Part 2 out of 5
eat for all that host of notables.
To have had to hunt for quarters in that town just then would
have been no joke. There was the mosque, of course, where any
Moslem who finds himself stranded may theoretically go and sleep
on a mat on the floor. But we rode past the mosque. It was
full. I would not have liked a contract to crowd one more in
there. Perhaps a New York Subway guard could have managed it.
The babel coming through the open door was like the buzzing of
flies on a garbage heap.
I was trying to sit upright in that abominable saddle and look
dignified, as became the honoured guest with a twenty-man escort,
when a courteous-looking cut-throat wearing an amber necklace
worth a wheat-field, forced his way through a crowd and greeted
Anazeh like a long lost brother. I examined him narrowly to make
sure he was not Grim in disguise, but he had two fingers missing,
and holes in his ears, which decided that question.
After he had welcomed me effusively he led us through a rat-run
maze of streets to a good-sized house with snub-nosed lions
carved on the stone doorposts and a lot of other marks of both
Roman and crusader. No part of the walls was less than three
feet thick, although the upper story had been rebuilt rather
recently on a more economical and much less dignified scale.
Nevertheless, there was a sort of semi-European air about the
place, helped out by two casemented projections overhanging the
There was no need to announce ourselves. The clatter of hoofs
and shouts to ordinary folk on foot to get out of the way had
done that already. Sheikh ben Nazir opened the door in person.
His welcome to me was the sort that comes to mind when you read
the Bible story of the prodigal son returning from a far-off
country. I might have been his blood-relation. But perhaps I am
wrong about that; bloodfeuds among blood-relations are
notoriously savage. He was the host, and I the guest. Among
genuine Arabs that is the most binding relation there is.
He was no longer in blue serge and patent-leather boots, but
magnificent in Arab finery, and he was tricked out in a puzzling
snowy-white head-dress that suggested politics without your
knowing why. He had told me, when I met him at the American
Colony, that he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca more than once;
but that white linen thing had nothing to do with his being a
haji, any more than the expensive rings on the fingers of both
hands had anything to do with his Arab nationality.
After he had flattered and questioned me sufficiently about the
journey to comply with etiquette I asked him whether Ahmed might
not be untied. The thong cutting the man's wrists. Sheikh hen
Nazir gave the necessary order and it was obeyed at once. The
liquid-eyed rascal with the priceless amber necklace then led
away the escort, Ahmed included, to some place where they could
stall the horses, and--side-by-side, lest any question of
precedence should be involved, Anazeh and I followed ben Nazir
into the house.
We were not the only guests there. He ushered us into a square
room, in which outrageous imported furniture, with gilt and
tassels on it, stood out like loathsome sores against rugs and
cushions fit for the great Haroun-al-Raschid's throne room. Any
good museum in the world would have competed to possess the rugs,
but the furniture was the sort that France sends eastward in the
name of "culture"--stuff for "savages" to sit on and be civilized
while the white man bears the burden and collects the money.
There were half-a-dozen Arabs reclining on two bastard Louis-
something-or-other settees, who rose to their feet as we entered.
There was another man, sitting on a cushion in a corner by
himself, who did not get up. He wore a white head-dress exactly
like our host's, and seemed to consider himself somebody very
important indeed. After one swift searching glance at us he went
into a brown study, as if a mere sheikh and a Christian alien
were beneath his notice.
We were introduced first of all to the men who had stood up to
greet us, and that ceremony took about five minutes. The Arab
believes he ought to know all about how you feel physically, and
expects you to reciprocate. When that was over ben Nazir took us
to the corner and presented, first me, then Anazeh to the
solitary man in the white head-dress, who seemed to think himself
too important to trouble about manners.
Anazeh did not quite like my receiving attention first, and he
liked still less the off-handed way in which the solitary man
received us. We were told his name was Suliman ben Saoud. He
acknowledged my greeting. He and old Anazeh glared at each
other, barely moving their heads in what might have been an
unspoken threat and retort or a nod of natural recognition.
Anazeh turned on his heel and joined the other guests.
In some vague way I knew that Saoud was a name to conjure
with, although memory refused to place it. The man's air of
indifference and apparently unstudied insolence suggested he was
some one well used to authority. Presuming on the one thing that
I felt quite sure of by that time--my privileged position as a
guest--I stayed, to try to draw him out. I tried to open up
conversation with him with English, French, and finally lame
Arabic. He took no apparent notice of the French and English,
but he smiled sarcastically at my efforts with his own tongue.
Except that he moved his lips he made no answer but went on
clicking the beads of a splendid amber rosary.
Ben Nazir, seeming to think that Anazeh's ruffled feelings called
for smoothing, crossed the room to engage him in conversation, so
I was left practically alone with the strange individual. More
or less in a spirit of defiance of his claim to such distinction,
I sat down on a cushion beside him.
He was a peculiar-looking man. The lower part of his cheek--that
side on which I sat--was sunk in, as if he had no teeth there.
The effect was to give his whole face a twisted appearance. The
greater part of his head, of course, was concealed by the flowing
white kaffiyi, but his skin was considerably darker than that of
the Palestine Arab. He had no eyebrows at all, having shaved
them off--for a vow I supposed. Instead of making him look
comical, as you might expect, it gave him a very sinister
appearance, which was increased by his generally surly attitude.
Once again, as when I had entered the room, he turned his head to
give me one swift, minutely searching glance, and then turned his
eyes away as if he had no further interest. They were quite
extraordinary eyes, brimful of alert intelligence; and whereas
from his general appearance I should have set him down at
somewhere between forty and fifty, his eyes suggested youth, or
else that keen, unpeaceful spirit that never ages.
I tried him again in Arabic, but he answered without looking at
me, in a dialect I had never heard before. So I offered him a
gold-tipped cigarette, that being a universal language. He
waived the offer aside with something between astonishment and
disdain. He had lean, long-fingered hands, entirely unlike
those of the desert fraternity, who live too hard and fight
too frequently to have soft, uncalloused skin and unbroken
He did not exactly fascinate me. His self-containment was
annoying. It seemed intended to convey an intellectual and moral
importance that I was not disposed to concede without knowing
more about him. I suppose an Arab feels the same sensation when
a Westerner lords it over him on highly moral grounds. At any
rate, something or other in the way of pique urged me to stir him
out of his self-complacency, just as one feels urged to prod a
bull-frog to watch him jump.
He seemed to understand my remarks, for he took no trouble to
hide his amusement at my efforts with the language. But he
only answered in monosyllables, and I could not understand
those. So after about five minutes I gave it up, and crossed
the room to ben Nazir, who seized the opportunity to show me
It proved to be a room like a monastery cell, up one flight of
stone steps, with two other rooms of about the same size on
either side of it. At the end of the passage was a very heavy
wooden door, with an iron lock and an enormous keyhole, which I
suppose shut off the harem from the rest of the house; but as I
never trespassed beyond it I don't know. I only do know that a
woman's eye was watching me through that key-hole, and ben Nazir
frowned impatiently at the sound of female giggling.
"The Sheikh Anazeh will have the room on this side of you," he
said, "and the Sheikh Suliman ben Saoud the room on the other.
So you will be between friends."
"Suliman ben Saoud seems a difficult person to make friends
with," I answered.
Ben Nazir smiled like a prince out of a picture-book--beautiful
white teeth and exquisite benignance.
"Oh, you mustn't mind him. These celebrities from the centre of
Arabia give themselves great airs. To do that is considered
evidence of piety and wisdom."
I sat on the bed--quite a civilized affair, spotlessly clean.
Ben Nazir took the chair, I suppose, like the considerate host he
was, to give me the sensation of receiving in my own room.
"He wears the same sort of head-dress you do. What does it
mean?" I asked.
"I wear mine out of compliment to him--not that I have not
always the right to wear it. It is the Ichwan head-dress.
It is highly significant."
He hesitated for a moment, and then seemed to make up his mind
that it did not much matter what he might divulge to an ignorant
stranger soon to return to the United States.
"It is difficult to explain. You Americans know so little of our
politics. It is significant, I might say, of the New Arabia--
Arabia for the Arabs. The great ben Saoud, who is a relative of
this man, is an Arabian chieftain who has welded most of Arabia
into one, and now challenges King Hussein of Mecca for the
caliphate. Hussein is only kept on his throne by British gold,
paid to him from India. Ben Saoud also receives a subsidy from
the British, who must continue to pay it, because otherwise ben
Saoud will attack Hussein and overwhelm him. That, it is
believed, would mean a rising of all the Moslem world against
their rulers--in Africa--Asia--India--Java--everywhere. It began
as a religious movement. It is now political--although it is
held together by religious zeal. You might say that the Ichwans
are the modern Protestants of Islam. They are fanatical. The
world has never seen such fanaticism, and the movement spreads
day by day."
"You don't look like a fanatic," I said, and he laughed again.
"I? God forbid! But I am a politician; and to succeed a
politician must have friends among all parties. My one ambition
is to see all Arabs united in an independent state reaching from
this coast to the Persian Gulf. To that end I devote my energy.
I use all means available--including money paid me by the French,
who have no intention of permitting any such development if they
can help it."
"And the British?"
"For the present we must make use of them also. But their yoke
must go, eventually."
"Then if America had accepted the Near East mandate, you would
have used us in the same way?"
"Certainly. That would have been the easiest way, because
America understands little or nothing of our politics. America's
money--America's schools and hospitals--America's war munitions--
and then good-bye. I am willing to use all means--all methods to
the one end--Arabia for the Arabs. After that I am willing to
retire into oblivion."
