mudîr's two soldiers, searching in the brushwood, cried: 'I have the
remnant of an arm.'

And then an old man of the village smote his leg and cried:

'O my friends, I see it! Here is neither lies nor devilry.'

Laughing, he seized me by the arm and bade me come with him. We went a
little way into the wood, and there he showed me three Druze tombs
deep in the shade of ilex trees--small buildings made of stone and
mud, like little houses, each with an opening level with the ground,
and a much smaller opening, like a window, at the height of a man's
elbow.

'Thou seest?' cried my tutor. 'Those are graves. The openings on the
ground were made too large, and jackals have got in and pulled the
bodies out. The men who made those graves are foolish people, who have
wandered from the truth. They think the spirits of the dead have need
of food and light, and also of a hole for crawling in and out. I heard
thee ask thy servant for a match just now. Come, I will show thee
where to find one always.'

He led me to the nearest tomb, and thrust my hand into the little hole
which served as window. It touched a heap of matches which he bade me
take and put into my pocket, saying:

'It is not a theft, for the matches have been thrown away, as you
might say. Those foolish people will suppose the dead have struck
them. They used to put wax candles and tinder-boxes with them in the
niches, but when these sulphur matches came in fashion, they
preferred them for economy. When I am working in this wood I take no
fire with me, being quite sure to find the means of lighting one.
Praise be to Allah for some people's folly!'

I thanked him for the wrinkle, and went back to join Rashîd, who was
exclaiming with the others over our deception. But everyone agreed
that the mistake was natural for men bewildered in the darkness of the
night.



CHAPTER XXV

MURDERERS


Rashîd and I were riding down to Tripoli, and had long been looking
for a certain 'kheymah' or refreshment booth beside the road, which an
enterprising Christian of that town had opened in the summer months
for the relief of travellers. When at length we came in sight of it,
we saw a crowd of men reposing on the ground before its awning. We
soon lost sight of them again in a ravine, and it was not till we were
close upon them, climbing up the other bank, that I remarked that most
of them were shackled and in charge of a small guard of Turkish
soldiers.

'Criminals upon their way to the hard labour prison,' said Rashîd.

'What have they done?' I asked, as we dismounted.

He strolled across and put a question to their escort, then returned
and told me:

'They are murderers.'

After that information it surprised me, while we ate our luncheon, to
observe their open faces, and to hear them laugh and chatter with
their guards. Already I had learnt that crime in Eastern countries is
not regarded altogether as it is with us; that Orientals do not know
that shrinking from contamination which marks the Englishman's
behaviour towards a breaker of his country's law. But I was unprepared
for this indulgence towards a gang of murderers. It interested me;
and, seeing that Rashîd was talking with them in a friendly way, I
gathered there was nothing to be feared from their proximity, and
myself drew near when I had finished eating, and gave them cigarettes.
They thanked me loudly. The smile of pleasure on each face expressed a
childlike innocence. One only sat apart in gloom, conforming in some
measure to my preconceived idea of what a murderer upon his way to
prison ought to look like. I noticed with surprise that this one wore
no chain. I went and touched him on the shoulder. It was only then
that he looked up and saw that I was wishing him to take a cigarette.
He did so quickly, and saluted me without a word.

One of the others said in tender tones:

'Blame him not, O my lord, for he is mad with sorrow. He is more
luckless than the rest of us--may Allah help him! He killed the person
he loved best on earth--his only brother.'

'Then it is true that you are murderers?' I asked, still
half-incredulous.

'By Allah, it is true, alas! and we are paying for it by a year's
enslavement.'

'A year! No more than that,' I cried, 'for killing men?'

'And is it not enough, O lord of kindness? It is not as if we had
killed men from malice or desire of gain. We killed in sudden anger,
or, in the case of three among us, in a faction-fight. It is from
Allah; and we ask forgiveness.'

'How did that man kill?' I questioned, pointing to the apathetic
figure of the fratricide, which attracted my imagination by its
loneliness.

'He suffered persecutions from a rich man of his village, who was his
rival for the favour of a certain girl--so it is said. Those
persecutions maddened him at times. One day when he was mad like
that, his brother came to him and spoke some word of blame upon
another matter. He killed him, as he might have killed his wife and
children or himself, being in that state of mind devoid of reason.
When he awoke and saw what he had done, he wished to kill himself.'

'It is from Allah! His remorse is punishment,' exclaimed Rashîd. 'Why
should he go to prison? He has had enough.'

'Nobody of this country would have thought of punishment for him,'
replied the spokesman of the murderers, with rueful smile. 'But his
brother was the servant of a foreign merchant--a Greek from overseas,
I think it was--who put the business in his Consul's hands, and
so----' The speaker clicked his thumbnail on his white front teeth to
signify finality. 'But the poor man himself does not object; it seems
indeed that he is glad to go with us. Perhaps by labour and harsh
treatment he may be relieved.'

As there were still provisions in our saddle-bags, Rashîd, by my
command, divided them among the company, the soldiers and the
murderers alike, who were delighted. It was a merry party which we
left behind, with the exception of the fratricide, who ate the food,
when it was set before him, ravenously, but said not a word.

'May Allah heal him!' sighed the other murderers. 'Our Lord remove
this shadow from his mind!'

Rashîd and I pursued our way on an interminable path meandering in
zig-zags down through brushwood, which smelt sweet of myrtle and wild
incense. I tried to make him understand that he had quite misled me by
the term he had applied to men who had been guilty of no more than
manslaughter. The distinction had to be explained with much
periphrasis, because the Arabic word 'Câtil' means a slayer, and is
given indiscriminately to all who kill.

He caught my meaning sooner than I had expected.

'Ah!' he said. 'Your Honour thought from what I said that they were
"cutters of the road,"[7] or hired assassins, who kill men for gain.
Those are the greater criminals, whose punishment is death. Few such
exist among us. Here a robber will seldom kill a man unless that man
kills him.' [I translate literally] 'when it is just retaliation; and
as for hired assassins, I have known several of them in my time, and
they are not bad people, but unfortunate, having fallen early in the
power of cruel and ambitious men. Most of the killing in this country
is done without a thought, in anger or mad jealousy.'

'Is it for man to judge them?' he exclaimed, with a high shrug, when I
remarked upon their friendly treatment by the Turkish guards. 'They
are punished by authority down here, so we are better; but afterwards,
when comes the Judgment of the Lord, we may be worse. It is hard upon
those men we met just now. They go to prison, most of them, because
they were not rich enough to pay the sum demanded as the price of
blood. For men of wealth, or who have rich relations, it is easy to
compound the matter for a sum of money, in return for which the dead
man's relatives regard his death as due to natural causes, and
forswear revenge. It is hard, I say, upon those men we met just now;
and especially upon the man who slew his brother--may Our Lord console
him!'

A few days later I was strolling in the town and happened to pass by
the public gaol. In the middle of the gate, behind some iron bars, a
wretched man stood shaking a tin can, in which some small coins
rattled, and calling on the passers-by for alms for the poor
prisoners. A little group of English tourists--a gentleman and two
fair ladies--came that way, led on by a resplendent dragoman. They
stared at the wild figure at the prison gate.

'You like to give a trifle to the brisoners?' inquired the guide.

'What are they in for?' asked the gentleman.

'Murders, I guess, mostly,' shrugged the dragoman.

'Certainly not,' replied the gentleman, with indignation.

I ventured to approach and tell him that they were not murderers in
our sense of the word, and that they depended for a bare subsistence
upon public charity. The only thanks I got were a cold stare from the
man, a fastidious grimace from the two ladies, and an 'Oh, indeed!'
so arrogant in tone that I retired discomfited. My ill-success may be
attributable to the fact that I was wearing a 'kufiyeh' and 'acâl' and
so appeared to them as what is called a 'native.'

I myself have always, since that day, felt it my duty to give alms to
murderers in Eastern lands.

FOOTNOTES:

[7] _i.e._, Highwaymen.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE TREES ON THE LAND


My search for an estate provided us with an excuse for visiting all
sorts of out-of-the-way places, and scraping acquaintance with all
sorts of curious people. In some villages we were greeted with
unbounded glee; in others with a sullen, gruff endurance far from
welcome. But, though the flavour of reception varied, we were
everywhere received with some degree of hospitality, and shown what we
desired to see. Thus we surveyed a great variety of properties, none
of which fulfilled my chief requirements. I wanted both a house in
which I should not feel ashamed to live, and cultivable land enough to
yield a revenue; and the two together seemed impossible to find, at
least for the sum of money which was placed at my disposal.