Nevertheless, ben Nazir did not convince me that he was an
altruist who had no private ends to serve. There was an
avaricious gleam in ben Nazir's eyes.
"D'you mind if I use You?"
For all his care to seem hospitable before any other
consideration, ben Nazir looked ill at ease. He led me down
again to a dining-room hung with spears, shields, scimitars and
ancient pistols, but furnished otherwise like an instalment-plan
apartment. He watched while a man set food before me. It seemed
that Anazeh had gone away somewhere to eat with his men.
Ben Nazir's restlessness became so obvious that I asked at last
whether I was not detaining him. He jumped at the opening. With
profound apologies he asked me to excuse him for the remainder of
"You see," he explained, "I came from Damascus to Jerusalem, so I
was rather out of touch with what was going on here. This
conference of notables was rather a surprise to me. It will not
really take place until tomorrow, but there are important details
to attend to in advance. If you could amuse yourself--"
The man who could not do that in a crusader city, crammed with
sons of Ishmael who looked as if they had stepped out of the
pages of the Old Testament, would be difficult to please. I
asked for Ahmed, to act as interpreter. Ben Nazir volunteered to
provide me with two men in addition as a sort of bodyguard.
"Because Ahmed is a person who is not respected."
It did not take ten minutes to produce Ahmed and the two men.
The latter were six-foot, solemn veterans armed with rifles
and long knives. With them at my heels I set out to explore
"There is nothing to see," said Ahmed, who did not want to come.
But Ahmed was a liar. There was everything to see. The only
definite purpose I had in mind was to find Grim. It was possible
I might recognize him even through his disguise. Failing that,
he could not help but notice me if I walked about enough; if so,
he would find his own means of establishing communication.
But you might as well have hunted for one particular pebble on a
beach as for a single individual in all that throng. Remembering
Grim's disguise when I first saw him, I naturally had that
picture of him in mind. But all the Bedouins looked about as
much alike as peas in a pod. They stared at me as if I were a
curio on exhibition, but they did not like being stared back at.
There was no hint of violence or interference, and no apparent
resentment of an alien's presence in their midst. The loud-
lunged bodyguard shouted out to all and sundry to make way for
the "Amerikani," and way was made forthwith, although several
times the bodyguard was stopped and questioned after I had
passed, to make sure I was really American and not English.
Ahmed assured me that if I had been English they would have
"massacred" me. In view of what transpired he may have been
right, though I doubt it. They might have held me as hostage.
Not that they were in any kind of over-tolerant mood. There was
a man's dead body hanging by one foot from a great hook on a high
wall, and the wall was splattered with blood and chipped by
bullets. I asked Ahmed what kind of criminal he might be.
"He did not agree with them. They are for war. He was in favor
of peace, and he made a speech two hours ago. So they accused
him of being a traitor, and he was tried and condemned."
"Who tried him?"
"War with whom?" I asked.
"Because they favor the Zionists."
"And that is what the conference is all about?"
"Yes. There is a man here from Damascus, who urges them to raid
across the Jordan into Palestine. He says that the Palestinian
Arabs will rise then, and cut the throats of all the Zionists.
He says that Emir Feisul is going to attack the French in Syria,
and that the British will have to go and help the French, so now
is the time for a raid."
"Is my host, ben Nazir, the man who is talking that way? He has
been to Damascus."
"No. Another, named Abdul Ali--a very rich sheikh, who comes
here often with caravans of merchandise, and gives rich presents
"Has ben Nazir anything to do with it?"
"Who knows? Mashallah! The world is full of mysteries. That
Nazir is a knowing one. They say of him: whichever option is
uppermost, that is always his opinion. He is a safe man to
follow for that reason. Yet it is easier to follow water through
a channel underground."
We made our way toward the castle at the south side of the town,
but were prevented from entering by a guard of feudal retainers,
who looked as if they had been well drilled. They were as solemn
as the vultures that sat perched along the rampart overlooking a
great artificial moat dividing the town from the high hill just
Nobody interfered when I climbed on the broken town wall and
looked over. The castle wall sloped down steeply into the moat,
suggesting ample space within for dungeons and underground
passages; but there was nothing else there of much interest to
see, only dead donkeys, a dying camel with the vultures already
beginning on him, some dead dogs, heaps of refuse, and a lot more
vultures too gorged to fly--the usual Arab scheme of sanitation.
I asked one of my bodyguard to shoot the camel and he obliged me,
with the air of a keeper making concessions to a lunatic. Nobody
took any notice of the rifle going off.
It was when we turned back into the town again that the first
inkling of Grim's presence in the place turned up. A bulky-
looking Arab in a sheepskin coat that stank of sweat so vilely
that you could hardly bear the man near you, came up and stood in
my way. Barring the smell, he was a winning-looking rascal--
truculent, swaggering, but possessed of a good-natured smile that
seemed to say: "Sure, I'm a rogue and a liar, but what else did
He spoke perfectly good English. He said he wished to speak to
me alone. That was easy enough; Ahmed and the bodyguard
withdrew about ten paces, and he and I stepped into a doorway.
"I am Mahommed ben Hamza," he said, with his head on one side, as
if that explanation ought to make everything clear to me at once.
"From Hebron," he added, when I did not seem to see the light.
The wiser one looks, and the less one says, in Arab lands, the
less trouble there's likely to be. I tried to look extremely
wise, and said nothing.
"Where is Jimgrim?" he demanded.
"If you can tell me that I'll give you ten piastres," I answered.
"I will give you fifty if you tell me!"
"Why do you want to know?"
"He is my friend. He said I should see him here. But I have not
seen him. He said also I should see you. You are the Amerikani?
And you don't know where he is? Truly? Then, when you see him,
will you say to him, 'Mahommed ben Hamza is here with nine men at
the house of Abu Shamah?' Jimgrim will understand."
I nodded, and the man from Hebron walked away without another word.
"Did he steal your watch?" asked Ahmed. They are as jealous as
children, those Arabs.
There was a second execution while I walked back through the
city. A wide-eyed, panic-stricken poor devil with slobber on his
jaws came tearing down-street with a mob at his heels. We
stepped into an alley to let the race go by, but he doubled down
the alley opposite. Before he had run twenty yards along it some
one hit the back of his head with a piece of rock. A second
later they had pounced on him, and in less than a minute after
that he was kicking in the noose of a hide rope slung over a
house-beam. I don't know what they hanged him for. No one
apparently knew. But they used his carcase for a target and shot
it almost to pieces.
I kept on looking for Grim, although the task seemed hopeless.
Of course, I could not give a hint of my real purpose. But as
Grim knew that the talk about a school-teacher was my passport
to the place, it seemed possible that he might use that as an
excuse for getting in touch with me. So I told Ahmed to show
me the schools.
They weren't worth looking at--mere tumble-down sheds in which
Moslem boys were taught to say the Koran by heart. The places
where Christian missionaries once had been were all turned into
stores, and even into stables for the horses of the notables.
So I returned to ben Nazir's house, and found old Sheikh Anazeh
sitting outside on the step, as motionless as a tobacco-store
Indian but twice as picturesque. He still had his own rifle over
his knees, and the plundered one slung over his shoulder by a
strap; he never stirred abroad unarmed.
I asked him what the conference of notables was going to be
about, and he told me to mind my own business. That struck me as
an excellent idea, so, not having slept at all the previous
night, I went upstairs and lay on the bed. There was no lock on
the door, so I set the chair against it.
Ben Nazir was a man who had traveled a great deal, and picked up
western notions of hospitality to add to the inborn eastern sense
of sacredness in the relation between host and guest. It seems
that an hour or two later he came to take me down to a Gargantuan
meal, but, feeling the chair against the door, and hearing
snores, he decided it was better manners to let me lie in peace.
So I did not wake up again until after midnight. The moonlight
was streaming through a little high-perched window, and fell on
the white-robed, ghostly-looking figure of a man, who sat with
crossed legs on the end of the bed. I thought I was dead and
That is no picturesque exaggeration about a man's hair standing
when he is terrified. It really does. I would have yelled
aloud, if the breath would have come, but there is a trick of
sudden fear that seems to grip your lungs and hold them impotent.
The thing on the end of the bed had no eye-brows. It grinned as
if it knew all about evil, and were hungry, and living men were
I don't know how long I stared at the thing, but it seemed
like a week. At last it spoke, and I burst into a sweat with
"Good job you don't know how to fasten a door with a chair. I'll
have to show you that trick, or you'll be dying before your time.
Sh-h-h! Don't make a noise!"
I sat up and looked more closely at him. It was the Ichwan of
the afternoon--Sheikh Suliman ben Saoud. And he was speaking
unmistakable American. I began again to believe I was dreaming.
He chuckled quietly and lit a cigarette.
"Aren't you wise to me yet?"
"But what's happened to your face? You're all one-sided."
"Oh, that's easy. I just take out my false teeth. The rest is
done with a razor and some brown stain. I thought you were going
to spot me when you first came. Did you? I didn't think so.
Did you act as well as all that?"
"No. Looked all over town for you afterward."
"Uh-huh. I thought that was too natural to be acting. Pick up
any news in town?"
"Saw a hanging, and met a man who calls himself Mahommed ben
Hamza. He's waiting at the house of Abu Shamah."
"Any men with him?"
"Three more than he promised. Ben Hamza is the most honest thief
and dependable liar in Palestine--a cheerful murderer who sticks
closer than a brother. I saved him once from being hung, because
he smiles so nicely. Any more news?"
"I expect none that you don't know. There's a sheikh named Abdul
Ali from Damascus, preaching a raid into Palestine."
"I'm here to bag that bird."
"Where do I come in?" I asked.
"You are the plausible excuse, that's all. Thanks to you old
Anazeh got into El-Kerak with twenty men. Two might not have
been enough, even with ben Hamza and his nine."
"Then our host ben Nazir is in on your game?"
"Not he! Up at headquarters in Jerusalem we knew all about this
coming conference. These folk are ready to explode. The only
way to stop it is to pull the plug--The plug is Abdul Ali. We
knew we could count on old Anazeh. But the puzzle was how to get
him and his men into El-Kerak. When you told me ben Nazir had
invited you, I saw the way to do it. There wasn't anybody else
except Anazeh that ben Nazir could have sent to fetch you, and
the old boy is a dependable friend of ours."
"That did not stop him from raiding two villages on the British
side of the Dead Sea," I answered.
"Sure. I had part of a raided sheep for breakfast."
"Um-m-m! Well of all the--damn his impudence! The shrewd old
devil must have figured that we can't get after him for it,
seeing how he's playing our game. Bloody old horse-thief! Well,
he gets away with it, this time. You'll have to be mighty
careful not to seem to recognize me. One slip and we're done
for. You're safe enough. If they once get wise to me they'll
pull me in pieces between four horses."
"What's your plan?"
"It's vague yet. Got to be an opportunist. I'm supposed to
be a member of the ben Saoud family, recruiting members for
the new sect--biggest thing in Arabia. I'm invited to the
conference on the strength of my supposed connection with the
big Ichwan movement."
"D'you propose to murder this Abdul Ali person, then, or have him
murdered?" I asked.
"Uh-uh! Murder's out of my line. Besides, that'ud do no good.
Worse than useless. They'd all cut loose. Abdul Ali has got
them together. What with bribes and a lot of promises he has
them keen on this raid. If he were killed they'd say one of our
spies did it. They'd add vengeance to their other motives, which
at present are mainly a desire for loot. No, no. Abdul Ali has
got to disappear. Then they'll believe he has betrayed them.
Then, instead of raiding Palestine they'll confiscate his
property and curse his ancestors. D'you see the point?"
"More or less. But what good can I do?"
"Do you mind if I use you?"
I laughed. "That's a hell of a silly question. Any use my
minding? You've already used me. You will do it again without
consulting me. I like it, as it happens. But a fat lot you
care whether I like it or not. Isn't it a bit late in the day
to ask permission?"
"Oh, well. You know the hangmen always used to beg the victim's
pardon. Will you obey orders?"
"Yes. But it might be easier if I know what I'm doing."
"As soon as I know I'll explain," he answered. "Where you can
fit into the puzzle at the moment is by rooting for the school
idea. The worst robber chieftain from the farthest cluster of
huts he calls his home town would like to see an American school
here in El-Kerak. If there were one he'd send his sons to it."
"Okay. I'll root like a dog for a buried bone."
"Go to it. That gives you the right to ask questions. That will
oblige ben Nazir to introduce you to any one you want to
interview. That will explain without any further argument
whatever weakness you seem to have for talking to men in the
street like Mahommed ben Hamza. It would even explain away any
politeness that I might show you in my capacity of Ichwan. For
safety's sake, and to create an impression, I take the line of
being rude to every one; but I might reasonably toss a few
crumbs of condescension to an altruist from foreign parts. At
any rate, I'll have to take that chance. D'you get me?"
"You mean, you'll use me as intermediary? Messages to and from
ben Hamza and that sort of thing?"
"That's the idea, but there's more to it. Did you bring that
Bible along? Are you superstitious? Any notions like Long John
Silver's about its being bad luck to spoil a Bible? All right.
Keep it in your pocket to make notes in. If you can't get the
whole book to me, tear a page out and send that, or give it to
me, with the message spelled in dots under the words. Make the
dots faint, I've good eyes."
"What sort of notes do you want from me?"
"You mustn't mistake me for the prophet Ezekiel," he answered,
grinning. "'Thus saith the Lord' is all right when you know what
you're talking about. All I know for certain is that I've got
to bag Abdul Ali. If you get information that looks important
to you, get it to me in the way I've told you, that's all.
Don't be caught talking to me. Don't look friendly. Don't
"If you can, keep old Anazeh sober."
Grim nodded meaningly: "I've known easier jobs!"
"The old sport thinks no more of me than of an express package
he'd been hired to deliver," I answered. "Drunk or sober, he'd
brush me aside like a fly."
"Well--wits were given us to use. I guess you'll have to use
yours. Have you any?"
"How the hell should I know?" I retorted.
"If you find I haven't any, don't blame me."
"I won't," he answered, and I believed him.
"What else besides being dry-nurse to the king of the
Amalekites?" I asked.
"Don't trust Ahmed."
"He's a good interpreter."
"Yeh--and a poor peg. You'll have to use him--some. But don't
"Does old Anazeh know you in that disguise?" I asked.
"No, and he mustn't. I'll tell you why. All these people are
religious fanatics. A horrible death is the only fate they would
consider for a man caught masquerading as a holy personage the
way I'm doing. But their fanaticism has a way of petering out
when the gang's not there to see. In his own village I think
Anazeh would laugh if I talked this ruse over with him--
afterwards. But if he knew about it here, with all these other
fanatics alert and fanning, he wouldn't dare not to expose me.
It's a good job you asked that. If I send any message to Anazeh
through you, be sure you don't give me away."
"How shall I make him believe the message is from you, then?"
"Begin with 'Jimgrim says.' He'll recognize the formula. But if
he questions that, say 'A lion knows a lion in the dark.'
That'll serve a double purpose--convince him and jog his memory.
He ignored a request of mine--once, and I was able to get back at
him. Tell you the story some day. Nowadays he's more or less
dependable, unless he gets a skin-full of redeye. Well, make the
most of your chance to sleep; you may have to go short later.
I'm going to saw off a cord or two myself."
He left the room as silently as a ghost. I don't doubt that he
slept peacefully. Subsequent acquaintance with him convinced me
that he can go to sleep almost anywhere in any circumstances.
And that is a very great gift, for it enables its owner to wear
down any dozen who must sleep for stated hours at fixed
intervals. Grim snatches his whenever the chance comes, and goes
without with apparent indifference. He told me once that he
dreams nearly all the time he is asleep. But the dreams don't
seem to trouble him. I believe he dreams out the key to whatever
problem puzzles him at the moment.
My own sleep was done for that night, his advice notwithstanding.
I lay listening to Anazeh's thunderous snores and naturally
enough imagining every possible contingency and dozens that were
totally impossible. Nothing turned out in the least like any of
my forecasts; but that was not for want of trying to foresee it
all. I don't seem to possess any of that quiet gift of waiting
to deal with each development on its merits, as and when it
comes. I have to speculate, and speculation is the ene my
Looking back, I don't think I felt a bit afraid of the immediate
future; but that was due to ignorance of nearly all that the
present held. I think that was part of Grim's reason for helping
me to reach El-Kerak in the first place; he counted on my
ignorance of danger to keep me cool-headed. It is true, it did
dawn on me that if my host were to suspect me of intriguing under
cover of his protection, the protection might cease with
disconcerting abruptness. I realized to some extent what a
predicament that would be. But on the whole, I think the only
real worry was the definite task Grim had given me--the
thankless, and very likely desperate, inglorious one of trying to
keep old Anazeh sober.
Of course, the Koran forbids wine. But whiskey is not wine. And
if you mix whiskey and wine together they cease to be either;
they become a commodity of which the Prophet knew nothing and
which he therefore did not forbid. But if you introduce such a
mixture into the stomach, and thence into the brain of an already
fiery Bedouin; and then introduce the Bedouin to trouble; and
if, in addition to the trouble, you provide impertinent, alien,
and what he calls infidel restraint, it is fair to presume that
the mixture might explode.
It seemed to me I had been given too much to do. In order to get
introductions to the notables I must first get ben Nazir into a
proper frame of mind. Then, stammering in an alien tongue, I
must make friends with chieftains who had never even heard of me;
and that, when their minds were busy with another matter. I must
keep in touch with ben Hamza, and convey his messages to Grim
without being seen or arousing suspicion. In addition to all
that I must keep sober by some means an old savage armed with
two rifles and a knife, who had twenty cut-throats at his beck
While I pondered the problem in all its impossible bearings, loud
snores to right and left of me, tenor and bass by turns,
announced that Jimgrim and Anazeh were as blissfully oblivious to
my worries as the bedbugs were that had come out of hiding and
discovered me. I began to feel homesick.
"That man will repay study."
I got my first shot at Anazeh at dawn, when the muezzin began
wailing over the city; and I missed badly with both barrels.
The old sheikh looked into my room, presumably to see if I was
still alive, since he had guaranteed to see me safely back again
across the Jordan, before rounding up his rascals for morning
prayer. They prayed together whenever possible, Anazeh keeping
count of their genuflections.
You could tell he had been drinking the night before the minute
he thrust his head into the room. He smelt like the lees of a
rum barrel, and the rims of his eyes were red.
Seeing I was awake he gave me the courteous, full-sounding "Allah
ysabbhak bilkhair," and I asked him where he had dined the night
before. He mumbled something into his beard that I could not
catch, but he could not have told me much more plainly to go to
hell, even in plain English. However, I had to get a foothold
somewhere, so I said that I had heard that the liquor in El-Kerak
As far as I understood his answer, he implied that it likely
would be poisonous in the sort of place where I would buy it, but
that he, Anazeh, need not be told how to suck eggs by any such a
greenhorn as me.