One piece of land attracted us so much that we remained in the
adjacent village a full week, returning every day to wander over it,
trying to see if it could not be made to fit my needs. It consisted
of a grove of fine old olive trees, with terraces of fig and mulberry
trees and vegetables, spread out to catch the morning sun upon a
mountain side sloping to a wooded valley walled by rocky heights.
Water was there in plenty, but no house to speak of; the three small,
cube-shaped houses on the property being in the occupation (which
amounts to ownership) of workers of the land, who, according to the
custom of the country, would become my partners. Upon the other hand,
the land was fairly cheap, and after paying for it, I should have a
balance with which I might begin to build a proper house; for, as
Suleymân remarked, 'here all things are done gradually. No one will
expect to see a palace all at once. Begin with two rooms and a stable,
and add a fresh room every time that you have forty pounds to spare.'

The price of building appeared fixed in all that countryside at forty
pounds a vault, which in ordinary buildings means a room, since every
room is vaulted.

The trouble was to see just where to put the house without
encroaching upon profitable land. At last I hit on a position in the
middle of the highest terrace on which grew olive trees so very old
that they could well be sacrificed. Having arrived at this decision I
sat down among those trees and gazed in rapture at the view across the
valley. It was indeed a grand position for a house.

Rashîd exclaimed: 'Our dwelling will be seen afar. The traveller on
distant roads will see its windows flashing, and will certainly
inquire the owner's name. Yet would I rather it had faced the evening
sun, because more people are abroad at sunset than at dawn.'

'The morning sun is better for the growth of plants, and it comports
the evening shadow, which is most agreeable,' murmured Suleymân, who
stretched his length upon the ground before us, chewing a flower-stem
with an air of wisdom.

As we were there conversing lazily, one of the peasant-partners in the
land came through the trees, bringing a tray with cups of coffee,
which he had prepared for our refreshment.

'The Lord preserve thy hands, O Câsim,' sighed Suleymân. 'Thou comest
at the very moment when my soul said "coffee."'

The peasant Câsim beamed with pleasure at the thanks we showered on
him, and, squatting down, inquired if we had yet decided anything.

'Aye,' I replied. 'In sh'Allah we shall cut down these three olive
trees and put the house instead of them.'

At that his smile gave place to grave concern.

He said: 'That may not be.'

'Why not?' I asked.

'Because we have no right to touch these trees.'

'But the Sheykh Ali told me that this terrace was his property.'

'That is so, as to the land. The trees are different.'

'To whom, then, do these trees belong?'

'To different people.'

'How can I know which trees are ours, which theirs?'

'Your Honour need not trouble. They are able to distinguish.'

'But they must walk upon our land to reach their trees!'

'Without a doubt.'

'But it is unheard of!'

'Perhaps; but it has been the way since Noah's flood.'

'If your Honour condescends to read the Bible he will notice that, in
the bargain which our lord Abraham made for the cave of Machpelah, the
trees upon the land are mentioned separately,' put in Suleymân, who
had a well-stored mind.

I took no notice, but continued my alarmed inquiries.

'How many people own these trees?'

'Twenty or thirty.'

'And they trample on our land?'

'The case is so.'

'Who is their chief?'

'I know not; but the largest share, they say, is vested in Muhammad
abu Hasan. His share of all the trees is twelve kîrâts, as much as all
the others put together. They say so. Only Allah knows the truth!'

'I should like to speak to this Muhammad abu Hasan.'

'Upon my head; I go to fetch him,' answered Câsim, touching his brow
in token of obedience.

When he was gone, Suleymân observed significantly:

'Have naught to do with all these fathers of kîrâts. When once the
word "kîrât" is mentioned, flee the place, for you may be assured that
it is the abode of all bedevilment. When once a man is father of but
one or two kîrâts, he has the power of forty thousand for unreasoning
annoyance.'

'And what, in mercy's name, is a kîrât?' I questioned.

'A kîrât,' replied Rashîd, as usual eager to explain, 'is that term
into which all things visible and invisible are resolved and
subdivided secretly, or may be subdivided at a person's pleasure. A
kîrât is that which has no real existence unless a group of men agree
together saying: "It is here or there." A kîrât----'

Suleymân cut short his explanation, saying simply: 'A kîrât is the
twenty-fourth part of anything. If my soul is sick, I ask the doctor:
"How many kîrâts of hope?" and according to his answer "four" or
"twenty" I feel gladness or despair. To own but one kîrât, in this
concern of property, is sometimes better than to own all the remaining
three-and-twenty, as witness the affair of Johha, the greatest
wiseacre this country has produced. Johha owned a house, consisting of
a single room. Wishing to make a little money, he let his house to
people for a yearly rent (which they paid in advance), reserving to
himself the use of only one kîrât of it. To show where his kîrât was
situated Johha drove a peg into the wall inside. After the tenants had
been in a week he brought a bag of beans and hung it on his peg. No
one objected; he was exercising his free right. A few days later he
removed the bag of beans and hung up garlic in its place. Again a few
days and he came with an old cat which had been some time dead; and so
on, bringing ever more offensive things, until the tenants were
obliged to leave the house and forfeit their year's rent, without
redress, since Johha was within his rights. Therefore I say to you,
beware. These fathers of kîrâts will spoil the property.'

Rashîd gave an appreciative chuckle, and was going to relate some
story of his own; but just then Câsim reappeared, attended not by one
man only but a score of men--the owners of the trees, as it
immediately appeared, for they cried out, as they came up, that it
would be a sin for us to cut them down.

I asked them to elect a spokesman, as I could not deal with all at
once, and Muhammad abu Hasan was pushed forward. He squatted, facing
me, upon the ground, his men behind him. The twigs and leaves of
olives overhead spread a filigree of moving shade upon their puckered
faces. They were evidently much perturbed in mind.

I asked them for how much they would consent to sell those
trees--showing the three I wished to fell to clear a space for
building.

'The freehold, meanest thou?' inquired their spokesman anxiously. 'Not
for five hundred pounds. But we would sell a share.'

'I want no share. I want to cut them down.'

At that there was a general outcry that it must not be.

'The trees would remain yours until the end,' I told them, 'for I
would let you have the wood for your own purposes, and, in addition,
you would have a pretty sum of money.'

There ensued a long and whispered consultation before Muhammad abu
Hasan answered me. At length he said:

'It may not be. Behold, we all are the descendants of one man who
owned these trees in ancient days. But we are not brothers, nor yet
uncles' children, and there is jealousy among us. We quarrel near to
fighting every year about the produce of these trees, each man
perceiving that he has been cheated of his proper share. But that is
not so very serious, for each man hopes that next year he will get a
larger share in compensation. Suppose, instead of trees which bear
fruit every year, we had a sum of money. In that case the division
would admit of no redress, and those who thought themselves defrauded
would bear lifelong malice. Therefore I say: We will not have those
trees cut down; but we are prepared, upon the other hand, to sell you
all our trees upon this terrace if you, on your side, will assign to
us but two kîrâts of all your trees, these trees included.'

'Allah destroy the dwelling of your two kîrâts,' I cried out angrily.
'I will have none of them. Nor will I make my dwelling in the
neighbourhood of men so foolish. I shall seek elsewhere.'

The peasants chuckled at my curse on the kîrâts. They murmured an
apology, but seemed relieved, as they went off.

Suleymân, who had to leave us on the following day, then gave me good
advice.

He said: 'It is no use for thee to deal with little people who wish to
make the most of their small lands, who have mean, dirty houses. Thou
hast a friend among the great sheykhs of the Drûz. Go to him in his
castle and explain thy wish. He owns a score of noble houses which he
does not use, and for the love of thee he will not count the price too
closely. Moreover, he will think that, showing favour to an
Englishman, he will earn the good opinion of the British Government.
He has political ambitions. All great men are fools or malefactors.'

'That is the best of counsel,' said Rashîd. And, having nothing else
in mind, we acted on it.



CHAPTER XXVII

BUYING A HOUSE


Even great men in the East rise early; so, when I arrived before the
castle of the great Druze chief at six o'clock of a summer's morning,
I was not surprised to find a crowd of black-cloaked and
white-turbaned mountaineers already waiting for an audience of his
grace; nor yet, when I had gained admittance as a favoured person, to
find the chief himself afoot and wide awake. What did surprise me was
to see him clad in Stambûli frock-coat and all its stiff
accompaniments at an hour when even the most civilised of Pashas still
wears native dress. He heard of my desire to settle in his country
with surprise and seeming pleasure, and made me sit beside him on a
sofa in an upper chamber of magnificent proportions--spoilt, to my
taste, by gaudy Frankish furniture and certain oleographs of the
crowned heads of Europe which adorned its walls.

He thought, as is the way of Orientals, visibly, with finger pressed
to brow. Then he exclaimed:

'I have a house close by, across the glen--a little ruinous, perhaps,
but we can soon repair it. Come to the window; you can see the place
from here.' He pointed out a kind of thickset tower which crowned a
pretty village set in orchards. 'If you care to see it we will go
there when I have received my people.'