I tried him again. I said that liquor taken in quantity would
kill a man.
"So will one bullet!" he answered. "But, whereas a bullet in the
belly causes pain before death, moiyit ilfadda (aqua fortis)
causes pleasure; and a man dies either way."
He turned to go, rattling two rifle-butts against the door, but I
had one last try to get on terms and said I hoped to see him at
breakfast, or shortly afterward.
"God is the giver both of eyesight and the things to see," he
answered. "I go to pray. God will guide my footsteps afterward."
I did not feel I had really made much headway, but I fared rather
better with my host downstairs, who either did not pray with such
enthusiasm or else had forestalled the muezzin. At any rate, he
was waiting for me near a table spread with sweet cakes and good
French coffee. After the usual string of pleasantries he became
suddenly confidential, over-acting the part a little, as a man
does who has something rather disagreeable up his sleeve that
he means to spring on you presently.
"I have been busy since an hour before dawn. I have been
consulting with my friend Suliman ben Saoud. The situation here
is very serious. As long as you are my guest you are perfectly
safe; but if I were to send you away, the assembled notables
might suspect you of being a spy, and might accuse me of
harbouring a spy. Do you see? They would suppose you were
returning to Jerusalem with information for the British. That
would have most unpleasant consequences--for both of us!"
Clearly, Grim in the guise of ben Saoud had been busy, and it was
up to me to seize my cue alertly. I was at pains to look
alarmed. Ben Nazir grew solicitous.
"Rest assured, you are safe as my guest. But Suliman ben Saoud
was annoyed to think a stranger should be here at such a time as
this. He took me to task about you. He is also my guest, as I
reminded him, but he is a truculent fellow. He insisted that the
assembled notables have the right to satisfaction regarding your
bona fides. It was no use my saying, as I did repeatedly, that I
personally guarantee you. He asked me how much I know about you.
I had to confess that what I actually know amounts to very
"Well?" I said. "What does the old grouch want?"
"He thinks that you should be presented to the assembled notables
at noon today. In fact, he demands that they should catechize
you regarding your ideas about a school."
"I have no objection."
"But, I am sorry to have to add this: it is probable the
notables will insist on your remaining in El-Kerak until after
that shall have taken place which they have been summoned to
decide on. They will not risk your returning before the--"
"The--ah--they contemplate a raid!"
"So I'm a prisoner?"
"No, no! Mon dieu, what do you think of me! Even the fanatical
Suliman ben Saoud saw the force of the argument when I spoke of
the sanctity of any guest here on my invitation. But he thinks--
and I agree with him, that as a precaution you should first call
on Sheikh Abdul Ali. You will find him a very agreeable man, who
will receive you with proper courtesy. He is here from Damascus,
and exercises a great influence. Once his mind is at ease about
you, he will satisfy all the others. Are you agreeable?"
So we smoked a cigarette together after the coffee, and then set
forth on foot, for the distance was not great, preceded and
surrounded by armed retainers. I imagine the armed men were more
for the sake of appearance than protection. Ben Nazir seemed
popular. But the escort drove other pedestrians out of the way
as roughly as they did the unspeakable dogs that infested every
offal-heap. The street that we followed was, of course, the open
sewer for the houses on either hand, and its condition was a
credit to the mangy curs that so resented our intrusion.
Abdul Ali's house, if his it was, was a fairly big square
building near the middle of the town. It did not look unlike one
of the old-time New York precinct stations, with its big windows
protected by iron grilles, and a flight of stone steps leading up
to a door exactly in the middle of the front wall.
There were thirty or forty capable-looking men hanging about the
place. Abdul Ali owned more than one camel caravan, and every
man connected with the business looked on himself as a member of
one big feudal family. They were all armed. Most of them had
We were admitted into a room that faced on the street, furnished
entirely in the eastern style, except for two gilt chairs against
the wall. The walls were hung with carpets and the floor was
covered with Bokhara rugs three deep.
No doubt in order to emphasize his own importance, Abdul Ali kept
us waiting in that room for ten minutes before he condescended to
enter. But when he did come at last he was at pains to seem
agreeable, which was not quite his natural attitude.
I had never seen a more offensive personality, although at the
first glance he did not arouse actual dislike. Distaste for him
dawned, and grew. He was certainly not physically attractive,
although the Syrian Arab costume made him picturesque. The first
thing I noticed was the fatness of his hands--those of a giver of
dishonest gifts. When he shook hands you felt in some subtle way
that he was sure your conscience was for sale, that he would
purchase it for any reasonable figure, and that he believed he
had plenty of money with which to buy you and all your relatives.
He was a little puffy under the eyes, had a firm mouth, rather
thick lips, and his small black moustache was turned up like the
Kaiser's, which gave him a cockily self-assured appearance. For
the rest, he was a rather military-looking person, although his
flowing robe partly concealed that; stockily rather than heavily
built; and of rather more than middle height. He wore one ring--a
sapphire of extraordinary brilliance, of which he was immensely
proud. When I noticed it he said at once that it had been given
him by the late Sultan Abdul Hamid.
He spoke German from choice, so we conversed in German, which
annoyed ben Nazir, who could not understand a word of it. And
from first to last throughout that interview, and subsequently to
the point where Jimgrim out-maneuvered and out-played him, he
relied on the German philosophy of self-assertion that teaches
how to get and keep the upper hand by making yourself believe in
your own super-intelligence and then speaking, acting, making
plans in logical accord with that belief. It works finely until
somebody spoils the whole thing by pricking the super-intelligence
bladder and letting out all the wind.
Although he spoke German, he was not by any means pro-German in
his motives. He was at pains to make that clear. Evidently he
had been pro-German once, until he saw the writing on the wall.
He was conscious of the need to offset past prejudices before
suggesting his enormous ability along advanced lines.
"You come at an interesting time," he said. "You find us in
transition. Before the War, and almost until the end of it, most
Arabs believed in the German destiny. English gold commanded the
allegiance of an Arab army, but every last man in that army was
ready to follow the German standard at the proper time. That
only shows how ignorant these people are. As soon as it became
evident that the Arab destiny lies in the hands of Arabs
themselves most of them immediately began to clamour for an
American mandate, because that would give them temporary masters
who could protect them, yet at the same time who would be too
ignorant of real conditions to prevent secret preparations for a
pan-Arabian revolt. All very absurd, of course."
He had no idea how absurd he himself appeared. He launched into
a tirade designed to make him seem a super-statesman in the eyes
of a stranger who did not care what he was. The more he talked
himself into a delirium of self-esteem the less his character
impressed me. I even ran into the danger of under-estimating him
because he liked himself so much.
"I'm here to look into the prospects for a school," I said.
"Yes, yes. Very estimable. You shall have my support." He
paused for me to fawn on him, and my neglect to do it spurred him
to further self-revelation.
"You must look to me for support if you hope for success. There
is no cohesion here without me. I am the only man in El-Kerak to
whom they all listen, and even I have difficulty in uniting them
at times. But a school is a good idea, and under my auspices you
For the moment I thought he suspected me of wanting to teach
school myself. I hastened to correct the impression:
"All I promise to do is to tell people in the States who might be
"Exactly." He had been coming at this point all along in his own
way. "So there is no hurry. It makes no difference that you
must stay in El-Kerak a little longer than you intended. You
shall be presented to the council of notables under my auspices.
In my judgment it is important that you remain here for some
I suppose the men who can analyze their thoughts, and separate
the wise impulses from the rash ones, are the people whom the
world calls men of destiny and whom history later assigns to its
halls of fame. The rest of us simply act from pique, prejudice,
passion or whatever other emotion is in charge. I know I did.
It was resentment. It was so immensely disagreeable to be
patronized by this puffy-eyed sensualist that I could not resist
the impulse to argue with him.
"I don't see the force of that," said I. "My plans are made to
return to Jerusalem tomorrow."
I could not have done better as it happened. I suppose there is
some theory that has been written down in books to explain how
these things work, at any rate to the satisfaction of the fellow
who wrote the book. But Grim, referring to it afterward, called
it naked luck. I would rather agree with Grim than argue with
any inky theorist on earth, having seen too many theories upset.
Luck looks to me like a sweeter lady, and more worshipful than
any of the goddesses they rename nowadays and then dissect in
clinics. At any rate, by naked luck I prodded Abdul Ali where he
kept his supply of mistakes. Instead of calling my bluff, as he
doubtless should have done, he set out to win me over to his
point of view. Whichever way you analyze it in the light of
subsequent events, the only possible conclusion is that it was my
turn to be lucky and Abdul Ali's to make a fool of himself.
Nobody could have made a fool of him better than he did.
"I must dissuade you," he said, trying to hide wilfulness under
an unpleasant smile. "I will offer inducements."
"They'll have to be heavy," I said, "to weigh against what I have
He had kept ben Nazir and me standing all this time. Now he
offered me one of the chairs, took the other himself, and
motioned ben Nazir to a cushion near the window. A servant
brought in the inevitable coffee and cigarettes. Then he laid a
hand on my knee for special emphasis--a fat, pale, unprincipled
hand, with that great sapphire gleaming on the middle finger.
"It happens that this idea of a school comes just at the right
moment. I have been searching my mind for just some such idea to
lay before the notables. As we are talking a language that none
else here understands, I can safely take you into confidence. A
raid is being planned into British territory."
He paused to let that sink in, and tapped my knee with his
disgusting fingers until I could have struck him from irritation.