He invited me to go with him to the reception; but, having seen the
crowd outside, I thought it wisdom to go back rather to the village
khan where I had left my horse, to warn Rashîd to have things ready
for a start, and get some breakfast.

I returned in two hours' time, to find the chief already mounted on a
splendid charger, led by a no less splendid servant, setting forth in
search of me, 'with half the world for tail,' as Rashîd put it.

It was in truth a long procession which meandered down the steep and
rocky pathway, deep in the shade of walls and overhanging trees, to
the ravine, forded the stream, and climbed the other bank.

The village, when we reached it, was in great commotion, all its
people crowding to the wide meydân, or levelled ground for
horsemanship, spread out before the house which might be mine. In the
midst of this meydân there was a fine old carob tree, with a stone
bench all round the foot of its enormous trunk.

The house itself was an old fortress, built of solid stone, with arrow
slits as well as modern windows, and an arched doorway at the top of
wide stone steps. Against it nestled lesser houses of the village
which seemed to climb up towards it for protection.

Some men of consequence came forth to greet the chief, who then
dismounted with their servile aid. He introduced me to a turbaned
Druze of reverend appearance, who (he said) at present occupied the
house, and also to the son of the said turbaned Druze, who knew a
little French and longed to air it.

The turbaned one, whose name was Sheykh Huseyn, was called on to
refresh his chieftain's memory with regard to various details of the
house and property and all the feudal rights and privileges
appertaining thereunto. He did so, as in duty bound, but in a very
mournful tone.

His son explained: Tu fiens habiter, nous defons quitter. Mon bère
n'aime bas quitter. Très bon marché'--from which I guessed that they
had occupied the house rent-free till they had come to look upon it as
their own.

Leaving aside the land, which we should visit presently, the owner of
the house, I was informed, had jurisdiction over the meydân, which was
in times of peace the village square, and owned one-fifth part of the
great tree in its midst. He also owned a fifth of all the water
flowing or to flow from the great village spring; and had the right to
call upon the fellâhîn for one day's work a year in return for his
protection of their land from enemies. When I inquired by what means I
could possibly secure my fifth share of the water from the spring, the
chief informed me that the stipulation was in case the source
diminished in dry seasons, which, thank the Lord, it never yet had
done.

We viewed the house, and I was pleased with the great vaulted rooms,
in which the pots and pans and bedding of the Sheykh Huseyn appeared
like nothing, and the women of the family of Sheykh Huseyn,
close-veiled against our inroad, made themselves exceeding small; and
then, remounting, we went off to view the land. This was scattered all
about the mountain side--a terrace here, a terrace there. It took us a
long while to see the whole of it.

The chief, fatigued, alighted and sat down beneath some walnut trees.
He ordered Sheykh Huseyn to cause refreshments to appear. The latter
shouted, and a dozen villagers went tearing off. In a very little time
a meal of honeyed cakes and fruit was set before us, and the ceremony
of making coffee was in progress on a brazier near us in the shade.

'Allah! Allah!' sighed the Sheykh Huseyn, telling his beads.

'Mon bère est triste, tu vois. Il aime bas quitter,' murmured his
hopeful son in tones of high delight, the feeling proper to express
before a new acquaintance of my quality.

'Curse the religion of these flies! It is extremely hot!' exclaimed
the chief in momentary irritation.

The trees went with the land without exception, I was glad to hear.
One-fifth of all the produce of that land of any kind whatever would
be mine, the rest belonging to the husbandmen by immemorial right.
There was never such a thing as wages for the cultivation of the land.

The Sheykh Huseyn implored us to return to luncheon at his house,
protesting that he had commanded a great feast to be prepared; but the
chief declared we were too busy to allow ourselves that pleasure. As
we were then some way below the village, we did not go back thither,
but rode off along a path through orchards till we found the road to
the ravine.

At taking leave, the eyes of Sheykh Huseyn met mine a moment. They
were large, benevolent, brown eyes, and they expressed much inward
sorrow, while on his lips there broke the smile demanded of
politeness.

'Au refoir, mon cher! Au blaisir!' cried his hopeful son.

Rashîd came up behind me as we rode along, and poured into my ear a
wondrous tale of how the Sheykh Huseyn was our ill-wisher and would
do his best to make things lively for us if we took the place. He had
conversed with people of the village while we viewed the house.

'But the majority are in our favour,' he assured me, with grave
satisfaction. 'They do not love the Sheykh Huseyn, who is a miser and
a hypocrite. They say, please God, we shall humiliate him to the very
depth of shame.'

He spoke as if we were at war, and within sight of victory, as if we
were already settled in the place. And I was glad, because it augured
well for my content if I should buy the place, which I was now
resolved to do if I could anyhow afford it.

'The price will be too great, I fear,' was my reply; whereat he
sighed, observing that the place was of a nature to exalt our honour.

Returning to the castle of the chieftain, I was ushered to his private
chamber, where I broached at once the burning question of the price.
He said: 'God knows I wish to give thee house and land since thou
desirest them. But I have a mortgage on some other lands of mine which
vexes me, because, though I can find the interest--which is
exorbitant--each year, I cannot in this country lay my hands upon the
principal. Discharge that debt for me and, God reward thee, take the
house and land.'

He named a sum of money. I could not believe my ears, it was so little
as compared with what I judged to be the value of the property. It was
well within the sum at my disposal. I wished to write a cheque out
there and then; but he forbade me, saying: 'Allah knows I might mislay
the paper or destroy it in a moment of forgetfulness. Do thou in
kindness pay my creditor and bring me the discharge.'

He named an Armenian gentleman of my acquaintance--an amiable, learned
man of modest means, the last person in the country whom I should have
thought a usurer. Nor was he one habitually, for he himself informed
me that this loan to the Druze chieftain was his sole investment of
the kind. I called on him one afternoon in the city, and handed him my
cheque, explaining how the matter stood.

'You do me a bad turn. Unlucky day!' he sighed as he received it. 'My
little fortune was more safe with him than in a bank, and every year
it brought me in a pretty income. Where can I find another such
investment.'

With groans he wrote out the receipt, which in due time I carried to
the chief, who thanked me and assured me that the house was mine and
should be made so formally.

I then rode over to the house again, and with Rashîd planned out the
changes we desired to make, the Sheykh Huseyn following us about
gloomily, and his cheerful son bestowing on us his advice in broken
French. They knew their tenancy was at an end. The Sheykh, resigned at
length to the inevitable, sought to establish good relations with me;
and he also gave us counsel, which Rashîd, who viewed him as our
deadly foe, at once rejected. Under these rebuffs the old man became
quite obsequious.

His son exclaimed excitedly: 'Mon bère est heureux, tu vois. If feut
bas quitter. Il feut rester afec toi comme chef de serfice.'



CHAPTER XXVIII

A DISAPPOINTMENT


Considering that I had bought a house and land exactly to my taste,
and likely, as Rashîd declared, to raise our honour in the country, I
felt that I had earned the right to take a holiday. Whenever I have
done anything decisive it is my instinct to withdraw myself a little
from the scene of action and inure myself by contemplation to the new
position of affairs. Accordingly, having surveyed the house and land
as owner, I set off with Rashîd upon a ten days' journey beyond the
reach of telegrams and letters.

At the end of the ten days we rode into Beyrout, and put up at a
little hostelry, which we frequented, built out on piers above the
sea. There I found two letters waiting for me, one from the great
Druze chief who sold to me my house and land.

'Never,' he wrote, 'have I had to endure such disrespect and
ignominy. It is not at all what I expected from your friendship. In
obedience to the Consul's order, I wrote express to the Khawâjah ----,
my creditor, informing him that there had been some error and
entreating him to send your cheque in to the British Consulate. I hope
to God you have received it safely before this. My health has suffered
from this huge indignity. I shall not long survive this cruel shame.'

The second letter was from Her Britannic Majesty's Consul-General,
enclosing my cheque written to the order of the Armenian gentleman for
the amount of the mortgage which he held upon my Druze friend's
property, and adjuring me to pay a visit to the Consulate without
delay.

I went that afternoon. The outer office was crowded with the usual set
of English and would-be English persons who went there for gossip. My
appearance called forth more or less derisive shouts. I was a nice
young man to go and buy a village--from a native, too!--without the
forethought to secure a title to the property! It was plain that they
knew more about the matter than I did myself. I felt ashamed, and
must have looked dejected, I suppose, for they changed their tone for
one more genial, crying: 'Cheer up, man! We've all been through it.
You know now what these devils really are. They'll always do you, if
they can. It's no shame to you at your age. They're so devilish
clever.'

I did not know then, nor do I know to-day, that I had ever been
defrauded seriously, or deceived, by any native of the country, but
the legend ran, and doubtless runs, to that effect.