"There is, however, an element of disagreement. There is
uncertainty as to the outcome, in the minds of some of the chiefs
who live nearest to the border. The feeling among them is that
perhaps I am urging them on in order to serve my own ambition at
their expense. They appreciate the opportunity to loot; but
they say that the British will hit back afterwards, and they,
being nearest to the border, will suffer most; whereas I stand
to gain all and to lose nothing. Very absurd, of course, but
that is their argument."
"Surely," I said, "you don't expect me to take my coat off and
preach a jihad against the British?"
"Im Gotteswillen! No, no, no! This is my meaning: if I can go
before them with the offer of a school for El-Kerak, which the
very worst scoundrel among them desires with all his ignorant
heart; and if I can produce a distinguished gentleman from
America, present among them on my invitation for the sole purpose
of making the arrangements for such a school, that will convince
them that I have their interests really at heart. Do you see?"
Again the irritating fingers drumming on my knee. I did not
answer for fear of betraying ill-temper.
"I am a statesman, sir. I understand the arguments with which
whole nations may deceive themselves. I have made it my
profession to detect the trends of thought and the tides of
unrest. Psychological moments are for me a fascinating study. I
can recognize them."
He laid the fat hand on my shoulder for a change, and tried to
look into my eyes; but I was watching the edge of a curtain at
the far end of the room.
"Now, to you, an American, our local dispute means nothing. This
raid is no affair of yours. You wash your hands of it. You, an
altruist, are interested only in a school. I offer you
opportunity, building, subsidy, guarantees. You reciprocate by
giving me a talking point. I shall make use of the opportunity.
That is settled. And, let me see, I promised you inducements,
He looked, at me and I looked at him. He waited for a hint of
some sort, but I made no move to help him out.
"What shall we say?"
I was as interested in the result of his appraisal as he was in
making it. Whether complimentary or not, another's calculated
judgment of your character is a fascinating thing to wait for.
"I think you will be getting full value. I shall introduce you
to all the notables," he said at last. "To a man of your
temperament it will be a privilege to attend the council, and to
know in advance all that is going to happen. There will be no
objection to that, because it is already decided you will remain
in El-Kerak until after the--er--raid. The notables will
understand from me that your mouth is sealed until after the
event. You shall be let into our secrets. There--is that
It was shrewd. I did not believe for a minute that he would let
me into all their secrets, but he could not have imagined a
greater temptation for me. Since I would not have taken his word
that black was not white, I did not hesitate to pretend to agree
to his terms.
"I must have an interpreter," I said. "Otherwise I shall
understand very little."
"I will supply you an interpreter--a good one."
"No, thank you. Any man of yours might only tell me what he
thought correct for me to hear. If I'm to get a price for my
services, I want the full price. I want to hear everything. I
must be allowed to bring my own interpreter."
"Who would he be?"
"I don't know yet."
"That man Ahmed, for instance? I have been told he is one of
your party. Ahmed would do very well."
"No, not Ahmed."
"I will find a man."
He hesitated. If ever a man was reviewing all the possible
contingencies, murder of me included, behind a mask of superficial
courtesy, that man was he.
"He should be a man acceptable to the notables," he said at last.
"I ought to know his name in advance."
"I must have unfettered choice, or I won't attend the
"Oh, very well. Only the interpreter, too, will have to remain
afterward in El-Kerak."
I looked at that curtain again, for it was moving in a way that
no draft from the open window could account for. But at last the
movement was explained. Before Abdul Ali could speak again a man
stepped out from behind it, crossed the room, and went out
through the door, closing it silently behind him. He was a man I
knew, and the last man I had expected to see in that place. I
suppose Abdul Ali noticed my look of surprise.
"You know him?" he asked.
"By sight. He was at Sheikh ben Nazir's house yesterday."
"That is Suliman ben Saoud, a stranger from Arabia, but a man
of great influence because of his connection with the Ichwan
movement. If you are interested in our types that man will
"Good. I'll try to study him," said I.
It was all I could do to keep a straight face. So Jimgrim was
the source of Abdul Ali's inspirations! I wondered what subtle
argument he could have used to make the sheikh so keen on baiting
his hook with the school proposal. His nerve, in waiting behind
that curtain until he knew his scheme had succeeded, and then
walking out bold as brass to let me know that he had overheard
everything, was what amused me. But I managed not to smile.
"What time is the mejlis?" I asked.
"Then I'll go and hunt up my interpreter."
Ben Nazir came out with me, in a blazing bad temper. He was as
jealous as a pet dog, and inclined to visit the result on me.
"Very polite, I am sure! Most refined! Most courteous! In your
country, sir, does a guest reward his host for hospitality by
talking in a language that his host can't understand? Perhaps
you would rather transfer your presence to Abdul Ali's house?
Pray do not consider yourself beholden to me, in case you would
prefer his hospitality!"
I tried in vain to pacify him. I explained that the choice of
language had been Abdul Ali's, and offered to tell him now in
French every word that had passed. But he would not listen.
"It would not be difficult for a man of your intelligence to make
up a story," he said rudely.
"Abdul Ali can talk French. If it had been intended that I
should know the truth that conversation would have been in
French. Shall I send your bag to Abdul Ali's house?"
"No," I said. "Give it to Anazeh. He is answerable for
my safety until I reach Palestine again. Thank you for a
He walked away in a great huff, and I set out for the house of
Abu Shamah, using my scant store of Arabic to ask the way.
Mahommed ben Hamza was lolling on the stone veranda, gossiping
with half-a-dozen men. He came the minute I beckoned him.
"I've seen Jimgrim," I said. "You're to come with me at noon to
the mejlis as my interpreter."
He grinned delightedly.
"And see here, you smelly devil: Here's money. Buy yourself a
clean shirt, a new coat, and some soap. Wash yourself from head
to foot, and put the new clothes on, before you meet me at the
castle gate ten minutes before noon. Those are Jimgrim's orders,
do you understand?"
"Taht il-amr! (Yours to command)" he answered laughing.
I went and bought myself an awful meal at the house of a man who
rolled Kabobs between his filthy fingers.
"Who gives orders to me?"
The wonderful thing about Moab is that everything happens in a
story-book setting, with illustrations by Maxfield Parrish and
Wyeth and Joe Coll, and all the rest of them, whichever way
Imagine a blue sky--so clear-blue and pure that you can see
against it the very feathers in the tails of wheeling kites, and
know that they are brown, not black. Imagine all the houses, and
the shacks between them, and the poles on which the burlap
awnings hang, painted on flat canvas and stood up against that
infinite blue. Stick some vultures in a row along a roof-top--
purplish--bronze they'll look between the tiles and sky. Add
yellow camels, gray horses, striped robes, long rifles, and a
searching sun-dried smell. And there you have El-Kerak, from
From any point along the broken walls or the castle roof you can
see for fifty miles over scenery invented by the Master-Artist,
with the Jordan like a blue worm in the midst of yellow-and-green
hills twiggling into a turquoise sea.
The villains stalk on-stage and off again sublimely aware of
their setting. The horses prance, the camels saunter, the very
street-dogs compose themselves for a nap in the golden sun, all
in perfect harmony with the piece. A woman walking with a stone
jar on her head (or, just as likely, a kerosene can) looks as if
she had just stepped out of eternity for the sake of the picture.
And not all the kings and kaisers, cardinals and courtezans
rolled into one great swaggering splurge of majesty could hold a
candle to a ragged Bedouin chief on a flea-bitten pony, on the
way to a small-town mejlis.
So it was worth a little inconvenience, and quite a little risk
to see those chiefs arrive at the castle gate, toss their reins
to a brother cut-throat, and swagger in, the poorest and least
important timing their arrival, when they could, just in advance
of an important man so as to take precedence of him and delay
Mindful of my charge to keep Anazeh sober, and more deadly afraid
of it than of all the other risks, I hung about waiting for him,
hoping he would arrive before Abdul Ali or ben Nazir. I wanted
to go inside and be seated before either of those gentry came.
But not a bit of it. I saw Anazeh ride up at the head of his
twenty men, halt at a corner, and ask a question. His men were in
military order, and looked not only ready but anxious to charge
the crowd and establish their old chief's importance.
Mahommed ben Hamza, not quite so smelly in his new clothes, was
standing at my elbow.
"Sheikh Anazeh beckons you," he said.
So the two of us worked our way leisurely through the crowd
toward the side-street down which Anazeh had led his party. We
found them looking very spruce and savage, four abreast, drawn up
in the throat of an alley, old Anazeh sitting his horse at their
head like a symbol of the ancient order waiting to assault the
new. My horse was close beside him, held by Ahmed, acting
servitor on foot.
The old man let loose the vials of his wrath on me the minute I
drew near, and Mahommed ben Hamza took delicious pleasure in
translating word for word.
"Is that the way an effendi in my care should be seen at such a
time--on foot? Am I a maskin* that you do not ride? Is the
horse not good enough?" [*Poor devil]
I made ben Hamza explain that I was to attend the mejlis as
Sheikh Abdul Ali's guest. But that only increased his wrath.
"So said ben Nazir! Shall a lousy Damascene trick me out of
keeping my oath? You are in my safekeeping until you tread on
British soil again, and my honour is concerned in it! No doubt
that effeminate schemer of schemes would like to display you at
the mejlis as his booty, but you are mine! Did you think you are
not under obligation to me?"
I answered pretty tactfully. I said that Allah had undoubtedly
created him to be a protector of helpless wayfarers and the very
guardian of honour. Mahommed ben Hamza added to the compliments
while rendering mine into Arabic. But though Anazeh's wrath was
somewhat mollified, he was not satisfied by any means.