Then I was called into the Consul's presence and strongly blamed by
him for running off just at the moment when my presence was most
needed. I had written joyously to tell him of my purchase. I now heard
that I should have waited for his reply before concluding it. A man
does not buy tracts of land like that, I was severely told. And as I
was so very young and (he implied it) idiotic, he had intervened to
stop the sale, pending inquiries and the discharge of certain
formalities which were legally required. If the seller went into the
court and had the transfer registered and a proper deed of sale made
out, then well and good; but he understood that there was some
objection on the seller's part. If not, then he advised me to give up
the whole idea. Profoundly conscious of my youth, and mindful of past
kindness on the Consul's part, I was, of course, impressed. I thought
I had indeed been foolish, even mad; and promised to do all that he
required of me. As I went through the outer office, looking more than
ever downcast, I was hailed with further adjurations to cheer up, for
they had all been through it.

Rashîd was more depressed than even I was when I told him of the
sudden downfall of our hopes. He cursed the Consul and the Druzes
indiscriminately. But on our journey up into the mountains his
reconstructive mind transfigured my misfortunes, making of them an
event well calculated to 'exalt our honour.' So great was my
consideration in my native country that the Queen herself had written
to the Consul-General to take care of me and see that I was not
defrauded when I bought my land. The Consul, who had been neglectful
of me, and knew nothing of the land I wished to buy, had been afraid
of the Queen's anger, hence his mad activity. I did not hear that
version at the time, nor from Rashîd's own lips; but it came to my
ears eventually, after its vogue was past.

We both hoped, however, that the house and land would yet be ours.

I found the Druze chief prostrate with humiliation and bewilderment.
He greeted me with monstrous sighs, and told me how ashamed he was,
how very ill. His eyes reproached me. What had he ever done to me that
I should loose upon him such a swarm of ignominies. I felt humiliated
and ashamed before him, an honourable man who had been treated like a
rogue on my account.

'I shall not survive these insults, well I know it. I shall die,' he
kept lamenting. 'All my people know the way I have been treated--like
a dog.'

I told him that there had been a misunderstanding, and that the shame
which he had suffered had been all my fault, because I had been absent
for my selfish pleasure at the moment when I might have saved him by a
simple statement of the facts.

'I shall not easily recover,' the chief groaned. 'And then that debt
which I was so delighted to pay off is once again upon my shoulders.'

I explained then that the Consul's stopping of the sale was not
conclusive, but provisional; his only stipulation being that, before I
paid, all the legal formalities necessary to the transfer should have
been fulfilled.

'He asks no more than that your Excellency will condescend to go
before the Caïmmacâm with witnesses, and have a proper title-deed made
out.'

At those words, uttered in all innocence, the great man shuddered
violently and his face went green. I feared that he would have a fit,
but he recovered gradually; and at last he said: 'It is a cruel
thought, and one which must have been suggested to him by my enemies.
Know that the Caïmmacâm at present is my rival and most deadly foe. We
have not met on terms of speech for many years; our servants fight at
chance encounters on the road. It is but five years since I held the
post of Governor which he now occupies. When, by means of calumny and
foul intrigue against me at Stamboul, he managed to supplant me, I
swore a solemn oath that I would never recognise the Government nor
seek its sanction so long as he remained its representative. And now
the Consul bids me have recourse to him. By Allah, I would sooner be
impaled alive.'

He paused a moment, swallowing his rage, then added:

'This, however, I will do. I will summon all the chiefs of all my
people--every head of every family--hither to your presence and
command them all to witness that the property is yours. I will make
them swear to defend you and your successors in possession of it with
their lives if need be, and to leave the obligation as a sacred charge
to their descendants. That, I think, would be sufficient to assure you
undisturbed possession if I die, as well I may, of this unheard-of
treatment. And if I live till happier times--that is, to see the
downfall of my enemy--then you shall have the Government certificate
which the Consul deems of such immense importance.'

I now know that the kind of treaty which he thus proposed, laying a
solemn charge on all his people--who would have been, of course, my
neighbours--to defend my right, would have been worth a good deal
more than any legal document in that wild country. The Armenian
gentleman, who was delighted that his mortgage still held good, told
me as much when next I saw him in the city. He thought me foolish not
to jump at it, particularly when the land was offered to me for a
song. But the Consul's prohibition, and the warnings of the English
colony, possessed more weight with me just then than his opinion, or,
indeed, my own, for I was very young.

I told the chieftain it was not enough.

'Then I am truly sorry,' he replied, with dignity; 'but there the
matter ends. I have told your Honour the reason why I cannot go to
court at present.'

Rashîd was sad when I informed him of my failure. Once more he cursed
the Druzes and all Consuls. And as we rode back through the mountains
he was wrapped in thought. He came at length to the conclusion that
this, too, redounded to our honour, since anybody less exalted than
ourselves would certainly have jumped at such an offer as the chief
had made to me. But everything, for us, must be performed in the most
perfect manner. We were tremendous sticklers for formality.

There was only one thing he could not get over.

'It is the triumph of our enemy, that Sheykh Huseyn,' he told me. 'I
hate to think of him in comfort in our house.'



CHAPTER XXIX

CONCERNING CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


If we wished to stay in any place for more than a day or two, Rashîd,
upon arrival, wandered through the markets and inquired what dwellings
were to let, while I sat down and waited in some coffee-house. Within
an hour he would return with tidings of a decent lodging, whither we
at once repaired with our belongings, stabling our horses at the
nearest khan.

My servant was an expert in the art of borrowing, so much so that no
sound of disputation on that subject reached my ears. It seemed as if
the neighbours came, delighted, of their own accord to lend us pots
and pans and other necessaries. He also did the cooking and the
marketing without a hitch, giving a taste of home to the small
whitewashed chamber, which we had rented for a week, it might be, or a
month at most.

When obliged to go out upon any errand, Rashîd was always worried
about leaving me alone, regarding me as careless of my property and so
untrusty from the point of view of one who idolised it.

'If your Honour should be seized with a desire to smell the air when I
am absent,' he would say, 'do not forget to lock the door and place
the key in the appointed hiding-place where I can find it. There are
wicked people in the world. And while you sit alone, keep our revolver
handy.'

He told me that in cities robberies of private dwellings are oftener
committed at high noon, when many houses are left empty, than at
night, when they are full of snoring folk. I did not doubt the truth
of this assertion, but differed from him in believing that we
harboured nothing likely to attract a thief.

'I would not lose the buckle of a strap, a single grain of sesame, by
such foul means,' he would reply with vehemence.

One morning--it was in Damascus--he went out, after imploring me as
usual to take care of everything. The room we occupied was at the end
of a blind alley, up a flight of nine stone steps. The alley led into
a crowded, narrow street, bordered with shops of many-coloured wares,
which at that point was partly shaded by a fine old ilex tree. From
where I sprawled upon a bed of borrowed cushions in the room, reading
a chap-book I had lately purchased--_The Rare Things of Abu Nawwâs_--I
saw the colour and the movement of that street as at the far end of a
dark kaleidoscope, for all the space between was in deep shadow.

When a man turned up our alley--a most rare occurrence--I noticed his
appearance. It was rather strange. He wore an old blue shirt, and on
his head a kind of turban, but of many colours and, unlike any I had
ever seen upon the natives of the country, with an end or streamer
hanging loose upon one side. In complexion, too, he was a good deal
darker than a Syrian, and yet had nothing of the negro in his looks.
Something furtive in his manner of approach amused me, as suggestive
of the thief of Rashîd's nightmares. I moved into the darkest corner
of the room and lay quite still. He climbed our steps and filled the
doorway, looking in.

It happened that Rashîd had left a bag of lentils, bought that
morning, just inside. The thief seized that and, thinking he was
unobserved, was going to look round for other spoil, when I sat up and
asked to know his business. He gave one jump, replied: 'It is no
matter,' and was gone immediately. I watched him running till he
vanished in the crowded street.

Rashîd returned. I told him what had happened in his absence, but he
did not smile. He asked me gravely to describe the man's appearance,
and, when I did so, groaned: 'It is a Nûri (gipsy). Who knows their
lurking-places? Had it been a townsman or a villager I might perhaps
have caught him and obtained redress.' He said this in a manner of
soliloquy before he turned to me, and, with reproachful face,
exclaimed:

'He stole our bag of lentils and you watched him steal it! You had at
hand our good revolver, yet you did not shoot!'

'Why should I shoot a man for such a trifle?'

'It is not the dimensions or the value of the object stolen that your
Honour ought to have considered, but the crime! The man who steals a
bag of lentils thus deliberately is a wicked man, and when a man is
wicked he deserves to die; and he expects it.'

I told him that the gipsy was quite welcome to the lentils, but he
would not entertain that point of view. After trying vainly to
convince me of my failure to perform a social duty, he went out to the
establishment of a coffee-seller across the street, who kept his cups
and brazier in the hollow trunk of the old ilex tree, and set stools
for his customers beneath its shade, encroaching on the public street.
Thither I followed after a few minutes, and found him telling
everybody of the theft. Those idlers all agreed with him that it was
right to shoot a thief.

'All for a bag of lentils!' I retorted loftily. 'God knows I do not
grudge as much to any man.'

At that there rose a general cry of 'God forbid!' while one explained:

'It were a sin to refuse such a thing to a poor man in need who came
and begged for it in Allah's name. But men who take by stealth or
force are different. Think if your Honour had destroyed that thief,
the rascal would not now be robbing poorer folk, less able to sustain
the loss! Suppose that bag of lentils had been all you had! There may
be people in the world as poor as that.'

'Why should I kill a man who offered me no violence?' I asked
defiantly.

'Why should you not do so, when the man is evidently wicked?'

'Why do the Franks object to killing wicked people?' asked the
coffee-seller with a laugh. 'Why do they nourish good and bad in their
society?'

'It is because they are without religion,' muttered one man in his
beard.

An elder of superior rank, who overheard, agreed with him, pronouncing
in a tone of gentle pity:

'It is because they lose belief in Allah and the life to come. They
deem this fleeting life the only one vouchsafed to man, and death the
last and worst catastrophe that can befall him. When they have killed
a man they think they have destroyed him quite; and, as each one of
them fears such destruction for himself if it became the mode, they
condemn killing in their laws and high assemblies. We, when we kill a
person, know that it is not the end. Both killed and killer will be
judged by One who knows the secrets of men's breasts. The killed is
not deprived of every hope. For us, death is an incident: for them,
the end. Moreover, they have no idea of sacrifice. Killing, with them,
is always the result of hate.'

'What does your Honour mean by that last saying?' I inquired with
warmth.

The old man smiled on me indulgently as he made answer sadly:

'Be not offended if we speak our mind before you. We should not do so
if we wished you ill. Here, among us, it is not an unheard-of thing
for men to kill the creatures they love best on earth; nor do men
blame them when, by so doing, they have served the cause of God, which
is the welfare of mankind. Thus it was of old the rule, approved of
all the world, that every Sultan of the line of Othman had to kill his
brothers lest they should rise against him and disturb the peace of
all the realm. Was it not like depriving life of all its sweetness
thus to destroy their youth's companions and their nearest kin? Yet,
though their hearts were in the bodies of their victims, they
achieved it. And the victims met their death with the like fortitude,
all save a few of less heroic mould.

'Now, I have read some histories written by the Europeans. They do not
understand these things at all. They think us merely cruel--just as
we, in the same unperceiving manner, think them merely covetous. Yet I
disagree with your good servant in the present case. I think that you
were right to spare that Nûri.'

Rashîd, who, with the rest of the assembly, had listened to the old
man's speech with reverence, exclaimed:

'It is not just this Nûri or that bag of lentils, O my lord! My master
is thus careless always. He never locks the door when he goes out
during my absence, though all that we possess is in that room.'

'Thy lord is young.' The old man smiled upon me kindly, and proceeded
then to read me a mild lecture on my carelessness, detailing to me the
precautions which he took himself, habitually, when shutting up his
house or place of business, including pious formulas which he made me
repeat after him. While he was thus instructing me, Rashîd went off,
returning in about three minutes with a face of indignation strangely
and incongruously mixed with triumph.

Taking his stand before me in the very middle of the seated crowd, he
said:

'You left the door wide open even after you had seen that Nûri steal
the bag of lentils. I have this minute been to look and I have seen.
With our revolver lying in the full light of the doorway! Merciful
Allah! What is to be done with you?'

The old man, my preceptor, laughed aloud; and at the sound Rashîd,
whose desperation was not acted, wept real tears. The people round us
tried in vain to comfort him.



CHAPTER XXX

THE UNWALLED VINEYARD


One morning, as we rode along, we came to vineyards on a valley-side.
Rashîd dismounted and began to pick the grapes. Suleymân dismounted
likewise, and invited me to do the same.

'But it is stealing,' I objected.

'Allah! Allah!' moaned Suleymân, as one past patience. He hung his
head a moment, limp all over, as if the spirit had been taken out of
him; then called out to Rashîd, who was devouring grapes:

'Return, O malefactor, O most wicked robber! Thou art guilty of a
fearful crime. Thy master says so.'

Rashîd came back to us immediately, bringing a purple bunch, which he
was going to give to me when Suleymân prevented him, exclaiming:

'Wouldst dishonour our good lord by placing in his hands the fruit of
infamy, as if he were a vile accomplice of thy crime? For shame, O
sinful depredator, O defrauder of the poor!'

Rashîd gaped at him, and then looked at me. I held out my hand for the
grapes.

'Touch them not, for they are stolen!' cried Suleymân.

'I know not what thou wouldst be at, O evil joker,' said Rashîd, with
warmth; 'but if thou callest me a thief again, I'll break thy head.'

'_I_ call thee thief? Thou art mistaken, O my soul! By Allah! I am but
the mouthpiece of thy master here, who says that to pluck grapes out
of this vineyard is to steal.'

Rashîd looked towards me, half incredulous, and, seeing that I ate the
grapes with gusto, answered with a laugh:

'He does not understand our customs, that is all. By Allah! there is
no man in this land so churlish or so covetous as to begrudge to
thirsty wayfarers a bunch of grapes out of his vineyard or figs or
apricots from trees beside the road. To go into the middle of the
vineyard and pick fruit there would be wrong, but to gather from the
edge is quite allowable. If we were to come with sumpter-mules and
load them with the grapes, that would be robbery; but who but the most
miserly would blame us for picking for our own refreshment as we pass,
any more than he would stop the needy from gleaning in the fields when
corn is cut. What your Honour thinks a crime, with us is reckoned as a
kindness done and taken.'

'Aye,' said Suleymân, whose gift was for interpretations, 'and in the
same way other matters which your Honour blames in us as faults are in
reality but laudable and pious uses. Thus, it is customary here among
us to allow the servant to help himself a little to his master's
plenty in so far as food and means of living are concerned. The
servant, being wholly given to his master's service, having no other
means of living, still must live; aye, and support a wife and children
if he have them; and it is the custom of our great ones to pay little
wages, because they have but little ready money. Upon the other hand,
they have possessions and wide influence, in which each servant is
their partner to a small extent. No one among them would object to
such small profits as that cook of yours, whom you condemned so
fiercely, made while in your service. If the master does not care to
let the servant gain beyond his wages, he must pay him wages high
enough for his existence--certainly higher wages than you paid that
cook.'

'I paid him what he asked,' I said indignantly.

'And he asked what he thought sufficient in consideration of the
profits he felt sure of making in your service--a foreigner and a
young man of many wants.'

'I had told him that thou art of all men living the most generous!'
put in Rashîd. My dismissal of that cook had long been rankling in his
mind. 'It is the custom of the country,' he subjoined, defiantly.

'It is a custom which I very heartily dislike,' I answered. 'It seems
to me that people here are always grasping. Look at the prices which
the merchants ask, the way they bargain. They fight for each para as
if it were their soul's salvation. They are mad for gain.'

'Again you are mistaken,' answered Suleymân. 'They do not ask too much
from avarice, but for the sake of pastime. Indeed, you will find
sometimes that the price they ask is less than the real value of the
object, and still they let the buyer beat it down--for mere amusement
of the argument and for the sake of seeing what devices he will use.
In addition, they will give the buyer a nice cup of coffee--sometimes
two cups of coffee if the argument is long--and as many glasses full
of sherbet as he cares to drink.'

'And if the buyer will not pay the price, though much reduced, the
merchant often will present the object to him, as happened to your
Honour in Aleppo only the other day,' put in Rashîd.

'That was only a device to shame me into buying it.'

'No, by your Honour's leave!'

'Rashîd may well be right,' said Suleymân, 'although I cannot judge of
the peculiar instance since I was not present.'

Just then we came around a shoulder of the hill, and saw some people,
men and women, harvesting the grapes in a much larger vineyard.

'Now you shall see!' exclaimed Rashîd exultantly. He got down off his
horse and stooped over the nearest vines. The workers, seeing him, set
up a shout of 'Itfaddalû!' (perform a kindness), the usual form of
hospitable invitation. Since we refused to join them in the middle of
the vineyard a man came wading towards us, bearing on his head a
basket tray piled up with grapes. Suleymân picked out three monstrous
clusters, one for each of us, with blessings on the giver. To my offer
of payment the fellâh opposed a serious refusal, saying: 'It would be
a shame for me.'

'You see now!' said Rashîd, as we resumed our way. 'It is not robbery
for wayfarers to take refreshment.'