"Am I a dog," he demanded, "that I should be slighted for the
sake of that Damascene?"
It looked to me like the proper moment to try out Grim's
"You are the father of lions. And a lion knows a lion in the
dark!" said I.
The effect was instantaneous. He puffed his cheeks out in
astonishment, and sucked them in again. The overbearing anger
vanished as he leaned forward in the saddle to scrutinize my
face. It was clear that he thought my use of that phrase might
just possibly have been an accident.
"Ah! What says Jimgrim? Who are you that know where he is?"
"A lion knows a lion in the dark!" I said again, that there might
be no mistake about my having used the words deliberately.
"Praised be Allah! Blessings upon His Prophet! What
"Jimgrim says I am to keep by Anazeh and watch him, lest he drink
strong drink and lose his honour by becoming like a beast without
decency or understanding!"
"Mount your horse, effendi. Sit beside me."
I complied. Ben Hamza took the place of Ahmed, who went to the
rear looking rather pleased to get out of the limelight.
"What else says Jimgrim?" asked Anazeh.
"There will be a message presently, providing Sheikh Anazeh
To say that I was enjoying the game by this time is like trying
to paint heaven with a tar-brush. You've got to be on the inside
of an intrigue before you can appreciate the thrill of it.
Nobody who has not had the chance to mystify a leader of cheerful
murderers in a city packed with conspirators, with the shadow of
a vulture on the road in front, and fanged death waiting to be
let loose, need talk to me of excitement.
"Well and good," said Anazeh. "When Jimgrim speaks, I listen!"
Can you beat that? Have you ever dreamed you were possessed of
some magic formula like "Open Sesame," and free to work with it
any miracle you choose? Was the dream good? I was awake--on a
horse--in a real eastern alley--with twenty thieves as picturesque
as Ali Baba's, itching for action behind me!
"Abdul Ali of Damascus thinks he will enter the mejlis last and
create a great sensation," said Anazeh. "That son of infamies
deceives himself. I shall enter last. I shall bring you. There
will be no doubt who is important!"
Just as he spoke there clattered down the street at right angles
to us a regular cavalcade of horsemen led by no less than Abdul
Ali with a sycophant on either hand. Cardinal Wolsey, or some
other wisehead, once remarked that a king is known by the
splendour of his servants. Abdul Ali's parasites were dressed
for their part in rose-coloured silk and mounted on beautiful
white Arab horses so severely bitted that they could not help
Abdul Ali, on the other hand, played more a king-maker's role,
dark and sinister in contrast to their finery, on a dark brown
horse that trotted in a business-like, hurry-up-and-get-it-done-
with manner. He rode in the German military style, and if you
can imagine the Kaiser in Arab military head-dress, with high
black riding boots showing under a brown cloak, you have his
description fairly closely. The upturned moustaches and the
scowl increased the suggestion, and I think that was deliberate.
"A dog--offspring of dogs! Curse his religion and his bed!"
growled Anazeh in my ear.
The old sheikh allowed his enemy plenty of time. To judge by the
way the men behind us gathered up their reins and closed in knee-
to-knee, they would have liked to spoil Abdul Ali's afternoon by
riding through his procession and breaking its formation. But
Anazeh had his mind set, and they seemed to know better than to
try to change it for him. We waited until noises in the street
died down, and then Ahmed was sent to report on developments.
"Abdul Ali has gone into the mejlis and the doors are closed," he
announced five minutes later. That seemed to suit Anazeh
perfectly, for his eyes lit up with satisfaction. Evidently
being excluded from the council was his meat and drink. He gave
no order, but rode forward and his men followed as a snake's tail
follows its head, four abreast, each man holding his rifle as
best suited him; that gave them a much more warlike appearance
than if they had imitated the western model of exact conformity.
We rode down-street toward the castle at a walk, between very
interested spectators who knew enough to make way without being
told. And at the castle gate we were challenged by a man on
foot, who commanded about twice our number of armed guards.
"The hour is passed," he announced. "The order is to admit no
"Who gives orders to me?" Anazeh retorted.
"It was agreed by all the notables."
"I did not agree. Wallah! Thou dog of a devil's dung-heap, say
you I am not a notable?"
"Open that gate!"
They opened it. Two of the men began to do it even before their
chief gave the reluctant order. Anazeh started to ride through
with his men crowding behind. But that, it seemed, was
altogether too much liberty to take with the arrangements.
Shouting all together, the gate-guards surged in to take hold of
bridles and force Anazeh's dependents back. Teeth and eyes
flashed. It looked like the makings of a red-hot fight.
"No retainers allowed within the gate! Principals only!" roared
the captain of the guard, in Arabic that sounded like explosions
of boiling oil.
Anazeh, Mahommed ben Hamza and I were already within the
courtyard. Four of Anazeh's followers made their way, through
after us before any one could prevent them. At that moment there
came a tremendous clattering of hoofs and the crowd outside the
gate scattered this and that way in front of about a hundred of
the other chiefs' dependents, who had dutifully stayed outside
and had sought shade some little distance off.
Whether the sudden disturbance rattled him, or whether he
supposed that all the other truculent ruffians were going to try
to follow our example, at any rate the man on duty lost his head
and shouted to his men to shut the gate again. Before they could
do it every one of Anazeh's gang had forced his way through.
There we all were on forbidden ground, with a great iron-studded
gate slammed and bolted behind us. To judge by the row outside
the keepers of the gate had got their hands full.
In front of us was a short flight of stone steps, and another
great wooden door set in stone posts under a Roman arch. There
were only two armed men leaning against it. They eyed Anazeh and
our numbers nervously.
Anazeh could use his voice like a whip-crack. They fumbled with
the great bolt and obeyed, swinging the door wide. I thought for
a minute that my arrogant old protector meant to ride up the
steps and through the door into the mejlis hall with all his men;
but he was not quite so high-handed as that.
After a good long look through the door, I suppose to make sure
there was no ambush inside waiting for him, he dismounted, and
ordered his men to occupy a stable-building across the courtyard,
from which it would have been impossible to dislodge them without
a siege. Then, when he had seen the last man disappear into it,
he led me and Mahommed ben Hamza up the steps.
Ben Hamza was grinning like a schoolboy, beside himself with
delight at the prospect of elbowing among notables, as well as
inordinately proud of his new clothes and the smell of imported
soap that hung about him like an aura. But Anazeh looked like an
ancient king entering into his own. Surely there was never
another man who could stride so majestically and seem so
conscious of his own ability to override all law.
We passed under the shadowy arch and down a cool stone passage to
yet another heavy door that barred our way. Anazeh thundered on
it with his rifle-butt, for there were no attendants there to do
his bidding. There was no answer. Only a murmur of voices
within. So he thundered again, and this time the door opened
about six inches. A face peered through the opening cautiously,
and asked what was wanted.
"What is this?" asked Anazeh. "Is a mejlis held without my
presence? Since when?"
"You are too late!"
The face disappeared. Some one tried to close the door.
Anazeh's foot prevented.
"Open!" he demanded. The butt of his rifle thundered again on
There was a babel of voices inside, followed by sudden silence.
Anazeh made a sign to Mahommed ben Hamza and me. We all three
laid our shoulders against the door and shoved hard. Evidently
that was not expected; it swung back so suddenly that we were
hard put to it to keep our feet. The man who had opened the door
lay prone on the floor in front of us with his legs in the air,
and Anazeh laughed at him--the bitterest sign of disrespect one
Arab can pay to another.
"Since when does the word of a Damascene exclude an honourable
sheikh from a mejlis in El-Kerak?" asked Anazeh, standing in
He was in no hurry to enter. The dramatic old ruffian understood
too well the value of the impression he made standing there. The
room was crowded with about eighty men, seated on mats and
cushions, with a piece of carpeted floor left unoccupied all down
the centre--a high-walled room with beautifully vaulted ceiling,
and a mullioned window from which most of the glass was gone.
The walls were partly covered with Persian and other mats, but
there was almost no furniture other than water-pipes and little
inlaid tables on which to rest coffee-cups and matches. The air
was thick with smoke already, and the draft from the broken
windows wafted it about in streaky clouds.
Every face in the room was turned toward Anazeh. I kept as much
as possible behind him, for you can't look dignified in that
setting if all you have on is a stained golf suit, that you have
slept in. It seemed all right to me to let the old sheikh have
all the limelight.
But he knew better. Perhaps my erstwhile host ben Nazir had
understood a little German after all. More likely he had divined
Abdul Ali's purpose to make use of me. Certainly he had poured
the proper poison in Anazeh's ear, and the old man understood my
value to a nicety.
He took me by the arm and led me in, Mahommed ben Hamza following
like a dog that was too busy wagging its tail to walk straight.
You would have thought Anazeh and I were father and son by
the way he leaned toward me and found a way for me among the
He had no meek notions about choosing a low place. Expecting to
be taken at his own valuation, he chose a high place to begin
with. There were several unoccupied cushions near the door, and
there were half-a-dozen servants busy in a corner with coffee-
pots and cakes. He prodded one of the servants and ordered him
to take two cushions to a place he pointed out, up near the
window close to Abdul Ali. There was no room there. That
was the seat of the mighty. You could not have dropped a
handkerchief between the men who wanted to be nearest the throne
of influence. But Anazeh solved that riddle. He strode, stately
and magnificent, up the middle of the carpet amid a mutter of
imprecations. And when one more than ordinarily indignant sheikh
demanded to know what he meant by it, he paused in front of him
and laid his right hand on my shoulder. (There was a loaded
rifle in his left.)