'And as for the custom of the merchants,' added Suleymân, 'in asking a
much higher price than that which they at last accept, what would you
have? Those merchants are rich men, who have enough for all their
needs. Their aim is not that of the Frankish traders: to increase
their wealth by all means and outdistance rivals. Their object is to
pass the time agreeably and, to that end, detain the customer as long
as possible, the more so if he be a person like your Honour, who loves
jokes and laughter. The greatest disappointment to our merchants is
for the customer to pay the price first asked and so depart
immediately. I have a rare thing in my memory which hits the case.

'Everyone has heard of Abdu, the great Egyptian singer, who died
recently. His only daughter met her death in a distressing way. It was
her wedding night, and bride and bridegroom died of suffocation owing
to the scent of flowers and perfumes in the bedroom where they lay. At
sight of the two corpses Abdu broke his lute and swore a solemn oath
never to sing again.

'He was rich--for he had earned much by his singing, often as much as
a hundred pounds a night--and he sought some means to pass the time
till death should come for him. He took a shop in Cairo, and hoped for
pleasant conversation in the course of bargaining. But the Egyptians
wished to hear him sing again, and men of wealth among them planned
together to buy up his whole stock-in-trade immediately. This happened
thrice, to the despair of Abdu, who saw his hope of pastime taken from
him. In the end he was compelled to get the Câdi to release him from
his vow, and sing again, although he would have much preferred to be a
merchant. That shows the difference between a trader in our cities
and one in any city of the Franks, whose sole desire is to sell
quickly and repeatedly.'

'There is no accounting for tastes,' was my reply. 'For my part I
detest this bargaining.'

'When that is understood by decent merchants they will not afflict
thee. They will ask thee a fair price and let thee go--though with
regret, for they would rather spend an hour in talk with thee,' said
Suleymân indulgently. 'It is a game of wits which most men like.' He
shrugged his shoulders.

'Your Honour was relating yesterday,' observed Rashîd, with grievance
in his tone, 'how an Englishman of your acquaintance in our country
accused his servants of dishonesty. Doubtless he distrusted them and
locked things up, which is the same as saying to them: "It is my locks
and my vigilance against your wits." Few men of spirit could resist a
challenge such as that, which is indeed to urge men on to robbery. But
where the master trusts his servants and leaves all things to their
care, only a son of infamy would dream of robbing him.'

'Let me propound the matter otherwise for understanding. Seeing that
open vineyard, with a wall but two stones high, no man would think of
plundering the crop of grapes. But surround that vineyard with a high,
strong wall, and every son of Adam will conceive the project of
clearing it of every cluster.'

'I should never think of such a thing.'

'That is because your Honour is accustomed to restraints and
barriers,' said Suleymân. 'We, in the Sultan's dominions, have more
freedom, praise to Allah! For us a high wall is an insult, save in
cities.'



CHAPTER XXXI

THE ATHEIST


Though I had known Suleymân for nearly two years, and had had him with
me for some six months of that time, I had never seen him in his
function of a dragoman, by which he earned enough in two months of the
year to keep a wife and children in a village of the coasts of Tyre
and Sidon, of which he spoke with heart-moving affection, though he
seldom went there. It was only after much insistence that he allowed
us to conduct him thither on one memorable occasion, when I could not
but admire his perfect manners as a despot. When first I met him he
had been a gentleman at large, and it was as that, and a familiar
friend, that he repaired to me whenever he had nothing else to do.
Judging from his gifts of conversation, which we all admired, and his
unbounded knowledge of the country, I thought that, as a guide for
tourists, he would be invaluable. So, when I heard that English
friends of mine were coming out to Palestine, I wrote advising them to
ask for him, him only; and I was glad to hear soon afterwards that he
was with them. When they came north, I joined the party at Damascus
and travelled with them for their last fortnight.

It did not take me many minutes in the camp to see that Suleymân was
not himself, and that my friends were not so charmed with him as I had
thought they would be. On the first evening in their tent I heard
complaints. They told me he was most unconscionably lazy, and would
not take them to the places they desired to visit. The trouble was, as
I soon learnt, that they possessed a map and guidebook which they
studied reverently every night, finding out places said therein to be
of interest. Suleymân, on his side, had, at setting out, possessed a
plan to make their tour the most delightful one imaginable. He hoped
by visiting selected spots and people to give it sequence and
significance. In a word, he was an artist in travel, wishing to
provide them with delicious memories, while they were English and
omnivorous of facts and scenes. When he learnt from various rebuffs
that they would not confide themselves to him, he lost all pleasure in
the tour. It was a listless and disgusted upper servant, most unlike
the man I knew, whom I found in gorgeous raiment sitting by the cook's
fire in the gardens of Damascus, which were then a wilderness of
roses.

He did not explain matters to me all at once. When I reproached him
for neglecting friends of mine, he answered only: 'It is the will of
Allah, who made men of different kinds, some sweet, some loathsome.'
But my arrival mended things a little. At least, my English friends
professed to see a great improvement in the conduct of Suleymân and
all the servants. I think it was because the poor souls knew that they
had someone now to whom they could express their grievances, someone
who would condescend to talk with them; for nothing is more foreign to
the Oriental scheme of life than the distance at which English people
keep their servants. In the democratic East all men are equal, as far
as rights of conversation are concerned. It is a hardship for the
Oriental to serve Europeans, and only the much higher and more
certain wages bring him to it.

My English friends had few good words to say for any of their Arab
servants; but I found they had conceived a perfect hatred for the
cook, who had undoubtedly a villainous appearance. He was a one-eyed
man with a strong cast in his surviving eye. A skull-cap, which had
once been white, concealed his shaven poll, and his long pointed ears
stood out upon it. He wore a shirt of indigo impaired by time, over
which, when riding, he would throw an ancient Frankish coat, or, if it
chanced to rain, a piece of sacking. His legs were bare, and he wore
scarlet slippers. To see him riding on an ass hung round with cooking
tins, at the head of the procession of the beasts of burden, suggested
to the uninformed spectator that those beasts of burden and their
loads had all been stolen.

I spoke about him to Suleymân one day when in my company he had
regained his wonted spirits, telling him of the extreme dislike my
friends had taken to the man.

'They are foolish,' he replied, 'to grumble at the figure of a mill
which grinds good flour. They profit by his cooking, which is
excellent. Indeed, he is the best cook in the world, and most
particular. I took great trouble to secure him for this expedition,
knowing that the Khawâjât were friends of yours.' The tone of
grievance in his voice became acute.

I feared that he was going to cry, so answered quickly:

'It is not that. They like his cooking. But his manners----'

'What know they of his manners? Has he ever entered the saloon or
bed-tent to defile them? Has he ever spoken insult in their hearing?
Inform me of his crime, and I will beat him bloody. But well I know he
has done nothing wrong, for I have kept him in the strictest order all
these days. It is only his appearance they object to; and that is
God's affair, not theirs. The Lord repay them!'

'You say that you have kept him in strict order? Is that necessary?'

'Of course it is, for the poor man is mad. I thought his madness would
amuse them; it is very funny. But Allah knows that there is not a
laugh in all their bodies. So I have kept him from approaching them.'

The word 'majnûn,' which I have here translated 'mad,' has often, as I
knew, a complimentary value; and I gathered from Suleymân's way of
speaking that the cook was not a raving maniac, but rather what in
English country-places we should call 'a character.'

I cultivated his acquaintance after that, and was astonished by his
powers of story-telling and of mimicry; still more, perhaps, by a
curious, dry scepticism, expressed facetiously and sometimes with
profanity, which was evident in almost everything he said. This it was
which chiefly pleased the waiter and the muleteers, who were his usual
listeners, since they were together on the road. They would laugh and
curse him in religious terms for a blasphemer and a wicked atheist,
reproofs which he received as high applause. It was his custom to
salute his friends with insults, which they took kindly from him,
being what he was. They told me in low tones of awe, yet with a
chuckle, that he had even sold his father's grave in a facetious way.
But I could never get them to relate that story clearly.

I could understand then why Suleymân had kept him in strict order on
the journey; for my English friends were quite incapable of seeing any
fun in such a character. Nor did I ever tell them of the great
adventure of that journey, in which their cook was very nearly done to
death.

It happened near the village of Mejdel esh-Shems, down in the valley
underneath Mount Hermon. We remained in camp there over Sunday, and on
Sunday afternoon my friends were resting in their tent. Suleymân and I
had seized that opportunity to go off for a ramble by ourselves, which
did us good. We were returning to the camp in time for tea, when a
crowd of fellâhîn came hurrying from the direction of our tents,
waving their arms and shouting, seeming very angry. Suleymân called
out to them to learn the matter.

'Zandîq!' (an atheist) they cried. 'Zandîq! Zandîq!'

'Where?' I asked, eagerly.

'There, in yonder tent,' an old white-bearded man informed me, with
wide eyes of horror. He pointed to the canvas windscreen against
which our famous cook sat gazing at the kettle he had set to boil for
tea. 'We go to fetch the wherewithal to kill him properly.'

'Stop!' said Suleymân peremptorily. 'You are mistaken. That is our
cook--a good, religious man, but mad occasionally.'

'No, there is no mistake, O lords of honour,' cried a score of voices;
while the old man who had pointed out the cook to me, explained:

'He said--may God protect us from the blame of it!--He said: "You see
that mountain! It is I who made it. Prostrate yourselves before me for
I made the world." We had been standing round him inoffensively,
asking him questions, as the custom is, about his parentage, his
trade, and so forth. But when we heard that awful blasphemy we rent
our clothes, and ran in haste to fetch our weapons, as thou seest.
Delay us not, for he must surely die.'

'Commit not such a wickedness! The man is mad.'

'No; he is sane.'

'Quite mad, I do assure you. Return with us, and I will prove it to
your understanding,' cried Suleymân.

I added my assurance. They came back with us, but murmuring, and in
two minds. I could not but admire the simple piety which prompted them
at once to kill a man whose speech betrayed him as an atheist. But I
was very much afraid of what might happen, and of the sad impression
it would make upon my English friends. And everything depended on the
cook's behaviour.

'I tell you he is mad,' said Suleymân, advancing towards the fire. 'It
were a sin for you to slay a fellow-creature thus afflicted. Come
hither, O Mansûr,' he cried as to a dog.

The cook rose up and came towards us with a foolish air.

'Lie down before my horse. I would ride over thee.'

The cook fell prostrate, then turned over on his back. His mouth hung
open idiotically; his tongue lolled out.

'Now rise and kiss my boot.'

The cook obeyed. By that time there were murmurs of compassion from
the would-be slayers.

'Spake I not truly?' asked Suleymân.

'Aye, O sun of verity! He is quite mad, the poor one,' said the old
man who had acted spokesman. 'It were a sin for us to kill him, being
in that state. His manner at the first deceived us. Allah heal him!
How came the dreadful malady upon him?'

'It came upon him through the pangs of unrequited love.'

'Alas, the poor one! Ah, the misery of men! May Allah heal him!' cried
the women, as the group of villagers moved off, contented. Just when
the last of them passed out of sight the longest tongue I ever saw in
man emerged from the cook's mouth, and the rascal put his finger to
his nose in a derisive gesture. Those portents were succeeded by a
realistic cock-crow.

'What makes the cook like that, devoid of reverence?' I asked of
Suleymân.

'It is because he was born in Jerusalem,' was the astonishing reply.
'He is a Christian, and was born poor; and the quarrels of the
missionaries over him, each striving to obtain his patronage for some
absurd belief, have made him what he is--a kind of atheist.'

Selîm, the waiter, who was near and overheard this ending, burst out
laughing.

'An atheist!' he cried. 'Your Honour understands? It means a man who
thinks there is no God. Just like a beetle!' and he held his quaking
sides.

Both he and Suleymân appeared to think that atheism was a subject to
make angels laugh. And yet they were as staunch believers as those
fellâhîn.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE SELLING OF OUR GUN


I had been ill with typhoid fever. Just before my illness, the son of
a sheykh in our neighbourhood had asked me to lend him my gun for a
few days, since I never used it. There was nothing really which I
cared to shoot. The village people rushed out in pursuit of every
little bird whose tweet was heard, however distant, in the olive
groves or up the mountain side. Jackals there were besides, and an
occasional hyæna; and, in the higher mountains, tigers, so the people
still persisted in declaring, meaning leopards, I suppose, or lynxes;
for ignorant Arabs lump together a whole genus under one specific
name, in the same way that they call all wild plants, which have
neither scent nor market-value, grass. It was after we had sought
those tigers vainly that I put away my gun.

The sheykh's son asked me for the loan of it, and I consented in the
absence of Rashîd; who, when he heard what I had done, defiled his
face with dust and wailed aloud. Suleymân, who happened to be with us
at the moment, also blamed me, looking as black as if I had committed
some unheard-of sin. It is unlucky for a man to lend his gun to
anybody, even to the greatest friend he has on earth, they told me
sadly; and that for no superstitious reason, but because, according to
the law, if murder be committed with that weapon, the owner of the gun
will be considered guilty no matter by whose hand the shot was fired.

'How do they know the owner of the gun?' I answered, scoffing.

'For every gun there is a tezkereh,'[8] answered Rashîd; 'and he who
holds the tezkereh is held responsible for every use to which that gun
is put.'

It was, in fact, a rough-and-ready way of saying that the gun licence
was not transferable. I remarked with satisfaction that I had no
tezkereh, but that did not appear to reassure them in the least. They
still were of opinion harm might come of it.

Then I fell ill and knew no more of daily life until I found myself
in a hospital of the German Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, where
the good sisters nursed me back to health.

Among the Arab visitors from far and near who came to see me as I lay
in bed, was the youth who had borrowed my gun, together with his
father and his brethren, who wept real tears and prayed for my
complete recovery, talking as if they were beholden to me in some
signal way. Their manner puzzled me a little at the time; but I had
quite forgotten that perplexity when, discharged at last from
hospital, I travelled back into the mountains with Rashîd.

On the very day of my return I got an invitation from that young man's
father to dine with him at noon upon the morrow. Rashîd made a grimace
at hearing of it and, when I asked him why, looked down his nose and
said:

'He has our gun.'

'Aye, to be sure, and so he has!' I said. 'To-morrow I must not forget
to ask him for it.'

Rashîd looked big with tidings, but restrained himself and merely
growled:

'You will not ask for it. I know your Honour! Nor will that rogue
return it of his own accord.'

At the sheykh's house next day I found a largeish company assembled in
my honour, as it seemed. Innumerable were the compliments on my
recovery, the pretty speeches and remarks, to which I made reply as
best I could. The meal consisted of some thirty courses, and was set
on trays upon the floor in the old, country fashion, everybody eating
with his fingers from the dish. When it drew near an end, the son of
the house glanced at his father meaningly, and getting in return a
nod, rose up and left the room. He soon came back, carrying my gun,
which he brought first to me as if for benediction, then handed round
for the inspection of the other guests. There were cries of 'Ma
sh'Allah!' while they all praised its workmanship, one man opining
that it must have cost a mint of money, another wishing he possessed
its brother, and so forth. These exclamations and asides were
evidently aimed at me, and it was somehow carried to my understanding
that this exhibition of the gun, and not the public joy on my
recovery, was the true reason of the feast and all attending it;
though why it should be so I could not think.

'One thing that is remarkable about this gun,' explained the master of
the house, 'is that it cannot miss the object aimed at. We have tried
it at a target nailed upon a tree--I and my sons--at fifty and a
hundred paces--aye, and more! And, by the Lord, the bullet always
strikes exactly on the spot at which the gun is pointed, even though
that spot be not much bigger than a gnat.'

And then, quite unaccountably, the whole assembly rose and tried to
kiss my hands, as if the virtues of my gun were due to me. It was
obviously not the moment to reclaim the weapon.

When I got home after that strange ovation, Rashîd received me coldly
and observed:

'You do not bring our gun! You feared to ask for it! Did not I know
how it would be? Oh, Allah, Allah!'

'I had no opportunity,' I told him; 'but I am going now to write and
ask him to return it. Be ready for the letter. You will have to take
it.'

'Upon my head and eye, with all alacrity,' Rashîd replied. 'Never did
I rejoice so much in any errand. That rascal has been telling
everybody that it is your gift to him, and boasting of his gun through
all the mountains. No doubt, he counts upon your illness having dimmed
remembrance, and hopes that you yourself may be deluded into thinking
that it was a gift and not a loan.'

'Why did you not tell me this before?' I asked.

'Was it my business, till the question rose?'

I wrote a civil note to the young man, asking him to let me have the
gun in a few days, as I was collecting my belongings for the journey
back to England. I thanked him for the care which he had taken of my
property, which was much better kept than when I lent it to him, as I
had remarked that day. Rashîd received the missive and went off
exulting.

Within an hour that young man came to me, without the gun, and in a
state of most profound affliction and despair. Having shut the door
with great precaution to make sure we were alone, he fell upon the
ground and burst out crying, confessing that his passion for the gun
had made him dream that it was his each night as he lay thinking ere
he fell asleep.

'But I did not tell a soul that it was mine--did but dream it--until I
knew your Honour was abed and like to die,' he told me naively, as
something which might make his fault seem natural. 'I thought that you
would die and leave it with me.'

So, thinking me as good as dead, he had told his father and his
brothers that it was a gift from me, or, as it were, a legacy; and now
the fame of my munificence, my love for him, had gone abroad. An hour
ago, when he received my letter, he had confessed the truth at last
and privately to his beloved father, who, while strongly blaming him
for his deceit, was willing to pay any price I chose to put upon the
weapon to save him from the horrid scandal of exposure. If the story
became public in the country he would die of grief. The honour of a
noble house was at my mercy.