"Who offers indignity to a distinguished guest?" he demanded.
The question was addressed to everybody in the room. He took
care they were all aware of it. His stern eyes traveled from
face to face.
"My men, who escorted him here, are outside the door. They can
enter and escort him away, if there are none here who understand
how to treat the stranger in our midst!"
There was goose-flesh all over me, and I did not even try to look
unembarrassed. A man's wits, if he has any, work swiftly when he
looks like being torn to pieces at a moment's notice. It seemed
to me that the less insolent I appeared, the less likely they
were to vent their wrath on me. I tried to look as if I didn't
understand I was intruding--as if I expected a welcome.
"Good!" Anazeh whispered in my ear. "You do well."
There was a murmur of remonstrance. The sheikh who had dared to
rebuke Anazeh found the resentment turned against himself.
Somebody told him sharply to mend his manners. Anazeh, shrewd
old opportunist, promptly directed the servant to place cushions
on the edge of the carpet, in front of the first row of those
who wished to appear important. That obliged the front rank
to force the men behind them backward, closer to the wall, so
that room could be made for us without our trespassing on the
So I sat down in the front row, five cushions from Abdul Ali.
Anazeh squatted beside me with his rifle across his knees. Then
Mahommed ben Hamza forced himself down between me and the man on
my left, using his left elbow pretty generously and making the
best of the edges of two cushions. As far as I could see there
were not more than half-a-dozen other men in the room who had
rifles with them, although all had daggers, and some wore curved
scimitars with gold-inlaid hilts.
As soon as I could summon sufficient nerve to look about me and
meet the brown, conjecturing eyes that did not seem to know
whether to resent my presence or be simply curious, I caught the
eye of Suliman ben Saoud in the front row opposite, ten or twelve
cushions nearer the door than where I sat. He did not seem to
notice me. The absence of eyebrows made his face expressionless.
He didn't even vaguely resemble the Major James Grim whom I knew
him to be. When his eyes met mine there was no symptom of
recognition. If he felt as nervous as I did he certainly did not
show it behind his mask of insolent indifference.
There was still a good deal of muttered abuse being directed at
Anazeh. The atmosphere was electric. It felt as if violence
might break out any minute. Abdul Ali seemed more nervous than
any one else; he rocked himself gently on his cushion, as if
churning the milk of desire into the butter of wise words.
Suddenly he turned to the sheikh on his left, a handsome man of
middle age, who wore a scimitar tucked into a gold-embroidered
sash, and whispered to him.
Ben Hamza whispered to me: "That sheikh to whom Abdul Ali speaks
is Ali Shah al Khassib, the most powerful sheikh in these parts.
A great prince. A man with many followers."
Ali Shah al Khassib called for prayer to bring the mejlis to
order. He was immensely dignified. The few words he pronounced
about asking God to bless the assembled notables with wisdom, in
order that they might reach a right decision, would have been
perfectly in place in the Capitol at Washington, or anywhere else
where men foregather to decide on peace or war.
At once a muballir* on his left opened a copy of the Koran on a
cushion on his lap and began to read from it in a nasal singsong.
There were various degrees of devoutness, and even of inattention
shown by those who listened. Some knelt and prostrated
themselves. Others, including Anazeh, sat bolt upright, closing
their eyes dreamily at intervals. Over the way, Jim Suliman ben
Saoud Grim was especially formally devout. His very life
undoubtedly depended on being recognized as a fanatic of
fanatics. [*A Moslem priest who recites prayers.]
But there were three Christian sheikhs in the room. One of them
opposite me pulled out a Bible and laid it on the carpet as a
sort of challenge to the Koran. It was probably a dangerous
thing to do, although most Moslems respect the Bible as a very
sacred book. The manner in which it was done suggested
deliberate effort to provoke a quarrel.
Mahommed ben Hamza, dividing his time like a schoolboy in chapel
between staring about him and attending by fits and starts,
nudged me in the ribs and whispered:
"See that Christian! He would not dare do that, only on this
occasion they like to think that Moslems and Christians are
The man who was reading to himself from the Bible looked up and
caught my eye. He tapped the book with his finger and nodded, as
much as to ask why I did not join him. At once I pulled my own
from my pocket. He smiled acknowledgment as I opened it at
random. Certainly he thought I did it to support his tactlessly
ill-timed assertion of his own religion. Very likely my action,
since I was a guest and therefore not to be insulted, saved
him from violence. Incipient snarls of fanatical indignation
But as a matter of fact my eye was on Jim Suliman ben Saoud Grim.
As the reading from the Koran came to an end amid a murmur of
responses from all the sheikhs, the crooked-faced Ichwan sat
upright. In his sullen, indifferent way, he stared leisurely
along the line until his eyes rested on me.
As his eyes met mine I marked the place where the Bible was open
with a pencil, and closed the book, suspecting that he might be
glad to know where a pencil could be found in a contingency.
He did not smile. The expression of his face barely changed.
Just for a second I thought I saw a flicker of amused approval
pass over the corners of his eyes and mouth.
So I left the book lying where it was with the pencil folded
"He will say next that it was he who set the stars in the sky
over El-Kerak, and makes the moon rise!"
Ali Shah al Khassib was the first to speak. He was heard to the
end respectfully, none interrupting. But it seemed obvious from
their faces that not a few sheikhs were disposed to question both
his leadership and most of what he said. Mahommed ben Hamza kept
up a running whisper of interpretation, breathing into my ear
until it was wet with condensed breath. I had to use a
Ali Shah al Khassib made no definite proposal. He said that a
man whom they all knew well had brought news to the effect that
Emir Feisul was ready to make war on the French in order to drive
them out of Syria. That in a case like that, of Moslems against
kafirs,* there could be no question on which side their hearts or
their interests lay. That several dependable men had brought
word of great unrest in Palestine. That in all likelihood the
British would send their army to help the French, in which case
the Arabs of Palestine were likely to rise in rebellion in the
British army's rear. That was the situation. They were invited
to consider it, and to decide what action, if any, seemed called
He sat down without having risked his leadership by any statement
of his own attitude. He had simply reported facts that he
believed to be true--facts that many of the notables plainly did
not yet believe, or believed only in part. There followed a
perfect babel of argument, during which the servants passed the
coffee and cakes around. After that, during every interval
between speeches there was more coffee and more cakes--wonderful
cakes made with honey and almonds, immensely filling; but the
more full an Arab gets of stodgy food the more his tongue wags,
until at last he talks himself to sleep.
For ten minutes men were shouting their opinions to one another
to and fro across the room. From what I could make of it there
was not a man who did not advocate putting the whole of Palestine
to the sword forthwith. But it was noticeable that when their
turns came to stand up and address the mejlis their advocacy was
considerably toned down. Everybody seemed to want somebody else
to father the proposal for a raid, although every man pretended
to be anxious to take part in one.
Old Anazeh on my right sat in grim silence, quizzing each talker
in turn with puckered eyes. The only comment he made was a sort
of internal rumbling, suggestive of the preliminary notice of
At the end of ten minutes Sheikh Ali Shah al Khassib brought
proceedings a step forward by calling for confirmation of the
news of unrest in Palestine. Man after man got up, and, since he
was speaking of others, not of himself, painted the discontent of
the Palestinians in lurid terms. Each man tried to outvie the
other. The first man said they were anxious regarding the
Zionists and keen for a solution of the problem. The second said
they hated the Zionists, and could see no way out of their
predicament but by rebellion. The third said that no Arab in
Palestine could eat for thinking of the Zionist outrage, and that
the heart of every man in El-Kerak should bleed for his
To judge by what the fourth and fifth and sixth said, Palestine
was in a state of scarcely suppressed rebellion, and every living
Arab in the country was sharpening his sword in secret for the
butchering of Zionists at the first opportunity. The seventh man
said that the Palestine Arabs had never under Turkish rule
suffered and groaned as they did under the British, and that
their cry was going up to heaven for relief from the ignominious
tyranny of Zionist pretensions.
Ali Shah al Khassib chose that ringing appeal as the cue for his
next move in the game. He called on Sheikh Abdul Ali, "as well
known in Damascus as in this place," to address the mejlis.
There was instant silence. Even the coffee cups ceased rattling.
Abdul Ali got to his feet with the manner of a man long used to
swaying assemblies. He had just the right air of authority;
exactly the right suggestion of deference; the quiet smile of
the man with secrets up his sleeve; and he paused just long
enough before speaking to whet curiosity and fix attention.
He did not speak floridly or fast, and he indulged in none of
those flights of oratory that most Arabs love. There was ample
time between his sentences for Mahommed ben Hamza to translate
into my wet and itching ear. But every sentence of his speech
had measured weight in it, and every word he used was chosen for
its poison or its sting.
He began by reminding them of the war and of Emir Feisul's share
in it. Of how they, and their fathers, and their sons had fought
behind Feisul and helped to establish him in Damascus. Then he
spoke of the British promise that the Arabs' should have a
kingdom of their own, with Damascus for its capital and borders
to include all the peoples of Arab blood in the Near East. He
paused for a full minute after that. Then:
"But the French are in Syria. The French, who also promised us
an Arab kingdom. They have assembled at the coast an army that
already threatens Emir Feisul. The British are in Palestine,
where they are admitting a horde of Zionist Jews to displace us
Arabs, rightful owners of the soil. The British are also in
Mesopotamia, which they have seized for themselves for the sake
of the oil which Allah, in His wisdom, created beneath the
fertile earth. Feisul makes ready to defend Syria against the
French. But the British will march to the aid of the French.