The gun, so much admired, was quite a cheap one in reality. I had
bought it for ten pounds three years before, in London, on the advice
of an uncle skilled in all such matters. After a moment's thought, I
said: 'Eight English pounds.'

Never in my life before or since have I beheld such transports of
relief and gratitude, nor heard such heartfelt praises of my
generosity. He told the money out before me there and then, insisted
on embracing me repeatedly, and then rushed out, intent to tell his
father.

When he had gone, Rashîd appeared before me, stern and aloof as the
Recording Angel.

'It is a crime you have committed,' he exclaimed indignantly. 'That
rascal told me as we came along together that his father was prepared
to pay a hundred pounds to save their honour. He had sinned; it is but
right his house should bear the punishment.'

'You would have done as I have done, in my position,' I assured him,
laughing.

'In the position of your Honour,' was the dignified reply, 'I should
either have made him pay a hundred pounds for our gun, or else
persuaded him that it was worth a hundred pounds, and then presented
it. In either case I should have crushed those people utterly. But,
for a man in your position to accept eight pounds for such a
weapon--and proclaim it worth no more--that is a shame! If your desire
was money, you should not have touched the matter personally, but have
left it altogether in the hands of me, your servant, who am always
careful of your honour, which is mine as well.'

He sulked with me thereafter for two days.

FOOTNOTES:

[8] Licence.



CHAPTER XXXIII

MY BENEFACTOR


When I knew at length that I was going to leave Syria, I was seized
with a desire to buy all kinds of notions of the country to show to my
people at home--a very foolish way of spending money, I am now aware,
for such things lose significance when taken from their proper
setting.

In after days, when leaving Syria for England, the one thing I would
purchase for myself was a supply of reed pens for Arabic writing. But
on that first occasion I wished to carry the whole country with me.

There was an old, learned Christian of Beyrout, who had given me
lessons in Arabic at various times, and always waited on me honourably
whenever I alighted in that loveliest and most detestable of seaport
towns. He wore the baggiest of baggy trousers, looking just like
petticoats, a short fez with enormous hanging tassel, a black alpaca
coat of French design, a crimson vest, white cotton stockings, and
elastic-sided boots, convenient to pull off ere entering a room. He
always carried in the street a silver-headed cane, which he would lean
with care against the wall of any room he chanced to enter, never
laying it upon the ground, or on a chair or table. In all the time of
my acquaintance with him I never, that I can remember, saw him really
smile, though something like a twinkle would occasionally touch his
eyes beneath great bushy eyebrows, between black and grey. An
extraordinarily strong and heavy grey moustache, with drooping ends,
gave him a half-pathetic, half-imposing likeness to some aged walrus;
so that some of the common people actually called him 'Sheykh el Bahr'
(the old man of the sea)--which is the proper Arabic designation of a
walrus.

He came to see me after I had left the hospital and was staying with
some English friends for a few days before returning to the wilds for
a farewell; and repeatedly praised Allah for my safe recovery. There
never was a man more thoroughly respectable, more perfectly correct
in every word and movement. He disapproved of poor Rashîd as a
companion for me, because the latter dealt in vulgar language; and I
feel certain that he would have disapproved of Suleymân, if he had
ever seen that Sun of Wisdom in my company, for pandering to my desire
for foolish stories. He was known as the Mu'allim Costantîn, a worthy
man.

With his usual ceremonious salutation, suggestive of his high position
as a representative of learning, he placed himself at my command for
any purchases I wished to make; knowing, he said, that I was likely to
be busy in the weeks before departure. And his offer was extremely
welcome to me at the time. I wished, as I have said already, to buy
lots of things; among others--why, I cannot now imagine--the whole
costume of natives of the country. The Mu'allim Costantîn praised my
intention, gravely declaring that it could not fail to interest my
honoured relatives and lovers, and enlarge their minds, to know the
details of a dress the most becoming in the world. In order that a
full idea of Syrian raiment might be given, two suits and two long
garments (corresponding to two other suits) were necessary, he
pronounced. These, with the various articles of clothing which I then
possessed and had grown used to wearing in the country, would be
sufficient for the purposes of exhibition.

Upon the following day, as I was dressing, about ten o'clock (for I
was still to some extent an invalid), there came a light knock at the
door, and the Mu'allim Costantîn appeared, ushering in a friend of
his, who was a tailor--a man as grave and worthy as himself, who there
and then proceeded to take measurements, praising the proportions with
which nature had endowed me, and asking Allah to fill out those parts
which now were lean through illness. The moment of a man's uprising
is--or was at that time, for old customs are now dying out--the one
which servants, tradesmen, pedlars, and all who wished to ask a favour
chose for visiting. On the morning after my arrival in an Eastern city
where I happened to be known I have had as many as twelve persons
squatting round upon the floor, watching a barber shave me, while a
little boy, the barber's 'prentice, bearing towels, jug, and basin,
waited upon him like an acolyte.

The tailor, having made the necessary notes, withdrew with many
compliments. The Mu'allim Costantîn remained behind a moment, to
assure me, in a loud stage-whisper, that the said tailor was a man
whom I could trust to do the best for me, and that I might think
myself extremely fortunate to have secured his services, as, being
much sought after by the fashionables, he generally had more work than
he could really do; but that, having taken, as he said, a fancy to me,
he would certainly turn out a set of garments to enslave the heart.
Having said this in the finest classic phraseology, he went out to
rejoin the tailor in the passage; nor did I see him any more until the
very day of my departure, when, at the English Consul-General's
hospitable house, I was waiting for the carriage which would take me
to the quay.

I was told that someone wished to see me upon urgent business, and,
going to the great Liwân or entrance-hall, I found my friend, his
silver-headed cane leaned carefully against the wall as usual. He
carried underneath his arm a number of large books. These he presented
to me with a solemn bow.

'It occurred to me,' he said, 'that as your Honour has a predilection
for all those curious and often foolish tales which circulate among
the common people, you might not perhaps disdain these four poor
volumes which I chance to have in my possession. Deign to accept them
as a parting gift from me.'

I thanked him kindly, though in truth I was embarrassed, not knowing
where to stow the books, since all my things were packed. And then he
handed me the tailor's bill, which, with the clothes which I had
ordered, had escaped my memory.

'Where are the clothes?' I asked, 'I had forgotten them.'

He pointed to a bundle pinned up honourably in a silken wrapper,
reposing on the floor hard by the silver-handled cane. I tore the
envelope and opened out the bill. It came to twenty pounds.

And I had got my money ready for my journey. I was going to visit
some of the Greek Islands, Smyrna, and Constantinople, on my way to
England, and had hoped, besides, to see a little of the Balkan States.
To pay out twenty pounds was to reduce that journey by at least a
fortnight. And, as I said, I had forgotten all about the clothes,
regarding all my Syrian debts as fully paid.

The hall was empty; we were quite alone. I fear I stormed at the
Mu'allim Costantîn, reminding him that he had promised that the
clothes should not be dear.

'But,' he persisted, 'they are very cheap for the materials. If your
Honour's wish was to pay less, you ought not to have chosen fabrics
three parts silk. I did not know that you were counting money.'

He was right. Throughout my stay in Syria, until that moment, I had
never counted money. Compared with England, living in the country was
absurdly cheap, and on my small allowance I had lived at ease. He
might quite reasonably have supposed me to be very wealthy. But I was
not in reasonable mood just then. I paid the bill, but in an angry
manner; and while I was still talking to him, the Cawwâs arrived, and,
close upon his heels, Rashîd in tears, to tell me that the carriage
was in waiting. The grief I felt at leaving Syria, at parting from
Rashîd and our Sheytân and many friends took hold of me. Hurriedly I
said goodbye to the Mu'allim Costantîn, and I am glad to say I changed
my tone at that last moment, and had the grace to bid him think no
more of the whole matter. But I shall carry to my grave the
recollection of his face of horror while I scolded, the look that told
his grief that he had been deceived in me.

I went and shoved the books into my luggage here and there, gave
Rashîd orders to send on the clothes, took leave of my kind hosts, and
drove down in a hurry to the quay. It was not till some time after I
arrived in England that I realised that the volumes which he had
presented to me were a complete Bûlâc Edition of the _Thousand and One
Nights_--a valuable book--which is my greatest treasure.

Nor have I ever had the chance of thanking the giver in a manner
worthy of the gift, and wiping out the bad impression left by my
ill-temper, for a letter which I wrote from England never reached him
I am told, and when I next was in his country the Mu'allim Costantîn
had gone where kindness, patience, courtesy, and all his other virtues
are, I hope, rewarded.



GLASGOW: W. COLLIN'S SONS AND CO. LTD.



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