Can anybody tell me how much of that promise to us Arabs has been
kept, by either nation, French or British?"
So far he was on thoroughly safe ground. A man who preached
against the French could hardly be suspected of being hired by
the French to do it. There was nobody there but he who could say
what Feisul's intentions actually were. You can say what you
like against the British anywhere, at any time, and find some one
to believe what you say. And it needed no wizardry to prove that
the Allies had broken every promise they ever made to the Arabs.
"Are you going to sit idle, and let Emir Feisul and the Syrians
fight the French alone?" he asked, and paused again.
There was a great deal of murmuring--not quite all of it, I
thought, entirely in his favour.
"What is the alternative to sitting still like camels waiting to
be doubly burdened? If you raid Palestine, the local Arabs will
all rise to your assistance. The throat of every Zionist from
the Lebanon to Beersheba will be cut. There will be plunder
beyond reckoning. And you will help Feisul by holding back the
British army from marching to the assistance of the French. The
question is, are you men?--are you Arabs?--are you true Moslems?
--or do you like to look down from these heights of El-Kerak over
the home of your ancestors in the hands of so-called Zionists who
are nothing but Jews, under a new name?"
He sat down before any one could answer him, and whispered to Ali
Shah al Khassib, who called on another man to speak at once. It
was a pretty obvious piece of concerted strategy, but he got by
with it for the moment. The general feeling seemed to be in
favour of a raid if only some one would start it. Nobody seemed
to mind much how the decision was arrived at, so long as the
responsibility was passed to some one else.
The man now called on was a smooth-tongued, tall, lean individual
with shifty eyes, and a flow of talk of the coffeeshop variety.
At the end of his first sentence any fool would have known that
he had been put up to quiz Abdul Ali, in order that Abdul Ali
might have an excuse to justify himself. He attacked him very
mildly, with much careful hedging and apologetic gesture, on the
ground that possibly the Damascene was ignoring their interests
while urging them to take action that would suit his own.
Even with that mild criticism he set loose quite a murmur of
minority agreement. For the first time since the speech-making
began Anazeh barked approval. I thought for a moment the old man
was going to get to his feet. But Abdul Ali was up again first,
and launched on the seas of self-esteem.
If I had not listened to equally childish political maneuvers in
the States, and seen them succeed for the reason that people who
want something want also to be fooled into getting it by special
arguments, it would have seemed incredible that a man, who had
recently boasted of statesmanship, should dare to make such a
public ass of himself. Yet, for fifteen minutes he carried the
whole meeting with him, and the warmth of his self-satisfied
emotion made him ooze resplendent sweat.
"Now he speaks of you, effendi," Mahommed ben Hamza whispered;
and in confirmation of it Anazeh clutched my arm, as if to keep
the tide of eloquence from washing me away.
Had the British done anything for the country this side of
Jordan? Anything for the people's education, for instance? No!
Instead, they had taken away the missionaries. Better than
nothing were those missionaries. They had their faults. They
undermined religion. But they taught. And the British had
called them in, giving some ridiculous excuse about danger. It
had remained then for him--Abdul Ali of Damascus and of El-Kerak
--the same individual who was now urging them to strike for their
own advantage--to take the first step for the establishment in
El-Kerak of a school that should be independent of the British.
He, Abdul Ali, greatly daring because he had the interest of El-
Kerak at heart, had introduced that day into the mejlis a
distinguished guest from the United States, whose sole desire--
whose only object in life--whose altruistic and divine ambition
was to establish an American secular school in El-Kerak!
He sat down, glowing with super-virtue. And then the fur flew.
Anazeh was first on his feet.
"Princes!" he shouted. "That Damascene is a father of lies! It
was I, Anazeh, who brought this man hither! That corrupter of
honesty, who doles out other people's gold for bidden purposes,
seeks to appear as your benefactor!" (It was fairly obvious that
Anazeh had not received any of the gold.) "He will say next that
it was he who set the stars in the sky over El-Kerak, and makes
the moon rise! He is a foreigner, a father of snakes, and a
Anazeh refused to sit down again, but stood with rifle on his
arm, daring any one to challenge his statements. Abdul Ali
flushed angrily, but laughed aloud. The next man on his feet was
ben Nazir, my erstwhile host, who had repudiated me. And he
repudiated me all over again, accusing me of abusing his
hospitality by going over to Abdul Ali, who had never even heard
of me before I came to El-Kerak.
There was no making head or tail of the storm of abuse and
counter-abuse that followed, except that it did not look healthy
for me. There seemed to be four or five different factions, all
of whom regarded me as the bone of contention. Rather than
betray anxiety I opened the Bible and began to make dots under
letters, spelling out a message to Grim to the effect that I had
no notion where to find lodgings for the night, and that if
Anazeh elected to carry me off I should have to go with him.
I did not know how to get the message to him without arousing
suspicion and making matters worse than they were, and it seemed
best not to call attention to the fact that I was writing. So I
made a few dots at a time, and looked about me. I saw Abdul Ali,
laughing cynically, make a gesture with his arm as if he
consigned me to the dogs. Then I caught Grim's eye--Suliman ben
Saoud's. He, too, was making capital of my predicament.
He had got the attention of the men around him, and was pointing
at the Bible while he reeled off a string of an angry rhetoric
that sounded like a cat-fight. He shouted at me, and made angry
gestures; but I knew that if he wanted me to understand his
signals he would never make them openly, so I ignored them.
"The sheikh from Arabia demands to see the book," said Mahommed
ben Hamza in my ear.
I passed it over the carpet with the pencil folded in it at the
page I had begun to mark; and the men opposite handed it along,
with remarks they considered appropriate. Jim Suliman ben Saoud
Grim seized the book angrily, glared at it, denounced it, and
wrote something on the fly-leaf. He showed it to the men beside
him, and they laughed, nodding approval. He wrote again. They
approved again. He turned and talked to them. Then, as if he
had an afterthought, he wrote a third time. When they wanted to
look at that he ran the pencil through it and wrote something
else on the other side of the fly-leaf, at which they all
laughed uproariously. Presently he tossed the book back to me
with all the outward signs of contempt that a fanatic can show
for another religion.
I have kept that Bible as a souvenir, with the verses from the
Koran written on the flyleaf in Arabic in Grim's fine hand.
Underneath them, in Greek characters with a pencil line scrawled
through them, is the only sentence that interested me at the
"This looks good. Keep Anazeh quiet and sober."
Anazeh was beginning to hold forth again, shaking his fist
at Abdul Ali and making the roof echo to his mighty bellowing.
I tugged at the skirt of his cloak, and after a minute he
sat down to discover what I wanted. He seemed to think I
needed reassurance. He began to flood me with promises of
protection. It was about a minute before I could get a word
in edgeways. Then:
"Jimgrim says," said I.
"Jimgrim! Is he here?"
"He surely is."
"How do you know?"
"We have a sign. Jimgrim says, 'Be quiet, and drink no
He leaned across to Mahommed ben Hamza, doubting his ears and my
Arabic. I repeated the message, and ben Hamza translated.
"I don't believe Jimgrim is here!" said Anazeh. "I would know
him among a million."
"It is true," said ben Hamza, grinning from ear to ear, "for I
myself know where he sits!"
"Where then?" Anazeh demanded excitedly.
"Don't you dare!" said I, and ben Hamza grinned again.
"He is my friend. I say nothing," he answered.
Anazeh put in the next five minutes minutely examining every face
within range, while the din of argument rose louder and more
violent than ever, and suspicion of me seemed to be gaining.
But suddenly Suliman ben Saoud got to his feet and there was
silence. They were all willing to listen to a member of the
Ichwan sect, for the news of its power and political designs had
spread wherever men talk Arabic. He spoke gutturally in a
dialect that ben Hamza did not find it any too easy to follow, so
I only got the general gist of Grim's remarks.
He said that he had much experience of raids and of making
preparations for them. A raid aimed at the Zionists--at this
moment--might be good--perhaps. They were better judges of that
than he. But it was all-important to know who was in favour of
the raid, and exactly why. The words men spoke were not nearly
so impressive as the deeds they did. Therefore, when the
illustrious Sheikh Abdul Ali of Damascus urged a raid on the one
hand, and boasted of provision for a school in El-Kerak on the
other, it would be well to examine this foreign effendi, whom
Abdul Ali claimed to have introduced. The claim was disputed,
but the claim was not made for nothing. In his judgment, based
on vast experience of politics in Arabia, motives were seldom on
the surface. All depended on the motives of the illustrious
Abdul Ali. This stranger from America--he glared balefully at
me--should be investigated thoroughly. As a man of vast
experience with the interests of El-Islam at heart, he offered
respectfully to examine this stranger thoroughly with the aid of
an interpreter. He confessed to certain suspicions; should they
prove unfounded, then it might be reasonable to credit the rest
of Abdul Ali's statements; if not, no. He was willing, if the
honourable mejlis saw fit, to take the stranger aside and put
many questions to him.
When he had finished you could actually physically feel the
suspicion directed at me. It was like a cold wind. Anazeh was
just as conscious of it, and muttered something about its being
time to go. Abdul Ali got up and asked indignantly why the
Ichwan from so far away should have such an important voice; he
himself stood there ready to answer all questions. Suliman ben
Saoud retorted sourly that he proposed to question the Damascene
in public after privately interrogating me.
"They shall not interfere with you! You are in my charge,"
Anazeh growled in my ear. "I will summon my men at the